“Who is the May Queen?” inquired Sir Thomas Metcalfe, who had likewise drawn near, of a tall man holding a little girl by the hand.
“Alizon, dowter of Elizabeth Device, an mey sister,” replied James Device, gruffly.
“Humph!” muttered Sir Thomas, “she is a well-looking lass. And she dwells here—in Whalley, fellow?” he added.
“Hoo dwells i’ Whalley,” responded Jem, sullenly.
“I can easily find her abode,” muttered the knight, walking away.
“What was it Sir Thomas said to you, Jem?” inquired Nicholas, who had watched the knight’s gestures, coming up.
Jem related what had passed between them.
“What the devil does he want with her?” cried Nicholas. “No good, I’m sure. But I’ll spoil his sport.”
“Say boh t’ word, squoire, an ey’n break every boan i’ his body,” remarked Jem.
“No, no, Jem,” replied Nicholas. “Take care of your pretty sister, and I’ll take care of him.”
At this juncture, Sir Thomas, who, in spite of the efforts of the pacific Master Potts to tranquillise him, had been burning with wrath at the affront he had received from Nicholas, came up to Richard Assheton, and, noticing the pink in his bosom, snatched it away suddenly.
“I want a flower,” he said, smelling at it.
“Instantly restore it, Sir Thomas!” cried Richard Assheton, pale with rage, “or—”
“What will you do, young sir?” rejoined the knight tauntingly, and plucking the flower in pieces. “You can get another from the fair nymph who gave you this.”
Further speech was not allowed the knight, for he received a violent blow on the chest from the hand of Richard Assheton, which sent him reeling backwards, and would have felled him to the ground if he had not been caught by some of the bystanders. The moment he recovered, Sir Thomas drew his sword, and furiously assaulted young Assheton, who stood ready for him, and after the exchange of a few passes, for none of the bystanders dared to interfere, sent his sword whirling over their heads through the air.
“Bravo, Dick,” cried Nicholas, stepping up, and clapping his cousin on the back, “you have read him a good lesson, and taught him that he cannot always insult folks with impunity, ha! ha!” And he laughed loudly at the discomfited knight.
“He is an insolent coward,” said Richard Assheton. “Give him his sword and let him come on again.”
“No, no,” said Nicholas, “he has had enough this time. And if he has not, he must settle an account with me. Put up your blade, lad.”
“I’ll be revenged upon you both,” said Sir Thomas, taking his sword, which had been brought him by a bystander, and stalking away.
“You leave us in mortal dread, doughty knight,” cried Nicholas, shouting after him, derisively—“ha! ha! ha!”
Richard Assheton’s attention was, however, turned in a different direction, for the music suddenly ceasing, and the dancers stopping, he learnt that the May Queen had fainted, and presently afterwards the crowd opened to give passage to Robin Hood, who bore her inanimate form in his arms.