By what means I was delivered from Le Grand Sarrasin, and how I found shelter with the priest of St. Apolline’s.
The cell had been dark before. Now it was black as night, and having eaten my friend’s goodly parcel of food, I was refreshed, and eagerly awaited his return. Presently he was with me, and softly rolling the great door on its hinge, let me swiftly through into the long earthy passage that led upward. We traversed many yards, and I know not what treasures I saw heaped hastily on this side or on that, and I saw at the end, where the path passed forth, the form of the sentinel at his post. Now all our hope lay in what that moment chanced. He lolled easily against the rock, gazing forth, as I thought dreamily, into the open. My companion drew me along on tiptoe till we were even a pace behind him. We were so close that I think I heard him breathe. Then rapidly the man felt a scarf round his mouth and wiry fingers at his throat, so that he could make no sound.
“Strike, Nigel!” said my comrade. “There is little time for mercy!”
So I drew my companion’s dagger from his waist and used it swiftly, though it went sore against my nature thus to strike a sentinel at his post by surprise.
He fell heavily backward. I drew forth the dagger, and we ran swiftly for the cover of the side of a building. Along the wall we crept warily and without sound, and the next moment I saw my deliverer swing himself upon a bough that hung within his reach. In his train I followed, as he caught wondrous craftily in the darkness now at this branch, now at that, and more than once passed like an ape or squirrel of the woodland from tree to tree. At last I looked down and saw the wall loom from below, and the branch whereon I clung spread across the wall into the open. There we dropped down right nimbly as I remember a full ten feet, and the branch swung back from our hands noiselessly, and without sound we passed swiftly on hands and knees for a space under the near shelter of the forest brushwood.
Nothing was said till we were a round two hundred yards within, and then my friend pointed to a little path, for the moon was risen.
“Yonder, dear lad,” he said, “lies thy way to the Vale, and I must now be for a space a dead man in the woods, outcast even of the pirates.”
“Nay, friend,” said I, “I go not back to the Vale till I come with force to release them from their woes.”
“What!” said he. “Thou still art minded to journey to Normandy? Oh, dear and knightly lad!”
“Yea,” I said, “thither must lie my road, and I pray thee to help me on my way, for indeed I fear to fall into Geoffrey’s jaws again; and now three days are lost that should have brought me nearer to William.”
“If it be indeed thy will,” he said, “and indeed thou couldst not will better, since, as the case is, yonder castle could not many weeks withstand the Sarrasin, thou must come with me, and on the road to my good friend, to whom I journey for safety, I will ponder over this matter, and concert a scheme, whereby the wish of thy heart may be carried out. Meanwhile, trust me, good child, as so far thou hast nobly done.”