“Beltane,” she whispered, “O Beltane of mine, now do I know thee indeed for a true man and noble knight! Such love as thine honoureth us both, so beloved, this night—within the hour, shalt thou wed with me, and I joy to hear thee call me—Wife!”
Therewith she turned and left him there upon his knees.
OF WHAT BEFELL AT BLAEN
Late though the hour, full soon the manor was astir; lights glimmered in the great hall where were gathered all the household of the Duchess, her ladies, her tire-women, the porters and serving men, even to the scullions—all were there, staring in wonderment upon the Duchess, who stood before them upon the dais in a rich habit of blue and silver and with her golden fillet on her brow.
“Good friends,” said she, looking round upon them happy-eyed, “hither have I summoned ye, for that this night, here before you all, ’tis my intent to wed this noble knight Beltane, son of Beltane Duke of Pentavalon aforetime, who shall henceforth be lord of me and of Mortain.”
Now did Winfrida the Fair start and therewith clench pink palms and look quick-eyed upon my Beltane, noting in turn his golden hair, his belt of silver and the great sword he bore: and, biting her red lip, she stooped her beauteous head, frowning as one in sudden perplexity.
“So now,” spake on the Duchess, “let us to the chapel where good Father Angelo shall give us heaven’s blessing upon this our union.”
“Lady,” said Godric, “Friar Angelo was summoned to the village this night, nor is he come again yet.”
“Then go fetch him,” sighed the Duchess, “and O, Godric, hasten!”
Thereafter turned she to the assemblage, gentle-eyed.
“Friends,” said she, “since I am greatly happy this night, so would I have ye happy likewise. Therefore I decree that such as are serfs among ye shall go free henceforth, and to such as are free will I give grants of land that ye may come to bless this night and remember it ever.”
But now, even as they fell on their knees, ’mid cries of gratitude and joyful acclaim, she, smiling and gracious, passed out of the hall: yet, as she went, beckoned the lady Winfrida to follow.
Being come into her chamber, all three, the Duchess sank down beside the open lattice and looked out upon the garden all bathed in the tender radiance of the moon. Anon she sighed and spake:
“My lady Winfrida, on this my wedding night a new life dawns for Mortain and for me, wherein old harms shall be forgiven and forgot, so come—kiss me, Winfrida.”
Then swiftly came the beauteous Winfrida to kneel at her lady’s feet, to clasp her lady’s slender hand, to kiss it oft and bathe it in her tears.
“O sweet my lady, am I indeed forgiven?”
“Aye, most truly.”
“Am I again thy loved companion and thy friend?”