When they had eaten, the Company got ready to move on. They climbed up out of the dell and stood looking south. The sun was beginning to sink behind the mountains to the West, and the golden trees in the valley ahead glowed as if with yellow fire.
"Is that the way our road leads?" asked Boromir. "To the Golden Wood?"
"Yes," replied Aragorn. "We go to Lothlorien. We are still little more than five leagues from Moria's Gate, and I fear orcs may pursue us even this far. Let us hope the virtue of the Elves will keep us from the peril that follows."
"If they allow us to enter," said Boromir doubtfully.
"And if the Elves indeed still dwell there," said Gimli.
"It is long since any of my own folk journeyed to this land whence we wandered in ages long ago," said Legolas, "but we hear that Lorien is not yet deserted, for there is a secret power there that holds evil from the land. Nevertheless, its folk are seldom seen, and maybe they dwell now deep in the woods and far from the northern borders."
"Indeed, deep in the wood they dwell," said Aragorn, and he sighed as if some memory stirred in him. "We will go forward as quickly as we are able so that the trees are around us before night falls."
He stepped forward, and the others moved with him, but Boromir stood irresolute and did not follow.
"Is there no other way?" he said unhappily.
"What fairer way would you desire?" asked Aragorn in surprise.
"A plain road, though it leads through a hedge of swords," answered Boromir firmly. "By strange paths has this Company been led, and so far to evil fortune. Against my will we passed under the shadow of Moria, to our loss. And now you say we must enter the Golden Wood! Of that perilous land we have heard in Gondor, and it is said that few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed."
"Do not say 'unscathed!' But if you say 'unchanged,' then maybe you will speak the truth," responded Aragorn with a frown. "But lore wanes in Gondor, Boromir, if in the city of those who once were wise they now speak evil of Lothlorien!"
Stung by the sharp words, Boromir froze, and his face set hard like stone. He was suddenly very angry. He recalled in an instant the last time he had felt such anger: at the Council of Elrond when this Ranger had informed him that the Ring could not be used. What gives him the right to speak of Gondor this way? he thought. Even if he is king, what kind of king would speak so of his own people? Boromir took a deep breath to steady himself, then lifted his chin proudly.
"Gondor wanes!" he said evenly, and his eyes glittered. He remembered now a similar comment at the Council, made by one of the Elves. "Yes, that is what they teach in Rivendell, I hear; perhaps it is as you say. I know little of such things, and though I might have learned otherwise, I have not taken the opportunity. I am but a warrior, from a City that has known only war for more years than we can count. We are fully occupied with defending our borders from the enemies that surround us, and spare little time for other things. If that makes us no longer wise, then so be it! I only report what I have heard, for the benefit and safekeeping of this Company."
"Believe what you will," replied Aragorn curtly. "There is no other way for us -- unless you would go back to Moria-gate, or scale the pathless mountains, or swim the Great River all alone."
The silence was heavy as the two men stared at one another for a long moment. Then one of the hobbits stirred, and the moment was broken. Boromir gave a short, sharp nod.
"Then lead on!" said Boromir. "You are the captain here, not I. But it is perilous!"
"Perilous indeed," replied Aragorn. "Fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them. Follow me!"
They pressed on at a fair pace for several more hours, with only one brief halt. Both Frodo and Sam felt greatly eased from the pain of their wounds and were able to keep up easily. Boromir dropped back to walk behind the others, partly to keep watch for anything following, but also to be alone. He still felt hurt and angry, but the feeling was passing.
The four hobbits were walking together just ahead of him, and he watched them for awhile as they talked and laughed. Boromir shook his head and smiled faintly. Even now, the little ones could find something to laugh about! Merry and Pippin were doing most of the talking, of course. Frodo was often silent, but he enjoyed the company of his friends and listened carefully to what they had to say. Sam kept his eyes on Frodo, and was ready with a sharp word if one of the young hobbits got too boisterous. Pippin tended to get excited and his voice, though pleasant, carried in the wind, especially when he laughed. Sam kept shushing him, telling him to keep his voice down.
Boromir quickened his pace and drew level with the hobbits.
"Sam is right, Pippin. You should speak more quietly, " he said, smiling to take the sting out of his words. "I am afraid that we are indeed being followed by orcs, but I cannot tell how close they are behind us."
The hobbits glanced about anxiously; Pippin looked crestfallen.
"I'm sorry!" said Pippin in a low voice. "I...I didn't mean to cause trouble. I know there's danger. I just...I was just trying to get our spirits up. Joking a bit helps me forget...well, you know."
Boromir nodded, and gripped Pippin's shoulder briefly. Pippin looked at his feet and took a few gulping breaths, then looked up at Boromir.
"Are the orcs really so close?" he asked with a slight tremor in his voice.
Boromir turned to Frodo.
"Frodo," he said, "would you mind drawing your sword? I believe it might give us an idea of how close they may be."
Frodo pulled Sting from its sheath. To their dismay, the blade shone with a blue light; not bright, but bright enough. Boromir made a hissing sound between his teeth; he had not expected them to be so near. He looked back but there was nothing to be seen behind them.
"What should we do?" asked Merry apprehensively.
"Stay together, and keep your voices down," said Boromir. "Speak to Aragorn and the others, and tell them what we have discovered, then stay close at the front with Aragorn. I will stay back and keep watch. Do not worry, we are still well ahead of them, and we are making good progress; we will reach the shelter of the trees in time."
The hobbits ran ahead to speak to Aragorn, but Pippin hung back. Boromir did not notice immediately; he was watching for Aragorn's response to the news. Aragorn looked back and caught his eye; Boromir nodded, and Aragorn indicated with a wave of his hand that he would lead them on more quickly. Boromir turned and walked backwards for a few paces; still no sign of anything, except perhaps a congregating of birds on the horizon, back in the direction whence they had come. As he turned back, he caught sight of Pippin.
"May I walk with you for awhile, Boromir?" he asked quietly, as Boromir looked at him enquiringly.
"If you wish," replied Boromir. "But you will have to try to keep up. We will be moving more quickly now." He smiled down at him, but Pippin did not return the smile. He was chewing his lip with a worried expression on his face.
"Are you worried about the orcs following us?" asked Boromir.
"Yes, I am," said Pippin. "I was wondering...well..."
"Well, I thought perhaps..." Pippin stammered a bit, then spoke hurriedly. "I thought maybe it might be my fault if the orcs find us."
"Why would you think that?" asked Boromir, surprised.
"I was talking too loudly, wasn't I? And laughing? They might know where we are because of me talking and laughing."
Boromir slowed, and matching his stride to that of the hobbit, he put his arm around Pippin's shoulders.
"No, Pippin, do not take this burden on yourself. The orcs know well enough where we are, our trail is easy for them to follow. I was simply being cautious when I suggested you keep your voice down; I did not mean to suggest that any of this is your fault."
"Oh...well all right, then!" replied Pippin, looking happier. They walked in silence for awhile.
"Are you still angry at Strider?" asked Pippin suddenly.
Boromir was silent. He looked up and gazed at Aragorn's back for a moment before he spoke.
"Perhaps I am, a bit," he replied carefully. "I felt insulted on behalf of my people; it is hard to let go of that." He looked down at Pippin. "You do not like to see us argue, do you?" He laughed, but there was no humor in the sound. "It is hard for such a little one to be caught between two such proud men! Do not worry, little Pippin. Aragorn and I are not enemies because strong words lie between us."
Boromir sighed deeply before continuing.
"Aragorn is a good man, and I count him a friend; but we do not see eye to eye on some things -- this matter that now lies between us not the least. He puts great trust in the Elves, but I do not share his faith in them. They have done little enough in this age to aid us in our struggle!"
"But what about Legolas?" asked Pippin. "He has been a good friend to us!"
"Yes, he has," Boromir agreed. "Legolas is different..."
Boromir still had his arm around Pippin's shoulders; he now removed it and turned to look behind them. Still nothing. He turned back to Pippin, and lengthened his stride ever so slightly.
"I am sorry, Pippin," he said sadly. "I should not be troubling you with my suspicions, when you are already worried about other matters. I know little of Elves; perhaps I am being unfair...My brother knows more of such things than I; he, at least, cannot be accused of being unwise in matters of lore, even if I can! His wisdom would be a comfort to me now."
Boromir fell silent, thinking of Faramir.
"You would like my brother, Pippin," he went on at last. "He is not like me; he does not have a sharp temper! I hope that you will meet him soon, when we come to Minas Tirith." Boromir paused. "I remember now, I once told Aragorn I am one to speak my mind, and that things once said cannot be unsaid. But I also told him I am willing to learn that I am wrong. I hope for all our sakes, that Aragorn is right and the Elves will give us aid."
He looked down at Pippin and smiled.
"It has helped me to talk to you, Pippin. I am no longer so angry. I wonder now if that was your plan all along?"
"No!" laughed Pippin. "I was just plain worried! But I'm glad I could help."
"Come," replied Boromir with a smile. "Let us hurry. The others are out of sight."