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HOME > Classical Novels > The Well at the World's End > CHAPTER 15 How Ralph Departed From the Burg of the Four Friths
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CHAPTER 15 How Ralph Departed From the Burg of the Four Friths
 Himseemed he had scarce been asleep a minute ere awoke with a sound of someone saying softly, "Master, master, awake!" So he sat up and answered softly in his turn: "Who is it? what is amiss, since the night is yet young?"  
"I am thy fellow-farer, Roger," said the speaker, "and this thou hast to do, get on thy raiment speedily, and take thy weapons without noise, if thou wouldst not be in the prison of the Burg before sunrise."
Ralph did as he was bidden without more words; for already when he lay down his heart misgave him that he was in no safe place; he looked to his weapons and armour that they should not clash, and down they came into the hall and found the door on the latch; so out they went and Ralph saw that it was somewhat cloudy; the moon was set and it was dark, but Ralph knew by the scent that came in on the light wind, and a little stir of blended sounds, that it was hard on dawning; and even therewith he heard the challenge of the warders on the walls and their crying of the hour; and the chimes of the belfry rang clear and loud, and seeming close above him, two hours and a half after midnight. Roger spake not, and Ralph was man-at-arms enough to know that he must hold his peace; and though he longed sore to have his horse Falcon with him, yet he wotted that it availed not to ask of his horse, since he durst not ask of his life.
So they went on silently till they were out of the Great Place and came into a narrow street, and so into another which led them straight into the houseless space under the wall. Roger led right on as if he knew the way well, and in a twinkling were they come to a postern in the wall betwixt the East Gate and the South. By the said postern Ralph saw certain men standing; and on the earth near by, whereas he was keen-eyed, he saw more than one man lying moveless.
Spake Roger softly to the men who stood on their feet: "Is the rope twined?" "Nay, rope-twiner," said one of them. Then Roger turned and whispered to Ralph: "Friends. Get out thy sword!" Wherewithal the gate was opened, and they all passed out through the wall, and stood above the ditch in the angle-nook of a square tower. Then Ralph saw some of the men stoop and shoot out a broad plank over the ditch, which was deep but not wide thereabout, and straightway he followed the others over it, going last save Roger. By then they were on the other side he saw a glimmer of the dawn in the eastern heaven, but it was still more than dusk, and no man spoke again. They went on softly across the plain fields outside the wall, creeping from bush to bush, and from tree to tree, for here, if nowhere about the circuit of the Burg, were a few trees growing. Thus they came into a little wood and passed through it, and then Ralph could see that the men were six besides Roger; by the glimmer of the growing dawn he saw before them a space of meadows with high hedges about them, and a dim line that he took for the roof of a barn or grange, and beyond that a dark mass of trees.
Still they pressed on without speaking; a dog barked not far off and the cocks were crowing, and close by them in the meadow a cow lowed and went hustling over the bents and the long, unbitten buttercups. Day grew apace, and by then they were under the barn-gable which he had seen aloof he saw the other roofs of the grange and heard the bleating of sheep. And now he saw those six men clearly, and noted that one of them was very big and tall, and one small and slender, and it came into his mind that these two were none other than the twain whom he had come upon the last night sitting in the hall of the Flower de Luce.
Even therewith came a man to the gate of the sheep-cote by the grange, and caught sight of them, and had the wits to run back at once shouting out: "Hugh, Wat, Richard, and all ye, out with you, out a doors! Here be men! Ware the Dry Tree! Bows and bills! Bows and bills!"
With that those fellows of Ralph made no more ado, but set off running at their best toward the wood aforesaid, which crowned the slope leading up from the grange, and now took no care to go softly, nor heeded the clashing of their armour. Ralph ran with the best and entered the wood alongside the slim youth aforesaid, who stayed not at the wood's edge but went on running still: but Ralph stayed and turned to see what was toward, and beheld how that tall man was the last of their company, and ere he entered the wood turned about with a bent bow in his hand, and even as he nocked the shaft, the men from the Grange, who were seven in all, came running out from behind the barn-gable, crying out: "Ho thieves! ho ye of the Dry Tree, abide till we come! flee not from handy strokes." The tall man had the shaft to his ear in a twinkling, and loosed straightway, and nocked and loosed another shaft without staying to note how the first had sped. But Ralph saw that a man was before each of the shafts, and had fallen to earth, though he had no time to see aught else, for even therewith the tall man caught him by the hand, and crying out, "The third time!" ran on with him after the rest of their company; and whereas he was long-legged and Ralph lightfooted, they speedily came up with them, who were running still, but laughing as they ran, and jeering at the men of the Burg; and the tall man shouted out to them: "Yea, lads, the counterfeit Dry Tree that they have raised in the Burg shall be dry enough this time." "Truly," said another, "till we come to water it with the blood of these wretches."
"Well, well, get on," said a third, "waste not your wind in talk; those carles will make but a short run of it to the walls long as it was for us, creeping and creeping as we behoved to."
The long man laughed; "Thou sayest sooth," said he, "but thou art the longest winded of all in talking: get on, lads."
They laughed again at his word and sped on with less noise; while Ralph thought within himself that he was come in............
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