CHAPTER XVII. HOW WILFRID AND HIS CHARGE MET JEFAN THE PRINCE.
Now I went straightway to Hilda with the news of her father, telling her that it seemed almost the best for us to trust to the word of the Welsh prince, and go to him, rather than to risk a journey hither for the thane if he was wounded.
“I trust you altogether, Wilfrid,” she said. “Take me to him. I know that you have bided here in sore risk for me, and maybe you also will be safer if once we are across the Wye. The Welsh are not the foes of East Anglia.”
I did not tell her that they were very much so of Wessex, on our western border; for at all events ours were Cornish, who had not so much to do with their brothers beyond the Channel here. So, having bidden her keep up heart, I sought the wife of the reeve, and would have given her gold to buy such things as she might think Hilda needed for travel.
“Dear heart!” she said, bridling, “set your gold back in your pouch. May not the reeve’s wife of Fernlea give of her plenty to one so fair and hapless? I will see to that in all good time.”
She stood by a great press against the wall, and as she spoke, as if by chance, she swung the door open, so that I had a glimpse of the mighty piles of homespun cloth and linen, her pride, which lay therein, Truly she had to spare, and I laughed.
“Mistress,” I said, “be not offended. I am in haste, for we must go hence tonight. There is no time for planning and cutting and making.”
She turned, swinging the heavy press door to and fro.
“Tonight!” she said, with wide eyes; “why so hasty?”
“Because her father lies wounded across the Wye, and we have to go to him. Maybe we shall have to ransom him.”
“Man,” she cried, “those Welsh are swarming beyond the river. Ken you what you are doing with this poor damsel?”
“Ay,” answered I plainly: “I am taking her out of the way of Quendritha and of Gymbert. I have the word of Jefan the prince for our safety.”
“Get to him,” she said at once, “get to him straightway; he is honest. And on my word, if Gymbert is the man you saved her from last night, there is no time to be lost.”
“He does not know where she has gone.”
“Did not,” she said. “By this time he kens well enough. Go, and all shall be ready.”
I thanked her heartily, for she was a friend in need in all truth. And then I sought her husband, and told him what we must do. I do not know if I were the more pleased or disquieted when he said much the same as his wife. He would have us go from the town after the gates were shut, and he himself would see us across the ford. Once beyond that he did not think there was any risk. Most likely Jefan and his men were on Dynedor hill fort, their nearest post to the river, for he had seen a fire there. What he did fear was that Gymbert had his spies in the town, and would beset all the roads.