Ralph Sees His Father and Mother Again
Thus came they into the market-place of Wulstead nigh to Clement’s house, and there the company stood in ordered ranks. Ralph looked round about half expecting to see his gossip standing in the door; but Clement smiled and said: “Thou art looking round for thy gossip, fair sir; but she is upon the north gate in war-gear; for we be too few in Wulstead to spare so clean-limbed and strong-armed a dame from our muster; but she shall be here against thou comest back from the Austin Canons, wither forsooth thou mayst go at once if thou wilt let me be master in the matter of lodging.” Said Ralph, smiling: “Well, Ring of Wulstead, since thou givest leave I will e’en take it, nor needest thou give me any guide to the House of St. Austin, for I know it well. Sweetheart,” said he, turning to Ursula, “what sayest thou: wilt thou come with me, or abide till to-morrow, when I shall show thee to my kinsmen?” “Nay,” she said, “I will with thee at once, my lord, if thou wilt be kind and take me; for meseemeth I also have a word to say to thy father, and the mother that bore thee.”
“And thou, Hugh,” said Ralph, “what sayest thou?” “Why, brother,” said Hugh, “I think my blessing will abide the morrow’s morn, for I have nought so fair and dear to show our father and mother as thou hast. Also to-morrow thou wilt have more to do; since thou art a captain, and I but a single varlet.” And he smiled a little sourly on Ralph; who heeded it little, but took Ursula’s hand and went his way with her.
It was but a few minutes for them to come to the House of the Canons, which was well walled toward the fields at the west of the town, so that it was its chief defence of that side. It was a fair house with a church but just finished, and Ralph could see down the street its new white pinnacles and the cross on its eastern gable rising over the ridge of the dortoir. They came to the gate, and round about it were standing men-at-arms not a few, who seemed doughty enough at first sight; but when Ralph looked on them he knew some of them, that they were old men, and somewhat past warlike deeds, for in sooth they were carles of Upmeads. Him they knew not, for he had somewhat cast down the visor of his helm; but they looked eagerly on the fair lady and the goodly knight.
So Ralph spake to the porter and bade him show him where was King Peter of Upmeads and his Lady wife; and the porter made him obeisance and told him that they were in the church, wherein was service toward; and bade him enter. So they went in and entered the church, and it was somewhat dim, because the sun was set, and there were many pictures, and knots of flowers in the glass of the windows.
So they went halfway down the nave, and stood together there; and the whole church was full of the music that the minstrels were making in the rood-loft, and most heavenly sweet it was; and as Ralph stood there his heart heaved with hope and love and the sweetness of his youth; and he looked at Ursula, and she hung her head, and he saw that her shoulders were shaken with sobs; but he knew that it was with her as with him, so he spake no word to her.