“Yet dost thou remain, Roger.”
“Aye, lord; and here is that which thou wilt need again, methinks; I found it hard by Sir Pertolepe’s dead horse.” So saying, Roger put Beltane’s great sword into his hand. Then Beltane took hold upon the sword, and rising to his feet stretched wide his arms, and felt his strength renewed within him. Therefore he sheathed the sword and set his hand on Roger’s broad, mail-clad shoulder.
“Roger,” said he, “thou faithful Roger, God hath delivered us from shameful death, wherefore, I hold, He hath yet need of these our bodies.”
“As how, master?”
“As I went, nigh swooning in my bonds, methought I heard tell that Sir Gilles of Brandonmere had captive certain women; so now must we deliver them, thou and I, an it may be so.”
“Lord,” quoth Roger, “Sir Gilles marcheth with the remnant of his company, and we are but two. Let us therefore get with us divers of these outlaws.”
“I have heard tell that to be a woman and captive to Sir Gilles or Pertolepe the Red is to be brought to swift and dire shame. So now let us deliver these women from shame, thou and I. Wilt go with me, Roger?”
“Aye lord, that will I: yet first pray thee aid me to bind a clout upon my arm, for my wound irketh me somewhat.”
And in a while, when Beltane had laved and bound up Roger’s wound, they went on down the darkening road together.
HOW BELTANE MET SIR GILLES OF BRANDONMERE
It was a night of wind with a flying cloud-wrack overhead whence peeped the pallid moon betimes; a night of gloom and mystery. The woods about them were full of sounds and stealthy rustlings as they strode along the forest road, and so came to that dark defile where the fight had raged. Of what they saw and heard within that place of slaughter it bodeth not to tell, nor of those figures, wild and fierce, that crouched to strip the jumbled slain, or snarled and quarrelled over the work.
“Here is good plunder of weapons and armour,” quoth Roger, “’tis seldom the outlaws come by such. Hark to that cry! There died some wounded wight under his plunderer’s knife!”
“God rest his soul, Amen!” sighed Beltane. “Come, let us hence!” And forthwith he began to run. So in a little while they passed through that place of horror unseen, and so came out again upon the forest road. Ever and anon the moon sent down a feeble ray ’neath which the road lay a-glimmer ’twixt the gloom of the woods, whence came groans and wailings with every wind-gust, whereat Roger quailed, and fumbling at his sword-hilt, pressed closer upon Beltane.
“Master,” he whispered, “’tis an evil night—methinks the souls of the dead be abroad—hark to those sounds! Master, I like it not!—”
“’Tis but the wind, Roger.”
“’Tis like the cries of women wailing o’er their dead, I have heard such sounds ere now; I would my belt bore fewer notches, master!”