The Sundering Flood, by William Morris

Chapter xxvii. They Parley from the Walls

Therewith he was gone and Osberne entered the town after his fellows, and the Baron of Deepdale was brought to Sir Medard in the great tower. There they would have served him with all honour, but he was not yet come out of that trance; so they laid him to rest in Sir Medard’s own bed, and had warders both within the chamber and without; and Osberne sat talking with Sir Medard in the said chamber till dawn was, when the Baron awoke really and fairly, and called for drink. And Sir Medard brought it unto him with his own hand, and the Baron stared at him and said: “Art thou of the service tonight? I know thee not.” Quoth Sir Medard: “And yet we have been near enough together ere this, Lord Baron; thou shouldst know me, meseems.” The Baron looked hard on him and then round about the chamber, and cried out: “Holy Mary! ‘t is Medard the carle-leader. Where am I, and where is the evil beast of a minstrel? Hath he beguiled me?” Said Medard: “Lord, at this present thou art in a chamber of my poor house in Eastcheaping. Doubtless tomorrow, after we have had some talk together, thou and I and the Porte, thou mayst go back home to Deepdale, or abide here to see how we can feast, we carle-warriors, and to be holden in all honour.”

Now came forth Stephen the Eater and said: “Lord, lo here the evil beast of a minstrel who hath verily beguiled thee; but, Baron, it is to thy gain and not thy loss. For tomorrow shall the war be ended, and thou shalt be free to go back again to the fair women of Deepdale whom thou lovest so much, and shalt save they men-at-arms, and thy weapons and tents and timber, and victuals and drink a great heap; and all this I deem, and more maybe, wouldst thou have lost hadst thou gone on sitting perversely before Eastcheaping all for nought. So I will not say pardon me, but make friends with me rather for being good to me.” And therewith he reached out his great hand to the Baron; but Osberne drew him back by the girdle, and chid him for mocking a captive, while the Baron turned his face to the wall and covered up his head with the bed-clothes.

But ye may judge if there were riding and running in the leaguer next morning when they could find the Baron nowhere; and one said this and the other that; and he cried Kill and slay, and he cried Flee ere we all come to like end; and great was the doubt and the turmoil. Amidst of which comes Sir Medard on to the battlement of the north-west tower, and beside him a squire bearing a white banner, and a herald with a trumpet, which herald presently blew a loud blast, but such an one as sounded not of war but of parley. So when the captains and leaders heard the said blast and saw the white banner of peace, they deemed that new tidings were toward, and a half score of them crossed over their dyke bearing a white banner with them, and came close under the tower whereon stood Sir Medard; and the chiefest of them, an old hoar man and very wise, hight Sir Degore, stood before the others all unhelmed and said: “Is it Sir Medard that standeth up there?”

“Yea verily,” said the Knight; “and what art thou? Art thou a leader of the host that sitteth about us?” Said the other: “I am Sir Degore, of whom thou wilt have heard; under my lord the Baron of Deepdale I am the leader of this host, and I have come to ask what thou wouldst of us.” Said Sir Medard: “I would see the Baron of Deepdale.”

“He is sick this morning,” said Sir Degore, “and may not rise; but if thou wouldst render the town and the castle unto him, it is all one, thou mayst make me serve thy turn; I know his mind full well.”

Sir Medard laughed: “Nay,” said he, “we will wait for that till we may see the Baron himself. But tell me, Sir Knight, what is all this stir and hubbub in thine host this morning?”

Said Sir Degore, without tarrying the word one moment: “There is a great aid and refreshment come to us out of the East country, both of victual and men, and our folk be welcoming the men and sharing the victual.”

“There is nothing in this, then, that we have heard, that ye cannot find your Duke, and are seeking him up and down?”

“Nay, nothing,” said the greybeard, wagging his head. But the folk that were with him look on each other and thought within themselves how wise the old man was. And Sir Medard spake when he might for his laughter: “Sir, thy lord did well to make thee captain under him, for thou art a wise and ready liar. But so it is that thou speakest with one who knoweth the tale better than thou. Ho ye, bring forward my lord.”

Straightway came two squires, who led a lean dark man between them, unarmed and clad in a long furred black gown. He took off his hat, and thereupon Sir Degore and all they below knew him for their lord. He spake at once and said: “Sir Degore and ye others, my lords and captains, can ye hear me?”

“Yea, lord,” said Sir Degore.

Then said the Baron: “This then is my word and commandment, that ye give leave to all our folk-in-arms to depart each one to his own house, and to bear away with him his weapons and armour and three horses if he be of the knighthood, and one if he be of the sergeantry; but the others, archers and villeins, may take one horse between three to bear their baggage and ease them on the journey. But the flour and wheat and wine, and all the neat and sheep, ye shall leave behind; for the folk of this country-side and the good town have occasion for them. But as to mine own matters which are of mine own person, as arms and raiment and jewels and the like, ye shall bring them unto me here in the good town, where I am minded to abide two or three days that I may hold counsel about weighty matters with the Porte and the Burgreve. Moreover, I would have thee, Sir Degore, and a five of my counsellors and a half score of my servants, come hither to me to abide with me for my aid and service while I tarry in Eastcheaping. Now this is my will and pleasure, and I shall be no wiser later on; wherefore do thou, Sir Degore, go straightway and tell my will to the captains and sergeants and the knights, so that the hosts may presently break up.”

Ye may deem how Sir Degore and the other Deepdalers were abashed when they knew that their lord was a captive in the hands of the foemen; yet they seemed to think that the terms of the good town were not so hard as might have been looked for, since they had gotten this so great advantage.

Now Sir Degore spake and said: “Sir Medard, wilt thou suffer me to come to thee, so that I may speak with my lord privily?” “To what end,” said Sir Medard, “since thou hast heard thy lord’s commandment? wilt thou not obey him?” “Yea,” said Degore, “if I have heard his last word; nevertheless were I fain to come up and speak with him.” “Come up then,” said Sir Medard; “yet I must warn thee that it may be easier for thee to come in to Eastcheaping today than to go out therefrom. Moreover, bethink ye if ye dally how it would be were we to open our gates and fall upon you with all ours, and ye disarrayed and leaderless.”

Therewith he gave word to open the postern to Sir Degore, who entered and was brought to the top of the tower, and there he went up to the Baron and bent the knee to him and might not refrain his tears; but the Baron laughed, yet somewhat hardly. So they two went aside into an ingle of the tower toward the town, while sir Medard and his stood aloof a while. Then turned back Sir Degore to them of Eastcheaping, and said: “Sir Medard, I pray thee leave to depart to my host, that I may do after the bidding of my lord.”

“Yea, go,” said Sir Medard; “yet I would have thee remember that I pray for a long life for the Baron of Deepdale, since he hath become so good a friend to our town, and that thou wilt be in the wrong if thou do aught to shorten it.”

So Degore went his ways, and he and those counsellors and leaders went back sadly to the leaguer, and fell to work to undo all they had done the six months past. And it was no long time ere the stout men-at-arms of Deepdale began to flow away from before Eastcheaping, and the men of the town held good watch all the while; and ere it was evening, divers bands of them went out-of-gates in good order to see that none of the Deepdalers abode in array in the leaguer, and found nothing there which they had cause to dread. And they took much spoil of that which the Baron’s host must needs leave behind. Meanwhile, Sir Medard and his made what cheer they might to the Baron; and Sir Medard showed Osberne unto him, and told him all the tale of the wolves and the slaying of Hardcastle, and did him to wit that much of the valiancy which they of Eastcheaping had shown in the war came of this lad of Wethermel. And the Baron marvelled, and looked upon Osberne and said: “Well, lad, if ever thou art hard bestead, come thou to Deepdale, and we shall find somewhat for thee to do; and I bid thee thrive hale and well!”

Howbeit Sir Medard told not to the Baron that Osberne had been one of them that bore him off the last night. Yet somehow he came to know it in time to come; I wot not through whom or how.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07