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HOME > Classical Novels > The King of Elfland's Daughter34 > CHAPTER VII The Coming of the Troll
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CHAPTER VII The Coming of the Troll
 When the troll came to the frontier of twilight1 he skipped nimbly through; yet he emerged cautiously into the fields we know, for he was afraid of dogs. Slipping quietly out of those dense2 masses of twilight he came so softly into our fields that no eye had seen him unless it were gazing already at the spot at which he appeared. There he paused for some instants, looking to left and right; and, seeing no dogs, he left the barrier of twilight. This troll had never before been in the fields we know, yet he knew well to avoid dogs, for the fear of dogs is so deep and universal amongst all that are less than Man, that it seems to have passed even beyond our boundaries and to have been felt in Elfland.  
In our fields it was now May, and the buttercups stretched away before the troll, a world of yellow mingled3 with the brown of the budding grasses. When he saw so many buttercups shining there the wealth of Earth astonished him. And soon he was moving through them, yellowing his shins as he went.
He had not gone far from Elfland when he met with a hare, who was lying in a comfortable arrangement of grass, in which he had intended to pass the time till he should have things to see to.
When the hare saw the troll he sat there without any movement whatever, and without any expression in his eyes, and did nothing at all but think.
When the troll saw the hare he skipped nearer, and lay down before it in the buttercups, and asked it the way to the haunts of men. And the hare went on thinking.
"Thing of these fields," repeated the troll, "where are the haunts of men?"
The hare got up then and walked towards the troll, which made the hare look very ridiculous, for he had none of the grace while walking that he has when he runs or gambols4, and was much lower in front than behind. He put his nose into the troll's face and twitched6 foolish whiskers.
"Tell me the way," said the troll.
When the hare perceived that the troll did not smell of anything like dog he was content to let the troll question him. But he did not understand the language of Elfland, so he lay still again and thought while the troll talked.
And at last the troll wearied of getting no answer, so he leaped up and shouted "Dogs!" and left the hare and scampered7 away merrily over the buttercups, taking any direction that led away from Elfland. And though the hare could not quite understand elvish language, yet there was a vehemence8 in the tone in which the troll had shouted Dogs which caused apprehension9 to enter the thoughts of the hare, so that very soon he forsook10 his arrangement of grass, and lollopped away through the meadow with one scornful look after the troll; but he did not go very fast, going mostly on three legs, with one hind5 leg all ready to let down if there should really be dogs. And soon he paused and sat up and put up his ears, and looked across the buttercups and thought deeply. And before the hare had ceased to ponder the troll's meaning the troll was far out of sight and had forgotten what he had said.
And soon he saw the gables of a farm-house rise up beyond a hedge. They seemed to look at him with little windows up under red tiles. "A haunt of man," said the troll. And yet some elvish instinct seemed to tell him that it was not here that Princess Lirazel had come. Still, he went nearer the farm and began to gaze at its poultry11. But just at that moment a dog saw him, one that had never seen a troll before, and it uttered one canine12 cry of astonished indignation, and keeping all the rest of its breath for the chase, sped after the troll.
The troll began at once to rise and dip over the buttercups as though he had almost borrowed its speed from the swallow and were riding the lower air. Such speed was new to the dog, and he went in a long curve after the troll, leaning over as he went, his mouth open and silent, the wind rippling13 all the way from his nose to his tail in one wavy14 current. The curve was made by the dog's baffled hopes to catch the troll as he slanted15 across. Soon he was straight behind; and the troll toyed with speed; breathing the flowery air in long fresh draughts16 above the tops of the buttercups. He thought no more of the dog, but he did not cease in the flight that the dog had caused, because of the joy of the speed. And this strange chase continued over those fields, the troll driven on by joy and the dog by duty. For the sake of novelty then the troll put his feet together as he leaped over the flowers and, alighting with rigid17 knees, fell forwards on to his hands and so turned over; and, straightening his elbows suddenly as he turned, shot himself into the air still turning over and over. He did this several times, increasing the indignation of the dog, who knew well enough that that was no way to go over the fields we know. But for all his indignation the dog had seen clear enough that he would never catch that troll, and presently he returned to the farm, and found his master there and went up to him wagging his tail. So hard he wagged it that the farmer was sure he had done some useful thing, and patted him, and there the matter ended.
And it was well enough for the farmer that his dog has chased that troll from his farm; for had it communicated to his livestock18 any of the wonder of Elfland they would have mocked at Man, and that farmer would have lost the allegiance of all but his staunch dog.
And the troll went on gaily19 over the tips of the buttercups.
Presently he saw rising up all white over the flowers a fox that was facing him with his white chest and chin, and watching the troll as it went. The troll went near to him and took a look. And the fox went on watching him, for the fox watches all things.
He had come back lately to those dewy fields from slinking by night along the boundary of twilight that lies between here and Elfland. He even prowls inside the very boundary, walking amongst the twilight; and it is in the mystery of that heavy twilight that lies between here and there that there clings to him some of that glamour20 that he brings with him to our fields.
"Well, Noman's Dog," said the troll. For they know the fox in Elfland, from seeing him often go dimly along their borders; and this is the name they give him.
"Well, Thing-over-the-Border," said the fox when he answered at all. For he knew troll-talk.
"Are the haunts of men near here?" said the troll.
The fox moved his whiskers by slightly wrinkling his lip. Like all liars21 he reflected before he spoke22, and sometimes even let wise silences do better than speech.
"Men live here and men live there," said the fox.
"I want their haunts," said the troll.
"What for?" said the fox.
"I have a message from the King of Elfland."
The fox showed no respect or fear at the mention of that dread23 name, but slightly moved his head and eyes to conceal24 the awe25 that he felt.
"If it is a message," he said, "their haunts are over there." And he pointed26 with his long thin nose towards Erl.
"How shall I know when I get there?" said the troll.
"By the smell," said the fox. "It is a big haunt of men, and the smell is dreadful."
"Thanks, Noman's Dog," said the troll. And he seldom thanked anyone.
"I should never go near them," said the fox, "but for ..." And he paused and reflected silently.
"But for what?" said the troll.
"But for their poultry." And he fell into a grave silence.
"Good-bye, Noman's Dog," said the troll and turned head-over-heels, and was off on his way to Erl.
Passing over the buttercups all through the dewy morning the troll was far on his way by the afternoon, and saw before evening the smoke and the towers of Erl. It was all sunk in a hollow; and gables and chimneys and towers peered over the lip of the valley, and smoke hung over them on the dreamy air. "The haunts of men," said the troll. Then he sat down amongst the grasses and looked at it.
Presently he went nearer and looked at it again. He did not like the look of the smoke and that crowd of gables: certainly it smelt27 dreadfully. There had been some legend in Elfland of the wisdom of Man; and whatever respect that legend had gained for us in the light mind of the troll now all blew lightly away as he looked at the crowded houses. And as he looked at them there passed a child of four, a small girl on a footpath28 over the fields, going home in the evening to Erl. They looked at each other with round eyes.
"Hullo," said the child.
"Hullo, Child of Men," said the troll.
He was not speaking troll-talk now, but the language of Elfland, that grander tongue that he had had to speak when he was before the King: for he knew the language of Elfland although it was never used in the homes of the trolls, who preferred troll-talk. This language was spoken in those days also by men, for there were fewer languages then, and the elves and the people of Erl both used the same.
"What are you?" said the child.
"A troll of Elfland," answered the troll.
"So I thought," said the child.
"Where are you going, child of men?" the troll asked.
"To the houses," the child replied.
"We don't want to go there," said the troll.
"N-no," said the child.
"Come to Elfland," the troll said.
The child thought for awhile. Other children had gone, and the elves always sent a changeling in their place, so that nobody quite missed them and nobody really knew. She thought awhile of the wonder and wildness of Elfland, and then of her own home.
"N-no," said the child.
"Why not?" said the troll.
"Mother made a jam roll this morning," said the child. And she walked on gravely home. Had it not been for that chance jam roll she had gone to Elfland.
"Jam!" said the troll contemptuously and thought of the tarns29 of Elfland, the great lily-leaves lying flat upon their solemn waters, the huge blue lilies towering into the elf-light above the green deep tarns: for jam this child had forsaken30 them!
Then he thought of his duty again, the roll of parchment and the Elf King's rune for his daughter. He had carried the parchment in his left hand when he ran, in his mouth when he somersaulted over the buttercups. Was the Princess here he thought? Or were there other haunts of men? As evening drew in he crept nearer and nearer the homes, to hear without being seen.

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