CHAPTER V ~ THEY COME HOME TO THE CASTLE OF THE QUEST
Now they had gone but some three hours, riding dreary and nigh speechless all of them, ere they began to know the land they were in, and that they were coming to the place where they might look presently to fall in with Sir Aymeris and his company; and even so the meeting betid, that they saw men standing and going about their horses beside a little wood, and knew them presently for their folk, who mounted at once and spurred forward to meet them, spears aloft. Speedily then was the joy of those abiders turned into sorrow, nor may the grief of Sir Aymeris be told, so great it was; and Birdalone looked on and saw the mourning and lamentation of the warriors, and eked was her anguish of mind; and she beheld Arthur the Black Squire, how he sat still upon his horse with a hard and dreary countenance, and looked on those mourners almost as if he contemned them. But Sir Aymeris came up to Birdalone, and knelt before her and kissed her hand, and said: If my heart might rejoice in aught, as some day it will, it would rejoice in seeing thee safe and sound, lady; here at least is gain to set beside the loss.
She thanked him, but looked askance toward Arthur, who said: If that be gain, yet is there more, for the Red Knight lieth in the green plain for a supper to the wolf and the crow. Vengeance there hath been, and belike more yet may come. But now, if ye have lamented as much as ye deem befitteth warriors, let us tarry here no longer; for even yet meseemeth shall we be safer behind walls, now that our chief and captain is slain, I scarce know in what quarrel.
None naysaid it, so they all rode forth together, and the sergeant and the squire and Sir Hugh told of their tale what they might to Sir Aymeris and the others; but Arthur held his peace, and rode aloof from Birdalone, whereas Sir Aymeris and Hugh rode on either side of her, and did not spare to comfort her what they might.
They rode straight on, and made no stay for nightfall, and thus came home to the Castle of the Quest before the day was full; and woeful was their entry as they went in the dawn underneath the gate of the said castle, and soon was the whole house astir and lamenting.
As for Birdalone, when she got down from her horse in the gateway, and was stiff and weary of body, and all dazed and confused of mind, there was but little life in her; nor could she so much as think of the new day and Aurea’s awakening, but crept up unto her own chamber, so long as it seemed since she had left it, though it was but a little while; and she cast herself upon the bed and fell asleep whether she would or not, and so forgat her much sorrow and her little hope.