May was on the land now, and was come into its second week, and Goldilind awoke on a morn in the Castle of Greenharbour; but little did her eyes behold of the May, even when they were fully open; for she was lying, not in her own chamber, which was proper, and even somewhat stately, and from whence she could look on the sky and greenwood, but in a chamber low down amidst the footings of the wall, little lighted, unadorned, with nought in it for sport or pleasure; nought, forsooth, save the pallet bed on which she lay, a joint stool and water ewer. To be short, though it were called the Least Guard-chamber, it was a prison, and she was there dreeing her penance, as Dame Elinor would call the cruelty of her malice, which the chaplain, Dame Elinor’s led captain, had ordained her for some sin which the twain had forged between them.
She lay there naked in her smock, with no raiment anigh her, and this was the third morning whereon she had awakened to the dusky bare walls, and a long while had their emptiness made of the hours: but she lay quiet and musing, not altogether without cheer now; for indeed she was not wont to any longer penance than this she had but now tholed, so she looked for release presently: and, moreover, there had grown in her mind during those three days a certain purpose; to wit, that she would get hold of the governor of the castle privily, and two or three others of the squires who most regarded her, and bewail her case to them, so that she might perchance get some relief. Forsooth, as she called to mind this resolve, her heart beat and her cheek flushed, for well she knew that there was peril in it, and she forecast what might be the worst that would come thereof, while, on the other hand, the best that might be seemed to her like a glimpse of Paradise.
As she lay there and turned the matter over in her mind for this many an hundred time, there came a key into the lock, and the door opened; and thereby entered a tall woman, dark-haired, white-skinned, somewhat young, and not ill-favoured: Goldilind still lay there, till the new-comer said to her in a hard voice, wherein was both threatening and mockery: “Rise up, our Lady! the Dame Elinor saith that it is enough, and that thou art to go forth. Nay, hold a while; for I say unto thee that it is yet early in the day, and that thy chamber is not yet dight for thee, so thou must needs bestow thyself elsewhere till it be done.”
Goldilind rose up, and said smiling: “Yea, Aloyse, but thou hast not brought my raiment: and thou seest!”
The maid stood looking at her a moment somewhat evilly, and then said: “Well, since it is but scant six o’clock, I may do that; but I bid thee ask me not overmuch; for meseemeth Dame Elinor is not overwell pleased with thee to-day, nor our chaplain either.”
Therewith she turned and went out, locking the door behind her, and came back presently bearing on her arm a green gown and other raiment: she laid them on the stool before the Lady, and said: “Hasten, my Lady, and let me go to my place: sooth to say, it may well be double trouble to thee to don thy clothes, for thou mayst have to doff them again before long.”
Goldilind answered nought, but reddened and paled again as she clad her under the waiting-maid’s eyes. Then they went out together, and up a short stone stair, till they were level with the greensward without. Then the maid turned to Goldilind and said: “And now thou art clad and out, my Lady, I wot not where thou art to go to, since to thy chamber thou must not go. Nay, hold and hearken! here we be at the door which opens on to the Foresters’ Garth under the Foresters’ Tower, thither shalt thou abide till I come to fetch thee. How now, my Lady! what else wouldst thou?”
Goldilind looked on her with a smile, yet with eagereyes, and said: “O good Aloyse, wouldst thou but give me a piece of bread? for I hunger; thou wottest my queenly board hath not been overloaded these last days.”
“Ha!” said Aloyse; “if thou ask me overmuch I fear thou mayst pay for it, my Lady; but this last asking thou shalt have, and then none other till all thy penance thou hast dreed. Abide!”
Therewith she went up the stairs, and Goldilind, who now was but weak with her prison and the sudden light, and the hope and fear of her purpose of bewailing her story, sat her down on the stair there, almost, as it were, ‘twixt home and hell, till her heart came back to her and the tears began to flow from her eyes. Forthright came back Aloyse, bearing a white loaf and a little pitcher of milk on a silver serving-dish; she laid them down, unlocked the door into the garden, and thrust Goldilind through by the shoulders; then she turned and took up her serving-dish with the bread and milk, and handed it to Goldilind through the door, and said: “Now is my Lady served. It were indeed well that my Lady should strengthen herself this hour for the hour next to come.”
Therewith she turned about, and shut and locked the door; and the King’s daughter fell to eagerly on her bread, and thought of little till she had eaten and drunk, save that she felt the sweet scent of the gilliflowers and eglantine as it were a part of her meal.
Then she went slowly down the garden, treading the greensward beside the flowers; and she looked on the hold, and the low sun gilded the walls thereof and glittered in a window here and there, and though there was on her a foreboding of the hours of that day, she did what she might to make the best of the fragrant May morning and the song of birds and rustle of leaves, though, indeed, at whiles the tears would gush out of her eyes when she thought how young she was and how feeble, and the pity of herself became sweet unto her.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53