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Title: Figures of Earth
Author: Cabell, James Branch, 1879-1958
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Figures of Earth" ***

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Team



FIGURES OF EARTH

A Comedy of Appearances

JAMES BRANCH CABELL

Illustrated by Frank C. Papé

1921



"Cascun se mir el jove Manuel, Qu'era del mom lo plus valens
dels pros."



Contents

AUTHOR'S NOTE

A FOREWORD


PART ONE: THE BOOK OF CREDIT

CHAPTER

      I   HOW MANUEL LEFT THE MIRE
     II   NIAFER
    III   ASCENT OF VRAIDEX
     IV   IN THE DOUBTFUL PALACE
      V   THE ETERNAL AMBUSCADE
     VI   ECONOMICS OF MATH
    VII   THE CROWN OF WISDOM
   VIII   THE HALO OF HOLINESS
     IX   THE FEATHER OF LOVE

PART TWO: THE BOOK OF SPENDING

      X   ALIANORA
     XI   MAGIC OF THE APSARASAS
    XII   ICE AND IRON
   XIII   WHAT HELMAS DIRECTED
    XIV   THEY DUEL ON MORVEN
     XV   BANDAGES FOR THE VICTOR

PART THREE: THE BOOK OF CAST ACCOUNTS

    XVI   FREYDIS
   XVII   MAGIC OF THE IMAGE-MAKERS
  XVIII   MANUEL CHOOSES
    XIX   THE HEAD OF MISERY
     XX   THE MONTH OF YEARS
    XXI   TOUCHING REPAYMENT
   XXII   RETURN OF NIAFER
  XXIII   MANUEL GETS HIS DESIRE
   XXIV   THREE WOMEN

PART FOUR: THE BOOK OF SURCHARGE

    XXV   AFFAIRS IN POICTESME
   XXVI   DEALS WITH THE STORK
  XXVII   THEY COME TO SARGYLL
 XXVIII   HOW MELICENT WAS WELCOMED
   XXIX   SESPHRA OF THE DREAMS
    XXX   FAREWELL TO FREYDIS
   XXXI   STATECRAFT
  XXXII   THE REDEMPTION OF POICTESME

PART FIVE: THE BOOK OF SETTLEMENT

 XXXIII   NOW MANUEL PROSPERS
  XXXIV   FAREWELL TO ALIANORA
   XXXV   THE TROUBLING WINDOW
  XXXVI   EXCURSIONS FROM CONTENT
 XXXVII   OPINIONS OF HINZELMANN
XXXVIII   FAREWELL TO SUSKIND
  XXXIX   THE PASSING OF MANUEL
     XL   COLOPHON: DA CAPO



To

SIX MOST GALLANT CHAMPIONS

Is dedicated this history of a champion: less to repay than to
acknowledge large debts to each of them, collectively at outset, as
hereafter seriatim.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



Author's Note


Figures of Earth is, with some superficial air of paradox, the one
volume in the long Biography of Dom Manuel's life which deals with Dom
Manuel himself. Most of the matter strictly appropriate to a Preface you
may find, if you so elect, in the Foreword addressed to Sinclair Lewis.
And, in fact, after writing two prefaces to this "Figures of
Earth"--first, in this epistle to Lewis, and, secondly, in the remarks[1]
affixed to the illustrated edition,--I had thought this volume could
very well continue to survive as long as its deficiencies permit,
without the confection of a third preface, until I began a little more
carefully to consider this romance, in the seventh year of its
existence.

[Footnote 1: Omitted in this edition since it was not possible to include
all of Frank C. Papé's magnificent illustrations.--THE PUBLISHER]

But now, now, the deficiency which I note in chief (like the superior
officer of a disastrously wrecked crew) lies in the fact that what I had
meant to be the main "point" of "Figures of Earth," while explicitly
enough stated in the book, remains for every practical end
indiscernible.... For I have written many books during the last quarter
of a century. Yet this is the only one of them which began at one
plainly recognizable instant with one plainly recognizable imagining. It
is the only book by me which ever, virtually, came into being, with its
goal set, and with its theme and its contents more or less
pre-determined throughout, between two ticks of the clock.

Egotism here becomes rather unavoidable. At Dumbarton Grange the library
in which I wrote for some twelve years was lighted by three windows set
side by side and opening outward. It was in the instant of unclosing one
of these windows, on a fine afternoon in the spring of 1919, to speak
with a woman and a child who were then returning to the house (with the
day's batch of mail from the post office), that, for no reason at all, I
reflected it would be, upon every personal ground, regrettable if, as
the moving window unclosed, that especial woman and that particular
child proved to be figures in the glass, and the window opened upon
nothingness. For that, I believed, was about to happen. There would be,
I knew, revealed beyond that moving window, when it had opened all the
way, not absolute darkness, but a gray nothingness, rather sweetly
scented.... Well! there was not. I once more enjoyed the quite familiar
experience of being mistaken. It is gratifying to record that nothing
whatever came of that panic surmise, of that second-long nightmare--of
that brief but over-tropical flowering, for all I know, of
indigestion,--save, ultimately, the 80,000 words or so of this book.

For I was already planning, vaguely, to begin on, later in that year,
"the book about Manuel." And now I had the germ of it,--in the instant
when Dom Manuel opens the over-familiar window, in his own home, to see
his wife and child, his lands, and all the Poictesme of which he was at
once the master and the main glory, presented as bright, shallow, very
fondly loved illusions in the protective glass of Ageus. I knew that the
fantastic thing which had not happened to me,--nor, I hope, to
anybody,--was precisely the thing, and the most important thing, which
had happened to the gray Count of Poictesme.

So I made that evening a memorandum of that historical circumstance; and
for some months this book existed only in the form of that memorandum.
Then, through, as it were, this wholly isolated window, I began to grope
at "the book about Manuel,"--of whom I had hitherto learned only, from
my other romances, who were his children, and who had been the sole
witness of Dom Manuel's death, inasmuch as I had read about that also,
with some interest, in the fourth chapter of "Jurgen"; and from the
unclosing of this window I developed "Figures of Earth," for the most
part toward, necessarily, anterior events. For it seemed to me--as it
still seems,--that the opening of this particular magic casement, upon
an outlook rather more perilous than the bright foam of fairy seas, was
alike the climax and the main "point" of my book.

Yet this fact, I am resignedly sure, as I nowadays appraise this
seven-year-old romance, could not ever be detected by any reader of
"Figures of Earth," In consequence, it has seemed well here to confess
at some length the original conception of this volume, without at all
going into the value of that conception, nor into, heaven knows, how
this conception came so successfully to be obscured.


So I began "the book about Manuel" that summer,--in 1919, upon the back
porch of our cottage at the Rockbridge Alum Springs, whence, as I recall
it, one could always, just as Manuel did upon Upper Morven, regard the
changing green and purple of the mountains and the tall clouds trailing
northward, and could observe that the things one viewed were all
gigantic and lovely and seemed not to be very greatly bothering about
humankind. I suppose, though, that, in point of fact, it occasionally
rained. In any case, upon that same porch, as it happened, this book was
finished in the summer of 1920.

And the notes made at this time as to "Figures of Earth" show much that
nowadays is wholly incomprehensible. There was once an Olrun in the
book; and I can recall clearly enough how her part in the story was
absorbed by two of the other characters,--by Suskind and by Alianora.
Freydis, it appears, was originally called Hlif. Miramon at one stage of
the book's being, I find with real surprise, was married _en secondes
noces_ to Math. Othmar has lost that prominence which once was his. And
it seems, too, there once figured in Manuel's heart affairs a
Bel-Imperia, who, so near as I can deduce from my notes, was a lady in a
tapestry. Someone unstitched her, to, I imagine, her destruction,
although I suspect that a few skeins of this quite forgotten Bel-Imperia
endure in the Radegonde of another tale.

Nor can I make anything whatever of my notes about Guivret (who seems to
have been in no way connected with Guivric the Sage), nor about Biduz,
nor about the Anti-Pope,--even though, to be sure, one mention of this
heresiarch yet survives in the present book. I am wholly baffled to
read, in my own penciling, such proposed chapter headings as "The
Jealousy of Niafer" and "How Sclaug Loosed the Dead,"--which latter is
with added incomprehensibility annotated "(?Phorgemon)." And "The Spirit
Who Had Half of Everything" seems to have been exorcised pretty
thoroughly.... No; I find the most of my old notes as to this book
merely bewildering; and I find, too, something of pathos in these
embryons of unborn dreams which, for one cause or another, were
obliterated and have been utterly forgotten by their creator, very much
as in this book vexed Miramon Lluagor twists off the head of a not quite
satisfactory, whimpering design, and drops the valueless fragments into
his waste-basket.... But I do know that the entire book developed,
howsoever helterskelter, and after fumbling in no matter how many blind
alleys, from that first memorandum about the troubling window of Ageus.
All leads toward--and through--that window.


The book, then, was published in the February of 1921. I need not here
deal with its semi-serial appearance in the guise of short stories:
these details are recorded elsewhere. But I confess with appropriate
humility that the reception of "Figures of Earth" by the public was, as
I have written in another place, a depressing business. This romance, at
that time, through one extraneous reason and another, disappointed
well-nigh everybody, for all that it has since become, so near as I can
judge, the best liked of my books, especially among women. It seems,
indeed, a fact sufficiently edifying that, in appraising the two
legendary heroes of Poictesme, the sex of whom Jurgen esteemed himself a
connoisseur, should, almost unanimously, prefer Manuel.

For the rest,--since, as you may remember, this is the third preface
which I have written for this book,--I can but repeat more or less what
I have conceded elsewhere. This "Figures of Earth" appeared immediately
following, and during the temporary sequestration of, "Jurgen." The fact
was forthwith, quite unreticently, discovered that in "Figures of Earth"
I had not succeeded in my attempt to rewrite its predecessor: and this
crass failure, so open, so flagrant, and so undeniable, caused what I
can only describe as the instant and overwhelming and universal triumph
of "Figures of Earth" to be precisely what did not occur. In 1921
Comstockery still surged, of course, in full cry against the imprisoned
pawnbroker and the crimes of his author, both literary and personal; and
the, after all, tolerably large portion of the reading public who were
not disgusted by Jurgen's lechery were now, so near as I could gather,
enraged by Manuel's lack of it.

It followed that--among the futile persons who use serious, long words
in talking about mere books,--aggrieved reproof of my auctorial
malversations, upon the one ground or the other, became in 1921
biloquial and pandemic. Not many other volumes, I believe, have been
burlesqued and cried down in the public prints by their own
dedicatees.... But from the cicatrix of that healed wound I turn away. I
preserve a forgiving silence, comparable to that of Hermione in the
fifth act of "A Winter's Tale": I resolve that whenever I mention the
names of Louis Untermeyer and H.L. Mencken it shall be in some
connection more pleasant, and that here I will not mention them at all.

Meanwhile the fifteen or so experiments in contrapuntal prose were, in
particular, uncharted passages from which I stayed unique in deriving
pleasure where others found bewilderment and no tongue-tied irritation:
but, in general, and above every misdemeanor else, the book exasperated
everybody by not being a more successfully managed re-hashing of the
then notorious "Jurgen."

Since 1921, and since the rehabilitation of "Jurgen," the notion has
uprisen, gradually, among the more bold and speculative thinkers, that
perhaps I was not, after all, in this "Figures of Earth" attempting to
rewrite "Jurgen": and Manuel has made his own friend.

James Branch Cabell

Richmond-in-Virginia

30 April 1927



A FOREWORD

"Amoto quoeramus seria ludo"



To

SINCLAIR LEWIS



MY DEAR LEWIS:


To you (whom I take to be as familiar with the Manuelian cycle of
romance as is any person now alive) it has for some while appeared, I
know, a not uncurious circumstance that in the _Key to the Popular Tales
of Poictesme_ there should have been included so little directly
relative to Manuel himself. No reader of the _Popular Tales_ (as I
recall your saying at the Alum when we talked over, among so many other
matters, this monumental book) can fail to note that always Dom Manuel
looms obscurely in the background, somewhat as do King Arthur and
white-bearded Charlemagne in their several cycles, dispensing justice
and bestowing rewards, and generally arranging the future, for the
survivors of the outcome of stories which more intimately concern
themselves with Anavalt and Coth and Holden, and with Kerin and Ninzian
and Gonfal and Donander, and with Miramon (in his rôle of Manuel's
seneschal), or even with Sclaug and Thragnar, than with the liege-lord
of Poictesme. Except in the old sixteenth-century chapbook (unknown to
you, I believe, and never reprinted since 1822, and not ever modernized
into any cognizable spelling), there seems to have been nowhere an
English rendering of the legends in which Dom Manuel is really the main
figure.

Well, this book attempts to supply that desideratum, and is, so far as
the writer is aware, the one fairly complete epitome in modern English
of the Manuelian historiography not included by Lewistam which has yet
been prepared.

It is obvious, of course, that in a single volume of this bulk there
could not be included more than a selection from the great body of myths
which, we may assume, have accumulated gradually round the mighty though
shadowy figure of Manuel the Redeemer. Instead, my aim has been to make
choice of such stories and traditions as seemed most fit to be cast into
the shape of a connected narrative and regular sequence of events; to
lend to all that wholesome, edifying and optimistic tone which in
reading-matter is so generally preferable to mere intelligence; and
meanwhile to preserve as much of the quaint style of the gestes as is
consistent with clearness. Then, too, in the original mediaeval
romances, both in their prose and metrical form, there are occasional
allusions to natural processes which make these stories unfit to be
placed in the hands of American readers, who, as a body, attest their
respectability by insisting that their parents were guilty of
unmentionable conduct; and such passages of course necessitate
considerable editing.


II


No schoolboy (and far less the scholastic chronicler of those last final
upshots for whose furtherance "Hannibal invaded Rome and Erasmus wrote
in Oxford cloisters") needs nowadays to be told that the Manuel of these
legends is to all intents a fictitious person. That in the earlier half
of the thirteenth century there was ruling over the Poictoumois a
powerful chieftain named Manuel, nobody has of late disputed seriously.
But the events of the actual human existence of this Lord of
Poictesme--very much as the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa has been
identified with the wood-demon Barbatos, and the prophet Elijah, "caught
up into the chariot of the Vedic Vayu," has become one with the Slavonic
Perun,--have been inextricably blended with the legends of the Dirghic
Manu-Elul, Lord of August.

Thus, even the irregularity in Manuel's eyes is taken by Vanderhoffen,
in his _Tudor Tales_, to be a myth connecting Manuel with the Vedic
Rudra and the Russian Magarko and the Servian Vii,--"and every
beneficent storm-god represented with his eye perpetually winking (like
sheet lightning), lest his concentrated look (the thunderbolt) should
reduce the universe to ashes.... His watery parentage, and the
storm-god's relationship with a swan-maiden of the Apsarasas (typifying
the mists and clouds), and with Freydis the fire queen, are equally
obvious: whereas Niafer is plainly a variant of Nephthys, Lady of the
House, whose personality Dr. Budge sums up as 'the goddess of the death
which is not eternal,' or Nerthus, the Subterranean Earth, which the
warm rainstorm quickens to life and fertility."

All this seems dull enough to be plausible. Yet no less an authority
than Charles Garnier has replied, in rather indignant rebuttal: "Qu'ont
étè en réalité Manuel et Siegfried, Achille et Rustem? Par quels
exploits ont-ils mérité l'éternelle admiration que leur ont vouée les
hommes de leur race? Nul ne répondra jamais à ces questions.... Mais
Poictesme croit à la réalité de cette figure que ses romans ont faite si
belle, car le pays n'a pas d'autre histoire. Cette figure du Comte
Manuel est réelle d'ailleurs, car elle est l'image purifiée de la race
qui l'a produite, et, si on peut s'exprimer ainsi, l'incarnation de son
génie."

--Which is quite just, and, when you come to think it over, proves Dom
Manuel to be nowadays, for practical purposes, at least as real as Dr.
Paul Vanderhoffen.


III


Between the two main epic cycles of Poictesme, as embodied in _Les
Gestes de Manuel_ and _La Haulte Histoire de Jurgen_, more or less
comparison is inevitable. And Codman, I believe, has put the gist of the
matter succinctly enough.

Says Codman: "The Gestes are mundane stories, the History is a cosmic
affair, in that, where Manuel faces the world, Jurgen considers the
universe.... Dom Manuel is the Achilles of Poictesme, as Jurgen is its
Ulysses."

And, roughly, the distinction serves. Yet minute consideration
discovers, I think, in these two sets of legends a more profound, if
subtler, difference, in the handling of the protagonist: with Jurgen all
of the physical and mental man is rendered as a matter of course;
whereas in dealing with Manuel there is, always, I believe, a certain
perceptible and strange, if not inexplicable, aloofness. Manuel did thus
and thus, Manuel said so and so, these legends recount: yes, but never
anywhere have I detected any firm assertion as to Manuel's thoughts and
emotions, nor any peep into the workings of this hero's mind. He is
"done" from the outside, always at arm's length. It is not merely that
Manuel's nature is tinctured with the cool unhumanness of his father the
water-demon: rather, these old poets of Poictesme would seem, whether of
intention or no, to have dealt with their national hero as a person,
howsoever admirable in many of his exploits, whom they have never been
able altogether to love, or entirely to sympathize with, or to view
quite without distrust.

There are several ways of accounting for this fact,--ranging from the
hurtful as well as beneficent aspect of the storm-god, to the natural
inability of a poet to understand a man who succeeds in everything: but
the fact is, after all, of no present importance save that it may well
have prompted Lewistam to scamp his dealings with this always somewhat
ambiguous Manuel, and so to omit the hereinafter included legends, as
unsuited to the clearer and sunnier atmosphere of the _Popular Tales_.

For my part, I am quite content, in this Comedy of Appearances, to
follow the old romancers' lead. "Such and such things were said and done
by our great Manuel," they say to us, in effect: "such and such were the
appearances, and do you make what you can of them."

I say that, too, with the addition that in real life, also, such is the
fashion in which we are compelled to deal with all happenings and with
all our fellows, whether they wear or lack the gaudy name of heroism.


Dumbarton Grange

October, 1920



[Illustration]

PART ONE


THE BOOK OF CREDIT


TO

WILSON FOLLETT



Then _answered the Magician dredefully: Manuel, Manuel, now I shall
shewe unto thee many bokes of_ Nygromancy, _and howe thou shalt cum by
it lyghtly and knowe the practyse therein. And, moreouer, I shall shewe
and informe you so that thou shall have thy Desyre, whereby my thynke it
is a great Gyfte for so lytyll a doynge_.



I


How Manuel Left the Mire


They of Poictesme narrate that in the old days when miracles were as
common as fruit pies, young Manuel was a swineherd, living modestly in
attendance upon the miller's pigs. They tell also that Manuel was
content enough: he knew not of the fate which was reserved for him.

Meanwhile in all the environs of Rathgor, and in the thatched villages
of Lower Targamon, he was well liked: and when the young people gathered
in the evening to drink brandy and eat nuts and gingerbread, nobody
danced more merrily than Squinting Manuel. He had a quiet way with the
girls, and with the men a way of solemn, blinking simplicity which
caused the more hasty in judgment to consider him a fool. Then, too,
young Manuel was very often detected smiling sleepily over nothing, and
his gravest care in life appeared to be that figure which Manuel had
made out of marsh clay from the pool of Haranton.

This figure he was continually reshaping and realtering. The figure
stood upon the margin of the pool; and near by were two stones overgrown
with moss, and supporting a cross of old worm-eaten wood, which
commemorated what had been done there.

One day, toward autumn, as Manuel was sitting in this place, and looking
into the deep still water, a stranger came, and he wore a fierce long
sword that interfered deplorably with his walking.

"Now I wonder what it is you find in that dark pool to keep you staring
so?" the stranger asked, first of all.

"I do not very certainly know," replied Manuel "but mistily I seem to
see drowned there the loves and the desires and the adventures I had
when I wore another body than this. For the water of Haranton, I must
tell you, is not like the water of other fountains, and curious dreams
engender in this pool."

"I speak no ill against oneirologya, although broad noon is hardly the
best time for its practise," declared the snub-nosed stranger. "But what
is that thing?" he asked, pointing.

"It is the figure of a man, which I have modeled and re-modeled, sir,
but cannot seem to get exactly to my liking. So it is necessary that I
keep laboring at it until the figure is to my thinking and my desire."

"But, Manuel, what need is there for you to model it at all?"

"Because my mother, sir, was always very anxious for me to make a figure
in the world, and when she lay a-dying I promised her that I would do
so, and then she put a geas upon me to do it."

"Ah, to be sure! but are you certain it was this kind of figure she
meant?"

"Yes, for I have often heard her say that, when I grew up, she wanted me
to make myself a splendid and admirable young man in every respect. So
it is necessary that I make the figure of a young man, for my mother was
not of these parts, but a woman of Ath Cliath, and so she put a geas
upon me--"

"Yes, yes, you had mentioned this geas, and I am wondering what sort of
a something is this geas."

"It is what you might call a bond or an obligation, sir, only it is of
the particularly strong and unreasonable and affirmative and secret sort
which the Virbolg use."

The stranger now looked from the figure to Manuel, and the stranger
deliberated the question (which later was to puzzle so many people) if
any human being could be as simple as Manuel appeared. Manuel at twenty
was not yet the burly giant he became. But already he was a gigantic and
florid person, so tall that the heads of few men reached to his
shoulder; a person of handsome exterior, high featured and blond, having
a narrow small head, and vivid light blue eyes, and the chest of a
stallion; a person whose left eyebrow had an odd oblique droop, so that
the stupendous boy at his simplest appeared to be winking the
information that he was in jest.

All in all, the stranger found this young swineherd ambiguous; and there
was another curious thing too which the stranger noticed about Manuel.

"Is it on account of this geas," asked the stranger, "that a great lock
has been sheared away from your yellow hair?"

In an instant Manuel's face became dark and wary. "No," he said, "that
has nothing to do with my geas, and we must not talk about that"

"Now you are a queer lad to be having such an obligation upon your head,
and to be having well-nigh half the hair cut away from your head, and to
be having inside your head such notions. And while small harm has ever
come from humoring one's mother, yet I wonder at you, Manuel, that you
should sit here sleeping in the sunlight among your pigs, and be giving
your young time to improbable sculpture and stagnant water, when there
is such a fine adventure awaiting you, and when the Norns are
foretelling such high things about you as they spin the thread of your
living."

"Hah, glory be to God, friend, but what is this adventure?"

"The adventure is that the Count of Arnaye's daughter yonder has been
carried off by a magician, and that the high Count Demetrios offers much
wealth and broad lands, and his daughter's hand in marriage, too, to the
lad that will fetch back this lovely girl."

"I have heard talk of this in the kitchen of Arnaye, where I sometimes
sell them a pig. But what are such matters to a swineherd?"

"My lad, you are to-day a swineherd drowsing in the sun, as yesterday
you were a baby squalling in the cradle, but to-morrow you will be
neither of these if there by any truth whatever in the talking of the
Norns as they gossip at the foot of their ash-tree beside the door of
the Sylan's House."

Manuel appeared to accept the inevitable. He bowed his brightly colored
high head, saying gravely: "All honor be to Urdhr and Verdandi and
Skuld! If I am decreed to be the champion that is to rescue the Count of
Arnaye's daughter, it is ill arguing with the Norns. Come, tell me now,
how do you call this doomed magician, and how does one get to him to
sever his wicked head from his foul body?"

"Men speak of him as Miramon Lluagor, lord of the nine kinds of sleep
and prince of the seven madnesses. He lives in mythic splendor at the
top of the gray mountain called Vraidex, where he contrives all manner
of illusions, and, in particular, designs the dreams of men."

"Yes, in the kitchen of Arnaye, also, such was the report concerning
this Miramon: and not a person in the kitchen denied that this Miramon
is an ugly customer."

"He is the most subtle of magicians. None can withstand him, and nobody
can pass the terrible serpentine designs which Miramon has set to guard
the gray scarps of Vraidex, unless one carries the more terrible sword
Flamberge, which I have here in its blue scabbard."

"Why, then, it is you who must rescue the Count's daughter."

"No, that would not do at all: for there is in the life of a champion
too much of turmoil and of buffetings and murderings to suit me, who am
a peace-loving person. Besides, to the champion who rescues the Lady
Gisèle will be given her hand in marriage, and as I have a wife, I know
that to have two wives would lead to twice too much dissension to suit
me, who am a peace-loving person. So I think it is you who had better
take the sword and the adventure."

"Well," Manuel said, "much wealth and broad lands and a lovely wife are
finer things to ward than a parcel of pigs."

So Manuel girded on the charmed scabbard, and with the charmed sword he
sadly demolished the clay figure he could not get quite right. Then
Manuel sheathed Flamberge, and Manuel cried farewell to the pigs.

"I shall not ever return to you, my pigs, because, at worst, to die
valorously is better than to sleep out one's youth in the sun. A man has
but one life. It is his all. Therefore I now depart from you, my pigs,
to win me a fine wife and much wealth and leisure wherein to discharge
my geas. And when my geas is lifted I shall not come back to you, my
pigs, but I shall travel everywhither, and into the last limits of
earth, so that I may see the ends of this world and may judge them while
my life endures. For after that, they say, I judge not, but am judged:
and a man whose life has gone out of him, my pigs, is not even good
bacon."

"So much rhetoric for the pigs," says the stranger, "is well enough, and
likely to please them. But come, is there not some girl or another to
whom you should be saying good-bye with other things than words?"

"No, at first I thought I would also bid farewell to Suskind, who is
sometimes friendly with me in the twilight wood, but upon reflection it
seems better not to. For Suskind would probably weep, and exact promises
of eternal fidelity, and otherwise dampen the ardor with which I look
toward to-morrow and the winning of the wealthy Count of Arnaye's lovely
daughter."

"Now, to be sure, you are a queer cool candid fellow, you young Manuel,
who will go far, whether for good or evil!"

"I do not know about good or evil. But I am Manuel, and I shall follow
after my own thinking and my own desires."

"And certainly it is no less queer you should be saying that: for, as
everybody knows, that used to be the favorite byword of your namesake
the famous Count Manuel who is so newly dead in Poictesme yonder."

At that the young swineherd nodded, gravely. "I must accept the omen,
sir. For, as I interpret it, my great namesake has courteously made way
for me, in order that I may go far beyond him."

Then Manuel cried farewell and thanks to the mild-mannered, snub-nosed
stranger, and Manuel left the miller's pigs to their own devices by the
pool of Haranton, and Manuel marched away in his rags to meet a fate
that was long talked about.

[Illustration]



II


Niafer


The first thing of all that Manuel did, was to fill a knapsack with
simple and nutritious food, and then he went to the gray mountain called
Vraidex, upon the remote and cloud-wrapped summit of which dread Miramon
Lluagor dwelt, in a doubtful palace wherein the lord of the nine sleeps
contrived illusions and designed the dreams of men. When Manuel had
passed under some very old maple-trees, and was beginning the ascent, he
found a smallish, flat-faced, dark-haired boy going up before him.

"Hail, snip," says Manuel, "and whatever are you doing in this perilous
place?"

"Why, I am going," the dark-haired boy replied, "to find out how the
Lady Gisèle d'Arnaye is faring on the tall top of this mountain."

"Oho, then we will undertake this adventure together, for that is my
errand too. And when the adventure is fulfilled, we will fight together,
and the survivor will have the wealth and broad lands and the Count's
daughter to sit on his knee. What do they call you, friend?"

"I am called Niafer. But I believe that the Lady Gisèle is already
married, to Miramon Lluagor. At least, I sincerely hope she is married
to this great magician, for otherwise it would not be respectable for
her to be living with him at the top of this gray mountain."

"Fluff and puff! what does that matter?" says Manuel. "There is no law
against a widow's remarrying forthwith: and widows are quickly made by
any champion about whom the wise Norns are already talking. But I must
not tell you about that, Niafer, because I do not wish to appear
boastful. So I must simply say to you, Niafer, that I am called Manuel,
and have no other title as yet, being not yet even a baron."

"Come now," says Niafer, "but you are rather sure of yourself for a
young boy!"

"Why, of what may I be sure in this shifting world if not of myself?"

"Our elders, Manuel, declare that such self-conceit is a fault, and our
elders, they say, are wiser than we."

"Our elders, Niafer, have long had the management of this world's
affairs, and you can see for yourself what they have made of these
affairs. What sort of a world is it, I ask you, in which time peculates
the gold from hair and the crimson from all lips, and the north wind
carries away the glow and glory and contentment of October, and a
driveling old magician steals a lovely girl? Why, such maraudings are
out of reason, and show plainly that our elders have no notion how to
manage things."

"Eh, Manuel, and will you re-model the world?"

"Who knows?" says Manuel, in the high pride of his youth. "At all
events, I do not mean to leave it unaltered."

Then Niafer, a more prosaic person, gave him a long look compounded
equally of admiration and pity, but Niafer did not dispute the matter.
Instead, these two pledged constant fealty until they should have
rescued Madame Gisèle.

"Then we will fight for her," says Manuel, again.

"First, Manuel, let me see her face, and then let me see her state of
mind, and afterward I will see about fighting you. Meanwhile, this is a
very tall mountain, and the climbing of it will require all the breath
which we are wasting here."

So the two began the ascent of Vraidex, by the winding road upon which
the dreams traveled when they were sent down to men by the lord of the
seven madnesses. All gray rock was the way at first. But they soon
reached the gnawed bones of those who had ascended before them,
scattered about a small plain that was overgrown with ironweed: and
through and over the tall purple blossoms came to destroy the boys the
Serpent of the East, a very dreadful design with which Miramon afflicted
the sleep of Lithuanians and Tartars. The snake rode on a black horse, a
black falcon perched on his head, and a black hound followed him. The
horse stumbled, the falcon clamored, the hound howled.

Then said the snake: "My steed, why do you stumble? my hound, why do you
howl? and, my falcon, why do you clamor? For these three doings foresay
some ill to me."

"Oh, a great ill!" replies Manuel, with his charmed sword already half
out of the scabbard.

But Niafer cried: "An endless ill is foresaid by these doings. For I
have been to the Island of the Oaks: and under the twelfth oak was a
copper casket, and in the casket was a purple duck, and in the duck was
an egg: and in the egg, O Norka, was and is your death."

"It is true that my death is in such an egg," said the Serpent of the
East, "but nobody will ever find that egg, and therefore I am resistless
and immortal."

"To the contrary, the egg, as you can perceive, is in my hand; and when
I break this egg you will die, and it is smaller worms than you that
will be thanking me for their supper this night."

The serpent looked at the poised egg, and he trembled and writhed so
that his black scales scattered everywhither scintillations of reflected
sunlight. He cried, "Give me the egg, and I will permit you two to
ascend unmolested, to a more terrible destruction."

Niafer was not eager to do this, but Manuel thought it best, and so at
last Niafer consented to the bargain, for the sake of the serpent's
children. Then the two lads went upward, while the serpent bandaged the
eyes of his horse and of his hound, and hooded his falcon, and crept
gingerly away to hide the egg in an unmentionable place.

"But how in the devil," says Manuel, "did you manage to come by that
invaluable egg?"

"It is a quite ordinary duck egg, Manuel. But the Serpent of the East
has no way of discovering the fact unless he breaks the egg: and that is
the one thing the serpent will never do, because he thinks it is the
magic egg which contains his death."

"Come, Niafer, you are not handsome to look at, but you are far cleverer
than I thought you!"

Now, as Manuel clapped Niafer on the shoulder, the forest beside the
roadway was agitated, and the underbrush crackled, and the tall
beech-trees crashed and snapped and tumbled helter-skelter. The crust of
the earth was thus broken through by the Serpent of the North. Only the
head and throat of this design of Miramon's was lifted from the jumbled
trees, for it was requisite of course that the serpent's lower coils
should never loose their grip upon the foundations of Norroway. All of
the design that showed was overgrown with seaweed and barnacles.

"It is the will of Miramon Lluagor that I forthwith demolish you both,"
says this serpent, yawning with a mouth like a fanged cave.

Once more young Manuel had reached for his charmed sword Flamberge, but
it was Niafer who spoke.

"No, for before you can destroy me," says Niafer, "I shall have cast
this bridle over your head."

"What sort of bridle is that?" inquired the great snake scornfully.

"And are those goggling flaming eyes not big enough and bright enough to
see that this is the soft bridle called Gleipnir, which is made of the
breath of fish and of the spittle of birds and of the footfall of a
cat?"

"Now, although certainly such a bridle was foretold," the snake
conceded, a little uneasily, "how can I make sure that you speak the
truth when you say this particular bridle is Gleipnir?"

"Why, in this way: I will cast the bridle over your head, and then you
will see for yourself that the old prophecy will be fulfilled, and that
all power and all life will go out of you, and that the Northmen will
dream no more."

"No, do you keep that thing away from me, you little fool! No, no: we
will not test your truthfulness in that way. Instead, do you two
continue your ascent, to a more terrible destruction, and to face
barbaric dooms coming from the West. And do you give me the bridle to
demolish in place of you. And then, if I live forever I shall know that
this is indeed Gleipnir, and that you have spoken the truth."

So Niafer consented to this testing of his veracity, rather than permit
this snake to die, and the foundations of Norroway (in which kingdom,
Niafer confessed, he had an aunt then living) thus to be dissolved by
the loosening of the dying serpent's grip upon Middlegarth. The bridle
was yielded, and Niafer and Manuel went upward.

Manuel asked, "Snip, was that in truth the bridle called Gleipnir?"

"No, Manuel, it is an ordinary bridle. But this Serpent of the North has
no way of discovering this fact except by fitting the bridle over his
head: and this one thing the serpent will never do, because he knows
that then, if my bridle proved to be Gleipnir, all power and all life
would go out of him."

"O subtle, ugly little snip!" says Manuel: and again he patted Niafer on
the shoulder. Then Manuel spoke very highly in praise of cleverness, and
said that, for one, he had never objected to it in its place.

[Illustration]



III


Ascent of Vraidex


Now it was evening, and the two sought shelter in a queer windmill by
the roadside, finding there a small wrinkled old man in a patched coat.
He gave them lodgings for the night, and honest bread and cheese, but
for his own supper he took frogs out of his bosom, and roasted these in
the coals.

Then the two boys sat in the doorway, and watched that night's dreams
going down from Vraidex to their allotted work in the world of visionary
men, to whom these dreams were passing in the form of incredible white
vapors. Sitting thus, the lads fell to talking of this and the other,
and Manuel found that Niafer was a pagan of the old faith: and this,
said Manuel, was an excellent thing.

"For, when we have achieved our adventure," says Manuel, "and must fight
against each other for the Count's daughter, I shall certainly kill you,
dear Niafer. Now if you were a Christian, and died thus unholily in
trying to murder me, you would have to go thereafter to the unquenchable
flames of purgatory or to even hotter flames: but among the pagans all
that die valiantly in battle go straight to the pagan paradise. Yes,
yes, your abominable religion is a great comfort to me."

"It is a comfort to me also, Manuel. But, as a Christian, you ought not
ever to have any kind words for heathenry."

"Ah, but," says Manuel, "while my mother Dorothy of the White Arms was
the most zealous sort of Christian, my father, you must know, was not a
communicant."

"Who was your father, Manuel?"

"No less a person than the Swimmer, Oriander, who is in turn the son of
Mimir."

"Ah, to be sure! and who is Mimir?"

"Well, Niafer, that is a thing not very generally known, but he is famed
for his wise head."

"And, Manuel, who, while we speak of it, is Oriander?"

Said Manuel:

"Oh, out of the void and the darkness that is peopled by Mimir's brood,
from the ultimate silent fastness of the desolate deep-sea gloom, and
the peace of that ageless gloom, blind Oriander came, from Mimir, to be
at war with the sea and to jeer at the sea's desire. When tempests are
seething and roaring from the Aesir's inverted bowl all seamen have
heard his shouting and the cry that his mirth sends up: when the rim of
the sea tilts up, and the world's roof wavers down, his face gleams
white where distraught waves smite the Swimmer they may not tire. No
eyes were allotted this Swimmer, but in blindness, with ceaseless jeers,
he battles till time be done with, and the love-songs of earth be sung,
and the very last dirge be sung, and a baffled and outworn sea
begrudgingly own Oriander alone may mock at the might of its ire."

"Truly, Manuel, that sounds like a parent to be proud of, and not at all
like a church-going parent, and of course his blindness would account
for that squint of yours. Yes, certainly it would. So do you tell me
about this blind Oriander, and how he came to meet your mother Dorothy
of the White Arms, as I suppose he did somewhere or other."

"Oh, no," says Manuel, "for Oriander never leaves off swimming, and so
he must stay always in the water. So he never actually met my mother,
and she married Emmerick, who was my nominal father. But such and such
things happened."

Then Manuel told Niafer all about the circumstances of Manuel's birth in
a cave, and about the circumstances of Manuel's upbringing in and near
Rathgor and the two boys talked on and on, while the unborn dreams went
drifting by outside; and within the small wrinkled old man sat listening
with a very doubtful smile, and saying never a word.

"And why is your hair cut so queerly, Manuel?"

"That, Niafer, we need not talk about, in part because it is not going
to be cut that way any longer, and in part because it is time for bed."

The next morning Manuel and Niafer paid the ancient price which their
host required. They left him cobbling shoes, and, still ascending,
encountered no more bones, for nobody else had climbed so high. They
presently came to a bridge whereon were eight spears, and the bridge was
guarded by the Serpent of the West. This snake was striped with blue and
gold, and wore on his head a great cap of humming-birds' feathers.

Manuel half drew his sword to attack this serpentine design, with which
Miramon Lluagor made sleeping terrible for the red tribes that hunt and
fish behind the Hesperides. But Manuel looked at Niafer.

And Niafer displayed a drolly marked small turtle, saying, "Maskanako,
do you not recognize Tulapin, the turtle that never lies?"

The serpent howled, as though a thousand dogs had been kicked
simultaneously, and the serpent fled.

"Why, snip, did he do that?" asked Manuel, smiling sleepily and gravely,
as for the third time he found that his charmed sword Flamberge was
unneeded.

"Truly, Manuel, nobody knows why this serpent dreads the turtle: but our
concern is less with the cause than with the effect. Meanwhile, those
eight spears are not to be touched on any account."

"Is what you have a quite ordinary turtle?" asked Manuel, meekly.

Niafer said: "Of course it is. Where would I be getting extraordinary
turtles?"

"I had not previously considered that problem," replied Manuel, "but the
question is certainly unanswerable."

They then sat down to lunch, and found the bread and cheese they had
purchased from the little old man that morning was turned to lumps of
silver and virgin gold in Manuel's knapsack. "This is very disgusting,"
said Manuel, "and I do not wonder my back was near breaking." He flung
away the treasure, and they lunched frugally on blackberries.

From among the entangled blackberry bushes came the glowing Serpent of
the South, who was the smallest and loveliest and most poisonous of
Miramon's designs. With this snake Niafer dealt curiously. Niafer
employed three articles in the transaction: two of these things are not
to be talked about, but the third was a little figure carved in
hazel-wood.

"Certainly you are very clever," said Manuel, when they had passed this
serpent. "Still, your employment of those first two articles was
unprecedented, and your disposal of the carved figure absolutely
embarrassed me."

"Before such danger as confronted us, Manuel, it does not pay to be
squeamish," replied Niafer, "and my exorcism was good Dirgham."

And many other adventures and perils they encountered, such as if all
were told would make a long and most improbable history. But they had
clear favorable weather, and they won through each pinch, by one or
another fraud which Niafer evolved the instant that gullery was needed.
Manuel was loud in his praises of the surprising cleverness of his
flat-faced dark comrade, and protested that hourly he loved Niafer more
and more: and Manuel said too that he was beginning to think more and
more distastefully of the time when Niafer and Manuel would have to
fight for the Count of Arnaye's daughter until one of them had killed
the other.

Meanwhile the sword Flamberge stayed in its curious blue scabbard.

[Illustration]



IV


In the Doubtful Palace


So Manuel and Niafer came unhurt to the top of the gray mountain called
Vraidex, and to the doubtful palace of Miramon Lluagor. Gongs, slowly
struck, were sounding as if in languid dispute among themselves, when
the two lads came across a small level plain where grass was
interspersed with white clover. Here and there stood wicked looking
dwarf trees with violet and yellow foliage. The doubtful palace before
the circumspectly advancing boys appeared to be constructed of black and
gold lacquer, and it was decorated with the figures of butterflies and
tortoises and swans.

This day being a Thursday, Manuel and Niafer entered unchallenged
through gates of horn and ivory; and came into a red corridor in which
five gray beasts, like large hairless cats, were casting dice. These
animals grinned, and licked their lips, as the boys passed deeper into
the doubtful palace.

In the centre of the palace Miramon had set like a tower one of the
tusks of Behemoth: the tusk was hollowed out into five large rooms, and
in the inmost room, under a canopy with green tassels, they found the
magician.

"Come forth, and die now, Miramon Lluagor!" shouts Manuel, brandishing
his sword, for which, at last, employment was promised here.

The magician drew closer about him his old threadbare dressing-gown, and
he desisted from his enchantments, and he put aside a small unfinished
design, which scuttled into the fireplace, whimpering. And Manuel
perceived that the dreadful prince of the seven madnesses had the
appearance of the mild-mannered stranger who had given Manuel the
charmed sword.

"Ah, yes, it was good of you to come so soon," says Miramon Lluagor,
rearing back his head, and narrowing his gentle and sombre eyes, as the
magician looked at them down the sides of what little nose he had. "Yes,
and your young friend, too, is very welcome. But you boys must be quite
worn out, after toiling up this mountain, so do you sit down and have a
cup of wine before I surrender my dear wife."

Says Manuel, sternly, "But what is the meaning of all this?"

"The meaning and the upshot, clearly," replied the magician, "is that,
since you have the charmed sword Flamberge, and since the wearer of
Flamberge is irresistible, it would be nonsense for me to oppose you."

"But, Miramon, it was you who gave me the sword!"

Miramon rubbed his droll little nose for a while, before speaking. "And
how else was I to get conquered? For, I must tell you, Manuel, it is a
law of the Léshy that a magician cannot surrender his prey unless the
magician be conquered. I must tell you, too, that when I carried off
Gisèle I acted, as I by and by discovered, rather injudiciously."

"Now, by holy Paul and Pollux! I do not understand this at all,
Miramon."

"Why, Manuel, you must know she was a very charming girl, and in
appearance just the type that I had always fancied for a wife. But
perhaps it is not wise to be guided entirely by appearances. For I find
now that she has a strong will in her white bosom, and a tireless tongue
in her glittering head, and I do not equally admire all four of these
possessions."

"Still, Miramon, if only a few months back your love was so great as to
lead you into abducting her--"

The prince of the seven madnesses said gravely:

"Love, as I think, is an instant's fusing of shadow and substance. They
that aspire to possess love utterly, fall into folly. This is forbidden:
you cannot. The lover, beholding that fusing move as a golden-hued
goddess, accessible, kindly and priceless, wooes and ill-fatedly wins
all the substance. The golden-hued shadow dims in the dawn of his
married life, dulled with content, and the shadow vanishes. So there
remains, for the puzzled husband's embracing, flesh which is fair and
dear, no doubt, yet is flesh such as his; and talking and talking and
talking; and kisses in all ways desirable. Love, of a sort, too remains,
but hardly the love that was yesterday's."

Now the unfinished design came out of the fireplace, and climbed up
Miramon's leg, still faintly whimpering. He looked at it meditatively,
then twisted off the creature's head and dropped the fragments into his
waste-basket.

Miramon sighed. He said:

"This is the cry of all husbands that now are or may be
hereafter,--'What has become of the girl that I married? and how should
I rightly deal with this woman whom somehow time has involved in my
doings? Love, of a sort, now I have for her, but not the love that was
yesterday's--'"

While Miramon spoke thus, the two lads were looking at each other
blankly: for they were young, and their understanding of this matter was
as yet withheld.

Then said Miramon:

"Yes, he is wiser that shelters his longing from any such surfeit. Yes,
he is wiser that knows the shadow makes lovely the substance, wisely
regarding the ways of that irresponsible shadow which, if you grasp at
it, flees, and, when you avoid it, will follow, gilding all life with
its glory, and keeping always one woman young and most fair and most
wise, and unwon; and keeping you always never contented, but armed with
a self-respect that no husband manages quite to retain in the face of
being contented. No, for love is an instant's fusing of shadow and
substance, fused for that instant only, whereafter the lover may harvest
pleasure from either alone, but hardly from these two united."

"Well," Manuel conceded, "all this may be true; but I never quite
understood hexameters, and so I could not ever see the good of talking
in them."

"I always do that, Manuel, when I am deeply affected. It is, I suppose,
the poetry in my nature welling to the surface the moment that
inhibitions are removed, for when I think about the impending severance
from my dear wife I more or less lose control of myself--You see, she
takes an active interest in my work, and that does not do with a
creative artist in any line. Oh, dear me, no, not for a moment!" says
Miramon, forlornly.

"But how can that be?" Niafer asked him.

"As all persons know, I design the dreams of men. Now Gisèle asserts
that people have enough trouble in real life, without having to go to
sleep to look for it--"

"Certainly that is true," says Niafer.

"So she permits me only to design bright optimistic dreams and edifying
dreams and glad dreams. She says you must give tired persons what they
most need; and is emphatic about the importance of everybody's sleeping
in a wholesome atmosphere. So I have not been permitted to design a fine
nightmare or a creditable terror--nothing morbid or blood-freezing, no
sea-serpents or krakens or hippogriffs, nor anything that gives me a
really free hand,--for months and months: and my art suffers. Then, as
for other dreams, of a more roguish nature--"

"What sort of dreams can you be talking about, I wonder, Miramon?"

The magician described what he meant. "Such dreams also she has quite
forbidden," he added, with a sigh.

"I see," said Manuel: "and now I think of it, it is true that I have not
had a dream of that sort for quite a while."

"No man anywhere is allowed to have that sort of dream in these
degenerate nights, no man anywhere in the whole world. And here again my
art suffers, for my designs in this line were always especially vivid
and effective, and pleased the most rigid. Then, too, Gisèle is always
doing and telling me things for my own good--In fine, my lads, my wife
takes such a flattering interest in all my concerns that the one way out
for any peace-loving magician was to contrive her rescue from my
clutches," said Miramon, fretfully.

"It is difficult to explain to you, Manuel, just now, but after you have
been married to Gisèle for a while you will comprehend without any
explaining."

"Now, Miramon, I marvel to see a great magician controlled by a woman
who is in his power, and who can, after all, do nothing but talk."

Miramon for some while considered Manuel, rather helplessly. "Unmarried
men do wonder about that," said Miramon. "At all events, I will summon
her, and you can explain how you have conquered me, and then you can
take her away and marry her yourself, and Heaven help you!"

"But shall I explain that it was you who gave me the resistless sword?"

"No, Manuel: no, you should be candid within more rational limits. For
you are now a famous champion, that has crowned with victory a righteous
cause for which many stalwart knights and gallant gentlemen have made
the supreme sacrifice, because they knew that in the end the right must
conquer. Your success thus represents the working out of a great moral
principle, and to explain the practical minutiae of these august
processes is not always quite respectable. Besides, if Gisèle thought I
wished to get rid of her she would most certainly resort to comments of
which I prefer not to think."

But now into the room came the magician's wife, Gisèle.

"She is, certainly, rather pretty," said Niafer, to Manuel.

Said Manuel, rapturously: "She is the finest and loveliest creature that
I have ever seen. Beholding her unequalled beauty, I know that here are
all the dreams of yesterday fulfilled. I recollect, too, my songs of
yesterday, which I was used to sing to my pigs, about my love for a far
princess who was 'white as a lily, more red than roses, and resplendent
as rubies of the Orient,' for here I find my old songs to be applicable,
if rather inadequate. And by this shabby villain's failure to appreciate
the unequalled beauty of his victim I am amazed."

"As to that, I have my suspicions," Niafer replied. "And now she is
about to speak I believe she will justify these suspicions, for Madame
Gisèle is in no placid frame of mind."

"What is this nonsense," says the proud shining lady, to Miramon
Lluagor, "that I hear about your having been conquered?"

"Alas, my love, it is perfectly true. This champion has, in some
inexplicable way, come by the magic weapon Flamberge which is the one
weapon wherewith I can be conquered. So I have yielded to him, and he is
about, I think, to sever my head from my body."

The beautiful girl was indignant, because she had recognized that,
magician or no, there is small difference in husbands after the first
month or two; and with Miramon tolerably well trained, she had no
intention of changing him for another husband. Therefore Gisèle
inquired, "And what about me?" in a tone that foreboded turmoil.

The magician rubbed his hands, uncomfortably. "My dear, I am of course
quite powerless before Flamberge. Inasmuch as your rescue appears to
have been effected in accordance with every rule in these matters, and
the victorious champion is resolute to requite my evil-doing and to
restore you to your grieving parents, I am afraid there is nothing I can
well do about it."

"Do you look me in the eye, Miramon Lluagor!" says the Lady Gisèle. The
dreadful prince of the seven madnesses obeyed her, with a placating
smile. "Yes, you have been up to something," she said, "And Heaven only
knows what, though of course it does not really matter."

Madame Gisèle then looked at Manuel "So you are the champion that has
come to rescue me!" she said, unhastily, as her big sapphire eyes
appraised him over her great fan of gaily colored feathers, and as
Manuel somehow began to fidget.

Gisèle looked last of all at Niafer. "I must say you have been long
enough in coming," observed Gisèle.

"It took me two days, madame, to find and catch a turtle," Niafer
replied, "and that delayed me."

"Oh, you have always some tale or other, trust you for that, but it is
better late than never. Come, Niafer, and do you know anything about
this gawky, ragtag, yellow-haired young champion?"

"Yes, madame, he formerly lived in attendance upon the miller's pigs,
down Rathgor way, and I have seen him hanging about the kitchen at
Arnaye."

Gisèle turned now toward the magician, with her thin gold chains and the
innumerable brilliancies of her jewels flashing no more brightly than
flashed the sapphire of her eyes. "There!" she said, terribly: "and you
were going to surrender me to a swineherd, with half the hair chopped
from his head, and with the shirt sticking out of both his ragged
elbows!"

"My dearest, irrespective of tonsorial tastes, and disregarding all
sartorial niceties, and swineherd or not, he holds the magic sword
Flamberge, before which all my powers are nothing."

"But that is easily settled. Have men no sense whatever! Boy, do you
give me that sword, before you hurt yourself fiddling with it, and let
us have an end of this nonsense."

Thus the proud lady spoke, and for a while the victorious champion
regarded her with very youthful looking, hurt eyes. But he was not
routed.

"Madame Gisèle," replied Manuel, "gawky and poorly clad and young as I
may be, so long as I retain this sword I am master of you all and of the
future too. Yielding it, I yield everything my elders have taught me to
prize, for my grave elders have taught me that much wealth and broad
lands and a lovely wife are finer things to ward than a parcel of pigs.
So, if I yield at all, I must first bargain and get my price for
yielding."

He turned now from Gisèle to Niafer. "Dear snip," said Manuel, "you too
must have your say in my bargaining, because from the first it has been
your cleverness that has saved us, and has brought us two so high. For
see, at last I have drawn Flamberge, and I stand at last at the doubtful
summit of Vraidex, and I am master of the hour and of the future. I have
but to sever the wicked head of this doomed magician from his foul body,
and that will be the end of him--"

"No, no," says Miramon, soothingly, "I shall merely be turned into
something else, which perhaps we had better not discuss. But it will not
inconvenience me in the least, so do you not hold back out of mistaken
kindness to me, but instead do you smite, and take your well-earned
reward."

"Either way," submitted Manuel, "I have but to strike, and I acquire
much wealth and sleek farming-lands and a lovely wife, and the swineherd
becomes a great nobleman. But it is you, Niafer, who have won all these
things for me with your cleverness, and to me it seems that these
wonderful rewards are less wonderful than my dear comrade."

"But you too are very wonderful," said Niafer, loyally.

Says Manuel, smiling sadly: "I am not so wonderful but that in the hour
of my triumph I am frightened by my own littleness. Look you, Niafer, I
had thought I would be changed when I had become a famous champion, but
for all that I stand posturing here with this long sword, and am master
of the hour and of the future, I remain the boy that last Thursday was
tending pigs. I was not afraid of the terrors which beset me on my way
to rescue the Count's daughter, but of the Count's daughter herself I am
horribly afraid. Not for worlds would I be left alone with her. No, such
fine and terrific ladies are not for swineherds, and it is another sort
of wife that I desire."

"Whom then do you desire for a wife," says Niafer, "if not the loveliest
and the wealthiest lady in all Rathgor and Lower Targamon?"

"Why, I desire the cleverest and dearest and most wonderful creature in
all the world," says Manuel,--"whom I recollect seeing some six weeks
ago when I was in the kitchen at Arnaye."

"Ah, ah! it might be arranged, then. But who is this marvelous woman?"

Manuel said, "You are that woman, Niafer."

Niafer replied nothing, but Niafer smiled. Niafer raised one shoulder a
little, rubbing it against Manuel's broad chest, but Niafer still kept
silence. So the two young people regarded each other for a while, not
speaking, and to every appearance not valuing Miramon Lluagor and his
encompassing enchantments at a straw's worth, nor valuing anything save
each other.

"All things are changed for me," says Manuel, presently, in a hushed
voice, "and for the rest of time I live in a world wherein Niafer
differs from all other persons."

"My dearest," Niafer replied, "there is no sparkling queen nor polished
princess anywhere but the woman's heart in her would be jumping with joy
to have you looking at her twice, and I am only a servant girl!"

"But certainly," said the rasping voice of Gisèle, "Niafer is my
suitably disguised heathen waiting-woman, to whom my husband sent a
dream some while ago, with instructions to join me here, so that I might
have somebody to look after my things. So, Niafer, since you were
fetched to wait on me, do you stop pawing at that young pig-tender, and
tell me what is this I hear about your remarkable cleverness!"

Instead, it was Manuel who proudly told of the shrewd devices through
which Niafer had passed the serpents and the other terrors of sleep. And
the while that the tall boy was boasting, Miramon Lluagor smiled, and
Gisèle looked very hard at Niafer: for Miramon and his wife both knew
that the cleverness of Niafer was as far to seek as her good looks, and
that the dream which Miramon had sent had carefully instructed Niafer as
to these devices.

"Therefore, Madame Gisèle," says Manuel, in conclusion, "I will give you
Flamberge, and Miramon and Vraidex, and all the rest of earth to boot,
in exchange for the most wonderful and clever woman in the world."

And with a flourish, Manuel handed over the charmed sword Flamberge to
the Count's lovely daughter, and he took the hand of the swart,
flat-faced servant girl.

"Come now," says Miramon, in a sad flurry, "this is an imposing
performance. I need not say it arouses in me the most delightful sort of
surprise and all other appropriate emotions. But as touches your own
interests, Manuel, do you think your behavior is quite sensible?"

Tall Manuel looked down upon him with a sort of scornful pity. "Yes,
Miramon: for I am Manuel, and I follow after my own thinking and my own
desire. Of course it is very fine of me to be renouncing so much wealth
and power for the sake of my wonderful dear Niafer: but she is worth the
sacrifice, and, besides, she is witnessing all this magnanimity, and
cannot well fail to be impressed."

Niafer was of course reflecting: "This is very foolish and dear of him,
and I shall be compelled, in mere decency, to pretend to corresponding
lunacies for the first month or so of our marriage. After that, I hope,
we will settle down to some more reasonable way of living."

Meanwhile she regarded Manuel fondly, and quite as though she considered
him to be displaying unusual intelligence.

But Gisèle and Miramon were looking at each other, and wondering: "What
can the long-legged boy see in this stupid and plain-featured girl who
is years older than he? or she in the young swaggering ragged fool? And
how much wiser and happier is our marriage than, in any event, the
average marriage!"

And Miramon, for one, was so deeply moved by the staggering thought
which holds together so many couples in the teeth of human nature that
he patted his wife's hand. Then he sighed. "Love has conquered my
designs," said Miramon, oracularly, "and the secret of a contented
marriage, after all, is to pay particular attention to the wives of
everybody else."

Gisèle exhorted him not to be a fool, but she spoke without acerbity,
and, speaking, she squeezed his hand. She understood this potent
magician better than she intended ever to permit him to suspect.

Whereafter Miramon wiped the heavenly bodies from the firmament, and set
a miraculous rainbow there, and under its arch was enacted for the
swineherd and the servant girl such a betrothal masque of fantasies and
illusions as gave full scope to the art of Miramon, and delighted
everybody, but delighted Miramon in particular. The dragon that guards
hidden treasure made sport for them, the naiads danced, and cherubim
fluttered about singing very sweetly and asking droll conundrums. Then
they feasted, with unearthly servitors to attend them, and did all else
appropriate to an affiancing of deities. And when these junketings were
over, Manuel said that, since it seemed he was not to be a wealthy
nobleman after all, he and Niafer must be getting, first to the nearest
priest's and then back to the pigs.

"I am not so sure that you can manage it," said Miramon, "for, while the
ascent of Vraidex is incommoded by serpents, the quitting of Vraidex is
very apt to be hindered by death and fate. For I must tell you I have a
rather arbitrary half-brother, who is one of those dreadful Realists,
without a scrap of aesthetic feeling, and there is no controlling him."

"Well," Manuel considered, "one cannot live forever among dreams, and
death and fate must be encountered by all men. So we can but try."

Now for a while the sombre eyes of Miramon Lluagor appraised them. He,
who was lord of the nine sleeps and prince of the seven madnesses, now
gave a little sigh; for he knew that these young people were enviable
and, in the outcome, were unimportant.

So Miramon said, "Then do you go your way, and if you do not encounter
the author and destroyer of us all it will be well for you, and if you
do encounter him that too will be well in that it is his wish."

"I neither seek nor avoid him," Manuel replied. "I only know that I must
follow after my own thinking, and after a desire which is not to be
satisfied with dreams, even though they be"--the boy appeared to search
for a comparison, then, smiling, said,--"as resplendent as rubies of the
Orient."

Thereafter Manuel bid farewell to Miramon and Miramon's fine wife, and
Manuel descended from marvelous Vraidex with his plain-featured Niafer,
quite contentedly. For happiness went with them, if for no great way.

[Illustration]



V


The Eternal Ambuscade


Manuel and Niafer came down from Vraidex without hindrance. There was no
happier nor more devoted lover anywhere than young Manuel.

"For we will be married out of hand, dear snip," he says, "and you will
help me to discharge my geas, and afterward we will travel everywhither
and into the last limits of earth, so that we may see the ends of this
world and may judge them."

"Perhaps we had better wait until next spring, when the roads will be
better, Manuel, but certainly we will be married out of hand."

In earnest of this, Niafer permitted Manuel to kiss her again, and young
Manuel said, for the twenty-second time, "There is nowhere any happiness
like my happiness, nor any love like my love."

Thus speaking, and thus disporting themselves, they came leisurely to
the base of the gray mountain and to the old maple-trees, under which
they found two persons waiting. One was a tall man mounted on a white
horse, and leading a riderless black horse. His hat was pulled down
about his head so that his face could not be clearly seen.

Now the companion that was with him had the appearance of a bare-headed
youngster, with dark red hair, and his face too was hidden as he sat by
the roadway trimming his long finger-nails with a small green-handled
knife.

"Hail, friends," said Manuel, "and for whom are you waiting here?"

"I wait for one to ride on this black horse of mine," replied the
mounted stranger. "It was decreed that the first person who passed this
way must be his rider, but you two come abreast. So do you choose
between you which one rides."

"Well, but it is a fine steed surely," Manuel said, "and a steed fit for
Charlemagne or Hector or any of the famous champions of the old time."

"Each one of them has ridden upon this black horse of mine," replied the
stranger.

Niafer said, "I am frightened." And above them a furtive wind began to
rustle in the torn, discolored maple-leaves.

"--For it is a fine steed and an old steed," the stranger went on, "and
a tireless steed that bears all away. It has the fault, some say, that
its riders do not return, but there is no pleasing everybody."

"Friend," Manuel said, in a changed voice, "who are you, and what is
your name?"

"I am half-brother to Miramon Lluagor, lord of the nine sleeps, but I am
lord of another kind of sleeping; and as for my name, it is the name
that is in your thoughts and the name which most troubles you, and the
name which you think about most often."

There was silence. Manuel worked his lips foolishly. "I wish we had not
walked abreast," he said. "I wish we had remained among the bright
dreams."

"All persons voice some regret or another at meeting me. And it does not
ever matter."

"But if there were no choosing in the affair, I could make
shift to endure it, either way. Now one of us, you tell me, must depart
with you. If I say, 'Let Niafer be that one,' I must always recall that
saying with self-loathing."

"But I too say it!" Niafer was petting him and trembling.

"Besides," observed the rider of the white horse, "you have a choice of
sayings."

"The other saying," Manuel replied, "I cannot utter. Yet I wish I were
not forced to confess this. It sounds badly. At all events, I love
Niafer better than I love any other person, but I do not value Niafer's
life more highly than I value my own life, and it would be nonsense to
say so. No; my life is very necessary to me, and there is a geas upon me
to make a figure in this world before I leave it."

"My dearest," says Niafer, "you have chosen wisely."

The veiled horseman said nothing at all. But he took off his hat, and
the beholders shuddered. The kinship to Miramon was apparent, you could
see the resemblance, but they had never seen in Miramon Lluagor's face
what they saw here.

Then Niafer bade farewell to Manuel with pitiable whispered words. They
kissed. For an instant Manuel stood motionless. He queerly moved his
mouth, as though it were stiff and he were trying to make it more
supple. Thereafter Manuel, very sick and desperate looking, did what was
requisite. So Niafer went away with Grandfather Death, in Manuel's
stead.

"My heart cracks in me now," says Manuel, forlornly considering his
hands, "but better she than I. Still, this is a poor beginning in life,
for yesterday great wealth and to-day great love was within my reach,
and now I have lost both."

"But you did not go the right way about to win success in anything,"
says the remaining stranger.

And now this other stranger arose from the trimming of his long
fingernails; and you could see this was a tall, lean youngster (though
not so tall as Manuel, and nothing like so stalwart), with ruddy cheeks,
wide-set brown eyes, and crinkling, rather dark red hair.

Then Manuel rubbed his wet hands as clean as might be, and this boy
walked on a little way with Manuel, talking of that which had been and
of some things which were to be. And Manuel said, "Now assuredly,
Horvendile, since that is your name, such talking is insane talking, and
no comfort whatever to me in my grief at losing Niafer."

"This is but the beginning of your losses, Manuel, for I think that a
little by a little you will lose everything which is desirable, until
you shall have remaining at the last only a satiation, and a weariness,
and an uneasy loathing of all that the human wisdom of your elders shall
have induced you to procure."

"But, Horvendile, can anybody foretell the future? Or can it be that
Miramon spoke seriously in saying that fate also was enleagued to forbid
the leaving of this mountain?"

"No, Manuel, I do not say that I am fate nor any of the Léshy, but
rather it seems to me that I am insane. So perhaps the less attention
you pay to my talking, the better. For I must tell you that this wasted
country side, this mountain, this road, and these old maples, and that
rock yonder, appear to me to be things I have imagined, and that you,
and the Niafer whom you have just disposed of so untidily, and Miramon
and his fair shrew, and all of you, appear to me to be persons I have
imagined; and all the living in this world appears to me to be only a
notion of mine."

"Why, then, certainly I would say, or rather, I would think it
unnecessary to say, that you are insane."

"You speak without hesitation, and it is through your ability to settle
such whimseys out of hand that you will yet win, it may be, to success."

"Yes, but," asked Manuel, slowly, "what is success?"

"In your deep mind, I think, that question is already answered."

"Undoubtedly I have my notion, but it was about your notion I was
asking."

Horvendile looked grave, and yet whimsical too. "Why, I have heard
somewhere," says he, "that at its uttermost this success is but the
strivings of an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who
yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of
Omnipotence in a place that is not home."

Manuel appeared to reserve judgment. "How does the successful ape employ
himself, in these not quite friendly places?"

"He strives blunderingly, from mystery to mystery, with pathetic
makeshifts, not understanding anything, greedy in all desires, and
honeycombed with poltroonery, and yet ready to give all, and to die
fighting for the sake of that undemonstrable idea, about his being
Heaven's vicar and heir."

Manuel shook his small bright head. "You use too many long words. But so
far I can understand you, that is not the sort of success I want. No, I
am Manuel, and I must follow after my own thinking and my own desire,
without considering other people and their notions of success."

"As for denying yourself consideration for other people, I am of the
opinion, after witnessing your recent disposal of your sweetheart, that
you are already tolerably expert in that sort of abnegation."

"Hah, but you do not know what is seething here," replied Manuel,
smiting his broad chest. "And I shall not tell you of it, Horvendile,
since you are not fate nor any of the Léshy, to give me my desire."

"What would be your desire?"

"My wish would be for me always to obtain whatever I may wish for. Yes,
Horvendile, I have often wondered why, in the old legends, when three
wishes were being offered, nobody ever made that sensible and economical
wish the first of all."

"What need is there to trouble the Léshy about that foolish wish when it
is always possible, at a paid price, to obtain whatever one desires? You
have but to go about it in this way." And Horvendile told Manuel a queer
and dangerous thing. Then Horvendile said sadly: "So much knowledge I
can deny nobody at Michaelmas. But I must tell you the price also, and
it is that with the achieving of each desire you will perceive its
worth."

Thus speaking, Horvendile parted the thicket beside the roadway. A
beautiful dusk-colored woman waited there, in a green-blue robe, and on
her head was a blue coronet surmounted with green feathers: she carried
a vase. Horvendile stepped forward, and the thicket closed behind him,
concealing Horvendile and this woman.

Manuel, looking puzzled, went on a little way, and when he was assured
of being alone he flung himself face downward and wept. The reason of
this was, they relate, that young Manuel had loved Niafer as he could
love nobody else. Then he arose, and went toward the pool of Haranton,
on his way homeward, after having failed in everything.

[Illustration]



VI


Economics of Math


What forthwith happened at the pool of Haranton is not nicely adapted to
exact description, but it was sufficiently curious to give Manuel's
thoughts a new turn, although it did not seem, even so, to make them
happy thoughts. Certainly it was not with any appearance of merriment
that Manuel returned to his half-sister Math, who was the miller's wife.

"And wherever have you been all this week?" says Math, "with the pigs
rooting all over creation, and with that man of mine forever flinging
your worthlessness in my face, and with that red-haired Suskind coming
out of the twilight a-seeking after you every evening and pestering me
with her soft lamentations? And for the matter of that, whatever are you
glooming over?"

"I have cause, and cause to spare."

Manuel told her of his adventures upon Vraidex, and Math said that
showed what came of neglecting his proper business, which was attendance
on her husband's pigs. Manuel then told her of what had just befallen by
the pool of Haranton.

Math nodded. "Take shame to yourself, young rascal with your Niafer
hardly settled down in paradise, and with your Suskind wailing for you
in the twilight! But that would be Alianora the Unattainable Princess.
Thus she comes across the Bay of Biscay, traveling from the far land of
Provence, in, they say, the appearance of a swan: and thus she bathes in
the pool wherein strange dreams engender: and thus she slips into the
robe of the Apsarasas when it is high time to be leaving such impudent
knaves as you have proved yourself to be."

"Yes, yes! a shift made all of shining white feathers, Sister. Here is a
feather that was broken from it as I clutched at her."

Math turned the feather in her hand. "Now to be sure! and did you ever
see the like of it! Still, a broken feather is no good to anybody, and,
as I have told you any number of times, I cannot have trash littering up
my kitchen."

So Math dropped this shining white feather into the fire, on which she
was warming over a pot of soup for Manuel's dinner, and they watched
this feather burn.

Manuel says, sighing, "Even so my days consume, and my youth goes out of
me, in a land wherein Suskind whispers of uncomfortable things, and
wherein there are no maids so clever and dear as Niafer, nor so lovely
as Alianora."

Math said: "I never held with speaking ill of the dead. So may luck and
fair words go with your Niafer in her pagan paradise. Of your Suskind
too"--Math crossed herself,--"the less said, the better. But as for your
Alianora, no really nice girl would be flying in the face of heaven and
showing her ankles to five nations, and bathing, on a Monday too, in
places where almost anybody might come along. It is not proper, but I
wonder at her parents."

"But, Sister, she is a princess!"

"Just so: therefore I burned the feather, because it is not wholesome
for persons of our station in life to be robbing princesses of anything,
though it be only of a feather."

"Sister, that is the truth! It is not right to rob anybody of anything,
and this would appear to make another bond upon me and another
obligation to be discharged, because in taking that feather I have taken
what did not belong to me."

"Boy, do not think you are fooling me, for when your face gets that look
on it, I know you are considering some nonsense over and above the
nonsense you are talking. However, from your description of the affair,
I do not doubt that gallivanting, stark-naked princess thought you were
for taking what did not belong to you. Therefore I burned the feather,
lest it be recognized and bring you to the gallows or to a worse place.
So why did you not scrape your feet before coming into my clean kitchen?
and how many times do you expect me to speak to you about that?"

Manuel said nothing. But he seemed to meditate over something that
puzzled him. In the upshot he went into the miller's chicken-yard, and
caught a goose, and plucked from its wing a feather.

Then Manuel put on his Sunday clothes.

"Far too good for you to be traveling in," said Math.

Manuel looked down at his half-sister, and once or twice he blinked
those shining strange eyes of his. "Sister, if I had been properly
dressed when I was master of the doubtful palace, the Lady Gisèle would
have taken me quite seriously. I have been thinking about her
observations as to my elbows."

"The coat does not make the man," replied Math piously.

"It is your belief in any such saying that has made a miller's wife of
you, and will keep you a miller's wife until the end of time. Now I
learned better from my misadventures upon Vraidex, and from my talking
with that insane Horvendile about the things which have been and some
things which are to be."

Math, who was a wise woman, said queerly, "I perceive that you are
letting your hair grow."

Manuel said, "Yes."

"Boy, fast and loose is a mischancy game to play."

"And being born, also, is a most hazardous speculation, Sister, yet we
perforce risk all upon that cast."

"Now you talk stuff and nonsense--"

"Yes, Sister; but I begin to suspect that the right sort of stuff and
nonsense is not unremunerative. I may be wrong, but I shall afford my
notion a testing."

"And after what shiftless idiocy will you be chasing now, to neglect
your work?"

"Why, as always, Sister, I must follow my own thinking and my own
desire," says Manuel, lordlily, "and both of these are for a flight
above pigs."

Thereafter Manuel kissed Math, and, again without taking leave of
Suskind in the twilight, or of anyone else, he set forth for the far
land of Provence.



VII


The Crown of Wisdom


So did it come about that as King Helmas rode a-hunting in Nevet under
the Hunter's Moon he came upon a gigantic and florid young fellow, who
was very decently clad in black, and had a queer droop to his left eye,
and who appeared to be wandering at adventure in the autumn woods: and
the King remembered what had been foretold.

Says King Helmas to Manuel the swineherd, "What is that I see in your
pocket wrapped in red silk?"

"It is a feather, King, wrapped in a bit of my sister's best petticoat"

"Now, glory be to your dark magics, friend, and at what price will you
sell me that feather?"

"But a feather is no use to anybody, King, for, as you see, it is a
quite ordinary feather?"

"Come, come!" the King says, shrewdly, "do people anywhere wrap ordinary
feathers in red silk? Friend, do not think to deceive King Helmas of
Albania, or it will be worse for you. I perfectly recognize that shining
white feather as the feather which was moulted in this forest by the
Zhar-Ptitza Bird, in the old time before my grandfathers came into this
country. For it was foretold that such a young sorcerer as you would
bring to me, who have long been the silliest King that ever reigned over
the Peohtes, this feather which confers upon its owner perfect wisdom:
and for you to dispute the prophecy would be blasphemous."

"I do not dispute your silliness, King Helmas, nor do I dispute
anybody's prophecies in a world wherein nothing is certain."

"One thing at least is certain," remarked King Helmas, frowning uglily,
"and it is that among the Peohtes all persons who dispute our prophecies
are burned at the stake."

Manuel shivered slightly, and said: "It seems to me a quite ordinary
feather: but your prophets--most deservedly, no doubt,--are in higher
repute for wisdom than I am, and burning is a discomfortable death. So I
recall what a madman told me, and, since you are assured that this is
the Zhar-Ptitza's feather, I will sell it to you for ten sequins."

King Helmas shook a disapproving face. "That will not do at all, and
your price is out of reason, because it was foretold that for this
feather you would ask ten thousand sequins."

"Well, I am particularly desirous not to appear irreligious now that I
have become a young sorcerer. So you may have the feather at your own
price, rather than let the prophecies remain unfulfilled."

Then Manuel rode pillion with a king who was unwilling to let Manuel out
of his sight, and they went thus to the castle called Brunbelois. They
came to two doors with pointed arches, set side by side, the smaller
being for foot passengers, and the other for horsemen. Above was an
equestrian statue in a niche, and a great painted window with traceries
of hearts and thistles.

They entered the larger door, and that afternoon twelve heralds, in
bright red tabards that were embroidered with golden thistles, rode out
of this door, to proclaim the fulfilment of the prophecy as to the
Zhar-Ptitza's feather, and that afternoon the priests of the Peohtes
gave thanks in all their curious underground temples. The common people,
who had for the last score of years taken shame to themselves for living
under such a foolish king, embraced one another, and danced, and sang
patriotic songs at every street-corner: the Lower Council met, and voted
that, out of deference of his majesty, All Fools' Day should be stricken
from the calendar: and Queen Pressina (one of the water folk) declared
there were two ways of looking at everything, the while that she burned
a quantity of private papers. Then at night were fireworks, the King
made a speech, and to Manuel was delivered in wheel-barrows the sum of
ten thousand sequins.

Thereafter Manuel abode for a month at the court of King Helmas, noting
whatever to this side and to that side seemed most notable. Manuel was
well liked by the nobility, and when the barons and the fine ladies
assembled in the evening for pavanes and branles and pazzamenos nobody
danced more statelily than Messire Manuel. He had a quiet way with the
ladies, and with the barons a way of simplicity which was vastly admired
in a sorcerer so potent that his magic had secured the long sought
Zhar-Ptitza's feather. "But the most learned," as King Helmas justly
said, "are always the most modest."

Helmas now wore the feather from the wing of the miller's goose affixed
to the front of Helmas' second best crown, because that was the one he
used to give judgments in. And when it was noised abroad that King
Helmas had the Zhar-Ptitza's feather, the Peohtes came gladly to be
judged, and the neighboring kings began to submit to him their more
difficult cases, and all his judgings were received with reverence,
because everybody knew that King Helmas' wisdom was now infallible, and
that to criticize his verdict as to anything was merely to expose your
own stupidity.

And now that doubt of himself had gone out of his mind, Helmas lived
untroubled, and his digestion improved, and his loving-kindness was
infinite, because he could not be angry with the pitiable creatures
haled before him, when he considered how little able they were to
distinguish between wisdom and unwisdom where Helmas was omniscient: and
all his doings were merciful and just, and his people praised him. Even
the Queen conceded that, once you were accustomed to his ways, and
exercised some firmness about being made a doormat of, and had it
understood once for all that meals could not be kept waiting for him,
she supposed there might be women worse off.

And Manuel got clay and modeled the figure of a young man which had the
features and the wise look of King Helmas.

"I can see the resemblance," the King said, "but it does not half do me
justice, and, besides, why have you made a young whipper-snapper of me,
and mixed up my appearance with your appearance?"

"I do not know," said Manuel, "but I suppose it is because of a geas
which is upon me to make myself a splendid and admirable young man in
every respect, and not an old man."

"And does the sculpture satisfy you?" asks the King, smiling wisely.

"No, I like this figure well enough, now it is done, but it is not, I
somehow know, the figure I desire to make. No, I must follow after my
own thinking and my own desire, and wisdom is not requisite to me."

"You artists!" said the King, as people always say that "Now I would
consider that, for all the might of your sorceries, wisdom is rather
clamantly requisite to you, Messire Manuel, who inform me you must soon
be riding hence to find elsewhere the needful look for your figure. For
thus to be riding about this world of men, in search of a shade of
expression, and without even being certain of what look you are looking
for, does not appear to me to be good sense."

But young Manuel replied sturdily:

"I ride to encounter what life has in store for me, who am made certain
of this at least, that all high harvests which life withholds for me
spring from a seed which I sow--and reap. For my geas is potent, and,
late or soon, I serve my geas, and take my doom as the pay well-earned
that is given as pay to me, for the figure I make in this world of men.

"This figure, foreseen and yet hidden away from me, glimpsed from afar
in the light of a dream,--will I love it, once more, or will loathing
awake in me after its visage is plainlier seen? No matter: as fate says,
so say I, who serve my geas, and gain in time such payment, at worst, as
is honestly due to me, for the figure I make in this world of men.

"To its shaping I consecrate youth that is strong in me, ardently
yielding youth's last least gift, who know that all grace which the gods
have allotted me avails me in naught if it fails me in this. For all
that a man has, that must I bring to the image I shape, that my making
may live when time unmakes me and death dissevers me from the figure I
make in this world of men."

To this the King rather drily replied: "There is something in what you
say. But that something is, I can assure you, not wisdom."

So everyone was satisfied in Albania except Manuel, who declared that he
was pleased but not contented by the image he had made in the likeness
of King Helmas.

"Besides," they told him, "you look as though your mind were troubling
you about something."

"In fact, I am puzzled to see a foolish person made wise in all his
deeds and speeches by this wisdom being expected of him."

"But that is a cause for rejoicing, and for applauding the might of your
sorceries, Messire Manuel, whereas you are plainly thinking of vexatious
matters."

Manuel replied, "I think that it is not right to rob anybody of
anything, and I reflect that wisdom weighs exactly the weight of a
feather."

Then Manuel went into King Helmas' chickenyard, and caught a goose, and
plucked from its wing a feather. Manuel went glitteringly now, in
brocaded hose, and with gold spurs on his heels: the figure which he had
made in the likeness of King Helmas was packed in an expensive knapsack
of ornamented leather, and tall shining Manuel rode on a tall dappled
horse when he departed southward, for Manuel nowadays had money to
spare.



VIII


The Halo of Holiness


Now Manuel takes ship across the fretful Bay of Biscay, traveling always
toward Provence and Alianora, whom people called the Unattainable
Princess. Oriander the Swimmer followed this ship, they say, but he
attempted to do Manuel no hurt, at least not for that turn.

So Manuel of the high head comes into the country of wicked King
Ferdinand; and, toward All-Hallows, they bring a stupendous florid young
man to the King in the torture-chamber. King Ferdinand was not idle at
the moment, and he looked up good-temperedly enough from his employment:
but almost instantly his merry face was overcast.

"Dear me!" says Ferdinand, as he dropped his white hot pincers
sizzlingly into a jar of water, "and I had hoped you would not be
bothering me for a good ten years!"

"Now if I bother you at all it is against my will," declared Manuel,
very politely, "nor do I willingly intrude upon you here, for, without
criticizing anybody's domestic arrangements, there are one or two things
that I do not fancy the looks of in this torture-chamber."

"That is as it may be. In the mean time, what is that I see in your
pocket wrapped in red silk?"

"It is a feather, King, wrapped in a bit of my sister's best petticoat."

Then Ferdinand sighed, and he arose from his interesting experiments
with what was left of the Marquess de Henestrosa, to whom the King had
taken a sudden dislike that morning.

"Tut, tut!" said Ferdinand: "yet, after all, I have had a brave time of
it, with my enormities and my iniquities, and it is not as though there
were nothing to look back on! So at what price will you sell me that
feather?"

"But surely a feather is no use to anybody, King, for does it not seem
to you a quite ordinary feather?"

"Come!" says King Ferdinand, as he washed his hands, "do people anywhere
wrap ordinary feathers in red silk? You squinting rascal, do not think
to swindle me out of eternal bliss by any such foolish talk! I perfectly
recognize that feather as the feather which Milcah plucked from the left
pinion of the Archangel Oriphiel when the sons of God were on more
intricate and scandalous terms with the daughters of men than are
permitted nowadays."

"Well, sir," replied Manuel, "you may be right in a world wherein
nothing is certain. At all events, I have deduced, from one to two
things in this torture-chamber, that it is better not to argue with King
Ferdinand."

"How can I help being right, when it was foretold long ago that such a
divine emissary as you would bring this very holy relic to turn me from
my sins and make a saint of me?" says Ferdinand, peevishly.

"It appears to me a quite ordinary feather, King: but I recall what a
madman told me, and I do not dispute that your prophets are wiser than
I, for I have been a divine emissary for only a short while."

"Do you name your price for this feather, then!"

"I think it would be more respectful, sir, to refer you to the prophets,
for I find them generous and big-hearted creatures."

Ferdinand nodded his approval. "That is very piously spoken, because it
was prophesied that this relic would be given me for no price at all by
a great nobleman. So I must forthwith write out for you a count's
commission, I suppose, and must write out your grants to fertile lands
and a stout castle or two, and must date your title to these things from
yesterday."

"Certainly," said Manuel, "it would not look well for you to be
neglecting due respect to such a famous prophecy, with that bottle of
ink at your elbow."

So King Ferdinand sent for the Count of Poictesme, and explained to him
as between old friends how the matter stood, and that afternoon the high
Count was confessed and decapitated. Poictesme being now a vacant fief,
King Ferdinand ennobled Manuel, and made him Count of Poictesme.

It was true that all Poictesme was then held by the Northmen, under Duke
Asmund, who denied King Ferdinand's authority with contempt, and
defeated him in battle with annoying persistence: so that Manuel for the
present acquired nothing but the sonorous title.

"Some terrible calamity, however," as King Ferdinand pointed out, "is
sure to befall Asmund and his iniquitous followers before very long, so
we need not bother about them."

"But how may I be certain of that, sir?" Manuel asked.

"Count, I am surprised at such scepticism! Is it not very explicitly
stated in Holy Writ that though the wicked may flourish for a while they
are presently felled like green bay-trees?"

"Yes, to be sure! So there is no doubt that your soldiers will soon
conquer Duke Asmund."

"But I must not send any soldiers to fight against him, now that I am a
saint, for that would not look well. It would have an irreligious
appearance of prompting Heaven."

"Still, King, you are sending soldiers against the Moors--"

"Ah, but it is not your lands, Count, but my city of Ubeda, which the
Moors are attacking, and to attack a saint, as you must undoubtedly
understand, is a dangerous heresy which it is my duty to put down."

"Yes, to be sure! Well, well!" says Manuel, "at any rate, to be a count
is something, and it is better to ward a fine name than a parcel of
pigs, though it appears the pigs are the more nourishing."

In the mean while the King's heralds rode everywhither in fluted armor,
to proclaim the fulfilment of the old prophecy as to the Archangel
Oriphiel's feather. Never before was there such a hubbub in those parts,
for the bells of all the churches sounded all day, and all the people
ran about praying at the top of their voices, and forgiving their
relatives, and kissing the girls, and blowing whistles and ringing
cowbells, because the city now harbored a relic so holy that the vilest
sinner had but to touch it to be purified of iniquity.

And that day King Ferdinand dismissed the evil companions with whom he
had so long rioted in every manner of wickedness, and Ferdinand lived
henceforward as became a saint. He builded two churches a year, and
fared edifyingly on roots and herbs; he washed the feet of three
indigent persons daily, and went in sackcloth; whenever he burned
heretics he fetched and piled up the wood himself, so as to
inconvenience nobody; and he made prioresses and abbesses of his more
intimate and personal associates of yesterday, because he knew that
people are made holy by contact with holiness, and that sainthood is
retroactive.

Thereafter Count Manuel abode for a month at the court of King
Ferdinand, noting whatever to this side and to that side seemed most
notable. Manuel was generally liked by the elect, and in the evening
when the court assembled for family-prayers nobody was more devout than
the Count of Poictesme. He had a quiet way with the abbesses and
prioresses, and with the anchorites and bishops a way of simplicity
which was vastly admired in a divine emissary. "But the particular favor
of Heaven," as King Ferdinand pointed out, "is always reserved for
modest persons."

The feather from the wing of Helmas' goose King Ferdinand had caused to
be affixed to the unassuming skullcap with a halo of gold wire which
Ferdinand now wore in the place of a vainglorious earthly crown; so that
perpetual contiguity with this relic might keep him in augmenting
sanctity. And now that doubt of himself had gone out of his mind,
Ferdinand lived untroubled, and his digestion improved on his light diet
of roots and herbs, and his loving-kindness was infinite, because he
could not now be angry with the pitiable creatures haled before him,
when he considered what lengthy and ingenious torments awaited every one
of them, either in hell or purgatory, while Ferdinand would be playing a
gold harp in heaven.

So Ferdinand dealt tenderly and generously with all. Half of his subjects
said that simply showed you: and the rest of them assented that indeed
you might well say that, and they had often thought of it, and had wished
that young people would take profit by considering such things more
seriously.

And Manuel got clay and modeled a figure which had the features and the
holy look of King Ferdinand.

"Yes, this young fellow you have made of mud is something like me," the
King conceded, "although clay of course cannot do justice to the fine
red cheeks and nose I used to have in the unregenerate days when I
thought about such vanities, and, besides, it is rather more like you.
Still, Count, the thing has feeling, it is wholesome, it is refreshingly
free from these modern morbid considerations of anatomy, and it does you
credit."

"No, King, I like this figure well enough, now that it is done, but it
is not, I somehow know, the figure I desire to make. No, I must follow
after my own thinking and my own desires, and I do not need holiness."

"You artists!" the King said. "But there is more than mud upon your
mind."

"In fact, I am puzzled, King, to see you made a saint of by its being
expected of you."

"But, Count, that ought to grieve nobody, so long as I do not complain,
and it is of something graver you are thinking."

"I think, sir, that it is not right to rob anybody of anything, and I
reflect that absolute righteousness is a fine feather in one's cap."

Then Manuel went into the chicken-yard behind the red-roofed palace of
King Ferdinand, and caught a goose, and plucked from its wing a feather.
Thereafter the florid young Count of Poictesme rode east, on a tall
dappled horse, and a retinue of six lackeys in silver and black liveries
came cantering after him, and the two foremost lackeys carried in
knapsacks, marked with a gold coronet, the images which Dom Manuel had
made. A third lackey carried Dom Manuel's shield, upon which were
emblazoned the arms of Poictesme. The black shield displayed a silver
stallion which was rampant in every member and was bridled with gold,
but the ancient arms had been given a new motto.

"What means this Greek?" Dom Manuel had asked.

"_Mundus decipit_, Count," they told him, "is the old pious motto of
Poictesme: it signifies that the affairs of this world are a vain
fleeting show, and that terrestrial appearances are nowhere of any
particular importance."

"Then your motto is green inexperience," said Manuel, "and for me to
bear it would be black ingratitude."

So the writing had been changed in accordance with his instructions, and
it now read _Mundus vult decipi_.

[Illustration]



IX


The Feather of Love


In such estate it was that Count Manuel came, on Christmas morning, just
two days after Manuel was twenty-one, into Provence. This land, reputed
sorcerous, in no way displayed to him any unusual features, though it
was noticeable that the King's marmoreal palace was fenced with silver
pikes whereon were set the embalmed heads of young men who had wooed the
Princess Alianora unsuccessfully. Manuel's lackeys did not at first like
the looks of these heads, and said they were unsuitable for Christmas
decorations: but Dom Manuel explained that at this season of general
merriment this palisade also was mirth-provoking because (the weather
being such as was virtually unprecedented in these parts) a light snow
had fallen during the night, so that each head seemed to wear a
nightcap.

They bring Manuel to Raymond Bérenger, Count of Provence and King of
Aries, who was holding the Christmas feast in his warm hall. Raymond sat
on a fine throne of carved white ivory and gold, beneath a purple
canopy. And beside him, upon just such another throne, not quite so
high, sat Raymond's daughter, Alianora the Unattainable Princess, in a
robe of watered silk which was of seven colors and was lined with the
dark fur of barbiolets. In her crown were chrysolites and amethysts: it
was a wonder to note how brightly they shone, but they were not so
bright as Alianora's eyes.

She stared as Manuel of the high head came through the hall, wherein the
barons were seated according to their degrees. She had, they say, four
reasons for remembering the impudent, huge, squinting, yellow-haired
young fellow whom she had encountered at the pool of Haranton. She
blushed, and spoke with her father in the whistling and hissing language
which the Apsarasas use among themselves: and her father laughed long
and loud.

Says Raymond Bérenger: "Things might have fallen out much worse. Come
tell me now, Count of Poictesme, what is that I see in your breast
pocket wrapped in red silk?"

"It is a feather, King," replied Manuel, a little wearily, "wrapped in a
bit of my sister's best petticoat."

"Ay, ay," says Raymond Bérenger, with a grin that was becoming even more
benevolent, "and I need not ask what price you come expecting for that
feather. None the less, you are an excellently spoken-of young wizard of
noble condition, who have slain no doubt a reasonable number of giants
and dragons, and who have certainly turned kings from folly and
wickedness. For such fine rumors speed before the man who has fine deeds
behind him that you do not come into my realm as a stranger: and, I
repeat, things might have fallen out much worse."

"Now listen, all ye that hold Christmas here!" cried Manuel "A while
back I robbed this Princess of a feather, and the thought of it lay in
my mind more heavy than a feather, because I had taken what did not
belong to me. So a bond was on me, and I set out toward Provence to
restore to her a feather. And such happenings befell me by the way that
at Michaelmas I brought wisdom into one realm, and at All-Hallows I
brought piety into another realm. Now what I may be bringing into this
realm of yours at Heaven's most holy season, Heaven only knows. To the
eye it may seem a quite ordinary feather. Yet life in the wide world, I
find, is a queerer thing than ever any swineherd dreamed of in his
wattled hut, and people everywhere are nourished by their beliefs, in a
way that the meat of pigs can nourish nobody."

Raymond Bérenger said, with a wise nod: "I perceive what is in your
heart, and I see likewise what is in your pocket. So why do you tell me
what everybody knows? Everybody knows that the robe of the Apsarasas,
which is the peculiar treasure of Provence, has been ruined by the loss
of a feather, so that my daughter can no longer go abroad in the
appearance of a swan, because the robe is not able to work any more
wonders until that feather in your pocket has been sewed back into the
robe with the old incantation."

"Now, but indeed does everybody know that!" says Manuel.

"--Everybody knows, too, that my daughter has pined away with fretting
after her lost ways of outdoor exercise, and the healthful changes of
air which she used to be having. And finally, everybody knows that, at
my daughter's very sensible suggestion, I have offered my daughter's
hand in marriage to him who would restore that feather, and death to
every impudent young fellow who dared enter here without it, as my
palace fence attests."

"Oh, oh!" says Manuel, smiling, "but seemingly it is no wholesome
adventure which has come to me unsought!"

"--So, as you tell me, you came into Provence: and, as there is no need
to tell me, I hope, who have still two eyes in my head, you have
achieved the adventure. And why do you keep telling me about matters
with which I am as well acquainted as you are?"

"But, King of Arles, how do you know that this is not an ordinary
feather?"

"Count of Poictesme, do people anywhere--?"

"Oh, spare me that vile bit of worldly logic, sir, and I will concede
whatever you desire!"

"Then do you stop talking such nonsense, and do you stop telling me
about things that everybody knows, and do you give my daughter her
feather!"

Manuel ascends the white throne of Alianora. "Queer things have befallen
me," said Manuel, "but nothing more strange than this can ever happen,
than that I should be standing here with you, and holding this small
hand in mine. You are not perhaps quite so beautiful nor so clever as
Niafer. Nevertheless, you are the Unattainable Princess, whose
loveliness recalled me from vain grieving after Niafer, within a
half-hour of Niafer's loss. Yes, you are she whose beauty kindled a
dream and a dissatisfaction in the heart of a swineherd, to lead him
forth into the wide world, and through the puzzling ways of the wide
world, and into its high places: so that at the last the swineherd is
standing--a-glitter in satin and gold and in rich furs,--here at the
summit of a throne; and at the last the hand of the Unattainable
Princess is in his hand, and in his heart is misery."

The Princess said, "I do not know anything about this Niafer, who was
probably no better than she should have been, nor do I know of any
conceivable reason for your being miserable."

"Why, is it not the truth," asks Manuel of Alianora, speaking not very
steadily, "that you are to marry the man who restores the feather of
which you were robbed at the pool of Haranton? and can marry none
other?"

"It is the truth," she answered, in a small frightened lovely voice,
"and I no longer grieve that it is the truth, and I think it a most
impolite reason for your being miserable."

Manuel laughed without ardor. "See how we live and learn! I recall now
the droll credulity of a lad who watched a shining feather burned, while
he sat within arm's reach thinking about cabbage soup, because his grave
elders assured him that a feather could never be of any use to anybody.
And that, too, after he had seen what uses may be made of an old bridle
or of a duck egg or of anything! Well, but all water that is past the
dam must go its way, even though it be a flood of tears--"

Here Manuel gently shrugged broad shoulders. He took out of his pocket
the feather he had plucked from the wing of Ferdinand's goose.

He said: "A feather I took from you in the red autumn woods, and a
feather I now restore to you, my Princess, in this white palace of
yours, not asking any reward, and not claiming to be remembered by you
in the gray years to come, but striving to leave no obligation
undischarged and no debt unpaid. And whether in this world wherein
nothing is certain, one feather is better than another feather, I do not
know. It well may come about that I must straightway take a foul doom
from fair lips, and that presently my head will be drying on a silver
pike. Even so, one never knows: and I have learned that it is well to
put all doubt of oneself quite out of mind."

He gave her the feather he had plucked from the third goose, and the
trumpets sounded as a token that the quest of Alianora's feather had
been fulfilled, and all the courtiers shouted in honor of Count Manuel.

Alianora looked at what was in her hand, and saw it was a goose-feather,
in nothing resembling the feather which, when she had fled in maidenly
embarrassment from Manuel's over-friendly advances, she had plucked from
the robe of the Apsarasas, and had dropped at Manuel's feet, in order
that her father might be forced to proclaim this quest, and the winning
of it might be predetermined.

Then Alianora looked at Manuel. Now before her the queer unequal eyes of
this big young man were bright and steadfast as altar candles. His chin
was well up, and it seemed to her that this fine young fellow expected
her to declare the truth, when the truth would be his death-sentence.
She had no patience with his nonsense.

Says Alianora, with that lovely tranquil smile of hers: "Count Manuel
has fulfilled the quest. He has restored to me the feather from the robe
of the Apsarasas. I recognize it perfectly."

"Why, to be sure," says Raymond Bérenger. "Still, do you get your needle
and the recipe for the old incantation, and the robe too, and make it
plain to all my barons that the power of the robe is returned to it, by
flying about the hall a little in the appearance of a swan. For it is
better to conduct these affairs in due order and without any suspicion
of irregularity."

Now matters looked ticklish for Dom Manuel, since he and Alianora knew
that the robe had been spoiled, and that the addition of any number of
goose-feathers was not going to turn Alianora into a swan. Yet the boy's
handsome and high-colored face stayed courteously attentive to the
wishes of his host, and did not change.

But Alianora said indignantly: "My father, I am surprised at you! Have
you no sense of decency at all? You ought to know it is not becoming for
an engaged girl to be flying about Provence in the appearance of a swan,
far less among a parcel of men who have been drinking all morning. It is
the sort of thing that leads to a girl's being talked about."

"Now, that is true, my dear," said Raymond Bérenger, abashed, "and the
sentiment does you credit. So perhaps I had better suggest something
else--"

"Indeed, my father, I see exactly what you would be suggesting. And I
believe you are right."

"I am not infallible, my dear: but still--"

"Yes, you are perfectly right: it is not well for any married woman to
be known to possess any such robe. There is no telling, just as you say,
what people would be whispering about her, nor what disgraceful tricks
she would get the credit of playing on her husband."

"My daughter, I was only about to tell you--"

"Yes, and you put it quite unanswerably. For you, who have the name of
being the wisest Count that ever reigned in Provence, and the shrewdest
King that Arles has ever had, know perfectly well how people talk, and
how eager people are to talk, and to place the very worst construction
on everything: and you know, too, that husbands do not like such talk.
Certainly I had not thought of these things, my father, but I believe
that you are right."

Raymond Bérenger stroked his thick short beard, and said: "Now truly, my
daughter, whether or not I be wise and shrewd--though, as you say, of
course there have been persons kind enough to consider--and in petitions
too--However, be that as it may, and putting aside the fact that
everybody likes to be appreciated, I must confess I can imagine no gift
which would at this high season be more acceptable to any husband than
the ashes of that robe."

"This is a saying," Alianora here declares, "well worthy of Raymond
Bérenger: and I have often wondered at your striking way of putting
things."

"That, too, is a gift," the King-Count said, with proper modesty, "which
to some persons is given, and to others not: so I deserve no credit for
it. But, as I was saying when you interrupted me, my dear, it is well
for youth to have its fling, because (as I have often thought) we are
young only once: and so I have not ever criticized your jauntings in far
lands. But a husband is another pair of sandals. A husband does not like
to have his wife flying about the tree tops and the tall lonely
mountains and the low long marshes, with nobody to keep an eye on her,
and that is the truth of it. So, were I in your place, and wise enough
to listen to the old father who loves you, and who is wiser than you, my
dear--why, now that you are about to marry, I repeat to you with all
possible earnestness, my darling, I would destroy this feather and this
robe in one red fire, if only Count Manuel will agree to it. For it is
he who now has power over all your possessions, and not I."

"Count Manuel," says Alianora, with that lovely tranquil smile of hers,
"you perceive that my father is insistent, and it is my duty to be
guided by him. I do not deny that, upon my father's advice, I am asking
you to let perish a strong magic which many persons would value above a
woman's pleading. But I know now"--her eyes met his, and to any young
man anywhere with a heart moving in him, that which Manuel could see in
the bright frightened eyes of Alianora could not but be a joy well-nigh
intolerable,--"but I know now that you, who are to be my husband, and
who have brought wisdom into one kingdom, and piety into another, have
brought love into the third kingdom: and I perceive that this third
magic is a stronger and a nobler magic than that of the Apsarasas. And
it seems to me that you and I would do well to dispense with anything
which is second rate."

"I am of the opinion that you are a singularly intelligent young woman,"
says Manuel, "and I am of the belief that it is far too early for me to
be crossing my wife's wishes, in a world wherein all men are nourished
by their beliefs."

All being agreed, the Yule-log was stirred up into a blaze, which was
duly fed with the goose-feather and the robe of the Apsarasas.
Thereafter the trumpets sounded a fanfare, to proclaim that Raymond
Bérenger's collops were cooked and peppered, his wine casks broached,
and his puddings steaming. Then the former swineherd went in to share
his Christmas dinner with the King-Count's daughter, Alianora, whom
people everywhere had called the Unattainable Princess.

And they relate that while Alianora and Manuel sat cosily in the hood of
the fireplace and cracked walnuts, and in the pauses of their talking
noted how the snow was drifting by the windows, the ghost of Niafer went
restlessly about green fields beneath an ever radiant sky in the
paradise of the pagans. When the kindly great-browed warders asked her
what it was she was seeking, the troubled spirit could not tell them,
for Niafer had tasted Lethe, and had forgotten Dom Manuel. Only her love
for him had not been forgotten, because that love had become a part of
her, and so lived on as a blind longing and as a desire which did not
know its aim. And they relate also that in Suskind's low red-pillared
palace Suskind waited with an old thought for company.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

PART TWO


THE BOOK OF SPENDING


TO

LOUIS UNTERMEYER



Often _tymes herde Manuel tell of the fayrness of this Queene of _Furies
_and_ Gobblins _and_ Hydraes, _insomuch that he was enamoured of hyr,
though he neuer sawe hyr: then by this Connynge made he a Hole in the
fyer, and went ouer to hyr, and when he had spoke with hyr, he shewed
hyr his mynde._



X


Alianora


They of Poictesme narrate that after dinner King Raymond sent messengers
to his wife, who was spending that Christmas with their daughter, Queen
Meregrett of France, to bid Dame Beatrice return as soon as might be
convenient, so that they might marry off their daughter Alianora to the
famous Count Manuel. They tell also how the holiday season passed with
every manner of festivity, and how Dom Manuel got on splendidly with his
Princess, and how it appeared to onlookers that for both of them, even
for the vaguely condescending boy, love-making proved a very marvelous
and dear pursuit.

Dom Manuel confessed, in reply to jealous questionings, that he did not
think Alianora quite so beautiful nor so clever as Niafer had been, but
this, as Manuel pointed out, was hardly a matter which could be
remedied. At all events, the Princess was a fine-looking and intelligent
girl, as Dom Manuel freely conceded to her: and the magic of the
Apsarasas, in which she was instructing him, Dom Manuel declared to be
very interesting if you cared for that sort of thing.

The Princess humbly admitted, in reply, that of course her magic did not
compare with his, since hers was powerful only over the bodies of men
and beasts, whereas Dom Manuel's magic had so notably controlled the
hearts and minds of kings. Still, as Alianora pointed out, she could
blight corn and cattle, and raise tempests very handily, and, given
time, could smite an enemy with almost any physical malady you selected.
She could not kill outright, to be sure, but even so, these lesser
mischiefs were not despicable accomplishments in a young girl. Anyhow,
she said in peroration, it was atrocious to discourage her by laughing
at the best she could do.

"Ah, but come now, my dear," says Manuel, "I was only teasing. I really
think your work most promising. You have but to continue. Practise, that
is the thing, they say, in all the arts."

"Yes, and with you to help me--"

"No, I have graver matters to attend to than devil-mongering," says
Manuel, "and a bond to lift from myself before I can lay miseries on
others."

For because of the geas that was on him to make a figure in the world,
Dom Manuel had unpacked his two images, and after vexedly considering
them, he had fallen again to modeling in clay, and had made a third
image. This image also was in the likeness of a young man, but it had
the fine proud features and the loving look of Alianora.

Manuel confessed to being fairly well pleased with this figure, but even
so, he did not quite recognize in it the figure he desired to make, and
therefore, he said, he deduced that love was not the thing which was
essential to him.

Alianora did not like the image at all.

"To have made an image of me," she considered, "would have been a very
pretty compliment. But when it comes to pulling about my features, as if
they did not satisfy you, and mixing them up with your features, until
you have made the appearance of a young man that looks like both of us,
it is not a compliment. Instead, it is the next thing but one to
egotism."

"Perhaps, now I think of it, I am an egotist. At all events, I am
Manuel."

"Nor, dearest," says she, "is it quite befitting that you, who are now
betrothed to a princess, and who are going to be Lord of Provence and
King of Arles, as soon as I can get rid of Father, should be always
messing with wet mud."

"I know that very well," Manuel replied, "but, none the less, a geas is
on me to honor my mother's wishes, and to make an admirable and
significant figure in the world. Apart from that, though, Alianora, I
repeat to you, this scheme of yours, about poisoning your father as soon
as we are married, appears to me for various reasons ill-advised. I am
in no haste to be King of Arles, and, in fact, I am not sure that I wish
to be king at all, because my geas is more important."

"Sweetheart, I love you very much, but my love does not blind me to the
fact that, no matter, what your talents at sorcery, you are in everyday
matters a hopelessly unpractical person. Do you leave this affair to me,
and I will manage it with every regard to appearances."

"Ah, and does one have to preserve appearances even in such matters as
parricide?"

"But certainly it looks much better for Father to be supposed to die of
indigestion. People would be suspecting all sorts of evil of the poor
dear if it were known that his own daughter could not put up with him.
In any event, sweetheart, I am resolved that, since very luckily Father
has no sons, you shall be King of Arles before this new year is out."

"No, I am Manuel: and it means more to me to be Manuel than to be King
of Arles, and Count of Provence, and seneschal of Aix and Brignoles and
Grasse and Massilia and Draguignan and so on."

"Oh, you are breaking my heart with this neglect of your true interests!
And it is all the doing of these three vile images, which you value more
than the old throne of Boson and Rothbold, and oceans more than you do
me!"

"Come, I did not say that."

"Yes, and you think, too, a deal more about that dead heathen servant
girl than you do about me, who am a princess and the heir to a kingdom."

Manuel looked at Alianora for a considerable while, before speaking. "My
dear, you are, as I have always told you, an unusually fine looking and
intelligent girl. And yes, you are a princess, of course, though you are
no longer the Unattainable Princess: that makes a difference
certainly--But, over and above all this, there was never anybody like
Niafer, and it would be nonsense to pretend otherwise."

The Princess said: "I wonder at myself. You are schooled in strange
sorceries unknown to the Apsarasas, there is no questioning that, after
the miracles you wrought with Helmas and Ferdinand: even so, I too have
a neat hand at magic, and it is not right for you to be treating me as
though I were the dirt under your feet. And I endure it! It is that
which puzzles me, it makes me wonder at myself, and my sole comfort is
that, at any rate, this wonderful Niafer of yours is dead and done
with."

Manuel sighed. "Yes, Niafer is dead, and these images also are dead
things, and both these facts continually trouble me. Nothing can be done
about Niafer, I suppose, but if only I could give some animation to
these images I think the geas upon me would be satisfied."

"Such a desire is blasphemous, Manuel, for the Eternal Father did no
more than that with His primal sculptures in Eden."

Dom Manuel blinked his vivid blue eyes as if in consideration. "Well,
but," he said, gravely, "but if I am a child of God it is only natural,
I think, that I should inherit the tastes and habits of my Father. No,
it is not blasphemous, I think, to desire to make an animated and lively
figure, somewhat more admirable and significant than that of the average
man. No, I think not. Anyhow, blasphemous or not, that is my need, and I
must follow after my own thinking and my own desire."

"If that desire were satisfied," asks Alianora, rather queerly, "would
you be content to settle down to some such rational method of living as
becomes a reputable sorcerer and king?"

"I think so, for a king has no master, and he is at liberty to travel
everywhither, and to see the ends of this world and judge them. Yes, I
think so, in a world wherein nothing is certain."

"If I but half way believed that, I would endeavor to obtain Schamir."

"And what in the devil is this Schamir?"

"A slip of the tongue," replied Alianora, smiling. "No, I shall have
nothing to do with your idiotic mud figures, and I shall tell you
nothing further."

"Come now, pettikins!" says Manuel. And he began coaxing the Princess of
Provence with just such cajoleries as the big handsome boy had formerly
exercised against the peasant girls of Rathgor.

"Schamir," said Alianora, at last, "is set in a signet ring which is
very well known in the country on the other side of the fire. Schamir
has the appearance of a black pebble; and if, after performing the proper
ceremonies, you were to touch one of these figures with it the figure
would become animated."

"Well, but," says Manuel, "the difficulty is that if I attempt to pass
through the fire in order to reach the country behind it, I shall be
burned to a cinder, and so I have no way of obtaining this talisman."

"In order to obtain it," Alianora told him, "one must hard-boil an egg
from the falcon's nest, then replace it in the nest, and secrete oneself
near by with a crossbow, under a red and white umbrella, until the
mother bird, finding one of her eggs resists all her endeavors to infuse
warmth into it, flies off, and plunges into the nearest fire, and
returns with this ring in her beak. With Schamir she will touch the
boiled egg, and so restore the egg to its former condition. At that
moment she must be shot, and the ring must be secured, before the falcon
can return the talisman to its owner. I mean, to its dreadful owner, who
is"--here Alianora made an incomprehensible sign,--"who is Queen Freydis
of Audela."

"Come," said Manuel, "what is the good of my knowing this in the dead of
winter! It will be months before the falcons are nesting again."

"Manuel, Manuel, there is no understanding you! Do you not see how badly
it looks for a grown man, and far more for a famed champion and a potent
sorcerer, to be pouting and scowling and kicking your heels about like
that, and having no patience at all?"

"Yes, I suppose it does look badly, but I am Manuel, and I follow--"

"Oh, spare me that," cried Alianora, "or else, no matter how much I may
love you, dearest, I shall box your jaws!"

"None the less, what I was going to say is true," declared Manuel, "and
if only you would believe it, matters would go more smoothly between
us."

[Illustration]



XI


Magic of the Apsarasas


Now the tale tells how, to humor Alianora, Count Manuel applied himself
to the magic of the Apsarasas. He went with the Princess to a high
secret place, and Alianora, crying sweetly, in the famous old fashion,
"Torolix, Ciccabau, Tio, Tio, Torolililix!" performed the proper
incantations, and forthwith birds came multitudinously from all quarters
of the sky, in a descending flood of color and flapping and whistling
and screeching.

The peacock screamed, "With what measure thou judgest others, thou shalt
thyself be judged."

Sang the nightingale, "Contentment is the greatest happiness."

The turtle-dove called, "It were better for some created things that
they had never been created."

The peewit chirped, "He that hath no mercy for others, shall find none
for himself."

The stork said huskily, "The fashion of this world passeth away."

And the wail of the eagle was, "Howsoever long life may be, yet its
inevitable term is death."

"Now that is virtually what I said," declared the stork, "and you are a
bold-faced and bald-headed plagiarist."

"And you," replied the eagle, clutching the stork's throat, "are a dead
bird that will deliver no more babies."

But Dom Manuel tugged at the eagle's wing, and asked him if he really
meant that to hold good before this Court of the Birds. And when the
infuriated eagle opened his cruel beak, and held up one murderous claw,
to make solemn oath that indeed he did mean it, and would show them too,
the stork very intelligently flew away.

"I shall not ever forget your kindness, Count Manuel," cried the stork,
"and do you remember that the customary three wishes are always yours
for the asking."

"And I too am grateful," said the abashed eagle,--"yes, upon the whole,
I am grateful, for if I had killed that long-legged pest it would have
been in contempt of the court, and they would have set me to hatching
red cockatrices. Still, his reproach was not unfounded, and I must think
up a new cry."

So the eagle perched on a rock, and said tentatively, "There is such a
thing as being too proud to fight." He shook his bald head disgustedly,
and tried, "The only enduring peace is a peace without victory," but
that did not seem to content him either. Afterward he cried out, "All
persons who oppose me have pygmy minds," and "If everybody does not do
exactly as I order, the heart of the world will be broken": and many
other foolish things he repeated, and shook his head over, for none of
these axioms pleased the eagle, and he no longer admired the pedagogue
who had invented them.

So in his worried quest for a saying sufficiently orotund and
meaningless to content his ethics, and to be hailed with convenience as
a great moral principle, the eagle forgot all about Count Manuel: but
the stork did not forget, because in the eyes of the stork the life of
the stork is valuable.

The other birds uttered various such sentiments as have been recorded,
and all these, they told Manuel, were accredited sorceries. The big
yellow-haired boy did not dispute it, he rarely disputed anything: but
the droop to that curious left eye of his was accentuated, and he
admitted to Alianora that he wondered if such faint-hearted smug little
truths were indeed the height of wisdom, outside of religion and public
speaking. Then he asked which was the wisest of the birds, and they told
him the Zhar-Ptitza, whom others called the Fire-Bird.

Manuel induced Alianora to summon the Zhar-Ptitza, who is the oldest and
the most learned of all living creatures, although he has thus far
learned nothing assuredly except that appearances have to be kept up.
The Zhar-Ptitza came, crying wearily, "Fine feathers make fine birds."
You heard him from afar.

The Zhar-Ptitza himself had every reason to get comfort out of this
axiom, for his plumage was everywhere the most brilliant purple, except
that his neck feathers were the color of new gold, and his tail was blue
with somewhat longer red feathers intermingled. His throat was wattled
gorgeously, and his head was tufted, and he seemed a trifle larger than
the eagle. The Fire-Bird brought with him his nest of cassia and sprigs
of incense, and this he put down upon the lichened rocks, and he sat in
it while he talked with Manuel.

The frivolous question that Manuel raised as to his clay figures, the
Zhar-Ptitza considered a very human bit of nonsense: and the wise
creature said he felt forced to point out that no intelligent bird would
ever dream of making images.

[Illustration: HE WAS DRYING OUT IN THE SUN]

"But, sir," said Manuel, "I do not wish to burden this world with any
more lifeless images. Instead, I wish to make in this world an animated
figure, very much as, they say, a god did once upon a time--"

"Come, you should not try to put too much responsibility upon Jahveh,"
protested the Zhar-Ptitza, tolerantly, "for Jahveh made only one man,
and did not ever do it again. I remember the making of that first man
very clearly, for I was created the morning before, with instructions to
fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven, so I saw the whole
affair. Yes, Jahveh did create the first man on the sixth day. And I
voiced no criticism. For of course after working continuously for nearly
a whole week, and making so many really important things, no creative
artist should be blamed for not being in his happiest vein on the sixth
day."

"And did you happen to notice, sir," asks Manuel, hopefully, "by what
method animation was given to Adam?"

"No, he was drying out in the sun when I first saw him, with Gabriel
sitting at his feet, playing on a flageolet: and naturally I did not pay
any particular attention to such foolishness."

"Well, well, I do not assert that the making of men is the highest form
of art, yet, none the less, a geas is upon me to make myself a very
splendid and admirable young man."

"But why should you be wasting your small portion of breath and
strength? To what permanent use could one put a human being even if the
creature were virtuous and handsome to look at? Ah, Manuel, you have not
seen them pass, as I have seen them pass in swarms, with their wars and
their reforms and their great causes, and leaving nothing but their
bones behind them."

"Yes, yes, to you, at your age, who were old when Nineveh was planned,
it must seem strange; and I do not know why my mother desired that I
should make myself a splendid and admirable young man. But the geas is
upon me."

The Zhar-Ptitza sighed. "Certainly these feminine whims are not easily
explained. Yet your people have some way of making brand-new men and
women of all kinds. I am sure of this, for otherwise the race would have
been extinct a great while since at the rate they kill one another. And
perhaps they do adhere to Jahveh's method, and make fresh human beings
out of earth, for, now I think of it, I have seen the small, recently
completed ones, who looked exactly like red clay."

"It is undeniable that babies do have something of that look," assented
Manuel. "So then, at least, you think I may be working in the proper
medium?"

"It seems plausible, because I am certain your people are not
intelligent enough to lay eggs, nor could, of course, such an impatient
race succeed in getting eggs hatched. At all events, they have
undoubtedly contrived some method or other, and you might find out from
the least foolish of them about that method."

"Who, then, is the least foolish of mankind?"

"Probably King Helmas of Albania, for it was prophesied by me a great
while ago that he would become the wisest of men if ever he could come
by one of my shining white feathers, and I hear it reported he has done
so."

"Sir," said Manuel, dubiously, "I must tell you in confidence that
the feather King Helmas has is not yours, but was plucked from the wing
of an ordinary goose."

"Does that matter?" asked the Zhar-Ptitza. "I never prophesied, of
course, that he actually would find one of my shining white feathers,
because all my feathers are red and gold and purple."

"But how can there be any magic in a goose-feather?"

"There is this magic, that, possessing it, King Helmas has faith in, and
has stopped bothering about, himself."

"Is not to bother about yourself the highest wisdom?"

"Oh, no! Oh, dear me, no! I merely said it is the highest of which man
is capable."

"But the sages and philosophers, sir, that had such fame in the old
time, and made the maxims for you birds! Why, did King Solomon, for
example, rise no higher than that?"

"Yes, yes, to be sure!" said the Zhar-Ptitza, sighing again, "now that
was a sad error. The poor fellow was endowed with, just as an
experiment, considerable wisdom. And it caused him to perceive that a
man attains to actual contentment only when he is drunk or when he is
engaged in occupations not very decorously described. So
Sulieman-ben-Daoud gave over all the rest of his time to riotous living
and to co-educational enterprises. It was logic, but it led to a most
expensive seraglio and to a very unbecoming appearance, and virtually
wrecked the man's health. Yes, that was the upshot of one of you being
endowed with actual wisdom, just as an experiment, to see what would
come of it: so the experiment, of course, has never been repeated. But
of living persons, I dare assert that you will find King Helmas
appreciably freed from a thousand general delusions by his one delusion
about himself."

"Very well, then," says Manuel. "I suspect a wilful paradox and a forced
cynicism in much of what you have said, but I shall consult with King
Helmas about human life and about the figure I have to make in the
world."

So they bid each other farewell, and the Zhar-Ptitza picked up his nest
of cassia and sprigs of incense, and flew away with it: and as he rose
in the air the Zhar-Ptitza cried, "Fine feathers make fine birds."

"But that is not the true proverb, sir," Manuel called up toward the
resplendent creature, "and such perversions too, they tell me, are a
mark of would-be cleverness."

"So it may seem to you now, my lad, but time is a very transforming
fairy. Therefore do you wait until you are older," the bird replied,
from on high, "and then you will know better than to doubt my cry or to
repeat it."

[Illustration]



XII


Ice and Iron


Then came from oversea the Bishops of Ely and Lincoln, the prior of
Hurle, and the Master of the Temple, asking that King Raymond send one
of his daughters, with a suitable dowry, to be the King of England's
wife. "Very willingly," says Raymond Bérenger; and told them they could
have his third daughter Sancha, with a thousand marks.

"But, Father," said Alianora, "Sancha is nothing but a child. A fine
queen she would make!"

"Still, my dear," replied King Raymond, "you are already bespoke."

"I was not thinking about myself. I was thinking about Sancha's true
welfare."

"Of course you were, my dear, and everybody knows the sisterly love you
have for her."

"The pert little mess is spoilt enough as it is, Heaven knows. And if
things came to the pass that I had to stand up whenever Sancha came into
the room, and to sit on a footstool while she lolled back in a chair the
way Meregrett does, it would be the child's ruin."

Raymond Bérenger said: "Now certainly it will be hard on you to have two
sisters that are queens, and with perhaps little Beatrice also marrying
some king or another when her time comes, and you staying only a
countess, who are the best-looking of the lot."

"My father, I see what you would be at!" cried Alianora, aghast. "You
think it is my duty to overcome my private inclinations, and to marry
the King of England for ruthless and urgent political reasons!"

"I only said, my darling--"

"--For you have seen at once that I owe this great sacrifice to the
future welfare of our beloved Provence. You have noted, with that
keenness which nothing escapes, that with the aid of your wisdom and
advice I would know very well how to manage this high King that is the
master of no pocket handkerchief place like Provence but of England and
of Ireland too."

"Also, by rights, of Aquitaine and Anjou and Normandy, my precious.
Still, I merely observed--"

"Oh, but believe me, I am not arguing with you, my dear father, for I
know that you are much wiser than I," says Alianora, bravely wiping away
big tears from her lovely eyes.

"Have it your own way, then," replied Raymond Bérenger, with outspread
hands. "But what is to be done about you and Count Manuel here?"

The King looked toward the tapestry of Jephthah's sacrifice, beside
which Manuel sat, just then re-altering the figure of the young man with
the loving look of Alianora that Manuel had made because of the urgency
of his geas, and could not seem to get exactly right.

"I am sure, Father, that Manuel also will be self-sacrificing and
magnanimous and sensible about it."

"Ah, yes! but what is to happen afterward? For anyone can see that you
and this squinting long-legged lad are fathoms deep in love with each
other."

"I think that after I am married, Father, you or King Ferdinand or King
Helmas can send Count Manuel into England on some embassy, and I am sure
that he and I will always be true and dear friends without affording any
handle to gossip."

"Oho!" King Raymond said, "I perceive your drift, and it is toward a
harbor that is the King of England's affair, and not mine. My part is to
go away now, so that you two may settle the details of that
ambassadorship in which Dom Manuel is to be the vicar of so many kings."

Raymond Bérenger took up his sceptre and departed, and the Princess
turned to where Manuel was pottering with the three images he had made
in the likeness of Helmas and Ferdinand and Alianora. "You see, now,
Manuel dearest, I am heart-broken, but for the realm's sake I must marry
the King of England."

Manuel looked up from his work. "Yes, I heard. I am sorry, and I never
understood politics, but I suppose it cannot be helped. So would you
mind standing a little more to the left? You are in the light now, and
that prevents my seeing clearly what I am doing here to this upper lip."

"And how can you be messing with that wet mud when my heart is
breaking!"

"Because a geas is upon me to make these images. No, I am sure I do not
know why my mother desired it. But everything which is fated must be
endured, just as we must now endure the obligation that is upon you to
marry the high King of England."

"My being married need not matter very much, after I am Queen, for
people declare this King is a poor spindling creature, and, as I was
saying, you can come presently into England."

Manuel looked at her for a moment or two. She colored. He, sitting at
the feet of weeping Jephthah, smiled. "Well," said Manuel, "I will come
into England when you send me a goose-feather. So the affair is arranged."

"Oh, you are all ice and iron!" she said, "and you care for nothing
except your wet mud images, and I detest you!"

"My dearest," Manuel answered placidly, "the trouble is that each of us
desires one particular thing over and above other things. Your desire is
for power and a great name and for a king who will be at once your
mouthpiece, your lackey and your lover. Now, candidly, I cannot spare
the time to be any of these things, because my desire is different from
your desire, but is equally strong. Also, it seems to me, as I become
older, and see more of men and of men's ways, that most people have no
especial desire but only preferences. In a world of such wishy-washy
folk you and I cannot hope to escape being aspersed with comparisons to
ice and iron, but it does not become us to be flinging these venerable
similes in each other's faces."

She kept silence a while. She laughed uneasily. "I so often wonder about
you, Manuel, as to whether inside the big, high-colored, squinting,
solemn husk is living a very wise person or a very unmitigated fool."

"I perceive there is something else which we have in common, for I, too,
often wonder about that."

"It is settled, then?"

"It is settled that, instead of ruling little Arles, you are to be Queen
of England, and Lady of Ireland, and Duchess of Normandy and Aquitaine,
and Countess of Anjou; that our token is to be a goose-feather; and
that, I diffidently repeat, you are to get out of my light and interfere
no longer with the discharge of my geas."

"And what will you do?"

"I must, as always, follow after my own thinking--"

"If you complete the sentence I shall undoubtedly scream."

Manuel laughed good-humoredly. "I suppose I do say it rather often, but
then it is true, and the great trouble between us, Alianora, is that you
do not perceive its truth."

She said, "And I suppose you will now be stalking off to some woman or
another for consolation?"

"No, the consolation I desire is not to be found in petticoats. No,
first of all, I shall go to King Helmas. For my images stay obstinately
lifeless, and there is something lacking to each of them, and none is
the figure I desire to make in this world. Now I do not know what can be
done about it, but the Zhar-Ptitza informs me that King Helmas, since
all doubt of himself has been put out of mind, can aid me if any man
can."

"Then we must say good-bye, though not for a long while, I hope."

"Yes," Manuel said, "this is good-bye, and to a part of my living it is
an eternal good-bye."

Dom Manuel left his images where the old Hebrew captain appeared to
regard them with violent dumb anguish, and Manuel took both of the
girl's lovely little hands, and he stood thus for a while looking down
at the Princess.

Said Manuel, very sadly:

"I cry the elegy of such notions as are possible to boys alone.
'Surely,' I said, 'the informing and all-perfect soul shines through and
is revealed in this beautiful body.' So my worship began for you, whose
violet eyes retain at all times their chill brittle shining, and do not
soften, but have been to me always as those eyes which, they say, a
goddess turns toward ruined lovers who cry the elegy of hope and
contentment, with lips burned bloodless by the searing of passions which
she, immortal, may neither feel nor comprehend. Even so do you, dear
Alianora, who are not divine, look toward me, quite unmoved by anything
except incurious wonder, the while that I cry my elegy.

"I, for love, and for the glamour of bright beguiling dreams that hover
and delude and allure all lovers, could never until to-day behold
clearly what person I was pestering with my notions. I, being blind,
could not perceive your blindness which blindly strove to understand me,
and which hungered for understanding, as I for love. Thus our kisses
veiled, at most, the foiled endeavorings of flesh that willingly would
enter into the soul's high places, but is not able. Now, the game being
over, what is the issue and end of it time must attest. At least we
should each sorrow a little for what we have lost in this gaming,--you
for a lover, and I for love.

"No, but it is not love which lies here expiring, now we part friendlily
at the deathbed of that emotion which yesterday we shared. This emotion
also was not divine; and so might not outlive the gainless months
wherein, like one fishing for pearls in a millpond, I have toiled to
evoke from your heart more than Heaven placed in this heart, wherein
lies no love. Now the crying is stilled that was the crying of
loneliness to its unfound mate: already dust is gathering light and gray
upon the unmoving lips. Therefore let us bury our dead, and having
placed the body in the tomb, let us honestly inscribe above this
fragile, flower-like perished emotion, 'Here lieth lust, not love.'"

Now Alianora pouted. "You use such very ugly words, sweetheart: and you
are talking unreasonably, too, for I am sure I am just as sorry about it
as you are--"

Manuel gave her that slow sleepy smile which was Manuel. "Just," he
said,--"and it is that which humiliates. Yes, you and I are second-rate
persons, Alianora, and we have found each other out. It is a pity. But
we will always keep our secret from the rest of the world, and our
secret will always be a bond between us."

He kissed the Princess, very tenderly, and so left her.

Then Manuel of the high head departed from Aries, with his lackeys and
his images, riding in full estate, and displaying to the spring sunlight
the rearing silver stallion upon his shield and the _motto Mundus vult
decipi_. Alianora, watching from the castle window, wept copiously,
because the poor Princess had the misfortune to be really in love with
Dom Manuel. But there was no doing anything with his obstinacy and his
incomprehensible notions, Alianora had found, and so she set about
disposing of herself and of the future through more plastic means. Her
methods were altered perforce, but her aim remained unchanged: and she
still intended to get everything she desired (which included Manuel) as
soon as she and the King of England had settled down to some sensible
way of living.

It worried this young pretty girl to consult her mirror, and to foreknow
that the King of England would probably be in love with her for months
and months: but then, as she philosophically reflected, all women have
to submit to being annoyed by the romanticism of men. So she dried her
big bright eyes, and sent for dressmakers.

She ordered two robes each of five ells, the one to be of green and
lined with either cendal or sarcenet, and the other to be of brunet
stuff. She selected the cloth for a pair of purple sandals, and for four
pairs of boots, to be embroidered in circles around the ankles, and she
selected also nine very becoming chaplets made of gold filigree and
clusters of precious stones. And so she managed to get through the
morning, and to put Manuel out of mind, for that while, but not for
long.

[Illustration]



XIII


What Helmas Directed


Now the Count of Poictesme departs from Provence, with his lackeys
carrying his images, and early in April he comes to Helmas the
Deep-Minded. The wise King was then playing with his small daughter
Mélusine (who later dethroned and imprisoned him), but he sent the child
away with a kiss, and he attentively heard Dom Manuel through.

King Helmas looked at the images, prodded them with a shriveled
forefinger, and cleared his throat; and then said nothing, because,
after all, Dom Manuel was Count of Poictesme.

"What is needed?" said Manuel.

"They are not true to life," replied Helmas--"particularly this one
which has the look of me."

"Yes, I know that: but who can give life to my images?"

King Helmas pushed back his second best crown, wherein was set the
feather from the wing of the miller's goose, and he scratched his
forehead. He said, "There is a power over all figures of earth and a
queen whose will is neither to loose nor to bind." Helmas turned toward
a thick book, wherein was magic.

"Yes, _queen_ is the same as _cwen_. Therefore Queen Freydis of Audela
might help you."

"Yes, for it is she that owns Schamir. But the falcons are not nesting
now, and how can I go to Freydis, that woman of strange deeds?"

"Oh, people nowadays no longer use falcons; and of course nobody can go
to Freydis uninvited. Still, it can be managed that Freydis will come to
you when the moon is void and powerless, and when this and that has been
arranged."

Thereafter Helmas the Deep-Minded told Count Manuel what was requisite.
"So you will need such and such things," says King Helmas, "but, above
all, do not forget the ointment."

Count Manuel went alone into Poictesme, which was his fief if only he
could get it. He came secretly to Upper Morven, that place of horrible
fame. Near the ten-colored stone, whereon men had sacrificed to Vel-Tyno
in time's youth, he builded an enclosure of peeled willow wands, and
spread butter upon them, and tied them with knots of yellow ribbons, as
Helmas had directed. Manuel arranged all matters within the enclosure as
Helmas had directed. There Manuel waited, on the last night in April,
regarding the full moon.

In a while you saw the shadowings on the moon's radiancy begin to waver
and move: later they passed from the moon's face like little clouds, and
the moon was naked of markings. This was a token that the Moon-Children
had gone to the well from which once a month they fetch water, and that
for an hour the moon would be void and powerless. With this and that
ceremony Count Manuel kindled such a fire upon the old altar of Vel-Tyno
as Helmas had directed.

Manuel cried aloud: "Now be propitious, infernal, terrestrial and
celestial Bombo! Lady of highways, patroness of crossroads, thou who
bearest the light! Thou who dost labor always in obscurity, thou enemy of
the day, thou friend and companion of darkness! Thou rejoicing in the
barking of dogs and in shed blood, thus do I honor thee."

Manuel did as Helmas had directed, and for an instant the screamings
were pitiable, but the fire ended these speedily.

Then Manuel cried, again: "O thou who wanderest amid shadows and over
tombs, and dost tether even the strong sea! O whimsical sister of the
blighting sun, and fickle mistress of old death! O Gorgo, Mormo, lady of
a thousand forms and qualities! now view with a propitious eye my
sacrifice!"

Thus Manuel spoke, and steadily the fire upon the altar grew larger and
brighter as he nourished it repugnantly.

When the fire was the height of a warrior, and queer things were
happening to this side and to that side, Count Manuel spoke the ordered
words: and of a sudden the flames' colors were altered, so that green
shimmerings showed in the fire, as though salt were burning there.
Manuel waited. This greenness shifted and writhed and increased in the
heart of the fire, and out of the fire oozed a green serpent, the body
of which was well--nigh as thick as a man's body.

This portent came toward Count Manuel horribly. He, who was familiar
with serpents, now grasped this monster's throat, and to the touch its
scales were like very cold glass.

The great snake shifted so resistlessly that Manuel was forced back
toward the fire and toward a doom more dreadful than burning: and the
firelight was in the snake's contemptuous wise eyes. Manuel was of
stalwart person, but his strength availed him nothing until he began to
recite aloud, as Helmas had directed, the multiplication tables: Freydis
could not withstand mathematics.

So when Manuel had come to two times eleven the tall fire guttered as
though it bended under the passing of a strong wind: then the flames
burned high, and Manuel could see that he was grasping the throat of a
monstrous pig. He, who was familiar with pigs, could see that this was a
black pig, caked with dried curds of the Milky Way; its flesh was chill
to the touch, like dead flesh; and it had long tusks, which possessed
life of their own, and groped and writhed toward Manuel like fat white
worms.

Then Manuel said, as Helmas had directed: "Solomon's provision for one
day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal,
ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep,
beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl. But Elijah
the Tishbite was fed by ravens that brought him bread and flesh."

Again the tall flames guttered. Now Manuel was grasping a thick heatless
slab of crystal, like a mirror, wherein he could see himself quite
clearly. Just as he really was, he, who was not familiar with such
mirrors, could see Count Manuel, housed in a little wet dirt with old
inveterate stars adrift about him everywhither; and the spectacle was
enough to frighten anybody.

So Manuel said: "The elephant is the largest of all animals, and in
intelligence approaches the nearest to man. Its nostril is elongated,
and answers to the purpose of a hand. Its toes are undivided, and it
lives two hundred years. Africa breeds elephants, but India produces the
largest."

The mirror now had melted into a dark warm fluid which oozed between his
fingers, dripping to the ground. But Manuel held tightly to what
remained between his palms, and he felt, they say, that in the fluid was
struggling something small and soft and living, as though he held a tiny
minnow.

Said Manuel, "A straight line is the shortest distance between two
points."

Of a sudden the fire became an ordinary fire, and the witches of Amneran
screamed, and Morven was emptied of sorcery, and Count Manuel was
grasping the warm soft throat of a woman. Instantly he had her within
the enclosure of peeled willow wands that had been spread with butter
and tied with knots of yellow ribbon, because into such an enclosure the
power and the dominion of Freydis could never enter.

All these things Manuel did precisely as King Helmas had directed.



XIV


They Duel on Morven


So by the light of the seven candles Dom Manuel first saw Queen Freydis
in her own shape, and in the appearance which she wore in her own
country. What Manuel thought there was never any telling: but every
other man who saw Queen Freydis in this appearance declared that
instantly all his past life became a drugged prelude to the moment
wherein he stood face to face with Freydis, the high Queen of Audela.

Freydis showed now as the most lovely of womankind. She had black
plaited hair, and folds of crimson silk were over her white flesh, and
over her shoulders was a black cloak embroidered with little gold stars
and ink-horns, and she wore sandals of gilded bronze. But in her face
was such loveliness as may not be told.

Now Freydis went from one side of the place to the other side, and saw
the magics that protected the enclosure. "Certainly, you have me fast,"
the high Queen said. "What is it you want of me?"

Manuel showed her the three images which he had made, set there arow. "I
need your aid with these."

Queen Freydis looked at them, and Freydis smiled. "These frozen
abortions are painstakingly made. What more can anybody demand?"

Dom Manuel told her that he desired to make an animated and lively
figure.

Whereupon she laughed, merrily and sweetly and scornfully, and replied
that never would she give such aid.

"Very well, then," said Manuel, "I have ready the means to compel you."
He showed this lovely woman the instruments of her torture. His handsome
young face was very grave, as though already his heart were troubled. He
thrust her hand into the cruel vise which was prepared. "Now, sorceress,
whom all men dread save me, you shall tell me the Tuyla incantation as
the reward of my endeavors, or else a little by a little I shall destroy
the hand that has wrought so many mischiefs."

Freydis in the light of the seven candles showed pale as milk. She said:
"I am frail and human in this place, and have no power beyond the power
of every woman, and no strength at all. Nevertheless, I will tell you
nothing."

Manuel set his hand to the lever, ready to loose destruction. "To tell
me what I desire you to tell me will do you no hurt--"

"No," replied Freydis: "but I am not going to take orders from you or
any man breathing."

"--And for defying me you will suffer very terribly--"

"Yes," replied Freydis. "And much you will care!" she said,
reproachfully.

"--Therefore I think that you are acting foolishly."

Freydis said: "You make a human woman of me, and then expect me to act
upon reason. It is you who are behaving foolishly."

Count Manuel meditated, for this beyond doubt sounded sensible. From
the look of his handsome young face, his heart was now exceedingly
troubled. Queen Freydis breathed more freely, and began to smile, with
the wisdom of women, which is not super-human, but is ruthless.

"The hand would be quite ruined, too," said Manuel, looking at it more
carefully. Upon the middle finger was a copper ring, in which was set a
largish black stone: this was Schamir. But Manuel looked only at the
hand.

He touched it. "Your hand, Queen Freydis, whatever mischief it may have
executed, is soft as velvet. It is colored like rose-petals, but it
smells more sweet than they. No, certainly, my images are not worth the
ruining of such a hand."

Then Manuel released her, sighing. "My geas must stay upon me, and my
images must wait," says Manuel.

"Why, do you really like my hands?" asked Freydis, regarding them
critically.

Manuel said: "Ah, fair sweet enemy, do not mock at me! All is in
readiness to compel you to do my will. Had you preserved some ugly shape
I would have conquered you. But against the shape which you now wear I
cannot contend. Dragons and warlocks and chimaeras and such nameless
monsters as I perceive to be crowding about this enclosure of buttered
willow wands I do not fear at all, but I cannot fight against the
appearance which you now wear."

"Why, do you really like my natural appearance?" Freydis said,
incredibly surprised. "It is a comfort, of course, to slip into it
occasionally, but I had never really thought much about it one way or
the other--"

She went to the great mirror which had been set ready as Helmas
directed, "I never liked my hair in these severe big plaits, either. As
for those monsters yonder, they are my people, who are coming out of the
fire to rescue me, in some of the forgotten shapes, as spoorns and trows
and calcars, and other terrors of antiquity. But they cannot get into
this enclosure of buttered willow wands, poor dears, on account of your
magickings. How foolish they look--do they not?--leering and capering
and gnashing their teeth, with no superstitious persons anywhere to pay
attention to them."

The Queen paused: she coughed delicately. "But you were talking some
nonsense or other about my natural appearance not being bad looking. Now
most men prefer blondes, and, besides, you are not really listening to
me, and that is not polite."

"It is so difficult to talk collectedly," said Manuel, "with your
appalling servitors leering and capering and gnashing double sets of
teeth all over Upper Morven--"

She saw the justice of this. She went now to that doorway through which,
unless a man lifted her over the threshold, she might not pass, on
account of the tonthecs and the spaks and the horseshoes.

She cried, in a high sweet voice: "A penny, a penny, twopence, a penny
and a half, and a half-penny! Now do you go away, all of you, for the
wisdom of Helmas is too strong for us. There is no way for you to get
into, nor for me to get out of, this place of buttered willow wands,
until I have deluded and circumvented this pestiferous, squinting young
mortal. Go down into Bellegarde and spill the blood of Northmen, or
raise a hailstorm, or amuse yourselves in one way or another way.
Anyhow, do you take no thought for me, who am for the while a human
woman: for my adversary is a mortal man, and in that duel never yet has
the man conquered."

She turned to Manuel. She said:

"The land of Audela is my kingdom. But you embraced my penalties, you
have made a human woman of me. So do I tread with wraiths, for my lost
realm alone is real. Here all is but a restless contention of shadows
which pass presently; here all that is visible and all the colors known
to men are shadows dimming the true colors; here time and death, the
darkest shadows known to men, delude you with false seemings: for all
such things as men hold incontestable, because they are apparent to
sight and sense, are a weariful drifting of fogs that veil the world
which is no longer mine. So in this twilit world of yours do we of
Audela appear to be but men and women."

"I would that such women appeared more often," said Manuel.

"The land of Audela is my kingdom, where I am Queen of all that lies
behind this veil of human sight and sense. This veil may not ever be
lifted; but very often the veil is pierced, and noting the broken place,
men call it fire. Through these torn places men may glimpse the world
that is real: and this glimpse dazzles their dimmed eyes and weakling
forces, and this glimpse mocks at their lean might Through these rent
places, when the opening is made large enough, a few men here and there,
not quite so witless as their fellows, know how to summon us of Audela
when for an hour the moon is void and powerless: we come for an old
reason: and we come as men and women."

"Ah, but you do not speak with the voices of men and women," Manuel
replied, "for your voice is music."

"The land of Audela is my kingdom, and very often, just for the sport's
sake, do I and my servitors go secretly among you. As human beings we
blunder about your darkened shadow world, bound by the laws of sight and
sense, but keeping always in our hearts the secrets of Audela and the
secret of our manner of returning thither. Sometimes, too, for the
sport's sake, we imprison in earthen figures a spark of the true life of
Audela: and then you little persons, that have no authentic life, but
only the flickering of a vexed shadow to sustain you in brief
fretfulness, say it is very pretty; and you negligently applaud us as
the most trivial of men and women."

"No; we applaud you as the most beautiful," says Manuel.

"Come now, Count Manuel, and do you have done with your silly
flatterings, which will never wheedle anything out of me! So you have
trapped Queen Freydis in mortal flesh. Therefore I must abide in the
body of a human woman, and be subject to your whims, and to your
beautiful big muscles, you think, until I lend a spark of Audela's true
life to your ridiculous images. But I will show you better, for I will
never give in to you nor to any man breathing."

In silence Count Manuel regarded the delightful shaping and the clear
burning colors of this woman's face. He said, as if in sadness: "The
images no longer matter. It is better to leave them as they are."

"That is very foolish talk," Queen Freydis answered, promptly, "for they
need my aid if ever any images did. Not that, however, I intend to touch
them."

"Indeed, I forbid you to touch them, fair enemy. For were the images
made as animated and lively as I wish them to be, I would be looking at
them always, and not caring for any woman: and no woman anywhere would
have the power to move me as your beauty moves me now, and I would not
be valuing you the worth of an old onion."

"That is not the truth," says Freydis, angrily, "for the man who is
satisfied with the figure he has made is as great a fool about women as
any other man. And who are you to be forbidding me anything?"

"I would have you remember," said Manuel, very masterfully, "that they
are my images, to do with as I wish. Also I would have you remember
that, whatever you may pretend to be in Audela, here I am stronger than
you."

Now the proud woman laughed. Defiantly she touched the nearest image,
with formal ancient gestures, and you could see the black stone Schamir
taking on the colors of an opal. Under her touch the clay image which
had the look of Alianora shivered, and drew sobbing breath. The image
rose, a living creature that was far more beautiful than human kind, and
it regarded Manuel scornfully. Then it passed limping from the
enclosure: and Manuel sighed.

"That is a strong magic," said Manuel: "and this is almost exactly the
admirable and significant figure that I desired to make in the world.
But, as I now perceive too late, I fashioned the legs of this figure
unevenly, and the joy I have in its life is less than the shame that I
take from its limping."

"Such magic is a trifle," Freydis replied, "although it is the only
magic I can perform in an enclosure of buttered willow wands. Now, then,
you see for yourself that I am not going to take orders from you. So the
figure you have made, will you or nil you, must limp about in all men's
sight, for not more than a few centuries, to be sure, but long enough to
prove that I am not going to be dictated to."

"I do not greatly care, O fairest and most shrewd of enemies. A half-hour
since, it seemed to me an important matter to wrest from you this secret
of giving life to images. Now I have seen the miracle; I know that for
the man who has your favor it is possible to become as a god, creating
life, and creating lovelier living beings than any god creates, and
beings which live longer, too: and even so, it is not of these things
that I am really thinking, but only of your eyes."

"Why, do you like my eyes!" says Freydis,--"you, who if once you could
make living images would never be caring about any woman any more?"

But Manuel told her wherein her eyes were different from the eyes of any
other person, and more dangerous, and she listened, willingly enough,
for Freydis was not a human woman. Thereafter it appeared that a
grieving and a great trouble of mind had come upon Manuel because of the
loveliness of Freydis, for he made this complaint:

"There is much loss in the world, where men war ceaselessly with sorrow,
and time like a strong thief strips all men of all they prize. Yet when
the emperor is beaten in battle and his broad lands are lost, he,
shrugging, says, 'In the next battle I may conquer.' And when the
bearded merchant's ship is lost at sea, he says, 'The next voyage,
belike, will be prosperous.' Even when the life of an old beggar departs
from him in a ditch, he says, 'I trust to be to-morrow a glad young
seraph in paradise.' Thus hope serves as a cordial for every hurt: but
for him who had beheld the loveliness of Freydis there is no hope at
all.

"For, in comparison with that alien clear beauty, there is no beauty in
this world. He that has beheld the loveliness of Freydis must go
henceforward as a hungry person, because of troubling memories: and his
fellows deride him enviously. All the world is fretted by his folly,
knowing that his faith in the world's might is no longer firm-set, and
that he aspires to what is beyond the world's giving. In his heart he
belittles the strong stupid lords of earth; and they, being strong, plan
vengeance, the while that in a corner he makes images to commemorate
what is lost: and so for him who has beheld the loveliness of Freydis
there is no hope at all.

"He that has willed to look upon Queen Freydis does not dread to consort
with serpents nor with swine; he faces the mirror wherein a man beholds
himself without self-deceiving; he views the blood that drips from his
soiled hands, and knows that this, too, was needed: yet these endurings
purchase but one hour. The hour passes, and therewith passes also
Freydis, the high Queen. Only the memory of her hour remains, like a
cruel gadfly, for which the crazed beholder of Queen Freydis must build
a lodging in his images, madly endeavoring to commingle memories with
wet mud: and so for him who has beheld the loveliness of Freydis there
is no hope at all."

Freydis heard him through, considerately. "But I wonder to how many
other women you have talked such nonsense about beauty and despair and
eternity," said Freydis, "and they very probably liking to hear it, the
poor fools! And I wonder how you can expect me to believe you, when you
pretend to think me all these fine things, and still keep me penned in
this enclosure like an old vicious cow."

"No, that is not the way it is any longer. For now the figure that I
have made in the world, and all else that is in the world, and all that
is anywhere without this enclosure of buttered willow wands, mean
nothing to me, and there is no meaning in anything save in the
loveliness of Freydis."

Dom Manuel went to the door of the enclosure then to the windows,
sweeping away the gilded tonthecs and the shining spaks, and removing
from the copper nails the horseshoes that had been cast by Mohammed's
mare and Hrimfaxi and Balaam's ass and Pegasus. "You were within my
power. Now I destroy that power, and therewith myself. Now is the place
unguarded, and all your servitors are free to enter, and all your
terrors are untrammeled, to be loosed against me, who have no longer
anything to dread. For I love you with such mortal love as values
nothing else beside its desire, and you care nothing for me."

After a little while of looking she sighed, and said uneasily: "It is
the foolish deed of a true lover. And, really, I do like you, rather.
But, Manuel, I do not know what to do next! Never at any time has this
thing happened before, so that all my garnered wisdom is of no use
whatever. Nobody anywhere has ever dared to snap his fingers at the fell
power of Freydis as you are doing, far less has anybody ever dared to be
making eyes at her. Besides, I do not wish to consume you with
lightnings, and to smite you with insanity appears so unnecessary."

"I love you," Manuel said, "and your heart is hard, and your beauty is
beyond the thinking of man, and your will is neither to loose nor to
bind. In a predicament so unexampled, how can it at all matter to me
whatever you may elect to do?"

"Then certainly I shall not waste any of my fine terrors on you!" said
Freydis, with a vexed tossing of her head. "Nor have I any more time to
waste upon you either, for presently the Moon-Children will be coming
back to their places: and before the hour is out wherein the moon stays
void and powerless I must return to my own kingdom, whither you may not
follow, to provoke me with any more of your nonsense. And then you will
be properly sorry, I dare say, for you will De remembering me always,
and there will be only human women to divert you, and they are poor
creatures."

Freydis went again to the mirror, and she meditated there. "Yes, you
will be remembering me with my hair in these awful plaits, and that is a
pity, but still you will remember me always. And when you make images
they will be images of me. No, but I cannot have you making any more
outrageous parodies like astonished corpses, and people everywhere
laughing at Queen Freydis!"

She took up the magical pen, laid ready as Helmas had directed, and she
wrote with this gryphon's feather. "So here is the recipe for the Tuyla
incantation with which to give life to your images. It may comfort you a
little to perform that silly magic. It, anyhow, will prevent such
good-for-nothing minxes as may have no more intelligence than to take
you seriously, from putting on too many airs and graces around the
images which you will make of me with my hair done so very
unbecomingly."

"Nothing can ever comfort me, fair enemy, when you have gone away," said
Manuel.

But he took the parchment.



XV


Bandages for the Victor


They came out of the enclosure, to the old altar of Vel-Tyno, while the
moon was still void and powerless. The servitors of Freydis were
thronging swiftly toward Upper Morven, after a pleasant hour of ravening
and ramping about Poictesme. As spoorns and trows and calcars and as
other long forgotten shapes they came, without any noise, so that Upper
Morven was like the disordered mind of a wretch that is dying in fever:
and to this side and to that side the witches of Amneran sat nodding in
approval of what they saw.

Thus, one by one, the forgotten shapes came to the fire, and cried, "A
penny, a penny, twopence, a penny and a half, and a halfpenny!" as each
entered into the fire which was the gateway to their home.

"Farewell!" said Freydis: and as she spoke she sighed.

"Not thus must be our parting," Manuel says. "For do you listen now,
Queen Freydis! it was Helmas the Deep-Minded who told me what was
requisite. '_Queen_ is the same as _cwen_, which means a woman, no more
nor less,' said the wise King. 'You have but to remember that.'"

She took his meaning. Freydis cried out, angrily: "Then all the
foolishness you have been talking about my looks and your love for me
was pre-arranged! And you have cheated me out of the old Tuyla mystery
by putting on the appearance of loving me, and by pestering me with such
nonsense as a plowman trades against the heart of a milkmaid! Now,
certainly, I shall reward your candor in a fashion that will be
whispered about for a long while."

With that, Queen Freydis set about a devastating magic.

"All, all was pre-arranged save one thing," said Manuel, with a yapping
laugh, and not even looking at the commencing terrors. He thrust into
the fire the parchment which Freydis had given him. "Yes, all was
pre-arranged except that Helmas did not purge me of that which will not
accept the hire of any lying to you. So the Deep-Minded's wisdom comes,
at the last pinch, to naught."

Now Freydis for an instant waved back two-thirds of an appalling
monster, which was as yet incompletely evoked for Dom Manuel's
destruction, and Freydis cried impatiently, "But have you no sense
whatever! for you are burning your hand."

And indeed the boy had already withdrawn his hand with a grimace, for in
the ardor of executing his noble gesture, as Queen Freydis saw, he had
not estimated how hot her fires were.

"It is but a little hurt to me who have taken a great hurt," says
Manuel, sullenly. "For I had thought to lie, and in my mouth the lie
turned to a truth. At least, I do not profit by my false-dealing, and I
wave you farewell with empty hands burned clean of theft."

Then she who was a human woman said, "But you have burned your hand!"

"It does not matter: I have ointments yonder. Make haste, Queen Freydis,
for the hour passes wherein the moon is void and powerless."

"There is time." She brought out water from the enclosure, and swiftly
bathed Dom Manuel's hand.

From the fire now came a whispering, "Make haste, Queen Freydis! make
haste, dear Fairy mistress!"

"There is time," said Freydis, "and do you stop flurrying me!" She
brought from the enclosure a pot of ointment, and she dressed Manuel's
hand.

"Borram, borram, Leanhaun shee!" the fire crackled. "Now the hour ends."

Then Freydis sprang from Manuel, toward the flames beyond which she was
queen of ancient mysteries, and beyond which her will was neither to
loose nor to bind. And she cried hastily, "A penny, a penny, twopence--"

But just for a moment she looked back at Morven, and at the man who
waited upon Morven alone and hurt. In his firelit eyes she saw love out
of measure and without hope. And in the breast of Freydis moved the
heart of a human woman.

"I cannot help it," she said, as the hour passed. "Somebody has to
bandage it, and men have no sense in these matters."

Whereon the fire roared angrily, and leaped, and fell dead, for the
Moon-Children Bil and Hjuki had returned from the well which is called
Byrgir, and the moon was no longer void and powerless.

"So, does that feel more comfortable?" said Freydis. She knew that
within this moment age and sorrow and death had somewhere laid
inevitable ambuscades, from which to assail her by and by, for she was
mortal after the sacred fire's extinction, and she meant to make the
best of it.

For a while Count Manuel did not speak. Then he said, in a shaking
voice: "O woman dear and lovely and credulous and compassionate, it is
you and you alone that I must be loving eternally with such tenderness
as is denied to proud and lonely queens on their tall thrones! And it is
you that I must be serving always with such a love as may not be given
to the figure that any man makes in this world! And though all life may
be a dusty waste of endless striving, and though the ways of men may
always be the ways of folly, yet are these ways our ways henceforward,
and not hopeless ways, for you and I will tread them together."

"Now certainly there is in Audela no such moonstruck nonsense to be
hearing, nor any such quick-footed hour of foolishness to be living
through," Freydis replied, "as here to-night has robbed me of my
kingdom."

"Love will repay," said Manuel, as is the easy fashion of men.

And Freydis, a human woman now in all things, laughed low and softly in
the darkness. "Repay me thus, my dearest: no matter how much I may coax
you in the doubtful time to come, do you not ever tell me how you
happened to have the bandages and the pot of ointment set ready by the
mirror. For it is bad for a human woman ever to be seeing through the
devices of wise kings, and far worse for her to be seeing through the
heroic antics of her husband."

Meanwhile in Arles young Alianora had arranged her own match with more
circumspection. The English, who at first demanded twenty thousand marks
as her jointure, had after interminable bargaining agreed to accept her
with three thousand: and she was to be dowered with Plymouth and Exeter
and Tiverton and Torquay and Brixham, and with the tin mines of
Devonshire and Cornwall. In everything except the husband involved, she
was marrying excellently, and so all Arles that night was ornamented
with flags and banners and chaplets and bright hangings and flaring
lamps and torches, and throughout Provence there was festivity of every
sort, and the Princess had great honor and applause.

But in the darkness of Upper Morven they had happiness, no matter for
how brief a while.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

PART THREE


THE BOOK OF CAST ACCOUNTS


TO

H.L. MENCKEN



Consider, _faire Miserie, (quoth Manuel) that it lyes not in mans power
to place his loue where he list, being the worke of an high Deity._ A
Birde was neuer seen in Pontus, _nor true loue in a fleeting mynde:
neuer shall remoue the affection of my Hearte, which in nature
resembleth the stone_ Abiston.



XVI


Freydis


They of Poictesme narrate how Queen Freydis and Count Manuel lived
together amicably upon Upper Morven. They tell also how the iniquitous
usurper, Duke Asmund, at this time held Bellegarde close at hand, but
that his Northmen kept away from Upper Morven, on account of the
supernatural beings you were always apt to encounter thereabouts, so
that Manuel and Freydis had, at first, no human company.

"Between now and a while," said Freydis, "you must be capturing
Bellegarde and cutting off Duke Asmund's ugly head, because by right and
by King Ferdinand's own handwriting all Poictesme belongs to you."

"Well, we will let that wait a bit," says Manuel, "for I do not so
heartily wish to be tied down with parchments in a count's gilded seat
as I do to travel everywhither and see the ends of this world and judge
them. At all events, dear Freydis, I am content enough for the present,
in this little home of ours, and public affairs can wait."

"Still, something ought to be done about it," said Freydis. And, since
Manuel displayed an obstinate prejudice against any lethal plague, she
put the puckerel curse upon Asmund, by which he was afflicted with all
small bodily ills that can intervene between corns and dandruff.

On Upper Morven Freydis had reared by enchantment a modest home, that
was builded of jasper and porphyry and yellow and violet breccia.
Inside, the stone walls were everywhere covered with significant
traceries in low relief, and were incrusted at intervals with disks and
tesserae of turquoise-colored porcelain. The flooring, of course, was of
zinc, as a defence against the unfriendly Alfs, who are at perpetual war
with Audela, and, moreover, there was a palisade, enclosing all, of
peeled willow wands, not buttered but oiled, and fastened with unknotted
ribbons.

Everything was very simple and homelike, and here the servitors of
Freydis attended them when there was need. The fallen Queen was not a
gray witch--not in appearance certainly, but in her endowments, which
were not limited as are the powers of black witches and white witches.
She instructed Dom Manuel in the magic of Audela, and she and Manuel had
great times together that spring and summer, evoking ancient dis-crowned
gods and droll monsters and instructive ghosts to entertain them in the
pauses between other pleasures.

They heard no more, for that turn, of the clay figure to which they had
given life, save for the news brought, by a bogglebo, that as the
limping gay young fellow went down from Morven the reputable citizenry
everywhere were horrified because he went as he was created,
stark-naked, and this was not considered respectable. So a large
tumble-bug came from the west, out of the quagmires of Philistia and
followed after the animated figure, yelping and spluttering, "Morals,
not art!" And for that while, the figure went out of Manuel's saga, thus
malodorously accompanied.

"But we will make a much finer figure," says Freydis, "so it does not
matter."

"Yes, by and by," says Manuel, "but we will let that wait a bit."

"You are always saying that nowadays!"

"Ah, but, my dear, it is so very pleasant to rest here doing nothing
serious for a little while, now that my geas is discharged. Presently of
course we must be travelling everywhither, and when we have seen the
ends of this world, and have judged them, I shall have time, and greater
knowledge too, to give to this image making--"

"It is not from any remote strange places, dear Manuel, but from his own
land that a man must get the earth for this image making--"

"Well, be that as it may, your kisses are to me far more delicious than
your magic."

"I love to hear you say that, my dearest, but still--"

"No, not at all, for you are really much nicer when you are cuddling so,
than when you are running about the world pretending to be pigs and
snakes and fireworks, and murdering people with your extravagant
sorceries."

Saying this, he kissed her, and thus stilled her protests, for in these
amiable times Queen Freydis also was at bottom less interested in magic
than in kisses. Indeed, there was never any sorceress more loving and
tender than Freydis, now that she had become a human woman.

If ever she was irritable it was only when Manuel confessed, in reply to
jealous questionings, that he did not find her quite so beautiful nor so
clever as Niafer had been: but this, as Manuel pointed out, could not be
helped. For there had never been anybody like Niafer, and it would be
nonsense to say otherwise.

It is possible that Dom Manuel believed this. The rather homely, not
intelligent, and in no respect bedazzling servant girl may well have
been--in the inexplicable way these things fell out,--the woman whom
Manuel's heart had chosen, and who therefore in his eyes for the rest of
time must differ from all other persons. Certainly no unastigmatic judge
would have decreed this swarthy Niafer fit, as the phrase is, to hold a
candle either to Freydis or Alianora: whereas Manuel did not conceal,
even from these royal ladies themselves, his personal if unique
evaluations.

To the other side, some say that ladies who are used to hourly
admiration cannot endure the passing of a man who seems to admire not
quite wholeheartedly. He who does not admire at all is obviously a fool,
and not worth bothering about. But to him who admits, "You are well
enough," and makes as though to pass on, there is a mystery attached:
and the one way to solve it is to pursue this irritating fellow. Some
(reasoning thus) assert that squinting Manuel was aware of this axiom,
and that he respected it in all his dealings with Freydis and Alianora.
Either way, these theorists did not ever get any verbal buttressing from
Dom Manuel. Niafer dead and lost to him, he, without flaunting any
unexampled ardors, fell to loving Alianora: and now that Freydis had put
off immortality for his kisses, the tall boy had, again, somewhat the
air of consenting to accept this woman's sacrifice, and her loveliness
and all her power and wisdom, as being upon the whole the handiest
available substitute for Niafer's sparse charms.

Yet others declare, more simply, that Dom Manuel was so constituted as
to value more cheaply every desire after he had attained it. And these
say he noted that--again in the inexplicable way these things fall
out,--now Manuel possessed the unearthly Queen she had become, precisely
as Alianora had become, a not extraordinary person, who in all commerce
with her lover dealt as such.

"But do you really love me, O man of all men?" Freydis would say, "and,
this damned Niafer apart, do you love me a little more than you love any
other woman?"

"Why, are there any other women?" says Manuel, in fine surprise. "Oh, to
be sure, I suppose there are, but I had forgotten about them. I have not
heard or seen or thought of those petticoated creatures since my dear
Freydis came."

The sorceress purred at this sort of talk, and she rested her head where
there seemed a place especially made for it. "I wish I could believe
your words, king of my heart. I have to strive so hard, nowadays, to
goad you into saying these idiotic suitable dear things: and even when
at last you do say them your voice is light and high, and makes them
sound as though you were joking."

He kissed the thick coil of hair which lay fragrant against his lips.
"Do you know, in spite of my joking, I do love you a great deal?"

"I would practise saying that over to myself," observed Freydis
critically. "You should let your voice break a little after the first
three words."

"I speak as I feel. I love you, Freydis, and I tell you so."

"Yes, but you are no longer a perpetual nuisance about it."

"Alas, my dear, you are no longer the unattainable Queen of the country
on the other side of the fire, and that makes a difference, certainly.
It is equally certain that I love you over and above all living women."

"Ah, but, my dearest, who loves you more than any human tongue can
tell?"

"A peculiarly obstinate and lovely imbecile," says Manuel; and he did
that which seemed suitable.

Later Freydis sighed luxuriously. "That saves you the trouble of
talking, does it not? And you talked so madly and handsomely that first
night, when you wanted to get around me on account of the image, but now
you do not make me any pretty speeches at all."

"Oh, heavens!" said Manuel, "but I am embracing a monomaniac. Dear
Freydis, whatever I might say would be perforce the same old words that
have been whispered by millions of men to many more millions of women,
and my love for you is a quite unparalleled thing which ought not to be
travestied by any such shopworn apparel."

"Now again you must be putting me off with solemn joking in that light
high voice, and there is no faithfulness in that voice, and its talking
troubles me."

"I speak as I feel. I love you, Freydis, and I tell you so, but I cannot
be telling it over and over again every quarter of the hour."

"Oh, but very certainly this big squinting boy is the most unloquacious
and the most stubborn brute that ever lived!"

"And would you have me otherwise?"

"No, that is the queer part of it. But it is a grief to me to wonder if
you foresaw as much."

"I!" says Manuel, jovially. "But what would I be doing with any such
finespun policies? My dear, until you comprehend I am the most frank and
downright creature that ever lived you do not begin to appreciate me."

"I know you are, big boy. But still, I wonder," Freydis said, "and the
wondering is a thin little far-off grief."

[Illustration]



XVII


Magic of the Image-Makers


It was presently noised abroad that Queen Freydis of Audela had become a
human woman; and thereafter certain enchanters came to Upper Morven, to
seek her counsel and her favor and the aid of Schamir. These were the
enchanters, Manuel was told, who made images, to which they now and then
contrived--nobody seemed to know quite how, and least of all did the
thaumaturgists themselves,--to impart life.

Once Manuel went with Freydis into a dark place where some of these
magic-workers were at labor. By the light of a charcoal fire, clay
images were ruddily discernible; before these the enchanters moved
unhumanly clad, and doing things which, mercifully perhaps, were veiled
from Manuel by the peculiarly perfumed obscurity.

As Manuel entered the gallery one of the magic-workers was chaunting
shrilly in the darkness below. "It is the unfinished Rune of the
Blackbirds," says Freydis, in a whisper.

Below them the troubled wailing continued:

"--Crammed and squeezed, so entombed (on some wager I hazard), in spite
of scared squawking and mutter, after the fashion that lean-faced Rajah
dealt with trapped heroes, once, in Calcutta. Dared you break the crust
and bullyrag 'em--hot, fierce and angry, what wide beaks buzz plain
Saxon as ever spoke Witenagemot! Yet, singing, they sing as no white
bird does (where none rears phoenix) as near perfection as nature gets,
or, if scowls bar platitude, notes for which there is no rejection in
banks whose coinage--oh, neat!--is gratitude."

Said, in the darkness, another enchanter:

"But far from their choiring the high King sat, in a gold-faced vest and
a gold-laced hat, counting heaped monies, and dreaming of more francs
and sequins and Louis d'or. Meanwhile the Queen on that fateful night,
though avowing her lack of all appetite, was still at table, where,
rumor said, she was smearing her seventh slice of bread (thus each
turgescible rumor thrives at court) with gold from the royal hives.
Through the slumberous pare, under arching trees, to her labors went
singing the maid Dénise--"

A third broke in here, saying:

"And she sang of how subtle and bitter and bright was a beast brought
forth, that was clad with the splendor and light of the cold fair ends
of the north, like a fleshly blossom more white than augmenting tempests
that go, with thunder for weapon, to ravage the strait waste fastness of
snow. She sang how that all men on earth said, whether its mistress at
morn went forth or waited till night,--whether she strove through the
foam and wreckage of shallow and firth, or couched in glad fields of
corn, or fled from all human delight,--that thither it likewise would
roam."

Now a fourth began:

"Thus sang Dénise, what while the siccant sheets and coverlets that
pillowed kingly dreams, with curious undergarbs of royalty, she neatly
ranged: and dreamed not of that doom which waited, yet unborn, to strike
men dumb with perfect awe. As when the seventh wave poises, and sunlight
cleaves it through and through with gold, as though to gild oncoming
death for him that sees foredoomed--and, gasping, sees death high and
splendid!--while the tall wave bears down, and its shattering makes an
end of him: thus poised the sable bird while one might count one, two,
and three, and four, and five, and six, but hardly seven--"

So they continued; but Manuel listened to no more. "What is the meaning
of all this?" he asked, of Freydis.

"It is an experimental incantation," she replied, "in that it is a bit
of unfinished magic for which the proper words have not yet been found:
but between now and a while they will be stumbled on, and then this rune
will live perpetually, surviving all those rhymes that are infected with
thought and intelligent meanings such as are repugnant to human nature."

"Are words, then, so important and enduring?"

"Why, Manuel, I am surprised at you! In what else, pray, does man differ
from the other animals except in that he is used by words?"

"Now I would have said that words are used by men."

"There is give and take, of course, but in the main man is more
subservient to words than they are to him. Why, do you but think of such
terrible words as religion and duty and love, and patriotism and art,
and honor and common-sense, and of what these tyrannizing words do to
and make of people!"

"No, that is chop-logic: for words are only transitory noises, whereas
man is the child of God, and has an immortal spirit."

"Yes, yes, my dearest, I know you believe that, and I think it is
delightfully quaint and sweet of you. But, as I was saying, a man has
only the body of an animal to get experiences in, and the brain of an
animal to think them over with, so that the thoughts and opinions of the
poor dear must remain always those of a more or less intelligent animal.
But his words are very often magic, as you will comprehend by and by when
I have made you the greatest of image-makers."

"Well, well, but we can let that wait a bit," said Manuel.

And thereafter Manuel talked with Freydis, confessing that the
appearance of these magic-workers troubled Manuel. He had thought it, he
said, an admirable thing to make images that lived, until he saw and
considered the appearance of these habitual makers of images. They were
an ugly and rickety, short-tempered tribe, said Manuel: they were
shiftless, spiteful, untruthful, and in everyday affairs not far from
imbecile: they plainly despised all persons who could not make images,
and they apparently detested all those who could. With Manuel they were
particularly high and mighty, assuring him that he was only a prosperous
and affected pseudo-magician, and that the harm done by the self-styled
thaumaturgist was apt to be very great indeed. What sort of models,
then, were these insane, mud-moulding solitary wasps for a tall lad to
follow after? And if Manuel acquired their arts (he asked in
conclusion), would he acquire their traits?

"The answer is perhaps no, and not impossibly yes," replied Freydis.
"For by the ancient Tuyla mystery they extract that which is best in
them to inform their images, and this is apt to leave them empty of
virtue. But I would have you consider that their best endures, whereas
that which is best in other persons is obliterated on some battle-field
or mattress or gallows That is why I have been thinking that this
afternoon--"

"No, we will let that wait a bit, for I must turn this over in my mind,"
said Manuel, "and my mature opinion about this matter must be expressed
later."

But while his thoughts were on the affair his fingers made him droll
small images of ten of the image-makers, which he set aside unquickened.
Freydis smiled at these caricatures, and asked when Manuel would give
them life.

"Oh, in due time," he said, "and then their antics may be diverting. But
I perceive that this old Tuyla magic is practised at great price and
danger, so that I am in no hurry to practise any more of it. I prefer to
enjoy that which is dearer and better."

"And what can be dearer and better?"

"Youth," Manuel answered, "and you."

Queen Freydis was now a human woman in all things, so this reply
delighted her hearing if not her reason. "Do these two possessions
content you, king of my heart?" she asked him very fondly.

"No," Manuel said, gazing out across Morven at the cloud-dappled ridges
of the Taunenfels, "nor do I look ever to be contented in this world of
men."

"Indeed the run of men are poor thin-minded creatures, Manuel--"

He answered, moodily:

"But I cannot put aside the thought that these men ought to be my
fellows and my intimates. Instead, I who am a famed champion go daily in
distrust, almost in fear, of these incomprehensible and shatter-pated
beings. To every side there is a feeble madness over-busy about
long-faced nonsense from which I recoil, who must conceal this shrinking
always. There is no hour in my life but I go armored in reserve and in
small lies, and in my armor I am lonely. Freydis, you protest deep love
for this well-armored Manuel, but what wisdom will reveal to you, or to
me either, just what is Manuel? Oh, but I am puzzled by the impermanence
and the loneliness and the impotence of this Manuel! Dear Freydis, do
not love my body nor my manner of speaking, nor any of the ways that I
have in the flesh, for all these transiencies are mortgaged to the
worms. And that thought also is a grief--"

"Let us not speak of these things! Let us not think of anything that is
horrid, but only of each other!"

"But I cannot put aside the thought that I, who for the while exist in
this mortgaged body, cannot ever get out to you. Freydis, there is no
way in which two persons may meet in this world of men: we can but
exchange, from afar, despairing friendly signals, in the sure knowledge
they will be misinterpreted. So do we pass, each coming out of a strange
woman's womb, each parodied by the flesh of his parents, each passing
futilely, with incommunicative gestures, toward the womb of a strange
grave: and in this jostling we find no comradeship. No soul may travel
upon a bridge of words. Indeed there is no word for my foiled huge
desire to love and to be loved, just as there is no word for the big,
the not quite comprehended thought which is moving in me at this moment.
But that thought also is a grief--"

Manuel was still looking at the changing green and purple of the
mountains and at the tall clouds trailing northward. The things that he
viewed yonder were all gigantic and lovely, and they seemed not to be
very greatly bothering about humankind.

Then Freydis said: "Let us not think too much, dear, in our youth. It is
such a waste of the glad time, and of the youth that will not ever be
returning--"

"But I cannot put aside the thought that it will never be the true
Manuel whom you will love or even know of, nor can I dismiss the
knowledge that these human senses, through which alone we may obtain any
knowledge of each other, are lying messengers. What can I ever be to you
except flesh and a voice? Nor is this the root of my sorrowing, dear
Freydis. For I know that my distrust of all living creatures--oh, even
of you, dear Freydis, when I draw you closest,--must always be as a wall
between us, a low, lasting, firm-set wall which we can never pull down.
And I know that I am not really a famed champion, but only a forlorn and
lonely inmate of the doubtful castle of my body; and that I, who know
not truly what I am, must die in this same doubt and loneliness, behind
the strong defences of posturing and bluntness and jovial laughter which
I have raised for my protecting. And that thought also is a grief."

Now Manuel was as Freydis had not ever seen him. She wondered at him,
she was perturbed by this fine lad's incomprehensible dreariness, with
soft red willing lips so near: and her dark eyes were bent upon him with
a beautiful and tender yearning which may not be told.

"I do not understand you, my dearest," said she, who was no longer the
high Queen of Audela, but a mortal woman. "It is true that all the world
about us is a false seeming, but you and I are real and utterly united,
for we have no concealments from each other. I am sure that no two
people could be happier than we are, nor better suited. And certainly
such morbid notions are not like you, who, as you said yourself, only
the other day, are naturally so frank and downright."

Now Manuel's thoughts came back from the clouds and the green and purple
of the mountains. He looked at her very gravely for an instant or two.
He laughed morosely. He said, "There!"

"But, dearest, you are strange and not yourself--

"Yes, yes!" says Manuel, kissing her, "for the moment I had forgotten to
be frank and downright, and all else which you expect of me. Now I am my
old candid, jovial, blunt self again, and I shall not worry you with
such silly notions any more. No, I am Manuel: I follow after my own
thinking and my own desire; and if to do that begets loneliness I must
endure it"

[Illustration]



XVIII


Manuel Chooses


"But I cannot understand," said Freydis, on a fine day in September,
"how it is that, now the power of Schamir is in your control, and you
have the secret of giving life to your images, you do not care to use
either the secret or the talisman. For you make no more images, you are
always saying, 'No, we will let that wait a bit,' and you do not even
quicken the ten caricatures of the image-makers which you have already
modeled."

"Life will be given to these in due time," said Manuel, "but that time
is not yet come. Meanwhile, I avoid practise of the old Tuyla mystery
for the sufficing reason that I have seen the result it has on the
practitioner. A geas was upon me to make a figure in the world, and so I
modeled and loaned life to such a splendid gay young champion as was to
my thinking and my desire. Thus my geas, I take it, is discharged, and a
thing done has an end. Heaven may now excel me by creating a larger
number of living figures than I, but pre-eminence in this matter is not
a question of arithmetic--"

"Ah, yes, my squinting boy has all the virtues, including that of
modesty!"

"Well, but I have seen my notion embodied, seen it take breath, seen it
depart from Morven in all respects, except for a little limping--which,
do you know, I thought rather graceful?--in well-nigh all respects, I
repeat, quite indistinguishable from the embodied notions of that master
craftsman whom some call Ptha, and others Jahveh, and others Abraxas,
and yet others Koshchei the Deathless. In fine, I have made a figure
more admirable and significant than is the run of men, and I rest upon
my laurels."

"You have created a living being somewhat above the average, that is
true: but then every woman who has a fine baby does just as much--"

"The principle is not the same," said Manuel, with dignity.

"And why not, please, big boy?"

"For one thing, my image was an original and unaided production, whereas
a baby, I am told, is the result of more or less hasty collaboration.
Then, too a baby is largely chance work, in that its nature cannot be
exactly foreplanned and pre-determined by its makers, who, in the glow
of artistic creation, must, I imagine, very often fail to follow the
best aesthetic canons."

"As for that, nobody who makes new and unexampled things can make them
exactly to the maker's will. Even your image limped, you remember--"

"Ah, but so gracefully!"

"--No, Manuel, it is only those necromancers who evoke the dead, and bid
the dead return to the warm flesh, that can be certain as to the results
of their sorcery. For these alone of magic-workers know in advance what
they are making."

"Ah, this is news! So you think it is possible to evoke the dead in some
more tangible form than that of an instructive ghost? You think it
possible for a dead girl--or, as to that matter, for a dead boy, or a
defunct archbishop, or a deceased ragpicker,--to be fetched back to live
again in the warm flesh?"

"All things are possible, Manuel, at a price."

Said Manuel:

"What price would be sufficient to re-purchase the rich spoils of Death?
and whence might any bribe be fetched? For all the glowing wealth and
beauty of this big round world must show as a new-minted farthing beside
his treasure chests, as one slight shining unimportant coin which--even
this also!--belongs to earth, but has been overlooked by him as yet.
Presently this hour, and whatever is strutting through this hour, is
added to the heaped crypts wherein lie all that was worthiest in the old
time.

"Now there is garnered such might and loveliness and wisdom as human
thinking cannot conceive of. An emperor is made much of here when he has
conquered some part of the world, but Death makes nothing of a world of
emperors: and in Death's crowded store-rooms nobody bothers to estimate
within a thousand thousand of how many emperors, and tzars and popes and
pharaohs and sultans, that in their day were adored as omnipotent, are
there assembled pellmell, along with all that was worthiest in the old
time.

"As touches loveliness, not even Helen's beauty is distinguishable among
those multitudinous millions of resplendent queens whom one finds
yonder. Here are many pretty women, here above all is Freydis, so I do
not complain. But yonder is deep-bosomed Semiramis, and fair-tressed
Guenevere, and Magdalene that loved Christ, and Europa, the bull's
laughing bride, and Lilith, whose hot kiss made Satan ardent, and a many
other ladies by whose dear beauty's might were shaped the songs which
cause us to remember all that was worthiest in the old time.

"As wisdom goes, here we have prudent men of business able to add two
and two together, and justice may be out of hand distinguished from
injustice by an impanelment of the nearest twelve fools. Here we have
many Helmases a-cackling wisely under a goose-feather. But yonder are
Cato and Nestor and Merlin and Socrates, Abelard sits with Aristotle
there, and the seven sages confer with the major prophets, and yonder is
all that was worthiest in the old time.

"All, all, are put away in Death's heaped store-rooms, so safely put
away that opulent Death may well grin scornfully at Life: for everything
belongs to Death, and Life is only a mendicant scratching at his sores
so long as Death permits it. No, Freydis, there can be no bribing Death!
For what bribe anywhere has Life to offer which Death has not already
lying disregarded in a thousand dusty coffers along with all that was
worthiest in the old time?"

Freydis replied: "One thing alone. Yes, Manuel, there is one thing only
which all Death's ravishings have never taken from Life, and which has
not ever entered into Death's keeping. It is through weighing this fact,
and through doing what else is requisite, that the very bold may bring
back the dead to live again in the warm flesh."

"Well, but I have heard the histories of presumptuous men who attempted
to perform such miracles, and all these persons sooner or later came to
misery."

"Why, to be sure! to whom else would you have them coming?" said
Freydis. And she explained the way it was.

Manuel put many questions. All that evening he was thoughtful, and he
was unusually tender with Freydis. And that night, when Freydis slept,
Dom Manuel kissed her very lightly, then blinked his eyes, and for a
moment covered them with his hand. Standing thus, the tall boy queerly
moving his mouth, as though it were stiff and he were trying to make it
more supple.

Then he armed himself. He took up the black shield upon which was
painted a silver stallion. He crept out of their modest magic home and
went down into Bellegarde, where he stole him a horse, from the stables
of Duke Asmund.

And that night, and all the next day, Dom Manuel rode beyond Aigremont
and Naimes, journeying away from Morven, and away from the house of
jasper and porphyry and violet and yellow breccia, and away from
Freydis, who had put off immortality for his kisses. He travelled
northward, toward the high woods of Dun Vlechlan, where the leaves were
aglow with the funereal flames of autumn: for the summer wherein Dom
Manuel and Freydis had been happy together was now as dead as that
estranged queer time which he had shared with Alianora.

[Illustration]



XIX


The Head of Misery


When Manuel had reached the outskirts of the forest he encountered there
a knight in vermilion armor, with a woman's sleeve wreathed about his
helmet: and, first of all, this knight demanded who was Manuel's lady
love.

"I have no living love," said Manuel, "except the woman whom I am
leaving without ceremony, because it seems the only way to avoiding
argument."

"But that is unchivalrous, and does not look well."

"Very probably you are right, but I am not chivalrous. I am Manuel. I
follow after my own thinking, and an obligation is upon me pointing
toward prompt employment of the knowledge I have gained from this
woman."

"You are a rascally betrayer of women, then, and an unmanly scoundrel."

"Yes, I suppose so, for I betrayed another woman, in that I permitted
and indeed assisted her to die in my stead; and so brought yet another
bond upon myself, and an obligation which is drawing me from a homelike
place and from soft arms wherein I was content enough," says Manuel,
sighing.

But the chivalrous adventurer in red armor was disgusted. "Oh, you tall
squinting villain knight of the silver stallion, I wonder from whose
court you can be coming, where they teach no better behavior than
woman-killing, and I wonder what foul new knavery you can be planning
here."

"Why, I was last in residence at Raymond Bérenger's court," says Manuel:
"and since you are bent on knowing about my private affairs, I come to
this forest in search of Béda, or Kruchina, or whatever you call the
Misery of earth in these parts."

"Aha, and are you one of Raymond Bérenger's friends?"

"Yes, I suppose so," says Manuel, blinking,--"yes, I suppose so, since I
have prevented his being poisoned."

"This is good hearing, for I have always been one of Raymond Bérenger's
enemies, and all such of his friends as I have encountered I have
slain."

"Doubtless you have your reasons", said Manuel, and would have ridden
by.

But the other cried furiously, "Turn, you tall fool! Turn, cowardly
betrayer of women!"

He came upon Manuel like a whirlwind, and Manuel had no choice in the
matter. So they fought, and presently Manuel brought the vermilion
knight to the ground, and, dismounting, killed him. It was noticeable
that from the death-wound came no blood, but only a flowing of very fine
black sand, out of which scrambled and hastily scampered away a small
vermilion-colored mouse.

Then Manuel said, "I think that this must be the peculiarly irrational
part of the forest, to which I was directed, and I wonder what may have
been this scarlet squabbler's grievance against King Raymond Bérenger?"

Nobody answered, so Manuel remounted, and rode on.

Count Manuel skirted the Wolflake, and came to a hut, painted gray, that
stood clear of the ground, upon the bones of four great birds' feet.
Upon the four corners of the hunt were carved severally the figures of a
lion, a dragon, a cockatrice and an adder, to proclaim the miseries of
carnal and intellectual sin, and of pride, and of death.

Here Manuel tethered his horse to a holm-oak. He raised both arms,
facing the East.

"Do you now speed me!" cried Manuel, "ye thirty Barami! O all ye powers
of accumulated merit, O most high masters of Almsgiving, of Morality, of
Relinquishment, of Wisdom, of Fortitude, of Patience, of Truth, of
Determination, of Charity, and of Equanimity! do all you aid me in my
encounter with the Misery of earth!"

He piously crossed himself, and went into the hut. Inside, the walls
were adorned with very old-looking frescoes that were equally innocent
of perspective and reticence: the floor was of tessellated bronze. In
each corner Manuel found, set upright, a many-storied umbrella of the
kind used for sacred purposes in the East: each of these had a silver
handle, and was worked in nine colors. But most important of all, so
Manuel had been told, was the pumpkin which stood opposite to the
doorway.

Manuel kindled a fire, and prepared the proper kind of soup: and at
sunset he went to the window of the hut, and cried out three times that
supper was ready.

One answered him, "I am coming."

Manuel waited. There was now no sound in the forest: even the few birds
not yet gone south, that had been chirping of the day's adventures, were
hushed on a sudden, and the breeze died in the tree-tops. Inside the hut
Manuel lighted his four candles, and he disposed of one under each
umbrella in the prescribed manner. His footsteps on the bronze flooring,
and the rustling of his garments as he went about the hut doing what was
requisite, were surprisingly sharp and distinct noises in a vast silence
and in an illimitable loneliness.

Then said a thin little voice, "Manuel, open the door!"

Manuel obeyed, and you could see nobody anywhere in the forest's dusk.
The twilit brown and yellow trees were still as paintings. His horse
stood tethered and quite motionless, except that it was shivering.

One spoke at his feet. "Manuel, lift me over the threshold!"

Dom Manuel, recoiling, looked downward, and in the patch of candlelight
between the shadows of his legs you could see a human head. He raised
the head, and carried it into the hut. He could now perceive that the
head was made of white clay, and could deduce that the Misery of earth,
whom some call Béda, and others Kruchina, had come to him.

"Now, Manuel," says Misery, "do you give me my supper."

So Manuel set the head upon the table, and put a platter of soup before
the head, and fed the soup to Misery with a gold spoon.

When the head had supped, it bade Manuel place it in the little bamboo
cradle, and told Manuel to put out the lights. Many persons would not
have fancied being alone in the dark with Misery, but Manuel obeyed. He
knelt to begin his nightly prayer, but at once that happened which
induced him to desist. So without his usual divine invocation, Dom
Manuel lay down upon the bronze floor of the hut, beneath one of the
tall umbrellas, and he rolled up his russet cloak for a pillow.
Presently the head was snoring, and then Manuel too went to sleep. He
said, later, that he dreamed of Niafer.

[Illustration]



XX


The Month of Years


In the morning, after doing the head's extraordinary bidding, Manuel
went to feed his horse, and found tethered to the holm-oak the steed's
skeleton picked clean. "I grieve at this," said Manuel, "but I consider
it wiser to make no complaint." Indeed, there was nobody to complain to,
for Misery, after having been again lifted over the threshold, had
departed to put in a day's labor with the plague in the north.

Thereafter Manuel abode in this peculiarly irrational part of the
forest, serving Misery for, as men in cheerier places were estimating
the time, a month and a day. Of these services it is better not to
speak. But the head was pleased by Manuel's services, because Misery
loves company: and the two used to have long friendly talks together
when Manuel's services and Misery's work for that day were over.

"And how came you, sir, to be thus housed in a trunkless head?" asked
Manuel, one time.

"Why, when Jahveh created man on the morning of the sixth day, he set
about fashioning me that afternoon from the clay which was left over.
But he was interrupted by the coming of the Sabbath, for Jahveh was in
those days, of course, a very orthodox Jew. So I was left incomplete,
and must remain so always."

"I deduce that you, then, sir, are Heaven's last crowning work, and the
final finishing touch to creation."

"So the pessimists tell me," the clay head assented, with a yawn. "But I
have had a hard day of it, what with the pestilence in Glathion, and
wars between the Emperor and the Milanese, and all those October colds,
so we will talk no more philosophy."

Thus Manuel served the head of Misery, for a month of days and a day. It
was a noticeable peculiarity of this part of the forest--a peculiarity
well known to everybody, though not quite unanimously explained by the
learned,--that each day which one spent therein passed as a year, so
that Dom Manuel in appearance now aged rapidly. This was unfortunate,
especially when his teeth began to fail him, because there were no
dentists handy, but his interest in the other Plagues which visited this
forest left Manuel little time wherein to think about private worries.
For Béda was visited by many of his kindred, such as Mitlan and Kali and
Thragnar and Pwyll and Apepi and other evil principles, who were
perpetually coming to the gray hut for family reunions, and to rehearse
all but one of the two hundred and forty thousand spells of the Capuas.
And it was at this time that Manuel got his first glimpse of Sclaug,
with whom he had such famous troubles later.

So sped the month of days that passed as years. Little is known as to
what happened in the gray hut, but that perhaps is a good thing. Dom
Manuel never talked about it. This much is known, that all day the clay
head would be roving about the world, carrying envious reports, and
devouring kingdoms, and stirring up patriotism and reform, and
whispering malefic counsel, and bringing hurt and sorrow and despair and
evil of every kind to men; and that in the evening, when at sunset
Phobetor took over this lamentable work, Béda would return contentedly
to Dun Vlechlan, for Manuel's services and a well-earned night's rest.
On most evenings there was unspeakable company, but none of these stayed
overnight. And after each night passed alone with Misery, the morning
would find Manuel older looking.

"I wonder, sir, at your callousness, and at the cheery way in which you
go about your dreadful business," said Manuel, once, after he had just
cleansed the dripping jaws.

"Ah, but since I am all head and no heart, therefore I cannot well pity
the human beings whom I pursue as a matter of allotted duty."

"That seems plausible," says Manuel, "and I perceive that if appearances
are to be trusted you are not personally to blame. Still, I cannot but
wonder why the world of men should thus be given over to Misery if
Koshchei the Deathless, who made all things as they are, has any care
for men."

"As to what goes on overhead, Manuel, you must inquire of others. There
are persons in charge, I know, but they have never yet permitted Misery
to enter into their high places, for I am not popular with them, and
that is the truth."

"I can understand that, but nevertheless I wonder why Misery should have
been created to feed upon mankind."

"Probably the cows and sheep and chickens in your barnyards, and the
partridges and rabbits in your snares, and even the gasping fish upon
your hook, find time to wonder in the same way about you, Dom Manuel."

"Ah, but man is the higher form of life--"

"Granting that remarkable assumption, and is any man above Misery? So
you see it is logical I should feed on you."

"Still, I believe that the Misery of earth was devised as a trial and a
testing to fit us for some nobler and eternal life hereafter."

"Why in this world should you think that?" the head inquired, with real
interest.

"Because I have an immortal spirit, sir, and--"

"Dear me, but all this is very remarkable. Where is it, Manuel?"

"It is inside me somewhere, sir."

"Come, then, let us have it out, for I am curious to see it."

"No, it cannot get out exactly, sir, until I am dead."

"But what use will it be to you then?" said Misery: "and how can you,
who have not ever been dead, be certain as to what happens when one is
dead?"

"Well, I have always heard so, sir."

The head shook itself dubiously. "Now from whom of the Léshy, I wonder,
can you have been hearing such fantastic stories? I am afraid somebody
has been making fun of you, Manuel."

"Oh, no, sir, this is a tenet held by the wisest and most admirable of
men."

"I see: it was some other man who told you all these drolleries about
the eternal importance of mankind," the head observed, with an
unaccountable slackening of interest. "I see: and again, you may notice
that the cows and the sheep and the chickens, also, resent extinction
strenuously."

"But these are creatures of the earth, sir, whereas there is about at
any rate some persons a whiff of divinity. Come now, do you not find it
so?"

The head looked graver. "Yes, Manuel, most young people have in them a
spark which is divine, but it is living that snuffs this out of all of
you, by and large, without bothering Grandfather Death to unpeel spirits
like bananas. No, the most of you go with very little spirit, if any,
into the grave, and assuredly with not enough spirit to last you
forever. No, Manuel, no, I never quarrel with religion, because it is
almost the strongest ally I have, but these religious notions rather
disgust me sometimes, for if men were immortal then Misery would be
immortal, and I could never survive that."

"Now you are talking nonsense, sir," said Manuel, stoutly, "and of all
sorts of nonsense cynical nonsense is the worst."

"By no means," replied the head, "since, plainly, it is far worse
nonsense to assert that omnipotence would insanely elect to pass
eternity with you humans. No, Manuel, I am afraid that your queer
theory, about your being stuffed inside with permanent material and so
on, does not very plausibly account for either your existence or mine,
and that we both stay riddles without answers."

"Still, sir," said Manuel, "inasmuch as there is one thing only which
all death's ravishings have never taken from life, and that thing is the
Misery of earth--"

"Your premiss is indisputable, but what do you deduce from this?"

Manuel smiled slowly and sleepily. "I deduce, sir, that you, also, who
have not ever been dead, cannot possibly be certain as to what happens
when one is dead. And so I shall stick to my own opinion about the life
to come."

"But your opinion is absurd, on the face of it."

"That may very well be, sir, but it is much more comfortable to live
with than is your opinion, and living is my occupation just now. Dying I
shall attend to in its due turn, and, of the two, my opinion is the more
pleasant to die with. Thereafter, if your opinion be right, I shall
never even know that my opinion was wrong: so that I have everything to
gain, in the way of pleasurable anticipations anyhow, and I have nothing
whatever to lose, by clinging to the foolish fond old faith which my
fathers had before me," said Manuel, as sturdily as ever.

"Yes, but how in this world--?"

"Ah, sir," says Manuel, still smiling, "in this world men are nourished
by their beliefs; and it well may be that, yonder also, their sustenance
is the same."

But at this moment came Reeri (a little crimson naked man, having the
head of a monkey) with his cock in one hand and his gnarled club in the
other. Necessarily the Blood Demon's arrival put an end to their
talking, for that turn.

[Illustration]



XXI


Touching Repayment


So Count Manuel's youth went out of him as he became more and more
intimate with Misery, and an attachment sprang up between them, and the
two took counsel as to all Manuel's affairs. They often talked of the
royal ladies whom Manuel had loved and loved no longer.

"For at one time," Manuel admitted, "I certainly fancied myself in love
with the Princess Alianora, and at another time I was in love with Queen
Freydis. And even now I like them well enough, but neither of these
royal ladies could make me forget the slave girl Niafer whom I loved on
Vraidex. Besides, the Princess and the Queen were fond of having their
own way about everything, and they were bent on hampering me with power
and wealth and lofty station and such other obstacles to the following
of my own thinking and my own desires. I could not endure the eternal
arguing this led to, which was always reminding me, by contrast, of the
quiet dear ways of Niafer and of the delight I had in the ways of
Niafer. So it seemed best for everyone concerned for me to break off
with Freydis and Alianora."

"As for these women," the head estimated, "you may be for some reasons
well rid of them. Yet this Alianora has fine eyes and certain powers."

"She is a princess of the Apsarasas," Manuel replied, "and therefore she
has power over the butterflies and the birds and the bats, and over all
creatures of the air. I know, because she has disclosed to me some of
the secrets of the Apsarasas. But over her own tongue and temper the
Princess Alianora has no power and no control whatever, and if I had
married her she would have eventually pestered me into being a king, and
giving my life over to politics and the dominion of men."

"This Freydis, too, has beautiful black hair--and certain powers--"

"She was once Queen of Audela, and therefore she retains power over all
figures of earth. I know, because she has disclosed to me some of the
secrets of Audela. But the worst enemy of Freydis also goes in red, and
is housed by the little white teeth of Freydis, for it was this enemy
that betrayed her: and if I had married her she would have coaxed me, by
and by, into becoming a great maker of images, and giving my life over
to such arts."

Misery said: "You have had love from these women, you have gained power
and knowledge from these women. Therefore you leave them, to run after
some other woman who can give you no power and knowledge, but only a
vast deal of trouble. It is not heroic, Manuel, but it is human, and
your reasoning is well fitted to your time of life."

"It is true that I am young as yet, sir--"

"No, not so very young, for my society is maturing you, and already you
are foreplanning and talking the follies of a man in middle life."

"No matter what my age may come to be, sir, I shall always remember that
when I first set up as a champion, and was newly come from living
modestly in attendance upon the miller's pigs, I loved the slave girl
Niafer. She died. I did not die. Instead, I relinquished Niafer to
Grandfather Death, and at that price I preserved my own life and
procured a recipe through which I have prospered unbelievably, so that I
am today a nobleman with fine clothes and lackeys, and with meadow-lands
and castles of my own, if only I could obtain them. So I no longer go
ragged at the elbows, and royal ladies look upon me favorably, and I
find them well enough. But the joy I took in Niafer is not to be found
in any of these things."

"That too is an old human story," the head said, "and yours is a
delusion that comes to most men in middle life. However, for a month of
years you have served me faithfully, except for twice having failed to
put enough venom in my soup, and for having forgotten to fetch in any
ice that evening the Old Black One was here. Still, nobody is perfect;
your time of service is out; and I must repay you as need is. Will you
have happiness, then, and an eternal severance between you and me?"

"I have seen but one happy person," Manuel replied. "He sat in a dry
ditch, displaying vacant glittering eyes, and straws were tangled in his
hair, but Tom o' Bedlam was quite happy. No, it is not happiness I
desire."

The head repeated: "You have served me. I repay, as need is, with the
payment you demand. What is it you demand?"

Dom Manuel said, "I demand that Niafer who was a slave girl, and is now
a ghost in her pagan paradise."

"Do you think, then, that to recall the dead is possible?"

"You are cunning, sir, but I remember what Freydis told me. Will you
swear that Misery cannot bring back the dead?"

"Very willingly I will swear to it, upon all the most authentic relics
in Christendom."

"Ah, yes, but will you rest one of your cold hard pointed ears
against"--here Manuel whispered what he did not care to name
aloud,--"the while that you swear to it."

"Of course not," Misery answered, sullenly: "since every troubled ghost
that ever gibbered and clanked chains would rise confronting me if I
made such an oath. Yes, Manuel, I am able to bring back the dead, but
prudence forces me to lie about my power, because to exercise that power
to the full would be well-nigh as ruinous as the breaking of that
pumpkin. For there is only one way to bring back the dead in flesh, and
if I follow that way I shall lose my head as all the others have done."

"What is that to a lover?" says Manuel.

The head sighed, and bit at its white lips. "An oath is an oath to the
Léshy. Therefore do you, who are human, now make profitable use of the
knowledge and of the power you get from those other women by breaking
oaths! And as you have served me, so will I serve you."

Manuel called black eagles to him, in the manner the Princess Alianora
had taught, and he sent them into all parts of the world for every sort
of white earth. They obeyed the magic of the Apsarasas, and from Britain
they brought Dom Manuel the earth called leucargillon, and they brought
glisomarga from Enisgarth, and eglecopala from the Gallic provinces, and
argentaria from Lacre Kai, and white earth of every description from all
parts of the world.

Manuel made from this earth, as Queen Freydis had taught him how to do,
the body of a woman. He fashioned the body peculiarly, in accordance
with the old Tuyla mystery, and the body was as perfect as Manuel could
make it, in all ways save that it had no head.

Then Manuel sent a gold-crested wren into Provence: it entered through
an upper window of the King's marmoreal palace, and went into the
Princess Alianora's chamber, and fetched hence a handkerchief figured
with yellow mulberries and wet with the tears which Alianora had shed in
her grieving for Manuel. And Dom Manuel sent also a falcon, which
returned to him with Queen Freydis' handkerchief. That was figured with
white fleurs-de-lis, and that too was drenched with tears.

Whereupon, all being in readiness, Misery smiled craftily, and said:

"In the time that is passed I have overthrown high kings and prophets,
and sorcerers also, as when Misery half carelessly made sport of
Mithridates and of Merlin and of Moses, in ways that ballad-singers
still delight to tell of. But with you, Dom Manuel, I shall deal
otherwise, and I shall disconcert you by and by in a more quiet fashion.
Hoh, I must grapple carefully with your love for Niafer, as with an
antagonist who is not scrupulous, nor very sensible, but who is
exceedingly strong. For observe: you obstinately desire this perished
heathen woman, who in life, it well may be, was nothing remarkable.
Therefore you have sought Misery, you have dwelt for a month of years
with terror, you have surrendered youth, you are planning to defy death,
you are intent to rob the deep grave and to despoil paradise. Truly your
love is great."

Manuel said only, "An obligation is upon me, for the life of Niafer was
given to preserve my life."

"Now I, whom some call Béda, and others Kruchina, and whom for the
present your love has conquered--I it is, alone, who can obtain for you
this woman, because in the long run I overcome all things and persons.
Life is my province, and the birth cry of every infant is an oath of
allegiance to me. Thus I am overlord where all serve willy-nilly except
you, who have served of your own will. And as you have served me, so
must I serve you."

Manuel said, "That is well"

"It is not so well as you think, for when you have this Niafer I shall
return to you in the appearance of a light formless cloud, and I shall
rise about you, not suddenly but a little by a little. So shall you see
through me the woman for love of whom your living was once made
high-hearted and fearless, and for whose sake death was derided, and
paradise was ransacked: and you will ask forlornly, 'Was it for this?'
Throughout the orderly, busied, unimportant hours that stretch between
your dressing for the day and your undressing for the night, you will be
asking this question secretly in your heart, while I pass everywhither
with you in the appearance of a light formless cloud, and whisper to you
secretly."

"And what will you whisper to me?"

"Not anything which you will care to repeat to anybody anywhere. Oh, you
will be able to endure it, and you will be content, as human contentment
goes, and my triumph will not be public. But, none the less, I shall
have overthrown my present conqueror, and I shall have brought low the
love which terror and death did not affright, and which the laws of
earth could not control; and I, whom some call Béda, and others
Kruchina, will very terribly attest that the ghost of outlived and
conquered misery is common-sense."

"That is to-morrow's affair," replied Dom Manuel "To-day there is an
obligation upon me, and my dealings are with to-day."

Then Manuel bound the clay head of Misery in the two handkerchiefs which
were wet with the tears of Alianora and of Freydis. When the cock had
crowed three times, Dom Manuel unbound the head, and it was only a
shapeless mass of white clay, because of the tears of Freydis and
Alianora.

Manuel modeled in this clay, to the best of his ability, the head of
Niafer, as he remembered her when they had loved each other upon
Vraidex: and after the white head was finished he fitted it to the body
which he had made from the other kinds of white earth. Dom Manuel robed
this body in brown drugget such as Niafer had been used to wear in and
about the kitchen at Arnaye, and he did the other things that were
requisite, for this was the day of All Saints when nothing sacred ought
to be neglected.

[Illustration]



XXII


Return of Niafer


Now the tale tells how Dom Manuel sat at the feet of the image and
played upon a flageolet. There was wizardry in the music, Dom Manuel
said afterward, for he declared that it evoked in him a vision and a
restless dreaming that followed after Misery.

So this dreaming showed that when Misery was dispossessed of the earth
he entered (because Misery is unchristian) into the paradise of the
pagans, where Niafer, dead now for something over a year, went
restlessly in bliss: and Misery came shortly afterward to Niafer, and
talked with her in a thin little voice. She listened willingly to this
talk of Manuel and of the adventures which Niafer had shared with
Manuel: and now that she remembered Manuel, and his clear young face and
bright unequal eyes and his strong arms, she could no longer be even
moderately content in the paradise of the pagans.

Thereafter Misery went about the heathens' paradise in the appearance of
a light formless cloud. And the fields of this paradise seemed less
green, the air became less pure and balmy, and the sky less radiant, and
the waters of the paradisal river Eridanus grew muddy. The poets became
tired of hearing one another recite, the heroes lost delight in their
wrestling and chariot racing and in their exercises with the spear and
the bow. "How can anybody expect us to waste eternity with recreations
which are only fitted to waste time?" they demanded.

And the lovely ladies began to find the handsome lovers with whom they
wandered hand in hand through never-fading groves of myrtle, and with
whom they were forever reunited, rather tedious companions.

"I love you," said the lovers.

"You have been telling me that for twelve centuries," replied the
ladies, yawning, "and too much of anything is enough."

"Upon my body, I think so too," declared the lovers. "I said it only out
of politeness and force of habit, and I can assure you I am as tired of
this lackadaisical idiocy as you are."

So everything was at sixes and sevens in this paradise: and when the
mischief-maker was detected, the blessed held a meeting, for it was now
the day of All Souls, on which the dead have privilege.

"We must preserve appearances," said these dead pagans, "and can have
only happy-looking persons hereabouts, for otherwise our paradise will
get a poor name, and the religion of our fathers will fall into
disrepute."

Then they thrust Misery, and Niafer also, out of the pagan paradise,
because Misery clung to Niafer in the appearance of a light formless
cloud, and there was no separating the two.

These two turned earthward together, and came to the river of sweat
called Rigjon. Niafer said to the fiery angel Sandalfon that guards the
bridge there, "The Misery of earth is with me."

Sandalfon saw that this was so, and answered, "My fires cannot consume
the Misery of earth."

They came to Hadarniel, the noisy angel whose, whispering is the
thunder. Niafer said, "The Misery of earth is with me."

Hadarniel replied, "Before the Misery of earth I am silent."

They came to Kemuel and his twelve thousand angels of destruction that
guard the outermost gateway. Niafer said, "The Misery of earth is with
me."

Kemuel answered, "I ruin and make an end of all things else, but for the
Misery of earth I have contrived no ending."

So Misery and Niafer passed all the warders of this paradise: and in a
dim country on the world's rim the blended spirit of Misery and the
ghost of Niafer rose through a hole in the ground, like an imponderable
vapor. They dissevered each from the other in a gray place overgrown
with poplars, and Misery cried farewell to Niafer.

"And very heartily do I thank you for your kindness, now that we part,
and now that, it may be, I shall not ever see you again," said Niafer,
politely.

Misery replied:

"Take no fear for not seeing me again, now that you are about once more
to become human. Certainly, Niafer, I must leave you for a little while,
but certainly I shall return. There will first be for you much kissing
and soft laughter, and the quiet happy ordering of your home, and the
heart-shaking wonder of the child who is neither you nor Manuel, but
both of you, and whose life was not ever seen before on earth: and life
will burgeon with white miracles, and every blossom you will take to be
eternal. Laughing, you will say of sorrow, 'What is it?' And I, whom
some call Béda, and others call Kruchina, shall be monstrously amused by
this.

"Then your seeing will have my help, and you will observe that Manuel is
very much like other persons. He will be used to having you about, and
you him, and that will be the sorry bond between you. The children that
have reft their flesh from your flesh ruthlessly, and that have derived
their living from your glad anguish, each day will, be appearing a
little less intimately yours, until these children find their mates.
Thereafter you will be a tolerated intruder into these children's daily
living, and nobody anywhere will do more than condone your coming: you
will weep secretly: and I, whom some call Béda, and others call
Kruchina, shall be monstrously amused by this.

"Then I shall certainly return to you, when your tears are dried, and
when you no longer believe what young Niafer once believed; and when,
remembering young Niafer's desires and her intentions as to the disposal
of her life, you will shrug withered shoulders. To go on living will
remain desirable. The dilapidations of life will no longer move you
deeply. Shrugging, you will say of sorrow, 'What is it?' for you will
know grief also to be impermanent. And your inability to be quite
miserable any more will assure you that your goings are attended by the
ghost of outlived and conquered misery: and I, whom some call Béda, and
others call Kruchina, shall be monstrously amused by this."

Said Niafer, impatiently, "Do you intend to keep me here forever under
these dark twinkling trees, with your thin little talking, while Manuel
stays unhappy through his want of me?"

And Misery answered nothing as he departed from Niafer, for a season.

Such were the happenings in the vision witnessed by Dom Manuel (as Dom
Manuel afterward declared) while he sat playing upon the flageolet.

[Illustration]



XXIII

Manuel Gets His Desire


Now the tale tells that all this while, near the gray hut in Dun
Vlechlan, the earthen image of Niafer lay drying out in the November
sun; and that gray Dom Manuel--no longer the florid boy who had come
into Dun Vlechlan,--sat at the feet of the image, and played upon a
flageolet the air which Suskind had taught him, and with which he had
been used to call young Suskind from her twilit places when Manuel was a
peasant tending swine. Now Manuel was an aging nobleman, and Niafer was
now a homeless ghost, but the tune had power over them, none the less,
for its burden was young love and the high-hearted time of youth; so
that the melody which once had summoned Suskind from her low
red-pillared palace in the doubtful twilight, now summoned Niafer
resistlessly from paradise, as Manuel thriftily made use of the odds and
ends which he had learned from three women to win him a fourth woman.

The spirit of Niafer entered at the mouth of the image. Instantly the
head sneezed, and said, "I am unhappy." But Manuel kept on playing. The
spirit descended further, bringing life to the lungs and the belly, so
that the image then cried, "I am hungry." But Manuel kept on playing. So
the soul was drawn further and further, until Manuel saw that the white
image had taken on the colors of flesh, and was moving its toes in time
to his playing; and so knew that the entire body was informed with life.

He cast down the flageolet, and touched the breast of the image with the
ancient formal gestures of the old Tuyla mystery, and he sealed the
mouth of the image with a kiss, so that the spirit of Niafer was
imprisoned in the image which Manuel had made. Under his lips the lips
which had been Misery's cried, "I love." And Niafer rose, a living girl
just such as Manuel had remembered for more than a whole year: but with
that kiss all memories of paradise and all the traits of angelhood
departed from her.

"Well, well, dear snip," said Manuel, the first thing of all, "now it is
certainly a comfort to have you back again."

Niafer, even in the rapture of her happiness, found this an
unimpassioned greeting from one who had gone to unusual lengths to
recover her companionship. Staring, she saw that Manuel had all the
marks of a man in middle life, and spoke as became appearances. For it
was at the price of his youth that Manuel had recovered the woman whom
his youth desired: and Misery had subtly evened matters by awarding an
aging man the woman for whose sake a lad had fearlessly served Misery.
There was no longer any such lad, for the conquered had destroyed the
conqueror.

Then, after a moment's consideration of this tall gray stranger, Niafer
also looked graver and older. Niafer asked for a mirror: and Manuel had
none.

"Now but certainly I must know at once just how faithfully you have
remembered me," says Niafer.

He led the way into the naked and desolate November forest, and they
came to the steel-colored Wolflake hard by the gray hut: and Niafer
found she was limping, for Manuel had not got her legs quite right, so
that for the rest of her second life she was lame. Then Niafer gazed for
a minute, or it might be for two minutes, at her reflection in the deep
cold waters of the Wolflake.

"Is this as near as you have come to remembering me, my dearest!" she
said, dejectedly, as she looked down at Manuel's notion of her face. For
the appearance which Niafer now wore she found to be very little like
that which Niafer remembered as having been hers, in days wherein she
had been tolerably familiar with the Lady Gisèle's mirrors; and it was a
grief to Niafer to see how utterly the dearest dead go out of mind in no
long while.

"I have forgotten not one line or curve of your features," says Manuel,
stoutly, "in all these months, nor in any of these last days that have
passed as years. And when my love spurred me to make your image, Niafer,
my love loaned me unwonted cunning. Even by ordinary, they tell me, I
have some skill at making images: and while not for a moment would I
seem to boast of that skill, and not for worlds would I annoy you by
repeating any of the complimentary things which have been said about my
images,--by persons somewhat more appreciative, my dear, of the toil and
care that goes to work of this sort,--I certainly think that in this
instance nobody has fair reason to complain."

She looked at his face now: and she noted what the month of living with
Béda, with whom a day is as a year, had done to the boy's face which she
remembered. Count Manuel's face was of remodeled stuff: youth had gone
out of it, and the month of years had etched wrinkles in it, success had
hardened and caution had pinched and self-complacency had kissed it. And
Niafer sighed again, as they sat reunited under leafless trees by the
steel-colored Wolflake.

"There is no circumventing time and death, then, after all," said
Niafer, "for neither of us is now the person that ascended Vraidex. No
matter: I love you, Manuel, and I am content with what remains of you:
and if the body you have given me is to your will it is to my will."

But now three rascally tall ragged fellows, each blind in one eye, and
each having a thin peaked beard, came into the opening before the gray
hut, trampling the dead leaves there as they shouted for Mimir. "Come
out!" they cried: "come out, you miserable Mirmir, and face those three
whom you have wronged!"

Dom Manuel rose from the bank of the Wolflake, and went toward the
shouters. "There is no Mimir," he told them, "in Dun Vlechlan, or not at
least in this peculiarly irrational part of the forest."

"You lie," they said, "for even though you have hitched a body to your
head we recognize you." They looked at Niafer, and all three laughed
cruelly. "Was it for this hunched, draggled, mud-faced wench that you
left us, you squinting old villain? And have you so soon forgotten the
vintner's parlor at Neogréant, and what you did with the gold plates?"

"No, I have not forgotten these things, for I never knew anything about
them," said Manuel.

Said one of the knaves, twirling fiercely his moustachios: "Hah,
shameless Mimir, do you look at me, who have known you and your blind
son Oriander, too, to be unblushing knaves for these nine centuries!
Now, I suppose, you will be denying the affair of the squirrel also?"

"Oh, be off with your nonsense!" says Manuel, "for I have not yet had
twenty-two years of living, and I never saw you before, and I hope never
to see you again."

But they all set upon him with cutlasses, so there was nothing remaining
save to have out his sword and fight. And when each of these one-eyed
persons had vanished curiously under his death-wound, Manuel told Niafer
it was a comfort to find that the month of years had left him a fair
swordsman for all that his youth was gone; and that he thought they had
better be leaving this part of the high woods of Dun Vlechlan, wherein
unaccountable things took place, and all persons behaved unreasonably.

"Were these wood-spirits unreasonable," asks Niafer, "in saying that the
countenance and the body you have given me are ugly?"

"My dear," replied Manuel, "it was their saying that which made me try
to avoid the conflict, because it does not look well, not even in
dealing with demons, to injure the insane."

"Manuel, and can it be you who are considering appearances?"

Dom Manuel said gravely: "My dealings with Misery and with Misery's
kindred have taught me many things which I shall never forget nor very
willingly talk about. One of these teachings, though, is that in most
affairs there is a middle road on which there is little traffic and
comparatively easy going. I must tell you that the company I have been
in required a great deal of humoring, for of course it is not safe to
trifle with any evil principle. No, no, one need not absolutely and
openly defy convention, I perceive, in order to follow after one's own
thinking," says Manuel, shrewdly, and waggling a gray beard.

"I am so glad you have learned that at last! At least, I suppose, I am
glad," said Niafer, a little wistfully, as she recalled young Manuel of
the high head.

"But, as I was saying, I now estimate that these tattered persons who
would have prevented my leaving, as well as the red fellow that would
have hindered my entering, this peculiarly irrational part of the
forest, were spiritual intruders into Misery's domain whom Misery had
driven out of their wits. No, Niafer, I voice no criticism, because with
us two this Misery of earth, whom some call Béda, and others Kruchina,
has dealt very handsomely. It troubles me to suspect that he was also
called Mimir; but of this we need not speak, because a thing done has an
end, even a killed grandfather. Nevertheless, I think that Dun Vlechlan
is unwholesome, and I am of the opinion that you and I will be more
comfortable elsewhere."

"But must we go back to looking after pigs, dear Manuel, or are you now
too old for that?"

Dom Manuel smiled, and you saw that he retained at least his former
lordliness. "No, now that every obligation is lifted, and we are
reunited, dear snip, I can at last go traveling everywhither, so that I
may see the ends of this world and judge them. And we will do whatever
else we choose, for, as I must tell you, I am now a nobleman with
lackeys and meadowlands and castles of my own, if only I could obtain
possession of them."

"This is excellent hearing," said Niafer, "and much better than
pig-stealing, and I am glad that the world has had sense enough to
appreciate you, Manuel, and you it. And we will have rubies in my
coronet, because I always fancied them. Now do you tell me how it all
happened, and what I am to be called countess of. And we will talk about
that traveling later, for I have already traveled a great distance
today, but we must certainly have rubies."

[Illustration]



XXIV


Three Women


So Manuel put on his armor, and with Manuel telling as much as he
thought wise of the adventures which he had encountered while Niafer was
dead, they left this peculiarly irrational part of the forest, and fared
out of the ruined November woods; and presently, in those barren fields
that descend toward the sand dunes of Quentavic, came face to face with
Queen Freydis and the Princess Alianora, where these two royal ladies
and many other fine people rode toward the coast.

Alianora went magnificently this morning, on a white horse, and wearing
a kirtle of changeable green like the sea's green in sunlight: her
golden hair was bound with a gold frontlet wherein were emeralds.
Freydis, dark and stately, was in crimson embroidered with small gold
stars and ink-horns: a hooded falcon sat on her gloved wrist.

Now Freydis and Alianora stared at the swarthy, flat-faced, limping
peasant girl in brown drugget that was with Count Manuel. Then Alianora
stared at Freydis.

"Is it for this dingy cripple," says Alianora, with her proud fine face
all wonder, "that Dom Manuel has forsaken us and has put off his youth?
Why, the girl is out and out ugly!"

"Our case is none the better for that," replied Freydis, the wise Queen,
whose gazing rested not upon Niafer but on Manuel.

"Who are those disreputable looking, bold-faced creatures that are
making eyes at you?" says Niafer.

And Manuel, marveling to meet these two sorceresses together, replied,
as he civilly saluted them from a little distance, "Two royal ladies,
who would be well enough were it not for their fondness for having their
own way."

"And I suppose you think them handsome!"

"Yes, Niafer, I find them very beautiful. But after looking at them with
aesthetic pleasure, my gaze returns adoringly to the face I have created
as I willed, and to the quiet love of my youth, and I have no occasion
to be thinking of queens and princesses. Instead, I give thanks in my
heart that I am faring contentedly toward the nearest priest with the
one woman in the world who to my finding is desirable and lovely."

"It is very sweet of you to say that, Manuel, and I am sure I hope you
are telling the truth, but my faith would be greater if you had not
rattled it off so glibly."

Then Alianora said: "Greetings, and for the while farewell, to you,
Count Manuel! For all we ride to Quentavic, and thence I am passing over
into England to marry the King of that island."

"Now, but there is a lucky monarch for you!" says Manuel, politely. He
looked at Freydis, who had put off immortality for his kisses, and whom
he had deserted to follow after his own thinking: these re-encounters
are always awkward, and Dom Manuel fidgeted a little. He asked her, "And
do you also go into England?"

She told him very quietly, no, that she was only going to the coast, to
consult with three or four of the water-demons about enchanting one of
the Red Islands, and about making her home there. She had virtually
decided, she told him, to put a spell upon Sargyll, as it seemed the
most desirable of these islands from what she could hear, but she must
first see the place. Queen Freydis looked at him with rather
embarrassing intentness all the while, but she spoke quite calmly.

"Yes, yes," Dom Manuel said, cordially, "I dare say you will be very
comfortable there, and I am sure I hope so. But I did not know that you
two ladies were acquainted."

"Indeed, our affairs are not your affairs," says Freydis, "any longer.
And what does it matter, on this November day which has a thin sunlight
and no heat at all in it? No, that girl yonder has to-day. But Alianora
and I had each her yesterday; and it may be the one or it may be the
other of us three who will have to-morrow, and it may be also that the
disposal of that to-morrow will be remarkable."

"Very certainly," declared Alianora, with that slow, lovely, tranquil
smile of hers, "I shall have my portion of to-morrow. I would have made
you a king, and by and by the most powerful of all kings, but you
followed after your own thinking, and cared more for messing in wet mud
than for a throne. Still, this nonsense of yours has converted you into
a rather distinguished looking old gentleman, so when I need you I shall
summon you, with the token that we know of, Dom Manuel, and then do you
come post-haste!"

Freydis said: "I would have made you the greatest of image-makers; but
you followed after your own thinking, and instead of creating new and
god-like beings you preferred to resurrect a dead servant girl.
Nevertheless, do I bid you beware of the one living image you made, for
it still lives and it alone you cannot ever shut out from your barred
heart, Dom Manuel: and nevertheless, do I bid you come to me, Dom Manuel,
when you need me."

Manuel replied, "I shall always obey both of you." Niafer throughout
this while said nothing at all. But she had her private thoughts, to the
effect that neither of these high-and-mighty trollops was in reality the
person whom henceforward Dom Manuel was going to obey.

So the horns sounded. The gay cavalcade rode on, toward Quentavic. And
as they went young Osmund Heleigh (Lord Brudenel's son) asked for the
gallant King of Navarre, "But who, sire, was that time-battered gray
vagabond, with the tarnished silver stallion upon his shield and the
mud-colored cripple at his side, that our Queens should be stopping for
any conference with him?"

King Thibaut said it was the famous Dom Manuel of Poictesme, who had put
away his youth for the sake of the girl that was with him.

"Then is the old man a fool on every count," declared Messire Heleigh,
sighing, "for I have heard of his earlier antics in Provence, and no
lovelier lady breathes than Dame Alianora."

"I consider Queen Freydis to be the handsomer of the two," replied
Thibaut, "but certainly there is no comparing either of these
inestimable ladies with Dom Manuel's swarthy drab."

"She is perhaps some witch whose magic is more terrible than their
magic, and has besotted this ruined champion?"

"It is either enchantment or idiocy, unless indeed it be something far
higher than either." King Thibaut looked grave, then shrugged. "Oy
Dieus! even so, Queen Freydis is the more to my taste."

Thus speaking, the young King spurred his bay horse toward Queen Freydis
(from whom he got his ruin a little later), and all Alianora's retinue
went westward, very royally, while Manuel and Niafer trudged east. Much
color and much laughter went one way, but the other way went
contentment, for that while.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

PART FOUR


THE BOOK OF SURCHARGE


TO

HUGH WALPOLE



Soe _Manuel made all the Goddes that we call_ mamettes _and_ ydolles,
_that were sett ouer the Subiection of his lyfe tyme: and euery of the
goddes that Manuel wolde carue toilesomelie hadde in hys Bodie a
Blemmishe; and in the mydle of the godes made he one god of the
Philistines._



XXV


Affairs in Poictesme


They of Poictesme narrate how Manuel and Niafer traveled east a little
way and then turned toward the warm South; and how they found a priest
to marry them, and how Manuel confiscated two horses. They tell also how
Manuel victoriously encountered a rather terrible dragon at La Flèche,
and near Orthez had trouble with a Groach, whom he conquered and
imprisoned in a leather bottle, but they say that otherwise the journey
was uneventful.

"And now that every obligation is lifted, and we are reunited, my dear
Niafer," says Manuel, as they sat resting after his fight with the
dragon, "we will, I repeat, be traveling every whither, so that we may
see the ends of this world and may judge them."

"Dearest," replied Niafer, "I have been thinking about that, and I am
sure it would be delightful, if only people were not so perfectly
horrid."

"What do you mean, dear snip?"

"You see, Manuel, now that you have fetched me back from paradise,
people will be saying you ought to give me, in exchange for the abodes
of bliss from which I have been summoned, at least a fairly comfortable
and permanent terrestrial residence. Yes, dearest, you know what people
are, and the evil-minded will be only too delighted to be saying
everywhere that you are neglecting an obvious duty if you go wandering
off to see and judge the ends of this world, with which, after all, you
have really no especial concern."

"Oh, well, and if they do?" says Manuel, shrugging lordily. "There is no
hurt in talking."

"Yes, Manuel, but such shiftless wandering, into uncomfortable places
that nobody ever heard of, would have that appearance. Now there is
nothing I would more thoroughly enjoy then to go traveling about at
adventure with you, and to be a countess means nothing whatever to me. I
am sure I do not in the least care to live in a palace of my own, and be
bothered with fine clothes and the responsibility of looking after my
rubies, and with servants and parties every day. But you see, darling, I
simply could not bear to have people thinking ill of my dear husband,
and so, rather than have that happen, I am willing to put up with these
things."

"Oh, oh!" says Manuel, and he began pulling vexedly at his little gray
beard, "and does one obligation beget another as fast as this! Now
whatever would you have me do?"

"Obviously, you must get troops from King Ferdinand, and drive that
awful Asmund out of Poictesme."

"Dear me!" says Manuel, "but what a simple matter you make of it! Shall
I attend to it this afternoon?"

"Now, Manuel, you speak without thinking, for you could not possibly
re-conquer all Poictesme this afternoon--."

"Oh!" says Manuel.

"No, not single-handed, my darling. You would first have to get troops
to help you, both horse and foot."

"My dearest, I only meant--"

"--Even then, it will probably take quite a while to kill off all the
Northmen."

"Niafer, will you let me explain--"

"--Besides, you are miles away from Poictesme. You could not even manage
to get there this afternoon."

Manuel put his hand over her mouth. "Niafer, when I spoke of subjugating
Poictesme this afternoon I was attempting a mild joke. I will never any
more attempt light irony in your presence, for I perceive that you do
not appreciate my humor. Meanwhile I repeat to you, No, no, a thousand
times, no! To be called Count of Poictesme sounds well, it strokes the
hearing: but I will not be set to root and vegetate in a few hundred
spadefuls of dirt. No, for I have but one lifetime here, and in that
lifetime I mean to see this world and all the ends of this world, that I
may judge them. And I," he concluded, decisively, "am Manuel, who follow
after my own thinking and my own desire."

Niafer began to weep. "I simply cannot bear to think of what people will
say of you."

"Come, come, my dear," says Manuel, "this is preposterous."

Niafer wept.

"You will only end by making yourself ill!" says Manuel.

Niafer continued to weep.

"My mind is quite made up," says Manuel, "so what, in God's name, is the
good of this?"

Niafer now wept more and more broken-heartedly. And the big champion sat
looking at her, and his broad shoulders relaxed. He viciously kicked at
the heavy glistening green head of the dragon, still bleeding uglily
there at his feet, but that did no good whatever. The dragon-queller was
beaten. He could do nothing against such moisture, his resolution was
dampened and his independence was washed away by this salt flood. And
they say too that, now his youth was gone, Dom Manuel began to think of
quietness and of soft living more resignedly than he acknowledged.

"Very well, then," Manuel says, by and by, "let us cross the Loir, and
ride south to look for our infernal coronet with the rubies in it, and
for your servants, and for some of your palaces."

So in the Christmas holidays they bring a tall burly squinting
gray-haired warrior to King Ferdinand, in a lemon grove behind the royal
palace. Here the sainted King, duly equipped with his halo and his
goose-feather, was used to perform the lesser miracles on Wednesdays and
Saturdays.

The King was delighted by the change in Manuel's looks, and said that
experience and maturity were fine things to be suggested by the
appearance of a nobleman in Manuel's position. But, a pest! as for
giving him any troops with which to conquer Poictesme, that was quite
another matter. The King needed his own soldiers for his own ends, which
necessitated the immediate capture of Cordova. Meanwhile here were the
Prince de Gâtinais and the Marquess di Paz, who also had come with this
insane request, the one for soldiers to help him against the
Philistines, and the other against the Catalans.

"Everybody to whom I ever granted a fief seems to need troops nowadays,"
the King grumbled, "and if any one of you had any judgment whatever you
would have retained your lands once they were given you."

"Our deficiencies, sire," says the young Prince de Gâtinais, with
considerable spirit, "have not been altogether in judgment, but rather
in the support afforded us by our liege-lord."

This was perfectly true; but inasmuch as such blunt truths are not
usually flung at a king and a saint, now Ferdinand's thin brows went up.

"Do you think so?" said the King. "We must see about it. What is that,
for example?"

He pointed to the pool by which the lemon-trees were watered, and the
Prince glanced at the yellow object afloat in this pool. "Sire," said de
Gâtinais, "it is a lemon which has fallen from one of the trees."

"So you judge it to be a lemon. And what do you make of it, di Paz?" the
King inquired.

The Marquess was a statesman who took few chances. He walked to the edge
of the pool, and looked at the thing before committing himself: and he
came back smiling. "Ah, sire, you have indeed contrived a cunning sermon
against hasty judgment, for, while the tree is a lemon-tree, the thing
that floats beneath it is an orange."

"So you, Marquess, judge it to be an orange. And what do you make of it,
Count of Poictesme?" the King asks now.

If di Paz took few chances, Manuel took none at all. He waded into the
pool, and fetched out the thing which floated there. "King," says big
Dom Manuel, sagely blinking his bright pale eyes, "it is the half of an
orange."

Said the King: "Here is a man who is not lightly deceived by the vain
shows of this world, and who values truth more than dry shoes. Count
Manuel, you shall have your troops, and you others must wait until you
have acquired Count Manuel's powers of judgment, which, let me tell you,
are more valuable than any fief I have to give."

So when the spring had opened, Manuel went into Poictesme at the head of
a very creditable army, and Dom Manuel summoned Duke Asmund to surrender
all that country. Asmund, who was habitually peevish under the puckerel
curse, refused with opprobrious epithets, and the fighting began.

Manuel had, of course, no knowledge of generalship, but King Ferdinand
sent the Conde de Tohil Vaca as Manuel's lieutenant. Manuel now figured
imposingly in jeweled armor, and the sight of his shield bearing the
rampant stallion and the motto _Mundus vult decipi_ became in battle a
signal for the more prudent among his adversaries to distinguish
themselves in some other part of the conflict. It was whispered by
backbiters that in counsel and in public discourse Dom Manuel sonorously
repeated the orders and opinions provided by Tohil Vaca: either way, the
official utterances of the Count of Poictesme roused everywhere the
kindly feeling which one reserves for old friends, so that no harm was
done.

To the contrary, Dom Manuel now developed an invaluable gift for public
speaking, and in every place which he conquered and occupied he made
powerful addresses to the surviving inhabitants before he had them
hanged, exhorting all right-thinking persons to crush the military
autocracy of Asmund. Besides, as Manuel pointed out, this was a struggle
such as the world had never known, in that it was a war to end war
forever, and to ensure eternal peace for everybody's children. Never, as
he put it forcefully, had men fought for a more glorious cause. And so
on and go on, said he, and these uplifting thoughts had a fine effect
upon everyone.

"How wonderfully you speak!" Dame Niafer would say admiringly.

And Manuel would look at her queerly, and reply: "I am earning your
home, my dear, and your servants' wages, and some day these verbal
jewels will be perpetuated in a real coronet. For I perceive that a
former acquaintance of mine was right in pointing out the difference
between men and the other animals."

"Ah, yes, indeed!" said Niafer, very gravely, and not attaching any
particular meaning to it, but generally gathering that she and Manuel
were talking about something edifying and pious. For Niafer was now a
devout Christian, as became a Countess of Poictesme, and nobody anywhere
entertained a more sincere reverence for solemn noises.

"For instance," Dame Niafer continued, "they tell me that these lovely
speeches of yours have produced such an effect upon the Philistines
yonder that their Queen Stultitia has proffered an alliance, and has
promised to send you light cavalry and battering-rams."

"It is true she has promised to send them, but she has not done so."

"None the less, Manuel, you will find that the moral effect of her
approbation will be invaluable; and, as I so often think, that is the
main thing after all--"

"Yes, yes," says Manuel, impatiently, "we have plenty of moral
approbation and fine speaking here, and in the South we have a saint to
work miracles for us, but it is Asmund who has that army of splendid
reprobates, and they do not value morality and rhetoric the worth of an
old finger-nail."

So the fighting continued throughout that spring, and in Poictesme it
all seemed very important and unexampled, just as wars usually appear to
the people that are engaged in them. Thousands of men were slain, to the
regret of their mothers and sweethearts, and very often of their wives.
And there was the ordinary amount of unparalleled military atrocities
and perfidies and ravishments and burnings and so on, and the endurers
took their agonies so seriously that it is droll to think of how
unimportant it all was in the outcome.

For this especial carnage was of supreme and world-wide significance so
long ago that it is now not worth the pains involved to rephrase for
inattentive hearing the combat of the knights at Perdigon--out of which
came alive only Guivric and Coth and Anavalt and Gonfal,--or to speak of
the once famous battle of the tinkers, or to retell how the inflexible
syndics of Montors were imprisoned in a cage and slain by mistake. It no
longer really matters to any living person how the Northmen burned the
bridge of boats at Manneville; nor how Asmund trod upon a burned-through
beam at the disastrous siege of Évre, and so fell thirty feet into the
midst of his enemies and broke his leg, but dealt so valorously that he
got safe away; nor how at Lisuarte unarmored peasants beat off Manuel's
followers with scythes and pitchforks and clubs.

Time has washed out the significance of these old heroisms as the color
is washed from flimsy cloths; so that chroniclers act wisely when they
wave aside, with undipped pens, the episode of the brave Siennese and
their green poison at Bellegarde, and the doings of the Anti-Pope there,
and grudge the paper needful to record the remarkable method by which
gaunt Tohil Vaca levied a tax of a livre on every chimney in Poictesme.

It is not even possible, nowadays, to put warm interest in those once
notable pots of blazing sulphur and fat and quicklime that were emptied
over the walls of Storisende, to the discomfort of Manuel's men. For
although this was a very heroic war, with a parade of every sort of high
moral principle, and with the most sonorous language employed upon both
sides, it somehow failed to bring about either the reformation or the
ruin, of humankind: and after the conclusion of the murdering and
general breakage, the world went on pretty much as it has done after all
other wars, with a vague notion that a deal of time and effort had been
unprofitably invested, and a conviction that it would be inglorious to
say so.

Therefore it suffices to report that there was much killing and misery
everywhere, and that in June, upon Corpus Christi day, the Conde de
Tohil Vaca was taken, and murdered, with rather horrible jocosity which
used unusually a heated poker, and Manuel's forces were defeated and
scattered.

[Illustration]



XXVI


Deals with the Stork


Now Manuel, driven out of Poictesme, went with his wife to Novogath,
which had been for some seven years the capital of Philistia. Queen
Stultitia, the sixtieth of that name to rule, received them friendlily.
She talked alone with Manuel for a lengthy while, in a room that was
walled with glazed tiles of faience and had its ceiling incrusted with
moral axioms, everywhere affixed thereto in a light lettering of tin, so
as to permit of these axioms being readily changed. Stultitia sat at a
bronze reading-desk: she wore rose-colored spectacles, and at her feet
dozed, for the while, her favorite plaything, a blind, small, very fat
white bitch called Luck.

The Queen still thought that an alliance could be arranged against Duke
Asmund as soon as public sentiment could be fomented in Philistia, but
this would take time. "Have patience, my friend!" she said, and that was
easy saying for a prosperous great lady sitting comfortably crowned and
spectacled in her own palace, under her own chimneys and skylights and
campaniles and domes and towers and battlements.

But in the mean while Manuel and Niafer had not so much as a cowshed
wherein to exercise this recommended virtue. So Manuel made inquiries,
and learned that Queen Freydis had taken up her abode on Sargyll, most
remote of the Red Islands.

"We will go to Freydis," he told Niafer.

"But, surely, not after the way that minx probably believes you treated
her?" said Niafer.

Manuel smiled the sleepy smile that was Manuel. "I know Freydis better
than you know her, my dear."

"Yes, but can you depend upon her?"

"I can depend upon myself, and that is more important."

"But, Manuel, you have another dear friend in England; and in England,
although the Lord knows I never want to lay eyes on her, we might at
least be comfortable--"

Manuel shook his head: "I am very fond of Alianora, because she
resembles me as closely as it is possible for a woman to resemble a man.
That makes two excellent reasons--one for each of us, snip,--why we had
better not go into England."

So, in their homeless condition, they resolved to set out for
Sargyll,--"to visit that other dear friend of yours," as Niafer put it,
in tones more eloquent than Manuel seemed quite to relish.

Dame Niafer, though, now began to complain that Manuel was neglecting
her for all this statecraft and fighting and speech-making and private
conference with fine ladies; and she began to talk again about what a
pity it was that she and Manuel would probably never have any children
to be company for Niafer. Niafer complained rather often nowadays, about
details which are here irrelevant: and she was used to lament with every
appearance of sincerity that, in making the clay figure for Niafer to
live in, Manuel should have been so largely guided by the elsewhere
estimable qualities of innocence and imagination. It frequently put her,
she said, to great inconvenience.

Now Manuel had been inquiring about this and that and the other since
his arrival in Novogath, and so Manuel to-day replied with lordly
assurance. "Yes, yes, a baby or two!" says Manuel. "I think myself that
would be an excellent idea, while we are waiting for Queen Stultitia to
make up her subjects' minds, and have nothing else in particular to
do--"

"But, Manuel, you know perfectly well--"

"--And I am sufficiently versed in the magic of the Apsarasas to be able
to summon the stork, who by rare good luck is already indebted to me--"

"What has the stork to do with this?"

"Why, it is he who must bring the babies to be company for you."

"But, Manuel," said Niafer, dubiously, "I do not believe that the people
of Rathgor, or of Poictesme either, get their babies from the stork."

"Doubtless, like every country, they have their quaint local customs. We
have no concern, however with these provincialities just now, for we are
in Philistia. Besides, as you cannot well have forgotten, our main
dependence is upon the half-promised alliance with Queen Stultitia, who
is, as far as I can foresee, my darling, the only monarch anywhere
likely to support us."

"But what has Queen Stultitia to do with my having a baby?"

"Everything, dear snip. You must surely understand it is most important
for one in my position to avoid in any way offending the sensibilities
of the Philistines."

"Still, Manuel, the Philistines themselves have babies, and I do not see
how they could have conceivably objected to my having at any rate a very
small one if only you had made me right--"

"Not at all! nobody objects to the baby in itself, now that you are a
married woman. The point is that the babies of the Philistines are
brought to them by the stork; and that even an allusion to the
possibility of misguided persons obtaining a baby in any other way these
Philistines consider to be offensive and lewd and lascivious and
obscene."

"Why, how droll of them! But are you sure of that, Manuel!"

"All their best-thought-of and most popular writers, my dear, are
unanimous upon the point; and their Seranim have passed any number of
laws, their oil-merchants have founded a guild, especially to prosecute
such references. No, there is, to be sure, a dwindling sect which favors
putting up with what babies you may find in the cabbage patch, but all
really self-respecting people when in need of offspring arrange to be
visited by the stork."

"It is certainly a remarkable custom, but it sounds convenient if you
can manage it," said Niafer. "What I want is the baby, though, and of
course we must try to get the baby in the manner of the Philistines, if
you know that manner, for I am sure I have no wish to offend anybody."

So Manuel prepared to get a baby in the manner preferred by the
Philistines. He performed the suitable incantation, putting this and
that together in the manner formerly employed by the Thessalian witches
and sorcerers, and he cried aloud a very ancient if indecent charm from
the old Latin, saying, as Queen Stultitia had told him to say, without
any mock-modest mincing of words:

    Dictum est antiqua sandalio mulier habitavit,
  Quae multos pueros habuit tum ut potuit nullum
  Quod faciundum erat cognoscere. Sic Domina Anser._

Then Manuel took from his breast-pocket a piece of blue chalk and five
curious objects something like small black stars. With the chalk he drew
upon the floor two parallel straight lines. Manuel walked on one of
these chalk lines very carefully, then beckoned Niafer to him. Standing
there, he put his arms about her and kissed her. Then he placed the five
black stars in a row,--

       *       *       *       *       *

--and went over to the next line.

The stork having been thus properly summoned, Manuel recalled to the
bird the three wishes which had been promised when Manuel saved the
stork's life: and Manuel said that for each wish he would take a son
fetched to him by the stork in the manner of the Philistines.

The stork thought it could be arranged. "Not this morning, though, as
you suggest, for, indebted as I am to you, Dom Manuel, I am also a very
busy bird. No, I have any number of orders that were put in months
before yours, and I must follow system in my business, for you have no
notion what elaborate and exact accounts are frequently required by the
married men that receive invoices from me."

"Come now," says Manuel, "do you be accommodating, remembering how I
once saved your life from the eagle, and my wife and I will order all
our babies now, and spare you the trouble of keeping any accounts
whatever, so far as we are concerned."

"Oh, if you care to deal with such wholesale irregularity, and have no
more consideration than to keep casting old debts in my bill, I might
stretch a point in order to be rid of you," the stork said, sighing.

"Now, but surely," Manuel considered, "you might be a little more
cheerful about this matter."

"And why should I, of all the birds that go about the heavens, be
cheerful?"

"Well, somehow one expects a reasonable gaiety in you who bring hilarity
and teething-rings into so many households--"

The stork answered:

"I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, and therewith I,
they say, bring joy. Now of the joy I bring to the mother let none
speak, for miracles are not neatly to be caged in sentences, nor is
truth always expedient. To the father I bring the sight of his own life,
by him so insecurely held, renewed and strengthened in a tenement not
yet impaired by time and folly: he is no more disposed to belittle
himself here than elsewhere; and it is himself that he cuddles in this
small, soft, incomprehensible and unsoiled incarnation. For, as I bring
the children, they have no evil in them and no cowardice and no guile.

"I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, when later I
return, to those that yesterday were children. And in all ways time has
marred, and living has defaced, and prudence has maimed, until I grieve
to entrust that which I bring to what remains of that which yesterday I
brought. In the old days children were sacrificed to a brazen burning
god, but time affects more subtile hecatombs: for Moloch slew outright.
Yes, Moloch, being divine, killed as the dog kills, furiously, but time
is that transfigured cat, an ironist. So living mars and defaces and
maims, and living appears wantonly to soil and to degrade its prey
before destroying it.

"I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, and I leave them
to endure that which is fated. Daily I bring into this world the beauty
and innocence and high-heartedness and faith of children: but life has
no employment, or else life has no sustenance, for these fine things
which I bring daily, for always I, returning, find the human usages of
living have extinguished these excellences in those who yesterday were
children, and that these virtues exist in no aged person. And I would
that Jahveh had created me an eagle or a vulture or some other hateful
bird of prey that furthers a less grievous slaying and a more
intelligible wasting than I further."

To this, Dom Manuel replied, in that grave and matter-of-fact way of
his: "Now certainly I can see how your vocation may seem, in a manner of
speaking, a poor investment; but, after all, your business is none of my
business, so I shall not presume to criticize it. Instead, let us avoid
these lofty generalities, and to you tell me when I may look for those
three sons of mine."

Then they talked over this matter of getting babies, Manuel walking on
the chalk line all the while, and Manuel found he could have, if he
preferred it so, three girls in place of one of the boys, since the
demand for sons was thrice that for daughters. To Niafer it was at once
apparent that to obtain five babies in place of three was a clear
bargain. Manuel said he did not want any daughters, they were too much
of a responsibility, and he did not intend to be bothered with them. He
was very firm and lordly about it. Then Niafer spoke again, and when she
had ended, Manuel wished for two boys and three girls. Thereafter the
stork subscribed five promissory notes, and they executed all the other
requisite formalities.

[Illustration: "SUMMONS THE STORK"]

The stork said that by a little management he could let them have one of
the children within a day or so. "But how long have you two been
married?" he asked.

"Oh, ever so long," said Manuel, with a faint sigh.

"Why, no, my dearest," said Niafer, "we have been married only seven
months."

"In that event," declared the stork, "you had better wait until month
after next, for it is not the fashion among my patrons to have me
visiting them quite so early."

"Well," said Manuel, "we wish to do everything in conformance to the
preferences of Philistia, even to the extent of following such
incomprehensible fashions." So he arranged to have the promised baby
delivered at Sargyll, which, he told the stork, would be their address
for the remainder of the summer.

[Illustration]



XXVII


They Come to Sargyll


Then Manuel and Niafer put out to sea, and after two days' voyaging they
came to Sargyll and to the hospitality of Queen Freydis. Freydis was
much talked about at that time on account of the way in which King
Thibaut had come to his ruin through her, and on account of her equally
fatal dealings with the Duke of Istria and the Prince of Camwy and three
or four other lords. So the ship-captains whom Dom Manuel first
approached preferred not to venture among the Red Islands. Then the
Jewish master of a trading vessel--a lean man called Ahasuerus--said,
"Who forbids it?" and carried them uneventfully from Novogath to
Sargyll. They narrate how Oriander the Swimmer followed after the yellow
ship, but he attempted no hurt against Manuel, at least not for that
turn.

Thus Manuel came again to Freydis. He had his first private talk with
her in a room that was hung with black and gold brocade. White mats lay
upon the ground, and placed irregularly about the room were large brass
vases filled with lotus blossoms. Here Freydis sat on a three-legged
stool, in conference with a panther. From the ceiling hung rigid blue
and orange and reddish-brown serpents, all dead and embalmed; and in the
middle of the ceiling was painted a face which was not quite human,
looking downward, with evil eyes half closed, and with its mouth half
open in discomfortable laughter.

Freydis was clad in scarlet completely, and, as has been said, a golden
panther was talking to her when Dom Manuel came in. She at once
dismissed the beast, which smiled amicably at Dom Manuel, and then
arched high its back in the manner of all the cat tribe, and so
flattened out into a thin transparent goldness, and, flickering,
vanished upward as a flame leaves a lampwick.

"Well, well, you bade me come to you, dear friend, when I had need of
you," says Manuel, very cordially shaking hands, "and nobody's need
could be more great than mine."

"Different people have different needs," Freydis replied, rather
gravely, "but all passes in this world."

"Friendship, however, does not pass, I hope."

She answered slowly: "It is we who pass, so that the young Manuel whom I
loved in a summer that is gone, is nowadays as perished as that summer's
gay leaves. What, grizzled fighting-man, have you to do with that young
Manuel who had comeliness and youth and courage, but no human pity and
no constant love? and why should I be harboring his lighthearted
mischiefs against you? Ah, no, gray Manuel, you are quite certain no
woman would do that; and people say you are shrewd. So I bid you very
welcome to Sargyll, where my will is the only law."

"You at least have not changed," Dom Manuel replied, with utter truth,
"for you appear today, if anything, more fair and young than you were
that first night upon Morven when I evoked you from tall flames to lend
life to the image I had made. Well, that seems now a lengthy while ago,
and I make no more images."

"Your wife would be considering it a waste of time," Queen Freydis
estimated.

"No, that is not quite the way it is. For Niafer is the dearest and most
dutiful of women, and she never crosses my wishes in anything."

Freydis now smiled a little, for she saw that Manuel believed he was
speaking veraciously. "At all events," said Freydis, "it is a queer
thing surely that in the month which is to come the stork will be
fetching your second child to a woman resting under my roof and in my
golden bed. Yes, Thurinel has just been telling me of your plan, and it
is a queer thing. Yet it is a far queerer thing that your first child,
whom no stork fetched nor had any say in shaping, but whom you made of
clay to the will of your proud youth and in your proud youth's likeness,
should be limping about the world somewhere in the appearance of a
strapping tall young fellow, and that you should know nothing about his
doings."

"Ah! what have you heard? and what do you know about him, Freydis?"

"I suspicion many things, gray Manuel, by virtue of my dabblings in that
gray art which makes neither for good nor evil."

"Yes," said Manuel, practically, "but what do you know?"

She took his hand again. "I know that in Sargyll, where my will is the
only law, you are welcome, false friend and very faithless lover."

He could get no more out of her, as they stood there under the painted
face which looked down upon them with discomfortable laughter.

So Manuel and Niafer remained at Sargyll until the baby should be
delivered. King Ferdinand, then in the midst of another campaign against
the Moors, could do nothing for his vassal just now. But glittering
messengers came from Raymond Bérenger, and from King Helmas, and from
Queen Stultitia, each to discuss this and that possible alliance and aid
by and by. Everybody was very friendly if rather vague. But Manuel for
the present considered only Niafer and the baby that was to come, and he
let statecraft bide.

Then two other ships, that were laden with Duke Asmund's men, came also,
in an attempt to capture Manuel: so Freydis despatched a sending which
caused these soldiers to run about the decks howling like wolves, and to
fling away their swords and winged helmets, and to fight one against the
other with hands and teeth until all were slain.

The month passed thus uneventfully. And Niafer and Freydis became the
best and most intimate of friends, and their cordiality to each other
could not but have appeared to the discerning rather ominous.

"She seems to be a very good-hearted sort of a person," Niafer conceded,
in matrimonial privacy, "though certainly she is rather queer. Why,
Manuel, she showed me this afternoon ten of the drollest figures to
which--but, no, you would never guess it in the world,--to which she is
going to give life some day, just as you did to me when you got my looks
and legs and pretty much everything else all wrong."

"When does she mean to quicken them?" Dom Manuel asked: and he added,
"Not that I did, dear snip, but I shall not argue about it."

"Why, that is the droll part of it, and I can quite understand your
unwillingness to admit how little you had remembered about me. When the
man who made them has been properly rewarded, she said, with, Manuel,
the most appalling expression you ever saw."

"What were these images like?" asked Dom Manuel.

Niafer described them: she described them unsympathetically, but there
was no doubt they were the images which Manuel had left unquickened upon
Upper Morven.

Manuel nodded, smiled, and said: "So the man who made these images is to
be properly rewarded! Well, that is encouraging, for true merit should
always be rewarded."

"But, Manuel, if you had seen her look! and seen what horrible misshapen
creatures they were--!"

"Nonsense!" said Manuel, stoutly: "you are a dear snip, but that does
not make you a competent critic of either physiognomy or sculpture."

So he laughed the matter aside; and this, as it happened, was the last
that Dom Manuel heard of the ten images which he had made upon Upper
Morven. But they of Poictesme declared that Queen Freydis did give life
to these figures, each at a certain hour, and that her wizardry set them
to live as men among mankind, with no very happy results, because these
images differed from naturally begotten persons by having inside them a
spark of the life of Audela.

Thus Manuel and his wife came uneventfully to August; all the while
there was never a more decorous or more thoughtful hostess than Queen
Freydis; and nobody would have suspected that sorcery underlay the
running of her household. It was only through Dom Manuel's happening to
arise very early one morning, at the call of nature, that he chanced to
be passing through the hall when, at the moment of sunrise, the
night-porter turned into an orange-colored rat, and crept into the
wainscoting: and Manuel of course said nothing about this to anybody,
because it was none of his affair.

[Illustration]



XXVIII


How Melicent Was Welcomed


So the month passed prosperously and uneventfully, while the servitors
of Queen Freydis behaved in every respect as if they were human beings:
and at the end of the month the stork came.

Manuel and Niafer, it happened, were fishing on the river bank rather
late that evening, when they saw the great bird approaching, high
overhead, all glistening white in the sunset, except for his thin
scarlet legs and the blue shadowings in the hollows of his wings. From
his beak depended a largish bundle, in pale blue wrappings, so that at a
glance they knew the stork was bringing a girl.

Statelily the bird lighted on the window sill, as though he were quite
familiar with this way of entering Manuel's bedroom, and the bird went
in, carrying the child. This was a high and happy moment for the fond
parents as they watched him, and they kissed each other rather solemnly.

Then Niafer left Manuel to get together the fishing tackle, and she
hastened into the house to return to the stork the first of his
promissory notes in exchange for the baby. And as Manuel was winding up
the lines, Queen Freydis came to him, for she too had seen the stork's
approach; and was, she said, with a grave smile, well pleased that the
affair was settled.

"For now the stork has come, yet others may come," says Freydis, "and we
shall celebrate the happy event with a gay feast this night in honor of
your child."

"That is very kind and characteristic of you," said Manuel, "but I
suppose you will be wanting me to make a speech, and I am quite
unprepared."

"No, we will have none of your high-minded and devastating speeches at
our banquet. No, for your place is with your wife. No, Manuel, you are
not bidden to this feast, for all that it is to do honor to your child.
No, no, gray Manuel, you must remain upstairs this evening and
throughout the night, because this feast is for them that serve me: and
you do not serve me any longer, and the ways of them that serve me are
not your ways."

"Ah!" says Manuel, "so there is sorcery afoot! Yes, Freydis, I have
quite given over that sort of thing. And while not for a moment would I
seem to be criticizing anybody, I hope before long to see you settling
down, with some fine solid fellow, and forsaking these empty frivolities
for the higher and real pleasures of life."

"And what are these delights, gray Manuel?"

"The joy that is in the sight of your children playing happily about
your hearth, and developing into honorable men and gracious women, and
bringing their children in turn to cluster about your tired old knees,
as the winter evenings draw in, and in the cosy fire-light you smile
across the curly heads of these children's children at the dear wrinkled
white-haired face of your beloved and time-tested helpmate, and are
satisfied, all in all, with your life, and know that, by and large,
Heaven has been rather undeservedly kind to you," says Manuel, sighing.
"Yes, Freydis, yes, you may believe me that such are the real joys of
life; and that such pleasures are more profitably pursued than are the
idle gaieties of sorcery and witchcraft, which indeed at our age, if you
will permit me to speak thus frankly, dear friend, are hardly
dignified."

Freydis shook her proud dark head. Her smiling was grim.

"Decidedly, I shall not ever understand you. Doddering patriarch, do you
not comprehend you are already discoursing about a score or two of
grandchildren on the ground of having a five-minute-old daughter, whom
you have not yet seen? Nor is that child's future, it may be, yours to
settle--But go to your wife, for this is Niafer's man who is talking,
and not mine. Go up, Methuselah, and behold the new life which you have
created and cannot control!"

Manuel went to Niafer, and found her sewing. "My dear, this will not do
at all, for you ought to be in bed with the newborn child, as is the
custom with the mothers of Philistia."

"What nonsense!" says Niafer, "when I have to be changing every one of
the pink bows on Melicent's caps for blue bows."

"Still, Niafer, it is eminently necessary for us to be placating the
Philistines in all respects, in this delicate matter of your having a
baby."

Niafer grumbled, but obeyed. She presently lay in the golden bed of
Freydis: then Manuel duly looked at the contents of the small heaving
bundle at Niafer's side: and whether or no he scaled the conventional
peaks of emotion was nobody's concern save Manuel's. He began, in any
event, to talk in the vein which fathers ordinarily feel such high
occasions to demand. But Niafer, who was never romantic nowadays, merely
said that, anyhow, it was a blessing it was all over, and that she
hoped, now, they would soon be leaving Sargyll.

"But Freydis is so kind, my dear," said Manuel, "and so fond of you!"

"I never in my life," declared Niafer, "knew anybody to go off so
terribly in their looks as that two-faced cat has done since the first
time I saw her prancing on her tall horse and rolling her snake eyes at
you. As for being fond of me, I trust her exactly as far as I can see
her."

"Yet, Niafer, I have heard you declare, time and again--"

"But if you did, Manuel, one has to be civil."

Manuel shrugged, discreetly. "You women!" he observed, discreetly.

"--As if it were not as plain as the nose on her face--and I do not
suppose that even you, Manuel, will be contending she has a really good
nose,--that the woman is simply itching to make a fool of you, and to
have everybody laughing at you, again! Manuel, I declare I have no
patience with you when you keep arguing about such unarguable facts!"

Manuel, exercising augmented discretion, now said nothing whatever.

"--And you may talk yourself black in the face, Manuel, but nevertheless
I am going to name the child Melicent, after my own mother, as soon as a
priest can be fetched from the mainland to christen her. No, Manuel, it
is all very well for your dear friend to call herself a gray witch, but
I do not notice any priests coming to this house unless they are
especially sent for, and I draw my own conclusions."

"Well, well, let us not argue about it, my dear."

"Yes, but who started all this arguing and fault-finding, I would like
to know!"

"Why, to be sure I did. But I spoke without thinking. I was wrong. I
admit it. So do not excite yourself, dear snip."

"--And as if I could help the child's not being a boy!"

"But I never said--"

"No, but you keep thinking it, and sulking is the one thing I cannot
stand. No, Manuel, no, I do not complain, but I do think that, after all
I have been through with, sleeping around in tents, and running away
from Northmen, and never having a moment's comfort, after I had
naturally figured on being a real countess--" Niafer whimpered sleepily.

"Yes, yes," says Manuel, stroking her soft crinkly hair.

"--And with that silky hell-cat watching me all the time,--and looking
ten years younger than I do, now that you have got my face and legs all
wrong,--and planning I do not know what--"

"Yes, to be sure," says Manuel, soothingly: "you are quite right, my
dear."

So a silence fell, and presently Niafer slept. Manuel sat with hunched
shoulders, watching the wife he had fetched back from paradise at the
price of his youth. His face was grave, his lips were puckered and
protruded. He smiled by and by, and he shook his head. He sighed, not as
one who is grieved, but like a man perplexed and a little weary.

Now some while after Niafer was asleep, and when the night was fairly
advanced, you could hear a whizzing and a snorting in the air. Manuel
went to the window, and lifted the scarlet curtain figured with ramping
gold dragons, and he looked out, to find a vast number of tiny bluish
lights skipping about confusedly and agilely in the darkness, like
shining fleas. These approached the river bank, and gathered there. Then
the assembled lights began to come toward the house. You could now see
these lights were carried by dwarfs who had the eyes of owls and the
long beaks of storks. These dwarfs were jumping and dancing about
Freydis like an insane body-guard.

Freydis walked among them very remarkably attired. Upon her head shone
the uraeus crown, and she carried a long rod of cedar-wood topped with
an apple carved in bluestone, and at her side came the appearance of a
tall young man.

So they all approached the house, and the young man looked up fixedly at
the unlighted window, as though he were looking at Manuel. The young man
smiled: his teeth gleamed in the blue glare. Then the whole company
entered the house, and from Manuel's station at the window you could see
no more, but you could hear small prancing hoof-beats downstairs and the
clattering of plates and much whinnying laughter. Manuel was plucking
irresolutely at his grizzled short beard, for there was no doubt as to
the strapping tall young fellow.

Presently you could hear music: it was the ravishing Nis air, which
charms the mind into sweet confusion and oblivion, and Manuel did not
make any apparent attempt to withstand its wooing. He hastily undressed,
knelt for a decorous interval, and climbed vexedly into bed.



XXIX


Sesphra of the Dreams


In the morning Dom Manuel arose early, and left Niafer still sleeping
with the baby. Manuel came down through the lower hall, where the table
was as the revelers had left it. In the middle of the disordered room
stood a huge copper vessel half full of liquor, and beside it was a
drinking-horn of gold. Manuel paused here, and drank of the sweet
heather-wine as though he had need to hearten himself.

He went out into the bright windy morning, and as he crossed the fields
he came up behind a red cow who was sitting upon her haunches, intently
reading a largish book bound in green leather, but at sight of Manuel
she hastily put aside the volume, and began eating grass. Manuel went
on, without comment, toward the river bank, to meet the image which he
had made of clay, and to which through unholy arts he had given life.

The thing came up out of the glistening ripples of brown water, and the
thing embraced Manuel and kissed him. "I am pagan," the thing said, in a
sweet mournful voice, "and therefore I might not come to you until your
love was given to the unchristened. For I was not ever christened, and
so my true name is not known to anybody. But in the far lands where I am
worshipped as a god I am called Sesphra of the Dreams."

"I did not give you any name," said Manuel; and then he said: "Sesphra,
you that have the appearance of Alianora and of my youth! Sesphra, how
beautiful you are!"

"Is that why you are trembling, Manuel?"

"I tremble because the depths of my being have been shaken. Since youth
went out of me, in the high woods of Dun Vlechlan, I have lived through
days made up of small frettings and little pleasures and only half
earnest desires, which moved about upon the surface of my being like
minnows in the shoals of a still lake. But now that I have seen and
heard you, Sesphra of the Dreams, and your lips have touched my lips, a
passion moves in me that possesses all of me, and I am frightened."

"It is the passion which informs those who make images. It is the master
you denied, poor foolish Manuel, and the master who will take no
denial."

"Sesphra, what is your will with me?"

"It is my will that you and I go hence on a long journey, into the far
lands where I am worshipped as a god. For I love you, my creator, who
gave life to me, and you love me more than aught else, and it is not
right that we be parted."

"I cannot go on any journey, just now, for I have my lands and castles
to regain, and my wife and my newborn child to protect."

Sesphra began to smile adorably: you saw that his teeth were strangely
white and very strong. "What are these things to me or you, or to anyone
that makes images? We follow after our own thinking and our own
desires."

"I lived thus once upon a time," said Manuel, sighing, "but nowadays
there is a bond upon me to provide for my wife, and for my child too,
and I have not much leisure left for anything else."

Then Sesphra began to speak adorably, as he walked on the river bank,
with one arm about Dom Manuel. Always Sesphra limped as he walked. A
stiff and obdurate wind was ruffling the broad brown shining water, and
as they walked, this wind buffeted them, and tore at their clothing.
Manuel clung to his hat with one hand, and with the other held to lame
Sesphra of the Dreams. Sesphra talked of matters not to be recorded.

"That is a handsome ring you have there," says Sesphra, by and by.

"It is the ring my wife gave me when we were married," Manuel replied.

"Then you must give it to me, dear Manuel."

"No, no, I cannot part with it."

"But it is beautiful, and I want it," Sesphra said. So Manuel gave him
the ring.

Now Sesphra began again to talk of matters not to be recorded.

"Sesphra of the Dreams," says Manuel, presently, "you are bewitching me,
for when I listen to you I see that Manuel's imperilled lands make such
a part of earth as one grain of sand contributes to the long narrow
beach we are treading. I see my fond wife Niafer as a plain-featured and
dull woman, not in any way remarkable among the millions of such women
as are at this moment preparing breakfast or fretting over other small
tasks. I see my newborn child as a mewing lump of flesh. And I see
Sesphra whom I made so strong and strange and beautiful, and it is as if
in a half daze I hear that obdurate wind commingled with the sweet voice
of Sesphra while you are talking of matters which it is not safe to talk
about."

"Yes, that is the way it is, Manuel, and the way it should be, and the
way it always will be as long as life is spared to you, now. So let us
go into the house, and write droll letters to King Helmas and Raymond
Bérenger and Queen Stultitia, in reply to the fine offers they have been
making you."

They came back into the empty banquet-hall. This place was paved with
mother of pearl and copper; six porphyry columns supported the
musicians' gallery. To the other end were two alabaster urns upon green
pedestals that were covered with golden writing in the old Dirgham.

Here Manuel cleared away the embossed silver plates from one corner of
the table. He took pen and ink, and Sesphra told him what to write.

Sesphra sat with arms folded, and as he dictated he looked up at the
ceiling. This ceiling was of mosaic work, showing four winged creatures
that veiled their faces with crimson and orange-tawny wings; suspended
from this ceiling by bronze chains hung ostrich eggs, bronze lamps and
globes of crystal.

"But these are very insulting replies," observed Dom Manuel, when he had
finished writing, "and they will make their recipients furious. These
princes, Sesphra, are my good friends, and they are powerful friends,
upon whose favor I am dependent."

"Yes, but how beautiful these replies are worded! See now, dear Manuel,
how divertingly you have described King Helmas' hideous nose in your
letter to King Helmas, and how trenchant is that paragraph about the
scales of his mermaid wife--"

"I admit that passage is rather droll--"

"--And in your letter to the pious Queen Stultitia that which you say
about the absurdities of religion, here, and the fun you make of her
spectacles, are masterpieces of paradox and of very exquisite prose--"

"Those bits, to be sure, are quite neatly put--"

"--So I must see to it that these replies are sent, to make people
admire you everywhere."

"Yet, Sesphra, all these princes are my friends, and their goodwill is
necessary to me--"

"No, Manuel. For you and I will not bother about these stupid princes
any more, nor will you need any friends except me; for we will go to
this and that remote strange place, and our manner of living will be
such and such, and we will do so and so, and we will travel everywhither
and see the ends of this world and judge them. And we will not ever be
parted until you die."

"What will you do then, dear Sesphra?" Manuel asks him fondly.

"I shall survive you, as all gods outlive their creators. And I must
depute the building of your monument to men of feeble minds which have
been properly impaired by futile studies and senility. That is the way
in which all gods are doomed to deal with their creators: but that need
not trouble us as yet."

"No," Manuel said, "I cannot go with you. For in my heart is enkindling
such love of you as frightens me."

"It is through love men win to happiness, poor lonely Manuel."

Now when Manuel answered Sesphra there was in Manuel's face trouble and
bewilderment. And Manuel said:

"Under your dear bewitchments, Sesphra, I confess that through love men
win to sick disgust and self-despising, and for that reason I will not
love any more. Now breathlessly the tall lads run to clutch at stars,
above the brink of a drab quagmire, and presently time trips them--Oh,
Sesphra, wicked Sesphra of the Dreams, you have laid upon me a magic so
strong that, horrified, I hear the truth come babbling from long-guarded
lips which no longer obey me, because of your dear bewitchments.

"Look you, adorable and all-masterful Sesphra, I have followed noble
loves. I aspired to the Unattainable Princess, and thereafter to the
unattainable Queen of a race that is more fine and potent than our race,
and afterward I would have no less a love than an unattainable angel in
paradise. Hah, I must be fit mate for that which is above me, was my
crying in the old days; and such were the indomitable desires that one
by one have made my living wonderful with dear bewitchments.

"The devil of it was that these proud aims did not stay unattained!
Instead, I was cursed by getting my will, and always my reward was
nothing marvelous and rare, but that quite ordinary figure of earth, a
human woman. And always in some dripping dawn I have turned with
abhorrence from myself and from the sated folly that had hankered for
such prizes, which, when possessed, showed as not wonderful in anything,
and which possession left likable enough, but stripped of dear
bewitchments.

"No, Sesphra, no: men are so made that they must desire to mate with
some woman or another, and they are furthermore so made that to mate
with a woman does not content their desire. And in this gaming there is
no gain, because the end of loving, for everybody except those lucky
persons whose love is not requited, must always be a sick disgust and a
self-despising, which the wise will conduct in silence, and not talk
about as I am talking now under your dear bewitchments."

Then Sesphra smiled a little, saying, "And yet, poor Manuel, there is,
they tell me, no more uxorious husband anywhere."

"I am used to her," Manuel replied, forlornly, "and I suppose that if
she were taken away from me again I would again be attempting to fetch
her back. And I do not like to hurt the poor foolish heart of her by
going against her foolish notions. Besides, I am a little afraid of her,
because she is always able to make me uncomfortable. And above all, of
course, the hero of a famous love-affair, such as ours has become, with
those damned poets everywhere making rhymes about my fidelity and
devotion, has to preserve appearances. So I get through each day,
somehow, by never listening very attentively to the interminable things
she tells me about. But I often wonder, as I am sure all husbands
wonder, why Heaven ever made a creature so tedious and so unreasonably
dull of wit and so opinionated. And when I think that for the rest of
time this creature is to be my companion I usually go out and kill
somebody. Then I come back, because she knows the way I like my toast."

"Instead, dear Manuel, you must go away from this woman who does not
understand you--"

"Yes," Manuel said, with grave conviction, "that is exactly the
trouble."

"--And you must go with me who understand you all through. And we will
travel everywhither, so that we may see the ends of this world and judge
them."

"You tempt me, Sesphra, with an old undying desire, and you have laid
strong enchantments on me, but, no, I cannot go with you."

The hand of Sesphra closed upon the hand of Manuel caressingly.

Manuel said: "I will go with you. But what will become of the woman and
the child whom I leave behind me unfriended?"

"That is true. There will be nobody to look out for them, and they will
perish miserably. That is not important, but perhaps upon the whole it
would be better for you to kill them before we depart from Sargyll."

"Very well, then," says Manuel, "I will do that, but you must come up
into the room with me, for I cannot bear to lose sight of you."

Now Sesphra smiled more unrestrainedly, and his teeth gleamed. "I shall
not ever leave you now until you die."

[Illustration]



XXX


Farewell to Freydis


They went upstairs together, into the room with scarlet hangings, and to
the golden bed where, with seven sorts of fruit properly arranged at the
bedside, Dom Manuel's wife Niafer lay asleep. Manuel drew his dagger.
Niafer turned in her sleep, so that she seemed to offer her round small
throat to the raised knife. You saw now that on the other side of the
golden bed sat Queen Freydis, making a rich glow of color there, and in
her lap was the newborn naked child.

Freydis rose, holding the child to her breast, and smiling. A devil
might smile thus upon contriving some new torment for lost souls, but a
fair woman's face should not be so cruel. Then this evil joy passed from
the face of Freydis. She dipped her fingers into the bowl of water with
which she had been bathing the child, and with her finger-tips she made
upon the child's forehead the sign of a cross.

Said Freydis, "Melicent, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Sesphra passed wildly toward the fireplace, crying, "A penny, a penny,
twopence, a penny and a half, and a halfpenny!" At his call the fire
shot forth tall flames, and Sesphra entered these flames as a man goes
between parted curtains, and instantly the fire collapsed and was as it
had been. Already the hands of Freydis were moving deftly in the Sleep
Charm, so that Niafer did not move. Freydis to-day was resplendently
robed in flame-colored silk, and about her dark hair was a circlet of
burnished copper.

Manuel had dropped his dagger so that the point of it pierced the floor,
and the weapon stood erect and quivering. But Manuel was shaken for a
moment more horribly than shook the dagger: you would have said he was
convulsed with horror and self-loathing. So for an instant he waited,
looking at Dame Niafer, who slept untroubled, and at fiery-colored
Freydis, who was smiling rather queerly: and then the old composure came
back to Manuel.

"Breaker of all oaths," says Freydis, "I must tell you that this Sesphra
is pagan, and cannot thrive except among those whose love is given to
the unchristened. Thus he might not come to Sargyll until the arrival of
this little heathen whom I have just made Christian. Now we have only
Christian terrors here; and again your fate is in my hands."

Dom Manuel looked grave. "Freydis," he said, "you have rescued me from
very unbecoming conduct. A moment more and I would have slain my wife
and child because of this Sesphra's resistless magic."

Says Freydis, still smiling a queer secret smile: "Indeed, there is no
telling into what folly and misery Sesphra would not have led you. For
you fashioned his legs unevenly, and he has not ever pardoned you his
lameness."

"The thing is a devil," Manuel said. "And this is the figure I desired
to make, this is the child of my long dreams and labors! This is the
creature I designed to be more admirable and significant than the drab
men I found in streets and lanes and palaces! Certainly, I have loosed
among mankind a blighting misery which I cannot control at all."

"The thing is you as you were once, gray Manuel. You had comeliness and
wit and youth and courage, and these you gave the image, shaping it
boldly to your proud youth's will and in your proud youth's likeness.
But human pity and any constant love you did not then have to give,
either to your fellows or to the fine figure you made, nor, very
certainly, to me. So you amused yourself by making Sesphra and by making
me that which we are to-day."

Now again showed subtly evil thoughts in the face of this shrewd flaming
woman who had so recently brought about the destruction of King Thibaut,
and of the Duke of Istria, and of those other enamored lords. And Dom
Manuel began to regard her more intently.

In Manuel's sandals the average person would have reflected, long before
this, that Manuel and his wife and child were in this sorcerous place at
the mercy of the whims and the unwholesome servitors of this not very
dependable looking witch-woman. The average person would have
recollected distastefully that unusual panther and that discomfortable
night-porter and the madness which had smitten Duke Asmund's men, and
the clattering vicious little hoofs of the shrill dwarfs; and to the
average person this room would have seemed a desirable place to be many
leagues away from.

But candid blunt Dom Manuel said, with jovial laughter: "You speak as if
you had not grown more adorable every day, dear Freydis, and as though I
would not be vastly flattered to think I had any part in the
improvement. You should not fish thus unblushingly for compliments."

The sombre glitterings that were her eyes had narrowed, and she was
looking at his hands. Then Freydis said: "There are pin-points of sweat
upon the back of your hands, gray Manuel, and so alone do I know that
you are badly frightened. Yes, you are rather wonderful, even now."

"I am not unduly frightened, but I am naturally upset by what has just
happened. Anybody would be. For I do not know what I must anticipate in
the future, and I wish that I had never meddled in this mischancy
business of creating things I cannot manage."

Queen Freydis moved in shimmering splendor toward the fireplace. She
paused there, considerately looking down at the small contention of
flames. "Did you not, though, again create much misery when for your
pleasure you gave life to this girl child? Certainly you must know that
there will be in her life--if life indeed be long spared to her," said
Freydis, reflectively,--"far less of joy than of sorrow, for that is the
way it is with the life of everybody. But all this likewise is out of
your hands. In Sesphra and in the child and in me you have lightly
created that which you cannot control. No, it is I who control the
outcome."

Now a golden panther came quite noiselessly into the room, and sat to
the right of Freydis, and looked at Dom Manuel.

"Why, to be sure," says Manuel, heartily, "and I am sure, too, that
nobody is better qualified to handle it. Come now, Freydis, just as you
say, this is a serious situation, and something really ought to be done
about this situation. Come now, dear friend, in what way can we take
back the life we gave this lovely fiend?"

"And would I be wanting to kill my husband?" Queen Freydis asked, and
she smiled wonderfully. "Why, but yes, this fair lame child of yours is
my husband to-day,--poor, frightened, fidgeting gray Manuel,--and I love
him, for Sesphra is all that you were when I loved you, Manuel, and when
you condescended to take your pleasure of me."

Now an orange-colored rat came into the room, and sat down upon the
hearth to the left hand of Freydis, and looked at Dom Manuel. And the
rat was is large as the panther.

Then Freydis said: "No, Manuel, Sesphra must live for a great while,
long after you have been turned to graveyard dust: and he will limp
about wherever pagans are to be found, and he will always win much love
from the high-hearted pagans because of his comeliness and because of
his unfading jaunty youth. And whether he will do any good anywhere is
doubtful, but it is certain he will do harm, and it is equally certain
that already he weighs my happiness as carelessly as you once weighed
it."

Now came into the room another creature, such as no madman has ever seen
or imagined, and it lay down at the feet of Freydis, and it looked at
Dom Manuel. Couched thus, this creature yawned and disclosed
unreassuring teeth.

"Well, Freydis," says Dom Manuel, handsomely, "but, to be sure, what you
tell me puts a new complexion upon matters, and not for worlds would I
be coming between husband and wife--"

Queen Freydis looked up from the flames, toward Dom Manuel, very sadly.
Freydis shrugged, flinging out her hands above the heads of the accursed
beasts. "And at the last I cannot do that, either. So do you two dreary,
unimportant, well-mated people remain undestroyed, now that I go to seek
my husband, and now I endeavor to win my pardon for not letting him
torment you. Eh, I was tempted, gray Manuel, to let my masterful fine
husband have his pleasure of you, and of this lean ugly hobbling
creature and her brat, too, as formerly you had your pleasure of me. But
women are so queerly fashioned that at the last I cannot, quite, consent
to harm this gray, staid, tedious fellow, nor any of his chattels. For
all passes in this world save one thing only: and though the young
Manuel whom I loved in a summer that is gone, be nowadays as perished as
that summer's gay leaves, it is certain a woman's folly does not ever
perish."

"Indeed, I did not merit that you should care for me," says Manuel,
rather unhappily. "But I have always been, and always shall be sincerely
fond of you, Freydis, and for that reason I rejoice to deduce that you
are not, now, going to do anything violent and irreparable and such as
your better nature would afterward regret."

"I loved you once," she said, "and now I am assured the core of you was
always a cold and hard and colorless and very common pebble. But it does
not matter now that I am a mortal woman. Either way, you have again made
use of me. I have afforded you shelter when you were homeless. And now
again you will be getting your desire."

Queen Freydis went to the window, and lifted the scarlet curtain figured
with ramping gold dragons; but the couching beasts stayed by the hearth,
and they continued to look at Dom Manuel.

"Yes, now again, gray Manuel, you will be getting your desire. That ship
which shows at the river bend, with serpents and castles painted on its
brown sails, is Miramon Lluagor's ship, which he has sent to fetch you
from Sargyll: and the last day of your days of exile is now over. For
Miramon is constrained by one who is above us all; therefore Miramon
comes gladly and very potently to assist you. And I--who have served
your turn!--I may now depart, to look for Sesphra, and for my pardon if
I can get it."

"But whither do you go, dear Freydis?" Dom Manuel spoke as though he
again felt quite fond of her.

"What does that matter," she answered, looking long and long at him,
"now that Count Manuel has no further need of me?" Then Freydis looked
at Niafer, lying there in a charmed sleep. "I neither love nor entirely
hate you, ugly and lame and lean and fretful Niafer, but assuredly I do
not envy you. You are welcome to your fidgeting gray husband. My husband
is a ruthless god. My husband does not grow old and tender-hearted and
subservient to me, and he never will." Thereafter Freydis bent downward,
and Freydis kissed the child she had christened. "Some day you will be a
woman, Melicent, and then you will be loving some man or another man. I
could hope that you will then love the man who will make you happy, but
that sort of man has not yet been found."

Dom Manuel came to her, not heeding the accursed beasts at all, and he
took both the hands of Freydis in his hands. "My dear, and do you think
I am a happy man?"

She looked up at him: when she answered, her voice trembled. "I made you
happy, Manuel. I would have made you happy always."

"I wonder if you would have? Ah, well, at all events, the obligation was
upon me. At no time in a man's life, I find, is there lacking some
obligation or another: and we must meet each as we best can, not hoping
to succeed, just aiming not to fall short too far. No, it is not a merry
pursuit. And it is a ruining pursuit!"

She said, "I had not thought ever to be sorry for you--Why should I
grieve for you, gray traitor?"

Harshly he answered: "Oho, I am not proud of what I have made of my
life, and of your life, and of the life of that woman yonder, but do you
think I will be whining about it! No, Freydis: the boy that loved and
deserted you is here,"--he beat upon his breast,--"locked in, imprisoned
while time lasts, dying very lonelily. Well, I am a shrewd gaoler: he
shall not get out. No, even at the last, dear Freydis, there is the bond
of silence."

She said, impotently, "I am sorry--Even at the last you contrive for me
a new sorrow--"

For a moment they stood looking at each other, and she remembered
thereafter his sad and quizzical smiling. These two had nothing more to
share in speech or deed.

Then Freydis went away, and the accursed beasts and her castle too went
with her, as smoke passes. Manuel was thus left standing out of doors in
a reaped field, alone with his wife and child while Miramon's ship came
about. Niafer slept. But now the child awoke to regard the world into
which she had been summoned willy-nilly, and the child began to whimper.

Dom Manuel patted this intimidating small creature gingerly, with a
strong comely hand from which his wedding ring was missing. That would
require explanations.

It therefore seems not improbable that he gave over this brief period of
waiting, in a reaped field, to wondering just how much about the past he
might judiciously tell his wife when she awoke to question him, because
in the old days that was a problem which no considerate husband failed
to weigh with care.



XXXI


Statecraft


Now from the ship's gangway came seven trumpeters dressed in glistening
plaids: each led with a silver chain a grayhound, and each of the seven
hounds carried in his mouth an apple of gold. After these followed three
harp-players and three clergymen and three jesters, all bearing crested
staves and wearing chaplets of roses. Then Miramon Lluagor, lord of the
nine sleeps and prince of the seven madnesses, comes ashore. An
incredible company followed. But with him came his wife Gisèle and their
little child Demetrios, thus named for the old Count of Arnaye: and it
was this boy that, they say, when yet in swaddling-bands, was appointed
to be the slayer of his own father, wise Miramon Lluagor.

Dame Niafer was wakened, and the two women went apart to compare and
discuss their babies. They put the children in one cradle. A great while
afterward were these two again to lie together thus, and from this
mating was the girl to get long sorrow, and the boy his death.

Meanwhile the snub-nosed lord of the nine sleeps and the squinting Count
of Poictesme sat down upon the river bank to talk about more serious
matters than croup and teething. The sun was high by this time, so Kan
and Muluc and Ix and Cauac came in haste from the corners of the world,
and held up a blue canopy to shelter the conferring between their master
and Dom Manuel.

"What is this," said Miramon Lluagor to Dom Manuel, first of all, "that
I hear of your alliance with Philistia, and of your dickerings with a
people who say that my finest designs are nothing but indigestion?"

"I have lost Poictesme," says Manuel, "and the Philistines offer to
support me in my pretensions."

"But that will never do! I who design all dreams can never consent to
that, and no Philistine must ever enter Poictesme. Why did you not come
to me for help at the beginning, instead of wasting time upon kings and
queens?" demands the magician, fretfully. "And are you not ashamed to be
making any alliance with Philistia, remembering how you used to follow
after your own thinking and your own desire?"

"Well," Manuel replies, "I have had as yet nothing save fair words from
Philistia, and no alliance is concluded."

"That is more than well. Only, let us be orderly about this. Imprimis,
you desire Poictesme--"

"No, not in particular, but appearances have to be preserved, and my
wife thinks it would look better for me to redeem this country from the
oppression of the heathen Northmen, and so provide her with a suitable
home."

"Item, then I must obtain this country for you, because there is no
sense in withstanding our wives in such matters."

"I rejoice at your decision--"

"Between ourselves, Manuel, I fancy you now begin to understand the
reasons which prompted me to bring you the magic sword Flamberge at the
beginning of our acquaintance, and have learned who it is that wears the
breeches in most marriages."

"No, that is not the way it is at all, Miramon, for my wife is the
dearest and most dutiful of women, and never crosses my wishes in
anything."

Miramon nodded his approval. "You are quite right, for somebody might be
overhearing us. So, let us get on, and do you stop interrupting me.
Item, you must hold Poictesme, and your heirs forever after must hold
Poictesme, not in fee but by feudal tenure. Item, you shall hold these
lands, not under any saint like Ferdinand, but under a quite different
sort of liege-lord."

"I can see no objection to your terms, thus far. But who is to be my
overlord?"

"A person whom you may remember," replied Miramon, and he beckoned
toward the rainbow throng of his followers.

One of them at this signal came forward. He was a tall lean youngster,
with ruddy cheeks, wide-set brown eyes, and a smallish head covered with
crisp, tightly-curling dark red hair: and Manuel recognized him at once,
because Manuel had every reason to remember the queer talk he had held
with this Horvendile just after Niafer had ridden away with Miramon's
dreadful half-brother.

"But do you not think that this Horvendile is insane?" Dom Manuel asked
the magician, privately.

"I confess he very often has that appearance."

"Then why do you make him my overlord?"

"I have my reasons, you may depend upon it, and if I do not talk about
them you may be sure that for this reticence also I have my reasons."

"But is this Horvendile, then, one of the Léshy? Is he the Horvendile
whose great-toe is the morning star?"

"I may tell you that it was he who summoned me to help you in distress,
of which I had not heard upon Vraidex, but why should I tell you any
more, Dom Manuel? Come, is it not enough that am offering you a province
and comparatively tranquil terms of living with your wife, that you must
have all my old secrets to boot?"

"You are right," says Manuel, "and prospective benefactors must be
humored." So he rested content with his ignorance, nor did he ever find
out about Horvendile, though later Manuel must have had horrible
suspicions.

Meanwhile, Dom Manuel affably shook hands with the red-headed boy, and
spoke of their first meeting. "And I believe you were not talking utter
foolishness after all, my lad," says Manuel, laughing, "for I have
learned that the strange and dangerous thing which you told me is very
often true."

"Why, how should I know," quiet Horvendile replied, "when I am talking
foolishness and when not?"

Manuel said: "Still, I can understand your talking only in part. Well,
but it is not right for us to understand our overlords, and, madman or
not, I prefer you to Queen Stultitia and her preposterous rose-colored
spectacles. So let us proceed in due form, and draw up the articles of
our agreement."

This was done, and they formally subscribed the terms under which Dom
Manuel and the descendants of Dom Manuel were to hold Poictesme
perpetually in fief to Horvendile. It was the most secret sort of
compact, and to divulge its ten stipulations would even now be most
disastrous. So the terms of this compact were not ever made public. Thus
all men stayed at no larger liberty to criticize its provisos than his
circumstances had granted to Dom Manuel, upon whom marrying had put the
obligation to provide, in one way or another way, for his wife and
child.

[Illustration]



XXXII


The Redemption of Poictesme


When then these matters were concluded, and the future of Poictesme had
been arranged in every detail, then Miramon Lluagor's wife told him that
long words and ink-bottles and red seals were well enough for men to
play with, but that it was high time something sensible was done in this
matter, unless they expected Niafer to bring up the baby in a ditch.

The magician said, "Yes, my darling, you are quite right, and I will see
to it the first thing after dinner."

He then said to Dom Manuel, "Now Horvendile informs me that you were
duly born in a cave at about the time of the winter solstice, of a
virgin mother and of a father who was not human."

Manuel replied, "Certainly that is true. But why do you now stir up
these awkward old stories?"

"You have duly wandered from place to place, bringing wisdom and
holiness to men--"

"That also is generally known."

"You have duly performed miracles, such as reviving dead persons and so
on--"

"That too is undeniable."

"You have duly sojourned with evil in a desert place, and have there
been tempted to despair and blaspheme and to commit other iniquities."

"Yes, something of the sort did occur in Dun Vlechlan."

"And, as I well know, you have by your conduct of affairs upon Vraidex
duly disconcerted me, who am the power of darkness--"

"Ah! ah! you, Miramon, are then the power of darkness!"

"I control all dreams and madnesses, Dom Manuel; and these are the main
powers of darkness."

Manuel seemed dubious, but he only said: "Well, let us get on! It is
true that all these things have happened to me, somehow."

The magician looked at the tall warrior for a while, and in the dark
soft eyes of Miramon Lluagor was a queer sort of compassion. Miramon
said, "Yes, Manuel, these portents have marked your living thus far,
just as they formerly distinguished the beginnings of Mithras and of
Huitzilopochtli and of Tammouz and of Heracles--"

"Yes, but what does it matter if these accidents did happen to me,
Miramon?"

"--As they happened to Gautama and to Dionysos and to Krishna and to all
other reputable Redeemers," Miramon continued.

"Well, well, all this is granted. But what, pray, am I to deduce from
all this?"

Miramon told him.

Dom Manuel, at the end of Miramon's speaking, looked peculiarly solemn,
and Manuel said: "I had thought the transformation surprising enough
when King Ferdinand was turned into a saint, but this tops all! Either
way, Miramon, you point out an obligation so tremendous that the less
said about it, the wiser; and the sooner this obligation is discharged
and the ritual fulfilled, the more comfortable it will be for
everybody."

So Manuel went away with Miramon Lluagor into a secret place, and there
Dom Manuel submitted to that which was requisite, and what happened is
not certainly known. But this much is known, that Manuel suffered, and
afterward passed three days in an underground place, and came forth on
the third day.

Then Miramon said: "All this being duly performed and well rid of, we do
not now violate any messianic etiquette if we forthwith set about the
redemption of Poictesme. Now then, would you prefer to redeem with the
forces of good or with the forces of evil?"

"Not with the forces of evil," said Manuel, "for I saw many of these in
the high woods of Dun Vlechlan, and I do not fancy them as allies. But
are good and evil all one to you of the Léshy?"

"Why should we tell you, Manuel?" says the magician.

"That, Miramon, is a musty reply."

"It is not a reply, it is a question. And the question has become musty
because it has been handled so often, and no man has ever been able to
dispose of it."

Manuel gave it up, and shrugged. "Well, let us conquer as we may, so
that God be on our side."

Miramon replied: "Never fear! He shall be, in every shape and
attribute."

So Miramon did what was requisite, and from the garrets and dustheaps of
Vraidex came strong allies. For, to begin with, Miramon dealt unusually
with a little fish, and as a result of these dealings came to them,
during the afternoon of the last Thursday in September, as they stood on
the seashore north of Manneville, a darkly colored champion clad in
yellow. He had four hands, in which he carried a club, a shell, a lotus
and a discus; and he rode upon a stallion whose hide glittered like new
silver.

Manuel said, "This is a good omen, that the stallion of Poictesme should
have aid brought to it by yet another silver stallion."

"Let us not speak of this bright stallion," Miramon hastily replied,
"for until this Yuga is over he has no name. But when the minds of all
men are made clear as crystal then a christening will be appointed for
this stallion, and his name will be Kalki, and by the rider upon this
stallion Antan will be redeemed."

"Well," Manuel said, "that seems fair enough. Meanwhile, with this dusky
gentleman's assistance, I gather, we are to redeem Poictesme."

"Oh, no, Dom Manuel, he is but the first of our Redeemers, for there is
nothing like the decimal system, and you will remember it was in our
treaty that in Poictesme all things are to go by tens forever."

Thereafter Miramon did what was requisite with some acorns, and the
splutterings were answered by low thunder. So came a second champion to
aid them. This was a pleasant looking young fellow with an astonishingly
red beard: he had a basket slung over his shoulder, and he carried a
bright hammer. He rode in a chariot drawn by four goats.

"Come, this is certainly a fine stalwart fighting-man," says Manuel,
"and to-day is a lucky day for me, and for this ruddy gentleman also, I
hope."

"To-day is always his day," Miramon replied, "and do you stop
interrupting me in my incantations, and hand me that flute."

So Manuel stayed as silent as that brace of monstrous allies while
Miramon did yet another curious thing with a flute and a palm-branch.
Thereafter came an amber-colored champion clad in dark green, and
carrying a club and a noose for the souls of the dead. He rode upon a
buffalo, and with him came an owl and a pigeon.

"I think--" said Manuel.

"You do not!" said Miramon. "You only talk and fidget, because you are
upset by the appearance of your allies; and such talking and fidgeting
is very disturbing to an artist who is striving to reanimate the past."

Thus speaking, Miramon turned indignantly to another evocation. It
summoned a champion in a luminous chariot drawn by scarlet mares. He was
golden-haired, with ruddy limbs, and was armed with a bow and arrows: he
too was silent, but he laughed, and you saw that he had several tongues.
After him came a young shining man who rode on a boar with golden
bristles and bloodied hoofs: this warrior carried a naked sword, and on
his back, folded up like a cloth, was a ship to contain the gods and all
living creatures. And the sixth Redeemer was a tall shadow-colored
person with two long gray plumes affixed to his shaven head: he carried
a sceptre and a thing which, Miramon said, was called an ankh, and the
beast he rode on was surprising to observe, for it had the body of a
beetle, with human arms, and the head of a ram, and the four feet of a
lion.

"Come," Manuel said, "but I have never seen just such a steed as that."

"No," Miramon replied, "nor has anybody else, for this is the Hidden
One. But do you stop your eternal talking, and pass me the salt and that
young crocodile."

With these two articles Miramon dealt so as to evoke a seventh ally.
Serpents were about the throat and arms of this champion, and he wore a
necklace of human skulls: his long black hair was plaited remarkably;
his throat was blue, his body all a livid white except where it was
smeared with ashes. He rode upon the back of a beautiful white bull.
Next, riding on a dappled stag, came one appareled in vivid stripes of
yellow and red and blue and green: his face was dark as a raincloud, he
had one large round eye, white tusks protruded from his lips, and he
carried a gaily painted urn. His unspeakable attendants leaped like
frogs. The jolliest looking of all the warriors came thereafter, with a
dwarfish body and very short legs; he had a huge black-bearded head, a
flat nose, and his tongue hung from his mouth and waggled as he moved.
He wore a belt and a necklace, and nothing else whatever except the
plumes of the hawk arranged as a head-dress: and he rode upon a great
sleek tortoise-shell cat.

Now when these unusual appearing allies stood silently aligned before
them on the seashore, Dom Manuel said, with a polite bow toward this
appalling host, that he hardly thought Duke Asmund would be able to
withstand such Redeemers. But Miramon repeated that there was nothing
like the decimal system.

"That half-brother of mine, who is lord of the tenth kind of sleeping,
would nicely round off this dizain," says Miramon, scratching his chin,
"if only he had not such a commonplace, black-and-white appearance,
apart from being one of those dreadful Realists, without a scrap of
aesthetic feeling--No, I like color, and we will levy now upon the
West!"

So Miramon dealt next with a little ball of bright feathers. Then a last
helper came to them, riding on a jaguar, and carrying a large drum and a
flute from which his music issued in the shape of flames. This champion
was quite black, but he was striped with blue paint, and golden feathers
grew all over his left leg. He wore a red coronet in the shape of a
rose, a short skirt of green paper, and white sandals; and he carried a
red shield that had in its centre a white flower with the four petals
placed crosswise. Such was he who made up the tenth.

Now when this terrible dizain was completed the lord of the seven
madnesses laid fire to a wisp of straw, and he cast it to the winds,
saying that thus should the anger of Miramon Lluagor pass over the land.
Then he turned to these dreadful ten whom he had revivified from the
dustheaps and garrets of Vraidex, and it became apparent that Miramon
was deeply moved.

Said Miramon:

"You, whom I made for man's worship when earth was younger and fairer,
hearken, and learn why I breathe new life into husks from my
scrap-heaps! Gods of old days, discrowned, disjected, and treated as
rubbish, hark to the latest way of the folk whose fathers you succored!
They have discarded you utterly. Such as remember deride you, saying:

"'The brawling old lords that our grandfathers honored have perished, if
they indeed were ever more than some curious notions bred of our
grandfathers' questing, that looked to find God in each rainstorm coming
to nourish their barley, and God in the heat-bringing sun, and God in
the earth which gave life. Even so was each hour of their living touched
with odd notions of God and with lunacies as to God's kindness. We are
more sensible people, for we understand all about the freaks of the wind
and the weather, and find them in no way astounding. As for whatever
gods may exist, they are civil, in that they let us alone in our
lifetime; and so we return their politeness, knowing that what we are
doing on earth is important enough to need undivided attention.'

"Such are the folk that deride you, such are the folk that ignore the
gods whom Miramon fashioned, such are the folk whom to-day I permit you
freely to deal with after the manner of gods. Do you now make the most
of your chance, and devastate all Poictesme in time for an earlyish
supper!"

The faces of these ten became angry, and they shouted, "Blaerde Shay
Alphenio Kasbue Gorfons Albuifrio!"

All ten went up together from the sea, traveling more swiftly than men
travel, and what afterward happened in Poictesme was for a long while a
story very fearful to hear and heard everywhere.

Manuel did not witness any of the tale's making as he waited alone on
the seashore. But the land was sick, and its nausea heaved under
Manuel's wounded feet, and he saw that the pale, gurgling, glistening
sea appeared to crawl away from Poictesme slimily. And at Bellegarde and
Naimes and Storisende and Lisuarte, and in all the strongly fortified
inland places, Asmund's tall fighting-men beheld one or another of the
angry faces which came up from the sea, and many died swiftly, as must
always happen when anybody revives discarded dreams, nor did any of the
Northmen die in a shape recognizable as human.

When the news was brought to Dom Manuel that his redemption of Poictesme
was completed, then Dom Manuel unarmed, and made himself presentable in
a tunic of white damask and a girdle adorned with garnets and sapphires.
He slipped over his left shoulder a baldric set with diamonds and
emeralds, to sustain the unbloodied sword with which he had conquered
here as upon Vraidex. Over all he put on a crimson mantle. Then the
former swineherd concealed his hands, not yet quite healed, with white
gloves, of which the one was adorned with a ruby, and the other was a
sapphire; and, sighing, Manuel the Redeemer (as he was called
thereafter) entered into his kingdom, and they of Poictesme received him
far more gladly than he them.

Thus did Dom Manuel enter into the imprisonment of his own castle and
into the bonds of high estate, from which he might not easily get free
to go a-traveling everywhither, and see the ends of this world and judge
them. And they say that in her low red-pillared palace Suskind smiled
contentedly and made ready for the future.



[Illustration]

PART FIVE.


THE BOOK OF SETTLEMENT


TO

JOSEPH HERGESHEIMER



Thus _Manuel reigned in vertue and honoure with that noble Ladye his
wyfe: and he was beloued and dradde of high and lowe degree, for he dyde
ryghte and iustice_ according to the auncient Manner, _kepynge hys land
in dignitie and goode Appearance, and hauynge the highest place in hys
tyme._



XXXIII


Now Manuel Prospers


They of Poictesme narrate fine tales as to the deeds that Manuel the
Redeemer performed and incited in the days of his reign. They tell also
many things that seem improbable, and therefore are not included in this
book: for the old songs and tales incline to make of Count Manuel's
heydey a rare golden age.

So many glorious exploits are, indeed, accredited to Manuel and to the
warriors whom he gathered round him in his famous Fellowship of the
Silver Stallion,--and among whom, Holden and courteous Anavalt and Coth
the Alderman and Gonfal and Donander had the pre-eminence, where all
were hardy,--that it is very difficult to understand how so brief a
while could have continued so many doings. But the tale-tellers of
Poictesme have been long used to say of a fine action,--not falsely, but
misleadingly,--"Thus it was in Count Manuel's time," and the tribute by
and by has been accepted as a dating. So has chronology been hacked to
make loftier his fame, and the glory of Dom Manuel has been a magnet
that has drawn to itself the magnanimities of other days and years.

But there is no need here to speak of these legends, about the deeds
which were performed by the Fellowship of the Silver Stallion, because
these stories are recorded elsewhere. Some may be true, the others are
certainly not true; but it is indisputable that Count Manuel grew
steadily in power and wealth and proud repute. Miramon Lluagor still
served him, half-amusedly, as Dom Manuel's seneschal; kings now were
Manuel's co-partners; and the former swineherd had somehow become the
fair and trusty cousin of emperors. And Madame Niafer, the great Count's
wife, was everywhere stated, without any contradiction from her, to be
daughter to the late Soldan of Barbary.

Guivric the Sage illuminated the tree which showed the glorious descent
of Dame Niafer from Kaiumarth, the first of all kings, and the first to
teach men to build houses: and this tree hung in the main hall of
Storisende. "For even if some errors may have crept in here and there,"
said Dame Niafer, "it looks very well."

"But, my dear," said Manuel, "your father was not the Soldan of Barbary:
instead, he was the second groom at Arnaye, and all this lineage is a
preposterous fabrication."

"I said just now that some errors may have crept in here and there,"
assented Dame Niafer, composedly, "but the point is, that the thing
really looks very well, and I do not suppose that even you deny that."

"No, I do not deny that this glowing mendacity adds to the hall's
appearance."

"So now, you see for yourself!" said Niafer, triumphantly. And after
that her new ancestry was never questioned.

And in the meanwhile Dom Manuel had sent messengers over land and sea to
his half-sister Math at Rathgor, bidding her sell the mill for what it
would fetch. She obeyed, and brought to Manuel's court her husband and
their two boys, the younger of whom rose later to be Pope of Rome.
Manuel gave the miller the vacant fief of Montors; and thereafter you
could nowhere have found a statelier fine lady than the Countess
Matthiette de Montors. She was still used to speak continually of what
was becoming to people of our station in life, but it was with a large
difference; and she got on with Niafer as well as could be expected, but
no better.

And early in the summer of the first year of Manuel's reign (just after
Dom Manuel fetched to Storisende the Sigel of Scoteia, as the spoils of
his famous fight with Oriander the Swimmer), the stork brought to Niafer
the first of the promised boys. For the looks of the thing, this child
was named, not after the father whom Manuel had just killed, but after
the Emmerick who was Manuel's nominal father: and it was this Emmerick
that afterward reigned long and notably in Poictesme.

So matters went prosperously with Dom Manuel, and there was nothing to
trouble his peace of mind, unless it were some feeling of responsibility
for the cult of Sesphra, whose worship was now increasing everywhere
among the nations. In Philistia, in particular, Sesphra was now
worshipped openly in the legislative halls and churches, and all other
religion, and all decency, was smothered under the rituals of Sesphra.
Everywhere to the west and north his followers were delivering windy
discourses and performing mad antics, and great hurt came of it all by
and by. But if this secretly troubled Dom Manuel; the Count, here as
elsewhere, exercised to good effect his invaluable gift for holding his
tongue.

Nor did he ever speak of Freydis either, though it is recorded that when
news came of the end which she had made in Teamhair under the oppression
of the Druids and the satirists, Dom Manuel went silently into the Room
of Ageus, and was not seen any more that day. That in such solitude he
wept is improbable, for his hard vivid eyes had forgotten this way of
exercise, but it is highly probable that he remembered many things, and
found not all of them to his credit.

So matters went prosperously with gray Manuel; he had lofty palaces and
fair woods and pastures and ease and content, and whensoever he went
into battle attended by his nine lords of the Silver Stallion, his
adversaries perished; he was esteemed everywhere the most lucky and the
least scrupulous rogue alive: to crown all which the stork brought by
and by to Storisende the second girl, whom they named Dorothy, for
Manuel's mother. And about this time too, came a young poet from England
(Ribaut they called him, and he met an evil end at Coventry not long
thereafter), bringing to Dom Manuel, where the high Count sat at supper,
a goose-feather.

The Count smiled, and he twirled the thing between his fingers, and he
meditated. He shrugged, and said: "Needs must. But for her ready wit, my
head would have been set to dry on a silver pike. I cannot well ignore
that obligation, if she, as it now seems, does not intend to ignore it."

Then he told Niafer he must go into England.

Niafer looked up from the marmalade with which she was finishing off her
supper, to ask placidly, "And what does that dear yellow-haired friend
of yours want with you now?"

"My dear, if I knew the answer to that question it would not be
necessary for me to travel oversea."

"It is easy enough to guess, though," Dame Niafer said darkly, although,
in point of fact, she too was wondering why Alianora should have sent
for Manuel; "and I can quite understand how in your sandals you prefer
not to have people know about such doings, and laughing at you
everywhere, again."

Dom Manuel did not reply; but he sighed.

"--And if any importance whatever were attached to my opinion in this
house I might be saying a few things; but, as it is, it is much more
agreeable, all around, to let you go your own hard-headed way and find
out by experience that what I say is true. So now, Manuel, if you do not
mind, I think we had better be talking about something else a little
more pleasant."

Dom Manuel still did not say anything. The time, as has been noted, was
just after supper, and as the high Count and his wife sat over the
remnants of this meal, a minstrel was making music for them.

"You are not very cheerful company, I must say," Niafer observed, in a
while, "although I do not for a moment doubt your yellow-haired friend
will find you gay enough--"

"No, Niafer, I am not happy to-night."

"Yes, and whose fault is it? I told you not to take two helpings of that
beef."

"No, no, dear snip, it is not indigestion, but rather it is that music,
which is plaguing me."

"Now, Manuel, how can music bother anybody! I am sure the boy plays his
violin very nicely indeed, especially when you consider his age."

Said Manuel:

"Yes, but the long low sobbing of the violin, troubling as the vague
thoughts begotten by that season wherein summer is not yet perished from
the earth, but lingers wanly in the tattered shrines of summer, speaks
of what was and of what might have been. A blind desire, the same which
on warm moonlit nights was used to shake like fever in the veins of a
boy whom I remember, is futilely plaguing a gray fellow with the gray
wraiths of innumerable old griefs and with small stinging memories of
long-dead delights. Such thirsting breeds no good for staid and aging
men, but my lips are athirst for lips whose loveliness no longer exists
in flesh, and I thirst for a dead time and its dead fervors to be
reviving, so that young Manuel may love again.

"To-night now surely somewhere, while this music sets uncertain and
probing fingers to healed wounds, an aging woman, in everything a
stranger to me, is troubled just thus futilely, and she too remembers
what she half forgets. 'We that of old were one, and shuddered heart to
heart, with our young lips and our souls too made indivisible,'--thus
she is thinking, as I think--'has life dealt candidly in leaving us to
potter with half measures and to make nothing of severed lives that
shrivel far apart?' Yes, she to-night is sad as I, it well may be; but I
cannot rest certain of this, because there is in young love a glory so
bedazzling as to prevent the lover from seeing clearly his
co-worshipper, and therefore in that dear time when we served love
together I learned no more of her than she of me.

"Of all my failures this is bitterest to bear, that out of so much
grieving and aspiring I have gained no assured knowledge of the woman
herself, but must perforce become lachrymose over such perished tinsels
as her quivering red lips and shining hair! Of youth and love is there
no more, then, to be won than virginal breasts and a small white belly
yielded to the will of the lover, and brief drunkenness, and afterward
such puzzled yearning as now dies into acquiescence, very much as the
long low sobbing of that violin yonder dies into stillness now the song
is done?"

So it was that gray Manuel talked in a half voice, sitting there
resplendently robed in gold and crimson, and twiddling between his
fingers a goose-feather.

"Yes," Niafer said, presently, "but, for my part, I think he plays very
nicely indeed."

Manuel gave an abrupt slight jerking of the head. Dom Manuel laughed.
"Dear snip," said he, "come, honestly now, what have you been meditating
about while I talked nonsense?"

"Why, I was thinking I must remember to look over your flannels the
first thing to-morrow, Manuel, for everybody knows what that damp
English climate is in autumn--"

"My dearest," Manuel said, with grave conviction, "you are the archetype
and flawless model of all wives."

[Illustration]



XXXIV


Farewell to Alianora


Now Dom Manuel takes ship and goes into England: and for what happened
there we have no authority save the account which Dom Manuel rendered on
his return to his wife.

Thus said Dom Manuel:

He went straight to Woodstock, where the King and Queen then were. At
Woodstock Dom Manuel was handsomely received, and there he passed the
month of September--

(_"Why need you stay so long, though?" Dame Niafer inquired.

"Well," Manuel explained, "one thing led to another, as it were."

"H'm!" Niafer remarked._)

He had presently a private talk with the Queen. How was she dressed? As
near as Manuel recalled, she wore a green mantle fastened in front with
a square fermoir of gems and wrought gold; under it, a close fitting
gown of gold-diapered brocade, with tight sleeves so long that they half
covered her hands, something like mitts. Her crown was of floriated
trefoils surmounting a band of rubies. Of course, though, they might
have been only garnets--

(_"And where was it that she dressed up in all this finery to talk with
you in private?"

"Why, at Woodstock, naturally."

"I know it was at Woodstock, but whereabouts at Woodstock?"

"It was by a window, my dear, by a window with panes of white glass and
wooden lattices and a pent covered with lead."

"Your account is very circumstantial, but where was the window?"

"Oh, now I understand you! It was in a room."

"What sort of room?"

"Well, the walls were covered with gay frescoes from Saxon history; the
fireplace was covered with very handsomely carved stone dragons; and the
floor was covered with new rushes. Indeed, the Queen has one of the
neatest bedrooms I have ever seen."

"Ah, yes," said Niafer: "and what did you talk about during the time
that you spent in your dear friend's bedroom?"_)

Well, he found all going well with Queen Alianora (Dom Manuel continued)
except that she had not yet provided an heir for the English throne, and
it was this alone which was troubling her. It was on account of this
that she had sent for Count Manuel.

"It is considered not to look at all well, after three years of
marriage," the Queen told him, "and people are beginning to say a number
of unkind things."

"It is the common fate of queens," Dom Manuel replies, "to be exposed to
the criticism of envious persons."

"No, do not be brilliant and aphoristic, Manuel, for I want you to help
me more practically in this matter."

"Very willingly will I help you if I can. But how can I?"

"Why, you must assist me in getting a baby,--a boy baby, of course."

"I am willing to do all that I can, because certainly it does not look
well for you to have no son to be King of England. But how can I, of all
persons, help you in this affair?"

"Now, Manuel, after getting three children you surely ought to know what
is necessary!"

Dom Manuel shook a gray head. "My children came from a source which is
exhausted."

"That would be deplorable news if I believed it, but I am sure that if
you will let me take matters in hand I can convince you to the
contrary--"

"Well, I am open to conviction."

"--Although I scarcely know how to begin, because I know that you will
think this hard on you--"

He took her hand. Dom Manuel admitted to Niafer without reserve that
here he took the Queen's hand, saying: "Do not play with me any longer,
Alianora, for you must see plainly that I am now eager to serve you. So
do not be embarrassed, but come to the point, and I will do what I can."

"Why, Manuel, both you and I know perfectly well that, even with your
Dorothy ordered, you still hold the stork's note for another girl and
another boy, to be supplied upon demand, after the manner of the
Philistines."

"No, not upon demand, for the first note has nine months to run, and the
other falls due even later. But what has that to do with it?"

"Now, Manuel, truly I hate to ask this of you, but my need is desperate,
with all this criticizing and gossip. So for old time's sake, and for
the sake of the life I gave you as a Christmas present, through telling
my dear father an out-and-out story, you must let me have that first
promissory note, and you must direct the stork to bring the boy baby to
me in England, and not to your wife in Poictesme."

So that was what Dame Alianora had wanted.

(_"I knew that all along" observed Dame Niafer,--untruthfully, but
adhering to her general theory that it was better to appear omniscient
in dealing with one's husband._)

Well, Dom Manuel was grieved by the notion of being parted from his
child prior to its birth, but he was moved alike by his former fondness
for Alianora, and by his indebtedness to her, and by the obligation that
was on him to provide as handsomely as possible for his son. Nobody
could dispute that as King of England, the boy's station in life would
be immeasurably above the rank of the Count of Poictesme's younger
brother. So Manuel made a complaint as to his grief and as to Niafer's
grief at thus prematurely losing their loved son--

(_"Shall I repeat what I said, my dear?"

"No, Manuel, I never understand you when you are trying to be highflown
and impressive."_)

Well, then, Dom Manuel made a very beautiful complaint, but in the
outcome Dom Manuel consented to this sacrifice.

He would not consent, though, to remain in England, as Alianora wanted
him to do.

"No," he said, nobly, "it would not look at all well for you to be
taking me as your lover, and breaking your marriage-vows to love nobody
but the King. No, Alianora, I will help you to get the baby you need,
inasmuch as I am indebted to you for my life and have two babies to
spare, but I am not willing to have anything to do with the breaking of
your marriage-vows, because it is a crime which is forbidden by the Holy
Scriptures, and of which Niafer would certainly hear sooner or later."

(_"Oh, Manuel, you did not say that!"

"My dear, those were my exact words. And why not?"

"That was putting it sensibly of course, but it would have sounded much
better if you had expressed yourself entirely upon moral grounds. It is
most important, Manuel, as I am sure I have told you over and over
again, for people in our position to show a proper respect for morality
and religion and things of that sort whenever they come up in the
conversation; but there is no teaching you anything except by bitter
experience, which I sincerely hope may be spared you, and one might as
well be arguing with a brick wall, and so you may go on"_)

Well, the Queen wept and coaxed, but Manuel was firm. So Manuel spent
that night in the Queen's room, performing the needful incantations, and
arranging matters with the stork, and then Dom Manuel returned home. And
that--well, really that was all.

Such was the account which Dom Manuel rendered his wife. "And upon the
whole, Niafer, I consider it a very creditable stroke of business, for
as King of England the child will enjoy advantages which we could never
have afforded him."

"Yes," said Niafer, "and what does that dear friend of yours look like
nowadays?"

"--Besides, should the boy turn out badly our grief will be considerably
lessened by the circumstance that, through never seeing this son of
ours, our affection for him will never be inconveniently great."

"There is something in that, for already I can see that Emmerick
inherits his father's obstinacy, and it naturally worries me, but what
does the woman look like nowadays?"

"--Then, even more important than these considerations--."

"Nothing is more important, Manuel, in this very curious sounding
affair, than the way that woman looks nowadays."

"Ah, my dear," says Manuel, diplomatically, "I did not like to speak of
that, I confess, for you know these blondes go off in their appearance
so quickly--"

"Of course they do, but still--"

"--And it not being her fault, after all, I did not like to tell you
about Dame Alianora's looking so many years older than you do, since
your being a brunette gives you an unfair advantage to begin with."

"Ah, it is not that," said Niafer, still rather grim-visaged, but
obviously mollified. "It is the life she is leading, with her witchcraft
and her familiar spirits and that continual entertaining and excitement,
and everybody tells me she has already taken to dyeing her hair."

"Oh, it had plainly had something done to it," says Manuel, lightly.
"But it is a queen's duty to preserve such remnants of good looks as she
possesses."

"So there, you see!" said Niafer, quite comfortable again in her mind
when she noted the careless way in which Dom Manuel spoke of the Queen.

A year or two earlier Dame Niafer would perhaps have been moved to
jealousy: now her only concern was that Manuel might possibly be led to
make a fool of himself and to upset their manner of living. With every
contented wife her husband's general foolishness is an axiom, and
prudent philosophers do not distinguish here between cause and effect.

As for Alianora's wanting to take Manuel as a lover, Dame Niafer found
the idea mildly amusing, and very nicely indicative of those washed-out,
yellow-haired women's intelligence. To be harboring romantic notions
about Manuel seemed to Manuel's wife so fantastically out of reason that
she half wished the poor creature could without scandal be afforded a
chance to find out for herself all about Manuel's thousand and one
finicky ways and what he was in general to live with.

That being impossible, Niafer put the crazy woman out of mind, and began
to tell Manuel about what had happened, and not for the first time
either, while he was away, and about just how much more she was going to
stand from Sister Math, and about the advantages of a perfectly plain
understanding for everybody concerned. And with Niafer that was the end
of Count Manuel's discharging of his obligation to Alianora.

Of course there were gossips who said this, that and the other. Some
asserted that Manuel's tale in itself contained elements of
improbability: others declared that Queen Alianora, who was far deeplier
versed in the magic of the Apsarasas than was Dom Manuel, could just as
well have summoned the stork without his assistance. It was true the
stork was under no especial obligations to Alianora: even so, said these
gossips, it would have looked far better, and a queen could not be too
particular, and it simply showed you about these foreign Southern women;
and although they of course wished to misjudge no one, there was no
sense in pretending to ignore what everybody practically knew to be a
fact, and was talking about everywhere, and some day you would see for
yourself.

But after all, Dom Manuel and the Queen were the only persons qualified
to speak of these matters with authority, and this was Dom Manuel's
account of them. For the rest, he was sustained against tittle-tattle by
the knowledge that he had performed a charitable deed in England, for
the Queen's popularity was enhanced, and all the English, but
particularly their King, were delighted, by the fine son which the stork
duly brought to Alianora the following June.

Manuel never saw this boy, who afterward ruled over England and was a
highly thought-of warrior, nor did Dom Manuel ever see Queen Alianora
any more. So Alianora goes out of the story, to bring long years of
misery and ruining wars upon the English, and to Dom Manuel no more
beguilements. For they say Dom Manuel could never resist her, because of
that underlying poverty in the correct emotions which, as some say, Dom
Manuel shared with her, and which they hid from all the world except
each other.

[Illustration]



XXXV


The Troubling Window


It seemed, in a word, that trouble had forgotten Count Manuel. None the
less, Dom Manuel opened a window, at his fine home at Storisende, on a
fine, sunlit, warmish morning (for this was the last day of April) to
confront an outlook more perturbing than his hard vivid eyes had yet
lighted on.

So he regarded it for a while. Considerately Dom Manuel now made
experiments with three windows in this Room of Ageus, and found how, in
so far as one's senses could be trusted, the matter stood. Thereafter,
as became an intelligent person, he went back to his writing-table, and
set about signing the requisitions and warrants and other papers which
Ruric the clerk had left there.

Yet all the while Dom Manuel's gaze kept lifting to the windows. There
were three of them, set side by side, each facing south. They were of
thick clear glass, of a sort whose manufacture is a lost art, for these
windows had been among the spoils brought back by Duke Asmund from
nefarious raidings of Philistia, in which country these windows had once
been a part of the temple of Ageus, an immemorial god of the
Philistines. For this reason the room was called the Room of Ageus.

Through these windows Count Manuel could see familiar fields, the long
avenue of poplars and the rising hills beyond. All was as it had been
yesterday, and as all had been since, nearly three years ago, Count
Manuel first entered Storisende. All was precisely as it had been,
except, to be sure, that until yesterday Dom Manuel's table had stood by
the farthest window. He could not remember that until to-day this window
had ever been opened, because since his youth had gone out of him Count
Manuel was becoming more and more susceptible to draughts.

"It is certainly very curious," Dom Manuel said, aloud, when he had
finished with his papers.

He was again approaching the very curious window when his daughter
Melicent, now nearly three years old, came noisily, and in an
appallingly soiled condition, to molest him. She had bright beauty
later, but at three she was one of those children whom human powers
cannot keep clean for longer than three minutes.

Dom Manuel kept for her especial delectation a small flat paddle on his
writing-table, and this he now caught up.

"Out of the room with you, little pest!" he blustered, "for I am busy."

So the child, as was her custom, ran back into the hallway, and stood
there, no longer in the room, but with one small foot thrust beyond the
doorsill, while she laughed up at her big father, and derisively stuck
out a tiny curved red tongue at the famed overlord of Poictesme. Then
Dom Manuel, as was his custom, got down upon the floor to slap with his
paddle at the intruding foot, and Melicent squealed with delight, and
pulled back her foot in time to dodge the paddle, and thrust out her
other foot beyond the sill, and tried to withdraw that too before it was
spanked.

So it was they gave over a quarter of an hour to rioting, and so it was
that grave young Ruric found them. Count Manuel rather sheepishly arose
from the floor, and dusted himself, and sent Melicent into the buttery
for some sugar cakes. He told Ruric what were the most favorable terms
he could offer the burgesses of Narenta, and he gave Ruric the signed
requisitions.

Presently, when Ruric had gone, Dom Manuel went again to the farthest
window, opened it, and looked out once more. He shook his head, as one
who gives up a riddle. He armed himself, and rode over to Perdigon,
whither sainted King Ferdinand had come to consult with Manuel about
contriving the assassination of the Moorish general, Al-Mota-wakkil.
This matter Dom Manuel deputed to Guivric the Sage; and so was rid of
it.

In addition, Count Manuel had on hand that afternoon an appeal to the
judgment of God, over some rather valuable farming lands; but it was
remarked by the spectators that he botched the unhorsing and severe
wounding of Earl Ladinas, and conducted it rather as though Dom Manuel's
heart were not in the day's business. Indeed, he had reason, for while
supernal mysteries were well enough if one were still a hare-brained
lad, or even if one set out in due form to seek them, to find such
mysteries obtruding themselves unsought into the home-life of a
well-thought-of nobleman was discomposing, and to have the windows of
his own house playing tricks on him seemed hardly respectable.

All that month, too, some memory appeared to trouble Dom Manuel, in the
back of his mind, while the lords of the Silver Stallion were busied in
the pursuit of Othmar and Othmar's brigands in the Taunenfels: and as
soon as Dom Manuel had captured and hanged the last squad of these
knaves, Dom Manuel rode home and looked out of the window, to find
matters unchanged.

Dom Manuel meditated. He sounded the gong for Ruric. Dom Manuel talked
with the clerk about this and that. Presently Dom Manuel said: "But one
stifles here. Open that window."

The clerk obeyed. Manuel at the writing-table watched him intently. But
in opening the window the clerk had of necessity stood with his back
toward Count Manuel, and when Ruric turned, the dark young face of Ruric
was impassive.

Dom Manuel, playing with the jeweled chain of office about his neck,
considered Ruric's face. Then Manuel said: "That is all. You may go."

But Count Manuel's face was troubled, and for the rest of this day he
kept an eye on Ruric the young clerk. In the afternoon it was noticeable
that this Ruric went often, on one pretext and another, into the Room of
Ageus when nobody else was there. The next afternoon, in broad daylight,
Manuel detected Ruric carrying into the Room of Ageus, of all things, a
lantern. The Count waited a while, then went into the room through its
one door. The room was empty. Count Manuel sat down and drummed with his
fingers upon the top of his writing-table.

After a while the third window was opened. Ruric the clerk climbed over
the sill. He blew out his lantern.

"You are braver than I," Count Manuel said, "it may be. It is certain
you are younger. Once, Ruric, I would not have lured any dark and
prim-voiced young fellow into attempting this adventure, but would have
essayed it myself post-haste. Well, but I have other duties now, and
appearances to keep up: and people would talk if they saw a
well-thought-of nobleman well settled in life climbing out of his own
windows, and there is simply no telling what my wife would think of it"

The clerk had turned, startled, dropping his lantern with a small crash.
His hands went jerkily to his smooth chin, clutching it. His face was
white as a leper's face, and his eyes now were wild and glittering, and
his head was drawn low between his black-clad shoulders, so that he
seemed a hunchback as he confronted his master. Another queer thing
Manuel could notice, and it was that a great lock had been sheared away
from the left side of Ruric's black hair.

"What have you learned," says Manuel, "out yonder?"

"I cannot tell you," replied Ruric, laughing sillily, "but in place of
it, I will tell you a tale. Yes, yes, Count Manuel, I will tell you a
merry story of how a great while ago our common grandmother Eve was
washing her children one day near Eden when God called to her. She hid
away the children that she had not finished washing: and when the good
God asked her if all her children were there, with their meek little
heads against His knees, to say their prayers to Him, she answered, Yes.
So God told her that what she had tried to hide from God should be
hidden from men: and He took away the unwashed children, and made a
place for them where everything stays young, and where there is neither
good nor evil, because these children are unstained by human sin and
unredeemed by Christ's dear blood."

The Count said, frowning: "What drunken nonsense are you talking at
broad noon? It is not any foolish tatter of legend that I am requiring
of you, my boy, but civil information as to what is to be encountered
out yonder."

"All freedom and all delight," young Ruric told him wildly, "and all
horror and all rebellion."

Then he talked for a while. When Ruric had ended this talking, Count
Manuel laughed scornfully, and spoke as became a well-thought-of
nobleman.

Ruric whipped out a knife, and attacked his master, crying, "I follow
after my own thinking and my own desires, you old, smug, squinting
hypocrite!"

So Count Manuel caught Ruric by the throat, and with naked hands Dom
Manuel strangled the young clerk.

"Now I have ridded the world of much poison, I think," Dom Manuel said,
aloud, when Ruric lay dead at Manuel's feet. "In any event, I cannot
have that sort of talking about my house. Yet I wish I had not trapped
the boy into attempting this adventure, which by rights was my
adventure. I did not always avoid adventures."

He summoned two to take away the body, and then Manuel went to his
bedroom, and was clothed by his lackeys in a tunic of purple silk, and a
coronet was placed on his gray head, and the trumpets sounded as Count
Manuel sat down to supper. Pages in ermine served him, bringing Manuel's
food upon gold dishes, and pouring red wine and white from golden
beakers into Manuel's gold cup. Skilled music-men played upon viols and
harps and flutes while the high Count of Poictesme ate richly seasoned
food and talked sedately with his wife.

They had not fared thus when Manuel had just come from herding swine,
and Niafer was a servant trudging on her mistress' errands, and when
these two had eaten very gratefully the Portune's bread and cheese. They
had not any need to be heartened with rare wines when they endured so
many perils upon Vraidex and in Dun Vlechlan because of their love for
each other. For these two had once loved marvelously. Now minstrels
everywhere made songs about their all-conquering love, which had derided
death; and nobody denied that, even now, these two got on together
amicably.

But to-night Dame Niafer was fretted, because the pastry-cook was young
Ruric's cousin, and was, she feared, as likely as not to fling off in a
huff on account of Dom Manuel's having strangled the clerk.

"Well, then do you raise the fellow's wages," said Count Manuel.

"That is easily said, and is exactly like a man. Why, Manuel, you surely
know that then the meat-cook, and the butler, too, would be demanding
more, and that there would be no end to it."

"But, my dear, the boy was talking mad blasphemy, and was for cutting my
throat with a great horn-handled knife."

"Of course that was very wrong of him," said Dame Niafer, comfortably,
"and not for an instant, Manuel, am I defending his conduct, as I trust
you quite understand. But even so, if you had stopped for a moment to
think how hard it is to replace a servant nowadays, and how unreliable
is the best of them, I believe you would have seen how completely we are
at their mercy."

Then she told him all about her second waiting-woman, while Manuel said,
"Yes," and "I never heard the like," and "You were perfectly right, my
dear," and so on, and all the while appeared to be thinking about
something else in the back of his mind.



XXXVI


Excursions from Content


Thereafter Count Manuel could not long remain away from the window
through which Ruric had climbed with a lantern, and through which Ruric
had returned insanely blaspheming against law and order.

The outlook from this window was somewhat curious. Through the two other
windows of Ageus, set side by side with this one, and in appearance
similar to it in all respects, the view remained always unchanged, and
just such as it was from the third window so long as you looked through
the thick clear glass. But when the third window of Ageus was opened,
all the sunlit summer world that you had seen through the thick clear
glass was gone quite away, and you looked out into a limitless gray
twilight wherein not anything was certainly discernible, and the air
smelt of spring. It was a curious experience for Count Manuel, thus to
regard through the clear glass his prospering domains and all the
rewards of his famous endeavors, and then find them vanished as soon as
the third window was opened. It was curious, and very interesting; but
such occurrences make people dubious about things in which, as everybody
knows, it is wisdom's part to believe implicitly.

Now the second day
after Ruric had died, the season now being June, Count Manuel stood at
the three windows, and saw in the avenue of poplars his wife, Dame
Niafer, walking hand in hand with little Melicent. Niafer, despite her
lameness, was a fine figure of a woman, so long as he viewed Niafer
through the closed window of Ageus. Dom Manuel looked contentedly enough
upon the wife who was the reward of his toil and suffering in Dun
Vlechlan, and the child who was the reward of his amiability and
shrewdness in dealing with the stork, all seemed well so long as he
regarded them through the closed third window.

His hand trembled somewhat as he now opened this window, to face gray
sweetly-scented nothingness. But in the window glass, you saw, the
appearance of his flourishing gardens remained unchanged: and in the
half of the window to the right hand were quivering poplars, and Niafer
and little Melicent were smiling at him, and the child was kissing her
hand to him. All about this swinging half of the window was nothingness;
he, leaning out, and partly closing this half of the window, could see
that behind the amiable picture was nothingness: it was only in the old
glass of Ageus that his wife and child appeared to live and move.

Dom Manuel laughed, shortly. "Hah, then," says he, "that tedious dear
nagging woman and that priceless snub-nosed brat may not be real. They
may be merely happy and prosaic imaginings, hiding the night which alone
is real. To consider this possibility is troubling. It makes for even
greater loneliness. None the less, I know that I am real, and certainly
the grayness before me is real. Well, no matter what befell Ruric
yonder, it must be that in this grayness there is some other being who
is real and dissatisfied. I must go to seek this being, for here I
become as a drugged person among sedate and comfortable dreams which are
made doubly weariful by my old master's whispering of that knowledge
which was my father's father's."

Then in the gray dusk was revealed a face that was not human, and the
round toothless mouth of it spoke feebly, saying, "I am Lubrican, and I
come to guide you if you dare follow."

"I have always thought that 'dare' was a quaint word," says Manuel, with
the lordly swagger which he kept for company.

So he climbed out of the third window of Ageus. When later he climbed
back, a lock had been sheared from the side of his gray head.

Now the tale tells that thereafter Dom Manuel was changed, and his
attendants gossiped about it. Dame Niafer also was moved to mild
wonderment over the change in him, but did not think it very important,
because there is never any accounting for what a husband will do.
Besides, there were other matters to consider, for at this time
Easterlings came up from Piaja (which they had sacked) into the
territories of King Theodoret, and besieged Megaris, and the harried
King had sent messengers to Dom Manuel.

"But this is none of my affair," said Manuel, "and I begin to tire of
warfare, and of catching cold by sleeping on hard-won battle-fields."

"You would not take cold, as I have told you any number of times,"
declared Niafer, "if you would eat more green vegetables instead of
stuffing yourself with meat, and did not insist on overheating yourself
at the fighting. Still, you had better go."

"My dear, I shall do nothing of the sort."

"Yes, you had better go, for these Easterlings are notorious pagans--"

"Now other persons have been pagans once upon a time, dear snip--"

"A great many things are much worse, Manuel," says Niafer, with that
dark implication before which Dom Manuel always fidgeted, because there
was no telling what it might mean. "Yes, these Easterlings are quite
notorious pagans, and King Theodoret has at least the grace to call
himself a Christian, and, besides, it will give me a chance to get your
rooms turned out and thoroughly cleaned."

So Manuel, as was his custom, did what Niafer thought best. Manuel
summoned his vassals, and brought together his nine lords of the
Fellowship of the Silver Stallion, and, without making any stir with
horns and clarions, came so swiftly and secretly under cover of night
upon the heathen Easterlings that never was seen such slaughter and
sorrow and destruction as Dom Manuel wrought upon those tall pagans
before he sat down to breakfast.

He attacked from Sannazaro. The survivors therefore fled, having no
choice, through the fields east of Megaris. Manuel followed, and slew
them in the open.

The realm was thus rescued from dire peril, and Manuel was detained for
a while in Megaris, by the ensuing banquets and religious services and
the executions of the prisoners and the nonsense of the King's sister.
For this romantic and very pretty girl had set King Theodoret to
pestering Manuel with magniloquent offers of what Theodoret would do and
give if only the rescuer of Megaris would put aside his ugly crippled
wife and marry the King's lovely sister.

Manuel laughed at him. Some say that Manuel and the King's sister
dispensed with marriage: others accuse Dom Manuel of exhibiting a
continence not very well suited to his exalted estate. It is certain, in
any event, that he by and by returned into Poictesme, with a cold in his
head to be sure, but with fresh glory and much plunder and two new fiefs
to his credit: and at Storisende Dom Manuel found that his rooms had
been thoroughly cleaned and set in such perfect order that he could lay
hands upon none of his belongings, and that the pastry-cook had left.

"It simply shows you!" says Dame Niafer, "and all I have to say is that
now I hope you are satisfied."

Manuel laughed without merriment. "Everything is in a conspiracy to
satisfy me in these sleek times, and it is that which chiefly plagues
me."

He chucked Niafer under the chin, and told her she should be thinking of
what a famous husband she had nowadays, instead of bothering about
pastry-cooks. Then he fell to asking little Melicent about how much she
had missed Father while Father was away, and he dutifully kissed the two
other children, and he duly admired the additions to Emmerick's
vocabulary during Father's absence. And afterward he went alone into the
Room of Ageus.

Thereafter he was used to spend more and more hours in the Room of
Ageus, and the change in Count Manuel was more and more talked about.
And the summer passed: and whether or no Count Manuel had, as some
declared, contracted unholy alliances, there was no denying that all
prospered with Count Manuel, and he was everywhere esteemed the most
lucky and the least scrupulous rogue alive. But, very certainly, he was
changed.



XXXVII


Opinions of Hinzelmann


Now the tale tells that on Michaelmas morning little Melicent, being in
a quiet mood that time, sat with her doll in the tall chair by the third
window of Ageus while her father wrote at his big table. He was pausing
between phrases to think and to bite at his thumb-nail, and he was so
intent upon this letter to Pope Innocent that he did not notice the slow
opening of the third window: and Melicent had been in conference with
the queer small boy for some while before Dom Manuel looked up
abstractedly toward them. Then Manuel seemed perturbed, and he called
Melicent to him, and she obediently scrambled into her father's lap.

There was silence in the Room of Ageus. The queer small boy sat leaning
back in the chair which little Melicent had just left. He sat with his
legs crossed, and with his gloved hands clasping his right knee, as he
looked appraisingly at Melicent. He displayed a beautiful sad face, with
curled yellow hair hanging about his shoulders, and he was dressed in a
vermilion silk coat: at his left side, worn like a sword, was a vast
pair of shears. He wore also a pointed hat of four interblended colors,
and his leather gloves were figured with pearls.

"She will be a woman by and by," the strange boy said, with a soft and
delicate voice, "and then she too will be coming to us, and we will
provide fine sorrows for her."

"No, Hinzelmann," Count Manuel replied, as he stroked the round
straw-colored head of little Melicent. "This is the child of Niafer. She
comes of a race that has no time to be peering out of dubious windows."

"It is your child too, Count Manuel. Therefore she too, between now and
her burial, will be wanting to be made free of my sister Suskind's
kingdom, as you have been made free of it, at a price. Oh, very
certainly you have paid little as yet save the one lock of your gray
hair, but in time you will pay the other price which Suskind demands. I
know, for it is I who collect my sister Suskind's revenues, and when the
proper hour arrives, believe me, Count Manuel, I shall not be asking
your leave, nor is there any price which you, I think, will not be
paying willingly."

"That is probable. For Suskind is wise and strange, and the grave beauty
of her youth is the fulfilment of an old hope. Life had become a tedious
matter of much money and much bloodshed, but she has restored to me the
gold and crimson of dawn."

"So, do you very greatly love my sister Suskind?" says Hinzelmann,
smiling rather sadly.

"She is my heart's delight, and the desire of my desire. It was she for
whom, unwittingly, I had been longing always, since I first went away
from Suskind, to climb upon the gray heights of Vraidex in my long
pursuit of much wealth and fame. I had seen my wishes fulfilled, and my
dreams accomplished; all the godlike discontents which ennobled my youth
had died painlessly in cushioned places. And living had come to be a
habit of doing what little persons expected, and youth was gone out of
me, and I, that used to follow with a high head after my own thinking
and my own desires, could not any longer very greatly care for anything.
Now I am changed: for Suskind has made me free once more of the Country
of the Young and of the ageless self-tormenting youth of the gray depths
which maddened Ruric, but did not madden me."

"Look you, Count Manuel, but that penniless young nobody, Ruric the
clerk, was not trapped as you are trapped. For from the faith of others
there is no escape upon this side of the window. World-famous Manuel the
Redeemer has in this place his luck and prosperity to maintain until the
orderings of unimaginative gods have quite destroyed the Manuel that
once followed after his own thinking. For even the high gods here note
with approval that you have become the sort of person in whom the gods
put confidence, and so they favor you unscrupulously. Here all is
pre-arranged for you by the thinking of others. Here there is no escape
for you from acquiring a little more wealth to-day, a little more
meadowland to-morrow, with daily a little more applause and honor and
envy from your fellows, along with always slowly increasing wrinkles and
dulling wits and an augmenting paunch, and with the smug approval of
everybody upon earth and in heaven. That is the reward of those persons
whom you humorously call successful persons."

Dom Manuel answered very slowly, and to little Melicent it seemed that
Father's voice was sad.

Said Manuel: "Certainly, I think there is no escape for me upon this
side of the window of Ageus. A bond was put upon me to make a figure in
this world, and I discharged that obligation. Then came another and yet
another obligation to be discharged. And now has come upon me a geas
which is not to be lifted either by toils or by miracles. It is the geas
which is laid on every person, and the life of every man is as my life,
with no moment free from some bond or another. Heh, youth vaunts
windily, but in the end nobody can follow after his own thinking and his
own desire. At every turn he is confronted by that which is expected,
and obligation follows obligation, and in the long run no champion can
be stronger than everybody. So we succumb to this world's terrible
unreason, willy-nilly, and Helmas has been made wise, and Ferdinand has
been made saintly, and I have been made successful, by that which was
expected of us, and by that which none of us had ever any real chance to
resist in a world wherein all men are nourished by their beliefs."

"And does not success content you?"

"Ah, but," asked Manuel slowly, just as he had once asked Horvendile in
Manuel's lost youth, "what is success? They tell me I have succeeded
marvelously in all things, rising from low beginnings, to become the
most lucky and the least scrupulous rogue alive: yet, hearing men's
applause, I sometimes wonder, for I know that a smaller-hearted creature
and a creature poorer in spirit is posturing in Count Manuel's high
cushioned places than used to go afield with the miller's pigs."

"Why, yes, Count Manuel, you have made endurable terms with this world
by succumbing to its foolishness: but do you take comfort, for that is
the one way open to anybody who has not rightly seen and judged the ends
of this world. At worst, you have had all your desires, and you have
made a very notable figure in Count Manuel's envied station."

"But I starve there, Hinzelmann, I dry away into stone, and this envied
living is reshaping me into a complacent idol for fools to honor, and
the approval of fools is converting the heart and wits of me into the
stony heart and wits of an idol. And I look back upon my breathless old
endeavors, and I wonder drearily, 'Was it for this?'"

"Yes," Hinzelmann said: and he shrugged, without ever putting off that
sad smile of his. "Yes, yes, all this is only another way of saying that
Béda has kept his word. But no man gets rid of Misery, Count Manuel,
except at a price."

They stayed silent for a while. Count Manuel stroked the round
straw-colored head of little Melicent. Hinzelmann played with the small
cross which hung at Hinzelmann's neck. This cross appeared to be woven
of plaited strings, but when Hinzelmann shook the cross it jingled like
a bell.

"Yet, none the less," says Hinzelmann, "here you remain. No, certainly,
I cannot understand you, Count Manuel. As a drunkard goes back to the
destroying cask, so do you continue to return to your fine home at
Storisende and to the incessant whispering of your father's father, for
all that you have but to remain in Suskind's low red-pillared palace to
be forever rid of that whisper and of this dreary satiating of human
desires."

"I shall of course make my permanent quarters there by and by," Count
Manuel said, "but not just yet. It would not be quite fair to my wife
for me to be leaving Storisende just now, when we are getting in the
crops, and when everything is more or less upset already--"

"I perceive you are still inventing excuses, Count Manuel, to put off
yielding entire allegiance to my sister."

"No, it is not that, not that at all! It is only the upset condition of
things, just now, and, besides, Hinzelmann, the stork is to bring us the
last girl child the latter part of next week. We are to call her
Ettarre, and I would like to have a sight of her, of course--In fact, I
am compelled to stay through mere civility, inasmuch as the Queen of
Philistia is sending the very famous St. Holmendis especially to
christen this baby. And it would be, Hinzelmann, the height of rudeness
for me to be leaving home, just now, as though I wanted to avoid his
visit--"

Hinzelmann still smiled rather sadly. "Last month you could not come to
us because your wife was just then outworn with standing in the hot
kitchen and stewing jams and marmalades. Dom Manuel, will you come when
the baby is delivered and this Saint has been attended to and all the
crops are in?"

"Well, but Hinzelmann, within a week or two we shall be brewing this
year's ale, and I have always more or less seen to that--"

Still Hinzelmann smiled sadly. He pointed with his small gloved hand
toward Melicent. "And what about your other enslavement, to this child
here?"

"Why, certainly, Hinzelmann, the brat does need a father to look out for
her, so long as she is the merest baby. And naturally, I have been
thinking about that of late, rather seriously--"

Hinzelmann spoke with deliberation. "She is very nearly the most stupid
and the most unattractive child I have ever seen. And I, you must
remember, am blood brother to Cain and Seth as well as to Suskind."

But Dom Manuel was not provoked. "As if I did not know the child is in
no way remarkable! No, my good Hinzelmann, you that serve Suskind have
shown me strange dear things, but nothing more strange and dear than a
thing which I discovered for myself. For I am that Manuel whom men call
the Redeemer of Poictesme, and my deeds will be the themes of harpers
whose grandparents are not yet born; I have known love and war and all
manner of adventure: but all the sighings and hushed laughter of
yesterday, and all the trumpet-blowing and shouting, and all that I have
witnessed of the unreticent fond human ways of great persons who for the
while have put aside their state, and all the good that in my day I may
have done, and all the evil that I have certainly destroyed,--all this
seems trivial as set against the producing of this tousled brat. No, to
be sure, she is backward as compared with Emmerick, or even Dorothy, and
she is not, as you say, an at all remarkable child, though very often, I
can assure you, she does things that would astonish you. Now, for
instance--"

"Spare me!" said Hinzelmann.

"Well, but it really was very clever of her," Dom Manuel stipulated,
with disappointment. "However, I was going to say that I, who have
harried pagandom, and capped jests with kings, and am now setting terms
for the Holy Father, have come to regard the doings of this ill-bred,
selfish, ugly, little imp as more important than my doings. And I cannot
resolve to leave her, just yet. So, Hinzelmann, my friend, I think I
will not thoroughly commit myself, just yet. But after Christmas we will
see about it."

"And I will tell you the two reasons of this shilly-shallying, Count
Manuel. One reason is that you are human, and the other reason is that
in your head there are gray hairs."

"What, can it be," said the big warrior, forlornly, "that I who have not
yet had twenty-six years of living am past my prime, and that already
life is going out of me?"

"You must remember the price you paid to win back Dame Niafer from
paradise. As truth, and not the almanac, must estimate these things you
are now nearer fifty-six."

"Well," Manuel said, stoutly, "I do not regret it, and for Niafer's sake
I am willing to become a hundred and six. But certainly it is hard to
think of myself as an old fellow on the brink of the scrap-pile."

"Oho, you are not yet so old, Count Manuel, but that Suskind's power is
greater than the power of the child: and besides, there is a way to
break the power of the child. Death has merely scratched small wrinkles,
very lightly, with one talon, to mark you as his by and by. That is all
as yet: and so the power of my high sister Suskind endures over you, who
were once used to follow after your own thinking and your own desire,
for there remains in you a leaven even to-day. Yes, yes, though you deny
her to-day, you will be entreating her to-morrow, and then it may be she
will punish you. Either way, I must be going now, since you are
obstinate, for it is at this time I run about the September world
collecting my sister's revenues, and her debtors are very numerous."

And with that the boy, still smiling gravely, slipped out of the third
window into the gray sweet-smelling dusk, and little Melicent said,
"But, Father, why did that queer sad boy want me to be climbing out of
the window with him?"

"So that he might be kind to you, my dear, as he estimates kindness."

"But why did the sad boy want a piece of my hair?" asked Melicent; "and
why did he cut it off with his big shiny shears, while you were writing,
and he was playing with me?"

"It was to pay a price," says Manuel.

He knew now that the Alf charm was laid on his loved child, and that
this was the price of his junketings. He knew also that Suskind would
never remit this price.

Then Melicent demanded, "And what makes your face so white?"

"It must be pale with hunger, child: so I think that you and I had
better be getting to our dinner."

[Illustration]



XXXVIII


Farewell to Suskind


But after dinner Dom Manuel came alone into the Room of Ageus, and
equipped himself as the need was, and he climbed out of the charmed
window for the last time. His final visit to the depths was horrible,
they say, and they relate that of all the deeds of Dom Manuel's crowded
lifetime the thing that he did on this day was the most grim. But he won
through all, by virtue of his equipment and his fixed heart. So when Dom
Manuel returned he clasped in his left hand a lock of fine straw-colored
hair, and on both his hands was blood let from no human veins.

He looked back for the last time into the gray depths. A crowned girl
rose beside him noiselessly, all white and red, and she clasped her
bloodied lovely arms about him, and she drew him to her hacked young
breasts, and she kissed him for the last time. Then her arms were loosed
from about Dom Manuel, and she fell away from him, and was swallowed by
the gray sweet-scented depths.

"And so farewell to you, Queen Suskind," says Count Manuel. "You who
were not human, but knew only the truth of things, could never
understand our foolish human notions. Otherwise you would never have
demanded the one price I may not pay."

"Weep, weep for Suskind!" then said Lubrican, wailing feebly in the gray
and April-scented dusk; "for it was she alone who knew the secret of
preserving that dissatisfaction which is divine where all else falls
away with age into the acquiescence of beasts."

"Why, yes, but unhappiness is not the true desire of man," says Manuel.
"I know, for I have had both happiness and unhappiness, and neither
contented me."

"Weep, weep for Suskind!" then cried the soft and delicate voice of
Hinzelmann: "for it was she that would have loved you, Manuel, with that
love of which youth dreams, and which exists nowhere upon your side of
the window, where all kissed women turn to stupid figures of warm earth,
and all love falls away with age into the acquiescence of beasts."

"Oh, it is very true," says Manuel, "that all my life henceforward will
be a wearying business because of long desires for Suskind's love and
Suskind's lips and the grave beauty of her youth, and for all the
high-hearted dissatisfactions of youth. But the Alf charm is lifted from
the head of my child, and Melicent will live as Niafer lives, and it
will be better for all of us, and I am content."

From below came many voices wailing confusedly. "We weep for Suskind.
Suskind is slain with the one weapon that might slay her: and all we
weep for Suskind, who was the fairest and the wisest and the most
unreasonable of queens. Let all the Hidden Children weep for Suskind,
whose heart and life was April, and who plotted courageously against the
orderings of unimaginative gods, and who has been butchered to preserve
the hair of a quite ordinary child."

Then said the Count of Poictesme: "And that young Manuel who was in his
day a wilful champion, and who fretted under ordered wrongs, and who
went everywhither with a high head a-boasting that he followed after his
own thinking and his own desire,--why, that young fellow also is now
silenced and dead. For the well-thought-of Count of Poictesme must be as
the will and the faith and as the need of others may dictate: and there
is no help for it, and no escape, and our old appearances must be
preserved upon this side of the window in order that we may all stay
sane."

"We weep, and with long weeping raise the dirge for Suskind--!"

"But I, who do not weep,--I raise the dirge for Manuel. For I must
henceforward be reasonable in all things, and I shall never be quite
discontented any more: and I must feed and sleep as the beasts do, and
it may be that I shall even fall to thinking complacently about my death
and glorious resurrection. Yes, yes, all this is certain, and I may not
ever go a-traveling everywhither to see the ends of this world and judge
them: and the desire to do so no longer moves in me, for there is a
cloud about my goings, and there is a whispering which follows me, and I
too fall away into the acquiescence of beasts. Meanwhile no hair of the
child's head has been injured, and I am content."

"Let all the Hidden Children, and all else that lives except the tall
gray son of Oriander, whose blood is harsh sea-water, weep for Suskind!
Suskind is dead, that was unstained by human sin and unredeemed by
Christ's dear blood, and youth has perished from the world. Oh, let us
weep, for all the world grows chill and gray as Oriander's son."

"And Oriander too is dead, as I well know that slew him in my hour. Now
my hour passes; and I pass with it, to make way for the needs of my
children, as he perforce made way for me. And in time these children,
and their children after them, pass thus, and always age must be in one
mode or another slain by youth. Now why this should be so, I cannot
guess, nor do I see that much good comes of it, nor do I find that in
myself which warrants any confidences from the most high controlling
gods. But I am certain that no hair of the child's head has been
injured; and I am certain that I am content."

Thus speaking, the old fellow closed the window.

And within the moment little Melicent came to molest him, and she was
unusually dirty and disheveled, for she had been rolling on the terrace
pavement, and had broken half the fastenings from her clothing: and Dom
Manuel wiped her nose rather forlornly. Of a sudden he laughed and
kissed her. And Count Manuel said he must send for masons to wall up the
third window of Ageus, so that it might not ever be opened any more in
Count Manuel's day for him to breathe through it the dim sweet-scented
air of spring.

[Illustration]



XXXIX


The Passing of Manuel


Then as Dom Manuel turned from the window of Ageus, it seemed that young
Horvendile had opened the door yonder, and after an instant's pensive
staring at Dom Manuel, had gone away. This happened, if it happened at
all, so furtively and quickly that Count Manuel could not be sure of it:
but he could entertain no doubt as to the other person who was
confronting him. There was not any telling how this lean stranger had
come into the private apartments of the Count of Poictesme, nor was
there any need for Manuel to wonder over the management of this
intrusion, for the new arrival was not, after all, an entire stranger to
Dom Manuel.

So Manuel said nothing, as he stood there stroking the round
straw-colored head of little Melicent. The stranger waited, equally
silent. There was no noise at all in the room until afar off a dog began
to howl.

"Yes, certainly," Dom Manuel said, "I might have known that my life was
bound up with the life of Suskind, since my desire of her is the one
desire which I have put aside unsatisfied. O rider of the white horse,
you are very welcome."

The other replied: "Why should you think that I know anything about this
Suskind or that we of the Léshy keep any account of your doings? No
matter what you may elect to think, however, it was decreed that the
first person I found here should ride hence on my black horse. But you
and the child stand abreast. So you must choose again, Dom Manuel,
whether it be you or another who rides on my black horse."

Then Manuel bent down, and he kissed little Melicent. "Go to your
mother, dear, and tell her--" He paused here. He queerly moved his
mouth, as though it were stiff and he were trying to make it more
supple.

Says Melicent, "But what am I to tell her, Father?"

"Oh, a very funny thing, my darling. You are to tell Mother that Father
has always loved her over and above all else, and that she is always to
remember that and--why, that in consequence she is to give you some
ginger cakes," says Manuel, smiling.

So the child ran happily away, without once looking back, and Manuel
closed the door behind her, and he was now quite alone with his lean
visitor.

"Come," says the stranger, "so you have plucked up some heart after all!
Yet it is of no avail to posture with me, who know you to be spurred to
this by vanity rather than by devotion. Oh, very probably you are as
fond of the child as is requisite, and of your other children too, but
you must admit that after you have played with any one of them for a
quarter of an hour you become most heartily tired of the small squirming
pest."

Manuel intently regarded him, and squinting Manuel smiled sleepily. "No;
I love all my children with the customary paternal infatuation."

"Also you must have your gesture by sending at the last a lying message
to your wife, to comfort the poor soul against to-morrow and the day
after. You are--magnanimously, you like to think,--according her this
parting falsehood, half in contemptuous kindness and half in relief,
because at last you are now getting rid of a complacent and
muddle-headed fool of whom, also, you are most heartily tired."

"No, no," says Manuel, still smiling; "to my partial eyes dear Niafer
remains the most clever and beautiful of women, and my delight in her
has not ever wavered. But wherever do you get these curious notions?"

"Ah, I have been with so many husbands at the last, Count Manuel."

And Manuel shrugged. "What fearful indiscretions you suggest! No,
friend, that sort of thing has an ill sound, and they should have
remembered that even at the last there is the bond of silence."

"Come, come, Count Manuel, you are a queer cool fellow, and you have
worn these masks and attitudes with tolerable success, as your world
goes. But you are now bound for a diversely ordered world, a world in
which your handsome wrappings are not to the purpose."

"Well, I do not know how that may be," replies Count Manuel, "but at all
events there is a decency in these things and an indecency, and I shall
never of my own free will expose the naked soul of Manuel to anybody.
No, it would be no pleasant spectacle, I think: certainly, I have never
looked at it, nor did I mean to. Perhaps, as you assert, some power
which is stronger than I may some day tear all masks aside: but this
will not be my fault, and I shall even then reserve the right to
consider that stripping as a rather vulgar bit of tyranny. Meanwhile I
must, of necessity, adhere to my own sense of decorum, and not to that
of anybody else, not even to the wide experience of one"--Count Manuel
bowed,--"who is, in a manner of speaking, my guest."

"Oh, as always, you posture very tolerably, and men in general will
acclaim you as successful in your life. But do you look back! For the
hour has come, Count Manuel, for you to confess, as all persons confess
at my arrival, that you have faltered between one desire and another,
not ever knowing truly what you desired, and not ever being content with
any desire when it was accomplished."

"Softly, friend! For I am forced to gather from your wild way of talking
that you of the Léshy indeed do not keep any record of our human
doings."

The stranger raised what he had of eyebrows. "But how can we," he
inquired, "when we have so many matters of real importance to look
after?"

Candid blunt Dom Manuel answered without any anger, speaking even
jovially, but in all maintaining the dignity of a high prince assured of
his own worth.

"That excuses, then, your nonsensical remarks. I must make bold to
inform you that everybody tells me I have very positive achievements to
look back upon. I do not care to boast, you understand, and to be forced
into self-praise is abhorrent to me. Yet truthfulness is all important
at this solemn hour, and anyone hereabouts can tell you it was I who
climbed gray Vraidex, and dealt so hardily with the serpents and other
horrific protectors of Miramon Lluagor that I destroyed most of them and
put the others to flight. Thereafter men narrate how I made my own terms
with the terrified magician, according him his forfeited life in
exchange for a promise to live henceforward more respectfully and to
serve under me in the war which I was already planning against the
Northmen. Yes, and men praise me, too, because I managed to accomplish
all these things while I was hampered by having to look out for and
protect a woman."

"I know," said the lean stranger, "I know you somehow got the better of
that romantic visionary half-brother of mine, and made a warrior out of
him: and I admit this was rather remarkable. But what does it matter
now?"

"Then they will tell you it was I that wisely reasoned with King Helmas
until I turned him from folly, and I that with holy arguments converted
King Ferdinand from his wickedness. I restored the magic to the robe of
the Apsarasas when but for me its magic would have been lost
irrevocably. I conquered Freydis, that woman of strange deeds, and
single-handed I fought against her spoorns and calcars and other terrors
of antiquity, slaying, to be accurate, seven hundred and eighty-two of
them. I also conquered the Misery of earth, whom some called Béda, and
others Kruchina, and yet others Mimir, after a very notable battle which
we fought with enchanted swords for a whole month without ever pausing
for rest. I went intrepidly into the paradise of the heathen, and routed
all its terrific warders, and so fetched hence the woman whom I desired.
Thus, friend, did I repurchase that heroic and unchanging love which
exists between my wife and me."

"Yes," said the stranger, "Why, that too is very remarkable. But what
does it matter now?"

"--For it is of common report among men that nothing has ever been able
to withstand Dom Manuel. Thus it was natural enough, men say, that, when
the lewd and evil god whom nowadays so many adore as Sesphra of the
Dreams was for establishing his power by making an alliance with me, I
should have driven him howling and terrified into the heart of a great
fire. For myself, I say nothing; but when the very gods run away from a
champion there is some adequate reason: and of this exploit, and of all
these exploits, and of many other exploits, equally incredible and
equally well vouched for, all person hereabouts will tell you. As to the
prodigies of valor which I performed in redeeming Poictesme from the
oppression of the Northmen, you will find documentary evidence in those
three epic poems, just to your left there, which commemorate my feats in
this campaign--"

"Nobody disputes this campaign also may have been remarkable, and
certainly I do not dispute it: for I cannot see that these doings matter
a button's worth in my business with you, and, besides, I never argue."

"And no more do I! because I abhor vainglory, and I know these affairs
are now a part of established history. No, friend, you cannot destroy my
credit in this world, whereas in the world for which I am bound, you
tell me, they make no account of our doings. So, whether or not I did
these things, I shall always retain, in this world and in the next, the
credit for them, without any need to resort to distasteful boasting. And
that, as I was going on to explain, is precisely why I do not find it
necessary to tell you about these matters, or even to allude to them."

"Oh, doubtless, it is something to have excelled all your fellows in so
many ways," the stranger conceded, with a sort of grudging respect:
"but, I repeat, what does it matter now?"

"And, if you will pardon my habitual frankness, friend, that query with
so constant repetition becomes a trifle monotonous. No, it does not
dishearten me, I am past that. No, I once opened a window, the more
clearly to appraise the most dear rewards of my endeavors--That moment
was my life, that single quiet moment summed up all my living,
and"--here Manuel smiled gravely,--"still without boasting, friend, I
must tell you that in this moment all doubt as to my attested worth went
out of me, who had redeemed a kingdom, and begotten a king, and created
a god. So you waste time, my friend, in trying to convince me of all
human life's failure and unimportance, for I am not in sympathy with
this modern morbid pessimistic way of talking. It has a very ill sound,
and nothing whatever is to be gained by it."

The other answered shrewdly: "Yes, you speak well, and you posture
handsomely, in every respect save one. For you call me 'friend.' Hah,
Manuel, from behind the squinting mask a sick and satiated and
disappointed being spoke there, howsoever resolutely you keep up
appearances."

"There spoke mere courtesy, Grandfather Death," says Manuel, now openly
laughing, "and for the rest, if you again will pardon frankness, it is
less with the contents of my heart than with its continued motion that
you have any proper concern."

"Truly it is no affair of mine, Count Manuel, nor do any of your doings
matter to me. Therefore let us be going now, unless--O most unusual man,
who at the last assert your life to have been a successful and important
business,--unless you now desire some time wherein to bid farewell to
your loved wife and worshipped children and to all your other fine
works."

Dom Manuel shrugged broad shoulders. "And to what end? No, I am Manuel.
I have lived in the loneliness which is common to all men, but the
difference is that I have known it. Now it is necessary for me, as it is
necessary for all men, to die in this same loneliness, and I know that
there is no help for it."

"Once, Manuel, you feared to travel with me, and you bid Niafer mount in
your stead on my black horse, saying, 'Better she than I.'"

"Yes, yes, what curious things we do when we are boys! Well, I am wiser
now, for since then I have achieved all that I desired, save only to see
the ends of this world and to judge them, and I would have achieved that
too, perhaps, if only I had desired it a little more heartily. Yes, yes,
I tell you frankly, I have grown so used to getting my desire that I
believe, even now, if I desired you to go hence alone you also would
obey me."

Grandfather Death smiled thinly. "I reserve my own opinion. But take it
what you say is true,--and do you desire me to go hence alone?"

"No," says Manuel, very quietly.

Thereupon Dom Manuel passed to the western window, and he stood there,
looking out over broad rolling uplands. He viewed a noble country, good
to live in, rich with grain and metal, embowered with tall forests, and
watered by pleasant streams. Walled cities it had, and castles crowned
its eminences. Very far beneath Dom Manuel the leaded roofs of his
fortresses glittered in the sunset, for Storisende guarded the loftiest
part of all inhabited Poictesme. He overlooked, directly, the turrets or
Ranec and of Asch; to the south was Nérac; northward showed Perdigon:
and the prince of no country owned any finer castles than were these
four, in which lived Manuel's servants.

"It is strange," says Dom Manuel, "to think that everything I am seeing
was mine a moment since, and it is queer too to think of what a famous
fellow was this Manuel the Redeemer, and of the fine things he did, and
it is appalling to wonder if all the other applauded heroes of mankind
are like him. Oh, certainly, Count Manuel's achievements were notable
and such as were not known anywhere before, and men will talk of them
for a long while. Yet, looking back,--now that this famed Count of
Poictesme means less to me,--why, I seem to see only the strivings of an
ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who has reeled
blunderingly from mystery to mystery, with pathetic makeshifts, not
understanding anything, greedy in all desires, and always honeycombed
with poltroonery. So in a secret place his youth was put away in
exchange for a prize that was hardly worth the having; and the fine geas
which his mother laid upon him was exchanged for the common geas of what
seems expected."

"Such notions," replied Grandfather Death, "are entertained by many of
you humans in the light-headed time of youth. Then common-sense arises
like a light formless cloud about your goings, and you half forget these
notions. Then I bring darkness."

"In that quiet dark, my friend, it may be I shall again become the
Manuel whom I remember, and I may get back again my own undemonstrable
ideas, in place of the ideas of other persons, to entertain me in that
darkness. So let us be going thither."

"Very willingly," said Grandfather Death; and he started toward the
door.

"Now, pardon me," says Manuel, "but in Poictesme the Count of Poictesme
goes first in any company. It may seem to you an affair of no
importance, but nowadays I concede the strength as well as the
foolishness of my accustomed habits, and all my life long I have gone
first. So do you ride a little way behind me, friend, and carry this
shroud and napkin, till I have need of them."

Then the Count armed and departed from Storisende, riding on the black
horse, in jeweled armor, and carrying before him his black shield upon
which was emblazoned the silver stallion of Poictesme and the motto
_Mundus vult decipi._ Behind him was Grandfather Death on the white
horse, carrying the Count's grave-clothes in a neat bundle. They rode
toward the sunset, and against the yellow sunset each figure showed jet
black.

And thereafter Count Manuel was seen no more in Poictesme, nor did
anyone ever know certainly whither he journeyed. There was a lad called
Jurgen, the son of Coth of the Rocks, who came to Storisende in a frenzy
of terror, very early the next morning, with a horrific tale of
incredible events witnessed upon Upper Morven: but the child's tale was
not heeded, because everybody knew that Count Manuel was unconquerable,
and--having everything which men desire,--would never be leaving all
these amenities of his own will, and certainly would never be taking
part in any such dubious doings. Therefore little Jurgen was spanked,
alike for staying out all night and for his wild lying: and they of
Poictesme awaited the return of their great Dom Manuel; and not for a
long while did they suspect that Manuel had departed homeward, after
having succeeded in everything. Nor for a long while was the whole of
little Jurgen's story made public.



XL


Colophon: Da Capo


Now Some of Poictesme--but not all they of Poictesme, because the pious
deny this portion of the tale, and speak of an ascension,--some narrate
that after the appalling eucharist which young Jurgen witnessed upon
Upper Morven, the Redeemer of Poictesme rode on a far and troubling
journey with Grandfather Death, until the two had passed the sunset, and
had come to the dark stream of Lethe.

"Now we must ford these shadowy waters," said Grandfather Death, "in
part because your destiny is on the other side, and in part because by
the contact of these waters all your memories will be washed away from
you. And that is requisite to your destiny."

"But what is my destiny?"

"It is that of all loving creatures, Count Manuel. If you have been
yourself you cannot reasonably be punished, but if you have been
somebody else you will find that this is not permitted."

"That is a dark saying, only too well suited to this doubtful place, and
I do not understand you."

"No," replied Grandfather Death, "but that does not matter."

Then the black horse and the white horse entered the water: and they
passed over, and the swine of Eubouleus were waiting for them, but these
were not yet untethered.

So in the moment which remained Dom Manuel looked backward and downward,
and he saw that Grandfather Death had spoken truly. For all the memories
of Manuel's life had been washed away from him, so that these memories
were left adrift and submerged in the shadowy waters of Lethe. Drowned
there was the wise countenance of Helmas, and the face of St. Ferdinand
with a tarnished halo about it, and the puzzled features of Horvendile;
and glowing birds and glistening images and the shimmering designs of
Miramon thronged there confusedly, and among them went with moving jaws
a head of sleek white clay. The golden loveliness of Alianora, and the
dark splendor of Freydis and, derisively, the immortal young smile of
Sesphra, showed each for a moment, and was gone. Then Niafer's eyes
displayed their mildly wondering disapproval for the last time, and the
small faces of children that in the end were hers and not Manuel's
passed with her: and the shine of armor, and a tossing heave of jaunty
banners, and gleaming castle turrets, and all the brilliancies and
colors that Manuel had known and loved anywhere, save only the clear red
and white of Suskind's face, seemed to be passing incoherently through
the still waters, like bright broken wreckage which an undercurrent was
sweeping away.

And Manuel sighed, almost as if in relief. "So this," he said, "this is
the preposterous end of him who was everywhere esteemed the most lucky
and the least scrupulous rogue of his day!"

"Yes, yes," replied Grandfather Death, as slowly he untethered one by
one the swine of Eubouleus. "Yes, it is indeed the end, since all your
life is passing away there, to be beheld by your old eyes alone, for the
last time. Thus I see nothing there but ordinary water, and I wonder
what it is you find in that dark pool to keep you staring so."

"I do not very certainly know," said Manuel, "but, a little more and
more mistily now, I seem to see drowned there all the loves and the
desires and the adventures I had when I wore another body than this
dilapidated gray body I now wear. And yet it is a deceiving water, for
there, where it should reflect the remnants of the old fellow that is I,
it shows, instead, the face of a young boy who is used to following
after his own thinking and his own desires."

"Certainly it is queer you should be saying that; for that, as everybody
knows, was the favorite by-word of your namesake the famous Count Manuel
who is so newly dead in Poictesme yonder.... But what is that thing?"

Manuel raised from looking at the water just the handsome and florid
young face which Manuel had seen reflected in the water. As his memories
vanished, the tall boy incuriously wondered who might be the snub-nosed
stranger that was waiting there with the miller's pigs, and was
pointing, as if in mild surprise, toward the two stones overgrown with
moss and supporting a cross of old worm-eaten wood. For the stranger
pointed at the unfinished, unsatisfying image which stood beside the
pool of Haranton, wherein, they say, strange dreams engender....

"What is that thing?" the stranger was asking, yet again....

"It is the figure of a man," said Manuel, "which I have modeled and
remodeled, and cannot get exactly to my liking. So it is necessary that
I keep laboring at it, until the figure is to my thinking and my
desire." Thus it was in the old days.


EXPLICIT

[Illustration]





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