Child Christopher - Chapter 24
XXIV. THEY TAKE COUNSEL AT LITTLEDALE
Ten days they abode in the house of Littledale in all good cheer, and Joanna led Goldilind here and there about the woods, and made much of her, so that the heart within her was full of joy, for the freedom of the wild-woods and all the life thereof was well-nigh new to her; whereas on the day of her flight from Greenharbour, and on two other such times, deadly fear, as is aforesaid, was mingled with her joyance, and would have drowned it utterly, but for the wilfulness which hardened her heart against the punishment to come. But now she was indeed free, and it seemed to her, as to Christopher when he was but new healed of his hurt, as if all this bright beauty of tree and flower, and beast and bird, was but made for her alone, and she wondered that her fellow could be so calm and sedate amidst of all this pleasure. And now, forsooth, was her queenhood forgotten, and better and better to her seemed Christopher's valiant love; and the meeting in the hall of the eventide was so sweet to her, that she might do little but stand trembling whiles Christopher came up to her, and Joanna's trim feet were speeding her over the floor to meet her man, that she might be a sharer in his deeds of the day.
Many tales withal Joanna told the Queen of the deeds of her husband and his kindred, and of the freeing of her and the other three from their captivity at Wailing Knowe, and of the evil days they wore there before the coming of their lads, which must have been worser by far, thought Goldilind, than the days of Greenharbour; so with all these tales, and the happy days in the house of the wild-woods, Goldilind now began to deem of this new life as if there had been none other fated for her, so much a part was she now become of the days of those woodmen and wolf-heads.
But when the last of those ten days was wearing to an end and those five were sitting happy in the hall (albeit David sat somewhat pensive, now staring at Goldilind's beauty, now rising from his seat to pace the floor restlessly), Gilbert spake and said: "Brethren, and thou, Queen Goldilind, it may be that the time is drawing near for other deeds than letting fly a few shafts at the dun deer, and eating our meat, and singing old songs as we lie at our ladies' feet; for though we be at peace here in the wild-wood, forgetting all things save those that are worthy to be remembered, yet in the cities and the courts of kings guile is not forgotten, and pride is alive, and tyranny, and the sword is whetted for innocent lives, and the feud is eked by the destruction of those who be sackless of its upheaving. Wherefore it behoveth to defend us by the ready hand and the bold heart and the wise head. So, I say, let us loiter here no longer, but go our ways to-morrow to the Tofts, and take the rede of our elders. How say ye, brethren?"
Quoth Christopher: "Time was, brother, when what thou sayest would have been as a riddle to me, and I would have said: Here are we merry, though we be few; and if ye lack more company, let me ride to the Tofts and come back with a half score of lads and lasses, and thus let us eke our mirth; and maybe they will tell us whitherward to ride. But now there is a change, since I have gained a gift over-great for me, and I know that they shall be some of the great ones who would be eager to take it from me; and who knows what guile may be about the weaving even now, as on the day when thou first sawest this hall, beloved."
Goldilind spake and sighed withal: "Whither my lord will lead me, thither will I go; but here is it fair and sweet and peaceful; neither do I look for it that men will come hither to seek the Queen of Meadham."
David said: "Bethink thee, though, my Lady, that he who wedded thee to the woodman may yet rue, and come hither to undo his deed, by slaying the said woodman, and showing the Queen unto the folk."
Goldilind turned pale; but Joanna spake: "Nay, brother David, why wilt thou prick her heart with this fear? For my part, I think that, chance-hap apart, we might dwell here for years in all safety, and happily enough, maybe. Yet also I say that we of the Tofts may well be eager to show this jewel to our kindred, and especially to our father and mother of the Tofts; so to-morrow we will set about the business of carrying her thither, will she, nill she." And therewith she threw her arms about Goldilind, and clipped her and kissed her; and Goldilind reddened for pleasure and for joy that she was so sore prized by them all.