Early on the morrow came the Earl unto Goldilind, and she received him gladly, as one who had fashioned life anew for her. And when he had sat down by her, he spake and said: “Lady, thou cravedst of me yesterday two things; the first was freedom from the captivity of Greenharbour; and the second, life and liberty for the varlet that cherished thee in the wild-wood the other day. Now thy first asking grieved me, for that thou hast been tyrannously done by; and thy second I wondered at; but since I have seen the young man, I wonder the less; for he is both so goodly, and so mighty of body, and of speech bold and free, yet gentle and of all courtesy, that he is meet to be knight or earl, yea, or very king. Now, therefore, in both these matters I will well to do thy pleasure, and in one way it may be; and thou mayst then go forth from Greenharbour as free as a bird, and thy varlet’s life may be given unto him, and mickle honour therewith. Art thou, then, willing to do after my rede and my commandment, so that both these good things may betide thee?”
“Right willing am I,” she said, “to be free and happy and to save the life of a fair youth and kind.”
“Then,” said he, “there is one thing for thee to do: that this day thou wed this fair and kind youth, and let him lead thee forth from Greenharbour; and, belike, he will bring thee to no ill stead; for his friends are mightier than mayhappen thou deemest.”
She turned as red as blood at his word; she knit her brows, and her eyes flashed as she answered: “Is it seemly for a King’s daughter to wed a nameless churl? And now I know thee, Lord Earl, what thou wouldst do; thou wouldst be King of Meadham and put thy master’s daughter to the road.” And she was exceeding wroth.
But he said, smiling somewhat: “Was it then seemly for the King’s daughter to kneel for this man’s life, and go near to swooning for joy when it was granted to her?”
“Yea,” she said, “for I love him with all my body and soul; and I would have had him love me par amours, and then should I have been his mistress and he my servant; but now shall he be my master and I his servant.” And still was she very wroth.
Quoth the Earl: “As to the matter of my being King of Meadham, that will I be, whatever befall, or die in the place else. So if thou wilt not do my rede, then must the varlet whom thou lovest die, and at Greenharbour must thou abide with Dame Elinor. There is no help for it.”
She shrieked out at that word of his, and well nigh swooned, lying back in her chair: but presently fell a-weeping sorely. But the Earl said: “Hearken, my Lady, I am not without warrant to do this. Tell me, hast thou ever seen any fairer or doughtier than this youngling?”
“Never,” said she.
“So say we all,” he said. “Now I shall tell thee (and I can bring witness to it) that in his last hour the King, thy father, when he gave thee into my keeping, spake also this: that I should wed thee to none save the fairest and doughtiest man that might be found: even so would I do now. What then sayest thou?”
She answered not, but still wept somewhat; then said the Earl: “Lady, give me leave, and I shall send thy women to thee, and sit in the great hall for an hour, and if within that while thou send a woman of thine to say one word, Yes, unto me, then is all well. But if not, then do I depart from Greenharbour straightway, and take the youngling with me to hang him up on the first tree. Be wise, I pray thee.”
And therewith he went his ways. But Goldilind, being left alone a little, rose up and paced the chamber to and fro, and her tears and sobbing ceased; and a great and strange joy grew up in her heart, mingled with the pain of longing, so that she might rest in nowise. Even therewith the door opened, and her women entered, Aloyse first, and she called to her at once, and bade her to find Earl Geoffrey in the great hall, and say to him: Yes. So Aloyse went her ways, and Goldilind bade her other women to array her in the best and goodliest wise that they might. And the day was yet somewhat young. Now it must besaid of Earl Geoffrey that, in spite of his hard word, he had it not in his heart either to slay Christopher or to leave Goldilind at Greenharbour to the mercy of Dame Elinor.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53