But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke

time:2023-12-06 13:35:38source:Song and dance networkauthor:science

Goldilind rode on, hastening yet to put as many miles as she might betwixt her and Greenharbour. Within a three hours from her bathing she fell a-hungering sore, and knew not what to do to eat, till she found a pouch made fast to the saddle-bow, and therein a little white loaf, that and no more, which she took and ate the half of with great joy, sitting down by a brook-side, whence she had her drink.

But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke

Then again she mounted, and rode on till dusk overtook her just as she came to a little river running from the north from pool to shallow, and shallow to pool. And whereas she was now exceeding weary, and the good horse also much spent, and that the grass was very sweet and soft down to the water's edge, and that there was a thick thorn-bush to cover her, she made up her mind that this place should be her bed-chamber. So she took saddle and bridle off the horse, as he must needs bite the grass, and then when she had eaten the other half of her bread, she laid her down on the green grass, with her head on the saddle, and when she had lain listening to the horse cropping the grass close anigh her for a minute or two, she fell fast asleep, and lay there long and had no dreams.

But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke


But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke

When she awoke it was broad day and bright sun, and she rose up to her feet and looked about, and saw the horse standing close by, and sharing the shade with her, whisking his tail about lazily. Then she turned, and saw the stream rippling out from the pool over the clean gravel, and here and there a fish darting through the ripple, or making clean rings on the pool as he quietly took a fly; the sky was blue and clear, there was scarce a breath of air, and the morning was already hot; no worse than yesterday sang the birds in the bushes; but as she looked across the river, where, forsooth, the alders grew thick about the pool's edge, a cock blackbird, and then another, flew out from the close boughs, where they had been singing to their mates, with the sharp cry that they use when they are frighted. Withal she saw the bush move, though, as aforesaid, the morning was without wind. She had just stooped to do off her foot-gear (for she was minded to bathe again), but now she stopped with one shoe in her hand, and looked on the bushes keenly with beating heart, and again she thought she saw the boughs shaken, and stood, not daring to move a while; but they moved no more now when she had looked steadily at them a space, and again a blackbird began singing loud just where they had been shaken. So she gathered heart again, and presently turned her hand once more to stripping her raiment off her, for she would not be baulked of her bath; but when the stripping was done, she loitered not naked on the bank as she had done the day before, but walked swiftly into the shallow, and thence down into the pool, till nothing but her head and the whiteness of her shoulders showed over the dark water. Even then she turned her head about twice to look into the over-side bushes, but when she saw nothing stir there she began to play in the water, but not for long, but came splashing through the shallow and hurried on her raiment.

When she was clad again she went up to the horse, and patted and caressed him, and did bridle and saddle on him, and was going to climb upon him, when, of a sudden, she thought she would lead him across, lest there should be a hole near the other bank and he might stumble into it unwarily; so she bared her feet once more and trussed up her gown skirts, and so took the ford, leading the beast; the water was nowhere up to mid-leg of her, and she stepped ashore on to short and fine grass, which spread like a meadow before her, with a big thorn or two scattered about it, and a little grassy hill beset with tall elms toward the top, coming down into the flat of the meadow and drawing round it nearly up to the river on the north side.

But now she stood staring in wonder and some deal of fear; for there were three milch kine feeding on the meadow, and, moreover, under a thorn, scarce a hundred yards from where she stood, was a tall man standing gazing on her. So stricken was she that she might neither cry out nor turn aside; neither did she think to pull her gown out of her girdle to cover the nakedness of her legs.

When they had thus stood a little while the man began to move toward her very slowly, nor did she dare to flee any the more. But when he was within half a dozen paces her face flushed red, and she did pull her gown out of its trusses and let it flow down. But he spake to her in a pleasant voice, and said: "May I speak to thee, maiden?"

Fear was yet in her soul, so that she might not speak for a little, and then she said: "O, I beseech thee, bring me not back to Greenharbour!" And she paled sorely as she spake the word.

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