‘Can you see into the murk shadow, Sir Squire?’
’Ay! thanks to your Styrian dungeons, where I passed a year’s apprenticeship:
“I learnt to watch
the rats and mice
At play, with never a candle-end.
They play’d so well; they sang so nice;
They dubb’d me comrade; called me friend!”
So says the ballad of our red-beard king’s captivity. All evil has a good:
“When our toes
and chins are up,
Poison plants make sweetest cup”
as the old wives mumble to us when we’re sick. Heigho! would I were in the little island well home again, though that were just their song of welcome to me, as I am a Christian.’
‘Tell me your name, friend,’ said Farina.
’Guy’s my name, young man: Goshawk’s my title. Guy the Goshawk! so they called me in my merry land. The cap sticks when it no longer fits. Then I drove the arrow, and was down on my enemy ere he could ruffle a feather. Now, what would be my nickname?
“A change so sad,
and a change so bad,
Might set both Christian and heathen a sighing:
Change is a curse, for it’s all for the worse:
Age creeps up, and youth is flying!”
and so on, with the old song. But here am I, and yonder’s a game that wants harrying; so we’ll just begin to nose about them a bit.’
He crossed to the other side of the street, and Farina followed out of the moonlight. The two figures and the taller one were evidently observing them; for they also changed their position and passed behind an angle of the Cathedral.
’Tell me how the streets cross all round the Cathedral you know the city,’ said the stranger, holding out his hand.
Farina traced with his finger a rough map of the streets on the stranger’s hand.
’Good! that’s how my lord always marks the battlefield, and makes me show him the enemy’s posts. Forward, this way!’
He turned from the Cathedral, and both slid along close under the eaves and front hangings of the houses. Neither spoke. Farina felt that he was in the hands of a skilful captain, and only regretted the want of a weapon to make harvest of the intended surprise; for he judged clearly that those were fellows of Werner’s band on the look-out. They wound down numberless intersections of narrow streets with irregular-built houses standing or leaning wry-faced in row, here a quaint-beamed cottage, there almost a mansion with gilt arms, brackets, and devices. Oil-lamps unlit hung at intervals by the corners, near a pale Christ on crucifix. Across the passages they hung alight. The passages and alleys were too dusky and close for the moon in her brightest ardour to penetrate; down the streets a slender lane of white beams could steal: ‘In all conscience,’ as the good citizens of Cologne declared, ’enough for those heathen hounds and sons of the sinful who are abroad when God’s own blessed lamp is out.’ So, when there was a moon, the expense of oil was saved to the Cologne treasury, thereby satisfying the virtuous.