Chapters 28-29 Summary
Bear and Crispin wend their way through the forest all day, rarely following any path. When Crispin asks, Bear says that he is not going anywhere in particular, just trying to keep Crispin alive. Eventually he stops, lights a fire, and snares some pigeons. He lets Crispin watch how to make the snares out of hair from a horse’s tail.
After dinner, Bear and Crispin sit in thoughtful silence. Again trying to understand why John Aycliffe is pursuing him, Crispin mentally reviews the details of his last days at home. Now and then he pipes up with a bit of information. Bear seems unimpressed when he learns that the stranger with Aycliffe in the forest was a wealthy man on an expensive horse. However, Bear seems far more interested in the priest’s claim that Crispin’s mother could read and write. “How could a miserable peasant woman acquire such skills?” Bear wonders aloud. Crispin does not know but says that the priest said his mother wrote on her lead cross.
That night, before Crispin goes to bed, he gets out his lead cross to pray as usual. Bear abruptly asks to look at the cross, and Crispin hesitates, worried that Bear will destroy it. The man swears on “the bloody hands of Christ” that he will not do anything of the sort, and Crispin hands it over. Bear holds it close to their campfire and studies the words inscribed on it for a long time. When he gives the cross back, Crispin asks what it says. Bear claims that he could not read it in the dim light, but the boy suspects that this is a lie.
The next day, Crispin often catches Bear staring at him at odd moments. The man does not explain himself, so the boy does not comment on the matter either. The pair sets off through the woods and begins following a path. As they walk, they hear a church bell. This means that a village is near.
Bear thinks that now is as good a time as any to try their first performance in a village. He reviews the plan for their songs and dances, then says that if anyone attacks, Crispin must run away and save himself. Bear urges the boy to go as far north as possible, away from the king’s lands. Crispin fails to understand why he cannot simply go to Great Wexly as planned. Somewhat mysteriously, Bear explains that Great Wexly may be dangerous for Crispin. He, Bear, would cancel his plans to travel there, but he promised a friend he would go. He is supposed to give information to a brotherhood dedicated to the goal of bringing more freedom to the people of England.
Crispin finds all this confusing. He wants to know more about himself and the dangers he faces. Bear, however, is finished with the conversation. Before Crispin can ask another question, Bear turns and enters the village.