“Stand up,” said Sir Andrew, “and let me look at you.”
So they stood side by side in the full light of the blazing fire, for little other came through those narrow windows.
“Proper men; proper men,” said the old knight; “and as like to one another as two grains of wheat from the same sample. Six feet high, each of you, and broad chested, though Wulf is larger made and the stronger of the two. Brown and waving-haired both, save for that line of white where the sword hit yours, Godwin—Godwin with grey eyes that dream and Wulf with the blue eyes that shine like swords. Ah! your grandsire had eyes like that, Wulf; and I have been told that when he leapt from the tower to the wall at the taking of Jerusalem, the Saracens did not love the light which shone in them—nor, in faith, did I, his son, when he was angry. Proper men, the pair of you; but Sir Wulf most warriorlike, and Sir Godwin most courtly.”
“Now which do you think would please a woman most?”
“That, sir, depends upon the woman,” answered Godwin, and straightway his eyes began to dream.
“That, sir, we seek to learn before the day is out, if you give us leave,” added Wulf; “though, if you would know, I think my chance a poor one.”
“Ah, well; it is a very pretty riddle. But I do not envy her who has its answering, for it might well trouble a maid’s mind, neither is it certain when all is done that she will guess best for her own peace. Would it not be wiser, then, that I should forbid them to ask this riddle?” he added as though to himself and fell to thinking while they trembled, seeing that he was minded to refuse their suit.
At length he looked up again and said: “Nay, let it go as God wills Who holds the future in His hand. Nephews, because you are good knights and true, either of whom would ward her well—and she may need warding—because you are my only brother’s sons, whom I have promised him to care for; and most of all because I love you both with an equal love, have your wish, and go try your fortunes at the hands of my daughter Rosamund in the fashion you have agreed. Godwin, the elder, first, as is his right; then Wulf. Nay, no thanks; but go swiftly, for I whose hours are short wish to learn the answer to this riddle.”
So they bowed and went, walking side by side. At the door of the hall, Wulf stopped and said:
“Rosamund is in the church. Seek her there, and—oh! I would that I could wish you good fortune; but, Godwin, I cannot. I fear me that this may be the edge of that shadow of woman’s love whereof you spoke, falling cold upon my heart.”
“There is no shadow; there is light, now and always, as we have sworn that it should be,” answered Godwin.
Twas past three in the afternoon, and snow clouds were fast covering up the last grey gleam of the December day, as Godwin, wishing that his road was longer, walked to Steeple church across the meadow. At the door of it he met the two serving women coming out with brooms in their hands, and bearing between them a great basket filled with broken meats and foul rushes. Of them he asked if the Lady Rosamund were still in the church, to which they answered, curtseying: