Hast ever heard whether there are any rich Papists in those parts?'
'I know not,' I replied.
'If so there might be plate chests and silver chargers, to say nothing of my lady's jewels and other such trifles to reward a faithful soldier. What would war be without plunder! A bottle without the wine--a shell without the oyster. See the house yonder that peeps through the trees. I warrant there is a store of all good things under that roof, which you and I might have for the asking, did we but ask with our swords in our grip. You are my witness that your father did give and not lend me this horse.'
'Why say you that, then?'
'Lest he claim a half of whatever booty I may chance to gain. What saith my learned Fleming under the heading "an qui militi equum praebuit, praedae ab eo captae particeps esse debeat?" which signifieth "whether he who lendeth a horse hath a claim on the plunder of him who borroweth it." In this discourse he cites a case wherein a Spanish commander having lent a steed to one of his captains, and the said captain having captured the general of the enemy, the commander did sue him for a half share of the twenty thousand crowns which formed the ransom of the prisoner. A like case is noted by the famous Petrinus Bellus in his book "De Re Militari," much read by leaders of repute.' [Note C. Appendix.]
'I can promise you,' I answered, 'that no such claim shall ever be made by my father upon you. See yonder, over the brow of the hill, how the sun shines upon the high cathedral tower, which points upwards with its great stone finger to the road that every man must travel.'
'There is good store of silver and plate in these same churches,' quoth my companion. 'I remember that at Leipsic, when I was serving my first campaign, I got a candlestick, which I was forced to sell to a Jew broker for a fourth of its value; yet even at his price it sufficed to fill my haversack with broad pieces.'
It chanced that Saxon's mare had gained a stride or two upon mine whilst he spoke, so that I was able to get a good view of him without turning my head. I had scarce had light during our ride to see how his harness sat upon him, but now I was amazed on looking at him to mark the change which it had wrought in the man. In his civil dress his lankiness and length of limb gave him an awkward appearance, but on horse-back, with his lean, gaunt face looking out from his steel cap, his breastplate and buff jacket filling out his figure, and his high boots of untanned leather reaching to the centre of his thighs, he looked the veteran man-at-arms which he purported to be. The ease with which he sat his horse, the high, bold expression upon his face, and the great length of his arms, all marked him as one who could give a good account of himself in a fray. In his words alone I could have placed little trust, but there was that in his bearing which assured even a novice like myself that he was indeed a trained man of war.
'That is the Avon which glitters amongst the trees,' I remarked. 'We are about three miles from Salisbury town.'
'It is a noble spire,' said he, glancing at the great stone spire in front of us. 'The men of old would seem to have spent all their days in piling stones upon stones. And yet we read of tough battles and shrewd blows struck, showing that they had some time for soldierly relaxation, and were not always at this mason work.'
'The Church was rich in those days,' I answered, shaking my bridle, for Covenant was beginning to show signs of laziness. 'But here comes one who might perhaps tell us something of the war.'
A horseman who bore traces of having ridden long and hard was rapidly approaching us. Both rider and steed were grey with dust and splashed with mire, yet he galloped with loosened rein and bent body, as one to whom every extra stride is of value.
'What ho, friend!' cried Saxon, reining his mare across the road so as to bar the man's passage. 'What news from the West?'
'I must not tarry,' the messenger