his chest and belly and back like so many tongueless mouths,

time:2023-12-06 12:42:28source:Song and dance networkauthor:news

And again great was the shouting, for carle and quean, young and old, they loved Christopher well: and Jack of the Tofts was not only their war-duke and alderman, but their wise man also, and none had any thought of gainsaying him. But he spake again and said: "Is there here any old man, or not so old, who hath of past days seen our King that was, King Christopher to wit, who fell in battle on our behalf? If so there be, let him come up hither."

his chest and belly and back like so many tongueless mouths,

Then arose a greybeard from a bench nigh the high-table, and came up on to the dais; a very tall man had he been, but was now somewhat bowed by age. He now knelt before Christopher, and took his hand, and said: "I, William of Whittenham, a free man, a knight, sackless of the guilt which is laid on me, would be thy man, O my lord King, to serve thee in all wise; if so be that I may live to strike one stroke for my master's son, whom now I see, the very living image of the King whom I served in my youth."

his chest and belly and back like so many tongueless mouths,

Then Christopher bent down to him and kissed him, and said: "Thou art indeed my man and my thane & my baron; and who knows but that thou mayst have many a stroke to strike for me in the days that are nigh at hand."

his chest and belly and back like so many tongueless mouths,

And again the people shouted: and then there came another and another, and ten more squires and knights and men of estate, who were now indeed woodmen and wolf-heads, but who, the worst of them, were sackless of aught save slaying an unfriend, or a friend's unfriend, in fair fight; and all these kneeled before him, and put their hands in his, and gave themselves unto him.

When this was done, there came thrusting through the throng of the hall a tall woman, old, yet comely as for her age; she went right up on to the dais, and came to where sat Christopher, and without more ado cast her arms about him and kissed him, and then she held him by the shoulders and cried out: "O, have I found thee at last, my loveling, and my dear, and my nurse-chick? and thou grown so lovely and yet so big that I may never more hold thee aloft in mine arms, as once I was wont; though high enough belike thou shalt be lifted; and I say praise be to God and to his Hallows that thou art grown so beauteous and mighty a man!"

Therewith she turned about toward the hall-throng and said: "Thou, duke of these woodmen, and all ye in this hall, I have been brought hither by one of you; and though I have well-nigh died of joy because of the suddenness of this meeting, yet I thank him therefor. For who is this goodly and gracious young man save the King's son of Oakenrealm, Christopher that was; and that to my certain knowledge; for he is my fosterling and my milk-child, and I took him from the hands of the midwife in the High House of Oakenham a twenty-one years ago; and they took him from Oakenham, and me with him to the house of Lord Richard the Lean, at Longholms, and there we dwelt; but in a little while they took him away from Longholms to I wot not whither, but would not suffer me to go along with him, and ever sithence have I been wandering about and hoping to see this lovely child again, and now I see him, what he is, and again I thank God and Allhallows therefor."

Once more then was there stir and glad tumult in the hall. But Goldilind stood wondering, and fear entered into her soul; for she saw before her a time of turmoil and unpeace, and there seemed too much between her and the sweetness of her love. Withal it must be said, that for as little as she knew of courts and war-hosts, she yet seemed to see lands without that hall, and hosts marching, and mighty walls glittering with spears, and the banners of a great King displayed; and Jack of the Tofts and his champions and good fellows seemed but a frail defence against all that, when once the hidden should be shown, and the scantiness of the woodland should cry on the abundance of the kingdom to bow down.

Now she came round the board and stood beside Christopher, and he turned to her, and stood up and took her hand, in such wise that she felt the caress of it; and joy filled her soul, as if she had been alone with him in the wild-wood.

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