کتاب سوم - فصل 11-01

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کتاب سوم - فصل 11-01

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Chapter 11:

The Palantír

The sun was sinking behind the long western arm of the mountains when Gandalf and his companions, and the king with his Riders, set out again from Isengard. Gandalf took Merry behind him, and Aragorn took Pippin. Two of the king’s men went on ahead, riding swiftly, and passed soon out of sight down into the valley. The others followed at an easy pace.

Ents in a solemn row stood like statues at the gate, with their long arms uplifted, but they made no sound. Merry and Pippin looked back, when they had passed some way down the winding road. Sunlight was still shining in the sky, but long shadows reached over Isengard: grey ruins falling into darkness. Treebeard stood alone there now, like the distant stump of an old tree: the hobbits thought of their first meeting, upon the sunny ledge far away on the borders of Fangorn.

They came to the pillar of the White Hand. The pillar was still standing, but the graven hand had been thrown down and broken into small pieces. Right in the middle of the road the long forefinger lay, white in the dusk, its red nail darkening to black.

“The Ents pay attention to every detail!” said Gandalf.

They rode on, and evening deepened in the valley.

“Are we riding far tonight, Gandalf?” asked Merry after a while. “I don’t know how you feel with small rag-tag dangling behind you; but the rag-tag is tired and will be glad to stop dangling and lie down.”

“So you heard that?” said Gandalf. “Don’t let it rankle! Be thankful no longer words were aimed at you. He had his eyes on you. If it is any comfort to your pride, I should say that, at the moment, you and Pippin are more in his thoughts than all the rest of us. Who you are; how you came there, and why; what you know; whether you were captured, and if so, how you escaped when all the Orcs perished - it is with those little riddles that the great mind of Saruman is troubled. A sneer from him, Meriadoc, is a compliment, if you feel honoured by his concern.”

“Thank you!” said Merry. “But it is a greater honour to dangle at your tail, Gandalf. For one thing, in that position one has a chance of putting a question a second time. Are we riding far tonight?”

Gandalf laughed. “A most unquenchable hobbit! All Wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care - to teach them the meaning of the word, and to correct them. I beg your pardon. But I have given thought even to these simple matters. We will ride for a few hours, gently, until we come to the end of the valley. Tomorrow we must ride faster.

“When we came, we meant to go straight from Isengard back to the king’s house at Edoras over the plains, a ride of some days. But we have taken thought and changed the plan. Messengers have gone ahead to Helm’s Deep, to warn them that the king is returning tomorrow. He will ride from there with many men to Dunharrow by paths among the hills. From now on no more than two or three together are to go openly over the land, by day or night, when it can be avoided.”

“Nothing or a double helping is your way!” said Merry. “I am afraid I was not looking beyond tonight’s bed. Where and what are Helm’s Deep and all the rest of it? I don’t know anything about this country.”

“Then you’d best learn something, if you wish to understand what is happening. But not just now, and not from me: I have too many pressing things to think about.”

“All right, I’ll tackle Strider by the camp-fire: he’s less testy. But why all this secrecy? I thought we’d won the battle!”

Yes, we have won, but only the first victor and that in itself increases our danger. There was some link between Isengard and Mordor, which I have not yet fathomed. How they exchanged news I am not sure; but they did so. The Eye of Barad-dûr will be looking impatiently towards the Wizard’s Vale, I think; and towards Rohan. The less it sees the better.”

The road passed slowly, winding down the valley. Now further, and now nearer Isen flowed in its stony bed. Night came down from the mountains. All the mists were gone. A chill wind blew. The moon, now waxing round, filled the eastern sky with a pale cold sheen. The shoulders of the mountain to their right sloped down to bare hills. The wide plains opened grey before them.

At last they halted. Then they turned aside, leaving the highway and taking to the sweet upland turf again. Going westward a mile or so they came to a dale. It opened southward, leaning back into the slope of round Dol Baran, the last hill of the northern ranges, greenfooted, crowned with heather. The sides of the glen were shaggy with last year’s bracken, among which the tight-curled fronds of spring were just thrusting through the sweet-scented earth. Thornbushes grew thick upon the low banks, and under them they made their camp, two hours or so before the middle of the night. They lit a fire in a hollow, down among the roots of a spreading hawthorn, tall as a tree, writhen with age; but hale in every limb. Buds were swelling at each twig’s tip.

Guards were set, two at a watch. The rest, after they had supped, wrapped themselves in a cloak and blanket and slept. The hobbits lay in a corner by themselves upon a pile of old bracken. Merry was sleepy, but Pippin now seemed curiously restless. The bracken cracked and rustled, as he twisted and turned.

“What’s the matter?” asked Merry. “Are you lying on an ant-hill?”

“No,” said Pippin,”but I’m not comfortable. I wonder how long it is since I slept in a bed?”

Merry yawned. “Work it out on your fingers!” he said. “But you must know how long it is since we left Lórien.”

“Oh, that!” said Pippin. “I mean a real bed in a bedroom.”

“Well, Rivendell then,” said Merry. “But I could sleep anywhere tonight.”

“You had the luck, Merry,” said Pippin softly, after a long pause. “You were riding with Gandalf.”

“Well, what of it?”

“Did you get any news, any information out of him?”

“Yes, a good deal. More than usual. But you heard it all or most of it: you were close by, and we were talking no secrets. But you can go with him tomorrow, if you think you can get more out of him-and if he’ll have you.”

“Can I? Good! But he’s close, isn’t he? Not changed at all.”

“Oh yes, he is!” said Merry, waking up a little, and beginning to wonder what was bothering his companion. “He has grown, or something. He can be both kinder and more alarming, merrier and more solemn than before, I think. He has changed; but we have not had a chance to see how much, yet. But think of the last part of that business with Saruman! Remember Saruman was once Gandalf’s superior: head of the Council, whatever that may be exactly. He was Saruman the White. Gandalf is the White now. Saruman came when he was told, and his rod was taken; and then he was just told to go, and he went!”

“Well, if Gandalf has changed at all, then he’s closer than ever that’s all,” Pippin argued. “That-glass ball, now. He seemed mighty pleased with it. He knows or guesses something about it. But does he tell us what? No, not a word. Yet I picked it up, and I saved it from rolling into a pool. Here, I’ll take that, my lad - that’s all. I wonder what it is? It felt so very heavy.” Pippin’s voice fell very low as if he was talking to himself.

“Hullo!” said Merry. “So that’s what is bothering you? Now, Pippin my lad, don’t forget Gildor’s saying - the one Sam used to quote: Do not meddle in the at Fairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”

“But our whole life for months has been one long meddling in the affairs of Wizards,” said Pippin. “I should like a bit of information as well as danger. I should like a look at that ball.”

“Go to sleep!” said Merry. “You’ll get information enough, sooner or later. My dear Pippin, no Took ever beat a Brandybuck for inquisitiveness; but is this the time, I ask you?”

“All right! What’s the harm in my telling you what I should like: a look at that stone? I know I can’t have it, with old Gandalf sitting on it, like a hen on an egg. But it doesn’t help much to get no more from you than a you-can’t-have-it so-go-to-sleep!”

“Well, what else could I say?” said Merry. “I’m sorry, Pippin, but you really must wait till the morning. I’ll be as curious as you like after breakfast, and I’ll help in any way I can at wizard-wheedling. But I can’t keep awake any longer. If I yawn any more, I shall split at the ears. Good night!”

Pippin said no more. He lay still now, but sleep remained far away; and it was not encouraged by the sound of Merry breathing softly, asleep in a few minutes after saying good night. “The thought of the dark globe seemed to grow stronger as all grew quiet. Pippin felt again its weight in his hands, and saw again the mysterious red depths into which he had looked for a moment. He tossed and turned and tried to think of something else.

At last he could stand it no longer. He got up and looked round. It was chilly, and he wrapped his cloak about him. The moon was shining cold and white, down into the dell, and the shadows of the bushes were black. All about lay sleeping shapes. The two guards were not in view: they were up on the hill, perhaps, or hidden in the bracken. Driven by some impulse that he did not understand, Pippin walked softly to where Gandalf lay. He looked down at him. The wizard seemed asleep, but with lids not fully closed: there was a glitter of eyes under his long lashes. Pippin stepped back hastily. But Gandalf made no sign; and drawn forward once more, half against his will, the hobbit crept up again from behind the wizard’s head. He was rolled in a blanket, with his cloak spread over the top; and close beside him, between his right side and his bent arm, there was a hummock, something round wrapped in a dark cloth; his hand seemed only just to have slipped off it to the ground.

Hardly breathing, Pippin crept nearer, foot by foot. At last he knelt down. Then he put his hands out stealthily, and slowly lifted the lump up: it did not seem quite so heavy as he had expected. “Only some bundle of oddments, perhaps, after all,” he thought with a strange sense of relief; but he did not put the bundle down again. He stood for a moment clasping it. Then an idea came into his mind. He tiptoed away, found a large stone, and came back.

Quickly now he drew off the cloth, wrapped the stone in it and kneeling down, laid it back by the wizard’s hand. Then at last he looked at the thing that he had uncovered. There it was: a smooth globe of crystal, now dark and dead, lying bare before his knees. Pippin lifted it, covered it hurriedly in his own cloak, and half turned to go back to his bed. At that moment Gandalf moved in his sleep, and muttered some words: they seemed to be in a strange tongue; his hand groped out and clasped the wrapped stone, then he sighed and did not move again.

“You idiotic fool!” Pippin muttered to himself. “You’re going to get yourself into frightful trouble. Put it back quick!” But he found now that his knees quaked, and he did not dare to go near enough to the wizard to reach the bundle. “I’ll never get it back now without waking him,” he thought,”not till I’m a bit calmer. So I may as well have a look first. Not just here though!” He stole away, and sat down on a green hillock not far from his bed. The moon looked in over the edge of the dell.

Pippin sat with his knees drawn up and the ball between them. He bent low over it, looking like a greedy child stooping over a bowl of food, in a corner away from others. He drew his cloak aside and gazed at it. The air seemed still and tense about him. At first the globe was dark, black as jet, with the moonlight gleaming on its surface. Then there came a faint glow and stir in the heart of it, and it held his eyes, so that now he could not look away. Soon all the inside seemed on fire; the ball was spinning, or the lights within were revolving. Suddenly the lights went out. He gave a gasp and struggled; but he remained bent, clasping the ball with both hands. Closer and closer he bent, and then became rigid; his lips moved soundlessly for a while. Then with a strangled cry he fell back and lay still.

The cry was piercing. The guards leapt down from the banks. All the camp was soon astir.

“So this is the thief!” said Gandalf. Hastily he cast his cloak over the globe where it lay. “But you, Pippin! This is a grievous turn to things!” He knelt by Pippin’s body: the hobbit was lying on his back rigid, with unseeing eyes staring up at the sky. “The devilry! What mischief has he done-to himself, and to all of us?” The wizard’s face was drawn and haggard.

He took Pippin’s hand and bent over his face, listening for his breath; then he laid his hands on his brow. The hobbit shuddered. His eyes closed. He cried out; and sat up. staring in bewilderment at all the faces round him, pale in the moonlight.

“It is not for you, Saruman!” he cried in a shrill and toneless voice shrinking away from Gandalf. “I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!” Then he struggled to get up and escape but Gandalf held him gently and firmly.

“Peregrin Took!” he said. “Come back!”

The hobbit relaxed and fell back, clinging to the wizard’s hand. “Gandalf!” he cried. “Gandalf! Forgive me!”

“Forgive you?” said the wizard. “Tell me first what you have done!”

“I, I took the ball and looked at it,” stammered Pippin;”and I saw things that frightened me. And I wanted to go away, but I couldn’t. And then he came and questioned me; and he looked at me, and, and that is all I remember.”

“That won’t do,” said Gandalf sternly. “What did you see, and what did you say?”

Pippin shut his eyes and shivered, but said nothing. They all stared at him in silence, except Merry who turned away. But Gandalf’s face was still hard. “Speak!” he said.

In a low hesitating voice Pippin began again, and slowly his words grew clearer and stronger. “I saw a dark sky, and tall battlements,” he said. “And tiny stars. It seemed very far away and long ago, yet hard and clear. Then the stars went in and out-they were cut off by things with wings. Very big, I think, really; but in the glass they looked like bats wheeling round the tower. I thought there were nine of them. One began to fly straight towards me, getting bigger and bigger. It had a horrible - no, no! I can’t say.

“I tried to get away, because I thought it would fly out; but when it had covered all the globe, it disappeared. Then he came. He did not speak so that I could hear words. He just looked, and I understood.

‘“So you have come back? Why have you neglected to report for so long?”

“I did not answer. He said: “Who are you?” I still did not answer, but it hurt me horribly; and he pressed me, so I said: “A hobbit.”

“Then suddenly he seemed to see me, and he laughed at me. It was cruel. It was like being stabbed with knives. I struggled. But he said: “Wait a moment! We shall meet again soon. Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!”

“Then he gloated over me. I felt I was falling to pieces. No, no! I can’t say any more. I don’t remember anything else.”

“Look at me!” said Gandalf.

Pippin looked up straight into his eyes. The wizard held his gaze for a moment in silence. Then his face grew gentler, and the shadow of a smile appeared. He laid his hand softly on Pippin’s head.

“All right!” he said. “Say no more! You have taken no harm. There is no lie in your eyes, as I feared. But he did not speak long with you. A fool, but an honest fool, you remain, Peregrin Took. Wiser ones might have done worse in such a pass. But mark this! You have been saved, and all your friends too, mainly by good fortune, as it is called. You cannot count on it a second time. If he had questioned you, then and there, almost certainly you would have told all that you know, to the ruin of us all. But he was too eager. He did not want information only: he wanted you, quickly, so that he could deal with you in the Dark Tower, slowly. Don’t shudder! If you will meddle in the affairs of Wizards, you must be prepared to think of such things. But come! I forgive you. Be comforted! Things have not turned out as evilly as they might.”

He lifted Pippin gently and carried him back to his bed. Merry followed, and sat down beside him. Lie there and rest, if you can, Pippin!” said Gandalf. “Trust me. If you feel an itch in your palms again, tell me of it! Such things can be cured. But anyway, my dear hobbit, don’t put a lump of rock under my elbow again! Now, I will leave you two together for a while.”

With that Gandalf returned to the others, who were still standing by the Orthanc-stone in troubled thought. “Peril comes in the night when least expected,” he said. “We have had a narrow escape!”

“How is the hobbit, Pippin?” asked Aragorn.

“I think all will be well now,” answered Gandalf. “He was not held long, and hobbits have an amazing power of recovery. The memory, or the horror of it, will probably fade quickly. Too quickly, perhaps. Will you, Aragorn, take the Orthanc-stone and guard it? It is a dangerous charge.”

“Dangerous indeed, but not to all,” said Aragorn. “There is one who may claim it by right. For this assuredly is the palantír of Orthanc from the treasury of Elendil, set here by the Kings of Gondor. Now my hour draws near. I will take it.”

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