The Widow's House by the Great Water

Early Draft of The Water of the Wondrous Isles

edited by Helen A. Timo [pdf]

Footnotes have been placed at the end of the tale. Footnotes for the text are numbered 13-74. For a version in which the footnotes appear after each page, click here.


ONCE upon a time there dwelt together two women, one a widow of middle-age, and the other a maiden her daughter; their house was as the dwelling of a yeoman-earl, a frame-house stout and strong, but not great; of one hall with two shut-beds out from it, and a loft above, if perchance a guest should come. {(Forsooth while the carline's husband was alive there was much plenty in that house, for be both worked what land he would himself, and had two swains who worked for him for hire; but he was now dead a long while, and the swains were gone, and the two women must work for themselves with such help as they got as a gift; whereof more hereafter.)}15

Now this house stood on the shore of a great water so that there was nought betwixt save a narrow wale of greensward and a strand of pebbles. That water was not of the sea, but, was sweet: nevertheless so great it was, that when one looked up it, that is to say westward, the southern shore presently melted away into the air & the water, and it was like looking out over the ocean. So it was as to the front of the house; but behind it, after a few closes of pasture & corn, there was the wild-wood without measure and with no high-way [19] through  it, nought  but doubtful tracks of the woodmen  or hunters[.]

To speak of the neighbours of this house, such were anywise withal [sic] call were but few indeed: First on the island, between which and the said house was some half mile of water, were two dwellings; one whereof was a religious house where abode three fathers of Black Monks16; this was where the isle swelled up into a pleasant green knoll environed by sweet chestnut and walnut trees and apple-trees withal and other orchard wood. The other was at the western end of the said isle amongst stones & rocks: a poor cot it was, and therein dwelt a father & son who fished the water, and were indeed little more than servants of the Fathers, though rough ones it might  be. This island lay a little South-East of the Widows [sic] House and was some six furlongs endlong and a furlong overthwart: an exceeding fair & goodly eyot it was.

Again three miles from the water, northward through the forest was the house of a forrester [sic]: hunter and wood­man he was: his wife was yet living: one son he had now come to manhood, hight Hubert, and a daughter of like age, and two other sons and a daughter all little children. Of these folk none save Hubert come much into this tale.

So much therefore of this Widow's House and the neighbours of it. For they who dwelt herein knew of none others that they might come at: though whiles came to them a stray Forrester, or a Fisher from somewhere along their shore of the water; but none, up to this time whereas the lake begins, from the other shore. It must be said that the folk in the dwellings aforesaid had no tidings of waylayers or violent men in the wood: and if they had a deeming of any wights save peaceful poor wood-men, it would be of such as were not of the children of Adam.


NOW must we tell of those two women, whereof the mother hight Joan and daughter Katherine.18  Joan was a woman of some forty years; tall strong and black-haired; not uncomely though she were worn by toil; for she was exceeding busy in such household matters as she had to do, and not easily wearied.* Katherine her daughter was tall and strong also and hale withal, as was no wonder, considering her roaming in the wild -wood, and her rowing on the waters, and whereas also there was no Jack of victual in the house even after the good man was dead: since forsooth there was no carle of the neigh ­ bours aforesaid who would not win a half-days [sic] work for the widow19 if she bade; and in especial the younger  men found it easier to work in the widow's closes than to toil in their own business.   For  though, as abovesaid, it were no wonder of Katherine being comely and hale, whereas both her father & mother had been fair to look on in their young days, forsooth a wonder it was to find such rare and delicate beauty as was hers in that20 wild and lonely place.  For indeed it was not only that she was as st raight as an arrow, as well-knit as the ten-year oak sapling in the close set coppice; as supple as the willow-branch in the wind; it was not only that her chin was round and her lips full & red, her eyes grey and open, her hair soft waving & silky-golden brown: nay nor that she was fash­ ioned, face and body, & limbs, as fine & delicate as might be: but she was to boot gentle & winning & alluring of all her [21] ways, and yet withal stately & proud as if she were a kings daughter to whose bidding all obeyed, and who was worshipped by the many men[?]21 of a great folk.22 Moreover her mother, who loved her sorely, and rejoiced in her fairness, would never have her win any rough or hard [?] work: she did as she would, whiles following a little the sheep or goats in the forest, whiles spinning what she would, or sitting at the loom, till it began to irk her never so little: but ever Joan would weary herself rather than her darling. She would not have her ragged and unkempt but looked to her raiment, and dight the long waves of her hair as if she were the tire-women of [?]23 a great*lady. Nor would she let her go barefoot, as such a maiden might well do, howsoever for her pleasure Katherine would at whiles have her naked feet feel the warm flowery grass of early summer, or would stand on some sandy bight of the lake and bid the ripple wash over them.

Thus she lived a life nowise hard or troublous, and though she saw but few folk, and they such as had no more tidings in their day than she, it must not be deemed for all the seeming pride of her beauty that she must needs hanker after great things and a striving life; for of such matters she knew nought. Moreover she would see the neighbours at other times than when they came to her mother's house. Whiles she would take their boat and row over to the Island, and foregather with Grim24, the young man of the two fishers, and she would go to the fishing with him, and she learned that craft of him; or she would go with him to the guest-chamber of the friary and talk with one or other of the fathers; or when, as whiles happened, guests came to her own house, and they were too many or over [22] grand for Joan to harbour, she would ferry them over to the Fathers, and sit with them a while in the guest-chamber, thinking no evil.

Whiles again she would go through the forest, fearing nought, to the home of Giles Forrester, and disport her with Hubert and his brothers and sisters, and she would go a hunting with the forester [sic], and he taught her to shoot in the bow, till she shot both strong and close.

But little of chaffer came that way; but whiles it did; a pedlar who knew all the woodland dwellings, as wide apart as they were, came there once in the year, and knew what to bring with him, & also what he should take away. Whiles also a stray chapman would chance upon the lake-side * and would show his wares, rather to pass the time than in any hope of selling aught; and it was of such folk and the friars of whom Katherine learned anything of the world of folk aloof from the Water, wherein tidings to be told of befel [sic]. She let them tell her what they would, but asked few questions about it; nor might any tell from her semblance, whether the thought of it troubled her mind in anywise.

And now it is to be said, that when this tale begins Katherine had seen her twentieth winter.


NOW must we tell of the full-grown carles among the neighbours of this house by the water, and first, as is due to their dignity, of the fathers of S Peters [sic] cell on the eyot. Father Eleutherius was the eldest, a man of some sixty winters, a little spare man with hair that had once been sandy red but was now grizzled; a man alert and eager; sharp of speech but kind of deed. It must be told of him that, monk and priest as he was, it was holiday to him when Katherine came over to the eyot, and that he could by no means keep his eyes off her beauty, and that his speech to her was both meek and kind.[22] Moreover he did not spare to make errands of one kind or another that should bring her thereto, or take him to her mother's house.

The second monk was Father Paul, a priest also; a tall raw-boned man, black-haired, with high cheek-bones and thin lips about a wide mouth; a hard-featured man; of few words, and those harsh and surly; and even such speech he gave to Katherine when they met; and by seeming he shunned the meeting of her, and would oft go out if she came in: Yet, sooth to say,, [sic] nothing bad altogether* pleased him save for her to be ever in his sight, & no one else within eyeshot.25

The  third  monk  was  Father  Aloys26,  a priest,  but  a young man of twenty five winters only; tall, wide shouldered, well knit, black-haired blue eyed [sic] and white skinned, with a face like to St Michael, as a good limner [?} would paint him; in short, a young man exceeding fair.27  So it was with him that whiles he would draw nigh to Katherine, if that were possible, and  hang about her, as one who  might  not  be drawn  away: otherwhiles he would  flee from her into the wild-woods,  and tear through them like a man possessed; and when that befel, it mostly ended in his casting himself on the ground, and tearing at the grass as he rolled amongst it, and his moaning & whining [23] and speaking strange & wild words to himself, and making manifest his anguish of mind in many ways.

As to the other carles on the island, they were but Peter the fisherman, and his son Grim; much alike were that father & son; men strong & handy but not very big; black-haired, of raven black, grey eyed, some what wild of aspect; exceeding few spoken, not easily moved to laughter, yet kind to all that was feeble and was not of their foemen. Peter was of forty five winters, Grim of twenty-three.

Peter would look long on Katherine when he had the chance; and his face brightened when he saw her; and when she went away, his countenance would fall, and be would sigh heavily; and then would stand looking on his son with knit brows and sadly: bu t nought his son gave back the look; or indeed at such times seemed to know that anyone was by.

But for Grim, his face changed little whether the maiden came or went; and no wonder is that, for in sooth he thought little of anything save her. But when he had occasion to speak with her, then was his voice all changed, and kind it was and caressing, and* as if he were taking care of some great treasure, or some much be-worshipped shrine beloved by many generations of the Folk.

Fare we now into the wood and the dwelling of Giles Forrester: a big-limbed man he was rough of voice but nowise of heart: belike he had been a good dealer in strokes had bis lot been cast amongst the warriors; for he was fearless, wilful, & masterful.

Nought surly he was, but full of talk and laughter, unless grief were heavy on him. He welcomed Katherine frankly and freely, and would not forbear kissing her when occasion served; yet in fatherly wise as he said. Yet was he somewhat ashamed thereof that her face seemed over sweet to him, whereas he had known her as a little child, and in some ways she was even such to him now. He was half way betwixt fifty & sixty of years(.)
Hubert, his son, was much like to him of body; yellow­haired, big-limbed, bright-faced.  A stout-heart, was he ever; [24] merry in outward seeming, not moody even amidst of griefs, as was well seen thereafter. He also was frank and free with the maiden; and yet as a brother, and circumspect of behavior with her so that no bystander had noted the burning of his deep love. For howsoever he were like his father to look on, he was far wiser of wits, and ever kept himself well within himself, till the time came wherein a deed must be done. Yet ever was his thought on the maiden, and he would dream and make up stories of him and her wherein he should be doing nobly amongst men and she to be by and praising his deed. And oft, the dreams would be of his doing some valiant service in the teeth of malice and fierceness, and he her very one and only helper. Forsooth he was of the stuff whereof the doughty are fashioned.28


IF it be asked how it was was betwixt Katherine and these said caries, it must be told that the loves wherewith they loved her had, no one of them, smitten home.

Father Paul she saw was sour & sullen; and she deemed that be somewhat lothed [sic] her; and he was ill-favoured to boot; so she thought little of him and that little, little kind.

Father Eleutherius she knew for a neighbourly kind man, & a serviceable; but he was not very wise, though he were somewhat strucken in years, and his much babble and his harsh voice like a young stare's wearied her at whiles.

Peter and Grim, she held for true friends; and for the most part, their few-wordiness was restful to her; though whiles [25] there were, when the sadness of them weighed on her heart, as the sadness which comes29 now and again on a happy child on an afternoon of summer, he knows not wherefore. Yet she turned herself to make them somewhat merrier; And [sic] often it seemed a happy time when she was far on the water in the fisher's (sic] coble, and she and Grim alone together. But then sometimes if [s)he had been looking away a little, and turned her bead suddenly, she would catch a strange look in his eyes which scared her, but the remembrance of which would presently be sweet to her heart and make it flutter somewhat; and that dear loving speech of his was pleasant to her, and she could not choose but take home its carresses (sic), any more than30 those of the south wind blowing over the spring flowers. Withal it must be said that of these two she saw more than any of the others, as they were the nighest to her, and wholly of her own degree.

As for the forester, it is of course that Giles was but as a half father to her; nor had she any misgiving of his foolishness, as he himself deemed it.

*Of Hubert she thought ever as a brother; but ever also it was a fresh joy to her to see his fair and friendly face bright with the joy of life, and eager with kindness towards her. And if sometimes she heartened up the fishers when the days of their life seemed empty and hapless, so did Hubert raise up her heart and clear the hours' cloud from it. Never any grief she had of him in those days, and many a pleasure and solace.

But if she saw little of the desire31 that stirred in the hearts of these late-named, she did at least know what Father Aloys would of her, and the coming of him made her afraid. Forsooth the stirrings of nature in her would somewhat bring her near to the birth of desire for him; for as aforesaid he was as beautiful as an angel; and withal he was a well-learned man, [26] and knew of more than lay in the Legendarium of the House for he had been among the great men and wise, and eager of the world, and could tell Katherine many a tale of wonder, whereby already she knew somewhat of the world wherein were many kinds of folk, & not monks & peasants only. Howsoever, though she was a little moved by this man's love, yet fear of what might befal mastered the feeble stirrings [sic) of desire in her, so that it was nowise hard for her to thrust aside the love of this luckless priest; ill therefore it befel [sic) him, for since she wotted which way he looked, would she, would she not, she might show him little of the frank kindness which flowed from her on to the others of them, saving always Brother Paul.

Furthermore, if no one of these sore longings came close to her, the whole heap of them together  troubled her little, for indeed she wetted little of them. Wherefore her life was as fair and joyous as that of a young hind making the most of grass & water, sun, wind, rain, and the fellowship of her fellows, in the days when no fleck marred her beauty[.]


About this time on an evening of early summer an hour before sunset there came a woman to the Widows [sic) door, and craved harbour. She was neither old or young of aspect, about forty, it might be: both by her hands and the whole fashion of her, and her gait and demeanour it was clear that she was not of them that labour with their hands. She was clad in seemly array of blue cloth and white wimple, but bedight with no gauds save that over her wimple she bore a circlet of gold & great gems, red & blue.

Now, as it fell, when she first came in, Katherine was yet on the water all by herself: so when the woman was set down to meat, such as the dame could give her, she turned to Joan and said: "I learned that there was a very fair woman in this house, and have come to see her: but if there be none other here than [27] thou, I will but tarry the eating of this morsel, and the rewarding of thee, and then go my ways. For thou, though thou art somewhat comely, art somewhat on in years, and art not one to be desired, even wert though of higher than yoeman's [sic] kind."

Said Joan; "Praise be to God and his hallows for my daughter's beauty! If thou hast heard of a fair woman, it is her whom thou seekest[.]"

Therewith her face grew troubled and she said: "But what wouldst thou with her?"

"No harm," said the newcomer, "I would but see her and speak with her, since I am on this wild-wood way, and have come to know of her."

"Yea" said Joan, "and who hath told thee of her? For I doubt if though wilt have met any of the neighbours this eve ere though camest in hither."

"Let be dame," said the Lady: "this is my matter and thou needest not give heed to it."

But therewith the door opened, and Katherine entered the chamber, hale and sunburnt, slender and lovely. She stayed her feet on the threshold a moment, when she saw the newcomer, and a flush ran up into her face, and showed through the beauteous brown of it; and she turned her eyes to her mother as if asking who this would be. Quoth Joan: "Yea daughter, this* Lady hath done honour to our house in craving guesting there: and if I had not done all my poor may do already for her cherishing, I would bid thee bestir thee; But not it needeth not, my lamb."

The Lady turned to Katherine with knit brows and yet with a half smile on her lips, and said: "What, Dame! This long strong girl, is she free to come and go in thine house, and do no work for they livelihood and hers?" Katherine cast her eyes down before the newcomer, nor did she seem timid or abashed as she stood watching the flashing fo the gems on her coronal. But Joan reddened at the word, and there was wrath in her voice, as she answered: "Lady, saving they nobleness, my daughter works well in loving [28] and cherishing me; and she wins other work too when she will; she can shoot well in the bow, and can handle the oars in our coble as well as a carle."

"Yea," said the lady, "I see well that she doeth but what pleaseth her, and that this pleaseth thee. Forsooth, this is not my matter but thine. But now I have eaten & drunk in this house and seen this maiden, I must go on my way: and here is payment for thy guesting besides my thanks, which I give thee, if thou wilt take them." And therewith  she set hand to her pouch and drew out three strange looking broad pieces of gold and laid them on the board. But Joan turned to her and spake: "Holy Mary! What whilt thou do? Dost thou not know Lady that in two hours it will be pitch dark in the wild-wood, whereas there is no moon as now. And let alone that thy way shall be blind, it is no good walking in our wood benights."

"What!" said the Lady "be there32 strong thieves about?" "Nay nay," said Joan," but wights worser it may be [.]" "What wights then?" said the Lady, "of what kindred?"

Quoth Joan; "Of the kindred of the devils and Gods of the Gentiles."

The Lady laughed: "Fear not for me, good dame; such thing shall not hurt me if there be any such; and as to the way trust me I won through darker tangles without sun or moon to help me." And *therewith she arose and gathered up her skirts like one who would be going: and sooth to say Joan looked anxiously toward her feet least perchance they should be like ducks-feet [sic], for even so were the fay-women fashioned, as she deemed, that howsoever fair they might be otherwise, they had the feet of water-fowl, and not of women. But she saw nought save two feet somewhat of the shapeliest, and shod with gold-embroidered shoon. So she louted before the Lady and said: "Thou seemest to me one of the great ones, wherefore I must not gainsay thee, if go thou must. But as to thy gold, we use not to sell victuals and drink to guests, whereas they pleasure us by their company: so we will take thy [29] thanks for all reward, and crave thy blessing therewithal. And yet mightest thou lie down safe in our cot tonight; it would my heart for thee."

The Lady stayed and seemed to ponder, and (at] last she sat down again and said: "Good woman, meseemeth  thou art nought wholly of churles [sic] blood; and therefore since thou biddest us so kindly, we will take thy bidding: and since thou wilt not have our gold, belike we may find thee another gift ere we depart."

As she spake she looked not on Joan but on Katherine, who now began to cast down her eyes before her and to change colour somewhat. But Joan bade her come with her and array the bed for the guest, and they went together Joan first up the narrow stair which led to the guest chamber in the aloft over the ball;33 and as they went Katherine whispered into her mothers ear somewhat peevishly: "Mother, why didst thou not let her go? I fear her; for meseemeth she hateth me. She is an evil woman,-·or belike--[.]"34 But Joan turned about; for they were on the top of the stairs now, and laid her hand on her daughter 's mouth; and  indeed, if Katherine had spoken anywise above her breath * the guest might well have heard her; for the said guest-chamber was but a loft over the hall, and open to it save for a panelling breast high[.}

So those twain dight the bed, and came down again, and asked the lady would she go to rest; but she naysaid it and bade them light candles, (for it was now more than dusk) and then she drank a cup of the dame's wine, and all her sterness and half-hidden bitterness slipped from off her, and she fell to talking & telling of many things of the parts35 of the world where [30] the Kings were most glorious, and most fame was to be gotten by deeds; and where the lore of the wise men was most, and most honoured. The two women sat & hearkened her, saying scarce a word, till the night grew old; for so sweet of speech was she, and so wise; and so smoothly flowed her tale, that it was like sitting amidst the best of music, and their hearts were bound up in her speech, so that when at last, hard on mid-night she made an end [,]36 it was to them as if something of most import and which it most behoved them to heed had gone out of their lives.

A little while she sat silent, and then she said: "The night weareth, and midnight is at hand, and if I give you not my gift now, when another day bath dawned it will be over late: for the gift thatIwill give thee, dame, is knowledge of the days that thy daughter shall wear, and what she shall be and do. How sayest thou, shall the spae-woman do her craft?"

Now again was the fear of this woman fallen upon them; and Joan was silent a while & then said in a low voice; "Let it be as thou wilt my Lady." But Katherine spake nothing: only her colour came & went and her heart beat; and she scarce might refrain her from rising from her seat and walking to & fro.

Then the Lady laughed, and her laughter *startled them both and smote their hearts as if something wicked had befallen; but she said: "Ye yeasay it then? That is well [;] ye were fools both if ye did not. Dame light up more candles; and thou maiden come hither."

So the[n) Joan brought more candles to the board, and kindled others that hung in sconces on the wall, and lighted withal a [sic] the lights of a brazen crown, which heretofore had never been lit save on hightides of the greatest, so that the little hall was as bright as day. But Katherine came and stood before the Newcomer, and reached out her hand to her, and the Lady took it, and said: "It is not thine hand alone that must be naked before me, maiden, but all thy body ere I may spae thy weird. Hasten to strip thee, for the night wanes."

[31] Then Katherine drew back her hand and reddened and knit her brows; but the Lady said: "What does thou fear? Is not they mother here?  Dame, take thou the sax which hangeth on the wall yonder, and draw forth the ancient blade, and stand anigh us; and if I do any wrong to thy daughter, then hew me down, and bury me under37 the beechen trees and forget me. But thou, do as I bid thee and be wise, and [sic] let me depart and wander through the dark world, as I shall through the dark forest;  Yet I in wisdom, and thou in unwisdom[?].

Katherine hung in doubt yet a moment, while her mother in very sooth drew the short-sword, and stood with knit brows beside the spaewife, then she set her hand to the bosom of her raiment and simply was she but not unseemly [clad] in a green gown of thin cloth & one linen coat there under, so that in a trice all fell to the ground and there she stood amidst the candles as naked as a needle; but so beauteous of fashion from head to foot and so pure and sweet of every part of her, that no shame * had it been to her had she stood thus in the face of day before a thousand of folk.

Now the newcomer gazed on her intently and then took each hand of her, and looked in them closely: then she laid an ear to her bosom and hearkened to her breathing; and she stooped down and handled her feet, and turned her this way and all about; then she cut a lock of hair from her head and burned it in the flame of a candle & watched it burning & gathered its ash and then she sat down in her chair again and seemed to ponder: and then again she spake and once more her breaking of the silence seemed terrible to them even as the thunder in the hush of the summer morn betwixt the dawn and the sunrise. But she spoke somewhat harshly, and said; "Ye two, ye must leave me alone in this house, go out a doors without a word, even as ye are and abide there till I fetch you in; and see to it Dame that thou touch not thy daughter nor speak to her else all will be spoilt."

They did her bidding and went out, and she shut the door on them; and there they stood the two just beyond the [33] threshold; for they durst go no further, nay nor even turned to one another. The night was cloudless and starlit though there was no moon, so that there was a glimmer about on the things whose places they knew but saw not: only a white goat moving about, & then staying to look toward them, as Katherine deemed, could they see; that and the glimmer of the wide­spreading water. But the blackness of the forest behind them, though they really saw it not, yet they divined it till it seemed to grow before their eyes. Thus they abode and the time seemed long to them; till Katherine deemed that the night was changing and the dawn growing grey, so that she stretched out her hand and her foot to see if she could see either clearer. But forsooth it was not so, night was not yet smitten by day even from afar, and they had been there scarce a score of minutes, ere they heard her voice calling to them; then they fell a trembling, and turned about to the door, but durst not *[enter] till she had called again and yet again; and they spoke to each other afterwards, how the dread had fallen upon each of them that, when they opened the door they should find that which they had left a woman, though a somewhat awful one, turned into some shape of terror unspeakable.

Howsoever Joan made a shift to raise the latch and enter and Katherine followed, yet quaking, so that she might scarce stand. And when they were within there was nothing changed, and the woman was sitting in the chair as they had left her; neither did they ever know sithence38 what she had done while they were without: But on the board whereby the newcomer had sat they found one spot of blood of the bigness of a silver penny.39 And when she saw them she said: "Ye are fearful, and have no cause for fear at this time or for many a day, and thou, maiden, in special. For this have I seen in thee, and thy weird is made manifest that thou shalt have a great wedding and a greater; that thou shalt be a baron's wife and a Kings [sic] wife, and thyself shalt be a Queen, commanding & [34] forbidding, and feared of all who love thee not. All this is true and shall not be set aside. But whatever else may betide thee is so dim that I may not see it to tell thee thereof, as [I] were wishful to do if I might.  Now reach me thine hand that I may give thee a gift and a token that I have seen thee and thy beauty."

So Katherine went up to her trembling and she set a ring on the first finger of her hand; and the ring was of fine gold, and in it was a great sapphire of the Indies. Then said the Newcomer: "This gift may help thee before thou art Queen and after thou hast been a Queen, if thou livest thereafter; but while thou art Queen, who shall help thee[?] And now I will depart, nor shall ye say any word to hinder me; *For the dawn is at hand; and if it were not so, no darkness is pathless to me as I have told you erewhile. Moreover maybe there has been greater peril to me in your peaceful house than elsewhere to night [sic]. When I am gone, maiden, thou shalt do on thy raiment again, and cover the nakedness which is no shame to thee, and the deeming whereof unseen in the hearts of folk shall be even that which shall make thee a Queen, and keep thee a Queen, though they shall call it wisdom and the insight of the heart."

Therewith she arose without more ado, and went her ways into the last of the night, without heeding those two any more; and they for their part went silently to bed, the daughter nestling up to her mother for shelter from fear. Nor forsooth on the morrow had they aught to tell each other of dreams; but full clearly they remembered what had befallen ere they slept[.]


IT is to be told that both Katherine and her mother kept the story of that night wholly to themselves so that none heard it. Nay even between themselves they but seldom spake thereof and that little and in a way whispered. Yet would not Katherine take that ring off her finger, though when any was by [35] she would turn the noble stone inward. On a time indeed Father Eleutherius asked her concerning it, whence it was, and she said that it was an ancient jewel of her fathers; and her mother who was by backed her in the said lie & even made up a little tale about it to help her out; which the good father nothing misdoubted; or not enough to make him question the women more closely.

So thereafter about a month of the summer-tide wore away tidingless; till on a mid morn comes Hubert the Forrester [sic] into *the Widow's close and hails the two women; he had his bow in his hand and his hound at his heels and was gallantly arrayed and looked goodly enough; yet was he somewhat shyer of manner than he was wont[?] to be. "Cousin and dame," he said (Katherine was nought akin to him but so he was wont to call her)[.] "I have been deeming that it might come handy to you to get some venison ere harvest is toward; and if thou, Cousin Katherine wilt come with me, I were fain to do my best to help you to some." And therewith he held out his hand, and she took it and smiled kindly on him, and her heart so warmed to him that [s]he doubted whether she would not tell him of that stranger[?] guest if they were alone in the wild-wood together. For, sooth to say, it lay somewhat heavy on her heart, and she had not seen him since that night; withal if she told it not to him she would tell it to none else, so frank and free as they were together. But now when be had gotten hold of her hand he seemed lothe to leave it, so that she had to draw it away of her self.

But Joan said, as she busied herself over the garden pot­herbs, and was somewhat turned away from those two; "Well, Hubert lad, it is not ill thought of, if my maid here will go with thee: soothly it will be labour harder than any she is like to do here this hot forenoon; but she loves to wander through the wood on some errand or other; and there will be nought to harm therein while thou art by, and thy fell shafts."

"Surely nay mother," quoth Hubert, reddening as he spoke: "Wilt thou come Katherine?"

"Yea," she said "if I may draw a shaft on the venison: but nay, if thou do all the shooting and leave me nought but the [36] toil.  Then shall I be of less account than Red-back thine hound."

"Thou knowest," said Hubert, "that in any case thou shalt have all thy way, as much at least as I may *win it thee [.]"

He spake with such passion, and gazed on her withal so eagerly, that she looked at him in surprise for one moment, and then turned and ran into the house, and came back in a while with her bow in her hand, and quiver at her back, and clad in a green gown gathered into her girdle for the hunting; she craved her mothers [sic] blessing and so went her ways with Hubert gaily enough, and he for his part, when he was once clear away and alone with her, was as frank & free for a while as his wont was[.]

Along way they went through the wood wending beyond where lay the Forresters [sic] house, but leaving it one side somewhat. Of their hunting little need be said; before they had gone a great way Katherine smote a hind by the help of Hubert's wood-craft, and he broke it up and hung up the carcase [sic] in a beech-tree, so as to be out of reach of all but climbing things at least, and they reckoned on to bringing it on with them as they came back; for Katherine had bidden Hubert to come back with her to the Widow's House. Then they went on again, and gat no more venison, whether the luck were against them, or whether, as is more like, they were both thinking over much of other matters, to heed wood-craft much. So at last, as aforesaid they40 were gotten a long way from the water, it might be a three hours walking for one who knew the way and dallied not with it, though they had made it four hours rather.

Now came hunger over them, and they were come to a clearing in the wood wherethrough ran a fair little brook; so there they sat them down, and Katherine drew victual from out of her satchel, and she bade Hubert dight the same, and meanwhile,  she drew off  her  shoon  and  waded  the  clear water [37] barefoot, & washed her face & her hands, and came back to Hubert refreshed and bright-faced.

*So they sat down and ate their meat, and talked merrily the while of their eating: but when they were done and they yet sat there a while, talk fell down betwixt them; for Katherine got on to thought of the spae-wife and the spacing of her; and as to Hubert he was a long while afraid to speak of that which his heart bade him; but he sat before the maiden, who was so sitting that one knee of her was drawn up and her hands were clasped about it, but the other was stretched out, and her hunters [sic) gown hid nought of her ancle [sic]. Then he said to her in a soft voice and trembling, "Katherine, may I kiss thy face?"

She turned to him quickly, and smiled on him kindly, and said; "O yea, Hubert, fair friend;" and put her face toward him, and he kissed her cheek, but she did not turn her lips to him, nor durst he kiss them. Then he sat a while silently, but presently laid his hand on one of hers and she unclasped them from her knee, and he took the hand to him, and drew up her sleeve a little so that the whiteness of the wrist was seen, and she made as if she heeded not, but reddened some what, and he held her hand still but durst not kiss it, though his longing were sore; and she leaned forward a little and with her other hand wrapped41 her skirt over her naked feet, and sat stlll with beating heart.

Then spake Hubert in a voice husky and harsh, though not loud: O Katherine, may I say a word to thee?"
"How can I gainsay it," said she, "we in this lonely place and thou holding my hand, and I barefoot, so that I may not go swiftly over the rough forest ground[?]"

He loosed her hand, & said; 'Thou mayest arise and do on thy shoes & go from me if thou wilt [.]"

But she stirred not and let her hand fall down by her side, and her feet came forth from her gown-hem again. But he kept silence a while. [38] Then again he took her band and said; "Katherine[,]* Katherine dost thou not know that I love thee?"

She looked on him and said lightly though her brows were knit: "Yea Hubert: thou art a kind friend and a brother to me, and thy father is as mine."

He let her hand go and said: "Nay, nay, what kindred is there between us? Thou knowest that I would  hold thee in mine arms as my love and mine own and my wife. But now I see of thee that all is gone amiss with me."

She spake nought, and he sat silent and looking far aloof: then he said; "If it be not so, come cast thine arms about me, and make me happy; or else let it be and leave me sorrowful."

She sat a little, and then rose up and said to him; "Even so might I do Hubert for friendliness' sake, and to save thee grief; yea and me also. But so I should be false to thee, and to thee will I not be false."

Therewith he arose also and stood before her, and her last words had set the tears of him loose[?] and they ran down bis cheeks, so that for a while he was speechless. The he said: "Dear friend; this have I feared mostly; yet whiles has my sore longing beguiled me into hope. Now I have thine answer; yet will [I] ask thee this; if the day should come when thou needest help and comfort sorely, and I should haply give it thee for thy deliverance; wouldst thou then love me more?"

She looked on him, kindly, yet ruefully and said: "O friend, this is no matter of more or less: I love thee well in such wise, as if it were nought possible that we might lie in one bed together. The other way is that I should long for thee as thou for me; and if that way I loved thee, then mightest thou even now strip me, and worship my body with thine here in this wide woodland.*42

[39]He groaned before her and covered his face with his hands, and she said: "But now never will it so than I can give myself to thee as thy own; in such wise that thou wouldest deem it treason in me were I to love another man, even less than thee.43 Now *grievous it is to me that this grieveth thee, and that our simple & merry converse is come to an end: but I may not amend the sooth thereof, and I will not be aught but true before thee."

He turned away from her, and walked to and fro a little while she stood still looking on him, then he came to her with as fair a face and as cheerful as he could make up, and said: "Shall we now return and take our venison and come to thy mother's house?"  She looked down and said: "It is nearer to thy father's house, my friend, wert thou not best to go thither?"

His face fell, and he broke out into weeping, but refrained him at last, and said, but amidst sobs: "See now, but I am grown shameless! but I pray thee suffer it; cast me not away at once."

She said very kindly: "Friend, I cast thee not away, and if thou wilt, thou shalt go with me: but I warn thee, it will be but a sorrowful journey both to thee and to me; and if for thy grief and longing, thou couldst think of it, thou wouldst know it also. Therefore I pray thee, do thy friend this service to let her be alone a while; and thou wilt have one pain the less, when thy face is turned toward the house of thy Kindred, whereas thou shalt find kind people, that love thee, as I do.*

"I will do as thou wiliest,* said he, "and when I can show thee a staid and manly countenance I will see thee again--Woe is mel"

Said she; "Mayest thou do well, and better than thou deemest."

He shook his head and went a little way into the wood, and she sat down and fell to doing on her foot-gear; but presently she saw him coming back again with hasty strides; she [40] knit her brow and reddened, as he came up to her. But he said: "Katherine, I am a fool and a blind bat that I have thought of nothing but myself. How may I suffer thee to go bird-alone44 through the Wildwood, and thou so far from thy mother's house? Let me go a way with thee till all shall be *safe before thee."

Her face cleared at his word, but she shook her head and said; "Nay, dear friend, now art thou blinder than thou wert een now: dost thou not see my bow & quiver lying there, and dost thou not know that I shall presently have twelve men's death on my shoulder? Return home hardily[;] there shall no harm happen to me." He answered not, but knelt down before her & took her hand and kissed it, and then rose and turned about hastily, and went his ways into the wood, and she saw no more of him at that time.


When she was shod, Katherine rose up and shouldered her quiver, and took her bended bow in her hand; she had in her girdle withal a strong wood-knife, and, soothly, she was nowise afeared of the way.

Thus she went through  the wood somewhat heavy of heart, though light of foot; for the man was goodly & valiant and kind and fair-spoken, and as befalls with maidens it was somewhat sweet to her that a fair man should look on her with desire so strong. Howbeit her thoughts began to go back to that spaedom, and she turned it over and over marvelling much what that life might be which it promised her.

At last she came to a place whereas the wood thinned a little and there was again a little wood-lawn before her. And now she saw something shining and fair-hued beyond the trees which stood betwixt her and the lawn; and soon she saw that it [41] was some shape of man, wherefore she went warily, and, drawing nigher saw that it was a woman gaily clad who was sitting under a thorn nearby amidst of the said lawn; and she saw at once that it was none of those whom she knew: and again so glittering gay and strange a figure was she that the heart came into Katherine's mouth, for she deemed it was one of the fairy, or a creature *made for the undoing of the children of Adam.45 Wherefore she was at first minded to flee away into the thick wood; but even that she was afraid of, as a child who durst not move in the dark for fear. But as she stood there pale and quaking and her knees knocking together, a clear sweet voice came from the creature which said: "Maiden, come hither and be not afraid: by the God that made us both I neither will nor can hurt thee. Come hither, for I have a thing to say to thee."

Katherine stirred [sic] thereat, and as it seemed to her almost against her will came forth into the lawn, stepping daintily for very fear, and stood before the woman, who laughed merrily at her and said: "Verily maiden, it is rather I should fear thee than thou me; thou with thine artillery at thy back and the knife in thy girdle. Am I then so dreadful and ugsome of aspect?"

Forsooth she was a fair and wonderful sight; for though she were clad, she would scarce have been more naked if she bad done off her attire;46  For the one only garment else she had on her body,47 was broidered indeed with a gay garland of gold & silk flowers about her middle, but otherwere scarce changed the colour of her fair flesh, so thin and fine was the web thereof; many precious rings there were on her fingers, [42]] and much gold on her naked arms; and sandals she had on her feet the strings whereof were of pearl. As for her body, naught[sic] so fair had the sun seen since early that morn he had shone upon Katherine, as she bathed her in a little bight of the lake near her mother's house.

Now she spake unto Katherine & said: "Fair and sweet child, draw thy breath now quietly, as thou art wont and let the blood come into thy cheeks again, and tell me where am I in the world; for meseems someone, I wot not who, have brought me here while I was asleep and dreaming, and left me here birdalone.48

Said Katherine, (who though she still doubted what this beautiful woman's shape might be, had now come to herself again)• "Fair Lady or Queen, or whatso thou mayst be, this is a forest called the Wood by the Water; few people dwell here about; but the folk who come to us say that to the east lieth a peopled land with cities and castles; and we have no cause to doubt them whereas they bring us goods sithence(?] such as we need."

"Yea" said the woman, "and art thou the Goddess Diana; or a great Lady whose folk have strayed from her? What art thou?"

Katherine reddened & bung her head and said; "Lady God forbid (and she crossed her49) that I should be any evil thing. And as to a Queen none such am I, but a poor maiden living in a little house by the water-side with my mother and earning my livelihood with her."

"Art thou verily poor," said the woman, "and thou the beauty of the world? Well thou mayst live to be poorer yet. But now tell me, maiden, is there any way out of this wood whereby I might come to the cities whereof thou tellest?"

[42] Said Katherine: "I can bring [thee] to where a path goeth unto them through the wild-wood: but they say that the road is long, and moreover," (and the words hung on her tongue somewhat) "thou art belike over richly decked, and over scantily clad to travel it safely."

The other one laughed; "Is this wood so fruitful of robbers, fair maid?" said she.

Quoth Katherine reddening some deal [sic] : "We here [sic] of no strong-thieves hereabout, though further on where travellers are less scant there may be bcsetters of the way: but thou bearest great wealth with thee, Lady, whereso thy is; and that is a treasure which all carles shall desire, even to madness meseemeth; and thou art alone."

The naked one laughed again, and she said: "My sister, thou art wise about the longings of carles, and wonder is that, so fair as thou art fashioned. But know thou that I have lore enough to cool  their hot desires." Then she stood up, and seemed even fairer than before, so that she was as the destruction of cities, and she looked on Katherine & said: "Nevertheless I wot well *that this is no attire for the road: wherefore we must try some other guise, if thou wilt then lead me toward the right way. But first do thou lie down and hide thy face in the grass, and rise not up or look my way till I call to thee and bid thee, lest evil come to thee or me or both of us [.]"

Katherine's fear came back to her at this word, but she did the newcomer's bidding, and lay there afeard, & yet eager to know what should come next. The time seemed long to her as she lay there quaking, though belike it was not many minutes; then she heard a voice sweeter than a flute, which said; "Rise up sister and look on me, and see if I shall now make a better wayfarer[.]" So Katherine arose, and when her eyes were clear of the dazzlement of the dark amidst of day she looked, and started and cryed [sic] out; for lo before her stood her very own self again in the flesh; her grey eyes and cloven chin, and the swee1ness of her cheeks, and her dear hands tanned with the months of summer, and all her raiment withal even as she herself was clad, down to a place on the shoulder of her green gown where the bushes had torn it, and she had [44] mended the rent, and broidered it so that it might still be seemly.

Katherine stood and stared at her and durst not moved [sic]; but her double laughed and said: "Sister however it might have been a while ago, now forsooth there is nothing fearful for thee to look at, but rather the fairest and sweetest of all woodland mays. Or dost thou deem that when we sunder at the want-ways I shall take from thee half of thyself? Nay it shall not be so, but I shall be myself again in some guise or other."
Said Katherine: "Are thou not of the Faery then[?)"

The other smiled on her: "Or some other evil thing, thou wouldst say? Nay again, but I *have some lore at my command; as one day thou mayst see. But come now let us be friends."

And there with she came close to her & took her hand, and then it was to Katherine as if she had no will to naysay aught that the newcomer willed her to.

They went on together now through the forest, and Katherine without bidding led her the straight way to where ran the path toward the peopled parts; but though Katherine was not minded for talk so wildered and scared as she was, yet needs must the speech flow from her; because her double asked her many questions concerning all her life, and that sweetly & caressingly; so that they had gone but a little way from the woodlawn where first they had met ere Katherine had told her new friend all that she wotted of both carle and quean of her neighbours, and in what wise they looked on her; and all simply she told her of that wooing late done with, and why she must needs naysay Hubert; to wit that even of those few neighbours she loved another man better. Lastly she told her, but that not without much doubtful wavering, and after many ques­ tions of the coming of the woman to their house, and her spaedom.  And the strange woman50 nodded when she had [45] done and said: "Fair is thy fortune then, sister; yet it is an old saw that sayeth: Good is each tale till the next one is told."

"Yea," said Katherine, "and hast thou perchance any tale to tell of me?"

Said the other; "Maybe when we are come anigh to the sundering place, I may tell thee something; but meanwhile I were fain to hear more of what hath befallen thee already sweet sister: tell me then anything what thou wilt and canst thereof."

Then Katherine must needs tell her many things such as she remembered from the days when she was a child beside the great water: Of the wood she *told her and its ways through the course of the seasons, & of the creatures that dwelt therein; of the waves of the great water and her dealing there with, wading & swimming the little bights, and rowing and sailing the wide-spreading waters thereof: and this especially, how but two years past, she took boat for her pleasance, and the winds & waves over mastered her, and drave her so far out, and she bird-alone in the boat, that she saw what she deemed to be the other shore blue in the distance. And how the wind fell, but yet drifted her on a little, till she took the oars, struggled to make way toward her home, because she dreaded nought but death, if dark night & storm overtook her on the midmost water; and how when she was well-nigh spent with fear & weariness and the drenching of the seas, there came a sail toward her from the homeward shore, and how it drew up to her, and lo! it was Grim the fisherman's son come to seek her; and how that seemed to her like coming back to life from the road to death.

Withal she told the newcomer how she loved to be at mass in the church on the isle when the sun shone bright and all was clear to see (since the windows were not right wide) and how fair Father Aloys looked as he went past her clad in his mass-hackle; and again how many things he had told her, as they walked together whiles amidst the woodland thickets; and those not only of godly & pious matters, but of the ways of the world, and stories of time past, both long ago, and but of late.

[46] Many other things told Katherine, to her double, and over the telling of some of them she faltered, and blushed withal, for they were of things that she would not have told to any other; Yea and whiles she told this woman things which *she had not dared tell to herself hitherto. Let pass as to what they were; for the tale to come may make us wiser thereon.51

At last they52 were come near where the chapman's road, which was but a track a little beaten, went amidst the thicket; and they were by a little green knoll beneath a thorn. There the newcomer bade sit down and rest them a while, and so did they; and now the woodland-woman, who hitherto had but led Katherine to speak by asking her questions  began to take up the speech, and talked long and sweetly of many matter[s], till at last it seemed to Katherine that her words ran into a song, and then the trees began to wax dim before the maidens [sic] eyes, and her fellow's song to mingle with the voices of the woodland creatures, and the murmur of the wind in the trees, and anon she leaned her bead aback and was asleep.

When she awoke again, and raised herself on her elbow, she deemed by the sun and shadows that no long while had worn by; she looked to her right hand and saw beside [her] no longer that double of herself, but the woman she had first met with her naked flesh shining through the gossamer web of her garment. She spake to Katherine at once and said: "I see of thee that for all thy drowsiness thou beginnest to be afraid again, and repentest the sisterhood we have held through the pathless wood and the telling me of things which to none else hadst thou told53 but be not dismayed, for this shall not hurt thee nor might if I would, as I would not: but weird shall wield thee with my will or without it. Now both from what thou hast told me, and what I have devined [sic] in me that thou longest sore to know more of what shall betide thee in days to come; [47] for though thou shouldest be happy here in thy rest and ease amongst folk who love thee, and whom thou lovest some deal, Yet [sic] both youth *and eagerness stir in thee to go further afield, and without thou canst not hide it from thyself, as thou has hidden it not from me, that thy beauty which is so surpassing makes thee know thyself strong and urges thee on to win what lies before thee in the world.54 O proud and gentle maiden if I might feel sorrow then should I be sorry for thee and thy life, as one may sorrow for the fleeting summer and the saddening day."

Then Katherine arose and the naked one also, and they stood together and Katherine cried out eagerly though her voice trembled; "I know not who thou art, and I durst not ask thee, yet I pray thee tell me my weird: but first tell me this; was it false what the other one told me, & who was she?"

"Who knoweth what she was?" said the woman; "neither can I tell that what she told thee of glory & queenship be true or false; but what I shall rede thee shall be true whatever else befall, and it shall be another tale than hers."

"Tell it me" said Katherine, "whatsoever it may be: but shall I bare my body to thee as I did to that other?"
"Nay," said the strange woman, "why shouldst thou? I who have seen thine heart, what need I see the skin that hideth it[?]"

Then she was silent awhile, and Katherine cowered before her; as if she feared that shape of her should change to something dire & dreadful, and the crackle of last years dry leaves under her feet affrighted her.

Spake the naked woman: "I tell not of glory nor queenship, nor the worship of the folks, but of shame & grief and sore need and terror and shame & griefs and misery: [48] Thou shalt be driven forth from the proud house into the deathbearing waste; though [?] shall wander toward the gates of death, and find a friend to help and lose both friend & help; thou shalt be a hand-taken thrall of the aliens, and be sold into thralldom of the aliens; thereafter look *thou to it, thou thyself! Yet hearken, the other spaewoman gave thee a goodly ring but told thee not whatwise to use it.56 I will give thee a ring ungoodly, and bid thee to do thus; when thou deemest thyself most sorely bested take it and lay it on thy bare breast and think of me & this moment; and then it may be something better than the worst may befall thee."57

Therewith she took from the middle finger of her left hand, (whereon were other rings, rich & begemmed) a ring of iron & nought fair to look on and set [it] on Katherine's like finger. Then she spake in her old manner which was light & mocking and said: "Now Katherine my sister & my mate, it is time that thou lead me on to the chapman's road, that I may go my ways thither where I would be; and I say as erst I said that thou needest fear for me [n]either robbers or lovers."

Katherine answered nought in her bewilderment and they went on together, she silent and the naked one talking gaily, till they were on the road which was less than a mile from the lakeside and Katherines [sic] house. But as they set foot on the very beaten track itself the naked (one] cried out sharply; "Look round Katherine mine! Surely I see a man coming through the thicket on our right hand: wilt thou not go meet him, since thou art like to know him [?]"

Katherine turned about a little, and looked under the sharp of her hand a while & then spake. "Nay I can see nothing at all save the trees & a rabbit running, and the shadow of a heme's[?] wings on the brown ground beneath the pine-trees: nay there is nothing, sister."

[49] And therewith she turned about to her fellow. But there also was nothing; for the woman, (or whatso it were in a womans shape) was gone and she saw her no more for that time.

So went Katherine back to her mother's house, and as [to] the creature whom she had seen and her spaedom, she was rather confused than downcast by it; and it *almost seemed to her as if she had dreamed it, though whiles she looked on the iron ring on her finger and then all her dealings with the said woman became as clear to her as a picture; but then again she felt, as it were some trouble pushing up through the trouble and wonder of the spaedom, and as it grew on her she knew it for grief at the sorrow of Hubert, and how he would never be to her again as he had been.

So came she to her mothers house, and told her nought of these things, neither of the naysay nor the spaedom.


KATHERINE abode quietly at home for a week[')s time after these things, and was somewhat heavy of mood the while; but on a day [s]he stood by the water side, and watched a boat putting off from the point of the isle and coming to her­ward, and presently she knew it for her friend Grim, and in a little while he leapt ashore and beached the boat, and then turned round to her and greeted her kindly but scarce so freely as his wont was, she deemed, and she him in turn. He said: "I am going to the southern banks after the big trouts [sic] ; and since thou hast been so little on the water of late, & the weather is of the fairest today I have deemed thou mightest come with me; how sayest thou?"

She looked on him and noted that his speech was trembling & somewhat thick, and that his colour came and went; but though she misdoubted her of what was toward she made no semblance of heeding his mood, but lightly and with smiles yeasaid the going; so in a twinkling was she in the boat, and Grim set his shoulder to the prow and they were on the waves [50] of the great water, which were but little thereabout, as the *sound was under the lee of the isle.

Grim took the oars and rowed and Katherine steered: To hearken to her she was merry enough; for she set her tongue awagging, and talked much and lightly; but Grim said little for the most part, though whiles he enforced him to heed her talk and give back kind answers to her. When they were come from under the lea [sic] of the isle he hoisted sail, and they reached long to the westward, and the boat which was not right great leaped merrily from wave to wave & leaned over till her gunwale [sic] clove to the water, as she ran fast to the west. Forsooth, as Grim said it was [a] right fair day, the sky blue & clear with a few light clouds high up and shining that served to set off the greatness and glory of the bow of the heavens: dark blue and lovely was the water beneath it, and flecked with white horses as if it were the very salt-sea, for a sweet and cool breeze blew steadily from the South-West, but all without malice or fierceness.

Now when they had run nigh an hour to the west, having on their starboard the great wall of trees of the wood, Grim wore his craft and ran South and a little East, and he took the helm from Katherine and the wind was so good, and his hand so light on the tiller that the little keel raced along and cut the blue waters like an arrow cleaves the air; and Katherine grew really gay at heart and laughed, and waved her arms to the white-horses, and sang to the piping of the wind; and Grim cast aside his moodiness and was of good cheer, and they twain seemed as if they were verily a part of the boat, and the boat a live thing that loved them and was doing all his might to pleasure them.

Thus they ran for a two hours, till they saw in the offing a long greyish thing showing out of the brightness of the waters. Then presently Grim struck sail and took to the oars, and rowed mightily; and in a little while the water began to grow greener as it shoaled, and they could see clearly the very shores of a long reef of rocks fringed round about with foam. [51] Grim rowed straight thereto and passing the58 western ness thereof , which was all white with the breaking of the waves [,] came under its lee whereas the waves were little, and so made a low sandy ere [?] which ran into the clear green water, and muttering somewhat about the fish lying thick thereabout, he beached the boat there,  and stepped out into the water, and came to the after part of the boat making as if [he] would take Katherine in his arms to bear her ashore. But she, who had stripped off her foot-gear meanwhile, smiled on him and running forward stepped lightly into the last of the ripple about the bows. Grim knit his brows, and leaning forward dived into the boat to bring out some matters of victual & drink; and his face was moody whereas he was baulked of holding her in his arms, and feeling the gown slipping on her sleek sides. Howsoever he mastered his face, and turned toward the land with a would be smile playing over the sterness of a visage that was strained with longing & hope and fear.

So it was that the islet whereon they were landed, was a mere strip of a reef, mostly builded of piled up rocks and great pebbles which the water had borne thither & rolled about masterfully on the way: grass and flowers grew in the crannies of the stones, but could make little headway on the top of the islet where it lay somewhat flat, so sorely as the wind whistled it . The said reef was not a furlong across betwixt water & water, and amidmost was cleft down but a  little above the water so that there was a space of fine sand going up gently to the brow of the isle's head, and beset with big grey stones all about. There it was that their boat had59 taken land, and there in the first dry part thereof where was a little silver-wort growing, now stood Katherine abiding Grim, and holding up *her gown skirts from her naked feet. For it must be said that the place was nought strange to her, but she had come thither with Grim and his father Peter, either or both a many times before.

Now Grim came before her lightly and she met him smiling, though inwardly she was nought well at ease, and they [52] went a little further up the sand to the edge of the cleft where were many flat-topped stones lying about, and the rock above them gave shade from the summer midday sun. For  this indeed was the spot whereto they came always when they fished the banks thereabout to rest them and eat their meal. There Katherine  sat down, and Grim laid out the victuals which he had brought, and they fell to eat & drink: yet was their feast not less, but more doleful than that of Hubert & Katherine in the wood that other day: for Katherine feared what she saw should soon come to pass, and eating was a weariness to her; and as for Grim whatsoever he might do, now he was close to Katherine so that he might touch her, and the toil of rowing was over, might not refrain him of his longing and grief. Forsooth he ate, for youth was strong in him and though he were sorry, yet was he hungry; so he ate but therewith came the tears into his eyes and he wept, eating. And all the while Katherine[,] though she knew what was toward, would not look on, but spake a word her[e] & there would be gaily though her voice trembled therewith.

Then Grim cast down his meat to the earth and spake between his sobs; "O Katherine, Katherine, wilt thou not ask me what aileth me?"

She turned to him & her own breast heaved with the coming tears, for she was sorry for him, and she said kindly: "Grim, dear friend, what aileth thee?"

He60 wept a while wordless; then he said: "Dost thou not know? O how can I lete thee so as to move thee! I love thee so, I love thee so! for thou art the life of the woods & the water, and there were *nought else if thou wert gone. And I love thee so that if thou love me not again nor longest for me, so that there be no shame betwixt us, but joy and love, and the joining of our bodies, then am I undone."

She made no answer to him, but wept; and he looked on her a little while, and then said: "O me! thy weeping!   Now I see of it that it is naught the weeping of a lover. Thou wilt not[,] thou wilt not love me!"

[53]She answered him nothing again; and he said: "Thou art right to speak no words to me; for they would not mean the sooth, and this is: 'how can I love thee? trouble me not.'--Yet will I trouble thee!"61

"Wilt thou say this to me Grim," she said, "and we have been little children together, and loved each other?"

"Yea yea," said he, "that is it. 'Be good, Grim, and trouble me not and love me not; and I will be kind to thee.' Oh I am accursed, and my life is nought; if thou wilt no[t] have [me] then let the water have me and death."

And therewith he turned away to leave her, yet not very swiftly62: But she cast herself on him and took him by the hands and held them and would not let them go, and said: "Nay nay on no such errand departest thou from me."

But when he felt her hands on his, and the sweetness of her body anigh him, the storm of passion rose up in him, and he cast his arms about her and strained her to him, and kissed her cheeks and her brow and her chin & her lips and her face all over.

But she shrank from him and said: "Doth this mend matters friend?"

"Yea," said he "somewhat: Yet since it is the last time and may not be again; then let me now go and die."

"O no," she said, "O no, why shouldst thou hate me Grim?"

But he tore himself from her, and ran across the little vale of the cleft and up the other bank *and she sat down on a [54] stone, and put her hands before her face: but whatever she might do, her thoughts must needs stray to something else than Grim. She63 rose in a while and cried out, "Grim, Grim! wilt thou leave me here to die of hunger and cold? What wilt thou do?"

But no answer came back to her. Then she betook her to going across the vale and unto the other bank, and lo, Grim coming back to her; so she said, but coldly: "Lo now art thou in a better mind, and will do somewhat for me indeed, if nought for thyself."

He spake in a somewhat sullen & grudging voice; "There is a sail to the South West64 and it will soon be on us."

"Said she; "Let us await it then, in this place, or let it go by, which thou wilt."

"Yea" said he, "I will take it for a sign, and if it goeth past the isle, then will I speedily make an end; but if he cometh in hither, then is he a guest, and I will live to do his bidding."

She smiled on him, and said; "Is a stranger's bidding more than mine then?"

He hung his head but spake naught; and she for her part spake no more and was shamefaced before him; and thus they stood awhile, near to each other and yet far apart, and in little ease together: So abode they the coming or the passing of the late-seen sail.


AT last Katherine, who had been looking over the waters cried; "Look up Grim! for here cometh thy life, since only on such a bargain wilt thou have it."

Then Grim looked, and lo, a boat just clear of the headland and making toward the bight where they had landed: one man sat at the helm & there was no mate with him; and as the keel ran on switly toward the landing-place he arose and went forward to hand his sail, and they saw him that he was an old hoar man and clad in black. They went down straightway to the strand[,] Katherine hastening, Grim lagging, so that as her feet were on the wet sand the newcomer was just out of his boat and was haling up to lie beside the other keel. She greeted him, and he turned to her with no surprise in his face, and said, "Hail to thee maiden! But were it not for this craft which lieth by mine I had rather knelt to thee than greeted thee as a fellow."

As he spake came up Grim, and the newcomer saith unto him: "What aileth thee to look so shamefaced, young man? There is no shame to thee but great glory that thou art alone with this fair maiden on this strip of land amidst the water; if she think no shame therein: for I trow not that she is thy sister."

Grim scowled on him and Katherine looked down & twisted her fingers together but neither said a word; then the old man looked from one to the other of them as a man confused, as if he had spoken foolishly.

Then Katherine spake to him and said: "What may we do for thine avail, father? Wilt thou that we show thee the way to steads whereas we and other folk dwell?"

Said the elder; "That is even what I would of you: that and a morsel of bread."

Then they bade him sit down on a rock that was anigh and gave him victual and drink; and when he had eaten they brought him to the waterside again, and Grim said:" Now old [56] man, wilt thou have thy boat with thee or leave it here? If it should come on to blow from the north west, it might well be knocked to staves against the strand here; for that wind raiseth the water on us."

"Verily," said the elder, "I would have *my craft with me, for I am not going back whence I came [.]"

As he spake a wonder came into Katherines mind as to whatlike & where that whence might be, and how far toward the south the water stretched, and she thought she would ask him thereof another time. But Grim spake: "Bear a hand now to getting the keels into the water, and then I will steer thy craft, old man, and the maiden here mine own boat."65

So did they and neither Katherine nor the elder said aught till the sails were hoisted and both craft were flying over the face of the water, the wind fair and steady abeam; and Katherine, who was no ill mariner held close after the newcomers [sic] keel.

[57] for landing on the isle, and presently the boats were lying by the quay & all three gat ashore; and Grim turned to the old man and said: "Hast thou any *hards [?] in thy boats master, that thou wouldst take with thee to thy guesting-house?"

Said the other; "Nay, there is nought in the boat save a little deal of bread of the country whence I came. But tell me, young man, whither art thou taking me?"

Said Grim; "To a house of religion which is on this isle: fair is their guest-chamber, and they have no lack of victuals; they are well-learned men all of them, and holiness is their craft. Thou shalt do well there; as well as in a Kings palace."

The elder held his head aside and bit his finger, as one considering, and said at last: "Nay I will not go to the priests unless needs must: I love them not much, & maybe they would love me less still if they were to know all about me."

Grim scarce looked at him as he said: "Well then, taking [sic] guesting with us, that is my father & me; we have enough, and there is no woman in the house."

He spake roughly and carelessly as if he would be done with the matter at once, and be gone: but the old man smiled again mockingly as before & said: "Thou art over brisk and over young to fear women since I fear them not. But this is an isle, and I list not sleep in an isle tonight: so tell me is yonder shore an isle also?"

"Nay," said Grim, "it is the edge of the wild-wood[.]" "And is there not a house anigh the strand yonder?" said
the elder.

Grim was opening his mouth to speak when Katherine said, looking kindly at the newcomer; "Yea sir and in the said house I dwell alone with my mother, and we were both fain, wert thou to take guesting at our hands; and it is not so ill with us, but we may give thee a morsel and a cup of drink."

The old man smiled: said he; "Many are the hosts to choose from though the houses be few. But I will go with thee; for though I be an old man, yet am I *a man. And thou youngling have thou all thank[s] for thy ferrying hither; and mayst [58] thou come to be sweeter with fair maidens than thou art now; and thou with one so fair to teach thee thy demeanour to them."

He smiled  mockingly as he spoke, but Grim turned away towards his house without a word, and Katherine looked down reddening, and a little frowning withal[.]

But she called to mind that she had a guest, so she lifted up her head and turned to the elder, & said: "I thank thee father for choosing our poor house, and all we may do for thee we will; so let us set toward the mainland."

So they got into the boat again and in a long quarter of an hour were on the beach by the Widow's House, and Katherine took the old man by the hand, and led him whereas her mother sat spinning by the windowside; and she looked up, and when she saw it was a stranger, she arose and greeted him; and she was glad that it was an old man & not a youngling, and glad withal that it was no neighbour. For since that first spaedom (and she knew nought of the second) pride had blended with the love of her daughter, and she deemed her all too good to tread the common earth.

Howsoever she bestirred herself to do all that she might for the guest; for she would have Katherine rest; who for her part was nothing lothe thereto, for many a thought played to and fro within her breast; so she sat on a bench amidst of the chamber, looking toward the window, but scarce out of it; and the old man sat looking at her as though the sight liked him well.


SO presently the widow bade to meat, and she bade Katherine sit by the guest and herself* on the twain of them [sic]; and ever the old man looked more on Katherine than on Joan.

But when they were done with meat, and the twilight was now at hand, the Elder said: "Dame I thank thee for the [59] good meat and drink; but I am an old man, and may brook but little sleep; so please you let me sit without doors this fair evening and hearken to the last sounds of day; and if thou and this pearl of a maiden will but keep me company we may yet be merry for an hour or two before bedtime and the new dawn come.
So out-a doors they went and the dame brought a chair for the elder and sat herself down on a stool by his side while Katherine stood up at first, but after a little slid down quietly to the green grass and sat there despite of the first beginnings of the dew. Then Joan arose as one who has forgotten something and went in and brought out a bowl of red wine and set it by the elders side.

They were all silent for a while and abode still drinking in the joyance of the warm sweet night; till at last the elder spake and said with a sigh: "Good dame and maiden I am pleased and joyful with this rest and peace, and I who of late have bad but little rest & peace; and yet there is something lacking from my joy which had not been lacking forty years agone; for then in such an hour & such a place I had been so smitten by all this sweetness that I should have peopled it anew and seemed to see many folk meet thereto, as lovers whose loves exceeded and wood-wives and elves, and even, it may be, Gods and Goddesses of the gentiles. I say not maiden that any one of them bad been fairer than thou, for that were not like to be, nor kinder than thou hostess: but all the evening land had been full of hope and wonder to me, whereof had come to me beginnings & endings of tales.''66

*"Alack!" said dame Joan, "Even so do youth & pretty things a many give us the slip, and leave us comfortless save of the mercy of God." And she crossed herself therewith.

But Katherine's voice came sweetly out of the dusk, as she spake: "If thou hast had such imagings father, hast thou left no memory of them that thou mightest make us to see somewhat as thou hast seen erst [?)"

The old man laughed lightly: "What, my daughter," said he, "is the gangrel earl to pay with his minstrelsy for his meat drink and lodging? Well then so be it: abide a little."

Therewithal he put the wine-bowl to his lips and drank a draught; and thereafter fell to telling of tales one after another, scarce heeding, as it seemed, whether they hearkened or not; and ever the longer he told, the sweeter was his speech; and first his tale was of light matters that stirred up laughter, as of big Nick and little Nick and the fools who dived after the sheep {and caught the mirrored clouds} and merry tales of the men of Gotham:67 and these forsooth they had heard before, though he told them more craftily than they had heard others tell them; and yet so thriftily that no long while wore in the telling. Then again it was another matter; for there came into his mouth a story of a young man, fair & delicate, a Kings [sic] Son, but outcast; and how he fell into the toils of the witch-wife, and how the wise maiden delivered him, and how he forgat her, and how he came to memory of her again.68 Hereof also had those twain heard; although whiles went the tale by somewhat other roads than they were wont. And in this tale he spared words less, and more especially when he told of the aspect of the King's Son & the maiden; and of her he told in such wise as if he were telling of Katherine, & praising her as [61] the jewel of maidens69; and he told of her eyes & her mouth & chin and her hands and feet, and her body all over," till dame Joan was like to purr for pleasure like a cat, but Katherine hung her head adown, as though they could have seen her blushes by the glimmer of the stars and the rising moon.

And so when this was done he made no stay, but told them tales, wherein was no witch craft but such as hidden love, the waylayer, bears with him; and these seemed to tbem to be as of folk he had known, or at the least, that he had learned them of those that had known the tale-folk: all these were sweet but exceeding sad: love there was in them abundantly; but therewith thwart desire and mishap & treason that sundereth love, and desire & mishap & treason that eketh it; and felony & death that maketh it a tale for the memory of men.70

Late wore the night amidst all this and the moon was high and small, when Katherine rose lightly to her feet, and went into the house, and presently broad steamed a ruddy beam of light across the moonlight, and the Elder turned and saw the fairest of women standing amidst of it barefoot and barearmed her eyes glittering, her cheeks glowing, her hands stretched out toward him. Then for a moment the long years seemed to fall off from him, and he felt as if he were a young man all fulfilled of hope and desire, and set amidst of wonders, so that nought were too marvellous to betide him;71 he in his turn stretched out his hands to the woman; but straightway [62] came upon him the burden of years, and he saw it was but Katherine who had lighted the candles in the hall & was bidding the guest in to the last night meal and bed. So he sighed and entered smiling; and the Dame said, wiping her eyes; "Alas poor youth, how grievous that he might not live anywhile after he had gotten to him all that his soul desired. Now may he be dwelling in paradise despite of all his sins[.]"

WHEN the morning was [come] and the two women and their guest were arisen and had broken their fast, then said the old man: "Now must I needs depart, giving thee all thanks for the guesting, yet will' I ask of you one more service; to wit that thou, dame suffer thy lovely child to lead me on my way, so far that I may be on the path that leadeth through your wild­wood here to the cities."

"Surely shall she," said the dame: "but when wilt thou come back hither?" "Thou mayst call it never, dame," said he, "and not be altogether wrong."

"Yea," said the dame, "and what then wilt thou do with the fair boat wherein thou camest hither?"

Said the carle; "It is a gift from me to thee: and but a little gift, since I need it no longer."

Joan turned very red and said; "It has not been my wont to sell meat and bed-rest to wayfarers: I will not have such wealth of thee."

Said the old man; "Then give it to whomso thou wilt; to the mariners of this inland sea, if thou wilt, who dwell yonder on the isle; or to the good fathers: as for me I have nought to [63] do with it henceforward.  And now kind friend I must to the road."

He arose therewith and kissed Joan on the cheeks: and Katherine did on her shoon, and drew her gown into her girdle, and led him out of the house simply, and they turned into the wood together, and the carle asked her if the way were long. She smiled and answered; "It shall be at thy will half an hours journey, or an hour'{s} or an hour and a half (.]"

"Make it an hour and a half then, fair maiden; for old as I am I would fain look longer on a sight which is as fair as any I shall see in the cities."

She nodded and smiled on him and was merry: and after they had gone a little while be fell to speech with her, and said: "I * myself have seen things amongst the city-dwellers sadder even than the gleeman's tales I told thee last, but not so sweet to hearken: shall I tell thee of some?" "Yea," she said, "I were fain to wot of things that verily get done out in the world; for my heart tells me that I shall not dwell here ever."

'That may be," said he[.] "I wot not, though I wot many things." Then he fell to and told her grievous tales of true matters, & bid nothing in the telling; and she hearkened all and spake not, but seemed cold73 in her hearkening; and especially he told her of how a fair lady who was wedded to a good knight was taken in the snare of love with a certain monk, a priest to wit, and how their love was hidden but a little and they were both brought to shame; and of the vengeance which the baron of the lady and her kindred took on the said monk; and of the pennance [sic] of the said lady and the pining of her flesh. And Katherine hearkened all this but said nought thereto.

So their feet ate up the way till an hour was worn, and the elder said: "I would rest a little while;" so they sat them down; and the carle looked on Katherine closely and on her hands and said to her at last; "Thou hast there on thy finger two rings strangely unlike each the other, wilt thou tell me [64] what they import, the gold ring with the fair gem, and the ugly iron one [?]"

She held her peace, and the old carle said: "Wilt thou not [tell] me [?) [For] belike I also may give thee a ring."

Then it was [as] if his asking drew the tale out of her, would she, would she not, and she told him all closely concerning the two spaedoms, and bade him say if he deemed them true.

Quoth be: "I wot not if they be true; but if they be, other things may be said of thee which shall be true also. Give me thine hands and let me look into them, and I shall tell thee74 what I know." So did she and he looked long on her hands, both of them the backs of them and the palms; and at last he [said] * "Sooth it is that the tale is not so easy to read; but so have I read it, that I see not therein either the great estate or the mickle shame which they have fortold thee; but whether these shall befal (sic] thee or not, this I know for sure that a fate shall befal thee that were nought wondrous for a comely upland maiden, but for thee and thy beauty may be called wondrous indeed; to wit that thou shalt be wedded to a good & true carle who shall love thee dearly, and thou him some deal."


13 Although Morris did not capitalize the chapter headings in the manuscript, I have followed the practice used for these details in the Collected Works. Morris omitted the apostrophe from "Widow's" in writing the work's title and underlined the title and the chapter heading several times. For the sake of consistency, I have followed the chapter number and the heading with a full stop in every case though the manuscript is inconsistent in this respect. I have also capitalized all the letters in the opening word of each chapter, as Morris does this in the manuscript for all the chapters except the first.

14 Morris placed the apostrophe after the "s."

15 The heroine's father is never mentioned again.

16 A deleted passage mentions two or three "lay brethren" but these are never beard of again. The "Black Monks" are presumably Dominicans.

17 The sentence begins folio 2. The start of each new folio is indicated with an asterisk thus.

18 Morris originally wrote "Catherine" but this is changed to a 'K" and the spelling is consistent from then on, except at the very end of Chapter 11 where the same correction can twice be observed.

19 There is some confusion in the manuscript at this point: "for the widow" has been added above the line but the following words "for her" have not been deleted. As this is necessary for the sense of the sentence, I have removed them.

20 Morris deleted the word "rude" here.

21 This word is illegible. I have supplied what seems to me to be an acceptable word, for the sake of continuity.

22 Morris's deletion of this passage is puzzling as there is no comparable passage describing the heroine's appearance elsewhere  in the manuscript.

23 Tbe word is indistinct. Morris does not seem to have been able to make up his mind between "of" and "to."

24 Morris calls him "Michael" but this is an obvious oversight as the young fisherman is tbereafter called "Grim" throughout.

25 father Paul (I have capitalized  the "f'") is a rather intriguing character who is not developed any further.

26.Morris wrote "brother Aloys" and a few deletions make it clear that Morris originally intended him  to be "an exorcist  only"  but  later changed his mind. For consistency's sake, he is always called "Father Aloys" and the initial "F" is always capitalized although Morris's manuscript is not totally consistent in this respect.

Aloys' name, which is a derivative of Lewis, means "famous warrior." This is surely another hint that he is in the wrong profession. Moreover, in joining the Dominicans or Black Friars, he joined a particularly inflexible orthodoxy. Founded to combat heresy, the Dominicans remained the guardians of orthodoxy, though on the positive side, they were also famed for their learning.

27. There seems little doubt that be was destined to be the man whom Katherine was to love. His behaviour is not unlike that of Arthur, the Black Squire, in The Water. As he is inhibited by his priestly vows, so Arthur is inhibited by bis prior commitment to Atra.

28. Hubert and Grim both display some of the characteristics of their creator. Grim has Morris's reserve and brusqueness, whilst Hubert has his tendency to 'dream and make up stories.' The young men's fathers, being well into middle age, may reflect Morris's feelings about being past the age when lovely young girls could legitimately be desired. Morris also seems to have put clements of himself into the 'spaeman' and tale-teller of the final chapters. See note 59.

29 Morris originally wrote "the sadness which comes at whiles." He then deleted "whiles" and substituted "now and again." I have omitted the remaining "at" which no looger makes sense in this context.

30 Morris wrote "that" but seems to have intended "than."

31 Morris initially wrote "love."

32 It is not clear whether Morris has wrinen "there" or "their."

33 As is apparent, Morris's deletion leaves a gap in his sentence which be does not fill.

34 This remark strengthens our impression that the "spaewife" here described is some kind of early version of the witch who kidnaps Birdalone in "The Widow's House." however, she does no tangible evil. Perhaps Morris intended her to appear later in the story as an opposing force to the Habundia-figure.

35 There is a good deal of blotting of ink in the middle of folio 13 from this point on.

36 A large blot here obscures any possible punctuation.

37 This seems to have been what Morris intended  to write. What he actually wrote was "muder."

38 Morris originally wrote "thereafter" but deleted it and replaced it with a more satisfyingly archaic word.

39 This is a spendid touch.  Morris does not often manage powerful and ominous touches with such economy.

40 Morris wrote "there" but this is clearly an error.

41 Morris wrote "warped" but this is obviously an error.

42 Morris had little patience with Victorian prudery. There is a particular poignancy in his description (both here and in Chapter VI) of the sufferings of unrequited love. He had good reason to know how keen they were!

43 Morris's sympathy for Hubert here makes the syntax of Katherine's reply somewhat tortuous!

44 Morris was to choose this adjective as the name of his later heroine.

45 Morris initially wrote 'the sons of Adam' but obviously decided that the glittering creature would be perilous to all mortals, though perhaps more so to men than to women.

46 There are several deletions at this point. Morris began by describing a gown of a "thin" and "'fine" web. At one point he considered making it yellow, only to change his mind.

47 A deleted passage at this point concerns the lady's sandals, "the strings whereof were of pearl and gems...' but since Morris describes this remarkable footwear later, the deleted passage no longer fits into the narrative.

48 This remark is never followed up or explained. Given the glittering lady's magical powers, it seems odd that she should be in the wood without her knowledge or desire. Is she telling the truth?

49 Interestingly, Habundia asks Birdalone not to make the sign of the cross in her presence in The Water.

50 In his reluclance to give names to his "spaewomcn" Morris is beginning to have trouble in describing them so thal the reader can tell which one is being referred to!

51 Morris rarely uses such naive devices to hold on to the reader's attention in The Water. Is he afraid that the story's impetus is flagging?

52 The manuscript con1ains the word "there," obviously written in error.

53 A full stop occurs here in the manuscript but Morris obviously decided to continue the sentence.

54 This sentence is plainly too lengthy and involved to be coherent but there are no clear indications or any points at which it can be broken off.

55 Morris appears not to notice that he has used the same words twice.

56 The manuscript is torn here. It is impossible to make out the word following "use." "It" seems to me to be the most lilcely word.

57 Habuodia too gives Birdalone a ring, which the witch-wife later discovers. However, it is the lock of hair, a part of which Birdalone is to burn when in dire need, which saves the heroine on the barren Isle of Increase Unsought.

58 The word "the" appears twice here.

59 The word "and" appears in the manuscript but this must be an error.

60 Morris has used a small "h" here.

61 My speech marks.

62 Morris's sympathetic treatment of the young fisherman is mingled with a good deal of wry amusement. Grim is clearly attempting emotional blackmail here. Morris leaves us in no doubt that the youth does not seriously intend suicide, though his feelings are genuinely tumultuous. It is interesting to note that, though designedly writing a prose romance and not a novel, Morris displays a much surer grasp of characterisation than is evident in his earlier work, including his unfinished novel of the 1870s.

63 I have capitalized the s here.

64 Morris first wrote S. W., and then added "outh" below the line and "'west" above.

65 Morris uses a semi-colon here as he continued the sentence with a passage he later deleted.

66 Morris again uses a semi-colon here instead of a full stop. Perhaps he intended to continue the sentence.

67 Morris seems to be referring here to the Merie Tales of the Mad Men of  Gotham by "A. B. of Phisike Doctour."  The purported author, Andrew  Boorde, who seems to have believed that "myrth" was good for the health, compiled what is one of the earliest sixteenth-century collections of jests. Although the earliest known editon of the Merie Talesis thought to be of circa 1565 (this edition was reprinted by the Renaissance English Text Society in 1965), several of the tales are considerably older, dating in some cases from the twelfth century.

The form in which Morris was most likely to have read the Merie Tales is in the third volume of W.C. Hazlitt's Old English Jest-Books (1864) which reprinted the 1630 edition of the tales. No doubt the straightforward humour of the tales appealed to Morris. The tenth tale, for example, tells how twelve men of Gotham went fishing and, when they had finished, one expressed the hope that none of their number had been drowned. They decide to count the number of people in their group and are most distressed when (as each counter fails to count himsclf) they can only find eleven and conclude that one of them must have perished!

68 This tale sounds rather reminiscent of the plot of The Wood Beyond the World.

69 We are not told whether this description or the King's Son is based on a real person.

70 When the old man later "spaes" Katherine's "weird", he tells her very little. However, his talcs, here and as she accompanies him on the first stage or bis journey through the wood, are surely intended to instruct and warn her about what her life may hold.

71 The way in which the narrative point-of-view seems to become the old man's at this point makes one wonder whether Morris did not identify with this aging teller of tales. Like Morris's own, the old man's tales are partly original and partly re-tellings of old stories. The description of the tale-teller's craft is so lovingly detailed that it is difficult not to see something of Morris himself in "the gangrel carle" who, when faced with youth and beauty, momentarily forgets bis own advancing years and feels like a young man again.

72 Morris does not give this chapter a number in the manuscript, writing "Chapter: Now is another spaedom." This may, like the increasingly uninspired chapter titles, be an indication that he was growing dissatisfied with the story.

73 Perhaps this "coldness" is due to the subject matter of the tales, particularly the one which is described immediately after this note.

74 Morris writes "me" when the sense of the sentence seems to require "thee".