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The Roots of the Mountains, by William Morris, [1889], at


Amidst the clamour uprose the Alderman; for it was clear to all men that the Folk-mote should be holden at once, and the matters of the War, and the Fellowship, and the choosing of the War-leader, speedily dealt with.  So the Alderman fell to hallowing in the Folk-mote:  he went up to the Altar of the Gods, and took the Gold-ring off it, and did it on his arm; then he drew his sword and waved it toward the four airts, and spake; and the noise and shouting fell, and there was silence but for him:

'Herewith I hallow in this Folk-mote of the Men of the Dale and the Sheepcotes and the Woodland, in the name of the Warrior and the Earth-god and the Fathers of the kindreds.  Now let not the peace of the Mote be broken.  Let not man rise against man, or bear blade or hand, or stick or stone against any.  If any man break the Peace of the Holy Mote, let him be a man accursed, a wild-beast in the Holy Places; an outcast from home and hearth, from bed and board, from mead and acre; not to be holpen with bread, nor flesh, nor wine; nor flax, nor wool, nor any cloth; nor with sword, nor shield, nor axe, nor plough-share; nor with horse, nor ox, nor ass; with no saddle-beast nor draught-beast; nor with wain, nor boat, nor way-leading; nor with fire nor water; nor with any world's wealth.  Thus let him who hath cast out man be cast out by man.  Now is hallowed-in the Folk-mote of the Men of the Dale and the Sheepcotes and the Woodlands.'

Therewith he waved his sword again toward the four airts, and went and sat down in his place.  But presently he arose again, and said:

'Now if man hath aught to say against man, and claimeth boot of any, or would lay guilt on any man's head, let him come forth and declare it; and the judges shall be named, and the case shall be tried this afternoon or to-morrow.  Yet first I shall tell you that I, the Alderman of the Dalesmen, doomed one Iron-face of the House of the Face to pay a double fine, for that he drew a sword at the Gate-thing of Burgstead with the intent to break the peace thereof.  Thou, Green-sleeve, bring forth the peace-breaker's fine, that Iron-face may lay the same on the Altar.'

Then came forth a man from the men of the Face bearing a bag, and he brought it to Iron-face, who went up to the Altar and poured forth weighed gold from the bag thereon, and said:

'Warden of the Dale, come thou and weigh it!'

'Nay,' quoth the Warden, 'it needeth not, no man here doubteth thee, Alderman Iron-face.'

A murmur of yeasay went up, and none had a word to say against the Alderman, but they praised him rather:  also men were eager to hear of the war, and the fellowship, and to be done with these petty matters.  Then the Alderman rose again and said:

'Hath any man a grief against any other of the Kindreds of the Dale, or the Sheepcotes, or the Woodlands?'

None answered or stirred; so after he had waited a while, he said:

'Is there any who hath any guilt to lay against a Stranger, an Outlander, being such a man as he deems we can come at?'

Thereat was a stir amongst the Men of the Fleece of the Shepherds, and their ranks opened, and there came forth an ill-favoured lean old man, long-nebbed, blear-eyed, and bent, girt with a rusty old sword, but not otherwise armed.  And all men knew Penny-thumb, who had been ransacked last autumn.  As he came forth, it seemed as if his neighbours had been trying to hold him back; but a stout, broad-shouldered man, black-haired and red-bearded, made way for the old man, and led him out of the throng, and stood by him; and this man was well armed at all points, and looked a doughty carle.  He stood side by side with Penny-thumb, right in front of the men of his house, and looked about him at first somewhat uneasily, as though he were ashamed of his fellow; but though many smiled, none laughed aloud; and they forbore, partly because they knew the man to be a good man, partly because of the solemn tide of the Folk-mote, and partly in sooth because they wished all this to be over, and were as men who had no time for empty mirth.

Then said the Alderman:  'What wouldest thou, Penny-thumb, and thou, Bristler, son of Brightling?'

Then Penny-thumb began to speak in a high squeaky voice:

'Alderman, and Lord of the Folk!'  But therewithal Bristle, pulled him back, and said:

'I am the man who hath taken this quarrel upon me, and have sworn upon the Holy Boar to carry this feud through; and we deem, Alderman, that if they who slew Rusty and ransacked Penny-thumb be not known now, yet they soon may be.'

As he spake, came forth those three men of the Shepherds and the two Dalesmen who had sworn with him on the Holy Boar.  Then up stood Folk-might, and came forth into the field, and said:

'Bristler, son of Brightling, and ye other good men and true, it is but sooth that the ransackers and the slayer may soon be known; and here I declare them unto you:  I it was and none other who slew Rusty; and I was the leader of those who ransacked Penny-thumb, and cowed Harts-bane of Greentofts.  As for the slaying of Rusty, I slew him because he chased me, and would not forbear, so that I must either slay or be slain, as hath befallen me erewhile, and will befall again, methinks.  As for the ransacking of Penny-thumb, I needed the goods that I took, and he needed them not, since he neither used them, nor gave them away, and, they being gone, he hath lived no worser than aforetime.  Now I say, that if ye will take the outlawry off me, which, as I hear, ye laid upon me, not knowing me, then will I handsel self-doom to thee, Bristler, if thou wilt bear thy grief to purse, and I will pay thee what thou wilt out of hand; or if perchance thou wilt call me to Holm, thither will I go, if thou and I come unslain out of this war.  As to the ransacking and cowing of Harts-bane, I say that I am sackless therein, because the man is but a ruffler and a man of violence, and hath cowed many men of the Dale; and if he gainsay me, then do I call him to the Holm after this war is over; either him or any man who will take his place before my sword.'

Then he held his peace, and man spake to man, and a murmur arose, as they said for the more part that it was a fair and manly offer.  But Bristler called his fellows and Penny-thumb to him, and they spake together; and sometimes Penny-thumb's shrill squeak was heard above the deep-voiced talk of the others; for he was a man that harboured malice.  But at last Bristler spake out and said:

'Tall man, we know that thou art a chieftain and of good will to the men of the Dale and their friends, and that want drave thee to the ransacking, and need to the manslaying, and neither the living nor the dead to whom thou art guilty are to be called good men; therefore will I bring the matter to purse, if thou wilt handsel me self-doom.'

'Yea, even so let it be,' quoth Folk-might; and stepped forward and took Bristler by the hand, and handselled him self-doom.  Then said Bristler:

'Though Rusty was no good man, and though he followed thee to slay thee, yet was he in his right therein, since he was following up his goodman's gear; therefore shalt thou pay a full blood-wite for him, that is to say, the worth of three hundreds in weed-stuff in whatso goods thou wilt.  As for the ransacking of Penny-thumb, he shall deem himself well paid if thou give him our hundreds in weed-stuff for that which thou didst borrow of him.'

Then Penny-thumb set up his squeak again, but no man hearkened to him, and each man said to his neighbour that it was well doomed of Bristler, and neither too much nor too little.  But Folk-might bade Wood-wont to bring thither to him that which he had borne to the Mote; and he brought forth a big sack, and Folk-might emptied it on the earth, and lo! the silver rings of the slain felons, and they lay in a heap on the green field, and they were the best of silver.  Then the Elder of the Dale-wardens weighed out from the heap the blood-wite for Rusty, according to the due measure of the hundred in weed-stuff, and delivered it unto Bristler.  And Folk-might said:

'Draw nigh now, Penny-thumb, and take what thou wilt of this gear, which I need not, and grudge not at me henceforward.'

But Penny-thumb was afraid, and abode where he was; and Bristler laughed, and said:  'Take it, goodman, take it; spare not other men's goods as thou dost thine own.'

And Folk-might stood by, smiling faintly:  so Penny-thumb plucked up a heart, and drew nigh trembling, and took what he durst from that heap; and all that stood by said that he had gotten a full double of what had been awarded to him.  But as for him, he went his ways straight from the Mote-stead, and made no stay till he had gotten him home, and laid the silver up in a strong coffer; and thereafter he bewailed him sorely that he had not taken the double of that which he took, since none would have said him nay.

When he was gone, the Alderman arose and said:

'Now, since the fines have been paid duly and freely, according to the dooming of Bristler, take we off the outlawry from Folk-might and his fellows, and account them to be sackless before us.'

Then he called for other cases; but no man had aught more to bring forward against any man, either of the kindreds or the Strangers.

Next: Chapter XXXIX. Of the Great Folk-Mote: Men Take Rede of the War-Faring, the Fellowship, and the War-Leader. Folk-Might Telleth Whence His People Came. The Folk-Mote Sundered.