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15. How Sir Richard of the Lea Paid His Debts
THE LONG HIGHWAY stretched straight on, gray and dusty in the sun. On either side were dikes full of water bordered by osiers, and far away in the distance stood the towers of Emmet Priory with tall poplar trees around.
Along the causeway rode a knight with a score of stout men-at-arms behind him. The Knight was clad in a plain, long robe of gray serge, gathered in at the waist with a broad leathern belt, from which hung a long dagger and a stout sword. But though he was so plainly dressed himself, the horse he rode was a noble barb, and its trappings were rich with silk and silver bells.
So thus the band journeyed along the causeway between the dikes, till at last they reached the great gate of Emmet Priory. There the Knight called to one of his men and bade him knock at the porter's lodge with the heft of his sword.
The porter was drowsing on his bench within the lodge, but at the knock he roused himself and, opening the wicket, came hobbling forth and greeted the Knight, while a tame starling that hung in a wicker cage within piped out, "In coelo quies! In coelo quies!" such being the words that the poor old lame porter had taught him to speak.
"Where is thy prior?" asked the Knight of the old porter.
"He is at meat, good knight, and he looketh for thy coming," quoth the porter, "for, if I mistake not, thou art Sir Richard of the Lea."
"I am Sir Richard of the Lea; then I will go seek him forthwith," said the Knight.
"But shall I not send thy horse to stable?" said the porter. "By Our Lady, it is the noblest nag, and the best harnessed, that e'er I saw in all my life before." And he stroked the horse's flank with his palm.
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