Horvendile left the fortress, and came presently to Maugis d'Aigremont. Horvendile got speech with this brigand where he waited encamped in the hill-country of Perdigon, loth to leave Storisende since it held Ettarre who he so much desired, but with too few a adherents to venture an attack.
Maugis sprawled listles in his chair, wrapped in a mantle of soiled and faded green stuff, as though he were cold. In his hand was a naked sword, with which he was prodding the torn papers scattered about him. He did not move at all, but his somber eyes lifted.
"What do you plan now, Horvendile?"
"It is the only weapon of you scribblers. How will it serve me?"
Then Horvendile spoke. Maugis sat listening. Above the swordhilt the thumb of one hand was stroking the knuckles of the other carefully. His lean and sallow face stayed changeless.
Says Maugis: "It is a bold stroke-- yes. But how do I know it is not some trap for me?"
Horvendile shrugged, and asked: "Have I not served you constantly in the past, messire?"
"You have suggested makeshifts very certainly. And to a pretty pass they have brought me! Here I roost like a starved buzzard, with no recreation except upon clear forenoons to look at the towers of Storisende."
"Meanwhile at Storisende," said Horvendile, " Ettarre prepares to marry Sir Guiron."
"I think of that.... She is very beautiful, is she not, Horvendile?
And she loves this stately kindly fool who carries his fair head so high and has no reason to hide anything from her. Yes, she is very beautiful, being created perfect by divine malice that she might be the ruin of men. So I loved her: and she did not love me, because I was not worthy of her love. And Guiron is in all things worthy of her. I cannot ever pardon him that."
"And I am pointing out a way, messire, by which you may reasonably hope to deal with Sir Guiron-- ho, and with the Counts Emmerick and Perion, and Heitman Michael, and with Ettarre also --precisely as you elect."
Then Maugis spoke wearily. "I must trust you, I suppose. But I have no lively faith in my judgements nowadays. I have played fast and loose with too many men, and the stench of their blood is in my nostrils, drugging me. I move in a half-sleep, and people's talking seems remote and foolish. I can think clearly only when I think Of how tender is the flesh of Ettarre. Heh, a lovely flashing peril allures me, through these daus of fog, and i must trust you. Death is ugly, I know; but life is ugly to o, and all my deeds are strange to me."
The clerk was oddly moved. "Do you not know I love you as I never loved Guiron?"
"How can I tell? You are an outlander. Your ways are not our ways," says the brigand moodily. "And what have I to do with love?"
"You will talk otherwise when you drink in the count's seat, with Ettarre upon your knee," Horvendile considered. "Observe, I do not promise you success! Yet I would have you rememeber it was by very much the same device that Count Perion won the sister of Ettarre."
"Heh, if we fail," replies Maugis, "I shall at least have done with rememebering..." Then they settled details of the business in hand.
Thus Horvendile returned to Storisende before twilight had thickened into nightfall. He came thus to a place different in all things from the haggared outlaw's camp, for Count Emmerick held that night a noble revel. There was gay talk and jest and danc ing, with all other mirth men could devise.
The barons of Poictesme had well-nigh lost the knack of dancing during the twelve years of never-ending warfare which had been stirred up by the lust and greed of Maugis d'Aigremont: but to-night all trouble seemed to have departed fron Storisende; and these warriors merrily returned to the sports of their youth.