And though I was far from being in love, yet the thought of the wandering damsels, both so fair and so far from home, moved me deeply. And I was in act to waft a kiss towards the door when Jorian caught me.
“What now?” he said; “art at thy prayers, lad ?”
“Aye, that am I,” said I, “towards the shrine of the Saints’ Rest.”
Now this was irreverent, and mayhap afterwards we were all soundly punished for it. But at least it was on the level of their soldiers’ wit—though I own, at the most, no great matter to cackle of.
“Ho! ho! Good!” chuckled Boris, under his breath. “One of them is doubtless a saint. But as to the other—well, let us ask the Prince. ’He hath a Princess, and she is oft upon her travels?’ Ho! ho! ho!”
And the lout shook among his straw to such an extent that I bade him for God’s dear sake to bide still, otherwise we might as lief lie in a barn among questing rattons.
“And the saints of your Saints’ Rest defend us from lying among any worse!” said he, and betook him to sleep.
HUGO OF THE BROADAXE
But as for me, sleep I could not. And indeed that is small wonder. For it was the first night I had ever slept out of the Red Tower in my life. I seemed to lack some necessary accompaniment to the act of going to sleep.
It was a long while before I could find out what it could be that was disturbing me. At last I discovered that it was the howling of the kennelled blood-hounds which I missed. For at night they even raged, and leaped on the barriers with their forefeet, hearing mayhap the moving to and fro of men come sleeplessly up from the streets of the city beneath.
But here, within a long day’s march of Thorn, I had come at once into a new world. Slowly the night dragged on. The candle guttered. A draught of air blew fitfully through the corridor in which we lay. It carried the flame of the candle in the opposite direction. I wondered whence it could come, for the air had been still and thick before. Yet I was glad of the stir, for it cooled my temples, and I think that but for one thing I might have slept. And had I fallen on sleep then no one of us might have waked so easily. What I heard was no more than this—once or twice the flame of the candle gave a smart little “spit,” as if a moth or a fat blue-bottle had forwandered into it and fallen spinning to the ground with burned wings. Yet there were no moths in the chambers, or we should have seen them circling about the lights at the time of supper. Nevertheless, ere long I heard again the quick, light “plap!” And presently I saw a pellet fall to the ground, rolling away from the wall almost to the edge of the straw on which I lay.
I reached out a hand for it, and in a trice had it in my fingers. It was soft, like mason’s putty. “Plop!” came another. I was sure now. Some one was shooting at the flame of the candle with intent to leave us in the dark. Jorian and Boris snored loudly, sleeping like true men-at-arms. I need say no more.