She gave him the letter into his hands, and spake again: “And now I have this to say to thee, if anything go amiss with thee, and thou be nigh enough to seek to me, come hither, and then, in whatso plight thou mayst be, or whatsoever deed thou mayst have done, here will be the open door for thee and the welcome of a friend.”
Her voice shook a little as she spake, and she was silent again, mastering her trouble. Then she said: “At last I must say this to thee, that there may no lie be between us. That damsel of whom thou spakest that she was but thy friend, and not thy love—O that I might be thy friend in such-wise! But over clearly I see that it may not be so. For thy mind looketh on thy deeds to come, that they shall be shared by some other than me. Friend, it seemeth strange and strange to me that I have come on thee so suddenly, and loved thee so sorely, and that I must needs say farewell to thee in so short a while. Farewell, farewell!”
Therewith she arose, and once more she took his hand in hers, and led him to the door. And he was sorry and all amazed: for he had not thought so much of her before, that he might see that she loved him; and he thought but that she, being happy and great, was kind to him who was hapless and homeless. And he was bewildered by her words and sore ashamed that for all his grief for her he had no speech, and scarce a look for her; he knew not what to do or say.
So he left the Queen’s House and the court thereof, as though the pavement were growing red hot beneath his feet.
Ralph Hath Hope of Tidings Concerning the Well at the World’s End
Now he goes to Clement, and tells him that he deems he has no need to abide their departure from Goldburg to say farewell and follow his quest further afield; since it is clear that in Goldburg he should have no more tidings. Clement laughed and said: “Not so fast, Lord Ralph; thou mayst yet hear a word or two.” “What!” said Ralph, “hast thou heard of something new?” Said Clement: “There has been a man here seeking thee, who said that he wotted of a wise man who could tell thee much concerning the Well at the World’s End. And when I asked him of the Damsel and the Lord of Utterbol, if he knew anything of her, he said yea, but that he would keep it for thy privy ear. So I bade him go and come again when thou shouldst be here. And I deem that he will not tarry long.”
Now they were sitting on a bench outside the hall of the hostel, with the court between them and the gate; and Ralph said: “Tell me, didst thou deem the man good or bad?” Said Clement: “He was hard to look into: but at least he looked not a fierce or cruel man; nor indeed did he seem false or sly, though I take him for one who hath lost his manhood— but lo you! here he comes across the court.”
So Ralph looked, and saw in sooth a man drawing nigh, who came straight up to them and lowted to them, and then stood before them waiting for their word: he was fat and somewhat short, white-faced and pink-cheeked, with yellow hair long and curling, and with a little thin red beard and blue eyes: altogether much unlike the fashion of men of those parts. He was clad gaily in an orange-tawny coat laced with silver, and broidered with colours.