Part 2 out of 3
She hung her head and answered nought a while, and he also
seemed ashamed: but presently she spake: "Thou hast been
kind to us, wouldst thou tell us thy name? and then, if it
like thee, what thou art?"
"Lady," he said, "my name is easy to tell, I hight
Christopher; and whiles folk in merry mockery call me
Christopher King; meseems because I am of the least account
of all carles. As for what else I am, a woodman I am, an
outlaw, and the friend of them: yet I tell thee I have
never by my will done any harm to any child of man; and
those friends of mine, who are outlaws also, are kind and
loving with me, both man and woman, though needs must they
dwell aloof from kings' courts and barons' halls."
She looked at him wondering, and as if she did not
altogether understand him; and she said: "Where dost thou
He said: "To-day I dwell hard by; though where I shall
dwell to-morrow, who knows? And with me are dwelling three
of my kind fellows; and the dearest is a young man of mine
own age, who is my fellow in all matters, for us to live and
die each for the other. Couldst thou have seen him, thou
wouldst love him I deem."
"What name hath he?" said Goldilind.
"He hight David," said Christopher.
But therewith he fell silent and knit his brow, as though he
were thinking of some knotty point: but in a while his face
cleared, and he said: "If I durst, I would ask thee thy
name, and what thou art?"
"As to my name," said she, "I will not tell it thee as now.
As to what I am, I am a poor prisoner; and much have I been
grieved and tormented, so that my body hath been but a thing
whereby I might suffer anguish. Something else am I, but I
may not tell thee what as yet."
He looked on her long, and then arose and went his way along
the very track of their footsteps, and he took the horse and
brought him back to the thorn, and stood by the lady and
reddened, and said: "I must tell thee what I have been
doing these last minutes."
"Yea," said she, looking at him wonderingly, "hast thou not
been fetching my horse to me?"
"So it is," said he; "but something else also. Ask me, or I
cannot tell thee."
She laughed, and said: "What else, fair sir?"
Said he: "Ask me what, or I cannot tell thee."
"Well, what, then?" said she.
He answered, stammering and blushing: "I have been looking
at thy foot prints, whereby thou camest up from the water,
to see what new and fairer blossoms have come up in the
meadow where thy feet were set e'en now."
She answered him nothing, and he held his peace. But in a
while she said: "If thou wouldst have us come to thine
house, thou shalt lead us thither now." And therewith she
took her foot-gear from out of her girdle, as if she would
do it on, and he turned his face away, but sighed therewith.
Then she reddened and put them back again, and rose up
lightly, and said: "I will go afoot; and wilt thou lead the
horse for me?"
So did he, and led her by all the softest and most flowery
ways, turning about the end of a spur of the little hill
that came close to the water, and going close to the lip of
the river. And when they had thus turned about the hill
there was a somewhat wider vale before them, grassy and
fair, and on a knoll, not far from the water, a long
frame-house thatched with reed.
Then said Christopher: "Lady, this is now Littledale, and
yonder the house thereof."
She said quietly: "Lovely is the dale, and fair the house
by seeming, and I would that they may be happy that dwell
Said Christopher: "Wilt thou not speak that blessing within
the house as without?"
"Fain were I thereof," she said. And therewith they came
into the garth, wherein the apple trees were blossoming, and
Goldilind spread abroad her hands and lifted up her head for
joy of the sight and the scent, and they stayed awhile
before they went on to the door, which was half open, for
they feared none in that place, and looked for none whom
they might not deal with if he came as a foe.
Christopher would have taken a hand of her to lead her in,
but both hands were in her gown to lift up the hem as she
passed over the threshold; so he durst not.
Fair and bright now was the hall within, with its long and
low windows goodly glazed, a green halling on the walls of
Adam and Eve and the garden, and the good God walking
therein; the sun shone bright through the southern windows,
and about the porch it was hot, but further toward the dais
cool and pleasant.
So Goldilind sat down in the coolest of the place at the
standing table; but Christopher bestirred himself, and
brought wine and white bread, and venison and honey, and
said: "I pray thee to dine, maiden, for it is now hard on
noon; and as for my fair fellows, I look not for them before
sunset for they were going far into the wood."
She smiled on him, and ate and drank a little deal, and he
with her. Sooth to say, her heart was full, and though she
had forgotten her fear, she was troubled, because, for as
glad as she was, she could not be as glad as her gladness
would have her, for the sake of some lack, she knew not
Now spake Christopher: "I would tell thee something
strange, to wit, though it is little more than three hours
since I first saw thee beside the river, yet I seem to know
thee as if thou wert a part of my life."
She looked on him shyly, and he went on: "This also is
strange, and, withal, it likes me not, that when I speak of
my fair fellows here, David, and Gilbert, and Joanna, they
are half forgotten to my heart, though their names are on my
tongue; and this house, doth it like thee, fair guest?"
"Yea, much," she said; "it seems joyous to me: and I shall
tell thee that I have mostly dwelt in unmerry houses, though
they were of greater cost than this."
Said Christopher: "To me it hath been merry and happy
enough; but now it seems to me as if it had all been made
for thee and this meeting."
"Is it therefore no longer merry to thee because of that?"
she said, smiling, yet flushing much red therewith. Now it
was his turn not to answer her, and she cast down her eyes
before him, and there was silence between them.
Then she looked at him steadily, and said: "It is indeed
grievous that thou shouldest forget thine old friends for
me, and that it should have come into thy mind that this
fair and merry house was not made for thy fair fellows and
thy delight with them, but for me, the chance-comer. For,
hearken, whereas thou saidst e'en now, that I was become a
part of thy life, how can that be? For if I become the poor
captive again, how canst thou get to me, thou who art
thyself a castaway, as thou hast told me? Yea, but even so,
I shall be too low for thee to come down to me. And if I
become what I should be, then I must tell thee that I shall
be too high for thee to climb up to me; so that in one way
or other we shall be sundered, who have but met for an hour
He hung his head a while as they stood there face to face,
for both of them had arisen from the board; but presently he
looked up to her with glittering eyes, and said: "Yea, for
an hour or two; why then do we tarry and linger, and say
what we have no will to say, and refrain from what our
hearts bid us?"
Therewith he caught hold of her right wrist, and laid his
hand on her left shoulder, and this first time that he had
touched her, it was as if a fire ran through all his body
and changed it into the essence of her: neither was there
any naysay in her eyes, nor any defence against him in the
yielding body of her. But even in that nick of time he drew
back a little, and turned his head, as a man listening,
toward the door, and said: "Hist! hist! Dost thou hear,
maiden?" She turned deadly pale: "O what is it? What is it?
Yea, I hear; it is horses drawing nigh, and the sound of
hounds baying. But may it not be thy fellows coming back?"
"Nay, nay," he said; "they rode not in armour. Hark to it!
and these hounds are deep-voiced sleuth-dogs! But come now,
there may yet be time."
He turned, and caught up axe and shield from off the wall,
and drew her toward a window that looked to the north, and
peered out of it warily; but turned back straightway, and
said: "Nay, it is too late that way, they are all round
about the house. Maiden, get thou up into the solar by this
stair, and thou wilt find hiding-place behind the traverse
of the bed; and if they go away, and my fellows come in due
time, then art thou safe. But if not, surely they shall do
thee no hurt; for I think, indeed, that thou art some great
And he fell to striding down the hall toward the door; but
she ran after him, and caught his arm, and said: "Nay, nay,
I will not hide, to be dragged out of my refuge like a
thief: thou sayest well that I am of the great; I will stand
by thee and command and forbid as a Queen. O go not to the
door! Stay by me, stay!"
"Nay, nay," he said, "there is nought for it but the deed of
arms. Look! seest thou not steel by the porch?"
And therewith he broke from her and ran to the door, and was
met upon the very threshold by all-armed men, upon whom he
fell without more ado, crying out: "For the Tofts! For the
Tofts! The woodman to the rescue!" And he hewed right and
left on whatsoever was before him, so that what fell not,
gave back, and for a moment of time he cleared the porch;
but in that nick of time his axe brake on the basnet of a
huge man-at-arms, and they all thrust them on him together
and drave him back into the hall, and came bundling after
him in a heap. But he drave his shield at one, and then
with his right hand smote another on the bare face, so that
he rolled over and stirred no more till the day of doom.
Then was there a weapon before him, might he have stooped to
pick it up; but he might not; so he caught hold of a sturdy
but somewhat short man by the collar and the lap of his
leather surcoat, and drew aback, and with a mighty heave
cast him on the rout of them, who for their parts had drawn
back a little also, as if he had been a huge stone, and down
went two before that artillery; and they set up a great roar
of wonder and fear. But he followed them, and this time got
an axe in his hand, so mazed they were by his onset, and he
hewed at them again and drave them aback to the threshold of
the door: but could get them no further, and they began to
handle long spears to thrust at him.
But then came forward a knight, no mickle man, but clad in
very goodly armour, with a lion beaten in gold on his green
surcoat; this man smote up the spears, and made the men go
back a little, while he stood on the threshold; so
Christopher saw that he would parley with him, and forbore
him, and the knight spake: "Thou youngling, art thou mad?
What doest thou falling on my folk?"
"And what do ye," said Christopher fiercely, "besetting the
houses of folk with weapons? Now wilt thou take my life.
But I shall yet slay one or two before I die. Get thee
back, lord, or thou shalt be the first."
But the knight, who had no weapon in his hand, said: "We
come but to seek our own, and that is our Lady of Meadham,
who dwelleth at Greenharbour by her own will. And if thou
wilt stand aside thou mayst go free to the devil for us."
Now would Christopher have shouted and fallen on, and gone
to his death there and then; but even therewith a voice,
clear and sweet, spake at the back of him, and said: "Thou
kind host, do thou stand aside and let us speak that which
is needful." And therewith stepped forth Goldilind and
stood beside Christopher, and said: "Sir Burgreve, we rode
forth to drink the air yesterday, and went astray amidst the
wild-wood, and were belated, so that we must needs lie down
under the bare heaven; but this morning we happened on this
kind forester, who gave us to eat, and took us to his house
and gave us meat and drink; for which it were seemlier to
reward him than threaten him. Now it is our pleasure that
ye lead us back to Greenharbour; but as for this youth, that
ye do him no hurt, but let him go free, according to thy
word spoken e'en now, Sir Burgreve."
She spake slowly and heavily, as one who hath a lesson to
say, and it was to be seen of her that all grief was in her
heart, though her words were queenly. Some of them that
heard laughed; but the Burgreve spake, and said: "Lady, we
will do thy will in part, for we will lead thee to
Greenharbour in all honour; but as to this young man, if he
will not be slain here and now, needs must he with us. For
he hath slain two of our men outright, and hath hurt many,
and, methinks, the devil of the woods is in his body. So do
thou bid him be quiet, if thou wouldst not see his blood
She turned a pale unhappy face on Christopher, and said:
"My friend, we bid thee withstand them no more, but let them
do with thee as they will."
Christopher stood aside therewith, and sat down on a bench
and laughed, and said in a high voice: "Stout men-at-arms,
forsooth, to take a maid's kirtle to their shield."
But therewith the armed men poured into the hall, and a half
dozen of the stoutest came up unto Christopher where he sat,
and bound his hands with their girdles, and he withstood
them no whit, but sat laughing in their faces, and made as
if it were all a Yule-tide game. But inwardly his heart
burned with anger, and with love of that sweet Lady.
Then they made him stand up, and led him without the house,
and set him on a horse, and linked his feet together under
the belly thereof. And when that was done he saw them lead
out the Lady, and they set her in a horse litter, and then
the whole troop rode off together, with two men riding on
either side of the said litter. In this wise they left
GOLDILIND COMES BACK TO GREENHARBOUR.
They rode speedily, and had with them men who knew the
woodland ways, so that the journey was nought so long thence
as Goldilind had made it thither; and they stayed not for
nightfall, since the moon was bright, so that they came
before the Castle-gate before midnight. Now Goldilind
looked to be cast into prison, whatever might befall her
upon the morrow; but so it went not, for she was led
straight to her own chamber, and one of her women, but not
Aloyse, waited on her, and when she tried to have some
tidings of her, the woman spake to her no more than if she
were dumb. So all unhappily she laid her down in her bed,
foreboding the worst, which she deemed might well be death
at the hand of her jailers. As for Christopher, she saw the
last of him as they entered the Castle-gate, and knew not
what they had done with him. So she lay in dismal thoughts,
but at last fell asleep for mere weariness.
When she awoke it was broad day, and there was someone going
about in the chamber; she turned, and saw that it was
Aloyse. She felt sick at heart, and durst not move or ask
of tidings; but presently Aloyse turned, and came to the
bed, and made an obeisance, but spake not. Goldilind raised
her head, and said wearily: "What is to be done, Aloyse,
wilt thou tell me? For my heart fails me, and meseems,
unless they have some mercy, I shall die to-day."
"Nay," said the chambermaid, "keep thine heart up; for here
is one at hand who would see thee, when it is thy pleasure
to be seen."
"Yea," said Goldilind, "Dame Elinor to wit." And she
moaned, and fear and heart-sickness lay so heavy on her
that she went nigh to swooning
But Aloyse lifted up her head, and brought her wine and made
her drink, and when Goldilind was come to herself again the
maid said: "I say, keep up thine heart, for it is not Dame
Elinor and the rods that would see thee, but a mighty man;
nay, the most mighty, to wit, Earl Geoffrey, who is King of
Meadham in all but the name."
Goldilind did in sooth take heart at this tidings, and she
said: "I wonder what he may have to do here; all this while
he hath not been to Greenharbour, or, mayhappen, it might
have been better for me."
"I wot not," said Aloyse, "but even so it is. I shall tell
thee, the messenger, whose horse thou didst steal, brought
no other word in his mouth save this, that my Lord Earl was
coming; and come he did; but that was toward sunset, long
after they had laid the blood-hounds on thy slot, and I had
been whipped for letting thee find the way out a-gates. Now,
our Lady, when thou hast seen the Earl, and hast become our
Lady and Mistress indeed, wilt thou bethink thee of the morn
before yesterday on my behalf?"
"Yea," said Goldilind, "if ever it shall befall."
"Befall it shall," said Aloyse; "I dreamed of thee three
nights ago, and thou sitting on thy throne commanding and
forbidding the great men. But at worst no harm hath
happened save to my shoulders and sides, by thy stealing
thyself, since thou hast come back in the nick of time, and
of thine own will, as men say. But tell me now of thine
holiday, and if it were pleasant to thee?"
Goldilind fell a-weeping at the word, bethinking her of
yesterday morning, and Aloyse stood looking on her, but
saying nought. At last spake Goldilind softly: "Tell me,
Aloyse, didst thou hear any speaking of that young man who
was brought in hither last night? Have they slain him?"
Said Aloyse: "Soothly, my Lady, I deem they have done him
no hurt, though I wot not for sure. There hath been none
headed or hanged in the base-court to-day. I heard talk
amongst the men-at-arms of one whom they took; they said he
was a wonder of sheer strength, and how that he cast their
men about as though he were playing at ball. Sooth to say,
they seemed to bear him no grudge therefor. But now I would
counsel thee to arise; and I am bidden to tire and array
thee at the best. And now I would say a word in thine ear,
to wit, that Dame Elinor feareth thee somewhat this morn."
So Goldilind arose, and was arrayed like a very queen, and
was served of what she would by Aloyse and the other women,
and sat in her chamber awaiting the coming of the mighty
Lord of Meadham.
EARL GEOFFREY SPEAKS WITH GOLDILIND.
But a little while had she sat there, before footsteps a
many came to the door, which was thrown open, and straight
it was as if the sun had shone on a flower-bed, for there
was come Earl Geoffrey and his lords all arrayed most
gloriously. Then came the Earl up the chamber to Goldilind,
and bent the knee before her, and said: "Lady and Queen, is
it thy pleasure that thy servant should kiss thine hand?"
She made him little cheer, but reached out to him her lily
hand in its gold sleeve, and said: "Thou must do thy will."
So he kissed the hand reverently, and said: "And these my
lords, may they enter and do obeisance and kiss hands, my
Said Goldilind: "I will not strive to gainsay their will,
or thine, my Lord."
So they entered and knelt before her, and kissed her hand;
and, to say sooth, most of them had been fain to kiss both
hands of her, yea, and her cheeks and her lips; though but
little cheer she made them, but looked sternly on them.
Then the Earl spake to her, and told her of her realm, and
how folk thrived, and of the deep peace that was upon the
land, and of the merry days of Meadham, and the praise of
the people. And she answered him nothing, but as he spake
her bosom began to heave, and the tears came into her eyes
and rolled down her cheeks. Then man looked on man, and the
Earl said: "My masters, I deem that my Lady hath will to
speak to me privily, as to one who is her chiefest friend
and well-willer. Is it so, my Lady?"
She might not speak for the tears that welled out from her
heart; but she bowed her head and strove to smile on him.
But the Earl waved his hand, and those lords, and the women
also, voided the chamber, and left those two alone, the Earl
standing before her. But ere he could speak, she arose from
her throne and fell on her knees before him, and joined
hands palm to palm, and cried in a broken voice: "Mercy!
Mercy! Have pity on my young life, great Lord!"
But he lifted her up, and set her on her throne again, and
said: "Nay, my Lady, this is unmeet; but if thou wouldst
talk and tell with me I am ready to hearken."
She strove with her passion a while, and then she said:
"Great Lord, I pray thee to hearken, and to have patience
with a woman's weak heart. Prithee, sit down here beside
"It were unfitting," he said; "I shall take a lowlier seat."
Then he drew a stool to him, and sat down before her, and
said: "What aileth thee? What wouldest thou?"
Then she said: "Lord Earl, I am in prison; I would be
Quoth he: "Yea, and is this a prison, then?"
"Yea," she said, "since I may not so much as go out from it
and come back again unthreatened; yet have I been, and that
unseldom, in a worser prison than this: do thou go look on
the Least Guard-chamber, and see if it be a meet dwelling
for thy master's daughter."
He spake nought awhile; then he said: "And, yet if it
grieveth thee, it marreth thee nought; for when I look on
thee mine eyes behold the beauty of the world, and the body
wherein is no lack."
She reddened and said: "If it be so, it is God's work, and
I praise him therefor. But how long will it last? For grief
He looked on her long, and said: "To thy friends I betook
thee, and I looked that they should cherish thee; where then
is the wrong that I have done thee?"
She said: "Maybe no wrong wittingly; since now, belike,
thou art come to tell me that all this weary sojourn is at
an end, and that thou wilt take me to Meadhamstead, and set
me on the throne there, and show my father's daughter to all
He held his peace, and his face grew dark before her while
she watched it. At last he spake in a harsh voice: "Lady,"
he said, "it may not be; here in Greenharbour must thou
abide, or in some other castle apart from the folk."
"Yea," she said, "now I see it is true, that which I
foreboded when first I came hither: thou wouldst slay me,
that thou mayest sit safely in the seat of thy master's
daughter; thou durst not send me a man with a sword to
thrust me through, therefore thou hast cast me into prison
amongst cruel jailers, who have been bidden by thee to take
my life slowly and with torments. Hitherto I have withstood
their malice and thine; but now am I overcome, and since I
know that I must die, I have now no fear, and this is why I
am bold to tell thee this that I have spoken, though I wot
now I shall be presently slain. And now I tell thee I repent
it, that I have asked grace of a graceless face."
Although she spake strong words, it was with a mild and
steady voice. But the Earl was sore troubled, and he rose
up and walked to and fro of the chamber, half drawing his
sword and thrusting it back into the scabbard from time to
time. At last he came back to her, and sat down before her
"Maiden, thou art somewhat in error. True it is that I
would sit firm in my seat and rule the land of Meadham, as
belike none other could. True it is also that I would have
thee, the rightful heir, dwell apart from the turmoil for a
while at least; for I would not have thy white hands thrust
me untimely from my place, or thy fair face held up as a
banner by my foemen. Yet nowise have I willed thy death or
thine anguish; and if all be true as thou sayest it, and
thou art so lovely that I know not how to doubt it, tell me
then what these have done with thee."
She said: "Sir, those friends to whom thou hast delivered
me are my foes, whether they were thy friends or not. Wilt
thou compel me to tell thee all my shame? They have treated
me as a thrall who had whiles to play a queen's part in a
show. To wit, thy chaplain whom thou hast given me has
looked on me with lustful eyes, and has bidden me buy of him
ease and surcease of pain with my very body, and hath
threatened me more evil else, and kept his behest."
Then leapt up the Earl and cried out: "Hah! did he so? Then
I tell thee his monk's hood shall not be stout enough to
save his neck. Now, my child, thou speakest; tell me more,
since my hair is whitening."
She said: "The sleek, smooth-spoken woman to whom thou
gavest me, didst thou bid her to torment me with stripes,
and the dungeon, and the dark, and solitude, and hunger?"
"Nay, by Allhallows!" he said, "nor thought of it; trust me
she shall pay therefor if so she hath done."
She said: "I crave no vengeance, but mercy I crave, and
thou mayst give it me."
Then were they both silent, till he said: "Now I, for my
part, will pray thee bear what thou must bear, which shall
be nought save this, that thy queenship lie quiet for a
while; nought else of evil shall betide thee henceforth; but
as much of pleasure and joy as may go with it. But tell me,
there is a story of thy snatching a holiday these two days,
and of a young man whom thou didst happen on. Tell me now,
not as a maiden to her father or warder, but as a great lady
might tell a great lord, what betid betwixt you two: for
thou art not one on whom a young and doughty man may look
unmoved. By Allhallows! but thou art a firebrand, my Lady!"
And he laughed therewith.
Goldilind flushed red exceeding; but she answered steadily:
"Lord Earl, this is the very sooth, that I might not fail to
see it, how he thought me worth looking on, but he treated
me with all honour, as a brother might a sister."
"Tell me," said the Earl, "what like was this man?"
Said she: "He was young, but strong beyond measure; and
full doughty: true it is that I saw him with mine eyes take
and heave up one of our men in his hands and cast him away
as a man would a clod of earth."
The Earl knit his brow: "Yea," said he, "and that story I
have heard from the men-at-arms also. But what was the man
like of aspect?"
She reddened: "He was of a most goodly body," she said,
"fair-eyed, and of a face well carven; his speech kind and
gentle." And yet more she reddened.
Said the Earl: "Didst thou hear what he was, this man?"
She said: "I deem from his own words that he was but a
"Yea," quoth the Earl, "a simple forester? Nay, but a
woodman, an outlaw, a waylayer; so say our men, that he fell
on them with the cry: A-Tofts! A-Tofts! Hast thou never
heard of Jack of the Tofts?"
"Nay, never," said she.
Said the Earl: "He is the king of these good fellows; and a
perilous host they be. Now I fear me, if he be proven to be
one of these, there will be a gallows reared for him to-
morrow, for as fair and as doughty as he may be."
She turned all pale, and her lips quivered: then she rose
up, and fell on her knees before the Earl, and cried out:
"O sir, a grace, a grace, I pray thee! Pardon this poor man
who was so kind to me!"
The Earl raised her up and smiled, and said: "Nay, my Lady
Queen, wouldst thou kneel to me? It is unmeet. And as for
this woodman, it is for thee to pardon him, and not for me;
and since, by good luck, he is not hanged yet, thy word hath
saved his neck." She sat down in her chair again, but still
looked white and scared. But the Earl spake again, and
"Now to all these matters I shall give heed, my Lady;
wherefore I will ask leave of thee, and be gone; and
to-morrow I will see thee again, and lay some rede before
thee. Meantime, be of good cheer, for thou shalt be made as
much of as may be, and live in mickle joy if thou wilt. And
if any so much as give thee a hard word, it shall be the
worse for them."
Therewith he arose, and made obeisance to her, and departed.
And she abode quiet, and looking straight before her, till
the door shut, and then she put her hands to her face and
fell a-weeping, and scarce knew what ailed her betwixt hope,
and rest of body, and love, though that she called not by
its right name.
EARL GEOFFREY SPEAKETH WITH CHRISTOPHER.
Now it is to be said that the Earl had had much tidings told
him of Christopher, and had no intent to put him to death,
but rather meant to take him into the company of his guard,
to serve him in all honour; and that which he said as to
hanging him was but to try Goldilind; but having heard and
seen of her such as we have told, he now thought it good to
have a privy talk with this young man. So he bade a squire
lead him to where Christopher was held in ward, and went
So the squire brought him to the self-same Littlest
Guardroom (in sooth a prison) where Goldilind had lain that
other morn; and he gave the squire leave, and entered and
shut the door behind him, so that he and Christopher were
alone together. The young man was lying on his back on the
pallet, with his hands behind his head, and his knees drawn
up, murmuring some fag-end of an old song; but when he heard
the door shut to he sat up, and, turning to the new-comer,
said: "Art thou tidings? If so, then tell me quickly which
it is to be, the gallows or freedom?"
"Friend," said the Earl sternly, "dost thou know who I am?"
"Nay," said Christopher; "by thine attire thou shouldst be
some great man; but that is of little matter to me, since
thou wilt neither bid slay me, or let me go, for a heedless
Quoth the Earl: "I am the master of the land of Meadham, so
there is no need to tell thee that I have thy life or death
in my hand. Now thou wilt not deny that thou art of the
company of Jack o' the Tofts?"
"It is sooth," said Christopher.
"Well," said the Earl, "thou art bold then to have come
hither, for thou sayest it that thou art a wolf's-head and
forfeit of thy life. Now, again, thou didst take the Lady
of Meadham home to thy house yesterday, and wert with her
alone a great while. Now according to thy dealings with her
thou dost merit either the most evil of deaths, or else it
may be a reward: hah! what sayest thou?"
Christopher leapt up, and said in a loud voice: "Lord King,
whatsoever I may be, I am not each man's dastard; when I saw
that pearl of all women, I loved her indeed, as who should
not, but it was even as I had loved the Mother of God had
she come down from the altar picture at the Church of
Middleham of the Wood. And whoso saith otherwise, I give
him the lie back in his teeth, and will meet him face to
face if I may; and then, meseems, it will go hard with him."
Spake the Earl, laughing: "I will be no champion against
thee, for I hold my skin and my bones of too much price
thereto. And, moreover, though meseemeth the Blessed Virgin
would have a hot lover in thee were she to come down to
earth anigh thy dwelling, yet trow I thy tale, that thou
hast dealt with my Lady in honour. Therefore, lad, what
sayest thou, wilt thou be a man of mine, and bear arms for
me, and do my will?"
Spake Christopher: "Lord, this is better than hanging."
"Why, so it is, lad," said the Earl, laughing again, "and
some would say better by a good deal. But hearken! if thou
take it, thou must abide here in Greenharbour--a long while,
maybe; yea, even so long as my Lady dwelleth here."
Christopher flushed and said: "Lord, thou art kind and
gracious, and I will take thy bidding."
The Earl said: "Well, so it shall be then; and presently
thou shalt go out of this guard-room a free man. But abide
Therewith he drew a stool to him and sat down, and spake not
for a long while; and Christopher abode his pleasure; at
last spake the Earl: "One day, mayhappen, we may make a
wedding for thee, and that no ill one."
Christopher laughed: "Lord," said he, "what lady will wed
me, a no man's son?"
Said the Earl: "Not if the Lord of Meadham be thy friend?
Well then, how if the Lady and Queen of Meadham make thee
Said Christopher: "I were liefer to make mine own wedding,
whenso I need a woman in my bed: I will compel no woman,
nor ask others to compel her."
The Earl rose up, and fell to pacing the prison to and fro;
and at last he stood over against Christopher, and said:
"Hearken, forester: I will foretell thy fortune; it is that
thou shalt become great by wedding."
Christopher held his peace; and the Earl spake again: "Now
is the shortest word best. We deem thee both goodly and
doughty, and would wed thee to a great lady, even that one
to whom thou hast shown kindness in the wilderness."
Said Christopher: "It is the wont of great lords to mock
poor folk, therefore I must not show anger against thee."
"I mock thee not," said the Earl; "I mean nought, but as my
"Nay then," said Christopher, "thou biddest me an evil deed,
great Lord. What I said was that I would compel no woman;
and shall I compel her who is the wonder of the world and my
very own Lady?"
"Hold thy peace, sir fool," said the Earl; "let me tell thee
that she is as like to compel thee as thou her. And as to
her being thy Lady, she shall be thy Lady and wife indeed;
but not here, for above all things will she get her away
from Greenharbour, and thou shalt be her champion, to lead
her about the world like a knight errant."
Now was Christopher so troubled that he knew not what
countenance to make, and scarce might he get a word out of
his mouth a long while. At last he said: "Lord, I see that
I must needs do thy will if this be no trap which thou hast
set for me. But overwonderful it is, that a great lady
should be wedded to a gangrel churl."
The Earl laughed: "Many a ferly fares to the fair-eyed,"
quoth he; "and also I will tell thee in thine ear that this
Lady may not be so great as her name is great. Did she
praise her life-days to thee?"
"Nay," said Christopher; "I mind me well, she called herself
the poor captive."
"She said but sooth," quoth the Earl; "and her going away
from Greenharbour is instead of her captivity; and I tell
thee it is by that only I may make her joyous. And now one
word: thou that criest out For the Tofts in battle art not
altogether unfriended, meseemeth."
Christopher looked up proudly and fiercely: he said:
"Forsooth, Lord, my friends are good, though thou callest
them wolf-heads and gallows-meat."
"Champion," said the Earl, laughing, "that may well be
sooth; and there are a many ups and downs in the world.
Bethink thee that the time may come when thou and thy
friends may wend to my help, and may win the names of knight
and baron and earl: such hap hath been aforetime. And now I
crave of thee, when thou comest back to the Tofts, to bid
Jack fall upon other lands than Meadham when he rideth,
because of the gift and wedding that I give thee now. So,
lad, I deem that thou hast chosen thy part; but let not the
tale thereof go out of thy mouth, or thou wilt gab away thy
wedding. Lo, thou, I leave this door open behind me; and
presently shall the smith come here to do away thine irons;
and I shall send a squire to thee to lead thee to a fair
chamber, and to bring thee goodly raiment, and do thou play
amongst thy fellows as one of the best of them; and show
them, if thou wilt, some such feats in peace as yesterday
thou showedst them in battle. And to-morrow there will be
new tidings." And therewith he departed.
No worse than his word he was, and anon came the smith and
the squire; and he was brought to a chamber, and raiment of
fine linen and silk and embroidery was brought to him: and
when he was new clad he looked like a king's son, whereas
aforetime he looked like a God of the Gentiles of old. All
men praised his beauty and his courtesy, and after dinner
was, and they had rested, they bade him play with them and
show them his prowess, and he was nought loth thereto, and
did what he might in running and leaping, and casting of the
bar, and shooting in the bow. And in all these things he
was so far before everyone, that they marvelled at him, and
said it was well indeed that he had not been slain
yesterday. As to wrestling, therein he might do but little;
for all forbore him after the first man had stood before
him, a squire, well learned in war, and long and tough, and
deemed a very stark man; him Christopher threw over his
shoulder as though he had been a child of twelve years. So
wore the day at Greenharbour in merrier wise for all good
folk than for many a day had been the wont there.
OF THE WEDDING OF CHRISTOPHER AND GOLDILIND.
Early on the morrow came the Earl unto Goldilind, and she
received him gladly, as one who had fashioned life anew for
her. And when he had sat down by her, he spake and said:
"Lady, thou cravedst of me yesterday two things; the first
was freedom from the captivity of Greenharbour; and the
second, life and liberty for the varlet that cherished thee
in the wild-wood the other day. Now thy first asking
grieved me, for that thou hast been tyrannously done by; and
thy second I wondered at; but since I have seen the young
man, I wonder the less; for he is both so goodly, and so
mighty of body, and of speech bold and free, yet gentle and
of all courtesy, that he is meet to be knight or earl, yea,
or very king. Now, therefore, in both these matters I will
well to do thy pleasure, and in one way it may be; and thou
mayst then go forth from Greenharbour as free as a bird, and
thy varlet's life may be given unto him, and mickle honour
therewith. Art thou, then, willing to do after my rede and
my commandment, so that both these good things may betide
"Right willing am I," she said, "to be free and happy and to
save the life of a fair youth and kind."
"Then," said he, "there is one thing for thee to do: that
this day thou wed this fair and kind youth, and let him lead
thee forth from Greenharbour; and, belike, he will bring
thee to no ill stead; for his friends are mightier than
mayhappen thou deemest."
She turned as red as blood at his word; she knit her brows,
and her eyes flashed as she answered: "Is it seemly for a
King's daughter to wed a nameless churl? And now I know
thee, Lord Earl, what thou wouldst do; thou wouldst be King
of Meadham and put thy master's daughter to the road." And
she was exceeding wroth.
But he said, smiling somewhat: "Was it then seemly for the
King's daughter to kneel for this man's life, and go near to
swooning for joy when it was granted to her?"
"Yea," she said, "for I love him with all my body and soul;
and I would have had him love me par amours, and then should
I have been his mistress and he my servant; but now shall he
be my master and I his servant." And still was she very
Quoth the Earl: "As to the matter of my being King of
Meadham, that will I be, whatever befall, or die in the
place else. So if thou wilt not do my rede, then must the
varlet whom thou lovest die, and at Greenharbour must thou
abide with Dame Elinor. There is no help for it."
She shrieked out at that word of his, and well nigh swooned,
lying back in her chair: but presently fell a-weeping
sorely. But the Earl said: "Hearken, my Lady, I am not
without warrant to do this. Tell me, hast thou ever seen
any fairer or doughtier than this youngling?"
"Never," said she.
"So say we all," he said. "Now I shall tell thee (and I can
bring witness to it) that in his last hour the King, thy
father, when he gave thee into my keeping, spake also this:
that I should wed thee to none save the fairest and
doughtiest man that might be found: even so would I do now.
What then sayest thou?"
She answered not, but still wept somewhat; then said the
Earl: "Lady, give me leave, and I shall send thy women to
thee, and sit in the great hall for an hour, and if within
that while thou send a woman of thine to say one word, Yes,
unto me, then is all well. But if not, then do I depart from
Greenharbour straightway, and take the youngling with me to
hang him up on the first tree. Be wise, I pray thee."
And therewith he went his ways. But Goldilind, being left
alone a little, rose up and paced the chamber to and fro,
and her tears and sobbing ceased; and a great and strange
joy grew up in her heart, mingled with the pain of longing,
so that she might rest in nowise. Even therewith the door
opened, and her women entered, Aloyse first, and she called
to her at once, and bade her to find Earl Geoffrey in the
great hall, and say to him: Yes. So Aloyse went her ways,
and Goldilind bade her other women to array her in the best
and goodliest wise that they might. And the day was yet
somewhat young. Now it must besaid of Earl Geoffrey that, in
spite of his hard word, he had it not in his heart either to
slay Christopher or to leave Goldilind at Greenharbour to
the mercy of Dame Elinor.
OF THE WEDDING OF THOSE TWAIN.
Now were folk gathered in the hall, and the Earl Geoffrey
was standing on the dais by the high-seat, and beside him a
worthy clerk, the Abbot of Meadhamstead, a monk of St.
Benedict, and next to him the Burgreve of Greenharbour, and
then a score of knights all in brave raiment, and squires
withal, and sergeants; but down in the hall were the men-
at-arms and serving-men, and a half hundred of folk of the
countryside, queans as well as carles, who had been gathered
for the show and bidden in. No other women were there in
the hall till Goldilind and her serving-women entered. She
went straight up the hall, and took her place in the
high-seat; and for all that her eyes seemed steady, she had
noted Christopher standing by the shot-window just below the
Now when she was set down, and there was silence in the
hall, Earl Geoffrey came forth and said: "Lords and
knights, and ye good people, the Lady Goldilind, daughter of
the Lord King Roland that last was, is now of age to wed;
and be it known unto you, that the King, her father, bade
me, in the last words by him spoken, to wed her to none but
the loveliest and strongest that might be, as witness I can
bring hereto. Now such a man have I sought hereto in
Meadhamstead and the much-peopled land of Meadham, and none
have I come on, however worthy he were of deeds, or
well-born of lineage, but that I doubted me if he were so
fair or so doughty as might be found; but here in this half-
desert corner of the land have I gotten a man than whom none
is doughtier, as some of you have found to your cost. And
tell me all you, where have ye seen any as fair as this
man?" And therewith he made a sign with his hand, and forth
strode Christopher up on to the dais; and he was so clad,
that his kirtle was of white samite, girt with a girdle of
goldsmith's work, whereby hung a good sword of like fashion,
and over his shoulders was a mantle of red cloth-of-gold,
furred with ermine, and lined with green sendall; and on his
golden curled locks sat a chaplet of pearls.
Then to the lords and all the people he seemed so fair and
fearless and kind that they gave a great shout of welcome;
and Goldilind came forth from her chair, as fair as a June
lily, and came to Christopher and reached out her hand to
him, but he refrained him a moment, so that all they could
see how sweet and lovely a hand it was, and then he took it,
and drew her to him, and kissed her mouth before them all;
and still he held her hand, till the Abbot of Meadhamstead
aforetold came and stood by them and blessed them.
Then spake the Earl again: "Lo ye, here hath been due
betrothal of these twain, and ye may see how meet they be
for each other in goodliness and kindness. Now there
lacketh nought but they should be wedded straightway; and
all is arrayed in the chapel; wherefore if this holy man
will come with us and do on his mass-hackle, our joy shall
be fulfilled; save that thereafter shall feast and merriment
await all you in this hall, and we shall be there to welcome
all comers in this house of Greenharbour, whereas this our
gracious Lady has long abided so happily."
Man looked on man here and there, and smiled a little as he
spake, but none said aught, for there were none save the
Earl's servants there, and a sort of poor wretches.
So therewithal they went their ways to the chapel where was
the wedding done as grandly as might be, considering they
were in no grander place than Greenharbour. And when all was
done, and folk began to flow away from the chapel, and
Goldilind sat shamefaced but strangely happy in a great
stall of the choir, the Earl called Christopher unto him,
and said: "My lad, I deem that some great fortune shall
betide thee since already thou hast begun so luckily. But I
beseech thee mar not thy fortune by coming back with thy
fair wife to the land of Meadham; or else it may be thou
shalt cast thy life away, and that will bring her sorrow, as
I can see well."
He spake this grimly, though he smiled as he spake. But he
went on more gently: "I will not send you twain away
empty-handed; when ye go out a-gates into the wide world, ye
shall find two fair horses for your riding, well bedight,
and one with a woman's saddle; and, moreover, a sumpter
beast, not very lightly burdened, for on one side of him he
beareth achest wherein is, first of all, the raiment of my
Lady, and beneath it some deal of silver and gold and gems;
but on the other side is victual and drink for the way for
you, and raiment for thee, youngling. How sayest thou, is
"It is well, Lord," said Christopher; "yet would I have with
me the raiment wherewith I came hither, and my bow and my
"Yea and wherefore, carle?" said Earl Geoffrey.
Said the youngling: "We be going to ride the wild-wood, and
it might be better for safety's sake that I be so clad as
certain folk look to see men ride there."
But he reddened as he spake; and the Earl said: "By
Allhallows! but it is not ill thought of; and, belike, the
same-like kind of attire might be better to hide the
queenship of the Lady from the wood-folk than that which now
"True is that, Lord," quoth Christopher.
"Yet," said the Earl, "l will have you go forth from the
Castle clad in your lordly weed, lest folk of mine say that
I have stripped my Lady and cast her forth: don ye your
poor raiment when in the wood ye be."
Therewith he called to a squire, and bade him seek out that
poor raiment of the new-wedded youngling, and bow withal
and shafts good store, and do all on the sumpter; and,
furthermore, he bade him tell one of my Lady's women to set
on the sumpter some of Goldilind's old and used raiment. So
the squire did the Earl's will, and both got Christopher's
gear and also found Aloyse and gave her the Earl's word.
She smiled thereat, and went straightway and fetched the
very same raiment, green gown and all, which she had brought
to Goldilind in prison that other day, and in which
Goldilind had fled from Greenharbour. And when she had done
them in the chest above all the other gear, she stood yet
beside the horses amidst of the varlets and squires who were
gathered there to see the new-wedded folk depart.
Presently then came forth through the gate those two, hand
in hand, and Earl Geoffrey with them. And he set Goldilind
on her horse himself, and knelt before her to say farewell,
and therewith was Christopher on his horse, and him the Earl
But just as they were about shaking their reins to depart,
Aloyse fell down on her knees before the Earl, who said:
"What is toward, woman?"
"A grace, my Lord, a grace," said she.
"Stand up on thy feet," said the Earl, "and ye, my masters,
draw out of earshot."
Even so did they; and the Earl bade her speak, and she said:
"Lord, my Lady is going away from Greenharbour, and anon
thou wilt be going, and I shall be left with the sleek
she-devil yonder that thou hast set over us, and here there
will be hell for me without escape, now that my Lady is
gone. Wherefore I pray thee take me with thee to
Meadhamstead, even if it be to prison; for here I shall die
the worst of deaths."
Earl Geoffrey smiled on her sourly, and said: "If it be as
I understand, that thou hast lifted thine hand against my
Lady, wert thou wending with me, thou shouldst go just so
far as the first tree. Thou mayst deem thyself lucky if I
leave thee behind here. Nor needest thou trouble thee
concerning Dame Elinor; little more shalt thou hear of her
But Goldilind spake and said: "My Lord Earl, I would ask
grace for this one; for what she did to me she did
compelled, and not of her free will, and I forgive it her.
And moreover, this last time she suffered in her body for
the helping of me; so if thou mightest do her asking I were
the better pleased."
"It shall be as thou wilt, my Lady," said the Earl, "and I
will have her with me and keep her quiet in Meadhamstead;
but, by Allhallows! had it not been for thy word we would
have had her whipped into the wild-wood, and hanged up on to
a tree thereafter."
Then Aloyse knelt before Goldilind and kissed her feet, and
wept, and drew back pale and trembling. But Goldilind shook
her rein once for all now, and her apple-grey horse went
forth with her; Christopher came after, leading the sumpter
beast, and forth they went, and passed over the open green
about the Castle, and came on to the woodland way whereby
Goldilind had fled that other time.
OF THE WOODLAND BRIDE-CHAMBER.
They rode in silence a good way, and it was some three hours
after noon, and the day as fair and bright as might be.
Christopher held his peace for sweet shame that he was alone
with a most fair maid, and she his own, and without defence
against him. But she amidst of her silence turned, now red,
and now somewhat pale, and now and again she looked somewhat
askance on him, and he deemed her looks were no kinder than
they should be.
At last she spake, yet not looking on him, and said: "So,
Forester, now is done what I must needs do: thy life is
saved, and I am quit of Greenharbour, and its prison, and
its torments: whither away then?"
Quoth he, all dismayed, for her voice was the voice of
anger: "I wot not whither, save to the house thou hast
blessed already with thy dear body."
At that word she turned quite pale, and trembled, and spake
not for a while, and smote her horse and hastened on the
way, and he after her; but when he was come up with her
again, then she said, still not looking at him: "A house of
woodmen and wolf-heads. Is that a meet dwelling-place for
me? Didst thou hear men at Greenharbour say that I am a
"Hear them I did," quoth he; "but meseemeth nought like a
Queen had they done with thee."
She said: "And dost thou mock me with that? thou?" And she
burst out weeping. He answered not, for sore grief smote
him, remembering her hand in his but a little while ago.
And again she hurried on, and he followed her.
When he came up with her she said: "And thou, didst thou
woo me as a Queen?"
"Lady," he said, "I wooed thee not at all; I was given to
thee, would I, would I not: great joy was that to me."
Then said she: "Thou sayest sooth, thou hast not wooed me,
but taken me." She laughed therewith, as one in bitterness.
But presently she turned to him, and he wondered, for in her
face was longing and kindness nought like to her words. But
he durst not speak to her lest he should anger her, and she
turned her face from him again: and she said: "Wert thou
given to me? meseems I was given to thee, would I, would I
not; the Queen to the Churl, the Wood-man, the Wolf-head."
And again she rode on, and he followed, sick at heart and
When they were riding together again, they spake not to each
other, though she stole glances at him to see how he fared;
but he rode on with knit brows and a stern countenance. So
in a while she began to speak to him again, but as if there
were nought but courtesy between them, and neither love nor
hatred. She fell to asking him of woodland matters,
concerning bird and beast and things creeping; and at first
he would scarce answer her at all, and then were his answers
short; but at last, despite of all, he began to forget both
grief and anger, so much the sweetness of her speech wound
about his heart; and, withal, she fell to asking him of his
fellows and their life in the woods, and of Jack of the
Tofts and the like; and now he answered her questions fully,
and whiles she laughed at his words, and he laughed also;
and all pleasure had there been of this converse, if he had
not beheld her from time to time and longed for the fairness
of her body, and feared her wrath at his longing.
So wore the day, and the sun was getting low, and they were
come to another woodland pool which was fed by a
clear-running little brook, and up from it went a low bank
of greensward exceeding sweet, and beyond that oak trees
wide-branched and great, and still fair greensward beneath
them and hazel-thicket beyond them. There, then, Goldilind
reined up, and looked about her, but Christopher looked on
her and nought else. But she said: "Let to-morrow bring
counsel; but now am I weary to-night, and if we are not to
ride night-long, we shall belike find no better place to
rest in. Wilt thou keep watch while I sleep?"
"Yea," he said, bowing his head to her soberly; and
therewith he got off his horse, and would have helped her
down from hers, but she slipped lightly down and stood
before him face to face, and they were very nigh to each
other, she standing close to her horse. Her face was pale to
his deeming and there was a piteous look in her eyes, so
that he yearned towards her in his bowels, and reached his
hand toward her; but she shrank aback, leaning against her
horse, and said in a trembling voice, looking full at him,
and growing yet paler: "Forester, dost thou think it seemly
that thou shouldst ride with us, thou such as thou hast told
thyself to be, in this lordly raiment, which they gave thee
yonder as part of the price for thy leading us away into the
"Lady," said he, "whether it be seemly or not, I see that it
is thy will that I should go clad as a woodland churl; abide
a little, and thy will shall be done."
Therewith he did off the burden from the sumpter horse, and
set the chests on the earth; then he took her horse gently,
and led him with the other two in under the oak trees, and
there he tethered them so that they could bite the grass;
and came back thereafter, and took his old raiment out of
the chest, and said: "What thou wilt have me do, I will do
now; and this all the more as to-morrow I should have done
it unbidden, and should have prayed thee to do on garments
less glorious than now thou bearest; so that we may look the
less strange in the woodland if we chance to fall in with
Nought she answered as he turned toward the hazel copse; she
had been following him with her eyes while he was about that
business, and when his back was turned, she stood a moment
till her bosom fell a-heaving, and she wept; then she turned
her about to the chest wherein was her raiment, and went
hastily and did off her glorious array, and did on the green
gown wherewith she had fled, and left her feet bare withal.
Then she looked up and saw Christopher, how he was coming
from out the hazel-thicket new clad in his old raiment, and
she cried out aloud, and ran toward him. But he doubted
that some evil had betid, and that she was chased; so he
drew out his sword; but she ran up to him and cried out:
"Put up thy sword, here is none save me."
But he stood still, gazing on her in wonderment, and now she
was drawn near to him she stood still before him, panting.
Then he said: "Nay, Lady, for this night there was no need
of thy disguising thee, to-morrow it had been soon enough."
She said: "I were fain if thou wouldst take my hand, and
lead me back to our resting-place."
Even so he did, and as their palms met he felt how her hand
loved him, and a flood of sweetness swept over his heart,
and made an end of all its soreness. But he led her quietly
back again to their place. Then she turned to him and said:
"Now art thou the woodland god again, and the courtier no
more; so now will I worship thee." And she knelt down
before him, and embraced his knees and kissed them; but he
drew her up to him, and cast his arms about her, and kissed
her face many times, and said: "Now art thou the poor
She said: "Now hast thou forgiven me; but I will tell thee
that my wilfulness and folly was not all utterly feigned;
though when I was about it I longed for thee to break it
down with the fierceness of a man, and bid me look to it how
helpless I was, and thou how strong and my only defence.
Not utterly feigned it was: for I will say it, that I was
grieved to the heart when I bethought me of Meadhamstead and
the seat of my fathers. What sayest thou then? Shalt thou be
ever a woodman in these thickets, and a follower of Jack of
the Tofts? If so thou wilt, it is well."
He took her by the shoulders and bent her backwards to kiss
her, and held her up above the earth in his arms, waving her
this way and that, till she felt how little and light she
was in his grasp, though she was no puny woman; then he set
her on her feet again, and laughed in her face, and said:
"Sweetling, let to-morrow bring counsel. But now let it all
be: thou hast said it, thou art weary; so now will I dight
thee a bed of our mantles, and thou shalt lie thee down, and
I shall watch thee as thou badest me."
Therewith he went about, and plucked armfuls of the young
bracken, and made a bed wide and soft, and spread the
But she stood awhile looking on him; then she said: "Dost
thou think to punish me for my wilful folly, and to shame me
by making me speak to thee?"
"Nay," he said, "it is not so."
She said: "I am not shamed in that I say to thee: if thou
watch this night, I will watch by thee; and if I lie down to
rest this night, thou shalt lie by me. For my foemen have
given me to thee, and now shalt thou give thyself to me."
So he drew near to her shyly, like unto one who hath been
forgiven. And there was their bridal bed, and nought but
the oak boughs betwixt them and the bare heavens.
THEY FALL IN WITH FRIENDS.
Now awoke Goldilind when the morning was young and fresh,
and she drew the mantle up over her shoulders; and as she
did so, but half awake, she deemed she heard other sounds
than the singing of the black-birds and throstles about the
edge of the thicket, and she turned her eyes toward the oak
trees and the hazel-thicket, and saw at once three of
mankind coming on foot over the greensward toward her. She
was afraid, so that she durst not put out a hand to awaken
Christopher, but sat gazing on those three as they came
toward her; she saw that two were tall men, clad much as
Christopher; but presently she saw that there was a woman
with them, and she took heart somewhat thereat; and she
noted that one of the men was short-haired and dark-haired,
and the other had long red hair falling about his shoulders;
and as she put out her hand and laid it on Christopher's
shoulder, the red-haired one looked toward her a moment
under the sharp of his hand (for the sun was on their side),
and then set off running, giving out a great whoop
therewithal. Even therewith leapt up Christopher, still
half awake, and the red-haired man ran right up to him, and
caught him by the shoulders, and kissed him on both cheeks;
so that Goldilind saw that these were the fellows whereof
Christopher had told, and she stood there shame-fast and
Presently came up the others, to wit, Gilbert and Joanna,
and they also kissed and embraced Christopher, and all they
were as full of joy as might be. Then came Joanna to
Goldilind, and said: "I wot not who this may be, brother,
yet meseems she will be someone who is dear to thee,
wherefore is she my sister." And therewith she kissed
Goldilind; and she was kind, and sweet of flesh, and goodly
of body, and Goldilind rejoiced in her.
Joanna made much of her, and said to her: "Here is to do,
whereas two men have broken into a lady's chamber; come,
sister, let us to the thicket, and I will be thy tiring-
maid, and while these others tell their tales we shall tell
ours." And she took her hand and they went into the hazels;
but the two new-come men seemed to find it hard to keep
their eyes off Goldilind, till the hazels had hidden her.
Then turned David to Christopher, and said: "Thy pardon,
little King, that we have waked thee so early; but we wotted
not that thou hadst been amongst the wood-women; and, sooth
to say, my lad, we had little ease till we found thee, after
we came home and saw all those hoof-marks yonder."
"Yea," said Gilbert, "if we had lost thee we had been finely
holpen up, for we could neither have gone back to the Tofts
nor into the kingdom: for I think my father would have
hanged us if we had come back with a 'By the way,
Christopher is slain.' But tell us, lad, what hath befallen
thee with yonder sweetling?"
"Yea, tell us," said David, "and sit down here betwixt us,
with thy back to the hazel-thicket, or we shall get no tale
out of thee--tush, man, Joanna will bring her back, and that
right soon, I hope."
Christopher laughed, and sat down between them, and told all
how it had gone with him, and of Goldilind, who she was.
The others hearkened heedfully, and Gilbert said: "With all
thou hast told us, brother, it is clear we shall find it
hard to dwell in Littledale; so soon as thy loveling hath
rested her at our house, we must go our ways to the Tofts,
and take counsel of our father."
Christopher yea-said this, and therewithal was come Joanna
leading Goldilind duly arrayed (yet still in her green gown,
for she would none other), fresh, blushing, and all lovely;
and David and Christopher did obeisance before her as to a
great lady; but she hailed them as brothers, merrily and
kindly, and bade them kiss her; and they kissed her cheek,
but shyly, and especially David.
Thereafter they broke their fast under the oak trees, and
spent a merry hour, and then departed, the two women riding
the horses, the others afoot; so came they to the house of
Littledale, some while before sunset, and were merry and
glad there. Young they were, troubles were behind them, and
many a joy before them.
THEY TAKE COUNSEL AT LITTLEDALE.
Ten days they abode in the house of Littledale in all good
cheer, and Joanna led Goldilind here and there about the
woods, and made much of her, so that the heart within her
was full of joy, for the freedom of the wild-woods and all
the life thereof was well-nigh new to her; whereas on the
day of her flight from Greenharbour, and on two other such
times, deadly fear, as is aforesaid, was mingled with her
joyance, and would have drowned it utterly, but for the
wilfulness which hardened her heart against the punishment
to come. But now she was indeed free, and it seemed to her,
as to Christopher when he was but new healed of his hurt, as
if all this bright beauty of tree and flower, and beast and
bird, was but made for her alone, and she wondered that her
fellow could be so calm and sedate amidst of all this
pleasure. And now, forsooth, was her queenhood forgotten,
and better and better to her seemed Christopher's valiant
love; and the meeting in the hall of the eventide was so
sweet to her, that she might do little but stand trembling
whiles Christopher came up to her, and Joanna's trim feet
were speeding her over the floor to meet her man, that she
might be a sharer in his deeds of the day.
Many tales withal Joanna told the Queen of the deeds of her
husband and his kindred, and of the freeing of her and the
other three from their captivity at Wailing Knowe, and of
the evil days they wore there before the coming of their
lads, which must have been worser by far, thought Goldilind,
than the days of Greenharbour; so with all these tales, and
the happy days in the house of the wild-woods, Goldilind now
began to deem of this new life as if there had been none
other fated for her, so much a part was she now become of
the days of those woodmen and wolf-heads.
But when the last of those ten days was wearing to an end
and those five were sitting happy in the hall (albeit David
sat somewhat pensive, now staring at Goldilind's beauty, now
rising from his seat to pace the floor restlessly), Gilbert
spake and said: "Brethren, and thou, Queen Goldilind, it
may be that the time is drawing near for other deeds than
letting fly a few shafts at the dun deer, and eating our
meat, and singing old songs as we lie at our ladies' feet;
for though we be at peace here in the wild-wood, forgetting
all things save those that are worthy to be remembered, yet
in the cities and the courts of kings guile is not
forgotten, and pride is alive, and tyranny, and the sword is
whetted for innocent lives, and the feud is eked by the
destruction of those who be sackless of its upheaving.
Wherefore it behoveth to defend us by the ready hand and the
bold heart and the wise head. So, I say, let us loiter here
no longer, but go our ways to-morrow to the Tofts, and take
the rede of our elders. How say ye, brethren?"
Quoth Christopher: "Time was, brother, when what thou
sayest would have been as a riddle to me, and I would have
said: Here are we merry, though we be few; and if ye lack
more company, let me ride to the Tofts and come back with a
half score of lads and lasses, and thus let us eke our
mirth; and maybe they will tell us whitherward to ride. But
now there is a change, since I have gained a gift over-great
for me, and I know that they shall be some of the great ones
who would be eager to take it from me; and who knows what
guile may be about the weaving even now, as on the day when
thou first sawest this hall, beloved."
Goldilind spake and sighed withal: "Whither my lord will
lead me, thither will I go; but here is it fair and sweet
and peaceful; neither do I look for it that men will come
hither to seek the Queen of Meadham."
David said: "Bethink thee, though, my Lady, that he who
wedded thee to the woodman may yet rue, and come hither to
undo his deed, by slaying the said woodman, and showing the
Queen unto the folk."
Goldilind turned pale; but Joanna spake: "Nay, brother
David, why wilt thou prick her heart with this fear? For my
part, I think that, chance-hap apart, we might dwell here
for years in all safety, and happily enough, maybe. Yet
also I say that we of the Tofts may well be eager to show
this jewel to our kindred, and especially to our father and
mother of the Tofts; so to-morrow we will set about the
business of carrying her thither, will she, nill she." And
therewith she threw her arms about Goldilind, and clipped
her and kissed her; and Goldilind reddened for pleasure and
for joy that she was so sore prized by them all.
NOW THEY ALL COME TO THE TOFTS.
Next morning, while the day was yet young, they rode
together, all of them, the nighest way to the Tofts, for
they knew the wood right well. Again they slept one night
under the bare heavens, and, rising betimes on the morrow,
came out under the Tofts some four hours after high noon, on
as fair and calm a day of early summer as ever was seen.
They rode up straight to the door of the great hall, and
found but few folk about, and those mostly women and
children; Jack was ridden abroad, they said, but they looked
to see him back to supper, him and his sons, for he was no
great way gone.
Meantime, when they got off their horses, the women and
children thronged round about them; and the children
especially about Christopher, whom they loved much. The
maidens, also, would not have him pass into the hall
unkissed, though presently, after their faces had felt his
lips, they fell a-staring and wondering at Goldilind, and
when Christopher took her by the hand and gave her welcome
to the House of the Tofts, and they saw that she was his,
they grew to be somewhat afraid, or it might be shy, both of
her and of him.
Anyhow, folk came up to them in the hall, and made much of
them, and took them unto chambers and washed their feet, and
crowned them with flowers, and brought them into the hall
again, and up on to the dais, and gave them to eat and
drink. Thither came to them also the Lady Margaret, Jack's
wedded wife, and made them the most cheer that she might;
and unto her did Christopher tell his story as unto his very
mother; and what there was in the house, both of carle and
of quean, gathered round about to hearken, and Christopher
nothing loth. And Goldilind's heart warmed toward that
folk, and in sooth they were a goodly people to look on, and
frank and happy, and of good will, and could well of
courtesy, though it were not of the courts.
Wore the bright day, and it drew toward sunset, and now the
carles came straight into the hall by twos and threes, till
there were a many within its walls. But to each one of
these knots as they entered, someone, carle or quean, spake
a word or two, and straightway the new-comers went up to the
dais and greeted Christopher pleasantly, and made obeisance
At last was the hall, so quiet erst, grown busy as a
beehive, and amidst the throng thereof came in the
serving-folk, women and men, and set the endlong boards up
(for the high-table was a standing one of oak, right thick
and strong); and then they fell to bringing in the service,
all but what the fire was dealing with in the kitchen. And
whiles this was a-doing, the sun was sinking fast, and it
was dusk in the hall by then it was done, though without the
sky was fair and golden, and about the edges of the thicket
were the nightingales singing loud and sweet, but within was
the turmoil of many voices, whereof few heeded if their
words were loud or soft.
Amidst all this, from close to the hall, rang out the sound
of many horns winding a woodland tune. None was afeard or
astonied, because all knew it for the horns of Jack of the
Tofts; but they stilled their chattering talk somewhat, and
abided his coming; and even therewith came the sound of many
feet and the clash of weapons, and men poured in, and there
was the gleam of steel, as folk fell back to the right and
left, and gave room to the new-comers. Then a loud, clear,
and cheery voice cried out from amidst of them: "Light in
the hall, men and maids! Candles, candles! Let see who is
here before us!"
Straightway then was there running hither and thither and
light sprang up over all the hall, and there could folk see
Jack of the Tofts, and a score and a half of his best, every
man of them armed with shield and helm and byrny, with green
coats over their armour, and wreaths of young oak about
their basnets; there they stood amidst of the hall, and
every man with his naked sword in his fist. Jack stood
before his folk clad in like wise with them, save that his
head was bare but for an oak wreath. Men looked on a while
and said nought, while Jack looked proudly and keenly over
the hall, and at last his eye caught Christopher's, but he
made the youngling no semblance of greeting. Christopher's
heart fell, and he misdoubted if something were not wrong;
but he spake softly to one who stood by him, and said: "Is
aught amiss, Will Ashcroft? this is not the wont here."
Said the other: "Not in thy time; but for the last seven
days it hath been the wont, and then off weapons and to
OF THE KING OF OAKENREALM.
Even therewith, and while the last word had but come to
Christopher's ears, rang out the voice of Jack of the Tofts
again, louder and clearer than before: and he said: "Men
in this hall, I bear you tidings! The King of Oakenrealm is
amongst us to-night."
Then, forsooth, was the noise and the turmoil, and cries and
shouts and clatter, and fists raised in air and weapons
caught down from the wall, and the glitter of spear-points
and gleam of fallow blades. For the name of Rolf, King of
Oakenrealm, was to those woodmen as the name of the Great
Devil of Hell, so much was he their unfriend and their
dastard. But Jack raised up his hand, and cried: "Silence
ye! Blow up, horns, The Hunt's Up!"
Blared out the horns then, strong and fierce, under the
hall-roof, and when they were done, there was more silence
in the hall than in the summer night without; only the voice
of the swords could not be utterly still, but yet tinkled
and rang as hard came against hard here and there in the
Again spake Jack: "Let no man speak! Let no man move from
his place! I SEE THE KING! Ye shall see him!"
Therewith he strode up the hall and on to the dais, and came
up to where stood Christopher holding Goldilind's hand, and
she all pale and trembling; but Jack took him by the
shoulder, and turned him about toward a seat which stood
before the board, so that all men in the hall could see it;
then he set him down in it, and took his sword from his
girdle, and knelt down before the young man, and took his
right hand, and said in a loud voice: "I, Jack of the
Tofts, a free man and a sackless, wrongfully beguilted, am
the man of King Christopher of Oakenrealm, to live and die
for him as need may be. Lo, Lord, my father's blade! Wilt
thou be good to me and gird me therewith, as thy father girt
Now when Christopher heard him, at first he deemed that all
this was some sport or play done for his pastime and the
pleasure of the hall-folk in all kindness and honour. But
when he looked in the eyes of him, and saw him fierce and
eager and true, he knew well it was no jest; and as the
shouts of men went up from the hall and beat against the
roof, himseemed that he remembered, as in a dream, folk
talking a-nigh him when he was too little to understand, of
a king and his son, and a mighty man turned thief and
betrayer. Then his brow cleared, and his eyes shone bright,
and he leaned forward to Jack and girt him with the sword,
and kissed his mouth, and said: "Thou art indeed my man and
my thane and my earl, and I gird thee with thy sword as my
father girded thy father."
Then stood up Jack o' the Tofts and said: "Men in this
hall, happy is the hour, and happy are ye! This man is the
King of Oakenrealm, and he yonder is but a thief of kings, a
And again great was the shouting, for carle and quean, young
and old, they loved Christopher well: and Jack of the Tofts
was not only their war-duke and alderman, but their wise man
also, and none had any thought of gainsaying him. But he
spake again and said: "Is there here any old man, or not so
old, who hath of past days seen our King that was, King
Christopher to wit, who fell in battle on our behalf? If so
there be, let him come up hither."
Then arose a greybeard from a bench nigh the high-table, and
came up on to the dais; a very tall man had he been, but was
now somewhat bowed by age. He now knelt before Christopher,
and took his hand, and said: "I, William of Whittenham, a
free man, a knight, sackless of the guilt which is laid on
me, would be thy man, O my lord King, to serve thee in all
wise; if so be that I may live to strike one stroke for my
master's son, whom now I see, the very living image of the
King whom I served in my youth."
Then Christopher bent down to him and kissed him, and said:
"Thou art indeed my man and my thane & my baron; and who
knows but that thou mayst have many a stroke to strike for
me in the days that are nigh at hand."
And again the people shouted: and then there came another
and another, and ten more squires and knights and men of
estate, who were now indeed woodmen and wolf-heads, but who,
the worst of them, were sackless of aught save slaying an
unfriend, or a friend's unfriend, in fair fight; and all
these kneeled before him, and put their hands in his, and
gave themselves unto him.
When this was done, there came thrusting through the throng
of the hall a tall woman, old, yet comely as for her age;
she went right up on to the dais, and came to where sat
Christopher, and without more ado cast her arms about him
and kissed him, and then she held him by the shoulders and
cried out: "O, have I found thee at last, my loveling, and
my dear, and my nurse-chick? and thou grown so lovely and
yet so big that I may never more hold thee aloft in mine
arms, as once I was wont; though high enough belike thou
shalt be lifted; and I say praise be to God and to his
Hallows that thou art grown so beauteous and mighty a man!"
Therewith she turned about toward the hall-throng and said:
"Thou, duke of these woodmen, and all ye in this hall, I
have been brought hither by one of you; and though I have
well-nigh died of joy because of the suddenness of this
meeting, yet I thank him therefor. For who is this goodly
and gracious young man save the King's son of Oakenrealm,
Christopher that was; and that to my certain knowledge; for
he is my fosterling and my milk-child, and I took him from
the hands of the midwife in the High House of Oakenham a
twenty-one years ago; and they took him from Oakenham, and
me with him to the house of Lord Richard the Lean, at
Longholms, and there we dwelt; but in a little while they
took him away from Longholms to I wot not whither, but would
not suffer me to go along with him, and ever sithence have I
been wandering about and hoping to see this lovely child
again, and now I see him, what he is, and again I thank God
and Allhallows therefor."
Once more then was there stir and glad tumult in the hall.
But Goldilind stood wondering, and fear entered into her
soul; for she saw before her a time of turmoil and unpeace,
and there seemed too much between her and the sweetness of
her love. Withal it must be said, that for as little as she
knew of courts and war-hosts, she yet seemed to see lands
without that hall, and hosts marching, and mighty walls
glittering with spears, and the banners of a great King
displayed; and Jack of the Tofts and his champions and good
fellows seemed but a frail defence against all that, when
once the hidden should be shown, and the scantiness of the
woodland should cry on the abundance of the kingdom to bow
Now she came round the board and stood beside Christopher,
and he turned to her, and stood up and took her hand, in
such wise that she felt the caress of it; and joy filled her
soul, as if she had been alone with him in the wild-wood.
But he spake and said: "All ye my friends: I see and wot
well that ye would have me sit in my father's seat and be
the King of Oakenrealm, and that ye will give me help and
furtherance therein to the utmost; nor will I cast back the
gift upon you; and I will say this, that when I am King
indeed, it is my meaning and my will now, that then I shall
be no less one of you good fellows and kind friends than ye
have known me hitherto; and even so I deem that ye think of
me. But, good friends, it is not to be hidden that the road
ye would have me wend with you is like to be rough; and it
may well be that we shall not come to be kings or kings'
friends but men hunted, and often, maybe, men taken and
slain. Therefore, till one thing or the other come, the
kingship, or the taking, I will try to be no less joyous
than now I am, and so meseemeth shall ye; and if ye be of
this mind, then shall the coming days be no worse than the
days which have been; and God wot they have been happy
enough. Now again, ye see this most fair lady, whose hand I
hold; she is my beloved and my wife; and therewithal she is
the true Queen of Meadham, and a traitor sits in her place
even as a traitor sits in mine. But I must tell you that
when she took me for her beloved, she knew not, nor did I,
that I was a King's son, but she took me as a woodman and an
outcast, and as a wood-man and outcast I wooed her, trusting
in the might that was in my body, and the love that was in
my heart; and now before all you, my friends, I thank her
and worship her that my body and my love was enough for her;
as, God wot, the kingship of the whole earth should not be
overmuch for her, if it lay open to her to take. But, sweet
friends, here am I talking of myself as a King wedded unto a
Queen, whereas meseemeth the chiefest gift our twin kingship
hath brought you to-night is the gift of two most mighty
unfriends for you; to wit, her foeman and mine. See ye to
it, then, if the wild-wood yonder is not a meeter dwelling
for us than this your goodly hall; and fear not to put us to
the door as a pair of make-bates and a peril to this goodly
company. Lo you, the sky without has not yet lost all
memory of the sun, and in a little while it will be
yellowing again to the dawn. Nought evil shall be the
wild-wood for our summer dwelling; and what! ere the winter
come, we may have won us another house where erst my fathers
feasted. And thereto, my friends, do I bid you all."
But when they heard his friendly words, and saw the beauty
of the fair woman whose hand he held, his face grew so
well-beloved to them, that they cried out with so great a
voice of cheer, wordless for their very joy, that the
timbers of the hall quavered because of it, and it went out
into the wild-wood as though it had been the feastful
roaring of the ancient gods of the forest.
But when the tumult sank a little, then cried out Jack of
the Tofts: "Bring now the mickle shield, and let us look
upon our King."
So men went and fetched in a huge ancient shield, plated
with berry-brown iron, inlaid with gold, and the four
biggest men in the hall took it on their shoulders and knelt
down anigh the dais, before Christopher, and Jack said
aloud: "King! King! Stand up here! for this war-board of
old days is the castle and the burg alone due to thee, and
these four fellows here are the due mountains to upbear it."
Then lightly strode Child Christopher on to the shield, and
when he stood firm thereon, they rose heedfully underneath
him till they were standing upright on their feet, and the
King stood on the shield as if he were grown there, and
waved his naked sword to the four orts.
Then cried out an old woman in a shrill voice: "Lo, how the
hills rise up into tall mountains; even so shall arise Child
Christopher to the kingship."
Thereat all the folk laughed for joy and cried out: "Child
Christopher! Child Christopher, our King!" And for that
word, when he came to the crown indeed, and ruled wide
lands, was he called Child Christopher; and that name clave
to him after he was dead, and but a name in the tale of his
Now the King spake and said: "Friends, now is it time to
get to the board, and the feast which hath been stayed this
while; and I pray you let it be as merry as if there were no
striving and unpeace betwixt us and the winning of peace.
But to-morrow we will hallow-in the Mote, and my earl and my
barons and good men shall give counsel, and then shall it be
that the hand shall do what the heart biddeth."
Therewith he leapt down from the shield, and went about the
hall talking to this one and that, till the board was full
dight; then he took his place in the high-seat, beside Jack
of the Tofts; and David and Gilbert and his other
foster-brethren sat on either side of him, and their wives
with them; and men fell to feasting in great glee.
But one thing there is yet to tell of this feast. When men
had drunk a cup or two, and drunk memories to good men dead,
and healths to good men living, amidst this arose a
grey-head carle from the lower end of the hall, and said:
"Child Christopher, thy grace, that I may crave a boon of
thee on this day of leal service.'
"Ask then," said Christopher, with a pleasant face.
"King," quoth the carle, "here are we all gathered together,
and we have before us the most beautifullest woman of the
world, who sitteth by thy side; now to-night we be all dear
friends, and there is no lack between us; yet who can say
how often we may meet and things be so? I do not say that
there shall enmity and dissension arise between us, though
that may betide; but it is not unlike that another time
thou, King, and thy mate, may be prouder than now ye be,
since now ye are new to it. And if that distance grow
between us, it will avail nought to ask my boon then."
"Well, well, ask it now, friend," said the King, laughing;
"I were fain of ending the day with a gift."
"This it is then, King," said the carle: "since we are here
set down before the loveliest woman in the world, grant us
this, that all we men-folk may for this once kiss the face
of her, if she will have it so."
Huge laughter and cheers arose at his word; but King
Christopher arose and said: "Friend, thy boon is granted
with a good will; or how sayest thou, Goldilind my beloved?
For all answer she stood up blushing like a rose, and held
out her two hands to the men in the hall. And straightway
the old carle rose up and went in haste to the high-table,
before another man might stir, and took Goldilind by the
chin, and kissed her well-favouredly, and again men laughed
joyously. Then came before her Jack of the Tofts and all
his sons, one after other, and kissed her face, save only
David, who knelt humbly before her, and took her right hand
and kissed it, while the tears were in his eyes. Then came
many of the men in the hall, and some were bold, but many
were shy, and when they came before her durst kiss neither
hand nor face of her, but their hearts were full of her when
they went to their places again; and all the assembly was
So wore the time of that first night of the kingship of
OF THE HUSTING OF THE TOFTS.
When morning was, there were horns sounding from the tower
on the toft, and all men hastening in their war-gear to the
topmost of the other toft, the bare one, whereon was no
building; for thereon was ever the mote-stead of these
woodmen. But men came not only from the stead and houses of
the Tofts, but also from the woodland cots and dwellings
anigh, of which were no few. And they that came there first
found King Christopher sitting on the mound amid the
mote-stead, and Jack of the Tofts and his seven sons sitting
by him, and all they well-weaponed and with green coats over
their hauberks; and they that came last found three hundreds
of good men and true gathered there, albeit this was but the
Husting of the Tofts.
So when there were no more to come, then was the Mote
hallowed, and the talk began; but short and sharp was their
rede, for well did all men wot who had been in the hall the
night before that there was now no time to lose. For though
nigh all the men that had been in the hall were well known
to each other, yet might there perchance have been some spy
unknown, who had edged him in as a guest to one of the good
men. Withal, as the saw saith: The word flieth, the wight
dieth. And it were well if they might gather a little host
ere their foeman might gather a mickle.
First therefore arose Jack of the Tofts, and began shortly
to put forth the sooth, that there was come the son of King
Christopher the Old, and that now he was seeking to his
kingdom, not for lust of power and gain, but that he might
be the friend of good men and true, and uphold them and be
by them upholden. And saith he: "Look ye on the face of
this man, and tell me where ye shall find a friend
friendlier than he, and more single-hearted?" And therewith
he laid his hand on Christopher's head, and the young man
rose up, blushing like a maid, and thereafter a long time
could no lord be heard for the tumult of gladness and the
clashing of weapons.
But when it was a little hushed, then spake Jack again:
"Now need no man say more to man on this matter, for ye call
this curly-headed lad the King of Oakenrealm, even as some
of ye did last night."
Mighty was the shout of yea-say that arose at that word; and
when it was stilled, a grey-head stood up and said: "King
Christopher, and thou, our leader, whom we shall henceforth
call Earl, it is now meet that we shear up the war-arrow,
and send it forth to whithersoever we deem our friends
dwell, and that this be done at once here in this Mote, and
that the hosting be after three nights' frist in the plain
of Hazeldale, which all ye know is twelve miles nigher to
Oakenrealm than this."
All men yea-said this, no one gainsaid it; and straightway
was fire kindled and the bull slain, for the said elder had
brought him thither; and the arrow was sheared and scorched
and reddened, and the runners were fetched, and the word
given them, and they were sped on their errand.
Up rose then another, a young man, and spake: "Many stout
fellows be here, and some wise and well-ruled, and many also
hot-head and wilful: Child Christopher is King now, and we
all know him that when he cometh into the fray he is like to
strike three strokes for two that any other winneth; but as
to his lore of captainship, if he hath any, he was born with
it, as is like enough, seeing who was his father; therefore
we need a captain well-proven, to bid us how to turn hither
and thither, and where to gather thickest, and where to
spread thinnest; and when to fall on fiercely and when to
give way, and let the thicket cover us; for wise in war
shall our foemen be. Now therefore if anyone needeth a
better captain than our kin-father and war-father Jack of
the Tofts, he must needs go fetch him from otherwhere! How
sayest thou, Christopher lad?"
Great cheer there was at the word, and laughter no little
therewith. But Christopher stood up, and took Jack by the
hand, and said: "Now say I, that if none else follow this
man into battle, yet will I; and if none else obey him to go
backward or forward to the right hand or to the left as he
biddeth, yet will I. Thou, Wilfrid Wellhead, look to it
that thou dost no less. But ye folk, what will ye herein?"
So they all yea-said Jack of the Tofts for captain; and
forsooth they might do no less, for he was wary and wise,
and had done many deeds, and seen no little of warfare.
Then again arose a man of some forty winters, strong built
and not ungoodly, but not merry of countenance, and he
spake: "King and war-leader, I have a word to say: We be
wending to battle, we carles, with spear in fist and sword
by side; and if we die in the fray, of the day's work is it;
but what do we with our kinswomen, as mothers and daughters
and wives and she-friends, and the little ones they have
borne us? For, see ye! this warfare we are faring, maybe it
shall not last long, and yet maybe it shall; and then may
the foeman go about us and fall on this stead if we leave
them behind here with none to guard them; and if, on the
other hand, we leave them men enough for their warding, then
we minish our host overmuch. What do we then?"
Then spake Jack of the Tofts: "This is well thought of by
Haward of Whiteacre, and we must look to it. And, by my
rede, we shall have our women and little ones with us; and
why not? For we shall then but be moving Toftstead as we
move; and ever to some of us hath it been as a camp rather
than an house. Moreover, ye know it, that our women be no
useless and soft queans, who durst not lie under the oak
boughs for a night or two, or wade a water over their
ankles, but valiant they be, and kind, and helpful; and many
of them are there who can draw a bow with the best, and, it
may be, push a spear if need were. How say ye, lads?"
Now this also they yea-said gladly; forsooth they had scarce
been fain of leaving the women behind, at least the younger
ones, even had they been safe at the Tofts; for there is no
time when a man would gladlier have a fair woman in his arms
than when battle and life-peril are toward.
Thereafter the Mote sundered, when the Captain had bidden
his men this and that matter that each should look to; and
said that he, for his part, with King Christopher and a
chosen band, would set off for Hazeldale on the morrow morn,
whereas some deal of the gathering would of a certainty be
come thither by then; and that there was enough left of that
day to see to matters at the Tofts.