Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- The Roots of the Mountains - 1/80 -

Transcribed from the 1896 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David Price, email


Whiles carried o'er the iron road, We hurry by some fair abode; The garden bright amidst the hay, The yellow wain upon the way, The dining men, the wind that sweeps Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps - The gable grey, the hoary roof, Here now--and now so far aloof. How sorely then we long to stay And midst its sweetness wear the day, And 'neath its changing shadows sit, And feel ourselves a part of it. Such rest, such stay, I strove to win With these same leaves that lie herein.


Once upon a time amidst the mountains and hills and falling streams of a fair land there was a town or thorp in a certain valley. This was well-nigh encompassed by a wall of sheer cliffs; toward the East and the great mountains they drew together till they went near to meet, and left but a narrow path on either side of a stony stream that came rattling down into the Dale: toward the river at that end the hills lowered somewhat, though they still ended in sheer rocks; but up from it, and more especially on the north side, they swelled into great shoulders of land, then dipped a little, and rose again into the sides of huge fells clad with pine-woods, and cleft here and there by deep ghylls: thence again they rose higher and steeper, and ever higher till they drew dark and naked out of the woods to meet the snow-fields and ice-rivers of the high mountains. But that was far away from the pass by the little river into the valley; and the said river was no drain from the snow-fields white and thick with the grinding of the ice, but clear and bright were its waters that came from wells amidst the bare rocky heaths.

The upper end of the valley, where it first began to open out from the pass, was rugged and broken by rocks and ridges of water-borne stones, but presently it smoothed itself into mere grassy swellings and knolls, and at last into a fair and fertile plain swelling up into a green wave, as it were, against the rock-wall which encompassed it on all sides save where the river came gushing out of the strait pass at the east end, and where at the west end it poured itself out of the Dale toward the lowlands and the plain of the great river.

Now the valley was some ten miles of our measure from that place of the rocks and the stone-ridges, to where the faces of the hills drew somewhat anigh to the river again at the west, and then fell aback along the edge of the great plain; like as when ye fare a-sailing past two nesses of a river-mouth, and the main-sea lieth open before you.

Besides the river afore-mentioned, which men called the Weltering Water, there were other waters in the Dale. Near the eastern pass, entangled in the rocky ground was a deep tarn full of cold springs and about two acres in measure, and therefrom ran a stream which fell into the Weltering Water amidst the grassy knolls. Black seemed the waters of that tarn which on one side washed the rocks-wall of the Dale; ugly and aweful it seemed to men, and none knew what lay beneath its waters save black mis-shapen trouts that few cared to bring to net or angle: and it was called the Death-Tarn.

Other waters yet there were: here and there from the hills on both sides, but especially from the south side, came trickles of water that ran in pretty brooks down to the river; and some of these sprang bubbling up amidst the foot-mounds of the sheer-rocks; some had cleft a rugged and strait way through them, and came tumbling down into the Dale at diverse heights from their faces. But on the north side about halfway down the Dale, one stream somewhat bigger than the others, and dealing with softer ground, had cleft for itself a wider way; and the folk had laboured this way wider yet, till they had made them a road running north along the west side of the stream. Sooth to say, except for the strait pass along the river at the eastern end, and the wider pass at the western, they had no other way (save one of which a word anon) out of the Dale but such as mountain goats and bold cragsmen might take; and even of these but few.

This midway stream was called the Wildlake, and the way along it Wildlake's Way, because it came to them out of the wood, which on that north side stretched away from nigh to the lip of the valley- wall up to the pine woods and the high fells on the east and north, and down to the plain country on the west and south.

Now when the Weltering Water came out of the rocky tangle near the pass, it was turned aside by the ground till it swung right up to the feet of the Southern crags; then it turned and slowly bent round again northward, and at last fairly doubled back on itself before it turned again to run westward; so that when, after its second double, it had come to flowing softly westward under the northern crags, it had cast two thirds of a girdle round about a space of land a little below the grassy knolls and tofts aforesaid; and there in that fair space between the folds of the Weltering Water stood the Thorp whereof the tale hath told.

The men thereof had widened and deepened the Weltering Water about them, and had bridged it over to the plain meads; and athwart the throat of the space left clear by the water they had built them a strong wall though not very high, with a gate amidst and a tower on either side thereof. Moreover, on the face of the cliff which was but a stone's throw from the gate they had made them stairs and ladders to go up by; and on a knoll nigh the brow had built a watch- tower of stone strong and great, lest war should come into the land from over the hills. That tower was ancient, and therefrom the Thorp had its name and the whole valley also; and it was called Burgstead in Burgdale.

So long as the Weltering Water ran straight along by the northern cliffs after it had left Burgstead, betwixt the water and the cliffs was a wide flat way fashioned by man's hand. Thus was the water again a good defence to the Thorp, for it ran slow and deep there, and there was no other ground betwixt it and the cliffs save that road, which was easy to bar across so that no foemen might pass without battle, and this road was called the Portway. For a long mile the river ran under the northern cliffs, and then turned into the midst of the Dale, and went its way westward a broad stream winding in gentle laps and folds here and there down to the out-gate of the Dale. But the Portway held on still underneath the rock-wall, till the sheer-rocks grew somewhat broken, and were cumbered with certain screes, and at last the wayfarer came upon the break in them, and the ghyll through which ran the Wildlake with Wildlake's Way beside it, but the Portway still went on all down the Dale and away to the Plain-country.

That road in the ghyll, which was neither wide nor smooth, the wayfarer into the wood must follow, till it lifted itself out of the ghyll, and left the Wildlake coming rattling down by many steps from the east; and now the way went straight north through the woodland, ever mounting higher, (because the whole set of the land was toward the high fells,) but not in any cleft or ghyll. The wood itself thereabout was thick, a blended growth of diverse kinds of trees, but most of oak and ash; light and air enough came through their boughs to suffer the holly and bramble and eglantine and other small wood to grow together into thickets, which no man could pass without hewing a way. But before it is told whereto Wildlake's Way led, it must be said that on the east side of the ghyll, where it first began just over the Portway, the hill's brow was clear of wood for a certain space, and there, overlooking all the Dale, was the Mote-stead of the Dalesmen, marked out by a great ring of stones, amidst of which was the mound for the Judges and the Altar of the Gods before it. And this was the holy place of the men of the Dale and of other folk whereof the tale shall now tell.

For when Wildlake's Way had gone some three miles from the Mote- stead, the trees began to thin, and presently afterwards was a clearing and the dwellings of men, built of timber as may well be thought. These houses were neither rich nor great, nor was the folk a mighty folk, because they were but a few, albeit body by body they were stout carles enough. They had not affinity with the Dalesmen, and did not wed with them, yet it is to be deemed that they were somewhat akin to them. To be short, though they were freemen, yet as regards the Dalesmen were they well-nigh their servants; for they were but poor in goods, and had to lean upon them somewhat. No tillage they had among those high trees; and of beasts nought save some flocks of goats and a few asses. Hunters they were, and charcoal-burners, and therein the deftest of men, and they could shoot well in the bow withal: so they trucked their charcoal and their smoked venison and their peltries with the Dalesmen for wheat and wine and weapons and weed; and the Dalesmen gave them main good pennyworths, as men who had abundance wherewith to uphold their kinsmen, though they were but far-away kin. Stout hands had these Woodlanders and true hearts as any; but they were few-spoken and to those that needed them not somewhat surly of speech and grim of visage: brown-skinned they were, but light-haired; well-eyed, with but little red in their cheeks: their women were not very fair, for they toiled like the men, or more. They were thought to be wiser than most men in foreseeing things to come. They were much given to spells, and songs of wizardry, and were very mindful of the old story-lays, wherein they were far more wordy than in their daily speech. Much skill had they in runes, and were exceeding deft in scoring them on treen bowls, and on staves, and door-posts and roof- beams and standing-beds and such like things. Many a day when the snow was drifting over their roofs, and hanging heavy on the tree- boughs, and the wind was roaring through the trees aloft and rattling about the close thicket, when the boughs were clattering in the wind, and crashing down beneath the weight of the gathering freezing snow, when all beasts and men lay close in their lairs, would they sit long hours about the house-fire with the knife or the gouge in hand, with the timber twixt their knees and the whetstone beside them,

The Roots of the Mountains - 1/80

    Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6   10   20   30   40   50   60   70   80 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything