For Tom and Goldberry
It was a bright green morning, and the sun was singing so loudly that
Tom could not ignore the music, and he went out of his house, leaving
the door open and hurried along the path. Birds and insects were giving
symphonic support to the aria of daybreak and the trees conducted
themselves with slow dignity, dipping a bough for a beat, rustling
leaves for ambiance.
Tom did not slow his run, but he noted every
movement and sound. His booted feet were loud as he raced along the
path. The first day of Spring was here, and the winter had passed with
easy forgiveness. No ice remain on the edges of the rill that flowed
down the steps from his house, and all the land was green and ready to
burst with colour.
Down to the river Tom raced, as if he were
late for some appointment, though indeed, he had no engagements
whatever. All alone he lived in his land, but for the trees and birds
and insect and animal. Even Fatty Lumpkin rarely bespoke him, prefering
to graze in the heather or roll in the dust in pony-practices. But
something was happening down the river; Tom could hear and feel it in
The rill grew into a brook, and then into a
stream. It deepened and broadened into a creek and then a river, joined
by other limbs of water trickling through the roots of the ancient
willows and oaks. The ground rippled like a great green woolen scarf,
folded and woven with leaves, twigs and bramble. With his great yellow
boots he tramped through it all, stepping over and leaping over, his
face open and eager to learn what new thing had come to his land;
something strange and wonderful.
Through the valley of Willow he went, and
tipped his hat to Old Man as he went by, though the gnarled tree did
not return his greeting, being still asleep in his winter aspect. The
path was thickly padded with old yellow leaves from Falls of years
before. Idly Tom thought that it was high-time for a spring cleaning.
The Forest was getting rather old and shabby-looking.
Now the river coursed strongly beside his
stumping feet, and he watched that other man running beside him,
reflected in a blue field that was scattered with clouds. Both images
The Withywindle broadened to a flat slow
bend, and the path became marshy and soft. Pools of water lay sparkling
in the morning sun, and early waterplants were already breathing and
floating on the surfaces, white waterlilies lay like stars amid a
firmament of green. So thickly they covered the pool that the water was
hidden, and Tom espied a great pile of leaves and lilies that was oddly
shaped, lying in his path. The music that had called him grew louder,
and he looked about for the source. He had hear that voice singing
before. Where had it been? How long ago and who?
The mound of lilies moved, and Tom exclaimed,
startled. He knelt and peeled back the leaves, revealing a face white
and fair as the flowers that first bloom. Framed by locks of hair
golden as sunlight and clad in a gown of rushes, a lady lay in the
shallow water. Her lips were faintly pink and smiling, and her skin was
flawless and fair. Lashes and brows were drawn fine, and looked dark
against her pale flesh.
Tom could hear the beating of her heart
clearly, and he gently touched her silken cheek with his great rough
hand. Her eyes opened then and were the colour of the laughing brook,
like a deep pool dappled through the leaves of an oak; full of sparkle
and running with thought.
She took his hand and rose to her feet. He
knelt and looked up at her beauty, his heart touched by love as he had
never known, and yet seemed familiar. Images came to him like memory of
a fair maid dancing, dancing upon the earth, and the sound of his own
laugher echoing through the primal morning.
"Lady, I am Tom. I am your servant." He bowed, unable to release the fair flower of her hand.
She looked at him and spokem, and her voice
was like the flowing of water. "I am the Daugher of the Riverwoman. I
heard you singing."
"Not I, Lady! I heard singing and came here
and found you. But now I shall sing every day and every night, for your
loveliness must be proclaimed to every leaf and star, from the top of
every hill and whispered to every stone and tree. I am so happy to see
you, that I shall never cease laughing with joy."
And Tom led Goldberry, as he named her, to
his house Over and Under the Hill, and there they lived together as
seasons cycled around the wheel of the year, and they grew in love as
might have been guessed that they would, and all the winds and rivers