The man shook his head and said: “Nay; here must I bide night-long, and go out of gates amongst thy men-at-arms, and clad like one of them with iron enough about me to hide the fashion of me; it were nowise safe for me to go back into the town; for this tyrant wages many a spy: yea, forsooth, I fear me by certain tokens that it is not all so certain that I have not been spied upon already, and that it is known that I have come to thee. And I will tell thee that by hook or by crook the King already knoweth somewhat of thee and of the woman who is in thy company.”
Ralph flushed red at that word, and felt his heart bound: but even therewith came into them the Sage; and straightway Ralph took him apart and told him on what errand the man was come, and ask him if he deemed him trusty. Then the Sage went up to Michael and looked him hard in the face awhile, and then said: “Yea, honest he is unless the kindred of Michael of the Hatch of Swevenham have turned thieves in the third generation.”
“Yea,” said Michael, “and dost thou know the Hatch?”
“As I know mine own fingers,” said the Sage; “and even so I knew it years and years before thou wert born.” Therewith he told the new-comer what he was, and the two men of Swevenham made joy of each other. And Ralph was fain of them, and went into the chamber wherein sat Ursula, and told her how all things were going, and she said that she would be naught but glad to leave that town, which seemed to her like to Utterbol over again.
An Adventure on the Way to the Mountains
On the morrow Ralph got his men together betimes and rode out a-gates, and was little afraid that any should meddle with him within the town or anigh it, and even so it turned out. But Michael rode in the company new clad, and with his head and face all hidden in a wide sallet. As for Ralph and Ursula, they were exceeding glad, and now that their heads were turned to the last great mountains, it seemed to them that they were verily going home, and they longed for the night, that they might be alone together, and talk of all these matters in each others’ arms.
When they were out a-gates, they rode for two miles along the highway, heedlessly enough by seeming, and then, as Michael bade, turned suddenly into a deep and narrow lane, and forth on, as it led betwixt hazelled banks and coppices of small wood, skirting the side of the hills, so that it was late in the afternoon before they came into the Highway again, which was the only road leading into the passes of the mountains. Then said Michael that now by all likelihood they had beguiled the waylayers for that time; so they went on merrily till half the night was worn, when they shifted for lodging in a little oak-wood by the wayside. There they lay not long, but were afoot betimes in the morning, and rode swiftly daylong, and lay down at night on the wayside with the less dread because they were come so far without hurt.