The Sundering Flood, by William Morris

Chapter xviii. Elfhild Hears of the Slaying

But two days after this was the tryst-day for Osberne to see his over-water friend, and he went soberly enough, and came to the water-side and found her over against him; and she asked of him tidings. “Tidings enough,” said he, “for now have I done a deed beyond my years, a deed unmeet for a child; to wit, I have slain a man.”

“O,” she said, “and didst thou sleep after the deed?” Said Osberne: “Yea, and dreamed never a deal. But I must tell thee I was in my right.” Said Elfhild: “What did he to thee that thou must slay him?” Osberne said: “He came swaggering into our house and would take all to him, and put all of us to the road or hold us in thraldom.” She said “But tell me, how didst thou slay him? Was he drunk or asleep?” “Nay,” said he, “I was champion for my grandsire, and the robber had a sword in his fist, and I another and we fought, and I overcame him.” Said the maiden: “But was he mannikin or a dastard, or unskilled in weapons?” Spake Osberne, reddening: “He was a stark carle, a bold man, and was said to be of all prowess.”

She said nothing a while, but stood pale and downcast. And he said: “What is this, playmate? I looked to have much praise from thee for my deed. Dost thou know that this man was as the pest to all the country-side, and that I have freed men of peace from a curse?” “Be not wrath with me, Osberne,” she said, “indeed I am somewhat downcast; for I see that now thou wilt be no playmate for me, but wilt be a man before thy time, and wilt be looking towards such things as men desire; and that tall maidens come to womanhood will be for thee, not quaint rags of children such as I be.”

“Now, Elfhild,” said he, “why wilt thou run to meet trouble half way? Am I worser to thee than I was last time?” “Nay,” she said, “and indeed I deem thee glorious, and it is kind and kind of thee to come to me ever, and not to miss one of our trysts.”

“Now thou art dear,” said Osberne; “and wilt thou do something for my disport? wilt thou pipe thy sheep to thee?”

“Nay,” said she, “I will not; I will not skip like an antic, and show thee my poor little spindle legs. If I were a woman grown I should scarce show so much as the ankle of my foot. Besides, thou laughest at my hopping and jumping amongst these foolish woolly beasts, and I would not have thee laughing at me.”

“Elfhild my dear,” said he, “thou art wrong. When I have laughed, it was never in mockery of thee, but for pleasure of thy pretty ways and the daintiness of thy dancing, which is like to the linden leaves on a fresh summer morning.”

“But how am I to know that?” she said. “Well, at any rate, ask me not to dance today. But I will sit down and tell thee a very sweet tale of old times, which thou hast never erst heard. It is about the sea and ships, and of a sea-wife coming into the dwellings of men.” Quoth Osberne, “I were fain to look on the sea and to sail it.” “Yea,” said Elfhild, “but thou wilt take me with thee, wilt thou not?” “O yea,” said Osberne. And they both forgat the Sundering Flood, and how they should never meet, as they sat each side of the fearful water, and the tale and sweet speech sped to and fro betwixt them. So a fair ending had that day of tryst.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07