The Water of the Wondrous Isles, by William Morris, , at sacred-texts.com
CHAPTER VI. OF THE TALK BETWIXT BIRDALONE AND VIRIDIS
When she woke again, she had slept the night away, and it was broad day, and for a moment she lay wondering what was the burden upon her; but presently she called it all to mind, and deemed it were well might she forget it all again. Anon she became aware of someone moving about the chamber, and she looked about unhappily; and lo! a woman, fair and dainty, clad all in green, and it was Viridis that had come there. But when she saw Birdalone stirring, she came up to her and kissed her sweetly and kindly, and wept over her, so that Birdalone might nowise refrain her tears. But when she might cease weeping, she said to Viridis: Tell me, art thou weeping for thy friend who is lost, and who shall be thy friend no more; or thy friend whom thou hast found? Said Viridis: Forsooth I have wept for Baudoin plenteously, and he is worthy of it, for he was valiant and true and kind. Said Birdalone: True is that; but I meant not my question so; but rather I would ask thee if thou weepest because thine heart must needs cast me away, or because thou hast found me again? Quoth Viridis: Whoso may be dead, or whoso alive, but if it were Hugh, my loveling, I were rejoiced beyond measure to find thee, my friend. And again she kissed her as one who was glad and kind. But for new rest of soul and for joy, Birdalone fell a-weeping afresh.
Again she spake: And what mind have the others about me? For thou art but one, though the dearest, save . . . And would they punish me for my fault and folly that has slain the best man in the world? If the punishment be short of putting me forth of their fellowship, I were fain thereof.
Viridis laughed: Forsooth, she said, they have much to punish thee for! whereas it was by thy doing and thy valiance that we all came together again and the Quest was accomplished. Nay, but tell me, said Birdalone, what do they say of me, each one of them?
Viridis reddened; she said: Hugh, my mate, saith all good of thee; though no one of carl-folk may be sorrier of the loss of his fellow. Aurea layeth not the death of her man upon thee; and she saith: When the fountain of tears is dried up in me, I will see her and comfort her, as she me. Atra saith: she saith but little, yet she saith: So is it fated. I had done belike no better, but worse than she.
Now turned Birdalone red and then pale again, and she said, but in a quavering voice: And the Black Squire, Arthur, what sayeth he? Said Viridis: He sayeth nought of thee, but that he would hear all the tale of what befell thee in the Black Valley. Sweet friend, said Birdalone, I pray thee of thy kindness and sweetness that thou go unto him presently and bring him in hither, and then I will tell him all; and he and thou and I together.
Viridis said: There is this to be said, that when a man loveth a woman he coveteth her, to have her all wholly to himself, and hard and evil he groweth for the time that he misdoubteth her whom he loveth. And I will tell thee that this man is jealous lest thou wert never so little kind to the slain stranger knight whose head the tyrant hung about thee. Furthermore, I fear there is no help for it that thou wilt undo the happiness of one of us, that is Atra; yet were it better that that befell later than sooner. And if Sir Arthur come in here to thee, and hath thy tale with none beside save me, meseems the poor Atra will feel a bitter smart because of it. Were it not better that we all meet presently in the solar, and that there thou tell thy tale to us all? and thereafter shall we tell the tale of our deliverance and our coming hither. And thus doing, it will seem less like to the breaking up of our fellowship.
Said Birdalone: It will be hard for me to tell my tale before Atra and before him. Might it not be that thou hearken to it here and now, and tell it to the others hereafter? Nay, nay, said Viridis, I am not a proper minstrel to take the word out of thy mouth. Never shall I be able to tell it so that they shall trow it as if they had seen it all. Besides, when all is told, then shall we be more bound together again. I pray thee, and I pray thee, sweet, do so much for me as to tell thy tale to the fellowship of us. And if it be hard to thee, look upon it as my share of the punishment which is due to thee for falling into that mishap.
Smiled Birdalone ruefully, and said: So be it; and may the share of the others be as light as thine, sister. Yet soothly were I liefer that my body and my skin should pay the forfeit. But now, since I must needs do this, the sooner is the better meseemeth.
In a little half hour, said Viridis, will I bring what is left of our fellowship into the solar to hearken thee. So come thou there unto us when thou art clad. And hear thou! be not too meek and humble, and bow thyself to us in fear of our sorrow. For whereas thou didst speak of our punishing thee, there will be one there whom thou mayst easily punish to thy pleasure; forsooth, friend, I rue that so it is; but since it will not better be, what may I do but wish thee happy and him also.
Therewith she turned and went out of the chamber, and Birdalone, left to herself, felt a secret joy in her soul that she might not master, despite the sorrow of her friends, whatever it might be.