The Well at the World's End

By William Morris

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(1834 - 1896)
William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he helped win acceptance of socialism in fin de siècle Great Britain. (From : Wikipedia.org.)

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The Well at the World's End

From : Marxists.org

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This document contains 113 sections, with 223,517 words or 1,171,512 characters.

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Book One: The Road Unto Love 1. The Sundering of the Ways Long ago there was a little land, over which ruled a regulus or kinglet, who was called King Peter, though his kingdom was but little. He had four sons whose names were Blaize, Hugh, Gregory and Ralph: of these Ralph was the youngest, whereas he was but of twenty winters and one; and Blaize was the oldest and had seen thirty winters. Now it came to this at last, that to these young men the kingdom of their father seemed strait; and they longed to see the ways of other men, and to strive for life. For though they were king's sons, they had but little world's wealth; save and except good meat and drink, and enough or too much thereof; house-room of the best; friends to be merry with, and maidens to kiss, and these also as good as might be; freedom withal to come and go as they would; the heavens above them, the earth to bear them up, and the meadows and acres, the woods and fair... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph and King Peter walked slowly home together, and as they went King Peter fell to telling of how in his young days he rode in the Wood Debatable, and was belated there all alone, and happed upon men who were outlaws and wolfheads, and feared for his life; but they treated him kindly, and honored him, and saw him safe on his way in the morning. So that never thereafter would he be art and part with those who hunted outlaws to slay them. "For," said he, "it is with these men as with others, that they make prey of folk; yet these for the more part prey on the rich, and the lawful prey on the poor. Otherwise it is with these wolfheads as with lords and knights and franklins, that as there be bad among them, so also there be good; and the good ones I happed on, and so may another man." Hereto paid Ralph little heed at that time, since he had heard the tale and its morality before, and that more than once; and moreover his mind was set upon his own matters and these wa... (From : Marxists.org.)

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He slept in an upper chamber in a turret of the House, which chamber was his own, and none might meddle with it. There the next day he awoke in the dawning, and arose and clad himself, and took his wargear and his sword and spear, and bore all away without doors to the side of the Ford in that ingle of the river, and laid it for a while in a little willow copse, so that no chance-comer might see it; then he went back to the stable of the House and took his destrier from the stall (it was a dapple-gray horse called Falcon, and was right good,) and brought him down to the said willow copse, and tied him to a tree till he had armed himself among the willows, whence he came forth presently as brisk-looking and likely a man-at-arms as you might see on a summer day. Then he clomb up into the saddle, and went his ways splashing across the ford, before the sun had arisen, while the throstle-cocks were yet amid their first song. Then he rode on a little trot south away; and by... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Book One: The Road Unto Love 4. Ralph Rideth the Downs As for Ralph, he rode on with a merry heart, and presently came to an end of the plain country, and the great downs rose up before him with a white road winding up to the top of them. Just before the slopes began to rise was a little thorp beside a stream, and thereby a fair church and a little house of Canons: so Ralph rode toward the church to see if therein were an altar of St. Nicholas, who was his good lord and patron, that he might ask of him a blessing on his journey. But as he came up to the churchyard-gate he saw a great black horse tied thereto as if abiding some one; and as he lighted down from his saddle he saw a man coming hastily from out the church-door and striding swiftly toward the said gate. He was a big man, and armed; for he had a bright steel sallet on his head, which covered his face all save the end of his chin; and plates he had on his legs and arms. He wore a green... (From : Marxists.org.)

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5. Ralph Cometh to Higham-on-the-Way Naught more befell Ralph to tell of till he came to the end of the Downs and saw Higham lying below him overlooked by a white castle on a knoll, and with a river lapping it about and winding on through its fair green meadows even as Clement had told. From amid its houses rose up three towers of churches above their leaden roofs, and high above all, long and great, the Abbey Church; and now was the low sun glittering on its gilded vanes and the wings of the angels high upon the battlements. So Ralph rode down the slopes and was brisk about it, for it was drawing toward sunset, and he knew not at what hour they shut their gates. The road was steep and winding, and it was the more part of an hour ere he came to the gate, which was open, and like to be yet, for many folk were thronging in, which throng also had hindered him soon after he came into the plain country. The gate was fair and strong, but Ralph saw n... (From : Marxists.org.)

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It was the monk who had been his guide the day before who had now waked him, and he stood by the bedside holding a great bowl of milk in his hand, and as Ralph sat up, and rubbed his eyes, with all his youthful sloth upon him, the monk laughed and said: "That is well, lord, that is well! I love to see a young man so sleepy in the morning; it is a sign of thriving; and I see thou art thriving heartily for the time when thou shalt come back to us to lead my lord's host in battle." "Where be the bale-fires?" said Ralph, not yet fully awake. "Where be they!" said the brother, "where be they! They be sunken to cold coals long ago, like many a man's desires and hopes, who hath not yet laid his head on the bosom of the mother, that is Holy Church. Come, my lord, arise, and drink the monk's wine of morning, and then if ye must need ride, ride betimes, and ride hard; for the Wood Perilous beginneth presently as ye wend your ways; and it were well for th... (From : Marxists.org.)

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So went he through the gate, and many, both of men and maids gazed at him, for he was fair to look on, but none meddled with him. There was a goodly fauburg outside the gate, and therein were fair houses, not a few, with gardens and orchards about them; and when these were past he rode through very excellent meadows lying along the water, which he crossed thrice, once by a goodly stone bridge and twice by fords; for the road was straight, and the river wound about much. After a little while the road led him off the plain meads into a country of little hills and dales, the hill-sides covered with vineyards and orchards, and the dales plenteous of corn-fields; and now among these dales Higham was hidden from him. Through this tillage and vine-land he rode a good while, and thought he had never seen a goodlier land; and as he went he came on husbandmen and women of the country going about their business: yet were they not too busy to gaze on him, and... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now when he was clear of the Thorp the road took him out of the dale; and when he was on the hill's brow he saw that the land was of other fashion from that which lay behind him. For the road went straight through a rough waste, no pasture, save for mountain sheep or goats, with a few bushes scattered about it; and beyond this the land rose into a long ridge; and on the ridge was a wood thick with trees, and no break in them. So on he rode, and soon passed that waste, which was dry and parched, and the afternoon sun was hot on it; so he deemed it good to come under the shadow of the thick trees (which at the first were wholly beech trees), for it was now the hottest of the day. There was still a beaten way between the tree-boles, though not overwide, albeit, a highway, since it pierced the wood. So thereby he went at a soft pace for the saving of his horse, and thought but little of all he had been told of the perils of the way, and not a little of the fair maid whom he had left... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph left alone pondered a little; and thought that he would by no means go hastily to the Burg of the Four Friths. Said he to himself; This want-way is all unlike to the one near our house at home: for belike adventures shall befall here: I will even abide here for an hour or two; but will have my horse by me and keep awake, lest something hap to me unawares. Therewith he whistled for Falcon his horse, and the beast came to him, and whinnied for love of him, and Ralph smiled and tied him to a sapling anigh, and himself sat down on the grass, and pondered many things; as to what folk were about at Upmeads, and how his brethren were faring; and it was now about five hours after noon, and the sun's rays fell aslant through the boughs of the noble oaks, and the scent of the grass and bracken trodden by the horse-hoofs of that company went up into the warm summer air. A while he sat musing but awake, though the faint sound of a little stream in the dale below mingled wit... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When the first glimmer of dawn was in the sky he awoke in the fresh morning, and sat up and hearkened, for even as he woke he had heard something, since wariness had made him wakeful. Now he hears the sound of horse-hoofs on the hard road, and riseth to his feet and goeth to the very edge of the copse; looking thence he saw a rider who was just come to the very crossing of the roads. The new comer was much muffled in a wide cloak, but he seemed to be a man low of stature. He peered all round about him as if to see if the way were clear, and then alighted down from horseback and let the hood fall off his head, and seemed pondering which way were the best to take. By this time it was grown somewhat lighter and Ralph, looking hard, deemed that the rider was a woman; so he stepped forward lightly, and as he came on to the open sward about the way, the new comer saw him and put a foot into the stirrup to mount, but yet looked at him over the shoulder, and then presently left the sadd... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When he awoke again the sun was shining through the hazel leaves, though it was yet early; he arose and looked to his horse, and led him out of the hazel copse and stood and looked about him; and lo! a man coming slowly through the wood on Ralph's right hand, and making as it seemed for the want-way; he saw Ralph presently, and stopped, and bent a bow which he held in his hand, and then came towards him warily, with the arrow nocked. But Ralph went to meet him with his sword in his sheath, and leading Falcon by the rein, and the man stopped and took the shaft from the string: he had no armor, but there was a little ax and a wood-knife in his girdle; he was clad in homespun, and looked like a carle of the country-side. Now he greeted Ralph, and Ralph gave him the sele of the day, and saw that the new-comer was both tall and strong, dark of skin and black-haired, but of a cheerful countenance. He spake frank and free to Ralph, and said: "Whither away, lord, out of the woodland hal... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When they came up to the wall they saw that it was well builded of good ashlar, and so high that they might not see the roofs of the town because of it; but there were tall towers on it, a many of them, strong and white. The road led up straight to the master-gate of the Burg, and there was a bailey before it strongly walled, and manned with weaponed men, and a captain going about among them. But they entered it along with men bringing wares into the town, and none heeded them much, till they came to the very gate, on the further side of a moat that was both deep and clean; but as now the bridge was down and the portcullis up, so that the market-people might pass in easily, for it was yet early in the day. But before the door on either side stood men-at-arms well weaponed, and on the right side was their captain, a tall man with bare grizzled head, but otherwise all-armed, who stopped every one whom he knew not, and asked their business. As Ralph came riding up with R... (From : Marxists.org.)

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He went about the streets and found them all much like to the one which they had entered by the north gate; he saw no poor or wretched houses, and none very big as of great lords; they were well and stoutly builded, but as aforesaid not much adorned either with carven work or painting: there were folk enough in the streets, and now Ralph, as was like to be, looked specially at the women, and thought many of them little better-favored than the men, being both dark and low; neither were they gaily clad, though their raiment, like the houses, was stout and well wrought. But here and there he came on a woman taller and whiter than the others, as though she were of another blood; all such of these as he saw were clad otherwise than the darker women: their heads uncoifed, uncovered save for some garland or silken band: their gowns yellow like wheat-straw, but gaily embroidered; sleeveless withal and short, scarce reaching to the ancles, and whiles so thin that they were rather clad wi... (From : Marxists.org.)

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There was no candle in the hall when he entered, but it was not so dark therein but he might see Roger sitting on a stool near the chimney, and opposite to him on the settle sat two men; one very tall and big, the other small; Roger was looking away from these, and whistling; and it came into Ralph's mind that he would have him think that he had naught to do with them, whether that were so or not. But he turned round as Ralph came up the hall and rose and came up to him, and fell to talking with him and asking him how he liked the Burg; and ever he spake fast and loud, so that again it came on Ralph that he was playing a part. Ralph heeded him little, but ever looked through the hall-dusk on those twain, who presently arose and went toward the hall door, but when they were but half-way across the floor a chamberlain came in suddenly, bearing candles in his hands, and the light fell on those guests and flashed back from a salade on the head of the big man, and Ralph saw... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Himseemed he had scarce been asleep a minute ere awoke with a sound of someone saying softly, "Master, master, awake!" So he sat up and answered softly in his turn: "Who is it? what is amiss, since the night is yet young?" "I am thy fellow-farer, Roger," said the speaker, "and this thou hast to do, get on thy raiment speedily, and take thy weapons without noise, if thou wouldst not be in the prison of the Burg before sunrise." Ralph did as he was bidden without more words; for already when he lay down his heart misgave him that he was in no safe place; he looked to his weapons and armor that they should not clash, and down they came into the hall and found the door on the latch; so out they went and Ralph saw that it was somewhat cloudy; the moon was set and it was dark, but Ralph knew by the scent that came in on the light wind, and a little stir of blended sounds, that it was hard on dawning; and even therewith he heard the challenge of the warders on th... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now Roger led up to Ralph a strong horse, red roan of hue, duly harnessed for war, and he himself had a good gray horse, and they mounted at once, and Ralph rode slowly away through the wood at his horse's will, for he was pondering all that had befallen him, and wondering what next should hap. Meanwhile those others had not loitered, but were a-horseback at once, and went their ways from Ralph through the wildwood. Naught spake Ralph for a while till Roger came close up to him and said: "Whither shall we betake us, fair lord? hast thou an inkling of the road whereon lies thine errand?" Now to Ralph this seemed but mockery, and he answered sharply: "I wot not, thou wilt lead whither thou wilt, even as thou hast trained me hitherward with lies and a forged tale. I suppose thou wilt lead me now by some roundabout road to the stronghold of the Dry Tree. It matters little, since thou durst not lead me back into the Burg. Yet now I come to think of it, it is evi... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Therewithal they gat to horse and rode away through that stony land, wherein was no river, but for water many pools in the bottoms, with little brooks running from them. But after a while they came upon a ridge somewhat high, on the further side whereof was a wide valley well-grassed and with few trees, and no habitation of man that they might see. But a wide river ran down the midst of it; and it was now four hours after noon. Quoth Roger: "The day wears and we shall by no means reach harbor before dark night, even if we do our best: art thou well used to the water, lord?" "Much as a mallard is," said Ralph. Said Roger: "That is well, for though there is a ford some mile and a half down stream, for that same reason it is the way whereby men mostly cross the water into the wildwood; and here again we are more like to meet foes than well-wishers; or at the least there will be question of who we are, and whence and whither; and we may stumble in our answers." Said Ralph: "The... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Broad lay the sun upon the plain amid the wildwood when he awoke and sprang out of bed and looked out of the window (for the chamber was in the gable of the hall and there was naught of the castle beyond it). It was but little after noon of a fair June day, for Ralph had slumbered as it behooved a young man. The light wind bore into the chamber the sweet scents of the early summer, the chief of all of them being the savor of the new-cut grass, for about the wide meadows the carles and queens were awork at the beginning of hay harvest; and late as it was in the day, more than one blackbird was singing from the bushes of the castle pleasance. Ralph sighed for very pleasure of life before he had yet well remembered where he was or what had befallen of late; but as he stood at the window and gazed over the meadows, and the memory of all came back to him, he sighed once more for a lack of somewhat that came into his heart, and he smiled shamefacedly, though there was no one near, as h... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Fairly written was that book, with many pictures therein, the meaning of which Ralph knew not; but among them was the image of the fair woman whom he had holpen at the want-ways of the wood, and but four days ago was that, yet it seemed long and long to him. The book told not much about the Well at the World's End, but much it told of a certain woman whom no man that saw her could forbear to love: of her it told that erewhile she dwelt lonely in the wildwood (though how she came there was not said) and how a king's son found her there and brought her to his father's kingdom and wedded her, whether others were lief or loathe: and in a little while, when the fame of her had spread, he was put out of his kingdom and his father's house for the love of her, because other kings and lords hankered after her; whereof befel long and grievous war which she abode not to the end, but sought to her old place in the wildwood; and how she found there another woman a sorceress, who made her her... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But the morning began to wear as he sat deep in these thoughts and still the Carline came not to him; and he thought: "She leaveth me alone that I may do her bidding: so will I without tarrying." And he arose and did on his hauberk and basnet, and girt his sword to his side, and went forth, a-foot as before. He crossed the river by a wide ford and stepping stones somewhat below the pool wherein he had bathed on that first day; and already by then he had got so far, what with the fresh air of the beauteous morning, what with the cheerful tinkling of his sword and hauberk, he was somewhat amended of his trouble and heaviness of spirit. A little way across the river, but nigher to the wood, was a house or cot of that country-folk, and an old woman sat spinning in the door. So Ralph went up thither, and greeted her, and craved of her a draft of milk; so the goody turned about and cried out to one within, and there came forth one of the maidens whom Ralph had met fishing that other... (From : Marxists.org.)

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He read again in the book that night, till he had gotten the whole tale into his head, and he specially noted this of it, that it told not whence that Lady came, nor what she was, nor aught else save that there she was in the wood by herself, and was found therein by the king's son: neither told the tale in what year of the world she was found there, though it told concerning all the war and miseries which she had bred, and which long endured. Again, he could not gather from that book why she had gone back to the lone place in the woods, whereas she might have wedded one of those warring barons who sorely desired her: nor why she had yielded herself to the witch of that place and endured with patience her thralldom, with stripes and torments of her body, like the worst of the thralls of the ancient heathen men. Lastly, he might not learn from the book where in the world was that lone place, or aught of the road to the Well at the World's End. But amid all his thinking his heart... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph arrayed himself for departure next morning without more words; and when he was ready the carline said to him: "When thou wentest forth before, I was troubled at thy going and feared for thy returning: but now I fear not; for I know that thou wilt return; though it may be leading a fair woman by the hand. So go, and all luck go with thee." Ralph smiled at her words and went his ways, and came into the wood that lay due south from the Castle, and he went on and on and had no thought of turning back. He rested twice and still went on, till the fashion of the thickets and the woods changed about him; and at last when the sun was getting low, he saw light gleaming through a great wood of pines, which had long been dark before him against the tall boles, and soon he came to the very edge of the wood, and going heedfully, saw between the great stems of the outermost trees, a green strand, and beyond it a long smooth water, a little lake between green banks on either side. He c... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Meanwhile she went to Ralph and stood by him, who now began to stir again; and she knelt down by him and kissed his face gently, and rose up hastily and stood a little aloof again. Now Ralph sat up and looked about him, and when he saw the Lady he first blushed red, and then turned very pale; for the full life was in him again, and he knew her, and love drew strongly at his heart-strings. But she looked on him kindly and said to him: "How fares it with thee? I am sorry of thy hurt which thou hast had for me." He said: "Forsooth, Lady, a chance knock or two is no great matter for a lad of Upmeads. But oh! I have seen thee before." "Yea," she said, "twice before, fair knight." "How is that?" he said; "once I saw thee, the fairest thing in the world, and evil men would have led thee to slaughter; but not twice." She smiled on him still more kindly, as if he were a dear friend, and said simply: "I was that lad in the cloak that ye saw in the Flower de Luce... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But when all was done to make the wounded knight as easy as might be, the Lady turned to the other twain, and said kindly: "Now, lords, it were good to get to table, since here is wherewithal." And she looked on them both full kindly as she spake the words, but nowise wantonly; even as the lady of a fair house might do by honored guests. So the hearts of both were cheered, and nothing loathe they sat down by her on the grass and fell to meat. Yet was the Knight of the Sun a little moody for a while, but when he had eaten and drunken somewhat, he said: "It were well if someone might come hereby, some hermit or holy man, to whom we might give the care of Walter: then might we home to Sunway, and send folk with a litter to fetch him home softly when the due time were." "Yea," said the Lady, "that might happen forsooth, and perchance it will; and if it were before nightfall it were better." Ralph saw that as she spake she took hold of the two fingers of her lef... (From : Marxists.org.)

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He woke up while it was yet night, and knew that he had been awakened by a touch; but, like a good hunter and warrior, he forebore to start up or cry out till sleep had so much run off him that he could tell somewhat of what was toward. So now he saw the Lady bending over him, and she said in a kind and very low voice: "Rise up, young man, rise up, Ralph, and say no word, but come with me a little way into the wood ere dawn come, for I have a word for thee." So he stood up and was ready to go with her, his heart beating hard for joy and wonder. "Nay," she whispered, "take thy sword and war-gear lest ill befall: do on thine hauberk; I will be thy squire." And she held his war-coat out for him to do on. "Now," she said, still softly, "hide thy curly hair with the helm, gird thy sword to thee, and come without a word." Even so he did, and therewithal felt her hand take his (for it was dark as they stepped amid the trees), and she led him into the Seventh He... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now when it was hard on noon, and they had lain long in that grassy place, Ralph rose up and stood upon his feet, and made as one listening. But the Lady looked on him and said: "It is naught save a hart and his hind running in the wood; yet mayhappen we were best on the road, for it is yet long." "Yea," said Ralph, "and it may be that my master will gather folk and pursue us." "Nay, nay," she said, "that were to wrong him, to deem that he would gather folk to follow one man; if he come, he will be by himself alone. When he found us gone he doubtless cast himself on Silverfax, my horse, in trust of the beast following after my feet." "Well," said Ralph, "and if he come alone, there is yet a sword betwixt him and thee." She was standing up by him now with her hand on his shoulder, "Hear now the darling, the champion! how he trusteth well in his heart and his right hand. But nay, I have cared for thee well. Hearken, if thou wilt not take it amiss that I tel... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"Now shalt thou hear of me somewhat more than the arras and the book could tell thee; and yet not all, for time would fail us therefor-- and moreover my heart would fail me. I cannot tell where I was born nor of what lineage, nor of who were my father and mother; for this I have known not of myself, nor has any told me. But when I first remember anything, I was playing about a garden, wherein was a little house built of timber and thatched with reed, and the great trees of the forest were all about the garden save for a little croft which was grown over with high grass and another somewhat bigger, wherein were goats. There was a woman at the door of the house and she spinning, yet clad in glittering raiment, and with jewels on her neck and fingers; this was the first thing that I remember, but all as it were a matter of every day, and use and wont, as it goes with the memories of children. Of such matters I will not tell thee at large, for thou knowest how it will be. Now the... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"Now I had outgrown my old fear, and not much befell to quicken it: and ever I was as much out of the house as I could be. But about this time my mistress, from being kinder to me than before, began to grow harder, and ofttimes used me cruelly: but of her deeds to me, my friend, thou shalt ask me no more than I tell thee. On a day of May-tide I fared abroad with my goats, and went far with them, further from the house than I had been as yet. The day was the fairest of the year, and I rejoiced in it, and felt as if some exceeding great good were about to befall me; and the burden of fears seemed to have fallen from me. So I went till I came to a little flowery dell, beset with blossoming whitethorns and with a fair stream running through it; a place somewhat like to this, save that the stream there was bigger. And the sun was hot about noontide, so I did off my raiment, which was rough and poor, and more meet for winter than May-tide, and I entered a pool of the clear water, and... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"Lo thou, beloved," she said, "thou hast seen me in the wildwood with little good quickened in me: doth not thine heart sink at the thought of thy love and thy life given over to the keeping of such an one?" He smiled in her face, and said: "Belike thou hast done worse than all thou hast told me: and these days past I have wondered often what there was in the stories which they of the Burg had against thee: yet sooth to say, they told little of what thou hast done: no more belike than being their foe." She sighed and said: "Well, hearken; yet shall I not tell thee every deed that I have been partaker in. "I sat in the Dale that next day and was happy, though I longed to see that fair man again: sooth to say, since my mistress was dead, everything seemed fairer to me, yea even mine own face, as I saw it in the pools of the stream, though whiles I wondered when I should have another mistress, and how she would deal with me; and ever I said I would ask the carline whe... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph stayed her speech now, and said: "When I asked of thee in the Land of Abundance, there were some who seemed to say that thou hast let more men love thee than one: and it was a torment to me to think that even so it might be. But now when thine own mouth telleth me of one of them it irks me little. Dost thou think it little-hearted in me?" "O friend," she said, "I see that so it is with thee that thou wouldst find due cause for loving me, whatever thou foundest true of me. Or dost thou deem that I was another woman in those days? Nay, I was not: I can see myself still myself all along the way I have gone." She was silent a little, and then she said: "Fear not, I will give thee much cause to love me. But now I know thy mind the better, I shall tell thee less of what befell me after I left the wilderness; for whatever I did and whatever I endured, still it was always I myself that was there, and it is me that thou lovest. Moreover, my life in the wilderness is... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"When we came to the King's House, my lord followed his father into the hall, where sat his mother among her damsels: she was a fair woman, and looked rather meek than high-hearted; my lord led me up to her, and she embraced and kissed him and caressed him long; then she turned about to me and would have spoken to me, but the king, who stood behind us, scowled on her, and she forebore; but she looked me on somewhat kindly, and yet as one who is afeard. "Thus it went for the rest of the day, and my lord had me to sit beside him in the great hall when the banquet was holden, and I ate and drank with him and beheld all the pageants by his side, and none meddled with me either to help or to hinder, because they feared the king. Yet many eyes I saw that desired my beauty. And so when night came, he took me to his chamber and his bed, as if I were his bride new wedded, even as it had been with us on the grass of the wilderness and the bracken of the wildwood. And then, at l... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"Well, my friend, after we had lived thus a long time, we set out one day to seek to the Well at the World's End, each of us signed and marked out for the quest by bearing such-like beads as thou and I both bear upon our necks today. Once again of all that befell us on that quest I will tell thee naught as now: because to that Well have I to bring thee: though myself, belike, I need not its waters again." Quoth Ralph: "And must thou lead me thy very self, mayest thou not abide in some safe place my going and returning? So many and sore as the toils and perils of the way may be." "What!" she said, "and how shall I be sundered from thee now I have found thee? Yea, and who shall lead thee, thou lovely boy? Shall it be a man to bewray thee, or a woman to bewray me? Yet need we not go tomorrow, my beloved, nor for many days: so sweet as we are to each other. "But in those past days it was needs must we begin our quest before the burden of years was over heavy... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"Look now," she said, "I have held thee so long in talk, that the afternoon is waning; now is it time for us to be on the way again; not because I misdoubt me of thy foeman, but because I would take thee to a fairer dwelling of the desert, and one where I have erst abided; and moreover, there thou shalt not altogether die of hunger. See, is it not as if I had thought to meet thee here?" "Yea, in good sooth," said he, "I wot that thou canst see the story of things before they fall." She laughed and said: "But all this that hath befallen since I set out to meet thee at the Castle of Abundance I foresaw not, any more than I can foresee to-morrow. Only I knew that we must needs pass by the place whereto I shall now lead thee, and I made provision there. Lo! now the marvel slain: and in such wise shall perish other marvels which have been told of me; yet not all. Come now, let us to the way." So they joined hands and left the pleasant place, and wer... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Then in a while they grew sober and went on their ways, and the sun was westering behind them, and casting long shadows. And in a little while they were come out of the thick woods and were in a country of steep little valleys, grassy, besprinkled with trees and bushes, with hills of sandstone going up from them, which were often broken into cliffs rising sheer from the tree-beset bottoms: and they saw plenteous deer both great and small, and the wild things seemed to fear them but little. To Ralph it seemed an exceeding fair land, and he was as joyous as it was fair; but the Lady was pensive, and at last she said: "Thou deemest it fair, and so it is; yet is it the lonesomest of deserts. I deem indeed that it was once one of the fairest of lands, with castles and cots and homesteads all about, and fair people no few, busy with many matters among them. But now it is all passed away, and there is no token of a dwelling of man, save it might be that those mounds we see, as yonder,... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Long he stood letting these thoughts run through his mind, but at last when it was now midmorning, he stirred and gat him slowly down the green slope, and for very pity of himself the tears brake out from him as he crossed the stream and came into the bushy valley. There he stayed his feet a little, and said to himself: "And whither then am I going?" He thought of the Castle of Abundance and the Champions of the Dry Tree, of Higham, and the noble warriors who sat at the Lord Abbot's board, and of Upmeads and his own folk: but all seemed naught to him, and he thought: "And how can I go back and bear folk asking me curiously of my wayfarings, and whether I will do this, that, or the other thing." Withal he thought of that fair damsel and her sweet mouth in the hostelry at Bourton Abbas, and groaned when he thought of love and its ending, and he said within himself: "and now she is a wanderer about the earth as I am;" and he thought of her quest, and the chaplet of dame Katheri... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph looks on to the ford and sees folk riding through the thorp aforesaid and down to the river, and they take the water and are many in company, some two score by his deeming, and he sees the sun glittering on their weapons. Now he thought that he would abide their coming and see if he might join their company, since if he crossed the water he would be on the backward way: and it was but a little while ere the head of them came up over the hill, and were presently going past Ralph, who rose up to look on them, and be seen of them, but they took little heed of him. So he sees that though they all bore weapons, they were not all men-at-arms, nay, not more than a half score, but those proper men enough. Of the others, some half-dozen seemed by their attire to be merchants, and the rest their lads; and withal they had many sumpter horses and mules with them. They greeted him not, nor he them, nor did he heed them much till they were all gone by save three, and then he... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow Blaize went to his chaffer and to visit the men of the Port at the Guildhall: he bade Ralph come with him, but he would not, but abode in the hall of the hostel and sat pondering sadly while men came and went; but he heard no word spoken of the Well at the World's End. In like wise passed the next day and the next, save that Richard was among those who came into the hall, and he talked long with Ralph at whiles; that is to say that he spake, and Ralph made semblance of listening. Now as is aforesaid Richard was old and wise, and he loved Ralph much, more belike than Lord Blaize his proper master, whereas he had no mind for chaffer, or aught pertaining to it: so he took heed of Ralph and saw that he was sad and weary-hearted; so on the sixth day of their abiding at Whitwall, in the morning when all the chapmen were gone about their business, and he and Ralph were left alone in the Hall, he spake to Ralph and said: "This is no prison, lord." "Even so," qu... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph went with Richard now without more words, and they came into the market-place and unto Blaize's booth and house, which was no worse than the best in the place; and the painters and stainers were at work on the upper part of it to make it as bright and goodly as might be with red and blue and green and gold, and all fair colors, and already was there a sign hung out of the fruitful tree by the water-side. As for the booth, it was full within of many wares and far-fetched and dear-bought things; as pieces of good and fine cloth plumbed with the seal of the greatest of the cities; and silk of Babylon, and spices of the hot burning islands, and wonders of the silversmith's and the goldsmith's fashioning, and fair-wrought weapons and armor of the best, and every thing that a rich chapman may deal in. And amid of it all stood Blaize clad in fine black cloth welted with needle work, and a gold chain about his neck. He was talking with three honorable men of the Port, and they were... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Therewithall they parted after more talk concerning small matters, and Ralph wore through the day, but Richard again did him to wit, that on the morrow he would find his old friends of Swevenham in the Market. And Ralph was come to life again more than he had been since that evil hour in the desert; though hard and hard he deemed it that he should never see his love again. Now as befalleth young men, he was a good sleeper, and dreamed but seldom, save such light and empty dreams as he might laugh at, if perchance he remembered them by then his raiment was on him in the morning. But that night him-seemed that he awoke in his chamber at Whitwall, and was lying on his bed, as he verily was, and the door of the chamber opened, and there entered quietly the Lady of the Woodland, dight even as he had seen her as she lay dead beside their cooking fire on that table of greensward in the wilderness, barefoot and garlanded about her brow and her girdlestead, but fair and fresh c... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Old Richard was no worse than his word, and failed not to find old acquaintance of Swevenham in the Saturday's market: and Ralph saw naught of him till midweek afterwards. And he was sitting in the chamber of the hostel when Richard came in to him. Forsooth Blaize had bidden him come dwell in his fair house, but Ralph would not, deeming that he might be hindered in his quest and be less free to go whereso he would, if he were dwelling with one who was so great with the magnates as was Blaize. Now Ralph was reading in a book when Richard came in, but he stood up and greeted him; and Richard said smiling: "What have ye found in the book, lord?" Said Ralph: "It telleth of the deeds of Alexander." "Is there aught concerning the Well at the World's End therein?" said Richard. "I have not found aught thereof as yet," said Ralph; "but the book tells concerning the Dry Tree, and of kings sitting in their chairs in the mountains nearby." "Well then," said Richard,... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Fell the talk between them at that time, and three days wore, and on the morning of the fourth day came Richard to Ralph, and said to him: "Foster-son, I am sorry for the word I must say, but Clement Chapman came within the gates this morning early, and the company with which he is riding are alboun for the road, and will depart at noon to-day, so that there are but four hours wherein we twain may be together; and thereafter whatso may betide thee, it may well be, that I shall see thy face no more; so what thou wilt tell me must be told straightway. And now I will say this to thee, that of all things I were fain to ride with thee, but I may not, because it is Blaize whom I am bound to serve in all ways. And I deem, moreover, that troublous times may be at hand here in Whitwall. For there is an Earl hight Walter the Black, a fair young man outwardly, but false at heart and a tyrant, and he had some occasion against the good town, and it was looked for that he should send his her... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Therewithal they went together to Blaize's house, and when Blaize saw them, he said: "Well, Ralph, so thou must needs work at a little more idling before thou fallest to in earnest. Forsooth I deem that when thou comest back thou wilt find that we have cut thee out a goodly piece of work for thy sewing. For the good town is gathering a gallant host of men; and we shall look to thee to do well in the hard hand-play, whenso that befalleth. But now come and look at my house within, how fair it is, and thou wilt see that thou wilt have somewhat to fight for, whereas I am." Therewith he led them up a stair into the great chamber, which was all newly dight and hung with rich arras of the Story of Hercules; and there was a goodly cupboard of silver vessel, and some gold, and the cupboard was of five shelves as was but meet for a king's son. So Ralph praised all, but was wishful to depart, for his heart was sore, and he blamed himself in a manner that he must needs lie to his... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When they were gotten a mile or two from Whitwall, and all was going smoothly, Clement came up to Ralph and rode at his left hand, and fell to speech with him, and said: "Now, lord, will I tell thee more concerning our journey, and the folk that we are like to meet upon the road. And of the perils, whatso they may be, I told thee not before, because I knew thee desirous of seeking adventures east-away, and knew that my tales would not hinder thee." "Yea," said Ralph, "and had not this goodly fellowship been, I had gone alone, or with any carle that I could have lightly hired." Clement laughed and said: "Fair sir, thou wouldst have failed of hiring any one man to go with thee east-ward a many miles. For with less than a score of men well-armed the danger of death or captivity is over great, if ye ride the mountain ways unto Cheaping Knowe. Yea, and even if a poor man who hath nothing, wend that way alone, he may well fall among thieves, and be stolen himsel... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On that night they slept in their tents which they had pitched on the field of a little thorp beside a water; and there they had meat and drink and all things as they needed them. And in likewise it befell them the next day; but the third evening they set up their tents on a little hillside by a road which led into a deep pass, even the entry of the mountains, a road which went betwixt exceeding high walls of rock. For the mountain sides went up steep from the plain. There they kept good watch and ward, and naught befell them to tell of. The next morning they entered the pass, and rode through it up to the heaths, and rode all day by wild and stony ways and came at even to a grassy valley watered by a little stream, where they guested, watching their camp well; and again none meddled with them. As they were departing the next morn Ralph asked of Clement if he yet looked for onset from the waylayers. Said Clement: "It is most like, lord; for we be a rich pre... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When it was morning they arose early and ate a morsel; and Clement gave freely to the Warden and his helpmate on behalf of the fellowship; and then they saddled their nags, and did on the loads and departed; and the way was evil otherwise, but it was down hill, and all waters ran east. All day they rode, and at even when the sun had not quite set, they pitched their camp at the foot of a round knoll amid a valley where was water and grass; and looking down thence, they had a sight of the fruitful plain, wherein lay Cheaping Knowe all goodly blue in the distance. This was a fair place and a lovely, and great ease would they have had there, were it not that they must keep watch and ward with more pains than theretofore; for Clement deemed it as good as certain that the wild men would fall upon them that night. But all was peaceful the night through, and in the morning they gat to the way speedily, riding with their armor on, and their bows bent: and... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When they rode on again, Ralph rode beside Bull, who was merry and blithe now he was full of meat and drink; and he spake anon: "So thou art a king's son, master? I deemed from the first that thou wert of lineage. For as for these churls of chapmen, and the sworders whom they wage, they know not the name of their mother's mother, nor have heard one word of the beginner of their kindred; and their deeds are like unto their kinlessness." "And are thy deeds so good?" said Ralph. "Are they ill," said Bull, "when they are done against the foemen?" Said Ralph: "And are all men your foemen who pass through these mountains?" "All," said Bull, "but they be of the kindred or their known friends." "Well, Bull," said Ralph, "I like thy deeds little, that thou shouldest ravish men and women from their good life, and sell them for a price into toil and weariness and stripes." Said Bull: "How much worse do we than the chapmen by his debtor, and the lord of t... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now when it was evening they pitched their camp down in the plain fields amid tall elmtrees, and had their banners still flying over the tents to warn all comers of what they were. But the next morning the chapmen and their folk were up betimes to rummage their loads, and to array their wares for the market; and they gat not to the road before mid-morning. Meantime of their riding Ralph had more talk with Bull, who said to him: "Fair lord, I rede thee when thou art in the market of Cheaping Knowe, bid master Clement bring thee to the thrall-merchant, and trust me that if such a fair image as that we were speaking of hath passed through his hands within these three months, he will remember it; and then thou shalt have at least some tale of what hath befallen her but a little while ago." That seemed good rede to Ralph, and when they went on their way he rode beside Clement, and asked him many things concerning Cheaping Knowe; and at last about the thrall-market therein. (From : Marxists.org.)

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The second day, while the merchants saw to their chaffer, most of the men-at-arms, and Ralph with them, spent their time again in those goodly gardens; where, indeed, some of them made friends of fair women of the place; in which there was less risk than had been for aliens in some towns, whereas at Cheaping Knowe such women as were wedded according to law, or damsels in the care of their kindred, or slaves who were concubines, had not dared so much as to look on a man. The third day time hung somewhat heavy on Ralph's hands, not but that the Companions were well at ease, but rather because himseemed that he was not stirring in the quest. But the next day Clement bade him come see that thrall-merchant aforesaid, and brought him to a corner of the market-place, where was a throng looking on at the cheaping. They went through the throng, and beside a stone like a leaping-on stone saw a tall man, goodly of presence, black bearded, clad in scarlet; and this was... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Two days thereafter the chapmen having done with their matters in Cheaping Knowe, whereas they must needs keep some of their wares for other places, and especially for Goldburg, they dight them to be gone and rode out a-gates of a mid-morning with banners displayed. It was some fifty miles thence to Whiteness, which lay close underneath the mountains, and was, as it were, the door of the passes whereby men rode to Goldburg. The land which they passed through was fair, both of tillage and pasture, with much cattle therein. Everywhere they saw men and women working afield, but no houses of worthy yeomen or vavassors, or cots of good husbandmen. Here and there was a castle or strong-house, and here and there long rows of ugly hovels, or whiles houses, big tall and long, but exceeding foul and ill-favored, such as Ralph had not yet seen the like of. And when he asked of Clement concerning all this, he said: "It is as I have told thee, that here be no freemen who work af... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Five days the Fellowship abode at Whiteness, and or ever they departed Clement waged men-at-arms of the lord of the town, besides servants to look to the beasts among the mountains, so that what with one, what with another, they entered the gates of the mountains a goodly company of four score and ten. Ralph asked of Bull if any of those whom he might meet in these mountains were of his kindred; and he answered, nay, unless perchance there might be some one or two going their peaceful errands there like Bull Nosy. So Ralph armed him with a good sword and a shield, and would have given him a steel hood also, but he would not bear it, saying that if sword and shield could not keep his head he had well earned a split skull. Seven days they rode the mountains, and the way was toilsome and weary enough, for it was naught but a stony maze of the rocks where nothing living dwelt, and nothing grew, save now and again a little dwarf willow. Yet was there naught wors... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now when it was morning he rose early and roused Bull and the captain, and they searched in divers places where they had not been the night before, and even a good way back about the road they had ridden yesterday, but found no tidings. And Ralph said to himself that this was naught but what he had looked for after that vision of the night. So he rode with his fellows somewhat shamefaced that they had seen that sudden madness in him; but was presently of better cheer than he had been yet. He rode beside Clement; they went downhill speedily, and the wilderness began to better, and there was grass at whiles, and bushes here and there. A little after noon they came out of a pass cleft deep through the rocks by a swift stream which had once been far greater than then, and climbed up a steep ridge that lay across the road, and looking down from the top of it, beheld the open country again. But this was otherwise from what they had beheld from the mountain's brow above Ch... (From : Marxists.org.)

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That night they slept yet among the mountains, or rather in the first of the hill country at their feet; but on the morrow they rode down into the lowlands, and thereby lost all sight of Goldburg, and it was yet afar off, so that they rode four days through lands well-tilled, but for the most part ill-housed, a country of little hills and hollows and rising grounds, before they came in sight of it again heaving up huge and bright under the sun. It was built partly on three hills, the buttresses of a long ridge which turned a wide river, and on the ridge itself, and partly on the flat shore of the river, on either side, hillward and plainward: but a great white wall girt it all about, which went right over the river as a bridge, and on the plain side it was exceeding high, so that its battlements might be somewhat evened with those of the hill-wall above. So that as they came up to the place they saw little of the town because of the enormity of the wall; scarce aught save a spir... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow, when Ralph and Clement met in the hall, Clement spake and said: "Lord Ralph, as I told thee in Whitwall, we chapmen are now at the end of our outward journey, and in about twenty days time we shall turn back to the mountains; but, as I deem, thou wilt be minded to follow up thy quest of the damsel, and whatsoever else thou mayst be seeking. Now this thou mayst well do whiles we are here in Goldburg, and yet come back hither in time to fare back with us: and also, if thou wilt, thou mayst have fellows in thy quest, to wit some of those our men-at-arms, who love thee well. But now, when thou hast done thy best these days during, if thou hast then found naught, I counsel thee and beseech thee to come thy ways back with us, that we twain may wend to Upmeads together, where thou shalt live well, and better all the deeds of thy father. Meseemeth this will be more meet for thee than the casting away of thy life in seeking a woman, who maybe will be naught to thee when th... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now he goes to Clement, and tells him that he deems he has no need to abide their departure from Goldburg to say farewell and follow his quest further afield; since it is clear that in Goldburg he should have no more tidings. Clement laughed and said: "Not so fast, Lord Ralph; thou mayst yet hear a word or two." "What!" said Ralph, "hast thou heard of something new?" Said Clement: "There has been a man here seeking thee, who said that he wotted of a wise man who could tell thee much concerning the Well at the World's End. And when I asked him of the Damsel and the Lord of Utterbol, if he knew anything of her, he said yea, but that he would keep it for thy privy ear. So I bade him go and come again when thou shouldst be here. And I deem that he will not tarry long." Now they were sitting on a bench outside the hall of the hostel, with the court between them and the gate; and Ralph said: "Tell me, didst thou deem the man good or bad?" Said Clement: "He was hard to lo... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Early next morning Ralph arose and called Bull Shockhead to him and said: "So it is, Bull, that thou art my war-taken thrall." Bull nodded his head, but frowned therewithal. Said Ralph: "If I bid thee aught that is not beyond reason thou wilt do it, wilt thou not?" "Yea," said Bull, surlily. "Well," quoth Ralph, "I am going a journey east-away, and I may not have thee with me, therefore I bid thee take this gold and go free with my goodwill." Bull's face lighted up, and the eyes glittered in his face; but he said: "Yea, king's son, but why wilt thou not take me with thee?" Said Ralph: "It is a perilous journey, and thy being with me will cast thee into peril and make mine more. Moreover, I have an errand, as thou wottest, which is all mine own." Bull pondered a little and then said: "King's son, I was thinking at first that our errands lay together, and it is so; but belike thou sayest true that there will be less peril to each of us if we sunder at this time. B... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Early on the morrow they departed, and now in the morning light and the sun the minstrel seemed glad again, and talked abundantly, even though at whiles Ralph answered him little. As they rode, the land began to get less fertile and less, till at last there was but tillage here and there in patches: of houses there were but few, and the rest was but dark heathland and bog, with scraggy woods scattered about the country-side. Naught happened to tell of, save that once in the afternoon, as they were riding up to the skirts of one of the woods aforesaid, weaponed men came forth from it and drew up across the way; they were a dozen in all, and four were horsed. Ralph set his hand to his sword, but the minstrel cried out, "Nay, no weapons, no weapons! Pull out thy let-pass again and show it in thine hand, and then let us on." So saying he drew a white kerchief from his hand, and tied it to the end of his riding staff, and so rode trembling by Ralph's... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But now when it was morning they struck the tents and laded them on wains, and went their ways the selfsame road that Ralph had been minded for yesterday; to wit the road to Utterness; but now must he ride it unarmed and guarded: other shame had he none. Indeed David, who stuck close to his side all day, was so sugary sweet with him, and praised and encouraged him so diligently, that Ralph began to have misgivings that all this kindness was but as the flower-garlands wherewith the heathen times men were wont to deck the slaughter-beasts for the blood-offering. Yea, and into his mind came certain tales of how there were heathen men yet in the world, who beguiled men and women, and offered them up to their devils, whom they called gods: but all this ran off him soon, when he bethought him how little wisdom there was in running to meet the evil, which might be on the way, and that way a rough and perilous one. So he plucked up heart, and spake freely and gaily with David and one or... (From : Marxists.org.)

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A little before sunset they made halt for the night, and Ralph was shown to a tent as erst, and had meat and drink good enough brought to him. But somewhat after he had done eating comes David to him and says: "Up, young man! and come to my lord, he asketh for thee." "What will he want with me?" said Ralph. "Yea, that is a proper question to ask!" quoth David; "as though the knife should ask the cutler, what wilt thou cut with me? Dost thou deem that I durst ask him of his will with thee?" "I am ready to go with thee," said Ralph. So they went forth; but Ralph's heart fell and he sickened at the thought of seeing that man again. Nevertheless he set his face as brass, and thrust back both his fear and his hatred for a fitter occasion. Soon they came into the pavilion of the Lord, who was sitting there as yester eve, save that his gown was red, and done about with gold and turquoise and emerald. David brought Ralph nigh to his seat, but... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But when it was morning Ralph awoke, and saw that the sun was shining brightly; so he cast his shirt on him, and went out at once, and turned his face eastward, and, scarce awake, said to himself that the clouds lay heavy in the eastward heavens after last night's haze: but presently his eyes deared, and he saw that what he had taken for clouds was a huge wall of mountains, black and terrible, that rose up sharp and clear into the morning air; for there was neither cloud nor mist in all the heavens. Now Ralph, though he were but little used to the sight of great mountains, yet felt his heart rather rise than fall at the sight of them; for he said: "Surely beyond them lieth some new thing for me, life or death: fair fame or the forgetting of all men." And it was long that he could not take his eyes off them. As he looked, came up the Captain Otter, and said: "Well, Knight, thou hast seen them this morn, even if ye die ere nightfall." Said Ralph: "What deem... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now was the night worn to the time appointed, for it was two hours after midnight, so he stepped out of his tent clad in all his war gear, and went straight to the doddered oak, and found Redhead there with but one horse, whereby Ralph knew that he held to his purpose of going his ways to Utterbol: so he took him by the shoulders and embraced him, rough carle as he was, and Redhead kneeled to him one moment of time and then arose and went off into the night. But Ralph got a-horseback without delay and rode his ways warily across the highway and into the wood, and there was none to hinder him. Though it was dark but for the starlight, there was a path, which the horse, and not Ralph, found, so that he made some way even before the first glimmer of dawn, all the more as the wood was not very thick after the first mile, and there were clearings here and there. So rode Ralph till the sun was at point to rise, and he was about the midst of one of those clearings or wood-la... (From : Marxists.org.)

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A long way now rode Ralph, and naught befell him but the fashion of the wood. And as he rode, the heart within him was lightened that he had escaped from all the confusion and the lying of those aliens, who knew him not, nor his kindred, and yet would all use him each for his own ends: and withal he was glad that he was riding all alone upon his quest, but free, unwounded, and well weaponed. The wood was not very thick whereas he rode, so that he could see the whereabouts of the sun, and rode east as far as he could judge it. Some little victual he had with him, and he found woodland fruit ripening here and there, and eked out his bread therewith; neither did water fail him, for he rode a good way up along a woodland stream that cleft the thicket, coming down as he deemed from the mountains, and thereby he made the more way: but at last he deemed that he must needs leave it, as it turned overmuch to the north. The light was failing when he came into a woodlawn amid of... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Soon the wood grew very thick of pine-trees, though there was no undergrowth, so that when the sun sank it grew dark very speedily; but he still rode on in the dusk, and there were but few wild things, and those mostly voiceless, in the wood, and it was without wind and very still. Now he thought he heard the sound of a horse going behind him or on one side, and he wondered whether the chace were up, and hastened what he might, till at last it grew black night, and he was constrained to abide. So he got off his horse, and leaned his back against a tree, and had the beast's reins over his arm; and now he listened again carefully, and was quite sure that he could hear the footsteps of some hard-footed beast going nowise far from him. He laughed inwardly, and said to himself: "If the chacer were to pass but three feet from my nose he should be none the wiser but if he hear me or my horse." And therewith he cast a lap of his cloak over the horse's head, lest he should whinny if he... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When Ralph woke on the morrow it was broad day as far as the trees would have it so. He rose at once, and looked about for his fellow, but saw her not, and for some moments of time he thought he had but dreamed of her; but he saw that the fire had been quickened from its embers, and close by lay the hauberk and strange-fashioned helm, and the sword of the damsel, and presently he saw her coming through the trees barefoot, with the green-sleeved silken surcoat hanging below the knees and her hair floating loose about her. She stepped lightly up to Ralph with a cheerful smiling countenance and a ruddy color in her cheeks, but her eyes moist as if she could scarce keep back the tears for joy of the morning's meeting. He thought her fairer than erst, and made as if he would put his arms about her, but she held a little aloof from him, blushing yet more. Then she said in her sweet clear voice: "Hail fellow-farer! now begins the day's work. I have been down yonder, and have found a... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Night was at hand before they came to the stream that they sought. They found it cleaving the pine-wood, which held on till the very bank of it, and was thick again on the further side in a few yards' space. The stream was high-banked and ran deep and strong. Said Ursula as they came up to it: "We may not cross it, but it matters not; and it is to-morrow that we must ride up along it." So they abode there, and made a fire by the waterside, and watched there, turn and turn about, till it was broad day. Naught befell to tell of, save that twice in the night Ralph deemed that he heard a lion roar. They got to horse speedily when they were both awake, and rode up the stream, and began to go up hill, and by noon were come into a rough and shaggy upland, whence from time to time they could see the huge wall of the mountains, which yet seemed to Ralph scarce nigher, if at all, than when he had beheld it ere he had come to Vale Turris. The way was rough day-long,... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Now the Sage led them through the wood till they came to a grassy lawn amid of which was a table of stone, which it seemed to Ralph must be like to that whereon the witch-wife had offered up the goat to her devils as the Lady of Abundance had told him; and he changed countenance as the thought came into his mind. But the Sage looked on him and shook his head and spake softly: "In these wastes and wilds are many such-like places, where of old time the ancient folks did worship to the Gods of the Earth as they imagined them: and whereas the lore in this book cometh of such folk, this is no ill place for the reading thereof. But if ye fear the book and its writers, who are dead long ago, there is yet time to go back and seek the Well without my helping; and I say not but that ye may find it even thus. But if ye fear not, then sit ye down on the grass, and I will lay the book on this most ancient table, and read in it, and do ye hearken heedfully." So they sat down side b... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When morrow dawned they arose betimes and did on their worldly raiment; and when they had eaten a morsel they made them ready for the road, and the elder gave them victual for the way in their saddle-bags, saying: "This shall suffice for the passing days, and when it is gone ye have learned what to do." Therewithall they gat to horse; but Ralph would have the Elder ride his nag, while he went afoot by the side of Ursula. So the Sage took his bidding, but smiled therewith, and said: "Thou art a King's son and a friendly young man, else had I said nay to this; for it needeth not, whereas I am stronger than thou, so hath my draft of the Well dealt with me." Thus then they went their ways; but Ralph noted of Ursula that she was silent and shy with him, and it irked him so much, that at last he said to her: "My friend, doth aught ail me with thee? Wilt thou not tell me, so that I may amend it? For thou are grown of few words with me and turnest thee from me, an... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When they woke again the sun was high above their heads, and they saw the Sage dighting their breakfast. So they arose and washed the night off them in the stream and ate hastily, and got to horse on a fair forenoon; then they rode the mountain neck east from that valley; and it was a long slope of stony and barren mountain nigh waterless. And on the way Ursula told Ralph how the man who was scared by the wizardry last night was verily the nephew of the Lord from whom she had stolen her armor by wheedling and a seeming promise. "But," said she, "his love lay not so deep but that he would have avenged him for my guile on my very body had he taken us." Ralph reddened and scowled at her word, and the Sage led them into the other talk. So long was that fell, that they were nigh benighted ere they gained the topmost, or came to any pass. When they had come to a place where there was a little pool in a hollow of the rocks they made stay there, and slept safe, but... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow the Sage led them straight into the rock-sea whereas it seemed to them at first that he was but bringing them into a blind alley; but at the end of the bight the rock-wall was broken down into a long scree of black stones. There the Sage bade Ralph and Ursula dismount (as for him he had been going afoot ever since that first day) and they led the horses up the said scree, which was a hard business, as they were no mountain beasts. And when they were atop of the scree it was harder yet to get them down, for on that side it was steeper; but at last they brought it about, and came down into a little grassy plain or isle in the rock sea, which narrowed toward the eastern end, and the rocks on either side were smooth and glossy, as if the heat had gone out of them suddenly, when the earth-fires had ceased in the mountains. Now the Sage showed them on a certain rock a sign cut, whereof they had learned in the book aforesaid, to wit, a sword crossed by a three... (From : Marxists.org.)

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That day they herded their horses thereabout, and from time to time the Sage tried those two if they were perfect in the lore of the road; and he found that they had missed nothing. They lay down in the self-same place again that night, and arose betimes on the morrow and went their ways over the plain as the Sage led, till it was as if the mountains and their terror hung over their very heads, and the hugeness and blackness of them were worse than a wall of fire had been. It was still a long way to them, so that it was not till noon of the third day from the rock-sea that they came to the very feet of that fire-scorched ness, and wonderful indeed it seemed to them that anything save the eagles could have aught to tell of what lay beyond it. There were no foothills or downs betwixt the plain and the mountains, naught save a tumble of rocks that had fallen from the cliffs, piled up strangely, and making a maze through which the Sage led them surely; and at la... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When they went on their way next morning they found little change in the pass, and they rode the dread highway daylong, and it was still the same: so they rested a little before nightfall at a place where there was water running out of the rocks, but naught else for their avail. Ralph was merry and helpful and filled water from the runnel, and wrought what he might to make the lodging meet; and as they ate and rested he said to Ursula: "Last night it was thou that beguiled me of my gloom, yet thereafter till we slept it was my voice for the more part, and not thine, that was heard in the wilderness. Now to-night it shall be otherwise, and I will but ask a question of thee, and hearken to the sweetness of thy voice." She laughed a little and very sweetly, and she said: "Forsooth, dear friend, I spoke to thee that I might hear thy voice for the more part, and not mine, that was heard in the desert; but when I heard thee, I deemed that the world was yet alive for us to c... (From : Marxists.org.)

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In all this they had enough to be busy with, so that time hung not heavy on their hands, and the shadow of the Quest was nowise burdensome to them, since they wotted that they had to abide the wearing of the days till spring was come with fresh tidings. Their labor was nowise irksome to them, since Ralph was deft in all manner of sports and crafts, such as up-country folk follow, and though he were a king's son, he had made a doughty yeoman: and as for Ursula, she also was country-bred, of a lineage of field-folk, and knew all the manners of the fields. Withal in whatsoever way it were, they loved each other dearly, and all kind of speech flowed freely betwixt them. Sooth to say, Ralph, taking heed of Ursula, deemed that she were fain to love him bodily, and he wotted well by now, that, whatever had befallen, he loved her, body and soul. Yet still was that fear of her naysay lurking in his heart, if he should kiss her, or caress her, as a man with a maid. Therefore he... (From : Marxists.org.)

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It befell on a fair sunny morning of spring, that Ralph sat alone on the toft by the rock-house, for Ursula had gone down the meadow to disport her and to bathe in the river. Ralph was fitting the blade of a dagger to a long ashen shaft, to make him a strong spear; for with the waxing spring the bears were often in the meadows again; and the day before they had come across a family of the beasts in the sandy bight under the mountains; to wit a carle, and a quean with her cubs; the beasts had seen them but afar off, and whereas the men were two and the sun shone back from their weapons, they had forborne them; although they were fierce and proud in those wastes, and could not away with creatures that were not of their kind. So because of this Ralph had bidden Ursula not to fare abroad without her sword, which was sharp and strong, and she no weakling withal. He bethought him of this just as he had made an end of his spear-shaping, so therewith he looked aside and saw the said swo... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But when he had come forth from the chestnut-grove, and could see the face of their house-rock clearly, he beheld new tidings; for there were folk before the door of the dwelling, and Ursula was standing amid of them, for he could see the gleam of her armor; and with the men he could see also certain beasts of burden, and anon that these were oxen. So he hastened on to find what this might mean, and drew his sword as he went. But when he came up to the rock, he found there two young men and an elder, and they had with them five oxen, three for riding, and two sumpter beasts, laden: and Ursula and these men were talking together friendly; so that Ralph deemed that the new-comers must be the messengers of the Innocent Folk. They were goodly men all three, somewhat brown of skin, but well fashioned, and of smiling cheerful countenance, well knit, and tall. The elder had a long white beard, but his eye was bright, and his hand firm and smooth. They were all clad in white woolen ra... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When it was morning they speedily gat them ready for the road, whereas they had little to take with them; so they departed joyously, howbeit both Ralph and Ursula felt rather love than loathing for their winter abode. The day was yet young when they went their ways. Their horses and all their gear were a great wonder to the young men, for they had seen no such beasts before: but the elder said that once in his young days he had led a man to the Well who was riding a horse and was clad in knightly array. So they went by ways which were nowise dreadful, though they were void of men-folk, and in three days' time they were come out of the mountains, and in three more the said mountains were to behold but a cloud behind them, and the land was grown goodly, with fair valleys and little hills, though still they saw no men, and forsooth they went leisurely, for oxen are but slow-going nags. But when they were gone eight days from the Valley of Sweet-chestnuts, they came acro... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow the kind people delayed them little, though they sorrowed for their departure, and before noon were their old way-leaders ready for them; and the old man and his two grandsons (for such they were) were much honored of the simple people for their way-leading of the Heavenly Folk; for so they called Ralph and Ursula. So they gat them to the way in suchlike guise as before, only they had with them five sumpter oxen instead of two; for the old man told them that not only was their way longer, but also they must needs pass through a terrible waste, wherein was naught for their avail, neither man, nor beast, nor herb. Even so they found it as he said; for after the first day's ride from the town they came to the edge of this same waste, and on the fourth day were deep in the heart of it: a desert it was, rather rocky and stony and sandy than mountainous, though they had hills to cross also: withal there was but little water there, and that foul and stinking. Long lasted t... (From : Marxists.org.)

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So they ride their ways, and when they were come well into the wildwood past the house, and had spoken but few words to each other, Ralph put forth his hand, and stayed Ursula, and they gat off their horses under a great-limbed oak, and did off their armor, and sat down on the greensward there, and loved each other dearly, and wept for joy of their pain and travail and love. And afterwards, as they sat side by side leaning up against the great oak-bole, Ralph spake and said: "Now are we two once again all alone in the uttermost parts of the earth, and belike we are not very far from the Well at the World's End; and now I have bethought me that if we gain that which we seek for, and bear back our lives to our own people, the day may come when we are grown old, for as young as we may seem, that we shall be as lonely then as we are this hour, and that the folk round about us shall be to us as much and no more than these trees and the wild things that dwell among them." S... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Presently as they rode they had before them one of the greatest of those land-waves, and they climbed it slowly, going afoot and leading their horses; but when they were but a little way from the brow they saw, over a gap thereof, something, as it were huge horns rising up into the air beyond the crest of the ridge. So they marveled, and drew their swords, and held them still awhile, misdoubting if this were perchance some terrible monster of the waste; but whereas the thing moved not at all, they plucked up heart and fared on. So came they to the brow and looked over it into a valley, about which on all sides went the ridge, save where it was broken down into a narrow pass on the further side, so that the said valley was like to one of those theaters of the ancient Roman Folk, whereof are some to be seen in certain lands. Neither did those desert benches lack their sitters; for all down the sides of the valley sat or lay children of men; some women, but most men-folk,... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Past the Valley of the Dry Tree they saw but few dead men lying about, and soon they saw never another: and, though the land was still utterly barren, and all cast up into ridges as before, yet the salt slime grew less and less, and before nightfall of that day they had done with it: and the next day those stony waves were lower; and the next again the waste was but a swelling plain, and here and there they came on patches of dwarf willow, and other harsh and scanty herbage, whereof the horses might have a bait, which they sore needed, for now was their fodder done: but both men and horses were sore athirst; for, as carefully as they had hoarded their water, there was now but little left, which they durst not drink till they were driven perforce, lest they should yet die of drought. They journeyed long that day, and whereas the moon was up at night-tide they lay not down till she was set; and their resting place was by some low bushes, whereabout was rough grass mingle... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Being come to the wood they went not very far into it that day, for they were minded to rest them after the weariness of the wilderness: they feasted on a hare which Ralph shot, and made a big fire to keep off evil beasts, but none came nigh them, though they heard the voices of certain beasts as the night grew still. To be short, they slept far into the morrow's morn, and then, being refreshed, and their horses also, they rode strongly all day, and found the wood to be not very great; for before sunset they were come to its outskirts, and the mountains lay before them. These were but little like to that huge wall they had passed through on their way to Chestnut-dale, being rather great hills than mountains, grass-grown, and at their feet somewhat wooded, and by seeming not over hard to pass over. The next day they entered them by a pass marked with the token, which led them about by a winding way till they were on the side of the biggest fell of all; so there they res... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph awoke from some foolish morning dream of Upmeads, wondering where he was, or what familiar voice had cried out his name: then he raised himself on his elbow, and saw Ursula standing before him with flushed face and sparkling eyes, and she was looking out seaward, while she called on his name. So he sprang up and strove with the slumber that still hung about him, and as his eyes cleared he looked down, and saw that the sea, which last night had washed the face of the cliff, had now ebbed far out, and left bare betwixt the billows and the cliff some half mile of black sand, with rocks of the like hue rising out of it here and there. But just below the place where they stood, right up against the cliff, was builded by man's hand of huge stones a garth of pound, the wall whereof was some seven feet high, and the pound within the wall of forty feet space endlong and overthwart; and the said pound was filled with the waters of a spring that came forth from the face of the cliff... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Long they slept till the shadows were falling from the west, and the sea was flowing fast again over the sands beneath them, though there was still a great space bare betwixt the cliff and the sea. Then spake Ursula as if Ralph had but just left speaking; and she said: "Yea, dear lord, and I also say, that, lovely as thou art now, never hast thou been aught else but lovely to me. But tell me, hast thou had any scar of a hurt upon thy body? For if now that were gone, surely it should be a token of the renewal of thy life. But if it be not gone, then there may yet be another token." Then he stood upon his feet, and she cried out: "O but thou art fair and mighty, who now shall dare gainsay thee? Who shall not long for thee?" Said Ralph: "Look, love! how the sea comes over the sand like the creeping of a sly wood-snake! Shall we go hence and turn from the ocean-sea without wetting our bodies in its waters?" "Let us go," she said. So they... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow morning they armed them and took to their horses and departed from that pleasant place and climbed the mountain without weariness, and made provision of meat and drink for the Dry Desert, and so entered it, and journeyed happily with naught evil befalling them till they came back to the House of the Sorceress; and of the Desert they made little, and the wood was pleasant to them after the drought of the Desert. But at the said House they saw those kind people, and they saw in their eager eyes as in a glass how they had been bettered by their drinking of the Well, and the Elder said to them: "Dear friends, there is no need to ask you whether ye have achieved your quest; for ye, who before were lovely, are now become as the very Gods who rule the world. And now methinks we have to pray you but one thing, to wit that ye will not be overmuch of Gods, but will be kind and lowly with them that needs must worship you." They laughed on him for kindness... (From : Marxists.org.)

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It was on a fair evening of later autumn-tide that they won their way out of the Gates of the Mountains, and came under the rock of the Fighting Man. There they kissed and comforted each other in memory of the terror and loneliness wherewith they had entered the Mountains that other time; though, sooth to say, it was to them now like the reading of sorrow in a book. But when they came out with joyful hearts into the green plain betwixt the mountains and the River of Lava, they looked westward, and beheld no great way off a little bower or cot, builded of boughs and rushes by a blackthorn copse; and as they rode toward it they saw a man come forth therefrom, and presently saw that he was hoary, a man with a long white beard. Then Ralph gave a glad cry, and set spurs to his horse and galloped over the plain; for he deemed that it could be none other than the Sage of Swevenham; and Ursula came pricking after him laughing for joy. The old man abode their coming, and Ralph... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Thus with no peril and little pain they came to the Sage's hermitage; and whereas the autumn was now wearing, and it was not to be looked for that they should cross even the mountains west of Goldburg, let alone those to the west of Cheaping Knowe, when winter had once set in, Ralph and Ursula took the Sage's bidding to abide the winter through with him, and set forth on their journey again when spring should be fairly come and the mountain ways be clear of snow. So they dwelt there happily enough; for they helped the Sage in his husbandry, and he enforced him to make them cheer, and read in the ancient book to them, and learned them as much as it behooved them to hearken; and told them tales of past time. Thereafter when May was at hand they set out on their road, and whereas the Sage knew the wood well, he made a long story short by bringing them to Vale Turris in four days' time. But when they rode down into the dale, they saw the plain meads below the T... (From : Marxists.org.)

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So in a while they went with him to the Tower, and there was woman's raiment of the best gotten for Ursula, and afterwards at nightfall they went to the feast in the Red Pavillion of Utterbol, which awhile ago the now-slain Lord of Utterbol had let make; and it was exceeding rich with broidery of pearl and gems: since forsooth gems and fair women were what the late lord had lusted for the most, and have them he would at the price of howsoever many tears and groans. But that pavilion was yet in all wise as it was wont to be, saving that the Bull had supplanted the Bear upon the Castle-wall. Now the wayfarers were treated with all honor and were set upon the high-seat, Ralph upon the right-hand of the Lord, and Ursula upon his left, and the Sage of Swevenham out from her. But on Ralph's right hand was at first a void place, whereto after a while came Otter, the old Captain of the Guard. He came in hastily, and as though he had but just taken his armor off: for his raime... (From : Marxists.org.)

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"When thou rannest away from me, and left me alone at Goldburg, I was grieved; then Clement Chapman offered to take me back with him to his own country, which, he did me to wit, lieth hard by thine: but I would not go with him, since I had an inkling that I should find the slayer of my brother and be avenged on him. So the Chapmen departed from Goldberg after that Clement had dealt generously by me for thy sake; and when they were gone I bethought me what to do, and thou knowest I can some skill with the fiddle and song, so I betook myself to that craft, both to earn somewhat and that I might gather tidings and be little heeded, till within awhile folk got to know me well, and would often send for me to their merry-makings, where they gave me fiddler's wages, to wit, meat, drink, and money. So what with one thing what with another I was rich enough to leave Goldburg and fall to my journey unto Utterbol; since I misdoubted me from the first that the caytiff who had slain my brothe... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow when they arose, Ralph heard the sound of horses and the clashing of arms: he went to the window, and looked out, and saw how the spears stood up thick together at the Tower's foot, and knew that these were the men who were to be his fellows by the way. Their captain he saw, a big man all-armed in steel, but himseemed that he knew his face under his sallet, and presently saw that it was Redhead. He was glad thereof, and clad himself hastily, and went out a-doors, and went up to him and hailed him, and Redhead leaped off his horse, and cast his arms about Ralph, and made much of him, and said: "It is good for sore eyes to see thee, lord; and I am glad at heart that all went well with thee that time. Although, forsooth, there was guile behind it. Yet whereas I wotted nothing thereof, which I will pray thee to believe, and whereas thou hast the gain of all, I deem thou mayst pardon me." Said Ralph: "Thou hast what pardon of me thou needest; so be content... (From : Marxists.org.)

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They slept in no house that night nor for many nights after; for they were now fairly on the waste. They bore with them a light tent for Ursula's lodging benights, and the rest of them slept on the field as they might; or should they come to a thicket or shaw, they would lodge them there softly. Victual and drink failed them not, for they bore what they needed on sumpter-horses, and shot some venison on the way withal. They saw but few folk; for the most part naught save a fowler of the waste, or a peat-cutter, who stood to look on the men-at-arms going by, and made obeisance to the token of Utterbol . But on a time, the fifth day of their journey, they saw, in the morning, spears not a few standing up against a thicket-side in the offing. Redhead looked under the sharp of his hand, and laughed as though he were glad, and said: "I know not clearly what these may be, but it looketh like war. Now, knight, this is best to do: hold with thee three of our best men, so th... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Next day they went forth through the country wherethrough Morfinn had led Ralph into captivity; and Redhead rode warily; for there were many passes which looked doubtful: but whether the ill men feared to meddle with them, or however it were, none waylaid them, and they all came safely to the gate of Goldburg, the towers whereof were full of folk looking forth on them. So they displayed their pennon, and rode into the street, where folk pressed about them in friendly wise; for the new Lord of Utterbol had made firm and fast peace with Goldburg. So they rode to the hostel, and gat them victual, and rested in peace that night. But Ralph wondered whether the Queen would send for him when she heard of his coming back again, and he hoped that she would let him be; for he was ashamed when he thought of her love for him, and how that he had clean forgotten her till he was close to Goldburg again. But when morning was come Ralph spake to Redhead and asked him how he should d... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Toward evening comes Redhead, and tells Ralph how he hired him a dozen men-at-arms to follow him well-weaponed to Cheaping Knowe: withal he counseled him to take a good gift with him to that same town to buy the good will of the King there; who was a close-fist and a cruel lord. Afterwards they sat together in the court of that fair house before good wine, Ralph and Ursula, and Redhead and the Sage of Swevenham, and spake of many things, and were merry and kind together. But on the morrow Redhead departed from Goldburg with his men, and he loathe to depart, and they gave him farewell lovingly. Thereafter Ralph's new men came to him in the hostelry, and he feasted them and did well to them, so that they praised him much. Then he gat him victuals and sumpter-horses for the journey, and bought good store of bows and arrows withal. Furthermore he took heed to Redhead's word and bought a goodly gift of silver vessel and fine cloth for the King of Cheaping Knowe. (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow Ralph got his men together betimes and rode out a-gates, and was little afraid that any should meddle with him within the town or anigh it, and even so it turned out. But Michael rode in the company new clad, and with his head and face all hidden in a wide sallet. As for Ralph and Ursula, they were exceeding glad, and now that their heads were turned to the last great mountains, it seemed to them that they were verily going home, and they longed for the night, that they might be alone together, and talk of all these matters in each others' arms. When they were out a-gates, they rode for two miles along the highway, heedlessly enough by seeming, and then, as Michael bade, turned suddenly into a deep and narrow lane, and forth on, as it led betwixt hazelled banks and coppices of small wood, skirting the side of the hills, so that it was late in the afternoon before they came into the Highway again, which was the only road leading into the passes of the mou... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow early they all fared on together, and thereafter they went for two days more till they came into a valley amid of the mountains which was fair and lovely, and therein was the dwelling or town of this Folk of the Fells. It was indeed no stronghold, save that it was not easy to find, and that the way thither was well defensible were foemen to try it. The houses thereof were artless, the chiefest of them like to the great barn of an abbey in our land, the others low and small; but the people, both men and women, haunted mostly the big house. As for the folk, they were for the more part like those whom they had met afore: strong men, but not high of stature, black-haired, with blue or gray eyes, cheerful of countenance, and of many words. Their women were mostly somewhat more than comely, smiling, kind of speech, but not suffering the caresses of aliens. They saw no thralls among them; and when Ralph asked hereof, how that might be, since they were men-catchers, they... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph and Ursula, with the Sage and Michael-a-dale went their ways, and all was smooth with them, and they saw but few folk, and those mild and lowly. At last, of an afternoon, they saw before them afar off the towers and pinnacles of Whitwall, and Ralph's heart rose within him, so that he scarce knew how to contain himself; but Ursula was shy and silent, and her color came and went, as though some fear had hold of her. Now they two were riding on somewhat ahead of the others, so Ralph turned to Ursula, and asked what ailed her. She smiled on him and said: "A simple sickness. I am drawing nigh to thy home, and I am ashamed. Beyond the mountains, who knew what and whence I was? I was fair, and for a woman not unvaliant, and that was enough. But now when I am coming among the baronages and the lineages, what shall I do to hold up my head before the fools and the dastards of these high kindreds? And that all the more, my knight, because thou art changed since yester-year, and si... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Herewith they were come to a little thorp where the way sundered, for the highway went on to Whitwall, and a byway turned off to Swevenham. Thereby was a poor hostel, where they stayed and rested for the night, because evening was at hand. So when those four had eaten and drunk there together, Ralph spoke and said: "Michael-a-dale, thou art for Swevenham to-morrow?" "Yea, lord," said Michael, "belike I shall yet find kindred there; and I call to thy mind that I craved of thee to lead me to Swevenham as payment for all if I had done aught for thy service." "Sooth is that," said Ralph, "thou shalt go with my good-will; and, as I deem, thou shalt not lack company betwixt here and Swevenham, whereas our dear friend here, the friend of thy father's father, is going the same road." Then the Sage of Swevenham leaned across the board, and said: "What word hath come out of thy mouth, my son?" Said Ralph, smiling on him: "It is the last word which we have heard fr... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But when they were well on the way, and riding a good pace by the clear of the moon, Richard spake to Ralph, and said: "Wither ride we now?" said Ralph: "Wither, save to Upmeads?" "Yea, yea," said Richard, "but by what road? shall we ride down to the ford of the Swelling Flood, and ride the beaten way, or take to the downland and the forest, and so again by the forest and downland and the forest once more, till we come to the Burg of the Four Friths?" "Which way is the shorter?" said Ralph. "Forsooth," said Richard, "by the wildwood ye may ride shorter, if ye know it as I do." Quoth the Sage: "Yea, or as I do. Hear a wonder! that two men of Swevenham know the wilds more than twenty miles from their own thorp." Said Ralph: "Well, wend we the shorter road; why make more words over it? Or what lion lieth on the path? Is it that we may find it hard to give the go-by to the Burg of the Four Friths?" Said Richard: "Though the Burg be not very far... (From : Marxists.org.)

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On the morrow betimes they got to the road again; the country at first, though it was scanty of tillage, was not unfurnished of sheep, being for the most part of swelling hills and downs well grassed, with here and there a deep cleft in them. They saw but few houses, and those small and poor. A few shepherds they fell in with, who were short of speech, after the manner of such men, but deemed a greeting not wholly thrown away on such goodly folk as those wayfarers. So they rode till it was noon, and Richard talked more than his wont was, though his daily use it was to be of many words: nor did the Sage spare speech; but Ursula spoke little, nor heeded much what the others said, and Ralph deemed that she was paler than of wont, and her brows were knitted as if she were somewhat anxious. As for him, he was grave and calm, but of few words; and whiles when Richard was wordiest he looked on him steadily for a moment whereat Richard changed countenance, and for a while sti... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When they rode on next morning Ralph was few-spoken, and seemed to heed little so long as they made good speed on the way: most of the talk was betwixt Richard and the Sage, Ralph but putting in a word when it would have seemed churlish to forbear. So they went their ways through the wood till by then the sun was well westering they came out at the Water of the Oak, and Richard drew rein there, and spake: "Here is a fair place for a summer night's lodging, and I would warrant both good knight and fair lady have lain here aforetime, and wished the dark longer: shall we not rest here?" Ralph stared at him astonished, and then anger grew in his face for a little, because, forsooth, as Richard and the Sage both wotted of the place of the slaying of the Lady, and he himself had every yard of the way in his mind as they went, it seemed but due that they should have known of this place also, what betid there: but it was not so, and the place was to Richard like an... (From : Marxists.org.)

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So much had they tarried over this greeting and feasting, that though they had hoped to have come to the hermit's house that night, he of whom that folk had told them, it fell not so, whereas the day had aged so much ere they left the Plain of Abundance that it began to dusk before they had gone far, and they must needs stay and await the dawn there; so they dight their lodging as well as they might, and lay down and slept under the thick boughs. Ralph woke about sunrise, and looking up saw a man standing over him, and deemed at first that it would be Richard or the Sage; but as his vision cleared, he saw that it was neither of them, but a new comer; a stout carle clad in russet, with a great staff in his hand and a short-sword girt to his side. Ralph sprang up, still not utterly awake, and cried out, "Who art thou, carle?" The man laughed, and said: "Yea, thou art still the same brisk lad, only filled out to something more warrior-like than of old. But it is unmeet... (From : Marxists.org.)

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There is naught to tell of their ways till they came out of the thicket into the fields about the Burg of the Four Friths; and even there was a look of a bettering of men's lives; though forsooth the husbandmen there were much the same as had abided in the fields aforetime, whereas they were not for the most part freemen of the Burg, but aliens who did service in war and otherwise thereto. But, it being eventide, there were men and women and children, who had come out of gates, walking about and disporting themselves in the loveliness of early summer, and that in far merrier guise than they had durst do in the bygone days. Moreover, there was scarce a sword or spear to be seen among them, whereat Roger grudged somewhat, and Richard said: "Meseems this folk trusts the peace of the Burg overmuch since, when all is told, unpeace is not so far from their borders." But as they drew a little nigher Ralph pointed out to his fellows the gleam of helms and weapons on the wall... (From : Marxists.org.)

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When it was morning Ralph arose and went into the hall of the hostelry, and even as he entered it the outside door opened, and in came Roger, and Richard with him (for he had been astir very early) and Roger, who was armed from head to foot and wore a coat of the Dry Tree, cried out: "Now, Lord, thou wert best do on thy war-gear, for thou shalt presently be captain of an host." "Yea, Roger," quoth Ralph, "and hast thou done well?" "Well enough," said Richard; "thine host shall not be a great one, but no man in it will be a blencher, for they be all champions of the Dry Tree." "Yea," quoth Roger, "so it was that Stephen a-Hurst brought me to a company of my old fellows, and we went all of us together to the Captain of the Burg (e'en he of the Dry Tree, who in these latest days is made captain of all), and did him to wit that thou hadst a need; and whereas he, as all of us, had heard of the strokes that thou struckest in the wood that day when thy happiness first began,... (From : Marxists.org.)

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It was as Ursula had deemed, and they made for Higham by the shortest road, so that they came before the gate a little before sunset: to the very gate they came not; for there were strong barriers before it, and men-at-arms within them, as though they were looking for an onfall. And among these were bowmen who bended their bows on Ralph and his company. So Ralph stayed his men, and rode up to the barriers with Richard and Stephen a-Hurst, all three of them bare-headed with their swords in the sheaths; and Stephen moreover bearing a white cloth on a truncheon. Then a knight of the town, very bravely armed, came forth from the barriers and went up to Ralph, and said: "Fair sir, art thou a knight?" "Yea," said Ralph. Said the knight, "Who be ye?" "I hight Ralph of Upmeads," said Ralph, "and these be my men: and we pray thee for guesting in the town of my Lord Abbot to-night, and leave to depart to-morrow betimes." "O unhappy young man," said the knight, "meseems thes... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph asked Hugh first if he wotted aught of Gregory their brother. Hugh laughed and pointed to Higham, and said: "He is yonder." "What," said Ralph, "in the Abbot's host?" "Yea," said Hugh, laughing again, "but in his spiritual, not his worldly host: he is turned monk, brother; that is, he is already a novice, and will be a brother of the Abbey in six months' space." Said Ralph: "And Launcelot Long-tongue, thy squire, how hath he sped?" Said Hugh: "He is yonder also, but in the worldly host, not the spiritual: he is a sergeant of theirs, and somewhat of a catch for them, for he is no ill man-at-arms, as thou wottest, and besides he adorneth everything with words, so that men hearken to him gladly." "But tell me," said Ralph, "how it befalleth that the Abbot's men of war be so churlish, and chary of the inside of their town; what have they to fear? Is not the Lord Abbot still a mighty man?" Hugh shook his head: "There hath been a change of days at Higham; though I say not b... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But an hour after midnight Ralph arose, as his purpose was, and called Richard, and they took their swords and went forth and about the thorp and around its outskirts, and found naught worse than their own watch any where; so they came back again to their quarters and found Roger standing at the door, who said to Ralph: "Lord, here is a man who would see thee." "What like is he?" said Ralph. Said Roger "He is an old man, but a tough one; however, I have got his weapons from him." "Bring him in," said Ralph, "and he shall have his say." So they all went into the chamber together and there was light therein; but the man said to Ralph: "Art thou the Captain of the men-at-arms, lord?" "Yea," said Ralph. Said the man, "I were as lief have these others away." "So be it," said Ralph; "depart for a little while, friends." So they went but Ursula lay in the bed, which was in a nook in the wall; the man looked about the chamber and said: "Is there any one in the bed?" "Yea,... (From : Marxists.org.)

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But while they spake thus and were merry, the dawn had wellnigh passed into daylight. Then Ralph bade old Giles sleep for an hour, and went forth and called Roger and Richard and went to the great barn. There he bade the watch wake up Stephen and all men, and they gat to horse as speedily as they might, and were on the road ere the sun was fully up. The spearmen of the thorp did not fail them, and numbered twenty and three all told. Giles had a horse given him and rode the way by Ralph. They rode up and down the hills and dales, but went across country and not by the Greenway, for thuswise the road was shorter. But when they had gone some two leagues, and were nigh on top of a certain low green ridge, they deemed that they heard men's voices anigh and the clash of arms; and it must be said that by Ralph's rede they journeyed somewhat silently. So Ralph, who was riding first with Giles, bid all stay and let the crown of the ridge cover them. So did they, a... (From : Marxists.org.)

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In about an hour all the folk within the castle began to set toward the ingle wherein lay Ralph and his fellows, and then all rose up, while the folk of the Shepherds took their places on the slopes of the earth walls, but on the top hard by the fire, which was still burning, stood up an old hoar man with a beard exceeding long; he had a sallet on his head, and held a guisarme in his hand. All men held their peace when they saw him standing there; and straightway he proclaimed the hallowing of the Mote in such form of words as was due among that folk, and which were somewhat long to tell here. Then was silence again for a little, and then the old man spake: "Few words are best to-day, neighbors; for wherefore are we met together? There arose a hum of assent from the Shepherds as he spoke and men clashed their weapons together; but none said any clear word. Then spake the old man: "We be met together because we have trouble on hand, and because there is a helper to hand, of whom... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Thus went they, and naught befell them to tell of till they came anigh the gates of Wulstead hard on sunset. The gates, it has been said; for whereas Ralph left Wulstead a town unwalled, he now found it fenced with pales, and with two towers strongly framed of timber, one on either side the gate, and on the battlements of the said towers they saw spears glittering; before the gate they saw a barrier of big beams also, and the gleaming of armor therein. Ralph was glad when he saw that they meant some defense; for though Wulstead was not in the lands of Upmeads, yet it was always a friendly neighbor, and he looked to eke out his host therein. Wulstead standeth on a little hill or swelling of the earth, and the road that the company of Ralph took went up to the gate across the plain meadows, which had but here and there a tree upon them, so that the going of the company was beheld clearly from the gate; as was well seen, because anon came the sound of the blowing of great... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Thus came they into the market-place of Wulstead nigh to Clement's house, and there the company stood in ordered ranks. Ralph looked round about half expecting to see his gossip standing in the door; but Clement smiled and said: "Thou art looking round for thy gossip, fair sir; but she is upon the north gate in war-gear; for we be too few in Wulstead to spare so clean-limbed and strong-armed a dame from our muster; but she shall be here against thou comest back from the Austin Canons, wither forsooth thou mayst go at once if thou wilt let me be master in the matter of lodging." Said Ralph, smiling: "Well, Ring of Wulstead, since thou givest leave I will e'en take it, nor needest thou give me any guide to the House of St. Austin, for I know it well. Sweetheart," said he, turning to Ursula, "what sayest thou: wilt thou come with me, or abide till to-morrow, when I shall show thee to my kinsmen?" "Nay," she said, "I will with thee at once, my lord, if thou wilt be kind and take me... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph went straight from St. Austin's to Clement's house, and found much people about the door thereof, what of the townsmen, what of the men of his own host. He passed through these, and found Clement in his chamber, and with him a half score of such company as was without, and among them Roger and the Sage; but Stephen and Richard both were among their men doing what was needful. All men arose when Ralph entered; but he looked around, and could see naught of his gossip among them. Then he sat down by Clement and asked if he had any fresh tidings; and Clement did him to wit that there had come in a carle from out of Upmeads, who had told them by sure tokens that the foe were come into the Upmeads-land at noon that day, and between then and sunset had skirmished with Nicholas and them that were holding the High House, but had gotten naught thereby. This man, said Clement, being both bold and of good sleight had mingled with the foe; and had heard the talk of them, and he said tha... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Katherine cast friendly looks on them and said: "Gossip, and thou, Clement, I will make a clean breast of it once for all. In the days when I was first wedded to Master Clement yonder, he found his bed cold without me, for he was a hot lover; therefore would he often have me with him on his journeys, how hard soever or perilous the way might be. Yea, Clement, thou lookest the sooth, though thou sayest it not, I was naught loathe thereto, partly because I would not grieve thee, my man; but partly, and belike mostly, because I was wishful to see the ways of the world even at the risk of being thrust out of the world. So it befell us on a time to make a journey together, a journey exceeding long, in the company of certain chapmen, whereof some, and not a few, died on the way. But we lived, and came into the eastern parts of the earth to a city right ancient, and fulfilled of marvels, which hight Sarras the Holy. There saw we wonders whereof were it overlong to tell of here; but o... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Before it was light were all men come into the market-place, and Ralph and Richard and Clement and Stephen a-Hurst fell to and arrayed them duly; and now, what with the company which Ralph had led into Wulstead, what with the men of the town, and them that had fled from Upmeads (though these last were mostly old men and lads), they were a thousand and four score and three. Ralph would go afoot as he went yesterday; but today he bore in his hand the ancient staff of war, the gold-written guisarme; and he went among the Shepherds, with whom were joined the feeble folk of Upmeads, men whom he had known of old and who knew him, and it was as if their hearts had caught fire from his high heart, and that whatever their past days had been to them, this day at least should be glorious. Withal anon comes Ursula from St. Austin's with the Sage of Swevenham, whose face was full smiling and cheerful. Ursula wore that day a hauberk under her gown, and was helmed with a sallet; and because of... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Short was the road back again to Wulstead, and whereas the day was not very old when Ralph came there, he failed not to stop at Clement's house, and came into the chamber where sat Dame Katherine in pensive wise nigh to the window, with her open hands in her lap. Quoth Ralph: "Rejoice, gossip! for neither is Clement hurt, nor I, and all is done that should be done." She moved her but little, but the tears came into her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "What, gossip?" quoth Ralph; "these be scarce tears of joy; what aileth thee?" "Nay," said Katherine, "indeed I am joyful of thy tidings, though sooth to say I looked for none other. But, dear lord and gossip, forgive me my tears on the day of thy triumph; for if they be not wholly of joy, so also are they not wholly of sorrow. But love and the passing of the days are bittersweet within my heart to-day. Later on thou shalt see few faces more cheerful and merry in the hall at Upmeads than this of thy gossip's. So be merry now, and... (From : Marxists.org.)

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Ralph speedily came to Richard's house and entered the chamber, and found Ursula alone therein, clad in the daintiest of her woman's gear of the web of Goldburg. She rose up to meet him, and he took her in his arms, and said: "Now is come the very ending of our journey that we so often longed for; and all will be ready by then we come to the High House." "Ah," she said, as she clung to him, "but they were happy days the days of our journey; and to-morrow begins a new life." "Nay," he said, "but rather this even; shall it be loathly to thee, lady?" She said: "There will be many people whom I knew not yesterday." "There will be but me," he said, "when the night hath been dark for a little." She kissed him and said naught. And therewithal came some of Richard's folk, for it was his house, and led with them a white palfrey for Ursula's riding, dight all gay and goodly. "Come then," said Ralph, "thou needest not to fear the anc... (From : Marxists.org.)

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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 rumor of h... (From : Marxists.org.)

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