“Yea,” said Ursula, “and what hath befallen that evil young man, Captain?” Said Redhead: “It is not known to many, lady; but two days before the slaying of his uncle, I met him in a wood a little way from Utterbol, and, the mood being on me I tied him neck and heels and cast him, with a stone round his neck, into a deep woodland pool hight the Ram’s Bane, which is in that same wood. Well, as to my tale of Agatha. When the lord came home first, he sent for her, and his rage had so mastered his fear for a while that his best word was scourge and rack and faggot; but she was, outwardly, so calm and cold, smiling on him balefully, that he presently came to himself, a found that fear was in his belly, and that he might not do what he would with her; wherefore he looked to it that however she were used (which was ill enough, God wot!) she should keep the soul in her body. And at last the fear so mounted into his head that he made peace with her, and even craved forgiveness of her and gave her gifts. She answered him sweetly indeed, yet so as he (and all others who were bystanding, of whom I was one,) might well see that she deemed she owed him a day in harvest. As for me, he heeded me naught, and I lay low all I might. And in any wise we wore the time till the great day of deliverance.”
Therewith dropped the talk about Agatha, when they had bidden him all luck in his life. Forsooth, they were fain of his words, and of his ways withal. For he was a valiant man, and brisk, and one who forgat no benefit, and was trusty as steel; merry-hearted withal, and kind and ready of speech despite his uplandish manners, which a life not a little rude had thrust on him.
Of Their Riding the Waste, and of a Battle Thereon
They slept in no house that night nor for many nights after; for they were now fairly on the waste. They bore with them a light tent for Ursula’s lodging benights, and the rest of them slept on the field as they might; or should they come to a thicket or shaw, they would lodge them there softly. Victual and drink failed them not, for they bore what they needed on sumpter-horses, and shot some venison on the way withal. They saw but few folk; for the most part naught save a fowler of the waste, or a peat-cutter, who stood to look on the men-at-arms going by, and made obeisance to the token of Utterbol.
But on a time, the fifth day of their journey, they saw, in the morning, spears not a few standing up against a thicket-side in the offing. Redhead looked under the sharp of his hand, and laughed as though he were glad, and said: “I know not clearly what these may be, but it looketh like war. Now, knight, this is best to do: hold with thee three of our best men, so that ye may safe guard the Lady, and I with the others will prick on and look into this.”
“Nay,” said Ralph, “thou mayst yet be apaid of a man’s aid; and if there be strokes on sale in the cheaping-stead yonder, I will deal along with thee. Leave thy three men with the Lady, and let us on; we shall soon be back.”