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seized the king’s wrist with one hand, snatched up her bundle with the other,
and began to pour out a tirade of abuse upon the boy while he struggled,
without success, to free himself from her grip.

Hugo had seen enough-his enemy was captured and the law would get him
now-so he slipped away, jubilant and chuckling and wended campward,
framing a judicious version of the matter to give to the Ruffler’s crew as he
strode along.

The king continued to struggle in the woman’s grasp, and now and then cried
out, in vexation: ‘Unhand me, thou foolish creature; it was not I that bereaved
thee of thy paltry goods.’ The crowd closed around, threatening the king and
calling him names; a brawny blacksmith in leather apron, and sleeves rolled to
his elbows, made a reach for him, saying he would trounce him well, for a
lesson; but just then a long sword flashed in the air and fell with convincing
force upon the man’s arm, flatside down, the fantastic owner of it remarking,
pleasantly at the same time: ‘Marry, good souls, let us proceed gently, not with
ill blood and uncharitable words. This is matter for the law’s consideration, not
private and unofficial handling. Loose thy hold from the boy, goodwife.’ The
blacksmith averaged the stalwart soldier with a glance, then went muttering
away, rubbing his arm; the woman released the boy’s wrist reluctantly; the
crowd eyed the stranger unlovingly, but prudently closed their mouths. The
king sprang to his deliverer’s side, with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes
exclaiming: ‘Thou hast lagged sorely, but thou comest in good season now, Sir
Miles; carve me this rabble to rags!’
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