Of Ursula and the Bear
It befell on a fair sunny morning of spring, that Ralph sat alone on the toft by the rock-house, for Ursula had gone down the meadow to disport her and to bathe in the river. Ralph was fitting the blade of a dagger to a long ashen shaft, to make him a strong spear; for with the waxing spring the bears were often in the meadows again; and the day before they had come across a family of the beasts in the sandy bight under the mountains; to wit a carle, and a quean with her cubs; the beasts had seen them but afar off, and whereas the men were two and the sun shone back from their weapons, they had forborne them; although they were fierce and proud in those wastes, and could not away with creatures that were not of their kind. So because of this Ralph had bidden Ursula not to fare abroad without her sword, which was sharp and strong, and she no weakling withal. He bethought him of this just as he had made an end of his spear-shaping, so therewith he looked aside and saw the said sword hanging to a bough of a little quicken-tree, which grew hard by the door. Fear came into his heart therewith, so he arose and strode down over the meadow hastily bearing his new spear, and girt with his sword. Now there was a grove of chestnuts betwixt him and the river, but on the other side of them naught but the green grass down to the water’s edge.
Sure enough as he came under the trees he heard a shrill cry, and knew that it could be naught save Ursula; so he ran thitherward whence came the cry, shouting as he ran, and was scarce come out of the trees ere he saw Ursula indeed, mother-naked, held in chase by a huge bear as big as a bullock: he shouted again and ran the faster; but even therewith, whether she heard and saw him, and hoped for timely help, or whether she felt her legs failing her, she turned on the bear, and Ralph saw that she had a little axe in her hand wherewith she smote hardily at the beast; but he, after the fashion of his kind, having