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  • 1904
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I looked for the two who were left if I slew Evan. One sat under the weather gunwale, wrapped in a great cloak, and seemed to be sleeping. The other was not far off on the landing place, watching Evan, who was speaking with a dozen men at the foot of the rock-hewn road. I suppose that the coming in of the ship had drawn idlers from the camp I had heard of to see her, for they all had arms of some sort.

This was bad, for it seemed certain that the whole crowd would join with Evan in falling on me if he called on them. If I came forth now I had full twenty yards to cover before I reached them from the ship’s side after I had settled with the men on watch. In that space all would be ready for me, and they were too many for me to cut through to the roadway. I thought too that I heard the voices of more who came downward toward the ship, though I could not see them whence I was.

Then it came into my mind that if there was any place where I could hide myself on deck I would try to creep to it while none had their eyes on the ship. Then Evan, as he went to the cabin to seek me, would have to deal with me from the rear. But that I soon saw was hopeless. The deck was clear of lumber big enough to shelter me, and the moonlight was almost as bright as day on everything, and all the clearer for the snow that covered all the land. So I began to turn over many other plans in my mind, and at last it seemed that the only thing was to wait in the cabin for the best chance that offered. Most likely Evan would do even as he had said, and try and get away at once, with all he could lay hands on. If so, I thought it would be certain that in his hurry he would bring all these men on board in order to get his goods, and maybe those belonging to Thorgils also, out and away with all haste, and so I could cut through them with a rush that must take them unawares, and so win to the camp with none to hinder me. There might be sentries who would stay me, but I should be within calling distance of my friend. Moreover, a sentry would see that I was some sort of a leader of men, and might help me. So I began to wish for Evan to act, for my fingers itched to get one downward blow at him.

I had not long to wait. He finished his talk with the men, and they all came to the ship, even as I had hoped. But only half of them came on board, leaving the rest alongside on the rock so that they might help the goods over the side. That was not all that I could have wished, but I thought that I might get through them in the surprise that was waiting for them. So I drew my sword, and for want of shield wrapped the blanket from the floor round my left arm, and stood by for the rush.

Evan walked in a leisurely way toward the door, talking to one of the newcomers as he came. The rest straggled behind him.

“I wonder how my sick man fares now,” he said, and set his hand to the latch.

Then he opened the door and I shouted and sprung forth, aiming a blow at him as I came. But I was not clear of the low deck, and my sword smote the beam overhead so that I missed him, and he threw himself on the deck out of reach of a second blow, howling. I was sorry, but I could not stop, for I had to win to the shore and to the road yet.

The other men shrank from me, and I went through them easily, and so reached the shoreward gunwale. There I was stayed, for Evan had never ceased to cry to his fellows to stop me, and there was a row of ready swords waiting for me. And there were more men coming down the path, Welshmen as I could see by their arms, and by their white tunics which glimmered in the moonlight. So that was closed to me, and it seemed that here I must fight my last fight.

Then as I could not go over the side I went to the high stern and leapt on it, half hoping that the men on shore might not be quick enough to stay me from a leap thence, but they were there alongside before me. Evan was up now, and cheering on the men on deck to attack me, but not seeming to care to lead them. They gathered together and came aft to me slowly, planning, as it would seem, how best to attack me, for the steering deck on which I was raised me four feet or so above them. The men on shore could not reach me at all unless I got too near the gunwale, when some of them who had spears might easily end me.

Something alongside the ship caught my eyes, and I glanced at it with a thought that here might be fresh foes. But it was only the little boat that belonged to the ship. The wind had caught her, and was drifting her at the length of her painter as if she wanted to cross the cove to its far side. Perhaps the men saw that my eyes were not on them for that moment, for they made a rush from the deck to climb the steering platform.

Then I had a good fight for a few minutes, until I swept them back to their place. Two had won to the deck beside me, and there they stayed. Now I had a hope that the men on shore would come round to the ship and leave the way clear for me, but Evan called to them to bide where they were. He had not faced me yet, and I bade him do so, telling him that this was his affair, and that it was nidring to risk other men’s lives to save his own skin. But even that would not bring him on me.

Now the men whom I had seen coming down from the cliffs’ top had hurried to see what all the shouting meant, and I saw that they were well-armed warriors and mostly spearsmen. Evan cried to them to come and help, and they ranged up alongside. He told them that I was a Norseman who had gone berserk, and must needs be slain.

“That is easily managed,” said the leader. “Get to your bows, men.”

I saw half a dozen unslinging them, and I knew that without shield I was done, and in that moment a thought came to me. I suppose that danger sharpens one’s wits, for I saw that in the little boat was my last chance. I had not time to draw her to the side, and so I cut her painter, which was fast to a cleat close to me, and as I did so the first arrow missed my head.

Then I shouted and leapt from the high stern straight among the crowd at Evan, felling one of his outlaw comrades as I lit on the deck. But I could not reach him, and in a few seconds I should have been surrounded. So I cleared a way to the seaward side and went overboard, amid a howl from my foes. I thought that I should never stop sinking, for I had forgotten my mail; but I came to the surface close to the ship, and looked for the boat. She was drifting gently away from me, and I knew that I should have all that I could do to reach her before the bowmen got to work again from the ship’s deck. Some one threw an axe at me as I swam, which was waste of a good weapon, and I hoped that it was not Thorgils’ best. Strange what thoughts come to a man when in a strait.

The water struck icy cold to me, and I felt that I could not stand it long, but I gained on the boat with every stroke, though it was hard work swimming in my mail and with a sword in my hand. I got rid of the blanket that was hampering my left arm, and by that time I was far enough from the ship for my foes to be puzzled by it. The moonlight was bright on the water, but the little waves tossed it so that it must have been hard for them to know which was I and which the floating stuff. Certainly, the first arrows that were shot when the bowmen got a chance at me from the ship or over her were aimed at the blanket, for I heard them strike it. Then one leapt from wave to wave past me.

I won to the boat just in time, for I could not have held on much longer. The cold was numbing me, and if I stopped swimming I must have sunk with the weight of mail. None of our old summer tricks of floating and the like were of any use with that weight on me. The arrows were coming thickly by that time, and I was glad to get to the far side of the boat and rest my hand on the gunwale, while I managed to sheathe my sword. The men could not see plainly where I was, and the arrows pattered on the planks of the boat and hissed into the water still, on the chance of hitting me. So I thought it well to get out of range before I tried to get on board, and so held the gunwale with one hand and paddled on with the other, until the arrows began to fall short, and at last ceased. A Welshman’s bow has no long range, so that I had not far to go thus. But all the while I feared most of all to hear the plash of oars that would tell me that they had put off another boat in chase of me.

A little later and I should have been helpless, as I found when I tried to get into the boat. The cold was terrible, and it had hold of my limbs in spite of the swimming. It was hard work climbing over the bows, as I must needs do unless I wanted to capsize the light craft as I had overset a fisher’s canoe more than once, by boarding her over the side, as we sported in the Glastonbury meres in high summer; but I managed it, and was all the better for the struggle, which set the blood coursing in my veins again. Then I got out the oars and began to pull away from the ship, with no care for direction so long as I could get away from her.

The foe had no boat, for they were all clustered in the ship or close to her on the rock, and there was a deal of noise going on among them. When I was fairly out of their way, and I could no longer make out their forms, I began to plan where I had best go, and at first I thought of a little beach that I had seen on the far side of the cove, thinking that I could get up what seemed a gorge to the cliff’s top, and so hide inland somewhere. But when I could see right into the gorge, I found that it was steep and higher than I thought. My foes would be able to meet me by the time I was at the top.

There was no other place that I could see, for none could climb from the foot of the cliffs elsewhere, since if he reached the rocks he would have to stay where he leapt to them. So as there was no help for it, I headed for the open sea. No doubt, I thought, I should find some landing place along the coast before I had gone far, and meanwhile I was getting a fair start of the enemy, who would have to follow the windings of the cliffs if they cared to come after me.

I pulled therefore for the eastern end of the cove, opposite to the place where the ship lay, and so rounded the point and was out in the open and tossing on the waves in a way that tried my rowing sorely, for I am but a fresh-water boatman. Lucky it was for me that there was little sea on, or I should have fared badly. Then I pulled eastward, and against the tide also, but that was a thing that I did not know.

The boat was wonderfully light and swift, and far less trouble to send along than any other I had seen. There are no better shipwrights than the Norsemen, and we Saxons have forgotten the craft.

The terrible numbness passed off as I worked, but now the wind grew cold, and the clouds were working up from the southwest quickly, with wind overhead that was not felt here yet. I knew that I must make some haven soon, or it was likely that I should be frozen on the sea, but the great cliffs were like walls, and at their feet was a fringe of angry foam everywhere. I could see no hope as yet. Far away to the east of me a great headland seemed to bar my way, but I did not think that I should ever reach it. And all the while I looked to see the black forms of men on the cliffs in the moonlight, but they did not come. That was good at least.

Then at last my heart leapt, for I saw, as a turn of the cliffs opened out to me, another white beach with a cleft of the rocks running up from it, and I thought it best to take the chance it gave me, for I feared the blinding snow that would be here soon, and I felt that the sea was rising. If my foes were after me they would have been seen before now, as they came to the edge of the cliffs to spy me out, and anyway I dreaded them less than the growing cold. Moreover, I thought that Evan would hardly get many men to follow him on a chase of what he had told them was a madman, and a dangerous one at that. He had his goods to see to also.

So I ran the boat into the black mouth of the gorge, and beached her well by good chance. I had little time to lose, but I tied her painter to a rock at the highest fringe of tide wrack, in hopes that she might be safe. It was so dark here that I did not think that Evan would see her from above. And then I began to climb up the rugged path that led out of the gorge to the hilltops.

There were bones everywhere in it. Bones and skulls of droves of cattle on all the strand above the tide mark for many score yards. Their ribs stuck out from the snow everywhere, and the sightless eye sockets grinned at me as I stumbled over them. But I had no time to wonder how they came there, for I must get to the summit before Evan and his men reached it by their way along the cliff. I ate handfuls of the snow and quenched my thirst that was growing on me again, and my strength began to come back to me as I hurried upward. I was a better man when at last I reached the top of the gorge than when I came ashore.


Now I halted before I lifted my head above the skyline, and listened with a fear on me lest I should hear the sound of running feet, and I was the more careful because I knew that the snow which lay white and deep on all the open land might deaden any sounds thereof. But I heard nothing save the wail of the wind overhead as it rose in gusts. I wondered if Thorgils would be able to bide in this little cove, or must needs put out to seek some other haven. There seemed to be a swell setting into it.

So I crept yet farther up the path, crouching behind a point of rock, and thence I saw a dark line on the snow that seemed to promise a road, and that must surely lead to some house or village. I went forward to it with all caution, and with my head over my shoulder, as they say, but I saw no man. This track led east and west, and was well trodden by cattle, but there were few footprints of men on it, so far as I could see. So I turned into it, going ever away from the ship, and hurrying. I had a thought that I heard shouts behind me, but there was more wind here on the heights than I had felt on the sea, or it was rising, and it sung strangely round the bare points of rock that jutted up everywhere. Maybe it was but that.

Inland I could see no sign of house or hut where I might find food at least, but the cloud wrack had drifted across the moon, and I could not see far now. It was a desolate coast, all unlike our own.

Then I came to a place where the track crossed stony ground and was lost in gathered snow. When I was across that I had lost the road altogether, and had only the line of the cliffs to guide me to what shelter I could not tell. And now a few flakes of snow fluttered round me, and I held on hopelessly, thinking that surely I should come to some place that would give me a lee of rock that I could creep under.

Then the snow swooped down on me heavily, with a whirl and rush of wind from the sea, and I tried to hurry yet more from the chill. Then I was sure that I heard voices calling after me, and I ran, not rightly knowing where to go, but judging that the coastline would lead me to some fishers’ village in the end. There seemed no hope from the land I had seen.

Again the voices came–nay, but there was one voice only, and it called me by my name: “Oswald, Oswald!”

I stopped and listened, for I thought of Thorgils. But the voice was silent, and again I pressed on in the blinding snow, and at once it came, wailing:

“Oswald, Oswald!”

It was behind me now and close at hand, and I turned with my hand on my sword hilt. But there was nothing. Only the snow whirled round me, and the wind sung in the rocks. I called softly, but there was no answer, and I was called no more as I stood still.

“Oswald, Oswald!”

I had turned to go on my way when it came this time, and now I could have sworn that I knew the voice, though whose it was I could not say.

“Who calls me,” I cried, facing round.

Then a chill that was not of cold wind and snow fell on me, for there was silence, and into my mind crept the knowledge of where I had last heard that voice. It was long years ago–at Eastdean in half-forgotten Sussex.

“Father!” I cried. “Father!”

There was no reply, and I stood there for what seemed a long time waiting one. I called again and again in vain.

“It is weakness,” I said to myself at last, and turned.

At once the voice was wailing, with some wild terror as it seemed, at my very shoulder, with its cry of my name, and I must needs turn once more sharply:

“Oswald, Oswald!”

My foot struck a stone as I wheeled round, and it grated on others and seemed to stop. But as I listened for the voice I heard a crash, and yet another, and at last a far-off rumble that was below my very feet, and I sprang with a cry away from the sound, for I knew that I stood on the very brink of some gulf. And then the snow ceased for a moment and the moon shone out from the break in the clouds, and I saw that my last footprint whence the voice had made me turn was on the edge of an awesome rift that cleft the level surface on the downland, clean cut as by a sword stroke, right athwart my path. Even in clear daylight I had hardly seen that gulf until I was on its very brink, for I could almost have leapt it, and nought marked its edge. And in its depths I heard the crash and thunder of prisoned waves.

I do not know that I ever felt such terror as fell on me then. It was the terror that comes of thinking what might have been, after the danger is past, and that is the worst of all. I sank down on the snow with my knees trembling, and I clutched at the grass that I might not feel that I must even yet slip into that gulf that was so close, though there was no slope of the ground toward it. Sheer and sudden it gaped with sharp edges, as the mouth of some monster that waited for prey.

There on the snow I believe that I should have bided to sleep the sleep of the frozen, for I hardly dared to move. The snow whirled round me again, but I did not heed it, and with a great roar the wind rose and swept up the rift with a sound as of mighty harps, but it did not rouse me. Only my father’s voice came to me again and called me, and I rose up shaking and followed it as it came from time to time, until I was once more on the track that I had lost.

There it left me, but the sadness that had been in its tones was gone when it last came. And surely that was the touch of no snowflake that lit on my hand for a moment and was gone.

Now I grew stronger, and the fear of the unseen was no longer on me, and I battled onward with wind and snow for a long way. Thanks to the wind, the track was kept clear of the snow, and I did not lose it again until it led me to help that was unlooked for.

There came the sound of a bell to me, strange sounding indeed, but a bell nevertheless, and I knew that somewhere close at hand was surely some home of monks who would take me in with all kindness. And presently the track led me nearer to the sound of the sea, and at last bent sharply to the right and began to go downhill, while the sound of the bell grew plainer above the roar of nearer breakers yet. I felt that I was passing down such a gorge as that up which I had come from the boat, but far narrower, for I had not gone far before I could touch the rocky walls with either hand. Then I came to steps, and they were steep, but below me still sounded the bell, and the hoarse breakers were very near at hand. I expected to see the lights of some little fishing village every moment, but the wind that rushed up the narrow space between the cliff walls and brought the salt spray with it almost blinded me.

Suddenly the stairway turned so sharply that I almost fell, and then I found my way downward barred by what seemed a great rough-faced rock that was right across the gorge, if one may call a mere cleft in the cliffs so, and barred my way, while the strange bell sounded from beyond it. But it was sheltered under this barrier, and I felt along it to find out where I had to climb over, thinking that the stairway must lead up its face. But there was no stair, and as I groped my hand came on cut stone, and when I felt it I knew that I had come to a doorway, for I found the woodwork, but in no way could I find how it opened.

I kicked on it, therefore, and shouted, but it seemed that none heard. The bell went on and then stopped, and I thought I heard footsteps on the far side of the barrier. They came nearer, and then were almost at the door, paused for a moment, and then the door was opened and the red light from a fire flashed out on me, showing the tall form of a man in monk’s dress in its opening.

“Come in, my son,” said a grave voice, speaking Welsh, that had no wonder in it, though one could hardly have expected to see an armed and gold-bedecked Saxon here in the storm.

I stumbled into what I had thought a rock, and found when my eyes grew used to the light that I was in a house built of great stones, uncemented but wonderfully fitted together, and warm and bright with the driftwood fire, though I heard the spray rattle on the roof of flat stones, and the wind howled strangely around the walls. Both ends of this house were of the living rock of the sides of the gorge, and at one end seemed to be a sort of cave with a narrow entrance.

The man who had bidden me in stood yet at the open door looking out on his staircase, but he did not bide there long. With a sigh he turned and closed the door and came in, hardly looking at me, but turning toward the cave I had just noticed. He was an old man, very old indeed, with a long white beard and pale face lined with countless wrinkles, and he stooped a little as he walked. But his face was calm and kind, though he did not smile at me, and I felt that here I was safe with one of no common sort.

“Come, my son,” he said, “it is the hour of prime. Glad am I to have one with me after many days.”

He waited for no answer, and I followed him for the few steps that led to the rock cavern; and there was a tiny oratory with its altar and cross, and wax lights already burning.

The old man knelt in his place and I knelt with him, and as he began the office straightway I knew how worn out I was, and of a sudden the lights danced before me and I reeled and fell with a clatter and clash of arms on the rocky floor. I seemed to know that the old man turned and looked and rose up from his knees hastily, and I tried to say that I was sorry that I had broken the peace of this holy place; but he answered in his soft voice:

“Why, poor lad, I should have seen that you were spent ere this. The fault is mine.”

He raised me gently, and seemed to search me for some wound. And as he did so I came more to myself, and begged him to go on with his office.

“First comes care of the afflicted, my son, and after that may be prayer. In truth, to help the fainting is in itself a prayer, as I think. Come to the fireside and tell me what is amiss.”

“Fasting and fighting and freezing, father,” I said, trying to laugh.

“Are you wounded?” he asked quickly.

“No, not at all.”

“That is well. It is a brave heart that will jest in such a case as yours, for you are ice from head to foot. Well, I had better hear your story, if you will tell it me, in the daylight. Now get those wet garments off you and put on this. I will get you food, and you shall sleep.”

This was surely the last place where my foes would think of looking for me, and the snow would hide every trace of my path. So I made no delay, but took off my byrnie and garments. There was a pool on the floor where I stood, for it was true enough that I had been ice covered. Then I put on a rough warm brown frock with a cord round the waist, so that I looked like a lay brother at Glastonbury, and all the while I waxed more and more sleepy with the comfort of the place. But I wiped my arms carefully while the old priest was busy with a cauldron over the fire, and we were ready at the same time.

Then I had a meal of some sort of stew that seemed the best I ever tasted, and a long draught of good mead, while the host looked on in grave content. And then he spread a heap of dry seaweed in a corner near the fire, and blessed me and bid me sleep. Nor did I need a second bidding, and I do not think that I can have stirred from the time that I lay down to the moment when I woke with a feeling on me that it was late in the daylight.

So it was, and I looked round for my kind host, but he was not to be seen. Outside the wind was still strong, but not what it had been, for the gale was sinking suddenly as it rose, and into the one little window the sun shone brightly enough now and then as the clouds fled across it. There was a bright fire on the hearth, and over it hung a cauldron, whence steam rose merrily, and it was plain that my friend of last night was not far off, so I lay still and waited his return.

Then my eyes fell on my clothes and arms as they hung from pegs in the walls over against me, and it seemed as if the steel of mail and helm and sword had been newly burnished. Then I saw also that a rent in my tunic, made when my horse fell, had been carefully mended, and that no speck of the dust and mire I had gathered on my garments from collar to hose was left. All had been tended as carefully as if I had been at home, and I saw Elfrida’s little brooch shining where I had pinned it.

That took me back to Glastonbury in a moment, but I had to count before I could be sure that it was but a matter of hours since I took that gift in the orchard, rather than of months. And I wondered if Owen knew yet that I was lost, or if my men sought me still. Then my mind went to Evan, the chapman outlaw, and I thought that by this time he would have given me up, and would be far away by now, beyond the reach of Thorgils and his wrath.

Now the seaward door opened, and a swirl of spray from the breakers on the rocks came in with my host, who set a great armful of drift wood on the floor, closed it, and so turned to me.

“Good morrow, my son,” he said. “How fare you after rest?”

“Well as can be, father,” I answered, sitting up. “Stiff I am, and maybe somewhat black and blue, but that is all. I have no hurt. But surely I have slept long?”

“A matter of ten hours, my son, and that without stirring. You needed it sorely, so I let you be. Now it is time for food, but first you shall have a bath, and that will do wonders with the soreness.”

Thankful enough was I of the great tub of hot water he had ready for me, and after it and a good meal I was a new man. My host said nought till I had finished, and then it was I who broke the silence between us.

“Father,” I said, “I have much to thank you for. What may I call you?”

“They name me Govan the Hermit, my son.”

“I do not know how to say all I would, Father Govan,” I went on, “but I was in a sore strait last night, and but for your bell I think I must have perished in the snow, or in some of the clefts of these cliffs.”

“I rang the bell for you, my son, though I knew not why. It came on me that one was listening for some sign of help in the storm.”

“How could you know?” I asked in wonder.

Govan shook his head.

“I cannot tell. Men who bide alone as I bide have strange bodings in their solitude. I have known the like come over me before, and it has ever been a true warning.”

Now it was my turn to be silent, for all this was beyond me. I had heard of hermits before, but had never seen one. If all were like this old man, too much has not been said of their holiness and nearness to unseen things.

So for a little while we sat and looked into the fire, each on a three-legged stool, opposite one another. Then at last he asked, almost shyly, and as if he deemed himself overbold, how it was that I had come to be on the cliffs. That meant in the end that he heard all my story, of course, but my Welsh halted somewhat for want of use, and it was troublesome to tell it. However, he heard me with something more than patience, and when I ended he said:

“Now I know how it is that a Saxon speaks the tongue of Cornwall here in Dyfed. You have had a noble fostering, Thane, for even here we lamented for the loss of Owen the prince. We have seen him in Pembroke in past years. You will be most welcome there with this news, for Howel, our prince, loved him well. They are akin, moreover. It will be well that you should go to him for help.”

He rose up and went to the seaward door again, and I followed him out. The sea was but just below us, for the tide was full, and the breakers were yet thundering at the foot of the cliffs on either hand. But I did not note that at first, for the thing which held my eyes at once was a ship which was wallowing and plunging past us eastward, under close reefed sail, and I knew her for the vessel in which I had crossed. Thorgils had left the cove, and was making for Tenby while he might. I should have to seek him there.

“How far is it to the Danes’ town, Father Govan?” I asked. “Yonder goes my friend’s ship.”

“Half a day’s ride, my son, and with peril for you all the way. Our poor folk would take you for a Dane in those arms, and you have no horse. Needs must that you seek Howel, and he will give you a guard willingly.”

Then he turned toward a great rock that lay on the beach, as if it had fallen from the cliffs that towered above us.

“Here is the bell that you heard last night,” he said.

He took a rounded stone that lay on the rock and struck it, and I knew that the clear bell note that it gave out was indeed that which had been my saving.

“Once I had a bell in the cote on the roof yonder,” he said, “but the Danes caught sight of it when they first passed this way, and took it from me. Then as I sorrowed that the lonely shepherds and fishers might no more hear its call, I seemed to see a vision of an angel who bade me see what had been sent me instead. And when I went out as the vision bade me, I could see nought but this rock newly fallen, and was downcast. And so, from the cliff rolled a little stone and smote it, and it rang, and I knew the gift. To my hearing it has a sweeter voice than the bell made with hands.”

Then he showed me his well, roofed in with flat stones because the birds would wash in it, and so close to the sea salt that it seemed altogether wonderful that the water was fresh and sweet. And then I saw that the cell did indeed stretch from side to side of the narrow cleft down which I had come, so that each end of the building was of living rock.

“I built it with my own hands, my son,” he said. “I cannot tell how long ago that was, for time is nought to me, but it was many years. Once I wore arms and had another name, but that also I care not to recall.”

Then there came footsteps from above us, and looking up I saw a man in a rough fisher’s dress coming in haste down the long flight of rock-hewn steps that led from the cliff top down the cleft to the door that I had found last night, and soon we heard him calling to the hermit.

Govan left me, and went through the cell to speak with him, but was back very shortly.

“Howel the prince is coming hither,” he said. “The man you saw has seen him on the way, and came to warn me to be at hand for him. It is well for you, my son, as I am sure.”

So we went together into the house, and I thought to arm myself, but Govan smiled and asked me not to do so, saying that hither even Howel would come without his weapons, in all likelihood.

I understood him, and did but see that my sword was in reach before I sat down and waited for the coming of the Welsh prince, and I thought that all I need ask him was for help to reach Tenby, whither Thorgils must have gone. It was quite likely that Evan might have raised the country against me in hopes of taking me again. And maybe I would ask for justice on the said Evan. Also I wanted to hear what had happened after my going.

It was not long that I had to wait. There came the tramp of horses at the top of the gorge, and the sound of a voice or two, and then the tread of an armed man came slowly down the stair, and Govan went to meet him. I rose and waited for his entry.

Now there came in, following Govan, unhelmed as he had greeted the holy man, a handsome, middle-aged warrior, black haired and eyed and active looking. He wore the short heavy sword of the Roman pattern, gold hilted and scabbarded, at his side, and the helm he carried had a high plumed crest and hanging side pieces that seemed like those pictured on the walls of Gerent’s palace. He had no body armour on, and his dress was plain enough, of white woollen stuff with broad crimson borders, but round his neck was a wonderful twisted collar of gold, and heavy golden bracelets rang as his arms moved. I saw that his first glance went to me, and that his face changed when he saw that I was not one of his own people, but a foreigner, as he would hold me. I saw too that he noted my arms as they hung on the wall behind me.

Govan saw it also, and made haste to tell him who I was.

“This is one who should be welcome to you, Prince, for the sake of old days, for he has come by mischance from Dyvnaint, being foster son of one of the princes of Gerent’s court, though a Saxon by birth. Nevertheless he speaks our tongue well. He will tell you all that presently, and I think that he needs your help.”

“I thought you one of our troublesome neighbours, the Danes,” he said, with a smile now in place of the look of doubt. “But if you are from Dyvnaint there are many things that you can tell me. But I have come here to see that all is well with Father Govan, for there is talk of a mad Norseman who is roving the country, unless the cold has ended him in the night. It is good to see that nought is wrong here.”

Now I stood apart, and Govan and his guest spoke together for a few moments before my turn to tell Howel of my plight should come, and almost the next thing that the prince said made me wonder that I had not thought who he was at once. Of course, he was the father of the kindly princess who had crossed the sea with Thorgils, and had so nearly been the means of my earlier rescue.

“Nona, my daughter, is here at the cliff top, Father Govan,” Howel said. “She came home in the Norse ship last night, as we planned; but tide failed for Tenby, and it chanced that the ship had to put in at the old landing place. Now she wants to thank you for your prayers for her, and also to beg them for some sick man about whom she is troubling herself–some poor hurt knave of a trader who crossed in the ship with her.”

“I will go out and speak with her,” Govan said, smiling. “It is ever her way to think of the troubled.”

“Tell her that I will not keep her long in the cold,” Howel said. “Bid her keep her horse walking, lest he take chill, if I may ask as much, Father.”

Govan threw his cowl over his head, and answered:

“I will tell her. Now, Prince, this friend of mine has come here in a strange way, and I think he needs help that you can give him.”

He passed out of the cliffward door and went his way up the long stairway. Then Howel asked me how he could help me.

“Tell me about Dyvnaint also, for when I was a boy I was long at Gerent’s court. Did not Govan say that you were fostered by one of the princes? It is likely that I knew your foster father well, if so; was he Morgan?”

“Not Morgan, but Owen,” I answered, and at that Howel almost started to his feet.

“Owen!” he cried. “Does he yet live? Surely we all thought him dead, or else he had come hither to us when he was banished. I loved him well in the old days, and glad I am that you are not Morgan’s charge. Tell me all about Owen. Is he home again?”

“Morgan is dead,” I answered, feeling that here I had met with a friend in all certainty. “And because of that, Owen is in his place again, and I am here. It has all happened in this week, and to tell you of it is to tell you all my trouble.”

Now he was all impatience to hear, and I told him all that needed to be told, until I came to the time when Owen was back at Norton with the old king. Then he asked me some questions about matters there, and in the midst of my answers sprang up.

“Why,” he cried, “here I have forgotten the girl, and she ought to be hearing all this, instead of sitting in the cold on the cliff. She is Owen’s goddaughter, moreover, and he was here only a little time before he was banished. She can remember him well.”

“Stay, though,” he said, sitting down again. “There is your own tale yet. Let us hear it. Maybe that is not altogether so pleasant.”

My own thought was that I was glad I might tell it without the wondering eyes of the fair princess on me, being afraid in a sort of way of having her think of me as the helpless sick man she had pitied. So I hastened to tell all that story.

And when I came to the way in which Evan brought me, Howel’s eyes flashed savagely, and a black scowl came over his handsome face, sudden as a thunderstorm in high summer.

“It will be a short shrift and a long rope for that Evan when I catch him,” he said. “He comes here every year, and I suppose that the goods I have had from him at times have been plunder. I would that you had ended him last night. Now he has got away in peace, and is out of my reach, maybe, by this time. Well, how went it?”

Then I told him the end of the tale, wondering how it was that Thorgils had let him go. I asked the prince if he could explain that for me.

“Not altogether,” he said. “Evan sent to me to ask me for men to guard the ship presently, after we began the feast, saying that he was going ashore with his goods, and was responsible to the shipmaster. I told Thorgils, and he said it was well. So I sent a guard, and presently Evan came and spoke with Thorgils for a little while, and drank a cup of wine, and so went his way. Next morning, before he sailed, Thorgils came and grumbled about the loss of his boat, saying that Evan had taken some sick friend of his ashore in her, and that she had not come back. I paid him for it too, because I like the man, and so does my daughter. He sailed, and then I heard of the fight for the first time.”

Howel laughed a little to himself.

“Master Evan must have paid my rascals well to keep up the story of the sick man to Thorgils, for he said nothing to me of any fight. Maybe, however, he never spoke to any of them, and it is likely that they would not say much to him. And now, by the Round Table! if you are not the mad Norseman they prated of to me when I wanted to know who slew the two men, and if you are not the sick man that Nona is so anxious about! Here, she must come and see you!”

With that he got up and went to the door before I could stay him, and called gaily to the princess, whose horse I could hear stamping high above us.

“Ho, Nona, here is a friend of yours whom you will be glad to see. Ask Father Govan to let you come hither, and bid the men take your horse.”

So I must make the best of it, and I will say that I felt foolish enough. It was in my mind, though, that I owed many thanks to the princess for all her kind thought for me as sick man. I had already said as much to Howel. So I began to try to frame some sort of speech for her. One never remembers how such speeches always fail at the pinch.

The light footsteps came down the steps in no long time, and then the princess entered, dressed much as yesterday, with a bright colour from the wind, and looking round to see the promised friend.

“I have kept you long, daughter,” Howel said, taking her hand, “but I have been hearing good news. Here is Oswald of Wessex, a king’s thane, but more than that to us, for he is the adopted son of your own godfather, Owen of Cornwall, and he brings the best of tidings of him.”

Now the maiden’s face flushed with pleasure, and she held out her hand to me in frank welcome. Yet I saw a little wondering look on her face as she let her eyes linger on mine for a moment, and that puzzled me.

“You are most welcome, Thane,” she said. “It is a wonderful thing that here I should learn that my lost godfather yet lives. You will come to Pembroke with us, and tell me of him there?”

Then Howel laughed as if he had a jest that would not keep, and he cried: “Why, Nona, that is a mighty pretty speech, but surely one asks a sick man of his health first.”

She blushed a little, and glanced again at me.

“Surely the thane is not hurt?” she said.

“Yesterday he was, and that sorely. What was it, Thane?–Slipped shoulder, broken thigh, and broken jaw? All of which a certain maiden pitied most heartily, even to lending a blanket to the poor man.”

Then Nona blushed red, and I made haste to get rid of some of the thanks that were heartfelt enough if they came unreadily to my lips, and Howel laughed at both of us. I think that the princess found her way out of the little constraint first, for she began to smile merrily.

“There must be a story for me to hear about all this,” she said. “But I was sure that I had seen your eyes before. I was wondering where it could have been.”

“Well,” said Howel, “I have sat with the thane for close on an hour, and now I do not know what colour his eyes are.”

“They were all that I could see of him, father,” laughed the princess, and then she put the matter aside. “Now we have been here long enough, and good Govan shivers on the hilltop. Surely the thane will ride home with us, and we can talk on the way.”

Howel added at once that this was the best plan for me, and what he was about to ask me himself.

“I know you will want to get home again as soon as may be,” he said. “No doubt Thorgils will take you at once. I will have word sent to him at Tenby to stay for you.”

“Father, you have forgotten,” the princess said, somewhat doubtfully, as I thought.

“Nay, but I have not,” answered Howel grimly. “But honest Thorgils is a white heathen, and those Tenby men are black heathen. He does not come into our quarrels, and will heed me, if they will not.”

I minded that I had heard of trouble between the Tenby Danes and this prince, and it seemed that he spoke of it again. However, that I might hear by and by. So I thanked him, and said that I could wish for nothing better than to be his guest until I could go on my way hence.

Now the princess went to the cliff top and called Govan, while I armed myself. The hermit came back, and I bade him farewell, with many thanks for his kindnesses during the hours I had been with him; and so I went from the little cell with the blessing of Govan the Hermit on me, and that was a bright ending to hours which had been dark enough. Govan the Saint, men call him, now that he has gone from among them, and rightly do they give him that name, as I think.

Howel dismounted one of his men, and set me on the horse in his place, and then we rode to the camp at the landing place by the track which had led me hither, passing the head of the rift from which I had escaped, so that I saw its terrors in full daylight. And they were even more awesome to me than as I hung on the brink with the depths unknown below me. Then Howel told me how once a hunter had come suddenly on that gulf with his horse at full gallop, and had been forced to leap or court death by checking the steed. He had cleared it in safety, but the terror of what he had done bided with him, so that he died in no long time; I could well believe it.

Then the princess told me many things of Govan, and among others that the poor folk held that when the Danes came and stole the bell from him he had been hidden from them in the rock wall of the chapel, which had gaped to take him in, closing on him and setting him free when danger was past. Certainly there was a cleft in the rock wall of the chapel wall that had markings as of the ribs of a man in its sides, and was just the height and width for one to stand in, but Govan said nought to me about it when he told of the taking of the bell. Danes also slew all these cattle whose bones I had passed among.

Then we came in sight of the camp, over which the red dragon banner of Wales floated, and Howel told me how it was that he had met us there with his guards.

“Men saw Thorgils’ ship from the lookout, and so I came here, for they said that she could not make Tenby on this tide and must needs come in here. Nona has been for three months with her mother’s folk in Cornwall–ay, she is half Cornish, and kin to Gerent and Owen. I was married over there, at Isca, and Owen was at the wedding as my best man, though he is ten years younger than I. That is how he came to be the girl’s godfather, you see. Now I wanted her back, for it is lonely at Pembroke without her, and I am apt to wax testy with folk if she is not near to keep things straight. So I sent word by Thorgils six weeks ago that she was to come back, and he was to bring her. I have had the men watching for the ship ever since. Good it is to see her again, and she has brought good news also, with yourself. I have a mind to keep you with us awhile, and let the Norseman take back word of your safety.”

But I said that, however pleasant this would be, it seemed plain that I must get back to Owen with all speed, to warn him of this trouble that was somewhat more than brewing. It could not be thought that I would send word and yet never move to his side to help.

“If I might say what comes into my mind,” said the fair princess, “it seems almost better that none but Owen and yourself know that the plot is found out, while you guard against it. The traitors will be less careful if they deem that nought is known. Thorgils is somewhat talkative, you know.”

“That is right,” said Howel. “I have a good counsellor here, Thane, as you see. However, Thorgils will not sail today, for he has just put in, and I know that he was complaining of some sort of damage done, as the gale set a bit of a sea into the cove, and he had some ado to keep clear of the rocks for a time. We will even ride to Pembroke, and I will send for Thorgils that he may speak with you.”

And then he added grimly:

“Moreover, I will send men on the track of Evan, the chapman, forthwith.”

So we called out the guards from the camp, where there were lines of huts with a greater building in the midst as if it were often used thus, and so rode across the rolling land northwards till we came to Pembroke. And there Howel of Dyfed dwelt in state in such a palace as that of Gerent, for here again the hand of the Saxon had never come, and the buildings bore the stamp of Imperial Rome.

So once again I was lodged within stone walls, and with a roof above me that I could touch with my hand, and I need not say how I fared in all princely wise as the son of Owen. I suppose there could be no more frank and friendly host than Howel of Dyfed.

Tired I was that night also, and I slept well. But once I woke with a fear for Owen on me, for I had dreamed that I saw some man creeping and spying along the wide ramparts of Norton stronghold. And it seemed that the man had a bow in his hand.


I thought Pembroke a very pleasant place when I came to see it in the fair winter’s morning. The gale had passed, but it had brought a thaw with it, and there was a softness in the air again, and the light covering of snow had gone when I first looked abroad. There had been no such heavy fall here as we had in Wessex beyond the sea.

Maybe pleasant companionship had something to do with my thought of the place, for none can deny that a good deal does depend on who is with one. And, seeing that after the morning meal her father was busy with his counsellors for a time, Nona the princess would shew me all that was to be seen while we waited the coming of Thorgils.

Whoever chose the place for the building of this palace stronghold chose well, for it is set on a rocky tongue of land that divides the waters of an inland branch of the winding Milford Haven, so that nought but an easily defended ridge of hill gives access to the fortress. All the tongue itself has sheer rock faces to the water, and none might hope to scale them. They and the wall across the one way from the mainland, as one may call it, make Howel’s home sure, and since the coming of the Danes into the land he had strengthened what had fallen somewhat into decay in the long years of peace that had passed.

We had never reached Dyfed, either from land or sea. So I saw hawks and hounds, stables and guardrooms and all else, and at last we walked on the terraced edge of the cliffs in the southern sun, and there a man came and said that Thorgils the Norseman had come.

“Oh,” said Nona with a little laugh, “he knows not that you are here! Let us see his face when he meets you!”

“The prince is busy,” said the servant. “Is it your will that the stranger should be brought here?”

“Yes, bring him. Tell him that I would speak with him, but say nought of any other.”

The man bowed and went his way, and the princess turned to me with a new look of amusement on her face.

“Pull that cloak round you, Thane, and pay no heed to him when he comes; we may have sport.”

They had given me a long Welsh cloak of crimson, fur bordered, and a cap to wear with it instead of my helm. And of course I had not on my mail, though Ina’s sword was at my side, and Gerent’s bracelet on my arm, setting off a strange medley of black-and-blue bruises and red chafed places from the cords, moreover. So I laughed, and did as she bade me, even as I saw Thorgils brought round the palace toward us from the courtyard where they had taken charge of his horse. There were two other men with him, tall, wiry looking warriors, and all three were well armed, but in a fashion which was neither Welsh nor Saxon, but more like the latter than the former.

“Danes from Tenby,” said Nona; “I know them both, and like them. See what wondrous mail they have, and look at the sword hilt of the elder man. That is Eric, the chief, and I think he comes to speak with my father.”

The two Danes hung back as they saw that Howel was not present, but Thorgils unhelmed and came forward quickly, with the courtly bow he knew how to make when he chose, as he saluted the princess. Then he turned slightly to me with his stiff salute, and as I nodded to him I saw him start and look keenly at me. Then he looked away again, and tried to seem unheeding, but it was of no use; his eyes came back to me.

“You seem to have met our friend before, Shipmaster,” said Nona, whose eyes were dancing.

“I cannot have done so, Princess,” he answered. “But on my word, I never saw so strange a likeness to one I do know.”

“I trust that is a compliment to my friend,” she said.

“Saving the presence of the one who is like the man I know, I may say for certain that it is nought else to him.”

I turned away somewhat smartly, for I wanted to laugh, and this was getting personal. The princess was not unwilling, I think, that it should be more so.

“Now you have offended the present, and I shall have to say that the absent need not be so.”

“Nor the present either, Princess. See here, Lord, the man you are so wondrous like in face did the bravest deed I have seen for many a day. Moreover, he saved the life of a king thereby. Shall I tell thereof?”

Now this was a new tale to Nona, for, as may be supposed, I had not said that it was myself who handled Morgan so roughly, as I told the tale of his end. It would have seemed like boasting myself somewhat, as I thought, so I did but say that he was dragged away from the king in time. Nor had I spoken of Elfrida. The tale was told hurriedly, and when it was done there had been no thought but of Owen. It was greater news here that he lived than that Ina had narrowly escaped.

So she glanced round at me in some surprise, and then turned again to Thorgils.

“Some time you shall, for I love your songs. Not now, for we have not time.”

“Thanks, Lady. It will be a good song, and is shaping well in my mind. There is a brave lady therein also.”

“Well, you have not told us who the brave man is.

“Did I not know that Oswald, son of Owen the Cornish prince, was by this time in Glastonbury, I should have said he was here, so great is the likeness. It is a marvel.

“Now, Lord, you will forgive me, no doubt.”

“Ay, freely,” I said, turning round sharply. “That is, if your friend has a sword as good as this,” and I shewed him the gemmed hilt of Ina’s gift from beneath the folds of my great cloak.

He stared at it, and then at my face again, and I took off my cap to him with a bow.

“It is strange that a shipmaster knows not his own passenger,” I said.

But he was dumb for a moment, and his mouth opened. Nona laughed at him and clapped her hands with glee, and I must laugh also.

“By Baldur,” he gasped, “if it is not Oswald, in the flesh! What witchcraft brought you here? To my certain knowledge there is no ship but mine afloat now in the Severn Sea.”

“Why, then, I crossed with you, friend,” I said.

“That you did not–” he began, but stopped short.

“Thorgils, Thorgils–the sick man!” cried Nona.

“Oh!” said Thorgils, “can you have been Evan’s charge?”

“Ay. Mind you that it was your own word that there might be danger from the friends of Morgan?”

Then I told him all, and he heard with growls and head shakings, which but for the presence of the lady might have been hard sayings concerning my captors.

But when I ended he said:

“If ever I catch the said Evan there will be a reckoning. All the worse it will be for him that for these five years past I have known him, and deemed him a decent and trustworthy man, for a Welsh trader. I have fetched him back and forth with his goods twice or thrice a year for all that time, and now I suppose he has made me a carrier of stolen wares! Plague on him. I mind me now that betimes I have thought he dealt in cast-off garments somewhat, but that was not my affair. Now one knows how that was.”

“I liked the man well, also,” said the princess, with a sigh. “He has come here every year, and betimes as he shewed me his goods–not those you spoke of, Thorgils–it has seemed to me that he was downcast, and as one who had sorrow in his heart. Maybe he had, for his ill doings. He deserves to be punished, but yet I would ask that–that if you lay hands on him you will be merciful.”

“He shewed little mercy to Oswald the thane,” growled Thorgils. “However, Princess, I think that you may be easy. He will not risk aught, and we shall see him no more. But the knave would beguile Loki. Never a word did I hear of any trouble, but he came and spoke to me as I sat with your men yonder, and paid me his passage money, and said he had asked for a guard for the ship as he wanted to be away with the sick man. Also he said he would borrow the boat for his easier passage ashore. I supposed she was smashed in the gale, as she came not back, and Howel paid me for her when I grumbled.”

“I wonder he went near you,” I said.

“Therein was craft. If he had not paid passage I would have let every shipmaster beware of him, and he would have fared ill. He thought you done for, no doubt, and so fell back on certainty, as one may say. It is a marvel you escaped the great rifts in yon cliffs in the storm. Now he will hear that you are none the worse, and he will be sorry he paid me.”

Thorgils laughed grimly, but Nona sighed at the downfall of the man she had liked. As for myself, it mattered little what became of him, so far as I was concerned. Howel’s men were hunting him as I knew, and I only hoped they might catch him, for then we might learn more of the plotting that was on hand from him. He would tell all to save his skin, no doubt.

But now I told Thorgils how I needed to be back in Norton with all speed, and it sent a sort of chill through me to see him shake his head.

“There is need, truly,” he said, “and all that may be done I will do. But yestermorn we found that we had sprung a plank or two just above the waterline, as we were in a bad berth for shelter. I made shift to get the ship to Tenby, but on one tack she leaks like a basket, and she must be repaired. It will take all today, and maybe tomorrow; but it shall be done, if we have to work double tides, or to make a cobbler’s job of it in haste. I must be off therefore to see to it. But I hope, if wind will serve us we may sail for home tomorrow night. Tide serves about midnight, and waits for no man. You had better be with us betimes.”

He saw that I seemed downcast, and added thoughtfully enough: “It is in my mind that you need have little care yet. Gerent will not let Owen out of his sight for some time, as I think, and danger begins when he is abroad alone, and carelessly. Maybe not till he is at Exeter.”

Then he beckoned to the two Danes who were waiting him, and made them known to me after they had saluted the princess. Eric the chief was a fine old warrior, iron grey and strong, and the other was his son, who bade fair to be like his father in time. He was a sturdy young man, and wore his arms well. They shook hands with me frankly, and from their words it was plain that Thorgils had told my story at Tenby already.

“This is the sick man I told you of,” he said now. “He turns out to be a Thane of Glastonbury, and Evan had a hand in some plot of the friends of Morgan. Took him by craft and brought him here for ransom, doubtless. I had not thought that man such a knave, and shall distrust my judgment of men sorely in future.”

Then Nona asked them what they would with the prince, and Eric told her.

“The deer are in the valleys, Lady, and we came to tell the prince that we have harboured the great stag of twelve points in the woods beyond Caerau. Will it please him to join our hunt?”

“Doubtless,” she said. “Now there is no time to be lost, for the day is high already.”

“None the worse, Princess,” said Eric. “The last snow is passing hourly.”

So we went round to the front of the palace toward the gates, and there waited half a dozen more men and horses by a gathering of men on foot with a pack of great hounds, the like of which I had never seen. They were the Danish hounds, which had come hither with their masters, and were big and strong enough for any quarry, even were it the bear that yet lurked in the Welsh mountain wilds.

Then Howel came, and would have me mounted well, and in less than half an hour we were riding eastward along the ancient way they call the Ridgeway, which crowns the long hill between the sea and the valleys where lie the windings of Milford Haven. And so we went till we could see Tenby itself far off on its rocky ness, and at that point left Thorgils to go his way, while we turned northward into the inland valleys, and sought the deep combe where they had harboured the stag.

The snow lay here and there yet, but it was almost gone, and the going was somewhat heavy, but overhead the sky was soft and grey, and the wind was pleasant if chill. North and west it was, and that would be fair for our crossing, if only it would hold, as Thorgils deemed that it surely would.

Now it was good to hear the horn and the cheer of the hunters as they drew the deep cover for the deer, and the half-dozen couple of hounds that were held back in leash while the rest were at their work strained and whimpered to be with them. And at last the great stag broke from the cover, in no haste, but in a sort of disdain of those who had disturbed him, and after him came a few scurrying hinds who huddled to him for safely. They trotted to another cover, and after them streamed the hounds, and then the great stag was driven alone from his hiding, and so the pack was laid on and we were away.

He headed for the far waters of the haven I had seen glittering from the hilltop, even as Howel told me was likely, and the pace was fast at the first. So I settled myself to the work and rode as one should ride on another man’s horse, and a good one, moreover, carefully enough. But these hills were easier than ours, for heather was none, and the loose stones that trouble us on Mendips and Quantocks were not to be seen. It was fair grass land mostly. So I let my horse go, and in a little while had forgotten aught but the sheer joy of the pace, and the cry of the great hounds, and the full delight of such a run as one dreams of. Whereby I have little more to tell thereof.

For a country may seem to be open enough as one looks down on it from a height, but as one crosses it the difference in what has seemed easy riding is soon plain. Long swells of rolling ground rise as it were from nothing, and deep valleys that had been unseen cross the path, and the clustered trees are found to be deep woods as they are neared. Then the man who knows the country has the advantage, and it is as well to follow him. But I was well mounted, and the pace was good where the gale had thinned the snow, and it came about that before I had time to think what Howel and Eric and the Danes who were on horseback were doing I rode down one side of a little cover, past which the deer had gone with the hounds close on him, while the rest went on the other. I heard one shout, but it did not come into my mind that it was to me, for I thought that they needs must follow, and did not look round. Then I had to turn off yet more to the right as the best way seemed to take me, and meanwhile they were off to the left.

So when I was clear of the thicket and could see across the open again I had lost them. Unless I could hear the hounds I had nothing to guide me, and I drew rein and listened for them. As I heard nothing I rode on until I had a stretch of open country before me, but there I could see no more. Afterwards I learned that the deer had turned and made for the hill again, but it did not seem likely that he would do so with the waters of the haven so close at hand as I could see them. It was more likely that he would head straight for them, and so I spurred on once more in that direction. It was certainly the best thing that I could do, and I had not far to go before a mile of the open water was before me. But there was nought on its banks but a row of patient herons, fishing or sleeping, and the sight of them told me that no man had passed this way for many a long hour.

I waited in that place for a few moments, to see if the deer made for the refuge of the water from some cover that as yet hid him from me, but he did not come. It was plain to me then that the hunt had doubled back and that I was fairly thrown out, and I went no farther. By this time Eric might be miles away, and I knew nothing of the lie of the land, save that along the crest of the Ridgeway ran the road from Tenby to Pembroke, and that once on that road I could make my way back in no long time. That, as it seemed to me, was the best thing that I could do, and I headed my horse at once for the hill, going slowly, for it was no great distance, and it was heavy going in the places where the snow had gathered in drifts. I thought that maybe I should cross the track of the horses and hounds, or hear Eric’s horn before I had gone far, but I reached the foot of the hill without doing either.

Then I came to a place where the land began to draw upward more sharply, thickly timbered, with scattered rocks among the roots of the trees. Fox and badger and wildcat had their hiding places here, for I could trace them on all sides, and then I saw the track of a wolf, and that minded me, as that track in snow ever must, of Owen and the day when he came to my help at Eastdean. That is the clearest memory I have of my childhood.

Then I thought that I heard the horn, and stopped to listen, nor was it long before what I had heard came to my ears again. It was not the sound of the horn, however, but somewhat strange to me, and for a while I wondered what forest bird or beast had a note like that.

For the third time I heard it, and now it was plainly like the half-stifled cry of some one in pain among the trees to the right of me, and not far distant either. So I rode toward the place whence the cry seemed to come, and as I went I called. At that the voice rose more often, with some sound of entreaty in its tone, and it seemed to be trying to form words. I hastened then, crossing more wolf tracks on the way, and then I struck the trail of many men and a few horses; but these were not Eric’s, for the hoof marks were rather those of ponies than of his tall steeds. I followed that track, for it seemed to lead toward the weary voice that I heard, and so I came to a circle of great oaks with a clear space of many paces wide between them, and there I found what I was seeking. It was piteous enough.

A man was tied to the greatest of the trees, with knees to chin, and bound ankles, while round his knees his hands were clasped and fastened so that a stout stake was thrust through, under his knees and over his elbows, trussing him helplessly. The cords that bound him to the tree were round his body in such wise that he could by no means fall on his side and so work himself free from the stake, and round his mouth was a ragged cloth tied, but not closely enough to prevent him from calling out as I heard him. I think that he must have gnawed it from closer binding than I saw now. Across the snow behind him the paws of some daring wolf had left marks as if the beast had sniffed at his very back not so long since, and surely but for the chance of my coming that way nought but his bones had been left in that place by the pack before morning came again.

It was a strange cry that this man gave when he saw me, for in no way could I take it for a cry of joy for rescue. I could rather think that he had raised the same when the wolf came near him. And when I dismounted and led my horse after me toward him he seemed to try to shrink from me, as if I also meant him harm. I thought that the poor soul had surely gone distracted with the fear of the forest beasts on him, so that he no longer knew friend from foe, and I wondered how long he had been bound here in this lonely place. I had seen no house or trace of men between here and Tenby.

I hitched the bridle rein over a low bough, and leaving my horse went toward him to set him loose, wondering who had left him here. And as I drew my seax and went to cut the lashings he writhed afresh and cried piteously for mercy in what sounded like bad Saxon from behind the cloth across his face, as though he deemed that I came to slay him. I did not notice the strangeness of his using my own tongue here in the heart of a Welsh land at the time, but thought he took me for one of those who had bound him.

“Fear not,” I said, speaking in Welsh to comfort him.

And if anything, that seemed to terrify him yet more.

“Mercy, good Thane–mercy!” he mumbled from his half-stifled lips.

Then it seemed to me that it was strange that he knew what I was, and before I cut the bonds I took the cloth from his face, and lo! the man was Evan the outlaw, my enemy!

That told me why he feared me in good truth, for he had need to do so, and I stood back and looked at him with the bright weapon still in my hand, and he cried and begged for mercy unceasingly. It seemed but right that he should be bound helplessly as he had bound me, yet he had not the bitterness of seeing a friend look on him without knowing him as had I. It was a foe whom he saw, and that a righteous one.

Then I was minded to turn away and leave him where he was, until the foe from the forest looked on him for the last time, for it was all that he deserved, and I set my seax back in my belt and turned away to my horse with a great loathing of the man in my mind; and seeing that, he begged for mercy again most pitiably.

That is a hard thing to hear unmoved, and I stayed and looked at him again. My first wrath was leaving me as I saw the fullness of the end of his plans, and I do not think that it is in me to be utterly revengeful.

“What mercy can you hope from me!” I said coldly.

“None, Thane–none. But let me go hence with you. Better the rope than these wild beasts. Or slay me now, and swiftly.”

“Who, of all your friends, tied you here?” I asked him.

“Howel’s men,” he answered. “They took my goods at the ford of Caerau yonder, and so brought me here and left me. That was early this morning.”

“I marvel that you bided in reach of any who might speak with me,” I said.

“My comrades left me, for fear of that same. I must hire ponies to get the goods away. I thought you had died on the wild sea that night.”

“It seems to me that this is but justice on you. The goods you have lost were stolen from honest men. And it were just if I left you bound as you bound me.”

Then the man said slowly: “Ay, it is justice. But will you treat me even as I treated you, Thane?”

I looked at him in some wonder. The man’s face had grown calm, though it was yet grey and drawn, and this seemed as if he would own his fault without excuse. I minded that Nona the princess and her father, ay, and Thorgils, had said that they thought well of Evan the merchant up till this time.

“Supposing I let you go–What then?” I said.

“First of all, I would tell you somewhat for which you will thank me, Thane.”

“Tell me that first,” I said, not altogether believing that he had anything which could be worth my hearing, but with a full mind now to let him go.

Plainly, he had some sort of faith in me, or in the worth of what he had to say, for he began eagerly:

“Thane, when we took you, it was Owen of Cornwall for whom we waited. We were not minding you at all until we saw that we might hurt him through you.”

“That I suppose. I know that you laid wait for Owen the prince.”

“Ay, for you know the Welsh and heard all that we said. But listen, Thane, this is it. Eight of the friends of Morgan had sworn the death of Owen that morning, and it was the leader of them who set us on. He was not there, for he waited on another road.”

“Were you one of the eight?”

“That I am not,” he said. “I and my men were but hired, as Morgan was wont to hire us now and then. When we took you methought that it was well for me, for through you I might be inlawed again, even as I told you.”

“Who was this leader?” I asked, heeding this last speech not at all.

“Tregoz of the Dart, men call him, for he holds lands thereon. Also there are these of the great men of Cornwall and Dyvnaint.”

He called over the names of the other seven, and I repeated them that I should not forget. The only one that I had heard before was that of Tregoz. The outlaws had spoken of him, and now I remembered him as one of those who had seemed loudest in welcome to Owen when he came to Norton. So I told Evan, and he nodded.

“I heard him boast of the same,” he said, and I believed him for the way in which he said it.

“How do they think to slay Owen, and wherefore?” I asked, and my blood ran cold at the thought of the treachery that was round him.

Doubtless this Tregoz was back at court.

“In any way that they may compass, and if in such a way as to stir up war with Ina of Wessex so much the better, as they say. It is revenge for the death of Morgan, and hatred of the Saxon, mixed.”

“Is there any more that I should know?”

“None, Thane. But I have broken no oath in telling you this, as you might think. We outlaws were not bound, for there seemed no need.”

It was strange that he should care to tell me this, being what he was. Once more I minded words of Thorgils–that the knave would beguile Loki himself with fair words. Yet there was somewhat very strange in all the looks and words of the man at this time. But I would not talk longer with him, and I cut his bonds and freed him.

He tried to rise and stretch his cramped limbs, groaning with the pain of them as he did so. And that grew on him so that of a sudden he swooned and fell all his length at my feet, and then I found myself kneeling and chafing the hands of this one who had bound me, so that he should come round the sooner. At last he opened his eyes, and I fetched the horn of strong mead that Howel had bidden his folk hang on my saddle bow when we rode out, and that brought him to himself again. He sat up on the snow and thanked me humbly.

“Now, what will you do?” I said. “Let me tell you that Thorgils is after you, and that Howel has set a price on your head, or was going to do so. And it is better that you cross the sea no more, for if ever any one of the men of Gerent or Ina catch you your life will be forfeit.”

“I will get me to North Wales or Mercia, Thane, and there will I live honestly, and that I will swear. Only, I will pray you not to tell Howel that I am free.”

“I am like to tell no man,” I answered grimly. “For I should but be called a soft-hearted fool for my pains.”

“Yet shall you be glad that you freed me. Bid Owen the prince look to the door before ever he opens it. Bid him wear his mail day and night, and never ride unguarded. Let him have one whom he trusts to sleep across his doorway, until Tregoz and his men are all accounted for.”

“Well, then,” I said, “farewell–as well as you shall deserve hereafter. You best know if you have one safe place left to you in England or in Wales.”

“I was not all so bad until the law hounded me forth from men,” he said. “I have yet places where I am held as an honest man.”

Now I had enough of him, and I would not ask him more of himself yet I will say that my heart softened somewhat toward him, for I knew that here also he had been well thought of. Almost did I forget how he had treated me, for now that seemed a grudge against Tregoz. Maybe that was all foolishness on my part, but I am not ashamed thereof today, as I was then.

“Stay, have you any weapon?” I said, as I was turning away. “There are many ills that may befall an unarmed man in a wild country.”

“There was a seax here,” he said, rising stiffly. “They left it on the ground, that I might see help out of my reach, as it were. Ay, here it is.”

He took it up, and I knew that after all he had felt somewhat as he had made me feel when I saw help close to me and might not have it. I pitied him, for I knew well what his torture had been. Ay, and I will tell this, that men may know how this terror burnt into me. Many a time have I let a trapped rat go, because I would not see the agony of dumb helplessness in anything. It frays me. There is no wonder that I set Evan free.

I said no more, but left him staring after me with the seax in his hand, and rode on my way, thinking most of all of the peril that was about Owen, and longing to be back with him that I might guard him. It seemed likely now that Gerent could take all these men whose names I had heard without the least trouble, for they could not deem that their plans were known. Ina would surely let me bide with my foster father till danger to him was past.

So I came into the road that runs along the top of the Ridgeway, and then I knew where I was. I could see the great ness of Tenby far before me across the hills, and presently at a turn in the road I saw Howel and Eric and his men ahead of me. They had taken the stag, and knew that I should make my way back, and so troubled not at all for me.

There Howel and I parted from the Danes, they going back to Tenby, while we returned slowly to Pembroke. And when we came to the palace yard we found a little train of horses and men there, as though some new guests had come in lately.

“I know who these will be,” said Howel. “You will have company in your homeward crossing. Here is Dunwal of Devon, and his daughter, who have been on pilgrimage to St. Davids, for Christmastide. They knew that Nona returned at this time, and have come hither on the chance of a passage home in the ship which brought her. In good time they are, after all.”

Presently I met these folk, and very courteous they were. Dunwal was a tall, very dark, man, who chose to hold that he was beholden to myself for the passage home, when he heard why I was sailing so soon. And his daughter was like him in many ways, being perhaps the very darkest damsel I have ever seen, though she was handsome withal. With them was a priest of the old Western Church, a Cornishman, with his outlandish tonsure. He was somewhat advanced in years, and strangely wild looking at times, though silent. He seemed to be Dunwal’s chaplain, or else was a friend who had made the pilgrimage with him. His name was Morfed, they told me.

I do not think that I should have noted him much, but that when he heard my Saxon name he scowled heavily, and drew away from me; and presently, when it came to pass that Howel told Dunwal the news I had brought, I saw his eyes fixed on me in no friendly way as he listened. Nor did he join with his friends in the words of gladness for Owen’s return, though indeed I had some thought that theirs might have been warmer. It was almost as if something was held back by the Devon man and his daughter, though why I should think so I could not tell. At all events, their way of receiving the news was not like that of Howel and Nona.

By and by, when we came to sit down at table in the largest room of the palace, bright with fair linen, and silver and gold and glass vessels before us, and soft and warm under foot with rugs on the tiled floor which hardly needed them, as I thought, there was a guest I was pleased to see. Thorgils had ridden from Tenby at the bidding of the princess, as it seemed, and his first words to me were of assurance that all went well for our sailing. The good ship would be ready for the tide of the morrow night. Pleased enough also he was with the chance of new passengers, as may be supposed.

I do not think that I have ever sat at a feast whereat so few were present at the high table, and there were no house-carles at all. Truly, the room was not large enough for what we deem that a king’s board should be, but we seemed almost in private. There were not more than thirty guests altogether, but it was pleasant for all that. The princess was on the right of her father, and Mara, the daughter of Dunwal, on his left, but I sat next to Nona, and Dunwal to me again. On the other side of the prince were some of his own nobles, and across the room sat Thorgils next to the Cornish priest, among Welshmen of some lower rank. They seemed an ill-assorted pair, but Thorgils was plainly trying to be friendly with every one in reach of him, and soon I forgot him in the pleasantness of all that went on at our table.

However, by and by Howel said to Nona suddenly, in a low voice:

“Look yonder at the Norseman. He must be talking heathenry to yon priest, for the good man seems well-nigh wild. What can we do?”

Truly, the face of Morfed was black as thunder, while that of the Norseman was shining with delight in some long-winded story he was telling. The white-robed servants were clearing the tables at this moment, and the prince’s bard, a fine old harper with golden collar and chain, was tuning his little gilded harp as if the time for song had come.

“Make him sing,” said Nona. “I bade him here tonight that he might do so. He has some wondrous tale to tell us.”

Howel beckoned to the harper, and signed to him, and the old man rose at once and went to Thorgils. It was not the first time that he had sung here, it was plain. Then I noted that the priest was scowling fiercely at myself, and I wondered idly why. I supposed, so far as I troubled to think thereof that he was one of those who hated the very name of Saxon.

Now Thorgils took the harp without demur, smiling at the bard in thanks, and so came forward into the space round which the tables were set, while a silence fell on the company.

“If my song goeth not smoothly in the British tongue, Prince, forgive me. I can but do my best. Truly, I have even now asked my neighbour, Father Morfed, if it is fairly rendered, but I have not had his answer yet.”

He ran his hand over the already tuned strings, and lifted his voice and began. It was not the first time that he had handled a British harp, by any means, but if he played well he sang better. I do not think that one need want to hear a finer voice than his; and though he had seen fit to doubt his powers, his Welsh was as good as mine, and maybe, by reason of constant use, far more easy.

And next moment I knew that he was going to sing nothing more or less than of King Ina’s Yule feast, and what happened thereat. He had promised to tell the princess the story, and this was her doing, of course. I could not stop him, and there I must sit and listen to as highly coloured a tale as a poet could make of it. Once he saw that I was growing red, and he grinned gently at me across the harp, and worked up the struggle still more terribly. And all the while Morfed the priest glowered at me, until at length he rose and left the room.

I was glad enough when Thorgils ended that song, but Nona must ask him for yet another, and that pleased him, of course, and he began once more. This time he sang, to my great confusion, of the drinking of the bowl, and of my vow, and I wished that I was anywhere but in Pembroke, or that I could reach the three-legged stool on which he was perched from under him. I never knew a man easy while the gleemen sang his deeds, save Ina, who was used to it, and never listened; and I knew not where to look, though maybe more than half the folk present did not understand that I was the hero of the song. Nevertheless, I had to put up with it, till he ended with a verse or two of praise of our host and of the princess who loved the songs of the bard, and so took his applause with a happy smile and went and sat down, while Nona bade her maidens bear a golden cup and wine to him.

Then the princess turned to me with a quiet smile that had some mischief in it.

“This last is more than I had thought to hear, Thane,” she said; “you told us nought of yourself and the lady Elfrida when we rode from the hermit’s.”

And so she must ask me many questions, under cover of some chant which the old bard began, and she drew my tale from me easily enough, and maybe learnt more than I thought I told her, for before long she said:

“Then it seems that, after all, you are not so sure that the lady is pleased with you for your vow?”

And in all honesty I was forced to own that I was not. I suppose I showed pretty plainly that I thought myself aggrieved in the matter, for the princess smiled at me.

“Wait till you see how she meets you when you return, Thane. No need to despair till then.”

It came into my mind to say that I did not much care how I was met, but I forbore. Maybe it was not true. And then the princess and the three or four other ladies who were present rose and left the table, and thereafter we spoke of nought but sport and war, and I need not tell of all that. But when I went to my chamber presently, and the two pages were about to leave me to myself some three hours or so after the princess left the board, one of them lingered for a moment behind the other, and so handed me a folded and sealed paper.

“I pray you read this, Thane,” he said, and was gone.

It was written in a fair hand, that did not seem as that of any inky-fingered lay brother, but as I read the few words that were written I knew whose it was, for none but Nona would have written it.

“Have a care, Thane. I have spoken with Mara, and I fear trouble. Dunwal her father is, with Tregoz his brother, at the right hand of the men who follow Morgan. Morfed the priest is a hater of all that may make for peace with the Saxon. He is well-nigh distraught with hatred of your kin.”

Then there were a few words crossed out, and that was all. And to tell the truth, it was quite enough. But as I came to think over the matter, it seemed to me that until Dunwal knew that it was his brother who had tried to get rid of me I need not fear him. As for the priest, his hatred would hardly lead him to harm the son of Owen.

So I slept none the less easily, but from my heart I thanked the princess for the warning. It should not be my fault if Dunwal had much power for harm when once I met Gerent.


It needs not that I should tell of the farewell of the next day. I went from Pembroke with many messages for Owen, and a promise that if I might ever come over with him I would do so. The princess was busy with the lady who was to cross with Thorgils, and I did not find one chance of telling her that I thanked her for her warning, but I found the page who gave me the letter, and bade him tell his mistress when we had gone that she had taught me to look in the face of a fellow passenger, which would be token enough that I understood.

Dunwal and his daughter had some few men and pack horses with them, and one Cornish maiden who attended Mara, so that we were quite a little train as we rode from Pembroke toward Tenby in the late afternoon, with a score of Howel’s guards to care for us in all honour. Part of the way, too, Howel rode, and when we came to the hill above the Caerau woods, and looked down on the winding waters again, he said to me:

“I have forgotten to tell you that my men took Evan. By this time he has met his deserts. I have done full justice on him.”

“Thanks, Prince,” I said with a shudder, as I minded what I had saved the man from. “Did your men question him?”

Howel smote his thigh.

“Overhaste again!” he cried in vexation. “That should have been done; but I bade them do justice on him straightway if they laid hands on him. They did it.”

I said no more, nor did the prince. It was in my mind that he was blaming himself for somewhat more than carelessness. So presently he must turn and leave us, and we bade him farewell with all thanks for hospitality, and he bade me not forget Pembroke, and went his way.

Then I found Dunwal pleasant enough as a companion, and so also was Mara, and the few miles passed quickly, until we rode through the gates of the strong stockade which bars the way to the Danes’ town across the narrow neck of the long sea-beaten tongue of cliff they have chosen to set their place on. The sea is on either side, and at the end is an island that they hold as their last refuge if need is, while their ships are safe under one lee or the other from any wind that blows.

Far down below us at the cliff’s foot, as we rode through the town, where the houses had been set anywise, like those at Watchet, and were like them timber built, we could see to our left a little wharf, and beside it the ship that waited us. And the wind was fair, and the winter weather soft as one might wish it for the crossing.

Now, so soon as Thorgils had seen the baggage of the Cornish folk safely bestowed I had time for a word with him, taking him apart and walking up the steep hill path from the haven for a little way, as if to go to the town. And so I told him who this man was, and what possible danger might be.

He heard with a long whistle of dismay:

“‘Tis nigh as bad as crossing with Evan,” he said–“but one is warned. Let them have the after cabin, and do you take the forward one; it will be safer. Leave me to see to him when we get to Watchet, for it is in my mind that Gerent will want him. Moreover, so long as he thinks that you fear him not he will be careless, and I will watch him. He will want to learn more before he meddles with you. As for the priest, I will tend him.”

So we were content to leave the matter. Presently, when we were at sea, I do not think that Dunwal or Morfed had spirit left to care for aught. I know that I had not. I need not speak of that voyage, save to say that it was speedy, and fair–to the mind of Thorgils, at least.

At last I slept, nor did I wake till we had been alongside the wharf at Watchet for two hours, being worn out. Then I found that Dunwal and his party had gone already, and I wondered, with a mind to be angry, whereat Thorgils laughed.

“I have even sent them on to Norton with a few of our men to help him, and they will see that he goes there and nowhere else. You will find him waiting. I did not want him to fall on you on the road.”

“What is the news?” I asked. “Have you heard aught?”

“The best, I think. Gerent is hunting Tregoz, and Owen has swept up every outlaw from the Quantocks. Our folk helped him. Some of them told all they knew when they were taken.”

“Then,” I said gladly, “Owen knows that I am safe.”

“Not so certainly,” Thorgils said. “None of our folk can say that you crossed with me, and as this is the only ship afloat at this time of the year there is doubt as to where you are. It will be good for Owen to see you again. What a tale you have for him! On my word, I envy you the telling.”

“Well, then, ride with me to Norton straightway, and you shall tell all and save me words. Owen shall thank you also for your care for me.”

“What, for letting you sit on my deck while the wind blew? Nay, but there are no thanks needed between us. You and I have seen a strange voyage together, and it has ended well. Maybe you and I will see more sport yet side by side, for I think that we are good comrades. Let us be going, then, for it was in my mind that I could not rest until I had seen you safe to your journey’s end.”

Then I found that he had his own horses ready for us, and two more men, well armed and mounted also, were waiting with them on the green where I had been set down in the litter. So in a very short time Thorgils had told his men all that he would have done about the ship, and we were riding fast along the road to Norton, while the thawing snow told of the going of the frost at last.

I had been gone but these few days, but each of them seemed like a month to look back upon as I rode under the shadow of the hills that I had last seen as a hopeless captive. It grew warm and soft as the midday sun shone on us, and the road was muddy underfoot with the chill water that had filled all the brooks again, but I hardly noticed the change, so eager was I to be back. Glad enough I was when we saw the village and the mighty earthworks above it, and yet more glad when the guards at the gate told us that Owen was even now in the palace.

I left Thorgils and his men to the care of the guard for the time, while I went straightway to the entrance doors and asked for speech with him.

“It is the word of the king that you shall have free admittance into the palace and to himself at any time, Thane,” the captain of the guards said.

So I passed into the great chamber of the palace that was used as audience hall for all comers, and also as the court of justice.

The place was full of people, and those mostly nobles, so that I had to stand in the doorway for a moment to see what was going on. It was plainly somewhat out of the common, for there were guards along one end of the room. It seemed as if there were a trial.

Gerent sat in the great chair which one might call his throne at the upper end of the room, and beside him was Owen. I thought that my foster father seemed pale and troubled in that first glance, but I had every reason to know why this was so. Before these two stood a man, with his back to me therefore, and for the moment I did not recognise him. On either side of this man were guards, and it was plainly he who was in trouble, if any one. Gerent was speaking to him.

“Well,” he said, “hither you have come as a guest, and as a guest you shall be treated. But you must know that here within the walls of the place you shall abide. If you will give your word to do that I shall not have to keep you so closely.”

“This is not what I had looked for from you, King Gerent,” the man said.

I knew the voice at once, for it was that of Dunwal, my fellow passenger. So the treachery of his brother must be known, and he was to be held here as a hostage, as one might say. Gerent’s next words told me that it was so.

“If there is any fault to be found, it is in the ways of your brother. Blame him that I must needs have surety for his behaviour. It cannot be suffered that he should go on plotting evil against us, unchecked in some way.”

Dunwal shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that all this was no concern of his.

“Shall you hold my daughter as well?” he said. “I trust that your caution will not make you go so far as that.”

Gerent’s eyes flashed at the tone and words, but he answered very coldly:

“She will bide here also, and in all honour.”

Then he beckoned to a noble who stood near him, and spoke to him for a moment. It chanced that this was one of the very few whom I knew here. His name was Jago, and I had often seen him at Glastonbury, for he was a friend of our ealdorman, Elfrida’s father, holding somewhat the same post in Norton as my friend in our town. Owen liked him well also, and he was certainly no friend to Morgan and his party.

“Jago’s wife will give your daughter all hospitality in his house,” Gerent said, turning again to Dunwal. “Have I your word as to keeping within bounds during my pleasure?”

“Ay, you have it,” answered Dunwal curtly.

Then I slipped out of the door quietly, and went to that room where Owen and I waited on our first coming here, and I sent a steward to tell him of my arrival. There is no need for me to tell how he greeted me, or how I met him.

Then when those greetings were over I heard all that had been going on, and my loss had made turmoil enough. My men had brought back the news, having missed me very shortly, but it was long before they found traces of me. The first thing that they saw was my hawk, as I expected, and after that the bodies of the slain. As I was not with them, they judged that I had escaped in some way, but they lost the track of the feet in the woodlands, and so rode back to Owen in all haste.

Then was a great gathering of men for the hunting of the outlaws, for it would take a small army to search the wild hills and woodlands of the Quantocks to any effect. The whole countryside turned out gladly, and the Watchet Norsemen helped also.

In the end, on the next day they penned the outlaws into some combe, and took most of them, and then all was told by them, so far as they knew it. Gerent laid hands on four of the men who had sworn the oath Evan told me of, that evening after some leading outlaw had given their names, but Tregoz had escaped.

He had been one of the most active in the matter of the hunt, to all seeming, and had ridden out with Owen and Jago and the rest. Then he took advantage of some turn in the hills, when men began to scatter, and was no more seen. Presently it was plain enough why this was, when those who were taken were made to speak. Yet it seemed that he was not so far off, for already an attack had been made on Owen as he rode beyond the village, though it was no very dangerous one. Now it was to be hoped that the danger from him was past, for his brother had been taken the moment he rode into the gate, and he would suffer if more harm was done.

Then I asked if our king had been told of all this, and I learnt that he had heard at once, and had written back to Owen to say that he would pay any ransom that might be asked for me if I yet lived, as was hoped. The outlaws had told of Evan’s plan, but it was not known if I had been taken out of the country yet.

“All is well that ends well,” Owen said; “but I asked Ina not to say aught of the matter yet for a while. There is one at least in Glastonbury who might be sorely terrified for you.”

He laughed at my red face, for I knew that he meant Elfrida. It was in my mind, however, that I wished she had heard, for then, perhaps, she would have been sorry that she had not been kinder to me–unless, indeed, she was glad that I was out of the way, in all truth.

Then there was my own long tale to be told, and of course I told Owen all. It was good to hear him say that he himself could have done nought but free Evan.

Thereafter we sought Thorgils, who was happy in the guardroom, and had seemingly been telling my tale there, for the men stared at me somewhat. I do not suppose that it lost in the telling.

Owen thanked him for his help, and took him to see Gerent; which saved me words, for the Norseman must needs tell how Evan had brought me on board his ship, and so we even let him say all that there was to be said.

After that Gerent loaded him with presents, and so let him go well pleased.

I went out to his horse with him, and saw him start. His last word as he parted from me was that if I needed a good axeman at my back at any time I was to send for him, and so he went seaward, singing to himself, with the men who had brought Dunwal hither behind him.

After that there was more to say of Howel and his court. It seemed that Gerent and Owen liked him well, and I wondered that Owen had