cried the boy, and turning he led the prancing but
subdued animal toward the castle and through the ruined barbican into
the court beyond.
"What ho, there, lad!" shouted Paul of Merely. "We wouldst not harm
thee--come, we but ask the way to the castle of De Stutevill."
The three knights listened but there was no answer.
"Come, Sir Knights," spoke Paul of Merely, "we will ride within and
learn what manner of churls inhabit this ancient rookery."
As they entered the great courtyard, magnificent even in its ruined
grandeur, they were met by a little, grim old man who asked them in no
gentle tones what they would of them there.
"We have lost our way in these devilish Derby hills of thine, old man,"
replied Paul of Merely. "We seek the castle of Sir John de Stutevill."
"Ride down straight to the river road, keeping the first trail to the
right, and when thou hast come there, turn again to thy right and ride
north beside the river--thou canst not miss the way--it be plain as the
nose before thy face," and with that the old man turned to enter the
"Hold, old fellow!" cried the spokesman. "It be nigh onto sunset now,
and we care not to sleep out again this night as we did the last. We
will tarry with you then till morn that we may take up our journey
refreshed, upon rested steeds."
The old man grumbled, and it was with poor grace that he took them in to
feed and house them over night. But there was nothing else for it, since
they would have taken his hospitality by force had he refused to give it
From their guests, the two learned something of the conditions outside
their Derby hills. The old man showed less interest than he felt, but to
the boy, notwithstanding that the names he heard meant nothing to him,
it was like unto a fairy tale to hear of the wondrous doings of earl and
baron, bishop and king.
"If the King does not mend his ways," said one of the knights, "we will
drive his whole accursed pack of foreign blood-suckers into the sea."
"De Montfort has told him as much a dozen times, and now that all of
us, both Norman and Saxon barons, have already met together and formed
a pact for our mutual protection, the King must surely realize that the
time for temporizing be past, and that unless he would have a civil war
upon his hands, he must keep the promises he so glibly makes, instead of
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