William Morris Archive


So now the war was over, for the next day the Baron of Deepdale signed the deed of peace which gave up to the Porte of Eastcheaping all that for which they had withstood him; and withal some deal of ransom he had to pay for his own body, how much my tale-teller knoweth not, but deemeth that they would scarce put the snepe upon him as to bid but a squire's or knight-bachelor's ransom for a free baron, a lord of wide lands, who had under him towns, tolls, and markets.

So the ransom being paid, or some deal of it, and pledges left for the remnant, the Baron went his ways in no very evil mood, and it was soon seen that they of Eastcheaping would no longer need the men they had waged over and above those who were due to them for service, wherefore leave was given to such waged men to depart, and the Dalesmen among others. But gifts were given them largely, over and above their war-pay, and to Osberne and Stephen the Eater in especial. Unto whom, amongst other things, the Butchers' guild of the good town did on the eve of his departure bring a great and fair ox, white of colour; and they had gilded the horns of the beast, and done him about with garlands: but on a scroll between the horns was fairly writ the words, The Eater's Ox. Which gift Stephen received as it was given, very lovingly, and many a cup they drank together over him; but Stephen said ere his friends departed: "Yet look ye, lads of Eastcheaping, though this ox be mine, yet shall he not be the ox of the Eater; for slay him will I never, but let live on and on for love of our friends of Eastcheaping so long as I may buy, beg, or steal a cow's grass for him."

As for Osberne, though he bought in the booths a pretty many of such things as were goodly and little, of goldsmiths' work and the like, to flit to his friend across the Sundering Flood, yet no gift would he take, save a very fair armour of the spoils of Deepdale: and this was no gift, said Sir Medard, but what he had earned himself by hard toil enough.

All loved him, but Sir Medard in especial, who had fain dubbed him knight; but Osberne would not, and said that such had been no wont of his fathers before him; and he looked never to go very far from the Dale and for no long while. "And even if I may not live there," quoth he, "I look to die there;" and he reddened therewith till the eyes looked light in the face of him. But Medard said: "Wheresoever thou livest or diest thou wilt live and die a great-heart. But this I bid thee, whenso thou hast need of a friend who may show thee the road into the world of deeds, when thou hast aught to hide or aught to seek, come thou unto me, and be sure that I shall not fail thee."

Osberne thanked him from his whole heart, and they kissed and departed with all love; and as the Dalesmen rode down the street toward the western gate, it was full of folk shouting out praises and blessings; and the windows were full of women who cast down flowers on them as they went along, saying that but for these stout-hearts they might have had neither town nor honour nor children, and that nought was good enough for such friends as these. Thus rode the Dalesmen out of Eastcheaping.

But of the ten score and six that had ridden out of the Dale, two score and two were lacking, who had either been slain in battle or so sorely hurt that they were no longer fightworthy; but sixteen had dropped in by ones and twos and threes to fill the places of these, so that they rode back but little fewer than they came.

Continue to Chapter 29

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