“Not so,” said Beltane, “get you through the window—the river runs below: through the window—out, I say!” and, with the word, he stooped and bore Black Roger to the window.
“Jump!” cried Beltane, “jump, ere the door fall.”
“But you, master—”
“Jump, I say: I will follow thee.” So, groaning, Black Roger hurled his sword far out from the window, and leaping from the sill, was gone.
Then Beltane turned and looked upon Gui of Allerdale. “Seneschal,” said he, “I who speak am he, who, an God so wills, shall be Duke of Pentavalon ere long: howbeit, I will keep my promise to thee, so aid me God!”
Thus saying, he mounted the window in his turn, and, even as the door splintered behind him, forced himself through, and, leaping wide, whirled over and over, down and down, and the sluggish river closed over him with a mighty splash; thereafter the placid waters went upon their way, bubbling here and there, and dimpling ’neath the waning moon.
HOW BELTANE CAME NIGH TO DEATH
Down went my Beltane, weighted in his heavy mail—down and ever down through a world of green that grew dark and ever more dark, until, within the pitchy gloom beneath him was a quaking slime that sucked viciously at foot and ankle. Desperately he fought and strove to rise, but ever the mud clung, and, lusty swimmer though he was, his triple mail bore him down.
And now his mighty muscles failed, lights flamed before his eyes, in his ears was a drone that grew to a rushing roar, his lungs seemed bursting, and the quaking ooze yearning to engulf him. Then my Beltane knew the bitter agony of coming death, and strove no more; but in that place of darkness and horror, a clammy something crawled upon his face, slipped down upon his helpless body, seized hold upon his belt and dragged at him fierce and strong; slowly, slowly the darkness thinned, grew lighter, and then—Ah, kind mercy of God! his staring eyes beheld the orbed moon, his famished lungs drank deep the sweet, cool air of night. And so he gasped, and gasping, strove feebly with arm and leg while ever the strong hand grasped at his girdle. And now he heard, faint and afar, a sound of voices, hands reached down and drew him up— up to good, firm earth, and there, face down among the grass, he lay awhile, content only to live and breathe. Gradually he became aware of another sound hard by, a sharp sound yet musical, and in a little, knew it for the “twang” of a swift-drawn bow-string. Now, glancing up, Beltane beheld an ancient tree near by, a tree warped and stunted wherein divers arrows stood, and behind the tree, Giles o’ the Bow, who, as he watched, drew and loosed a shaft, which, flashing upward, was answered by a cry; whereon Giles laughed aloud.
“Six!” he cried, “six in seven shots: ’tis sweet archery methinks, and quicker than a noose, my Rogerkin, and more deadly than thy axe, my surly Walkyn. Let the rogues yonder but show themselves, and give me arrows enow, so will I slay all Gui’s garrison ere the moon fail me quite.”