Книга The Black Arrow. Содержание - CHAPTER III — ST. BRIDE’S CROSS
“My lord,” said he, “if these gentlemen be unfriends to Sir Daniel, it is pity, indeed, we should have been at blows with them; but it were tenfold greater that either they or we should linger here. The watchers in the house — unless they be all dead or deaf — have heard our hammering this quarter-hour agone; instantly they will have signalled to the town; and unless we be the livelier in our departure, we are like to be taken, both of us, by a fresh foe.”
“Hawksley is in the right,” added the lord. “How please ye, sir? Whither shall we march?”
“Nay, my lord,” said Dick, “go where ye will for me. I do begin to suspect we have some ground of friendship, and if, indeed, I began our acquaintance somewhat ruggedly, I would not churlishly continue. Let us, then, separate, my lord, you laying your right hand in mine; and at the hour and place that ye shall name, let us encounter and agree.”
“Y’ are too trustful, boy,” said the other; “but this time your trust is not misplaced. I will meet you at the point of day at St. Bride’s Cross. Come, lads, follow!”
The strangers disappeared from the scene with a rapidity that seemed suspicious; and, while the outlaws fell to the congenial task of rifling the dead bodies, Dick made once more the circuit of the garden wall to examine the front of the house. In a little upper loophole of the roof he beheld a light set; and as it would certainly be visible in town from the back windows of Sir Daniel’s mansion, he doubted not that this was the signal feared by Hawksley, and that ere long the lances of the Knight of Tunstall would arrive upon the scene.
He put his ear to the ground, and it seemed to him as if he heard a jarring and hollow noise from townward. Back to the beach he went hurrying. But the work was already done; the last body was disarmed and stripped to the skin, and four fellows were already wading seaward to commit it to the mercies of the deep.
A few minutes later, when there debauched out of the nearest lanes of Shoreby some two score horsemen, hastily arrayed and moving at the gallop of their steeds, the neighbourhood of the house beside the sea was entirely silent and deserted.
Meanwhile, Dick and his men had returned to the ale-house of the Goat and Bagpipes to snatch some hours of sleep before the morning tryst.
CHAPTER III — ST. BRIDE’S CROSS
St. Bride’s cross stood a little way back from Shoreby, on the skirts of Tunstall Forest. Two roads met: one, from Holywood across the forest; one, that road from Risingham down which we saw the wrecks of a Lancastrian army fleeing in disorder. Here the two joined issue, and went on together down the hill to Shoreby; and a little back from the point of junction, the summit of a little knoll was crowned by the ancient and weather-beaten cross.
Here, then, about seven in the morning, Dick arrived. It was as cold as ever; the earth was all grey and silver with the hoarfrost, and the day began to break in the east with many colours of purple and orange.
Dick set him down upon the lowest step of the cross, wrapped himself well in his tabard, and looked vigilantly upon all sides. He had not long to wait. Down the road from Holywood a gentleman in very rich and bright armour, and wearing over that a surcoat of the rarest furs, came pacing on a splendid charger. Twenty yards behind him followed a clump of lances; but these halted as soon as they came in view of the trysting-place, while the gentleman in the fur surcoat continued to advance alone.
His visor was raised, and showed a countenance of great command and dignity, answerable to the richness of his attire and arms. And it was with some confusion of manner that Dick arose from the cross and stepped down the bank to meet his prisoner.
“I thank you, my lord, for your exactitude,” he said, louting very low. “Will it please your lordship to set foot to earth?”
“Are ye here alone, young man?” inquired the other,
“I was not so simple,” answered Dick; “and, to be plain with your lordship, the woods upon either hand of this cross lie full of mine honest fellows lying on their weapons.”
“Y’ ’ave done wisely,” said the lord. “It pleaseth me the rather, since last night ye fought foolhardily, and more like a salvage Saracen lunatic than any Christian warrior. But it becomes not me to complain that had the undermost.”
“Ye had the undermost indeed, my lord, since ye so fell,” returned Dick; “but had the waves not holpen me, it was I that should have had the worst. Ye were pleased to make me yours with several dagger marks, which I still carry. And in fine, my lord, methinks I had all the danger, as well as all the profit, of that little blind-man’s mellay on the beach.”
“Y’ are shrewd enough to make light of it, I see,” returned the stranger.
“Nay, my lord, not shrewd,” replied Dick, “in that I shoot at no advantage to myself. But when, by the light of this new day, I see how stout a knight hath yielded, not to my arms alone, but to fortune, and the darkness, and the surf — and how easily the battle had gone otherwise, with a soldier so untried and rustic as myself — think it not strange, my lord, if I feel confounded with my victory.”
“Ye speak well,” said the stranger. “Your name?”
“My name, an’t like you, is Shelton,” answered Dick.
“Men call me the Lord Foxham,” added the other.
“Then, my lord, and under your good favour, ye are guardian to the sweetest maid in England,” replied Dick; “and for your ransom, and the ransom of such as were taken with you on the beach, there will be no uncertainty of terms. I pray you, my lord, of your goodwill and charity, yield me the hand of my mistress, Joan Sedley; and take ye, upon the other part, your liberty, the liberty of these your followers, and (if ye will have it) my gratitude and service till I die.”
“But are ye not ward to Sir Daniel? Methought, if y’ are Harry Shelton’s son, that I had heard it so reported,” said Lord Foxham.
“Will it please you, my lord, to alight? I would fain tell you fully who I am, how situate, and why so bold in my demands. Beseech you, my lord, take place upon these steps, hear me to a full end, and judge me with allowance.”
And so saying, Dick lent a hand to Lord Foxham to dismount; led him up the knoll to the cross; installed him in the place where he had himself been sitting; and standing respectfully before his noble prisoner, related the story of his fortunes up to the events of the evening before.
Lord Foxham listened gravely, and when Dick had done, “Master Shelton,” he said, “ye are a most fortunate-unfortunate young gentleman; but what fortune y’ ’ave had, that ye have amply merited; and what unfortune, ye have noways deserved. Be of a good cheer; for ye have made a friend who is devoid neither of power nor favour. For yourself, although it fits not for a person of your birth to herd with outlaws, I must own ye are both brave and honourable; very dangerous in battle, right courteous in peace; a youth of excellent disposition and brave bearing. For your estates, ye will never see them till the world shall change again; so long as Lancaster hath the strong hand, so long shall Sir Daniel enjoy them for his own. For my ward, it is another matter; I had promised her before to a gentleman, a kinsman of my house, one Hamley; the promise is old — ”
“Ay, my lord, and now Sir Daniel hath promised her to my Lord Shoreby,” interrupted Dick. “And his promise, for all it is but young, is still the likelier to be made good.”
“’Tis the plain truth,” returned his lordship. “And considering, moreover, that I am your prisoner, upon no better composition than my bare life, and over and above that, that the maiden is unhappily in other hands, I will so far consent. Aid me with your good fellows” -
“My lord,” cried Dick, “they are these same outlaws that ye blame me for consorting with.”