They had not, however, great fear of their pursuers, for their own
horses were comparatively fresh after the rest in the ruined city, and
those of their foes would be necessarily fatigued, after the rapid ride
along the Foss Way, and their exertions to pass the stream.
So it was not with great uneasiness, well mounted as they were, that,
gaining the road, they beheld their pursuers in the distance, who, on
their part, beholding their intended victims afar off, hastened to spur
their horses on.
It was useless: the pursued had the advantage, and after the gallop of a
mile or two, it became evident they were in no especial danger, although
it must be remembered that a false step or slip, or any accident, would
have been fatal.
"I should not mind racing them down the Foss to the Sea Town," [xxv]
said the guide; "but if the abbot has no objection, I should prefer
leaving them to pursue the road, while we take a cross-country route,
which I have often travelled; it is a very good one."
"By all means," said Dunstan, "and then we may slacken this furious pace."
They were quite out of sight of their pursuers when, coming upon a track
of dry stony ground, they suddenly left the road, and crossing a wild
heath, put a copse between them and the enemy, who did not this time
discover for miles the absence of the footprints, for the soil was very
dry and hard, the storm not having passed that way, and the foe were
intent upon hard riding.