“Well,” said Ralph, “how can I please thee, fair sir?”
Quoth the knight: “Thou canst please me best by turning thy horses’ heads away from Higham, all the sort of you.” He stepped back toward the barriers, and then came forward again, and said: “Look you, man-at-arms, I warn thee that I trust thee not, and deem that thou liest. Now have I mind to issue out and fall upon you: for ye shall be evil guests in my Lord Abbot’s lands.”
Now at last Ralph waxed somewhat wroth, and he said: “Come out then, if you will, and we shall meet you man for man; there is yet light on this lily lea, and we will do so much for thee, churl though thou be.”
But as he spoke, came the sounds of horns, and lo, over the bent showed the points of spears, and then all those five-score of the Dry Tree whom the captain had sent after Ralph came pouring down the bent. The knight looked on them under the sharp of his hand, till he saw the Dry Tree on their coats also, and then he turned and gat him hastily into the barriers; and when he was amongst his own men he fell to roaring out a defiance to Ralph, and a bolt flew forth, and two or three shafts, but hurt no one. Richard and Stephen drew their swords, but Ralph cried out: “Come away, friends, tarry not to bicker with these fools, who are afraid of they know not what: it is but lying under the naked heaven to-night instead of under the rafters, but we have all lodged thus a many times: and we shall be nigher to our journey’s end to-morrow when we wake up.”
Therewith he turned his horse with Richard and Stephen and came to his own men. There was much laughter and jeering at the Abbot’s men amidst of the Dry Tree, both of those who had ridden with Ralph, and the new-comers; but they arrayed them to ride further in good order, and presently were skirting the walls of Higham out of bow-shot, and making for the Down country by the clear of the moon. The sergeants had gotten a horse for Hugh, and by Ralph’s bidding he rode beside him as they went their ways, and the two brethren talked together lovingly.
Talk Between Those Two Brethren
Ralph asked Hugh first if he wotted aught of Gregory their brother. Hugh laughed and pointed to Higham, and said: “He is yonder.” “What,” said Ralph, “in the Abbot’s host?” “Yea,” said Hugh, laughing again, “but in his spiritual, not his worldly host: he is turned monk, brother; that is, he is already a novice, and will be a brother of the Abbey in six months’ space.” Said Ralph: “And Launcelot Long-tongue, thy squire, how hath he sped?” Said Hugh: “He is yonder also, but in the worldly host, not the spiritual: he is a sergeant of theirs, and somewhat of a catch for them, for he is no ill man-at-arms, as thou wottest, and besides he adorneth everything with words, so that men hearken to him gladly.” “But tell me,” said Ralph, “how it befalleth that the Abbot’s