And there, all in the tender radiance of the moon, they buried her whose name they never knew, and stood a while in silence. Then, pointing to the new-turned earth, Friar Martin spake soft-voiced:
“Lo, here—in but a little time, wild flowers shall bloom above her— yet none purer or sweeter than she! In a little shall the grass be green again, and she sleep here forgot by all—save God! And God, my brothers, is a gentle God and very pitiful—so now do we leave her in God’s abiding care.”
And presently they turned, soft-footed, and went upon their way leaving the place to solitude.
But from the vault of heaven the stars looked down upon that lonely grave like the watching eyes of holy angels.
WHICH TELLS HOW DUKE IVO’S GREAT GALLOWS CEASED TO BE
Scarce a mile without the walls of the fair city of Belsaye my lord Duke had builded him a great gallows, had set it high upon a hill for all the world to see; from whose lofty cross-beams five score rogues had hanged ere now, had writhed and kicked their lives away and rotted there in company, that all the world might know how potent was the anger of my lord Duke Ivo.
Day in, day out, from rosy morn till dewy eve, it frowned upon Belsaye, a thing of doom whose grim sight should warn rebellious townsfolk to dutiful submission; by night it loomed, a dim-seen, brooding horror, whose loathsome reek should mind them how all rogues must end that dared lift hand or voice against my lord Duke, or those proud barons, lords, and knights who, by his pleasure, held their fiefs with rights of justice, the high, the middle and the low.
Day in, day out, the men of Belsaye eyed it askance ’neath scowling brows and, by night, many a clenched hand was shaken and many a whispered malediction sped, toward that thing of doom that menaced them from the dark.
To-night the moon was full, and thus, following Friar Martin’s bony outstretched finger, Beltane of a sudden espied afar the Duke’s great gallows, rising grisly and stark against the moon’s round splendour. So for a space, standing yet within the shade of the woods, Beltane stared fierce-eyed, the while Giles, with Roger at his elbow, pointed out divers shapes that dangled high in air, at sight of which the friar knelt with bowed head and lips that moved in prayer: and Walkyn, scowling, muttered in his beard.
“Messire,” said the archer, “my lord Duke’s gallows is great and very strong, and we but five all told!”
“I have mine axe!” quoth Walkyn.
“Had we fifty axes we scarce should bring it down ere dawn: moreover, the night is very still and sounds carry far—”
“Nathless,” quoth Roger, “to-night we surely shall destroy it—my lord hath said so.”
“Aye—but how?” questioned Giles. “In Belsaye is that pale fox Sir Gui of Allerdale with many trusty men-at-arms to hold the town for Black Ivo and teach Belsaye its duty: how may we destroy my lord Duke’s gallows ’neath the very beards of my lord Duke’s garrison, wilt tell me that, my good, Black Rogerkin?”