“Well,” the Franklin said, “thou seemest a true man, and yet I would counsel thee to put a rein on thy tongue when thou art minded to talk of the Devil of the Dry Tree, or thou mayst come to harm in the Burg.”
He walked away towards the gallows therewith; and Roger said, almost as if he were talking to himself; “A heavy-footed fool goeth yonder; but after this talk we were better hidden by the walls of the Flower-de-Luce.” So therewith they went on toward the hostel.
But the market place was wide, and they were yet some minutes getting to the door, and ere they came there Ralph said, knitting his brows anxiously: “Is this woman fair or foul to look on?” “That is nought so easy to tell of,” said Roger, “whiles she is foul, whiles very fair, whiles young and whiles old; whiles cruel and whiles kind. But note this, when she is the kindest then are her carles the cruellest; and she is the kinder to them because they are cruel.”
Ralph pondered what he said, and wondered if this were verily the woman whom he had delivered, or some other. As if answering to his unspoken thought, Roger went on: “They speak but of one woman amongst them of the Dry Tree, but in sooth they have many others who are like unto her in one way or other; and this again is a reason why they may not lay hands on the very Queen of them all.”
Therewithal they came unto the hostel, and found it fair enough within, the hall great and goodly for such a house, and with but three chapmen-carles therein. Straightway they called for meat, for it was now past noon, and the folk of the house served them when the grooms had taken charge of Falcon. And Roger served Ralph as if he were verily his man. Then Ralph went to his chamber aloft and rested a while, but came down into the hall a little before nones, and found Roger there walking up and down the hall floor, and no man else, so he said to him: “Though thou art not of the Burg, thou knowest it; wilt thou not come abroad then, and show it me? for I have a mind to learn the ways of the folk here.”
Said Roger, and smiled a little: “If thou commandest me as my lord, I will come; yet I were better pleased to abide behind; for I am weary with night-waking and sorrow; and have a burden of thought, one which I must bear to the end of the road; and if I put it down I shall have to go back and take it up again.”
Ralph thought that he excused himself with more words than were needed; but he took little heed of it, but nodded to him friendly, and went out of the house afoot, but left his weapons and armour behind him by the rede of Roger.
The Streets of the Burg of the Four Friths