"Nay, Myles," said Gascoyne, soothingly, "the little imp is as lazy as a dormouse and as mischievous as a monkey. I'll warrant the hiding was his due, and that more of the like would do him good."
"Why, how dost thou talk, Francis!" said Myles, turning upon him indignantly. "Thou knowest that thou likest to see the boy beaten no more than I." Then, after a meditative pause, "How many, think ye, we muster of our company of the Rose today?"
Wilkes looked doubtfully at Gascoyne. "There be only seventeen of us here now," said he at last. "Brinton and Lambourne are away to Roby Castle in Lord George's train, and will not be back till Saturday next. And Watt Newton is in the infirmary.
"Seventeen be'st enou," said Myles, grimly. "Let us get together this afternoon, such as may, in the Brutus Tower, for I, as I did say, will no longer suffer these vile bachelors."
Gascoyne and Wilkes exchanged looks, and then the former blew a long whistle.
So that afternoon a gloomy set of young faces were gathered together in the Eyry--fifteen of the Knights of the Rose--and all knew why they were assembled. The talk which followed was conducted mostly by Myles. He addressed the others with a straightforward vim and earnestness, but the response was only half-hearted, and when at last, having heated himself up with his own fire, he sat down, puffing out his red cheeks and glaring round, a space of silence followed, the lads looked doubtfully at one another. Myles felt the chill of their silence strike coldly on his enthusiasm, and it vexed him.
"What wouldst thou do, Falworth?" said one of the knights, at last. "Wouldst have us open a quarrel with the bachelors?"
"Nay," said Myles, gruffly. "I had thought that ye would all lend me a hand in a pitched battle but now I see that ye ha' no stomach for that. Ne'theless, I tell ye plainly I will not submit longer to the bachelors. So now I will ask ye not to take any venture upon yourselves, but only this: that ye will stand by me when I do my fighting, and not let five or seven of them fall upon me at once.