The Eve Of The Third Day

: The Doomsman

A touch upon Constans's shoulder and a voice in his ear aroused him. He

sprang to his feet; the sunshine was streaming through the glazeless

casements, and Constans, being yet heavy with sleep, blinked against it

as a man drunken with wine. Oxenford confronted him. "The attack?"

questioned Constans, and for the life of him could not help yawning


Red Oxenford laughed. "In that case I should h
ve pulled your ear off

instead of wasting time shouting into it. By the thunders of God, man,

but you sleep soundly."

Constans was fully awake now. He glanced at the sun, which was high in

the sky, and then at Oxenford's gaunt face.

"I have left you to do the watching alone," he said, apologetically.

"What matter?" was the indifferent answer. "For me slumber would not

have meant forgetfulness, and the watching made the waiting so much the


Constans stood by the window looking across the Citadel Square and

directly up the Palace Road. "I see no sign of Piers Major," he said at


"Down in the square," replied Oxenford, laconically.

In truth there was a most unusual activity pervading the stronghold of

the Doomsmen. Already the long rows of guard-huts were tenanted by a

throng of women and children, and the number was being constantly

reinforced by fresh arrivals. Guards were pacing the walls, and a squad

of the younger men were engaged in setting up the artillery machines for

hurling stones so as to command the open space in front of the north

gate. New ropes were being fitted to the torsion levers, and an ox-cart

loaded with ammunition, in the shape of rounded boulders, creaked

noisily through the gateway.

"The warning must have come down from the High Bridge at an early hour,"

said Constans, thoughtfully. "How long has all this been going on?"

"Only within the last hour," returned Oxenford. "I waited for the old

gray wolf himself to seek his lair before arousing you. He has but just

crawled into it--out of arrow-shot," he added, regretfully.

Constans could see half a dozen of the green-jerkined guards lounging

about the entrance to the White Tower, evidence that Dom Gillian was

resting within. There was nothing to be seen of Quinton Edge, but surely

he would not be far away from the storm-centre. Probably he was

directing the defence at the northern boundary or even at the High


Slowly the day dragged on for the watchers in the "Flat-iron." It was

impossible to form any conjecture as to how the preliminary conflict was

proceeding; it was not even certain that it had begun. Piers Major had

undoubtedly forced the passage of the bridge, but apparently he had been

content with holding his advantage. He might not begin to move until

late in the day, and he would proceed slowly and cautiously.

From time to time a messenger galloped down the Palace Road. At once he

would be surrounded by an eager throng and escorted to the guard-room of

the White Tower, where Ulick had set up his headquarters. For it was

Ulick who had been left in command of the citadel garrison and intrusted

with the preparations for the impending siege. Twice Constans had caught

him fairly with his binoculars, and he could not be mistaken in the

features and carriage of his friend. His friend--one might say the only

friend that he had ever had--and Constans felt his heart heavy within

him, knowing that they must henceforth walk on diverging paths.

Constans found it difficult to keep his men under discipline. It was

all-important that their presence should be unsuspected by the enemy,

but it would have been betrayed a score of times had not his vigilance

intervened. Red Oxenford, in particular, grew more and more

unmanageable; he had neither eaten nor slept now for three days, and the

strain was telling on him. Finally he announced that he would wait no

longer. The north gate was open, and what should prevent his walking

straight up to the White Tower and sticking his boar-spear into the gray

wolf's hide? "And I will--by the seven thunders of God!" His voice rose

into a shriek.

It took half a dozen men to gag and bind him; he lay on a truss of

straw, his eyes fixed malevolently on Constans, whose orders had

prevented him from carrying out a plan so eminently practicable.

The shadows were growing long when Piers Minor pointed out a cloud of

dust far up the Palace Road. Later on they could distinguish the figures

of men and horses. Stragglers and wounded began to dribble away from the

fighting-line; they came running down the Palace Road, one by one, then

in bunches of two and three and four. Piers Major, with his greatly

superior force, was evidently driving the defenders back.

Half an hour later the conjecture became accomplished fact. The

Doomsmen, retreating with admirable steadiness, fell back upon the

shelter of the citadel walls. Quinton Edge, with a score of mounted

cross-bowmen, brought up the rear, and he himself was the last man to

pass through the north gate.

Three hundred yards away the Stockaders came suddenly into view, but it

was close to sunset, the time for the evening meal, and, as though by

mutual consent, both sides laid aside their arms for the homelier

utensils of the cuisine. Down in the Citadel Square a hundred little

fires started up, and as many pots and kettles began to bubble

cheerfully. The invaders contented themselves with building huge

bonfires, intended for warmth rather than for cooking, since their light

marching order precluded the carrying of anything more than cold

rations. From far up the avenue came the boom of an ox-horn, militant,

almost brazen in its sonority. A drum, beaten noisily, rattled back an

impudent defiance from the citadel.