Stephen to whom he spake laughed at his word, and said: “Heart-up, carle! within these few days we shall build up a better wall than ye may have of stone and lime; and that is the overthrow of our foemen in the open field.”
So there was kindness and good fellowship betwixt the thorp-dwellers and the riders, and the country folk told those others many tales of the evil deeds of the Burg-devils, as they called them; but they could not tell them for certain whether they had gone down into Upmeads.
As to Ralph and Ursula they, with Richard and Roger, were lodged in the headman’s house, and had good feast there, and he also talked over the where-abouts of the Burgers with the thorp-dwellers, but might have no certain tidings. So he and Ursula and his fellows went to bed and slept peacefully for the first hours of the night.
An Old Acquaintance Comes From the Down Country to See Ralph
But an hour after midnight Ralph arose, as his purpose was, and called Richard, and they took their swords and went forth and about the thorp and around its outskirts, and found naught worse than their own watch any where; so they came back again to their quarters and found Roger standing at the door, who said to Ralph: “Lord, here is a man who would see thee.” “What like is he?” said Ralph. Said Roger “He is an old man, but a tough one; however, I have got his weapons from him.” “Bring him in,” said Ralph, “and he shall have his say.”
So they all went into the chamber together and there was light therein; but the man said to Ralph: “Art thou the Captain of the men-at-arms, lord?” “Yea,” said Ralph. Said the man, “I were as lief have these others away.” “So be it,” said Ralph; “depart for a little while, friends.” So they went but Ursula lay in the bed, which was in a nook in the wall; the man looked about the chamber and said: “Is there any one in the bed?” “Yea,” said Ralph, “my wife, good fellow; shall she go also?” “Nay,” said the carle, “we shall do as we are now. So I will begin my tale.”
Ralph looked on him and deemed he had seen him before, but could not altogether call his visage to mind; so he held his peace and the man went on.
“I am of the folk of the shepherds of the Downs: we be not a many by count of noses, but each one of us who is come to man’s yean, and many who be past them, as I myself, can handle weapons at a pinch. Now some deal we have been harried and have suffered by these wretches who have eaten into the bowels of this land; that is to say, they have lifted our sheep, and slain some of us who withstood them: but whereas our houses be uncostly and that we move about easily from one hill-side to another, it is like that we should have deemed it wisest to have borne this trouble, like others of wind and weather, without seeking new remedy, but that there have been tokens on earth and in the heavens, whereof it is