The battle was a brief one. Before sunset Sir Walter Giffard and his men came riding home to tell of a speedy and easy victory.
“’Tis all the better,” said the knight, as Lady Philippa helped him remove his armor. “There is no use in chasing these half-wild chiefs through their forests. Some day perhaps they will come to us of their own accord. They know now that it is hopeless to attempt to beat us back from our own frontier, and I think they will not readily try it again. There is wisdom in Hugh of Avalon. As he says,—the truest service ever comes by the road of the wild swan.”
Straight stood we with our brethren in the wood—
High-crested, strong, and proud,
Fearing no fury of the threatening storm—
Our chanting voices loud
Rose to the mighty bourdon of the gale,
The yelling tempest or the raging sea,
Chanting and prophesying of great days
In centuries yet to be.
The falcon flying down the windy sky,
The swallow poised and darting in the sun,
The guillemot beating seaward through the mist—
We knew them every one,
And heard from them of trumpets wakening war,
Of steadfast beams that roofed our people warm,
Of ships that blindfold through uncharted seas
Triumphant rode the storm.
Now come we to the battle of our dreams,—
The trumpets neigh, the ranks are closing fast
In that stern silence that men keep who know
This hour may be their last—
That they, like us, may riven and useless lie
Ere once again the bright steel greets the sun.
This only pray we—that we may not die
Until our work be done.
THE SWORD OF DAMASCUS
Dickon the smith stood under the great oak tree that sheltered the forge, weary and sick at heart. There was no better man of his inches in all Sussex, but the world is not always good to see, even at nineteen. Dickon’s world had been empty ever since the departure of Audrey of the Borstall Farm, cousin to Edwitha, the wife of his friend Wilfrid the Potter.
Audrey had made one brief visit to her old home since she had gone to be a maid to Lady Adelicia Giffard, and in that time not only Dickon but other youths of the neighborhood had found her comely. Tall and straight and lissome, with the blue eyes and yellow hair of her people, white as milk and fair as a wild rose, she was a girl to be remembered—Audrey. But she cared for none of them and went back to Winchester with her lady. Since that time Sussex had been no home for Dickon.
He had learned all that any smith of those parts could teach him and all that he could teach himself, or he might have set his mind to his work. To Dickon work was more than bread and meat; it was the heart of life. Now his unquiet mind returned to an old ambition of his, to be a master armorer. This desire dated from a day in his early teens, when in his father’s absence a Templar stopped to have his horse shod. Dickon could shoe horses as well as anybody. But when the knight wished a bit of repairing done on his helmet it was beyond the lad’s knowledge, and the work had to wait until old Adam Smith came back from Lewes.