William Morris Archive


Long they sat there that day, and until the sun was down, and by then had Birdalone little to tell of her story, for she was gotten therein to the days of the Five Crafts. Many times had she wept and turned to Habundia for solace as she told, not without shame, but without any covering up, all the tale of her love for Arthur the Black Squire, and how she was surprised by the love of him, and of his wisdom and grace and loveliness. And the wood-mother was ever as sweet and kind unto her as could be; yet might another than a lover have seen that much of all this was strange unto her, and she looked upon Birdalone as a child who has broken her toy, and is hard to comfort for the loss of it, though there be a many more in the world. But when it grew dusk as aforesaid, and it was time to part, she spake to Birdalone, and said: True it is, my child, that thou hast lived long in these six years time; neither do I wonder at the increase of thy beauty, and the majesty thereof; for fair is the life thou hast lived, although thou hast been grieved and tormented by it at whiles. And now I know what it is for which thou longest; and herein again will I play the mother unto thee, and seek about to fetch thee that thou wouldst have; so be not over-anxious or troubled; and thou mayest be good herein, as my fair child should be; for this I have noted in thee, that Love is not so tyrannous a master but that his servants may whiles think of other matters, and so solace their souls, that they may live despite of all.

Now was Birdalone arisen, and stood before her friend confused and blushing. But Habundia put her two hands on her shoulders and kissed her, and said: Go home now and sleep, and come again tomorrow and let us hear the last of thy tale; and when that is done, maybe I shall be able to do something for thine avail.

So they parted, and on the morrow Birdalone came again and told the remnant of her story, which was not so long now that the Black Squire was out of it. And when she had done, Habundia kept silence awhile, and then she said: One thing I will tell thee, that whereas erewhile it was but seldom indeed that any son of Adam might be seen in the woodland here, of late, that is, within the last three years, there be many such amongst us; and to our deeming they be evil beasts, more pitiless and greedy than any bear; and but that we have nought to do with them, for they fear us and flee from us, we should have destroyed them one and all. And now that I have heard all thy story, it seemeth unto me not so unlike but these may be the remnants of the bands of the Red Hold, and that they have drifted hither fleeing before the might of thy friends of the knighthood. Wherefore now, trust me that I will look into this, but I must needs be away from here for a little; so hold thy soul in patience though hear thou nought of me, and dwell quietly at home for seven days’ space, and then come hither and find me, farewell now, my child!

So they kissed and departed; and Birdalone went home to the house, and wore the days thereafter doing what was needful about the stead, and wandering through the meadows, and swimming the waters about Green Eyot; and the days were not unrestful unto her.

Return to Table of Contents ♦ Continue to Book 6 Chapter 21