Tom swallowed. In a moment William would try to get the horse's head up. Tom felt in his apron pocket and brought out the crust of bread he had been eating. He showed it to the horse, which dipped its head and took a bite. "There's more to be said, before you leave, my lord," he said mildly.
William said: "Let my horse go, or I'll take your head off." Tom looked directly at him, trying not to show his fear. He was bigger than William, but that would make no difference if the young lord drew his sword.
Agnes muttered fearfully: "Do as the lord says, husband."
There was dead silence. The other workmen stood as still as statues, watching. Tom knew that the prudent thing would be to give in. But William had nearly trampled Tom's little girl, and that made Tom mad, so with a racing heart he said: "You have to pay us."
William pulled on the reins, but Tom held the bridle tight, and the horse was distracted, nuzzling in Tom's apron pocket for more food. "Apply to my father for your wages!" William said angrily.
Tom heard the carpenter say in a terrified voice: "We'll do that, my lord, thanking you very much."
Wretched coward, Tom thought, but he was trembling himself. Nevertheless he forced himself to say: "If you want to dismiss us, you must pay us, according to the custom. Your father's house is two days' walk from here, and when we arrive he may not be there."
"Men have died for less that this," William said. His cheeks reddened with anger.
Out of the corner of his eye, Tom saw the squire drop his hand to the hilt of his sword. He knew he should give up not, and humble himself, but there was an obstinate knot of anger in his belly, and as scared as he was he could not bring himself to release the bridle. "Pay us first, then kill me," he said recklessly. "You may hang for it, or you may not; but you'll die sooner or later, and then I will be in heaven and you will be in hell."
The sneer froze on William's face and he paled. Tom was surprised: what had frightened the boy? Not the mention of hanging, surely: it was not really likely that a lord would be hanged for the murder of a craftsman. Was he terrified of hell?
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