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The Roots of the Mountains
by William Morris
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Transcribed from the 1896 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



THE ROOTS OF THE MOUNTAINS WHEREIN IS TOLD SOMEWHAT OF THE LIVES OF THE MEN OF BURGDALE THEIR FRIENDS THEIR NEIGHBOURS THEIR FOEMEN AND THEIR FELLOWS IN ARMS BY WILLIAM MORRIS



Whiles carried o'er the iron road, We hurry by some fair abode; The garden bright amidst the hay, The yellow wain upon the way, The dining men, the wind that sweeps Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps - The gable grey, the hoary roof, Here now—and now so far aloof. How sorely then we long to stay And midst its sweetness wear the day, And 'neath its changing shadows sit, And feel ourselves a part of it. Such rest, such stay, I strove to win With these same leaves that lie herein.



CHAPTER I. OF BURGSTEAD AND ITS FOLK AND ITS NEIGHBOURS



Once upon a time amidst the mountains and hills and falling streams of a fair land there was a town or thorp in a certain valley. This was well-nigh encompassed by a wall of sheer cliffs; toward the East and the great mountains they drew together till they went near to meet, and left but a narrow path on either side of a stony stream that came rattling down into the Dale: toward the river at that end the hills lowered somewhat, though they still ended in sheer rocks; but up from it, and more especially on the north side, they swelled into great shoulders of land, then dipped a little, and rose again into the sides of huge fells clad with pine-woods, and cleft here and there by deep ghylls: thence again they rose higher and steeper, and ever higher till they drew dark and naked out of the woods to meet the snow-fields and ice-rivers of the high mountains. But that was far away from the pass by the little river into the valley; and the said river was no drain from the snow-fields white and thick with the grinding of the ice, but clear and bright were its waters that came from wells amidst the bare rocky heaths.

The upper end of the valley, where it first began to open out from the pass, was rugged and broken by rocks and ridges of water-borne stones, but presently it smoothed itself into mere grassy swellings and knolls, and at last into a fair and fertile plain swelling up into a green wave, as it were, against the rock-wall which encompassed it on all sides save where the river came gushing out of the strait pass at the east end, and where at the west end it poured itself out of the Dale toward the lowlands and the plain of the great river.

Now the valley was some ten miles of our measure from that place of the rocks and the stone-ridges, to where the faces of the hills drew somewhat anigh to the river again at the west, and then fell aback along the edge of the great plain; like as when ye fare a-sailing past two nesses of a river-mouth, and the main-sea lieth open before you.

Besides the river afore-mentioned, which men called the Weltering Water, there were other waters in the Dale. Near the eastern pass, entangled in the rocky ground was a deep tarn full of cold springs and about two acres in measure, and therefrom ran a stream which fell into the Weltering Water amidst the grassy knolls. Black seemed the waters of that tarn which on one side washed the rocks-wall of the Dale; ugly and aweful it seemed to men, and none knew what lay beneath its waters save black mis-shapen trouts that few cared to bring to net or angle: and it was called the Death-Tarn.

Other waters yet there were: here and there from the hills on both sides, but especially from the south side, came trickles of water that ran in pretty brooks down to the river; and some of these sprang bubbling up amidst the foot-mounds of the sheer-rocks; some had cleft a rugged and strait way through them, and came tumbling down into the Dale at diverse heights from their faces. But on the north side about halfway down the Dale, one stream somewhat bigger than the others, and dealing with softer ground, had cleft for itself a wider way; and the folk had laboured this way wider yet, till they had made them a road running north along the west side of the stream. Sooth to say, except for the strait pass along the river at the eastern end, and the wider pass at the western, they had no other way (save one of which a word anon) out of the Dale but such as mountain goats and bold cragsmen might take; and even of these but few.

This midway stream was called the Wildlake, and the way along it Wildlake's Way, because it came to them out of the wood, which on that north side stretched away from nigh to the lip of the valley- wall up to the pine woods and the high fells on the east and north, and down to the plain country on the west and south.

Now when the Weltering Water came out of the rocky tangle near the pass, it was turned aside by the ground till it swung right up to the feet of the Southern crags; then it turned and slowly bent round again northward, and at last fairly doubled back on itself before it turned again to run westward; so that when, after its second double, it had come to flowing softly westward under the northern crags, it had cast two thirds of a girdle round about a space of land a little below the grassy knolls and tofts aforesaid; and there in that fair space between the folds of the Weltering Water stood the Thorp whereof the tale hath told.

The men thereof had widened and deepened the Weltering Water about them, and had bridged it over to the plain meads; and athwart the throat of the space left clear by the water they had built them a strong wall though not very high, with a gate amidst and a tower on either side thereof. Moreover, on the face of the cliff which was but a stone's throw from the gate they had made them stairs and ladders to go up by; and on a knoll nigh the brow had built a watch- tower of stone strong and great, lest war should come into the land from over the hills. That tower was ancient, and therefrom the Thorp had its name and the whole valley also; and it was called Burgstead in Burgdale.

So long as the Weltering Water ran straight along by the northern cliffs after it had left Burgstead, betwixt the water and the cliffs was a wide flat way fashioned by man's hand. Thus was the water again a good defence to the Thorp, for it ran slow and deep there, and there was no other ground betwixt it and the cliffs save that road, which was easy to bar across so that no foemen might pass without battle, and this road was called the Portway. For a long mile the river ran under the northern cliffs, and then turned into the midst of the Dale, and went its way westward a broad stream winding in gentle laps and folds here and there down to the out-gate of the Dale. But the Portway held on still underneath the rock-wall, till the sheer-rocks grew somewhat broken, and were cumbered with certain screes, and at last the wayfarer came upon the break in them, and the ghyll through which ran the Wildlake with Wildlake's Way beside it, but the Portway still went on all down the Dale and away to the Plain-country.

That road in the ghyll, which was neither wide nor smooth, the wayfarer into the wood must follow, till it lifted itself out of the ghyll, and left the Wildlake coming rattling down by many steps from the east; and now the way went straight north through the woodland, ever mounting higher, (because the whole set of the land was toward the high fells,) but not in any cleft or ghyll. The wood itself thereabout was thick, a blended growth of diverse kinds of trees, but most of oak and ash; light and air enough came through their boughs to suffer the holly and bramble and eglantine and other small wood to grow together into thickets, which no man could pass without hewing a way. But before it is told whereto Wildlake's Way led, it must be said that on the east side of the ghyll, where it first began just over the Portway, the hill's brow was clear of wood for a certain space, and there, overlooking all the Dale, was the Mote-stead of the Dalesmen, marked out by a great ring of stones, amidst of which was the mound for the Judges and the Altar of the Gods before it. And this was the holy place of the men of the Dale and of other folk whereof the tale shall now tell.

For when Wildlake's Way had gone some three miles from the Mote- stead, the trees began to thin, and presently afterwards was a clearing and the dwellings of men, built of timber as may well be thought. These houses were neither rich nor great, nor was the folk a mighty folk, because they were but a few, albeit body by body they were stout carles enough. They had not affinity with the Dalesmen, and did not wed with them, yet it is to be deemed that they were somewhat akin to them. To be short, though they were freemen, yet as regards the Dalesmen were they well-nigh their servants; for they were but poor in goods, and had to lean upon them somewhat. No tillage they had among those high trees; and of beasts nought save some flocks of goats and a few asses. Hunters they were, and charcoal-burners, and therein the deftest of men, and they could shoot well in the bow withal: so they trucked their charcoal and their smoked venison and their peltries with the Dalesmen for wheat and wine and weapons and weed; and the Dalesmen gave them main good pennyworths, as men who had abundance wherewith to uphold their kinsmen, though they were but far-away kin. Stout hands had these Woodlanders and true hearts as any; but they were few-spoken and to those that needed them not somewhat surly of speech and grim of visage: brown-skinned they were, but light-haired; well-eyed, with but little red in their cheeks: their women were not very fair, for they toiled like the men, or more. They were thought to be wiser than most men in foreseeing things to come. They were much given to spells, and songs of wizardry, and were very mindful of the old story-lays, wherein they were far more wordy than in their daily speech. Much skill had they in runes, and were exceeding deft in scoring them on treen bowls, and on staves, and door-posts and roof- beams and standing-beds and such like things. Many a day when the snow was drifting over their roofs, and hanging heavy on the tree- boughs, and the wind was roaring through the trees aloft and rattling about the close thicket, when the boughs were clattering in the wind, and crashing down beneath the weight of the gathering freezing snow, when all beasts and men lay close in their lairs, would they sit long hours about the house-fire with the knife or the gouge in hand, with the timber twixt their knees and the whetstone beside them, hearkening to some tale of old times and the days when their banner was abroad in the world; and they the while wheedling into growth out of the tough wood knots and blossoms and leaves and the images of beasts and warriors and women.

They were called nought save the Woodland-Carles in that day, though time had been when they had borne a nobler name: and their abode was called Carlstead. Shortly, for all they had and all they had not, for all they were and all they were not, they were well-beloved by their friends and feared by their foes.

Now when Wildlake's Way was gotten to Carlstead, there was an end of it toward the north; though beyond it in a right line the wood was thinner, because of the hewing of the Carles. But the road itself turned west at once and went on through the wood, till some four miles further it first thinned and then ceased altogether, the ground going down-hill all the way: for this was the lower flank of the first great upheaval toward the high mountains. But presently, after the wood was ended, the land broke into swelling downs and winding dales of no great height or depth, with a few scattered trees about the hillsides, mostly thorns or scrubby oaks, gnarled and bent and kept down by the western wind: here and there also were yew-trees, and whiles the hillsides would be grown over with box-wood, but none very great; and often juniper grew abundantly. This then was the country of the Shepherds, who were friends both of the Dalesmen and the Woodlanders. They dwelt not in any fenced town or thorp, but their homesteads were scattered about as was handy for water and shelter. Nevertheless they had their own stronghold; for amidmost of their country, on the highest of a certain down above a bottom where a willowy stream winded, was a great earthwork: the walls thereof were high and clean and overlapping at the entering in, and amidst of it was a deep well of water, so that it was a very defensible place: and thereto would they drive their flocks and herds when war was in the land, for nought but a very great host might win it; and this stronghold they called Greenbury.

These Shepherd-Folk were strong and tall like the Woodlanders, for they were partly of the same blood, but burnt they were both ruddy and brown: they were of more words than the Woodlanders but yet not many-worded. They knew well all those old story-lays, (and this partly by the minstrelsy of the Woodlanders,) but they had scant skill in wizardry, and would send for the Woodlanders, both men and women, to do whatso they needed therein. They were very hale and long-lived, whereas they dwelt in clear bright air, and they mostly went light-clad even in the winter, so strong and merry were they. They wedded with the Woodlanders and the Dalesmen both; at least certain houses of them did so. They grew no corn; nought but a few pot-herbs, but had their meal of the Dalesmen; and in the summer they drave some of their milch-kine into the Dale for the abundance of grass there; whereas their own hills and bents and winding valleys were not plenteously watered, except here and there as in the bottom under Greenbury. No swine they had, and but few horses, but of sheep very many, and of the best both for their flesh and their wool. Yet were they nought so deft craftsmen at the loom as were the Dalesmen, and their women were not very eager at the weaving, though they loathed not the spindle and rock. Shortly, they were merry folk well-beloved of the Dalesmen, quick to wrath, though it abode not long with them; not very curious in their houses and halls, which were but little, and were decked mostly with the handiwork of the Woodland-Carles their guests; who when they were abiding with them, would oft stand long hours nose to beam, scoring and nicking and hammering, answering no word spoken to them but with aye or no, desiring nought save the endurance of the daylight. Moreover, this shepherd-folk heeded not gay raiment over-much, but commonly went clad in white woollen or sheep-brown weed.

But beyond this shepherd-folk were more downs and more, scantily peopled, and that after a while by folk with whom they had no kinship or affinity, and who were at whiles their foes. Yet was there no enduring enmity between them; and ever after war and battle came peace; and all blood-wites were duly paid and no long feud followed: nor were the Dalesmen and the Woodlanders always in these wars, though at whiles they were. Thus then it fared with these people.

But now that we have told of the folks with whom the Dalesmen had kinship, affinity, and friendship, tell we of their chief abode, Burgstead to wit, and of its fashion. As hath been told, it lay upon the land made nigh into an isle by the folds of the Weltering Water towards the uppermost end of the Dale; and it was warded by the deep water, and by the wall aforesaid with its towers. Now the Dale at its widest, to wit where Wildlake fell into it, was but nine furlongs over, but at Burgstead it was far narrower; so that betwixt the wall and the wandering stream there was but a space of fifty acres, and therein lay Burgstead in a space of the shape of a sword-pommel: and the houses of the kinships lay about it, amidst of gardens and orchards, but little ordered into streets and lanes, save that a way went clean through everything from the tower-warded gate to the bridge over the Water, which was warded by two other towers on its hither side.

As to the houses, they were some bigger, some smaller, as the housemates needed. Some were old, but not very old, save two only, and some quite new, but of these there were not many: they were all built fairly of stone and lime, with much fair and curious carved work of knots and beasts and men round about the doors; or whiles a wale of such-like work all along the house-front. For as deft as were the Woodlanders with knife and gouge on the oaken beams, even so deft were the Dalesmen with mallet and chisel on the face of the hewn stone; and this was a great pastime about the Thorp. Within these houses had but a hall and solar, with shut-beds out from the hall on one side or two, with whatso of kitchen and buttery and out-bower men deemed handy. Many men dwelt in each house, either kinsfolk, or such as were joined to the kindred.

Near to the gate of Burgstead in that street aforesaid and facing east was the biggest house of the Thorp; it was one of the two abovesaid which were older than any other. Its door-posts and the lintel of the door were carved with knots and twining stems fairer than other houses of that stead; and on the wall beside the door carved over many stones was an image wrought in the likeness of a man with a wide face, which was terrible to behold, although it smiled: he bore a bent bow in his hand with an arrow fitted to its string, and about the head of him was a ring of rays like the beams of the sun, and at his feet was a dragon, which had crept, as it were, from amidst of the blossomed knots of the door-post wherewith the tail of him was yet entwined. And this head with the ring of rays about it was wrought into the adornment of that house, both within and without, in many other places, but on never another house of the Dale; and it was called the House of the Face. Thereof hath the tale much to tell hereafter, but as now it goeth on to tell of the ways of life of the Dalesmen.

In Burgstead was no Mote-hall or Town-house or Church, such as we wot of in these days; and their market-place was wheresoever any might choose to pitch a booth: but for the most part this was done in the wide street betwixt the gate and the bridge. As to a meeting-place, were there any small matters between man and man, these would the Alderman or one of the Wardens deal with, sitting in Court with the neighbours on the wide space just outside the Gate: but if it were to do with greater matters, such as great manslayings and blood- wites, or the making of war or ending of it, or the choosing of the Alderman and the Wardens, such matters must be put off to the Folk- mote, which could but be held in the place aforesaid where was the Doom-ring and the Altar of the Gods; and at that Folk-mote both the Shepherd-Folk and the Woodland-Carles foregathered with the Dalesmen, and duly said their say. There also they held their great casts and made offerings to the Gods for the Fruitfulness of the Year, the ingathering of the increase, and in Memory of their Forefathers. Natheless at Yule-tide also they feasted from house to house to be glad with the rest of Midwinter, and many a cup drank at those feasts to the memory of the fathers, and the days when the world was wider to them, and their banners fared far afield.

But besides these dwellings of men in the field between the wall and the water, there were homesteads up and down the Dale whereso men found it easy and pleasant to dwell: their halls were built of much the same fashion as those within the Thorp; but many had a high garth-wall cast about them, so that they might make a stout defence in their own houses if war came into the Dale.

As to their work afield; in many places the Dale was fair with growth of trees, and especially were there long groves of sweet chestnut standing on the grass, of the fruit whereof the folk had much gain. Also on the south side nigh to the western end was a wood or two of yew-trees very great and old, whence they gat them bow-staves, for the Dalesmen also shot well in the bow. Much wheat and rye they raised in the Dale, and especially at the nether end thereof. Apples and pears and cherries and plums they had in plenty; of which trees, some grew about the borders of the acres, some in the gardens of the Thorp and the homesteads. On the slopes that had grown from the breaking down here and there of the Northern cliffs, and which faced the South and the Sun's burning, were rows of goodly vines, whereof the folk made them enough and to spare of strong wine both white and red.

As to their beasts; swine they had a many, but not many sheep, since herein they trusted to their trucking with their friends the Shepherds; they had horses, and yet but a few, for they were stout in going afoot; and, had they a journey to make with women big with babes, or with children or outworn elders, they would yoke their oxen to their wains, and go fair and softly whither they would. But the said oxen and all their neat were exceeding big and fair, far other than the little beasts of the Shepherd-Folk; they were either dun of colour, or white with black horns (and those very great) and black tail-tufts and ear-tips. Asses they had, and mules for the paths of the mountains to the east; geese and hens enough, and dogs not a few, great hounds stronger than wolves, sharp-nosed, long-jawed, dun of colour, shag-haired.

As to their wares; they were very deft weavers of wool and flax, and made a shift to dye the thrums in fair colours; since both woad and madder came to them good cheap by means of the merchants of the plain country, and of greening weeds was abundance at hand. Good smiths they were in all the metals: they washed somewhat of gold out of the sands of the Weltering Water, and copper and tin they fetched from the rocks of the eastern mountains; but of silver they saw little, and iron they must buy of the merchants of the plain, who came to them twice in the year, to wit in the spring and the late autumn just before the snows. Their wares they bought with wool spun and in the fleece, and fine cloth, and skins of wine and young neat both steers and heifers, and wrought copper bowls, and gold and copper by weight, for they had no stamped money. And they guested these merchants well, for they loved them, because of the tales they told them of the Plain and its cities, and the manslayings therein, and the fall of Kings and Dukes, and the uprising of Captains.

Thus then lived this folk in much plenty and ease of life, though not delicately nor desiring things out of measure. They wrought with their hands and wearied themselves; and they rested from their toil and feasted and were merry: to-morrow was not a burden to them, nor yesterday a thing which they would fain forget: life shamed them not, nor did death make them afraid.

As for the Dale wherein they dwelt, it was indeed most fair and lovely, and they deemed it the Blessing of the Earth, and they trod its flowery grass beside its rippled streams amidst its green tree- boughs proudly and joyfully with goodly bodies and merry hearts.



CHAPTER II. OF FACE-OF-GOD AND HIS KINDRED



Tells the tale, that on an evening of late autumn when the weather was fair, calm, and sunny, there came a man out of the wood hard by the Mote-stead aforesaid, who sat him down at the roots of the Speech-mound, casting down before him a roe-buck which he had just slain in the wood. He was a young man of three and twenty summers; he was so clad that he had on him a sheep-brown kirtle and leggings of like stuff bound about with white leather thongs; he bore a short- sword in his girdle and a little axe withal; the sword with fair wrought gilded hilts and a dew-shoe of like fashion to its sheath. He had his quiver at his back and bare in his hand his bow unstrung. He was tall and strong, very fair of fashion both of limbs and face, white-skinned, but for the sun's tanning, and ruddy-cheeked: his beard was little and fine, his hair yellow and curling, cut somewhat close, but for its length so plenteous, and so thick, that none could fail to note it. He had no hat nor hood upon his head, nought but a fillet of golden beads.

As he sat down he glanced at the dale below him with a well-pleased look, and then cast his eyes down to the grass at his feet, as though to hold a little longer all unchanged the image of the fair place he had just seen. The sun was low in the heavens, and his slant beams fell yellow all up the dale, gilding the chestnut groves grown dusk and grey with autumn, and the black masses of the elm-boughs, and gleaming back here and there from the pools of the Weltering Water. Down in the midmost meadows the long-horned dun kine were moving slowly as they fed along the edges of the stream, and a dog was bounding about with exceeding swiftness here and there among them. At a sharply curved bight of the river the man could see a little vermilion flame flickering about, and above it a thin blue veil of smoke hanging in the air, and clinging to the boughs of the willows anear; about it were a dozen menfolk clear to see, some sitting, some standing, some walking to and fro, but all in company together: four of were brown-clad and short-skirted like himself, and from above the hand of one came a flash of light as the sun smote upon the steel of his spear. The others were long-skirted and clad gayer, and amongst them were red and blue and green and white garments, and they were clear to be seen for women. Just as the young man looked up again, those of them who were sitting down rose up, and those that were strolling drew nigh, and they joined hands together, and fell to dancing on the grass, and the dog and another one with him came up to the dancers and raced about and betwixt them; and so clear to see were they all and so little, being far away, that they looked like dainty well-wrought puppets.

The young man sat smiling at it for a little, and then rose up and shouldered his venison, and went down into Wildlake's Way, and presently was fairly in the Dale and striding along the Portway beside the northern cliffs, whose greyness was gilded yet by the last rays of the sun, though in a minute or two it would go under the western rim. He went fast and cheerily, murmuring to himself snatches of old songs; none overtook him on the road, but he overtook divers folk going alone or in company toward Burgstead; swains and old men, mothers and maidens coming from the field and the acre, or going from house to house; and one or two he met but not many. All these greeted him kindly, and he them again; but he stayed not to speak with any, but went as one in haste.

It was dusk by then he passed under the gate of Burgstead; he went straight thence to the door of the House of the Face, and entered as one who is at home, and need go no further, nor abide a bidding.

The hall he came into straight out of the open air was long and somewhat narrow and not right high; it was well-nigh dark now within, but since he knew where to look, he could see by the flicker that leapt up now and then from the smouldering brands of the hearth amidmost the hall under the luffer, that there were but three men therein, and belike they were even they whom he looked to find there, and for their part they looked for his coming, and knew his step.

He set down his venison on the floor, and cried out in a cheery voice: 'Ho, Kettel! Are all men gone without doors to sleep so near the winter-tide, that the Hall is as dark as a cave? Hither to me! Or art thou also sleeping?'

A voice came from the further side of the hearth: 'Yea, lord, asleep I am, and have been, and dreaming; and in my dream I dealt with the flesh-pots and the cake-board, and thou shalt see my dream come true presently to thy gain.'

Quoth another voice: 'Kettel hath had out that share of his dream already belike, if the saw sayeth sooth about cooks. All ye have been away, so belike he hath done as Rafe's dog when Rafe ran away from the slain buck.'

He laughed therewith, and Kettel with him, and a third voice joined the laughter. The young man also laughed and said: 'Here I bring the venison which my kinsman desired; but as ye see I have brought it over-late: but take it, Kettel. When cometh my father from the stithy?'

Quoth Kettel: 'My lord hath been hard at it shaping the Yule-tide sword, and doth not lightly leave such work, as ye wot, but he will be here presently, for he has sent to bid us dight for supper straightway.'

Said the young man: 'Where are there lords in the dale, Kettel, or hast thou made some thyself, that thou must be always throwing them in my teeth?'

'Son of the Alderman,' said Kettel, 'ye call me Kettel, which is no name of mine, so why should I not call thee lord, which is no dignity of thine, since it goes well over my tongue from old use and wont? But here comes my mate of the kettle, and the women and lads. Sit down by the hearth away from their hurry, and I will fetch thee the hand-water.'

The young man sat down, and Kettel took up the venison and went his ways toward the door at the lower end of the hall; but ere he reached it it opened, and a noisy crowd entered of men, women, boys, and dogs, some bearing great wax candles, some bowls and cups and dishes and trenchers, and some the boards for the meal.

The young man sat quiet smiling and winking his eyes at the sudden flood of light let into the dark place; he took in without looking at this or the other thing the aspect of his Fathers' House, so long familiar to him; yet to-night he had a pleasure in it above his wont, and in all the stir of the household; for the thought of the wood wherein he had wandered all day yet hung heavy upon him. Came one of the girls and cast fresh brands on the smouldering fire and stirred it into a blaze, and the wax candles were set up on the dais, so that between them and the mew-quickened fire every corner of the hall was bright. As aforesaid it was long and narrow, over-arched with stone and not right high, the windows high up under the springing of the roof-arch and all on the side toward the street; over against them were the arches of the shut-beds of the housemates. The walls were bare that evening, but folk were wont to hang up hallings of woven pictures thereon when feasts and high-days were toward; and all along the walls were the tenter-hooks for that purpose, and divers weapons and tools were hanging from them here and there. About the dais behind the thwart-table were now stuck for adornment leavy boughs of oak now just beginning to turn with the first frosts. High up on the gable wall above the tenter-hooks for the hangings were carven fair imagery and knots and twining stems; for there in the hewn atone was set forth that same image with the rayed head that was on the outside wall, and he was smiting the dragon and slaying him; but here inside the house all this was stained in fair and lively colours, and the sun-like rays round the head of the image were of beaten gold. At the lower end of the hall were two doors going into the butteries, and kitchen, and other out-bowers; and above these doors was a loft upborne by stone pillars, which loft was the sleeping chamber of the goodman of the house; but the outward door was halfway between the said loft and the hearth of the hall.

So the young man took the shoes from his feet and then sat watching the women and lads arraying the boards, till Kettel came again to him with an old woman bearing the ewer and basin, who washed his feet and poured the water over his hands, and gave him the towel with fair- broidered ends to dry them withal.

Scarce had he made an end of this ere through the outer door came in three men and a young woman with them; the foremost of these was a man younger by some two years than the first-comer, but so like him that none might misdoubt that he was his brother; the next was an old man with a long white beard, but hale and upright; and lastly came a man of middle-age, who led the young woman by the hand. He was taller than the first of the young men, though the other who entered with him outwent him in height; a stark carle he was, broad across the shoulders, thin in the flank, long-armed and big-handed; very noble and well-fashioned of countenance, with a straight nose and grey eyes underneath a broad brow: his hair grown somewhat scanty was done about with a fillet of golden beads like the young men his sons. For indeed this was their father, and the master of the House.

His name was Iron-face, for he was the deftest of weapon-smiths, and he was the Alderman of the Dalesmen, and well-beloved of them; his kindred was deemed the noblest of the Dale, and long had they dwelt in the House of the Face. But of his sons the youngest, the new- comer, was named Hall-face, and his brother the elder Face-of-god; which name was of old use amongst the kindred, and many great men and stout warriors had borne it aforetime: and this young man, in great love had he been gotten, and in much hope had he been reared, and therefore had he been named after the best of the kindred. But his mother, who was hight the Jewel, and had been a very fair woman, was dead now, and Iron-face lacked a wife.

Face-of-god was well-beloved of his kindred and of all the Folk of the Dale, and he had gotten a to-name, and was called Gold-mane because of the abundance and fairness of his hair.

As for the young woman that was led in by Iron-face, she was the betrothed of Face-of-god, and her name was the Bride. She looked with such eyes of love on him when she saw him in the hall, as though she had never seen him before but once, nor loved him but since yesterday; though in truth they had grown up together and had seen each other most days of the year for many years. She was of the kindred with whom the chiefs and great men of the Face mostly wedded, which was indeed far away kindred of them. She was a fair woman and strong: not easily daunted amidst perils she was hardy and handy and light-foot: she could swim as well as any, and could shoot well in the bow, and wield sword and spear: yet was she kind and compassionate, and of great courtesy, and the very dogs and kine trusted in her and loved her. Her hair was dark red of hue, long and fine and plenteous, her eyes great and brown, her brow broad and very fair, her lips fine and red: her cheek not ruddy, yet nowise sallow, but clear and bright: tall she was and of excellent fashion, but well-knit and well-measured rather than slender and wavering as the willow-bough. Her voice was sweet and soft, her words few, but exceeding dear to the listener. In short, she was a woman born to be the ransom of her Folk.

Now as to the names which the menfolk of the Face bore, and they an ancient kindred, a kindred of chieftains, it has been said that in times past their image of the God of the Earth had over his treen face a mask of beaten gold fashioned to the shape of the image; and that when the Alderman of the Folk died, he to wit who served the God and bore on his arm the gold-ring between the people and the altar, this visor or face of God was laid over the face of him who had been in a manner his priest, and therewith he was borne to mound; and the new Alderman and priest had it in charge to fashion a new visor for the God; and whereas for long this great kindred had been chieftains of the people, they had been, and were all so named, that the word Face was ever a part of their names.



CHAPTER III. THEY TALK OF DIVERS MATTERS IN THE HALL



Now Face-of-god, who is also called Gold-mane, rose up to meet the new-comers, and each of them greeted him kindly, and the Bride kissed him on the cheek, and he her in likewise; and he looked kindly on her, and took her hand, and went on up the hall to the dais, following his father and the old man; as for him, he was of the kindred of the House, and was foster-father of Iron-face and of his sons both; and his name was Stone-face: a stark warrior had he been when he was young, and even now he could do a man's work in the battlefield, and his understanding was as good as that of a man in his prime. So went these and four others up on to the dais and sat down before the thwart-table looking down the hall, for the meat was now on the board; and of the others there were some fifty men and women who were deemed to be of the kindred and sat at the endlong tables.

So then the Alderman stood up and made the sign of the Hammer over the meat, the token of his craft and of his God. Then they fell to with good hearts, for there was enough and to spare of meat and drink. There was bread and flesh (though not Gold-mane's venison), and leeks and roasted chestnuts of the grove, and red-cheeked apples of the garth, and honey enough of that year's gathering, and medlars sharp and mellow: moreover, good wine of the western bents went up and down the hall in great gilded copper bowls and in mazers girt and lipped with gold.

But when they were full of meat, and had drunken somewhat, they fell to speech, and Iron-face spake aloud to his son, who had but been speaking softly to the Bride as one playmate to the other: but the Alderman said: 'Scarce are the wood-deer grown, kinsman, when I must needs eat sheep's flesh on a Thursday, though my son has lain abroad in the woods all night to hunt for me.'

And therewith he smiled in the young man's face; but Gold-mane reddened and said: 'So is it, kinsman, I can hit what I can see; but not what is hidden.'

Iron-face laughed and said: 'Hast thou been to the Woodland-Carles? are their women fairer than our cousins?'

Face-of-god took up the Bride's hand in his and kissed it and laid it to his cheek; and then turned to his father and said: 'Nay, father, I saw not the Wood-carles, nor went to their abode; and on no day do I lust after their women. Moreover, I brought home a roebuck of the fattest; but I was over-late for Kettel, and the flesh was ready for the board by then I came.'

'Well, son,' quoth Iron-face, for he was merry, 'a roebuck is but a little deer for such big men as are thou and I. But I rede thee take the Bride along with thee the next time; and she shall seek whilest thou sleepest, and hit when thou missest.'

Then Face-of-god smiled, but he frowned somewhat also, and he said: 'Well were that, indeed! But if ye must needs drag a true tale out of me: that roebuck I shot at the very edge of the wood nigh to the Mote-stead as I was coming home: harts had I seen in the wood and its lawns, and boars, and bucks, and loosed not at them: for indeed when I awoke in the morning in that wood-lawn ye wot of, I wandered up and down with my bow unbent. So it was that I fared as if I were seeking something, I know not what, that should fill up something lacking to me, I know not what. Thus I felt in myself even so long as I was underneath the black boughs, and there was none beside me and before me, and none to turn aback to: but when I came out again into the sunshine, and I saw the fair dale, and the happy abode lying before me, and folk abroad in the meads merry in the eventide; then was I full fain of it, and loathed the wood as an empty thing that had nought to give me; and lo you! all that I had been longing for in the wood, was it not in this House and ready to my hand?—and that is good meseemeth.'

Therewith he drank of the cup which the Bride put into his hand after she had kissed the rim, but when he had set it down again he spake once more:

'And yet now I am sitting honoured and well-beloved in the House of my Fathers, with the holy hearth sparkling and gleaming down there before me; and she that shall bear my children sitting soft and kind by my side, and the bold lads I shall one day lead in battle drinking out of my very cup: now it seems to me that amidst all this, the dark cold wood, wherein abide but the beasts and the Foes of the Gods, is bidding me to it and drawing me thither. Narrow is the Dale and the World is wide; I would it were dawn and daylight, that I might be afoot again.'

And he half rose up from his place. But his father bent his brow on him and said: 'Kinsman, thou hast a long tongue for a half-trained whelp: nor see I whitherward thy mind is wandering, but if it be on the road of a lad's desire to go further and fare worse. Hearken then, I will offer thee somewhat! Soon shall the West-country merchants be here with their winter truck. How sayest thou? hast thou a mind to fare back with them, and look on the Plain and its Cities, and take and give with the strangers? To whom indeed thou shalt be nothing save a purse with a few lumps of gold in it, or maybe a spear in the stranger's band on the stricken field, or a bow on the wall of an alien city. This is a craft which thou mayst well learn, since thou shalt be a chieftain; a craft good to learn, however grievous it be in the learning. And I myself have been there; for in my youth I desired sore to look on the world beyond the mountains; so I went, and I filled my belly with the fruit of my own desires, and a bitter meat was that; but now that it has passed through me, and I yet alive, belike I am more of a grown man for having endured its gripe. Even so may it well be with thee, son; so go if thou wilt; and thou shalt go with my blessing, and with gold and wares and wain and spearmen.'

'Nay,' said Face-of-god, 'I thank thee, for it is well offered; but I will not go, for I have no lust for the Plain and its Cities; I love the Dale well, and all that is round about it; therein will I live and die.'

Therewith he fell a-musing; and the Bride looked at him anxiously, but spake not. Sooth to say her heart was sinking, as though she foreboded some new thing, which should thrust itself into their merry life.

But the old man Stone-face took up the word and said:

'Son Gold-mane, it behoveth me to speak, since belike I know the wild-wood better than most, and have done for these three-score and ten years; to my cost. Now I perceive that thou longest for the wood and the innermost of it; and wot ye what? This longing will at whiles entangle the sons of our chieftains, though this Alderman that now is hath been free therefrom, which is well for him. For, time was this longing came over me, and I went whither it led me: overlong it were to tell of all that befell me because of it, and how my heart bled thereby. So sorry were the tidings that came of it, that now meseemeth my heart should be of stone and not my face, had it not been for the love wherewith I have loved the sons of the kindred. Therefore, son, it were not ill if ye went west away with the merchants this winter, and learned the dealings of the cities, and brought us back tales thereof.'

But Gold-mane cried out somewhat angrily, 'I tell thee, foster- father, that I have no mind for the cities and their men and their fools and their whores and their runagates. But as for the wood and its wonders, I have done with it, save for hunting there along with others of the Folk. So let thy mind be at ease; and for the rest, I will do what the Alderman commandeth, and whatso my father craveth of me.'

'And that is well, son,' said Stone-face, 'if what ye say come to pass, as sore I misdoubt me it will not. But well it were, well it were! For such things are in the wood, yea and before ye come to its innermost, as may well try the stoutest heart. Therein are Kobbolds, and Wights that love not men, things unto whom the grief of men is as the sound of the fiddle-bow unto us. And there abide the ghosts of those that may not rest; and there wander the dwarfs and the mountain-dwellers, the dealers in marvels, the givers of gifts that destroy Houses; the forgers of the curse that clingeth and the murder that flitteth to and fro. There moreover are the lairs of Wights in the shapes of women, that draw a young man's heart out of his body, and fill up the empty place with desire never to be satisfied, that they may mock him therewith and waste his manhood and destroy him. Nor say I much of the strong-thieves that dwell there, since thou art a valiant sword; or of them who have been made Wolves of the Holy Places; or of the Murder-Carles, the remnants and off-scourings of wicked and wretched Folks—men who think as much of the life of a man as of the life of a fly. Yet happiest is the man whom they shall tear in pieces, than he who shall live burdened by the curse of the Foes of the Gods.'

The housemaster looked on his son as the old carle spake, and a cloud gathered on his face a while; and when Stone-face had made an end he spake:

'This is long and evil talk for the end of a merry day, O fosterer! Wilt thou not drink a draught, O Redesman, and then stand up and set thy fiddle-bow a-dancing, and cause it draw some fair words after it? For my cousin's face hath grown sadder than a young maid's should be, and my son's eyes gleam with thoughts that are far away from us and abroad in the wild-wood seeking marvels.'

Then arose a man of middle-age from the top of the endlong bench on the east side of the hall: a man tall, thin and scant-haired, with a nose like an eagle's neb: he reached out his hand for the bowl, and when they had given to him he handled it, and raised it aloft and cried:

'Here I drink a double health to Face-of-god and the Bride, and the love that lieth between them, and the love betwixt them twain and us.'

He drank therewith, and the wine went up and down the hall, and all men drank, both carles and queens, with shouting and great joy. Then Redesman put down the cup (for it had come into his hands again), and reached his hand to the wall behind him, and took down his fiddle hanging there in its case, and drew it out and fell to tuning it, while the hall grew silent to hearken: then he handled the bow and laid it on the strings till they wailed and chuckled sweetly, and when the song was well awake and stirring briskly, then he lifted up his voice and sang:

The Minstrel saith:

'O why on this morning, ye maids, are ye tripping Aloof from the meadows yet fresh with the dew, Where under the west wind the river is lipping The fragrance of mint, the white blooms and the blue?

For rough is the Portway where panting ye wander; On your feet and your gown-hems the dust lieth dun; Come trip through the grass and the meadow-sweet yonder, And forget neath the willows the sword of the sun.

The Maidens answer:

Though fair are the moon-daisies down by the river, And soft is the grass and the white clover sweet; Though twixt us and the rock-wall the hot glare doth quiver, And the dust of the wheel-way is dun on our feet;

Yet here on the way shall we walk on this morning Though the sun burneth here, and sweet, cool is the mead; For here when in old days the Burg gave its warning, Stood stark under weapons the doughty of deed.

Here came on the aliens their proud words a-crying, And here on our threshold they stumbled and fell; Here silent at even the steel-clad were lying, And here were our mothers the story to tell.

Here then on the morn of the eve of the wedding We pray to the Mighty that we too may bear Such war-walls for warding of orchard and steading, That the new days be merry as old days were dear.'

Therewith he made an end, and shouts and glad cries arose all about the hall; and an old man arose and cried: 'A cup to the memory of the Mighty of the Day of the Warding of the Ways.' For you must know this song told of a custom of the Folk, held in memory of a time of bygone battle, wherein they had overthrown a great host of aliens on the Portway betwixt the river and the cliffs, two furlongs from the gate of Burgstead. So now two weeks before Midsummer those maidens who were presently to be wedded went early in the morning to that place clad in very fair raiment, swords girt to their sides and spears in their hands, and abode there on the highway from morn till even as though they were a guard to it. And they made merry there, singing songs and telling tales of times past: and at the sunsetting their grooms came to fetch them away to the Feast of the Eve of the Wedding.

While the song was a-singing Face-of-god took the Bride's hand in his and caressed it, and was soft and blithe with her; and she reddened and trembled for pleasure, and called to mind wedding feasts that had been, and fair brides that she had seen thereat, and she forgot her fears and her heart was at peace again.

And Iron-face looked well-pleased on the two from time to time, and smiled, but forbore words to them.

But up and down the hall men talked with one another about things long ago betid: for their hearts were high and they desired deeds; but in that fair Dale so happy were the years from day to day that there was but little to tell of. So deepened the night and waned, and Gold-mane and the Bride still talked sweetly together, and at whiles kindly to the others; and by seeming he had clean forgotten the wood and its wonders.

Then at last the Alderman called for the cup of good-night, and men drank thereof and went their ways to bed.



CHAPTER IV. FACE-OF-GOD FARETH TO THE WOOD AGAIN



When it was the earliest morning and dawn was but just beginning, Face-of-god awoke and rose up from his bed, and came forth into the hall naked in his shirt, and stood by the hearth, wherein the piled- up embers were yet red, and looked about and could see nothing stirring in the dimness: then he fetched water and washed the night- tide off him, and clad himself in haste, and was even as he was yesterday, save that he left his bow and quiver in their place and took instead a short casting-spear; moreover he took a leathern scrip and went therewith to the buttery, and set therein bread and flesh and a little gilded beaker; and all this he did with but little noise; for he would not be questioned, lest he should have to answer himself as well as others.

Thus he went quietly out of doors, for the door was but latched, since no bolts or bars or locks were used in Burgstead, and through the town-gate, which stood open, save when rumours of war were about. He turned his face straight towards Wildlake's Way, walking briskly, but at whiles looking back over his shoulder toward the East to note what way was made by the dawning, and how the sky lightened above the mountain passes.

By then he was come to the place where the Maiden Ward was held in the summer the dawn was so far forward that all things had their due colours, and were clear to see in the shadowless day. It was a bright morning, with an easterly air stirring that drave away the haze and dried the meadows, which had otherwise been rimy; for it was cold. Gold-mane lingered on the place a little, and his eyes fell on the road, as dusty yet as in Redesman's song; for the autumn had been very dry, and the strip of green that edged the outside of the way was worn and dusty also. On the edge of it, half in the dusty road, half on the worn grass, was a long twine of briony red-berried and black-leaved; and right in the midst of the road were two twigs of great-leaved sturdy pollard oak, as though they had been thrown aside there yesterday by women or children a-sporting; and the deep white dust yet held the marks of feet, some bare, some shod, crossing each other here and there. Face-of-god smiled as he passed on, as a man with a happy thought; for his mind showed him a picture of the Bride as she would be leading the Maiden Ward next summer, and singing first among the singers, and he saw her as clearly as he had often seen her verily, and before him was the fashion of her hands and all her body, and the little mark on her right wrist, and the place where her arm whitened, because the sleeve guarded it against the sun, which had long been pleasant unto him, and the little hollow in her chin, and the lock of red-brown hair waving in the wind above her brow, and shining in the sun as brightly as the Alderman's cunningest work of golden wire. Soft and sweet seemed that picture, till he almost seemed to hear her sweet voice calling to him, and desire of her so took hold of the youth, that it stirred him up to go swiftlier as he strode on, the day brightening behind him.

Now was it nigh sunrise, and he began to meet folk on the way, though not many; since for most their way lay afield, and not towards the Burg. The first was a Woodlander, tall and gaunt, striding beside his ass, whose panniers were laden with charcoal. The carle's daughter, a little maiden of seven winters, riding on the ass's back betwixt the panniers, and prattling to herself in the cold morning; for she was pleased with the clear light in the east, and the smooth wide turf of the meadows, as one who had not often been far from the shadow of the heavy trees of the wood, and their dark wall round about the clearing where they dwelt. Face-of-god gave the twain the sele of the day in merry fashion as he passed them by, and the sober dark-faced man nodded to him but spake no word, and the child stayed her prattle to watch him as he went by.

Then came the sound of the rattle of wheels, and, as he doubled an angle of the rock-wall, he came upon a wain drawn by four dun kine, wherein lay a young woman all muffled up against the cold with furs and cloths; beside the yoke-beasts went her man, a well-knit trim- faced Dalesman clad bravely in holiday raiment, girt with a goodly sword, bearing a bright steel helm on his head, in his hand a long spear with a gay red and white shaft done about with copper bands. He looked merry and proud of his wain-load, and the woman was smiling kindly on him from out of her scarlet and fur; but now she turned a weary happy face on Gold-mane, for they knew him, as did all men of the Dale.

So he stopped when they met, for the goodman had already stayed his slow beasts, and the goodwife had risen a little on her cushions to greet him, yet slowly and but a little, for she was great with child, and not far from her time. That knew Gold-mane well, and what was toward, and why the goodman wore his fine clothes, and why the wain was decked with oak-boughs and the yoke-beasts with their best gilded bells and copper-adorned harness. For it was a custom with many of the kindreds that the goodwife should fare to her father's house to lie in with her first babe, and the day of her coming home was made a great feast in the house. So then Face-of-god cried out: 'Hail to thee, O Warcliff! Shrewd is the wind this morning, and thou dost well to heed it carefully, this thine orchard, this thy garden, this thy fair apple-tree! To a good hall thou wendest, and the Wine of Increase shall be sweet there this even.'

Then smiled Warcliff all across his face, and the goodwife hung her head and reddened. Said the goodman: 'Wilt thou not be with us, son of the Alderman, as surely thy father shall be?'

'Nay,' said Face-of-god, 'though I were fain of it: my own matters carry me away.'

'What matters?' said Warcliff; 'perchance thou art for the cities this autumn?'

Face-of-god answered somewhat stiffly: 'Nay, I am not;' and then more kindly, and smiling, 'All roads lead not down to the Plain, friend.'

'What road then farest thou away from us?' said the goodwife.

'The way of my will,' he answered.

'And what way is that?' said she; 'take heed, lest I get a longing to know. For then must thou needs tell me, or deal with the carle there beside thee.'

'Nay, goodwife,' said Face-of-god, 'let not that longing take thee; for on that matter I am even as wise as thou. Now good speed to thee and to the new-comer!'

Therewith he went close up to the wain, and reached out his hand to her, and she gave him hers and he kissed it, and so went his ways smiling kindly on them. Then the carle cried to his kine, and they bent down their heads to the yoke; and presently, as he walked on, he heard the rumble of the wain mingling with the tinkling of their bells, which in a little while became measured and musical, and sounded above the creaking of the axles and the rattle of the gear and the roll of the great wheels over the road: and so it grew thinner and thinner till it all died away behind him.

He was now come to where the river turned away from the sheer rock- wall, which was not so high there as in most other places, as there had been in old time long screes from the cliff, which had now grown together, with the waxing of herbs and the washing down of the earth on to them, and made a steady slope or low hill going down riverward. Over this the road lifted itself above the level of the meadows, keeping a little way from the cliffs, while on the other side its bank was somewhat broken and steep here and there. As Face-of-god came up to one of these broken places, the sun rose over the eastern pass, and the meadows grew golden with its long beams. He lingered, and looked back under his hand, and as he did so heard the voices and laughter of women coming up from the slope below him, and presently a young woman came struggling up the broken bank with hand and knee, and cast herself down on the roadside turf laughing and panting. She was a long-limbed light-made woman, dark-faced and black-haired: amidst her laughter she looked up and saw Gold-mane, who had stopped at once when he saw her; she held out her hands to him, and said lightly, though her face flushed withal:

'Come hither, thou, and help the others to climb the bank; for they are beaten in the race, and now must they do after my will; that was the forfeit.'

He went up to her, and took her hands and kissed them, as was the custom of the Dale, and said:

'Hail to thee, Long-coat! who be they, and whither away this morning early?'

She looked hard at him, and fondly belike, as she answered slowly: 'They be the two maidens of my father's house, whom thou knowest; and our errand, all three of us, is to Burgstead, the Feast of the Wine of Increase which shall be drunk this even.'

As she spake came another woman half up the bank, to whom went Face- of-god, and, taking her hands, drew her up while she laughed merrily in his face: he saluted her as he had Long-coat, and then with a laugh turned about to wait for the third; who came indeed, but after a little while, for she had abided, hearing their voices. Her also Gold-mane drew up, and kissed her hands, and she lay on the grass by Long-coat, but the second maiden stood up beside the young man. She was white-skinned and golden-haired, a very fair damsel, whereas the last-comer was but comely, as were well-nigh all the women of the Dale.

Said Face-of-god, looking on the three: 'How comes it, maidens, that ye are but in your kirtles this sharp autumn morning? or where have ye left your gowns or your cloaks?'

For indeed they were clad but in close-fitting blue kirtles of fine wool, embroidered about the hems with gold and coloured threads.

The last-comer laughed and said: 'What ails thee, Gold-mane, to be so careful of us, as if thou wert our mother or our nurse? Yet if thou must needs know, there hang our gowns on the thorn-bush down yonder; for we have been running a match and a forfeit; to wit, that she who was last on the highway should go down again and bring them up all three; and now that is my day's work: but since thou art here, Alderman's son, thou shalt go down instead of me and fetch them up.'

But he laughed merrily and outright, and said: 'That will I not, for there be but twenty-four hours in the day, and what between eating and drinking and talking to fair maidens, I have enough to do in every one of them. Wasteful are ye women, and simple is your forfeit. Now will I, who am the Alderman's son, give forth a doom, and will ordain that one of you fetch up the gowns yourselves, and that Long-coat be the one; for she is the fleetest-footed and ablest thereto. Will ye take my doom? for later on I shall not be wiser.'

'Yea,' said the fair woman, 'not because thou art the Alderman's son, but because thou art the fairest man of the Dale, and mayst bid us poor souls what thou wilt.'

Face-of-god reddened at her words, and the speaker and the last-comer laughed; but Long-coat held her peace: she cast one very sober look on him, and then ran lightly down the bent; he drew near the edge of it, and watched her going; for her light-foot slimness was fair to look on: and he noted that when she was nigh the thorn-bush whereon hung the bright-broidered gowns, and deemed belike that she was not seen, she kissed both her hands where he had kissed them erst.

Thereat he drew aback and turned away shyly, scarce looking at the other twain, who smiled on him with somewhat jeering looks; but he bade them farewell and departed speedily; and if they spoke, it was but softly, for he heard their voices no more.

He went on under the sunlight which was now gilding the outstanding stones of the cliffs, and still his mind was set upon the Bride; and his meeting with the mother of the yet unborn baby, and with the three women with their freshness and fairness, did somehow turn his thought the more upon her, since she was the woman who was to be his amongst all women, for she was far fairer than any one of them; and through all manner of life and through all kinds of deeds would he be with her, and know more of her fairness and kindness than any other could: and him-seemed he could see pictures of her and of him amidst all these deeds and ways.

Now he went very swiftly; for he was eager, though he knew not for what, and he thought but little of the things on which his eyes fell. He met none else on the road till he was come to Wildlake's Way, though he saw folk enough down in the meadows; he was soon amidst the first of the trees, and without making any stay set his face east and somewhat north, that is, toward the slopes that led to the great mountains. He said to himself aloud, as he wended the wood: 'Strange! yestereven I thought much of the wood, and I set my mind on not going thither, and this morning I thought nothing of it, and here am I amidst its trees, and wending towards its innermost.'

His way was easy at first, because the wood for a little space was all of beech, so that there was no undergrowth, and he went lightly betwixt the tall grey and smooth boles; albeit his heart was nought so gay as it was in the dale amidst the sunshine. After a while the beech-wood grew thinner, and at last gave out altogether, and he came into a space of rough broken ground with nought but a few scrubby oaks and thorn-bushes growing thereon here and there. The sun was high in the heavens now, and shone brightly down on the waste, though there were a few white clouds high up above him. The rabbits scuttled out of the grass before him; here and there he turned aside from a stone on which lay coiled an adder sunning itself; now and again both hart and hind bounded away from before him, or a sounder of wild swine ran grunting away toward closer covert. But nought did he see but the common sights and sounds of the woodland; nor did he look for aught else, for he knew this part of the woodland indifferent well.

He held on over this treeless waste for an hour or more, when the ground began to be less rugged, and he came upon trees again, but thinly scattered, oak and ash and hornbeam not right great, with thickets of holly and blackthorn between them. The set of the ground was still steadily up to the east and north-east, and he followed it as one who wendeth an assured way. At last before him seemed to rise a wall of trees and thicket; but when he drew near to it, lo! an opening in a certain place, and a little path as if men were wont to thread the tangle of the wood thereby; though hitherto he had noted no slot of men, nor any sign of them, since he had plunged into the deep of the beech-wood. He took the path as one who needs must, and went his ways as it led. In sooth it was well-nigh blind, but he was a deft woodsman, and by means of it skirted many a close thicket that had otherwise stayed him. So on he went, and though the boughs were close enough overhead, and the sun came through but in flecks, he judged that it was growing towards noon, and he wotted well that he was growing aweary. For he had been long afoot, and the more part of the time on a rough way, or breasting a slope which was at whiles steep enough.

At last the track led him skirting about an exceeding close thicket into a small clearing, through which ran a little woodland rill amidst rushes and dead leaves: there was a low mound near the eastern side of this wood-lawn, as though there had been once a dwelling of man there, but no other sign or slot of man was there.

So Face-of-god made stay in that place, casting himself down beside the rill to rest him and eat and drink somewhat. Whatever thoughts had been with him through the wood (and they been many) concerning his House and his name, and his father, and the journey he might make to the cities of the Westland, and what was to befall him when he was wedded, and what war or trouble should be on his hands—all this was now mingled together and confused by this rest amidst his weariness. He laid down his scrip, and drew his meat from it and ate what he would, and dipping his gilded beaker into the brook, drank water smacking of the damp musty savour of the woodland; and then his head sank back on a little mound in the short turf, and he fell asleep at once. A long dream he had in short space; and therein were blent his thoughts of the morning with the deeds of yesterday; and other matters long forgotten in his waking hours came back to his slumber in unordered confusion: all which made up for him pictures clear, but of little meaning, save that, as oft befalls in dreams, whatever he was a-doing he felt himself belated.

When he awoke, smiling at something strange in his gone-by dream, he looked up to the heavens, thinking to see signs of the even at hand, for he seemed to have been dreaming so long. The sky was thinly overcast by now, but by his wonted woodcraft he knew the whereabouts of the sun, and that it was scant an hour after noon. He sat there till he was wholly awake, and then drank once more of the woodland water; and he said to himself, but out loud, for he was fain of the sound of a man's voice, though it were but his own:

'What is mine errand hither? Whither wend I? What shall I have done to-morrow that I have hitherto left undone? Or what manner of man shall I be then other than I am now?'

Yet though he said the words he failed to think the thought, or it left him in a moment of time, and he thought but of the Bride and her kindness. Yet that abode with him but a moment, and again he saw himself and those two women on the highway edge, and Long-coat lingering on the slope below, kissing his kisses on her hands; and he was sorry that she desired him over-much, for she was a fair woman and a friendly. But all that also flowed from him at once, and he had no thought in him but that he also desired something that he lacked: and this was a burden to him, and he rose up frowning, and said to himself, 'Am I become a mere sport of dreams, whether I sleep or wake? I will go backward—or forward, but will think no more.'

Then he ordered his gear again, and took the path onward and upward toward the Great Mountains; and the track was even fainter than before for a while, so that he had to seek his way diligently.



CHAPTER V. FACE-OF-GOD FALLS IN WITH MENFOLK ON THE MOUNTAIN



Now he plodded on steadily, and for a long time the forest changed but little, and of wild things he saw only a few of those that love the closest covert. The ground still went up and up, though at whiles were hollows, and steeper bents out of them again, and the half-blind path or slot still led past the close thickets and fallen trees, and he made way without let or hindrance. At last once more the wood began to thin, and the trees themselves to be smaller and gnarled and ill-grown: therewithal the day was waning, and the sky was quite clear again as the afternoon grew into a fair autumn evening.

Now the trees failed altogether, and the slope grown steeper was covered with heather and ling; and looking up, he saw before him quite near by seeming in the clear even (though indeed they were yet far away) the snowy peaks flushed with the sinking sun against the frosty dark-grey eastern sky; and below them the dark rock-mountains, and below these again, and nigh to him indeed, the fells covered with pine-woods and looking like a wall to the heaths he trod.

He stayed a little while and turned his head to look at the way whereby he had come; but that way a swell of the oak-forest hid everything but the wood itself, making a wall behind him as the pine- wood made a wall before. There came across him then a sharp memory of the boding words which Stone-face had spoken last night, and he felt as if he were now indeed within the trap. But presently he laughed and said: 'I am a fool: this comes of being alone in the dark wood and the dismal waste, after the merry faces of the Dale had swept away my foolish musings of yesterday and the day before. Lo! here I stand, a man of the Face, sword and axe by my side; if death come, it can but come once; and if I fear not death, what shall make me afraid? The Gods hate me not, and will not hurt me; and they are not ugly, but beauteous.'

Therewith he strode on again, and soon came to a place where the ground sank into a shallow valley and the ling gave place to grass for a while, and there were tall old pines scattered about, and betwixt them grey rocks; this he passed through, climbing a steep bent out of it, and the pines were all about him now, though growing wide apart, till at last he came to where they thickened into a wood, not very close, wherethrough he went merrily, singing to himself and swinging his spear. He was soon through this wood, and came on to a wide well-grassed wood-lawn, hedged by the wood aforesaid on three sides, but sloping up slowly toward the black wall of the thicker pine-wood on the fourth side, and about half a furlong overthwart and endlong. The sun had set while he was in the last wood, but it was still broad daylight on the wood-lawn, and as he stood there he was ware of a house under the pine-wood on the other side, built long and low, much like the houses of the Woodland-Carles, but rougher fashioned and of unhewn trees. He gazed on it, and said aloud to himself as his wont was:

'Marvellous! here is a dwelling of man, scarce a day's journey from Burgstead; yet have I never heard tell of it: may happen some of the Woodland-Carles have built it, and are on some errand of hunting peltries up in the mountains, or maybe are seeking copper and tin among the rocks. Well, at least let us go see what manner of men dwell there, and if they are minded for a guest to-night; for fain were I of a bed beneath a roof, and of a board with strong meat and drink on it.'

Therewith he set forward, not heeding much that the wood he had passed through was hard on his left hand; but he had gone but twenty paces when he saw a red thing at the edge of the wood, and then a glitter, and a spear came whistling forth, and smote his own spear so hard close to the steel that it flew out of his hand; then came a great shout, and a man clad in a scarlet kirtle ran forth on him. Face-of-god had his axe in his hand in a twinkling, and ran at once to meet his foe; but the man had the hill on his side as he rushed on with a short-sword in his hand. Axe and sword clashed together for a moment of time, and then both the men rolled over on the grass together, and Face-of-god as he fell deemed that he heard the shrill cry of a woman. Now Face-of-god found that he was the nethermost, for if he was strong, yet was his foe stronger; the axe had flown out of his hand also, while the strange man still kept a hold of his short-sword; and presently, though he still struggled all he could, he saw the man draw back his hand to smite with the said sword; and at that nick of time the foeman's knee was on his breast, his left hand was doubled back behind him, and his right wrist was gripped hard in the stranger's left hand. Even therewith his ears, sharpened by the coming death, heard the sound of footsteps and fluttering raiment drawing near; something dark came between him and the sky; there was the sound of a great stroke, and the big man loosened his grip and fell off him to one side.

Face-of-god leapt up and ran to his axe and got hold of it; but turning round found himself face to face with a tall woman holding in her hand a stout staff like the limb of a tree. She was calm and smiling, though forsooth it was she who had stricken the stroke and stayed the sword from his throat. His hand and axe dropped down to his side when he saw what it was that faced him, and that the woman was young and fair; so he spake to her and said:

'What aileth, maiden? is this man thy foe? doth he oppress thee? shall I slay him?'

She laughed and said: 'Thou art open-handed in thy proffers: he might have asked the like concerning thee but a minute ago.'

'Yea, yea,' said Gold-mane, laughing also, 'but he asked it not of thee.'

'That is sooth,' she said, 'but since thou hast asked me, I will tell thee that if thou slay him it will be my harm as well as his; and in my country a man that taketh a gift is not wont to break the giver's head with it straightway. The man is my brother, O stranger, and presently, if thou wilt, thou mayst be eating at the same board with him. Or if thou wilt, thou mayst go thy ways unhurt into the wood. But I had liefer of the twain that thou wert in our house to-night; for thou hast a wrong against us.'

Her voice was sweet and clear, and she spake the last words kindly, and drew somewhat nigher to Gold-mane. Therewithal the smitten man sat up, and put his hand to his head, and quoth he:

'Angry is my sister! good it is to wear the helm abroad when she shaketh the nut-trees.'

' Nay,' said she, 'it is thy luck that thou wert bare-headed, else had I been forced to smite thee on the face. Thou churl, since when hath it been our wont to thrust knives into a guest, who is come of great kin, a man of gentle heart and fair face? Come hither and handsel him self-doom for thy fool's onset!'

The man rose to his feet and said: 'Well, sister, least said, soonest mended. A clout on the head is worse than a woman's chiding; but since ye have given me one, ye may forbear the other.'

Therewith he drew near to them. He was a very big-made man, most stalwarth, with dark red hair and a thin pointed beard; his nose was straight and fine, his eyes grey and well-opened, but somewhat fierce withal. Yet was he in nowise evil-looking; he seemed some thirty summers old. He was clad in a short scarlet kirtle, a goodly garment, with a hood of like web pulled off his head on to his shoulders: he bore a great gold ring on his left arm, and a collar of gold came down on to his breast from under his hood.

As for the woman, she was clad in a long white linen smock, and over it a short gown of dark blue woollen, and she had skin shoes on her feet.

Now the man came up to Face-of-god, and took his hand and said: 'I deemed thee a foe, and I may not have over-many foes alive: but it seems that thou art to be a friend, and that is well and better; so herewith I handsel thee self-doom in the matter of the onslaught.'

Then Face-of-god laughed and said: 'The doom is soon given forth; against the tumble on the grass I set the clout on the head; there is nought left over to pay to any man's son.'

Said the scarlet-clad man: 'Belike by thine eyes thou art a true man, and wilt not bewray me. Now is there no foeman here, but rather maybe a friend both now and in time to come.' Therewith he cast his arms about Face-of-god and kissed him. But Face-of-god turned about to the woman and said: 'Is the peace wholly made?'

She shook her head and said soberly: 'Nay, thou art too fair for a woman to kiss.'

He flushed red, as his wont was when a woman praised him; yet was his heart full of pleasure and well-liking. But she laid her hand on his shoulder and said: 'Now is it for thee to choose betwixt the wild- wood and the hall, and whether thou wilt be a guest or a wayfarer this night.'

As she touched him there took hold of him a sweetness of pleasure he had never felt erst, and he answered: 'I will be thy guest and not thy stranger.'

'Come then,' she said, and took his hand in hers, so that he scarce felt the earth under his feet, as they went all three together toward the house in the gathering dusk, while eastward where the peaks of the great mountains dipped was a light that told of the rising of the moon.



CHAPTER VI. OF FACE-OF-GOD AND THOSE MOUNTAIN-DWELLERS



A yard or two from the threshold Gold-mane hung back a moment, entangled in some such misgiving as a man is wont to feel when he is just about to do some new deed, but is not yet deep in the story; his new friends noted that, for they smiled each in their own way, and the woman drew her hand away from his. Face-of-god held out his still as though to take hers again, and therewithal he changed countenance and said as though he had stayed but to ask that question:

'Tell me thy name, tall man; and thou, fair woman, tell me thine; for how can we talk together else?'

The man laughed outright and said: 'The young chieftain thinks that this house also should be his! Nay, young man, I know what is in thy thought, be not ashamed that thou art wary; and be assured! We shall hurt thee no more than thou hast been hurt. Now as to my name; the name that was born with me is gone: the name that was given me hath been taken from me: now I belike must give myself a name, and that shall be Wild-wearer; but it may be that thou thyself shalt one day give me another, and call me Guest.'

His sister gazed at him solemnly as he spoke, and Face-of-god beholding her the while, deemed that her beauty grew and grew till she seemed as aweful as a Goddess; and into his mind it came that this over-strong man and over-lovely woman were nought mortal, and they withal dealing with him as father and mother deal with a wayward child: then for a moment his heart failed him, and he longed for the peace of Burgdale, and even the lonely wood. But therewith she turned to him and let her hand come into his again, and looked kindly on him and said: 'And as for me, call me the Friend; the name is good and will serve for many things.'

He looked down from her face and his eyes lighted on her hand, and when he noted even amid the evening dusk how fair and lovely it was fashioned, and yet as though it were deft in the crafts that the daughters of menfolk use, his fear departed, and the pleasure of his longing filled his heart, and he drew her hand to him to kiss it; but she held it back. Then he said: 'It is the custom of the Dale to all women.'

So she let him kiss her hand, heeding the kiss nothing, and said soberly:

'Then art thou of Burgdale, and if it were lawful to guess, I would say that thy name is Face-of-god, of the House of the Face.'

'Even so it is,' said he, 'but in the Dale those that love me do mostly call me Gold-mane.'

'It is well named,' she said, 'and seldom wilt thou be called otherwise, for thou wilt be well-beloved. But come in now, Gold- mane, for night is at hand, and here have we meat and lodging such as an hungry and weary man may take; though we be broken people, dwellers in the waste.'

Therewith she led him gently over the threshold into the hall, and it seemed to him as if she were the fairest and the noblest of all the Queens of ancient story.

When he was in the house he looked and saw that, rough as it was without it lacked not fairness within. The floor was of hard-trodden earth strewn with pine-twigs, and with here and there brown bearskins laid on it: there was a standing table near the upper end athwart the hall, and a days beyond that, but no endlong table. Gold-mane looked to the shut-beds, and saw that they were large and fair, though there were but a few of them; and at the lower end was a loft for a sleeping chamber dight very fairly with broidered cloths. The hangings on the walls, though they left some places bare which were hung with fresh boughs, were fairer than any he had ever seen, so that he deemed that they must come from far countries and the City of Cities: therein were images wrought of warriors and fair women of old time and their dealings with the Gods and the Giants, and Wondrous wights; and he deemed that this was the story of some great kindred, and that their token and the sign of their banner must needs be the Wood-wolf, for everywhere was it wrought in these pictured webs. Perforce he looked long and earnestly at these fair things, for the hall was not dark yet, because the brands on the hearth were flaming their last, and when Wild-wearer beheld him so gazing, he stood up and looked too for a moment, and then smote his right hand on the hilt of his sword, and turned away and strode up and down the hall as one in angry thought.

But the woman, even the Friend, bestirred herself for the service of the guest, and brought water for his hands and feet, and when she had washed him, bore him the wine of Welcome and drank to him and bade him drink; and he all the while was shamefaced; for it was to him as if one of the Ladies of the Heavenly Burg were doing him service. Then she went away by a door at the lower end of the hall, and Wild- wearer came and sat down by Gold-mane, and fell a-talking with him about the ways of the Dalesmen, and their garths, and the pastures and growths thereof; and what temper the carles themselves were of; which were good men, which were ill, which was loved and which scorned; no otherwise than if he had been the goodman of some neighbouring dale; and Gold-mane told him whatso he knew, for he saw no harm therein.

After a while the outer door opened, and there came in a woman of some five-and-twenty winters, trimly and strongly built; short- skirted she was and clad as a hunter, with a bow in her hand and a quiver at her back: she unslung a pouch, which she emptied at Wild- wearer's feet of a leash of hares and two brace of mountain grouse; of Face-of-god she took but little heed.

Said Wild-wearer: 'This is good for to-morrow, not for to-day; the meat is well-nigh on the board.'

Then Gold-mane smiled, for he called to mind his home-coming of yesterday. But the woman said:

'The fault is not mine; she told me of the coming guest but three hours agone.'

'Ay?' said Wild-wearer, 'she looked for a guest then?'

'Yea, certes,' said the woman, 'else why went I forth this afternoon, as wearied as I was with yesterday?'

'Well, well,' said Wild-wearer, 'get to thy due work or go play; I meddle not with meat! and for thee all jests are as bitter earnest.'

'And with thee, chief,' she said, 'it is no otherwise; surely I am made on thy model.'

'Thy tongue is longer, friend,' said he; 'now tarry if thou wilt, and if the supper's service craveth thee not.'

She turned away with one keen look at Face-of-god, and departed through the door at the lower end of the hall.

By this time the hall was dusk, for there were no candles there, and the hearth-fire was but smouldering. Wild-wearer sat silent and musing now, and Face-of-god spake not, for he was deep in wild and happy dreams. At last the lower door opened and the fair woman came into the hall with a torch in either hand, after whom came the huntress, now clad in a dark blue kirtle, and an old woman yet straight and hale; and these twain bore in the victuals and the table-gear. Then the three fell to dighting the board, and when it was all ready, and Gold-mane and Wild-wearer were set down to it, and with them the fair woman and the huntress, the old woman threw good store of fresh brands on the hearth, so that the light shone into every corner; and even therewith the outer door opened, and four more men entered, whereof one was old, but big and stalwarth, the other three young: they were all clad roughly in sheep-brown weed, but had helms upon their heads and spears in their hands and great swords girt to their sides; and they seemed doughty men and ready for battle. One of the young men cast down by the door the carcass of a big-horned mountain sheep, and then they all trooped off to the out- bower by the lower door, and came back presently fairly clad and without their weapons. Wild-wearer nodded to them kindly, and they sat at table paying no more heed to Face-of-god than to cast him a nod for salutation.

Then said the old woman to them: 'Well, lads, have ye been doing or sleeping?'

'Sleeping, mother,' said one of the young men, 'as was but due after last night was, and to-morrow shall be.'

Said the huntress: 'Hold thy peace, Wood-wise, and let thy tongue help thy teeth to deal with thy meat; for this is not the talking hour.'

'Nay, Bow-may,' said another of the swains, 'since here is a new man, now is the time to talk to him.'

Said the huntress: ''Tis thine hands that talk best, Wood-wont; it is not they that shall bring thee to shame.'

Spake the third: 'What have we to do with shame here, far away from dooms and doomers, and elders, and wardens, and guarded castles? If the new man listeth to speak, let him speak; or to fight, then let him; it shall ever be man to man.'

Then spake the old woman: 'Son Wood-wicked, hold thy peace, and forget the steel that ever eggeth thee on to draw.'

Therewith she set the last matters on the board, while the three swains sat and eyed Gold-mane somewhat fiercely, now that words had stirred them, and he had sat there saying nothing, as one who was better than they, and contemned them; but now spake Wild-wearer:

'Whoso hungreth let him eat! Whoso would slumber, let him to bed. But he who would bicker, it must needs be with me. Here is a man of the Dale, who hath sought the wood in peace, and hath found us. His hand is ready and his heart is guileless: if ye fear him, run away to the wood, and come back when he is gone; but none shall mock him while I sit by: now, lads, be merry and blithe with the guest.'

Then the young men greeted Gold-mane, and the old man said: 'Art thou of Burgstead? then wilt thou be of the House of the Face, and thy name will be Face-of-god; for that man is called the fairest of the Dale, and there shall be none fairer than thou.'

Face-of-god laughed and said: 'There be but few mirrors in Burgdale, and I have no mind to journey west to the cities to see what manner of man I be: that were ill husbandry. But now I have heard the names of the three swains, tell me thy name, father!'

Spake the huntress: 'This is my father's brother, and his name is Wood-father; or ye shall call him so: and I am called Bow-may because I shoot well in the bow: and this old carline is my eme's wife, and now belike my mother, if I need one. But thou, fair-faced Dalesman, little dost thou need a mirror in the Dale so long as women abide there; for their faces shall be instead of mirrors to tell thee whether thou be fair and lovely.'

Thereat they all laughed and fell to their victual, which was abundant, of wood-venison and mountain-fowl, but of bread was no great plenty; wine lacked not, and that of the best; and Gold-mane noted that the cups and the apparel of the horns and mazers were not of gold nor gilded copper, but of silver; and he marvelled thereat, for in the Dale silver was rare.

So they ate and drank, and Gold-mane looked ever on the Friend, and spake much with her, and he deemed her friendly indeed, and she seemed most pleased when he spoke best, and led him on to do so. Wild-wearer was but of few words, and those somewhat harsh; yet was he as a man striving to be courteous and blithe; but of the others Bow-may was the greatest speaker.

Wild-wearer called healths to the Sun, and the Moon, and the Hosts of Heaven; to the Gods of the Earth; to the Woodwights; and to the Guest. Other healths also he called, the meaning of which was dark to Gold-mane; to wit, the Jaws of the Wolf; the Silver Arm; the Red Hand; the Golden Bushel; and the Ragged Sword. But when he asked the Friend concerning these names what they might signify, she shook her head and answered not.

At last Wild-wearer cried out: 'Now, lads, the night weareth and the guest is weary: therefore whoso of you hath in him any minstrelsy, now let him make it, for later on it shall be over-late.'

Then arose Wood-wont and went to his shut-bed and groped therein, and took from out of it a fiddle in its case; and he opened the case and drew from it a very goodly fiddle, and he stood on the floor amidst of the hall and Bow-may his cousin with him; and he laid his bow on the fiddle and woke up song in it, and when it was well awake she fell a-singing, and he to answering her song, and at the last all they of the house sang together; and this is the meaning of the words which they sang:

She singeth.

Now is the rain upon the day, And every water's wide; Why busk ye then to wear the way, And whither will ye ride?

He singeth.

Our kine are on the eyot still, The eddies lap them round; All dykes the wind-worn waters fill, And waneth grass and ground.

She singeth.

O ride ye to the river's brim In war-weed fair to see? Or winter waters will ye swim In hauberks to the knee?

He singeth.

Wild is the day, and dim with rain, Our sheep are warded ill; The wood-wolves gather for the plain, Their ravening maws to fill.

She singeth.

Nay, what is this, and what have ye, A hunter's band, to bear The Banner of our Battle-glee The skulking wolves to scare?

He singeth.

O women, when we wend our ways To deal with death and dread, The Banner of our Fathers' Days Must flap the wind o'erhead.

She singeth.

Ah, for the maidens that ye leave! Who now shall save the hay? What grooms shall kiss our lips at eve, When June hath mastered May?

He singeth.

The wheat is won, the seed is sown, Here toileth many a maid, And ere the hay knee-deep hath grown Your grooms the grass shall wade.

They sing all together.

Then fair befall the mountain-side Whereon the play shall be! And fair befall the summer-tide That whoso lives shall see.

Face-of-god thought the song goodly, but to the others it was well known. Then said Wood-father:

'O foster-son, thy foster-brother hath sung well for a wood abider; but we are deeming that his singing shall be but as a starling to a throstle matched against thy new-come guest. Therefore, Dalesman, sing us a song of the Dale, and if ye will, let it be of gardens and pleasant houses of stone, and fair damsels therein, and swains with them who toil not over-much for a scant livelihood, as do they of the waste, whose heads may not be seen in the Holy Places.'

Said Gold-mane: 'Father, it is ill to set the words of a lonely man afar from his kin against the song that cometh from the heart of a noble house; yet may I not gainsay thee, but will sing to thee what I may call to mind, and it is called the Song of the Ford.'

Therewith he sang in a sweet and clear voice: and this is the meaning of his words:

In hay-tide, through the day new-born, Across the meads we come; Our hauberks brush the blossomed corn A furlong short of home.

Ere yet the gables we behold Forth flasheth the red sun, And smites our fallow helms and cold Though all the fight be done.

In this last mend of mowing-grass Sweet doth the clover smell, Crushed neath our feet red with the pass Where hell was blent with hell.

And now the willowy stream is nigh, Down wend we to the ford; No shafts across its fishes fly, Nor flasheth there a sword.

But lo! what gleameth on the bank Across the water wan, As when our blood the mouse-ear drank And red the river ran?

Nay, hasten to the ripple clear, Look at the grass beyond! Lo ye the dainty band and dear Of maidens fair and fond!

Lo how they needs must take the stream! The water hides their feet; On fair kind arms the gold doth gleam, And midst the ford we meet.

Up through the garden two and two, And on the flowers we drip; Their wet feet kiss the morning dew As lip lies close to lip.

Here now we sing; here now we stay: By these grey walls we tell The love that lived from out the fray, The love that fought and fell.

When he was done they all said that he had sung well, and that the song was sweet. Yet did Wild-wearer smile somewhat; and Bow-may said outright: 'Soft is the song, and hath been made by lads and minstrels rather than by warriors.'

'Nay, kinswoman,' said Wood-father, 'thou art hard to please; the guest is kind, and hath given us that I asked for, and I give him all thanks therefor.'

Face-of-god smiled, but he heeded little what they said, for as he sang he had noted that the Friend looked kindly on him; and he thought he saw that once or twice she put out her hand as if to touch him, but drew it back again each time. She spake after a little and said:

'Here now hath been a stream of song running betwixt the Mountain and the Dale even as doth a river; and this is good to come between our dreams of what hath been and what shall be.' Then she turned to Gold-mane, and said to him scarce loud enough for all to hear:

'Herewith I bid thee good-night, O Dalesman; and this other word I have to thee: heed not what befalleth in the night, but sleep thy best, for nought shall be to thy scathe. And when thou wakest in the morning, if we are yet here, it is well; but if we are not, then abide us no long while, but break thy fast on the victual thou wilt find upon the board, and so depart and go thy ways home. And yet thou mayst look to it to see us again before thou diest.'

Therewith she held out her hand to him, and he took it and kissed it; and she went to her chamber-aloft at the lower end of the hall. And when she was gone, once more he had a deeming of her that she was of the kindred of the Gods. At her departure him-seemed that the hall grew dull and small and smoky, and the night seemed long to him and doubtful the coming of the day.



CHAPTER VII. FACE-OF-GOD TALKETH WITH THE FRIEND ON THE MOUNTAIN



So now went all men to bed; and Face-to-god's shut-bed was over against the outer door and toward the lower end of the hall, and on the panel about it hung the weapons and shields of men. Fair was that chamber and roomy, and the man was weary despite his eagerness, so that he went to sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow; but within a while (he deemed about two hours after midnight) he was awaked by the clattering of the weapons against the panel, and the sound of men's hands taking them down; and when he was fully awake, he heard withal men going up and down the house as if on errands: but he called to mind what the Friend had said to him, and he did not so much as turn himself toward the hall; for he said: 'Belike these men are outlaws and Wolves of the Holy Places, yet by seeming they are good fellows and nought churlish, nor have I to do with taking up the feud against them. I will abide the morning. Yet meseemeth that she drew me hither: for what cause?'

Therewith he fell asleep again, and dreamed no more. But when he awoke the sun was shining broad upon the hall-floor, and he sat up and listened, but could hear no sound save the moaning of the wind in the pine-boughs and the chatter of the starlings about the gables of the house; and the place seemed so exceeding lonely to him that he was in a manner feared by that loneliness.

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