Child Christopher - Chapter 5
V. GOLDILIND COMES TO GREENHARBOUR
But a little while tarried the Earl Geoffrey at Leashowe, but departed next morning and came to Meadhamstead. A month thereafter came folk from him to Leashowe, to wit, the new meney for the new abode of Goldilind; amongst whom was a goodly band of men-at-arms, led by an old lord pinched and peevish of face, who kneeled to Goldilind as the new burgreve of Greenharbour; and a chaplain, a black canon, young, broad-cheeked and fresh-looking, but hard-faced and unlovely; three new damsels withal were come for the young Queen, not young maids, but stalworth women, well-grown, and two of them hard-featured; the third, tall, black-haired, and a goodly-fashioned body.
Now when these were come, who were all under the rule of Dame Elinor, there was no gainsaying the departure to the new home; and in two days' time they went their ways from Leashowe. But though Goldilind was young, she was wise, and her heart misgave her, when she was amidst this new meney, that she was not riding toward glory and honour, and a world of worship and friends beloved. Howbeit, whatso might lie before her, she put a good face upon it, and did to those about her queenly and with all courtesy.
Five days they rode from Leashowe north away, by thorpe and town and mead and river, till the land became little peopled, and the sixth day they rode the wild-wood ways, where was no folk, save now and again the little cot of some forester or collier; but the seventh day, about noon, they came into a clearing of the wood, a rugged little plain of lea-land, mingled with marish, with a little deal of acre-land in barley and rye, round about a score of poor frame-houses set down scattermeal about the lea. But on a long ridge, at the northern end of the said plain, was a grey castle, strong, and with big and high towers, yet not so much greater than was Leashowe, deemed Goldilind, as for a dwelling-house.
Howbeit, they entered the said castle, and within, as without, it was somewhat grim, though nought was lacking of plenishing due for folk knightly. Long it were to tell of its walls and baileys and chambers; but let this suffice, that on the north side, toward the thick forest, was a garden of green-sward and flowers and potherbs; and a garth-wall of grey stone, not very high, was the only defence thereof toward the wood, but it was overlooked by a tall tower of the great wall, which hight the Foresters' Tower. In the said outer garth-wall also was a postern, whereby there was not seldom coming in and going out.
Now when Goldilind had been in her chamber for a few days, she found out for certain, what she had before misdoubted, that she had been brought from Leashowe and the peopled parts near to Meadhamstead unto the uttermost parts of the realm to be kept in prison there.
Howbeit, it was in a way prison courteous; she was still served with observance, and bowed before, and called my lady and queen, and so forth: also she might go from chamber to hall and chapel, to and fro, yet scarce alone; and into the garden she might go, yet not for the more part unaccompanied; and even at whiles she went out a-gates, but then ever with folk on the right hand and the left. Forsooth, whiles and again, within the next two years of her abode at Greenharbour, out of gates she went and alone; but that was as the prisoner who strives to be free (although she had, forsooth, no thought or hope of escape), and as the prisoner brought back was she chastised when she came within gates again.
Everywhere, to be short, within and about the Castle of Greenharbour, did Goldilind meet the will and the tyranny of the little sleek widow, Dame Elinor, to whom both carle and quean in that corner of the world were but as servants and slaves to do her will; and the said Elinor, who at first was but spiteful in word and look toward her lady, waxed worse as time wore and as the blossom of the King's daughter's womanhood began to unfold, till at last the she-jailer had scarce feasted any day when she had not in some wise grieved and tormented her prisoner; and whatever she did, none had might to say her nay.
But Goldilind took all with a high heart, and her courage grew with her years, nor would she bow the head before any grief, but took to her whatsoever solace might come to her; as the pleasure of the sun and the wind, and the beholding of the greenery of the wood, and the fowl and the beasts playing, which oft she saw afar, and whiles anear, though whiles, forsooth, she saw nought of it all, whereas she was shut up betwixt four walls, and that not of her chamber, but of some bare and foul prison of the Castle, which, with other griefs, must she needs thole under the name and guise of penance.
However, she waxed so exceeding fair and sweet and lovely, that the loveliness of her pierced to the hearts of many of her jailers, so that some of them, and specially of the squires and men-at-arms, would do her some easement which they might do unrebuked, or not sorely rebuked; as bringing her flowers in the spring, or whiles a singing-bird or a squirrel; and an old man there was of the men-at-arms, who would ask leave, and get it at whiles, to come to her in her chamber, or the garden? and tell her minstrel tales and the like for her joyance. Sooth to say, even the pinched heart of the old Burgreve was somewhat touched by her; and he alone had any might to stand between her and Dame Elinor; so that but for him it had gone much harder with her than it did.
For the rest, none entered the Castle from the world without, nay not so much as a travelling monk, or a friar on his wanderings, save and except some messenger of Earl Geoffrey who had errand with Dame Elinor or the Burgreve.
So wore the days and the seasons, till it was now more than four years since she had left Leashowe, and her eighteenth summer was beginning.
But now the tale leaves telling of Goldilind, and goes back to the matters of Oakenrealm, and therein to what has to do with King Christopher and Rolf the Marshal.