The Betrayal

There were miles and miles of still, grey heath
Where never a wind did run,
And there was a great cloud in the sky
Red with the sinking sun,

And the tufts of grass stood black and high
With the sun's last edge behind,
While a small grey bird slipped through the air
Like a dream from a madman's mind.

Then, far away, a trumper shrilled
Like the cry of a new-born child,
And I saw the little moving stars
Of their spearheads tossing wild. . . .

“What voices are those, my own dear love?”
“Tis the waves of the sea that roar!”
“Nay, we are miles and miles away
From the sea and the good sea's shore,

Where the hermit dwells who will make us one,
Where I fear we never shall win!”
I leaned above the horse's mane
And I drove the rowels in. . . .

“I think I hear my father's voice.”
“Tis a bittern from yonder mere!”
Then an arrow sped high overhead,—
It whistled high and clear,

And after it leaped her father's voice,
“Light down, light down like a man,
And fight with any one of us. . . .
You have broken the law of the clan!”

“Nay, heed them not,” my true love spoke,
“I have broken the law of the clan,
An ancient law, and a cruel law—
But they've called me, man to man,—

Yet how could they know the way of our flight,
The way of our flight so soon?
For as yet the sky is dark with the lack
Of the still unrisen noon. . . .

Sir Hugh is the only knight that knows,
A friend both tried and true!”—
Then I saw in the front, by her father's side,
That traitor and thief, Sir Hugh!

“I have twenty knights will cleave your skull,
Oh, stealer of women so bold!”
“There is only one knight I would slay in fight—
The bloodless thief that told!”

With that her father laughed a laugh
And smote Sir Hugh on the knee. . .
“You were quick to tell … by the bottom of Hell,
Be as quick to fight!” quo' he.

We couched our spears as the bright moon rose;
We fought right lustily,—
I found him brave as he was false,
Right false and brave was he;

But I caught him at last with a sudden blast
Of blows on the head and breast,
And I tore away his morion
With a tug at the helmet's crest.

His still grey face shone white in the moon,
His still grey face shone white
As I knelt by his side before he died,
There in the still grey night. . . .

“Sir Hugh that was my life-long friend
Beneath both moon and sun,
O, why have you done the foulest deed
That ever friend has done?”

“Lean down, lean down right secretly,
As once you held me dear,
For the thing that I would tell to you
No other man must hear:

You knew all things I thought or knew,—
One thing you did not know;
The thing that I hid from you in my heart
That brings us both to woe. . . .”

Lower I leaned in the low red grass
To hear the words he sighed
From his death-slow lips, “I loved her too,
God … knows!” so my false friend died.
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