But at last the night was grown as dark as it would be, since cloud and storm came not, for the moon had sunk down: so the Lady said: “Now, lords, our candle hath gone out, and I for my part will to bed; so let us each find a meet chamber in the woodland hall; and I will lie near to thee, father, and the wounded friend, lest I be needed to help thee in the night; and thou, Baron of Sunway, lie thou betwixt me and the wood, to ward me from the wild deer and the wood-wights. But thou, Swain of Upmeads, wilt thou deem it hard to lie anear the horses, to watch them if they be scared by aught?”
“Yea,” said the Knight of the Sun, “thou art Lady here forsooth; even as men say of thee, that thou swayest man and beast in the wildwood. But this time at least it is not so ill-marshalled of thee: I myself would have shown folk to chamber here in likewise.”
Therewith he rose up, and walked to and fro for a little, and then went, and sat down on a root of the oak-tree, clasping his knees with his hands, but lay not down awhile. But the Lady made herself a bed of the bracken which was over from those that Ralph had gathered for the bed of the wounded Knight; and the Friar lay down on the grass nigh to her, and both were presently asleep.
Then Ralph got up quietly; and, shamefacedly for very love, passed close beside the sleeping woman as he went to his place by the horses, taking his weapons and wargear with him: and he said to himself as he laid him down, that it was good for him to be quite alone, that he might lie awake and think at his ease of all the loveliness and kindness of his Lady. Howbeit, he was a young man, and a sturdy, used to lying abroad in the fields or the woods, and it was his custom to sleep at once and sweetly when he lay down after the day’s work had wearied him, and even so he did now, and was troubled by no dreams of what was past or to come.
The Road Unto Trouble
Ralph Meets With Love in the Wilderness
He woke up while it was yet night, and knew that he had been awakened by a touch; but, like a good hunter and warrior, he forebore to start up or cry out till sleep had so much run off him that he could tell somewhat of what was toward. So now he saw the Lady bending over him, and she said in a kind and very low voice: “Rise up, young man, rise up, Ralph, and say no word, but come with me a little way into the wood ere dawn come, for I have a word for thee.”
So he stood up and was ready to go with her, his heart beating hard for joy and wonder. “Nay,” she whispered, “take thy sword and war-gear lest ill befall: do on thine hauberk; I will be thy squire.” And she held his war-coat out for him to do on. “Now,” she said, still softly, “hide thy curly hair with the helm, gird thy sword to thee, and come without a word.”