کتاب سوم - فصل 05-01

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سه گانه ارباب حلقه ها

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کتاب سوم - فصل 05-01

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Chapter 5:

The White Rider

“My very bones are chilled,” said Gimli, flapping his arms and stamping his feet. Day had come at last. At dawn the companions had made such breakfast as they could; now in the growing light they were getting ready to search the ground again for signs of the hobbits.

“And do not forget that old man!” said Gimli. “I should be happier if I could see the print of a boot.”

“Why would that make you happy?” said Legolas.

“Because an old man with feet that leave marks might be no more than he seemed,” answered the Dwarf.

“Maybe,” said the Elf; ‘but a heavy boot might leave no print here: the grass is deep and springy.”

“That would not baffle a Ranger,” said Gimli. “A bent blade is enough for Aragorn to read. But I do not expect him to find any traces. It was an evil phantom of Saruman that we saw last night. I am sure of it, even under the light of morning. His eyes are looking out on us from Fangorn even now, maybe.”

“It is likely enough,” said Aragorn;”yet I am not sure. I am thinking of the horses. You said last night, Gimli, that they were scared away. But I did not think so. Did you hear them, Legolas? Did they sound to you like beasts in terror?”

“No,” said Legolas. “I heard them clearly. But for the darkness and our own fear I should have guessed that they were beasts wild with some sudden gladness. They spoke as horses will when they meet a friend that they have long missed.”

“So I thought,” said Aragorn;”but I cannot read the riddle, unless they return. Come! The light is growing fast. Let us look first and guess later! We should begin here, near to our own camping-ground, searching carefully all about, and working up the slope towards the forest. To find the hobbits is our errand, whatever we may think of our visitor in the night. If they escaped by some chance, then they must have hidden in the trees, or they would have been seen. If we find nothing between here and the eaves of the wood, then we will make a last search upon the battle-field and among the ashes. But there is little hope there: the horsemen of Rohan did their work too well.”

For some time the companions crawled and groped upon the ground. The tree stood mournfully above them, its dry leaves now hanging limp, and rattling in the chill easterly wind. Aragorn moved slowly away. He came to the ashes of the watch-fire near the river-bank, and then began to retrace the ground back towards the knoll where the battle had been fought. Suddenly he stooped and bent low with his face almost in the grass. Then he called to the others. They came running up.

“Here at last we find news!” said Aragorn. He lifted up a broken leaf for them to see, a large pale leaf of golden hue, now fading and turning brown. “Here is a mallorn-leaf of Lórien, and there are small crumbs on it, and a few more crumbs in the grass. And see! there are some pieces of cut cord lying nearby!”

“And here is the knife that cut them!” said Gimli. He stooped and drew out of a tussock, into which some heavy foot had trampled it, a short jagged blade. The haft from which it had been snapped was beside it. “It was an orc-weapon,” he said, holding it gingerly, and looking with disgust at the carved handle: it had been shaped like a hideous head with squinting eyes and leering mouth.

“Well, here is the strangest riddle that we have yet found!” exclaimed Legolas. “A bound prisoner escapes both from the Orcs and from the surrounding horsemen. He then stops, while still in the open, and cuts his bonds with an orc-knife. But how and why? For if his legs were tied, how did he walk? And if his arms were tied, how did he use the knife? And if neither were tied, why did he cut the cords at all? Being pleased with his skill, he then sat down and quietly ate some waybread! That at least is enough to show that he was a hobbit, without the mallorn-leaf. After that, I suppose, he turned his arms into wings and flew away singing into the trees. It should be easy to find him: we only need wings ourselves!”

“There was sorcery here right enough,” said Gimli. “What was that old man doing? What have you to say, Aragorn, to the reading of Legolas. Can you better it?”

“Maybe, I could,” said Aragorn, smiling. “There are some other signs near at hand that you have not considered. I agree that the prisoner was a hobbit and must have had either legs or hands free, before he came here. I guess that it was hands, because the riddle then becomes easier, and also because, as I read the marks, he was carried to this point by an Orc. Blood was spilled there, a few paces away, orc-blood. There are deep prints of hoofs all about this spot, and signs that a heavy thing was dragged away. The Orc was slain by horsemen, and later his body was hauled to the fire. But the hobbit was not seen: he was not “in the open”, for it was night and he still had his elven-cloak. He was exhausted and hungry, and it is not to be wondered at that, when he had cut his bonds with the knife of his fallen enemy, he rested and ate a little before he crept away. But it is a comfort to know that he had some lembas in his pocket, even though he ran away without gear or pack; that, perhaps, is like a hobbit. I say he, though I hope and guess that both Merry and Pippin were here together. There is, however, nothing to show that for certain.”

“And how do you suppose that either of our friends came to have a hand free?” asked Gimli.

“I do not know how it happened,” answered Aragorn. “Nor do I know why an Orc was carrying them away. Not to help them to escape, we may be sure. Nay, rather I think that I now begin to understand a matter that has puzzled me from the beginning: why when Boromir had fallen were the Orcs content with the capture of Merry and Pippin? They did not seek out the rest of us, nor attack our camp; but instead they went with all speed towards Isengard. Did they suppose they had captured the Ring-bearer and his faithful comrade? I think not. Their masters would not dare to give such plain orders to Orcs, even if they knew so much themselves; they would not speak openly to them of the Ring: they are not trusty servants. But I think the Orcs had been commanded to capture hobbits, alive, at all costs. An attempt was made to slip out with the precious prisoners before the battle. Treachery perhaps, likely enough with such folk; some large and bold Orc may have been trying to escape with the prize alone, for his own ends. There, that is my tale. Others might be devised. But on this we may count in any case: one at least of our friends escaped. It is our task to find him and help him before we return to Rohan. We must not be daunted by Fangorn, since need drove him into that dark place.”

“I do not know which daunts me more: Fangorn, or the thought of the long road through Rohan on foot,” said Gimli.

“Then let us go to the forest,” said Aragorn.

It was not long before Aragorn found fresh signs. At one point, near the bank of the Entwash, he came upon footprints: hobbit-prints, but too light for much to be made of them. Then again beneath the bole of a great tree on the very edge of the wood more prints were discovered. The earth was bare and dry, and did not reveal much.

“One hobbit at least stood here for a while and looked back; and then he turned away into the forest,” said Aragorn.

“Then we must go in, too,” said Gimli. “But I do not like the look of this Fangorn: and we were warned against it. I wish the chase had led anywhere else!”

“I do not think the wood feels evil, whatever tales may say,” said Legolas. He stood under the eaves of the forest, stooping forward, as if he were listening, and peering with wide eyes into the shadows. “No, it is not evil; or what evil is in it is far away. I catch only the faintest echoes of dark places where the hearts of the trees are black. There is no malice near us; but there is watchfulness, and anger.”

“Well, it has no cause to be angry with me,” said Gimli. “I have done it no harm. ‘

“That is just as well,” said Legolas. “But nonetheless it has suffered harm. There is something happening inside, or going to happen. Do you not feel the tenseness? It takes my breath.”

“I feel the air is stuffy,” said the Dwarf. “This wood is lighter than Mirkwood, but it is musty and shabby.”

“It is old, very old,” said the Elf. “So old that almost I feel young again, as I have not felt since I journeyed with you children. It is old and full of memory. I could have been happy here, if I had come in days of peace.”

“I dare say you could,” snorted Gimli. “You are a Wood-elf, anyway, though Elves of any kind are strange folk. Yet you comfort me. Where you go, I will go. But keep your bow ready to hand, and I will keep my axe loose in my belt. Not for use on trees,” he added hastily, looking up at the tree under which they stood. “I do not wish to meet that old man at unawares without an argument ready to hand, that is all. Let us go!”

With that the three hunters plunged into the forest of Fangorn. Legolas and Gimli left the tracking to Aragorn. There was little for him to see. The floor of the forest was dry and covered with a drift of leaves; but guessing that the fugitives would stay near the water, he returned often to the banks of the stream. So it was that he came upon the place where Merry and Pippin had drunk and bathed their feet. There plain for all to see were the footprints of two hobbits, one somewhat smaller than the other.

“This is good tidings,” said Aragorn. “Yet the marks are two days old And it seems that at this point the hobbits left the water-side.”

“Then what shall we do now?” said Gimli. “We cannot pursue them through the whole fastness of Fangorn. We have come ill supplied. If we do not find them soon, we shall be of no use to them, except to sit down beside them and show our friendship by starving together.”

“If that is indeed all we can do, then we must do that,” said Aragorn. “Let us go on.”

They came at length to the steep abrupt end of Treebeard’s Hill and looked up at the rock-wall with its rough steps leading to the high shelf. Gleams of sun were striking through the hurrying clouds, and the forest now looked less grey and drear.

“Let us go up and look about us!” said Legolas. “I will feel my breath short. I should like to taste a freer air for a while.”

The companions climbed up. Aragorn came last, moving slowly: he was scanning the steps and ledges closely.

“I am almost sure that the hobbits have been up here,” he said. “But there are other marks, very strange marks, which I do not understand. I wonder if we can see anything from this ledge which will help us to guess which way they went next?”

He stood up and looked about, but he saw nothing that was of any use. The shelf faced southward and eastward; but only on the east was the view open. There he could see the heads of the trees descending in ranks towards the plain from which they had come.

“We have journeyed a long way round,” said Legolas. “We could have all come here safe together, if we had left the Great River on the second or third day and struck west. Few can foresee whither their road will lead them, till they come to its end.”

“But we did not wish to come to Fangorn,” said Gimli.

“Yet here we are-and nicely caught in the net,” said Legolas. “Look!”

“Look at what?” said Gimli.

“There in the trees.”

“Where? I have not elf-eyes.”

“Hush! Speak more softly! Look!” said Legolas pointing. “Down in the wood, back in the Way that we have just come. It is he. Cannot you see him, passing from tree to tree?”

“I see, I see now!” hissed Gimli. “Look, Aragorn! Did I not warn you? There is the old man. All in dirty grey rags: that is why I could not see him at first.”

Aragorn looked and beheld a bent figure moving slowly. It was not far away. It looked like an old beggar-man, walking wearily, leaning on a rough staff. His head was bowed, and he did not look towards them. In other lands they would have greeted him with kind words; but now they stood silent, each feeling a strange expectancy: something was approaching that held a hidden power-or menace.

Gimli gazed with wide eyes for a while, as step by step the figure drew nearer. Then suddenly, unable to contain himself longer, he burst out: “Your bow, Legolas! Bend it! Get ready! It is Saruman. Do not let him speak, or put a spell upon us! Shoot first!”

Legolas took his bow and bent it, slowly and as if some other will resisted him. He held an arrow loosely in his hand but did not fit it to the string. Aragorn stood silent, his face was watchful and intent.

“Why are you waiting? What is the matter with you?” said Gimli in a hissing whisper.

“Legolas is right,” said Aragorn quietly. “We may not shoot an old man so, at unawares and unchallenged, whatever fear or doubt be on us. Watch and wait!”

At that moment the old man quickened his pace and came with surprising speed to the foot of the rock-wall. Then suddenly he looked up, while they stood motionless looking down. There was no sound.

They could not see his face: he was hooded, and above the hood he wore a wide-brimmed hat, so that all his features were over-shadowed, except for the end of his nose and his grey beard. Yet it seemed to Aragorn that he caught the gleam of eyes keen and bright from within the shadow of the hooded brows.

At last the old man broke the silence. “Well met indeed, my friends,” he said in a soft voice. “I wish to speak to you. Will you come down or shall I come up?” Without waiting for an answer he began to climb.

“Now!” said Gimli. “Stop him, Legolas!”

“Did I not say that I wished to speak to you?” said the old man. “Put away that bow, Master Elf!”

The bow and arrow fell from Legolas’ hands, and his arms hung loose at his sides.

“And you, Master Dwarf, pray take your hand from your axe-haft, till I am up! You will not need such arguments.”

Gimli started and then stood still as stone, staring, while the old man sprang up the rough steps as nimbly as a goat. All weariness seemed to have left him. As he stepped up on to the shelf there was a gleam, too brief for certainty, a quick glint of white, as if some garment shrouded by the grey rags had been for an instant revealed The intake of Gimli’s breath could be heard as a loud hiss in the silence.

“Well met, I say again!” said the old man, coming towards them. When he was a few feet away, he stood, stooping over his staff, with his head thrust forward, peering at them from under his hood. “And what may you be doing in these parts? An Elf, a Man, and a Dwarf. all clad in elvish fashion. No doubt there is a tale worth hearing behind it all. Such things are not often seen here.”

“You speak as one that knows Fangorn well,” said Aragorn. “Is that so?”

“Not well,” said the old man:”that would be the study of many lives. But I come here now and again.”

“Might we know your name, and then hear what it is that you have to say to us?” said Aragorn. “The morning passes, and we have an errand that will not wait.”

“As for what I wished to say, I have said it: What may you be doing, and what tale can you tell of yourselves? As for my name!” He broke off, laughing long and softly. Aragorn felt a shudder run through him at the sound, a strange cold thrill; and yet it was not fear or terror that he felt: rather it was like the sudden bite of a keen air, or the slap of a cold rain that wakes an uneasy sleeper.

“My name!” said the old man again. “Have you not guessed it already? You have heard it before, I think. Yes, you have heard it before. But come now, what of your tale?”

The three companions stood silent and made no answer.

“There are some who would begin to doubt whether your errand is fit to tell,” said the old man. “Happily I know something of it. You are tracking the footsteps of two young hobbits, I believe. Yes, hobbits. Don’t stare, as if you had never heard the strange name before. You have, and so have I. Well, they climbed up here the day before yesterday; and they met someone that they did not expect. Does that comfort you? And now you would like to know where they were taken? Well, well, maybe I can give you some news about that. But why are we standing? Your errand, you see, is no longer as urgent as you thought. Let us sit down and be more at ease.”

The old man turned away and went towards a heap of fallen stones and rock at the foot of the cliff behind. Immediately, as if a spell had been removed, the others relaxed and stirred. Gimli’s hand went at once to his axe-haft. Aragorn drew his sword. Legolas picked up his bow.

The old man took no notice, but stooped and sat himself on a low flat stone. Then his grey cloak drew apart, and they saw, beyond doubt, that he was clothed beneath all in white.

“Saruman!” cried Gimli, springing towards him with axe in hand.”speak! Tell us where you have hidden our friends! What have you done with them? Speak, or I will make a dint in your hat that even a wizard will find it hard to deal with!”

The old man was too quick for him. He sprang to his feet and leaped to the top of a large rock. There he stood, grown suddenly tall, towering above them. His hood and his grey rags were flung away. His white garments shone. He lifted up his staff, and Gimli’s axe leaped from his grasp and fell ringing on the ground. The sword of Aragorn, stiff in his motionless hand, blazed with a sudden fire. Legolas gave a great shout and shot an arrow high into the air: it vanished in a flash of flame.

“Mithrandir!” he cried. “Mithrandir!”

“Well met, I say to you again. Legolas!” said the old man.

They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say.

At last Aragorn stirred. “Gandalf!” he said. “Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Gandalf!” Gimli said nothing, hut sank to his knees, shading his eyes.

“Gandalf,” the old man repeated, as if recalling from old memory a long disused word. “Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf.”

He stepped down from the rock, and picking up his grey cloak wrapped it about him: it seemed as if the sun had been shining, but now was hid in cloud again. “Yes, you may still call me Gandalf,” he said, and the voice was the voice of their old friend and guide. “Get up, my good Gimli! No blame to you, and no harm done to me. Indeed my friends, none of you have any weapon that could hurt me. Be merry! We meet again. At the turn of the tide. The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned.”

He laid his hand on Gimli’s head, and the Dwarf looked up and laughed suddenly. “Gandalf!” he said. “But you are all in white!”

“Yes, I am white now,” said Gandalf. “Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been. But come now, tell me of yourselves! I have passed through fire and deep water, since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten. I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see. Tell me of yourselves!”

“What do you wish to know?” said Aragorn. “All that has happened since we parted on the bridge would be a long tale. Will you not first give us news of the hobbits? Did you find them, and are they safe?”

“No, I did not find them,” said Gandalf. “There was a darkness over the valleys of the Emyn Muil, and I did not know of their captivity, until the eagle told me.”

“The eagle!” said Legolas. “I have seen an eagle high and far off: the last time was three days ago, above the Emyn Muil.”

“Yes,” said Gandalf, ‘that was Gwaihir the Windlord, who rescued me from Orthanc. I sent him before me to watch the River and gather tidings. His sight is keen, but he cannot see all that passes under hill and tree. Some things he has seen, and others I have seen myself. The Ring now has passed beyond my help, or the help of any of the Company that set out from Rivendell. Very nearly it was revealed to the Enemy, but it escaped. I had some part in that: for I sat in a high place, and I strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed. Then I was weary, very weary; and I walked long in dark thought.”

“Then you know about Frodo!” said Gimli. “How do things go with him?”

“I cannot say. He was saved from a great peril, but many lie before him still. He resolved to go alone to Mordor, and he set out: that is all that I can say.”

“Not alone,” said Legolas. “We think that Sam went with him.”

“Did he!” said Gandalf, and there was a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face. “Did he indeed? It is news to me, yet it does not surprise me. Good! Very good! You lighten my heart. You must tell me more. Now sit by me and tell me the tale of your journey.”

The companions sat on the ground at his feet, and Aragorn took up the tale. For a long while Gandalf said nothing, and he asked no questions. His hands were spread upon his knees, and his eyes were closed. At last when Aragorn spoke of the death of Boromir and of his last journey upon the Great River, the old man sighed.

“You have not said all that you know or guess, Aragorn my friend,” he said quietly. “Poor Boromir! I could not see what happened to him. It was a sore trial for such a man: a warrior, and a lord of men. Galadriel told me that he was in peril. But he escaped in the end. I am glad. It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir’s sake. But that is not the only part they have to play. They were brought to Fangorn, and their coming was like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains. Even as we talk here, I hear the first rumblings. Saruman had best not be caught away from home when the dam bursts!”

“In one thing you have not changed, dear friend,” said Aragorn:”you still speak in riddles.”

“What? In riddles?” said Gandalf. “No! For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying.” He laughed, but the sound now seemed warm and kindly as a gleam of sunshine.

“I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses,” said Aragorn. “Will you not open your mind more clearly to me?”

“What then shall I say?” said Gandalf, and paused for a while in thought. “This in brief is how I see things at the moment, if you wish to have a piece of my mind as plain as possible. The Enemy, of course, has long known that the Ring is abroad, and that it is borne by a hobbit. He knows now the number of our Company that set out from Rivendell, and the kind of each of us. But he does not yet perceive our purpose clearly. He supposes that we were all going to Minas Tirith; for that is what he would himself have done in our place. And according to his wisdom it would have been a heavy stroke against his power. Indeed he is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream. In which no doubt you will see our good fortune and our hope. For imagining war he has let loose war, believing that he has no time to waste; for he that strikes the first blow, if he strikes it hard enough, may need to strike no more. So the forces that he has long been preparing he is now setting in motion, sooner than he intended. Wise fool. For if he had used all his power to guard Mordor, so that none could enter, and bent all his guild to the hunting of the Ring, then indeed hope would have faded: neither Ring nor Bearer could long have eluded him. But now his eye gazes abroad rather than near at home; and mostly he looks towards Minas Tirith. Very soon now his strength will fall upon it like a storm.

“For already he knows that the messengers that he sent to waylay the Company have failed again. They have not found the Ring. Neither have they brought away any hobbits as hostages. Had they done even so much as that, it would have been a heavy blow to us, and it might have been fatal. But let us not darken our hearts by imagining the trial of their gentle loyalty in the Dark Tower. For the Enemy has failed-so far. Thanks to Saruman:’

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