The Water of the Wondrous Isles 7-2
CHAPTER II ~ BIRDALONE TAKETH COUNSEL WITH HER WOOD-MOTHER CONCERNING THE MATTER OF SIR HUGH
On that same day went Birdalone to the Oak of Tryst and called her wood-mother to her, and she came glad and smiling, and kissed and embraced Birdalone, and said unto her: Now I see that thou art well content with this last matter I have done for thee, whereas thou art come to crave a new gift of me. How knowest thou that? said Birdalone, laughing. Said Habundia:
Wouldst thou have come to me so soon otherwise from out of all that happiness? I have come to tell thee of my rede, said Birdalone, and to ask thee if thou art like-minded with me thereon. Said the wood-wife: And what is thy rede, my child? Wood-mother, said Birdalone, we deem that it were good for us all to go down into Utterhay where I was born, and to take up our abode therein.
Said the wood-wife: This rede I praise, and even so would I have counselled you to do; but I abided to see if it should come from out of thy breast, and now even so it hath done; wherefore I understand thy wisdom and rejoice in thee. And now crave thy boon, my child, and thou shalt have it without fail.
Yea, said Birdalone, that will I, and the more that it is a simple one and easy for thee to do. Thou knowest that Hugh the Green Knight hath come with my she-friends seeking us all the way from under the Green Mountains, and he hath left there goods that he needs must have and folk whom he loves; and now he would go back thither, and fetch all that away hither, and see to his matters as soon as may be. And I would have thee counsel us what to do, whether to build a barque, as perchance we may get it done, and sail the lake therein to the Castle of the Quest or thereabout, and thence to ride to his land; or else to take thy guidance and safe-conduct through the wood, and to bring his folk back the same way.
Said the wood-wife: As to the way by water, I may help you little therein, and meseemeth that way be many traps and wiles and many perils. Wherefore I bid you try it not, but let the Green Knight come up hither to this tree tomorrow before noon, all horsed and armed and arrayed, and there shall he find three men armed in green gear, horsed well, and leading two sumpter-beasts with them; and they shall be his until he giveth them back unto me. But if he doubteth any thing betwixt the wood’s end and under the Green Mountains, let him wage what folk he will besides, for these my men will have money enough of his with them. But by no means let him send them away till he hath done with the wood altogether, both betwixt here and the western dwelt-land, and here and Utterhay, save thou be with him. But while these be with him, both he and whatsoever money he bringeth shall be sure from all peril whiles they be in the wood. Now, my child, was not this the boon thou camest up hither to ask of me?
Yea verily, said Birdalone; yet also I came up hither to praise thee and thank thee and love thee. And she threw herself into Habundia’s arms and kissed and caressed her, and Habundia her in like wise.
Spake the wood-wife: Thou art the beloved child of my wisdom; and now I see of thee that thou wilt be faithful and true and loving unto me unto the end. And I think I can see that thou and thy man shall do well and happily in Utterhay; and the Green Knight also and thy she-friends. And whatsoever thou wilt of me that I may do for thee or thy friends, ask it freely, and freely shalt thou have it. But this I will bid thee, that the while the Green Knight shall be gone about his matter, thou shalt come hither to me often; and thy friends also thou shalt bring to me, that I may see them and talk to them and love them. And specially shalt thou bid Atra unto me; for meseems she is so wise already that I may learn her more wisdom, and put that into her heart which may solace her and make her to cease from fretting her own heart, and from grief and longing overmuch. And I were fain to reward her in that she hath forborne to grudge against thee and to bear thee enmity. For I know, my child, not from mine own heart, but from the wisdom I have learned, how hardly the children of Adam may bear to have that which they love taken away from them by another, even if they themselves might in the long last have wearied of it and cast it away their own selves. Go now, my child, and do thy friend to wit what I will do for him.
Therewith they parted, and Birdalone fared home to the house, and found the fellowship of them all sitting by the brookside, and talking sweetly together in all joy and hope of what their life should be in the new land whereto Birdalone would lead them. Straightway then she told them of Hugh and his journey, and how well he should be guarded in the wood both coming and going. And they thought that right good, and they thanked her and praised her, and took her into their talk, and she sat down by them happily.