The Roots of the Mountain - Chapter 56
TALK UPON THE WILD-WOOD WAY
On the morrow morning when they were on their way again Face-of-god left his own folk to go with the House of the Steer a while; and amongst them he fell in with the Sun-beam going along with Bow-may. So they greeted him kindly, and Face-of-god fell into talk with the Sun-beam as they went side by side through a great oak-wood, where for a space was plain green-sward bare of all underwood.
So in their talk he said to her: ‘What deemest thou, my speech-friend, concerning our coming back to guest in Silver-dale one day?’
‘The way is long,’ she said.
‘That may hinder us but not stay us,’ said Face-of-god.
‘That is sooth,’ said the Sun-beam.
Said Face-of-god: ‘What things shall stay us? Or deemest thou that we shall never see Silver-dale again?’
She smiled: ‘Even so I think thou deemest, Gold-mane. But many things shall hinder us besides the long road.’
Said he: ‘Yea, and what things?’
‘Thinkest thou,’ said the Sun-beam, ‘that the winning of Silver-stead is the last battle which thou shalt see?’
‘Nay,’ said he, ‘nay.’
‘Shall thy Dale—our Dale—be free from all trouble within itself henceforward? Is there a wall built round it to keep out for ever storm, pestilence, and famine, and the waywardness of its own folk?’
‘So it is as thou sayest,’ quoth Face-of-god, ‘and to meet such troubles and overcome them, or to die in strife with them, this is a great part of a man’s life.’
‘Yea,’ she said, ‘and hast thou forgotten that thou art now a great chieftain, and that the folk shall look to thee to use thee many days in the year?’
He laughed and said: ‘So it is. How many days have gone by since I wandered in the wood last autumn, that the world should have changed so much!’
‘Many deeds shall now be in thy days,’ she said, ‘and each deed as the corn of wheat from which cometh many corns; and a man’s days on the earth are not over many.’
‘Then farewell, Silver-dale!’ said he, waving his hand toward the north. ‘War and trouble may bring me back to thee, but it maybe nought else shall. Farewell!’
She looked on him fondly but unsmiling, as he went beside her strong and warrior-like. Three paces from him went Bow-may, barefoot, in her white kirtle, but bearing her bow in her hand; a leash of arrows was in her girdle, her quiver hung at her back, and she was girt with a sword. On the other side went Wood-wont and Wood-wise, lightly clad but weaponed. Wood-mother was riding in an ox-wain just behind them, and Wood-father went beside her bearing an axe. Scattered all about them were the men of the Steer, gaily clad, bearing weapons, so that the oak-wood was bright with them, and the glades merry with their talk and singing and laughter, and before them down the glades went the banner of the Steer, and the White Beast led them the nearest way to Burgdale.