Chapter 2 Summary
When Asta’s son awakes, it is completely dark. At first he does not know where he is, but eventually he remembers running away from the funeral and falling in the woods. Touching his head carefully, he finds that it is sore and scabbed. He is cold, and his tunic—the only item of clothing he owns—is wet with mud.
Peering into the darkness to get his bearings, Asta’s son spots a flickering torchlight. Unsure what to think of this, he makes the sign of the cross and says a prayer to guard against evil. Honest people should all be in bed by now, so whoever is making the light is most likely a criminal or a demon.
Asta’s son knows that curiosity is a trait of the Devil, but he feels curious anyway. He carefully moves toward the light, careful not to fall again in the dark woods. Soon he comes to a clearing and finds John Aycliffe, who is armed with a sword as always. With him is an unfamiliar gentleman who has gray hair.
As Asta’s son watches, the grey-haired stranger gives Aycliffe a piece of parchment that is covered in writing and adorned with tassels and seals. Aycliffe looks at it closely and swears. The gentleman points out that Aycliffe is “her kin” and that something is “a great danger.” Aycliffe agrees and promises to act immediately. Asta’s son does not understand what any of this means.
A moment later, Aycliffe looks up, sees Asta’s son watching, and grows furious. Drawing his sword, Aycliffe charges the boy and attacks. At first, Asta’s son can hardly react—but he gets away out of sheer luck. He runs into the woods and falls down a small cliff. At the bottom, he freezes and stays silent, hoping that his pursuer will move away in the darkness. This strategy works, and Aycliffe and his torch soon retreat.
When Aycliffe is gone, Asta’s son gets up and runs as far and as fast as he can. When his strength gives out, he collapses and tries to rest. However, he is too afraid to sleep. He spends the night thinking about all his sins: refusing to pray with the priest after his mother’s burial, staying out past the curfew, and even stealing communion wine to use as medicine for his mother before she died. He is sure God must be angry. What else could explain such a string of misfortune? As he waits for dawn, Asta’s son prays for forgiveness.