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Child Christopher, by William Morris

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So all men went about their business, which was, for the
most part, seeing to the victualling of the host.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

OF THE HOSTING IN HAZELDALE.

On the morrow early was Jack of the Tofts dight for
departure, with Christopher and David and Gilbert and five
score of his best men. But when they went out of the porch
into the sweet morning, lo! there was Goldilind before them,
clad in her green gown, and as fresh and dear as the early
day itself. And Jack looked on her and said: "And thou, my
Lady and Queen, thou art dight as thou wouldst wend with
us?"

"Yea," she said, "and why not?"

"What sayest thou, King Christopher?" said the Captain.

"Nay," said King Christopher, reddening, "it is for thee to
yea-say or nay-say; though true it is that I have bidden her
farewell for two days' space." And the two stood looking on
one another.

But Jack laughed and said: "Well, then, so be it; but let
us get to the way, or else when the sweethearts of these
lads know that we have a woman with us we shall have them
all at our backs." Thereat all laughed who were within
earshot, and were merry.

So they wended the woodland ways, some afoot, some
a-horseback, of whom was Jack of the Tofts, but Christopher
and David went afoot. And Goldilind rode a fair white horse
which the Captain had gotten her.

As they went, and King Christopher ever by Goldilind's right
hand, and were merry and joyous, they two were alone in the
woodland way; so Christopher took her hand and kissed it,
and said: "Sweetling, why didst thou tell me nought of thy
will to come along with us? Never had I balked thee."

She looked at him, blushing as a rose, and said: "Dear
friend, I will tell thee; I knew that thou wouldst make our
parting piteous-sweet this morning; and of that I would not
be balked. See, then, how rich I am, since I have both
parted from thee and have thee." And therewith she louted
down from her saddle, and they kissed together sweetly, and
so thereafter wore the way.

So came they to the plain of Hazeldale, which was a wide
valley with a middling river winding about it, the wild-wood
at its back toward the Tofts, and in front down-land nought
wooded, save here and there a tree nigh a homestead or cot;
for that way the land was builded for a space. Forsooth it
was not easy for the folk thereabout to live quietly, but if
they were friends in some wise to Jack of the Tofts.

So when the company of the Tofts came out into the dale
about three hours after noon, it was no wonder to them to
see men riding and going to and fro, and folk pitching tents
and raising booths nigh to the cover of the wood; and when
the coming of the Toft-folk was seen, and the winding of
their horns heard, there was many a glad cry raised in
answer, and many an horn blown, and all men there came
running together toward where now was stayed Jack of the
Tofts and Christopher and their men.

Then Goldilind bade Christopher help her light down; so he
took her in his arms, and was not over hasty in setting her
down again. But when she stood by him, she looked over the
sunny field darkened by the folk hastening over the
greensward, and her eyes glittered and her cheek flushed,
and she said: "Lord King, be these some others of thy men?"

"Yea, sweetling," said he, "to live and die with me."

She looked on him, and said softly: "Maybe it were an ill
wish to wish that I were thou; yet if it might be for one
hour!"

Said he: "Shall it not be for more than one hour? Shall it
not be for evermore, since we twain are become one?"

"Nay," she said, "this is but a word; I am but thine
handmaid: and now I can scarce refrain my body from falling
before thy feet."

He laughed in her face for joy, and said: "Abide a while,
until these men have looked on thee, and then shalt thou see
how thou wilt be a flame of war in their hearts that none
shall withstand."

Now were the dale-dwellers all come together in their
weapons, and they were glad of their King and his loveling;
and stout men were they all, albeit some were old, and some
scarce of man's age. So they were ranked and told over, and
the tale of them was over six score who had obeyed the
war-arrow, and more and more, they said, would come in every
hour. But now the Captains of them bade the Toft-folk eat
with them; and they yea-said the bidding merrily, and word
was given, and sacks and baskets brought forth, and barrels
to boot, and all men sat down on the greensward, and high
was the feast and much the merriment on the edge of
Hazeldale.

CHAPTER XXIX.

TIDINGS COME TO HAZELDALE.

But they had not done their meat, and had scarce begun upon
their drink, ere they saw three men come riding on the spur
over the crown of the bent before them; these made no stay
for aught, but rode straight through the ford of the river,
as men who knew well where it was, and came on hastily
toward the feasters by the wood-edge. Then would some have
run to meet them, but Jack of the Tofts bade them abide till
he had heard the tidings; whereas they needed not to run to
their weapons, for, all of them, they were fully dight for
war, save, it might be, the doing on of their sallets or
basnets. But Jack and Christopher alone went forward to
meet those men; and the foremost of them cried out at once:
"I know thee, Jack of the Tofts! I know thee! Up and arm! up
and arm! for the foemen are upon thee; and so choose thee
whether thou wilt fight or flee."

Quoth Jack, laughing: "I know thee also, Wat of Whiteend;
and when thou hast told me how many and who be the foemen,
we will look either to fighting or fleeing."

Said Wat: "Thou knowest the blazon of the banner which we
saw, three red wolves running on a silver field?"

"Yea, forsooth," said Jack; "'tis the Baron of Brimside that
beareth that shield ever; and the now Baron, hight the Lord
Gandolf, how many was he?"

Said Wat: "Ten hundreds or more. But what say fellows?"

Quoth the other twain: "More, more they were."

Said Jack of the Tofts: "And when shall he be here, deem
ye?"

"In less than an hour," said Wat, "he will be on thee with
great and small; but his riders, some of them, in lesser
space."

Then turned Jack about and cried out for David, and when he
came, he said: "Put thy long legs over a good horse, and
ride straight back to the Tofts and gather whatever may bear
spear and draw bow, and hither with them, lad, by the
nighest road; tarry not, speak no word, be gone!"

So David turned, and was presently riding swiftly back
through the woodland paths. But Jack spake to the bearers of
tidings: "Good fellows, go ye yonder and bid them give you
a morsel and a cup; and tell all the tidings, and this,
withal, that we have nought to flee from a good fightstead
for Gandolf of Brimside." Therewith he turned to
Christopher and said: "Thy pardon, King, but these matters
must be seen to straightway. Now do thou help me array our
folk, for there is heart enough in them as in thee and me;
and mayhappen we may make an end to this matter now and
here. Moreover, the Baron of Brimside is a stout carle, so
fight we must, meseemeth."

Then he called to them one of the captains of the Tofts and
they three spake together heedfully a little, and thereafter
they fell to work arraying the folk; and King Christopher
did his part therein deftly and swiftly, for quick of wit he
was, and that the more whenso anything was to be done.

As to the array, the main of the folk that were spearmen and
billmen but moved forward somewhat from where they had dined
to the hanging of the bent, so that their foemen would have
the hill against them or ever they came on point and edge.
But the bowmen, of whom were now some two hundreds, for many
men had come in after the first tally, were spread abroad on
the left hand of the spearmen toward the river, where the
ground was somewhat broken, and bushed with thorn-bushes.
And a bight of the water drew nearer to the Tofters, amidst
of which was a flat eyot, edged with willows and covered
with firm and sound greensward, and was some thirty yards
endlong and twenty overthwart. So there they abode the
coming of the foe, and it was now hard on five o'clock.

But Christopher went up to Goldilind where she stood amidst
of the spearmen, hand turning over hand, and her feet
wandering to and fro almost without her will; and when he
came to her, she had much ado to refrain her from falling on
his bosom and weeping there. But he cried to her gaily:
"Now, my Lady and Queen, thou shalt see a fair play toward
even sooner than we looked for; and thine eyes shall follow
me, if the battle be thronged, by this token, that amongst
all these good men and true I only wear a forgilded basnet
with a crown about it."

"O!" she said, "if it were but over, and thou alive and
free! I would pay for that, I deem, if I might, by a sojourn
in Greenharbour again."

"What!" he said, "that I might have to thrust myself into
the peril of snatching thee forth again?" And he laughed
merrily. "Nay," said he, "this play must needs begin before
it endeth; and by Saint Nicholas, I deem that to-day it
beginneth well."

But she put her hands before her face, and her shoulders
were shaken with sobs. "Alas! sweetling," said he, "that my
joy should be thy sorrow! But, I pray thee, take not these
stout-hearts for runaways. And Oh! look, look!"

She looked up, wondering and timorous, but all about her the
men sprang up and shouted, and tossed up bill and sword, and
the echo of their cries came back from the bowmen on the
left, and Christopher's sword came rattling out of the
scabbard and went gleaming up aloft. Then words came into
the cry of the folk, and Goldilind heard it, that they cried
"Child Christopher! King Christopher!" Then over her head
came a sound of flapping and rending as the evening wind
beat about the face of the wood; and she heard folk cry
about her: "The banner, the banner! Ho for the Wood-wife of
Oakenrealm!"

Then her eyes cleared for what was aloof before her, and she
saw a dark mass come spreading down over the bent on the
other side of the river, and glittering points and broad
gleams of white light amidst of it, and noise came from it;
and she knew that here were come the foemen. But she
thought to herself that they looked not so many after all;
and she looked at the great and deft bodies of their folk,
and their big-headed spears and wide-bladed glaves and
bills, and strove with her heart and refrained her fear, and
thrust back the image which had arisen before her of
Greenharbour come back again, and she lonely and naked in
the Least Guard-chamber: and she stood firm, and waved her
hand to greet the folk.

And lo! there was Christopher kneeling before her and
kissing her hand, and great shouts arising about her of "The
Lady of Oakenrealm! The Lady of Meadham! For the Lady! For
the Lady!"

CHAPTER XXX.

OF THE FIELD THAT WAS SET IN THE HOLM OF HAZELDALE.

Now thither cometh Jack o' the Tofts, and spake to
Christopher: "See thou, lad--Lord King, I should say; this
looketh not like very present battle, for they be stayed
half way down the bent; and lo thou, some half score are
coming forth from the throng with a white shield raised
aloft. Do we in likewise, for they would talk with us."

"Shall we trust them, father?" said Christopher.

"Trust them we may, son," said Jack; "Gandolf is a violent
man, and a lifter of other men's goods, but I deem not so
evil of him as that he would bewray troth."

So then they let do a white cloth over a shield and hoist it
on a long spear, and straightway they gat to horse, Jack of
the Tofts, and Christopher, and Haward of Whiteacre, and
Gilbert, and a half score all told; and they rode straight
down to the ford, which was just below the tail of the eyot
aforesaid, and as they went, they saw the going of the
others, who were by now hard on the waterside; and said
Jack: "See now, King Christopher, he who rides first in a
surcoat of his arms is even the Baron, the black
bullet-headed one; and the next to him, the red-head, is his
squire and man, Oliver Marson, a stout man, but fierce and
grim-hearted. Lo thou, they are taking the water, but they
are making for the eyot and not our shore: son mine, this
will mean a hazeled field in the long run; but now they will
look for us to come to them therein. Yea, now they are
aland and have pitched their white shield. And hearken,
that is their horn; blow we an answer: ho, noise! set thy
lips to the brass."

So then, when one horn had done its song, the other took it
up, and all men of both hosts knew well that the horns blew
but for truce and parley.

Now come the Toft-folk to the ford, and take the water,
which was very shallow on their side, and when they come up
on to the eyot, they find the Baron and his folk off their
horses, and lying on the green grass, so they also lighted
down and stood and hailed the new comers. Then uprose the
Lord Gandolf, and greeted the Toft-folk, and said: "Jack of
the Tofts, thou ridest many-manned to-day."

"Yea, Lord," said Jack, "and thou also. What is thine
errand?"

"Nay," said the Baron, "what is thine? As for mine host
here, there came a bird to Brimside and did me to wit that I
should be like to need a throng if I came thy way; and sooth
was that. Come now, tell us what is toward, thou rank
reiver, though I have an inkling thereof; for if this were a
mere lifting, thou wouldst not sit still here amidst thy
friends of Hazeldale."

"Lord," said Jack o' the Tofts, "thou shalt hear mine
errand, and then give heed to what thou wilt do. Look to
the bent under the wood, and tell me, dost thou see the
blazon of the banner under which be my men?"

"That can I not," said the Lord Gandolf; "but I have seen
the banner of Oakenrealm, which beareth the wood-woman with
loins garlanded with oak-leaves, look much like to it at
such a distance."

Said Jack: "It is not ill guessed. Yonder banner is the
King's banner, and beareth on it the woman of Oakenrealm ."

The Lord bent his brows on him, and said: "Forsooth, rank
reiver, I wotted not that thou hadst King Rolf for thy
guest."

Quoth Jack of the Tofts: "Forsooth, Lord, no such guest as
the Earl Marshal Rolf would I have alive in my poor house."

"Well, Jack," said the big Lord, grinning, "arede me the
riddle, and then we shall see what is to be done, as thou
sayest."

"Lord," said Jack, "dost thou see this young man standing by
me?"

"Yea," said the other, "he is big enough that I may see him
better than thy banner: if he but make old bones, as is
scarce like, since he is of thy flock, he shall one day make
a pretty man; he is a gay rider now. What else is he?"

Quoth Jack of the Tofts: "He is my King and thy King, and
the all-folk's King, and the King of Oakenrealm: and now,
hearken mine errand: it is to make all folk name him King."

Said the Lord: "This minstrel's tale goes with the song the
bird sang to me this morning; and therefore am I here
thronging--to win thy head, rank reiver, and this young
man's head, since it may not better be, and let the others
go free for this time. Hah! what sayest thou? and thou,
youngling? 'Tis but the stroke of a sword, since thou hast
fallen into my hands, and not into the hangman's or the
King's."

"Thou must win them first, Lord," said Jack of the Tofts.
"Therefore, what sayest thou? Where shall we cast down the
white shield and uprear the red?"

"Hot art thou, head, heart, and hand, rank reiver," said the
Lord; "bide a while." So he sat silent a little; then he
said: "Thou seest, Jack of the Tofts, that now thou hast
thrust the torch into the tow; if I go back to King Rolf
without the heads of you twain, I am like to pay for it with
mine own. Therefore hearken. If we buckle together in
fight presently, it is most like that I shall come to my
above, but thou art so wily and stout that it is not unlike
that thou, and perchance this luckless youngling, may slip
through my fingers into the wood; and then it will avail me
little with the King that I have slain a few score nameless
wolf-heads. So, look you! here is a fair field hazelled by
God; let us two use it to-day, and fight to the death here;
and then if thou win me, smite off my head, and let my men
fight it out afterwards, as best they may without me, and
'tis like they will be beaten then. But if I win thee, then
I win this youngling withal, and bear back both heads to my
Lord King, after I have scattered thy wolf-heads and slain
as many as I will; which shall surely befall, if thou be
slain first."

Then cried out Jack of the Tofts: "Hail to thy word,
stout-heart! this is well offered, and I take it for myself
and my Lord King here." And all that stood by and heard
gave a glad sound with their voices, and their armour
rattled and rang as man turned to man to praise their
captains.

But now spake Christopher: "Lord of Brimside, it is nought
wondrous though thou set me aside as of no account, whereas
thou deemest me no king or king's kindred; but thou, Lord
Earl, who wert once Jack of the Tofts, I marvel at thee,
that thou hast forgotten thy King so soon. Ye twain shall
now wot that this is my quarrel, and that none but I shall
take this battle upon him.

"Thou servant of Rolf, the traitor and murderer, hearken! I
say that I am King of Oakenrealm, and the very son of King
Christopher the Old; and that will I maintain with my body
against every gainsayer. Thou Lord of Brimside, wilt thou
gainsay it? Then I say thou liest, and lo here, my glove!"
And he cast it down before the Lord.

Again was there good rumour, and that from either side of
the bystanders; but Jack of the Tofts stood up silent and
stiff, and the Baron of Brimside laughed, and said: "Well,
swain, if thou art weary of life, so let it be, as for me;
but how sayest thou, Jack of the Tofts? Art thou content to
give thine head away in this fashion, whereas thou wottest
that I shall presently slay this king of thine?"

Said Jack: "The King of Oakenrealm must rule me as well as
others of his liege-men: he must fight if he will, and be
slain if he will." Then suddenly he fell a-laughing, and
beat his hand on his thigh till the armour rattled again,
and then he cried out: "Lord Gandolf, Lord Gandolf, have a
care, I bid thee! Where wilt thou please to be buried,
Lord?"

Said the other: "I wot not what thou wilt mean by thy
fooling, rank reiver. But here I take up this youngling's
glove; and on his head be his fate! Now as to this battle.
My will is, that we two champions be all alone and afoot on
the eyot. How say ye?"

"Even so be it," said Jack; "but I say that half a score on
each side shall be standing on their own bank to see the
play, and the rest of the host come no nigher than now we
are."

"I yea-say it," said the Baron; "and now do thou, rank
reiver, go back to thy fellowship and tell them what we have
areded, and do thou, Oliver Marson, do so much for our folk;
and bid them wot this, that if any of them break the troth,
he shall lose nought more than his life for that same."

Therewith all went ashore to either bank, save the Baron of
Brimside and Christopher. And the Baron laid him down on the
ground and fell to whistling the tune of a merry Yule dance;
but as for Christopher, he looked on his foeman, and deemed
he had seldom seen so big and stalwarth a man; and withal he
was of ripe age, and had seen some forty winters. Then he
also cast himself down on the grass, and fell into a kind of
dream, as he watched a pair of wagtails that came chirping
up from the sandy spit below the eyot; till suddenly great
shouting broke out, first from his own bent, and then from
the foemen's, and Christopher knew that the folk on either
side had just heard of the battle that was to be on the
holm. The Baron arose at the sound and looked to his own
men, whence were now coming that half-score who were to look
on the battle from the bank; but Christopher stirred not,
but lay quietly amongst the flowers of the grass, till he
heard the splash of horse-hoofs in the ford, and there
presently was come Jack of the Tofts bearing basnet and
shield for his lord. And he got off his horse and spake to
Christopher: "If I may not fight for thee, my son and King,
yet at least it is the right of thine Earl to play the
squire to thee: but a word before thy basnet is over thine
ears; the man yonder is well-nigh a giant for stature and
strength; yet I think thou mayest deal with him, and be none
the sorer when thou liest down to-night. To be short, this
is it: when thou hast got a stroke in upon him, and he
falters, then give him no time, but fly at him in thy
wild-cat manner and show what-like thews thou hast under thy
smooth skin; now thine helm, lad. So art thou dight; and
something tells me thou shalt do it off in victory."

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE BATTLE ON THE HOLM.

So when Christopher was armed, Jack turned about speedily,
and so gat him back through the ford and stood there on the
bank with the nine other folk of the Tofts. And by this
time was Gandolf of Brimside armed also, and Oliver Marson,
who had done his helm on him, was gone to his side of the
river.

Drew the huge man-at-arms then toward Christopher, but his
sword was yet in the sheath: Christopher set his point to
the earth and abode him; and the Baron spake: "Lad, thou art
fair and bold both, as I can see it, and Jack of the Tofts
is so much an old foe of mine that he is well-nigh a friend:
so what sayest thou? If thou wilt yield thee straightway, I
will have both thine head and the outlaw's with me to King
Rolf, but yet on your shoulders and ye two alive. Haps will
go as haps will; and it maybe that ye shall both live for
another battle, and grow wiser, and mayhappen abide in the
wood with the reiver's men. Hah? What sayest thou?"

Christopher laughed and said: "Wouldst thou pardon one who
is not yet doomed, Baron? And yet thy word is pleasant to
us; for we see that if we win thee, thou shalt be good
liegeman of us. Now, Baron, sword in fist!"

Gandolf drew his sword, muttering: "Ah, hah! he is lordly
and kingly enough, yet may this learn him a lesson. "Indeed
the blade was huge and brown and ancient, and sword and man
had looked a very terror save to one great-hearted.

But Christopher said: "What sayest thou now, Baron, shall
we cast down our shields to earth? For why should we chop
into wood and leather?"

The Baron cast down his shield, and said: "Bold are thy
words, lad; if thy deeds go with them, it may be better for
thee than for me. Now keep thee."

And therewith he leapt forward and swept his huge sword
around; but Christopher swerved speedily and enough, so that
the blade touched him not, and the huge man had over-reached
himself, and ere he had his sword well under sway again,
Christopher had smitten him so sharply on the shoulder that
the mails were sundered & the blood ran; and withal the
Baron staggered with the mere weight of the stroke. Then
Christopher saw his time, and leapt aloft and dealt such a
stroke on the side of his head, that the Baron tottered yet
more; but now was he taught by those two terrible strokes,
and he gathered all his heart to him, and all the might of
his thews, and leapt aback and mastered his sword, and came
on fierce but wary, shouting out for Brimside and the King.

Christopher cried never a cry, but swung his sword well
within his sway, and the stroke came on Gandolf's fore-arm
and brake the mails and wounded him, and then as the Baron
rushed forward, the wary lad gat his blade under his
foeman's nigh the hilts, and he gave it a wise twist and
forth flew the ancient iron away from its master.

Gandolf seemed to heed not that he was swordless, but gave
out a great roar and rushed at Christopher to close with
him, and the well-knit lad gave back before him and turned
from side to side, and kept the sword-point before Gandolf's
eyes ever, till suddenly, as the Baron was running his
fiercest, he made a mighty sweep at his right leg, since he
had no more to fear his sword, and the edge fell so strong
and true, that but for the byrny-hose he had smitten the
limb asunder, and even as it was it made him agrievous
wound, so that the Lord of Brimside fell clattering to the
earth, and Christopher bestrode him and cried: "How sayest
thou, champion, is it enough?"

"Yea, enough, and maybe more," said the Baron. "Wilt thou
smite off mine head? Or what wilt thou?"

Said Christopher: "Here hath been enough smiting,
meseemeth, save thy lads and ours have a mind to buckle to;
and lo thou! men are running down from the bents towards us
from both sides, yet not in any warlike manner as yet. Now,
Baron, here cometh thy grim squire that I heard called
Oliver, and if thou wilt keep the troth, thou shalt bid him
order thy men so that they fall not upon us till the battle
be duly pitched. Then shalt thou be borne home, since thou
canst not go, with no hindrance from us."

Now was Oliver come indeed, and the other nine with him, and
on the other side was come Jack of the Tofts and four
others.

Then spake the Baron of Brimside: "I may do better than
thou biddest me; for now I verily trow herein, that thou art
the son of Christopher the Old; so valiant as thou art, and
so sad a smiter, and withal that thou fearest not to let thy
foeman live. So hearken all ye, and thou specially, Oliver
Marson, my captain: I am now become the man of my lord King
Christopher, and will follow him whereso he will; and I deem
that will presently be to Oakenham, and the King's seat
there. Now look to it that thou, Oliver, order my men under
King Christopher's banner, till I be healed; and then if all
be not over, I shall come forth myself, shield on neck and
spear in fist, to do battle for my liege lord; so help me
God and St. James of the Water!"

Therewith speech failed him and his wit therewith; so
betwixt them they unarmed him and did him what leechdom they
might do there and then; and he was nowise hurt deadly: as
for Child Christopher, he had no scratch of steel on him.
And Oliver knelt before him when he had dight his own lord,
and swore fealty to him then and there; and so departed, to
order the folk of Brimside and tell them the tidings, and
swear them liege men of King Christopher.

CHAPTER XXXII.

OF GOLDILIND AND CHRISTOPHER.

Now Jack of the Tofts said a word to one of his men, and he
rode straightway up into the field under the wood, and spake
to three of the captains of the folk, and they ranked a
hundred of the men, of those who were best dight, and
upraised amongst them the banner of Oakenrealm, and led all
them down to the river bank; and with these must needs go
Goldilind; and when they came down thither, Christopher and
Jack were there on the bank to hail them, and they raised a
great shout when they saw their King and their Earl standing
there, and the shout was given back from the wood-side; and
then the men of Brimside took it up, for they had heard the
bidding of their Lord, and he was now in a pavilion which
they had raised for him on the mead, and the leeches were
looking to his hurts; and they feared him, but rather loved
than hated him, and he was more to them than the King in
Oakenrealm and they were all ready to do his will.

But as to Goldilind, her mind it had been, as she was going
down the meadow, that she would throw herself upon
Christopher's bosom and love him with glad tears of love;
but as she came and stood over against him, she was abashed,
and stood still looking on him, and spake no word; and he
also was ashamed before all that folk to say the words
whereof his heart was full, and longed for the night, that
they might be alone together.

But at last he said: "Lady and Queen, thou seest that we be
well-beloved that they rejoice so much in a little deed of
mine." And still she spake nought, and held hand in hand.

But Jack of the Tofts spake and said: "By St. Hubert! the
deed may be little, though there be men who would think no
little of overcoming the biggest man and the fellest fighter
of Oakenrealm, but at least great things shall come thereof.
King, thy strokes of this day have won thee Oakenrealm, or
no man I know in field, and many a mother's son have they
saved from death. For look thou yonder over the river,
Goldilind, my Lady, and tell me what thou seest." She
turned to him and said: "Lord Earl, I see warriors a many."

"Yea," said Jack, "and stout fellows be they for the more
part; and hard had been the hand-play had we met, ere they
had turned their backs; but now, see thou, we shall wend
side by side toward Oakenrealm, for our Lord there hath won
them to his friends; and doubt thou not that when they see
him and thee anigh, they shall be friends indeed. What! dost
thou weep for this? Or is it because he hath done the deed
and not thou? or rather, because thine heart is full for the
love of him?"

She smiled kindly on Jack, but even therewith she felt two
hands laid on her shoulders, and Christopher kissed her
without any word.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

A COUNCIL OF CAPTAINS: THE HOST COMES TO BROADLEES, AND
MAKES FOR WOODWALL.

That night, though there was some little coming and going
between the Tofters and the Brimsiders, yet either flock
slept on their own side of the river. Moreover, before the
midst of the night, cometh David to the wood-side, and had
with him all men defensible of the Tofts and the houses
thereabout, and most of the women also many of whom bore
spear or bow, so that now by the wood-side, what with them
of the Tofts and the folk who joined them thereto from the
country-side about Hazeldale, there were well-nigh ten
hundreds of folk under weapons; and yet more came in the
night through; for the tidings of the allegiance of Brimside
was spreading full fast.

Betimes on the morrow was King Christopher afoot, and he and
Jack and David and Gilbert, and they twelve in company, went
down to the banner by the water-side; and to them presently
came Oliver Marson and ten other of the captains of
Brimside, and did them to wit that the Baron were fain if
they would come to his pavilion and hold counsel therein,
for that he was not so sick but he might well speak his mind
from where he lay. So thither they went all, with good will,
and the Baron greeted them friendly, and made what reverence
he might to Christopher, and bade him say what was his mind
and his will. But Christopher bade them who were his elders
in battle to speak; and the Baron laughed outright and said:
"Meseemeth, Lord King, thou didst grow old yesterday at my
costs; but since thou wilt have me to speak, I will even do
so. And to make matters the shorter, I will say that I wot
well what ye have to do; and that is, to fall upon the Earl
Marshal's folk ere they fall upon us. Now some folk deem we
should fare to Brimside and have a hosting there; but I say
nay; whereas it lieth out of the road to Oakenham, and
thereby is our road, meseemeth; and it is but some six days'
riding hence, save, as is most like, two of those days be
days of battle But if we go straight forward with banners
displayed, each day's faring shall be a day of hosting and
gathering; for I tell thee, Lord King, the fame of thee has
by now gone far in this country-side. Wherefore I say no
more, since I wax weary, than this: to the road this
morning, and get we so far as Broadlees ere night-fall, for
there we shall get both victual and folk."

There was good cheer made at his word, so Christopher spake:
"Baron of Brimside, thou hast spoken my very mind and will;
and but if these lords and captains gainsay it, let us tarry
no longer, but array all our folk in good order and take
tale of them, and so for Broadlees. What say ye, lords?"

None nay-said it, so there was no more talk save as to the
ordering of this or the other company. And it was so areded
that the Brimside men should fare first at the head of the
host with the banner of Brimside, and that then should go
the mingled folk of the country-side, and lastly the folk of
the Tofts with the banner of Oakenrealm; so that if the host
came upon foemen, they might be for a cloud to hide the
intent of their battles awhile till they might take their
advantage.

So went the captains to their companies, and the Tofters and
their mates crossed the river to the men of Brimside, who
gave them good cheer when they came amongst them; and it was
hard to order the host for a while, so did the upland folk
throng about the King and the Queen; and happy were they who
had a full look on Goldilind; and yet were some so lucky and
so bold that they kissed a hand of her; and one there was, a
very tall young man, and a goodly, who stood there and
craved to kiss her cheek, and she did not gainsay him, and
thereafter nought was good to him save an occasion to die
for her.

As for Christopher, he spake to many, and said to them that
wheresoever his banner was, he at least should be at the
forefront whenso they came upon unpeace; and so soon as they
gat to the road, he went from company to company, speaking
to many, and that so sweetly and friendly that all praised
him, and said that here forsooth was a king who was all good
and nothing bad, whereas hitherto men had deemed them lucky
indeed if their king were half good and half bad.

Merry then was the road to Broadlees, and they came there
before night-fall; and it was a little cheaping town and
unwalled, and if the folk had had any will to ward them,
they lacked might. But when they found they were not to be
robbed, and that it was but the proclaiming of King
Christopher in the market-place, and finding victual and
house-room for the host, and the Mayor taking a paper in
payment thereof, none stirred against them, and a many
joined the host to fight for the fair young King. Now
nought as yet had they heard at Broadlees of any force
stirring against them.

But in the morning when they went on their ways again, and
were bound for Cheaping Woodwall, which was a fenced town,
they sent out well-horsed riders to espy the road, who came
back on the spur two hours after noon, and did them to wit
that there was a host abiding them beneath the walls of
Woodwall under the banner of Walter the White, an old
warrior and fell fighter; but what comfort he might have
from them of Woodwall they wotted not; but they said that
the tidings of their coming had gone abroad, and many folk
were abiding the issue of this battle ere they joined them
to either host. Now on these tidings the captains were of
one mind, to wit, to fare on softly till they came to a
defensible place not far from the foemen, since they could
scarce come to Woodwall in good order before nightfall, and
if they were unfoughten before, to push forward to battle in
the morning.

Even so did they, and made a halt at sunset on a pleasant
hill above a river some three miles from Woodwall, and there
they passed the night unmeddled with.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

BATTLE BEFORE WOODWALL.

When morning was, the captains came to King Christopher to
council: but while they were amidst of their talk came the
word that the foe was anigh and come close to the
river-bank; whereat was none abashed; but to all it seemed
wisdom to abide them on the vantage-ground. So then there
was girding of swords and doing on of helms; as for ordering
of the folk, it was already done, for all the host was
ranked on the bent-side, with the banner of Oakenrealm in
the midst; on its left hand the banner of the Tofts, and on
the right the banner of Brimside.

Now when Christopher was come to his place, he looked down
and saw how the foemen were pouring over the river, for it
was nowhere deep, and there were four quite shallow fords:
many more were they than his folk, but he deemed that they
fared somewhat tumultuously; and when the bowmen of the
Tofts began shooting, the foemen, a many of them, stayed
amidst of the river to bend bow in their turn, and seemed to
think that were nigh enough already; nay, some went back
again to the other bank, to shoot thence the surer and the
drier, and some went yet a little further back on the field.
So that when their sergeants and riders were come on to the
hither bank, they lacked about a fifth of all their host;
and they themselves, for all they were so many, had some ado
to make up their minds to go forward.

Forsooth, when they looked up to the bent and saw the three
banners of Oakenrealm and the Tofts and Brimside all waving
over the same ranks, they knew not what to make of it. And
Christopher's host, when they saw them hang back, brake out
into mocking whoops and shouts, and words were heard in
them: "Come and dine at Brimside, good fellows! Come up to
the Tofts for supper and bed! A Christopher! A Christopher!"
and so forth. Now all King Christopher's men were afoot,
saving a band of the riders of Brimside, who bestrode strong
and tall horses, and bore jack and sallet and spear, but no
heavy armour.

So Christopher heard and saw, and the heart rose high in
him, and he sent messengers to the right and the left, and
bade the captains watch till he waved his sword aloft, and
then all down the bent together; and he bade the Brimside
riders edge a little outward and downward, and be ready for
the chase, and suffer not any of the foemen to gather
together when once they fell to running; for he knew in his
heart that the folk before him would never abide their
onfall. And the day was yet young, and it lacked four hours
of noon.

King Christopher abode ill he saw the foemen were come off
the level ground, and were mounting the bent slowly, and not
in very good order or in ranks closely serried. Then he
strode forth three paces, and waved his sword high above his
head, and cried out: "A Christopher! A Christopher!
Forward, banner of the Realm!" And forth he went, steady and
strong, and a great shout arose behind him, and none shrank
or lagged, but spears and bills, and axes and swords, all
came on like a wall of steel, so that to the foemen the
earth seemed alive with death, and they made no show of
abiding the onset, but all turned and ran, save Walter the
White and a score of his knights, who forsooth were borne
down in a trice, and were taken to mercy, those of them who
were not slain at the first crash of weapons.

There then ye might have seen great clumps of men making no
defence, but casting down their weapons and crying mercy;
and forsooth so great was the throng, that no great many
were slain; but on the other hand, but few gat away across
the water, and on them presently fell the Brimside riders,
and hewed down and slew and took few to mercy. And some few
besides the first laggards of the bowmen, it might be three
hundreds in all, escaped, and gat to Woodwall, but when they
of the town saw them, they made up their minds speedily, and
shut their gates, and the poor fleers found but the points
of shafts and the heads of quarrels before them.

But on the field of deed those captives were somewhat
fearful as to what should be done with them, and they spake
one to the other about it, that they would be willing to
serve the new King, since he was so mighty. And amidst of
their talk came the captains of King Christopher, and they
drew into a ring around them, and the lords bade them look
to it whether they would be the foemen of the King, the son
of that King Christopher the Old. "If so ye be," said they,
"ye may escape this time; but ye see how valiant a man he
is, and how lucky withal, and happy shall they be whom he
calleth friends. Now what say ye, will ye take up your
weapons again, and be under the best of kings and a true
one, or will ye depart and take the chance of his wrath in
the coming days? We say, how many of you will serve King
Christopher.

Then arose from them a mighty shout: "All! All! One and
All!" Albeit some there were who slunk away and said nought;
and none heeded them.

So then all the sergeants and the common folk swore
allegiance to King Christopher; but of the knights who were
left alive, some said Yea, and some Nay; and these last were
suffered to depart, but must needs ride unarmed.

Now by the time all was done, and the new men had dined
along with the rest of the host, and of the new-comers tale
had been taken, the day was wearing; so they set off for
Woodwall, and on the way they met the Mayor and Aldermen
thereof, who came before King Christopher and knelt to him,
and gave him the keys of their town; so he was gracious to
them, and thanked them, and bade see to the victual and
lodging of the host, and that all should be paid thereafter.
And they said that they had seen to all this before they
came forth of the town, and that if the Lord King would ride
forth, he would find fair lodging in the good town. So King
Christopher was pleased, and bade the burgesses ride beside
him, and he talked merrily with them on the way, so that
their hearts rejoiced over the kindness of their lord.

So they came to the gate, and there the King made stay till
Goldilind was fetched to him, so that they might ride into
the good town side by side. And in the street was much
people thronging, and the sun was scarce set, so that the
folk could see their King and Queen what they were; and they
who were nighest unto them, they let their shouts die out,
so were their hearts touched with the sight of them and the
love of their beauty.

Thus rode they in triumph through the street till they were
come to their lodging, which was great and goodly as for a
cheaping town; and so the day was gone and the night was
come, and the council and the banquet were over; then were
the King and Goldilind together again, like any up-country
lad and lass. But she stood before him and said: "O thou
King and mighty warrior, surely I ought to fear thee now,
but it is not so, so sore as I desire thee; but yet it
maketh both laughter and tears come to me when I think of
the day we rode away from Greenharbour with thee, and I
seemed to myself a great lady, though I were unhappy; and
though I loved thy body, I feared lest the churl's blood in
thee might shame me perchance, and I was proud and unkind to
thee, and I hurt thee sorely; and now I will say it, and
confess, that somewhat I joyed to see thine anguish, for I
knew that it meant thy love for me and thy desire to me. Lo
now, wilt thou forgive me this, or wilt thou punish me, O
Lord King?"

He laughed. "Sweetling," he said, "meseemeth now all day
long I have been fighting against raiment rather than men;
no man withstood me in the battle, for that they feared the
crown on my helm and the banner over my head; and when those
good men of the town brought me the keys, how should I have
known them from borrel folk but for their scarlet gowns and
fur hoods? And meseemed that when they knelt to me, it was
the scarlet gowns kneeling to the kingly armour. Therefore,
sweetheart, if thou fearest that the King should punish thee
for so wounding the poor Christopher of those few days ago,
as belike thou deservest it, bid the King do off his
raiment, and do thou in likewise, and then there shall be no
King to punish, and no King's scather to thole the
punishment, but only Christopher and Goldilind, even as they
met erewhile on the dewy grass of Littledale."

She blushed blood-red; but ere his words were done, her
hands were busy with girdle and clasp, and her raiment fell
from her to the earth, and his kingly raiment was cast from
him, and he took her by the hand and led her to the bed of
honour, that their love might have increase that night also.

CHAPTER XXXV.

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE AND AN EVIL DEED.

When morning was, and it was yet early, the town was all
astir and the gates were thrown open, and weaponed men
thronged into it crying out for Christopher the King. Then
the King came forth, and Jack o' the Tofts and his sons, and
Oliver Marson, and the captains of Brimside; and the host
was blown together to the market-place, and there was a new
tale of them taken, and they were now hard on seventy
hundreds of men. So then were new captains appointed, and
thereafter they tarried not save to eat a morsel, but went
out a-gates faring after the banners to Oakenrealm, all folk
blessing them as they went.

Nought befell them of evil that day, but ever fresh
companies joined them on the road; and they gat harbour in
another walled town, hight Sevenham, and rested there in
peace that night, and were now grown to eighty hundreds.

Again on the morrow they were on the road betimes, and again
much folk joined them, and they heard no tidings of any
foeman faring against them; whereat Jack o' the Tofts
marvelled, for he and others had deemed that now at last
would Rolf the traitor come out against them. Forsooth,
when they had gone all day and night was at hand, it seemed
most like to the captains that he would fall upon them that
night, whereas they were now in a somewhat perilous pass;
for they must needs rest at a little thorpe amidst of great
and thick woods, which lay all round about the frank of
Oakenham as a garland about a head. So there they kept
watch and ward more heedfully than their wont was; and King
Christopher lodged with Goldilind at the house of a good man
of the thorpe.

Now when it lacked but half an hour of midnight, and Jack o'
the Tofts and Oliver Marson and the Captain of Woodwall had
just left him, after they had settled the order of the next
day's journey, and Goldilind lay abed in the inner chamber,
there entered one of the men of the watch and said: "Lord
King, here is a man hereby who would see thee; he is
weaponed, and he saith that he hath a gift for thee: what
shall we do with him?"

Said Christopher: "Bring him in hither, good fellow." And
the man went back, and came in again leading a tall man,
armed, but with a hood done over his steel hat, so that his
face was hidden, and he had a bag in his hand with something
therein.

Then spake the King and said: "Thou man, since thy face is
hidden, this trusty man-at-arms shall stand by thee while
we talk together."

"Lord," said the man, "let there be a dozen to hear our talk
I care not; for I tell thee that I come to give thee a gift,
and gift-bearers are oftenest welcome."

Quoth the King: "Maybe, yet before thou bring it forth I
would see thy face, for meseems I have an inkling of thy
voice."

So the man cast back his hood, and lo, it was Simon the
squire. "Hah!" said Christopher, "is it thou then! hast
thou another knife to give me?"

"Nay," said Simon, "only the work of the knife." And
therewith he set his hand to the bag and drew out by the
hair a man's head, newly hacked off and bleeding, and said:
"Hast thou seen him before, Lord? He was a great man
yesterday, though not so great as thou shalt be to-morrow."

"Once only I have seen him, "said Christopher," and then he
gave me this gift" (and he showed his father's ring on his
finger): "thou hast slain the Earl Marshal, who called
himself the King of Oakenrealm: my traitor and dastard he
was but thy friend. Wherefore have I two evil deeds to
reward thee, Simon, the wounding of me and the slaying of
him. Dost thou not deem thee gallows-ripe?"

"King," said Simon, "what wouldst thou have done with him
hadst thou caught him?"

Said Christopher: "I had slain him had I met him with a
weapon in his fist; and if we had taken him I had let the
folk judge him."

Said Simon: "That is to say, that either thou hadst slain
him thyself, or bidden others to slay him. Now then I ask
thee, King, for which deed wilt thou slay me, for not
slaying thee, or for doing thy work and slaying thy foe?"

Said Christopher to the guard: "Good fellow, fetch here a
good horse ready saddled and bridled, and be speedy."

So the man went: and Christopher said to Simon: "For the
knife in my side, I forgive it thee; and as to the slaying
of thy friend, it is not for me to take up the feud. But
this is no place for thee: if Jack of the Tofts, or any of
his sons, or one of the captains findeth thee, soon art thou
sped; wherefore I rede thee, when yonder lad hath brought
thee the horse, show me the breadth of thy back, and mount
the beast, and put the most miles thou canst betwixt me and
my folk; for they love me."

Said Simon: "Sorry payment for making thee a king!"

Said Christopher: "Well, thou art in the right; I may well
give gold for getting rid of such as thou." And he put his
hand into a pouch that hung on his chair, and drew out
thence a purse, and gave it unto Simon, who took it and
opened it and looked therein, and then flung it down on the
ground.

Christopher looked on him wrathfully with reddened face, and
cried out: "Thou dog! wouldst thou be an earl and rule the
folk? What more dost thou want?"

"This!" cried out Simon, and leapt upon him, knife aloft.
Christopher was unarmed utterly; but he caught hold of the
felon's right arm with his right hand, and gripped the wrist
till he shrieked; then he raised up his mighty left hand,
and drave it down on Simon's head by the ear, and all gave
way before it, and the murderer fell crushed and dead to
earth.

Therewith came in the man-at-arms to tell him that the horse
was come; but stared wild when he saw the dead man on the
ground. But Christopher said: "My lad, here hath been one
who would have thrust a knife into an unarmed man, wherefore
I must needs give him his wages. But now thou hast this to
do: take thou this dead man and bind him so fast on the
horse thou hast brought that he will not come off till the
bindings be undone; and bind withal the head of this other,
who was once a great man and an evil, before the slayer of
him, so that it also may be fast; then get thee to horse and
lead this beast and its burden till ye are well on the
highway to Oakenham, and then let him go and find his way to
the gate of the city if God will. And hearken, my lad;
seest thou this gold which lieth scattering on the floor
here? this was mine, but is no longer, since I have given it
away to the dead man just before he lifted his hand against
me. Wherefore now I will keep it for thee against thou
comest back safe to me in the morning betimes, as I deem
thou wilt, if thou wilt behight to St. Julian the helping of
some poor body on the road. Go therefore, but send hither
the guard; for I am weary now, and would go to sleep without
slaying any man else."

So departed the man full of joy, and Christopher gathered
his money together again, and so fared to his bed
peacefully.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

KING CHRISTOPHER COMES TO OAKENHAM.

But on the morrow the first man who came to the King was the
man-at-arms aforesaid; and he told that he had done the
King's errand, and ridden a five miles on the road to
Oakenham before he had left the horse with his felon load,
and that he had found nought stirring all that way when he
had passed through their own out-guards, where folk knew him
and let him go freely. "And," quoth he, "it is like enough
that this gift to Oakenham, Lord King, has by now come to
the gate thereof." Then the King gave that man the gold
which he had promised, and he kissed the King's hand and
went his ways a happy man.

Thereafter sent Christopher for Jack of the Tofts, and told
him in few words what had betid, and that Rolf the traitor
was dead. Then spake Jack: "King and fosterling, never
hath so mighty a warrior as thou waged so easy a war for so
goodly a kingdom as thou hast done; for surely thy war was
ended last night, wherefore will we straight to Oakenham, if
so thou wilt. But if it be thy pleasure I will send a
chosen band of riders to wend on the spur thereto, and bid
them get ready thy kingly house, and give word to the Barons
and the Prelates, and the chiefs of the Knighthood, and the
Mayor and the Aldermen, and the Masters of the Crafts, to
show themselves of what mind they be towards thee. But I
doubt it not that they will deem of thee as thy father come
back again and grown young once more."

Now was Christopher eager well nigh unto weeping to behold
his people that he should live amongst, and gladly he
yea-said the word of Jack of the Tofts. So were those
riders sent forward; and the host was ordered, and
Christopher rode amidst it with Goldilind by his side; and
the sun was not yet gone down when they came within sight of
the gate of Oakenham, and there before the gate and in the
fields on either side of it was gathered a very great and
goodly throng, and there went forth from it to meet the King
the Bishop of Oakenham, and the Abbot of St. Mary's and the
Priors of the other houses of religion, all fairly clad in
broidered copes, with the clerks and the monks dight full
solemnly; and they came singing to meet him, and the Bishop
blessed him and gave him the hallowed bread, and the King
greeted him and craved his prayers. Then came the Burgreve
of Oakenham, and with him the Barons and the Knights, and
they knelt before him, and named him to king, and the
Burgreve gave him the keys of the city. Thereafter came the
Mayor and the Aldermen, and the Masters of the Crafts, and
they craved his favour, and warding of his mighty sword; and
all these he greeted kindly and meekly, rather as a friend
than as a great lord.

Thereafter were the gates opened, and King Christopher
entered, and there was no gainsaying, and none spake a word
of the Traitor Rolf.

But the bells of the minster and of all the churches rang
merrily, and songs were sung sweetly by fair women
gloriously clad; and whereas King Christopher and Queen
Goldilind had lighted down from their horses and went afoot
through the street, roses and all kinds of sweet flowers
were cast down before the feet of them all the way from the
city gate to the King's High House of Oakenham.

There then in the great hall of his father's house stood
Christopher the King on the dais, and Goldilind beside him.
And Jack of the Tofts and the chiefest of the Captains, and
the Bishop, and the greatest lords of the Barons, and the
doughtiest of the Knights, and the Mayor and the Aldermen,
and the Masters of the Crafts, sat at the banquet with the
King and his mate; they brake bread together and drank cups
of renown, till the voidee cup was borne in. Then at last
were the King & the Queen brought to their chamber with
string-play and songs and all kinds of triumph; and that
first night since he lay in his mother's womb did Child
Christopher fall asleep in the house which the fathers had
builded for him.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

OF CHILD CHRISTOPHER'S DEALINGS WITH HIS FRIENDS & HIS FOLK.

It was in the morning when King Christopher arose, and
Goldilind stood before him in the kingly chamber, that he
clipped her and kissed her, and said: "This is the very
chamber whence my father departed when he went to his last
battle, and left my mother sickening with the coming birth
of me. And never came he back hither, nor did mine eyes
behold him ever. Here also lay my mother and gave birth to
me, and died of sorrow, and her also I never saw, save with
eyes that noted nought that I might remember. And my third
kinsman was the traitor, that cast me forth of mine
heritage, and looked to it that I should wax up as a churl,
and lose all hope of high deeds; and at the last he strove
to slay me.

"Therefore, sweet, have I no kindred, and none that are
bound to cherish me, and it is for thee to take the place of
them, and be unto me both father and mother, and brother and
sister, and all kindred."

She said: "My mother I never saw, and I was but little when
my father died; and if I had any kindred thereafter they
loved me not well enough to strike one stroke for me, nay,
or to speak a word even, when I was thrust out of my place
and delivered over to the hands of pitiless people, and my
captivity worsened on me as the years grew. Wherefore to me
also art thou in the stead of all kindred and affinity."

Now Christopher took counsel with Jack of the Tofts and the
great men of the kingdom, and that same day, the first day
of his kingship in Oakenham, was summoned a great mote of
the whole folk; and in half a month was it holden, and
thereat was Christopher taken to king with none gainsaying.

Began now fair life for the people of Oakenrealm; for Jack
of the Tofts abode about the King in Oakenham; and wise was
his counsel, and there was no greed in him, and yet he
wotted of greed and guile in others, and warned the King
thereof when he saw it, and the tyrants were brought low,
and no poor and simple man had need to thieve. As for
Christopher, he loved better to give than to take; and the
grief and sorrow of folk irked him sorely; it was to him as
if he had gotten a wound when he saw so much as one unhappy
face in a day; and all folk loved him, and the fame of him
went abroad through the lands and the roads of travel, so
that many were the wise and valiant folk that left their own
land and came into Oakenrealm to dwell there, because of the
good peace and the kindliness that there did abound; so that
Oakenrealm became both many-peopled and joyous.

Though Jack of the Tofts abode with the King at Oakenham,
his sons went back to the Tofts, and Gilbert was deemed the
head man of them; folk gathered to them there, and the
wilderness about them became builded in many places, and the
Tofts grew into a goodly cheaping town, for those brethren
looked to it that all roads in the woodland should be safe
and at peace, so that no chapman need to arm him or his
folk; nay, a maiden might go to and fro on the woodland
ways, with a golden girdle about her, without so much as the
crumpling of a lap of her gown unless by her own will.

As to David, at first Christopher bade him strongly to abide
with him ever, for he loved him much. But David nay-said
it, and would go home to the Tofts; and when the King
pressed him sore, at last he said: "Friend and fellow, I
must now tell thee the very sooth, and then shalt thou
suffer me to depart, though the sundering be but sorrow to
me. For this it is, that I love thy Lady and wife more than
meet is, and here I find it hard to thole my desire and my
grief; but down in the thicket yonder amongst my brethren of
the woods, and man and maid, and wife and babe, nay, the
very deer of the forest, I shall become a man again, and be
no more a peevish and grudging fool; and as the years wear,
shall sorrow wear, and then, who knows but we may come
together again."

Then Christopher smiled kindly on him and embraced him, but
they spake no more of that matter, but sat talking a while,
and then bade each other farewell, and David went his ways
to the Tofts. But a few months thereafter, when a son had
been born to Christopher, David came to Oakenrealm, but
stayed there no longer than to greet the King, and do him to
wit that he was boun for over-sea to seek adventure. Many
gifts the King gave him, and they sundered in all
loving-kindness, and the King said: "Farewell, friend, I
shall remember thee and thy kindness for ever." But David
said: "By the roof in Littledale and by the hearth thereof,
thou shalt be ever in my mind."

Thus they parted for that time; but five and twenty years
afterwards, when Child Christopher was in his most might and
majesty, and Goldilind was yet alive and lovely, and sons
and daughters sat about their board, it was the Yule feast
in the King's Hall at Oakenham, and there came a man into
the hall that none knew, big of stature, grey-eyed and
hollow-cheeked, with red hair grizzled, and worn with the
helm; a weaponed man, chieftain-like and warrior-like. And
when the serving-men asked him of his name, and whence and
whither, he said: "I have come from over-seas to look upon
the King, and when he seeth me he will know my name." Then
he put them all aside and would not be gainsaid, but strode
up the hall to the high-seat, and stood before the King and
said: "Hail, little King Christopher! Hail, stout babe of
the woodland!"

Then the King looked on him and knew him at once, and stood
up at once with a glad cry, and came round unto him, and
took his arms about him and kissed him, and led him into the
high-seat, and set him betwixt him and Goldilind, and she
also greeted him and took him by the hand and kissed him;
and Jack of the Tofts, now a very old man, but yet hale and
stark, who sat on the left hand of the King, leaned toward
him and kissed him and blessed him; for lo! it was David of
the Tofts.

Spake he now and said: "Christopher, this is now a happy
day!"

Said the King: "David, whither away hence, and what is
thine heart set upon?"

"On the renewal of our youth," said David, "and the abiding
with thee. By my will no further will I go than this thine
house. How sayest thou?"

"As thou dost," said Christopher, "that this is indeed a
happy day; drink out of my cup now, to our abiding together,
and the end of sundering till the last cometh."

So they drank together, they two, and were happy amidst the
folk of the hall; and at last the King stood up and spake
aloud, and did all to wit that this was his friend and
fellow of the old days; and he told of his doughty deeds,
whereof he had heard many a tale, and treasured them in his
heart while they were apart, and he bade men honour him, all
such as would be his friends. And all men rejoiced at the
coming of this doughty man and the friend of the King.

So there abode David, holden in all honour, and in great
love of Child Christopher and Goldilind; and when his father
died, his earldom did the King give to David his friend, who
never sundered from him again, but was with him in peace and
in war, in joy and in sorrow.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

OF MATTERS OF MEADHAM.

GOES the tale back now to the time when the kingship of
Child Christopher was scarce more than one month old; and
tells that as the King sat with his Queen in the cool of his
garden on a morning of August, there came to him a swain of
service, who did him to wit that an outland lord was come,
and would see him and give him a message.

So the King bade bring him in to the garden to him
straight-way; so the man went, and came back again leading
in a knight somewhat stricken in years, on whose green
surcoat was beaten a golden lion.

He came to those twain and did obeisance to them, but spake,
as it seemed, to Goldilind alone: "Lady, and Queen of
Meadham," said he, "it is unto thee, first of all, that mine
errand is."

Then she spoke and said: "Welcome to thee, Sir Castellan of
Greenharbour, we shall hear thy words gladly."

Said the new-comer: "Lady, I am no longer the Burgreve of
Greenharbour, but Sir Guisebert, lord of the Green March,
and thy true servant and a suitor for thy grace and pardon."

"I pardon thee not, but thank thee for what thou didst of
good to me," said Goldilind, "and I think that now thine
errand shall be friendly."

Then turned the Green Knight to the King, and he said:
"Have I thy leave to speak, Lord King?" and he smiled
covertly.

But Christopher looked on the face and coat-armour of him,
and called him to mind as the man who had stood betwixt him
and present death that morning in the porch of the
Littledale house; so he looked on him friendly, and said:
"My leave thou hast, Sir Knight, to speak fully and freely,
and that the more as meseemeth I saw thee first when thou
hadst weaponed men at thy back, and wert turning their
staves away from my breast."

"Even so it is, Lord King," said the Knight; "and to say
sooth, I fear thee less for thy kingship, than because I wot
well that thou mayst lightly take me up by the small of my
back and cast me over thy shoulder if thou have a mind
therefor."

Christopher laughed at his word, and bade him sit down upon
the green grass and tell his errand straightway; and the
Knight tarried not, but spake out: "Queen of Meadham, I am
a friend and fellow, and in some sort a servant, to Earl
Geoffrey, Regent of Meadham, whom thou knowest; and he hath
put a word in my mouth which is both short and easy for me
to tell. All goes awry in Meadham now, and men are arming
against each other, and will presently be warring, but if
thou look to it; because all this is for lack of thee. But
if thou wilt vouchsafe to come to Meadhamstead, and sit on
thy throne for a little while, commanding and forbidding;
and if thou wilt appoint one of the lords for thine Earl
there, and others for thy captains, and governors and
burgreves and so forth; then if the people see thee and hear
thee, the swords will go into their sheaths, and the spears
will hang on the wall again, and we shall have peace in
Meadham, for all will do thy bidding. Wherefore, Lady and
Queen, I beseech thee to come to us, and stave off the riot
and ruin. What sayest thou?"

Goldilind made answer in a while: "Sir Guisebert, true it
is that I long to see my people, and to look once more on my
father's house, and the place where he was born and died.
But how know I but this is some wile of Earl Geoffrey, for
he hath not been abounding in trustiness toward us?"

But Sir Guisebert swore on his salvation that there was no
guile therein, and they were undone save Goldilind came unto
them. Then spake Christopher: "Sir Knight, I am willing to
pleasure my Lady, who, as I can see, longeth to behold her
own land and people; and also by thy voice and thy face I
deem that thou art not lying unto me, and that no harm will
befall the Lady; yet will I ask thee right out what thou and
thy lord would think thereof if she come into Meadham
accompanied; to wit, if I rode with her, and had five
hundreds of good riders at my back, would ye have guesting
for so many and such stark lads?"

The Knight took up the word eagerly, and said: "Wilt thou
but come, dearlord, and bring a thousand or more, then the
surer and the safer it would be for us."

Said the King, smiling: "Well, it shall be thought on; and
meantime be thou merry with us; for indeed I deem of thee,
that but for thy helping my life had been cast away that
morning in Littledale."

So they made much of the Meadham man for three days, and
thereafter they rode into Meadham and to Meadhamstead,
Christopher, and Jack of the Tofts, and Goldilind, in all
honour and triumph, they and seven hundreds of spears, and
never were lords received with such joy and kindness as were
they, but it were on the day when Christopher and his
entered Oakenham.

The Earl Geoffrey was not amongst them that met them; but
whenas they sat at the banquet in the hall, and Goldilind
was in the high-seat, gloriously clad and with the kingly
crown on her head, there came a tall man up to the dais,
grey-headed and keen-eyed, and he was unarmed, without so
much as a sword by his side, and clad in simple black; and
he knelt before Goldilind, and laid his head on her lap, and
spake: "Lady and Queen, here is my head to do with as thou
wilt; for I have been thy dastard, and I crave thy pardon,
if so it may be, for I am Geoffrey."

She looked kindly on him, and raised him up; and then she
turned to the chief of the serving-men, and said: "Fetch me
a sword with its sheath and its girdle, and see that it be a
good blade, and all well-adorned, both sword and sheath and
girdle." Even so it was done; and when she had the sword,
she bade Sir Geoffrey kneel again before her, and she girt
him with the said sword and spake: "Sir Geoffrey, all the
wrong which thou didest to me, I forgive it thee and forget
it; but wherein thou hast done well, I will remember it, for
thou hast given me a mighty King to be my man; nay, the
mightiest and the loveliest on earth; wherefore I bless
thee, and will make thee my Earl to rule all Meadham under
me, if so be the folk gainsay it not. Wherefore now let
these folk fetch thee seemly garments and array thee, and
then come sit amongst us, and eat and drink on this high
day; for a happy day it is when once again I sit in my
father's house, and see the faces of my folk that loveth
me."

She spake loud and clear, so that most folk in the hall
heard her; and they rejoiced at her words, for Sir Geoffrey
was no ill ruler, but wise and of great understanding, keen
of wit and deft of word, and a mighty warrior withal; only
they might not away with it that their Lady and Queen had
become as alien to them. So when they heard her speak her
will, they shouted for joy of the peace and goodwill that
was to be.

There then sat Geoffrey at the banquet; and Christopher
smiled on him, and said: "See now, lord, if I have not done
as thou badest when thou gavest me the treasure of
Greenharbour, for I have brought the wolf-heads to thy
helping and not to thy scathing. Do thou as much for me, and
be thou a good earl to thy Lady and mine, and then shalt
thou yet live and die a happy man, and my friend. Or
else--"

"There shall be no else, Lord King," quoth Geoffrey; "all
men henceforth shall tell of me as a true man."

So they were blithe and joyous together. But a seven days
thence was the Allmen's Mote gathered to the wood-side
without Meadhamstead, and thronged it was: and there
Goldilind stood up before all the folk and named Sir
Geoffrey for Earl to rule the land under her, and none
gainsaid it, for they knew him meet thereto. Then she named
from the baronage and knighthood such men as she had been
truly told were meet thereto to all the offices of the
kingdom, and there was none whom she named but was well-
pleasing to the folk; for she had taken counsel beforehand
with all the wisest men of all degrees.

As for herself, all loved and worshipped her; and this alone
seemed hard unto them, that she must needs go back to
Oakenrealm in a few days: but when she heard them murmur
thereat, she behight them, that once in every year she would
come into Meadham and spend one whole month therein; and,
were it possible, ever should that be the month of May. So
when they heard that, they all praised her, and were the
more content. This custom she kept ever thereafter, and she
lay in with her second son in the city of Meadhamstead, so
that he was born therein; and she named him to be King after
her, to the great joy of that folk; and he grew up strong
and well-liking, and came to the kingship while his mother
was yet alive, and was a good man and well-beloved of his
folk.

Before she turned back with her man, she let seek out
Aloyse, and when she came before her, gave her gifts and
bade her come back with her to Oakenham and serve her there
if she would: and the damsel was glad, for there in
Meadhamstead was she poor and not well seen to, whereas it
was rumoured of her that she had been one of the jailers of
Goldilind.

When they came back to Oakenham, there they met Gandolf,
Baron of Brimside, now whole of his hurts, and the King
greeted him kindly, and did well to him all his life; and
found him ever a true man.

Good thenceforward was the life of Child Christopher and
Goldilind: whiles indeed they happed on unpeace or other
trouble; but never did fair love and good worship depart
from them, either of each unto each, or of the whole folk
unto them twain.

To no man did Christopher mete out worse than his deserts,
nay, to most far better he meted: no man he feared, nor
hated any save the tormentors of poor folk; and but a little
while abided his hatred of those, for it cut short their
lives, so that they were speedily done with and forgotten.
And when he died a very old man but one year after Goldilind
his dear, no king that ever lived was so bewailed by his
folk as was Child Christopher.

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