And so he waited for my coming, being sure that I would not be long. But he knew that they had gone toward what he called the lost valley, if it was not likely that they would dare so much as look into it.
“But,” he said, “there was a priest with them, seeming to lead them. Maybe he would dare.”
Into my mind at once came the certainty that this must be Morfed, but Evan knew nought of him. He had no more to tell me of this.
So we two rode on together over the wild hills, and talked of what chance there might be of finding Owen on the morrow. He could not tell me if his wounds were deep, for he was far off and helpless, but he told me how he had fought, and that was even as I had known he would.
Now the soft June darkness had fallen, and we were not a mile from the first houses of the village. Soon, if they were alert, we should meet the first outpost of our men who guarded us, and mayhap it were better that Evan came no farther tonight. Yet I would know somewhat of himself and the way in which he had helped me thus. So I stayed my horse and dismounted for a few minutes.
“Tell me, Evan,” I said, “how came you into trouble at the first?”
“It is easy, Thane,” he answered. “I was Evan the chapman, and well known near and far in Cornwall and Dyvnaint as an honest man, even as I have seemed yet beyond the water. Two years ago I slew the steward of this Tregoz in the open market place of Isca, and there was indeed little blame to me, for I did but protect my goods which he would have taken by force, and smote too hard. Little order was there in that market if the king was not there, and Morgan and his friends were in the town. Men have taken heart again since the coming back of Owen, for it was bad enough, as you may suppose by what happened to me. So I fled, and then Tregoz had me outlawed, with a price on my head, so that, being well known, I had to take to Exmoor and herd with others in the same case. I knew that no weregild, as the Saxon calls it, would be enough to save me from the Cornishman.
“There I was the one who could sell the stolen goods across the water, being held in good repute there, and I traded with the Norse strangers who ferried me across. So it was that when Owen came I was in Watchet, and there Tregoz saw me and laid hands on me. Then he needed men to carry out that which he would do, and he had me forth and spoke to me, saying that if I would manage the Quantock outlaws for him he would forgive me and have me inlawed again. I was to have been hanged that day, Thane, and so you will see that I had no choice. Owen’s coming saved me then.”
Evan was not the first man whom I had known to be driven into evil ways by misfortune and powerful enemies. I had little blame for him. A man will do much to save his neck from the rope. But this did not tell me how he knew the plans of Tregoz after I set him free in Dyfed.