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 beguiling?”
“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 wine.
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.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53