Then I fell silent, for I liked not this subject at any time—still less from Uldra. And I think that she saw that I was displeased at her questioning, for after a little while she said shyly:
“I think that I have asked you too closely about your affairs. Forgive me—women are anxious about such matters.”
“It is a trouble to me, lady,” I said, hardening my heart lest I should say too much; “but I can see no further than the coming warfare. When that is ended there will be time for me to think more thereof. But, as I have said, I believe that Hertha wishes that she were not bound.”
Now I had almost said “even as I wish,” but I stopped in time.
“Now, whether that is so or not, she should think well of you for your faith kept to her,” Uldra said, and there was a little shake in her voice as of tears close at hand.
Then I knew that if she kept faith with me as I with her—though this was in a poor way enough—I must think well of her also. Wherefore, being obliged thus to think of one another, it would be likely enough that there would be pretence of love on both sides—and so things would be bad. Whereupon the puzzle in my mind grew more tangled yet, and I waxed savage, being so helpless.
And all the while those two words that came to me as I talked to Relf grew plainer, and seemed to ring in my ears unspoken, “Landless and luckless—landless and luckless,” for that was what it all came to.
Then Uldra looked at me and saw the trouble in my face, and took what seemed to her to be the only way to help me.
“You cannot think of these matters now, Redwald,” she said softly. “It is well for a warrior that he has none who is bound to him so closely that he must ever think of her. It is well for Hertha that she knows not what peril you are in—that she cannot picture you to herself—”
She stopped with a sob that she could not check, and stayed her walk as if she had tripped. I turned to her, and put out my hand, and she leant on my arm with both hers for a moment, hanging her head down, and I thought she was faint, for my pace had quickened. So I waited till she raised her head again, longing to help her more and yet not daring to do so, lest I should give way altogether and say all I would. And then I said:
“Let me set you on the horse—you are weary with keeping step with me.”
She shook her head, but she said nothing, and so I lifted her and set her in the saddle, and the colour came back to her face.
“Thanks, thane,” she said, “I am very foolish. I have been setting myself in your Hertha’s place—as if she knew aught of you now. Aye, it is better as it is for both of you, as things must be for a while.”
And I thought to myself:
“Would that you were in Hertha’s place;” and then this other thought, “She says right—landless and luckless am I, and there is none to trouble about me—nor shall there be.”