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The Water of the Wondrous Isles, by William Morris, [1897], at


When the morrow was they arose and went their ways toward the wood, and Birdalone in her hunter's coat, quiver at back and bow in hand. They came to the Oak of Tryst, and Birdalone was at point to call on the wood-wife by the burning of a hair of hers, when she came lightly from out the thicket, clad as Birdalone, and her very image.  She stood before them with a glad countenance, and said:  Welcome to the seekers and finders.  But Arthur stepped forth and knelt before her, and took her right hand and kissed it, and said:  Here I swear allegiance to thee, O Lady of the Woods, to do thy will in all things, and give thee thanks from my heart more than my tongue can say.

Quoth the wood-wife:  I take thine allegiance, fair young man, and mine help shalt thou have henceforward.  Then she smiled and her eyes danced for merriment, and she said:  Yet thy thanks meseemeth for this while are more due to the wise carline who brought thee through the woods two days ago, and only left thee when the way was easy and clear to thee.

Lady, said Arthur, I know now how great is thy might, and that thou canst take more shapes than this only; and humbly I thank thee that for us thou hast taken the shape that I love the best of all on the earth.

Said the wood-wife:  Stand up, Black Squire, and consider a little what thou wouldst have me do for thee, while I have speech with mine image yonder.  And therewith she came up to Birdalone, and drew her a little apart, and fell to stroking her cheeks and patting her hands and diversely caressing her, and she said to her:  How now, my child, have I done for thee what I promised, and art thou wholly happy now? O yea, said Birdalone; if nought else befell us in this life but to dwell together betwixt the woodland and the water, and to see thee oft, full happy should we be.

Nevertheless, said Habundia, art thou not come hither to ask somewhat of me, that ye may be happier?  So it is, wise mother, said Birdalone; grudge not against me therefor, for more than one thing drives me thereto.  I will not grudge, said the wood-wife; but now I will ask thy mate if he has thought what it is that he will have of me.  And she turned to Arthur, who came forth and said:  Lady, I have heard thee, and herein would we have thee help us:  There were erst six fellows of us, three caries and three queans, to whom was added this sweetling here; but one of them, to wit the Golden Knight, was slain, and for the rest . . .  Yea, I know, said the wood-wife; my child here hath told me all; and now ye wot not where they are or if they be yet alive, all or any of them.  Now is it not so that ye would seek these friends, if it were but to greet them but once, and that ye would ask of the wise wood-wife help to find them?  Is there any more of the tale?  Nay, lady, said Arthur.

Said she:  Well then, that help shall ye have, were it but for the sake of that little Viridis whereof my child hath told me.  Wherefore abide tidings of me for a fourteen days, and seek not to me ere then; and meantime fear not, nor doubt me, for many messengers I have, and ever may I do somewhat if the end of the tale is to be told in these woodlands:  and I deem these friends will not be hard to draw hither, for it is most like that they be thinking of you and longing for you, as ye for them.  And now I will depart on my business, which is yours, and do ye be happy to-day in the woodland, and to-morrow in the meadows and by the water; and let no trouble weigh down your happy days.

Therewith she flitted away from them, when she had kissed them both. But when she was gone they fared away together deep into the wood, and were exceeding merry disporting them, and on their return they gat them venison for their meat, and so came back to the House of Love when the moon was up and shining brightly.


Next: Chapter XXXI. Habundia Cometh with Tidings of Those Dear Friends