Part 1 out of 3
Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair
by William Morris
OF THE KING OF OAKENREALM, AND HIS WIFE AND HIS CHILD.
Of old there was a land which was so much a woodland, that a
minstrel thereof said it that a squirrel might go from end
to end, and all about, from tree to tree, and never touch
the earth: therefore was that land called Oakenrealm.
The lord and king thereof was a stark man, and so great a
warrior that in his youth he took no delight in aught else
save battle and tourneys. But when he was hard on forty
years old, he came across a daughter of a certain lord, whom
he had vanquished, and his eyes bewrayed him into longing,
so that he gave back to the said lord the havings he had
conquered of him that he might lay the maiden in his kingly
bed. So he brought her home with him to Oakenrealm and
Tells the tale that he rued not his bargain, but loved her
so dearly that for a year round he wore no armour, save when
she bade him play in the tilt-yard for her desport and
So wore the days till she went with child and was near her
time, and then it betid that three kings who marched on
Oakenrealm banded them together against him, and his lords
and thanes cried out on him to lead them to battle, and it
behoved him to do as they would.
So he sent out the tokens and bade an hosting at his chief
city, and when all was ready he said farewell to his wife
and her babe unborn, and went his ways to battle once more:
but fierce was his heart against the foemen, that they had
dragged him away from his love and his joy.
Even amidst of his land he joined battle with the host of
the ravagers, and the tale of them is short to tell, for
they were as the wheat before the hook. But as he followed
up the chase, a mere thrall of the fleers turned on him and
cast his spear, and it reached him whereas his hawberk was
broken, and stood deep in, so that he fell to earth
unmighty: and when his lords and chieftains drew about him,
and cunning men strove to heal him, it was of no avail, and
he knew that his soul was departing. Then he sent for a
priest, and for the Marshal of the host, who was a great
lord, and the son of his father's brother, and in few words
bade him look to the babe whom his wife bore about, and if
it were a man, to cherish him and do him to learn all that a
king ought to know; and if it were a maiden, that he should
look to her wedding well and worthily: and he let swear him
on his sword, on the edges and the hilts, that he would do
even so, and be true unto his child if child there were:
and he bade him have rule, if so be the lords would, and all
the people, till the child were of age to be king: and the
Marshal swore, and all the lords who stood around bare
witness to his swearing. Thereafter the priest houselled
the King, and he received his Creator, and a little while
after his soul departed.
But the Marshal followed up the fleeing foe, and two battles
more he fought before he beat them flat to earth; and then
they craved for peace, and he went back to the city in
But in the King's city of Oakenham he found but little joy;
for both the King was bemoaned, whereas he had been no hard
man to his folk; and also, when the tidings and the King's
corpse came back to Oakenrealm, his Lady and Queen took sick
for sorrow and fear, and fell into labour of her child, and
in childing of a man-bairn she died, but the lad lived, and
was like to do well.
So there was one funeral for the slain King and for her whom
his slaying had slain: and when that was done, the little
king was borne to the font, and at his christening he gat to
Thereafter the Marshal summoned all them that were due
thereto to come and give homage to the new king, and even so
did they, though he were but a babe, yea, and who had but
just now been a king lying in his mother's womb. But when
the homage was done, then the Marshal called together the
wise men, and told them how the King that was had given him
in charge his son as then unborn, and the ruling of the
realm till the said son were come to man's estate: but he
bade them seek one worthier if they had heart to gainsay the
word of their dying lord. Then all they said that he was
worthy and mighty and the choice of their dear lord, and
that they would have none but he.
So then was the great folk-mote called, and the same matter
was laid before all the people, and none said aught against
it, whereas no man was ready to name another to that charge
and rule, even had it been his own self.
Now then by law was the Marshal, who hight Rolf, lord and
earl of the land of Oakenrealm. He ruled well and strongly,
and was a fell warrior: he was well befriended by many of
the great; and the rest of them feared him and his friends:
as for the commonalty, they saw that he held the realm in
peace; and for the rest, they knew little and saw less of
him, and they paid to his bailiffs and sheriffs as little as
they could, and more than they would. But whereas that left
them somewhat to grind their teeth on, and they were not
harried, they were not so ill content. So the Marshal
throve, and lacked nothing of a king's place save the bare
OF THE KING'S SON.
As for the King's son, to whom the folk had of late done
homage as king, he was at first seen about a corner of the
High House with his nurses; and then in a while it was said,
and the tale noted, but not much, that he must needs go for
his health's sake, and because he was puny, to some stead
amongst the fields, and folk heard say that he was gone to
the strong house of a knight somewhat stricken in years, who
was called Lord Richard the Lean. The said house was some
twelve miles from Oakenham, not far from the northern edge
of the wild-wood. But in a while, scarce more than a year,
Lord Richard brake up house at the said castle, and went
southward through the forest. Of this departure was little
said, for he was not a man amongst the foremost. As for the
King's little son, if any remembered that he was in the
hands of the said Lord Richard, none said aught about it;
for if any thought of the little babe at all, they said to
themselves, Never will he come to be king.
Now as for Lord Richard the Lean, he went far through the
wood, and until he was come to another house of his, that
stood in a clearing somewhat near to where Oakenrealm
marched on another country, which hight Meadham; though the
said wild-wood ended not where Oakenrealm ended, but
stretched a good way into Meadham; and betwixt one and the
other much rough country there was.
It is to be said that amongst those who went to this
stronghold of the woods was the little King Christopher, no
longer puny, but a stout babe enough: so he was borne
amongst the serving men and thralls to the castle of the
Outer March; and he was in no wise treated as a great man's
son; but there was more than one woman who was kind to him,
and as he waxed in strength and beauty month by month, both
carle and quean fell to noting him, and, for as little as he
was, he began to be well-beloved.
As to the stead where he was nourished, though it were far
away amongst the woods, it was no such lonely or savage
place: besides the castle and the houses of it, there was a
merry thorpe in the clearing, the houses whereof were set
down by the side of a clear and pleasant little stream.
Moreover the goodmen and swains of the said township were no
ill folk, but bold of heart, free of speech, and goodly of
favour; and the women of them fair, kind, and trusty.
Whiles came folk journeying in to Oakenrealm or out to
Meadham, and of these some were minstrels, who had with them
tidings of what was astir whereas folk were thicker in the
world, and some chapmen, who chaffered with the
thorpe-dwellers, and took of them the woodland spoil for
such outland goods as those woodmen needed.
So wore the years, and in Oakenham King Christopher was well
nigh forgotten, and in the wild-wood had never been known
clearly for King's son. At first, by command of Rolf the
Marshal, a messenger came every year from Lord Richard with
a letter that told of how the lad Christopher did. But when
five years were worn, the Marshal bade send him tidings
thereof every three years; and by then it was come to the
twelfth year, and still the tidings were that the lad throve
ever, and meanwhile the Marshal sat fast in his seat with
none to gainsay, the word went to Lord Richard that he
should send no more, for that he, the Marshal, had heard
enough of the boy; and if he throve it were well, and if
not, it was no worse. So wore the days and the years.
OF THE KING OF MEADHAM AND HIS DAUGHTER.
Tells the tale that in the country which lay south of
Oakenrealm, and was called Meadham, there was in these days
a king whose wife was dead, but had left him a fair
daughter, who was born some four years after King
Christopher. A good man was this King Roland, mild,
bounteous, and no regarder of persons in his justice; and
well-beloved he was of his folk: yet could not their love
keep him alive; for, whenas his daughter was of the age of
twelve years, he sickened unto death; and so, when he knew
that his end drew near, he sent for the wisest of his wise
men, and they came unto him sorrowing in the High House of
his chiefest city, which hight Meadhamstead. So he bade
them sit down nigh unto his bed, and took up the word and
"Masters, and my good lords, ye may see clearly that a
sundering is at hand, and that I must needs make a long
journey, whence I shall come back never; now I would, and am
verily of duty bound thereto, that I leave behind me some
good order in the land. Furthermore, I would that my
daughter, when she is of age thereto, should be Queen in
Meadham, and rule the land; neither will it be many years
before she shall be of ripe age for ruling, if ever she may
be; and I deem not that there shall be any lack in her,
whereas her mother could all courtesy, and was as wise as a
woman may be. But how say ye, my masters?"
So they all with one consent said Yea, and they would ask
for no better king than their lady his daughter. Then said
"Hearken carefully, for my time is short: Yet is she young
and a maiden, though she be wise. Now therefore do I need
some man well looked to of the folk, who shall rule the land
in her name till she be of eighteen winters, and who shall
be her good friend and counsellor into all wisdom
thereafter. Which of you, my masters, is meet for this
Then they all looked one on the other, and spake not. And
the King said: "Speak, some one of you, without fear; this
is no time for tarrying."
Thereon spake an elder, the oldest of them, and said:
"Lord, this is the very truth, that none of us here present
are meet for this office: whereas, among other matters, we
be all unmeet for battle; some of us have never been
warriors, and other some are past the age for leading an
host. To say the sooth, King, there is but one man in
Meadham who may do what thou wilt, and not fail; both for
his wisdom, and his might afield, and the account which is
had of him amongst the people; and that man is Earl
Geoffrey, of the Southern Marches."
"Ye say sooth," quoth the King; "but is he down in the
South, or nigher to hand?"
Said the elder: "He is as now in Meadhamstead, and may be
in this chamber in scant half an hour." So the King bade
send for him, and there was silence in the chamber till he
came in, clad in a scarlet kirtle and a white cloak, and
with his sword by his side. He was a tall man, bigly made;
somewhat pale of face, black and curly of hair; blue-eyed,
thin-lipped, and hook-nosed as an eagle; a man warrior-like,
and somewhat fierce of aspect. He knelt down by the King's
bedside, and asked him in a sorrowful voice what he would,
and the King said: "I ask a great matter of thee, and all
these my wise men, and I myself, withal, deem that thou
canst do it, and thou alone--nay, hearken: I am departing,
and I would have thee hold my place, and do unto my people
even what I would do if I myself were living; and to my
daughter as nigh to that as may be. I say all this thou
mayst do, if thou wilt be as trusty and leal to me after I
am dead, as thou hast seemed to all men's eyes to have been
while I was living. What sayest thou?"
The Earl had hidden his face in the coverlet of the bed
while the King was speaking; but now he lifted up his face,
weeping, and said: "Kinsman and friend and King; this is
nought hard to do; but if it were, yet would I do it."
"It is well," said the King: "my heart fails me and my
voice; so give heed, and set thine ear close to my mouth:
hearken, belike my daughter Goldilind shall be one of the
fairest of women; I bid thee wed her to the fairest of men
and the strongest, and to none other."
Thereat his voice failed him indeed, and he lay still; but
he died not, till presently the priest came to him, and, as
he might, houselled him: then he departed.
As for Earl Geoffrey, when the King was buried, and the
homages done to the maiden Goldilind, he did no worse than
those wise men deemed of him, but bestirred him, and looked
full sagely into all the matters of the kingdom, and did so
well therein that all men praised his rule perforce, whether
they loved him or not; and sooth to say he was not much
OF THE MAIDEN GOLDILIND.
AMIDST of all his other business Earl Geoffrey bethought him
in a while of the dead King's daughter, and he gave her in
charge to a gentlewoman, somewhat stricken in years, a widow
of high lineage, but not over wealthy. She dwelt in her own
house in a fair valley some twenty miles from Meadhamstead:
thereabode Goldilind till a year and a half was worn, and
had due observance, but little love, and not much kindness
from the said gentlewoman, who hight Dame Elinor Leashowe.
Howbeit, time and again came knights and ladies and lords to
see the little lady, and kissed her hand and did obeisance
to her; yet more came to her in the first three months of
her sojourn at Leashowe than the second, and more in the
second than the third.
At last, on a day when the said year and a half was fully
worn, thither came Earl Geoffrey with a company of knights
and men-at-arms, and he did obeisance, as due was, to his
master's daughter, and then spake awhile privily with Dame
Elinor; and thereafter they went into the hall, he, and she,
and Goldilind, and there before all men he spake aloud and
"My Lady Goldilind, meseemeth ye dwell here all too
straitly; for neither is this house of Leashowe great enough
for thy state, and the entertainment of the knights and
lords who shall have will to seek to thee hither; nor is the
wealth of thy liege dame and governante as great as it
should be, and as thou, meseemeth, wouldst have it.
Wherefore I have been considering thy desires herein, and if
thou deem it meet to give a gift to Dame Elinor, and live
queenlier thyself than now thou dost, then mayst thou give
unto her the Castle of Greenharbour, and the six manors
appertaining thereto, and withal the rights of wild-wood and
fen and fell that lie thereabout. Also, if thou wilt, thou
mayst honour the said castle with abiding there awhile at
thy pleasure; and I shall see to it that thou have due meney
to go with thee thither. How sayest thou, my lady?"
Amongst that company there were two or three who looked at
each other and half smiled; and two or three looked on the
maiden, who was goodly as of her years, as if with
compassion; but the more part kept countenance in full
Then spake Goldilind in a quavering voice (for she was
afraid and wise), and she said: "Cousin and Earl, we will
that all this be done; and it likes me well to eke the
wealth of this lady and my good friend Dame Elinor."
Quoth Earl Geoffrey: "Kneel before thy lady, Dame, and put
thine hands between hers and thank her for the gift." So
Dame Elinor knelt down, and did homage and obeisance for her
new land; and Goldilind raised her up and kissed her, and
bade her sit down beside her, and spake to her kindly; and
all men praised the maiden for her gentle and courteous
ways; and Dame Elinor smiled upon her and them, what she
She was small of body and sleek; but her cheeks somewhat
flagging; brown eyes she had, long, half opened; thin lips,
and chin somewhat falling away from her mouth; hard on fifty
winters had she seen; yet there have been those who were
older and goodlier both.
GOLDILIND COMES TO GREENHARBOUR.
But a little while tarried the Earl Geoffrey at Leashowe,
but departed next morning and came to Meadhamstead. A month
thereafter came folk from him to Leashowe, to wit, the new
meney for the new abode of Goldilind; amongst whom was a
goodly band of men-at-arms, led by an old lord pinched and
peevish of face, who kneeled to Goldilind as the new
burgreve of Greenharbour; and a chaplain, a black canon,
young, broad-cheeked and fresh-looking, but hard-faced and
unlovely; three new damsels withal were come for the young
Queen, not young maids, but stalworth women, well-grown, and
two of them hard-featured; the third, tall, black-haired,
and a goodly-fashioned body.
Now when these were come, who were all under the rule of
Dame Elinor, there was no gainsaying the departure to the
new home; and in two days' time they went their ways from
Leashowe. But though Goldilind was young, she was wise, and
her heart misgave her, when she was amidst this new meney,
that she was not riding toward glory and honour, and a world
of worship and friends beloved. Howbeit, whatso might lie
before her, she put a good face upon it, and did to those
about her queenly and with all courtesy.
Five days they rode from Leashowe north away, by thorpe and
town and mead and river, till the land became little
peopled, and the sixth day they rode the wild-wood ways,
where was no folk, save now and again the little cot of some
forester or collier; but the seventh day, about noon, they
came into a clearing of the wood, a rugged little plain of
lea-land, mingled with marish, with a little deal of
acre-land in barley and rye, round about a score of poor
frame-houses set down scattermeal about the lea. But on a
long ridge, at the northern end of the said plain, was a
grey castle, strong, and with big and high towers, yet not
so much greater than was Leashowe, deemed Goldilind, as for
Howbeit, they entered the said castle, and within, as
without, it was somewhat grim, though nought was lacking of
plenishing due for folk knightly. Long it were to tell of
its walls and baileys and chambers; but let this suffice,
that on the north side, toward the thick forest, was a
garden of green-sward and flowers and potherbs; and a
garth-wall of grey stone, not very high, was the only
defence thereof toward the wood, but it was overlooked by a
tall tower of the great wall, which hight the Foresters'
Tower. In the said outer garth-wall also was a postern,
whereby there was not seldom coming in and going out.
Now when Goldilind had been in her chamber for a few days,
she found out for certain, what she had before misdoubted,
that she had been brought from Leashowe and the peopled
parts near to Meadhamstead unto the uttermost parts of the
realm to be kept in prison there.
Howbeit, it was in a way prison courteous; she was still
served with observance, and bowed before, and called my lady
and queen, and so forth: also she might go from chamber to
hall and chapel, to and fro, yet scarce alone; and into the
garden she might go, yet not for the more part
unaccompanied; and even at whiles she went out a-gates, but
then ever with folk on the right hand and the left.
Forsooth, whiles and again, within the next two years of her
abode at Greenharbour, out of gates she went and alone; but
that was as the prisoner who strives to be free (although
she had, forsooth, no thought or hope of escape), and as the
prisoner brought back was she chastised when she came within
Everywhere, to be short, within and about the Castle of
Greenharbour, did Goldilind meet the will and the tyranny of
the little sleek widow, Dame Elinor, to whom both carle and
quean in that corner of the world were but as servants and
slaves to do her will; and the said Elinor, who at first was
but spiteful in word and look toward her lady, waxed worse
as time wore and as the blossom of the King's daughter's
womanhood began to unfold, till at last the she-jailer had
scarce feasted any day when she had not in some wise grieved
and tormented her prisoner; and whatever she did, none had
might to say her nay.
But Goldilind took all with a high heart, and her courage
grew with her years, nor would she bow the head before any
grief, but took to her whatsoever solace might come to her;
as the pleasure of the sun and the wind, and the beholding
of the greenery of the wood, and the fowl and the beasts
playing, which oft she saw afar, and whiles anear, though
whiles, forsooth, she saw nought of it all, whereas she was
shut up betwixt four walls, and that not of her chamber, but
of some bare and foul prison of the Castle, which, with
other griefs, must she needs thole under the name and guise
However, she waxed so exceeding fair and sweet and lovely,
that the loveliness of her pierced to the hearts of many of
her jailers, so that some of them, and specially of the
squires and men-at-arms, would do her some easement which
they might do unrebuked, or not sorely rebuked; as bringing
her flowers in the spring, or whiles a singing-bird or a
squirrel; and an old man there was of the men-at-arms, who
would ask leave, and get it at whiles, to come to her in her
chamber, or the garden? and tell her minstrel tales and the
like for her joyance. Sooth to say, even the pinched heart
of the old Burgreve was somewhat touched by her; and he
alone had any might to stand between her and Dame Elinor; so
that but for him it had gone much harder with her than it
For the rest, none entered the Castle from the world
without, nay not so much as a travelling monk, or a friar on
his wanderings, save and except some messenger of Earl
Geoffrey who had errand with Dame Elinor or the Burgreve.
So wore the days and the seasons, till it was now more than
four years since she had left Leashowe, and her eighteenth
summer was beginning.
But now the tale leaves telling of Goldilind, and goes back
to the matters of Oakenrealm, and therein to what has to do
with King Christopher and Rolf the Marshal.
HOW ROLF THE MARSHAL DREAMS A DREAM AND COMES TO THE CASTLE
OF THE UTTERMOST MARCH.
Now this same summer, when King Christopher was of twenty
years and two, Rolf the Marshal, sleeping one noontide in
the King's garden at Oakenham, dreamed a dream. For
himseemed that there came through the garth-gate a woman
fair and tall, and clad in nought but oaken-leaves, who led
by the hand an exceeding goodly young man of twenty summers,
and his visage like to the last battle-dead King of
Oakenrealm when he was a young man. And the said woman led
the swain up to the Marshal, who asked in his mind what
these two were: and the woman answered his thought and
said: "I am the Woman of the Woods, and the Landwight of
Oakenrealm; and this lovely lad whose hand I hold is my King
and thy King and the King of Oakenrealm. Wake, fool--wake!
and look to it what thou wilt do!"
And therewith he woke up crying out, and drew forth his
sword. But when he was fully awakened, he was ashamed, and
went into the hall, and sat in his high-seat, and strove to
think out of his troubled mind; but for all he might do, he
fell asleep again; and again in the hall he dreamed as he
had dreamed in the garden: and when he awoke from his dream
he had no thought in his head but how he might the speediest
come to the house of Lord Richard the Lean, and look to the
matter of his lord's son and see him with his eyes, and, if
it might be, take some measure with the threat which lay in
the lad's life. Nought he tarried, but set off in an hour's
time with no more company than four men-at-arms and an old
squire of his, who was wont to do his bidding without
question, whether it were good or evil.
So they went by frith and fell, by wood and fair ways, till
in two days' time they were come by undern within sight of
the Castle of the Outer March, and entered into the street
of the thorpe aforesaid; and they saw that there were no
folk therein and at the house-doors save old carles and
carlines scarce wayworthy, and little children who might not
go afoot. But from the field anigh the thorpe came the
sound of shouting and glad voices, and through the lanes of
the houses they saw on the field many people in gay raiment
going to and fro, as though there were games and sports
Thereof Lord Rolf heeded nought, but went his ways straight
to the Castle, and was brought with all honour into the
hall, and thither came Lord Richard the Lean, hastening and
half afeard, and did obeisance to him; and there were but a
few in the hall, and they stood out of earshot of the two
The Marshal spoke graciously to Lord Richard, and made him
sit beside him, and said in a soft voice: "We have come to
see thee, Lord, and how the folk do in the Uttermost
Marches. Also we would wot how it goes with a lad whom we
sent to thee when he was yet a babe, whereas he was some
byblow of the late King, our lord and master, and we deemed
thee both rich enough and kind enough to breed him into
thriving without increasing pride upon him: and, firstly,
is the lad yet alive?"
He knitted his brow as he spake, for carefulness of soul;
but Lord Richard smiled upon him, though as one somewhat
troubled, and answered: "Lord Marshal, I thank thee for
visiting this poor house; and I shall tell thee first that
the lad lives, and hath thriven marvellously, though he be
somewhat unruly, and will abide no correction now these last
six years. Sooth to say, there is now no story of his being
anywise akin to our late Lord King; though true it is that
the folk in this faraway corner of the land call him King
Christopher, but only in a manner of jesting. But it is no
jest wherein they say that they will gainsay him nought, and
that especially the young women. Yet I will say of him that
he is wise, and asketh not overmuch; the more is the sorrow
of many of the maidens. A fell woodsman he is, and
exceeding stark, and as yet heedeth more of valiance than of
the love of woman."
The Marshal looked no less troubled than before at these
words; he said: "I would see this young man speedily."
"So shall it be, Lord," said Lord Richard. Therewith he
called to him a squire, and said: "Go thou down into the
thorpe, and bring hither Christopher, for that a great lord
is here who would set him to do a deed of woodcraft, such as
is more than the wont of men."
So the squire went his ways, and was gone a little while,
and meantime drew nigh to the hall a sound of triumphing
songs and shouts, and right up to the hall doors; then
entered the squire, and by his side came a tall young man,
clad but in a white linen shirt and deerskin brogues, his
head crowned with a garland of flowers: him the squire
brought up to the lords on the dais, and louted to them, and
said: "My lords, I bring you Christopher, and he not
overwilling, for now hath he been but just crowned king of
the games down yonder; but when the carles and queans there
said that they would come with him and bear him company to
the hall doors, then, forsooth, he yea-said the coming. It
were not unmeet that some shame were done him."
"Peace, man!" said Lord Richard, "what hath this to do with
thee? Seest thou not the Lord Marshal here?" The Lord Rolf
sat and gazed on the lad, and scowled on him; but
Christopher saw therein nought but the face of a great lord
burdened with many cares; so when he had made his obeisance
he stood up fearlessly and merrily before them.
Sooth to say, he was full fair to look on: for all his
strength, which, as ye shall hear, was mighty, all the
fashion of his limbs and his body was light and clean done,
and beauteous; and though his skin, where it showed naked,
was all tanned with the summer, it was fine and sleek and
kindly, every deal thereof: bright-eyed and round-cheeked
he was, with full lips and carven chin, and his hair golden
brown of hue, and curling crisp about the blossoms of his
So must we say that he was such an youngling as most might
have been in the world, had not man's malice been, and the
mischief of grudging and the marring of grasping.
But now spake Lord Rolf: "Sir varlet, they tell me that
thou art a mighty hunter, and of mickle guile in woodcraft;
wilt thou then hunt somewhat for me, and bring me home a
catch seldom seen?"
"Yea, Lord King," said Christopher, "I will at least do my
best, if thou but tell me where to seek the quarry and
"It is well," said the Marshal, "and to-morrow my squire,
whom thou seest yonder, and who hight Simon, shall tell thee
where the hunt is up, and thou shalt go with him. But
hearken! thou shalt not call me king; for to-day there is no
king in Oakenrealm, and I am but Marshal, and Earl of the
king that shall be."
The lad fell a-musing for a minute, and then he said: "Yea,
Lord Marshal, I shall do thy will: but meseemeth I have
heard some tale of one who was but of late king in
Oakenrealm: is it not so, Lord?"
"Stint thy talk, young man," cried the Marshal in a harsh
voice, "and abide to-morrow; who knoweth who shall be king,
and whether thou or I shall live to see him."
But as he spake the words they seemed to his heart like a
foretelling of evil, and he turned pale and trembled, and
said to Christopher: "Come hither, lad; I will give thee a
gift, and then shalt thou depart till to-morrow." So
Christopher drew near to him, and the Marshal pulled off a
ring from his finger and set it on the lad's, and said to
him: "Now depart in peace;" and Christopher bent the knee to
him and thanked him for the gracious gift of the ruler of
Oakenrealm, and then went his ways out of the hall, and the
folk without gave a glad cry as he came amongst them.
But by then he was come to the door, Lord Rolf looked on his
hand, and saw that, instead of giving the youngling a
finger-ring which he had bought of a merchant for a price of
five bezants, as he had meant to do, he had given him a ring
which the old King had had, whereon was the first letter of
his name (Christopher to wit), and a device of a crowned
rose, for this ring was a signet of his. Wherefore was the
Marshal once more sore troubled, and he arose, and was half
minded to run down the hall after Christopher; but he
refrained him, and presently smiled to himself, and then
fell a-talking to Lord Richard, sweetly and pleasantly.
SO wore the day to evening; but, ere he went to bed, the
Lord Rolf had a privy talk, first with Lord Richard, and
after with his squire Simon. What followed of that talk ye
may hear after.
HOW CHRISTOPHER WENT A JOURNEY INTO THE WILD-WOOD.
Next morning Christopher, who slept in the little hall of
the inner court of the Castle, arose betimes, and came to
the great gate; but, for as early as he was, there he saw
the squire Simon abiding him, standing between two strong
horses; to him he gave the sele of the day, and the squire
greeted him, but in somewhat surly wise. Then he said to
him: "Well, King Christopher, art thou ready for the road?"
"Yea, as thou seest," said the youngling smiling. For,
indeed, he had breeches now beneath his shirt, and a surcoat
of green woollen over it; boots of deerskin had he withal,
and spurs thereon: he was girt with a short sword, and had
a quiver of arrows at his back, and bare a great bow in his
"Yea," quoth Simon, "thou deemest thee a gay swain belike;
but thou lookest likelier for a deerstealer than a rider,
thou, hung up to thy shooting-gear. Deemest thou we go
a-hunting of the hind?"
Quoth Christopher: "I wot not, squire; but the great lord
who lieth sleeping yonder, hath told me that thou shouldest
give me his errand; and of some hunting or feat of
wood-craft he spake. Moreover, this crooked stick can drive
a shaft through matters harder than a hind's side."
Simon looked confused, and he reddened and stammered
somewhat as he answered: "Ah, yea: so it was; I mind me;
I will tell thee anon."
Said Christopher: "Withal, squire, if we are wending into
the wood, as needs we must, unless we ride round about this
dale in a ring all day, dost thou deem we shall go at a
gallop many a mile? Nay, fair sir; the horses shall wend a
foot's pace oftenest, and we shall go a-foot not unseldom
through the thickets."
Now was Simon come to himself again, and that self was
surly, so he said: "Ay, ay, little King, thou deemest thee
exceeding wise in these woods, dost thou not? and forsooth,
thou mayst be. Yet have I tidings for thee."
"Yea, and what be they?" said Christopher.
Simon grinned: "Even these," said he, "that Dr. Knowall was
no man's cousin while he lived, and that he died last week."
Therewith he swung himself into his saddle, and Christopher
laughed merrily at his poor gibe and mounted in like wise.
Wherewithal they rode their ways through the thorpe, and at
the southern end thereof Simon drew rein, and looked on
Christopher as if he would ask him something, but asked not.
Then said Christopher: "Whither go we now?"
Said Simon: "It is partly for thee to say: hearken, I am
bidden first to ride the Redwater Wood with thee: knowest
"Yea," said the lad, "full well: but which way shall we
ride it? Wilt thou come out of it at Redwater Head, or Herne
Moss, or the Long Pools?"
Said Simon: "We shall make for the Long Pools, if thou
canst bring me there."
Christopher laughed: "Aha!" said he, "then am I some
faraway cousin of Dr. Knowall when the whole tale is told:
forsooth I can lead thee thither; but tell me, what shall I
do of valiant deeds at the Long Pools? for there is no
fire-drake nor effit, nay, nor no giant, nor guileful dwarf,
nought save mallard and coot, heron and bittern; yea, and
ague-shivers to boot."
Simon looked sourly on him and said: "Thou are bidden to go
with me, young man, or gainsay the Marshal. Art thou mighty
enough thereto? For the rest, fear not but that the deed
shall come to thee one day."
"Nay," said Christopher, "it is all one to me, for I am at
home in these woods and wastes, I and my shafts. Tell me of
the deeds when thou wilt." But indeed he longed to know the
deed, and fretted him because of Simon's surliness and
closeness. Then he said: "Well, Squire Simon, let us to
the road; for thou shalt know that to-night we must needs
house us under the naked heaven; in nowise can we come to
the Long Pools before to-morrow morning."
"Yea, and why not?" said the squire; "I have lain in worse
"Wilt thou tell me thereof?" said Christopher.
"Mayhappen," said Simon, "if to-morrow comes and goes for
both of us twain."
So they rode their ways through the wood, and baited at
midday with what Simon bare in his saddle-bags, and then
went on till night fell on them; then asked Simon how long
they were from the Long Pools, and Christopher told him that
they were yet short of them some fifteen miles, and those
long ones, because of the marish grounds. So they tethered
their horses there and ate their supper; and lay down to
sleep in the house of the woods, by a fire-side which they
But in the midnight Christopher, who was exceeding
fine-eared, had an inkling of someone moving afoot anigh
him, and he awoke therewith, and sprang up, his drawn
short-sword in his hand, and found himself face to face with
Simon, and he also with his sword drawn. Simon sprang
aback, but held up his sword-point, and Christopher, not yet
fully awake, cried out: "What wouldst thou? What is it?"
Simon answered, stammering and all abashed: "Didst thou not
hear then? it wakened me."
"I heard nought," said Christopher; "what was it?"
"Horses going in the wood," said Simon
"Ah, yea," said Christopher, "it will have been the wild
colts and the mares; they harbour about these marsh-land
parts. Go to sleep again, neighbour, the night is not yet
half worn; but I will watch a while."
Then Simon sheathed his sword, and turned about and stood
uneasily a little while, and then cast him down as one who
would sleep hastily; but slept not forsooth, though he
presently made semblance of it: as for Christopher, he drew
together the brands of the fire, and sat beside it with his
blade over his knees, until the first beginning of the
summer dawn was in the sky; then he began to nod, and
presently lay aback and slept soundly. Simon slept not, but
durst not move. So they lay till it was broad day, and the
sunbeams came thrusting through the boughs of the thicket.
CHRISTOPHER COMES TO THE TOFTS.
When they arose in the sunshine, Simon went straightway to
see to the horses, while Christopher stayed by the fire to
dight their victuals; he was merry enough, and sang to
himself the while; but when Simon came back again,
Christopher looked on him sharply, but for a while Simon
would not meet his eye, though he asked divers questions of
him concerning little matters, as though he were fain to
hear Christopher's voice; at last he raised his eyes, and
looked on him steadily, and then Christopher said: "Well,
wayfarer mine, and whither away this morning?"
Said Simon: "As thou wottest, to the Long Pools."
Said the lad: "Well, thou keepest thy tidings so close,
that I will ask thee no more till we come to the Long Pools;
since there, forsooth, thou must needs tell me; unless we
sunder company there, whereof I were nought grieving."
"Mayhappen thou shalt fare a long way to-day," muttered
But the lad cried out aloud, while his eye glittered and his
cheek flushed: "Belike thou hadst well-nigh opened the door
thereto last night!" And therewith he leapt to his feet and
drew his short-sword, and with three deft strokes sheared
asunder an overhanging beech-bough as thick as a man's
wrist, that it fell crashing down, and caught Simon amongst
the fall of its leafy twigs, while Christopher stood
laughing on him, but with a dangerous lofty look in his
eyes: then he turned away quietly toward the horses and
mounted his nag, and Simon followed and did the like,
silently; crestfallen he looked, with brooding fierceness in
So they rode their ways, and spake but little each to each
till they came to where the trees of the wood thinned
speedily, and gave out at last at the foot of a low stony
slope but little grassed; and when they had ridden up to the
brow and could see below, Christopher stretched out his
hand, and said: "Lo thou the Long Pools, fellow wayfarer!
and lo some of the tramping; horses that woke thee and not
me last night."
Forsooth there lay below them a great stretch of grass,
which whiles ran into mere quagmire, and whiles was sound
and better grassed; and the said plain was seamed by three
long shallow pools, with, as it were, grassy causeways
between them, grown over here and there with ancient alder
trees; but the stony slope whereon they had reined up bent
round the plain mostly to the east, as though it were the
shore of a great water; and far away to the south the hills
of the forest rose up blue, and not so low at the most, but
that they were somewhat higher than the crest of the White
Horse as ye may see it from the little Berkshire hills above
the Thames. Down on the firm greensward there was indeed a
herd of wild horses feeding; mallard and coot swam about the
waters; the whimbrel laughed from the bent-sides, and three
herons stood on the side of the causeway seeking a good
Simon sat a-horseback looking askance from the marish to
Christopher, and said nothing a while; then he spake in a
low croaking voice, and said: "So, little King, we have
come to the Long Pools; now I will ask thee, hast thou been
further southward than this marish land?"
"That have I," said the lad, "a day's journey further; but
according to the tales of men it was at the peril of my
Simon seemed as if he had not noted his last word; he said:
"Well then, since thou knowest the wild and the wood,
knowest thou amidst of the thickets there, two lumps of bare
hills, like bowls turned bottom up, that rise above the
trees, and on each a tower, and betwixt them a long house."
"Save us, Allhallows!" quoth Christopher, "but thou wilt
mean the Tofts! Is it so, sir squire?"
"Even so," said Simon.
"And thou knowest what dwellest there, and wouldst have me
lead thee thither?" said the lad.
"I am so bidden," said Simon; "if thou wilt not do my
bidding, seek thou some place to hide thee in from the hand
of the Earl Marshal."
Said the youngling: "Knowest thou not Jack of the Tofts and
his seven sons, and what he is, and that he dwelleth there?"
Said Simon: "I know of him; yea, and himself I know, and
that he dwelleth there; and I wot that men call him an
outlaw, and that many rich men shall lack ere he lacks.
"This," said Christopher, "that, as all tales tell, he will
take my life if I ride thither. And," said he, turning to
Simon, "this is belike what thou wouldest with me?" And
therewith he drew out his sword, for his bow was unstrung.
But Simon sat still and let his sword abide, and said,
sourly enough: "Thou art a fool to think I am training thee
to thy death by him; for I have no will to die, and why
shall he not slay me also? Now again I say unto thee, thou
hast the choice, either to lead me to the Tofts, where shall
be the deed for thee to do, or to hide thee in some hole, as
I said afore, from the vengeance of the Lord of Oakenrealm.
But as for thy sword, thou mayst put it up, for I will not
fight with thee, but rather let thee go with a string to thy
leg, if thou wilt not be wise and do as thy lords ordain for
Christopher sheathed his sword, and a smile came into his
face, as if some new thought were stirring in him, and he
said: "Well, since thou wilt not fight with me, and I but a
lad, I will e'en do thy will and thine errand to Jack of the
Tofts. Maybe he is not so black as he is painted, and not
all tales told of him are true. But some of them I will
tell thee as we ride along."
"And some thereof I know already, O woodland knight," said
Simon, as they rode down the bent, and Christopher led on
toward the green causeway betwixt the waters. "Tell me,"
quoth he, when they had ridden awhile, "is this one of thy
tales, how Jack of the Tofts went to the Yule feast of a
great baron in the guise of a minstrel, and, even as they
bore in the boar's head, smote the said baron on the neck,
so that his head lay by the head of the swine on the
"Yea," said Christopher, "and how Jack cried out: 'Two
heads of swine, one good to eat, one good to burn.' But, my
master, thou shalt know that this manslaying was not for
nought: whereas the Baron of Greenlake had erewhile slain
Jack's father in felon wise, where he could strike no stroke
for life; and two of his brethren also had he slain, and
made the said Jack an outlaw, and he all sackless. In the
Uttermost March we deem that he had a case against the
"Hah!" said Simon. "Is this next tale true, that this Jack
o' the Tofts slew a good knight before the altar, so that
the priest's mass-hackle was all wet with his blood, whereas
the said priest was in the act of putting the holy body into
the open mouth of the said knight?"
Christopher said eagerly: "True was it, by the Rood! and
well was it done, for that same Sir Raoul was an ugly
traitor, who had knelt down where he died to wed the Body of
the Lord to a foul lie in his mouth; whereas the man who
knelt beside him he had trained to his destruction, and was
even then doing the first deal of his treason by forswearing
"And that man who knelt with him there," said Simon, "what
betid to him?"
Said Christopher: "He went out of the church with Jack of
the Tofts that minute of the stroke; and to the Tofts he
went with him, and abode with him freely: and a valiant man
he was...and is."
"Hah!" said Simon again. "And then there is this: that the
seven sons of Jack of the Tofts bore off perforce four fair
maidens of gentle blood from the castle wherein they dwelt,
serving a high dame in all honour; and that moreover, they
hanged the said dame over the battlements of her own castle.
Is this true, fair sir?"
"True is it as the gospel," said Christopher: "yet many say
that the hanged dame had somewhat less than her deserts; for
a foul & cruel whore had she been; and had done many to be
done to death, and stood by while they were pined. And the
like had she done with those four damsels, had there not
been the stout sons of Jack of the Tofts; so that the dear
maidens were somewhat more than willing to be borne away."
Simon grinned: "Well, lad," said he, "I see that thou
knowest Jack of the Tofts even better than I do; so why in
the devil's name thou art loth to lead me to him, I wot
Christopher reddened, and held his peace awhile; then he
said: "Well fellow-farer, at least I shall know something
of him ere next midnight."
"Yea," said Simon, "and shall we not come to the Tofts
"Let us essay it," said Christopher, "and do our best, it
yet lacketh three hours of noon." Therewith he spurred on,
for the greensward was hard under the hooves, and they had
yet some way to go before they should come amongst the trees
Into the said wood they came, and rode all day diligently,
but night fell on them before they saw either house or man
or devil; then said Simon: "Why should we go any further
before dawn? Will it not be best to come to this perilous
house by daylight?"
Said Christopher: "There be perils in the wood as well as
in the house. If we lie down here, maybe Jack's folk may
come upon us sleeping, and some mischance may befall us.
Withal, hereabout be no wild horses to wake thee and warn
thee of thy foeman anigh. Let us press on; there is a moon,
though she be somewhat hidden by clouds, and meseemeth the
way lieth clear before me; neither are we a great way from
Then Simon rode close up to Christopher, and took his rein
and stayed him, and said to him, as one who prayeth: "Young
man, willest thou my death?"
"That is as it may be," said Christopher; "willest thou
Simon held his peace awhile, and Christopher might not see
what was in his face amidst the gathering dusk; but he
twitched his rein out of the squire's hand, as if he would
hasten onward; then the squire said: "Nay, I pray thee
abide and hear a word of me."
"Speak then," said Christopher, "but hasten, for I hunger,
and I would we were in the hall." And therewith he laughed.
Said Simon: "Thus it is: if I go back to my lord and bear
no token of having done his errand to Jack of the Tofts,
then am I in evil case; and if I come to the Tofts, I wot
well that Jack is a man fierce of heart, and ready of hand:
now, therefore, I pray thee give me thy word to be my
warrant, so far as thou mayst be, with this woodman and his
At that word Christopher brake out a-laughing loudly, till
all the dusk wood rang with the merry sound of his fresh
voice; at last he said: "Well, well, thou art but a craven
to be a secret murderer: the Lord God would have had an
easy bargain of Cain, had he been such as thou. Come on,
and do thine errand to Jack of the Tofts, and I will hold
thee harmless, so far as I may. Though, sooth to say, I
guessed what thine errand was, after the horses waked thee
and put a naked sword in thine hand last night. Marry! I
had no inkling of it when we left the Castle yesterday
morning, but deemed thy lord needed me to do him some
service. Come on then! or rather go thou on before me a
pace; there, where thou seest the glimmer betwixt the
beech-trees yonder; if thou goest astray, I am anigh thee
for a guide. And I say that we shall not go far without
Simon went on perforce, as he was bidden, and they rode thus
a while slowly, Christopher now and then crying, as they
went: "To the right, squire! To the left! Straight on now!"
and so on. But suddenly they heard voices, and it was as if
the wood had all burst out into fire, so bright a light
shone out. Christopher shouted, and hastened on to pass
Simon, going quite close to his right side thereby, and as
he did so, he saw steel flashing in his hand, and turned
sidling to guard him, but ere he could do aught Simon drave
a broad dagger into his side, and then turned about and fled
the way they had come, so far as he knew how.
Christopher fell from his horse at once as the stroke came
home, but straightway therewith were there men with torches
round about him, a dozen of them; men tall and wild-looking
in the firelight; and one of them, a slim young man with
long red hair falling all about his shoulders, knelt down by
him, while the others held his horse and gat his feet out of
The red-head laid his hand on his breast, and raised his
head up till the light of a torch fell on it, and then he
cried out: "Masters, here hath been a felon; the man hath
been sticked, and the deed hath to do with us; for lo you,
this is none other than little Christopher of the Uttermost
March, who stumbled on the Tofts last Yule, and with whom we
were so merry together. Here, thou Robert of Maisey, do thy
leechdom on him if he be yet living; but if he be dead, or
dieth of his hurt, then do I take the feud on me, to follow
it to the utmost against the slayer; even I, David the Red,
though I be the youngest of the sons of Jack of the Tofts.
For this man I meant should be my fellow in field and fell,
ganging and galloping, in hall and high-place, in cot and in
choir, before woman and warrior, and priest and
proud-prince. Now thou Robert, how does he?"
Said the man who had looked to Christopher's wound, and had
put aside his coat and shirt: "He is sore hurt, but
meseemeth not deadly. Nay, belike he may live as long as
thou, or longer, whereas thou wilt ever be shoving thy red
head and lank body wheresoever knocks are going."
David rose with a sigh of one who is lightened of a load,
and said: "Well Robert, when thou hast bound his wound let
us have him into the house: Ho lads! there is light enough
to cut some boughs and make a litter for him. But, ho
again! has no one gone after the felon to take him?"
Robert grinned up from his job with the hurt man: "Nay,
King David," said he, "it is mostly thy business; mayhappen
thou wilt lay thy heels on thy neck and after him."
The red-head stamped on the ground, and half drew his sax,
and shoved it back again unto the sheath, and then said
angrily: "I marvel at thee, Robert, that thou didst not
send a man or two at once after the felon: how may I leave
my comrade and sweet board-fellow lying hurt in the
wild-wood? Art thou growing over old for our woodland ways,
wherein loitering bringeth louting?"
Robert chuckled and said: "I thought thou wouldst take the
fly in thy mouth, foster-son: if the felon escape Ralph
Longshanks and Anthony Green, then hath he the devil's luck;
and they be after him."
"That is well," said the young man, "though I would I were
with them." And therewith he walked up and down
impatiently, while the others were getting ready the litter
At last it was done, and Christopher laid thereon, and they
all went on together through the woodland path, the torches
still flaring about them. Presently they came out into a
clearing of the wood, and lo, looming great and black before
them against the sky, where the moon had now broken out of
the clouds somewhat, the masses of the tofts, and at the top
of the northernmost of them a light in the upper window of a
tall square tower. Withal the yellow-litten windows of a
long house showed on the plain below the tofts; but little
else of the house might be seen, save that, as they drew
near, the walls brake out in doubtful light here and there
as the torches smote them.
So came they to a deep porch, where they quenched all the
torches save one, and entered a great hall through it, David
and two other tall young men going first, and Robert Maisey
going beside the bier. The said hall was lighted with
candles, but not very brightly, save at the upper end; but
amidmost a flickering heap of logs sent a thin line of blue
smoke up to the luffer. There were some sixty folk in the
hall, scattered about the end-long tables, a good few of
whom were women, well grown and comely enough, so far as
could be seen under the scanty candle-light. At the
high-table, withal, were sitting both men and women, and as
they drew near to the greater light of it, there could be
seen in the chief seat a man, past middle age, tall,
wide-shouldered and thin-flanked, with a short peaked beard
and close-cut grizzled hair; he was high of cheekbones,
thin-faced, with grey eyes, both big and gentle-looking; he
was clad in a green coat welted with gold. Beside him sat a
woman, tall and big-made, but very fair of face, though she
were little younger, belike, than the man. Out from these
two sat four men and four women, man by man and woman by
woman, on either side of the high-seat. Of the said men,
one was of long red hair as David, and like to him in all
wise, but older; the others were of like fashion to him in
the high-seat. Shortly to say it, his sons they were, as
David and the two young men with him. The four women who
sat with these men were all fair and young, and one of them,
she who drank out of the red-head's cup, so fair, and with
such a pleasant slim grace, that her like were not easy to
Again, to shorten the tale, there in the hall before
Christopher, who lay unwotting, were Jack of the Tofts and
his seven sons, and the four wives of four of the same, whom
they had won from the Wailful Castle, when they, with their
father, put an end to the evil woman, and the great
she-tyrant of the Land betwixt the Wood and the River.
Now when David and his were come up to the dais, they stayed
them, and their father spake from his high-seat and said:
"What is to do, ye three? and what catch have ye?"
Said David: "I would fain hope 'tis the catch of a life
that or I love; for here is come thy guest of last Yule,
even little Christopher, who wrestled with thee and threw
thee after thou hadst thrown all of us, and he lying along
and hurt, smitten down by a felon hard on our very doors.
What will ye do with him?"
"What," said Jack of the Tofts, "but tend him and heal him
and cherish him. And when he is well, then we shall see.
But where is the felon who smote him?"
Said David: "He fled away a-horseback ere we came to the
field of deed, and Anthony Green and Ralph Longshanks are
gone after him, and belike, will take him."
"Mayhappen not," said the master. "Now, forsooth, I have an
inkling of what this may mean; whereas there can be but one
man whose business may be the taking of our little guest's
life. But let all be till he be healed and may tell us his
tale; and, if he telleth it as I deem he will, then shall we
seek further tidings. Meanwhile, if ye take the felon, keep
him heedfully till I may see him; for then may I have a true
tale out of him, even before Christopher is hale again."
So therewith David and Robert, with two or three others,
brought Christopher to a chamber, and did what leechdoms to
him they might; but Jack of the Tofts, and his sons and
their fair wives, and his other folk, made merry in the hall
of the Tofts.
SQUIRE SIMON COMES BACK TO OAKENHAM. THE EARL MARSHAL TAKEN
TO KING IN OAKENREALM.
Now as to Squire Simon, whether the devil helped him, or his
luck, or were it his own cunning and his, horse's stoutness,
we wot not; but in any case he fell not in with Ralph
Longshanks and Anthony Green, but rode as far and as fast as
his horse would go, and then lay down in the wild-wood; and
on the morrow arose and went his ways, and came in the even
to the Castle of the Uttermost March, and went on thence the
morrow after on a fresh horse to Oakenham. There he made no
delay but went straight to the High House, and had privy
speech of the Earl Marshal; and him he told how he had
smitten Christopher, and, as he deemed, slain him. The Earl
Marshal looked on him grimly and said: "Where is the ring
"I have it not," said Simon. "How might I light down to
take it, when the seven sons were hard on us?" And therewith
he told him all the tale, and how he had risen to slay
Christopher the even before; and how he had found out after
that the youngling had become guest and fosterling of the
folk of the Tofts; and how warily Christopher had ridden, so
that he, Simon, had had to do his best at the last moment.
"And now, Lord," quoth he, "I see that it will be my luck to
have grudging of thee, or even worse it may be; yea, or thou
wilt be presently telling me that I am a liar and never
struck the stroke: but I warrant me that by this time Jack
of the Tofts knoweth better, for I left my knife in the
youngling's breast, and belike he wotteth of my weapons.
Well, then, if thou wilt be quit of me, thou hast but to
forbear upholding me against the Toft folk, and then am I
gone without any to-do of thee."
Earl Rolf spake quietly in answer, though his face was
somewhat troubled: "Nay, Simon, I doubt thee not, not one
word; for why shouldest thou lie to me? nor do I deem thou
wouldest, for thou art trusty and worthy. Yet sore I doubt
if the child be dead. Well, even so let it be, for I am
alive; and full surely I am mightier than Jack of the Tofts,
both to uphold thee against him (wherein I shall not fail),
and otherwise. But may God make me even as that young man
if I be not mightier yet in a few days. But now do thou go
and eat and drink and take thy disport; for thou hast served
me well; and in a little while I shall make thee knight and
lord, and do all I can to pleasure thee."
So then Simon knelt to the Earl and made obeisance to him,
and arose and went his ways, light-hearted and merry.
But within the month it so befel that some of the lords and
dukes came to the Earl Marshal, and prayed him to call
together a great Folk-mote of all Oakenrealm; and he
answered them graciously, and behight them to do as they
would; and even so did he.
And that Mote was very great, and whenas it was hallowed,
there arose a great lord, grey and ancient, and bewailed him
before the folk, that they had no king over Oakenrealm to
uphold the laws & ward the land; and "Will ye live bare and
kingless for ever?" said he at last. "Will ye not choose
you a king, and crown him, before I die, and we others of
the realm who are old and worn?" Then he sat down, and
another arose, and in plain terms he bade them take the Earl
Marshal to king. And then arose one after other, and each
sang the same song, till the hearts of the people grew warm
with the big words, and at first many, and then more cried
out: "A King, a King! The Earl Marshal for King! Earl Rolf
for King!" So that at last the voices rose into a great
roar, and sword clashed on shield, and they who were about
the Earl turned to him and upraised him on a great
war-shield, and he stood thereon above the folk with a naked
sword in his hand, and all the folk shouted about him.
Thereafter the chiefs and all the mightiest came and did
homage to him for King of Oakenrealm as he sat on the Hill
of the Folk-mote: and that night there was once more a King
of Oakenrealm, and Earl Rolf was no more, but King Rolf
ruled the people.
But now the tale leaves telling of him, and turns again to
Christopher the woodman, who lay sick of his hurt in the
House of the Tofts.
OF CHRISTOPHER AT THE TOFTS.
Christopher was six weeks ere he could come and go as he was
wont; but it was but a few days ere he was well enough to
tell his tale to Jack of the Tofts and his seven bold sons;
and they cherished him and made much of him, and so
especially did David, the youngest son, to his board-fellow
On a day when he was well-nigh whole, as he sat under an
oak-tree nigh the house, in the cool of the evening, Jack of
the Tofts came to him and sat beside him, and made him tell
his tale to him once more, and when he was done he said to
him: "Foster-son, for so I would have thee deem of thyself,
what is the thing that thou rememberest earliest in thy
Said Christopher: "A cot without the Castle walls at the
Uttermost Marches, and a kind woman therein, big,
sandy-haired, and freckled, and a lad that was white-haired
and sturdy, somewhat bigger than I. And I mind me standing
up against the door-post of the cot and seeing men-at-arms
riding by in white armour, and one of them throwing an apple
to me, and I raised my arm to throw it back at him, but my
nurse (for somehow I knew she was not my mother) caught my
hand and drew me back indoors, and I heard the men laughing
behind me. And then a little after my nurse took me into
the Castle court, and there was again the man who had thrown
me the apple, sitting on a bench therein, clad in a scarlet
gown furred with brown fur; and she led me up to him, and he
stooped down and chucked me under the chin and put his hand
on my head, and looked at my nurse and said: 'Yea, he is a
big lad, and groweth apace, whereas he is but of six
winters.' 'Nay, Lord,' said my nurse, 'he is but scantly
five.' He knit his brows and said: 'Nay, I tell thee he is
six.' She shook her head, but said nought, and the great
man scowled on her and said: 'Mistress, wilt thou set thy
word against mine? Know now that this child is of six years.
Now then, how old is he?' She said faintly: 'Six years.'
Said he: 'Look to it that thy head and thy mouth forget it
not, else shall we make thy back remember it.' Then he put
his hand on my head again, and said: 'Well, I say thou art
a big lad for six years;' and therewith he gave me a silver
penny; and even as he spake, came up a grey-clad squire to
him and looked on me curiously. Then I went away with my
nurse, and wondered why she was grown so pale, whereas she
was mostly red-cheeked and jolly. But when she had brought
me into the cot again, she kissed me and clipped me, weeping
sorely the while; wherefore I wept, though I knew not why.
Sithence, I soon came to know that the man was the lord and
governor of the Castle, as ye may well wot; but to this hour
I know not what he meant by threatening my nurse."
Said Jack: "And how old art thou now, Christopher mine?"
Said the youngling, laughing: "By my lord the Castellan's
reckoning I am twenty and two years; but if thou wilt trow
my good and kind nurse, that yet liveth a kind dame, thou
must take twelve months off the tale."
Jack sat silent a little; then he laughed and said: "Well,
thou art a mickle babe, Christopher, and it may be that one
day many a man shall know it. But now tell me again; thou
hadst said to me before that thou hast known neither father
nor mother, brother nor sisters: is it so, verily?"
Said Christopher: "Never a kinsman of blood have I, though
Said Jack: "Well, now hast thou father and mother, brethren
and sisters, though they be of the sort of man-slayers and
strong-thieves and outlaws; yet they love thee, lad, and
thou mayst one day find out how far thou mayst trust them."
Christopher nodded and smiled at him merrily; then he fell
silent awhile, and the outlaw sat looking on him; at last he
said suddenly: "Foster-father, tell me what I am, and of
what kindred, I pray thee; for, methinks, thou knowest
thereof; and what wonder, wise man as thou art."
"Forsooth, son Christopher, I have a deeming thereof, or
somewhat more, and when it is waxen greater yet, I will tell
it thee one day, but not now. But hearken! for I have other
tidings for thee. Thou art now whole and strong, and in a
few days thou mayst wend the wild-wood as stoutly as e'er a
one of us. Now, therefore, how sayest thou, if I bid thee
fare a two days' journey with David and Gilbert thy
brethren, and thy sister Joanna, till they bring thee to a
fair little stead which I call mine own, to dwell there
awhile? For, meseemeth, lad, that the air of the Tofts here
may not be overwholesome unto thee."
Christopher reddened, and he half rose up, and said: "What
is this, foster-father? Is it that there shall be battle at
the Tofts, and that thou wouldst have me away thence? Am I
then such a weakling?"
Said Jack, laughing: "Be still now, thou sticked one. The
Tofts go down to battle at some whiles; but seldom comet
battle to the Tofts; and no battle do I look for now. But
do my bidding, sweet fosterling, and it will be better for
me and better for thee, and may, perchance, put off battle
for awhile; which to me as now were not unhandy. If thou
wilt but abide at Littledale for somewhile, there shall be
going and coming betwixt us, and thou shalt drink thy Yule
at the Tofts, and go back afterwards, and ever shalt thou
have thy sweet fellows with thee; so be wise, since thou
goest not perforce."
"Yea, yea," said Christopher, laughing; "thou puttest force
on no man, is it not so, foster-father? Wherefore I will go,
Therewith came up to them, from out of the wild-wood, David,
and with him Joanna, who was the wife of Gilbert, and one of
those fair maidens from the Wailful Castle, though not the
fairest of them; they had been a-hunting, for ever those
three would willingly go together, Gilbert, David, and
Joanna; and now Gilbert had abided behind, to dight the
quarry for fetching home. Christopher looked on the two
joyfully, as a man getting whole after sickness smiles on
goodly things; and Joanna was fair to see in her hunter's
attire, with brogues tied to her naked feet, and the
shapeliness of her legs bare to the knee beneath the
trussing up of her green skirts.
They greeted Christopher kindly, and Joanna sat down by him
to talk, but Jack of the Tofts took his son by the arm, and
went toward the house with him in earnest speech.
HOW CHRISTOPHER CAME TO LITTLEDALE TO ABIDE THERE A WHILE.
In about a week's time from this, those four fellows went
their ways southward from the Tofts, having with them four
good nags and four sumpter beasts laden with such things as
they needed, whereof were weapons enough, though they all,
save Christopher, bare bows; and he and the others were girt
with swords, and a leash of good dogs followed them. Two
milch kine also they drave with them.
Merry they were all as they went their ways through the
woods, but the gladness of Christopher was even past words;
wherefore, after a little, he spake scarce at all, but sat
in his saddle hearkening the tales and songs and jests of
his fellows, who went close beside him, for more often they
went a-foot than rode. And, forsooth, as the sweet morning
wore, it seemed to him, so great was his joy, as if all the
fair show of the greenery, and the boles of the ancient
oaks, and the squirrels running from bough to bough, and the
rabbits scuttling from under the bracken, and the hind
leaping in the wood-lawn, and the sun falling through the
rustling leaves, and the wind on his face, and the scent of
the forest, yea, and his fair companions and their
loveliness & valiancy and kindness, and the words and songs
that came from their dear mouths, all these seemed to him,
as it were, one great show done for the behoof and pleasure
of him, the man come from the peril of death and the
They lay that night in all glee under the green boughs; and
arose on the morrow, and went all day, and again slept in
the greenwood, and the next morning came down into a fair
valley, which was indeed Littledale, through which ran a
pleasant little river; and on a grassy knoll, but a short
way from its bank, was a long framed hall, somewhat narrow,
and nought high, whitherward they turned them straightway,
and were presently before the door; then Gilbert drew a key
from out of his scrip and unlocked the door, and they
entered, and found within a fair little hall, with shut-beds
out from it on the further side, and kitchen, and
store-bowers at the end; all things duly appointed with
plenishing, and meal and wine; for it was but some three
months since one of Jack of the Tofts' allies, Sir Launcelot
a'Green and his wife and two bairns, had left it till their
affair was made straight; whereas he had dwelt there a whole
year, for he had been made an outlaw of Meadham, and was a
dear friend of the said Jack.
"Now," said David smiling, "here is now thy high house and
thy castle, little King Christopher; how doth it like thee?"
"Right well," said Christopher; "and, to say sooth, I would
almost that it were night, or my bones do else, that I might
lie naked in a bed."
"Nay, lad," said Gilbert, "make it night now, and we will do
all that needs must be done, while thou liest lazy, as all
kings use to do."
"Nay," said Christopher, "I will be more a king than so, for
I will do neither this nor that; I will not work and I will
not go to bed, but will look on, till it is time for me to
take to the crooked stick and the grey-goose wing and seek
"That is better than well," said David; "for I can see by
thine eyes, that are dancing with pleasure, that in three or
four days thou wilt be about the thickets with us."
"Meantime," said Joanna, "thou shalt pay for thy meat and
drink by telling us tales when we come home weary."
"Yea," said Christopher laughing, "that ye may go to sleep
before your time."
So they talked, and were joyous and blithe together, and
between them they made the house trim, and decked it with
boughs and blossoms; and though Christopher told them no
tale that night, Joanna and David sang both; and in a night
or two it was Christopher that was the minstrel. So when
the morrow came there began their life of the woodland; but,
save for the changing of the year and the chances of the
hunt, the time passed on from day to day with little change,
and it was but seldom that any man came their way. When Yule
was, they locked the house door behind them and went their
ways home to the Tofts; and now of all of these wayfarers
was Christopher by far the hardest and strongest, for his
side had utterly forgotten Simon's knife. At the Tofts they
were welcomed with all triumph, and they were about there in
the best of cheer, till it was wearing toward Candlemas, and
then they took occasion of a bright and sunny day to go back
to Littledale once more, and there they abode till spring
was come and was wearing into summer, and messages had come
and gone betwixt them and the Tofts, and it was agreed that
with the first of autumn they should go back to the Tofts
and see what should betide.
But now leave we Christopher and these good fellows of the
Tofts and turn to Goldilind, who is yet dwelling amid no
very happy days in the Castle of Greenharbour, on the
northernmost marches of Meadham.
OF GOLDILIND IN THE MAY MORNING AT GREENHARBOUR.
May was on the land now, and was come into its second week,
and Goldilind awoke on a morn in the Castle of Greenharbour;
but little did her eyes behold of the May, even when they
were fully open; for she was lying, not in her own chamber,
which was proper, and even somewhat stately, and from whence
she could look on the sky and greenwood, but in a chamber
low down amidst the footings of the wall, little lighted,
unadorned, with nought in it for sport or pleasure; nought,
forsooth, save the pallet bed on which she lay, a joint
stool and water ewer. To be short, though it were called
the Least Guard-chamber, it was a prison, and she was there
dreeing her penance, as Dame Elinor would call the cruelty
of her malice, which the chaplain, Dame Elinor's led
captain, had ordained her for some sin which the twain had
forged between them.
She lay there naked in her smock, with no raiment anigh her,
and this was the third morning whereon she had awakened to
the dusky bare walls, and a long while had their emptiness
made of the hours: but she lay quiet and musing, not
altogether without cheer now; for indeed she was not wont to
any longer penance than this she had but now tholed, so she
looked for release presently: and, moreover, there had
grown in her mind during those three days a certain purpose;
to wit, that she would get hold of the governor of the
castle privily, and two or three others of the squires who
most regarded her, and bewail her case to them, so that she
might perchance get some relief. Forsooth, as she called to
mind this resolve, her heart beat and her cheek flushed, for
well she knew that there was peril in it, and she forecast
what might be the worst that would come thereof, while, on
the other hand, the best that might be seemed to her like a
glimpse of Paradise.
As she lay there and turned the matter over in her mind for
this many an hundred time, there came a key into the lock,
and the door opened; and thereby entered a tall woman,
dark-haired, white-skinned, somewhat young, and not
ill-favoured: Goldilind still lay there, till the new-comer
said to her in a hard voice, wherein was both threatening
and mockery: "Rise up, our Lady! the Dame Elinor saith that
it is enough, and that thou art to go forth. Nay, hold a
while; for I say unto thee that it is yet early in the day,
and that thy chamber is not yet dight for thee, so thou must
needs bestow thyself elsewhere till it be done."
Goldilind rose up, and said smiling: "Yea, Aloyse, but thou
hast not brought my raiment: and thou seest!"
The maid stood looking at her a moment somewhat evilly, and
then said: "Well, since it is but scant six o'clock, I may
do that; but I bid thee ask me not overmuch; for meseemeth
Dame Elinor is not overwell pleased with thee to-day, nor
our chaplain either."
Therewith she turned and went out, locking the door behind
her, and came back presently bearing on her arm a green gown
and other raiment: she laid them on the stool before the
Lady, and said: "Hasten, my Lady, and let me go to my
place: sooth to say, it may well be double trouble to thee
to don thy clothes, for thou mayst have to doff them again
Goldilind answered nought, but reddened and paled again as
she clad her under the waiting-maid's eyes. Then they went
out together, and up a short stone stair, till they were
level with the greensward without. Then the maid turned to
Goldilind and said: "And now thou art clad and out, my Lady,
I wot not where thou art to go to, since to thy chamber thou
must not go. Nay, hold and hearken! here we be at the door
which opens on to the Foresters' Garth under the Foresters'
Tower, thither shalt thou abide till I come to fetch thee.
How now, my Lady! what else wouldst thou?"
Goldilind looked on her with a smile, yet with eagereyes,
and said: "O good Aloyse, wouldst thou but give me a piece
of bread? for I hunger; thou wottest my queenly board hath
not been overloaded these last days."
"Ha!" said Aloyse; "if thou ask me overmuch I fear thou
mayst pay for it, my Lady; but this last asking thou shalt
have, and then none other till all thy penance thou hast
Therewith she went up the stairs, and Goldilind, who now was
but weak with her prison and the sudden light, and the hope
and fear of her purpose of bewailing her story, sat her down
on the stair there, almost, as it were, 'twixt home and
hell, till her heart came back to her and the tears began to
flow from her eyes. Forthright came back Aloyse, bearing a
white loaf and a little pitcher of milk on a silver
serving-dish; she laid them down, unlocked the door into the
garden, and thrust Goldilind through by the shoulders; then
she turned and took up her serving-dish with the bread and
milk, and handed it to Goldilind through the door, and said:
"Now is my Lady served. It were indeed well that my Lady
should strengthen herself this hour for the hour next to
Therewith she turned about, and shut and locked the door;
and the King's daughter fell to eagerly on her bread, and
thought of little till she had eaten and drunk, save that
she felt the sweet scent of the gilliflowers and eglantine
as it were a part of her meal.
Then she went slowly down the garden, treading the
greensward beside the flowers; and she looked on the hold,
and the low sun gilded the walls thereof and glittered in a
window here and there, and though there was on her a
foreboding of the hours of that day, she did what she might
to make the best of the fragrant May morning and the song of
birds and rustle of leaves, though, indeed, at whiles the
tears would gush out of her eyes when she thought how young
she was and how feeble, and the pity of herself became sweet
OF GOLDILIND IN THE GARTH.
Now, as she went in that garden with her face turned toward
the postern which led into the open space of the greenwood,
which was but two bow-shots from the thicket, she heard the
clatter of horse-hoofs on the loose stones of the path, and
how they stopped at the said postern; and presently there
was a key in the lock, the door opened, and a man came in
walking stiffly, like a rider who has ridden far and fast.
He was clad in jack and sallet, and had a sword by his side,
and on his sleeve was done in green and gold a mountain
aflame; so that Goldilind knew him at once for a man of Earl
Geoffrey's; and, indeed, she had seen the man before, coming
and going on errands that she knew nought of, and on which
nothing followed that was of import to her. Therefore, as
she watched him cross the garden and go straight up to the
door of the Foresters' Tower, and take out another key and
enter, she heeded him but little, nor did his coming
increase her trouble a whit.
She walked on toward the postern, and now she saw that the
errand-bearer had left it open behind him, and when she came
close up to it, she saw his horse tied to a ring in the
wall, a strong and good bay nag. The sight of him, and the
glimpse of the free and open land, stirred in her the misery
of her days and the yearning for the loveliness of the world
without, converse of friends, hope of the sufficiency of
desire, and the sweetness of love returned. And so strong a
wave of anguish swept over her, that she bowed her down upon
the grass and wept bitterly. Yet but a little while it
lasted; she rose up presently and looked warily all round
her, and up to the Castle, and saw none stirring; she drew
up the skirts of her green gown into her girdle, till the
hem but just hid her knees; then she stepped lightly through
the half-open door with flushed cheeks and glittering eyes,
while her heart rose within her; then she lifted her hand,
unhitched the reins from the iron ring, and quietly led the
horse close under the garth-wall, and stole gently up the
slope which, as all roads from the Castle, went straightway
toward the thicket, but this was the straightest. So she
went, till she came to the corner of the garth-wall, and a
little further; and the Castle on that side was blind, save
for the swale on the battlement, whereon in that deep peace
was little going; and, moreover, it was not even yet six
GOLDILIND GOES FREE.
There then she stayed the horse, and, flushed and panting,
got lightly into the saddle and bestrode it, and, leaning
over on the beast's neck, smote his flanks with her heels;
the horse was fresh, though his master had been weary,
whereas the said messenger had gotten him from a forester
some six miles away in the wood that morning, so the nag
answered to her call for speed, and she went a great gallop
into the wood, and was hidden in a twinkling from any eyes
that might be looking out of the Castle.
Without checking the nag she sped along, half mad with joy
at the freedom of this happy morn. Nigh aimless she was,
but had an inkling that it were well with her if she could
hold northward ever; for the old man aforesaid had told her
of Oakenrealm, and how it lay northward of them; so that way
she drifted as the thicket would suffer her. When she had
gone as much of a gallop as she might for some half hour,
she drew rein to breathe her nag, and hearkened; she turned
in the saddle, but heard nought to affright her, so she went
on again, but some what more soberly; and thuswise she rode
for some two hours, and the day waxed hot, and she was come
to a clear pool amidst of a little clearing, covered with
fine greensward right down to the water's edge.
There she made stay, and got off her horse, and stood awhile
by him as he cropped the sweet grass; and the birds sang at
the edge of the thicket, and the rabbits crept and gambolled
on the other side of the water; and from the pool's edge the
moorhens cried. She stood half leaning against the side of
the horse till she became somewhat drowsy; yea, and even
dreamed a little, and that little but ill, it seemed, as she
gave a troubled cry and shrank together and turned pale.
Then she rubbed her eyes and smiled, and turned to the pool,
where now a little ripple was running over the face of it,
and a thought came upon her, and she set her hand to the
clasp of her gown and undid it, and drew the gown off her
shoulders, and so did off all her raiment, and stood naked a
little on the warm sunny grass, and then bestirred her and
went lightly into the pool, and bathed and sported there,
and then came on to the grass again, and went to and fro to
dry her in the air and sun. Then she did on her raiment
again, and laid her down under a thorn-bush by the
pool-side, and there, would she, would she not, went to
sleep soundly and dreamed not. And when she awoke she
deemed her sleep had been long, but it was not so, but
scarce a score of minutes. Anyhow, she sprang up now and
went to her horse, and drew the girths tight (which she had
loosed erewhile,) and so bestrode the good horse, and shook
the reins, and rode away much comforted and enheartened.
OF GOLDILIND IN THE WILD-WOOD.
Goldilind rode on, hastening yet to put as many miles as she
might betwixt her and Greenharbour. Within a three hours
from her bathing she fell a-hungering sore, and knew not
what to do to eat, till she found a pouch made fast to the
saddle-bow, and therein a little white loaf, that and no
more, which she took and ate the half of with great joy,
sitting down by a brook-side, whence she had her drink.
Then again she mounted, and rode on till dusk overtook her
just as she came to a little river running from the north
from pool to shallow, and shallow to pool. And whereas she
was now exceeding weary, and the good horse also much spent,
and that the grass was very sweet and soft down to the
water's edge, and that there was a thick thorn-bush to cover
her, she made up her mind that this place should be her
bed-chamber. So she took saddle and bridle off the horse,
as he must needs bite the grass, and then when she had eaten
the other half of her bread, she laid her down on the green
grass, with her head on the saddle, and when she had lain
listening to the horse cropping the grass close anigh her
for a minute or two, she fell fast asleep, and lay there
long and had no dreams.
WHAT GOLDILIND FOUND IN THE WOOD.
When she awoke it was broad day and bright sun, and she rose
up to her feet and looked about, and saw the horse standing
close by, and sharing the shade with her, whisking his tail
about lazily. Then she turned, and saw the stream rippling
out from the pool over the clean gravel, and here and there
a fish darting through the ripple, or making clean rings on
the pool as he quietly took a fly; the sky was blue and
clear, there was scarce a breath of air, and the morning was
already hot; no worse than yesterday sang the birds in the
bushes; but as she looked across the river, where, forsooth,
the alders grew thick about the pool's edge, a cock
blackbird, and then another, flew out from the close boughs,
where they had been singing to their mates, with the sharp
cry that they use when they are frighted. Withal she saw
the bush move, though, as aforesaid, the morning was without
wind. She had just stooped to do off her foot-gear (for she
was minded to bathe again), but now she stopped with one
shoe in her hand, and looked on the bushes keenly with
beating heart, and again she thought she saw the boughs
shaken, and stood, not daring to move a while; but they
moved no more now when she had looked steadily at them a
space, and again a blackbird began singing loud just where
they had been shaken. So she gathered heart again, and
presently turned her hand once more to stripping her raiment
off her, for she would not be baulked of her bath; but when
the stripping was done, she loitered not naked on the bank
as she had done the day before, but walked swiftly into the
shallow, and thence down into the pool, till nothing but her
head and the whiteness of her shoulders showed over the dark
water. Even then she turned her head about twice to look
into the over-side bushes, but when she saw nothing stir
there she began to play in the water, but not for long, but
came splashing through the shallow and hurried on her
When she was clad again she went up to the horse, and patted
and caressed him, and did bridle and saddle on him, and was
going to climb upon him, when, of a sudden, she thought she
would lead him across, lest there should be a hole near the
other bank and he might stumble into it unwarily; so she
bared her feet once more and trussed up her gown skirts, and
so took the ford, leading the beast; the water was nowhere
up to mid-leg of her, and she stepped ashore on to short
and fine grass, which spread like a meadow before her, with
a big thorn or two scattered about it, and a little grassy
hill beset with tall elms toward the top, coming down into
the flat of the meadow and drawing round it nearly up to the
river on the north side.
But now she stood staring in wonder and some deal of fear;
for there were three milch kine feeding on the meadow, and,
moreover, under a thorn, scarce a hundred yards from where
she stood, was a tall man standing gazing on her. So
stricken was she that she might neither cry out nor turn
aside; neither did she think to pull her gown out of her
girdle to cover the nakedness of her legs.
When they had thus stood a little while the man began to
move toward her very slowly, nor did she dare to flee any
the more. But when he was within half a dozen paces her
face flushed red, and she did pull her gown out of its
trusses and let it flow down. But he spake to her in a
pleasant voice, and said: "May I speak to thee, maiden?"
Fear was yet in her soul, so that she might not speak for a
little, and then she said: "O, I beseech thee, bring me not
back to Greenharbour!" And she paled sorely as she spake the
But he said: "I wot not of Greenharbour, how to find the
way thereto, though we have heard of it. But comfort
thyself, I pray thee, there is nought to fear in me."
The sound of his voice was full pleasant to her, and when
she hearkened him, how kind and frank it was, then she knew
how much of terror was blent with her joy in her newly-won
freedom and the delight of the kind and happy words. Yet
still she spoke not, and was both shamefast and still not
altogether unafraid. Yet, sooth to say, though his attire
was but simple, he was nought wild or fierce to look on.
From time to time she looked on him, and then dropped her
eyes again. In those glances she saw that he was grey-
eyed, and smooth-cheeked, and round-chinned, and his hair
curly and golden; and she must needs think that she had
never seen any face half so fair. He was clad but in a
green coat that came not down to his knees, and brogues were
tied to his feet, and no more raiment he had; and for hat he
had made him a garland of white may blossom, and well it sat
there: and again she looked on him, and thought him no
worse than the running angel that goes before the throne of
God in the picture of the choir of Meadhamstead; and she
looked on him and marvelled.
Now she hung her head before him and wished he would speak,
and even so did he, and said: "Maiden, when I first saw
thee from amidst of the bush by the river yonder, I deemed
thou wert a wood-wight, or some one of the she-Gods of the
Gentiles come back hither. For this is a lonely place, and
some might deem that the Devil hath might here more than in
other places; and when I saw thee, that thou wouldst do off
thy raiment to bathe thee, though soothly I longed to lie
hidden there, I feared thee, lest thou shouldst be angry
with me if I were to see thee unclad; so I came away; yet I
went not far, for I was above all things yearning to see
thee; and sooth it is, that hadst thou not crossed the
water, I should presently have crossed it myself to seek
thee, wert thou Goddess, or wood-wife, or whatever might
have come of it. But now thou art come to us, and I have
heard thy voice beseeching me not to bring thee to
Greenharbour, I see that thou art a woman of the kindred of
Adam. And yet so it is, that even now I fear thee somewhat.
Yet I will pray thee not to be wroth if I ask thee whether I
may do aught for thy need."
Now she began somewhat to smile, and she looked him full in
the face, and said: "Forsooth, my need is simple, for I am
He smote himself on the breast, and said: "See now, what a
great fool I am, not to have known it without telling,
instead of making long-winded talk about myself. Come
quickly, dear maiden, and leave thine horse to crop the
So he hurried on to the thorn-bush aforesaid, and she went
foot to foot with him, but he touched her not; and
straightway she sat her down on the root of the thorn, and
smiled frankly on him, and said:
"Nay, sir, and now thou hast made me go all this way I am
out of breath and weary, so I pray thee of the victual at
But he had been busy with his scrip which he had left cast
down there, and therewithal reached out to her a mighty
hunch of bread and a piece of white cheese, and said:
"Now shall I fetch thee milk." Wherewith he took up a bowl
of aspen tree that had lain by the scrip, and ran off to one
of the kine and milked the bowl full, and came back with it
heedfully, and set it down beside her and said: "This was
the nighest thing to hand, but when thou hast eaten and
rested then shall we go to our house, if thou wilt be so
kind to me; for there have we better meat and wine to boot."
She looked up at him smiling, but her pleasure of the meat
and the kindness was so exceeding, that she might not
refrain from tears also, but she spake not.
As for him, he knelt beside her, looking on her wistfully;
and at last he said: "I shall tell thee, that I am glad
that thou wert hungry and that I have seen thee eating, else
might I have deemed thee somewhat other than a woman of
mankind even yet."
She said: "Yea, and why wouldst thou not believe my word
He said, reddening: "I almost fear to tell thee, lest thou
think me overbold and be angry with me."
"Nay," she said, "tell me, for I would know."
Said he: "The words are not easy in my rude mouth; but this
is what I mean: that though I be young I have seen fair
women not a few, but beside any of them thou art a
wonder;....and loth I were if thou wert not really of
mankind, if it were but for the glory of the world."