Part 2 out of 3
The women yet looked downcast, and as if they would be gone out of
earshot; but the Sea-eagle laughed as one who is well content, and
said: "Thou thyself wilt make it hard for thyself after the wont of
thy proud and haughty race; but for me nothing is hard any longer;
neither thy scorn nor thy forebodings of evil. Be thou my friend as
much as thou canst, and I will be thine wholly. Now ye women,
whither will ye lead us? For I am ready to see any new thing ye will
Said his damsel: "We will take you to the King, that your hearts may
be the more gladdened. And as for thy friend the Spearman, O Sea-
warrior, let not his heart be downcast. Who wotteth but that these
two desires, the desire of his heart, and the desire of a heart for
him, may not be one and the same desire, so that he shall be fully
satisfied?" As she spoke she looked sidelong at Hallblithe, with shy
and wheedling eyes; and he wondered at her word, and a new hope
sprang up in his heart that he was presently to be brought face to
face with the Hostage, and that this was that love, sweeter than
their love, which abode in him, and his heart became lighter, and his
CHAPTER XII: THEY LOOK ON THE KING OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN
So now the women led them along up the stream, and Hallblithe went
side by side by the Sea-eagle; but the women had become altogether
merry again, and played and ran about them as gamesome as young
goats; and they waded the shallows of the clear bright stream
barefoot to wash their limbs of the sea-brine, and strayed about the
meadows, plucking the flowers and making them wreaths and chaplets,
which they did upon themselves and the Sea-eagle; but Hallblithe they
touched not, for still they feared him. They went on as the stream
led them up toward the hills, and ever were the meads about them as
fair and flowery as might be. Folk they saw afar off, but fell in
with none for a good while, saving a man and a maid clad lightly as
for mid-summer days, who were wandering together lovingly and happily
by the stream-side, and who gazed wonderingly on the stark Sea-eagle,
and on Hallblithe with his glittering spear. The black-haired damsel
greeted these twain and spake something to them, and they laughed
merrily, and the man stooped down amongst the grasses and blossoms of
the bank, and drew forth a basket, and spread dainty victuals on the
grass under a willow-tree, and bade them be his guests that fair
afternoon. So they sat down there above the glistering stream and
ate and drank and were merry. Thereafter the new-comers and their
way-leaders departed with kind words, and still set their faces
towards the hills.
At last they saw before them a little wooded hill, and underneath it
something red and shining, and other coloured things gleaming in the
sun about it. Then said the Sea-eagle: "What have we yonder?"
Said his damsel: "That is the pavilion of the King; and about it are
the tents and tilts of our folk who are of his fellowship: for oft
he abideth in the fields with them, though he hath houses and halls
as fair as the heart of man can conceive."
"Hath he no foemen to fear?" said the Sea-eagle.
"How should that be?" said the damsel. "If perchance any came into
this land to bring war upon him, their battle-anger should depart
when once the bliss of the Glittering Plain had entered into their
souls, and they would ask for nought but leave to abide here and be
happy. Yet I trow that if he had foemen he could crush them as
easily as I set my foot on this daisy."
So as they went on they fell in with many folk, men and women,
sporting and playing in the fields; and there was no semblance of eld
on any of them, and no scar or blemish or feebleness of body or
sadness of countenance; nor did any bear a weapon or any piece of
armour. Now some of them gathered about the new-corners, and
wondered at Hallblithe and his long spear and shining helm and dark
grey byrny; but none asked concerning them, for all knew that they
were folk new come to the bliss of the Glittering Plain. So they
passed amidst these fair folk little hindered by them, and into
Hallblithe's thoughts it came how joyous the fellowship of such
should be and how his heart should be raised by the sight of them, if
only his troth-plight maiden were by his side.
Thus then they came to the King's pavilion, where it stood in a bight
of the meadow-land at the foot of the hill, with the wood about it on
three sides. So fair a house Hallblithe deemed he had never seen;
for it was wrought all over with histories and flowers, and with hems
sewn with gold, and with orphreys of gold and pearl and gems.
There in the door of it sat the King of the Land in an ivory chair;
he was clad in golden gown, girt with a girdle of gems, and had his
crown on his head and his sword by his side. For this was the hour
wherein he heard what any of his folk would say to him, and for that
very end he sat there in the door of his tent, and folk were standing
before him, and sitting and lying on the grass round about; and now
one, now another, came up to him and spoke before him.
His face shone like a star; it was exceeding beauteous, and as kind
as the even of May in the gardens of the happy, when the scent of the
eglantine fills all the air. When he spoke his voice was so sweet
that all hearts were ravished, and none might gainsay him.
But when Hallblithe set eyes on him, he knew at once that this was he
whose carven image he had seen in the Hall of the Ravagers, and his
heart beat fast, and he said to himself: "Hold up thine head now, O
Son of the Raven, strengthen thine heart, and let no man or god cow
thee. For how can thine heart change, which bade thee go to the
house wherefrom it was due to thee to take the pleasure of woman, and
there to pledge thy faith and troth to her that loveth thee most, and
hankereth for thee day by day and hour by hour, so that great is the
love that we twain have builded up."
Now they drew nigh, for folk fell back before them to the right and
left, as before men who are new come and have much to do; so that
there was nought between them and the face of the King. But he
smiled upon them so that he cheered their hearts with the hope of
fulfilment of their desires, and he said: "Welcome, children! Who
be these whom ye have brought hither for the increase of our joy?
Who is this tall, ruddy-faced, joyous man so meet for the bliss of
the Glittering Plain? And who is this goodly and lovely young man,
who beareth weapons amidst our peace, and whose face is sad and stern
beneath the gleaming of his helm?
Said the dark-haired damsel: "O King! O Gift-giver and assurer of
joy! this tall one is he who was once oppressed by eld, and who hath
come hither to thee from the Isle of Ransom, according to the custom
of the land."
Said the King: "Tall man, it is well that thou art come. Now are
thy days changed and thou yet alive. For thee battle is ended, and
therewith the reward of battle, which the warrior remembereth not
amidst the hard hand-play: peace hath begun, and thou needest not be
careful for the endurance thereof: for in this land no man hath a
lack which he may not satisfy without taking aught from any other. I
deem not that thine heart may conceive a desire which I shall not
fulfil for thee, or crave a gift which I shall not give thee."
Then the Sea-eagle laughed for joy, and turned his head this way and
that, so that he might the better take to him the smiles of all those
that stood around.
Then the King said to Hallblithe: "Thou also art welcome; I know
thee who thou art: meseemeth great joy awaiteth thee, and I will
fulfil thy desire to the uttermost."
Said Hallblithe: "O great King of a happy land, I ask of thee nought
save that which none shall withhold from me uncursed."
"I will give it to thee," said the King, "and thou shalt bless me.
But what is it which thou wouldst? What more canst thou have than
the Gifts of the land?"
Said Hallblithe: "I came hither seeking no gifts, but to have mine
own again; and that is the bodily love of my troth-plight maiden.
They stole her from me, and me from her; for she loved me. I went
down to the sea-side and found her not, nor the ship which had borne
her away. I sailed from thence to the Isle of Ransom, for they told
me that there I should buy her for a price; neither was her body
there. But her image came to me in a dream of the night, and bade me
seek to her hither. Therefore, O King, if she be here in the land,
show me how I shall find her, and if she be not here, show me how I
may depart to seek her otherwhere. This is all my asking."
Said the King: "Thy desire shall be satisfied; thou shalt have the
woman who would have thee, and whom thou shouldst have."
Hallblithe was gladdened beyond measure by that word; and now did the
King seem to him a comfort and a solace to every heart, even as he
had deemed of his carven image in the Hall of the Ravagers; and he
thanked him, and blessed him.
But the King bade him abide by him that night, and feast with him.
"And on the morrow," said he, "thou shalt go thy ways to look on her
whom thou oughtest to love."
Therewith was come the eventide and beginning of night, warm and
fragrant and bright with the twinkling of stars, and they went into
the King's pavilion, and there was the feast as fair and dainty as
might be; and Hallblithe had meat from the King's own dish, and drink
from his cup; but the meat had no savour to him and the drink no
delight, because of the longing that possessed him.
And when the feast was done, the damsels led Hallblithe to his bed in
a fair tent strewn with gold about his head like the starry night,
and he lay down and slept for sheer weariness of body.
CHAPTER XIII: HALLBLITHE BEHOLDETH THE WOMAN WHO LOVETH HIM
But on the morrow the men arose, and the Sea-eagle and his damsel
came to Hallblithe; for the other two damsels were departed, and the
Sea-eagle said to him:
"Here am I well honoured and measurelessly happy; and I have a
message for thee from the King."
"What is it?" said Hallblithe; but he deemed that he knew what it
would be, and he reddened for the joy of his assured hope.
Said the Sea-eagle: "Joy to thee, O shipmate! I am to take thee to
the place where thy beloved abideth, and there shalt thou see her,
but not so as she can see thee; and thereafter shalt thou go to the
King, that thou mayst tell him if she shall accomplish thy desire."
Then was Hallblithe glad beyond measure, and his heart danced within
him, and he deemed it but meet that the others should be so joyous
and blithe with him, for they led him along without any delay, and
were glad at his rejoicing; and words failed him to tell of his
But as he went, the thoughts of his coming converse with his beloved
curled sweetly round his heart, so that scarce anything had seemed so
sweet to him before; and he fell a-pondering what they twain, he and
the Hostage, should do when they came together again; whether they
should abide on the Glittering Plain, or go back again to Cleveland
by the Sea and dwell in the House of the Kindred; and for his part he
yearned to behold the roof of his fathers and to tread the meadow
which his scythe had swept, and the acres where his hook had smitten
the wheat. But he said to himself, "I will wait till I hear her
Now they went into the wood at the back of the King's pavilion and
through it, and so over the hill, and beyond it came into a land of
hills and dales exceeding fair and lovely; and a river wound about
the dales, lapping in turn the feet of one hill-side or the other;
and in each dale (for they passed through two) was a goodly house of
men, and tillage about it, and vineyards and orchards. They went all
day till the sun was near setting, and were not weary, for they
turned into the houses by the way when they would, and had good
welcome and meat and drink and what they would of the folk that dwelt
there. Thus anigh sunset they came into a dale fairer than either of
the others, and nigh to the end where they had entered it was an
exceeding goodly house. Then said the damsel:
"We are nigh-hand to our journey's end; let us sit down on the grass
by this river-side whilst I tell thee the tale which the King would
have thee know."
So they sat down on the grass beside the brimming river, scant two
bowshots from that fair house, and the damsel said, reading from a
scroll which she drew from her bosom:
"O Spearman, in yonder house dwelleth the woman foredoomed to love
thee: if thou wouldst see her, go thitherward, following the path
which turneth from the river-side by yonder oak-tree, and thou shalt
presently come to a thicket of bay-trees at the edge of an apple-
orchard, whose trees are blossoming; abide thou hidden by the bay-
leaves, and thou shalt see maidens come into the orchard, and at last
one fairer than all the others. This shall be thy love fore-doomed,
and none other; and thou shalt know her by this token, that when she
hath set her down on the grass beside the bay-tree, she shall say to
her maidens 'Bring me now the book wherein is the image of my
beloved, that I may solace myself with beholding it before the sun
goes down and the night cometh.'"
Now Hallblithe was troubled when she read out these words, and he
said: "What is this tale about a book? I know not of any book that
lieth betwixt me and my beloved."
"O Spearman," said the damsel, "I may tell thee no more, because I
know no more. But keep up thine heart! For dost thou know any more
than I do what hath befallen thy beloved since thou wert sundered
from her? and why should not this matter of the book be one of the
things that hath befallen her? Go now with joy, and come again
"Yea, go, faring-fellow," said the Sea-eagle, "and come back joyful,
that we may all be merry together. And we will abide thee here."
Hallblithe foreboded evil, but he held his peace and went his ways
down the path by the oak-tree; and they abode there by the water-
side, and were very merry talking of this and that (but no whit of
Hallblithe), and kissing and caressing each other; so that it seemed
but a little while to them ere they saw Hallblithe coming back by the
oak-tree. He went slowly, hanging his head like a man sore-burdened
with grief: thus he came up to them, and stood there above them as
they lay on the fragrant grass, and he saying no word and looking so
sad and sorry, and withal so fell, that they feared his grief and his
anger, and would fain have been away from him; so that they durst not
ask him a question for a long while, and the sun sank below the hill
while they abided thus.
Then all trembling the damsel spake to the Sea-eagle: "Speak to him,
dear friend, else must I flee away, for I fear his silence."
Quoth the Sea-eagle: "Shipmate and friend, what hath betided? How
art thou? May we hearken, and mayhappen amend it?"
Then Hallblithe cast himself adown on the grass and said: "I am
accursed and beguiled; and I wander round and round in a tangle that
I may not escape from. I am not far from deeming that this is a land
of dreams made for my beguiling. Or has the earth become so full of
lies, that there is no room amidst them for a true man to stand upon
his feet and go his ways?"
Said the Sea-eagle: "Thou shalt tell us of what hath betid, and so
ease the sorrow of thy soul if thou wilt. Or if thou wilt, thou
shalt nurse thy sorrow in thine heart and tell no man. Do what thou
wilt; am I not become thy friend?"
Said Hallblithe: "I will tell you twain the tidings, and thereafter
ask me no more concerning them. Hearken. I went whereas ye bade me,
and hid myself in the bay-tree thicket; and there came maidens into
the blossoming orchard and made a resting-place with silken cushions
close to where I was lurking, and stood about as though they were
looking for some one to come. In a little time came two more
maidens, and betwixt them one so much fairer than any there, that my
heart sank within me: whereas I deemed because of her fairness that
this would be the fore-doomed love whereof ye spake, and lo, she was
in nought like to my troth-plight maiden, save that she was exceeding
beauteous: nevertheless, heart-sick as I was, I determined to abide
the token that ye told me of. So she lay down amidst those cushions,
and I beheld her that she was sad of countenance; and she was so near
to me that I could see the tears welling into her eyes, and running
down her cheeks; so that I should have grieved sorely for her had I
not been grieving so sorely for myself. For presently she sat up and
said 'O maiden, bring me hither the book wherein is the image of my
beloved, that I may behold it in this season of sunset wherein I
first beheld it; that I may fill my heart with the sight thereof
before the sun is gone and the dark night come.'
"Then indeed my heart died within me when I wotted that this was the
love whereof the King spake, that he would give to me, and she not
mine own beloved, yet I could not choose but abide and look on a
while, and she being one that any man might love beyond measure. Now
a maiden went away into the house and came back again with a book
covered with gold set with gems; and the fair woman took it and
opened it, and I was so near to her that I saw every leaf clearly as
she turned the leaves. And in that book were pictures of many
things, as flaming mountains, and castles of war, and ships upon the
sea, but chiefly of fair women, and queens, and warriors and kings;
and it was done in gold and azure and cinnabar and minium. So she
turned the leaves, till she came to one whereon was pictured none
other than myself, and over against me was the image of mine own
beloved, the Hostage of the Rose, as if she were alive, so that the
heart within me swelled with the sobbing which I must needs refrain,
which grieved me like a sword-stroke. Shame also took hold of me as
the fair woman spoke to my painted image, and I lying well-nigh
within touch of her hand; but she said: 'O my beloved, why dost thou
delay to come to me? For I deemed that this eve at least thou
wouldst come, so many and strong as are the meshes of love which we
have cast about thy feet. Oh come to-morrow at the least and latest,
or what shall I do, and wherewith shall I quench the grief of my
heart? Or else why am I the daughter of the Undying King, the Lord
of the Treasure of the Sea? Why have they wrought new marvels for
me, and compelled the Ravagers of the Coasts to serve me, and sent
false dreams flitting on the wings of the night? Yea, why is the
earth fair and fruitful, and the heavens kind above it, if thou
comest not to-night, nor to-morrow, nor the day after? And I the
daughter of the Undying, on whom the days shall grow and grow as the
grains of sand which the wind heaps up above the sea-beach. And life
shall grow huger and more hideous round about the lonely one, like
the ling-worm laid upon the gold, that waxeth thereby, till it lies
all around about the house of the queen entrapped, the moveless
unending ring of the years that change not.'
"So she spake till the weeping ended her words, and I was all abashed
with shame and pale with anguish. I stole quietly from my lair
unheeded of any, save that one damsel said that a rabbit ran in the
hedge, and another that a blackbird stirred in the thicket. Behold
me, then, that my quest beginneth again amidst the tangle of lies
whereinto I have been entrapped."
CHAPTER XIV: HALLBLITHE HAS SPEECH WITH THE KING AGAIN
He stood up when he had made an end, as a man ready for the road; but
they lay there downcast and abashed, and had no words to answer him.
For the Sea-eagle was sorry that his faring-fellow was hapless, and
was sorry that he was sorry; and as for the damsel, she had not known
but that she was leading the goodly Spearman to the fulfilment of his
heart's desire. Albeit after a while she spake again and said:
"Dear friends, day is gone and night is at hand; now to-night it were
ill lodging at yonder house; and the next house on our backward road
is over far for wayworn folk. But hard by through the thicket is a
fair little wood-lawn, by the lip of a pool in the stream wherein we
may bathe us to-morrow morning; and it is grassy and flowery and
sheltered from all winds that blow, and I have victual enough in my
wallet. Let us sup and rest there under the bare heaven, as oft is
the wont of us in this land; and on the morrow early we will arise
and get us back again to Wood-end, where yet the King abideth, and
there shalt thou talk to him again, O Spearman."
Said Hallblithe: "Take me whither ye will; but now nought availeth.
I am a captive in a land of lies, and here most like shall I live
betrayed and die hapless."
"Hold thy peace, dear friend, of such words as those last," said she,
"or I must needs flee from thee, for they hurt me sorely. Come now
to this pleasant place."
She took him by the hand and looked kindly on him, and the Sea-eagle
followed him, murmuring an old song of the harvest-field, and they
went together by a path through a thicket of white-thorn till they
came unto a grassy place. There then they sat them down, and ate and
drank what they would, sitting by the lip of the pool till a waning
moon was bright over their heads. And Hallblithe made no semblance
of content; but the Sea-eagle and his damsel were grown merry again,
and talked and sang together like autumn stares, with the kissing and
caressing of lovers.
So at last those twain lay down amongst the flowers, and slept in
each other's arms; but Hallblithe betook him to the brake a little
aloof, and lay down, but slept not till morning was at hand, when
slumber and confused dreams overtook him.
He was awaked from his sleep by the damsel, who came pushing through
the thicket all fresh and rosy from the river, and roused him, and
"Awake now, Spearman, that we may take our pleasure in the sun; for
he is high in the heavens now, and all the land laughs beneath him."
Her eyes glittered as she spoke, and her limbs moved under her
raiment as though she would presently fall to dancing for very joy.
But Hallblithe arose wearily, and gave her back no smile in answer,
but thrust through the thicket to the water, and washed the night
from off him, and so came back to the twain as they sat dallying
together over their breakfast. He would not sit down by them, but
ate a morsel of bread as he stood, and said: "Tell me how I can
soonest find the King: I bid you not lead me thither, but let me go
my ways alone. For with me time presses, and with you meseemeth time
is nought. Neither am I a meet fellow for the happy."
But the Sea-eagle sprang up, and swore with a great oath that he
would nowise leave his shipmate in the lurch. And the damsel said:
"Fair man, I had best go with thee; I shall not hinder thee, but
further thee rather, so that thou shalt make one day's journey of
And she put forth her hand to him, and caressed him smiling, and
fawned upon him, and he heeded it little, but hung not aback from
them since they were ready for the road: so they set forth all three
They made such diligence on the backward road that the sun was not
set by then they came to Wood-end; and there was the King sitting in
the door of his pavilion. Thither went Hallblithe straight, and
thrust through the throng, and stood before the King; who greeted him
kindly, and was no less sweet of face than on that other day.
Hallblithe hailed him not, but said: "King, look on my anguish, and
if thou art other than a king of dreams and lies, play no longer with
me, but tell me straight out if thou knowest of my troth-plight
maiden, whether she is in this land or not."
Then the King smiled on him and said: "True it is that I know of
her; yet know I not whether she is in this land or not."
"King," said Hallblithe, "wilt thou bring us together and stay my
Said the King: "I cannot, since I know not where she is."
"Why didst thou lie to me the other day?" said Hallblithe.
"I lied not," said the King; "I bade bring thee to the woman that
loved thee, and whom thou shouldst love; and that is my daughter.
And look thou! Even as I may not bring thee to thine earthly love,
so couldst thou not make thyself manifest before my daughter, and
become her deathless love. Is it not enough?"
He spake sternly for all that he smiled, and Hallblithe said: "O
King, have pity on me!"
"Yea," said the King; "pity thee I do: but I will live despite thy
sorrow; my pity of thee shall not slay me, or make thee happy. Even
in such wise didst thou pity my daughter."
Said Hallblithe: "Thou art mighty, O King, and maybe the mightiest.
Wilt thou not help me?"
"How can I help thee?" said the King, "thou who wilt not help
thyself. Thou hast seen what thou shouldst do: do it then and be
Then said Hallblithe: "Wilt thou not slay me, O King, since thou
wilt not do aught else?"
"Nay," said the King, "thy slaying wilt not serve me nor mine: I
will neither help nor hinder. Thou art free to seek thy love
wheresoever thou wilt in this my realm. Depart in peace!"
Hallblithe saw that the King was angry, though he smiled upon him;
yet so coldly, that the face of him froze the very marrow of
Hallblithe's bones: and he said within himself: "This King of lies
shall not slay me, though mine anguish be hard to bear: for I am
alive, and it may be that my love is in this land, and I may find her
here, and how to reach another land I know not."
So he turned from before the face of the King as the sun was setting,
and he went down the land southward betwixt the mountains and the
sea, not heeding whether it were night or day; and he went on till it
was long past midnight, and then for mere weariness laid him down
under a tree, not knowing where he was, and fell asleep.
And in the morning he woke up to the bright sun, and found folk
standing round about him, both men and women, and their sheep were
anigh them, for they were shepherd folk. So when they saw that he
was awake, they greeted him, and were blithe with him and made much
of him: and they took him home to their house, and gave him to eat
and to drink, and asked him what he would that they might serve him.
And they seemed to him to be kind and simple folk, and though he
loathed to speak the words, so sick at heart he was, yet he told them
how he was seeking his troth-plight maiden, his earthly love, and
asked them to say if they had seen any woman like her.
They heard him kindly and pitied him, and told him how they had heard
of a woman in the land, who sought her beloved even as he sought his.
And when he heard that, his heart leapt up, and he asked them to tell
him more concerning this woman. Then they said that she dwelt in the
hill-country in a goodly house, and had set her heart on a lovely
man, whose image she had seen in a book, and that no man but this one
would content her; and this, they said, was a sad and sorry matter,
such as was unheard of hitherto in the land.
So when Hallblithe heard this, as heavily as his heart fell again, he
changed not countenance, but thanked the kind folk and departed, and
went on down the land betwixt the mountains and the sea, and before
nightfall he had been into three more houses of folk, and asked there
of all comers concerning a woman who was sundered from her beloved;
and at none of them gat he any answer to make him less sorry than
yesterday. At the last of the three he slept, and on the morrow
early there was the work to begin again; and the next day was the
same as the last, and the day after differed not from it. Thus he
went on seeking his beloved betwixt the mountains and the plain, till
the great rock-wall came down to the side of the sea and made an end
of the Glittering Plain on that side. Then he turned about and went
back by the way he had come, and up the country betwixt the mountains
and the plain northward, until he had been into every house of folk
in those parts and asked his question.
Then he went up into that fair country of the dales, and even anigh
to where dwelt the King's Daughter, and otherwhere in the land and
everywhere, quartering the realm of the Glittering Plain as the heron
quarters the flooded meadow when the waters draw aback into the
river. So that now all people knew him when he came, and they
wondered at him; but when he came to any house for the third or
fourth time, they wearied of him, and were glad when he departed.
Ever it was one of two answers that he had: either folk said to him,
"There is no such woman; this land is happy, and nought but happy
people dwell herein;" or else they told him of the woman who lived in
sorrow, and was ever looking on a book, that she might bring to her
the man whom she desired.
Whiles he wearied and longed for death, but would not die until there
was no corner of the land unsearched. Whiles he shook off weariness,
and went about his quest as a craftsman sets about his work in the
morning. Whiles it irked him to see the soft and merry folk of the
land, who had no skill to help him, and he longed for the house of
his fathers and the men of the spear and the plough; and thought,
"Oh, if I might but get me back, if it were but for an hour and to
die there, to the meadows of the Raven, and the acres beneath the
mountains of Cleveland by the Sea. Then at least should I learn some
tale of what is or what hath been, howsoever evil the tidings were,
and not be bandied about by lies for ever."
CHAPTER XV: YET HALLBLITHE SPEAKETH WITH THE KING
So wore the days and the moons; and now were some six moons worn
since first he came to the Glittering Plain; and he was come to Wood-
end again, and heard and knew that the King was sitting once more in
the door of his pavilion to hearken to the words of his people, and
he said to himself: "I will speak yet again to this man, if indeed
he be a man; yea, though he turn me into stone."
And he went up toward the pavilion; and on the way it came into his
mind what the men of the kindred were doing that morning; and he had
a vision of them as it were, and saw them yoking the oxen to the
plough, and slowly going down the acres, as the shining iron drew the
long furrow down the stubble-land, and the light haze hung about the
elm-trees in the calm morning, and the smoke rose straight into the
air from the roof of the kindred. And he said: "What is this? am I
death-doomed this morning that this sight cometh so clearly upon me
amidst the falseness of this unchanging land?"
Thus he came to the pavilion, and folk fell back before him to the
right and the left, and he stood before the King, and said to him:
"I cannot find her; she is not in thy land."
Then spake the King, smiling upon him, as erst: "What wilt thou
then? Is it not time to rest?"
He said: "Yea, O King; but not in this land."
Said the King: "Where else than in this land wilt thou find rest?
Without is battle and famine, longing unsatisfied, and heart-burning
and fear; within it is plenty and peace and good will and pleasure
without cease. Thy word hath no meaning to me."
Said Hallblithe: "Give me leave to depart, and I will bless thee."
"Is there nought else to do?" said the King.
"Nought else," said Hallblithe.
Therewith he felt that the King's face changed though he still smiled
on him, and again he felt his heart grow cold before the King.
But the King spake and said: "I hinder not thy departure, nor will
any of my folk. No hand will be raised against thee; there is no
weapon in all the land, save the deedless sword by my side and the
weapons which thou bearest."
Said Hallblithe: "Dost thou not owe me a joy in return for my
"Yea," said the King, "reach out thine hand to take it."
"One thing only may I take of thee," said Hallblithe; "my troth-
plight maiden or else the speeding of my departure."
Then said the King, and his voice was terrible though yet he smiled:
"I will not hinder; I will not help. Depart in peace!"
Then Hallblithe turned away dizzy and half fainting, and strayed down
the field, scarce knowing where he was; and as he went he felt his
sleeve plucked at, and turned about, and lo! he was face to face with
the Sea-eagle, no less joyous than aforetime. He took Hallblithe in
his arms and embraced him and kissed him, and said: "Well met,
faring-fellow! Whither away?"
"Away out of this land of lies," said Hallblithe.
The Sea-eagle shook his head, and quoth he: "Art thou still seeking
a dream? And thou so fair that thou puttest all other men to shame."
"I seek no dream," said Hallblithe, "but rather the end of dreams."
"Well," said the Sea-eagle, "we will not wrangle about it. But
hearken. Hard by in a pleasant nook of the meadows have I set up my
tent; and although it be not as big as the King's pavilion, yet is it
fair enough. Wilt thou not come thither with me and rest thee to-
night; and to-morrow we will talk of this matter?"
Now Hallblithe was weary and confused, and downhearted beyond his
wont, and the friendly words of the Sea-eagle softened his heart, and
he smiled on him and said: "I give thee thanks; I will come with
thee: thou art kind, and hast done nought to me save good from the
time when I first saw thee lying in thy bed in the Hall of the
Ravagers. Dost thou remember the day?"
The Sea-eagle knitted his brow as one striving with a troublous
memory, and said: "But dimly, friend, as if it had passed in an ugly
dream: meseemeth my friendship with thee began when I came to thee
from out of the wood, and saw thee standing with those three damsels;
that I remember full well ye were fair to look on."
Hallblithe wondered at his words, but said no more about it, and they
went together to a flowery nook nigh a stream of clear water where
stood a silken tent, green like the grass which it stood on, and
flecked with gold and goodly colours. Nigh it on the grass lay the
Sea-eagle's damsel, ruddy-cheeked and sweet-lipped, as fair as
aforetime. She turned about when she heard men coming, and when she
saw Hallblithe a smile came into her face like the sun breaking out
on a fair but clouded morning, and she went up to him and took him by
the hands and kissed his cheek, and said: "Welcome, Spearman!
welcome back! We have heard of thee in many places, and have been
sorry that thou wert not glad, and now are we fain of thy returning.
Shall not sweet life begin for thee from henceforward?"
Again was Hallblithe moved by her kind welcome; but he shook his head
and spake: "Thou art kind, sister; yet if thou wouldst be kinder
thou wilt show me a way whereby I may escape from this land. For
abiding here has become irksome to me, and meseemeth that hope is yet
alive without the Glittering Plain."
Her face fell as she answered: "Yea, and fear also, and worse, if
aught be worse. But come, let us eat and drink in this fair place,
and gather for thee a little joyance before thou departest, if thou
needs must depart."
He smiled on her as one not ill-content, and laid himself down on the
grass, while the twain busied themselves, and brought forth fair
cushions and a gilded table, and laid dainty victual thereon and good
So they ate and drank together, and the Sea-eagle and his mate became
very joyous again, and Hallblithe bestirred himself not to be a mar-
feast; for he said within himself: "I am departing, and after this
time I shall see them no more; and they are kind and blithe with me,
and have been aforetime; I will not make their merry hearts sore.
For when I am gone I shall be remembered of them but a little while."
CHAPTER XVI: THOSE THREE GO THEIR WAYS TO THE EDGE OF THE GLITTERING
So the evening wore merrily; and they made Hallblithe lie in an ingle
of the tent on a fair bed, and he was weary, and slept thereon like a
child. But in the morning early they waked him; and while they were
breaking their fast they began to speak to him of his departure, and
asked him if he had an inkling of the way whereby he should get him
gone, and he said: "If I escape it must needs be by way of the
mountains that wall the land about till they come down to the sea.
For on the sea is no ship and no haven; and well I wot that no man of
the land durst or can ferry me over to the land of my kindred, or
otherwhere without the Glittering Plain. Tell me therefore (and I
ask no more of you), is there any rumour or memory of a way that
cleaveth yonder mighty wall of rock to other lands?"
Said the damsel: "There is more than a memory or a rumour: there is
a road through the mountains known to all men. For at whiles the
earthly pilgrims come into the Glittering Plain thereby; and yet but
seldom, so many are the griefs and perils which beset the wayfarers
on that road. Whereof thou hadst far better bethink thee in time,
and abide here and be happy with us and others who long sore to make
"Nay," said Hallblithe, "there is nought to do but tell me of the
way, and I will depart at once, blessing you."
Said the Sea-eagle: "More than that at least will we do. May I lose
the bliss whereto I have attained, if I go not with thee to the very
edge of the land of the Glittering Plain. Shall it not be so,
"Yea, at least we may do that," said the damsel; and she hung her
head as if she were ashamed, and said: "And that is all that thou
wilt get from us at most."
Said Hallblithe: "It is enough, and I asked not so much."
Then the damsel busied herself, and set meat and drink in two
wallets, and took one herself and gave the other to the Sea-eagle,
and said: "We will be thy porters, O Spearman, and will give thee a
full wallet from the last house by the Desert of Dread, for when thou
hast entered therein, thou mayst well find victual hard to come by:
and now let us linger no more since the road is dear to thee."
So they set forth on foot, for in that land men were slow to feel
weariness; and turning about the hill of Wood-end, they passed by
some broken country, and came at even to a house at the entrance of a
long valley, with high and steeply-sloping sides, which seemed, as it
were, to cleave the dale country wherein they had fared aforetime.
At that house they slept well-guested by its folk, and the next
morning took their way down the valley, and the folk of the house
stood at the door to watch their departure; for they had told the
wayfarers that they had fared but a little way thitherward and knew
of no folk who had used that road.
So those three fared down the valley southward all day, ever mounting
higher as they went. The way was pleasant and easy, for they went
over fair, smooth, grassy lawns betwixt the hill-sides, beside a
clear rattling stream that ran northward; at whiles were clumps of
tall trees, oak for the most part, and at whiles thickets of thorn
and eglantine and other such trees: so that they could rest well
shaded when they would.
They passed by no house of men, nor came to any such in the even, but
lay down to sleep in a thicket of thorn and eglantine, and rested
well, and on the morrow they rose up betimes and went on their ways.
This second day as they went, the hill-sides on either hand grew
lower, till at last they died out into a wide plain, beyond which in
the southern offing the mountains rose huge and bare. This plain
also was grassy and beset with trees and thickets here and there.
Hereon they saw wild deer enough, as hart and buck, and roebuck and
swine: withal a lion came out of a brake hard by them as they went,
and stood gazing on them, so that Hallblithe looked to his weapons,
and the Sea-eagle took up a big stone to fight with, being
weaponless; but the damsel laughed, and tripped on her way lightly
with girt-up gown, and the beast gave no more heed to them.
Easy and smooth was their way over this pleasant wilderness, and
clear to see, though but little used, and before nightfall, after
they had gone a long way, they came to a house. It was not large nor
high, but was built very strongly and fairly of good ashlar: its
door was shut, and on the jamb thereof hung a slug-horn. The damsel,
who seemed to know what to do, set her mouth to the horn, and blew a
blast; and in a little while the door was opened, and a big man clad
in red scarlet stood therein: he had no weapons, but was somewhat
surly of aspect: he spake not, but stood abiding the word: so the
damsel took it up and said: "Art thou not the Warden of the
He said: "I am."
Said the damsel: "May we guest here to-night?"
He said: "The house lieth open to you with all that it hath of
victual and plenishing: take what ye will, and use what ye will."
They thanked him; but he heeded not their thanks, and withdrew him
from them. So they entered and found the table laid in a fair hall
of stone carven and painted very goodly; so they ate and drank
therein, and Hallblithe was of good heart, and the Sea-eagle and his
mate were merry, though they looked softly and shyly on Hallblithe
because of the sundering anigh; and they saw no man in the house save
the man in scarlet, who went and came about his business, paying no
heed to them. So when the night was deep they lay down in the shut-
bed off the hall, and slept, and the hours were tidingless to them
until they woke in the morning.
On the morrow they arose and broke their fast, and thereafter the
damsel spake to the man in scarlet and said: "May we fill our
wallets with victual for the way?"
Said the Warden: "There lieth the meat."
So they filled their wallets, while the man looked on; and they came
to the door when they were ready, and he unlocked it to them, saying
no word. But when they turned their faces towards the mountains he
spake at last, and stayed them at the first step. Quoth he:
"Whither away? Ye take the wrong road!"
Said Hallblithe: "Nay, for we go toward the mountains and the edge
of the Glittering Plain."
"Ye shall do ill to go thither," said the Warden, "and I bid you
"O Warden of the Uttermost House, wherefore should we forbear?" said
Said the scarlet man: "Because my charge is to further those who
would go inward to the King, and to stay those who would go outward
from the King."
"How then if we go outward despite thy bidding?" said the Sea-eagle,
"wilt thou then hinder us perforce?"
"How may I," said the man, "since thy fellow hath weapons?"
"Go we forth, then," said the Sea-eagle.
"Yea," said the damsel, "we will go forth. And know, O Warden, that
this weaponed man only is of mind to fare over the edge of the
Glittering Plain; but we twain shall come back hither again, and fare
Said the Warden: "Nought is it to me what ye will do when you are
past this house. Nor shall any man who goeth out of this garth
toward the mountains ever come back inwards save he cometh in the
company of new-corners to the Glittering Plain."
"Who shall hinder him?" said the Sea-eagle.
"The KING," said the Warden.
Then there was silence awhile, and the man said:
"Now do as ye will." And therewith he turned back into the house and
shut the door.
But the Sea-eagle and the damsel stood gazing on one another, and at
Hallblithe; and the damsel was downcast and pale; but the Sea-eagle
"Forward now, O Hallblithe, since thou willest it, and we will go
with thee and share whatever may befall thee; yea, right up to the
very edge of the Glittering Plain. And thou, O beloved, why dost
thou delay? Why dost thou stand as if thy fair feet were grown to
But the damsel gave a lamentable cry, and cast herself down on the
ground, and knelt before the Sea-eagle, and took him by the knees,
and said betwixt sobbing and weeping: "O my lord and love, I pray
thee to forbear, and the Spearman, our friend, shall pardon us. For
if thou goest, I shall never see thee more, since my heart will not
serve me to go with thee. O forbear! I pray thee!"
And she grovelled on the earth before him; and the Sea-eagle waxed
red, and would have spoken but Hallblithe cut his speech across, and
said "Friends, be at peace! For this is the minute that sunders us.
Get ye back at once to the heart of the Glittering Plain, and live
there and be happy; and take my blessing and thanks for the love and
help that ye have given me. For your going forward with me should
destroy you and profit me nothing. It would be but as the host
bringing his guests one field beyond his garth, when their goal is
the ends of the earth; and if there were a lion in the path, why
should he perish for courtesy's sake?"
Therewith he stooped down to the damsel, and lifted her up and kissed
her face; and he cast his arms about the Sea-eagle and said to him:
Then the damsel gave him the wallet of victual, and bade him
farewell, weeping sorely; and he looked kindly on them for a moment
of time, and then turned away from them and fared on toward the
mountains, striding with great strides, holding his head aloft. But
they looked no more on him, having no will to eke their sorrow, but
went their ways back again without delay.
CHAPTER XVII: HALLBLITHE AMONGST THE MOUNTAINS
So strode on Hallblithe; but when he had gone but a little way his
head turned, and the earth and heavens wavered before him, so that he
must needs sit down on a stone by the wayside, wondering what ailed
him. Then he looked up at the mountains, which now seemed quite near
to him at the plain's ending, and his weakness increased on him; and
lo! as he looked, it was to him as if the crags rose up in the sky to
meet him and overhang him, and as if the earth heaved up beneath him,
and therewith he fell aback and lost all sense, so that he knew not
what was become of the earth and the heavens and the passing of the
minutes of his life.
When he came to himself he knew not whether he had lain so a great
while or a little; he felt feeble, and for a while he lay scarce
moving, and beholding nought, not even the sky above him. Presently
he turned about and saw hard stone on either side, so he rose wearily
and stood upon his feet, and knew that he was faint with hunger and
thirst. Then he looked around him, and saw that he was in a narrow
valley or cleft of the mountains amidst wan rocks, bare and
waterless, where grew no blade of green; but he could see no further
than the sides of that cleft, and he longed to be out of it that he
might see whitherward to turn. Then he bethought him of his wallet,
and set his hand to it and opened it, thinking to get victual thence;
but lo! it was all spoilt and wasted. None the less, for all his
feebleness, he turned and went toiling slowly along what seemed to be
a path little trodden leading upward out of the cleft; and at last he
reached the crest thereof, and sat him down on a rock on the other
side; yet durst not raise his eyes awhile and look on the land, lest
he should see death manifest therein. At last he looked, and saw
that he was high up amongst the mountain-peaks: before him and on
either hand was but a world of fallow stone rising ridge upon ridge
like the waves of the wildest of the winter sea. The sun not far
from its midmost shone down bright and hot on that wilderness; yet
was there no sign that any man had ever been there since the
beginning of the world, save that the path aforesaid seemed to lead
onward down the stony slope.
This way and that way and all about he gazed, straining his eyes if
perchance he might see any diversity in the stony waste; and at last
betwixt two peaks of the rock-wall on his left hand he descried a
streak of green mingling with the cold blue of the distance; and he
thought in his heart that this was the last he should see of the
Glittering Plain. Then he spake aloud in that desert, and said,
though there was none to hear: "Now is my last hour come; and here
is Hallblithe of the Raven perishing, with his deeds undone and his
longing unfulfilled, and his bridal-bed acold for ever. Long may the
House of the Raven abide and flourish, with many a man and maiden,
valiant and fair and fruitful! O kindred, cast thy blessing on this
man about to die here, doing none otherwise than ye would have him!"
He sat there a little while longer, and then he said to himself:
"Death tarries; were it not well that I go to meet him, even as the
cot-carle preventeth the mighty chieftain?"
Then he arose, and went painfully down the slope, steadying himself
with the shaft of his gleaming spear; but all at once he stopped; for
it seemed to him that he heard voices borne on the wind that blew up
the mountain-side. But he shook his head and said: "Now forsooth
beginneth the dream which shall last for ever; nowise am I beguiled
by it." None the less he strove the more eagerly with the wind and
the way and his feebleness; yet did the weakness wax on him, so that
it was but a little while ere he faltered and reeled and fell down
once more in a swoon.
When he came to himself again he was no longer alone: a man was
kneeling down by him and holding up his head, while another before
him, as he opened his eyes, put a cup of wine to his lips. So
Hallblithe drank and was refreshed; and presently they gave him
bread, and he ate, and his heart was strengthened, and the happiness
of life returned to it, and he lay back, and slept sweetly for a
When he awoke from that slumber he found that he had gotten back much
of his strength again, and he sat up and looked around him, and saw
three men sitting anigh, armed and girt with swords, yet in evil
array, and sore travel-worn. One of these was very old, with long
white hair hanging down; and another, though he was not so much
stricken in years, still looked an old man of over sixty winters.
The third was a man some forty years old, but sad and sorry and
drooping of aspect.
So when they saw him stirring, they all fixed their eyes upon him,
and the oldest man said: "Welcome to him who erst had no tidings for
us!" And the second said: "Tell us now thy tidings." But the
third, the sorry man, cried out aloud, saying: "Where is the Land?
Where is the Land?"
Said Hallblithe: "Meseemeth the land which ye seek is the land which
I seek to flee from. And now I will not hide that meseemeth I have
seen you before, and that was at Cleveland by the Sea when the days
Then they all three bowed their heads in yea-say, and spake: "'Where
is the Land? Where is the Land?"
Then Hallblithe arose to his feet, and said: "Ye have healed me of
the sickness of death, and I will do what I may to heal you of your
sickness of sorrow. Come up the pass with me, and I will show you
the land afar off."
Then they arose like young and brisk men, and he led them over the
brow of the ridge into the little valley wherein he had first come to
himself: there he showed them that glimpse of a green land betwixt
the two peaks, which he had beheld e'en now; and they stood a while
looking at it and weeping for joy.
Then spake the oldest of the seekers: "Show us the way to the land."
"Nay," said Hallblithe, "I may not; for when I would depart thence, I
might not go by mine own will, but was borne out hither, I wot not
how. For when I came to the edge of the land against the will of the
King, he smote me, and then cast me out. Therefore since I may not
help you, find ye the land for yourselves, and let me go blessing
you, and come out of this desert by the way whereby ye entered it.
For I have an errand in the world."
Spake the youngest of the seekers: "Now art thou become the yoke-
fellow of Sorrow, and thou must wend, not whither thou wouldst, but
whither she will: and she would have thee go forward toward life,
not backward toward death."
Said the midmost seeker: "If we let thee go further into the
wilderness thou shalt surely die: for hence to the peopled parts,
and the City of Merchants, whence we come, is a month's journey: and
there is neither meat nor drink, nor beast nor bird, nor any green
thing all that way; and since we have found thee famishing, we may
well deem that thou hast no victual. As to us we have but little; so
that if it be much more than three days' journey to the Glittering
Plain, we may well starve and die within sight of the Acre of the
Undying. Nevertheless that little will we share with thee if thou
wilt help us to find that good land; so that thou mayst yet put away
Sorrow, and take Joy again to thy board and bed."
Hallblithe hung his head and answered nought; for he was confused by
the meshes of ill-hap, and his soul grew sick with the bitterness of
death. But the sad man spake again and said: "Thou hast an errand
sayest thou? is it such as a dead man may do?"
Hallblithe pondered, and amidst the anguish of his despair was borne
in on him a vision of the sea-waves lapping the side of a black ship,
and a man therein: who but himself, set free to do his errand, and
his heart was quickened within him, and he said: "I thank you, and I
will wend back with you, since there is no road for me save back
again into the trap."
The three seekers seemed glad thereat, and the second one said:
"Though death is pursuing, and life lieth ahead, yet will we not
hasten thee unduly. Time was when I was Captain of the Host, and
learned how battles were lost by lack of rest. Therefore have thy
sleep now, that thou mayst wax in strength for our helping."
Said Hallblithe: "I need not rest; I may not rest; I will not rest."
Said the sad man: "It is lawful for thee to rest. So say I, who was
once a master of law."
Said the long-hoary elder: "And I command thee to rest; I who was
once the king of a mighty folk."
In sooth Hallblithe was now exceeding weary; so he laid him down and
slept sweetly in the stony wilderness amidst those three seekers, the
old, the sad, and the very old.
When he awoke he felt well and strong again, and he leapt to his feet
and looked about him, and saw the three seekers stirring, and he
deemed by the sun that it was early morning. The sad man brought
forth bread and water and wine, and they broke their fast; and when
they had done he spake and said: "Abideth now in wallet and bottle
but one more full meal for us, and then no more save a few crumbs and
a drop or two of wine if we husband it well."
Said the second elder: "Get we to the road, then, and make haste. I
have been seeking, and meseemeth, though the way be long, it is not
utterly blind for us. Or look thou, Raven-son, is there not a path
yonder that leadeth onward up to the brow of the ghyll again? and as
I have seen, it leadeth on again down from the said brow."
Forsooth there was a track that led through the stony tangle of the
wilderness; so they took to the road with a good heart, and went all
day, and saw no living thing, and not a blade of grass or a trickle
of water: nought save the wan rocks under the sun; and though they
trusted in their road that it led them aright, they saw no other
glimpse of the Glittering Plain, because there rose a great ridge
like a wall on the north side, and they went as it were down along a
trench of the rocks, albeit it was whiles broken across by ghylls,
and knolls, and reefs.
So at sunset they rested and ate their victual, for they were very
weary; and thereafter they lay down, and slept as soundly as if they
were in the best of the halls of men. On the morrow betimes they
arose soberly and went their ways with few words, and, as they
deemed, the path still led them onward. And now the great ridge on
the north rose steeper and steeper, and their crossing it seemed not
to be thought of; but their half-blind track failed them not. They
rested at even, and ate and drank what little they had left, save a
mouthful or two of wine, and then went on again by the light of the
moon, which was so bright that they still saw their way. And it
happened to Hallblithe, as mostly it does with men very travel-worn,
that he went on and on scarce remembering where he was, or who his
fellows were, or that he had any fellows.
So at midnight they lay down in the wilderness again, hungry and
weary. They rose at dawn and went forward with waning hope: for now
the mountain ridge on the north was close to their path, rising up
along a sheer wall of pale stone over which nothing might go save the
fowl flying; so that at first on that morning they looked for nothing
save to lay their bones in that grievous desert where no man should
But, as beset with famine, they fared on heavily down the narrow
track, there came a hoarse cry from Hallblithe's dry throat and it
was as if his cry had been answered by another like to his; and the
seekers turned and beheld him pointing to the cliff-side, and lo!
half-way up the pale sun-litten crag stood two ravens in a cranny of
the stone, flapping their wings and croaking, with thrusting forth
and twisting of their heads; and presently they came floating on the
thin pure air high up over the heads of the wayfarers, croaking for
the pleasure of the meeting, as though they laughed thereat.
Then rose the heart of Hallblithe, and he smote his palms together,
and fell to singing an old song of his people, amidst the rocks
whereas few men had sung aforetime.
Whence are ye and whither, O fowl of our fathers?
What field have ye looked on, what acres unshorn?
What land have ye left where the battle-folk gathers,
And the war-helms are white o'er the paths of the corn?
What tale do ye bear of the people uncraven,
Where amidst the long hall-shadow sparkle the spears;
Where aloft on the hall-ridge now flappeth the raven,
And singeth the song of the nourishing years?
There gather the lads in the first of the morning,
While white lies the battle-day's dew on the grass,
And the kind steeds trot up to the horn's voice of warning,
And the winds wake and whine in the dusk of the pass.
O fowl of our fathers, why now are ye resting?
Come over the mountains and look on the foe.
Full fair after fight won shall yet be your nesting;
And your fledglings the sons of the kindred shall know.
Therewith he strode with his head upraised, and above him flew the
ravens, croaking as if they answered his song in friendly fashion.
It was but a little after this that the path turned aside sharp
toward the cliffs, and the seekers were abashed thereof, till
Hallblithe running forward beheld a great cavern in the face of the
cliff at the path's ending: so he turned and cried on his fellows,
and they hastened up, and presently stood before that cavern's mouth
with doubt and joy mingled in their minds; for now, mayhappen, they
had reached the gate of the Glittering Plain, or mayhappen the gate
The sad man hung his head and spake: "Doth not some new trap abide
us? What do we here? is this aught save death?"
Spake the Elder of Elders: "Was not death on either hand e'en now,
even as treason besetteth the king upon his throne?"
And the second said: "Yea, we were as the host which hath no road
save through the multitude of foe-men."
But Hallblithe laughed and said: "Why do ye hang back, then? As for
me, if death be here, soon is mine errand sped." Therewith he led
the way into the dark of the cave, and the ravens hung about the crag
overhead croaking, as the men left the light.
So was their way swallowed up in the cavern, and day and its time
became nought to them; they went on and on, and became exceeding
faint and weary, but rested not, for death was behind them. Whiles
they deemed they heard waters running, and whiles the singing of
fowl; and to Hallblithe it seemed that he heard his name called, so
that he shouted back in answer; but all was still when the sound of
his voice had died out.
At last, when they were pressing on again after a short while of
resting, Hallblithe cried out that the cave was lightening: so they
hastened onward, and the light grew till they could dimly see each
other, and dimly they beheld the cave that it was both wide and high.
Yet a little further, and their faces showed white to one another,
and they could see the crannies of the rocks, and the bats hanging
garlanded from the roof. So then they came to where the day streamed
down bright on them from a break overhead, and lo! the sky and green
leaves waving against it.
To those way-worn men it seemed hard to clamber out that way, and
especially to the elders: so they went on a little further to see if
there were aught better abiding them, but when they found the
daylight failing them again, they turned back to the place of the
break in the roof, lest they should waste their strength and perish
in the bowels of the mountain. So with much ado they hove up
Hallblithe till he got him first on to a ledge of the rocky wall, and
so, what by strength, what by cunning, into the daylight through the
rent in the roof. So when he was without he made a rope of his
girdle and strips from his raiment, for he was ever a deft craftsman,
and made a shift to heave up therewith the sad man, who was light and
lithe of body; and then the two together dealt with the elders one
after another, till they were all four on the face of the earth
The place whereto they had gotten was the side of a huge mountain,
stony and steep, but set about with bushes, which seemed full fair to
those wanderers amongst the rocks. This mountain-slope went down
towards a fair green plain, which Hallblithe made no doubt was the
outlying waste of the Glittering Plain: nay, he deemed that he could
see afar off thereon the white walls of the Uttermost House. So much
he told the seekers in few words; and then while they grovelled on
the earth and wept for pure joy, whereas the sun was down and it was
beginning to grow dusk, he went and looked around soberly to see if
he might find water and any kind of victual; and presently a little
down the hillside he came upon a place where a spring came gushing up
out of the earth and ran down toward the plain; and about it was
green grass growing plentifully, and a little thicket of bramble and
wilding fruit-trees. So he drank of the water, and plucked him a few
wilding apples somewhat better than crabs, and then went up the hill
again and fetched the seekers to that mountain hostelry; and while
they drank of the stream he plucked them apples and bramble-berries.
For indeed they were as men out of their wits, and were dazed by the
extremity of their jog, and as men long shut up in prison, to whom
the world of men-folk hath become strange. Simple as the victual
was, they were somewhat strengthened by it and by the plentiful
water, and as night was now upon them, it was of no avail for them to
go further: so they slept beneath the boughs of the thorn-bushes.
CHAPTER XVIII: HALLBLITHE DWELLETH IN THE WOOD ALONE
But on the morrow they arose betimes, and broke their fast on that
woodland victual, and then went speedily down the mountain-side; and
Hallblithe saw by the clear morning light that it was indeed the
Uttermost House which he had seen across the green waste. So he told
the seekers; but they were silent and heeded nought, because of a
fear that had come upon them, lest they should die before they came
into that good land. At the foot of the mountain they came upon a
river, deep but not wide, with low grassy banks, and Hallblithe, who
was an exceeding strong swimmer, helped the seekers over without much
ado; and there they stood upon the grass of that goodly waste.
Hallblithe looked on them to note if any change should come over
them, and he deemed that already they were become stronger and of
more avail. But he spake nought thereof, and strode on toward the
Uttermost House, even as that other day he had stridden away from it.
Such diligence they made, that it was but little after noon when they
came to the door thereof. Then Hallblithe took the horn and blew
upon it, while his fellows stood by murmuring, "It is the Land! It
is the Land!"
So came the Warden to the door, clad in red scarlet, and the elder
went up to him and said: "Is this the Land?"
"What land?" said the Warden.
"Is it the Glittering Plain?" said the second of the seekers.
"Yea, forsooth," said the Warden. Said the sad man: "Will ye lead
us to the King?
"Ye shall come to the King," said the Warden.
"When, oh when?" cried they out all three.
"The morrow of to-morrow, maybe," said the Warden.
"Oh! if to-morrow were but come!" they cried.
"It will come," said the red man; "enter ye the house, and eat and
drink and rest you."
So they entered, and the Warden heeded Hallblithe nothing. They ate
and drank and then went to their rest, and Hallblithe lay in a shut-
bed off from the hall, but the Warden brought the seekers otherwhere,
so that Hallblithe saw them not after he had gone to bed; but as for
him he slept and forgot that aught was.
In the morning when he awoke he felt very strong and well-liking; and
he beheld his limbs that they were clear of skin and sleek and fair;
and he heard one hard by in the hall carolling and singing joyously.
So he sprang from his bed with the wonder of sleep yet in him, and
drew the curtains of the shut-bed and looked forth into the hall; and
lo on the high-seat a man of thirty winters by seeming, tall, fair of
fashion, with golden hair and eyes as grey as glass, proud and noble
of aspect; and anigh him sat another man of like age to look on, a
man strong and burly, with short curling brown hair and a red beard,
and ruddy countenance, and the mien of a warrior. Also, up and down
the hall, paced a man younger of aspect than these two, tall and
slender, black-haired and dark-eyed, amorous of countenance; he it
was who was singing a snatch of song as he went lightly on the hall
pavement: a snatch like to this
Fair is the world, now autumn's wearing,
And the sluggard sun lies long abed;
Sweet are the days, now winter's nearing,
And all winds feign that the wind is dead.
Dumb is the hedge where the crabs hang yellow,
Bright as the blossoms of the spring;
Dumb is the close where the pears grow mellow,
And none but the dauntless redbreasts sing.
Fair was the spring, but amidst his greening
Grey were the days of the hidden sun;
Fair was the summer, but overweening,
So soon his o'er-sweet days were done.
Come then, love, for peace is upon us,
Far off is failing, and far is fear,
Here where the rest in the end hath won us,
In the garnering tide of the happy year.
Come from the grey old house by the water,
Where, far from the lips of the hungry sea,
Green groweth the grass o'er the field of the slaughter,
And all is a tale for thee and me.
So Hallblithe did on his raiment and went into the hall; and when
those three saw him they smiled upon him kindly and greeted him; and
the noble man at the board said: "Thanks have thou, O Warrior of the
Raven, for thy help in our need: thy reward from us shall not be
Then the brown-haired man came up to him, and clapped him on the back
and said to him: "Brisk man of the Raven, good is thy help at need;
even so shall be mine to thee henceforward."
But the young man stepped up to him lightly, and cast his arms about
him, and kissed him, and said: "O friend and fellow, who knoweth but
I may one day help thee as thou hast holpen me? though thou art one
who by seeming mayst well help thyself. And now mayst thou be as
merry as I am to-day!"
Then they all three cried out joyously: "It is the Land! It is the
So Hallblithe knew that these men were the two elders and the sad man
of yesterday, and that they had renewed their youth.
Joyously now did those men break their fast: nor did Hallblithe make
any grim countenance, for he thought: "That which these dotards and
drivellers have been mighty enough to find, shall I not be mighty
enough to flee from?" Breakfast done, the seekers made little delay,
so eager as they were to behold the King, and to have handsel of
their new sweet life. So they got them ready to depart, and the
once-captain said: "Art thou able to lead us to the King, O Raven-
son, or must we seek another man to do so much for us?"
Said Hallblithe: "I am able to lead you so nigh unto Wood-end
(where, as I deem, the King abideth) that ye shall not miss him."
Therewith they went to the door, and the Warden unlocked to them, and
spake no word to them when they departed, though they thanked him
kindly for the guesting.
When they were without the garth, the young man fell to running about
the meadow plucking great handfuls of the rich flowers that grew
about, singing and carolling the while. But he who had been king
looked up and down and round about, and said at last: "Where be the
horses and the men?"
But his fellow with the red beard said: "Raven-son, in this land
when they journey, what do they as to riding or going afoot?"
Said Hallblithe: "Fair fellows, ye shall wot that in this land folk
go afoot for the most part, both men and women; whereas they weary
but little, and are in no haste."
Then the once-captain clapped the once-king on the shoulder, and
said: "Hearken, lord, and delay no longer, but gird up thy gown,
since here is no mare's son to help thee: for fair is to-day that
lies before us, with many a new fair day beyond it."
So Hallblithe led the way inward, thinking of many things, yet but
little of his fellows. Albeit they, and the younger man especially,
were of many words; for this black-haired man had many questions to
ask, chiefly concerning the women, what they were like to look on,
and of what mood they were. Hallblithe answered thereto as long as
he might, but at last he laughed and said: "Friend, forbear thy
questions now; for meseemeth in a few hours thou shalt be as wise
hereon as is the God of Love himself."
So they made diligence along the road, and all was tidingless till on
the second day at even they came to the first house off the waste.
There had they good welcome, and slept. But on the morrow when they
arose, Hallblithe spake to the Seekers, and said: "Now are things
much changed betwixt us since the time when we first met: for then I
had all my desire, as I thought, and ye had but one desire, and well
nigh lacked hope of its fulfilment. Whereas now the lack hath left
you and come to me. Wherefore even as time agone ye might not abide
even one night at the House of the Raven, so hard as your desire lay
on you; even so it fareth with me to-day, that I am consumed with my
desire, and I may not abide with you; lest that befall which
befalleth betwixt the full man and the fasting. Wherefore now I
bless you and depart."
They abounded in words of good-will to him, and the once-king said:
"Abide with us, and we shall see to it that thou have all the
dignities that a man may think of."
And the once-captain said: "Lo, here is mine hand that hath been
mighty; never shalt thou lack it for the accomplishment of thine
uttermost desire. Abide with us."
Lastly said the young man: "Abide with us, Son of the Raven! Set
thine heart on a fair woman, yea even were it the fairest; and I will
get her for thee, even were my desire set on her."
But he smiled on them, and shook his head, and said: "All hail to
you! but mine errand is yet undone." And therewith he departed.
He skirted Wood-end and came not to it, but got him down to the side
of the sea, not far from where he first came aland, but somewhat
south of it. A fair oak-wood came down close to the beach of the
sea; it was some four miles end-long and over-thwart. Thither
Hallblithe betook him, and in a day or two got him wood-wright's
tools from a house of men a little outside the wood, three miles from
the sea-shore. Then he set to work and built him a little frame-
house on a lawn of the wood beside a clear stream; for he was a very
deft wood-wright. Withal he made him a bow and arrows, and shot what
he would of the fowl and the deer for his livelihood; and folk from
that house and otherwhence came to see him, and brought him bread and
wine and spicery and other matters which he needed. And the days
wore, and men got used to him, and loved him as if he had been a rare
image which had been brought to that land for its adornment; and now
they no longer called him the Spearman, but the Wood-lover. And as
for him, he took all in patience, abiding what the lapse of days
should bring forth.
CHAPTER XIX: HALLBLITHE BUILDS HIM A SKIFF
After Hallblithe had been housed a little while, and the time was
again drawing nigh to the twelfth moon since he had come to the
Glittering Plain, he went in the wood one day; and, pondering many
things without fixing on any one, he stood before a very great oak-
tree and looked at the tall straight bole thereof, and there came
into his head the words of an old song which was written round a
scroll of the carving over the shut-bed, wherein he was wont to lie
when he was at home in the House of the Raven: and thus it said:
I am the oak-tree, and forsooth
Men deal by me with little ruth;
My boughs they shred, my life they slay,
And speed me o'er the watery way.
He looked up into that leafy world for a little and then turned back
toward his house; but all day long, whether he were at work or at
rest, that posy ran in his head, and he kept on saying it over, aloud
or not aloud, till the day was done and he went to sleep.
Then in his sleep he dreamed that an exceeding fair woman stood by
his bedside, and at first she seemed to him to be an image of the
Hostage. But presently her face changed, and her body and her
raiment; and, lo! it was the lovely woman, the King's daughter whom
he had seen wasting her heart for the love of him. Then even in his
dream shame thereof overtook him, and because of that shame he awoke,
and lay awake a little, hearkening the wind going through the
woodland boughs, and the singing of the owl who had her dwelling in
the hollow oak nigh to his house. Slumber overcame him in a little
while, and again the image of the King's daughter came to him in his
dream, and again when he looked upon her, shame and pity rose so
hotly in his heart that he awoke weeping, and lay a while hearkening
to the noises of the night. The third time he slept and dreamed; and
once more that image came to him. And now he looked, and saw that
she had in her hand a book covered outside with gold and gems, even
as he saw it in the orchard-close aforetime: and he beheld her face
that it was no longer the face of one sick with sorrow; but glad and
clear, and most beauteous.
Now she opened the book and held it before Hallblithe and turned the
leaves so that he might see them clearly; and therein were woods and
castles painted, and burning mountains, and the wall of the world,
and kings upon their thrones, and fair women and warriors, all most
lovely to behold, even as he had seen it aforetime in the orchard
when he lay lurking amidst the leaves of the bay-tree.
So at last she came to the place in the book wherein was painted
Hallblithe's own image over against the image of the Hostage; and he
looked thereon and longed. But she turned the leaf, and, lo! on one
side the Hostage again, standing in a fair garden of the spring with
the lilies all about her feet, and behind her the walls of a house,
grey, ancient, and lovely: and on the other leaf over against her
was painted a sea rippled by a little wind and a boat thereon sailing
swiftly, and one man alone in the boat sitting and steering with a
cheerful countenance; and he, who but Hallblithe himself. Hallblithe
looked thereon for a while and then the King's daughter shut the
book, and the dream flowed into other imaginings of no import.
In the grey dawn Hallblithe awoke, and called to mind his dream, and
he leapt from his bed and washed the night from off him in the
stream, and clad himself and went the shortest way through the wood
to that House of folk aforesaid: and as he went his face was bright
and he sang the second part of the carven posy; to wit:
Along the grass I lie forlorn
That when a while of time is worn,
I may be filled with war and peace
And bridge the sundering of the seas.
He came out of the wood and hastened over the flowery meads of the
Glittering Plain, and came to that same house when it was yet very
early. At the door he came across a damsel bearing water from the
well, and she spake to him and said: "Welcome, Wood-lover! Seldom
art thou seen in our garth; and that is a pity of thee. And now I
look on thy face I see that gladness hath come into thine heart, and
that thou art most fair and lovely. Here then is a token for thee of
the increase of gladness." Therewith she set her buckets on the
earth, and stood before him, and took him by the ears, and drew down
his face to hers and kissed him sweetly. He smiled on her and said:
"I thank thee, sister, for the kiss and the greeting; but I come here
having a lack."
"Tell us," she said, "that we may do thee a pleasure."
He said: "I would ask the folk to give me timber, both beams and
battens and boards; for if I hew in the wood it will take long to
"All this is free for thee to take from our wood-store when thou hast
broken thy fast with us," said the damsel. "Come thou in and rest
She took him by the hand and they went in together, and she gave him
to eat and drink, and went up and down the house, saying to every
one: "Here is come the Wood-lover, and he is glad again; come and
So the folk gathered about him, and made much of him. And when they
had made an end of breakfast, the head man of the House said to him:
"The beasts are in the wain, and the timber abideth thy choosing;
come and see."
So he brought Hallblithe to the timber-bower, where he chose for
himself all that he needed of oak-timber of the best; and they loaded
the wain therewith, and gave him what he would moreover of nails and
treenails and other matters; and he thanked them; and they said to
him: "Whither now shall we lead thy timber?"
"Down to the sea-side," quoth he, "nighest to my dwelling."
So did they, and more than a score, men and women, went with him,
some in the wain, and some afoot. Thus they came down to the sea-
shore, and laid the timber on the strand just above high-water mark;
and straightway Hallblithe fell to work shaping him a boat, for well
he knew the whole craft thereof; and the folk looked on wondering,
till the tide had ebbed the little it was wont to ebb, and left the
moist sand firm and smooth; then the women left watching Hallblithe's
work, and fell to paddling barefoot in the clear water, for there was
scarce a ripple on the sea; and the carles came and played with them
so that Hallblithe was left alone a while; for this kind of play was
new to that folk, since they seldom came down to the sea-side.
Thereafter they needs must dance together, and would have had
Hallblithe dance with them; and when he naysaid them because he was
fain of his work, in all playfulness they fell to taking the adze out
of his hand, whereat he became somewhat wroth, and they were afraid
and went and had their dance out without him.
By this time the sun was grown very hot, and they came to him again,
and lay down about him and watched his work, for they were weary.
And one of the women, still panting with the dance, spake as she
looked on the loveliness of her limbs, which one of the swains was
caressing: "Brother," said she, "great strokes thou smitest; when
wilt thou have smitten the last of them, and come to our house
"Not for many days, fair sister," said he, without looking up.
"Alas that thou shouldst talk so," said a carle, rising up from the
warm sand; "what shall all thy toil win thee?"
Spake Hallblithe: "Maybe a merry heart, or maybe death."
At that word they all rose up together, and stood huddled together
like sheep that have been driven to the croft-gate, and the shepherd
hath left them for a little and they know not whither to go. Little
by little they got them to the wain and harnessed their beasts
thereto, and departed silently by the way that they had come; but in
a little time Hallblithe heard their laughter and merry speech across
the flowery meadows. He heeded their departure little, but went on
working, and worked the sun down, and on till the stars began to
twinkle. Then he went home to his house in the wood, and slept and
dreamed not, and began again on the morrow with a good heart.
To be short, no day passed that he wrought not his full tale of work,
and the days wore, and his ship-wright's work throve. Often the folk
of that house, and from otherwhere round about, came down to the
strand to watch him working. Nowise did they wilfully hinder him,
but whiles when they could get no talk from him, they would speak of
him to each other, wondering that he should so toil to sail upon the
sea; for they loved the sea but little, and it soon became clear to
them that he was looking to nought else: though it may not be said
that they deemed he would leave the land for ever. On the other
hand, if they hindered him not, neither did they help, saving when he
prayed them for somewhat which he needed, which they would then give
Of the Sea-eagle and his damsel, Hallblithe saw nought; whereat he
was well content, for he deemed it of no avail to make a second
sundering of it.
So he worked and kept his heart up, and at last all was ready; he had
made him a mast and a sail, and oars, and whatso-other gear there was
need of. So then he thrust his skiff into the sea on an evening
whenas there were but two carles standing by; for there would often
be a score or two of folk. These two smiled on him and bespake him
kindly, but would not help him when he bade them set shoulder to her
bows and shove. Albeit he got the skiff into the water without much
ado, and got into her, and brought her to where a stream running from
out of his wood made a little haven for her up from the sea. There
he tied her to a tree-hole, and busied himself that even with getting
the gear into her, and victual and water withal, as much as he deemed
he should need: and so, being weary, he went to his house to sleep,
thinking that he should awake in the grey of the morning and thrust
out into the deep sea. And he was the more content to abide, because
on that eve, as oftenest betid, the wind blew landward from the sea,
whereas in the morning it oftenest blew seaward from the land. In
any case he thought to be astir so timely that he should come alone
to his keel, and depart with no leave-takings. But, as it fell out,
he overslept himself, so that when he came out into the wood clad in
all his armour, with his sword girt to his side, and his spear over
his shoulder, he heard the voices of folk, and presently found so
many gathered about his boat that he had some ado to get aboard.
The folk had brought many gifts for him of such things as they deemed
he might need for a short voyage, as fruit and wine, and woollen
cloths to keep the cold night from him; he thanked them kindly as he
stepped over the gunwale, and some of the women kissed him: and one
said (she it was, who had met him at the stead that morning when he
went to fetch timber): "Thou wilt be back this even, wilt thou not,
brother? It is yet but early, and thou shalt have time enough to
take all thy pleasure on the sea, and then come back to us to eat thy
meat in our house at nightfall."
She spake, knitting her brows in longing for his return; but he knew
that all those deemed he would come back again soon; else had they
deemed him a rebel of the King, and might, as he thought, have stayed
him. So he changed not countenance in any wise, but said only:
"farewell, sister, for this day, and farewell to all you till I come
Therewith he unmoored his boat, and sat down and took the oars, and
rowed till he was out of the little haven, and on the green sea, and
the keel rose and fell on the waves. Then he stepped the mast and
hoisted sail, and sheeted home, for the morning wind was blowing
gently from the mountains over the meadows of the Glittering Plain,
so the sail filled, and the keel leapt forward and sped over the face
of the cold sea. And it is to be said that whether he wotted or not,
it was the very day twelve months since he had come to that shore
along with the Sea-eagle. So that folk stood and watched the skiff
growing less and less upon the deep till they could scarce see her.
Then they turned about and went into the wood to disport them, for
the sun was growing hot. Nevertheless, there were some of them (and
that damsel was one), who came back to the sea-shore from time to
time all day long; and even when the sun was down they looked seaward
under the rising moon, expecting to see Hallblithe's bark come into
the shining path which she drew across the waters round about the
CHAPTER XX: SO NOW SAILETH HALLBLITHE AWAY FROM THE GLITTERING PLAIN
But as to Hallblithe, he soon lost sight of the Glittering Plain and
the mountains thereof, and there was nought but sea all round about
him, and his heart swelled with joy as he sniffed the brine and
watched the gleaming hills and valleys of the restless deep; and he
said to himself that he was going home to his Kindred and the Roof of
his Fathers of old time.
He stood as near due north as he might; but as the day wore, the wind
headed him, and he deemed it not well to beat, lest he should make
his voyage overlong; so he ran on with the wind abeam, and his little
craft leapt merrily over the sea-hills under the freshening breeze.
The sun set and the moon and stars shone out, and he still sailed on,
and durst not sleep, save as a dog does, with one eye. At last came
dawn, and as the light grew it was a fair day with a falling wind,
and a bright sky, but it clouded over before sunset, and the wind
freshened from the north by east, and, would he, would he not,
Hallblithe must run before it night-long, till at sunrise it fell
again, and all day was too light for him to make much way beating to
northward; nor did it freshen till after the moon was risen some
while after sunset. And now he was so weary that he must needs
sleep; so he lashed the helm, and took a reef in the sail, and ran
before the wind, he sleeping in the stern.
But past the middle of the night, towards the dawning, he awoke with
the sound of a great shout in his ears. So he looked over the dark
waters, and saw nought, for the night was cloudy again. Then he
trimmed his craft, and went to sleep again, for he was over-burdened
When he awoke it was broad daylight; so he looked to the tiller and
got the boat's head a little up to the wind, and then gazed about him
with the sleep still in his eyes. And as his eyes took in the
picture before him he could not refrain a cry; for lo! there arose up
great and grim right ahead the black cliffs of the Isle of Ransom.
Straightway he got to the sheet, and strove to wear the boat; but for
all that he could do she drifted toward the land, for she was gotten
into a strong current of the sea that set shoreward. So he struck
sail, and took the oars and rowed mightily so that he might bear her
off shore; but it availed nothing, and still he drifted landward. So
he stood up from the oars, and turned about and looked, and saw that
he was but some three furlongs from the shore, and that he was come
to the very haven-mouth whence he had set sail with the Sea-eagle a
twelvemonth ago: and he knew that into that haven he needs must get
him, or be dashed to pieces against the high cliffs of the land: and
he saw how the waves ran on to the cliffs, and whiles one higher than
the others smote the rock-wall and ran up it, as if it could climb
over on to the grassy lip beyond, and then fell back again, leaving a
river of brine running down the steep.
Then he said that he would take what might befall him inside the
haven. So he hoisted sail again, and took the tiller, and steered
right for the midmost of the gate between the rocks, wondering what
should await him there. Then it was but a few minutes ere his bark
shot into the smoothness of the haven, and presently began to lose
way; for all the wind was dead within that land-locked water.
Hallblithe looked steadily round about seeking his foe; but the haven
was empty of ship or boat; so he ran his eye along the shore to see
where he should best lay his keel and as aforesaid there was no beach
there, and the water was deep right up to the grassy lip of the land;
though the tides ran somewhat high, and at low water would a little
steep undercliff go up from the face of the sea. But now it was near
the top of the tide, and there was scarce two feet betwixt the grass
and the dark-green sea.
Now Hallblithe steered toward an ingle of the haven; and beyond it, a
little way off, rose a reef of rocks out of the green grass, and
thereby was a flock of sheep feeding, and a big man lying down
amongst them, who seemed to be unarmed, as Hallblithe could not see
any glint of steel about him. Hallblithe drew nigh the shore, and
the big man stirred not; nor did he any the more when the keel ran
along the shore, and Hallblithe leapt out and moored his craft to his
spear stuck deep in the earth. And now Hallblithe deems that the man
must be either dead or asleep: so he drew his sword and had it in
his right hand, and in his left a sharp knife, and went straight up
to the man betwixt the sheep, and found him so lying on his side that
he could not see his face; so he stirred him with his foot, and cried
out: "Awake, O Shepherd! for dawn is long past and day is come, and
therewithal a guest for thee!"
The man turned over and slowly sat up, and, lo! who should it be but
the Puny Fox? Hallblithe started back at the sight of him, and cried
out at him, and said: "Have I found thee, O mine enemy?"
The Puny Fox sat up a little straighter, and rubbed his eyes and
said: "Yea, thou hast found me sure enough. But as to my being
thine enemy, a word or two may be said about that presently."
"What!" said Hallblithe, "dost thou deem that aught save my sword
will speak to thee?"
"I wot not," said the Puny Fox, slowly rising to his feet, "but I
suppose thou wilt not slay me unarmed, and thou seest that I have no
"Get thee weapons, then," quoth Hallblithe, "and delay not; for the
sight of thee alive sickens me."
"Ill is that," said the Puny Fox, "but come thou with me at once,
where I shall find both the weapons and a good fighting-stead.
Hasten! time presseth, now thou art come at last."
"And my boat?" said Hallblithe.
"Wilt thou carry her in thy pouch?" said the Puny Fox; "thou wilt not
need her again, whether thou slay me, or I thee."
Hallblithe knit his brows on him in his wrath; for he deemed that
Fox's meaning was to threaten him with the vengeance of the kindred.
Howbeit, he said nought; for he deemed it ill to wrangle in words
with one whom he was presently to meet in battle; so he followed as
the Puny Fox led. Fox brought him past the reef of rock aforesaid,
and up a narrow cleft of the cliffs overlooking the sea, whereby they
came into a little grass-grown meadow well nigh round in shape, as
smooth and level as a hall-floor, and fenced about by a wall of rock:
a place which had once been the mouth of an earth-fire, and a
cauldron of molten stone.
When they stood on the smooth grass Fox said: "Hold thee there a
little, while I go to my weapon-chest, and then shall we see what is
to be done."
Therewith he turned aside to a cranny of the rock, and going down on
his hands and knees, fell to creeping like a worm up a hole therein,
which belike led to a cavern; for after his voice had come forth from
the earth, grunting and groaning, and cursing this thing, and that,
out he comes again feet first, and casts down an old rusty sword
without a sheath; a helm no less rusty, and battered withal, and a
round target, curled up and outworn as if it would fall to pieces of
itself. Then he stands up and stretches himself, and smiles
pleasantly on Hallblithe and says: "Now, mine enemy, when I have
donned helm and shield and got my sword in hand, we may begin the
play: as to a hauberk I must needs go lack; for I could not come by
it; I think the old man must have chaffered it away: he was ever too
But Hallblithe looked on him angrily and said: "Hast thou brought me
hither to mock me? Hast thou no better weapons wherewith to meet a
warrior of the Raven than these rusty shards, which look as if thou
hadst robbed a grave of the dead? I will not fight thee so armed."
"Well," said the Puny Fox, "and from out of a grave come they verily:
for in that little hole lieth my father's grandsire, the great Sea-
mew of the Ravagers, the father of that Sea-eagle whom thou knowest.
But since thou thinkest scorn of these weapons of a dead warrior, in
go the old carle's treasures again! It is as well maybe; since he
might be wrath beyond his wont if he were to wake and miss them; and
already this cold cup of the once-boiling rock is not wholly safe
because of him."
So he crept into the hole once more, and out of it presently, and
stood smiting his palms one against the other to dust them, like a
man who has been handling parchments long laid by; and Hallblithe
stood looking at him, still wrathful, but silent.
Then said the Puny Fox: "This at least was a wise word of thine,
that thou wouldst not fight me. For the end of fighting is slaying;
and it is stark folly to fight without slaying; and now I see that
thou desirest not to slay me: for if thou didst, why didst thou
refuse to fall on me armed with the ghosts of weapons that I borrowed
from a ghost? Nay, why didst thou not slay me as I crept out of
yonder hole? Thou wouldst have had a cheap bargain of me either way.
It would be rank folly to fight me."
Said Hallblithe hoarsely: "Why didst thou bewray me, and lie to me,
and lure me away from the quest of my beloved, and waste a whole year
of my life?"
"It is a long story," said the Puny Fox, "which I may tell thee some
day. Meantime I may tell thee this, that I was compelled thereto by
one far mightier than I, to wit the Undying King."
At that word the smouldering wrath blazed up in Hallblithe, and he
drew his sword hastily and hewed at the Puny Fox: but he leapt aside
nimbly and ran in on Hallblithe, and caught his sword-arm by the
wrist, and tore the weapon out of his hand, and overbore him by sheer
weight and stature, and drave him to the earth. Then he rose up, and
let Hallblithe rise also, and took his sword and gave it into his
hand again and said: "Crag-nester, thou art wrathful, but little.
Now thou hast thy sword again and mayst slay me if thou wilt. Yet
not until I have spoken a word to thee: so hearken! or else by the
Treasure of the Sea I will slay thee with my bare hands. For I am
strong indeed in this place with my old kinsman beside me. Wilt thou
"Speak," said Hallblithe, "I hearken."
Said the Puny Fox: "True it is that I lured thee away from thy
quest, and wore away a year of thy life. Yet true it is also that I
repent me thereof, and ask thy pardon. What sayest thou?"
Hallblithe spake not, but the heat died out of his face and he was
become somewhat pale. Said the Puny Fox: "Dost thou not remember, O
Raven, how thou badest me battle last year on the sea-shore by the
side of the Rollers of the Raven? and how this was to be the prize of
battle, that the vanquished should serve the vanquisher year-long,
and do all his will? And now this prize and more thou hast won
without battle; for I swear by the Treasure of the Sea, and by the
bones of the great Sea-mew yonder, that I will serve thee not year-
long but life-long, and that I will help thee in thy quest for thy
beloved. What sayest thou?"
Hallblithe stood speechless a moment, looking past the Puny Fox,
rather than at him. Then the sword tumbled out of his hand on to the
grass, and great tears rolled down his cheeks and fell on to his
raiment, and he reached out his hand to the Puny Fox and said: "O
friend, wilt thou not bring me to her? for the days wear, and the
trees are growing old round about the Acres of the Raven."
Then the Puny Fox took his hand; and laughed merrily in his face, and
said: "Great is thine heart, O Carrion-biter! But now that thou art
my friend I will tell thee that I have a deeming of the whereabouts
of thy beloved. Or where deemest thou was the garden wherein thou
sawest her standing on the page of the book in that dream of the
night? So it is, O Raven-son, that it is not for nothing that my
grandsire's father lieth in yonder hole of the rocks; for of late he
hath made me wise in mighty lore. Thanks have thou, O kinsman!" And
he turned him toward the rock wherein was the grave.
But Hallblithe said: "What is to do now? Am I not in a land of
"Yea, forsooth," said the Puny Fox, "and even if thou knewest where
thy love is, thou shouldst hardly escape from this isle unslain, save
Said Hallblithe: "Is there not my bark, that I might depart at once?
for I deem not that the Hostage is on the Isle of Ransom."
The Puny Fox laughed boisterously and said: "Nay, she is not. But
as to thy boat, there is so strong a set of the flood-tide toward
this end of the isle, that with the wind blowing as now, from the
north-north-east, thou mayst not get off the shore for four hours at
least, and I misdoubt me that within that time we shall have tidings
of a ship of ours coming into the haven. Thy bark they shall take,
and thee also if thou art therein; and then soon were the story told,
for they know thee for a rebel of the Undying King. Hearken! Dost
thou not hear the horn's voice? Come up hither and we shall see what
So saying, he led hastily up a kind of stair in the rock-wall, until
they reached a cranny, whence through a hole in the cliff, they could
see all over the haven. And lo! as they looked, in the very gate and
entry of it came a great ship heaving up her bows on the last swell
of the outer sea (where the wind had risen somewhat), and rolling
into the smooth, land-locked water. Black was her sail, and the
image of the Sea-eagle enwrought thereon spread wide over it; and the
banner of the Flaming Sword streamed out from the stern. Many men
all-weaponed were on the decks, and the minstrels high up on the poop
were blowing a merry song of return on their battle-horns.
"Lo, you," said the Puny Fox, "thy luck or mine hath served thee this
time, in that the Flaming Sword did not overhaul thee ere thou madest
the haven. We are well here at least."
Said Hallblithe: "But may not some of them come up hither
"Nay, nay," said the Puny Fox; "they fear the old man in the cleft
yonder; for he is not over guest-fain. This mead is mine own, as for
other living men; it is my unroofed house, and I have here a house
with a roof also, which I will show thee presently. For now since
the Flaming Sword hath come, there is no need for haste; nay, we
cannot depart till they have gone up-country. So I will show thee
presently what we shall do to-night."
So there they sat and watched those men bring their ship to the shore
and moor her hard by Hallblithe's boat. They cried out when they saw
her, and when they were aland they gathered about her to note her
build, and the fashion of the spear whereto she was tied. Then in a
while the more part of them, some fourscore in number, departed up
the valley toward the great house and left none but a half dozen
"Seest thou, friend of the Ravens," said the Fox, "hadst thou been
there, they might have done with thee what they would. Did I not
well to bring thee into my unroofed house?"
"Yea, verily," said Hallblithe; "but will not some of the ship-wards,
or some of the others returning, come up hither and find us? I shall
yet lay my bones in this evil island."
The Puny Fox laughed, and said: "It is not so bad as thy sour looks
would have it; anyhow it is good enough for a grave, and at this
present I may call it a casket of precious things."
"What meanest thou?" said Hallblithe eagerly.
"Nay, nay," said the other, "nought but what thou knowest. Art thou
not therein, and I myself? without reckoning the old carle in the
hole yonder. But I promise thee thou shalt not die here this time,
unless thou wilt. And as to folk coming up hither, I tell thee again
they durst not; because they fear my great-grandsire over much. Not
that they are far wrong therein; for now he is dead, the worst of him
seemeth to come out of him, and he is not easily dealt with, save by
one who hath some share of his wisdom. Thou thyself couldst see by
my kinsman, the Sea-eagle, how much of ill blood and churlish malice
there may be in our kindred when they wax old, and loneliness and
dreariness taketh hold of them. For I must tell thee that I have oft
heard my father say that his father the Sea-eagle was in his youth
and his prime blithe and buxom, a great lover of women, and a very
friendly fellow. But ever, as I say, as the men of our kind wax in
years, they worsen; and thereby mayst thou deem how bad the old man
in yonder must be, since he hath lain so long in the grave. But now
we will go to that house of mine on the other side of the mead, over
against my kinsman's."
Therewith he led Hallblithe down from the rock while Hallblithe said
to him: "What! art thou also dead that thou hast a grave here?"
"Nay, nay," said Fox, smiling, "am I so evil-conditioned then? I am
no older than thou art."
"But tell me," said Hallblithe, "wilt thou also wax evil as thou
"Maybe not," said Fox, looking hard at him, "for in my mind it is
that I may be taken into another house, and another kindred, and
amongst them I shall be healed of much that might turn to ill."