Beltane the Smith (Chapter 8, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 8

The sun was high, and by his shadow Beltane judged it the noon hour; very hot and very still it was, for the wind had died and leaf and twig hung motionless as though asleep. And presently as he went, a sound stole upon the stillness, a sound soft and beyond all things pleasant to hear, the murmurous ripple of running water near by. Going aside into the green therefore, Beltane came unto a brook, and here, screened from the sun 'neath shady willows, he laid him down to drink, and to bathe face and hands in the cool water.

Now as he lay thus, staring sad-eyed into the hurrying waters of the brook, there came to him the clicking of sandalled feet, and glancing up, he beheld one clad as a black friar. A fat man he was, jolly of figure and mightily round; his nose was bulbous and he had a drooping lip.

"Peace be unto thee, my son!" quoth he, breathing short and loud, "an evil day for a fat man who hath been most basely bereft of a goodly ass --holy Saint Dunstan, how I gasp!" and putting back the cowl from his tonsured crown, he puffed out his cheeks and mopped his face. "Hearkee now, good youth, hath there passed thee by ever a ribald in an escalloped hood--an unhallowed, long-legged, scurvy archer knave astride a fair white ass, my son?"

"Truly," nodded Beltane, "we parted company scarce an hour since."

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