The Sundering Flood, by William Morris

Chapter lxvii. A Friend at Need

It was some three years after this that weaponed men came down into the Dale. It was told to Osberne, and he took his sword and went to meet them. He came across them as they fared slowly down the bent, looking weary and fordone. He looked at them, and he saw that there was nothing for it but that the chiefest of them, and there were but three, was the Knight of Longshaw. So he ran up to him, and cast his arms about him, and kissed him, and asked him what ailed. And the Knight said, and laughed withal: “That has befallen me which befals most men: I have been overcome, and I believe that my foes are hard on my heels.”

“Will they be a many?” said Osberne. “Not in this first stour,” said the Knight. “Well,” said Osberne, “I will go and look to it to get a few men together to show them out of the Dale.” So he turned hand in hand with the Knight of Longshaw, and cried out to Stephen the Eater to gather forth; and in an hour or so they had enough men and to spare. By that time the pursuers came glittering over the bent, so Osberne and his gathered themselves together and stood till the others came. And when they were within hail, Osberne asked: “What would ye here in arms? We are peaceable men.” Said the pursuers: “We have nought to do with you, but we would have the body of a felon and a traitor hight the Knight of Longshaw.”

Osberne laughed and said: “Here he stands beside me; come and take him!” And the foe were some three score, all a-horseback. So they fell on without more words; but they made nothing of it, and the Wethermelers kept them aloof with spear and bill. Albeit Osberne did not draw his sword, nor did the Knight of Longshaw.

Then the foemen held off a little, and they said: “Hark ye, ye up-countrymen, if ye do not give up this man, then will we burn your house to the threshold.”

“Yea,” said Osberne, “ye have all day long to do it in, make no delay therefore. Or did ye ever hear who I am?” And they said: “Nay, we know not.” Then he let his red cloak float over him and let his byrny show glittering, and he drew Boardcleaver and suddenly cried out, “The Red Lad! The Red Lad!” and all the others did in like wise. Then the foemen fled up the bent. And Osberne said: “Lightfoot men of Wethermel, here is a job for you: let not one of these men escape from out of the Dale.” So they fell to, and hard they worked at it, and so they wrought that they slew them every one.

Then Osberne went back to the Knight of Longshaw and said: “See, master, it is still a name to conjure with. And now what wilt thou do? Wilt thou gather men in the Dale here? We can find thee a ten score or thereabout of as good men as need be.”

“Nay,” said the Knight, “I will not have them, for meseems I am getting towards the end of my tether, and I will not carry away your good men and true from your wives and your children.” So therewith they went into the stead and were joyful together.

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