On the morning of the third day after they left Dunwich, having been much delayed by foul weather and fouler roads, Hugh de Cressi and his company came at length to London. They had suffered no further adventure on their way for, though the times were rough and they met many evil-looking fellows, none ventured to lift hand against six men so well armed and sturdy. Guided by one of their number who had often been to London on Master de Cressi’s business, they rode straight to Westminster. Having stabled their horses at an inn near by, and cleaned the mire of the road from their mail and garments, they went up to the palace, where Hugh told his errand to an officer whom he found on duty at the gate.
“Then it is a fool’s errand,” said the captain, “seeing that his Grace rode yesterday to his castle at Windsor to hunt and revel, and will be gone eight days at the least.”
“Then to Windsor I must follow,” answered Hugh.
GREY DICK SHOWS HIS ARCHERY
So sorely did the horses need rest, that Hugh and his people could not ride from London till the following morning, and evening was closing in before they found themselves drawing near the gate of Windsor Castle. In the market-place of the little town they pulled rein, while one of them went to search for a good inn at which they might lie, for the place seemed to be very full of people. Suddenly, as they stood there, wondering at the mighty, new-built keep which towered above them, a trumpet was blown and from round a corner appeared a gay procession of noble-looking men, and with them some ladies, who carried hawk on wrist, all mounted on splendid horses.
Now, the people who had gathered to study the strangers or tout for their custom, took off their bonnets and bent low, saying: “The King! The King! God save him!”
“Which is his Grace?” asked Hugh of one of them, whereon the man pointed to a royal-eyed and bearded knight, still in early middle life, who rode toward him, talking to a gallant youth at his side.
Now a thought came into Hugh’s mind that the present time is always the best time to strike. Leaping from his horse, he advanced bowing, and stood in the pathway of the King. Seeing this, two of the fine Court lords spurred their horses and rode straight at him, thinking to drive him back. But he held his ground, for their insolence made him angry, and, catching the bridle of one of the horses, threw it on its haunches so sharply that the knight who rode it rolled from his saddle into the mire, whereupon every one laughed. In a moment he was on his feet again, and shouting:
“Out of the road, jackanapes, dressed in your grandfather’s mail, unless you would stop there in the stocks. Do you know whose path you block?”
“That of his Grace,” answered Hugh, “for whom I have a message that he will be glad to hear, and, popinjay, this for yourself; were it not for his presence it is you who should stop upon the road till you were carried thence.”