CHAPTER I ~ SIR HUGH ASKETH BIRDALONE WHERE SHE WOULD HAVE THE ABODE OF THEIR FELLOWSHIP TO BE
On the next day, they arose and were glad, and it was to them as if the sun of the early summer had arisen for nought save to shine on their happy day. And they went about from place to place whereas tidings had befallen Birdalone; and she served them one and all as if she were their handmaid, and they loved her and caressed her, and had been fain to do all her will did they but know it.
In this wise wore day after day till June began to wane, and then on a time came Hugh unto Birdalone, and spake unto her and said: All we have been talking together, and I am sent to ask thee what is in thy mind as to abiding here or going elsewhither. For now that we be come together again, not for all the kingdoms of the world would we sunder again; and above all, none of us would leave thee, O my sister. But if thou wilt come with me to our land under the Green Mountains, there is for thee a pleasant place and a fair dwelling, and honour from all folk, and our love that shall never leave thee; and I, and Arthur my brother, we shall win fame together amongst the knighthood, and thou shalt be proud and glad both of him and of me.
She said: And if I may not go with thee thither, what other way is there to escape the sundering? Said Hugh: This, that thou choose in the world what land liketh thee for a dwelling-place, and we will go with thee and leave thee never, and thou shalt be our lady and queen. Then he laughed and said: Yet, our lady, I have left behind me under the Green Mountains certain things which I love, as two fair women-children, and a squire or two whose fathers served my fathers, and whose children I would should serve my children. And moreover I have left there certain matters of avail, my wealth and livelihood to wit. Wilt thou begrudge it if I must needs go fetch these, and bring them to the land where thou dwellest, through whatever peril we may have to face?
Dear art thou, she said, and my very friend, but tell me: how sorry wouldst thou be to leave thine own land and follow after me for the sake of one who is neither thine own true love nor of thy kindred? Said he: Not so sorry that I should grudge against thee thereafter. Moreover if that much of sorrow came to me, I should deem it not ill, lest I grow so over-happy that the luck rise up against me and undo me.
She said, smiling on him kindly: Meseems that I am over-happy, whereas I have such dear cherishing of noble friends. But now I will tell thee all, and maybe thou wilt love me the less for the telling. In these woods here, and lady and mistress of them, dwelleth one who is not of the race of Adam. And she helped and cherished me and gave me wisdom when I was tormented and accursed, and she it was who saved me from the evil witch, and gave me the good hap to meet your loves and to fetch you to their helping; and twice hath she saved me from mortal peril otherwise. And she hath found me my love, thy brother Arthur, and delivered him from unwit and wanhope; and she it is who drew all you hither unto us, and who delivered you from the felons who had mastered you. And I have sworn unto her that I would never wholly sunder me from her; and how shall I break mine oath and grieve her, even had I the will thereto, as God wot I have not? And she wept therewith.
But Hugh kissed her and said: Birdalone, my dear, why weepest thou? Didst thou not hear my word, that thy people should be my people, and thy land my land, and that whither thou goest I will go? Dost thou not trow me then? Or how deemest thou I may tear thy friend Viridis from thee, when she hath just found thee? But tell me, hast thou in thy mind any dwelling-place other than this?
Yea, she said: I may not depart very far from this forest of Evilshaw lest I grieve my wisdom-mother overmuch. But if one go westward through the wood, he shall happen at last, when he cometh forth of it, on a good town hight Utterhay, which lieth on the very edge thereof. There was I born, and there also I look to find three dear and trusty friends to whom I owe return of their much kindness. It is a noble town in a pleasant land, and thou and my lord Arthur may well win both honour and worship and lordship there. And wholly I trust in thy word that thou wilt not grudge against me for dragging thee thither.
Therewith she gave him her hand, smiling on him, though there was yet trouble in her face. But he took the hand and held it, and laughed merrily and said: Lo now! how good it is for friends to take counsel together! What better may we do than go with thee thither? And how greatly will Viridis rejoice when she heareth of this. Now will I go and tell her and the others.
Go then, dear lad, she said; but as to the matter of thy fetching thy children and livelihood hither, that may be not so hard nor so perilous as thou deemest; and thou shalt go about it whenso thou wilt, and the sooner the better, and we shall abide thee here as long as need may be. And therewith he went his ways to tell Viridis and the others of this rede which they had come to between them.