Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > The King of Elfland's Daughter34 > CHAPTER XIX Twelve Old Men Without Magic
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
CHAPTER XIX Twelve Old Men Without Magic
 Now few things pass by a village and leave no talk behind them. Nor did this unicorn1. For the three that saw it going by in the starlight immediately told their families, and many of these ran from their houses to tell the good news to others, for all strange news was accounted good in Erl, because of the talk that it made; and talk was held to be needful when work was over to pass the evenings away. So they talked long of the unicorn.  
And, after a day or two, in the forge of Narl the parliament of Erl was met again, seated by mugs of mead2, discussing the unicorn. And some rejoiced and said that Orion was magic, because unicorns3 were of magic stock and came from beyond our fields.
"Therefore," said one, "he has been to lands of which it does not become us to speak, and is magic, as all things are which dwell over there."
And some agreed and held that their plans had come to fruition.
But others said that the beast went by in the starlight, if beast it were, and who could say it was a unicorn? And one said that in the starlight it was hard to see it at all, and another said unicorns were hard to recognize. And then they began to discuss the size and shape of these beasts, and all the known legends that told of them, and came no nearer to agreeing together whether or not their lord had hunted a unicorn. Till at last Narl seeing that they would not thus come by the truth, and deeming it necessary that the fact should be established one way or the other forever, rose up and told them that the time had come for the vote. So by a method they had of casting shells of various colours into a horn that was passed from man to man, they voted about the unicorn as Narl had commanded. And a hush4 fell, and Narl counted. And it was seen to have been established by vote that there had been no unicorn.
Sorrowfully then that parliament of Erl saw that their plans to have a magic lord had failed; they were all old men, and the hope that they had had for so long being gone they turned less easily to newer plans than they had to the plan that they made so long ago. What should they do now, they said? How come by magic? What could they do that the world should remember Erl? Twelve old men without magic. They sat there over their mead, and it could not lighten their sadness.
But Orion was away with his hounds near that great inlet of Elfland where it lay as it were at high tide, touching5 the very grass of the fields we know. He went there at evening when the horns blew clear to guide him, and waited there all quiet at the edge of those fields for the unicorns to steal across the border. For he hunted stags no more.
And as he went over those fields in the late afternoon folk working on the farms would greet him cheerily; but when still he went eastwards6 they spoke7 to him less and less, till at last when he neared the border and still kept on they looked his way no more, but left him and his hounds to their own devices.
And by the time the sun set he would be standing8 quiet by a hedge that ran right down into the frontier of twilight9, with his hounds all gathered close in under the hedge, with his eye on them all lest one of them dared to move. And the pigeons would come home to trees of the fields we know, and twittering starlings; and the elfin horns would blow, clear silver magical music thrilling the chilled air, and all the colours of clouds would go suddenly changing; it was then in the failing light, in the darkening of colours, that Orion would watch for a dim white shape stepping out of the border of twilight. And this evening just as he hushed a hound with his hand, just as all our fields went dim, there slipped a great white unicorn out of the border, still munching10 lilies such as never grew in any fields of ours. He came, a whiteness on perfectly11 silent feet, four or five yards into the fields we know, and stood there still as moonlight, and listened and listened and listened. Orion never moved, and he kept his hounds silent by some power he had or by some wisdom of theirs. And in five minutes the unicorn made a step or two forward, and began to crop the long sweet earthly grasses. And as soon as he moved there came others through the deep blue border of twilight, and all at once there were five of them feeding there. And still Orion stood with his hounds and waited.
Little by little the unicorns moved further away from the border, lured12 further and further into the fields we know by the deep rich earthly grasses, on which all five of them browsed13 in the silent evening. If a dog barked, even if a late cock crew, up went all their ears at once and they stood watchful14, not trusting anything in the fields of men, or venturing into them far.
But at last the one that had come first through the twilight got so far from his magical home that Orion was able to run between him and the frontier, and his hounds came behind him. And then had Orion been toying with the chase, then had he hunted but for an idle whim15, and not for that deep love of the huntsman's craft that only huntsmen know, then had he lost everything: for his hounds would have chased the nearest unicorns, and they would have been in a moment across the frontier and lost, and if the hounds had followed they would have been lost too, and all that day's work would have gone for nothing. But Orion led his hounds to chase the furthest, watching all the while to see if any hound would try to pursue the others; and only one began to, but Orion's whip was ready. And so he cut his quarry16 off from its home, and his hounds for the second time were in full cry after a unicorn.
As soon as the unicorn heard the feet of the hounds, and saw with one flash of his eye that he could not get to his enchanted17 home, he shot forward with a sudden spring of his limbs and went like an arrow over the fields we know. When he came to hedges he did not seem to gather his limbs to leap but seemed to glide18 over them with motionless muscles, galloping20 again when he touched the grass once more.
In that first rush the hounds drew far ahead of Orion, and this enabled him to head the unicorn off whenever it tried to turn to the magical land; and at such turnings he came near his hounds again. And the third time that Orion turned the unicorn it galloped21 straight away, and so continued over the fields of men. The cry of the hounds went through the calm of the evening like a long ripple22 across a sleeping lake following the unseen way of some strange diver. In that straight gallop19 the unicorn gained so much on the hounds that soon Orion only saw him far off, a white spot moving along a slope in the gloaming. Then it reached the top of a valley and passed from view. But that strong queer scent23 that led the hounds like a song remained clear on the grass, and they never checked or faltered24 except for a moment at streams. Even there their ranging noses picked up the magical scent before Orion came up to give them his aid.
And as the hunt went on the daylight faded away, till the sky was all prepared for the coming of stars. And one or two stars appeared, and a mist came up from streams and spread all white over fields, ............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved