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HOME > Classical Novels > The King of Elfland's Daughter34 > CHAPTER IV Alveric Comes Back to Earth After Many Years
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CHAPTER IV Alveric Comes Back to Earth After Many Years
 Back through the guarding wood went Alveric and Lirazel, she only looking once more at those flowers and lawns, seen only by the furthest-travelling fancies of poets in deepest sleep, then urging Alveric on; he choosing the way past trees he had disenchanted.  
And she would not let him delay even to choose his path, but kept urging him away from the palace that is only told of in song. And the other trees began to come lumbering1 towards them, from beyond the lustreless2 unromantic line that Alveric's sword had smitten3, looking queerly as they came at their stricken comrades, whose listless branches drooped4 without magic or mystery. And as the moving trees came nearer Lirazel would hold up her hand, and they all halted and came on no more; and still she urged upon Alveric to hasten.
She knew her father would climb the brazen5 stairs of one of those silver spires6, she knew he would soon come out on to a high balcony, she knew what rune he would chant. She heard the sound of his footsteps ascending7, ringing now through the wood. They fled over the plain beyond the wood, all through the blue everlasting8 elfin day, and again and again she looked over her shoulder and urged Alveric on. The Elf King's feet boomed slow on the thousand brazen steps, and she hoped to reach the barrier of twilight9, which on that side was smoky and dull; when suddenly, as she looked for the hundredth time at the distant balconies of the glittering spires, she saw a door begin to open high up, above the palace only told of in song. She cried "Alas10!" to Alveric, but at that moment the scent11 of briar roses came drifting to them from the fields we know.
Alveric knew not fatigue12 for he was young, nor she for she was ageless. They rushed forward, he taking her hand; the Elf King lifted his beard, and just as he began to intone a rune that only once may be uttered, against which nothing from our fields can avail, they were through the frontier of twilight, and the rune shook and troubled those lands in which Lirazel walked no longer.
When Lirazel looked upon the fields we know, as strange to her as once they have been to us, their beauty delighted her. She laughed to see the haystacks and loved their quaintness13. A lark14 was singing and Lirazel spoke15 to it, and the lark seemed not to understand, but she turned to other glories of our fields, for all were new to her, and forgot the lark. It was curiously16 no longer the season of bluebells17, for all the foxgloves were blooming and the may was gone and the wild roses were there. Alveric never understood this.
It was early morning and the sun was shining, giving soft colours to our fields, and Lirazel rejoiced in those fields of ours at more common things than one might believe there were amongst the familiar sights of Earth's every day. So glad was she, so gay, with her cries of surprise and her laughter, that there seemed thenceforth to Alveric a beauty that he had never dreamed of in buttercups, and a humour in carts that he never had thought of before. Each moment she found with a cry of joyous18 discovery some treasure of Earth's that he had not known to be fair. And then, as he watched her bringing a beauty to our fields more delicate even than that the wild roses brought, he saw that her crown of ice had melted away.
And thus she came from the palace that may only be told of in song, over the fields of which I need not tell, for they were the familiar fields of Earth, that the ages change but little and only for a while, and came at evening with Alveric to his home.
All was changed in the Castle of Erl. In the gateway19 they met a guardian20 whom Alveric knew: the man wondered to see them. In the hall and upon the stairway they met some that tended the castle, who turned their heads in surprise. Alveric knew them also, but all were older; and he saw that quite ten years must have passed away during that one blue day he had spent in Elfland.
Who does not know that this is the way of Elfland? And yet who would not be surprised if they saw it happen as Alveric saw it now? He turned to Lirazel and told her how ten or twelve years were gone. But it was as though a humble21 man who had wed22 an earthly princess should tell her he had lost sixpence; time had had no value or meaning to Lirazel, and she was untroubled to hear of the ten lost years. She did not dream what time means to us here.
They told Alveric that his father was long since dead. And one told him how he died happy, without impatience23, trusting to Alveric to accomplish his bidding; for he had known somewhat of the ways of Elfland, and knew that those that traffic twixt here and there must have something of that calm in which Elfland forever dreams.
Up the valley, ringing late, they heard the blacksmith's work. This blacksmith was he who had been the spokesman of those who went once to the long red room to the Lord of Erl. And all these men yet lived; for time though it moved over the Vale of Erl, as over all fields we know, moved gently, not as in our cities.
Thence Alveric and Lirazel went to the holy place of the Freer. And when they found him Alveric asked the Freer to wed them with Christom rites24. And when the Freer saw the beauty of Lirazel flash mid25 the common things in his little holy place, for he had ornamented26 the walls of his house with knick-knacks that he sometimes bought at the fairs, he feared at once she was of no mortal line. And, when he asked her whence she came and she happily answered "Elfland," the good man clasped his hands and told her earnestly how all in that land dwelt beyond salvation27. But she smiled, for while in Elfland she had always been idly happy, and now she only cared for Alveric. The Freer went then to his books to see what should be done.
For a long while he read in silence but for his breathing, while Alveric and Lirazel stood before him. And at last he found in his book a form of service for the wedding of a mermaid28 that had forsaken30 the sea, though the good book told not of Elfland. And this he said would suffice, for that the mermaids31 dwelt equally with the elf-folk beyond thought of salvation. So he sent for his bell and such tapers32 as are necessary. Then, turning to Lirazel, he bade her forsake29 and forswear and solemnly to renounce33 all things pertaining34 to Elfland, reading slowly out of a book the words to be used on this wholesome35 occasion.
"Good Freer," Lirazel answered, "nought36 said in these fields can cross the barrier of Elfland. And well that this is so, for my father has three runes that could blast this book when he answered one of its spells, were any word able to pass through the frontier of twilight. I will spell no spells with my father."
"But I cannot wed Christom man," the Freer replied, "with one of the stubborn who dwell beyond salvation."
Then Alveric implored37 her and she said the say in the book, "though my father could blast this spell," she added, "if it ever crossed one of his runes." And, the bell being now brought and the tapers, the good man wedded38 them in his little house with the rites that are proper for the wedding of a mermaid that hath forsaken the sea.

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