Stephen departed on that errand; and presently comes Giles and another of the Shepherds with a like tale, and had a like answer.
Now amidst all these deeds it yet lacked an hour of noon. So presently Ralph arose and took Richard apart for a while and spoke with him a little, and then came back to Ursula and took her by the hand, and said: “Beloved, Richard shall take thee now to a pleasant abode this side the water; for I grudge that thou shouldst enter the High House without me; and as for me I must needs ride back to Wulstead to bring hither my father and mother, as I promised to do after the battle. In good sooth, I deemed it would have lasted longer.” Said Ursula: “Dear friend, this is even what I should have bidden thee myself. Depart speedily, that thou mayst be back the sooner; for sorely do I long to enter thine house, beloved.” Then Ralph turned to Nicholas, and said: “Our host is not so great but that thou mayst victual it well; yet I deem it is little less than when we left Wulstead early this morning.”
“True is that, little lord,” said Nicholas. “Hear a wonder amongst battles: of thy Shepherds and the other footmen is not one slain, and but some five hurt. The Champions have lost three men slain outright, and some fifteen hurt; of whom is thy brother Hugh, but not sorely.” “Better than well is thy story then,” said Ralph. “Now let them bring me a horse.” So when he was horsed, he kissed Ursula and went his ways. And she abode his coming back at Richard’s house anigh the water.
Ralph Brings His Father and Mother to Upmeads
Short was the road back again to Wulstead, and whereas the day was not very old when Ralph came there, he failed not to stop at Clement’s house, and came into the chamber where sat Dame Katherine in pensive wise nigh to the window, with her open hands in her lap. Quoth Ralph: “Rejoice, gossip! for neither is Clement hurt, nor I, and all is done that should be done.” She moved her but little, but the tears came into her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. “What, gossip?” quoth Ralph; “these be scarce tears of joy; what aileth thee?” “Nay,” said Katherine, “indeed I am joyful of thy tidings, though sooth to say I looked for none other. But, dear lord and gossip, forgive me my tears on the day of thy triumph; for if they be not wholly of joy, so also are they not wholly of sorrow. But love and the passing of the days are bittersweet within my heart to-day. Later on thou shalt see few faces more cheerful and merry in the hall at Upmeads than this of thy gossip’s. So be merry now, and go fetch thy father and thy mother, and rejoice their hearts that thou hast been even better than thy word to them. Farewell, gossip; but look to see me at Upmeads before many days are past; for I know thee what thou art; and that the days will presently find deeds for thee, and thou wilt be riding into peril, and coming safe from out of it. Farewell!”