CHAPTER II ~ NOW THEY ASK OF BIRDALONE, AND SIR LEONARD SPEAKS
Now the prow touched the stones of the stair, and folk were busy to lay hold of it that the wayfarers might land, but Sir Baudoin cried out in a great voice: Let none be so hardy as to touch this ferry, either now or hereafter; for there is peril therein. And therewith he took Aurea by the hand, and led her out of the boat and up the stair, and she all joyous and wondering; and thereafter came Hugh and his darling, and last of all Arthur and Atra, and she alone of the three women looked downcast, and her eyes wandered about the throng that was before them there, as though she sought something, yet feared to see it.
But when they were all standing together on the landing-plain, and the folk were all about them in a ring, Sir Baudoin spake to the castellan and said: Sir Aymeris, thee and other folk I see here, the sight of whom doth me great joy; but where, I pray thee, is the lady, our friend Birdalone, by whom it is that all we are come happily hither? And he looked around with an anxious face; but Arthur was as pale as ashes, yet he spake nought, and Atra let her hand fall away from his.
Then spake the castellan, and said: No harm hath befallen the Lady Birdalone; but whiles she hath been somewhat ailing of late, and it is like that she wotteth not what is toward, and keepeth her chamber now, for it is yet betimes in the morning.
As he spake, came thrusting a man through the throng, eager and pale-faced; who but the chaplain; and he said: He would not let me speak, this fool; I cannot choose my time. Lords, I bear evil tidings and an ugly welcome home. The Lady Birdalone is in peril, and she is not in the castle; I wot not where she is. Ye must send armed men to seek her out.
Thereat fell the silence of woe upon the throng; but Arthur ran forward on the priest with drawn sword, and cried out: I misdoubt me that thou art a traitor; speak! or I will slay thee here and now. If I be a traitor, quoth Leonard, I shall tell thee in little while what ye must do to undo my treason, if there be yet time thereto; so slay me not till ye have heard, and then do what ye will with me.
But Baudoin put Arthur aside, and said: Refrain thee a little, fair brother, else shall words tumble over each other and we shall know nothing clear. Sir Aymeris, bring our dear ladies to the fairest chambers, and do all honour and courtesy to them. And ye, sweetlings, ye will not begrudge us that we go to seek your friend. Thou priest, come with us a little apart, and tell thy tale as shortly as thou mayst, and fear nought; we be not God’s dastards, as the Red Knight and his men.
Viridis wept and kissed her love before all folk, and bade him go and do his best to find her friend, or never come back to her else. Much moved, even to tears, was Aurea withal, and reached her hand to Baudoin, and said: If any man on earth can help us it is thou. Go thou. But Atra wept not, and but said to Arthur: Go thou, it is meet.
Therewith were the ladies brought to fair chambers; but the three knights went with the priest and Sir Aymeris into the solar, and set a guard at the door that their talk should be privy.