“But I was going to tell you this, if I may,” she said, “I will pray night and day that things may be well for you and yours in the end.”
“Aye, pray therefor, Uldra,” I answered, and thereafter we said no more, for the hall gates were before us, and the dogs came out to bid us welcome, and the thralls followed them to see who came. I helped her from the horse, and she smiled and went in.
Now, I saw Uldra no more that night, and Sexberga was unfriendly with me because Eldred still kept away. So I had my thoughts to myself while Relf slept as was his wont after supper, and the lady of the house turned her wheel as ever. I think that I would not wish any man to have such strange and sad thoughts as mine were at that time. There was nought of which I could be sure—save of Uldra’s friendship, and of that it were better not to think, maybe.
Chapter 14: The Last Great Battle.
Ten days after I spoke thus with Uldra I was at Berkeley with Wulfnoth and Godwine. That was in the third week in June, while I was on my honour not to fight for a month yet. I had parted from Uldra as from a dear friend and no more, though well I knew now that she was more than that to me. And there had been a look in her face, moreover, that bided with me, making me wretched and yet glad, for it told me that her thoughts were as mine. And more than that neither of us would show. The tide of war had hold of me, and whither it would drift me none could say. Nor did I lose much. I had nought to lose as it seemed to me.
As for the rest of those who were such good friends of mine at Penhurst, they had wished me hearty God-speeds, bidding me return again, and that soon. Eldred of Dallington and Sexberga stood hand in hand as I went, vowing that they would not be content till I returned for their wedding, for there was no trouble between them since the young thane had come in from his place one day as if nought had happened, calling me to walk with him when Sexberga had feigned to wish for none of his company. After which he had talked lightly of going to Wessex with the earl and me; and he had no further trouble. I know not what he said presently in private to Sexberga, but he was the one who led thereafter, and I think that the maiden was the happier that it was so. There are some maids who will seem to wish to rule, though they are longing all the while to be ruled.
So we came up the Severn river to Berkeley, passing the endless lines of Danish ships that lay along the strand below Anst cliffs and Oldbury. Cnut’s ship guard held the ancient fort in force, men said. His men boarded us, but Wulfnoth’s name was well known, and it was not Cnut’s plan to make an enemy of him. So we went on our way unhindered, and I bided, chafing sorely, in the great house where Wulfnoth lived in no state at all, as if he were but a rich franklin—gray clad and rough in ways and talk.