“Yea, art thou for Higham, fair sir?” said the Captain. “That is well; for ye may get men therefrom, and at the least it is like that ye shall hear tidings: as to my men and their horses, this hath been looked to. For five hundred good men of the Wheat-wearers, men who have not learned the feat of arms a-horseback, are coming through the woods hither to help ward thy castle, fair lord; they will be here in some three hours’ space and will bring horses for thy five score men, therefore do ye but ride softly to Higham and if these sergeants catch up with you it is well, but if not, abide them at Higham.”
“Thanks have thou for this once more,” said Ralph; “and now I have no more word than this for thee; that I will come to thee at thy least word, and serve thee with all that I have, to my very life if need be. And yet I must say this, that I wot not why ye and these others are become to me, who am alien to you, as very brothers.” Said the Captain: “There is this to be said of it, as was aforesaid, that all we count thy winning of the Well at the World’s End as valiancy in thee, yea, and luck withal. But, moreover, she who was Our Lady would have had thee for her friend had she lived, and how then could we be less than friends to thee? Depart in peace, my friend, and we look to see thee again in a little while.”
Therewith he kissed him, and bade farewell; and Ralph bade his band to horse, and they were in the saddle in a twinkling, and rode away from Hampton at a soft pace.
But as they went, Ralph turned to Ursula and said: “And now belike shall we see Bourton Abbas once more, and the house where first I saw thee. And O how sweet thou wert! And I was so happy and so young.”
“Yea,” she said, “and sorely I longed for thee, and now we have long been together, as it seemeth; and yet that long space shall be but a little while of our lives. But, my friend, as to Bourton Abbas, I misdoubt me of our seeing it; for there is a nigher road by the by-ways to Higham, which these men know, and doubtless that way we shall wend: and I am glad thereof; for I shall tell thee, that somewhat I fear that thorp, lest it should lay hold of me, and wake me from a dream.”
“Yea,” said Ralph, “but even then, belike thou shouldst find me beside thee; as if I had fallen asleep in the ale-house, and dreamed of the Well at the World’s End, and then awoke and seen the dear barefoot maiden busying her about her house and its matters. That were naught so ill.”
“Ah,” she said, “look round on thy men, and think of the might of war that is in them, and think of the deeds to come. But O how I would that these next few days were worn away, and we yet alive for a long while.”
They Come to the Gate of Higham By the Way