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´╗┐Title: Wood Beyond the World
Author: Morris, William, 1834-1896
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wood Beyond the World" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcribed from the 1913 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David
Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org






Awhile ago there was a young man dwelling in a great and goodly city by
the sea which had to name Langton on Holm.   He was but of five and
twenty winters, a fair-faced man, yellow-haired, tall and strong; rather
wiser than foolisher than young men are mostly wont; a valiant youth, and
a kind; not of many words but courteous of speech; no roisterer, nought
masterful, but peaceable and knowing how to forbear: in a fray a perilous
foe, and a trusty war-fellow.   His father, with whom he was dwelling
when this tale begins, was a great merchant, richer than a baron of the
land, a head-man of the greatest of the Lineages of Langton, and a
captain of the Porte; he was of the Lineage of the Goldings, therefore
was he called Bartholomew Golden, and his son Golden Walter.

Now ye may well deem that such a youngling as this was looked upon by all
as a lucky man without a lack; but there was this flaw in his lot,
whereas he had fallen into the toils of love of a woman exceeding fair,
and had taken her to wife, she nought unwilling as it seemed.   But when
they had been wedded some six months he found by manifest tokens, that
his fairness was not so much to her but that she must seek to the
foulness of one worser than he in all ways; wherefore his rest departed
from him, whereas he hated her for her untruth and her hatred of him; yet
would the sound of her voice, as she came and went in the house, make his
heart beat; and the sight of her stirred desire within him, so that he
longed for her to be sweet and kind with him, and deemed that, might it
be so, he should forget all the evil gone by.   But it was not so; for
ever when she saw him, her face changed, and her hatred of him became
manifest, and howsoever she were sweet with others, with him she was hard
and sour.

So this went on a while till the chambers of his father's house, yea the
very streets of the city, became loathsome to him; and yet he called to
mind that the world was wide and he but a young man.   So on a day as he
sat with his father alone, he spake to him and said: "Father, I was on
the quays even now, and I looked on the ships that were nigh boun, and
thy sign I saw on a tall ship that seemed to me nighest boun.   Will it
be long ere she sail?"

"Nay," said his father, "that ship, which hight the Katherine, will they
warp out of the haven in two days' time.   But why askest thou of her?"

"The shortest word is best, father," said Walter, "and this it is, that I
would depart in the said ship and see other lands."

"Yea and whither, son?" said the merchant.

"Whither she goeth," said Walter, "for I am ill at ease at home, as thou
wottest, father."

The merchant held his peace awhile, and looked hard on his son, for there
was strong love between them; but at last he said: "Well, son, maybe it
were best for thee; but maybe also we shall not meet again."

"Yet if we do meet, father, then shalt thou see a new man in me."

"Well," said Bartholomew, "at least I know on whom to lay the loss of
thee, and when thou art gone, for thou shalt have thine own way herein,
she shall no longer abide in my house.   Nay, but it were for the strife
that should arise thenceforth betwixt her kindred and ours, it should go
somewhat worse with her than that."

Said Walter: "I pray thee shame her not more than needs must be, lest, so
doing, thou shame both me and thyself also."

Bartholomew held his peace again for a while; then he said: "Goeth she
with child, my son?"

Walter reddened, and said: "I wot not; nor of whom the child may be."
Then they both sat silent, till Bartholomew spake, saying: "The end of it
is, son, that this is Monday, and that thou shalt go aboard in the small
hours of Wednesday; and meanwhile I shall look to it that thou go not
away empty-handed; the skipper of the Katherine is a good man and true,
and knows the seas well; and my servant Robert the Low, who is clerk of
the lading, is trustworthy and wise, and as myself in all matters that
look towards chaffer.   The Katherine is new and stout-builded, and
should be lucky, whereas she is under the ward of her who is the saint
called upon in the church where thou wert christened, and myself before
thee; and thy mother, and my father and mother all lie under the chancel
thereof, as thou wottest."

Therewith the elder rose up and went his ways about his business, and
there was no more said betwixt him and his son on this matter.


When Walter went down to the Katherine next morning, there was the
skipper Geoffrey, who did him reverence, and made him all cheer, and
showed him his room aboard ship, and the plenteous goods which his father
had sent down to the quays already, such haste as he had made.  Walter
thanked his father's love in his heart, but otherwise took little heed to
his affairs, but wore away the time about the haven, gazing listlessly on
the ships that were making them ready outward, or unlading, and the
mariners and aliens coming and going: and all these were to him as the
curious images woven on a tapestry.

At last when he had wellnigh come back again to the Katherine, he saw
there a tall ship, which he had scarce noted before, a ship all-boun,
which had her boats out, and men sitting to the oars thereof ready to tow
her outwards when the hawser should be cast off, and by seeming her
mariners were but abiding for some one or other to come aboard.

So Walter stood idly watching the said ship, and as he looked, lo! folk
passing him toward the gangway.  These were three; first came a dwarf,
dark-brown of hue and hideous, with long arms and ears exceeding great
and dog-teeth that stuck out like the fangs of a wild beast.  He was clad
in a rich coat of yellow silk, and bare in his hand a crooked bow, and
was girt with a broad sax.

After him came a maiden, young by seeming, of scarce twenty summers; fair
of face as a flower; grey-eyed, brown-haired, with lips full and red,
slim and gentle of body.  Simple was her array, of a short and strait
green gown, so that on her right ankle was clear to see an iron ring.

Last of the three was a lady, tall and stately, so radiant of visage and
glorious of raiment, that it were hard to say what like she was; for
scarce might the eye gaze steady upon her exceeding beauty; yet must
every son of Adam who found himself anigh her, lift up his eyes again
after he had dropped them, and look again on her, and yet again and yet
again.  Even so did Walter, and as the three passed by him, it seemed to
him as if all the other folk there about had vanished and were nought;
nor had he any vision before his eyes of any looking on them, save
himself alone.  They went over the gangway into the ship, and he saw them
go along the deck till they came to the house on the poop, and entered it
and were gone from his sight.

There he stood staring, till little by little the thronging people of the
quays came into his eye-shot again; then he saw how the hawser was cast
off and the boats fell to tugging the big ship toward the harbour-mouth
with hale and how of men.  Then the sail fell down from the yard and was
sheeted home and filled with the fair wind as the ship's bows ran up on
the first green wave outside the haven.  Even therewith the shipmen cast
abroad a banner, whereon was done in a green field a grim wolf ramping up
against a maiden, and so went the ship upon her way.

Walter stood awhile staring at her empty place where the waves ran into
the haven-mouth, and then turned aside and toward the Katherine; and at
first he was minded to go ask shipmaster Geoffrey of what he knew
concerning the said ship and her alien wayfarers; but then it came into
his mind, that all this was but an imagination or dream of the day, and
that he were best to leave it untold to any.  So therewith he went his
way from the water-side, and through the streets unto his father's house;
but when he was but a little way thence, and the door was before him, him-
seemed for a moment of time that he beheld those three coming out down
the steps of stone and into the street; to wit the dwarf, the maiden, and
the stately lady: but when he stood still to abide their coming, and
looked toward them, lo! there was nothing before him save the goodly
house of Bartholomew Golden, and three children and a cur dog playing
about the steps thereof, and about him were four or five passers-by going
about their business.  Then was he all confused in his mind, and knew not
what to make of it, whether those whom he had seemed to see pass aboard
ship were but images of a dream, or children of Adam in very flesh.

Howsoever, he entered the house, and found his father in the chamber, and
fell to speech with him about their matters; but for all that he loved
his father, and worshipped him as a wise and valiant man, yet at that
hour he might not hearken the words of his mouth, so much was his mind
entangled in the thought of those three, and they were ever before his
eyes, as if they had been painted on a table by the best of limners.  And
of the two women he thought exceeding much, and cast no wyte upon himself
for running after the desire of strange women.  For he said to himself
that he desired not either of the twain; nay, he might not tell which of
the twain, the maiden or the stately queen, were clearest to his eyes;
but sore he desired to see both of them again, and to know what they

So wore the hours till the Wednesday morning, and it was time that he
should bid farewell to his father and get aboard ship; but his father led
him down to the quays and on to the Katherine, and there Walter embraced
him, not without tears and forebodings; for his heart was full.  Then
presently the old man went aland; the gangway was unshipped, the hawsers
cast off; the oars of the towing-boats splashed in the dark water, the
sail fell down from the yard, and was sheeted home, and out plunged the
Katherine into the misty sea and rolled up the grey slopes, casting
abroad her ancient withal, whereon was beaten the token of Bartholomew
Golden, to wit a B and a G to the right and the left, and thereabove a
cross and a triangle rising from the midst.

Walter stood on the stern and beheld, yet more with the mind of him than
with his eyes; for it all seemed but the double of what the other ship
had done; and the thought of it as if the twain were as beads strung on
one string and led away by it into the same place, and thence to go in
the like order, and so on again and again, and never to draw nigher to
each other.


Fast sailed the Katherine over the seas, and nought befell to tell of,
either to herself or her crew.  She came to one cheaping-town and then to
another, and so on to a third and a fourth; and at each was buying and
selling after the manner of chapmen; and Walter not only looked on the
doings of his father's folk, but lent a hand, what he might, to help them
in all matters, whether it were in seaman's craft, or in chaffer.  And
the further he went and the longer the time wore, the more he was eased
of his old trouble wherein his wife and her treason had to do.

But as for the other trouble, to wit his desire and longing to come up
with those three, it yet flickered before him; and though he had not seen
them again as one sees people in the streets, and as if he might touch
them if he would, yet were their images often before his mind's eye; and
yet, as time wore, not so often, nor so troublously; and forsooth both to
those about him and to himself, he seemed as a man well healed of his
melancholy mood.

Now they left that fourth stead, and sailed over the seas and came to a
fifth, a very great and fair city, which they had made more than seven
months from Langton on Holm; and by this time was Walter taking heed and
joyance in such things as were toward in that fair city, so far from his
kindred, and especially he looked on the fair women there, and desired
them, and loved them; but lightly, as befalleth young men.

Now this was the last country whereto the Katherine was boun; so there
they abode some ten months in daily chaffer, and in pleasuring them in
beholding all that there was of rare and goodly, and making merry with
the merchants and the towns-folk, and the country-folk beyond the gates,
and Walter was grown as busy and gay as a strong young man is like to be,
and was as one who would fain be of some account amongst his own folk.

But at the end of this while, it befell on a day, as he was leaving his
hostel for his booth in the market, and had the door in his hand, there
stood before him three mariners in the guise of his own country, and with
them was one of clerkly aspect, whom he knew at once for his father's
scrivener, Arnold Penstrong by name; and when Walter saw him his heart
failed him and he cried out: "Arnold, what tidings?  Is all well with the
folk at Langton?"

Said Arnold: "Evil tidings are come with me; matters are ill with thy
folk; for I may not hide that thy father, Bartholomew Golden, is dead,
God rest his soul."

At that word it was to Walter as if all that trouble which but now had
sat so light upon him, was once again fresh and heavy, and that his past
life of the last few months had never been; and it was to him as if he
saw his father lying dead on his bed, and heard the folk lamenting about
the house.  He held his peace awhile, and then he said in a voice as of
an angry man:

"What, Arnold! and did he die in his bed, or how? for he was neither old
nor ailing when we parted."

Said Arnold: "Yea, in his bed he died: but first he was somewhat sword-

"Yea, and how?" quoth Walter.

Said Arnold: "When thou wert gone, in a few days' wearing, thy father
sent thy wife out of his house back to her kindred of the Reddings with
no honour, and yet with no such shame as might have been, without blame
to us of those who knew the tale of thee and her; which, God-a-mercy,
will be pretty much the whole of the city."

"Nevertheless, the Reddings took it amiss, and would have a mote with us
Goldings to talk of booting.  By ill-luck we yea-said that for the saving
of the city's peace.  But what betid?  We met in our Gild-hall, and there
befell the talk between us; and in that talk certain words could not be
hidden, though they were none too seemly nor too meek.  And the said
words once spoken drew forth the whetted steel; and there then was the
hewing and thrusting!  Two of ours were slain outright on the floor, and
four of theirs, and many were hurt on either side.  Of these was thy
father, for as thou mayst well deem, he was nought backward in the fray;
but despite his hurts, two in the side and one on the arm, he went home
on his own feet, and we deemed that we had come to our above.  But well-a-
way! it was an evil victory, whereas in ten days he died of his hurts.
God have his soul!  But now, my master, thou mayst well wot that I am not
come to tell thee this only, but moreover to bear the word of the
kindred, to wit that thou come back with me straightway in the swift
cutter which hath borne me and the tidings; and thou mayst look to it,
that though she be swift and light, she is a keel full weatherly."

Then said Walter: "This is a bidding of war.  Come back will I, and the
Reddings shall wot of my coming.  Are ye all-boun?"

"Yea," said Arnold, "we may up anchor this very day, or to-morrow morn at
latest.  But what aileth thee, master, that thou starest so wild over my
shoulder?  I pray thee take it not so much to heart!  Ever it is the wont
of fathers to depart this world before their sons."

But Walter's visage from wrathful red had become pale, and he pointed up
street, and cried out: "Look! dost thou see?"

"See what, master?" quoth Arnold: "what! here cometh an ape in gay
raiment; belike the beast of some jongleur.  Nay, by God's wounds! 'tis a
man, though he be exceeding mis-shapen like a very devil.  Yea and now
there cometh a pretty maid going as if she were of his meney; and lo!
here, a most goodly and noble lady!  Yea, I see; and doubtless she owneth
both the two, and is of the greatest of the folk of this fair city; for
on the maiden's ankle I saw an iron ring, which betokeneth thralldom
amongst these aliens.  But this is strange! for notest thou not how the
folk in the street heed not this quaint show; nay not even the stately
lady, though she be as lovely as a goddess of the gentiles, and beareth
on her gems that would buy Langton twice over; surely they must be over-
wont to strange and gallant sights.  But now, master, but now!"

"Yea, what is it?" said Walter.

"Why, master, they should not yet be gone out of eye-shot, yet gone they
are.  What is become of them, are they sunk into the earth?"

"Tush, man!" said Walter, looking not on Arnold, but still staring down
the street; "they have gone into some house while thine eyes were turned
from them a moment."

"Nay, master, nay," said Arnold, "mine eyes were not off them one instant
of time."

"Well," said Walter, somewhat snappishly, "they are gone now, and what
have we to do to heed such toys, we with all this grief and strife on our
hands?  Now would I be alone to turn the matter of thine errand over in
my mind.  Meantime do thou tell the shipmaster Geoffrey and our other
folk of these tidings, and thereafter get thee all ready; and come hither
to me before sunrise to-morrow, and I shall be ready for my part; and so
sail we back to Langton."

Therewith he turned him back into the house, and the others went their
ways; but Walter sat alone in his chamber a long while, and pondered
these things in his mind.  And whiles he made up his mind that he would
think no more of the vision of those three, but would fare back to
Langton, and enter into the strife with the Reddings and quell them, or
die else.  But lo, when he was quite steady in this doom, and his heart
was lightened thereby, he found that he thought no more of the Reddings
and their strife, but as matters that were passed and done with, and that
now he was thinking and devising if by any means he might find out in
what land dwelt those three.  And then again he strove to put that from
him, saying that what he had seen was but meet for one brainsick, and a
dreamer of dreams.  But furthermore he thought, Yea, and was Arnold, who
this last time had seen the images of those three, a dreamer of waking
dreams? for he was nought wonted in such wise; then thought he: At least
I am well content that he spake to me of their likeness, not I to him;
for so I may tell that there was at least something before my eyes which
grew not out of mine own brain.  And yet again, why should I follow them;
and what should I get by it; and indeed how shall I set about it?

Thus he turned the matter over and over; and at last, seeing that if he
grew no foolisher over it, he grew no wiser, he became weary thereof, and
bestirred him, and saw to the trussing up of his goods, and made all
ready for his departure, and so wore the day and slept at nightfall; and
at daybreak comes Arnold to lead him to their keel, which hight the
Bartholomew.  He tarried nought, and with few farewells went aboard ship,
and an hour after they were in the open sea with the ship's head turned
toward Langton on Holm.


Now swift sailed the Bartholomew for four weeks toward the north-west
with a fair wind, and all was well with ship and crew.  Then the wind
died out on even of a day, so that the ship scarce made way at all,
though she rolled in a great swell of the sea, so great, that it seemed
to ridge all the main athwart.  Moreover down in the west was a great
bank of cloud huddled up in haze, whereas for twenty days past the sky
had been clear, save for a few bright white clouds flying before the
wind.  Now the shipmaster, a man right cunning in his craft, looked long
on sea and sky, and then turned and bade the mariners take in sail and be
right heedful.  And when Walter asked him what he looked for, and
wherefore he spake not to him thereof, he said surlily: "Why should I
tell thee what any fool can see without telling, to wit that there is
weather to hand?"

So they abode what should befall, and Walter went to his room to sleep
away the uneasy while, for the night was now fallen; and he knew no more
till he was waked up by great hubbub and clamour of the shipmen, and the
whipping of ropes, and thunder of flapping sails, and the tossing and
weltering of the ship withal.  But, being a very stout-hearted young man,
he lay still in his room, partly because he was a landsman, and had no
mind to tumble about amongst the shipmen and hinder them; and withal he
said to himself: What matter whether I go down to the bottom of the sea,
or come back to Langton, since either way my life or my death will take
away from me the fulfilment of desire?  Yet soothly if there hath been a
shift of wind, that is not so ill; for then shall we be driven to other
lands, and so at the least our home-coming shall be delayed, and other
tidings may hap amidst of our tarrying.  So let all be as it will.

So in a little while, in spite of the ship's wallowing and the tumult of
the wind and waves, he fell asleep again, and woke no more till it was
full daylight, and there was the shipmaster standing in the door of his
room, the sea-water all streaming from his wet-weather raiment.  He said
to Walter: "Young master, the sele of the day to thee!  For by good hap
we have gotten into another day.  Now I shall tell thee that we have
striven to beat, so as not to be driven off our course, but all would not
avail, wherefore for these three hours we have been running before the
wind; but, fair sir, so big hath been the sea that but for our ship being
of the stoutest, and our men all yare, we had all grown exceeding wise
concerning the ground of the mid-main.  Praise be to St. Nicholas and all
Hallows! for though ye shall presently look upon a new sea, and maybe a
new land to boot, yet is that better than looking on the ugly things down

"Is all well with ship and crew then?" said Walter.

"Yea forsooth," said the shipmaster; "verily the Bartholomew is the
darling of Oak Woods; come up and look at it, how she is dealing with
wind and waves all free from fear."

So Walter did on his foul-weather raiment, and went up on to the quarter-
deck, and there indeed was a change of days; for the sea was dark and
tumbling mountain-high, and the white-horses were running down the
valleys thereof, and the clouds drave low over all, and bore a scud of
rain along with them; and though there was but a rag of sail on her, the
ship flew before the wind, rolling a great wash of water from bulwark to

Walter stood looking on it all awhile, holding on by a stay-rope, and
saying to himself that it was well that they were driving so fast toward
new things.

Then the shipmaster came up to him and clapped him on the shoulder and
said: "Well, shipmate, cheer up! and now come below again and eat some
meat, and drink a cup with me."

So Walter went down and ate and drank, and his heart was lighter than it
had been since he had heard of his father's death, and the feud awaiting
him at home, which forsooth he had deemed would stay his wanderings a
weary while, and therewithal his hopes.  But now it seemed as if he needs
must wander, would he, would he not; and so it was that even this fed his
hope; so sore his heart clung to that desire of his to seek home to those
three that seemed to call him unto them.


Three days they drave before the wind, and on the fourth the clouds
lifted, the sun shone out and the offing was clear; the wind had much
abated, though it still blew a breeze, and was a head wind for sailing
toward the country of Langton.  So then the master said that, since they
were bewildered, and the wind so ill to deal with, it were best to go
still before the wind that they might make some land and get knowledge of
their whereabouts from the folk thereof.  Withal he said that he deemed
the land not to be very far distant.

So did they, and sailed on pleasantly enough, for the weather kept on
mending, and the wind fell till it was but a light breeze, yet still foul
for Langton.

So wore three days, and on the eve of the third, the man from the topmast
cried out that he saw land ahead; and so did they all before the sun was
quite set, though it were but a cloud no bigger than a man's hand.

When night fell they struck not sail, but went forth toward the land fair
and softly; for it was early summer, so that the nights were neither long
nor dark.

But when it was broad daylight, they opened a land, a long shore of rocks
and mountains, and nought else that they could see at first.  Nevertheless
as day wore and they drew nigher, first they saw how the mountains fell
away from the sea, and were behind a long wall of sheer cliff; and coming
nigher yet, they beheld a green plain going up after a little in green
bents and slopes to the feet of the said cliff-wall.

No city nor haven did they see there, not even when they were far nigher
to the land; nevertheless, whereas they hankered for the peace of the
green earth after all the tossing and unrest of the sea, and whereas also
they doubted not to find at the least good and fresh water, and belike
other bait in the plain under the mountains, they still sailed on not
unmerrily; so that by nightfall they cast anchor in five-fathom water
hard by the shore.

Next morning they found that they were lying a little way off the mouth
of a river not right great; so they put out their boats and towed the
ship up into the said river, and when they had gone up it for a mile or
thereabouts they found the sea water failed, for little was the ebb and
flow of the tide on that coast.  Then was the river deep and clear,
running between smooth grassy land like to meadows.  Also on their left
board they saw presently three head of neat cattle going, as if in a
meadow of a homestead in their own land, and a few sheep; and thereafter,
about a bow-draught from the river, they saw a little house of wood and
straw-thatch under a wooded mound, and with orchard trees about it.  They
wondered little thereat, for they knew no cause why that land should not
be builded, though it were in the far outlands.  However, they drew their
ship up to the bank, thinking that they would at least abide awhile and
ask tidings and have some refreshing of the green plain, which was so
lovely and pleasant.

But while they were busied herein they saw a man come out of the house,
and down to the river to meet them; and they soon saw that he was tall
and old, long-hoary of hair and beard, and clad mostly in the skins of

He drew nigh without any fear or mistrust, and coming close to them gave
them the sele of the day in a kindly and pleasant voice.  The shipmaster
greeted him in his turn, and said withal: "Old man, art thou the king of
this country?"

The elder laughed; "It hath had none other a long while," said he; "and
at least there is no other son of Adam here to gainsay."

"Thou art alone here then?" said the master.

"Yea," said the old man; "save for the beasts of the field and the wood,
and the creeping things, and fowl.  Wherefore it is sweet to me to hear
your voices."

Said the master: "Where be the other houses of the town?"

The old man laughed.  Said he: "When I said that I was alone, I meant
that I was alone in the land and not only alone in this stead.  There is
no house save this betwixt the sea and the dwellings of the Bears, over
the cliff-wall yonder, yea and a long way over it."

"Yea," quoth the shipmaster grinning, "and be the bears of thy country so
manlike, that they dwell in builded houses?"

The old man shook his head.  "Sir," said he, "as to their bodily fashion,
it is altogether manlike, save that they be one and all higher and bigger
than most.  For they be bears only in name; they be a nation of half wild
men; for I have been told by them that there be many more than that tribe
whose folk I have seen, and that they spread wide about behind these
mountains from east to west.  Now, sir, as to their souls and
understandings I warrant them not; for miscreants they be, trowing
neither in God nor his hallows."

Said the master: "Trow they in Mahound then?"

"Nay," said the elder, "I wot not for sure that they have so much as a
false God; though I have it from them that they worship a certain woman
with mickle worship."

Then spake Walter: "Yea, good sir, and how knowest thou that? dost thou
deal with them at all?"

Said the old man: "Whiles some of that folk come hither and have of me
what I can spare; a calf or two, or a half-dozen of lambs or hoggets; or
a skin of wine or cyder of mine own making: and they give me in return
such things as I can use, as skins of hart and bear and other peltries;
for now I am old, I can but little of the hunting hereabout.  Whiles,
also, they bring little lumps of pure copper, and would give me gold
also, but it is of little use in this lonely land.  Sooth to say, to me
they are not masterful or rough-handed; but glad am I that they have been
here but of late, and are not like to come again this while; for terrible
they are of aspect, and whereas ye be aliens, belike they would not hold
their hands from off you; and moreover ye have weapons and other matters
which they would covet sorely."

Quoth the master: "Since thou dealest with these wild men, will ye not
deal with us in chaffer?  For whereas we are come from long travel, we
hanker after fresh victual, and here aboard are many things which were
for thine avail."

Said the old man: "All that I have is yours, so that ye do but leave me
enough till my next ingathering: of wine and cyder, such as it is, I have
plenty for your service; ye may drink it till it is all gone, if ye will:
a little corn and meal I have, but not much; yet are ye welcome thereto,
since the standing corn in my garth is done blossoming, and I have other
meat.  Cheeses have I and dried fish; take what ye will thereof.  But as
to my neat and sheep, if ye have sore need of any, and will have them, I
may not say you nay: but I pray you if ye may do without them, not to
take my milch-beasts or their engenderers; for, as ye have heard me say,
the Bear-folk have been here but of late, and they have had of me all I
might spare: but now let me tell you, if ye long after flesh-meat, that
there is venison of hart and hind, yea, and of buck and doe, to be had on
this plain, and about the little woods at the feet of the rock-wall
yonder: neither are they exceeding wild; for since I may not take them, I
scare them not, and no other man do they see to hurt them; for the Bear-
folk come straight to my house, and fare straight home thence.  But I
will lead you the nighest way to where the venison is easiest to be
gotten.  As to the wares in your ship, if ye will give me aught I will
take it with a good will; and chiefly if ye have a fair knife or two and
a roll of linen cloth, that were a good refreshment to me.  But in any
case what I have to give is free to you and welcome."

The shipmaster laughed: "Friend," said he, "we can thee mickle thanks for
all that thou biddest us.  And wot well that we be no lifters or
sea-thieves to take thy livelihood from thee.  So to-morrow, if thou
wilt, we will go with thee and upraise the hunt, and meanwhile we will
come aland, and walk on the green grass, and water our ship with thy good
fresh water."

So the old carle went back to his house to make them ready what cheer he
might, and the shipmen, who were twenty and one, all told, what with the
mariners and Arnold and Walter's servants, went ashore, all but two who
watched the ship and abode their turn.  They went well-weaponed, for both
the master and Walter deemed wariness wisdom, lest all might not be so
good as it seemed.  They took of their sail-cloths ashore and tilted them
in on the meadow betwixt the house and the ship, and the carle brought
them what he had for their avail, of fresh fruits, and cheeses, and milk,
and wine, and cyder, and honey, and there they feasted nowise ill, and
were right fain.


But when they had done their meat and drink the master and the shipmen
went about the watering of the ship, and the others strayed off along the
meadow, so that presently Walter was left alone with the carle, and fell
to speech with him and said: "Father, meseemeth thou shouldest have some
strange tale to tell, and as yet we have asked thee of nought save meat
for our bellies: now if I ask thee concerning thy life, and how thou
camest hither, and abided here, wilt thou tell me aught?"

The old man smiled on him and said: "Son, my tale were long to tell; and
mayhappen concerning much thereof my memory should fail me; and withal
there is grief therein, which I were loth to awaken: nevertheless if thou
ask, I will answer as I may, and in any case will tell thee nought save
the truth."

Said Walter: "Well then, hast thou been long here?"

"Yea," said the carle, "since I was a young man, and a stalwarth knight."

Said Walter: "This house, didst thou build it, and raise these garths,
and plant orchard and vineyard, and gather together the neat and the
sheep, or did some other do all this for thee?"

Said the carle: "I did none of all this; there was one here before me,
and I entered into his inheritance, as though this were a lordly manor,
with a fair castle thereon, and all well stocked and plenished."

Said Walter: "Didst thou find thy foregoer alive here?"

"Yea," said the elder, "yet he lived but for a little while after I came
to him."

He was silent a while, and then he said: "I slew him: even so would he
have it, though I bade him a better lot."

Said Walter: "Didst thou come hither of thine own will?"

"Mayhappen," said the carle; "who knoweth?  Now have I no will to do
either this or that.  It is wont that maketh me do, or refrain."

Said Walter: "Tell me this; why didst thou slay the man? did he any
scathe to thee?"

Said the elder: "When I slew him, I deemed that he was doing me all
scathe: but now I know that it was not so.  Thus it was: I would needs go
where he had been before, and he stood in the path against me; and I
overthrew him, and went on the way I would."

"What came thereof?" said Walter.

"Evil came of it," said the carle.

Then was Walter silent a while, and the old man spake nothing; but there
came a smile in his face that was both sly and somewhat sad.  Walter
looked on him and said: "Was it from hence that thou wouldst go that

"Yea," said the carle.

Said Walter: "And now wilt thou tell me what that road was; whither it
went and whereto it led, that thou must needs wend it, though thy first
stride were over a dead man?"

"I will not tell thee," said the carle.

Then they held their peace, both of them, and thereafter got on to other
talk of no import.

So wore the day till night came; and they slept safely, and on the morrow
after they had broken their fast, the more part of them set off with the
carle to the hunting, and they went, all of them, a three hours' faring
towards the foot of the cliffs, which was all grown over with coppice,
hazel and thorn, with here and there a big oak or ash-tree; there it was,
said the old man, where the venison was most and best.

Of their hunting need nought be said, saving that when the carle had put
them on the track of the deer and shown them what to do, he came back
again with Walter, who had no great lust for the hunting, and sorely
longed to have some more talk with the said carle.  He for his part
seemed nought loth thereto, and so led Walter to a mound or hillock
amidst the clear of the plain, whence all was to be seen save where the
wood covered it; but just before where they now lay down there was no
wood, save low bushes, betwixt them and the rock-wall; and Walter noted
that whereas otherwhere, save in one place whereto their eyes were
turned, the cliffs seemed wellnigh or quite sheer, or indeed in some
places beetling over, in that said place they fell away from each other
on either side; and before this sinking was a slope or scree, that went
gently up toward the sinking of the wall.  Walter looked long and
earnestly at this place, and spake nought, till the carle said: "What!
thou hast found something before thee to look on.  What is it then?"

Quoth Walter: "Some would say that where yonder slopes run together up
towards that sinking in the cliff-wall there will be a pass into the
country beyond."

The carle smiled and said: "Yea, son; nor, so saying, would they err; for
that is the pass into the Bear-country, whereby those huge men come down
to chaffer with me."

"Yea," said Walter; and therewith he turned him a little, and scanned the
rock-wall, and saw how a few miles from that pass it turned somewhat
sharply toward the sea, narrowing the plain much there, till it made a
bight, the face whereof looked wellnigh north, instead of west, as did
the more part of the wall.  And in the midst of that northern-looking
bight was a dark place which seemed to Walter like a downright shard in
the cliff.  For the face of the wall was of a bleak grey, and it was but
little furrowed.

So then Walter spake: "Lo, old friend, there yonder is again a place that
meseemeth is a pass; whereunto doth that one lead?"  And he pointed to
it: but the old man did not follow the pointing of his finger, but,
looking down on the ground, answered confusedly, and said:

"Maybe: I wot not.  I deem that it also leadeth into the Bear-country by
a roundabout road.  It leadeth into the far land."

Walter answered nought: for a strange thought had come uppermost in his
mind, that the carle knew far more than he would say of that pass, and
that he himself might be led thereby to find the wondrous three.  He
caught his breath hardly, and his heart knocked against his ribs; but he
refrained from speaking for a long while; but at last he spake in a sharp
hard voice, which he scarce knew for his own: "Father, tell me, I adjure
thee by God and All-hallows, was it through yonder shard that the road
lay, when thou must needs make thy first stride over a dead man?"

The old man spake not a while, then he raised his head, and looked Walter
full in the eyes, and said in a steady voice: "NO, IT WAS NOT."
Thereafter they sat looking at each other a while; but at last Walter
turned his eyes away, but knew not what they beheld nor where he was, but
he was as one in a swoon.  For he knew full well that the carle had lied
to him, and that he might as well have said aye as no, and told him, that
it verily was by that same shard that he had stridden over a dead man.
Nevertheless he made as little semblance thereof as he might, and
presently came to himself, and fell to talking of other matters, that had
nought to do with the adventures of the land.  But after a while he spake
suddenly, and said: "My master, I was thinking of a thing."

"Yea, of what?" said the carle.

"Of this," said Walter; "that here in this land be strange adventures
toward, and that if we, and I in especial, were to turn our backs on
them, and go home with nothing done, it were pity of our lives: for all
will be dull and deedless there.  I was deeming it were good if we tried
the adventure."

"What adventure?" said the old man, rising up on his elbow and staring
sternly on him.

Said Walter: "The wending yonder pass to the eastward, whereby the huge
men come to thee from out of the Bear-country; that we might see what
should come thereof."

The carle leaned back again, and smiled and shook his head, and spake:
"That adventure were speedily proven: death would come of it, my son."

"Yea, and how?" said Walter.

The carle said: "The big men would take thee, and offer thee up as a
blood-offering to that woman, who is their Mawmet.  And if ye go all,
then shall they do the like with all of you."

Said Walter: "Is that sure?"

"Dead sure," said the carle.

"How knowest thou this?" said Walter.

"I have been there myself," said the carle.

"Yea," said Walter, "but thou camest away whole."

"Art thou sure thereof?" said the carle.

"Thou art alive yet, old man," said Walter, "for I have seen thee eat thy
meat, which ghosts use not to do."  And he laughed.

But the old man answered soberly: "If I escaped, it was by this, that
another woman saved me, and not often shall that befall.  Nor wholly was
I saved; my body escaped forsooth.  But where is my soul?  Where is my
heart, and my life?  Young man, I rede thee, try no such adventure; but
go home to thy kindred if thou canst.  Moreover, wouldst thou fare alone?
The others shall hinder thee."

Said Walter: "I am the master; they shall do as I bid them: besides, they
will be well pleased to share my goods amongst them if I give them a
writing to clear them of all charges which might be brought against

"My son! my son!" said the carle, "I pray thee go not to thy death!"

Walter heard him silently, but as if he were persuaded to refrain; and
then the old man fell to, and told him much concerning this Bear-folk and
their customs, speaking very freely of them; but Walter's ears were
scarce open to this talk: whereas he deemed that he should have nought to
do with those wild men; and he durst not ask again concerning the country
whereto led the pass on the northward.


As they were in converse thus, they heard the hunters blowing on their
horns all together; whereon the old man arose, and said: "I deem by the
blowing that the hunt will be over and done, and that they be blowing on
their fellows who have gone scatter-meal about the wood.  It is now some
five hours after noon, and thy men will be getting back with their
venison, and will be fainest of the victuals they have caught; therefore
will I hasten on before, and get ready fire and water and other matters
for the cooking.  Wilt thou come with me, young master, or abide thy men

Walter said lightly: "I will rest and abide them here; since I cannot
fail to see them hence as they go on their ways to thine house.  And it
may be well that I be at hand to command them and forbid, and put some
order amongst them, for rough playmates they be, some of them, and now
all heated with the hunting and the joy of the green earth."  Thus he
spoke, as if nought were toward save supper and bed; but inwardly hope
and fear were contending in him, and again his heart beat so hard, that
he deemed that the carle must surely hear it.  But the old man took him
but according to his outward seeming, and nodded his head, and went away
quietly toward his house.

When he had been gone a little, Walter rose up heedfully; he had with him
a scrip wherein was some cheese and hard-fish, and a little flasket of
wine; a short bow he had with him, and a quiver of arrows; and he was
girt with a strong and good sword, and a wood-knife withal.  He looked to
all this gear that it was nought amiss, and then speedily went down off
the mound, and when he was come down, he found that it covered him from
men coming out of the wood, if he went straight thence to that shard of
the rock-wall where was the pass that led southward.

Now it is no nay that thitherward he turned, and went wisely, lest the
carle should make a backward cast, and see him, or lest any straggler of
his own folk might happen upon him.

For to say sooth, he deemed that did they wind him, they would be like to
let him of his journey.  He had noted the bearings of the cliffs nigh the
shard, and whereas he could see their heads everywhere except from the
depths of the thicket, he was not like to go astray.

He had made no great way ere he heard the horns blowing all together
again in one place, and looking thitherward through the leafy boughs (for
he was now amidst of a thicket) he saw his men thronging the mound, and
had no doubt therefore that they were blowing on him; but being well
under cover he heeded it nought, and lying still a little, saw them go
down off the mound and go all of them toward the carle's house, still
blowing as they went, but not faring scatter-meal.  Wherefore it was
clear that they were nought troubled about him.

So he went on his way to the shard; and there is nothing to say of his
journey till he got before it with the last of the clear day, and entered
it straightway.  It was in sooth a downright breach or cleft in the rock-
wall, and there was no hill or bent leading up to it, nothing but a
tumble of stones before it, which was somewhat uneasy going, yet needed
nought but labour to overcome it, and when he had got over this, and was
in the very pass itself, he found it no ill going: forsooth at first it
was little worse than a rough road betwixt two great stony slopes, though
a little trickle of water ran down amidst of it.  So, though it was so
nigh nightfall, yet Walter pressed on, yea, and long after the very night
was come.  For the moon rose wide and bright a little after nightfall.
But at last he had gone so long, and was so wearied, that he deemed it
nought but wisdom to rest him, and so lay down on a piece of greensward
betwixt the stones, when he had eaten a morsel out of his satchel, and
drunk of the water out of the stream.  There as he lay, if he had any
doubt of peril, his weariness soon made it all one to him, for presently
he was sleeping as soundly as any man in Langton on Holm.


Day was yet young when he awoke: he leapt to his feet, and went down to
the stream and drank of its waters, and washed the night off him in a
pool thereof, and then set forth on his way again.  When he had gone some
three hours, the road, which had been going up all the way, but somewhat
gently, grew steeper, and the bent on either side lowered, and lowered,
till it sank at last altogether, and then was he on a rough mountain-neck
with little grass, and no water; save that now and again was a soft place
with a flow amidst of it, and such places he must needs fetch a compass
about, lest he be mired.  He gave himself but little rest, eating what he
needs must as he went.  The day was bright and calm, so that the sun was
never hidden, and he steered by it due south.  All that day he went, and
found no more change in that huge neck, save that whiles it was more and
whiles less steep.  A little before nightfall he happened on a shallow
pool some twenty yards over; and he deemed it good to rest there, since
there was water for his avail, though he might have made somewhat more
out of the tail end of the day.

When dawn came again he awoke and arose, nor spent much time over his
breakfast; but pressed on all he might; and now he said to himself, that
whatsoever other peril were athwart his way, he was out of the danger of
the chase of his own folk.

All this while he had seen no four-footed beast, save now and again a
hill-fox, and once some outlandish kind of hare; and of fowl but very
few: a crow or two, a long-winged hawk, and twice an eagle high up aloft.

Again, the third night, he slept in the stony wilderness, which still led
him up and up.  Only toward the end of the day, himseemed that it had
been less steep for a long while: otherwise nought was changed, on all
sides it was nought but the endless neck, wherefrom nought could be seen,
but some other part of itself.  This fourth night withal he found no
water whereby he might rest, so that he awoke parched, and longing to
drink just when the dawn was at its coldest.

But on the fifth morrow the ground rose but little, and at last, when he
had been going wearily a long while, and now, hard on noontide, his
thirst grieved him sorely, he came on a spring welling out from under a
high rock, the water wherefrom trickled feebly away.  So eager was he to
drink, that at first he heeded nought else; but when his thirst was fully
quenched his eyes caught sight of the stream which flowed from the well,
and he gave a shout, for lo! it was running south.  Wherefore it was with
a merry heart that he went on, and as he went, came on more streams, all
running south or thereabouts.  He hastened on all he might, but in
despite of all the speed he made, and that he felt the land now going
down southward, night overtook him in that same wilderness.  Yet when he
stayed at last for sheer weariness, he lay down in what he deemed by the
moonlight to be a shallow valley, with a ridge at the southern end

He slept long, and when he awoke the sun was high in the heavens, and
never was brighter or clearer morning on the earth than was that.  He
arose and ate of what little was yet left him, and drank of the water of
a stream which he had followed the evening before, and beside which he
had laid him down; and then set forth again with no great hope to come on
new tidings that day.  But yet when he was fairly afoot, himseemed that
there was something new in the air which he breathed, that was soft and
bore sweet scents home to him; whereas heretofore, and that especially
for the last three or four days, it had been harsh and void, like the
face of the desert itself.

So on he went, and presently was mounting the ridge aforesaid, and, as
oft happens when one climbs a steep place, he kept his eyes on the
ground, till he felt he was on the top of the ridge.  Then he stopped to
take breath, and raised his head and looked, and lo! he was verily on the
brow of the great mountain-neck, and down below him was the hanging of
the great hill-slopes, which fell down, not slowly, as those he had been
those days a-mounting, but speedily enough, though with little of broken
places or sheer cliffs.  But beyond this last of the desert there was
before him a lovely land of wooded hills, green plains, and little
valleys, stretching out far and wide, till it ended at last in great blue
mountains and white snowy peaks beyond them.

Then for very surprise of joy his spirit wavered, and he felt faint and
dizzy, so that he was fain to sit down a while and cover his face with
his hands.  Presently he came to his sober mind again, and stood up and
looked forth keenly, and saw no sign of any dwelling of man.  But he said
to himself that that might well be because the good and well-grassed land
was still so far off, and that he might yet look to find men and their
dwellings when he had left the mountain wilderness quite behind him: So
therewith he fell to going his ways down the mountain, and lost little
time therein, whereas he now had his livelihood to look to.


What with one thing, what with another, as his having to turn out of his
way for sheer rocks, or for slopes so steep that he might not try the
peril of them, and again for bogs impassable, he was fully three days
more before he had quite come out of the stony waste, and by that time,
though he had never lacked water, his scanty victual was quite done, for
all his careful husbandry thereof.  But this troubled him little, whereas
he looked to find wild fruits here and there and to shoot some small
deer, as hare or coney, and make a shift to cook the same, since he had
with him flint and fire-steel.  Moreover the further he went, the surer
he was that he should soon come across a dwelling, so smooth and fair as
everything looked before him.  And he had scant fear, save that he might
happen on men who should enthrall him.

But when he was come down past the first green slopes, he was so worn,
that he said to himself that rest was better than meat, so little as he
had slept for the last three days; so he laid him down under an ash-tree
by a stream-side, nor asked what was o'clock, but had his fill of sleep,
and even when he awoke in the fresh morning was little fain of rising,
but lay betwixt sleeping and waking for some three hours more; then he
arose, and went further down the next green bent, yet somewhat slowly
because of his hunger-weakness.  And the scent of that fair land came up
to him like the odour of one great nosegay.

So he came to where the land was level, and there were many trees, as oak
and ash, and sweet-chestnut and wych-elm, and hornbeam and quicken-tree,
not growing in a close wood or tangled thicket, but set as though in
order on the flowery greensward, even as it might be in a great king's

So came he to a big bird-cherry, whereof many boughs hung low down laden
with fruit: his belly rejoiced at the sight, and he caught hold of a
bough, and fell to plucking and eating.  But whiles he was amidst of
this, he heard suddenly, close anigh him, a strange noise of roaring and
braying, not very great, but exceeding fierce and terrible, and not like
to the voice of any beast that he knew.  As has been aforesaid, Walter
was no faint-heart; but what with the weakness of his travail and hunger,
what with the strangeness of his adventure and his loneliness, his spirit
failed him; he turned round towards the noise, his knees shook and he
trembled: this way and that he looked, and then gave a great cry and
tumbled down in a swoon; for close before him, at his very feet, was the
dwarf whose image he had seen before, clad in his yellow coat, and
grinning up at him from his hideous hairy countenance.

How long he lay there as one dead, he knew not, but when he woke again
there was the dwarf sitting on his hams close by him.  And when he lifted
up his head, the dwarf sent out that fearful harsh voice again; but this
time Walter could make out words therein, and knew that the creature
spoke and said:

"How now!  What art thou?  Whence comest?  What wantest?"

Walter sat up and said: "I am a man; I hight Golden Walter; I come from
Langton; I want victual."

Said the dwarf, writhing his face grievously, and laughing forsooth: "I
know it all: I asked thee to see what wise thou wouldst lie.  I was sent
forth to look for thee; and I have brought thee loathsome bread with me,
such as ye aliens must needs eat: take it!"

Therewith he drew a loaf from a satchel which he bore, and thrust it
towards Walter, who took it somewhat doubtfully for all his hunger.

The dwarf yelled at him: "Art thou dainty, alien?  Wouldst thou have
flesh?  Well, give me thy bow and an arrow or two, since thou art lazy-
sick, and I will get thee a coney or a hare, or a quail maybe.  Ah, I
forgot; thou art dainty, and wilt not eat flesh as I do, blood and all
together, but must needs half burn it in the fire, or mar it with hot
water; as they say my Lady does: or as the Wretch, the Thing does; I know
that, for I have seen It eating."

"Nay," said Walter, "this sufficeth;" and he fell to eating the bread,
which was sweet between his teeth.  Then when he had eaten a while, for
hunger compelled him, he said to the dwarf: "But what meanest thou by the
Wretch and the Thing?  And what Lady is thy Lady?"

The creature let out another wordless roar as of furious anger; and then
the words came: "It hath a face white and red, like to thine; and hands
white as thine, yea, but whiter; and the like it is underneath its
raiment, only whiter still: for I have seen It--yes, I have seen It; ah
yes and yes and yes."

And therewith his words ran into gibber and yelling, and he rolled about
and smote at the grass: but in a while he grew quiet again and sat still,
and then fell to laughing horribly again, and then said: "But thou, fool,
wilt think It fair if thou fallest into Its hands, and wilt repent it
thereafter, as I did.  Oh, the mocking and gibes of It, and the tears and
shrieks of It; and the knife!  What! sayest thou of my Lady?--What Lady?
O alien, what other Lady is there?  And what shall I tell thee of her? it
is like that she made me, as she made the Bear men.  But she made not the
Wretch, the Thing; and she hateth It sorely, as I do.  And some day to

Thereat he brake off and fell to wordless yelling a long while, and
thereafter spake all panting: "Now I have told thee overmuch, and O if my
Lady come to hear thereof.  Now I will go."

And therewith he took out two more loaves from his wallet, and tossed
them to Walter, and so turned and went his ways; whiles walking upright,
as Walter had seen his image on the quay of Langton; whiles bounding and
rolling like a ball thrown by a lad; whiles scuttling along on all-fours
like an evil beast, and ever and anon giving forth that harsh and evil

Walter sat a while after he was out of sight, so stricken with horror and
loathing and a fear of he knew not what, that he might not move.  Then he
plucked up a heart, and looked to his weapons and put the other loaves
into his scrip.

Then he arose and went his ways wondering, yea and dreading, what kind of
creature he should next fall in with.  For soothly it seemed to him that
it would be worse than death if they were all such as this one; and that
if it were so, he must needs slay and be slain.


But as he went on through the fair and sweet land so bright and
sun-litten, and he now rested and fed, the horror and fear ran off from
him, and he wandered on merrily, neither did aught befall him save the
coming of night, when he laid him down under a great spreading oak with
his drawn sword ready to hand, and fell asleep at once, and woke not till
the sun was high.

Then he arose and went on his way again; and the land was no worser than
yesterday; but even better, it might be; the greensward more flowery, the
oaks and chestnuts greater.  Deer of diverse kinds he saw, and might
easily have got his meat thereof; but he meddled not with them since he
had his bread, and was timorous of lighting a fire.  Withal he doubted
little of having some entertainment; and that, might be, nought evil;
since even that fearful dwarf had been courteous to him after his kind,
and had done him good and not harm.  But of the happening on the Wretch
and the Thing, whereof the dwarf spake, he was yet somewhat afeard.

After he had gone a while and whenas the summer morn was at its
brightest, he saw a little way ahead a grey rock rising up from amidst of
a ring of oak-trees; so he turned thither straightway; for in this plain-
land he had seen no rocks heretofore; and as he went he saw that there
was a fountain gushing out from under the rock, which ran thence in a
fair little stream.  And when he had the rock and the fountain and the
stream clear before him, lo! a child of Adam sitting beside the fountain
under the shadow of the rock.  He drew a little nigher, and then he saw
that it was a woman, clad in green like the sward whereon she lay.  She
was playing with the welling out of the water, and she had trussed up her
sleeves to the shoulder that she might thrust her bare arms therein.  Her
shoes of black leather lay on the grass beside her, and her feet and legs
yet shone with the brook.

Belike amidst the splashing and clatter of the water she did not hear him
drawing nigh, so that he was close to her before she lifted up her face
and saw him, and he beheld her, that it was the maiden of the thrice-seen
pageant.  She reddened when she saw him, and hastily covered up her legs
with her gown-skirt, and drew down the sleeves over her arms, but
otherwise stirred not.  As for him, he stood still, striving to speak to
her; but no word might he bring out, and his heart beat sorely.

But the maiden spake to him in a clear sweet voice, wherein was now no
trouble: "Thou art an alien, art thou not?  For I have not seen thee

"Yea," he said, "I am an alien; wilt thou be good to me?"

She said: "And why not?  I was afraid at first, for I thought it had been
the King's Son.  I looked to see none other; for of goodly men he has
been the only one here in the land this long while, till thy coming."

He said: "Didst thou look for my coming at about this time?"

"O nay," she said; "how might I?"

Said Walter: "I wot not; but the other man seemed to be looking for me,
and knew of me, and he brought me bread to eat."

She looked on him anxiously, and grew somewhat pale, as she said: "What
other one?"

Now Walter did not know what the dwarf might be to her, fellow-servant or
what not, so he would not show his loathing of him; but answered wisely:
"The little man in the yellow raiment."

But when she heard that word, she went suddenly very pale, and leaned her
head aback, and beat the air with her hands; but said presently in a
faint voice: "I pray thee talk not of that one while I am by, nor even
think of him, if thou mayest forbear."

He spake not, and she was a little while before she came to herself
again; then she opened her eyes, and looked upon Walter and smiled kindly
on him, as though to ask his pardon for having scared him.  Then she rose
up in her place, and stood before him; and they were nigh together, for
the stream betwixt them was little.

But he still looked anxiously upon her and said: "Have I hurt thee?  I
pray thy pardon."

She looked on him more sweetly still, and said: "O nay; thou wouldst not
hurt me, thou!"

Then she blushed very red, and he in like wise; but afterwards she turned
pale, and laid a hand on her breast, and Walter cried out hastily: "O me!
I have hurt thee again.  Wherein have I done amiss?"

"In nought, in nought," she said; "but I am troubled, I wot not
wherefore; some thought hath taken hold of me, and I know it not.
Mayhappen in a little while I shall know what troubles me.  Now I bid
thee depart from me a little, and I will abide here; and when thou comest
back, it will either be that I have found it out or not; and in either
case I will tell thee."

She spoke earnestly to him; but he said: "How long shall I abide away?"

Her face was troubled as she answered him: "For no long while."

He smiled on her and turned away, and went a space to the other side of
the oak-trees, whence she was still within eyeshot.  There he abode until
the time seemed long to him; but he schooled himself and forbore; for he
said: Lest she send me away again.  So he abided until again the time
seemed long to him, and she called not to him: but once again he forbore
to go; then at last he arose, and his heart beat and he trembled, and he
walked back again speedily, and came to the maiden, who was still
standing by the rock of the spring, her arms hanging down, her eyes
downcast.  She looked up at him as he drew nigh, and her face changed
with eagerness as she said: "I am glad thou art come back, though it be
no long while since thy departure" (sooth to say it was scarce half an
hour in all).  "Nevertheless I have been thinking many things, and
thereof will I now tell thee."

He said: "Maiden, there is a river betwixt us, though it be no big one.
Shall I not stride over, and come to thee, that we may sit down together
side by side on the green grass?"

"Nay," she said, "not yet; tarry a while till I have told thee of
matters.  I must now tell thee of my thoughts in order."

Her colour went and came now, and she plaited the folds of her gown with
restless fingers.  At last she said: "Now the first thing is this; that
though thou hast seen me first only within this hour, thou hast set thine
heart upon me to have me for thy speech-friend and thy darling.  And if
this be not so, then is all my speech, yea and all my hope, come to an
end at once."

"O yea!" said Walter, "even so it is: but how thou hast found this out I
wot not; since now for the first time I say it, that thou art indeed my
love, and my dear and my darling."

"Hush," she said, "hush! lest the wood have ears, and thy speech is loud:
abide, and I shall tell thee how I know it.  Whether this thy love shall
outlast the first time that thou holdest my body in thine arms, I wot
not, nor dost thou.  But sore is my hope that it may be so; for I also,
though it be but scarce an hour since I set eyes on thee, have cast mine
eyes on thee to have thee for my love and my darling, and my
speech-friend.  And this is how I wot that thou lovest me, my friend.  Now
is all this dear and joyful, and overflows my heart with sweetness.  But
now must I tell thee of the fear and the evil which lieth behind it."

Then Walter stretched out his hands to her, and cried out: "Yea, yea!  But
whatever evil entangle us, now we both know these two things, to wit,
that thou lovest me, and I thee, wilt thou not come hither, that I may
cast mine arms about thee, and kiss thee, if not thy kind lips or thy
friendly face at all, yet at least thy dear hand: yea, that I may touch
thy body in some wise?"

She looked on him steadily, and said softly: "Nay, this above all things
must not be; and that it may not be is a part of the evil which entangles
us.  But hearken, friend, once again I tell thee that thy voice is over
loud in this wilderness fruitful of evil.  Now I have told thee, indeed,
of two things whereof we both wot; but next I must needs tell thee of
things whereof I wot, and thou wottest not.  Yet this were better, that
thou pledge thy word not to touch so much as one of my hands, and that we
go together a little way hence away from these tumbled stones, and sit
down upon the open greensward; whereas here is cover if there be spying

Again, as she spoke, she turned very pale; but Walter said: "Since it
must be so, I pledge thee my word to thee as I love thee."

And therewith she knelt down, and did on her foot-gear, and then sprang
lightly over the rivulet; and then the twain of them went side by side
some half a furlong thence, and sat down, shadowed by the boughs of a
slim quicken-tree growing up out of the greensward, whereon for a good
space around was neither bush nor brake.

There began the maiden to talk soberly, and said: "This is what I must
needs say to thee now, that thou art come into a land perilous for any
one that loveth aught of good; from which, forsooth, I were fain that
thou wert gotten away safely, even though I should die of longing for
thee.  As for myself, my peril is, in a measure, less than thine; I mean
the peril of death.  But lo, thou, this iron on my foot is token that I
am a thrall, and thou knowest in what wise thralls must pay for
transgressions.  Furthermore, of what I am, and how I came hither, time
would fail me to tell; but somewhile, maybe, I shall tell thee.  I serve
an evil mistress, of whom I may say that scarce I wot if she be a woman
or not; but by some creatures is she accounted for a god, and as a god is
heried; and surely never god was crueller nor colder than she.  Me she
hateth sorely; yet if she hated me little or nought, small were the gain
to me if it were her pleasure to deal hardly by me.  But as things now
are, and are like to be, it would not be for her pleasure, but for her
pain and loss, to make an end of me, therefore, as I said e'en now, my
mere life is not in peril with her; unless, perchance, some sudden
passion get the better of her, and she slay me, and repent of it
thereafter.  For so it is, that if it be the least evil of her conditions
that she is wanton, at least wanton she is to the letter.  Many a time
hath she cast the net for the catching of some goodly young man; and her
latest prey (save it be thou) is the young man whom I named, when first I
saw thee, by the name of the King's Son.  He is with us yet, and I fear
him; for of late hath he wearied of her, though it is but plain truth to
say of her, that she is the wonder of all Beauties of the World.  He hath
wearied of her, I say, and hath cast his eyes upon me, and if I were
heedless, he would betray me to the uttermost of the wrath of my
mistress.  For needs must I say of him, though he be a goodly man, and
now fallen into thralldom, that he hath no bowels of compassion; but is a
dastard, who for an hour's pleasure would undo me, and thereafter would
stand by smiling and taking my mistress's pardon with good cheer, while
for me would be no pardon.  Seest thou, therefore, how it is with me
between these two cruel fools?  And moreover there are others of whom I
will not even speak to thee."

And therewith she put her hands before her face, and wept, and murmured:
"Who shall deliver me from this death in life?"

But Walter cried out: "For what else am I come hither, I, I?"

And it was a near thing that he did not take her in his arms, but he
remembered his pledged word, and drew aback from her in terror, whereas
he had an inkling of why she would not suffer it; and he wept with her.

But suddenly the Maid left weeping, and said in a changed voice: "Friend,
whereas thou speakest of delivering me, it is more like that I shall
deliver thee.  And now I pray thy pardon for thus grieving thee with my
grief, and that more especially because thou mayst not solace thy grief
with kisses and caresses; but so it was, that for once I was smitten by
the thought of the anguish of this land, and the joy of all the world

Therewith she caught her breath in a half-sob, but refrained her and went
on: "Now dear friend and darling, take good heed to all that I shall say
to thee, whereas thou must do after the teaching of my words.  And first,
I deem by the monster having met thee at the gates of the land, and
refreshed thee, that the Mistress hath looked for thy coming; nay, by thy
coming hither at all, that she hath cast her net and caught thee.  Hast
thou noted aught that might seem to make this more like?"

Said Walter: "Three times in full daylight have I seen go past me the
images of the monster and thee and a glorious lady, even as if ye were

And therewith he told her in few words how it had gone with him since
that day on the quay at Langton.

She said: "Then it is no longer perhaps, but certain, that thou art her
latest catch; and even so I deemed from the first: and, dear friend, this
is why I have not suffered thee to kiss or caress me, so sore as I longed
for thee.  For the Mistress will have thee for her only, and hath lured
thee hither for nought else; and she is wise in wizardry (even as some
deal am I), and wert thou to touch me with hand or mouth on my naked
flesh, yea, or were it even my raiment, then would she scent the savour
of thy love upon me, and then, though it may be she would spare thee, she
would not spare me."

Then was she silent a little, and seemed very downcast, and Walter held
his peace from grief and confusion and helplessness; for of wizardry he
knew nought.

At last the Maid spake again, and said: "Nevertheless we will not die
redeless.  Now thou must look to this, that from henceforward it is thee,
and not the King's Son, whom she desireth, and that so much the more that
she hath not set eyes on thee.  Remember this, whatsoever her seeming may
be to thee.  Now, therefore, shall the King's Son be free, though he know
it not, to cast his love on whomso he will; and, in a way, I also shall
be free to yeasay him.  Though, forsooth, so fulfilled is she with malice
and spite, that even then she may turn round on me to punish me for doing
that which she would have me do.  Now let me think of it."

Then was she silent a good while, and spoke at last: "Yea, all things are
perilous, and a perilous rede I have thought of, whereof I will not tell
thee as yet; so waste not the short while by asking me.  At least the
worst will be no worse than what shall come if we strive not against it.
And now, my friend, amongst perils it is growing more and more perilous
that we twain should be longer together.  But I would say one thing yet;
and maybe another thereafter.  Thou hast cast thy love upon one who will
be true to thee, whatsoever may befall; yet is she a guileful creature,
and might not help it her life long, and now for thy very sake must needs
be more guileful now than ever before.  And as for me, the guileful, my
love have I cast upon a lovely man, and one true and simple, and a stout-
heart; but at such a pinch is he, that if he withstand all temptation,
his withstanding may belike undo both him and me.  Therefore swear we
both of us, that by both of us shall all guile and all falling away be
forgiven on the day when we shall be free to love each the other as our
hearts will."

Walter cried out: "O love, I swear it indeed! thou art my Hallow, and I
will swear it as on the relics of a Hallow; on thy hands and thy feet I
swear it."

The words seemed to her a dear caress; and she laughed, and blushed, and
looked full kindly on him; and then her face grew solemn, and she said:
"On thy life I swear it!"

Then she said: "Now is there nought for thee to do but to go hence
straight to the Golden House, which is my Mistress's house, and the only
house in this land (save one which I may not see), and lieth southward no
long way.  How she will deal with thee, I wot not; but all I have said of
her and thee and the King's Son is true.  Therefore I say to thee, be
wary and cold at heart, whatsoever outward semblance thou mayst make.  If
thou have to yield thee to her, then yield rather late than early, so as
to gain time.  Yet not so late as to seem shamed in yielding for fear's
sake.  Hold fast to thy life, my friend, for in warding that, thou
wardest me from grief without remedy.  Thou wilt see me ere long; it may
be to-morrow, it may be some days hence.  But forget not, that what I may
do, that I am doing.  Take heed also that thou pay no more heed to me, or
rather less, than if thou wert meeting a maiden of no account in the
streets of thine own town.  O my love! barren is this first farewell, as
was our first meeting; but surely shall there be another meeting better
than the first, and the last farewell may be long and long yet."

Therewith she stood up, and he knelt before her a little while without
any word, and then arose and went his ways; but when he had gone a space
he turned about, and saw her still standing in the same place; she stayed
a moment when she saw him turn, and then herself turned about.

So he departed through the fair land, and his heart was full with hope
and fear as he went.


It was but a little after noon when Walter left the Maid behind: he
steered south by the sun, as the Maid had bidden him, and went swiftly;
for, as a good knight wending to battle, the time seemed long to him till
he should meet the foe.

So an hour before sunset he saw something white and gay gleaming through
the boles of the oak-trees, and presently there was clear before him a
most goodly house builded of white marble, carved all about with knots
and imagery, and the carven folk were all painted of their lively
colours, whether it were their raiment or their flesh, and the housings
wherein they stood all done with gold and fair hues.  Gay were the
windows of the house; and there was a pillared porch before the great
door, with images betwixt the pillars both of men and beasts: and when
Walter looked up to the roof of the house, he saw that it gleamed and
shone; for all the tiles were of yellow metal, which he deemed to be of
very gold.

All this he saw as he went, and tarried not to gaze upon it; for he said,
Belike there will be time for me to look on all this before I die.  But
he said also, that, though the house was not of the greatest, it was
beyond compare of all houses of the world.

Now he entered it by the porch, and came into a hall many-pillared, and
vaulted over, the walls painted with gold and ultramarine, the floor
dark, and spangled with many colours, and the windows glazed with knots
and pictures.  Midmost thereof was a fountain of gold, whence the water
ran two ways in gold-lined runnels, spanned twice with little bridges of
silver.  Long was that hall, and now not very light, so that Walter was
come past the fountain before he saw any folk therein: then he looked up
toward the high-seat, and himseemed that a great light shone thence, and
dazzled his eyes; and he went on a little way, and then fell on his
knees; for there before him on the high-seat sat that wondrous Lady,
whose lively image had been shown to him thrice before; and she was clad
in gold and jewels, as he had erst seen her.  But now she was not alone;
for by her side sat a young man, goodly enough, so far as Walter might
see him, and most richly clad, with a jewelled sword by his side, and a
chaplet of gems on his head.  They held each other by the hand, and
seemed to be in dear converse together; but they spake softly, so that
Walter might not hear what they said, till at last the man spake aloud to
the Lady: "Seest thou not that there is a man in the hall?"

"Yea," she said, "I see him yonder, kneeling on his knees; let him come
nigher and give some account of himself."

So Walter stood up and drew nigh, and stood there, all shamefaced and
confused, looking on those twain, and wondering at the beauty of the
Lady.  As for the man, who was slim, and black-haired, and
straight-featured, for all his goodliness Walter accounted him little,
and nowise deemed him to look chieftain-like.

Now the Lady spake not to Walter any more than erst; but at last the man
said: "Why doest thou not kneel as thou didst erewhile?"

Walter was on the point of giving him back a fierce answer; but the Lady
spake and said: "Nay, friend, it matters not whether he kneel or stand;
but he may say, if he will, what he would have of me, and wherefore he is
come hither."

Then spake Walter, for as wroth and ashamed as he was: "Lady, I have
strayed into this land, and have come to thine house as I suppose, and if
I be not welcome, I may well depart straightway, and seek a way out of
thy land, if thou wouldst drive me thence, as well as out of thine

Thereat the Lady turned and looked on him, and when her eyes met his, he
felt a pang of fear and desire mingled shoot through his heart.  This
time she spoke to him; but coldly, without either wrath or any thought of
him: "Newcomer," she said, "I have not bidden thee hither; but here mayst
thou abide a while if thou wilt; nevertheless, take heed that here is no
King's Court.  There is, forsooth, a folk that serveth me (or, it may be,
more than one), of whom thou wert best to know nought.  Of others I have
but two servants, whom thou wilt see; and the one is a strange creature,
who should scare thee or scathe thee with a good will, but of a good will
shall serve nought save me; the other is a woman, a thrall, of little
avail, save that, being compelled, she will work woman's service for me,
but whom none else shall compel . . . Yea, but what is all this to thee;
or to me that I should tell it to thee?  I will not drive thee away; but
if thine entertainment please thee not, make no plaint thereof to me, but
depart at thy will.  Now is this talk betwixt us overlong, since, as thou
seest, I and this King's Son are in converse together.  Art thou a King's

"Nay, Lady," said Walter, "I am but of the sons of the merchants."

"It matters not," she said; "go thy ways into one of the chambers."

And straightway she fell a-talking to the man who sat beside her
concerning the singing of the birds beneath her window in the morning;
and of how she had bathed her that day in a pool of the woodlands, when
she had been heated with hunting, and so forth; and all as if there had
been none there save her and the King's Son.

But Walter departed all ashamed, as though he had been a poor man thrust
away from a rich kinsman's door; and he said to himself that this woman
was hateful, and nought love-worthy, and that she was little like to
tempt him, despite all the fairness of her body.

No one else he saw in the house that even; he found meat and drink duly
served on a fair table, and thereafter he came on a goodly bed, and all
things needful, but no child of Adam to do him service, or bid him
welcome or warning.  Nevertheless he ate, and drank, and slept, and put
off thought of all these things till the morrow, all the more as he hoped
to see the kind maiden some time betwixt sunrise and sunset on that new


He arose betimes, but found no one to greet him, neither was there any
sound of folk moving within the fair house; so he but broke his fast, and
then went forth and wandered amongst the trees, till he found him a
stream to bathe in, and after he had washed the night off him he lay down
under a tree thereby for a while, but soon turned back toward the house,
lest perchance the Maid should come thither and he should miss her.

It should be said that half a bow-shot from the house on that side (i.e.
due north thereof) was a little hazel-brake, and round about it the trees
were smaller of kind than the oaks and chestnuts he had passed through
before, being mostly of birch and quicken-beam and young ash, with small
wood betwixt them; so now he passed through the thicket, and, coming to
the edge thereof, beheld the Lady and the King's Son walking together
hand in hand, full lovingly by seeming.

He deemed it unmeet to draw back and hide him, so he went forth past them
toward the house.  The King's Son scowled on him as he passed, but the
Lady, over whose beauteous face flickered the joyous morning smiles, took
no more heed of him than if he had been one of the trees of the wood.  But
she had been so high and disdainful with him the evening before, that he
thought little of that.  The twain went on, skirting the hazel-copse, and
he could not choose but turn his eyes on them, so sorely did the Lady's
beauty draw them.  Then befell another thing; for behind them the boughs
of the hazels parted, and there stood that little evil thing, he or
another of his kind; for he was quite unclad, save by his fell of yellowy-
brown hair, and that he was girt with a leathern girdle, wherein was
stuck an ugly two-edged knife: he stood upright a moment, and cast his
eyes at Walter and grinned, but not as if he knew him; and scarce could
Walter say whether it were the one he had seen, or another: then he cast
himself down on his belly, and fell to creeping through the long grass
like a serpent, following the footsteps of the Lady and her lover; and
now, as he crept, Walter deemed, in his loathing, that the creature was
liker to a ferret than aught else.  He crept on marvellous swiftly, and
was soon clean out of sight.  But Walter stood staring after him for a
while, and then lay down by the copse-side, that he might watch the house
and the entry thereof; for he thought, now perchance presently will the
kind maiden come hither to comfort me with a word or two.  But hour
passed by hour, and still she came not; and still he lay there, and
thought of the Maid, and longed for her kindness and wisdom, till he
could not refrain his tears, and wept for the lack of her.  Then he
arose, and went and sat in the porch, and was very downcast of mood.

But as he sat there, back comes the Lady again, the King's Son leading
her by the hand; they entered the porch, and she passed by him so close
that the odour of her raiment filled all the air about him, and the
sleekness of her side nigh touched him, so that he could not fail to note
that her garments were somewhat disarrayed, and that she kept her right
hand (for her left the King's Son held) to her bosom to hold the cloth
together there, whereas the rich raiment had been torn off from her right
shoulder.  As they passed by him, the King's Son once more scowled on
him, wordless, but even more fiercely than before; and again the Lady
heeded him nought.

After they had gone on a while, he entered the hall, and found it empty
from end to end, and no sound in it save the tinkling of the fountain;
but there was victual set on the board.  He ate and drank thereof to keep
life lusty within him, and then went out again to the wood-side to watch
and to long; and the time hung heavy on his hands because of the lack of
the fair Maiden.

He was of mind not to go into the house to his rest that night, but to
sleep under the boughs of the forest.  But a little after sunset he saw a
bright-clad image moving amidst the carven images of the porch, and the
King's Son came forth and went straight to him, and said: "Thou art to
enter the house, and go into thy chamber forthwith, and by no means to go
forth of it betwixt sunset and sunrise.  My Lady will not away with thy
prowling round the house in the night-tide."

Therewith he turned away, and went into the house again; and Walter
followed him soberly, remembering how the Maid had bidden him forbear.  So
he went to his chamber, and slept.

But amidst of the night he awoke and deemed that he heard a voice not far
off, so he crept out of his bed and peered around, lest, perchance, the
Maid had come to speak with him; but his chamber was dusk and empty: then
he went to the window and looked out, and saw the moon shining bright and
white upon the greensward.  And lo! the Lady walking with the King's Son,
and he clad in thin and wanton raiment, but she in nought else save what
God had given her of long, crispy yellow hair.  Then was Walter ashamed
to look on her, seeing that there was a man with her, and gat him back to
his bed; but yet a long while ere he slept again he had the image before
his eyes of the fair woman on the dewy moonlit grass.

The next day matters went much the same way, and the next also, save that
his sorrow was increased, and he sickened sorely of hope deferred.  On
the fourth day also the forenoon wore as erst; but in the heat of the
afternoon Walter sought to the hazel-copse, and laid him down there hard
by a little clearing thereof, and slept from very weariness of grief.
There, after a while, he woke with words still hanging in his ears, and
he knew at once that it was they twain talking together.

The King's Son had just done his say, and now it was the Lady beginning
in her honey-sweet voice, low but strong, wherein even was a little of
huskiness; she said: "Otto, belike it were well to have a little
patience, till we find out what the man is, and whence he cometh; it will
always be easy to rid us of him; it is but a word to our Dwarf-king, and
it will be done in a few minutes."

"Patience!" said the King's Son, angrily; "I wot not how to have patience
with him; for I can see of him that he is rude and violent and
headstrong, and a low-born wily one.  Forsooth, he had patience enough
with me the other even, when I rated him in, like the dog that he is, and
he had no manhood to say one word to me.  Soothly, as he followed after
me, I had a mind to turn about and deal him a buffet on the face, to see
if I could but draw one angry word from him."

The Lady laughed, and said: "Well, Otto, I know not; that which thou
deemest dastardy in him may be but prudence and wisdom, and he an alien,
far from his friends and nigh to his foes.  Perchance we shall yet try
him what he is.  Meanwhile, I rede thee try him not with buffets, save he
be weaponless and with bounden hands; or else I deem that but a little
while shalt thou be fain of thy blow."

Now when Walter heard her words and the voice wherein they were said, he
might not forbear being stirred by them, and to him, all lonely there,
they seemed friendly.

But he lay still, and the King's Son answered the Lady and said: "I know
not what is in thine heart concerning this runagate, that thou shouldst
bemock me with his valiancy, whereof thou knowest nought.  If thou deem
me unworthy of thee, send me back safe to my father's country; I may look
to have worship there; yea, and the love of fair women belike."

Therewith it seemed as if he had put forth his hand to the Lady to caress
her, for she said: "Nay, lay not thine hand on my shoulder, for to-day
and now it is not the hand of love, but of pride and folly, and would-be
mastery.  Nay, neither shalt thou rise up and leave me until thy mood is
softer and kinder to me."

Then was there silence betwixt them a while, and thereafter the King's
Son spake in a wheedling voice: "My goddess, I pray thee pardon me!  But
canst thou wonder that I fear thy wearying of me, and am therefore
peevish and jealous? thou so far above the Queens of the World, and I a
poor youth that without thee were nothing!"

She answered nought, and he went on again: "Was it not so, O goddess,
that this man of the sons of the merchants was little heedful of thee,
and thy loveliness and thy majesty?"

She laughed and said: "Maybe he deemed not that he had much to gain of
us, seeing thee sitting by our side, and whereas we spake to him coldly
and sternly and disdainfully.  Withal, the poor youth was dazzled and
shamefaced before us; that we could see in the eyes and the mien of him."

Now this she spoke so kindly and sweetly, that again was Walter all
stirred thereat; and it came into his mind that it might be she knew he
was anigh and hearing her, and that she spake as much for him as for the
King's Son: but that one answered: "Lady, didst thou not see somewhat
else in his eyes, to wit, that they had but of late looked on some fair
woman other than thee?  As for me, I deem it not so unlike that on the
way to thine hall he may have fallen in with thy Maid."

He spoke in a faltering voice, as if shrinking from some storm that might
come.  And forsooth the Lady's voice was changed as she answered, though
there was no outward heat in it; rather it was sharp and eager and cold
at once.  She said: "Yea, that is not ill thought of; but we may not
always keep our thrall in mind.  If it be so as thou deemest, we shall
come to know it most like when we next fall in with her; or if she hath
been shy this time, then shall she pay the heavier for it; for we will
question her by the Fountain in the Hall as to what betid by the Fountain
of the Rock."

Spake the King's Son, faltering yet more: "Lady, were it not better to
question the man himself? the Maid is stout-hearted, and will not be
speedily quelled into a true tale; whereas the man I deem of no account."

"No, no," said the Lady sharply, "it shall not be."

Then was she silent a while; and then she said: "How if the man should
prove to be our master?"

"Nay, our Lady," said the King's Son, "thou art jesting with me; thou and
thy might and thy wisdom, and all that thy wisdom may command, to be over-
mastered by a gangrel churl!"

"But how if I will not have it command, King's Son?" said the Lady.  "I
tell thee I know thine heart, but thou knowest not mine.  But be at
peace!  For since thou hast prayed for this woman--nay, not with thy
words, I wot, but with thy trembling hands, and thine anxious eyes, and
knitted brow--I say, since thou hast prayed for her so earnestly, she
shall escape this time.  But whether it will be to her gain in the long
run, I misdoubt me.  See thou to that, Otto! thou who hast held me in
thine arms so oft.  And now thou mayest depart if thou wilt."

It seemed to Walter as if the King's Son were dumbfoundered at her words:
he answered nought, and presently he rose from the ground, and went his
ways slowly toward the house.  The Lady lay there a little while, and
then went her ways also; but turned away from the house toward the wood
at the other end thereof, whereby Walter had first come thither.

As for Walter, he was confused in mind and shaken in spirit; and withal
he seemed to see guile and cruel deeds under the talk of those two, and
waxed wrathful thereat.  Yet he said to himself, that nought might he do,
but was as one bound hand and foot, till he had seen the Maid again.


Next morning was he up betimes, but he was cast down and heavy of heart,
not looking for aught else to betide than had betid those last four days.
But otherwise it fell out; for when he came down into the hall, there was
the lady sitting on the high-seat all alone, clad but in a coat of white
linen; and she turned her head when she heard his footsteps, and looked
on him, and greeted him, and said: "Come hither, guest."

So he went and stood before her, and she said: "Though as yet thou hast
had no welcome here, and no honour, it hath not entered into thine heart
to flee from us; and to say sooth, that is well for thee, for flee away
from our hand thou mightest not, nor mightest thou depart without our
furtherance.  But for this we can thee thank, that thou hast abided here
our bidding and eaten thine heart through the heavy wearing of four days,
and made no plaint.  Yet I cannot deem thee a dastard; thou so well knit
and shapely of body, so clear-eyed and bold of visage.  Wherefore now I
ask thee, art thou willing to do me service, thereby to earn thy

Walter answered her, somewhat faltering at first, for he was astonished
at the change which had come over her; for now she spoke to him in
friendly wise, though indeed as a great lady would speak to a young man
ready to serve her in all honour.  Said he: "Lady, I can thank thee
humbly and heartily in that thou biddest me do thee service; for these
days past I have loathed the emptiness of the hours, and nought better
could I ask for than to serve so glorious a Mistress in all honour."

She frowned somewhat, and said: "Thou shalt not call me Mistress; there
is but one who so calleth me, that is my thrall; and thou art none such.
Thou shalt call me Lady, and I shall be well pleased that thou be my
squire, and for this present thou shalt serve me in the hunting.  So get
thy gear; take thy bow and arrows, and gird thee to thy sword.  For in
this fair land may one find beasts more perilous than be buck or hart.  I
go now to array me; we will depart while the day is yet young; for so
make we the summer day the fairest."

He made obeisance to her, and she arose and went to her chamber, and
Walter dight himself, and then abode her in the porch; and in less than
an hour she came out of the hall, and Walter's heart beat when he saw
that the Maid followed her hard at heel, and scarce might he school his
eyes not to gaze over-eagerly at his dear friend.  She was clad even as
she was before, and was changed in no wise, save that love troubled her
face when she first beheld him, and she had much ado to master it:
howbeit the Mistress heeded not the trouble of her, or made no semblance
of heeding it, till the Maiden's face was all according to its wont.

But this Walter found strange, that after all that disdain of the Maid's
thralldom which he had heard of the Mistress, and after all the threats
against her, now was the Mistress become mild and debonaire to her, as a
good lady to her good maiden.  When Walter bowed the knee to her, she
turned unto the Maid, and said: "Look thou, my Maid, at this fair new
Squire that I have gotten!  Will not he be valiant in the greenwood?  And
see whether he be well shapen or not.  Doth he not touch thine heart,
when thou thinkest of all the woe, and fear, and trouble of the World
beyond the Wood, which he hath escaped, to dwell in this little land
peaceably, and well-beloved both by the Mistress and the Maid?  And thou,
my Squire, look a little at this fair slim Maiden, and say if she
pleaseth thee not: didst thou deem that we had any thing so fair in this
lonely place?"

Frank and kind was the smile on her radiant visage, nor did she seem to
note any whit the trouble on Walter's face, nor how he strove to keep his
eyes from the Maid.  As for her, she had so wholly mastered her
countenance, that belike she used her face guilefully, for she stood as
one humble but happy, with a smile on her face, blushing, and with her
head hung down as if shamefaced before a goodly young man, a stranger.

But the Lady looked upon her kindly and said: "Come hither, child, and
fear not this frank and free young man, who belike feareth thee a little,
and full certainly feareth me; and yet only after the manner of men."

And therewith she took the Maid by the hand and drew her to her, and
pressed her to her bosom, and kissed her cheeks and her lips, and undid
the lacing of her gown and bared a shoulder of her, and swept away her
skirt from her feet; and then turned to Walter and said: "Lo thou,
Squire! is not this a lovely thing to have grown up amongst our rough oak-
boles?  What! art thou looking at the iron ring there?  It is nought,
save a token that she is mine, and that I may not be without her."

Then she took the Maid by the shoulders and turned her about as in sport,
and said: "Go thou now, and bring hither the good grey ones; for needs
must we bring home some venison to-day, whereas this stout warrior may
not feed on nought save manchets and honey."

So the Maid went her way, taking care, as Walter deemed, to give no side
glance to him.  But he stood there shamefaced, so confused with all this
openhearted kindness of the great Lady and with the fresh sight of the
darling beauty of the Maid, that he went nigh to thinking that all he had
heard since he had come to the porch of the house that first time was but
a dream of evil.

But while he stood pondering these matters, and staring before him as one
mazed, the Lady laughed out in his face, and touched him on the arm and
said: "Ah, our Squire, is it so that now thou hast seen my Maid thou
wouldst with a good will abide behind to talk with her?  But call to mind
thy word pledged to me e'en now!  And moreover I tell thee this for thy
behoof now she is out of ear-shot, that I will above all things take thee
away to-day: for there be other eyes, and they nought uncomely, that look
at whiles on my fair-ankled thrall; and who knows but the swords might be
out if I take not the better heed, and give thee not every whit of thy

As she spoke and moved forward, he turned a little, so that now the edge
of that hazel-coppice was within his eye-shot, and he deemed that once
more he saw the yellow-brown evil thing crawling forth from the thicket;
then, turning suddenly on the Lady, he met her eyes, and seemed in one
moment of time to find a far other look in them than that of frankness
and kindness; though in a flash they changed back again, and she said
merrily and sweetly: "So, so, Sir Squire, now art thou awake again, and
mayest for a little while look on me."

Now it came into his head, with that look of hers, all that might befall
him and the Maid if he mastered not his passion, nor did what he might to
dissemble; so he bent the knee to her, and spoke boldly to her in her own
vein, and said: "Nay, most gracious of ladies, never would I abide behind
to-day since thou farest afield.  But if my speech be hampered, or mine
eyes stray, is it not because my mind is confused by thy beauty, and the
honey of kind words which floweth from thy mouth?"

She laughed outright at his word, but not disdainfully, and said: "This
is well spoken, Squire, and even what a squire should say to his liege
lady, when the sun is up on a fair morning, and she and he and all the
world are glad."

She stood quite near him as she spoke, her hand was on his shoulder, and
her eyes shone and sparkled.  Sooth to say, that excusing of his
confusion was like enough in seeming to the truth; for sure never
creature was fashioned fairer than she: clad she was for the greenwood as
the hunting-goddess of the Gentiles, with her green gown gathered unto
her girdle, and sandals on her feet; a bow in her hand and a quiver at
her back: she was taller and bigger of fashion than the dear Maiden,
whiter of flesh, and more glorious, and brighter of hair; as a flower of
flowers for fairness and fragrance.

She said: "Thou art verily a fair squire before the hunt is up, and if
thou be as good in the hunting, all will be better than well, and the
guest will be welcome.  But lo! here cometh our Maid with the good grey
ones.  Go meet her, and we will tarry no longer than for thy taking the
leash in hand."

So Walter looked, and saw the Maid coming with two couple of great hounds
in the leash straining against her as she came along.  He ran lightly to
meet her, wondering if he should have a look, or a half-whisper from her;
but she let him take the white thongs from her hand, with the same half-
smile of shamefacedness still set on her face, and, going past him, came
softly up to the Lady, swaying like a willow-branch in the wind, and
stood before her, with her arms hanging down by her sides.  Then the Lady
turned to her, and said: "Look to thyself, our Maid, while we are away.
This fair young man thou needest not to fear indeed, for he is good and
leal; but what thou shalt do with the King's Son I wot not.  He is a hot
lover forsooth, but a hard man; and whiles evil is his mood, and perilous
both to thee and me.  And if thou do his will, it shall be ill for thee;
and if thou do it not, take heed of him, and let me, and me only, come
between his wrath and thee.  I may do somewhat for thee.  Even yesterday
he was instant with me to have thee chastised after the manner of
thralls; but I bade him keep silence of such words, and jeered him and
mocked him, till he went away from me peevish and in anger.  So look to
it that thou fall not into any trap of his contrivance."

Then the Maid cast herself at the Mistress's feet, and kissed and
embraced them; and as she rose up, the Lady laid her hand lightly on her
head, and then, turning to Walter, cried out: "Now, Squire, let us leave
all these troubles and wiles and desires behind us, and flit through the
merry greenwood like the Gentiles of old days."

And therewith she drew up the laps of her gown till the whiteness of her
knees was seen, and set off swiftly toward the wood that lay south of the
house, and Walter followed, marvelling at her goodliness; nor durst he
cast a look backward to the Maiden, for he knew that she desired him, and
it was her only that he looked to for his deliverance from this house of
guile and lies.


As they went, they found a change in the land, which grew emptier of big
and wide-spreading trees, and more beset with thickets.  From one of
these they roused a hart, and Walter let slip his hounds thereafter and
he and the Lady followed running.  Exceeding swift was she, and
well-breathed withal, so that Walter wondered at her; and eager she was
in the chase as the very hounds, heeding nothing the scratching of briars
or the whipping of stiff twigs as she sped on.  But for all their eager
hunting, the quarry outran both dogs and folk, and gat him into a great
thicket, amidmost whereof was a wide plash of water.  Into the thicket
they followed him, but he took to the water under their eyes and made
land on the other side; and because of the tangle of underwood, he swam
across much faster than they might have any hope to come round on him;
and so were the hunters left undone for that time.

So the Lady cast herself down on the green grass anigh the water, while
Walter blew the hounds in and coupled them up; then he turned round to
her, and lo! she was weeping for despite that they had lost the quarry;
and again did Walter wonder that so little a matter should raise a
passion of tears in her.  He durst not ask what ailed her, or proffer her
solace, but was not ill apaid by beholding her loveliness as she lay.

Presently she raised up her head and turned to Walter, and spake to him
angrily and said: "Squire, why dost thou stand staring at me like a

"Yea, Lady," he said; "but the sight of thee maketh me foolish to do
aught else but to look on thee."

She said, in a peevish voice: "Tush, Squire, the day is too far spent for
soft and courtly speeches; what was good there is nought so good here.
Withal, I know more of thine heart than thou deemest."

Walter hung down his head and reddened, and she looked on him, and her
face changed, and she smiled and said, kindly this time: "Look ye,
Squire, I am hot and weary, and ill-content; but presently it will be
better with me; for my knees have been telling my shoulders that the cold
water of this little lake will be sweet and pleasant this summer noonday,
and that I shall forget my foil when I have taken my pleasure therein.
Wherefore, go thou with thine hounds without the thicket and there abide
my coming.  And I bid thee look not aback as thou goest, for therein were
peril to thee: I shall not keep thee tarrying long alone."

He bowed his head to her, and turned and went his ways.  And now, when he
was a little space away from her, he deemed her indeed a marvel of women,
and wellnigh forgat all his doubts and fears concerning her, whether she
were a fair image fashioned out of lies and guile, or it might be but an
evil thing in the shape of a goodly woman.  Forsooth, when he saw her
caressing the dear and friendly Maid, his heart all turned against her,
despite what his eyes and his ears told his mind, and she seemed like as
it were a serpent enfolding the simplicity of the body which he loved.

But now it was all changed, and he lay on the grass and longed for her
coming; which was delayed for somewhat more than an hour.  Then she came
back to him, smiling and fresh and cheerful, her green gown let down to
her heels.

He sprang up to meet her, and she came close to him, and spake from a
laughing face: "Squire, hast thou no meat in thy wallet?  For, meseemeth,
I fed thee when thou wert hungry the other day; do thou now the same by

He smiled, and louted to her, and took his wallet and brought out thence
bread and flesh and wine, and spread them all out before her on the green
grass, and then stood by humbly before her.  But she said: "Nay, my
Squire, sit down by me and eat with me, for to-day are we both hunters

So he sat down by her trembling, but neither for awe of her greatness,
nor for fear and horror of her guile and sorcery.

A while they sat there together after they had done their meat, and the
Lady fell a-talking with Walter concerning the parts of the earth, and
the manners of men, and of his journeyings to and fro.

At last she said: "Thou hast told me much and answered all my questions
wisely, and as my good Squire should, and that pleaseth me.  But now tell
me of the city wherein thou wert born and bred; a city whereof thou hast
hitherto told me nought."

"Lady," he said, "it is a fair and a great city, and to many it seemeth
lovely.  But I have left it, and now it is nothing to me."

"Hast thou not kindred there?" said she.

"Yea," said he, "and foemen withal; and a false woman waylayeth my life

"And what was she?" said the Lady.

Said Walter: "She was but my wife."

"Was she fair?" said the Lady.

Walter looked on her a while, and then said: "I was going to say that she
was wellnigh as fair as thou; but that may scarce be.  Yet was she very
fair.  But now, kind and gracious Lady, I will say this word to thee: I
marvel that thou askest so many things concerning the city of Langton on
Holm, where I was born, and where are my kindred yet; for meseemeth that
thou knowest it thyself."

"I know it, I?" said the Lady.

"What, then! thou knowest it not?" said Walter.

Spake the Lady, and some of her old disdain was in her words: "Dost thou
deem that I wander about the world and its cheaping-steads like one of
the chap-men?  Nay, I dwell in the Wood beyond the World, and nowhere
else.  What hath put this word into thy mouth?"

He said: "Pardon me, Lady, if I have misdone; but thus it was: Mine own
eyes beheld thee going down the quays of our city, and thence a
ship-board, and the ship sailed out of the haven.  And first of all went
a strange dwarf, whom I have seen here, and then thy Maid; and then went
thy gracious and lovely body."

The Lady's face changed as he spoke, and she turned red and then pale,
and set her teeth; but she refrained her, and said: "Squire, I see of
thee that thou art no liar, nor light of wit, therefore I suppose that
thou hast verily seen some appearance of me; but never have I been in
Langton, nor thought thereof, nor known that such a stead there was until
thou namedst it e'en now.  Wherefore, I deem that an enemy hath cast the
shadow of me on the air of that land."

"Yea, my Lady," said Walter; "and what enemy mightest thou have to have
done this?"

She was slow of answer, but spake at last from a quivering mouth of
anger: "Knowest thou not the saw, that a man's foes are they of his own
house?  If I find out for a truth who hath done this, the said enemy
shall have an evil hour with me."

Again she was silent, and she clenched her hands and strained her limbs
in the heat of her anger; so that Walter was afraid of her, and all his
misgivings came back to his heart again, and he repented that he had told
her so much.  But in a little while all that trouble and wrath seemed to
flow off her, and again was she of good cheer, and kind and sweet to him
and she said: "But in sooth, however it may be, I thank thee, my Squire
and friend, for telling me hereof.  And surely no wyte do I lay on thee.
And, moreover, is it not this vision which hath brought thee hither?"

"So it is, Lady," said he.

"Then have we to thank it," said the Lady, "and thou art welcome to our

And therewith she held out her hand to him, and he took it on his knees
and kissed it: and then it was as if a red-hot iron had run through his
heart, and he felt faint, and bowed down his head.  But he held her hand
yet, and kissed it many times, and the wrist and the arm, and knew not
where he was.

But she drew a little away from him, and arose and said: "Now is the day
wearing, and if we are to bear back any venison we must buckle to the
work.  So arise, Squire, and take the hounds and come with me; for not
far off is a little thicket which mostly harbours foison of deer, great
and small.  Let us come our ways."


So they walked on quietly thence some half a mile, and ever the Lady
would have Walter to walk by her side, and not follow a little behind
her, as was meet for a servant to do; and she touched his hand at whiles
as she showed him beast and fowl and tree, and the sweetness of her body
overcame him, so that for a while he thought of nothing save her.

Now when they were come to the thicket-side, she turned to him and said:
"Squire, I am no ill woodman, so that thou mayst trust me that we shall
not be brought to shame the second time; and I shall do sagely; so nock
an arrow to thy bow, and abide me here, and stir not hence; for I shall
enter this thicket without the hounds, and arouse the quarry for thee;
and see that thou be brisk and clean-shooting, and then shalt thou have a
reward of me."

Therewith she drew up her skirts through her girdle again, took her bent
bow in her hand, and drew an arrow out of the quiver, and stepped lightly
into the thicket, leaving him longing for the sight of her, as he
hearkened to the tread of her feet on the dry leaves, and the rustling of
the brake as she thrust through it.

Thus he stood for a few minutes, and then he heard a kind of gibbering
cry without words, yet as of a woman, coming from the thicket, and while
his heart was yet gathering the thought that something had gone amiss, he
glided swiftly, but with little stir, into the brake.

He had gone but a little way ere he saw the Lady standing there in a
narrow clearing, her face pale as death, her knees cleaving together, her
body swaying and tottering, her hands hanging down, and the bow and arrow
fallen to the ground; and ten yards before her a great-headed yellow
creature crouching flat to the earth and slowly drawing nigher.

He stopped short; one arrow was already notched to the string, and
another hung loose to the lesser fingers of his string-hand.  He raised
his right hand, and drew and loosed in a twinkling; the shaft flew close
to the Lady's side, and straightway all the wood rung with a huge roar,
as the yellow lion turned about to bite at the shaft which had sunk deep
into him behind the shoulder, as if a bolt out of the heavens had smitten
him.  But straightway had Walter loosed again, and then, throwing down
his bow, he ran forward with his drawn sword gleaming in his hand, while
the lion weltered and rolled, but had no might to move forward.  Then
Walter went up to him warily and thrust him through to the heart, and
leapt aback, lest the beast might yet have life in him to smite; but he
left his struggling, his huge voice died out, and he lay there moveless
before the hunter.

Walter abode a little, facing him, and then turned about to the Lady, and
she had fallen down in a heap whereas she stood, and lay there all
huddled up and voiceless.  So he knelt down by her, and lifted up her
head, and bade her arise, for the foe was slain.  And after a little she
stretched out her limbs, and turned about on the grass, and seemed to
sleep, and the colour came into her face again, and it grew soft and a
little smiling.  Thus she lay awhile, and Walter sat by her watching her,
till at last she opened her eyes and sat up, and knew him, and smiling on
him said: "What hath befallen, Squire, that I have slept and dreamed?"

He answered nothing, till her memory came back to her, and then she
arose, trembling and pale, and said: "Let us leave this wood, for the
Enemy is therein."

And she hastened away before him till they came out at the thicket-side
whereas the hounds had been left, and they were standing there uneasy and
whining; so Walter coupled them, while the Lady stayed not, but went away
swiftly homeward, and Walter followed.

At last she stayed her swift feet, and turned round on Walter, and said:
"Squire, come hither."

So did he, and she said: "I am weary again; let us sit under this quicken-
tree, and rest us."

So they sat down, and she sat looking between her knees a while; and at
last she said: "Why didst thou not bring the lion's hide?"

He said: "Lady, I will go back and flay the beast, and bring on the

And he arose therewith, but she caught him by the skirts and drew him
down, and said: "Nay, thou shalt not go; abide with me.  Sit down again."

He did so, and she said: "Thou shalt not go from me; for I am afraid: I
am not used to looking on the face of death."

She grew pale as she spoke, and set a hand to her breast, and sat so a
while without speaking.  At last she turned to him smiling, and said:
"How was it with the aspect of me when I stood before the peril of the
Enemy?"  And she laid a hand upon his.

"O gracious one," quoth he, "thou wert, as ever, full lovely, but I
feared for thee."

She moved not her hand from his, and she said: "Good and true Squire, I
said ere I entered the thicket e'en now that I would reward thee if thou
slewest the quarry.  He is dead, though thou hast left the skin behind
upon the carcase.  Ask now thy reward, but take time to think what it
shall be."

He felt her hand warm upon his, and drew in the sweet odour of her
mingled with the woodland scents under the hot sun of the afternoon, and
his heart was clouded with manlike desire of her.  And it was a near
thing but he had spoken, and craved of her the reward of the freedom of
her Maid, and that he might depart with her into other lands; but as his
mind wavered betwixt this and that, the Lady, who had been eyeing him
keenly, drew her hand away from him; and therewith doubt and fear flowed
into his mind, and he refrained him of speech.

Then she laughed merrily and said: "The good Squire is shamefaced; he
feareth a lady more than a lion.  Will it be a reward to thee if I bid
thee to kiss my cheek?"

Therewith she leaned her face toward him, and he kissed her
well-favouredly, and then sat gazing on her, wondering what should betide
to him on the morrow.

Then she arose and said: "Come, Squire, and let us home; be not abashed,
there shall be other rewards hereafter."

So they went their ways quietly; and it was nigh sunset against they
entered the house again.  Walter looked round for the Maid, but beheld
her not; and the Lady said to him: "I go to my chamber, and now is thy
service over for this day."

Then she nodded to him friendly and went her ways.


But as for Walter, he went out of the house again, and fared slowly over
the woodlawns till he came to another close thicket or brake; he entered
from mere wantonness, or that he might be the more apart and hidden, so
as to think over his case.  There he lay down under the thick boughs, but
could not so herd his thoughts that they would dwell steady in looking
into what might come to him within the next days; rather visions of those
two women and the monster did but float before him, and fear and desire
and the hope of life ran to and fro in his mind.

As he lay thus he heard footsteps drawing near, and he looked between the
boughs, and though the sun had just set, he could see close by him a man
and a woman going slowly, and they hand in hand; at first he deemed it
would be the King's Son and the Lady, but presently he saw that it was
the King's Son indeed, but that it was the Maid whom he was holding by
the hand.  And now he saw of him that his eyes were bright with desire,
and of her that she was very pale.  Yet when he heard her begin to speak,
it was in a steady voice that she said: "King's Son, thou hast threatened
me oft and unkindly, and now thou threatenest me again, and no less
unkindly.  But whatever were thy need herein before, now is there no more
need; for my Mistress, of whom thou wert weary, is now grown weary of
thee, and belike will not now reward me for drawing thy love to me, as
once she would have done; to wit, before the coming of this stranger.
Therefore I say, since I am but a thrall, poor and helpless, betwixt you
two mighty ones, I have no choice but to do thy will."

As she spoke she looked all round about her, as one distraught by the
anguish of fear.  Walter, amidst of his wrath and grief, had wellnigh
drawn his sword and rushed out of his lair upon the King's Son.  But he
deemed it sure that, so doing, he should undo the Maid altogether, and
himself also belike, so he refrained him, though it were a hard matter.

The Maid had stayed her feet now close to where Walter lay, some five
yards from him only, and he doubted whether she saw him not from where
she stood.  As to the King's Son, he was so intent upon the Maid, and so
greedy of her beauty, that it was not like that he saw anything.

Now moreover Walter looked, and deemed that he beheld something through
the grass and bracken on the other side of those two, an ugly brown and
yellow body, which, if it were not some beast of the foumart kind, must
needs be the monstrous dwarf, or one of his kin; and the flesh crept upon
Walter's bones with the horror of him.  But the King's Son spoke unto the
Maid: "Sweetling, I shall take the gift thou givest me, neither shall I
threaten thee any more, howbeit thou givest it not very gladly or

She smiled on him with her lips alone, for her eyes were wandering and
haggard.  "My lord," she said, "is not this the manner of women?"

"Well," he said, "I say that I will take thy love even so given.  Yet let
me hear again that thou lovest not that vile newcomer, and that thou hast
not seen him, save this morning along with my Lady.  Nay now, thou shalt
swear it."

"What shall I swear by?" she said.

Quoth he, "Thou shalt swear by my body;" and therewith he thrust himself
close up against her; but she drew her hand from his, and laid it on his
breast, and said: "I swear it by thy body."

He smiled on her licorously, and took her by the shoulders, and kissed
her face many times, and then stood aloof from her, and said: "Now have I
had hansel: but tell me, when shall I come to thee?"

She spoke out clearly: "Within three days at furthest; I will do thee to
wit of the day and the hour to-morrow, or the day after."

He kissed her once more, and said: "Forget it not, or the threat holds

And therewith he turned about and went his ways toward the house; and
Walter saw the yellow-brown thing creeping after him in the gathering

As for the Maid, she stood for a while without moving, and looking after
the King's Son and the creature that followed him.  Then she turned about
to where Walter lay and lightly put aside the boughs, and Walter leapt
up, and they stood face to face.  She said softly but eagerly: "Friend,
touch me not yet!"

He spake not, but looked on her sternly.  She said: "Thou art angry with

Still he spake not; but she said: "Friend, this at least I will pray
thee; not to play with life and death; with happiness and misery.  Dost
thou not remember the oath which we swore each to each but a little while
ago?  And dost thou deem that I have changed in these few days?  Is thy
mind concerning thee and me the same as it was?  If it be not so, now
tell me.  For now have I the mind to do as if neither thou nor I are
changed to each other, whoever may have kissed mine unwilling lips, or
whomsoever thy lips may have kissed.  But if thou hast changed, and wilt
no longer give me thy love, nor crave mine, then shall this steel" (and
she drew a sharp knife from her girdle) "be for the fool and the dastard
who hath made thee wroth with me, my friend, and my friend that I deemed
I had won.  And then let come what will come!  But if thou be nought
changed, and the oath yet holds, then, when a little while hath passed,
may we thrust all evil and guile and grief behind us, and long joy shall
lie before us, and long life, and all honour in death: if only thou wilt
do as I bid thee, O my dear, and my friend, and my first friend!"

He looked on her, and his breast heaved up as all the sweetness of her
kind love took hold on him, and his face changed, and the tears filled
his eyes and ran over, and rained down before her, and he stretched out
his hand toward her.

Then she said exceeding sweetly: "Now indeed I see that it is well with
me, yea, and with thee also.  A sore pain it is to me, that not even now
may I take thine hand, and cast mine arms about thee, and kiss the lips
that love me.  But so it has to be.  My dear, even so I were fain to
stand here long before thee, even if we spake no more word to each other;
but abiding here is perilous; for there is ever an evil spy upon my
doings, who has now as I deem followed the King's Son to the house, but
who will return when he has tracked him home thither: so we must sunder.
But belike there is yet time for a word or two: first, the rede which I
had thought on for our deliverance is now afoot, though I durst not tell
thee thereof, nor have time thereto.  But this much shall I tell thee,
that whereas great is the craft of my Mistress in wizardry, yet I also
have some little craft therein, and this, which she hath not, to change
the aspect of folk so utterly that they seem other than they verily are;
yea, so that one may have the aspect of another.  Now the next thing is
this: whatsoever my Mistress may bid thee, do her will therein with no
more nay-saying than thou deemest may please her.  And the next thing:
wheresoever thou mayst meet me, speak not to me, make no sign to me, even
when I seem to be all alone, till I stoop down and touch the ring on my
ankle with my right hand; but if I do so, then stay thee, without fail,
till I speak.  The last thing I will say to thee, dear friend, ere we
both go our ways, this it is.  When we are free, and thou knowest all
that I have done, I pray thee deem me not evil and wicked, and be not
wroth with me for my deed; whereas thou wottest well that I am not in
like plight with other women.  I have heard tell that when the knight
goeth to the war, and hath overcome his foes by the shearing of swords
and guileful tricks, and hath come back home to his own folk, they praise
him and bless him, and crown him with flowers, and boast of him before
God in the minster for his deliverance of friend and folk and city.  Why
shouldst thou be worse to me than this?  Now is all said, my dear and my
friend; farewell, farewell!"

Therewith she turned and went her ways toward the house in all speed, but
making somewhat of a compass.  And when she was gone, Walter knelt down
and kissed the place where her feet had been, and arose thereafter, and
made his way toward the house, he also, but slowly, and staying oft on
his way.


On the morrow morning Walter loitered a while about the house till the
morn was grown old, and then about noon he took his bow and arrows and
went into the woods to the northward, to get him some venison.  He went
somewhat far ere he shot him a fawn, and then he sat him down to rest
under the shade of a great chestnut-tree, for it was not far past the
hottest of the day.  He looked around thence and saw below him a little
dale with a pleasant stream running through it, and he bethought him of
bathing therein, so he went down and had his pleasure of the water and
the willowy banks; for he lay naked a while on the grass by the lip of
the water, for joy of the flickering shade, and the little breeze that
ran over the down-long ripples of the stream.

Then he did on his raiment, and began to come his ways up the bent, but
had scarce gone three steps ere he saw a woman coming towards him from
downstream.  His heart came into his mouth when he saw her, for she
stooped and reached down her arm, as if she would lay her hand on her
ankle, so that at first he deemed it had been the Maid, but at the second
eye-shot he saw that it was the Mistress.  She stood still and looked on
him, so that he deemed she would have him come to her.  So he went to
meet her, and grew somewhat shamefaced as he drew nigher, and wondered at
her, for now was she clad but in one garment of some dark grey silky
stuff, embroidered with, as it were, a garland of flowers about the
middle, but which was so thin that, as the wind drifted it from side and
limb, it hid her no more, but for the said garland, than if water were
running over her: her face was full of smiling joy and content as she
spake to him in a kind, caressing voice, and said: "I give thee good day,
good Squire, and well art thou met."  And she held out her hand to him.
He knelt down before her and kissed it, and abode still upon his knees,
and hanging down his head.

But she laughed outright, and stooped down to him, and put her hand to
his arms, and raised him up, and said to him: "What is this, my Squire,
that thou kneelest to me as to an idol?"

He said faltering: "I wot not; but perchance thou art an idol; and I fear

"What!" she said, "more than yesterday, whenas thou sawest me afraid?"

Said he: "Yea, for that now I see thee unhidden, and meseemeth there hath
been none such since the old days of the Gentiles."

She said: "Hast thou not yet bethought thee of a gift to crave of me, a
reward for the slaying of mine enemy, and the saving of me from death?"

"O my Lady," he said, "even so much would I have done for any other lady,
or, forsooth, for any poor man; for so my manhood would have bidden me.
Speak not of gifts to me then.  Moreover" (and he reddened therewith, and
his voice faltered), "didst thou not give me my sweet reward yesterday?
What more durst I ask?"

She held her peace awhile, and looked on him keenly; and he reddened
under her gaze.  Then wrath came into her face, and she reddened and knit
her brows, and spake to him in a voice of anger, and said: "Nay, what is
this?  It is growing in my mind that thou deemest the gift of me
unworthy!  Thou, an alien, an outcast; one endowed with the little wisdom
of the World without the Wood!  And here I stand before thee, all
glorious in my nakedness, and so fulfilled of wisdom, that I can make
this wilderness to any whom I love more full of joy than the kingdoms and
cities of the world--and thou!--Ah, but it is the Enemy that hath done
this, and made the guileless guileful!  Yet will I have the upper hand at
least, though thou suffer for it, and I suffer for thee."

Walter stood before her with hanging head, and he put forth his hands as
if praying off her anger, and pondered what answer he should make; for
now he feared for himself and the Maid; so at last he looked up to her,
and said boldly: "Nay, Lady, I know what thy words mean, whereas I
remember thy first welcome of me.  I wot, forsooth, that thou wouldst
call me base-born, and of no account, and unworthy to touch the hem of
thy raiment; and that I have been over-bold, and guilty towards thee; and
doubtless this is sooth, and I have deserved thine anger: but I will not
ask thee to pardon me, for I have done but what I must needs."

She looked on him calmly now, and without any wrath, but rather as if she
would read what was written in his inmost heart.  Then her face changed
into joyousness again, and she smote her palms together, and cried out:
"This is but foolish talk; for yesterday did I see thy valiancy, and to-
day I have seen thy goodliness; and I say, that though thou mightest not
be good enough for a fool woman of the earthly baronage, yet art thou
good enough for me, the wise and the mighty, and the lovely.  And whereas
thou sayest that I gave thee but disdain when first thou camest to us,
grudge not against me therefor, because it was done but to prove thee;
and now thou art proven."

Then again he knelt down before her, and embraced her knees, and again
she raised him up, and let her arm hang down over his shoulder, and her
cheek brush his cheek; and she kissed his mouth and said: "Hereby is all
forgiven, both thine offence and mine; and now cometh joy and merry

Therewith her smiling face grew grave, and she stood before him looking
stately and gracious and kind at once, and she took his hand and said:
"Thou mightest deem my chamber in the Golden House of the Wood
over-queenly, since thou art no masterful man.  So now hast thou chosen
well the place wherein to meet me to-day, for hard by on the other side
of the stream is a bower of pleasance, which, forsooth, not every one who
cometh to this land may find; there shall I be to thee as one of the up-
country damsels of thine own land, and thou shalt not be abashed."

She sidled up to him as she spoke, and would he, would he not, her sweet
voice tickled his very soul with pleasure, and she looked aside on him
happy and well-content.

So they crossed the stream by the shallow below the pool wherein Walter
had bathed, and within a little they came upon a tall fence of
flake-hurdles, and a simple gate therein.  The Lady opened the same, and
they entered thereby into a close all planted as a most fair garden, with
hedges of rose and woodbine, and with linden-trees a-blossom, and long
ways of green grass betwixt borders of lilies and clove-gilliflowers, and
other sweet garland-flowers.  And a branch of the stream which they had
crossed erewhile wandered through that garden; and in the midst was a
little house built of post and pan, and thatched with yellow straw, as if
it were new done.

Then Walter looked this way and that, and wondered at first, and tried to
think in his mind what should come next, and how matters would go with
him; but his thought would not dwell steady on any other matter than the
beauty of the Lady amidst the beauty of the garden; and withal she was
now grown so sweet and kind, and even somewhat timid and shy with him,
that scarce did he know whose hand he held, or whose fragrant bosom and
sleek side went so close to him.

So they wandered here and there through the waning of the day, and when
they entered at last into the cool dusk house, then they loved and played
together, as if they were a pair of lovers guileless, with no fear for
the morrow, and no seeds of enmity and death sown betwixt them.


Now, on the morrow, when Walter was awake, he found there was no one
lying beside him, and the day was no longer very young; so he arose, and
went through the garden from end to end, and all about, and there was
none there; and albeit that he dreaded to meet the Lady there, yet was he
sad at heart and fearful of what might betide.  Howsoever, he found the
gate whereby they had entered yesterday, and he went out into the little
dale; but when he had gone a step or two he turned about, and could see
neither garden nor fence, nor any sign of what he had seen thereof but
lately.  He knit his brow and stood still to think of it, and his heart
grew the heavier thereby; but presently he went his ways and crossed the
stream, but had scarce come up on to the grass on the further side, ere
he saw a woman coming to meet him, and at first, full as he was of the
tide of yesterday and the wondrous garden, deemed that it would be the
Lady; but the woman stayed her feet, and, stooping, laid a hand on her
right ankle, and he saw that it was the Maid.  He drew anigh to her, and
saw that she was nought so sad of countenance as the last time she had
met him, but flushed of cheek and bright-eyed.

As he came up to her she made a step or two to meet him, holding out her
two hands, and then refrained her, and said smiling: "Ah, friend, belike
this shall be the last time that I shall say to thee, touch me not, nay,
not so much as my hand, or if it were but the hem of my raiment."

The joy grew up in his heart, and he gazed on her fondly, and said: "Why,
what hath befallen of late?"

"O friend," she began, "this hath befallen."

But as he looked on her, the smile died from her face, and she became
deadly pale to the very lips; she looked askance to her left side,
whereas ran the stream; and Walter followed her eyes, and deemed for one
instant that he saw the misshapen yellow visage of the dwarf peering
round from a grey rock, but the next there was nothing.  Then the Maid,
though she were as pale as death, went on in a clear, steady, hard voice,
wherein was no joy or kindness, keeping her face to Walter and her back
to the stream: "This hath befallen, friend, that there is no longer any
need to refrain thy love nor mine; therefore I say to thee, come to my
chamber (and it is the red chamber over against thine, though thou
knewest it not) an hour before this next midnight, and then thy sorrow
and mine shall be at an end: and now I must needs depart.  Follow me not,
but remember!"

And therewith she turned about and fled like the wind down the stream.

But Walter stood wondering, and knew not what to make of it, whether it
were for good or ill: for he knew now that she had paled and been seized
with terror because of the upheaving of the ugly head; and yet she had
seemed to speak out the very thing she had to say.  Howsoever it were, he
spake aloud to himself: Whatever comes, I will keep tryst with her.

Then he drew his sword, and turned this way and that, looking all about
if he might see any sign of the Evil Thing; but nought might his eyes
behold, save the grass, and the stream, and the bushes of the dale.  So
then, still holding his naked sword in his hand, he clomb the bent out of
the dale; for that was the only way he knew to the Golden House; and when
he came to the top, and the summer breeze blew in his face, and he looked
down a fair green slope beset with goodly oaks and chestnuts, he was
refreshed with the life of the earth, and he felt the good sword in his
fist, and knew that there was might and longing in him, and the world
seemed open unto him.

So he smiled, if it were somewhat grimly, and sheathed his sword and went
on toward the house.


He entered the cool dusk through the porch, and, looking down the
pillared hall, saw beyond the fountain a gleam of gold, and when he came
past the said fountain he looked up to the high-seat, and lo! the Lady
sitting there clad in her queenly raiment.  She called to him, and he
came; and she hailed him, and spake graciously and calmly, yet as if she
knew nought of him save as the leal servant of her, a high Lady.
"Squire," she said, "we have deemed it meet to have the hide of the
servant of the Enemy, the lion to wit, whom thou slewest yesterday, for a
carpet to our feet; wherefore go now, take thy wood-knife, and flay the
beast, and bring me home his skin.  This shall be all thy service for
this day, so mayst thou do it at thine own leisure, and not weary
thyself.  May good go with thee."

He bent the knee before her, and she smiled on him graciously, but
reached out no hand for him to kiss, and heeded him but little.
Wherefore, in spite of himself, and though he knew somewhat of her guile,
he could not help marvelling that this should be she who had lain in his
arms night-long but of late.

Howso that might be, he took his way toward the thicket where he had
slain the lion, and came thither by then it was afternoon, at the hottest
of the day.  So he entered therein, and came to the very place whereas
the Lady had lain, when she fell down before the terror of the lion; and
there was the mark of her body on the grass where she had lain that
while, like as it were the form of a hare.  But when Walter went on to
where he had slain that great beast, lo! he was gone, and there was no
sign of him; but there were Walter's own footprints, and the two shafts
which he had shot, one feathered red, and one blue.  He said at first:
Belike someone hath been here, and hath had the carcase away.  Then he
laughed in very despite, and said: How may that be, since there are no
signs of dragging away of so huge a body, and no blood or fur on the
grass if they had cut him up, and moreover no trampling of feet, as if
there had been many men at the deed.  Then was he all abashed, and again
laughed in scorn of himself, and said: Forsooth I deemed I had done
manly; but now forsooth I shot nought, and nought there was before the
sword of my father's son.  And what may I deem now, but that this is a
land of mere lies, and that there is nought real and alive therein save
me.  Yea, belike even these trees and the green grass will presently
depart from me, and leave me falling down through the clouds.

Therewith he turned away, and gat him to the road that led to the Golden
House, wondering what next should befall him, and going slowly as he
pondered his case.  So came he to that first thicket where they had lost
their quarry by water; so he entered the same, musing, and bathed him in
the pool that was therein, after he had wandered about it awhile, and
found nothing new.

So again he set him to the homeward road, when the day was now waning,
and it was near sunset that he was come nigh unto the house, though it
was hidden from him as then by a low bent that rose before him; and there
he abode and looked about him.

Now as he looked, over the said bent came the figure of a woman, who
stayed on the brow thereof and looked all about her, and then ran swiftly
down to meet Walter, who saw at once that it was the Maid.

She made no stay then till she was but three paces from him, and then she
stooped down and made the sign to him, and then spake to him
breathlessly, and said: "Hearken! but speak not till I have done: I bade
thee to-night's meeting because I saw that there was one anigh whom I
must needs beguile.  But by thine oath, and thy love, and all that thou
art, I adjure thee come not unto me this night as I bade thee! but be
hidden in the hazel-copse outside the house, as it draws toward midnight,
and abide me there.  Dost thou hearken, and wilt thou?  Say yes or no in
haste, for I may not tarry a moment of time.  Who knoweth what is behind

"Yes," said Walter hastily; "but friend and love--"

"No more," she said; "hope the best;" and turning from him she ran away
swiftly, not by the way she had come, but sideways, as though to reach
the house by fetching a compass.

But Walter went slowly on his way, thinking within himself that now at
that present moment there was nought for it but to refrain him from
doing, and to let others do; yet deemed he that it was little manly to be
as the pawn upon the board, pushed about by the will of others.

Then, as he went, he bethought him of the Maiden's face and aspect, as
she came running to him, and stood before him for that minute; and all
eagerness he saw in her, and sore love of him, and distress of soul, all
blent together.

So came he to the brow of the bent whence he could see lying before him,
scarce more than a bow-shot away, the Golden House now gilded again and
reddened by the setting sun.  And even therewith came a gay image toward
him, flashing back the level rays from gold and steel and silver; and lo!
there was come the King's Son.  They met presently, and the King's Son
turned to go beside him, and said merrily: "I give thee good even, my
Lady's Squire!  I owe thee something of courtesy, whereas it is by thy
means that I shall be made happy, both to-night, and to-morrow, and many
to-morrows; and sooth it is, that but little courtesy have I done thee

His face was full of joy, and the eyes of him shone with gladness.  He
was a goodly man, but to Walter he seemed an ill one; and he hated him so
much, that he found it no easy matter to answer him; but he refrained
himself, and said: "I can thee thank, King's Son; and good it is that
someone is happy in this strange land."

"Art thou not happy then, Squire of my Lady?" said the other.

Walter had no mind to show this man his heart, nay, nor even a corner
thereof; for he deemed him an enemy.  So he smiled sweetly and somewhat
foolishly, as a man luckily in love, and said: "O yea, yea, why should I
not be so?  How might I be otherwise?"

"Yea then," said the King's Son, "why didst thou say that thou wert glad
someone is happy?  Who is unhappy, deemest thou?" and he looked on him

Walter answered slowly: "Said I so?  I suppose then that I was thinking
of thee; for when first I saw thee, yea, and afterwards, thou didst seem
heavy-hearted and ill-content."

The face of the King's Son cleared at this word, and he said: "Yea, so it
was; for look you, both ways it was: I was unfree, and I had sown the
true desire of my heart whereas it waxed not.  But now I am on the brink
and verge of freedom, and presently shall my desire be blossomed.  Nay
now, Squire, I deem thee a good fellow, though it may be somewhat of a
fool; so I will no more speak riddles to thee.  Thus it is: the Maid hath
promised me all mine asking, and is mine; and in two or three days, by
her helping also, I shall see the world again."

Quoth Walter, smiling askance on him: "And the Lady? what shall she say
to this matter?"

The King's Son reddened, but smiled falsely enough, and said: "Sir
Squire, thou knowest enough not to need to ask this.  Why should I tell
thee that she accounteth more of thy little finger than of my whole body?
Now I tell thee hereof freely; first, because this my fruition of love,
and my freeing from thralldom, is, in a way, of thy doing.  For thou art
become my supplanter, and hast taken thy place with yonder lovely tyrant.
Fear not for me! she will let me go.  As for thyself, see thou to it!  But
again I tell thee hereof because my heart is light and full of joy, and
telling thee will pleasure me, and cannot do me any harm.  For if thou
say: How if I carry the tale to my Lady?  I answer, thou wilt not.  For I
know that thine heart hath been somewhat set on the jewel that my hand
holdeth; and thou knowest well on whose head the Lady's wrath would fall,
and that would be neither thine nor mine."

"Thou sayest sooth," said Walter; "neither is treason my wont."

So they walked on silently a while, and then Walter said: "But how if the
Maiden had nay-said thee; what hadst thou done then?"

"By the heavens!" said the King's Son fiercely, "she should have paid for
her nay-say; then would I--"  But he broke off, and said quietly, yet
somewhat doggedly: "Why talk of what might have been?  She gave me her
yea-say pleasantly and sweetly."

Now Walter knew that the man lied, so he held his peace thereon; but
presently he said: "When thou art free wilt thou go to thine own land

"Yea," said the King's Son; "she will lead me thither."

"And wilt thou make her thy lady and queen when thou comest to thy
father's land?" said Walter.

The King's Son knit his brow, and said: "When I am in mine own land I may
do with her what I will; but I look for it that I shall do no otherwise
with her than that she shall be well-content."

Then the talk between them dropped, and the King's Son turned off toward
the wood, singing and joyous; but Walter went soberly toward the house.
Forsooth he was not greatly cast down, for besides that he knew that the
King's Son was false, he deemed that under this double tryst lay
something which was a-doing in his own behalf.  Yet was he eager and
troubled, if not down-hearted, and his soul was cast about betwixt hope
and fear.


So came he into the pillared hall, and there he found the Lady walking to
and fro by the high-seat; and when he drew nigh she turned on him, and
said in a voice rather eager than angry: "What hast thou done, Squire?
Why art thou come before me?"

He was abashed, and bowed before her and said: "O gracious Lady, thou
badest me service, and I have been about it."

She said: "Tell me then, tell me, what hath betided?"

"Lady," said he, "when I entered the thicket of thy swooning I found
there no carcase of the lion, nor any sign of the dragging away of him."

She looked full in his face for a little, and then went to her chair, and
sat down therein; and in a little while spake to him in a softer voice,
and said: "Did I not tell thee that some enemy had done that unto me? and
lo! now thou seest that so it is."

Then was she silent again, and knit her brows and set her teeth; and
thereafter she spake harshly and fiercely: "But I will overcome her, and
make her days evil, but keep death away from her, that she may die many
times over; and know all the sickness of the heart, when foes be nigh,
and friends afar, and there is none to deliver!"

Her eyes flashed, and her face was dark with anger; but she turned and
caught Walter's eyes, and the sternness of his face, and she softened at
once, and said: "But thou! this hath little to do with thee; and now to
thee I speak: Now cometh even and night.  Go thou to thy chamber, and
there shalt thou find raiment worthy of thee, what thou now art, and what
thou shalt be; do on the same, and make thyself most goodly, and then
come thou hither and eat and drink with me, and afterwards depart whither
thou wilt, till the night has worn to its midmost; and then come thou to
my chamber, to wit, through the ivory door in the gallery above; and then
and there shall I tell thee a thing, and it shall be for the weal both of
thee and of me, but for the grief and woe of the Enemy."

Therewith she reached her hand to him, and he kissed it, and departed and
came to his chamber, and found raiment therebefore rich beyond measure;
and he wondered if any new snare lay therein: yet if there were, he saw
no way whereby he might escape it, so he did it on, and became as the
most glorious of kings, and yet lovelier than any king of the world.

Sithence he went his way into the pillared hall, when it was now night,
and without the moon was up, and the trees of the wood as still as
images.  But within the hall shone bright with many candles, and the
fountain glittered in the light of them, as it ran tinkling sweetly into
the little stream; and the silvern bridges gleamed, and the pillars shone
all round about.

And there on the dais was a table dight most royally, and the Lady
sitting thereat, clad in her most glorious array, and behind her the Maid
standing humbly, yet clad in precious web of shimmering gold, but with
feet unshod, and the iron ring upon her ankle.

So Walter came his ways to the high-seat, and the Lady rose and greeted
him, and took him by the hands, and kissed him on either cheek, and sat
him down beside her.  So they fell to their meat, and the Maid served
them; but the Lady took no more heed of her than if she were one of the
pillars of the hall; but Walter she caressed oft with sweet words, and
the touch of her hand, making him drink out of her cup and eat out of her
dish.  As to him, he was bashful by seeming, but verily fearful; he took
the Lady's caresses with what grace he might, and durst not so much as
glance at her Maid.  Long indeed seemed that banquet to him, and longer
yet endured the weariness of his abiding there, kind to his foe and
unkind to his friend; for after the banquet they still sat a while, and
the Lady talked much to Walter about many things of the ways of the
world, and he answered what he might, distraught as he was with the
thought of those two trysts which he had to deal with.

At last spake the Lady and said: "Now must I leave thee for a little, and
thou wottest where and how we shall meet next; and meanwhile disport thee
as thou wilt, so that thou weary not thyself, for I love to see thee

Then she arose stately and grand; but she kissed Walter on the mouth ere
she turned to go out of the hall.  The Maid followed her; but or ever she
was quite gone, she stooped and made that sign, and looked over her
shoulder at Walter, as if in entreaty to him, and there was fear and
anguish in her face; but he nodded his head to her in yea-say of the
tryst in the hazel-copse, and in a trice she was gone.

Walter went down the hall, and forth into the early night; but in the
jaws of the porch he came up against the King's Son, who, gazing at his
attire glittering with all its gems in the moonlight, laughed out, and
said: "Now may it be seen how thou art risen in degree above me, whereas
I am but a king's son, and that a king of a far country; whereas thou art
a king of kings, or shalt be this night, yea, and of this very country
wherein we both are."

Now Walter saw the mock which lay under his words; but he kept back his
wrath, and answered: "Fair sir, art thou as well contented with thy lot
as when the sun went down?  Hast thou no doubt or fear?  Will the Maid
verily keep tryst with thee, or hath she given thee yea-say but to escape
thee this time?  Or, again, may she not turn to the Lady and appeal to
her against thee?"

Now when he had spoken these words, he repented thereof, and feared for
himself and the Maid, lest he had stirred some misgiving in that young
man's foolish heart.  But the King's Son did but laugh, and answered
nought but to Walter's last words, and said: "Yea, yea! this word of
thine showeth how little thou wottest of that which lieth betwixt my
darling and thine.  Doth the lamb appeal from the shepherd to the wolf?
Even so shall the Maid appeal from me to thy Lady.  What! ask thy Lady at
thy leisure what her wont hath been with her thrall; she shall think it a
fair tale to tell thee thereof.  But thereof is my Maid all whole now by
reason of her wisdom in leechcraft, or somewhat more.  And now I tell
thee again, that the beforesaid Maid must needs do my will; for if I be
the deep sea, and I deem not so ill of myself, that other one is the
devil; as belike thou shalt find out for thyself later on.  Yea, all is
well with me, and more than well."

And therewith he swung merrily into the litten hall.  But Walter went out
into the moonlit night, and wandered about for an hour or more, and stole
warily into the hall and thence into his own chamber.  There he did off
that royal array, and did his own raiment upon him; he girt him with
sword and knife, took his bow and quiver, and stole down and out again,
even as he had come in.  Then he fetched a compass, and came down into
the hazel-coppice from the north, and lay hidden there while the night
wore, till he deemed it would lack but little of midnight.


There he abode amidst the hazels, hearkening every littlest sound; and
the sounds were nought but the night voices of the wood, till suddenly
there burst forth from the house a great wailing cry.  Walter's heart
came up into his mouth, but he had no time to do aught, for following
hard on the cry came the sound of light feet close to him, the boughs
were thrust aside, and there was come the Maid, and she but in her white
coat, and barefoot.  And then first he felt the sweetness of her flesh on
his, for she caught him by the hand and said breathlessly: "Now, now!
there may yet be time, or even too much, it may be.  For the saving of
breath ask me no questions, but come!"

He dallied not, but went as she led, and they were lightfoot, both of

They went the same way, due south to wit, whereby he had gone a-hunting
with the Lady; and whiles they ran and whiles they walked; but so fast
they went, that by grey of the dawn they were come as far as that coppice
or thicket of the Lion; and still they hastened onward, and but little
had the Maid spoken, save here and there a word to hearten up Walter, and
here and there a shy word of endearment.  At last the dawn grew into
early day, and as they came over the brow of a bent, they looked down
over a plain land whereas the trees grew scatter-meal, and beyond the
plain rose up the land into long green hills, and over those again were
blue mountains great and far away.

Then spake the Maid: "Over yonder lie the outlying mountains of the
Bears, and through them we needs must pass, to our great peril.  Nay,
friend," she said, as he handled his sword-hilt, "it must be patience and
wisdom to bring us through, and not the fallow blade of one man, though
he be a good one.  But look! below there runs a stream through the first
of the plain, and I see nought for it but we must now rest our bodies.
Moreover I have a tale to tell thee which is burning my heart; for maybe
there will be a pardon to ask of thee moreover; wherefore I fear thee."

Quoth Walter: "How may that be?"

She answered him not, but took his hand and led him down the bent.  But
he said: "Thou sayest, rest; but are we now out of all peril of the

She said: "I cannot tell till I know what hath befallen her.  If she be
not to hand to set on her trackers, they will scarce happen on us now; if
it be not for that one."

And she shuddered, and he felt her hand change as he held it.

Then she said: "But peril or no peril, needs must we rest; for I tell
thee again, what I have to say to thee burneth my bosom for fear of thee,
so that I can go no further until I have told thee."

Then he said: "I wot not of this Queen and her mightiness and her
servants.  I will ask thereof later.  But besides the others, is there
not the King's Son, he who loves thee so unworthily?"

She paled somewhat, and said: "As for him, there had been nought for thee
to fear in him, save his treason: but now shall he neither love nor hate
any more; he died last midnight."

"Yea, and how?" said Walter.

"Nay," she said, "let me tell my tale all together once for all, lest
thou blame me overmuch.  But first we will wash us and comfort us as best
we may, and then amidst our resting shall the word be said."

By then were they come down to the stream-side, which ran fair in pools
and stickles amidst rocks and sandy banks.  She said: "There behind the
great grey rock is my bath, friend; and here is thine; and lo! the
uprising of the sun!"

So she went her ways to the said rock, and he bathed him, and washed the
night off him, and by then he was clad again she came back fresh and
sweet from the water, and with her lap full of cherries from a wilding
which overhung her bath.  So they sat down together on the green grass
above the sand, and ate the breakfast of the wilderness: and Walter was
full of content as he watched her, and beheld her sweetness and her
loveliness; yet were they, either of them, somewhat shy and shamefaced
each with the other; so that he did but kiss her hands once and again,
and though she shrank not from him, yet had she no boldness to cast
herself into his arms.


Now she began to say: "My friend, now shall I tell thee what I have done
for thee and me; and if thou have a mind to blame me, and punish me, yet
remember first, that what I have done has been for thee and our hope of
happy life.  Well, I shall tell thee--"

But therewithal her speech failed her; and, springing up, she faced the
bent and pointed with her finger, and she all deadly pale, and shaking so
that she might scarce stand, and might speak no word, though a feeble
gibbering came from her mouth.

Walter leapt up and put his arm about her, and looked whitherward she
pointed, and at first saw nought; and then nought but a brown and yellow
rock rolling down the bent: and then at last he saw that it was the Evil
Thing which had met him when first he came into that land; and now it
stood upright, and he could see that it was clad in a coat of yellow

Then Walter stooped down and gat his bow into his hand, and stood before
the Maid, while he nocked an arrow.  But the monster made ready his
tackle while Walter was stooping down, and or ever he could loose, his
bow-string twanged, and an arrow flew forth and grazed the Maid's arm
above the elbow, so that the blood ran, and the Dwarf gave forth a harsh
and horrible cry.  Then flew Walter's shaft, and true was it aimed, so
that it smote the monster full on the breast, but fell down from him as
if he were made of stone.  Then the creature set up his horrible cry
again, and loosed withal, and Walter deemed that he had smitten the Maid,
for she fell down in a heap behind him.  Then waxed Walter wood-wroth,
and cast down his bow and drew his sword, and strode forward towards the
bent against the Dwarf.  But he roared out again, and there were words in
his roar, and he said "Fool! thou shalt go free if thou wilt give up the

"And who," said Walter, "is the Enemy?"

Yelled the Dwarf: "She, the pink and white thing lying there; she is not
dead yet; she is but dying for fear of me.  Yea, she hath reason!  I
could have set the shaft in her heart as easily as scratching her arm;
but I need her body alive, that I may wreak me on her."

"What wilt thou do with her?" said Walter; for now he had heard that the
Maid was not slain he had waxed wary again, and stood watching his

The Dwarf yelled so at his last word, that no word came from the noise a
while, and then he said: "What will I with her?  Let me at her, and stand
by and look on, and then shalt thou have a strange tale to carry off with
thee.  For I will let thee go this while."

Said Walter: "But what need to wreak thee?  What hath she done to thee?"

"What need! what need!" roared the Dwarf; "have I not told thee that she
is the Enemy?  And thou askest of what she hath done! of what!  Fool, she
is the murderer! she hath slain the Lady that was our Lady, and that made
us; she whom all we worshipped and adored.  O impudent fool!"

Therewith he nocked and loosed another arrow, which would have smitten
Walter in the face, but that he lowered his head in the very nick of
time; then with a great shout he rushed up the bent, and was on the Dwarf
before he could get his sword out, and leaping aloft dealt the creature a
stroke amidmost of the crown; and so mightily be smote, that he drave the
heavy sword right through to the teeth, so that he fell dead straightway.

Walter stood over him a minute, and when be saw that he moved not, he
went slowly down to the stream, whereby the Maid yet lay cowering down
and quivering all over, and covering her face with her hands.  Then he
took her by the wrist and said: "Up, Maiden, up! and tell me this tale of
the slaying."

But she shrunk away from him, and looked at him with wild eyes, and said:
"What hast thou done with him?  Is he gone?"

"He is dead," said Walter; "I have slain him; there lies he with cloven
skull on the bent-side: unless, forsooth, he vanish away like the lion I
slew! or else, perchance, he will come to life again!  And art thou a lie
like to the rest of them? let me hear of this slaying."

She rose up, and stood before him trembling, and said: "O, thou art angry
with me, and thine anger I cannot bear.  Ah, what have I done?  Thou hast
slain one, and I, maybe, the other; and never had we escaped till both
these twain were dead.  Ah! thou dost not know! thou dost not know!  O
me! what shall I do to appease thy wrath!"

He looked on her, and his heart rose to his mouth at the thought of
sundering from her.  Still he looked on her, and her piteous friendly
face melted all his heart; he threw down his sword, and took her by the
shoulders, and kissed her face over and over, and strained her to him, so
that he felt the sweetness of her bosom.  Then he lifted her up like a
child, and set her down on the green grass, and went down to the water,
and filled his hat therefrom, and came back to her; then he gave her to
drink, and bathed her face and her hands, so that the colour came aback
to the cheeks and lips of her: and she smiled on him and kissed his
hands, and said: "O now thou art kind to me."

"Yea," said he, "and true it is that if thou hast slain, I have done no
less, and if thou hast lied, even so have I; and if thou hast played the
wanton, as I deem not that thou hast, I full surely have so done.  So now
thou shalt pardon me, and when thy spirit has come back to thee, thou
shalt tell me thy tale in all friendship, and in all loving-kindness will
I hearken the same."

Therewith he knelt before her and kissed her feet.  But she said: "Yea,
yea; what thou willest, that will I do.  But first tell me one thing.
Hast thou buried this horror and hidden him in the earth?"

He deemed that fear had bewildered her, and that she scarcely yet knew
how things had gone.  But he said: "Fair sweet friend, I have not done it
as yet; but now will I go and do it, if it seem good to thee."

"Yea," she said, "but first must thou smite off his head, and lie it by
his buttocks when he is in the earth; or evil things will happen else.
This of the burying is no idle matter, I bid thee believe."

"I doubt it not," said he; "surely such malice as was in this one will be
hard to slay."  And he picked up his sword, and turned to go to the field
of deed.

She said: "I must needs go with thee; terror hath so filled my soul, that
I durst not abide here without thee."

So they went both together to where the creature lay.  The Maid durst not
look on the dead monster, but Walter noted that he was girt with a big
ungainly sax; so he drew it from the sheath, and there smote off the
hideous head of the fiend with his own weapon.  Then they twain together
laboured the earth, she with Walter's sword, he with the ugly sax, till
they had made a grave deep and wide enough; and therein they thrust the
creature, and covered him up, weapons and all together.


Thereafter Walter led the Maid down again, and said to her: "Now,
sweetling, shall the story be told."

"Nay, friend," she said, "not here.  This place hath been polluted by my
craven fear, and the horror of the vile wretch, of whom no words may tell
his vileness.  Let us hence and onward.  Thou seest I have once more come
to life again."

"But," said he, "thou hast been hurt by the Dwarf's arrow."

She laughed, and said: "Had I never had greater hurt from them than that,
little had been the tale thereof: yet whereas thou lookest dolorous about
it, we will speedily heal it."

Therewith she sought about, and found nigh the stream-side certain herbs;
and she spake words over them, and bade Walter lay them on the wound,
which, forsooth, was of the least, and he did so, and bound a strip of
his shirt about her arm; and then would she set forth.  But he said:
"Thou art all unshod; and but if that be seen to, our journey shall be
stayed by thy foot-soreness: I may make a shift to fashion thee brogues."

She said: "I may well go barefoot.  And in any case, I entreat thee that
we tarry here no longer, but go away hence, if it be but for a mile."

And she looked piteously on him, so that he might not gainsay her.

So then they crossed the stream, and set forward, when amidst all these
haps the day was worn to midmorning.  But after they had gone a mile,
they sat them down on a knoll under the shadow of a big thorn-tree,
within sight of the mountains.  Then said Walter: "Now will I cut thee
the brogues from the skirt of my buff-coat, which shall be well meet for
such work; and meanwhile shalt thou tell me thy tale."

"Thou art kind," she said; "but be kinder yet, and abide my tale till we
have done our day's work.  For we were best to make no long delay here;
because, though thou hast slain the King-dwarf, yet there be others of
his kindred, who swarm in some parts of the wood as the rabbits in a
warren.  Now true it is that they have but little understanding, less, it
may be, than the very brute beasts; and that, as I said afore, unless
they be set on our slot like to hounds, they shall have no inkling of
where to seek us, yet might they happen upon us by mere misadventure.  And
moreover, friend," quoth she, blushing, "I would beg of thee some little
respite; for though I scarce fear thy wrath any more, since thou hast
been so kind to me, yet is there shame in that which I have to tell thee.
Wherefore, since the fairest of the day is before us, let us use it all
we may, and, when thou hast done me my new foot-gear, get us gone forward

He kissed her kindly and yea-said her asking: he had already fallen to
work on the leather, and in a while had fashioned her the brogues; so she
tied them to her feet, and arose with a smile and said: "Now am I hale
and strong again, what with the rest, and what with thy loving-kindness,
and thou shalt see how nimble I shall be to leave this land, for as fair
as it is.  Since forsooth a land of lies it is, and of grief to the
children of Adam."

So they went their ways thence, and fared nimbly indeed, and made no stay
till some three hours after noon, when they rested by a thicket-side,
where the strawberries grew plenty; they ate thereof what they would: and
from a great oak hard by Walter shot him first one culver, and then
another, and hung them to his girdle to be for their evening's meal;
sithence they went forward again, and nought befell them to tell of, till
they were come, whenas it lacked scarce an hour of sunset, to the banks
of another river, not right great, but bigger than the last one.  There
the Maid cast herself down and said: "Friend, no further will thy friend
go this even; nay, to say sooth, she cannot.  So now we will eat of thy
venison, and then shall my tale be, since I may no longer delay it; and
thereafter shall our slumber be sweet and safe as I deem."

She spake merrily now, and as one who feared nothing, and Walter was much
heartened by her words and her voice, and he fell to and made a fire, and
a woodland oven in the earth, and sithence dighted his fowl, and baked
them after the manner of wood-men.  And they ate, both of them, in all
love, and in good-liking of life, and were much strengthened by their
supper.  And when they were done, Walter eked his fire, both against the
chill of the midnight and dawning, and for a guard against wild beasts,
and by that time night was come, and the moon arisen.  Then the Maiden
drew up to the fire, and turned to Walter and spake.


"Now, friend, by the clear of the moon and this firelight will I tell
what I may and can of my tale.  Thus it is: If I be wholly of the race of
Adam I wot not nor can I tell thee how many years old I may be.  For
there are, as it were, shards or gaps in my life, wherein are but a few
things dimly remembered, and doubtless many things forgotten.  I remember
well when I was a little child, and right happy, and there were people
about me whom I loved, and who loved me.  It was not in this land; but
all things were lovely there; the year's beginning, the happy mid-year,
the year's waning, the year's ending, and then again its beginning.  That
passed away, and then for a while is more than dimness, for nought I
remember save that I was.  Thereafter I remember again, and am a young
maiden, and I know some things, and long to know more.  I am nowise
happy; I am amongst people who bid me go, and I go; and do this, and I do
it: none loveth me, none tormenteth me; but I wear my heart in longing
for I scarce know what.  Neither then am I in this land, but in a land
that I love not, and a house that is big and stately, but nought lovely.
Then is a dim time again, and sithence a time not right clear; an evil
time, wherein I am older, wellnigh grown to womanhood.  There are a many
folk about me, and they foul, and greedy, and hard; and my spirit is
fierce, and my body feeble; and I am set to tasks that I would not do, by
them that are unwiser than I; and smitten I am by them that are less
valiant than I; and I know lack, and stripes, and divers misery.  But all
that is now become but a dim picture to me, save that amongst all these
unfriends is a friend to me; an old woman, who telleth me sweet tales of
other life, wherein all is high and goodly, or at the least valiant and
doughty, and she setteth hope in my heart and learneth me, and maketh me
to know much . . . O much . . . so that at last I am grown wise, and wise
to be mighty if I durst.  Yet am I nought in this land all this while,
but, as meseemeth, in a great and a foul city."

"And then, as it were, I fall asleep; and in my sleep is nought, save
here and there a wild dream, somedeal lovely, somedeal hideous: but of
this dream is my Mistress a part, and the monster, withal, whose head
thou didst cleave to-day.  But when I am awaken from it, then am I verily
in this land, and myself, as thou seest me to-day.  And the first part of
my life here is this, that I am in the pillared ball yonder, half-clad
and with bound hands; and the Dwarf leadeth me to the Lady, and I hear
his horrible croak as he sayeth: 'Lady, will this one do?' and then the
sweet voice of the Lady saying: 'This one will do; thou shalt have thy
reward: now, set thou the token upon her.'  Then I remember the Dwarf
dragging me away, and my heart sinking for fear of him: but for that time
he did me no more harm than the rivetting upon my leg this iron ring
which here thou seest."

"So from that time forward I have lived in this land, and been the thrall
of the Lady; and I remember my life here day by day, and no part of it
has fallen into the dimness of dreams.  Thereof will I tell thee but
little: but this I will tell thee, that in spite of my past dreams, or it
may be because of them, I had not lost the wisdom which the old woman had
erst learned me, and for more wisdom I longed.  Maybe this longing shall
now make both thee and me happy, but for the passing time it brought me
grief.  For at first my Mistress was indeed wayward with me, but as any
great lady might be with her bought thrall, whiles caressing me, and
whiles chastising me, as her mood went; but she seemed not to be cruel of
malice, or with any set purpose.  But so it was (rather little by little
than by any great sudden uncovering of my intent), that she came to know
that I also had some of the wisdom whereby she lived her queenly life.
That was about two years after I was first her thrall, and three weary
years have gone by since she began to see in me the enemy of her days.
Now why or wherefore I know not, but it seemeth that it would not avail
her to slay me outright, or suffer me to die; but nought withheld her
from piling up griefs and miseries on my head.  At last she set her
servant, the Dwarf, upon me, even he whose head thou clavest to-day.  Many
things I bore from him whereof it were unseemly for my tongue to tell
before thee; but the time came when he exceeded, and I could bear no
more; and then I showed him this sharp knife (wherewith I would have
thrust me through to the heart if thou hadst not pardoned me e'en now),
and I told him that if he forbore me not, I would slay, not him, but
myself; and this he might not away with because of the commandment of the
Lady, who had given him the word that in any case I must be kept living.
And her hand, withal, fear held somewhat hereafter.  Yet was there need
to me of all my wisdom; for with all this her hatred grew, and whiles
raged within her so furiously that it overmastered her fear, and at such
times she would have put me to death if I had not escaped her by some
turn of my lore."

"Now further, I shall tell thee that somewhat more than a year ago hither
to this land came the King's Son, the second goodly man, as thou art the
third, whom her sorceries have drawn hither since I have dwelt here.
Forsooth, when he first came, he seemed to us, to me, and yet more to my
Lady, to be as beautiful as an angel, and sorely she loved him; and he
her, after his fashion: but he was light-minded, and cold-hearted, and in
a while he must needs turn his eyes upon me, and offer me his love, which
was but foul and unkind as it turned out; for when I nay-said him, as
maybe I had not done save for fear of my Mistress, he had no pity upon
me, but spared not to lead me into the trap of her wrath, and leave me
without help, or a good word.  But, O friend, in spite of all grief and
anguish, I learned still, and waxed wise, and wiser, abiding the day of
my deliverance, which has come, and thou art come."

Therewith she took Walter's hands and kissed them; but he kissed her
face, and her tears wet her lips.  Then she went on: "But sithence,
months ago, the Lady began to weary of this dastard, despite of his
beauty; and then it was thy turn to be swept into her net; I partly guess
how.  For on a day in broad daylight, as I was serving my Mistress in the
hall, and the Evil Thing, whose head is now cloven, was lying across the
threshold of the door, as it were a dream fell upon me, though I strove
to cast it off for fear of chastisement; for the pillared hall wavered,
and vanished from my sight, and my feet were treading a rough stone
pavement instead of the marble wonder of the hall, and there was the
scent of the salt sea and of the tackle of ships, and behind me were tall
houses, and before me the ships indeed, with their ropes beating and
their sails flapping and their masts wavering; and in mine ears was the
hale and how of mariners; things that I had seen and heard in the dimness
of my life gone by."

"And there was I, and the Dwarf before me, and the Lady after me, going
over the gangway aboard of a tall ship, and she gathered way and was
gotten out of the haven, and straightway I saw the mariners cast abroad
their ancient."

Quoth Walter: "What then!  Sawest thou the blazon thereon, of a wolf-like
beast ramping up against a maiden?  And that might well have been thou."

She said: "Yea, so it was; but refrain thee, that I may tell on my tale!
The ship and the sea vanished away, but I was not back in the hall of the
Golden House; and again were we three in the street of the self-same town
which we had but just left; but somewhat dim was my vision thereof, and I
saw little save the door of a goodly house before me, and speedily it
died out, and we were again in the pillared hall, wherein my thralldom
was made manifest."

"Maiden," said Walter, "one question I would ask thee; to wit, didst thou
see me on the quay by the ships?"

"Nay," she said, "there were many folk about, but they were all as images
of the aliens to me.  Now hearken further: three months thereafter came
the dream upon me again, when we were all three together in the Pillared
Hall; and again was the vision somewhat dim.  Once more we were in the
street of a busy town, but all unlike to that other one, and there were
men standing together on our right hands by the door of a house."

"Yea, yea," quoth Walter; "and, forsooth, one of them was who but I."

"Refrain thee, beloved!" she said; "for my tale draweth to its ending,
and I would have thee hearken heedfully: for maybe thou shalt once again
deem my deed past pardon.  Some twenty days after this last dream, I had
some leisure from my Mistress's service, so I went to disport me by the
Well of the Oak-tree (or forsooth she might have set in my mind the
thought of going there, that I might meet thee and give her some occasion
against me); and I sat thereby, nowise loving the earth, but sick at
heart, because of late the King's Son had been more than ever instant
with me to yield him my body, threatening me else with casting me into
all that the worst could do to me of torments and shames day by day.  I
say my heart failed me, and I was wellnigh brought to the point of yea-
saying his desires, that I might take the chance of something befalling
me that were less bad than the worst.  But here must I tell thee a thing,
and pray thee to take it to heart.  This, more than aught else, had given
me strength to nay-say that dastard, that my wisdom both hath been, and
now is, the wisdom of a wise maid, and not of a woman, and all the might
thereof shall I lose with my maidenhead.  Evil wilt thou think of me
then, for all I was tried so sore, that I was at point to cast it all
away, so wretchedly as I shrank from the horror of the Lady's wrath."

"But there as I sat pondering these things, I saw a man coming, and
thought no otherwise thereof but that it was the King's Son, till I saw
the stranger drawing near, and his golden hair, and his grey eyes; and
then I heard his voice, and his kindness pierced my heart, and I knew
that my friend had come to see me; and O, friend, these tears are for the
sweetness of that past hour!"

Said Walter: "I came to see my friend, I also.  Now have I noted what
thou badest me; and I will forbear all as thou commandest me, till we be
safe out of the desert and far away from all evil things; but wilt thou
ban me from all caresses?"

She laughed amidst of her tears, and said: "O, nay, poor lad, if thou
wilt be but wise."

Then she leaned toward him, and took his face betwixt her hands and
kissed him oft, and the tears started in his eyes for love and pity of

Then she said: "Alas, friend! even yet mayst thou doom me guilty, and all
thy love may turn away from me, when I have told thee all that I have
done for the sake of thee and me.  O, if then there might be some
chastisement for the guilty woman, and not mere sundering!"

"Fear nothing, sweetling," said he; "for indeed I deem that already I
know partly what thou hast done."

She sighed, and said: "I will tell thee next, that I banned thy kissing
and caressing of me till to-day because I knew that my Mistress would
surely know if a man, if thou, hadst so much as touched a finger of mine
in love, it was to try me herein that on the morning of the hunting she
kissed and embraced me, till I almost died thereof, and showed thee my
shoulder and my limbs; and to try thee withal, if thine eye should
glister or thy cheek flush thereat; for indeed she was raging in jealousy
of thee.  Next, my friend, even whiles we were talking together at the
Well of the Rock, I was pondering on what we should do to escape from
this land of lies.  Maybe thou wilt say: Why didst thou not take my hand
and flee with me as we fled to-day?  Friend, it is most true, that were
she not dead we had not escaped thus far.  For her trackers would have
followed us, set on by her, and brought us back to an evil fate.
Therefore I tell thee that from the first I did plot the death of those
two, the Dwarf and the Mistress.  For no otherwise mightest thou live, or
I escape from death in life.  But as to the dastard who threatened me
with a thrall's pains, I heeded him nought to live or die, for well I
knew that thy valiant sword, yea, or thy bare hands, would speedily tame
him.  Now first I knew that I must make a show of yielding to the King's
Son; and somewhat how I did therein, thou knowest.  But no night and no
time did I give him to bed me, till after I had met thee as thou wentest
to the Golden House, before the adventure of fetching the lion's skin;
and up to that time I had scarce known what to do, save ever to bid thee,
with sore grief and pain, to yield thee to the wicked woman's desire.  But
as we spake together there by the stream, and I saw that the Evil Thing
(whose head thou clavest e'en now) was spying on us, then amidst the
sickness of terror which ever came over me whensoever I thought of him,
and much more when I saw him (ah! he is dead now!), it came flashing into
my mind how I might destroy my enemy.  Therefore I made the Dwarf my
messenger to her, by bidding thee to my bed in such wise that he might
hear it.  And wot thou well, that he speedily carried her the tidings.
Meanwhile I hastened to lie to the King's Son, and all privily bade him
come to me and not thee.  And thereafter, by dint of waiting and
watching, and taking the only chance that there was, I met thee as thou
camest back from fetching the skin of the lion that never was, and gave
thee that warning, or else had we been undone indeed."

Said Walter: "Was the lion of her making or of thine then?"

She said: "Of hers: why should I deal with such a matter?"

"Yea," said Walter, "but she verily swooned, and she was verily wroth
with the Enemy."

The Maid smiled, and said: "If her lie was not like very sooth, then had
she not been the crafts-master that I knew her: one may lie otherwise
than with the tongue alone: yet indeed her wrath against the Enemy was
nought feigned; for the Enemy was even I, and in these latter days never
did her wrath leave me.  But to go on with my tale."

"Now doubt thou not, that, when thou camest into the hall yester eve, the
Mistress knew of thy counterfeit tryst with me, and meant nought but
death for thee; yet first would she have thee in her arms again,
therefore did she make much of thee at table (and that was partly for my
torment also), and therefore did she make that tryst with thee, and
deemed doubtless that thou wouldst not dare to forgo it, even if thou
shouldst go to me thereafter."

"Now I had trained that dastard to me as I have told thee, but I gave him
a sleepy draught, so that when I came to the bed he might not move toward
me nor open his eyes: but I lay down beside him, so that the Lady might
know that my body had been there; for well had she wotted if it had not.
Then as there I lay I cast over him thy shape, so that none might have
known but that thou wert lying by my side, and there, trembling, I abode
what should befall.  Thus I passed through the hour whenas thou shouldest
have been at her chamber, and the time of my tryst with thee was come as
the Mistress would be deeming; so that I looked for her speedily, and my
heart wellnigh failed me for fear of her cruelty."

"Presently then I heard a stirring in her chamber, and I slipped from out
the bed, and hid me behind the hangings, and was like to die for fear of
her; and lo, presently she came stealing in softly, holding a lamp in one
hand and a knife in the other.  And I tell thee of a sooth that I also
had a sharp knife in my hand to defend my life if need were.  She held
the lamp up above her head before she drew near to the bed-side, and I
heard her mutter: 'She is not there then! but she shall be taken.'  Then
she went up to the bed and stooped over it, and laid her hand on the
place where I had lain; and therewith her eyes turned to that false image
of thee lying there, and she fell a-trembling and shaking, and the lamp
fell to the ground and was quenched (but there was bright moonlight in
the room, and still I could see what betid).  But she uttered a noise
like the low roar of a wild beast, and I saw her arm and hand rise up,
and the flashing of the steel beneath the hand, and then down came the
hand and the steel, and I went nigh to swooning lest perchance I had
wrought over well, and thine image were thy very self.  The dastard died
without a groan: why should I lament him?  I cannot.  But the Lady drew
him toward her, and snatched the clothes from off his shoulders and
breast, and fell a-gibbering sounds mostly without meaning, but broken
here and there with words.  Then I heard her say: 'I shall forget; I
shall forget; and the new days shall come.'  Then was there silence of
her a little, and thereafter she cried out in a terrible voice: 'O no,
no, no!  I cannot forget; I cannot forget;' and she raised a great
wailing cry that filled all the night with horror (didst thou not hear
it?), and caught up the knife from the bed and thrust it into her breast,
and fell down a dead heap over the bed and on to the man whom she had
slain.  And then I thought of thee, and joy smote across my terror; how
shall I gainsay it?  And I fled away to thee, and I took thine hands in
mine, thy dear hands, and we fled away together.  Shall we be still

He spoke slowly, and touched her not, and she, forbearing all sobbing and
weeping, sat looking wistfully on him.  He said: "I think thou hast told
me all; and whether thy guile slew her, or her own evil heart, she was
slain last night who lay in mine arms the night before.  It was ill, and
ill done of me, for I loved not her, but thee, and I wished for her death
that I might be with thee.  Thou wottest this, and still thou lovest me,
it may be overweeningly.  What have I to say then?  If there be any guilt
of guile, I also was in the guile; and if there be any guilt of murder, I
also was in the murder.  Thus we say to each other; and to God and his
Hallows we say: 'We two have conspired to slay the woman who tormented
one of us, and would have slain the other; and if we have done amiss
therein, then shall we two together pay the penalty; for in this have we
done as one body and one soul.'"

Therewith he put his arms about her and kissed her, but soberly and
friendly, as if he would comfort her.  And thereafter he said to her:
"Maybe to-morrow, in the sunlight, I will ask thee of this woman, what
she verily was; but now let her be.  And thou, thou art over-wearied, and
I bid thee sleep."

So he went about and gathered of bracken a great heap for her bed, and
did his coat thereover, and led her thereto, and she lay down meekly, and
smiled and crossed her arms over her bosom, and presently fell asleep.
But as for him, he watched by the fire-side till dawn began to glimmer,
and then he also laid him down and slept.


When the day was bright Walter arose, and met the Maid coming from the
river-bank, fresh and rosy from the water.  She paled a little when they
met face to face, and she shrank from him shyly.  But he took her hand
and kissed her frankly; and the two were glad, and had no need to tell
each other of their joy, though much else they deemed they had to say,
could they have found words thereto.

So they came to their fire and sat down, and fell to breakfast; and ere
they were done, the Maid said: "My Master, thou seest we be come nigh
unto the hill-country, and to-day about sunset, belike, we shall come
into the Land of the Bear-folk; and both it is, that there is peril if we
fall into their hands, and that we may scarce escape them.  Yet I deem
that we may deal with the peril by wisdom."

"What is the peril?" said Walter; "I mean, what is the worst of it?"

Said the Maid: "To be offered up in sacrifice to their God."

"But if we escape death at their hands, what then?" said Walter.

"One of two things," said she; "the first that they shall take us into
their tribe."

"And will they sunder us in that case?" said Walter.

"Nay," said she.

Walter laughed and said: "Therein is little harm then.  But what is the
other chance?"

Said she: "That we leave them with their goodwill, and come back to one
of the lands of Christendom."

Said Walter: "I am not all so sure that this is the better of the two
choices, though, forsooth, thou seemest to think so.  But tell me now,
what like is their God, that they should offer up new-comers to him?"

"Their God is a woman," she said, "and the Mother of their nation and
tribes (or so they deem) before the days when they had chieftains and
Lords of Battle."

"That will be long ago," said he; "how then may she be living now?"

Said the Maid: "Doubtless that woman of yore agone is dead this many and
many a year; but they take to them still a new woman, one after other, as
they may happen on them, to be in the stead of the Ancient Mother.  And
to tell thee the very truth right out, she that lieth dead in the
Pillared Hall was even the last of these; and now, if they knew it, they
lack a God.  This shall we tell them."

"Yea, yea!" said Walter, "a goodly welcome shall we have of them then, if
we come amongst them with our hands red with the blood of their God!"

She smiled on him and said: "If I come amongst them with the tidings that
I have slain her, and they trow therein, without doubt they shall make me
Lady and Goddess in her stead."

"This is a strange word," said Walter "but if so they do, how shall that
further us in reaching the kindreds of the world, and the folk of Holy

She laughed outright, so joyous was she grown, now that she knew that his
life was yet to be a part of hers.  "Sweetheart," she said, "now I see
that thou desirest wholly what I desire; yet in any case, abiding with
them would be living and not dying, even as thou hadst it e'en now.  But,
forsooth, they will not hinder our departure if they deem me their God;
they do not look for it, nor desire it, that their God should dwell with
them daily.  Have no fear."  Then she laughed again, and said: "What!
thou lookest on me and deemest me to be but a sorry image of a goddess;
and me with my scanty coat and bare arms and naked feet!  But wait!  I
know well how to array me when the time cometh.  Thou shalt see it!  And
now, my Master, were it not meet that we took to the road?"

So they arose, and found a ford of the river that took the Maid but to
the knee, and so set forth up the greensward of the slopes whereas there
were but few trees; so went they faring toward the hill-country.

At the last they were come to the feet of the very hills, and in the
hollows betwixt the buttresses of them grew nut and berry trees, and the
greensward round about them was both thick and much flowery.  There they
stayed them and dined, whereas Walter had shot a hare by the way, and
they had found a bubbling spring under a grey stone in a bight of the
coppice, wherein now the birds were singing their best.

When they had eaten and had rested somewhat, the Maid arose and said:
"Now shall the Queen array herself, and seem like a very goddess."

Then she fell to work, while Walter looked on; and she made a garland for
her head of eglantine where the roses were the fairest; and with mingled
flowers of the summer she wreathed her middle about, and let the garland
of them hang down to below her knees; and knots of the flowers she made
fast to the skirts of her coat, and did them for arm-rings about her
arms, and for anklets and sandals for her feet.  Then she set a garland
about Walter's head, and then stood a little off from him and set her
feet together, and lifted up her arms, and said: "Lo now! am I not as
like to the Mother of Summer as if I were clad in silk and gold? and even
so shall I be deemed by the folk of the Bear.  Come now, thou shalt see
how all shall be well."

She laughed joyously; but he might scarce laugh for pity of his love.
Then they set forth again, and began to climb the hills, and the hours
wore as they went in sweet converse; till at last Walter looked on the
Maid, and smiled on her, and said: "One thing I would say to thee, lovely
friend, to wit: wert thou clad in silk and gold, thy stately raiment
might well suffer a few stains, or here and there a rent maybe; but
stately would it be still when the folk of the Bear should come up
against thee.  But as to this flowery array of thine, in a few hours it
shall be all faded and nought.  Nay, even now, as I look on thee, the
meadow-sweet that hangeth from thy girdle-stead has waxen dull, and
welted; and the blossoming eyebright that is for a hem to the little
white coat of thee is already forgetting how to be bright and blue.  What
sayest thou then?"

She laughed at his word, and stood still, and looked back over her
shoulder, while with her fingers she dealt with the flowers about her
side like to a bird preening his feathers.  Then she said: "Is it verily
so as thou sayest?  Look again!"

So he looked, and wondered; for lo! beneath his eyes the spires of the
meadow-sweet grew crisp and clear again, the eyebright blossoms shone
once more over the whiteness of her legs; the eglantine roses opened, and
all was as fresh and bright as if it were still growing on its own roots.

He wondered, and was even somedeal aghast; but she said: "Dear friend, be
not troubled! did I not tell thee that I am wise in hidden lore?  But in
my wisdom shall be no longer any scathe to any man.  And again, this my
wisdom, as I told thee erst, shall end on the day whereon I am made all
happy.  And it is thou that shall wield it all, my Master.  Yet must my
wisdom needs endure for a little season yet.  Let us on then, boldly and


On they went, and before long they were come up on to the down-country,
where was scarce a tree, save gnarled and knotty thorn-bushes here and
there, but nought else higher than the whin.  And here on these upper
lands they saw that the pastures were much burned with the drought,
albeit summer was not worn old.  Now they went making due south toward
the mountains, whose heads they saw from time to time rising deep blue
over the bleak greyness of the down-land ridges.  And so they went, till
at last, hard on sunset, after they had climbed long over a high bent,
they came to the brow thereof, and, looking down, beheld new tidings.

There was a wide valley below them, greener than the downs which they had
come over, and greener yet amidmost, from the watering of a stream which,
all beset with willows, wound about the bottom.  Sheep and neat were
pasturing about the dale, and moreover a long line of smoke was going up
straight into the windless heavens from the midst of a ring of little
round houses built of turfs, and thatched with reed.  And beyond that,
toward an eastward-lying bight of the dale, they could see what looked
like to a doom-ring of big stones, though there were no rocky places in
that land.  About the cooking-fire amidst of the houses, and here and
there otherwhere, they saw, standing or going to and fro, huge figures of
men and women, with children playing about betwixt them.

They stood and gazed down at it for a minute or two, and though all were
at peace there, yet to Walter, at least, it seemed strange and awful.  He
spake softly, as though he would not have his voice reach those men,
though they were, forsooth, out of earshot of anything save a shout: "Are
these then the children of the Bear?  What shall we do now?"

She said: "Yea, of the Bear they be, though there be other folks of them
far and far away to the northward and eastward, near to the borders of
the sea.  And as to what we shall do, let us go down at once, and
peacefully.  Indeed, by now there will be no escape from them; for lo
you! they have seen us."

Forsooth, some three or four of the big men had turned them toward the
bent whereon stood the twain, and were hailing them in huge, rough
voices, wherein, howsoever, seemed to be no anger or threat.  So the Maid
took Walter by the hand, and thus they went down quietly, and the Bear-
folk, seeing them, stood all together, facing them, to abide their
coming.  Walter saw of them, that though they were very tall and bigly
made, they were not so far above the stature of men as to be marvels.  The
carles were long-haired, and shaggy of beard, and their hair all red or
tawny; their skins, where their naked flesh showed, were burned brown
with sun and weather, but to a fair and pleasant brown, nought like to
blackamoors.  The queans were comely and well-eyed; nor was there
anything of fierce or evil-looking about either the carles or the queans,
but somewhat grave and solemn of aspect were they.  Clad were they all,
saving the young men-children, but somewhat scantily, and in nought save
sheep-skins or deer-skins.

For weapons they saw amongst them clubs, and spears headed with bone or
flint, and ugly axes of big flints set in wooden handles; nor was there,
as far as they could see, either now or afterward, any bow amongst them.
But some of the young men seemed to have slings done about their

Now when they were come but three fathom from them, the Maid lifted up
her voice, and spake clearly and sweetly: "Hail, ye folk of the Bears! we
have come amongst you, and that for your good and not for your hurt:
wherefore we would know if we be welcome."

There was an old man who stood foremost in the midst, clad in a mantle of
deer-skins worked very goodly, and with a gold ring on his arm, and a
chaplet of blue stones on his head, and he spake: "Little are ye, but so
goodly, that if ye were but bigger, we should deem that ye were come from
the Gods' House.  Yet have I heard, that how mighty soever may the Gods
be, and chiefly our God, they be at whiles nought so bigly made as we of
the Bears.  How this may be, I wot not.  But if ye be not of the Gods or
their kindred, then are ye mere aliens; and we know not what to do with
aliens, save we meet them in battle, or give them to the God, or save we
make them children of the Bear.  But yet again, ye may be messengers of
some folk who would bind friendship and alliance with us: in which case
ye shall at the least depart in peace, and whiles ye are with us shall be
our guests in all good cheer.  Now, therefore, we bid you declare the
matter unto us."

Then spake the Maid: "Father, it were easy for us to declare what we be
unto you here present.  But, meseemeth, ye who be gathered round the fire
here this evening are less than the whole tale of the children of the

"So it is, Maiden," said the elder, "that many more children hath the

"This then we bid you," said the Maid, "that ye send the tokens round and
gather your people to you, and when they be assembled in the Doom-ring,
then shall we put our errand before you; and according to that, shall ye
deal with us."

"Thou hast spoken well," said the elder; "and even so had we bidden you
ourselves.  To-morrow, before noon, shall ye stand in the Doom-ring in
this Dale, and speak with the children of the Bear."

Therewith he turned to his own folk and called out something, whereof
those twain knew not the meaning; and there came to him, one after
another, six young men, unto each of whom he gave a thing from out his
pouch, but what it was Walter might not see, save that it was little and
of small account: to each, also, he spake a word or two, and straight
they set off running, one after the other, turning toward the bent which
was over against that whereby the twain had come into the Dale, and were
soon out of sight in the gathering dusk.

Then the elder turned him again to Walter and the Maid, and spake: "Man
and woman, whatsoever ye may be, or whatsoever may abide you to-morrow,
to-night, ye are welcome guests to us; so we bid you come eat and drink
at our fire."

So they sat all together upon the grass round about the embers of the
fire, and ate curds and cheese, and drank milk in abundance; and as the
night grew on them they quickened the fire, that they might have light.
This wild folk talked merrily amongst themselves, with laughter enough
and friendly jests, but to the new-comers they were few-spoken, though,
as the twain deemed, for no enmity that they bore them.  But this found
Walter, that the younger ones, both men and women, seemed to find it a
hard matter to keep their eyes off them; and seemed, withal, to gaze on
them with somewhat of doubt, or, it might be, of fear.

So when the night was wearing a little, the elder arose and bade the
twain to come with him, and led them to a small house or booth, which was
amidmost of all, and somewhat bigger than the others, and he did them to
wit that they should rest there that night, and bade them sleep in peace
and without fear till the morrow.  So they entered, and found beds
thereon of heather and ling, and they laid them down sweetly, like
brother and sister, when they had kissed each other.  But they noted that
four brisk men lay without the booth, and across the door, with their
weapons beside them, so that they must needs look upon themselves as

Then Walter might not refrain him, but spake: "Sweet and dear friend, I
have come a long way from the quay at Langton, and the vision of the
Dwarf, the Maid, and the Lady; and for this kiss wherewith I have kissed
thee e'en now, and the kindness of thine eyes, it was worth the time and
the travail.  But to-morrow, meseemeth, I shall go no further in this
world, though my journey be far longer than from Langton hither.  And now
may God and All Hallows keep thee amongst this wild folk, whenas I shall
be gone from thee."

She laughed low and sweetly, and said: "Dear friend, dost thou speak to
me thus mournfully to move me to love thee better?  Then is thy labour
lost; for no better may I love thee than now I do; and that is with mine
whole heart.  But keep a good courage, I bid thee; for we be not sundered
yet, nor shall we be.  Nor do I deem that we shall die here, or
to-morrow; but many years hence, after we have known all the sweetness of
life.  Meanwhile, I bid thee good-night, fair friend!"


So Walter laid him down and fell asleep, and knew no more till he awoke
in bright daylight with the Maid standing over him.  She was fresh from
the water, for she had been to the river to bathe her, and the sun
through the open door fell streaming on her feet close to Walter's
pillow.  He turned about and cast his arm about them, and caressed them,
while she stood smiling upon him; then he arose and looked on her, and
said: "How thou art fair and bright this morning!  And yet . . . and yet
. . . were it not well that thou do off thee all this faded and drooping
bravery of leaves and blossoms, that maketh thee look like to a
jongleur's damsel on a morrow of May-day?"

And he gazed ruefully on her.

She laughed on him merrily, and said: "Yea, and belike these others think
no better of my attire, or not much better; for yonder they are gathering
small wood for the burnt-offering; which, forsooth, shall be thou and I,
unless I better it all by means of the wisdom I learned of the old woman,
and perfected betwixt the stripes of my Mistress, whom a little while ago
thou lovedst somewhat."

And as she spake her eyes sparkled, her cheek flushed, and her limbs and
her feet seemed as if they could scarce refrain from dancing for joy.
Then Walter knit his brow, and for a moment a thought half-framed was in
his mind: Is it so, that she will bewray me and live without me? and he
cast his eyes on to the ground.  But she said: "Look up, and into mine
eyes, friend, and see if there be in them any falseness toward thee!  For
I know thy thought; I know thy thought.  Dost thou not see that my joy
and gladness is for the love of thee, and the thought of the rest from
trouble that is at hand?"

He looked up, and his eyes met the eyes of her love, and he would have
cast his arms about her; but she drew aback and said: "Nay, thou must
refrain thee awhile, dear friend, lest these folk cast eyes on us, and
deem us over lover-like for what I am to bid them deem me.  Abide a
while, and then shall all be in me according to thy will.  But now I must
tell thee that it is not very far from noon, and that the Bears are
streaming into the Dale, and already there is an host of men at the Doom-
ring, and, as I said, the bale for the burnt-offering is wellnigh dight,
whether it be for us, or for some other creature.  And now I have to bid
thee this, and it will be a thing easy for thee to do, to wit, that thou
look as if thou wert of the race of the Gods, and not to blench, or show
sign of blenching, whatever betide: to yea-say both my yea-say and my nay-
say: and lastly this, which is the only hard thing for thee (but thou
hast already done it before somewhat), to look upon me with no masterful
eyes of love, nor as if thou wert at once praying me and commanding me;
rather thou shalt so demean thee as if thou wert my man all simply, and
nowise my master."

"O friend beloved," said Walter, "here at least art thou the master, and
I will do all thy bidding, in certain hope of this, that either we shall
live together or die together."

But as they spoke, in came the elder, and with him a young maiden,
bearing with them their breakfast of curds arid cream and strawberries,
and he bade them eat.  So they ate, and were not unmerry; and the while
of their eating the elder talked with them soberly, but not hardly, or
with any seeming enmity: and ever his talk gat on to the drought, which
was now burning up the down-pastures; and how the grass in the watered
dales, which was no wide spread of land, would not hold out much longer
unless the God sent them rain.  And Walter noted that those two, the
elder and the Maid, eyed each other curiously amidst of this talk; the
elder intent on what she might say, and if she gave heed to his words;
while on her side the Maid answered his speech graciously and pleasantly,
but said little that was of any import: nor would she have him fix her
eyes, which wandered lightly from this thing to that; nor would her lips
grow stern and stable, but ever smiled in answer to the light of her
eyes, as she sat there with her face as the very face of the gladness of
the summer day.


At last the old man said: "My children, ye shall now come with me unto
the Doom-ring of our folk, the Bears of the Southern Dales, and deliver
to them your errand; and I beseech you to have pity upon your own bodies,
as I have pity on them; on thine especially, Maiden, so fair and bright a
creature as thou art; for so it is, that if ye deal us out light and
lying words after the manner of dastards, ye shall miss the worship and
glory of wending away amidst of the flames, a gift to the God and a hope
to the people, and shall be passed by the rods of the folk, until ye
faint and fail amongst them, and then shall ye be thrust down into the
flow at the Dale's End, and a stone-laden hurdle cast upon you, that we
may thenceforth forget your folly."

The Maid now looked full into his eyes, and Walter deemed that the old
man shrank before her; but she said: "Thou art old and wise, O great man
of the Bears, yet nought I need to learn of thee.  Now lead us on our way
to the Stead of the Errands."

So the elder brought them along to the Doom-ring at the eastern end of
the Dale; and it was now all peopled with those huge men, weaponed after
their fashion, and standing up, so that the grey stones thereof but
showed a little over their heads.  But amidmost of the said Ring was a
big stone, fashioned as a chair, whereon sat a very old man, long-hoary
and white-bearded, and on either side of him stood a great-limbed woman
clad in war-gear, holding, each of them, a long spear, and with a flint-
bladed knife in the girdle; and there were no other women in all the

Then the elder led those twain into the midst of the Mote, and there bade
them go up on to a wide, flat-topped stone, six feet above the ground,
just over against the ancient chieftain; and they mounted it by a rough
stair, and stood there before that folk; Walter in his array of the
outward world, which had been fair enough, of crimson cloth and silk, and
white linen, but was now travel-stained and worn; and the Maid with
nought upon her, save the smock wherein she had fled from the Golden
House of the Wood beyond the World, decked with the faded flowers which
she had wreathed about her yesterday.  Nevertheless, so it was, that
those big men eyed her intently, and with somewhat of worship.

Now did Walter, according to her bidding, sink down on his knees beside
her, and drawing his sword, hold it before him, as if to keep all
interlopers aloof from the Maid.  And there was silence in the Mote, and
all eyes were fixed on those twain.

At last the old chief arose and spake: "Ye men, here are come a man and a
woman, we know not whence; whereas they have given word to our folk who
first met them, that they would tell their errand to none save the Mote
of the People; which it was their due to do, if they were minded to risk
it.  For either they be aliens without an errand hither, save, it may be,
to beguile us, in which case they shall presently die an evil death; or
they have come amongst us that we may give them to the God with flint-
edge and fire; or they have a message to us from some folk or other, on
the issue of which lieth life or death.  Now shall ye hear what they have
to say concerning themselves and their faring hither.  But, meseemeth, it
shall be the woman who is the chief and hath the word in her mouth; for,
lo you! the man kneeleth at her feet, as one who would serve and worship
her.  Speak out then, woman, and let our warriors hear thee."

Then the Maid lifted up her voice, and spake out clear and shrilling,
like to a flute of the best of the minstrels: "Ye men of the Children of
the Bear, I would ask you a question, and let the chieftain who sitteth
before me answer it."

The old man nodded his head, and she went on: "Tell me, Children of the
Bear, how long a time is worn since ye saw the God of your worship made
manifest in the body of a woman!"

Said the elder: "Many winters have worn since my father's father was a
child, and saw the very God in the bodily form of a woman."

Then she said again: "Did ye rejoice at her coming, and would ye rejoice
if once more she came amongst you?"

"Yea," said the old chieftain, "for she gave us gifts, and learned us
lore, and came to us in no terrible shape, but as a young woman as goodly
as thou."

Then said the Maid: "Now, then, is the day of your gladness come; for the
old body is dead, and I am the new body of your God, come amongst you for
your welfare."

Then fell a great silence on the Mote, till the old man spake and said:
"What shall I say and live?  For if thou be verily the God, and I
threaten thee, wilt thou not destroy me?  But thou hast spoken a great
word with a sweet mouth, and hast taken the burden of blood on thy lily
hands; and if the Children of the Bear be befooled of light liars, how
shall they put the shame off them?  Therefore I say, show to us a token;
and if thou be the God, this shall be easy to thee; and if thou show it
not, then is thy falsehood manifest, and thou shalt dree the weird.  For
we shall deliver thee into the hands of these women here, who shall
thrust thee down into the flow which is hereby, after they have wearied
themselves with whipping thee.  But thy man that kneeleth at thy feet
shall we give to the true God, and he shall go to her by the road of the
flint and the fire.  Hast thou heard?  Then give to us the sign and the

She changed countenance no whit at his word; but her eyes were the
brighter, and her cheek the fresher and her feet moved a little, as if
they were growing glad before the dance; and she looked out over the
Mote, and spake in her clear voice: "Old man, thou needest not to fear
for thy words.  Forsooth it is not me whom thou threatenest with stripes
and a foul death, but some light fool and liar, who is not here.  Now
hearken!  I wot well that ye would have somewhat of me, to wit, that I
should send you rain to end this drought, which otherwise seemeth like to
lie long upon you: but this rain, I must go into the mountains of the
south to fetch it you; therefore shall certain of your warriors bring me
on my way, with this my man, up to the great pass of the said mountains,
and we shall set out thitherward this very day."

She was silent a while, and all looked on her, but none spake or moved,
so that they seemed as images of stone amongst the stones.

Then she spake again and said: "Some would say, men of the Bear, that
this were a sign and a token great enough; but I know you, and how
stubborn and perverse of heart ye be; and how that the gift not yet
within your hand is no gift to you; and the wonder ye see not, your
hearts trow not.  Therefore look ye upon me as here I stand, I who have
come from the fairer country and the greenwood of the lands, and see if I
bear not the summer with me, and the heart that maketh increase and the
hand that giveth."

Lo then! as she spake, the faded flowers that hung about her gathered
life and grew fresh again; the woodbine round her neck and her sleek
shoulders knit itself together and embraced her freshly, and cast its
scent about her face.  The lilies that girded her loins lifted up their
heads, and the gold of their tassels fell upon her; the eyebright grew
clean blue again upon her smock; the eglantine found its blooms again,
and then began to shed the leaves thereof upon her feet; the meadow-sweet
wreathed amongst it made clear the sweetness of her legs, and the mouse-
ear studded her raiment as with gems.  There she stood amidst of the
blossoms, like a great orient pearl against the fretwork of the
goldsmiths, and the breeze that came up the valley from behind bore the
sweetness of her fragrance all over the Man-mote.

Then, indeed, the Bears stood up, and shouted and cried, and smote on
their shields, and tossed their spears aloft.  Then the elder rose from
his seat, and came up humbly to where she stood, and prayed her to say
what she would have done; while the others drew about in knots, but durst
not come very nigh to her.  She answered the ancient chief, and said,
that she would depart presently toward the mountains, whereby she might
send them the rain which they lacked, and that thence she would away to
the southward for a while; but that they should hear of her, or, it might
be, see her, before they who were now of middle age should be gone to
their fathers.

Then the old man besought her that they might make her a litter of
fragrant green boughs, and so bear her away toward the mountain pass
amidst a triumph of the whole folk.  But she leapt lightly down from the
stone, and walked to and fro on the greensward, while it seemed of her
that her feet scarce touched the grass; and she spake to the ancient
chief where he still kneeled in worship of her, and said "Nay; deemest
thou of me that I need bearing by men's hands, or that I shall tire at
all when I am doing my will, and I, the very heart of the year's
increase?  So it is, that the going of my feet over your pastures shall
make them to thrive, both this year and the coming years: surely will I
go afoot."

So they worshipped her the more, and blessed her; and then first of all
they brought meat, the daintiest they might, both for her and for Walter.
But they would not look on the Maid whiles she ate, or suffer Walter to
behold her the while.  Afterwards, when they had eaten, some twenty men,
weaponed after their fashion, made them ready to wend with the Maiden up
into the mountains, and anon they set out thitherward all together.
Howbeit, the huge men held them ever somewhat aloof from the Maid; and
when they came to the resting-place for that night, where was no house,
for it was up amongst the foot-hills before the mountains, then it was a
wonder to see how carefully they built up a sleeping-place for her, and
tilted it over with their skin-cloaks, and how they watched nightlong
about her.  But Walter they let sleep peacefully on the grass, a little
way aloof from the watchers round the Maid.


Morning came, and they arose and went on their ways, and went all day
till the sun was nigh set, and they were come up into the very pass; and
in the jaws thereof was an earthen howe.  There the Maid bade them stay,
and she went up on to the howe, and stood there and spake to them, and
said: "O men of the Bear, I give you thanks for your following, and I
bless you, and promise you the increase of the earth.  But now ye shall
turn aback, and leave me to go my ways; and my man with the iron sword
shall follow me.  Now, maybe, I shall come amongst the Bear-folk again
before long, and yet again, and learn them wisdom; but for this time it
is enough.  And I shall tell you that ye were best to hasten home
straightway to your houses in the downland dales, for the weather which I
have bidden for you is even now coming forth from the forge of storms in
the heart of the mountains.  Now this last word I give you, that times
are changed since I wore the last shape of God that ye have seen,
wherefore a change I command you.  If so be aliens come amongst you, I
will not that ye send them to me by the flint and the fire; rather,
unless they be baleful unto you, and worthy of an evil death, ye shall
suffer them to abide with you; ye shall make them become children of the
Bears, if they be goodly enough and worthy, and they shall be my children
as ye be; otherwise, if they be ill-favoured and weakling, let them live
and be thralls to you, but not join with you, man to woman.  Now depart
ye with my blessing."

Therewith she came down from the mound, and went her ways up the pass so
lightly, that it was to Walter, standing amongst the Bears, as if she had
vanished away.  But the men of that folk abode standing and worshipping
their God for a little while, and that while he durst not sunder him from
their company.  But when they had blessed him and gone on their way
backward, he betook him in haste to following the Maid, thinking to find
her abiding him in some nook of the pass.

Howsoever, it was now twilight or more, and, for all his haste, dark
night overtook him, so that perforce he was stayed amidst the tangle of
the mountain ways.  And, moreover, ere the night was grown old, the
weather came upon him on the back of a great south wind, so that the
mountain nooks rattled and roared, and there was the rain and the hail,
with thunder and lightning, monstrous and terrible, and all the huge
array of a summer storm.  So he was driven at last to crouch under a big
rock and abide the day.

But not so were his troubles at an end.  For under the said rock he fell
asleep, and when he awoke it was day indeed; but as to the pass, the way
thereby was blind with the driving rain and the lowering lift; so that,
though he struggled as well as he might against the storm and the tangle,
he made but little way.

And now once more the thought came on him, that the Maid was of the fays,
or of some race even mightier; and it came on him now not as erst, with
half fear and whole desire, but with a bitter oppression of dread, of
loss and misery; so that he began to fear that she had but won his love
to leave him and forget him for a new-comer, after the wont of fay-women,
as old tales tell.

Two days he battled thus with storm and blindness, and wanhope of his
life; for he was growing weak and fordone.  But the third morning the
storm abated, though the rain yet fell heavily, and he could see his way
somewhat as well as feel it: withal he found that now his path was
leading him downwards.  As it grew dusk, he came down into a grassy
valley with a stream running through it to the southward, and the rain
was now but little, coming down but in dashes from time to time.  So he
crept down to the stream-side, and lay amongst the bushes there; and said
to himself, that on the morrow he would get him victual, so that he might
live to seek his Maiden through the wide world.  He was of somewhat
better heart: but now that he was laid quiet, and had no more for that
present to trouble him about the way, the anguish of his loss fell upon
him the keener, and he might not refrain him from lamenting his dear
Maiden aloud, as one who deemed himself in the empty wilderness: and thus
he lamented for her sweetness and her loveliness, and the kindness of her
voice and her speech, and her mirth.  Then he fell to crying out
concerning the beauty of her shaping, praising the parts of her body, as
her face, and her hands, and her shoulders, and her feet, and cursing the
evil fate which had sundered him from the friendliness of her, and the
peerless fashion of her.


Complaining thus-wise, he fell asleep from sheer weariness, and when he
awoke it was broad day, calm and bright and cloudless, with the scent of
the earth refreshed going up into the heavens, and the birds singing
sweetly in the bushes about him: for the dale whereunto he was now come
was a fair and lovely place amidst the shelving slopes of the mountains,
a paradise of the wilderness, and nought but pleasant and sweet things
were to be seen there, now that the morn was so clear and sunny.

He arose and looked about him, and saw where, a hundred yards aloof, was
a thicket of small wood, as thorn and elder and whitebeam, all wreathed
about with the bines of wayfaring tree; it hid a bight of the stream,
which turned round about it, and betwixt it and Walter was the grass
short and thick, and sweet, and all beset with flowers; and he said to
himself that it was even such a place as wherein the angels were leading
the Blessed in the great painted paradise in the choir of the big church
at Langton on Holm.  But lo! as he looked he cried aloud for joy, for
forth from the thicket on to the flowery grass came one like to an angel
from out of the said picture, white-clad and bare-foot, sweet of flesh,
with bright eyes and ruddy cheeks; for it was the Maid herself.  So he
ran to her, and she abode him, holding forth kind hands to him, and
smiling, while she wept for joy of the meeting.  He threw himself upon
her, and spared not to kiss her, her cheeks and her mouth, and her arms
and her shoulders, and wheresoever she would suffer it.  Till at last she
drew aback a little, laughing on him for love, and said: "Forbear now,
friend, for it is enough for this time, and tell me how thou hast sped."

"Ill, ill," said he.

"What ails thee?" she said.

"Hunger," he said, "and longing for thee."

"Well," she said, "me thou hast; there is one ill quenched; take my hand,
and we will see to the other one."

So he took her hand, and to hold it seemed to him sweet beyond measure.
But he looked up, and saw a little blue smoke going up into the air from
beyond the thicket; and he laughed, for he was weak with hunger, and he
said: "Who is at the cooking yonder?"

"Thou shalt see," she said; and led him therewith into the said thicket
and through it, and lo! a fair little grassy place, full of flowers,
betwixt the bushes and the bight of the stream; and on the little sandy
ere, just off the greensward, was a fire of sticks, and beside it two
trouts lying, fat and red-flecked.

"Here is the breakfast," said she; "when it was time to wash the night
off me e'en now, I went down the strand here into the rippling shallow,
and saw the bank below it, where the water draws together yonder, and
deepens, that it seemed like to hold fish; and whereas I looked to meet
thee presently, I groped the bank for them, going softly; and lo thou!
Help me now, that we cook them."

So they roasted them on the red embers, and fell to and ate well, both of
them, and drank of the water of the stream out of each other's hollow
hands; and that feast seemed glorious to them, such gladness went with

But when they were done with their meat, Walter said to the Maid: "And
how didst thou know that thou shouldst see me presently?"

She said, looking on him wistfully: "This needed no wizardry.  I lay not
so far from thee last night, but that I heard thy voice and knew it."

Said he, "Why didst thou not come to me then, since thou heardest me
bemoaning thee?"

She cast her eyes down, and plucked at the flowers and grass, and said:
"It was dear to hear thee praising me; I knew not before that I was so
sore desired, or that thou hadst taken such note of my body, and found it
so dear."

Then she reddened sorely, and said: "I knew not that aught of me had such
beauty as thou didst bewail."

And she wept for joy.  Then she looked on him and smiled, and said: "Wilt
thou have the very truth of it?  I went close up to thee, and stood there
hidden by the bushes and the night.  And amidst thy bewailing, I knew
that thou wouldst soon fall asleep, and in sooth I out-waked thee."

Then was she silent again; and he spake not, but looked on her shyly; and
she said, reddening yet more: "Furthermore, I must needs tell thee that I
feared to go to thee in the dark night, and my heart so yearning towards

And she hung her head adown; but he said: "Is it so indeed, that thou
fearest me?  Then doth that make me afraid--afraid of thy nay-say.  For I
was going to entreat thee, and say to thee: Beloved, we have now gone
through many troubles; let us now take a good reward at once, and wed
together, here amidst this sweet and pleasant house of the mountains, ere
we go further on our way; if indeed we go further at all.  For where
shall we find any place sweeter or happier than this?"

But she sprang up to her feet, and stood there trembling before him,
because of her love; and she said: "Beloved, I have deemed that it were
good for us to go seek mankind as they live in the world, and to live
amongst them.  And as for me, I will tell thee the sooth, to wit, that I
long for this sorely.  For I feel afraid in the wilderness, and as if I
needed help and protection against my Mistress, though she be dead; and I
need the comfort of many people, and the throngs of the cities.  I cannot
forget her: it was but last night that I dreamed (I suppose as the dawn
grew a-cold) that I was yet under her hand, and she was stripping me for
the torment; so that I woke up panting and crying out.  I pray thee be
not angry with me for telling thee of my desires; for if thou wouldst not
have it so, then here will I abide with thee as thy mate, and strive to
gather courage."

He rose up and kissed her face, and said: "Nay, I had in sooth no mind to
abide here for ever; I meant but that we should feast a while here, and
then depart: sooth it is, that if thou dreadest the wilderness, somewhat
I dread the city."

She turned pale, and said: "Thou shalt have thy will, my friend, if it
must be so.  But bethink thee we be not yet at our journey's end, and may
have many things and much strife to endure, before we be at peace and in
welfare.  Now shall I tell thee--did I not before?--that while I am a
maid untouched, my wisdom, and somedeal of might, abideth with me, and
only so long.  Therefore I entreat thee, let us go now, side by side, out
of this fair valley, even as we are, so that my wisdom and might may help
thee at need.  For, my friend, I would not that our lives be short, so
much of joy as hath now come into them."

"Yea, beloved," he said, "let us on straightway then, and shorten the
while that sundereth us."

"Love," she said, "thou shalt pardon me one time for all.  But this is to
be said, that I know somewhat of the haps that lie a little way ahead of
us; partly by my lore, and partly by what I learned of this land of the
wild folk whiles thou wert lying asleep that morning."

So they left that pleasant place by the water, and came into the open
valley, and went their ways through the pass; and it soon became stony
again, as they mounted the bent which went up from out the dale.  And
when they came to the brow of the said bent, they had a sight of the open
country lying fair and joyous in the sunshine, and amidst of it, against
the blue hills, the walls and towers of a great city.

Then said the Maid: "O, dear friend, lo you! is not that our abode that
lieth yonder, and is so beauteous?  Dwell not our friends there, and our
protection against uncouth wights, and mere evil things in guileful
shapes?  O city, I bid thee hail!"

But Walter looked on her, and smiled somewhat; and said: "I rejoice in
thy joy.  But there be evil things in yonder city also, though they be
not fays nor devils, or it is like to no city that I wot of.  And in
every city shall foes grow up to us without rhyme or reason, and life
therein shall be tangled unto us."

"Yea," she said; "but in the wilderness amongst the devils, what was to
be done by manly might or valiancy?  There hadst thou to fall back upon
the guile and wizardry which I had filched from my very foes.  But when
we come down yonder, then shall thy valiancy prevail to cleave the tangle
for us.  Or at the least, it shall leave a tale of thee behind, and I
shall worship thee."

He laughed, and his face grew brighter: "Mastery mows the meadow," quoth
he, "and one man is of little might against many.  But I promise thee I
shall not be slothful before thee."


With that they went down from the bent again, and came to where the pass
narrowed so much, that they went betwixt a steep wall of rock on either
side; but after an hour's going, the said wall gave back suddenly, and,
or they were ware almost, they came on another dale like to that which
they had left, but not so fair, though it was grassy and well watered,
and not so big either.  But here indeed befell a change to them; for lo!
tents and pavilions pitched in the said valley, and amidst of it a throng
of men, mostly weaponed, and with horses ready saddled at hand.  So they
stayed their feet, and Walter's heart failed him, for he said to himself:
Who wotteth what these men may be, save that they be aliens?  It is most
like that we shall be taken as thralls; and then, at the best, we shall
be sundered; and that is all one with the worst.

But the Maid, when she saw the horses, and the gay tents, and the pennons
fluttering, and the glitter of spears, and gleaming of white armour,
smote her palms together for joy, and cried out: "Here now are come the
folk of the city for our welcoming, and fair and lovely are they, and of
many things shall they be thinking, and a many things shall they do, and
we shall be partakers thereof.  Come then, and let us meet them, fair

But Walter said: "Alas! thou knowest not: would that we might flee!  But
now is it over late; so put we a good face on it, and go to them quietly,
as erewhile we did in the Bear-country."

So did they; and there sundered six from the men-at-arms and came to
those twain, and made humble obeisance to Walter, but spake no word.  Then
they made as they would lead them to the others, and the twain went with
them wondering, and came into the ring of men-at-arms, and stood before
an old hoar knight, armed all, save his head, with most goodly armour,
and he also bowed before Walter, but spake no word.  Then they took them
to the master pavilion, and made signs to them to sit, and they brought
them dainty meat and good wine.  And the while of their eating arose up a
stir about them; and when they were done with their meat, the ancient
knight came to them, still bowing in courteous wise, and did them to wit
by signs that they should depart: and when they were without, they saw
all the other tents struck, and men beginning to busy them with striking
the pavilion, and the others mounted and ranked in good order for the
road; and there were two horse-litters before them, wherein they were
bidden to mount, Walter in one, and the Maid in the other, and no
otherwise might they do.  Then presently was a horn blown, and all took
to the road together; and Walter saw betwixt the curtains of the litter
that men-at-arms rode on either side of him, albeit they had left him his
sword by his side.

So they went down the mountain-passes, and before sunset were gotten into
the plain; but they made no stay for nightfall, save to eat a morsel and
drink a draught, going through the night as men who knew their way well.
As they went, Walter wondered what would betide, and if peradventure they
also would be for offering them up to their Gods; whereas they were
aliens for certain, and belike also Saracens.  Moreover there was a cold
fear at his heart that he should be sundered from the Maid, whereas their
masters now were mighty men of war, holding in their hands that which all
men desire, to wit, the manifest beauty of a woman.  Yet he strove to
think the best of it that he might.  And so at last, when the night was
far spent, and dawn was at hand, they stayed at a great and mighty gate
in a huge wall.  There they blew loudly on the horn thrice, and
thereafter the gates were opened, and they all passed through into a
street, which seemed to Walter in the glimmer to be both great and goodly
amongst the abodes of men.  Then it was but a little ere they came into a
square, wide-spreading, one side whereof Walter took to be the front of a
most goodly house.  There the doors of the court opened to them or ever
the horn might blow, though, forsooth, blow it did loudly three times;
all they entered therein, and men came to Walter and signed to him to
alight.  So did he, and would have tarried to look about for the Maid,
but they suffered it not, but led him up a huge stair into a chamber,
very great, and but dimly lighted because of its greatness.  Then they
brought him to a bed dight as fair as might be, and made signs to him to
strip and lie therein.  Perforce he did so, and then they bore away his
raiment, and left him lying there.  So he lay there quietly, deeming it
no avail for him, a mother-naked man, to seek escape thence; but it was
long ere he might sleep, because of his trouble of mind.  At last, pure
weariness got the better of his hopes and fears, and he fell into slumber
just as the dawn was passing into day.


When he awoke again the sun was shining brightly into that chamber, and
he looked, and beheld that it was peerless of beauty and riches, amongst
all that he had ever seen: the ceiling done with gold and over-sea blue;
the walls hung with arras of the fairest, though he might not tell what
was the history done therein.  The chairs and stools were of carven work
well be-painted, and amidmost was a great ivory chair under a cloth of
estate, of bawdekin of gold and green, much be-pearled; and all the floor
was of fine work alexandrine.

He looked on all this, wondering what had befallen him, when lo! there
came folk into the chamber, to wit, two serving-men well-bedight, and
three old men clad in rich gowns of silk.  These came to him and (still
by signs, without speech) bade him arise and come with them; and when he
bade them look to it that he was naked, and laughed doubtfully, they
neither laughed in answer, nor offered him any raiment, but still would
have him arise, and he did so perforce.  They brought him with them out
of the chamber, and through certain passages pillared and goodly, till
they came to a bath as fair as any might be; and there the serving-men
washed him carefully and tenderly, the old men looking on the while.  When
it was done, still they offered not to clothe him, but led him out, and
through the passages again, back to the chamber.  Only this time he must
pass between a double hedge of men, some weaponed, some in peaceful
array, but all clad gloriously, and full chieftain-like of aspect, either
for valiancy or wisdom.

In the chamber itself was now a concourse of men, of great estate by
deeming of their array; but all these were standing orderly in a ring
about the ivory chair aforesaid.  Now said Walter to himself: Surely all
this looks toward the knife and the altar for me; but he kept a stout
countenance despite of all.

So they led him up to the ivory chair, and he beheld on either side
thereof a bench, and on each was laid a set of raiment from the shirt
upwards; but there was much diversity betwixt these arrays.  For one was
all of robes of peace, glorious and be-gemmed, unmeet for any save a
great king; while the other was war-weed, seemly, well-fashioned, but
little adorned; nay rather, worn and bestained with weather, and the
pelting of the spear-storm.

Now those old men signed to Walter to take which of those raiments he
would, and do it on.  He looked to the right and the left, and when he
had looked on the war-gear, the heart arose in him, and he called to mind
the array of the Goldings in the forefront of battle, and he made one
step toward the weapons, and laid his hand thereon.  Then ran a glad
murmur through that concourse, and the old men drew up to him smiling and
joyous, and helped him to do them on; and as he took up the helm, he
noted that over its broad brown iron sat a golden crown.

So when he was clad and weaponed, girt with a sword, and a steel axe in
his hand, the elders showed him to the ivory throne, and he laid the axe
on the arm of the chair, and drew forth the sword from the scabbard, and
sat him down, and laid the ancient blade across his knees; then he looked
about on those great men, and spake: "How long shall we speak no word to
each other, or is it so that God hath stricken you dumb?"

Then all they cried out with one voice: "All hail to the King, the King
of Battle!"

Spake Walter: "If I be king, will ye do my will as I bid you?"

Answered the elder: "Nought have we will to do, lord, save as thou

Said Walter: "Thou then, wilt thou answer a question in all truth?"

"Yea, lord," said the elder, "if I may live afterward."

Then said Walter: "The woman that came with me into your Camp of the
Mountain, what hath befallen her?"

The elder answered: "Nought hath befallen her, either of good or evil,
save that she hath slept and eaten and bathed her.  What, then, is the
King's pleasure concerning her?"

"That ye bring her hither to me straightway," said Walter.

"Yea," said the elder; "and in what guise shall we bring her hither?
shall she be arrayed as a servant, or a great lady?"

Then Walter pondered a while, and spake at last: "Ask her what is her
will herein, and as she will have it, so let it be.  But set ye another
chair beside mine, and lead her thereto.  Thou wise old man, send one or
two to bring her in hither, but abide thou, for I have a question or two
to ask of thee yet.  And ye, lords, abide here the coming of my
she-fellow, if it weary you not."

So the elder spake to three of the most honourable of the lords, and they
went their ways to bring in the Maid.


Meanwhile the King spake to the elder, and said: "Now tell me whereof I
am become king, and what is the fashion and cause of the king-making; for
wondrous it is to me, whereas I am but an alien amidst of mighty men."

"Lord," said the old man, "thou art become king of a mighty city, which
hath under it many other cities and wide lands, and havens by the sea-
side, and which lacketh no wealth which men desire.  Many wise men dwell
therein, and of fools not more than in other lands.  A valiant host shall
follow thee to battle when needs must thou wend afield; an host not to be
withstood, save by the ancient God-folk, if any of them were left upon
the earth, as belike none are.  And as to the name of our said city, it
hight the City of the Stark-wall, or more shortly, Stark-wall.  Now as to
the fashion of our king-making: If our king dieth and leaveth an heir
male, begotten of his body, then is he king after him; but if he die and
leave no heir, then send we out a great lord, with knights and sergeants,
to that pass of the mountain whereto ye came yesterday; and the first man
that cometh unto them, they take and lead to the city, as they did with
thee, lord.  For we believe and trow that of old time our forefathers
came down from the mountains by that same pass, poor and rude, but full
of valiancy, before they conquered these lands, and builded the Stark-
wall.  But now furthermore, when we have gotten the said wanderer, and
brought him home to our city, we behold him mother-naked, all the great
men of us, both sages and warriors; then if we find him ill-fashioned and
counterfeit of his body, we roll him in a great carpet till he dies; or
whiles, if he be but a simple man, and without guile, we deliver him for
thrall to some artificer amongst us, as a shoemaker, a wright, or what
not, and so forget him.  But in either case we make as if no such man had
come to us, and we send again the lord and his knights to watch the pass;
for we say that such an one the Fathers of old time have not sent us.  But
again, when we have seen to the new-comer that he is well-fashioned of
his body, all is not done; for we deem that never would the Fathers send
us a dolt or a craven to be our king.  Therefore we bid the naked one
take to him which he will of these raiments, either the ancient armour,
which now thou bearest, lord, or this golden raiment here; and if he take
the war-gear, as thou takedst it, King, it is well; but if he take the
raiment of peace, then hath he the choice either to be thrall of some
goodman of the city, or to be proven how wise he may be, and so fare the
narrow edge betwixt death and kingship; for if he fall short of his
wisdom, then shall he die the death.  Thus is thy question answered,
King, and praise be to the Fathers that they have sent us one whom none
may doubt, either for wisdom or valiancy."


Then all they bowed before the King, and he spake again: "What is that
noise that I hear without, as if it were the rising of the sea on a sandy
shore, when the south-west wind is blowing."

Then the elder opened his mouth to answer; but before he might get out
the word, there was a stir without the chamber door, and the throng
parted, and lo! amidst of them came the Maid, and she yet clad in nought
save the white coat wherewith she had won through the wilderness, save
that on her head was a garland of red roses, and her middle was wreathed
with the same.  Fresh and fair she was as the dawn of June; her face
bright, red-lipped, and clear-eyed, and her cheeks flushed with hope and
love.  She went straight to Walter where he sat, and lightly put away
with her hand the elder who would lead her to the ivory throne beside the
King; but she knelt down before him, and laid her hand on his steel-clad
knee, and said: "O my lord, now I see that thou hast beguiled me, and
that thou wert all along a king-born man coming home to thy realm.  But
so dear thou hast been to me; and so fair and clear, and so kind withal
do thine eyes shine on me from under the grey war-helm, that I will
beseech thee not to cast me out utterly, but suffer me to be thy servant
and handmaid for a while.  Wilt thou not?"

But the King stooped down to her and raised her up, and stood on his
feet, and took her hands and kissed them, and set her down beside him,
and said to her: "Sweetheart, this is now thy place till the night
cometh, even by my side."

So she sat down there meek and valiant, her hands laid in her lap, and
her feet one over the other; while the King said: "Lords, this is my
beloved, and my spouse.  Now, therefore, if ye will have me for King, ye
must worship this one for Queen and Lady; or else suffer us both to go
our ways in peace."

Then all they that were in the chamber cried out aloud: "The Queen, the
Lady!  The beloved of our lord!"

And this cry came from their hearts, and not their lips only; for as they
looked on her, and the brightness of her beauty, they saw also the
meekness of her demeanour, and the high heart of her, and they all fell
to loving her.  But the young men of them, their cheeks flushed as they
beheld her, and their hearts went out to her, and they drew their swords
and brandished them aloft, and cried out for her as men made suddenly
drunk with love: "The Queen, the Lady, the lovely one!"


But while this betid, that murmur without, which is aforesaid, grew
louder; and it smote on the King's ear, and he said again to the elder:
"Tell us now of that noise withoutward, what is it?"

Said the elder: "If thou, King, and the Queen, wilt but arise and stand
in the window, and go forth into the hanging gallery thereof, then shall
ye know at once what is this rumour, and therewithal shall ye see a sight
meet to rejoice the heart of a king new come into kingship."

So the King arose and took the Maid by the hand, and went to the window
and looked forth; and lo! the great square of the place all thronged with
folk as thick as they could stand, and the more part of the carles with a
weapon in hand, and many armed right gallantly.  Then he went out into
the gallery with his Queen, still holding her hand, and his lords and
wise men stood behind him.  Straightway then arose a cry, and a shout of
joy and welcome that rent the very heavens, and the great place was all
glittering and strange with the tossing up of spears and the brandishing
of swords, and the stretching forth of hands.

But the Maid spake softly to King Walter and said: "Here then is the
wilderness left behind a long way, and here is warding and protection
against the foes of our life and soul.  O blessed be thou and thy valiant

But Walter spake nothing, but stood as one in a dream; and yet, if that
might be, his longing toward her increased manifold.

But down below, amidst of the throng, stood two neighbours somewhat anigh
to the window; and quoth one to the other: "See thou! the new man in the
ancient armour of the Battle of the Waters, bearing the sword that slew
the foeman king on the Day of the Doubtful Onset!  Surely this is a sign
of good-luck to us all."

"Yea," said the second, "he beareth his armour well, and the eyes are
bright in the head of him: but hast thou beheld well his she-fellow, and
what the like of her is?"

"I see her," said the other, "that she is a fair woman; yet somewhat
worse clad than simply.  She is in her smock, man, and were it not for
the balusters I deem ye should see her barefoot.  What is amiss with

"Dost thou not see her," said the second neighbour, "that she is not only
a fair woman, but yet more, one of those lovely ones that draw the heart
out of a man's body, one may scarce say for why?  Surely Stark-wall hath
cast a lucky net this time.  And as to her raiment, I see of her that she
is clad in white and wreathed with roses, but that the flesh of her is so
wholly pure and sweet that it maketh all her attire but a part of her
body, and halloweth it, so that it hath the semblance of gems.  Alas, my
friend! let us hope that this Queen will fare abroad unseldom amongst the

Thus, then, they spake; but after a while the King and his mate went back
into the chamber, and he gave command that the women of the Queen should
come and fetch her away, to attire her in royal array.  And thither came
the fairest of the honourable damsels, and were fain of being her waiting-
women.  Therewithal the King was unarmed, and dight most gloriously, but
still he bore the Sword of the King's Slaying: and sithence were the King
and the Queen brought into the great hall of the palace, and they met on
the dais, and kissed before the lords and other folk that thronged the
hall.  There they ate a morsel and drank a cup together while all beheld
them; and then they were brought forth, and a white horse of the
goodliest, well bedight, brought for each of them, and thereon they
mounted and went their ways together, by the lane which the huge throng
made for them, to the great church, for the hallowing and the crowning;
and they were led by one squire alone, and he unarmed; for such was the
custom of Stark-wall when a new king should be hallowed: so came they to
the great church (for that folk was not miscreant, so to say), and they
entered it, they two alone, and went into the choir: and when they had
stood there a little while wondering at their lot, they heard how the
bells fell a-ringing tunefully over their heads; and then drew near the
sound of many trumpets blowing together, and thereafter the voices of
many folk singing; and then were the great doors thrown open, and the
bishop and his priests came into the church with singing and minstrelsy,
and thereafter came the whole throng of the folk, and presently the nave
of the church was filled by it, as when the water follows the cutting of
the dam, and fills up the dyke.  Thereafter came the bishop and his mates
into the choir, and came up to the King, and gave him and the Queen the
kiss of peace.  This was mass sung gloriously; and thereafter was the
King anointed and crowned, and great joy was made throughout the church.
Afterwards they went back afoot to the palace, they two alone together,
with none but the esquire going before to show them the way.  And as they
went, they passed close beside those two neighbours, whose talk has been
told of afore, and the first one, he who had praised the King's
war-array, spake and said: "Truly, neighbour, thou art in the right of
it; and now the Queen has been dight duly, and hath a crown on her head,
and is clad in white samite done all over with pearls, I see her to be of
exceeding goodliness; as goodly, maybe, as the Lord King."

Quoth the other: "Unto me she seemeth as she did e'en now; she is clad in
white, as then she was, and it is by reason of the pure and sweet flesh
of her that the pearls shine out and glow, and by the holiness of her
body is her rich attire hallowed; but, forsooth, it seemed to me as she
went past as though paradise had come anigh to our city, and that all the
air breathed of it.  So I say, praise be to God and His Hallows who hath
suffered her to dwell amongst us!"

Said the first man: "Forsooth, it is well; but knowest thou at all whence
she cometh, and of what lineage she may be?"

"Nay," said the other, "I wot not whence she is; but this I wot full
surely, that when she goeth away, they whom she leadeth with her shall be
well bestead.  Again, of her lineage nought know I; but this I know, that
they that come of her, to the twentieth generation, shall bless and
praise the memory of her, and hallow her name little less than they
hallow the name of the Mother of God."

So spake those two; but the King and Queen came back to the palace, and
sat among the lords and at the banquet which was held thereafter, and
long was the time of their glory, till the night was far spent and all
men must seek to their beds.


Long it was, indeed, till the women, by the King's command, had brought
the Maid to the King's chamber; and he met her, and took her by the
shoulders and kissed her, and said: "Art thou not weary, sweetheart?  Doth
not the city, and the thronging folk, and the watching eyes of the great
ones . . . doth it not all lie heavy on thee, as it doth upon me?"

She said: "And where is the city now? is not this the wilderness again,
and thou and I alone together therein?"

He gazed at her eagerly, and she reddened, so that her eyes shone light
amidst the darkness of the flush of her cheeks.

He spake trembling and softly, and said: "Is it not in one matter better
than the wilderness? is not the fear gone, yea, every whit thereof?"

The dark flush had left her face, and she looked on him exceeding
sweetly, and spoke steadily and clearly: "Even so it is, beloved."
Therewith she set her hand to the girdle that girt her loins, and did it
off, and held it out toward him, and said: "Here is the token; this is a
maid's girdle, and the woman is ungirt."

So he took the girdle and her hand withal, and cast his arms about her:
and amidst the sweetness of their love and their safety, and assured hope
of many days of joy, they spake together of the hours when they fared the
razor-edge betwixt guile and misery and death, and the sweeter yet it
grew to them because of it; and many things she told him ere the dawn, of
the evil days bygone, and the dealings of the Mistress with her, till the
grey day stole into the chamber to make manifest her loveliness; which,
forsooth, was better even than the deeming of that man amidst the throng
whose heart had been so drawn towards her.  So they rejoiced together in
the new day.

But when the full day was, and Walter arose, he called his thanes and
wise men to the council; and first he bade open the prison-doors, and
feed the needy and clothe them, and make good cheer to all men, high and
low, rich and unrich; and thereafter he took counsel with them on many
matters, and they marvelled at his wisdom and the keenness of his wit;
and so it was, that some were but half pleased thereat, whereas they saw
that their will was like to give way before his in all matters.  But the
wiser of them rejoiced in him, and looked for good days while his life

Now of the deeds that he did, and his joys and his griefs, the tale shall
tell no more; nor of how he saw Langton again, and his dealings there.

In Stark-wall he dwelt, and reigned a King, well beloved of his folk,
sorely feared of their foemen.  Strife he had to deal with, at home and
abroad; but therein he was not quelled, till he fell asleep fair and
softly, when this world had no more of deeds for him to do.  Nor may it
be said that the needy lamented him; for no needy had he left in his own
land.  And few foes he left behind to hate him.

As to the Maid, she so waxed in loveliness and kindness, that it was a
year's joy for any to have cast eyes upon her in street or on field.  All
wizardry left her since the day of her wedding; yet of wit and wisdom she
had enough left, and to spare; for she needed no going about, and no
guile, any more than hard commands, to have her will done.  So loved she
was by all folk, forsooth, that it was a mere joy for any to go about her
errands.  To be short, she was the land's increase, and the city's
safeguard, and the bliss of the folk.

Somewhat, as the days passed, it misgave her that she had beguiled the
Bear-folk to deem her their God; and she considered and thought how she
might atone it.

So the second year after they had come to Stark-wall, she went with
certain folk to the head of the pass that led down to the Bears; and
there she stayed the men-at-arms, and went on further with a two score of
husbandmen whom she had redeemed from thralldom in Stark-wall; and when
they were hard on the dales of the Bears, she left them there in a
certain little dale, with their wains and horses, and seed-corn, and iron
tools, and went down all bird-alone to the dwelling of those huge men,
unguarded now by sorcery, and trusting in nought but her loveliness and
kindness.  Clad she was now, as when she fled from the Wood beyond the
World, in a short white coat alone, with bare feet and naked arms; but
the said coat was now embroidered with the imagery of blossoms in silk
and gold, and gems, whereas now her wizardry had departed from her.

So she came to the Bears, and they knew her at once, and worshipped and
blessed her, and feared her.  But she told them that she had a gift for
them, and was come to give it; and therewith she told them of the art of
tillage, and bade them learn it; and when they asked her how they should
do so, she told them of the men who were abiding them in the mountain
dale, and bade the Bears take them for their brothers and sons of the
ancient Fathers, and then they should be taught of them.  This they
behight her to do, and so she led them to where her freedmen lay, whom
the Bears received with all joy and loving-kindness, and took them into
their folk.

So they went back to their dales together; but the Maid went her ways
back to her men-at-arms and the city of Stark-wall.

Thereafter she sent more gifts and messages to the Bears, but never again
went herself to see them; for as good a face as she put on it that last
time, yet her heart waxed cold with fear, and it almost seemed to her
that her Mistress was alive again, and that she was escaping from her and
plotting against her once more.

As for the Bears, they throve and multiplied; till at last strife arose
great and grim betwixt them and other peoples; for they had become mighty
in battle: yea, once and again they met the host of Stark-wall in fight,
and overthrew and were overthrown.  But that was a long while after the
Maid had passed away.

Now of Walter and the Maid is no more to be told, saving that they begat
between them goodly sons and fair daughters; whereof came a great lineage
in Stark-wall; which lineage was so strong, and endured so long a while,
that by then it had died out, folk had clean forgotten their ancient
Custom of king-making, so that after Walter of Langton there was never
another king that came down to them poor and lonely from out of the
Mountains of the Bears.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wood Beyond the World" ***

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