Ten minutes later, and their plans were fixed. Two hours later, and, in the midst of a raving gale, hidden by the pitchy darkness and the towering screen of the lifted drawbridge, Emlyn and the strong Jeffrey rolled the kegs of powder over planks laid across the moat, into the mouth of the big drain and twenty feet down it, till they lay under the gateway towers! Then, lying there in the stinking filth, they drew the spigots out of holes that they had made in them, and in their place set the slow-matches. Jeffrey struck a flint, blew the tinder to a glow, and handed it to Emlyn.
“Now get you gone,” she said; “I follow. At this job one is better than two.”
A minute later she joined him on the farther bank of the moat. “Run!” she said. “Run for your life; there’s death behind!”
He obeyed, but Emlyn turned and screamed, till, hearing her through the gale, all the guard hurried up the towers, flashing lanterns, to see what passed.
“STORM! STORM!” she cried. “UP WITH THE LADDERS! FOR THE KIND AND HARFLETE! STORM! STORM!”
Then she too turned and fled.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Through the black night sudden and red there shot a sheet of fire illumining all things as lightning does. Above the roaring of the gale there echoed a dull and heavy noise like to that of muffled thunder. Then after a moment’s pause and silence the sky rained stones, and with them the limbs of men.
“The gateway’s gone,” shouted a great voice, it was that of Bolle. “Out with the ladders!”
Men who were waiting ran up with them and thrust them, four in all, athwart the moat. By the planks that were lashed along their staves they scrambled across and over the piles of shattered masonry into the courtyard beyond where none waited them, for all who watched here were dead or maimed.
“Light the lanterns,” shouted Bolle again, “for it will be dark in yonder,” and a man who followed with a torch obeyed him.
Then they rushed across the courtyard to the door of the refectory, which stood open. Here in the wide, high-roofed hall they met the mass of Maldon’s people pouring back from the faggoted breach, where they had been gathered, expecting attack, some of them also bearing lanterns. For a moment the two parties stood staring at each other; then followed a wild and savage scene. With shouts and oaths and battle-cries they fought furiously. The massive, oaken tables were overthrown, by the red flicker of the pole-borne lanterns men grappled and fell and slew each other upon the floor. A priest struck down a yeoman with a brazen crucifix, and next moment himself was brained with its broken shaft.
“For God and Grace!” shouted some; “For the King and Harflete!” answered others.
“Keep line! Keep line!” roared Bolle, “and sweep them out.”