But this last warning he could no more understand than I. It was his thought that it was meant for me rather than himself.
“You will have to take heed to any Welshman you meet,” he said, “and as you are warned that should be no very difficult matter. No Briton can ever pretend to be a Saxon.”
I do not think that there is more to be said of that meeting, though indeed I would willingly dwell on it. Mayhap it will be plain why I would do so presently, for I left him bright and happy in his old place, with nought but the distance from the foster son whom he loved to trouble him.
But when I rode away again the sorrow of that parting fell heavily on me, and I could not shake it off. It seemed to me that I would not see Owen again, though why it so seemed I could not tell. If I had any thought of danger to myself I should have cared little, so it was not that. I wonder if one can feel “fey” for another man if he is dear to you as no other can be?
CHAPTER XI. HOW ERPWALD FELL FROM CHEDDAR CLIFFS; AND OF ANOTHER WARNING.
In the coming week, after I had thus taken leave of Owen, my friend Herewald, the ealdorman, would have a hunting party before we all left him and Glastonbury for Winchester, and so it came to pass that on the appointed day a dozen of us rode with a train of men and hounds after us along the westward slopes of the Mendips in the direction of Cheddar, rousing the red deer from the warm woodlands of the combes where they love to hide. We had the slow-hounds with us, and that, as it seems to me, is better sport than with the swift gaze-hounds I rode after on the Welsh hills with Eric. It is good to hear the deep notes of them as they light on the scent of the quarry in the covers, and to see them puzzle out a lost line in the open, and to ride with the crash and music of the full pack ahead of one in the ears, as the deer doubles no longer, but trusts to speed for escape.
Those who were with us were friends of mine and of the ealdorman, and there were three ladies in the party—one of these being, of course, Elfrida.
Erpwald was in close attendance on her, a matter which was taken for granted by every one at this time. He was to go with the court to Winchester, and thence he and I would ride to Eastdean.
So we hunted through the forenoon, taking one deer, and then rode onward until we came to the place where the great Cheddar gorge cleaves the Mendips across from summit to base, sheer and terrible. The village lies at the foot of the gorge on the western side of the hills, half sheltered between the first cliffs of the vast chasm, but on the hillside above is a deep cover that climbs upward to the summit, and it was said that a good deer had been harboured there.
So presently, while the hounds were drawing this wood below us, I and Elfrida and Erpwald found ourselves together and waiting on the hilltop at the edge of the gorge. I was almost sorry to make a third in that little party, but Erpwald knew nothing of the country, and Elfrida had no more skill in matters of time and place and distance than most ladies, which is not saying much, in all truth, though I hardly should dare to set it down, save by way of giving a reason for my presence with so well contented a party of two.