Child Christopher - Chapter 17
XVII. GOLDILIND COMES BACK TO GREENHARBOUR
They rode speedily, and had with them men who knew the woodland ways, so that the journey was nought so long thence as Goldilind had made it thither; and they stayed not for nightfall, since the moon was bright, so that they came before the Castle-gate before midnight. Now Goldilind looked to be cast into prison, whatever might befall her upon the morrow; but so it went not, for she was led straight to her own chamber, and one of her women, but not Aloyse, waited on her, and when she tried to have some tidings of her, the woman spake to her no more than if she were dumb. So all unhappily she laid her down in her bed, foreboding the worst, which she deemed might well be death at the hand of her jailers. As for Christopher, she saw the last of him as they entered the Castle-gate, and knew not what they had done with him. So she lay in dismal thoughts, but at last fell asleep for mere weariness.
When she awoke it was broad day, and there was someone going about in the chamber; she turned, and saw that it was Aloyse. She felt sick at heart, and durst not move or ask of tidings; but presently Aloyse turned, and came to the bed, and made an obeisance, but spake not. Goldilind raised her head, and said wearily: "What is to be done, Aloyse, wilt thou tell me? For my heart fails me, and meseems, unless they have some mercy, I shall die to-day."
"Nay," said the chambermaid, "keep thine heart up; for here is one at hand who would see thee, when it is thy pleasure to be seen."
"Yea," said Goldilind, "Dame Elinor to wit." And she moaned, and fear and heart-sickness lay so heavy on her that she went nigh to swooning
But Aloyse lifted up her head, and brought her wine and made her drink, and when Goldilind was come to herself again the maid said: "I say, keep up thine heart, for it is not Dame Elinor and the rods that would see thee, but a mighty man; nay, the most mighty, to wit, Earl Geoffrey, who is King of Meadham in all but the name."
Goldilind did in sooth take heart at this tidings, and she said: "I wonder what he may have to do here; all this while he hath not been to Greenharbour, or, mayhappen, it might have been better for me."
"I wot not," said Aloyse, "but even so it is. I shall tell thee, the messenger, whose horse thou didst steal, brought no other word in his mouth save this, that my Lord Earl was coming; and come he did; but that was toward sunset, long after they had laid the blood-hounds on thy slot, and I had been whipped for letting thee find the way out a-gates. Now, our Lady, when thou hast seen the Earl, and hast become our Lady and Mistress indeed, wilt thou bethink thee of the morn before yesterday on my behalf?"
"Yea," said Goldilind, "if ever it shall befall."
"Befall it shall," said Aloyse; "I dreamed of thee three nights ago, and thou sitting on thy throne commanding and forbidding the great men. But at worst no harm hath happened save to my shoulders and sides, by thy stealing thyself, since thou hast come back in the nick of time, and of thine own will, as men say. But tell me now of thine holiday, and if it were pleasant to thee?"
Goldilind fell a-weeping at the word, bethinking her of yesterday morning, and Aloyse stood looking on her, but saying nought. At last spake Goldilind softly: "Tell me, Aloyse, didst thou hear any speaking of that young man who was brought in hither last night? Have they slain him?"
Said Aloyse: "Soothly, my Lady, I deem they have done him no hurt, though I wot not for sure. There hath been none headed or hanged in the base-court to-day. I heard talk amongst the men-at-arms of one whom they took; they said he was a wonder of sheer strength, and how that he cast their men about as though he were playing at ball. Sooth to say, they seemed to bear him no grudge therefor. But now I would counsel thee to arise; and I am bidden to tire and array thee at the best. And now I would say a word in thine ear, to wit, that Dame Elinor feareth thee somewhat this morn."
So Goldilind arose, and was arrayed like a very queen, and was served of what she would by Aloyse and the other women, and sat in her chamber awaiting the coming of the mighty Lord of Meadham.