The Wood Beyond the World, by William Morris

Chapter XXXIV. Now Cometh the Maid to the King

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!”

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