So the Prior gave him leave, loth though he were, and Ralph kissed his father and mother, and they blessed him. But Ursula said to him softly: “It is my meaning to go with thee down into Upmeads to-morrow; for who knoweth what may befall thee.” Then he smiled upon her and went his ways down the hall and out-a-gates, while all men looked on him and did him worship.
Ralph Holds Converse With Katherine His Gossip
Ralph went straight from St. Austin’s to Clement’s house, and found much people about the door thereof, what of the townsmen, what of the men of his own host. He passed through these, and found Clement in his chamber, and with him a half score of such company as was without, and amongst them Roger and the Sage; but Stephen and Richard both were amongst their men doing what was needful. All men arose when Ralph entered; but he looked around, and could see nought of his gossip amongst them. Then he sat down by Clement and asked if he had any fresh tidings; and Clement did him to wit that there had come in a carle from out of Upmeads, who had told them by sure tokens that the foe were come into the Upmeads-land at noon that day, and between then and sunset had skirmished with Nicholas and them that were holding the High House, but had gotten nought thereby. This man, said Clement, being both bold and of good sleight had mingled with the foe; and had heard the talk of them, and he said that they had no inkling of the Shepherds or the Dry Tree coming against them; but they looked to have aid from their own folk from the lands of Higham; wherefore they made a mock of the defence of the Upmeads’ men; and said that since, when they were all joined together in Upmeads, they might enter where they would without the loss of a half-score men, therefore they would risk nought now; nor would they burn either the High House or the other steadings, since, said they, they were minded to keep them sound and whole for their own.
These tidings seemed good to Ralph; so he took a cup of wine and pledged the company, and said: “My masters, such of you as list to sleep long to-night had best be abed presently, for I warn you that the trumpets will blow for departure before the sun riseth to-morrow; and he that faileth to see to-morrow’s battle will be sorry for his lack all his life long.”
When he had thus spoken they all cried hail to him, and anon arose and went their ways. Then Ralph bade Clement come with him that he might visit the quarters of his men-at-arms, and see that all the leaders knew of the muster, and of the order of departing on the morrow; and Clement arose and went with him.