Child Christopher - Chapter 23
XXIII. THEY FALL IN WITH FRIENDS
Now awoke Goldilind when the morning was young and fresh, and she drew the mantle up over her shoulders; and as she did so, but half awake, she deemed she heard other sounds than the singing of the black-birds and throstles about the edge of the thicket, and she turned her eyes toward the oak trees and the hazel-thicket, and saw at once three of mankind coming on foot over the greensward toward her. She was afraid, so that she durst not put out a hand to awaken Christopher, but sat gazing on those three as they came toward her; she saw that two were tall men, clad much as Christopher; but presently she saw that there was a woman with them, and she took heart somewhat thereat; and she noted that one of the men was short-haired and dark-haired, and the other had long red hair falling about his shoulders; and as she put out her hand and laid it on Christopher's shoulder, the red-haired one looked toward her a moment under the sharp of his hand (for the sun was on their side), and then set off running, giving out a great whoop therewithal. Even therewith leapt up Christopher, still half awake, and the red-haired man ran right up to him, and caught him by the shoulders, and kissed him on both cheeks; so that Goldilind saw that these were the fellows whereof Christopher had told, and she stood there shame-fast and smiling.
Presently came up the others, to wit, Gilbert and Joanna, and they also kissed and embraced Christopher, and all they were as full of joy as might be. Then came Joanna to Goldilind, and said: "I wot not who this may be, brother, yet meseems she will be someone who is dear to thee, wherefore is she my sister." And therewith she kissed Goldilind; and she was kind, and sweet of flesh, and goodly of body, and Goldilind rejoiced in her.
Joanna made much of her, and said to her: "Here is to do, whereas two men have broken into a lady's chamber; come, sister, let us to the thicket, and I will be thy tiring- maid, and while these others tell their tales we shall tell ours." And she took her hand and they went into the hazels; but the two new-come men seemed to find it hard to keep their eyes off Goldilind, till the hazels had hidden her.
Then turned David to Christopher, and said: "Thy pardon, little King, that we have waked thee so early; but we wotted not that thou hadst been amongst the wood-women; and, sooth to say, my lad, we had little ease till we found thee, after we came home and saw all those hoof-marks yonder."
"Yea," said Gilbert, "if we had lost thee we had been finely holpen up, for we could neither have gone back to the Tofts nor into the kingdom: for I think my father would have hanged us if we had come back with a 'By the way, Christopher is slain.' But tell us, lad, what hath befallen thee with yonder sweetling?"
"Yea, tell us," said David, "and sit down here betwixt us, with thy back to the hazel-thicket, or we shall get no tale out of thee--tush, man, Joanna will bring her back, and that right soon, I hope."
Christopher laughed, and sat down between them, and told all how it had gone with him, and of Goldilind, who she was. The others hearkened heedfully, and Gilbert said: "With all thou hast told us, brother, it is clear we shall find it hard to dwell in Littledale; so soon as thy loveling hath rested her at our house, we must go our ways to the Tofts, and take counsel of our father."
Christopher yea-said this, and therewithal was come Joanna leading Goldilind duly arrayed (yet still in her green gown, for she would none other), fresh, blushing, and all lovely; and David and Christopher did obeisance before her as to a great lady; but she hailed them as brothers, merrily and kindly, and bade them kiss her; and they kissed her cheek, but shyly, and especially David.
Thereafter they broke their fast under the oak trees, and spent a merry hour, and then departed, the two women riding the horses, the others afoot; so came they to the house of Littledale, some while before sunset, and were merry and glad there. Young they were, troubles were behind them, and many a joy before them.