Child Christopher - Chapter 37
XXXVII. OF CHILD CHRISTOPHER'S DEALINGS WITH HIS FRIENDS & HIS FOLK
It was in the morning when King Christopher arose, and Goldilind stood before him in the kingly chamber, that he clipped her and kissed her, and said: "This is the very chamber whence my father departed when he went to his last battle, and left my mother sickening with the coming birth of me. And never came he back hither, nor did mine eyes behold him ever. Here also lay my mother and gave birth to me, and died of sorrow, and her also I never saw, save with eyes that noted nought that I might remember. And my third kinsman was the traitor, that cast me forth of mine heritage, and looked to it that I should wax up as a churl, and lose all hope of high deeds; and at the last he strove to slay me.
"Therefore, sweet, have I no kindred, and none that are bound to cherish me, and it is for thee to take the place of them, and be unto me both father and mother, and brother and sister, and all kindred."
She said: "My mother I never saw, and I was but little when my father died; and if I had any kindred thereafter they loved me not well enough to strike one stroke for me, nay, or to speak a word even, when I was thrust out of my place and delivered over to the hands of pitiless people, and my captivity worsened on me as the years grew. Wherefore to me also art thou in the stead of all kindred and affinity."
Now Christopher took counsel with Jack of the Tofts and the great men of the kingdom, and that same day, the first day of his kingship in Oakenham, was summoned a great mote of the whole folk; and in half a month was it holden, and thereat was Christopher taken to king with none gainsaying.
Began now fair life for the people of Oakenrealm; for Jack of the Tofts abode about the King in Oakenham; and wise was his counsel, and there was no greed in him, and yet he wotted of greed and guile in others, and warned the King thereof when he saw it, and the tyrants were brought low, and no poor and simple man had need to thieve. As for Christopher, he loved better to give than to take; and the grief and sorrow of folk irked him sorely; it was to him as if he had gotten a wound when he saw so much as one unhappy face in a day; and all folk loved him, and the fame of him went abroad through the lands and the roads of travel, so that many were the wise and valiant folk that left their own land and came into Oakenrealm to dwell there, because of the good peace and the kindliness that there did abound; so that Oakenrealm became both many-peopled and joyous.
Though Jack of the Tofts abode with the King at Oakenham, his sons went back to the Tofts, and Gilbert was deemed the head man of them; folk gathered to them there, and the wilderness about them became builded in many places, and the Tofts grew into a goodly cheaping town, for those brethren looked to it that all roads in the woodland should be safe and at peace, so that no chapman need to arm him or his folk; nay, a maiden might go to and fro on the woodland ways, with a golden girdle about her, without so much as the crumpling of a lap of her gown unless by her own will.
As to David, at first Christopher bade him strongly to abide with him ever, for he loved him much. But David nay-said it, and would go home to the Tofts; and when the King pressed him sore, at last he said: "Friend and fellow, I must now tell thee the very sooth, and then shalt thou suffer me to depart, though the sundering be but sorrow to me. For this it is, that I love thy Lady and wife more than meet is, and here I find it hard to thole my desire and my grief; but down in the thicket yonder amongst my brethren of the woods, and man and maid, and wife and babe, nay, the very deer of the forest, I shall become a man again, and be no more a peevish and grudging fool; and as the years wear, shall sorrow wear, and then, who knows but we may come together again."
Then Christopher smiled kindly on him and embraced him, but they spake no more of that matter, but sat talking a while, and then bade each other farewell, and David went his ways to the Tofts. But a few months thereafter, when a son had been born to Christopher, David came to Oakenrealm, but stayed there no longer than to greet the King, and do him to wit that he was boun for over-sea to seek adventure. Many gifts the King gave him, and they sundered in all loving-kindness, and the King said: "Farewell, friend, I shall remember thee and thy kindness for ever." But David said: "By the roof in Littledale and by the hearth thereof, thou shalt be ever in my mind."
Thus they parted for that time; but five and twenty years afterwards, when Child Christopher was in his most might and majesty, and Goldilind was yet alive and lovely, and sons and daughters sat about their board, it was the Yule feast in the King's Hall at Oakenham, and there came a man into the hall that none knew, big of stature, grey-eyed and hollow-cheeked, with red hair grizzled, and worn with the helm; a weaponed man, chieftain-like and warrior-like. And when the serving-men asked him of his name, and whence and whither, he said: "I have come from over-seas to look upon the King, and when he seeth me he will know my name." Then he put them all aside and would not be gainsaid, but strode up the hall to the high-seat, and stood before the King and said: "Hail, little King Christopher! Hail, stout babe of the woodland!"
Then the King looked on him and knew him at once, and stood up at once with a glad cry, and came round unto him, and took his arms about him and kissed him, and led him into the high-seat, and set him betwixt him and Goldilind, and she also greeted him and took him by the hand and kissed him; and Jack of the Tofts, now a very old man, but yet hale and stark, who sat on the left hand of the King, leaned toward him and kissed him and blessed him; for lo! it was David of the Tofts.
Spake he now and said: "Christopher, this is now a happy day!"
Said the King: "David, whither away hence, and what is thine heart set upon?"
"On the renewal of our youth," said David, "and the abiding with thee. By my will no further will I go than this thine house. How sayest thou?"
"As thou dost," said Christopher, "that this is indeed a happy day; drink out of my cup now, to our abiding together, and the end of sundering till the last cometh."
So they drank together, they two, and were happy amidst the folk of the hall; and at last the King stood up and spake aloud, and did all to wit that this was his friend and fellow of the old days; and he told of his doughty deeds, whereof he had heard many a tale, and treasured them in his heart while they were apart, and he bade men honour him, all such as would be his friends. And all men rejoiced at the coming of this doughty man and the friend of the King.
So there abode David, holden in all honour, and in great love of Child Christopher and Goldilind; and when his father died, his earldom did the King give to David his friend, who never sundered from him again, but was with him in peace and in war, in joy and in sorrow.