کتاب سوم - فصل 06-02
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“Now, lord,” said Gandalf,”look out upon your land! Breathe the free air again!”
From the porch upon the top of the high terrace they could see beyond the stream the green fields of Rohan fading into distant grey. Curtains of wind-blown rain were slanting down. The sky above and to the west was still dark with thunder, and lightning far away flickered among the tops of hidden hills. But the wind had shifted to the north, and already the storm that had come out of the East was receding, rolling away southward to the sea. Suddenly through a rent in the clouds behind them a shaft of sun stabbed down. The falling showers gleamed like silver, and far away the river glittered like a shimmering glass.
“It is not so dark here,” said Théoden.
“No,” said Gandalf. “Nor does age lie so heavily on your shoulders as some would have you think. Cast aside your prop!”
From the king’s hand the black staff fell clattering on the stones. He drew himself up, slowly, as a man that is stiff from long bending over some dull toil. Now tall and straight he stood, and his eyes were blue as he looked into the opening sky.
“Dark have been my dreams of late,” he said,”but I feel as one new-awakened. I would now that you had come before, Gandalf. For I fear that already you have come too late, only to see the last days of my house. Not long now shall stand the high hall which Brego son of Eorl built. Fire shall devour the high seat. What is to be done?”
“Much,” said Gandalf. “But first send for Éomer. Do I not guess rightly that you hold him prisoner, by the counsel of Gríma, of him that all save you name the Wormtongue?”
“It is true,” said Théoden. “He had rebelled against my commands, and threatened death to Gríma in my hall.”
“A man may love you and yet not love Wormtongue or his counsels’ said Gandalf.
“That may be. I will do as you ask. Call Háma to me. Since he proved untrusty as a doorward, let him become an errand-runner. The guilty shall bring the guilty to judgement,” said Théoden, and his voice was grim, yet he looked at Gandalf and smiled and as he did so many lines of care were smoothed away and did not return.
When Háma had been summoned and had gone, Gandalf led Théoden to a stone seat, and then sat himself before the king upon the topmost stair. Aragorn and his companions stood nearby.
“There is no time to tell all that you should hear,” said Gandalf. “Yet if my hope is not cheated, a time will come ere long when I can speak more fully. Behold! you are come into a peril greater even than the wit of Wormtongue could weave into your dreams. But see! you dream no longer. You live. Gondor and Rohan do not stand alone. The enemy is strong beyond our reckoning, yet we have a hope at which he has not guessed.”
Quickly now Gandalf spoke. His voice was low and secret, and none save the king heard what he said. But ever as he spoke the light shone brighter in Théoden’s eye, and at the last he rose from his seat to his full height, and Gandalf beside him, and together they looked out from the high place towards the East.
“Verily,” said Gandalf, now in a loud voice, keen and clear,”that way lies our hope, where sits our greatest fear. Doom hangs still on a thread. Yet hope there is still, if we can but stand unconquered for a little while.”
The others too now turned their eyes eastward. Over the sundering leagues of land, far away they gazed to the edge of sight, and hope and fear bore their thoughts still on, beyond dark mountains to the Land of Shadow. Where now was the Ring-bearer? How thin indeed was the thread upon which doom still hung! It seemed to Legolas, as he strained his farseeing eyes, that he caught a glint of white: far away perchance the sun twinkled on a pinnacle of the Tower of Guard. And further still, endlessly remote and yet a present threat, there was a tiny tongue of flame.
Slowly Théoden sat down again, as if weariness still struggled to master him against the will of Gandalf. He turned and looked at his great house. “Alas!” he said,”that these evil days should be mine, and should come in my old age instead of that peace which I have earned. Alas for Boromir the brave! The young perish and the old linger, withering.” He clutched his knees with his wrinkled hands.
“Your fingers would remember their old strength better, if they grasped a sword-hilt,” said Gandalf.
Théoden rose and put his hand to his side; but no sword hung at his belt. “Where has Gríma stowed it?” he muttered under his breath.
“Take this, dear lord!” said a clear voice. “It was ever at your service.” Two men had come softly up the stair and stood now a few steps from the top. Éomer was there. No helm was on his head, no mail was on his breast, but in his hand he held a drawn sword; and as he knelt he offered the hilt to his master.
“How comes this?” said Théoden sternly. He turned towards Éomer and the men looked in wonder at him, standing now proud and erect. Where was the old man whom they had left crouching in his chair or leaning on his stick?
“It is my doing, lord,” said Háma, trembling. I understood that Éomer was to be set free. Such joy was in my heart that maybe I have erred. Yet, since he was free again, and he a Marshal of the Mark,! brought him his sword as he bade me.”
“To lay at your feet, my lord,” said Éomer.
For a moment of silence Théoden stood looking down at Éomer as he knelt still before him. Neither moved.
“Will you not take the sword?” said Gandalf.
Slowly Théoden stretched forth his hand. As his fingers took the hilt, it seemed to the watchers that firmness and strength returned to his thin arm. Suddenly he lifted the blade and swung it shimmering and whistling in the air. Then he gave a great cry. His voice rang clear as he chanted in the tongue of Rohan a call to arms.
Arise now, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Dire deeds awake, dark is it eastward.
Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded!
The guards, thinking that they were summoned, sprang up the stair. They looked at their lord in amazement, and then as one man they drew their swords and laid them at his feet. “Command us!” they said.
‘Westu Théoden hál!’ cried Éomer. “It is a joy to us to see you return into your own. Never again shall it be said, Gandalf, that you come only with grief!”
“Take back your sword, Éomer, sister-son!” said the king. “Go, Háma, and seek my own sword! Gríma has it in his keeping. Bring him to me also. Now, Gandalf, you said that you had counsel to give, if I would hear it. What is your counsel?”
“You have yourself already taken it,” answered Gandalf. “To put your trust in Éomer, rather than in a man of crooked mind. To cast aside regret and fear. To do the deed at hand. Every man that can ride should be sent west at once, as Éomer counselled you: we must first destroy the threat of Saruman, while we have time. If we fail, we fall. If we succeed - then we will face the next task. Meanwhile your people that are left, the women and the children and the old, should stay to the refuges that you have in the mountains. Were they not prepared against just such an evil day as this? Let them take provision, but delay not, nor burden themselves with treasures, great or small. It is their lives that are at stake.”
“This counsel seems good to me now,” said Théoden. “Let all my folk get ready! But you my guests-truly you said, Gandalf, that the courtesy of my hall is lessened. You have ridden through the night, and the morning wears away. You have had neither sleep nor food. A guest-house shall be made ready: there you shall sleep, when you have eaten.”
“Nay, lord,” said Aragorn. “There is no rest yet for the weary. The men of Rohan must ride forth today, and we will ride with them, axe, sword, and bow. We did not bring them to rest against your wall, Lord of the Mark. And I promised Éomer that my sword and his should be drawn together.”
“Now indeed there is hope of victory!” said Éomer.
“Hope, yes,” said Gandalf. “But Isengard is strong. And other perils draw ever nearer. Do not delay, Théoden, when we are gone. Lead your people swiftly to the Hold of Dunharrow in the hills!”
“Nay, Gandalf!” said the king. “You do not know your own skill in healing. It shall not be so. I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.”
“Then even the defeat of Rohan will be glorious in song,” said Aragorn. The armed men that stood near clashed their weapons, crying: “The Lord of the Mark will ride! Forth Eorlingas!”
“But your people must not be both unarmed and shepherdless’ said Gandalf. “Who shall guide them and govern them in your place?”
“I will take thought for that ere I go,” answered Théoden. “Here comes my counsellor.”
At that moment Háma came again from the hall. Behind him cringing between two other men, came Gríma the Wormtongue. His face was very white. His eyes blinked in the sunlight. Háma knelt and presented to Théoden a long sword in a scabbard clasped with gold and set with green gems. “Here, lord, is Herugrim, your ancient blade,” he said. “It was found in his chest. Loth was he to render up the keys. Many other things are there which men have missed.”
“You lie,” said Wormtongue. “And this sword your master himself gave into my keeping.”
“And he now requires it of you again,” said Théoden. “Does that displease you?”
“Assuredly not. lord,” said Wormtongue. “I care for you and yours as best I may. But do not weary yourself, or tax too heavily your strength. Let others deal with these irksome guests. Your meat is about to be set on the board. Will you not go to it?”
“I will,” said Théoden. “And let food for my guests be set on the board beside me. The host rides today. Send the heralds forth! Let them summon all who dwell nigh! Every man and strong lad able to bear arms, all who have horses, let them be ready in the saddle at the gate ere the second hour from noon!”
“Dear lord!” cried Wormtongue. “It is as I feared. This wizard has bewitched you. Are none to be left to defend the Golden Hall of your fathers, and all your treasure? None to guard the Lord of the Mark?”
“If this is bewitchment,” said Théoden,”it seems to me more wholesome than your whisperings. Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast. No, not one shall be left, not even Gríma. Gríma shall ride too. Go! You have yet time to clean the rust from your sword.”
“Mercy, lord!” whined Wormtongue, grovelling on the ground. “Have pity on one worn out in your service. Send me not from your side! I at least will stand by you when all others have gone. Do not send your faithful Gríma away!”
“You have my pity,” said Théoden. “And I do not send you from my side. I go myself to war with my men. I bid you come with me and prove your faith.”
Wormtongue looked from face to face. In his eyes was the hunted look of a beast seeking some gap in the ring of his enemies. He licked his lips with a long pale tongue. “Such a resolve might be expected from a lord of the House of Eorl, old though he be,” he said. “But those who truly love him would spare his failing years. Yet I see that I come too late. Others, whom the death of my lord would perhaps grieve less, have already persuaded him. If I cannot undo their work, hear me at least in this, lord! One who knows your mind and honours your commands should be left in Edoras. Appoint a faithful steward. Let your counsellor Gríma keep all things till your return-and I pray that we may see it, though no wise man will deem it hopeful.”
Éomer laughed. “And if that plea does not excuse you from war, most noble Wormtongue,” he said, what office of less honour would you accept? To carry a sack of meal up into the mountains-if any man would trust you with it?”
“Nay, Éomer, you do not fully understand the mind of Master Wormtongue,” said Gandalf, turning his piercing glance upon him. “He is bold and cunning. Even now he plays a game with peril and wins a throw. Hours of my precious time he has wasted already. “Down snake!” he said suddenly in a terrible voice. “Down on your belly! How long is it since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price? When all the men were dead, you were to pick your share of the treasure, and take the woman you desire? Too long have you watched her under your eyelids and haunted her steps.”
Éomer grasped his sword. “That I knew already,” he muttered. “For that reason I would have slain him before, forgetting the law of the hall. But there are other reasons.” He stepped forward, but Gandalf stayed him with his hand.
‘Éowyn is safe now,” he said. “But you, Wormtongue, you have done what you could for your true master. Some reward you have earned at least. Yet Saruman is apt to overlook his bargains. I should advise you to go quickly and remind him, lest he forget your faithful service.”
“You lie,” said Wormtongue.
“That word comes too oft and easy from your lips,” said Gandalf. “I do not lie. See, Théoden, here is a snake! With safety you cannot take it with you, nor can you leave it behind. To slay it would be just. But it was not always as it now is. Once it was a man, and did you service in its fashion. Give him a horse and let him go at once, wherever he chooses. By his choice you shall judge him.”
“Do you hear this, Wormtongue?” said Théoden. “This is your choice: to ride with me to war, and let us see in battle whether you are true; or to go now, whither you will. But then, if ever we meet again, I shall not be merciful.”
Slowly Wormtongue rose. He looked at them with half-closed eyes. Last of all he scanned Théoden’s face and opened his mouth as if to speak. Then suddenly he drew himself up. His hands worked. His eyes glittered. Such malice was in them that men stepped back from him. He bared his teeth; and then with a hissing breath he spat before the king’s feet, and darting to one side, he fled down the stair.
“After him!” said Théoden. “See that he does no harm to any, but do not hurt him or hinder him. Give him a horse, if he wishes it.”
“And if any will bear him,” said Éomer.
One of the guards ran down the stair. Another went to the well at the foot of the terrace and in his helm drew water. With it he washed clean the stones that Wormtongue had defiled.
“Now my guests, come!” said Théoden. “Come and take such refreshment as haste allows.”
They passed back into the great house. Already they heard below them in the town the heralds crying and the war-horns blowing. For the king was to ride forth as soon as the men of the town and those dwelling near could be armed and assembled.
At the king’s board sat Éomer and the four guests, and there also waiting upon the king was the lady Éowyn. They ate and drank swiftly. The others were silent while Théoden questioned Gandalf concerning Saruman.
“How far back his treachery goes, who can guess?” said Gandalf. “He was not always evil. Once I do not doubt that he was the friend of Rohan; and even when his heart grew colder, he found you useful still. But for long now he has plotted your ruin, wearing the mask of Friendship, until he was ready. In those years Wormtongue’s task was easy, and all that you did was swiftly known in Isengard; for your land was open, and strangers came and went. And ever Wormtongue’s whispering was in your ears, poisoning your thought, chilling your heart, weakening your limbs, while others watched and could do nothing, for your will was in his keeping.
“But when I escaped and warned you, then the mask was torn, for those who would see. After that Wormtongue played dangerously, always seeking to delay you, to prevent your full strength being gathered. He was crafty: dulling men’s wariness, or working on their fears, as served the occasion. Do you not remember how eagerly he urged that no man should be spared on a wildgoose chase northward, when the immediate peril was westward? He persuaded you to forbid Éomer to pursue the raiding Orcs. If Éomer had not defied Wormtongue’s voice speaking with your mouth, those Orcs would have reached Isengard by now, bearing a great prize. Not indeed that prize which Saruman desires above all else, but at the least two members of my Company, sharers of a secret hope, of which even to you, lord, I cannot yet speak openly. Dare you think of what they might now be suffering, or what Saruman might now have learned to our destruction?”
“I owe much to Éomer,” said Théoden. “Faithful heart may have forward tongue.” “Say also,” said Gandalf,”that to crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face.”
“Indeed my eyes were almost blind,” said Théoden. “Most of all I owe to you, my guest. Once again you have come in time. I would give you a gift ere we go, at your own choosing. You have only to name aught that is mine. I reserve now only my sword!”
“Whether I came in time or not is yet to be seen,” said Gandalf. “But as for your gift, lord, I will choose one that will fit my need: swift and sure. Give me Shadowfax! He was only lent before, if loan we may call it. But now shall ride him into great hazard, setting silver against black: I would not risk anything that is not my own. And already there is a bond of love between us.”
“You choose well,” said Théoden;”and I give him now gladly. Yet it is a great gift. There is none like to Shadowfax. In him one of the mighty steeds of old has returned. None such shall return again. And to you my other guests I will offer such things as may be found in my armoury. Swords you do not need, but there are helms and coats of mail of cunning work, gifts to my fathers out of Gondor. Choose from these ere we go, and may they serve you well!”
Now men came bearing raiment of war from the king’s hoard and they arrayed Aragorn and Legolas in shining mail. Helms too they chose, and round shields: their bosses were overlaid with gold and set with gems, green and red and white. Gandalf took no armour; and Gimli needed no coat of rings, even if one had been found to match his stature, for there was no hauberk in the hoards of Edoras of better make than his short corslet forged beneath the Mountain in the North. But he chose a cap of iron and leather that fitted well upon his round head; and a small shield he also took. It bore the running horse, white upon green, that was the emblem of the House of Eorl.
“May it keep you well!” said Théoden. “It was made for me in Thengel’s day, while still I was a boy.”
Gimli bowed. “I am proud, Lord of the Mark, to bear your device,” he said. “Indeed sooner would I bear a horse than be borne by one. I love my feet better. But, maybe, I shall come yet where I can stand and fight.”
“It may well be so,” said Théoden.
The king now rose, and at once Éowyn came forward bearing wine. ‘Ferthu Théoden hál!’ she said. “Receive now this cup and drink in happy hour. Health be with thee at thy going and coming!”
Théoden drank from the cup, and she then proffered it to the guests. As she stood before Aragorn she paused suddenly and looked upon him, and her eyes were shining. And he looked down upon her fair face and smiled; but as he took the cup, his hand met hers, and he knew that she trembled at the touch. “Hail Aragorn son of Arathorn!” she said. “Hail Lady of Rohan!” he answered, but his face now was troubled and he did not smile.
When they had all drunk, the king went down the hall to the doors. There the guards awaited him, and heralds stood, and all the lords and chiefs were gathered together that remained in Edoras or dwelt nearby.
“Behold! I go forth, and it seems like to be my last riding,” said Théoden. “I have no child. Théodred my son is slain. I name Éomer my sister-son to be my heir. If neither of us return, then choose a new lord as you will. But to some one I must now entrust my people that I leave behind, to rule them in my place. Which of you will stay?”
No man spoke.
“Is there none whom you would name? In whom do my people trust?”
“In the House of Eorl,” answered Háma.
“But Éomer I cannot spare, nor would he stay,” said the king;”and he is the last of that House.”
“I said not Éomer,” answered Háma. “And he is not the last. There is Éowyn, daughter of Éomund, his sister. She is fearless and high-hearted. All love her. Let her be as lord to the Eorlingas, while we are gone.”
“It shall be so,” said Théoden. “Let the heralds announce to the folk that the Lady Éowyn will lead them!”
Then the king sat upon a seat before his doors, and Éowyn knelt before him and received from him a sword and a fair corslet. “Farewell sister-daughter!” he said. “Dark is the hour, yet maybe we shall return to the Golden Hall. But in Dunharrow the people may long defend themselves, and if the battle go ill, thither will come all who escape.” “Speak not so!” she answered. “A year shall I endure for every day that passes until your return.” But as she spoke her eyes went to Aragorn who stood nearby.
“The king shall come again,” he said. “Fear not! Not West but East does our doom await us.”
The king now went down the stair with Gandalf beside him. The others followed. Aragorn looked back as they passed towards the gate. Alone Éowyn stood before the doors of the house at the stair’s head; the sword was set upright before her, and her hands were laid upon the hilt. She was clad now in mail and shone like silver in the sun.
Gimli walked with Legolas. his axe on his shoulder. “Well, at last we set off!” he said. “Men need many words before deeds. My axe is restless in my hands. Though I doubt not that these Rohirrim are fell-handed when they come to it. Nonetheless this is not the warfare that suits me. How shall I come to the battle? I wish I could walk and not bump like a sack at Gandalf’s saddlebow.”
“A safer seat than many, I guess,” said Legolas. “Yet doubtless Gandalf will gladly put you down on your feet when blows begin; or Shadowfax himself. An axe is no weapon for a rider.”
“And a Dwarf is no horseman. It is orc-necks I would hew, not shave the scalps of Men,” said Gimli, patting the haft of his axe.
At the gate they found a great host of men, old and young, all ready in the saddle. More than a thousand were there mustered. Their spears were like a springing wood. Loudly and joyously they shouted as Théoden came forth. Some held in readiness the king’s horse, Snowmane, and others held the horses of Aragorn and Legolas. Gimli stood ill at ease, frowning, but Éomer came up to him, leading his horse.
“Hail, Gimli Glóin’s son!” he cried. “I have not had time to learn gentle speech under your rod, as you promised. But shall we not put aside our quarrel? At least I will speak no evil again of the Lady of the Wood.”
“I will forget my wrath for a while, Éomer son of Éomund,” said Gimli;”but if ever you chance to see the Lady Galadriel with your eyes, then you shall acknowledge her the fairest of ladies, or our friendship will end.” “So be it!” said Éomer. “But until that time pardon me, and in token of pardon ride with me, I beg. Gandalf will be at the head with the Lord of the Mark; but Firefoot, my horse, will bear us both, if you will.”
“I thank you indeed,” said Gimli greatly pleased. “I will gladly go with you, if Legolas, my comrade, may ride beside us.”
“It shall he so,” said Éomer. “Legolas upon my left, and Aragorn upon my right, and none will dare to stand before us!”
“Where is Shadowfax?” said Gandalf.
“Running wild over the grass,” they answered. “He will let no man handle him. There he goes, away down by the ford, like a shadow among the willows.”
Gandalf whistled and called aloud the horse’s name, and far away he tossed his head and neighed, and turning sped towards the host like an arrow.
“Were the breath of the West Wind to take a body visible, even so would it appear,” said Éomer, as the great horse ran up, until he stood before the wizard.
“The gift seems already to be given,” said Théoden. “But hearken all! Here now I name my guest, Gandalf Greyhame, wisest of counsellors; most welcome of wanderers, a lord of the Mark, a chieftain of the Eorlingas while our kin shall last; and I give to him Shadowfax, prince of horses.”
“I thank you, Théoden King,” said Gandalf. Then suddenly he threw back his grey cloak, and cast aside his hat, and leaped to horseback. He wore no helm nor mail. His snowy hair flew free in the wind, his white robes shone dazzling in the sun.
“Behold the White Rider!” cried Aragorn, and all took up the words.
“Our King and the White Rider!” they shouted. “Forth Eorlingas!”
The trumpets sounded. The horses reared and neighed. Spear clashed on shield. Then the king raised his hand, and with a rush like the sudden onset of a great wind the last host of Rohan rode thundering into the West. Far over the plain Éowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.
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