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HOME > Classical Novels > The Well at the World's End > CHAPTER 24 Supper and Slumber in the Woodland Hall
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CHAPTER 24 Supper and Slumber in the Woodland Hall
 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 honoured guests. So the hearts of both were cheered, and nothing loth 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 left hand with her right forefinger, and let the thumb meet it, so that it made a circle about them, and she spake something therewith in a low voice, but he heeded it little, save as he did all ways that her body moved. As for the Knight of the Sun, he was looking down on the grass as one pondering matters, and noted this not. But he said presently: "What hast thou to say of Walter now? Shall he live?" "Yea," she said, "maybe as long as either of you twain." The knight looked hard at Ralph, but said nothing, and Ralph heeded not his looks, for his eyes were busy devouring the Lady.
So they abode a little, and the more part of what talk there was came from the Lady, and she was chiefly asking Ralph of his home in Upmeads, and his brethren and kindred, and he told her all openly, and hid naught, while her voice ravished his very soul from him, and it seemed strange to him, that such an one should hold him in talk concerning these simple matters and familiar haps, and look on him so kindly and simply. Ever and anon would she go and look to the welfare of the wounded man, and come back from him (for they sat a little way aloof), and tell them how he did. And still the Knight of the Sun took little heed, and once again gloom settled down on him.
Amidst all this the sun was set, and the long water lay beneath the heavens like a sheet of bright, fair-hued metal, and naught stirred it: till at last the Lady leaned forward to Ralph, and touched his shoulder (for he was sitting over against her, with his back to the water), and she said: "Sir Knight, Sir Knight, his wish is coming about, I believe verily." He turned his head to look over his shoulder, and, as if by chance-hap, his cheek met the outstretched hand she was pointing with: she drew it not away very speedily, and as sweet to him was the touch of it as if his face had been brushed past by a summer lily.
"Nay, look! something cometh," she cried; and he looked and saw a little boat making down the water toward the end anigh them. Then the Knight of the Sun seemed to awake at her word, and he leapt to his feet, and stood looking at the new comer.
It was but a little while ere the boat touched the shore, and a man stepped out of it on to the grass and made it fast to the bank, and then stood and looked about him as if seeking something; and lo, it was a holy man, a hermit in the habit of the Blackfriars.
Then the Knight of the Sun hastened down to the strand to meet him, and when Ralph was thus left alone with the Lady, though it were but for a little, his heart beat and he longed sore to touch her with his hand, but durst not, and did but hope that her hand would stray his way as it had e'en now. But she arose and stood a little way from him, and spake to him sweetly of the fairness of the evening, and the wounded man, and the good hap of the friar's coming before nightfall; and his heart was wrung sore with the love of her.
So came the knight up from the strand, and the holy man with him, who greeted Ralph and the Lady and blessed them, and said: "Now, daughter, show me thy sick man; for I am somewhat of a leech, and this thy baron would have me heal him, and I have a right good will thereto."
So he went to the Black Knight, and when he had looked to his hurts, he turned to them and said: "Have ye perchance any meat in the wilderness?" "Yea," quoth the Knight of the Sun; "there is enough for a day or more, and if we must needs abide here longer, I or this young man may well make shift to slay some deer, great or little, for our sustenance and the healing of my friend."
"It is well," said the Friar; "my hermitage is no great way hence, in the thicket at the end of this water. But now is the fever on this knight, and we may not move him ere morning at soonest; but to-morrow we may make a shift to bear him hence by boat: or, if not, then may I go and fetch from my cell bread and other meat, and milk of my goats; and thus shall we do well till we may bring him to my cell, and then shall ye leave him there; and afterwards I will lead him home to Sunway where thou dwellest, baron, when he is well enough healed; or, if he will not go thither, let him go his ways, and I myself will come to Sunway and let thee wot of his welfare."
The knight yeasaid all this, and thereafter the Friar and the Lady together tended the wounded knight, and gave him water to drink, and wine. And meanwhile Ralph and the Knight of the Sun lay down on the grass and watched the eve darkening, and Ralph marvelled at his happiness, and wondered what the morrow would bring forth.
But amidst his happy thoughts the Knight of the Sun spake to him and said: "Young knight, I have struck a bargain with her that thou shalt follow us home, if thou wilt: but to say sooth, I think when the bargain was struck I was minded when I had thee at Sunway to cast thee into my prison. But now I will do otherwise, and if thou must needs follow af............
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