Ralph blushed red, and said: “Nay, I will not ask her this.” Then he was silent; the new-comer looked from one to the other, and said nothing. At last Ralph spake: “Look you, Clement, my friend, I wot well how thou wouldst make my goings safe, even if it were to thy loss, and I thank thee for it: but I deem I shall do no better than putting myself into this man’s hands, since he has a let-pass for the lands of him of Utterbol: and meseemeth from all that I have heard, that a half score or a score, or for the matter of that an hundred men-at-arms would not be enough to fight a way to Utterbol, and their gathering together would draw folk upon them, who would not meddle with two men journeying together, even if they had no let-pass of this mighty man.” Clement sighed and grunted, and then said: “Well, lord, maybe thou art right.”
“Yea,” said the guide, “he is as right as may be: I have not spoken before lest ye might have deemed me untrusty: but now I tell thee this, that never should a small band of men unknown win through the lands of the Lord of Utterbol, or the land debatable that lieth betwixt them and Goldburg.”
Ralph nodded friendly at him as he spake; but Clement looked on him sternly; and the man beheld his scowling face innocently, and took no heed of it.
Then said Ralph: “As to Bull Shockhead, I will speak to him anon; but I will not take him with me; for indeed I fear lest his mountain-pride grow up over greenly at whiles and entangle me in some thicket of peril hard to win out of.”
“Well,” said Clement, “and when wilt thou depart?” “To-morrow,” said Ralph, “if my faring-fellow be ready for me by then.” “I am all ready,” said the man: “if thou wilt ride out by the east gate about two hours before noon to-morrow, I will abide thee on a good horse with all that we may need for the journey: and now I ask leave.” “Thou hast it,” said Clement.
So the man departed, and those two being left alone, Master Clement said: “Well, I deemed that nothing else would come of it: and I fear that thy gossip will be ill-content with me; for great is the peril.” “Yea,” said Ralph, “and great the reward.” Clement smiled and sighed, and said: “Well, lad, even so hath a many thought before thee, wise men as well as fools.” Ralph looked at him and reddened, and departed from him a little, and went walking in the cloister there to and fro, and pondered these matters; and whatever he might do, still would that trim figure be before his eyes which he had looked on so gladly erewhile in the hostel of Bourton Abbas; and he said aloud to himself: “Surely she needeth me, and draweth me to her whether I will or no.” So wore the day.
The Beginning of the Road To Utterbol