Page:Yule Logs.djvu/338

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322
SIR RICHARD'S SQUIRES

"Well then, go your way for an unmannerly squire," she retorted, turning away towards the castle.

"Nay, but, lady—" I began. But she went on quickly, with one last remark flung over her shoulder, as it were—

"I know where I am not wanted, at least."

"Now," thought I, "it is plain where the ill-temper lies." So I went to Alan, and asked what was amiss.

"Well," said he—for though he was five years or more older than I, we were close friends by this time—" maybe I am a fool to think twice of the matter; but, on my word, friend Ralph, one would think that I was in love."

I laughed heartily.

"Did you tell her so?" I asked.

"She has set me a task which, as a good squire, I am bound to undertake, whatever I may have said; and what chance a prisoner like myself has to do it, I cannot see."

"Winning a name to wit. I heard that much," I said. "But that we have often talked of. It does not need the words of a sharp-tongued damsel to set your thoughts in that direction."

"Your Saxon wits need sharpening with Norman whetstone," he answered gravely. "Know you not that the word of a fair lady has double weight in the matter of winning renown? So that one must straightway seek for what one might else have left to chance and good fortune."

"My Saxon mother-wit would tell me that all depends on who the lady who speaks the word may be," I answered, being used to a gentle jest of this sort from Alan, and by no means minding it, since I had well beaten him about the Norman pate with our good old Saxon quarterstaff—the one weapon whose use he disdained until I persuaded him to a bout with me. After which he learned to use it, because he said that it belonged to good forestry.

"Above wit comes the law of chivalry," he said then.