Child Christopher - Chapter 21
XXI. OF THE WEDDING OF THOSE TWAIN
Now were folk gathered in the hall, and the Earl Geoffrey was standing on the dais by the high-seat, and beside him a worthy clerk, the Abbot of Meadhamstead, a monk of St. Benedict, and next to him the Burgreve of Greenharbour, and then a score of knights all in brave raiment, and squires withal, and sergeants; but down in the hall were the men- at-arms and serving-men, and a half hundred of folk of the countryside, queans as well as carles, who had been gathered for the show and bidden in. No other women were there in the hall till Goldilind and her serving-women entered. She went straight up the hall, and took her place in the high-seat; and for all that her eyes seemed steady, she had noted Christopher standing by the shot-window just below the dais.
Now when she was set down, and there was silence in the hall, Earl Geoffrey came forth and said: "Lords and knights, and ye good people, the Lady Goldilind, daughter of the Lord King Roland that last was, is now of age to wed; and be it known unto you, that the King, her father, bade me, in the last words by him spoken, to wed her to none but the loveliest and strongest that might be, as witness I can bring hereto. Now such a man have I sought hereto in Meadhamstead and the much-peopled land of Meadham, and none have I come on, however worthy he were of deeds, or well-born of lineage, but that I doubted me if he were so fair or so doughty as might be found; but here in this half- desert corner of the land have I gotten a man than whom none is doughtier, as some of you have found to your cost. And tell me all you, where have ye seen any as fair as this man?" And therewith he made a sign with his hand, and forth strode Christopher up on to the dais; and he was so clad, that his kirtle was of white samite, girt with a girdle of goldsmith's work, whereby hung a good sword of like fashion, and over his shoulders was a mantle of red cloth-of-gold, furred with ermine, and lined with green sendall; and on his golden curled locks sat a chaplet of pearls.
Then to the lords and all the people he seemed so fair and fearless and kind that they gave a great shout of welcome; and Goldilind came forth from her chair, as fair as a June lily, and came to Christopher and reached out her hand to him, but he refrained him a moment, so that all they could see how sweet and lovely a hand it was, and then he took it, and drew her to him, and kissed her mouth before them all; and still he held her hand, till the Abbot of Meadhamstead aforetold came and stood by them and blessed them.
Then spake the Earl again: "Lo ye, here hath been due betrothal of these twain, and ye may see how meet they be for each other in goodliness and kindness. Now there lacketh nought but they should be wedded straightway; and all is arrayed in the chapel; wherefore if this holy man will come with us and do on his mass-hackle, our joy shall be fulfilled; save that thereafter shall feast and merriment await all you in this hall, and we shall be there to welcome all comers in this house of Greenharbour, whereas this our gracious Lady has long abided so happily."
Man looked on man here and there, and smiled a little as he spake, but none said aught, for there were none save the Earl's servants there, and a sort of poor wretches.
So therewithal they went their ways to the chapel where was the wedding done as grandly as might be, considering they were in no grander place than Greenharbour. And when all was done, and folk began to flow away from the chapel, and Goldilind sat shamefaced but strangely happy in a great stall of the choir, the Earl called Christopher unto him, and said: "My lad, I deem that some great fortune shall betide thee since already thou hast begun so luckily. But I beseech thee mar not thy fortune by coming back with thy fair wife to the land of Meadham; or else it may be thou shalt cast thy life away, and that will bring her sorrow, as I can see well."
He spake this grimly, though he smiled as he spake. But he went on more gently: "I will not send you twain away empty-handed; when ye go out a-gates into the wide world, ye shall find two fair horses for your riding, well bedight, and one with a woman's saddle; and, moreover, a sumpter beast, not very lightly burdened, for on one side of him he beareth achest wherein is, first of all, the raiment of my Lady, and beneath it some deal of silver and gold and gems; but on the other side is victual and drink for the way for you, and raiment for thee, youngling. How sayest thou, is it well?"
"It is well, Lord," said Christopher; "yet would I have with me the raiment wherewith I came hither, and my bow and my sax."
"Yea and wherefore, carle?" said Earl Geoffrey.
Said the youngling: "We be going to ride the wild-wood, and it might be better for safety's sake that I be so clad as certain folk look to see men ride there."
But he reddened as he spake; and the Earl said: "By Allhallows! but it is not ill thought of; and, belike, the same-like kind of attire might be better to hide the queenship of the Lady from the wood-folk than that which now she weareth?"
"True is that, Lord," quoth Christopher.
"Yet," said the Earl, "l will have you go forth from the Castle clad in your lordly weed, lest folk of mine say that I have stripped my Lady and cast her forth: don ye your poor raiment when in the wood ye be."
Therewith he called to a squire, and bade him seek out that poor raiment of the new-wedded youngling, and bow withal and shafts good store, and do all on the sumpter; and, furthermore, he bade him tell one of my Lady's women to set on the sumpter some of Goldilind's old and used raiment. So the squire did the Earl's will, and both got Christopher's gear and also found Aloyse and gave her the Earl's word.
She smiled thereat, and went straightway and fetched the very same raiment, green gown and all, which she had brought to Goldilind in prison that other day, and in which Goldilind had fled from Greenharbour. And when she had done them in the chest above all the other gear, she stood yet beside the horses amidst of the varlets and squires who were gathered there to see the new-wedded folk depart.
Presently then came forth through the gate those two, hand in hand, and Earl Geoffrey with them. And he set Goldilind on her horse himself, and knelt before her to say farewell, and therewith was Christopher on his horse, and him the Earl saluted debonairly.
But just as they were about shaking their reins to depart, Aloyse fell down on her knees before the Earl, who said: "What is toward, woman?"
"A grace, my Lord, a grace," said she.
"Stand up on thy feet," said the Earl, "and ye, my masters, draw out of earshot."
Even so did they; and the Earl bade her speak, and she said: "Lord, my Lady is going away from Greenharbour, and anon thou wilt be going, and I shall be left with the sleek she-devil yonder that thou hast set over us, and here there will be hell for me without escape, now that my Lady is gone. Wherefore I pray thee take me with thee to Meadhamstead, even if it be to prison; for here I shall die the worst of deaths."
Earl Geoffrey smiled on her sourly, and said: "If it be as I understand, that thou hast lifted thine hand against my Lady, wert thou wending with me, thou shouldst go just so far as the first tree. Thou mayst deem thyself lucky if I leave thee behind here. Nor needest thou trouble thee concerning Dame Elinor; little more shalt thou hear of her henceforward."
But Goldilind spake and said: "My Lord Earl, I would ask grace for this one; for what she did to me she did compelled, and not of her free will, and I forgive it her. And moreover, this last time she suffered in her body for the helping of me; so if thou mightest do her asking I were the better pleased."
"It shall be as thou wilt, my Lady," said the Earl, "and I will have her with me and keep her quiet in Meadhamstead; but, by Allhallows! had it not been for thy word we would have had her whipped into the wild-wood, and hanged up on to a tree thereafter."
Then Aloyse knelt before Goldilind and kissed her feet, and wept, and drew back pale and trembling. But Goldilind shook her rein once for all now, and her apple-grey horse went forth with her; Christopher came after, leading the sumpter beast, and forth they went, and passed over the open green about the Castle, and came on to the woodland way whereby Goldilind had fled that other time.