And now they fell silent both of them, and sat hearkening the sounds of the Dale, from the whistle of the plover down by the water-side to the far-off voices of the children and maidens about the kine in the lower meadows. At last Gold-mane took up the word and said:
‘Sweet friend, tell me the uttermost of what thou would’st have of me. Is it not that I should stand by thee and thine in the Folk-mote of the Dalesmen, and speak for you when ye pray us for help against your foemen; and then again that I do my best when ye and we are arrayed for battle against the Dusky Men? This is easy to do, and great is the reward thou offerest me.’
‘I look for this service of thee,’ she said, ‘and none other.’
‘And when I go down to the battle,’ said he, ‘shalt thou be sorry for our sundering?’
She said: ‘There shall be no sundering; I shall wend with thee.’
Said he: ‘And if I were slain in the battle, would’st thou lament me?’
‘Thou shalt not be slain,’ she said.
Again was there silence betwixt them, till at last he said:
‘This then is why thou didst draw me to thee in the Wild-wood?’
‘Yea,’ said she.
Again for a while no word was spoken, and Face-of-god looked on her till she cast her eyes down before him.
Then at last he spake, and the colour came and went in his face as he said: ‘Tell me thy name what it is.’
She said: ‘I am called the Sun-beam.’
Then he said, and his voice trembled therewith: ‘O Sun-beam, I have been seeking pleasant and cunning words, and can find none such. But tell me this if thou wilt: dost thou desire me as I desire thee? or is it that thou wilt suffer me to wed thee and bed thee at last as mere payment for the help that I shall give to thee and thine? Nay, doubt it not that I will take the payment, if this is what thou wilt give me and nought else. Yet tell me.’
Her face grew troubled, and she said:
‘Gold-mane, maybe that thou hast now asked me one question too many; for this is no fair game to be played between us. For thee, as I deem, there are this day but two people in the world, and that is thou and I, and the earth is for us two alone. But, my friend, though I have seen but twenty and one summers, it is nowise so with me, and to me there are many in the world; and chiefly the Folk of the Wolf, amidst whose very heart I have grown up. Moreover, I can think of her whom I have supplanted, the Bride to wit; and I know her, and how bitter and empty her days shall be for a while, and how vain all our redes for her shall seem to her. Yea, I know her sorrow, and see it and grieve for it: so canst not thou, unless thou verily see her before thee, her face unhappy, and her voice changed and hard. Well, I will tell thee what thou askest. When I drew thee to me on the Mountain I thought but of the friendship and brotherhood to be knitted up between our two Folks, nor did I anywise desire thy love of a young man. But when I saw thee on the heath and in the Hall that day, it pleased me to think that a man so fair and chieftain-like should one day lie by my side; and again when I saw that the love of me had taken hold of thee, I would not have thee grieved because of me, but would have thee happy. And now what shall I say?—I know not; I cannot tell. Yet am I the Friend, as erst I called myself.
‘And, Gold-mane, I have seen hitherto but the outward show and image of thee, and though that be goodly, how would it be if thou didst shame me with little-heartedness and evil deeds? Let me see thee in the Folk-mote and the battle, and then may I answer thee.’
Then she held her peace, and he answered nothing; and she turned her face from him and said:
‘Out on it! have I beguiled myself as well as thee? These are but empty words I have been saying. If thou wilt drag the truth out of me, this is the very truth: that to-day is happy to me as it is to thee, and that I have longed sore for its coming. O Gold-mane, O speech-friend, if thou wert to pray me or command me that I lie in thine arms to-night, I should know not how to gainsay thee. Yet I beseech thee to forbear, lest thy death and mine come of it. And why should we die, O friend, when we are so young, and the world lies so fair before us, and the happy days are at hand when the Children of the Wolf and the kindreds of the Dale shall deliver the Folk, and all days shall be good and all years?’
They had both risen up as she spake, and now he put forth his hands to her and took her in his arms, wondering the while, as he drew her to him, how much slenderer and smaller and weaker she seemed in his embrace than he had thought of her; and when their lips met, he felt that she kissed him as he her. Then he held her by the shoulders at arms’ length from him, and beheld her face how her eyes were closed and her lips quivering. But before him, in a moment of time, passed a picture of the life to be in the fair Dale, and all she would give him there, and the days good and lovely from morn to eve and eve to morn; and though in that moment it was hard for him to speak, at last he spoke in a voice hoarse at first, and said:
‘Thou sayest sooth, O friend; we will not die, but live; I will not drag our deaths upon us both, nor put a sword in the hands of Folk-might, who loves me not.’
Then he kissed her on the brow and said: ‘Now shalt thou take me by the hand and lead me forth from the Hall. For the day is waxing old, and here meseemeth in this dim hall there are words crossing in the air about us—words spoken in days long ago, and tales of old time, that keep egging me on to do my will and die, because that is all that the world hath for a valiant man; and to such words I would not hearken, for in this hour I have no will to die, nor can I think of death.’
She took his hand and led him forth without more words, and they went hand in hand and paced slowly round the Doom-ring, the light air breathing upon them till their faces were as calm and quiet as their wont was, and hers especially as bright and happy as when he had first seen her that day.
The sun was sinking now, and only sent one golden ray into the valley through a cleft in the western rock-wall, but the sky overhead was bright and clear; from the meadows came the sound of the lowing of kine and the voices of children a-sporting, and it seemed to Gold-mane that they were drawing nigher, both the children and the kine, and somewhat he begrudged it that he should not be alone with the Friend.
Now when they had made half the circuit of the Doom-ring, the Sun-beam stopped him, and then led him through the Ring of Stones, and brought him up to the altar which was amidst of it; and the altar was a great black stone hewn smooth and clean, and with the image of the Wolf carven on the front thereof; and on its face lay the gold ring which the priest or captain of the Folk bore on his arm between the God and the people at all folk-motes.
So she said: ‘This is the altar of the God of Earth, and often hath it been reddened by mighty men; and thereon lieth the Ring of the Sons of the Wolf; and now it were well that we swore troth on that ring before my brother cometh; for now will he soon be here.’
Then Gold-mane took the Ring and thrust his right hand through it, and took her right hand in his; so that the Ring lay on both their hands, and therewith he spake aloud:
‘I am Face-of-god of the House of the Face, and I do thee to wit, O God of the Earth, that I pledge my troth to this woman, the Sun-beam of the Kindred of the Wolf, to beget my offspring on her, and to live with her, and to die with her: so help me, thou God of the Earth, and the Warrior and the God of the Face!’
Then spake the Sun-beam: ‘I, the Sun-beam of the Children of the Wolf, pledge my troth to Face-of-god to lie in his bed and to bear his children and none other’s, and to be his speech-friend till I die: so help me the Wolf and the Warrior and the God of the Earth!’
Then they laid the Ring on the altar again, and they kissed each other long and sweetly, and then turned away from the altar and departed from the Doom-ring, going hand in hand together down the meadow, and as they went, the noise of the kine and the children grew nearer and nearer, and presently came the whole company of them round a ness of the rock-wall; there were some thirty little lads and lasses driving on the milch-kine, with half a score of older maids and grown women, one of whom was Bow-may, who was lightly and scantily clad, as one who heeds not the weather, or deems all months midsummer.
The children came running up merrily when they saw the Sun-beam, but stopped short shyly when they noted the tall fair stranger with her. They were all strong and sturdy children, and some very fair, but brown with the weather, if not with the sun. Bow-may came up to Gold-mane and took his hand and greeted him kindly and said:
‘So here thou art at last in Shadowy Vale; and I hope that thou art content therewith, and as happy as I would wish thee to be. Well, this is the first time; and when thou comest the second time it may well be that the world shall be growing better.’
She held the distaff which she bore in her hand (for she had been spinning) as if it were a spear; her limbs were goodly and shapely, and she trod the thick grass of the Vale with a kind of wary firmness, as though foemen might be lurking nearby. The Sun-beam smiled upon her kindly and said:
‘That shall not fail to be, Bow-may: ye have won a new friend to-day. But tell me, when dost thou look to see the men here, for I was down by the water when they went away yesterday?’
‘They shall come into the Dale a little after sunset,’ said Bow-may.
‘Shall I abide them, my friend?’ said Gold-mane, turning to the Sun-beam.
‘Yea,’ she said; ‘for what else art thou come hither? or art thou so pressed to depart from us? Last time we met thou wert not so hasty to sunder.’
They smiled on each other; and Bow-may looked on them and laughed outright; then a flush showed in her cheeks through the tan of them, and she turned toward the children and the other women who were busied about the milking of the kine.
But those two sat down together on a bank amidst the plain meadow, facing the river and the eastern rock-wall, and the Sun-beam said:
‘I am fain to speak to thee and to see thine eyes watching me while I speak; and now, my friend, I will tell thee something unasked which has to do with what e’en now thou didst ask me; for I would have thee trust me wholly, and know me for what I am. Time was I schemed and planned for this day of betrothal; but now I tell thee it has become no longer needful for bringing to pass our fellowship in arms with thy people. Yea yesterday, ere he went on a hunt, whereof he shall tell thee, Folk-might was against it, in words at least; and yet as one who would have it done if he might have no part in it. So, in good sooth, this hand that lieth in thine is the hand of a wilful woman, who desireth a man, and would keep him for her speech-friend. Now art thou fond and happy; yet bear in mind that there are deeds to be done, and the troth we have just plighted must be paid for. So hearken, I bid thee. Dost thou care to know why the wheedling of thee is no longer needful to us?’
He said: ‘A little while ago I should have said, Yea, If thy lips say the words. But now, O friend, it seemeth as if thine heart were already become a part of mine, and I feel as if the chieftain were growing up in me and the longing for deeds: so I say, Tell me, for I were fain to hear what toucheth the welfare of thy Folk and their fellowship with my Folk; for on that also have I set my heart?’
She said gravely and with solemn eyes:
‘What thou sayest is good: full glad am I that I have not plighted my troth to a mere goodly lad, but rather to a chieftain and a warrior. Now then hearken! Since I saw thee first in the autumn this hath happened, that the Dusky Men, increasing both in numbers and insolence, have it in their hearts to win more than Silver-dale, and it is years since they have fallen upon Rose-dale and conquered it, rather by murder than by battle, and made all men thralls there, for feeble were the Folk thereof; and doubt it not but that they will look into Burgdale before long. They are already abroad in the woods, and were it not for the fear of the Wolf they would be thicker therein, and faring wider; for we have slain many of them, coming upon them unawares; and they know not where we dwell, nor who we be: so they fear to spread about over-much and pry into unknown places lest the Wolf howl on them. Yet beware! for they will gather in numbers that we may not meet, and then will they swarm into the Dale; and if ye would live your happy life that ye love so well, ye must now fight for it; and in that battle must ye needs join yourselves to us, that we may help each other. Herein have ye nought to choose, for now with you it is no longer a thing to talk of whether ye will help certain strangers and guests and thereby win some gain to yourselves, but whether ye have the hearts to fight for yourselves, and the wits to be the fellows of tall men and stout warriors who have pledged their lives to win or die for it.’
She was silent a little and then turned and looked fondly on Face-of-god and said:
‘Therefore, Gold-mane, we need thee no longer; for thou must needs fight in our battle. I have no longer aught to do to wheedle thee to love me. Yet if thou wilt love me, then am I a glad woman.’
He said: ‘Thou wottest well that thou hast all my love, neither will I fail thee in the battle. I am not little-hearted, though I would have given myself to thee for no reward.’
‘It is well,’ said the Sun-beam; ‘nought is undone by that which I have done. Moreover, it is good that we have plighted troth to-day. For Folk-might will presently hear thereof, and he must needs abide the thing which is done. Hearken! he cometh.’
For as she spoke there came a glad cry from the women and children, and those two stood up and turned toward the west and beheld the warriors of the Wolf coming down into the Dale by the way that Gold-mane had come.
‘Come,’ said the Sun-beam, ‘here are your brethren in arms, let us go greet them; they will rejoice in thee.’
So they went thither, and there stood eighty and seven men on the grass below the scree and Folk-might their captain; and besides some valiant women, and a few carles who were on watch on the waste, and a half score who had been left in the Dale, these were all the warriors of the Wolf. They were clad in no holiday raiment, not even Folk-might, but were in sheep-brown gear of the coarsest, like to husbandmen late come from the plough, but armed well and goodly.
But when the twain drew near, the men clashed their spears on their shields, and cried out for joy of them, for they all knew what Face-of-god’s presence there betokened of fellowship with the kindreds; but Folk-might came forward and took Face-of-god’s hand and greeted him and said:
‘Hail, son of the Alderman! Here hast thou come into the ancient abode of chieftains and warriors, and belike deeds await thee also.’
Yet his brow was knitted as he said these words, and he spake slowly, as one that constraineth himself; but presently his face cleared somewhat and he said:
‘Dalesman, it behoveth thy people to bestir them if ye would live and see good days. Hath my sister told thee what is toward? Or what sayest thou?’
‘Hail to thee, son of the Wolf!’ said Face-of-god. ‘Thy sister hath told me all; and even if these Dusky Felons were not our foe-men also, yet could I have my way, we should have given thee all help, and should have brought back peace and good days to thy folk.’
Then Folk-might flushed red and spake, as he cast out his hand towards the warriors and up and down toward the Dale:
‘These be my folk, and these only: and as to peace, only those of us know of it who are old men. Yet is it well; and if we and ye together be strong enough to bring back good days to the feeble men whom the Dusky Ones torment in Silver-dale it shall be better yet.’
Then he turned about to his sister, and looked keenly into her eyes till she reddened, and took her hand and looked at the wrist and said:
‘O sister, see I not the mark on thy wrist of the Ring of the God of the Earth? Have not oaths been sworn since yesterday?’
‘True it is,’ she said, ‘that this man and I have plighted troth together at the altar of the Doom-ring.’
Said Folk-might: ‘Thou wilt have thy will, and I may not amend it.’ Therewith he turned about to Face-of-god and said:
‘Thou must look to it to keep this oath, whatever other one thou hast failed in.’
Said Face-of-god somewhat wrathfully: ‘I shall keep it, whether thou biddest me to keep it or break it.’
‘That is well,’ said Folk-might, ‘and then for all that hath gone before thou mayest in a manner pay, if thou art dauntless before the foe.’
‘I look to be no blencher in the battle,’ said Face-of-god; ‘that is not the fashion of our kindred, whosoever may be before us. Yea, and even were it thy blade, O mighty warrior of the Wolf, I would do my best to meet it in manly fashion.’
As he spake he half drew forth Dale-warden from his sheath, looking steadily into the eyes of Folk-might; and the Sun-beam looked upon him happily. But Folk-might laughed and said:
‘Thy sword is good, and I deem that thine heart will not fail thee; but it is by my side and not in face of me that thou shalt redden the good blade: I see not the day when we twain shall hew at each other.’
Then in a while he spake again:
‘Thou must pardon us if our words are rough; for we have stood in rough places, where we had to speak both short and loud, whereas there was much to do. But now will we twain talk of matters that concern chieftains who are going on a hard adventure. And ye women, do ye dight the Hall for the evening feast, which shall be the feast of the troth-plight for you twain. This indeed we owe thee, O guest; for little shall be thine heritage which thou shalt have with my sister, over and above that thy sword winneth for thee.’
But the Sun-beam said: ‘Hast thou any to-night?’
‘Yea,’ he said; ‘Spear-god, how many was it?’
There came forward a tall man bearing an axe in his right hand, and carrying over his shoulder by his left hand a bundle of silver arm-rings just such as Gold-mane had seen on the felons who were slain by Wood-grey’s house. The carle cast them on the ground and then knelt down and fell to telling them over; and then looked up and said: ‘Twelve yesterday in the wood where the battle was going on; and this morning seven by the tarn in the pine-wood and six near this eastern edge of the wood: one score and five all told. But, Folk-might, they are coming nigh to Shadowy Vale.’
‘Sooth is that,’ said Folk-might; ‘but it shall be looked to. Come now apart with me, Face-of-god.’
So the others went their ways toward the Hall, while Folk-might led the Burgdaler to a sheltered nook under the sheer rocks, and there they sat down to talk, and Folk-might asked Gold-mane closely of the muster of the Dalesmen and the Shepherds and the Woodland Caries, and he was well pleased when Face-of-god told him of how many could march to a stricken field, and of their archery, and of their weapons and their goodness.
All this took some time in the telling, and now night was coming on apace, and Folk-might said:
‘Now will it be time to go to the Hall; but keep in thy mind that these Dusky Men will overrun you unless ye deal with them betimes. These are of the kind that ye must cast fear into their hearts by falling on them; for if ye abide till they fall upon you, they are like the winter wolves that swarm on and on, how many soever ye slay. And this above all things shall help you, that we shall bring you whereas ye shall fall on them unawares and destroy them as boys do with a wasp’s nest. Yet shall many a mother’s son bite the dust.
‘Is it not so that in four weeks’ time is your spring-feast and market at Burgstead, and thereafter the great Folk-mote?’
‘So it is,’ said Gold-mane.
‘Thither shall I come then,’ said Folk-might, ‘and give myself out for the slayer of Rusty and the ransacker of Harts-bane and Penny-thumb; and therefor shall I offer good blood-wite and theft-wite; and thy father shall take that; for he is a just man. Then shall I tell my tale. Yet it may be thou shalt see us before if battle betide. And now fair befall this new year; for soon shall the scabbards be empty and the white swords be dancing in the air, and spears and axes shall be the growth of this spring-tide.’
And he leaped up from his seat and walked to and fro before Gold-mane, and now was it grown quite dark. Then Folk-might turned to Face-of-god and said:
‘Come, guest, the windows of the Hall are yellow; let us to the feast. To-morrow shalt thou get thee to the beginning of this work. I hope of thee that thou art a good sword; else have I done a folly and my sister a worse one. But now forget that, and feast.’
Gold-mane arose, not very well at ease, for the man seemed overbearing; yet how might he fall upon the Sun-beam’s kindred, and the captain of these new brethren in arms? So he spake not. But Folk-might said to him:
‘Yet I would not have thee forget that I was wroth with thee when I saw thee to-day; and had it not been for the coming battle I had drawn sword upon thee.’
Then Face-of-god’s wrath was stirred, and he said:
‘There is yet time for that! but why art thou wroth with me? And I shall tell thee that there is little manliness in thy chiding. For how may I fight with thee, thou the brother of my plighted speech-friend and my captain in this battle?’
‘Therein thou sayest sooth,’ said Folk-might; ‘but hard it was to see you two standing together; and thou canst not give the Bride to me as I give my sister to thee. For I have seen her, and I have seen her looking at thee; and I know that she will not have it so.’
Then they went on together toward the Hall, and Face-of-god was silent and somewhat troubled; and as they drew near to the Hall, Folk-might spake again:
‘Yet time may amend it; and if not, there is the battle, and maybe the end. Now be we merry!’
So they went into the Hall together, and there was the Sun-beam gloriously arrayed, as erst in the woodland bower, and Face-of-god sat on the dais beside her, and the uttermost sweetness of desire entered into his soul as he noted her eyes and her mouth, that were grown so kind to him, and her hand that strayed toward his.
The Hall was full of folk, and all those warriors were there with Wood-father and his sons, and Wood-mother, and Bow-may and many other women; and Gold-mane looked down the Hall and deemed that he had never seen such stalwarth bodies of men, or so bold and meet for battle: as for the women he had seen fairer in Burgdale, but these were fair of their own fashion, shapely and well-knit, and strong-armed and large-limbed, yet sweet-voiced and gentle withal. Nay, the very lads of fifteen winters or so, whereof a few were there, seemed bold and bright-eyed and keen of wit, and it seemed like that if the warriors fared afield these would be with them.
So wore the feast; and Folk-might as aforetime amongst the healths called on men to drink to the Jaws of the Wolf, and the Red Hand, and the Silver Arm, and the Golden Bushel, and the Ragged Sword. But now had Face-of-god no need to ask what these meant, since he knew that they were the names of the kindreds of the Wolf. They drank also to the troth-plight and to those twain, and shouted aloud over the health and clashed their weapons: and Gold-mane wondered what echo of that shout would reach to Burgstead.
Then sang men songs of old time, and amongst them Wood-wont stood with his fiddle amidst the Hall and Bow-may beside him, and they sang in turn to it sweetly and clearly; and this is some of what they sang:
Wild is the waste and long leagues over;
Whither then wend ye spear and sword,
Where nought shall see your helms but the plover,
Far and far from the dear Dale’s sward?
Many a league shall we wend together
With helm and spear and bended bow.
Hark! how the wind blows up for weather:
Dark shall the night be whither we go.
Dark shall the night be round the byre,
And dark as we drive the brindled kine;
Dark and dark round the beacon-fire,
Dark down in the pass round our wavering line.
Turn on thy path, O fair-foot maiden,
And come our ways by the pathless road;
Look how the clouds hang low and laden
Over the walls of the old abode!
Bare are my feet for the rough waste’s wending,
Wild is the wind, and my kirtle’s thin;
Faint shall I be ere the long way’s ending
Drops down to the Dale and the grief therein.
Do on the brogues of the wild-wood rover,
Do on the byrnies’ ring-close mail;
Take thou the staff that the barbs hang over,
O’er the wind and the waste and the way to prevail.
Come, for how from thee shall I sunder?
Come, that a tale may arise in the land;
Come, that the night may be held for a wonder,
When the Wolf was led by a maiden’s hand!
Now will I fare as ye are faring,
And wend no way but the way ye wend;
And bear but the burdens ye are bearing,
And end the day as ye shall end.
And many an eve when the clouds are drifting
Down through the Dale till they dim the roof,
Shall they tell in the Hall of the Maiden’s Lifting,
And how we drave the spoil aloof.
They sing together.
Over the moss through the wind and the weather,
Through the morn and the eve and the death of the day,
Wend we man and maid together,
For out of the waste is born the fray.
Then the Sun-beam spake to Gold-mane softly, and told him how this song was made by a minstrel concerning a foray in the early days of their first abode in Shadowy Vale, and how in good sooth a maiden led the fray and was the captain of the warriors:
‘Erst,’ she said, ‘this was counted as a wonder; but now we are so few that it is no wonder though the women will do whatsoever they may.’
So they talked, and Gold-mane was very happy; but ere the good-night cup was drunk, Folk-might spake to Face-of-god and said:
‘It were well that ye rose betimes in the morning: but thou shalt not go back by the way thou camest. Wood-wise and another shall go with thee, and show thee a way across the necks and the heaths, which is rough enough as far as toil goes, but where thy life shall be safer; and thereby shalt thou hit the ghyll of the Weltering Water, and so come down safely into Burgdale. Now that we are friends and fellows, it is no hurt for thee to know the shortest way to Shadowy Vale. What thou shalt tell concerning us in Burgdale I leave the tale thereof to thee; yet belike thou wilt not tell everything till I come to Burgstead at the spring market-tide. Now must I presently to bed; for before daylight to-morrow must I be following the hunt along with two score good men of ours.’
‘What beast is afield then?’ said Gold-mane.
Said Folk-might: ‘The beasts that beset our lives, the Dusky Men. In these days we have learned how to find companies of them; and forsooth every week they draw nigher to this Dale; and some day they should happen upon us if we were not to look to it, and then would there be a murder great and grim; therefore we scour the heaths round about, and the skirts of the woodland, and we fall upon these felons in divers guises, so that they may not know us for the same men; whiles are we clad in homespun, as to-day, and seem like to field-working carles; whiles in scarlet and gold, like knights of the Westland; whiles in wolf-skins; whiles in white glittering gear, like the Wights of the Waste: and in all guises these felons, for all their fierce hearts, fear us, and flee from us, and we follow and slay them, and so minish their numbers somewhat against the great day of battle.’
‘Tell me,’ said Gold-mane; ‘when we fall upon Silver-dale shall their thralls, the old Dale-dwellers, fight for them or for us?’
Said Folk-might: ‘The Dusky Men will not dare to put weapons into the hands of their thralls. Nay, the thralls shall help us; for though they have but small stomach for the fight, yet joyfully when the fight is over shall they cut their masters’ throats.’
‘How is it with these thralls?’ said Gold-mane. ‘I have never seen a thrall.’
‘But I,’ said Folk-might, ‘have seen a many down in the Cities. And there were thralls who were the tyrants of thralls, and held the whip over them; and of the others there were some who were not very hardly entreated. But with these it is otherwise, and they all bear grievous pains daily; for the Dusky Men are as hogs in a garden of lilies. Whatsoever is fair there have they defiled and deflowered, and they wallow in our fair halls as swine strayed from the dunghill. No delight in life, no sweet days do they have for themselves, and they begrudge the delight of others therein. Therefore their thralls know no rest or solace; their reward of toil is many stripes, and the healing of their stripes grievous toil. To many have they appointed to dig and mine in the silver-yielding cliffs, and of all the tasks is that the sorest, and there do stripes abound the most. Such thralls art thou happy not to behold till thou hast set them free; as we shall do.’
‘Tell me again,’ said Face-of-god; ‘Is there no mixed folk between these Dusky Men and the Dalesmen, since they have no women of their own, but lie with the women of the Dale? Moreover, do not the poor folk of the Dale beget and bear children, so that there are thralls born of thralls?’
‘Wisely thou askest this,’ said Folk-might, ‘but thereof shall I tell thee, that when a Dusky Carle mingles with a woman of the Dale, the child which she beareth shall oftenest favour his race and not hers; or else shall it be witless, a fool natural. But as for the children of these poor thralls; yea, the masters cause them to breed if so their masterships will, and when the children are born, they keep them or slay them as they will, as they would with whelps or calves. To be short, year by year these vile wretches grow fiercer and more beastly, and their thralls more hapless and down-trodden; and now at last is come the time either to do or to die, as ye men of Burgdale shall speedily find out. But now must I go sleep if I am to be where I look to be at sunrise to-morrow.’
Therewith he called for the sleeping-cup, and it was drunk, and all men fared to bed. But the Sun-beam took Gold-mane’s hand ere they parted, and said:
‘I shall arise betimes on the morrow; so I say not farewell to-night; yea, and after to-morrow it shall not be long ere we meet again.’
So Gold-mane lay down in that ancient hall, and it seemed to him ere he slept as if his own kindred were slipping away from him and he were becoming a child of the Wolf. ‘And yet,’ said he to himself, ‘I am become a man; for my Friend, now she no longer telleth me to do or forbear, and I tremble. Nay, rather she is fain to take the word from me; and this great warrior and ripe man, he talketh with me as if I were a chieftain meet for converse with chieftains. Even so it is and shall be.’
And soon thereafter he fell asleep in the Hall in Shadowy Vale.