Once more all they that were there shouted. But once more the Elder spoke and said: “Is any man now wishful to speak?” None answered till a big and burly man rose up and said: “Nay, Tall Thomas, thou hast said and done all that need was, and I deem that time presses; wherefore my mind is that we now break up this mote, and that after we have eaten a morsel we get ourselves into due array and take to the road. Now let any man speak against this if he will.”
None gainsaid him; nay, all seemed well-pleased. So the Elder proclaimed the breaking up of the mote, and they went from out the hallowed place and sat down in the dyke on the outside of the rampart and behind the country which stretched out all lovely and blue before them, for the day was bright and fair. There then certain women brought victual and drink to them, and served the strangers first.
So when they had eaten and drunk, Ralph bade the Shepherds array them duly, and appointed them leaders of tens and hundreds with the help of Giles, who was now clad in a hauberk and mail-coif and looked a proper man-at-arms. Then they told over their company, and numbered of the Dry Tree one hundred and fifty champions, outtaken Stephen and Roger; of the men of Garton were twenty and two, and of the Shepherds three hundred and seventy and seven stout carles, some eighty of whom had bows, and the rest glaives and spears and other staff-weapons. There was not much armour of defence amongst them, but they were one and all stark carles and doughty.
So when they were told over and made five hundred and fifty and four, they gat them into array for the road; and Ralph went afoot with no armour but his sallet, and a light coat of fence which he had gotten him in the Burg. He would have had Ursula ride on her palfrey with the Sage, but she would not, and held it for mirth and pleasure that she should go afoot through the land, now she was so nigh come home to her lord’s house; so she went forth by Ralph’s side with her broidered gown trussed through her girdle so that the trimness of her feet drew the eyes of all men to them. As for Richard, he took a half score of the champions, and they rode on ahead to see that all was clear before the main host; which he might well do, as he knew the country so well.
They Come to Wulstead
Thus went they, and nought befell them to tell of till they came anigh the gates of Wulstead hard on sunset. The gates, it has been said; for whereas Ralph left Wulstead a town unwalled, he now found it fenced with pales, and with two towers strongly framed of timber, one on either side the gate, and on the battlements of the said towers they saw spears glittering; before the gate they saw a barrier of big beams also, and the gleaming of armour therein. Ralph was glad when he saw that they meant some defence; for though Wulstead was not in the lands of Upmeads, yet it was always a friendly neighbour, and he looked to eke out his host therein.