The Well at World's End 4-32
CHAPTER 32: YET A FEW WORDS CONCERNING RALPH OF UPMEADS
Certain it is that Ralph failed not of his promise to the good Prior of St. Austin’s at Wulstead, but went to see him speedily, and told him all the tale of his wanderings as closely as he might, and hid naught from him; which, as ye may wot, was more than one day’s work or two or three. And ever when Ralph thus spoke was a brother of the House sitting with the Prior, which brother was a learned and wise man and very speedy and deft with his pen. Wherefore it has been deemed not unlike that from this monk’s writing has come the more part of the tale above told. And if it be so, it is well.
Furthermore, it is told of Ralph of Upmeads that he ruled over his lands in right and might, and suffered no oppression within them, and delivered other lands and good towns when they fell under tyrants and oppressors; and for as kind a man as he was in hall and at hearth, in the field he was a warrior so wise and dreadful, that oft forsooth the very sound of his name and rumour of his coming stayed the march of hosts and the ravage of fair lands; and no lord was ever more beloved. Till his deathday he held the Castle of the Scaur, and cleansed the Wood Perilous of all strong-thieves and reivers, so that no high-street of a good town was safer than its glades and its byways. The new folk of the Burg of the Four Friths made him their lord and captain, and the Champions of the Dry Tree obeyed him in all honour so long as any of them lasted. He rode to Higham and offered himself as captain to the abbot thereof, and drave out the tyrants and oppressors thence, and gave back peace to the Frank of Higham. Ever was he true captain and brother to the Shepherd-folk, and in many battles they followed him; and were there any scarcity or ill hap amongst them, he helped them to the uttermost of his power. The Wood Debateable also he cleared of foul robbers and reivers, and rooted out the last of the Burg-devils, and delivered three good towns beyond the wood from the cruelty of the oppressor.
Once in every year he and Ursula his wife visited the Land of Abundance, and he went into the castle there as into a holy place, and worshipped the memory of the Lady whom he had loved so dearly. With all the friends of his quest he was kind and well-beloved.
In about two years from the day when he rode home, came to him the Lord Bull of Utterbol with a chosen band, of whom were both Otter and Redhead. That very day they came he was about putting his foot in the stirrup to ride against the foemen; so Bull and his men would not go into the High House to eat, but drank a cup where they stood, and turned and rode with him straightway, and did him right manly service in battle; and went back with him afterwards to Upmeads, and abode with him there in feasting and joyance for two months’ wearing. And thrice in the years that followed, when his lands at home seemed safest and most at peace, Ralph took a chosen band, and Ursula with them, and Clement withal, and journeyed through the wastes and the mountains to Utterbol, and passed joyous days with his old thrall of war, Bull Nosy, now become a very mighty man and the warder of the peace of the Uttermost lands.
Clement and Katherine came oft to the High House, and Katherine exceeding often; and she loved and cherished Ursula and lived long in health of body and peace of mind.
All the days that Ralph of Upmeads lived, he was the goodliest of men, and no man to look on him had known it when he grew old; and when he changed his life, an exceeding ancient man, he was to all men’s eyes in the very blossom of his age.
As to Ursula his wife, she was ever as valiant and true as when they met in the dark night amidst of the Eastland wood. Eight goodly children she bore him, and saw four generations of her kindred wax up; but even as it was with Ralph, never was she less goodly of body, nay rather, but fairer than when first she came to Upmeads; and the day whereon any man saw her was a day of joyful feast to him, a day to be remembered for ever. On one day they two died and were laid together in one tomb in the choir of St. Laurence of Upmeads. AND HERE ENDS THE TALE OF THE WELL AT THE WORLD’S END.
Text courtesy of the University of Adelaide.