known, and already word had gone round to the sheriff from Archbishop Thurstan of York to bid them gather their men to him.
Then Sir Richard thought it time to give Alan his freedom, as he had half promised, for he himself must needs cross the Border to speak with the King of Scots. And it so happened that near the old town he fell in with a knight, whom Sir Richard knew to be a Queen's man, riding towards Lancaster with twenty men at his heels.
"Ho! De Courci, what brings you so far north?"
"The same errand that brings you out, most likely," our knight answered. "We will go further north yet in company, as I hope."
The knight stared for a moment, and then a grim look crossed his face, which was scarred here and there.
"If you mean to march with Thurstan, well and good—but if you are going to join the Scots, as is likely, you and I shall be on opposite sides for once," he said bluntly.
"How is this?—where is your loyalty?"
"Loyalty, forsooth!" the knight answered. "My first loyalty is to England—and I care not who sent for the Scots. We of the north will give life to keep them back." So these two talked, angrily at times. But at last the strange knight said—
"I tell you, De Courci, that if you of the west and south knew what Malcolm's host is like as well as we northerners, you would give your right hand sooner than bring them to England. Go and see them, and then mind my words."
So the talk ceased. But presently Sir Richard told Alan that if he would, he might ride in company with this knight, who would give him a worthy place as his squire, and with whom he might remain until we returned after the campaign."I can say to De Mohun and Earl Robert that I