So in a while they went with him to the Tower, and there was woman’s raiment of the best gotten for Ursula, and afterwards at nightfall they went to the feast in the Red Pavillion of Utterbol, which awhile ago the now-slain Lord of Utterbol had let make; and it was exceeding rich with broidery of pearl and gems: since forsooth gems and fair women were what the late lord had lusted for the most, and have them he would at the price of howsoever many tears and groans. But that pavilion was yet in all wise as it was wont to be, saving that the Bull had supplanted the Bear upon the Castle-wall.
Now the wayfarers were treated with all honour and were set upon the high-seat, Ralph upon the right-hand of the Lord, and Ursula upon his left, and the Sage of Swevenham out from her. But on Ralph’s right hand was at first a void place, whereto after a while came Otter, the old Captain of the Guard. He came in hastily, and as though he had but just taken his armour off: for his raiment was but such as the men-at-arm of that country were wont to wear under their war-gear, and was somewhat stained and worn; whereas the other knights and lords were arrayed grandly in silks and fine cloth embroidered and begemmed.
Otter was fain when he saw Ralph, and kissed and embraced him, and said: “Forsooth, I saw by thy face, lad, that the world would be soft before thee; and now that I behold thee I know already that thou hast won thy quest; and the Gods only know to what honour thou shalt attain.”
Ralph laughed for joy of him, and yet said soberly: “As to honour, meseems I covet little world’s goods, save that it may be well with my folk at home.” Nevertheless as the words were out of his mouth his thought went back to the tall man whom he had first met at the churchyard gate of Netherton, and it seemed to him that he wished his thriving, yea, and in a lesser way, he wished the same to Roger of the Rope-walk, whereas he deemed that both of these, each in his own way, had been true to the lady whom he had lost.
Then Otter fell a-talking to him of the change of days at Utterbol, and how that it was the Lord’s intent that a cheaping town should grow up in the Dale of the Tower, and that the wilderness beyond it should be tilled and builded. “And,” said he, “if this be done, and the new lord live to see it, as he may, being but young of years, he may become exceedingly mighty, and if he hold on in the way whereas he now is, he shall be well-beloved also.”
So they spake of many things, and there was minstrelsy and diverse joyance, till at last the Lord of Utterbol stood up and said: “Now bring in the Bull, that we may speak some words over him; for this is a great feast.” Ralph wondered what bull this might be whereof he spake; but the harps and fiddlers, and all instruments of music struck up a gay and gallant tune, and presently there came into the hall four men richly attired, who held up on spears a canopy of bawdekin, under which went a man-at-arms helmed, and clad in bright armour, who held in his hands a great golden cup fashioned like to a bull, and he bore it forth unto the dais, and gave it into the hands of the Lord. Then straightway all the noise ceased, and the glee and clatter of the hall, and there was dead silence. Then the Lord held the cup aloft and said in a loud voice:
“Hail, all ye folk! I swear by the Bull, and they that made him, that in three years’ time or less I will have purged all the lands of Utterbol of all strong-thieves and cruel tyrants, be they big or little, till all be peace betwixt the mountains and the mark of Goldburg; and the wilderness shall blossom like the rose. Or else shall I die in the pain.”
Therewith he drank of the cup, and all men shouted. Then he sat him down and bade hand the cup to Otter; and Otter took the cup and looked into the bowl and saw the wave of wine, and laughed and cried out: “As for me, what shall I swear but that I will follow the Bull through thick and thin, through peace and unpeace, through grief and joy. This is my oath-swearing.”
And he drank mightily and sat down.
Then turned the Lord to Ralph and said: “And thou who art my master, wilt thou not tell thy friends and the Gods what thou wilt do?”
“No great matter, belike,” said Ralph; “but if ye will it, I will speak out my mind thereon.”
“We will it,” said the Lord.
Then Ralph arose and took the cup and lifted it and spake: “This I swear, that I will go home to my kindred, yet on the road will I not gainsay help to any that craveth it. So may all Hallows help me!”
Therewith he drank: and Bull said: “This is well said, O happy man! But now that men have drunk well, do ye three and Otter come with me into the Tower, whereas the chambers are dight for you, that I may make the most of this good day wherein I have met thee again.”
So they went with him, and when they had sat down in the goodliest chamber of the Tower, and they had been served with wine and spices, the new Lord said to Ralph: “And now, my master, wilt thou not ask somewhat concerning me?” “Yea,” said Ralph, “I will ask thee to tell the tale of how thou camest into thy Lordship.” Said the Lord, “This shall ye hear of me with Otter to help me out. Hearken!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11