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

But Beltane, my Innocent, rode stiff in the saddle, staring sad-eyed into the gloom, nor felt, nor heeded the yielding tenderness of the shapely young body he held, but plodded on through the dark, frowning blacker than the night.  Now as he rode thus, little by little the pain of his wound grew less, a drowsiness crept upon him, and therewith, a growing faintness.  Little by little his head drooped low and lower, and once the arm about the nun slipped its hold, whereat she sighed and stirred sleepily upon his breast.  But on he rode, striving grimly against the growing faintness, his feet thrust far within the stirrups, his mailed hand tight clenched upon the reins.  So, as dawn broke, he heard the pleasant sound of running water near by, and as the light grew, saw they were come to a grassy glade where ran a small brook—­a goodly place, well-hidden and remote.  So turned he thitherward, and lifting up heavy eyes, beheld the stars paling to the dawn, for the clouds were all passed away and the wind was gone long since.  And, in a while, being come within the boskage of this green dell, feebly and as one a-dream, he checked the great horse that snuffed eagerly toward the murmuring brook, and as one a-dream saw that she who had slumbered on his breast was awake—­fresh and sweet as the dawn.

“Lady,” he stammered, “I—­I fear—­I can ride—­no farther!”

And now, as one a-dream, he beheld her start and look at him with eyes wide and darkly blue—­within whose depths was that which stirred within him a memory of other days—­in so much he would have spoken, yet found the words unready and hard to come by.

“Lady,—­thine eyes, methinks—­are not—­nun’s eyes!”

But now behold of a sudden she cried out, soft and pitiful, for blood was upon him, upon his brow, upon his golden hair.  And still as one a-dream he felt her slip from his failing clasp, felt her arms close about him, aiding him to earth.

“Thou’rt hurt!” she cried.  “O, thou’rt wounded!  And I never guessed!”

“’Tis but my arm—­in sooth—­and—­”

But she hushed him with soft mother-cries and tender-spoke commands, and aiding him to the brook, laid him thereby to lave his hurt within the cool, sweet water; and, waking with the smart, Beltane sighed and turned to look up at her.  Now did she, meeting his eyes, put up one white hand, setting back sombre hood and snowy wimple, and stooping tenderly above him, behold, in that moment down came the shining glory of her lustrous hair to fall about the glowing beauty of her face, touching his brow like a caress.

Then, at last, memory awoke within him, and lifting himself upon a feeble elbow, he stared upon her glowing loveliness with wide, glad eyes.

“Helen!” he sighed, “O—­Helen!” And, so sighing, fell back, and lay there pale and wan within the dawn, but with a smile upon his pallid lips.

CHAPTER XX

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