Ha! ha! they will eat you, and we will eat them;" and the otter laughed such a wicked cruel laugh as you may hear them do sometimes; and the first time that you hear it you will probably think it is bogies. "What are salmon?" asked Tom. "Fish, you eft, great fish, nice fish to eat. They are the lords of the fish, and we are lords of the salmon;" and she laughed again.
Here shalt thou linger out thy remaining days; thy companions the toad, the eft, the spider, the beetle; and when thou diest of hunger and thirst, which will eventually be thy lot, this cell shall be thy coffin. Here shalt thou rot." "And hence shall I rise, in that case, at the day of resurrection. Nay, Drogo, thou canst not frighten me. I am not in thy power. Thou canst not tame the spirit.
And thus Tremoriun, God's servant, spake there with the king, of a good thing: "Listen now to me, Aurelie, what I will make known to thee, and I will say to thee the best of all counsel, if thou wilt it approve, eft it will like to thee.
A monstrous Eft was of old the Lord and Master of Earth; For him did his high sun flame, and his river billowing ran. And this may have been all very well and appropriate in the carboniferous Epoch, but WE in the end of Time have no desire to fall under any such preposterous domination, or to return to the primal swamps from which organic nature has so slowly and painfully emerged.
"Come, away, children," said the otter in disgust, "it is not worth eating, after all. It is only a nasty eft, which nothing eats, not even those vulgar pike in the pond." "I am not an eft!" said Tom; "efts have tails." "You are an eft," said the otter, very positively; "I see your two hands quite plain, and I know you have a tail." "I tell you I have not," said Tom.
"Look here!" and he turned his pretty little self quite round; and sure enough, he had no more tail than you. The otter might have got out of it by saying that Tom was a frog; but, like a great many other people, when she had once said a thing she stood to it, right or wrong; so she answered: "I say you are an eft, and therefore you are, and not fit food for gentlefolk like me and my children.
And if it were to thee will in heart, that we might pass over sea with sail, we would nevermore eft come here; for here we have lost our dear relatives. So long as is ever, here come we back never!" Then laughed Arthur, with loud voice: "Thanked be the Lord, that all dooms wieldeth, that Childric the strong is tired of my land!
He tells Lady Clara Vere de Vere that 'the gardener Adam and his wife smile at the claim of long descent'; their own descent being by no means long. Lady Clara might surely have scored off him pretty smartly by quoting from 'Maud' and 'In Memoriam' about evolution and the eft that was lord of valley and hill. But Tennyson has evidently forgotten all about Darwin and the long descent of man.
Another group may be finally mentioned, viz. the frogs and toads, anourous Batrachians, of which we have at present no relic of any kind linking them on to the Eft group on the one hand, or to reptiles on the other. The only instance in which an approach towards a series of nearly related forms has been obtained is the existing horse, its predecessor Hipparion and other extinct forms.
"Tho gin you, fond flies, the cold to scorn, And, crowing in pipes made of green corn, You thinken to be lords of the year; But eft when ye count you freed from fear, Comes the breme winter with chamfred brows, Full of wrinkles and frosty furrows." LII.: and when there is no such chance, I shall use the word chamfer only.