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Title: Atmâ - A Romance
Author: Frazer, Caroline Augusta
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.

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ATMÂ.

A ROMANCE

BY

A.C.F.

(CAROLINE AUGUSTA FRAZER)

     "When âtman (nom. sing. Atmâ) occurs in philosophical treatises ...
     it has generally been translated by soul, mind, or spirit. I tried
     myself to use one or other of these words, but the oftener I
     employed them the more I felt their inadequacy, and was driven at
     last to adopt ... Self as the least liable to misunderstanding."

     _Max Muller, in North American Review for June_, 1879.

MONTREAL:

JOHN LOVELL & SON,

23 ST. NICHOLAS STREET.

Entered according to Act of Parliament in the year 1891, by JOHN LOVELL
& SON, in the office of the Minister of Agriculture and Statistics at
Ottawa.



ATMÂ



CHAPTER I.


     O that Decay were always beautiful!
     How soft the exit of the dying day,
     The dying season too, its disarray
     Is gold and scarlet, hues of gay misrule,
     So it in festive cheer may pass away;
     Fading is excellent in earth or air,
     With it no budding April may compare,
     Nor fragrant June with long love-laden hours;
     Sweet is decadence in the quiet bowers
     Where summer songs and mirth are fallen asleep,
     And sweet the woe when fading violets weep.

     O that among things dearer in their wane
     Our fallen faiths might numbered be, that so
     Religions cherished in their hour of woe
     Might linger round the god-deserted fane,
     And worshippers be loath to leave and pray
     That old-time power return, until there may
     Issue a virtue, and the faith revive
     And holiness be there, and all the sphere
     Be filled with happy altars where shall thrive
     The mystic plants of faith and hope to bear
     Immortal fruitage of sweet charity;
     For I believe that every piety,
     And every thirst for truth is gift divine,
     The gifts of God are not to me unclean
     Though strangely honoured at an unknown shrine.
     In temples of the past my spirit fain
     For old-time strength and vigour would implore
     As in a ruined abbey, fairer for
     "The unimaginable touch of time"
     We long for the sincerity of yore.

     But this is not man's mood, in his regime
     Sweet "calm decay" becomes mischance unmeet,
     And dying creeds sink to extinction,
     Hooted, and scorned, and sepultured in hate,
     Denied their rosary of good deeds and boon
     Of reverence and holy unction--
     First in the list of crimes man writes defeat.

     These purest dreams of this our low estate,
     White-robed vestals, fond and vain designs,
     I lay a wreath at your forgotten shrines.

Nearly four hundred years ago, Nanuk, a man of a gentle spirit, lived
in the Punjaub, and taught that God is a spirit. He enunciated the
solemn truth that no soul shall find God until it be first found of Him.
This is true religion. The soul that apprehends it readjusts its
affairs, looks unto God, and quietly waits for Him. The existence of an
Omnipresent Holiness was alike the beginning and the burden of his
theology, and in the light of that truth all the earth became holy to
him. His followers abjured idolatry and sought to know only the
invisible things of the spirit. He did not seek to establish a church;
the truths which he knew, in their essence discountenance a visible
semblance of divine authority, and Nanuk simply spoke them to him who
would hear,--emperor or beggar,--until in 1540 he went into that
spiritual world, which even here had been for him the real one.

And then an oft-told story was repeated; a band of followers elected a
successor, laws were necessary as their number increased, and a choice
of particular assembling places became expedient. And as

                                "the trees
     That whisper round a temple become soon
     Dear as the temple's self,"

so the laws passed into dogmas having equal weight with the truths that
Nanuk had delivered, and the places became sacred.

Nanuk's successors were ten, fulfilling a prophecy which thus limited
their number. The compilation of their sayings and doings to form a book
which as years went on was venerated more and more, and the founding of
Oomritsur, chief of their holy places, were the principal things that
transpired in the history of the Khalsa during a century and a half,
save that the brotherhood was greatly strengthened by Moslem
persecution, occurring at intervals.

But with the death of the ninth gooroo, by Moslem violence, and the
accession of his son Govind, the worldly fortunes of the Khalsa changed.
Under the leadership of Govind, a young man of genius and enthusiasm,
who comes before us in the two-fold character of religionist and
military hero, the Sikhs moved on to a national greatness not dreamed of
by Nanuk. Govind, who bestowed on himself and his followers the title of
Singh, or lion-hearted, hitherto an epithet appropriated in this
connection by the Rajpoot nobility, devoted the strong energies of his
vigourous and daring nature to the purpose of establishing the faith of
Nanuk by force of arms. To this end he constituted the sword a religious
symbol, and instituted a sort of worship of steel. The Khalsa became an
aggressive force bent on the salvation of surrounding nations by
violence, and succeeded so well, that, eighty-five years after Govind's
death, the Sikhs, still retaining their character of a religious
fellowship, were consolidated into a powerful nation under Runjeet
Singh. The dream of her tenth and last gooroo was realized, the Khalsa
was at her height of worldly prosperity, but her life was no longer the
spirit life which had been revealed to her first founder.

And so under Asiatic skies as well as amid European civilization, man
laboured to redeem the world, making frantic war on the lying creeds of
past ages and proclaiming the merits of his latest discovery.

It is a strange development of human nature this animosity to creeds no
longer our own. Why, if I suffer the loss of faith and hope, must I
hasten to introduce my brother to my sad plight? I may do so, and
perhaps enjoy good conscience in the act by vaunting that I shed light
on his spiritual vision. God help my brother if his light be from me.
And God help me also, if I have attained so high rank among the blessed
before I have learned that the human soul is beyond human aid; that in
its eternal relations each soul travels in an orbit of its own and holds
correspondence only with its Sun.



CHAPTER II.


A century and a half after, Govind Singh had kindled the hearts of his
countrymen with his prophetic visions of a military church regnant on
the hills of Kashmir, there took place the struggle which we call the
second Sikh war, culminating on the twenty-first of February in the
Battle of Gugerat followed by the surrender of the Sikhs to the British
under Lord Gough and the disbandment of the Sikh army. And, lo, the
Khalsa was as a tale that is told, its clang and clash of warlike
achievements a thing that could be no more, its Holy War transformed by
failure into a foolish chimera, and the only thing that lived was a
memory lingering in quiet souls of the truths that Nanuk taught.

     "For shapes that come, not at an earthly call,
     Will not depart when mortal voices bid."

But many whose faith was in their religion rather than in God felt their
spirit falter, and believed that the universe grew dark. This is ever
the weakness of disciples, and thus it is that while many flocking to
the new standard see all things made plain, others whose hopes are
entwined about the displaced creeds suffer an eclipse of faith.

Among those who in the fall of the Khalsa suffered life's last and
sorest loss was Raee Singh, an aged man, in whose veins ran the blood of
the gentle Nanuk. On that March morning when the disbanded army went to
lay down their arms before a victorious foe, he descended the mountain
slope very slowly. The rest walked in bands of five, of ten, of twenty,
but Raee Singh walked alone. Although his flowing beard was white, he
did not bear himself erect in the dignity of years; his eyes were fixed
on the ground, for the shadow of defeat and dishonour which rested on
him was hard to bear.

Presently he stood before the tent of the British general. A great heap
of weapons lay there glittering in the sun. As he looked, the pile grew
larger, for each Sikh cast his sword there. Raee also extended his arm,
grasping his tulwar, but he did not let it go until an officer touched
his shoulder and spoke. The blade fell then with a clang, and he turned
away. He passed from the camp without seeing it, and took his homeward
way as silently as he had come. The dreams of youth make the habit of
age, and Raee had revered the Khalsa in childhood, and in manhood he had
urged its high commission to his own hurt. As a Khivan proverb has it,
"That which goes in with the milk only goes out with the soul," and the
soul of Raee Singh gathered the fragments of its broken faith and
prepared to depart with them to the Land of Restoration.

He lay for four days, taking no food, and only wetting his lips with the
water which his sole surviving son proffered from time to time. His
heart was crushed, he was full of years, his end was near; and his son,
knowing this, was dumb with sorrow. On the evening of the fourth day he
turned his face to the boy, and spoke,

          "Son, well beloved,
     My parting hour is nigh;
     A heavenly peace should glorify
           A life approved
     By God, by man, by mine own soul;
     The record of my stainless years unroll--
           My years beset
     From infancy to age with pitfalls deep
     In pathway winding aye on mountain steep
           Of perilous obedience, and yet
     In bitterness of soul I lay me down,
     Of home bereft, with hope and creed o'erthrown
           In woe that will not weep;
     My reeling spirit ere from sense set free
     Is loosed from mooring, beaten to and fro,
     And in the throbbing, quick'ning flesh I know
           The lone desertion of the Shoreless Sea.
                 O Brotherhood!
           O hope so high, so fair,
     That would the wreck of this sad world repair
           Had ye but stood!
                 Can God forget?
     This Khalsa of his own supreme decree
     Vanquished, debased, in loss of liberty
           Has lost its own mysterious entity.
           And yet, and yet,
     A strange persuasion fills my breast that He
           Who wrecked my home,
     Who bade my people from their mountains flee
           And friendless roam,
     Will soon with tenderest pity welcome me,
           And, if my lips be dumb,
     Will frame the prayer that fills my dying breast,
     And give my heavy-laden spirit rest,
     And grant me what He will--His will is best.
     I go--I know not where,
     Upward or down, or toward the setting sun
     None knows,--some shadowy goal is won,
           Some unseen issue near,
     So oft with death I journeyed hand in hand,
     The spectral pageant of his border land
           I do not fear.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Weep not when I have passed, but go thy way,
     Thou art not portionless nor service free,
     A warrior Sikh, for thee a high behest
     Abides, to claim thy true-sword's ministry.
     Go, Atmâ, from those echoing hillsides, lest
     The haunting voices of the vanished say
     'Vain is thy travail, poor thine utmost store,
     We loved and laboured, lo, we are no more,'
     And thy fond heart in fealty to our clay
     Fail in allegiance to the name we bore.
     Go, seek thy kinsman, to a brother's hand
     I gave possession of a gem more fair,
     More costly far than gold, than rubies rare,
     Thy part and heritage, of him demand
     Its just bestowal, and with dauntless tread
     Pursue the pathway of thy holy dead."

When the old Sikh had ceased speaking, he lay greatly exhausted. The
night deepened. It was a remote spot. Now and then the sound of
trampling feet or the tread of a horse climbing the difficult road
reached the ear. The hours were long and dreary, but they passed.
Morning dawned, and Atmâ found himself alone. He had known that it would
be so, and yet it came with the sharpness of an unexpected blow. He
mourned, and, as is the way with mourners, he accused himself from hour
to hour of having failed in duty to the departed during his lifetime.
Looking on the face of the dead, he wondered much where the spirit that
so lately had seemed to be with the frame but a single identity, one and
indivisible, had fled. He recalled his father's words,

     "Upward or down, or toward the setting sun,
     None knows,"

and with the recollection, the sense of loss deepened. An old cry rose
to his lips, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him!"

The words by which his father had sought to comfort him still sounded in
his hearing, but Grief is stronger than Wisdom. Human speech is the
least potent of forces, and arguments that clash and clang bravely in
the tournament of words, slaying shadows, and planting the flag of
triumph over fallen fancies, on entering the lists to combat the fact of
Death, but beat the air, and their lusty prowess only fetches a laugh
from out of the silence.



CHAPTER III.


After his father's death Atmâ betook himself to Lahore, where dwelt
Lehna Singh, only brother of the departed Sikh. A man of a totally
different cast of mind, he had early adopted a commercial life, and now,
in the enjoyment of a vast fortune, yet undiminished by the
contingencies of war, lived in luxury and opulence, his dwelling
thronged by Sikhs whose possessions, unlike his own, had melted away in
the national catastrophe. The fact of his house being the rendezvous of
a discontented faction did not escape British vigilance, the more so as
Lehna Singh was one of the eight sirdars appointed to sit in council
with the British Resident. But the confidence of his countrymen in him
remained unshaken by the appearance among them of British envoys in
military state, bearing despatches to the friend of the national foe,
and the questionable attitude of Lehna became to the Resident daily more
and more the subject of suspicious surmisings.

Indeed, a whisper was afloat of secret messages from Feragpore,
whither, before the war, had been removed the Ranee Junda Kovr, deposed
Queen of the Punjaub, as a consequence of a detected plot against the
life of the Resident, which, together with her sullied reputation,--for
she had many lovers,--had induced the council to pronounce her an unfit
guardian for the little Maharajah, her son. This clever woman, a
constant source of vexation to the Resident, had long forfeited the
respect of friend and foe; but her intrepidity, cunning, and
unscrupulous thirst for power conspired to render her formidable to the
one, and to the other a partisan to be courted and retained. Her
messages of insolent defiance to the Durbar are historic, but of the
countless schemes and intrigues in which she continued to play the part
of chief conspirator we have only heard a portion. Suffice it to say
that the faithlessness of her policy alike towards adversary, or ally,
and the scandal of her retinue of lovers, had gained for her an
ill-repute, that combined with the watch set upon her movements by the
British to render men chary of dealings with the little court at
Feragpore, where she held mimic state.

But of all these tales of craft and crime Atmâ knew nothing. To him all
men were valiant and all women fair and good, and the wife and child of
Runjeet Singh, the Lion of the Punjaub, were invested in his fond
imaginings with ideal excellence. "To the pure all things are pure," or,
as a later genius has voiced it, "He who has been once good is forever
great," and Atmâ lived in the corrupt atmosphere of his uncle's house,
and took no hurt; nay, his spiritual life by its own dynamic force grew
and thrived, for, governed by other laws than those that control our
physical natures, the food of the soul is what it desires it to be, and
moral poison has often served for nutriment. It is death to souls that
desire death. In another sense than Bonaparte's, every man born unto the
world may say, "I make circumstances."

And the spacious abode of Lehna Singh had loveliness enough to veil the
sordid character of the life that was lived within its walls. Atmâ had
not been ignorant of his kinsman's wealth and importance; but it is one
thing to hear of wealth and to ponder in critical mood the fleeting
nature of this world's weal, and quite another to gaze with the eye on
the marvellous results of human thrift. He wandered through lofty and
spacious apartments, whose marble arches seemed ever to reveal a fairer
scene than had yet met his view. A mimic rivulet ran from room to room
in an alabaster channel, and the spray of perfumed fountains cooled the
air. Flowers bloomed, leafy vines trailed over priceless screens, and
countless mirrors repeated the joyous beauty of the place. He beheld
with admiration the gilded and fretted walls and stately domes, the new
delights of a palace charmed every sense, and, appealing to poetic
fancy, awoke a rapture whose fervency was due less to the entrancement
of his present life than to the contemplative habit of one who had first
known harmony whilst gazing on the stars, and awaked to the
consciousness of beauty among the eternal hills. The ripple of the
streamlet in these palace halls revived a half-forgotten music of the
heart that had once responded to the gurgle of a brook.

     "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter."

The sympathies that had once been in unison with the rustling thicket
stirred into more definite life when an artificial breeze swept by and
stirred the heavy foliage of rare plants. He had caught in other days
notes of Nature's vast melody. Stray notes were here made to beat to a
smaller measure. Thus Art interprets Nature. It was not The Song, but a
light and pleasant carol, which pleased the sense of many, and to the
ear of the few brought a haunting pain of which they did not know the
meaning. Such a one only sighed and said:

"In a former birth I was great and good, and my life was sublime. The
ghost of its memory has touched me."

           O melody divine, of fantasy
     And frenzied mem'ry wrought, advance
     From out the shades; O spectral utterance,
     Untwine thy chains, thy fair autocracy
           Unveil, have being, declare
     Thy state and tuneful sovereignty.

           Ye gifted ears,
     To whom this burdened, sad creation
     Sings, now in tones of exultation
           Abruptly broken,
     Anon in direst lamentation
           Obscurely spoken,
     Possess your souls in hope, the time
     Is coming when th' harmonic chime
     Of circling spheres in chant sublime
       Will lead the music of the seas,
        And call the echoes of the breeze
           To one triumphal lay
     Whose harmony, whose heavenly harmony
           Sounding for aye
     In loud and solemn benedicite,
     Voices the glory of the Central Day,
     And through th' illimitable realms of air
           Is borne afar
     In wafted echoes that the strain prolong
     Through boundless space, and countless worlds among,
     Meas'ring the pulsing of each lonely star,
     And sounding ceaselessly from sphere to sphere
           That note of immortality
     That whispers in the sorrow of the sea,
     And in the sunrise, and the noonday's rest,
     And triumphs in the wild wind's meek surcease,
     And in the sad soul's yearning unexpressed,
     And unexpressive for perpetual peace.

But the loveliest of Lehna Singh's possessions was Moti, his daughter
and only child, the fame of whose beauty had even reached Atmâ in his
mountain home. Of her he had dreamt through boyhood's years, and a
happy consciousness of her proximity foreshadowed the enchanted hour
when he was to behold her and own that his fondest fancies were to her
loveliness as darkness to noonday. Her name he had heard whispered in
the gay throng of her father's guests, on the memorable first evening of
his arrival there; but, strange to tell, next day, when these first
hours in a palace seemed to his excited imagination a dream in which
mingled in wildest confusion the glitter of diamonds, the perfume of a
thousand flowers, the revel of dazzling colors, the bewildering music of
unknown instruments, and the intoxication of wonder and bliss, there
rang through all only one articulate voice, sounding as if from some
leafy ambush amid vague laughter and murmurs of speech, saying:

"But I tell you that Rajah Lal Singh means to pluck the rose of Lehna
Singh's garden!"



CHAPTER IV.


Atmâ loved to wander apart. One day he penetrated to a secluded court,
whose beauty and silence charmed him more than anything he had hitherto
seen. It was Moti's garden.

     "High in air the fountain flung
     Its living gems, on sunbeams strung
     They wreathed and shook the mists among;
     A thousand roses audience held,
     For floral state the place was meet,
     With blissful light and joy replete,
     And depths of sweetness unrevealed.

     Glittered and sparkled the revelling spray,
     Swelled and receded its silvery lay,
     Rustled the roses in fervid array,
     In fragrance declaring their costly acclaim,
     Wafting on soft winds the redolent fame
     Of fantasy, fountain, and tuneful refrain.

     Joy, Happiness, and Bliss had here
     Alighted when from Eden driven,
     Poor wanderers of far other sphere
     They languished for their native heaven;
     And lingering they glamoured all the place,
     The flowers bloomed in airs of Paradise,
     That lulled the days to dreams of changeless peace.
     No marvel were it if to mortal eyes
     This garden seemed the threshold of the skies.

     But fountain and roses and glittering spray,
     Ambrosial converse and redolent lay
     Saddened and dimmed in the radiant day,
     Unbroken the yellow sunbeams streamed,
     As ever the flashing jewels gleamed.
           But a shadow fell
           And a silent spell
     In homage of one who was fairer than they.

     And who was the despot whose wondrous array
     Of tyrant charms thus over-wrought
     With hues of soft humility
     The joys of this enchanting spot?
     There stood she, envied of the closing day,
     Loved by the evening star,
     Moti, than costliest jewel of Cathay
     More rare and lovelier far.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Weep balmy tears,
     O dear white Rose, and tell to am'rous airs
     They waste their sweetness on thy charms, and chide
     Their ling'ring dalliance, o'er the whole world wide
     Bid them on buoyant morning wings to move,
           And whisper "Love;"
     Fair winds, be tender of her blissful name,
     On soft Æolian strings weave dainty dream,
           Let but the dove
     Hear a faint echo of her happy name;
           But tell her worth,
     Say that at sight of her the evening dies
           Upon the earth,
     And bees and little flower bells still their mirth
     And jasmines whisp'ring of her starry eyes.

            *       *       *       *       *

     And Atmâ spoke, with love and wonder bold,
     "Tread I the valley where the fadeless vine
     Drops dew immortal and sweet spices grow
     From fragrant roots which in that blessed mould,
     Watered by tears of penitential woe,
     Drank deep of primal peace and balm divine,
     When in the morn of time the tale was told
     Of forfeit happiness and ruined shrine?
     Tell me, O beauteous Spirit of the bower,
     Is it thy gentle task when others sleep,
     To guard all that a fallen world may keep
     Of pristine bliss and lost felicities,
     The fragrant memory of a purer hour,
     The healing aroma of Paradise?"

     Sweet then the blushing maid replied,
     "Among the roses I abide,
     I wake the bird, I watch the bee,
     No greater toil is set for me;
     But tell me, pray thee, with what charge indued
     You wander in this quiet solitude."

     And Atmâ spoke with joyful fervency,
     "I hither came on embassy unguessed,
     Most blissful vision of my raptured view,
     The dusk delights of quietness and rest
     Desired I, nor thought to bid adieu
     To all content my fond heart ever knew.

     Descending angels of my wisest dreams,
     Ye kindly genii, bending from above,
     Say, in th'allotment of my life's high themes,
           Were hours left for love?
     A great design and just my soul employs,
     Can high resolve and trancéd rest agree?
     Or is there aught than loss in changeful joys
     Of mortal love, most mortal in its wane
           Which I shall see
     And call aloud, 'O Love,' in vain, in vain."

     "Bloomy roses die,
        Sunbeams have no morrow,
     Sweetest songs give place to sigh,
        Ah, the speechless sorrow,
           Pain of by-and-bye.

           I too well have known
        Gladness lives a-dying,
     Joys are often prized when flown,
        Loved when past replying,
           Sought when left alone.

           Sad when roses pine,
        Ah, but love is dearer,
     Who would dare to quaff this wine
        Knowing Fate the bearer,
           Guileful fate of mine?

           Moti, peerless flower,
        Queen of love and gladness,
     Tell me in this happy hour,
        Will Joy turn to sadness,
           And Love's death-night lower?"

           Moti, wise as lovely, pondered,
        "'Mong the sunbeams I have wandered,
     With the flowers friendship made;
           Sweetest blossoms wither,

     But alike they fade,
        Roses die together,
           Beauteous death is made.

     Comrades e'en in death are flowers,
     Always sweet are friendship's bowers.

     Lightly sorrow touches twain,
     Only solitude is pain."

            *       *       *       *       *

     Mild were the utterings of the cooing dove,
           Who did approve
     In myrtle ambuscade this tender lore;
     The constant plashing of the fountain spray
     Melted in easy numbers, dying away
     A quiet cadence, while for evermore
     Faded the eve in richest livery wove
     Of Tyrian dyes and amber woof t'allure
     The soft salaam of slowly sinking day.

     Stars shone, and Atmâ said, "'Tis well to be,
     The things of earth are painted pleasantly."

     But pleasantness is light and versatile,
     And moods must change and tranquil breezes veer,
     And o'er this blissful hour there came a chill
     And sullen shadows slowly creeping near
     In lengthening lines, and murkier dusk took form
     Of all things ominous, disastrous, ill,
     And as a mid-day gloom portending storm,
     A lowering fate made prophecy of fear,
     And Atmâ knew the menace in the air,
     As ghostly shudderings of our fearful life
     Foretell the advent of th' assassin's knife.
     Low sank his heart before the augury
     (For life was dearer on this eventide
     Than e'er before), and all dismayed, he cried,
     "These are the heralds of calamity
     That bid me hence, for all too well I know
     The pensive pageantry of mortal woe;
     O Love, my Love, this sweetest love may flee
     But ever grief has cruel constancy,
     Late I bode me with dull-shrouded sorrow,
     And well I know her doleful voice again.
     Hark! the breezes from the nightshade borrow
     A heavy burden of lament and pain,
     And where Delight held lately sweet hey-day,
     Now like spectres pallid moonbeams play,
     Very still the little rosebud sleeps,
     Heavily the drooping myrrh tree weeps
     Sluggish tears upon the darksome mould."

     Quick then did Moti speak, by love made bold,
     "No cause is there, O Love, for sad affright,
     For I have read the portents of the night;
     Of envy dies the glowworm when the moon
     Is worshipped in the welkin, and the boon
           Of costly tears
     Dropped by the bleeding tree, to mortal cares
           Is healing balm;
     The rosebuds dream, Love, and the soft wind's sigh
           Is lullaby.
     And yet I know that sorry things befal
           Sometimes, withal,
     For once it was my grievous task to mourn
     A turtle-dove sore wounded by a thorn."

           "O sweetest Dove,
     May grief be far from thee,
     Who lovest sorrow when thou lovest me;
           But changeful love
     May yet be fixed by grief no more to rove,
     And we by woe be bound in constancy.
     O Roses, bear me witness of my truth,
     Death with my love were life a thousand-fold,
     Dear death were fairer than immortal youth
     Could it life's weal in friendly arms enfold.
     Dark Angel of the River's brink, draw near,
     In stable grasp this sovereign hour assure,
     Cast icy glamour o'er my love's sweet cheer,
     Forever then shall that dear love endure,
     An end of sweets fair Chance may hold in store
     Were death of all the changeful moods of time,
     And boundless being of my love's sweet prime.

     Ah, thorny Roses, prate ye still of ruth
     And would me my brief hour of bliss deny?
     And yet all happy things to love are sooth,
     But I, ah me, this destiny so high
     Weighs on my spirit like a drowsy spell,
     I cannot joy like those, nor stay, I fail
     Before the greatness of my high behest,
     Ah, high is holiness, but love is rest,
     Yes, love is rest, is rest; then blow, sweet gale
     Of soft forgetfulness about me still,
     And O, ye Roses, balmy breath exhale
     And all my consciousness with slumber fill.

     And, O sweet Love, I pray you yield me now
     One little pearl from the fair coronal
     That crowns the loveliness of that calm brow,
     And I, where'er I be, will own its thrall,
     And gaze on it and dream until I see
     A phantom love, before whom I shall fall
     And pray, adoring white-robed purity."



CHAPTER V.


"Your lofty faith and devotion, my son, move me deeply. The heroic
spirit of my brother Raee seems once more to incite me to deeds of
daring which in these degenerate days would alas be vain."

So spoke Lehna Singh in the midst of luxury and splendour that had been
amassed in no hazardous career of adventure or enterprise, but by
methods of coldest calculation and avarice. His listeners were his
nephew, whom he addressed, and the Rajah Lal Singh, chief favourite of
the notorious Ranee, a man of cringing and servile demeanour,
notwithstanding his rank, whose crafty smile followed the speaker's
words as he scrutinized the countenance of Atmâ, as if to learn their
effect. The apartment in which they sat was an inner chamber, small,
secluded, and silent, for the fame of Lal, lately Wuzeer to the little
Maharajah, but for grave offences disgraced and removed from Lahore, was
such as to demand caution on the part of those who would consort with
him.

"Before I can explain to you," proceeded Lehna, "the last words of my
departed brother, I have a tale to unfold, a tale which will reveal to
you in how high a degree your coming has been opportune. In these
troubled days a loyal, brave, and trusty friend of the Khalsa is far to
seek, and it is in quest of such a one that my honoured guest Rajah Lal
Singh has, in the face of much peril, come to me from the Maharanee, now
at Feragpore, whither she was sent by Purwunnah, under seal of her
infant son, the Maharajah, thus made in tender years the instrument of
his mother's disgrace. But on the cruel affronts of our enemies I need
not dwell. These things are known to all. The plans which I am about to
reveal to you, Atmâ Singh relate to the future, and speak not of
disgrace, but of hope; know that in the treasures of Runjeet Singh there
was one jewel--a sapphire--of magical property. To its holder it ensured
success in war. This jewel, the late Maharajah received from my hands.
It was a family heirloom, and descended to your father, the eldest son
of our house, through countless generations. Being, when we were both
young, in sore straits, and hard pressed for money, he parted with this
talisman to me, on condition that after his death I should return it to
his eldest surviving son. You may guess the poignancy of the grief with
which I tell you then that this heirloom is no longer mine. Many years
ago I gave it into the hands of Runjeet Singh for a time, in the belief
that its potency would aid our national fortunes" (what equivalent Lehna
received, he doubtless deemed it irrelevant to state). "The brilliancy
of his career attests its worth. It should have been long ago restored
to me, but my efforts to regain it were repeatedly baffled, until I was
fain to content myself with the reflection that at least it served the
cause, and to trust in the future for its recovery. Believing it to be
in the treasury at Lahore, and firmly believing in its potency, those of
us who knew of its existence never abandoned hope until its
disappearance was, alas! ascertained beyond a doubt. To such, each
defeat of the Khalsa caused amazement deeper than consternation. The
overthrow of the Sikh power seemed a thing incredible until the recent
confiscation and plunder of the treasuries, when it became certain to
other vigilant onlookers as well as to myself that the Sapphire of Fate
was not in the possession of the true rulers of the Punjaub at the time
of their downfall. Contrast the victorious progress of the Lion of the
Punjaub with the fallen fortunes of his family, when robbed of what we
now believe to be the talisman of his fortunes. Not only does the Ranee
believe that the recovery of this gem will ensure the prosperity of the
descendants of Runjeet Singh, but I do firmly believe that its
re-possession will rally the Sikh forces to form again a conquering
faith. Son of Raee, have you the courage to serve the Ranee, to regain
this, your inheritance, and in obedience to your father's dying words,
to devote it and your own life to a fallen house, whose foes are the
foes of the Khalsa?"

Atmâ remained silent during some minutes, plunged in thought, and
unconscious of the anxious scrutiny of his companions, who, bending
forward, awaited his reply in breathless suspense. It was a shock to
know that the heritage which was certainly his had passed from the
guardianship of the kinsman to whom it had been entrusted, and
indignation mingled with gentler reflections. He had not known the story
of the Sapphire, and his thoughts reverted to his father, the meaning of
whose reticence on a subject, which must have been full of humiliation
and pain, his son sadly divined, and recalling his dying words,
indelibly printed on his memory, he felt his high commission to be again
renewed and vivified. Perhaps the gentle image of Moti, ever present to
fond imagination, dispelled the rising clouds of distrust and
resentment, and bade him meet her father's demand with response of like
spirit. So now recalling the ingenuous emotion which had glowed in his
face during Lehna's tragic account of the recent career of Junda Kowr,
he asked where the Sapphire of Fate was to be found.

"At the Court of Golab Singh," replied his uncle, dramatically. "Golab
Singh, once a horseman in the employ of Runjeet Singh, now by British
machinations usurper of the crown of Kashmir. If you, Atmâ, are a true
and faithful adherent of the Khalsa, you will thither repair as an envoy
of the Maharanee, and will count her reward lightly won by danger
encountered for the faith."

"Inform her highness of my instant readiness to perform her request,"
replied Atmâ.

Happiness overspread the countenance of Lehna. With a gentle sigh of
relief, he abandoned the heroic and magnanimous strain in which his
speech had flown, and which to so acute and wary a man of affairs was
perhaps unfamiliar. He exchanged a glance of satisfaction with the
Rajah, who leaned back among his silken cushions in an attitude of
greater comfort than he had allowed to himself during the preceding
anxious half-hour.

It only remained to instruct the young Sikh as to the course and manner
of his journey, which was to be first to Ferazpore to receive the
commands of Junda Kowr, thence to Jummoo, where Golab Singh, the
recently appointed ruler of Kashmir, held his brilliant court.

These matters satisfactorily arranged, Rajah Lal with stately ceremony
took his leave, and Atmâ found himself alone with his kinsman, who
proceeded to matters of not less interest.

"I am honoured," he said, "by your proposed alliance with my house," for
Atmâ had disclosed to her father his love for Moti. "I am honoured and
deeply moved; but I defer this consummation of my cherished wish until
all may know that among many suitors, I chose, to be the husband of my
only child, a leal soldier of the Khalsa. But your high nature will, I
perceive, count this prize lightly won by peril endured for the Khalsa.
You go to-morrow to Ferazpore, where you will meet again Rajah Lal, who
has perhaps more influence with our clever Ranee than many a better man.
He repairs thither this evening, and will no doubt prepare for you a
favourable reception, and you will," he added, laughing, "in all
probability be received with the overflowing kindness and unveiled
confidence which our British friends deprecate!"

This covert allusion was not understood by the young Sikh, in whose
thoughts all men were valiant and all women fair and good. But he
experienced a shade of annoyance on learning that he must owe anything
to the good offices of Lal Singh. An echo seemed to sound faint and far
as in a dream; "Rajah Lal," it seemed to say, "means to pluck the Rose
of Lehna Singh's garden."



CHAPTER VI.


A subdued light stole through the latticed windows of the house of Junda
Kowr, revealing a court whose hush and shadow contrasted with the busy
life that Atmâ had left behind him. The silence and pleasing coolness
were in harmonious unison with the gleaming alabaster arches, and the
subdued loveliness of arrangement was more agreeable to sense than Lehna
Singh's ornate magnificence. A lace-like screen hung before a lofty
recess. So plain it seemed that one wondered at seeing it motionless in
the breeze made by the silken punkah swinging slowly to and fro before
it. It was of most delicately wrought ivory, and veiled from the court
where female attendants flitted noiselessly about a group of three
persons engaged in earnest conversation. One, a woman whose black eyes
had none of the languor of her race, reclined among embroidered
cushions. The splendour of her jewels proclaimed the Ranee. Emeralds,
rubies, and diamonds glittered on brow and arms. Before her on a
cushion lay a carefully folded and voluminous letter. Lal Singh lolled
at her side, and his gaze like hers was fixed on the ingenuous
countenance of Atmâ Singh, who stood before the Ranee. She wore no veil,
and as Atmâ encountered the gaze of her bold black eyes, he remembered
the sneer of Lehna Singh.

"Come near," she commanded; "you come to me from our good friend, Lehna
Singh. Let me hear what word you bring from him."

"I come, Maharanee," replied Atmâ modestly, "to obey your behests in all
things, but especially to undertake a perilous mission, which I am
assured will result in benefit to the faithful adherents of the Khalsa,
as well as to the interests of your highness and the Maharajah."

"I have heard," said the Ranee, "much of your devotion, courage, and
unswerving integrity, which render you peculiarly fitted for an
enterprise requiring singular daring and fidelity. Lehna Singh has not
scrupled to say that peril of life itself will even be welcome to so
brilliant a spirit."

Her mocking tone brought the blood to Atmâ's cheek, he scarce knew why.

"It is the high calling of a Sikh," said he, "to encounter danger, and
by the sword to confirm the Khalsa."

"It is a training that makes good soldiers," returned the Ranee, "but as
my claims may prove less potent than those of the Khalsa, I promise that
on your successful return you shall receive from my hands rare and
costly jewels, and gold whose yellow lustre will bid the treasuries of
the world to open."

"On the other hand," interrupted Rajah Lal, "remember that if we are
betrayed, from that moment you are surrounded by countless and powerful
foes, whose revenge you shall not elude."

The lion-heart of Atmâ beat high at this threat, to which he deigned no
reply.

"My reward has been named, Maharanee," he said, "than which the world
can hold no dearer. I will fulfil your embassy and return to you, but
the prize for which I labour needs no enhancement to make it worthy."

The Maharanee sought the eye of her companion with a glance of
satisfaction, but the Rajah's gaze was rivetted on Atmâ, whilst his
features were distorted as if by a moment's uncontrollable rage. The
transport passed as quickly as it had come, and he sank back to his
former negligent posture. But the Ranee had seen, and a look of startled
and angry intelligence lighted her eyes.

Her instructions bound Atmâ to convey to Golab Singh the letter before
her, which Rajah Lal placed as she spoke in a casket. It was an
expedition of some peril, as the country was occupied by the British and
their native allies, to whom a messenger on his way to any court must be
an object of suspicion. In addition to this the friendly reception at
the Court of Jummoo of an envoy of Junda Kowr was altogether a matter of
conjecture.

Further directions regarding his movements in Kashmir would, the Ranee
informed him, be conveyed to him from time to time by trusted servants.

"A female servant," she said, "by name Nama, has frequently been
employed by me on missions requiring great tact and caution. Her I will
shortly send to the borders of Kashmir, and if you repair in fitting
season to the Sacred Well of Purity you will there receive from her any
communication I may have to make." The subject of the fateful sapphire
she lightly dismissed. "If we receive through this slave a good report
of the demeanour of this new-made Rajah, this horse-boy in my husband's
service, Rajah Lal Singh will join you at the court of Kashmir, and the
recovery of the missing jewel, which I am told forms a prominent
ornament in Golab Singh's attire, will then no doubt engage the
attention of you both."

At present it was evident that the introduction of an emissary of Junda
Kowr into the councils of Golab Singh was the chief end in view. No
thought of danger entered the heart of Atmâ as he went out from the
presence of the Maharanee to enter upon an enterprise which was to be in
its course and issue as unlike the anticipations of his ardent heart as
is the solemn pilgrimage of life unknown to the dreams of childhood.

The affront of a threat and the alluring promises of riches were alike
forgotten, and the star that led his exultant steps shone with the
twofold radiance of love and loyalty.



CHAPTER VII.


Atmâ directed his steps on the morning following his interview with
Junda Kowr northward towards the confines of Kashmir. It was a lovely
morning. A humid mist veiled the distant mountains, towards which his
steps tended. Seen through its tender swaying folds, how vague and
beautiful their savage slopes appeared. Light and shade, ominous gloom
and shining crag were hid from view. How often thus the morn of life,

     "In dim eclipse disastrous twilight sheds."

A twilight not dispelled until the light dawns on a retrospect whose
bitterness could not be borne unless seen side by side with the other
picture of Paradise.

But he had no thoughts other than of glad anticipation. Past pain and
recent unrest were forgotten in the renewed joy of freedom. He cast care
to the breeze for he had not lived long enough to know that the
discontent which is the birthright of the children of Adam is not
dependent on circumstances, but often attains most baleful activity when
events seem least likely to harass the spirit. It was the morning of
life and of love, and the obscurity in which youth walks is no dull haze
but a golden glamour.

In one old form of the creation story is told the first utterance of
Nature, the cry of chaos, "Let love be!" Through what inspiration of
wisdom it comes to us out of the silence we do not know, but feel that
the earlier tale of a divine mandate, "Light be!" is not at variance
with it. The cry of chaos lingers in the heart of the race, and each new
man in the morning of his being utters it in no doubt of its fulfilment
in his own destiny. He loves mankind, and would be beloved; he loves
nature, and perceives no relentless purpose in her variable moods; and
perhaps most of all he loves his own soul with a love whose
disenchantment is to be the sorest agony that an eternity can afford.

The cry of chaos lingers, and the story of creation is repeated in each
life history. The cry meets with no response, but instead, relentlessly,
surely, aye, and most mercifully, the facts and events group themselves
about the cowering spirit, that before Love celestial Light may arise.
It is a terrible destiny, devised by a God, and only possible in its
severity for creatures to whom it has been declared, "Behold, ye are
gods!"

At noon Atmâ rested beside a pool. It was a sequestered spot surrounded
by thickets. The rushes grew rank and tall on the margin and in the
water. The soft cooing of the doves hidden in the wood broke the
stillness. He ate of the slender fare which he carried, and reclined on
a flower couch until sleep closed his eyes. The doves cooed on, and
bright lizards watched him.

Presently he awoke with a start. A rush of wind, a sudden plash of water
were followed by the whizzing of an arrow through the air. He was close
to the water. Softly peering through the reeds he saw, palpitating and
stricken with fear, a snowy swan. The arrow had missed the stainless
breast and it was unhurt. The wild creatures of his mountain home were
dear to Atmâ, and he would fain shield the beautiful bird.

Two youths emerged from the thicket at some distance from where he
stood. He went to meet them, smiling at the folly of his half-formed
intention of guiding them from their prey. After courteous salutation
they inquired whether he had seen the swan.

"It is a bird reared by ourselves," they said, "which strayed from us
two days ago. We thought to wound it in the wing and recover it, but the
creature is so wild that doubtless it is as well that it be killed
out-right."

Atmâ had slept, he told them, had been aroused by their approach, had
hardly realized the cause of his awakening. "The swan is difficult to
rear," he said, "if indeed such effort be not fruitless."

"It is fruitless," they assented, "but we need not search hereabout if
you have not seen it. You must have heard the flap of his wing had it
alighted near you," and they turned their steps in a contrary direction.
Atmâ watched their vain search until on the opposite side of the pool
they disappeared into the wood.

He stole a glance into the hiding place of the swan. The soft plumage
had not the dazzling purity which he had known, and the beautiful neck
that should be proudly curved, drooped.

"Poor imprisoned creature," he thought, "grown in bondage, alien to its
own nature of strength and beauty."

He watched it unperceived, timidly washing its plumage in the still
deep water. Soon it floated further from the bank. Now and then it
waited and listened. The story of its captivity was told again in its
stealthy, trembling happiness.

But high overhead, between it and a disc of blue sky, intervened a
stream of lordly birds flying south. From their ranks wafted a cry, and
as it fell there rose a wild echo, an unfamiliar note from the captive
swan.[1] It rose skyward, wearied wing and broken spirit forgotten. It
might be danger, but it was Home, and like a disembodied spirit it
ascended to a life that, altogether new, was to be for the first time
altogether familiar.

A thought of kindred saddened the heart of Atmâ. In the loss of parents
and brethren lay, he thought, the sole cause of the heaviness that
oppressed him. Their restoration would have made existence complete. He
had lost them before he had awakened to the knowledge that those we love
are even, when nearest, very far away. Humanity does not hear the voice
of kindred on earth.

                I find
           In all the earth
         Like things with like combined,
       How happy, happy from their birth
       Are silly things, in guileless mirth
     Who seek them out and greatly love their kind.

               How e'en
           The crafty snake,
         Like dove of gentle mien,
       Doth with his fellows converse take
       The love-notes well from wood and brake
     That tell betwixt some lives some barriers intervene.

               Ah me,
           Shall only one
         Of golden things that be,
       One only underneath the sun
       In dolour here life's journey run,
     Speeding the way alone to great Eternity?

     The Soul
           It sits apart,
         Craving a prison dole
       Of ruth and healing for its hurt,
       As piteous captive should cajole,
     Vainly, unheeding ear afar in stranger mart.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] That this incident is suggested by Hans Andersen's beautiful story
is so evident as scarcely to need acknowledgment. The thoughts embodied
here occurred to me in such early childhood that I do not experience a
sense of guilt in thus appropriating the lesson which I have no doubt
the writer intended.



CHAPTER VIII.


One night Atmâ dreamed a dream which greatly disturbed his waking
thoughts. He lay in the shadow of an overhanging rock, and in deep sleep
fancied that he descried therein a door which was securely barred. But
although it was closed, there issued from it aroma of most subtle
perfumes, which seemed to enter the brain and incite the energies to a
maddening desire of possession, while there floated around him strains
of music whose sweetness filled the soul with sorrow of itself. In his
dream he tried the heavy bolts in vain. All was fast. He yielded to
despair, and dashed himself against the rocky portal in anguish of
disappointment. But grief wore itself out, and he thought that he
presently lay on the ground, bruised and exhausted. The charmed
fragrance still enwrapt him, and the seductive melody filled the air.
Sad and benumbed he yielded himself to their influence, and his ear then
detected in the ethereal harmony an articulate utterance. An ineffable
intonation melodiously spoke:

     "It opes to a key that is golden,
     Within it a spirit lies folden,
     The soul of all matchless delight.
     All graces familiar or olden,
     Propitious thine entrance invite."

He now dimly perceived the golden key to glitter in the air. It came
near to him, and he took it into his hand from where it lay on a pillow
of mist. When he held it, the rocky door, though still fastened, no
longer hid from view the loveliness of the grotto. He saw walls bedecked
with gleaming jewels, marvellous flowers, and countless silver lamps,
whilst everywhere were traced in precious gems the sayings of the Wise
of all ages. Winged creatures, whose looks spoke of loving and perfect
service, seemed to await his command.

A great fear seized him lest so beautiful a vision should presently
fade, and he would have rushed to unbar the entrance, his eyes dimming
with tears of love and sorrow. But a second voice sounded from above
more solemnly sweet than the first--

          "Beware! beware!
     To abide none enter there;
     All you see is but a portal
     Leading on to the Immortal;
     Though it be so fair, so fair,
     Enter, not to tarry there;
     Idle tears, your torrent stay--
     Beauty, it is consecrate
     And can never fade away;
     Change it will, be re-create,
     Born from narrow things to great."

But the first voice pleaded again. Together they sang, and strangely
enough they harmonized. Not that the celestial utterance lent itself to
the lighter measure, but the nearer song took a softer cadence and
borrowed a new persuasion from the greater. Passionate grew the
pleading, more alluring the radiant retreat. The heart of Atmâ, ever
open to the influence of the good, cried to the solemn voice above for
help.

"Give also light," he said, "that I may see beyond the portal!"

But the sound of his own voice was strange in the land of dreams, and
with that he awoke. It was evening, and he arose and looked at the
silent and frowning cliff, and even passed his hand over its face to
convince himself that he was still awake. A significance attached itself
to his dream, and he pondered it long and wisely. The teachings of the
founder of his Faith came into his mind, and the lesson of his vision
seemed plain. He resolved to trust the conduct of his steps to an unseen
Guidance, and reverently owned that a Benign Presence had watched his
slumbers. As he reflected, a belief grew that this massive rock marked
not only a halting place in his journey, but a chief interval in his
life.

"The way," he said, "is very long. Of what use but to mislead in that
course is my bodily sight, which bids me doubt the reality of all the
higher truths which my inner consciousness affirms?"

The stars were coming out, and looking upward he remembered his
childhood's hope that beyond their radiant ranks was the Home of
Spirits, and thus he prayed:

     "Father of Lights, these lesser beacons hide,
     My way is long, this desert plain is wide,
     Darken mine eyes so I behold my guide.

     The way is long, it leads among the stars.
     How should I roam that shimmering vault of night?
     How halt where yon bright orb his lamp uprears
         In glistering chains of light,
     To list 'mid ringing spheres for that strange psalm?
       The sum of agony were surely this--
     To hear the Blessed Wind 'mid waving palm;
           The pearly gates to miss
       Whose glorious light is not of moon nor sun;
       To list the river's flow, and stand undone.

       Light of the Realms of bliss, be Thou mine eye;
       So shall my homeless soul, when death is nigh,
       With joy a mansion in the heavens descry."



CHAPTER IX.


As Atmâ drew near to the confines of Kashmir he trod a secluded vale,
and followed the windings of a broad stream whose banks were thickly
wooded. As he pursued his way through a thicket he heard voices in gay
converse, and stayed his steps until, peering through the heavy foliage,
he descried below the overhanging river-bank two dark-eyed girls. They
were seated on a broad stone, and one laved her feet in the water and
bent over the swift current; but the head of the other, wreathed in
scarlet blossoms, was uplifted, and in the bright face half turned
towards him he recognized an attendant of Moti. She listened as if
suspecting his approach, but soon apparently satisfied, she resumed her
light chatter with her companion. Atmâ heard his own name, and gathered
that they sought him. He made himself known, and the elder, who was
Nama, the Maharanee's trusted servant, related how her mistress greatly
desiring a sprig of White Ak, a tree of great virtue in incantations,
had commissioned her to obtain it in the forest near by. She had also
been charged, she said, to meet Atmâ Singh, and bring her illustrious
mistress tidings of his welfare.

Although, as a true Sikh, Atmâ worshipped an Idea, and held in scorn all
material semblance of the supernatural, he knew that magic was largely
practised by professed adherents of the Khalsa, and so heard her errand
without surprise, though guessing that its timely performance had in
view some other purpose concerning himself. This became certain when
Nana made known to him that she was not then to return home, but to
linger here and in the neighbourhood of the Sacred Well, spoken of by
the Ranee, for an indefinite time, while the girl beside her at once
returning, would bear to Ferazpore as well as to the house of his uncle
tidings of his present safety. As Nama spoke, Atmâ fancied once that the
little maid standing by sought to engage his attention by a mute sign,
but, ere he could be sure, she desisted and became engrossed in the
adjustment of the crown of scarlet flowers with which she had bedecked
her head. A dim suspicion of treachery rose in his breast, a vague
misgiving. He rapidly recalled to mind the affectionate language of his
kinsman, the promises of the Ranee, and perhaps stronger than all rose
the dear vanity of royal youth, which cannot believe itself scorned.
Were not all the high hopes of his life at stake? It is not possible
that when youth hazards all, the venture should fail. But the foreboding
remained. It was akin to the shudder which tells us that some one steps
on the sod beneath which we are to lie. The analysis of these subtle
melancholies is hard to read. A breath may summon them and they linger
unbidden, and whether they point only to the dim shadows they invoke
from the past, or whether their warning be of the future, we cannot say.
Even as I write a sadness oppresses me, born of I know not what.

     If any asked me whence it came,
       This languor of my soul to-day,
     And why I muse in piteous frame
       While all the glowing world is gay,
     I could not tell, I only mourn,
       And wonder how to life it stirred,
     The memory of that distant morn,
       As then I wondered had I heard
     That grief could ever sink to sleep
       Nor aye that stony vigil keep.

     Enter ye dreams of vanished woe,
     The spectral griefs of long ago;
     I fold my hands, in dreamlike trance,
     I see their shadowy train advance--
     Phantom forms like shades of eld,
     Memory-prints or forms beheld,
     I cannot know, they fade away;
     Faintly their voices seem to say,
     "You loved us not that distant day,"
     And, lo, my foolish tears o'erflow.
     Can this be I who fain would know
     Those bitter griefs of long ago?

As Atmâ approached the city of Jummoo he found himself again by a
river-side, and seeing a small boat he entered it and was soon gliding
with the current. It was night when he floated among the trees of the
Palace gardens. Thousands of lights glittered through the foliage. The
air was burdened with perfume. High above the sombre umbrage rose
slender snowy spires, around which the moonbeams lingered lovingly. He
left the little skiff and trod the terraced ascent. A meandering
brooklet, tributary of the larger stream, was spanned by fairy-like
bridges. He hesitated among the intersecting ways, mazy, enchanting, and
flower-bordered. The living air was full of subdued sound. Bubbling
water, tinkling bells, and the mingling of many voices made music which
was borne on perfumed winds. This was the fairest spot in all sunny
Kashmir, where the nightingale sings perpetually in groves of citron,
magnolia, and pomegranate.

He reached the splendid portico which was the chief entrance of the
Palace. Its carven and gilded roof was supported by alabaster columns.
It had been a day of pomp and festival, and courtiers still in their
yellow robes of state reclined here, languidly enjoying the cool night
air. Atmâ ascended the broad steps where officers of state were
marshalled in lines, gold-hilted swords at their sides, and their
gorgeous attire glittering with jewels. Here he requested an audience of
the Rajah, and, preceded by a servant bearing his credentials, he passed
through lofty and magnificent chambers to an ante-room where he rested
until summoned to the presence of Golab Singh, whom he found in an inner
court lit by rose-hued lamps. The air was cool, delicious and fragrant,
the stillness and the softened light were in pleasing contrast to the
dazzling splendour of the halls and room he had traversed. Here in an
alcove were seated three or four men. The Maharajah received him with
affability, and made gravely courteous enquiries for the health and
well-being of Junda Kowr. He welcomed her envoy, and would know of the
difficulties and dangers of his journey thither, and added graceful
flattery to his commiseration. Then, after much courteous discourse, he
confided the young Sikh to the care of attendants, with many injunctions
regarding his comfort and refreshment. And Atmâ went out from the august
presence with heart elate, for he had instantly observed in the turban
of Golab Singh a gem which by its size and hue he knew must be none
other than the Sapphire of Fate, whose magical renown might yet in his
true hands rally a degenerate Khalsa until such time as the disciples of
Nanuk might again know good from evil, and reverence Truth alone.

An hour later, as he left the sumptuous baths where obsequious slaves
had attended him, an officer of state approached him with a message from
the Rajah.

"Atmâ Singh, there are within these walls Englishmen who hold command in
the British army. As a true friend and servitor to the Ranee, and the
Maharajah's esteemed guest, do not divulge nor let them suspect that
you had lately audience of her highness."

For Golab Singh, notwithstanding the cruelty of his administration, was
friend to all, Christian, Musselman, Brahmin, or Sikh, and did not love
to be suspected of an undue sympathy with any, not even when such
sympathy might wear the cloak of patriotic loyalty.



CHAPTER X.


On the morrow the Rajah of Kashmir sat in the terraced garden and talked
of life. Those who sat with him had lately braved death on battlefield,
but death had forborne to touch them, and they rejoiced in existence.
All around them the story was repeated; the deepening shade spoke of
another shadow, but the flashing sunbeams chased the thought ere it
chilled; eaves fluttering to the mould said, "Ponder the grave," but the
shining air stirred and sent them whirling aloft. Death and Life enacted
a drama.

       *       *       *       *       *

The human comedy ends in woe, but Nature tenderly masks her catastrophe,
and her sorrows are hung with gayest colours and adorned with fairest
effects. This is seen at sunset. The evening saddens, the earth melts,
and in my egoism I hail a fellow mourner. I would protract the moment of
the sun's entombment.

     "There's such a charm in melancholy,
     I would not if I could be gay."

It is the mood of little griefs. An unquiet wind murmurs, but it does
not rise to a wail.

     I fain would bid th' Æolian tones prolong
     To mourn the jolly Day's discomfiture,
     And, mindful of mine own estate, among
     The buds and grieving trees my plaint outpour,
     That sweets must fade though Night will aye endure.
     But crafty Nature, fancy to beguile
     From her disaster, which, alas! is mine,
     Bids to the front in radiant defile
     A trooping host whose pomps incarnadine
     The faded trophies of the dying day,
     And, lest I fail before so brave array,
     She decks the quiet clouds where fancies dwell
     With sweet translucent gleam and melting hue
     To woo my swooning sense with softer spell
     Of blissful pink and hyacinthine blue.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Life," said the Rajah, "is the fairest of flowers, and its beauty and
fragrance are for him who plucks."

"Plucks," sighed one, "to find it wither in his grasp."

Said the Rajah, "To do justice to life, one must forget death."

"Forgetfulness may be desirable," said another, "but how shall it be
attained? How deny the tyrant who at each sunset demands his tribute
dues of sleep, and enwraps my vassal being in dull oblivion?"

"By ill-conditioned fears," replied the Rajah, "men invite evil. To him
who desires the solace of ghostly companionship shall the spectres
troop, a phantom in every shadow, and with him make their abode. He who
fears is already overcome. To the man who would live there must be no
death. For me, I love the rosy, teeming present; to-morrow is with the
gods, and I for one," he added laughing, "will not be guilty of an
impious theft by anticipating their gifts."

"Life," said an Englishman, "is a battle-field in which victory is to
the valiant. To my mind the effort after forgetfulness is no less
disquieting than the fear you would shun. Death, could we but believe
it, is simple and natural as Life."

But this he said, not knowing that

     "Life is a mystery as deep as ever death can be."

"It is true," spoke the Venerable Nawab Khan, a Musselman of devout
piety, "and to what purpose do we struggle? The inevitable is not to be
averted

     Tho', sliding through lush grass, the shining snake,
     Loving the sun, a sinuous way doth take,
     Its fixed journey to its home 'twill make.
     Even as in tranquil vale reluctant rill,
     In sportive twinings nigh its parent hill,
     Proceedeth onward to the ocean still.

"Life is a dream," continued the pious man, "and the first condition of
its happiness is peace. For me I am weary of battle-fields, and feel no
desire to grasp after illusive flowers and fading grass. If anticipated
evil is the shadow of life, the vain toils of restless ambition are its
menace. Vain toil it is! To labour, to suffer, to sorely strive that we
may accomplish--our destiny! For that is what our utmost effort alike
with our quietude will achieve."

"And," demanded the Rajah, "is it then life to breathe? Such
tranquillity will breed torpor rather than dream. If the immobility of
Fate be the theme and burden of my days I dare the more. Let us bare our
breasts to the arrows of Fortune, let us invite the shafts of Chance,
let us taunt Fate, let us dare our doom, why should we fear? The hands
of Destiny are also bound, and not one pang the more shall we feel for
our hardihood."

But one who reclined on a couch of roses and breathed their languorous
fragrance, chided the fervency of this discourse, saying:

         "If Life be a flower,
         Light, facile, and free,
     Be the grasp that would hold it;
         From a halcyon sea
     Let the breezes that stir it
         Blow thoughtlessly;
     No breath of care should chill it,
     Nor sad foreboding thrill it,
         For honey-dew lies hid
         Beneath a fragile lid,
     And ardent clutch will spill it."

"Ay," cried the Rajah, "I like the counsel of the flowers.

           Obeissance to the blast
           Make, mock when it is past,
     And rise like a washen rose, deliciously,
           Forgetful of sorrow,
           Unheeding the morrow,
     And meeting all destinies, mad, merrily;
     If Life be a flower, 'tis fairest of all
     If for it you fear fortune's pitiless thrall,
                 With the Tulip's proud beauty
                 Its wisdom combine,
                 And bear to the contest
                 A goblet of wine!"

"Ah," sighed the pensive one, "but the flower is the poppy, for he who
possesses it presently falls asleep."

But his gentle conceit was unheard, for Nawab Khan related a story.

"One sought," said he, "the cave where dwelt a holy hermit of great
reputation for wisdom and learning. He sate him down before the
entrance, and listened with patience and fortitude to the grave and
weighty saws which like bats increase in darkness. Having presently
earned the right of a disciple, he plied the sage with questions,
as:--What is the material and constitution of the soul? Where are laid
the bones of Seth? What bounds the credulity of mankind? These and many
more did the Wise answer in difficult words whose sound carried
conviction. 'He knows all things,' thought the inquirer, 'I need not to
ply him with riddles to whom all things are plain. I will rather seek
counsel for myself concerning what lies at hand.' With that he put the
question, 'What think you of human life?' The hermit, who had halted
hitherto at no question, arose, turned him about, and in silence
withdrew to the depths of his grotto."[2]

"Proving," laughed the Rajah, "that he added the virtue of discretion to
his multiform merits. But we turn not our backs on the question until my
illustrious guest Atmâ Singh of the blood of the Holy Nanuk further
expound the nature of life."

All turned to Atmâ. The frivolity of the Rajah was distasteful to him in
connection with so grave a theme. His eyes involuntarily sought the
glance of the young Englishman who had spoken. He was an officer in the
British army and his name was Bertram. His expressive face kindled with
kindly grace as the young Sikh claimed sympathy with him in his view of
life as a battlefield.

"But not," said Atmâ, "that triumph crowns prowess in this fight. I
know that life is a battle in which sooner or later we must all succumb,
but we die knowing that the right is stronger through our struggle."

"I am rebuked, Atmâ Singh," said Bertram; "your battlefield is a nobler
one than that on which human effort is rewarded by gain. I pray you
continue."

"Behold the strength that comes from a convert," sneered some of the
company, as with fervent though modest speech Atmâ spoke of the high
courage and dauntless faith which transform defeat into Immortal
victory.

A silence fell on the gay throng. Some were gloomy because reminded of
their national discomfiture. Others looked coldly on Atmâ and muttered
with discontent--

"He speaks of life as a thing that is yet to be."

FOOTNOTE:

[2] I have taken the liberty here of altering a well-known fable whose
authorship I do not know.



CHAPTER XI.


Rajah Lal Singh arrived at Jummoo a few weeks later in much pomp and
state. No hidden or hazardous mission was his. His gorgeous train of
armed attendants mounted on richly caparisoned horses traversed the
public roads, winding like a brilliant serpent through the vales of
Kashmir. He brought tidings of the daily increasing quiet and peace now
resting on the torn and war-spent Punjaub. Festivities were heightened
after his arrival, and revelry held sway day and night.

Atmâ and Bertram in unconscious kinship drew to one another, forsaking
frequently the mirth and glare of the court to converse of things that
are hard to understand. They were one evening in a shady retreat at the
foot of the Rajah's terraced gardens.

"I confess," said Atmâ, "that the fixedness of fate engages my thought
frequently, though hitherto unprofitably. No doubt the teachers of your
land have spoken and written much on a subject so perplexing."

"They have," replied Bertram; "it has ever been a favourite whetstone
for the human reason. It has been frequently solved to the satisfaction
of the performer, but no solution has yet won the universal acceptance
that is the badge of truth."

"It may be," said Atmâ, "that the answer lies not anywhere beneath our
sky."

A rustle in the foliage behind them drew the attention of both. A gleam
of vivid colour was visible when they quickly turned, and Atmâ was in
the act of parting the myrtle boughs, when, anticipating him, Lal Singh
stepped forth from retreat. Silken attire and splendour of jewelled
turban were insufficient to dignify his crestfallen demeanour, which,
however, changed rapidly when he darted a glance of rage and hate at
Bertram, who had greeted his sudden appearance with a scornful laugh.

"No doubt," he said, "the English Sahib and Atmâ Singh have grave
secrets whose discussion calls for deep retirement."

"No doubt of it," laughed Bertram, "but, Rajah Lal, the yellow vestments
of a noble Sikh," for the Rajah wore his state dress, "are so ill
fitted for ambuscade that I promptly refuse to admit you to our
councils."

What answer the Rajah, whose stealthy face grew livid at this sally,
might have made, was stopped by Atmâ, who, well aware of the danger to
his companion from such an enemy, and all unknowing of his own place in
the Rajah's esteem, interposed with courteous speech.

"We are on our way," said he, "to the Moslem burial-place near by, the
tombs of which have become interesting through the tales of Nawab Khan.
Bertram Sahib jests, we will be gratified by Rajah Lal Singh joining
us."

The Rajah had regained self-possession and declined the proffered
courtesy in his usual cold and sneering manner, adding with a crafty
smile and with covert meaning, which perplexed and startled Bertram:

"It is a wise man who familiarizes himself with the grave. For me; I
must deny myself, for I go tomorrow to take part in festivities the
reverse of funereal. I commend the propriety and aptness of your
researches, Atmâ Singh."

So saying he withdrew with a salaam that failed to cover the swift
scowl he bestowed on Bertram.

"There goes an enemy, Atmâ Singh," said Bertram, watching the retreating
figure arrayed in barbaric splendour, the profusion of the enormous
emeralds that adorned his yellow robe so subduing its hue that Bertram's
thrust was unmerited, as far as his attire was concerned at least. "He
is a foe to fear, unless I greatly mistake, an enemy of the serpent
kind," he continued.

But they speedily forgot the craft of the serpent, and pursued their
walk, conversing as they went.

Some tenets, they found, were familiar to the minds of both, and these,
they observed, might be called historical. Such were the vague
whisperings of things that occurred in the dawn of young Time before the
earliest twilight of story--traditions that linger as shades among the
nations, vague hints of former greatness and of a calamity, a crime
whose enormity is guessed by the magnitude of its shadow hovering over
the earth, shrouding men's cradles and darkening with a menace their
tombs. Such too were the joyful surmisings of a restoration, such the
imaginings of

             "That bright eternal day
     Of which we priests and poets say
     Such truths as we expect for happy men."

"Your story of the world's creation is strangely in accord with ours,"
said Bertram. "Our narrative is more precise, but the things stated so
clearly typify we know not what; and we and you are, I doubt not, wisest
when we own ourselves ignorant. Who can tell what is implied in the tale
of the birth of Time out of Eternity, ascending through seven gradations
to we know not what consummation when this seventh epoch of rest shall
be run?"

"The words of the wise," said Atmâ, "assign to all things perpetuity,
which involves a repetition of the cycle of Seven. Does the week of
seven days repeating itself endlessly in time, image the seven epochs
which, returning again and again, may constitute eternity?"

Bertram paused before he replied--

"Your words move me, Atmâ Singh, for I have heard that on the first day
of a new week a Representative Man rose from the dead."

They reached the Burying Ground. It was a lovely spot. Fallen into
disuse, the bewitching grace of carelessness was added to the
architectural beauty of the tombs. The verdure was rank, and luxuriant
trees and marble tombs alike were festooned with clematis and jasmine.
Here they were pleased to find Nawab Khan and the servant, whom he
dismissed on their arrival, and himself guided them to an old tomb
simpler in form than the rest, but more tenderly and beautifully clothed
in moss and wild flowers than any. They sat down while the Nawab related
the story of the maiden whose goodness it commemorated.

"Sangita," said he, "was a princess of incomparable beauty and
surpassing gentleness. Her spirit was humble; and as the heavenly
streams of wisdom and virtue seek lowly places, her nature shone every
day with a purer lustre. She loved tenderly a gazelle which she had
reared, and which was the companion of her happy hours. It was not of
the King's flocks but had been found in Sangita's own garden, and none
knew who had brought it there. The talkative people, noting the sagacity
of the pretty creature and the tender solicitude of its mistress, who
crowned it anew with garlands every morning and fed it with sweetest
milk and the loveliest flower buds, whispered to one another of its
mysterious appearance, and alleged for it miraculous origin. One day as
it fed among lilies, the princess near by, overcome by the heat,
slumbered. She slept long and heavily, and when she awoke her favourite
was nowhere to be seen. Calling and weeping, she wandered through vale
and glade, searching the hare's covert, but starting back, for she
descried a viper there; peering into the den of a wild beast and
shuddering, for it was strewn with bones; hastening to a gorgeous clump
of bloom where she thought it might have rested, but the splendid
blossoms were poisonous and she turned away. All the dark, damp,
dangerous night she sought, and it was morning when she found the gentle
creature stretched on the moss, its piteous eyes glazed over with death,
for it had been pursued and had sunk from exhaustion.

In delirious ravings Sangita told her people that when she knelt on the
moss, and, wringing her hands, bewailed that it had not sought the
shelter of a Secure Resting Place, the gazelle reproached her.

'I know not of that country,' it said, 'it is not here.'

And this, although the wild speech of a fevered brain, gained credit
with the populace, and the Wild Gazelle cherished by the good princess
became a memory fraught with awe and superstition. For me, I believe
that the devout and good heart utters wisdom unawares, and that the
tongue habituated to golden speech may drop riches even when the light
of reason is withdrawn. The sickness of Sangita was mortal, but her mind
cleared before she expired, and she then obtained from the King her
father a promise that over her ashes should be erected a lodge whose
door, never fastened, might afford a Haven of Retreat such as her
fevered dream desired!"

They looked on the tomb, its walls gleamed white through the foliage
that draped it. It was old and neglected. The door was nearly concealed
from view by the luxuriant growth of many years, and when they examined
it closely they found that it hung on one rusty hinge.

"May we believe," asked Bertram, "that the tender fancy of the dying
princess was ever verified by the actual shelter here of a fugitive?"

"The story is ancient," replied Nawab Khan, "and I cannot say. The
lesson she taught would forbid the finding anywhere a Place of Rest."

But it neared the hour of the devout man's prayers and he left them.

"Nawab Khan," said Atmâ, "speaks not as he believes, for many are the
Havens of the Mohammedan."

"Ay," said Bertram, "and does not every creed too soon become a secure
retreat to the spirit of man to which God has denied the repose of
certainty. We crave knowledge which is withheld more earnestly than we
desire faith or hope, and we eagerly make even its semblance a foothold.
It appears to me, my friend, with whom I am grown bold, that you and I
may find in our less material beliefs as false a haven as the pilgrim
finds in his Mecca."

"You say well," said Atmâ thoughtfully, "it is not new to me. Thoughts
for which I cannot account have been borne in upon my soul, waking and
sleeping, by riverside or on mountain height, and I know and believe
that he who would find God must close his eyes and his ears."

"And the soul," said Bertram, "that knows an infallible guide, be it
voice of other man, or of his own reason, or volume of mystery, or
whatever it be, that soul walks not by faith. But why speak of a soul
finding God? The soul of man must be first found of Him, and it seems to
me that until thus adopted no soul would prefer faith to knowledge--thus
much might we learn of Nawab Khan."

And as they returned to the Palace, they continued this grave discourse,
lamenting the sadness and sin of the world, and Atmâ, greatly moved,
told that his life's purpose, of which he might not fully speak,
involved the conquest of evil and the redemption of the world by means
whose greatness was worthy of the end. And Bertram, sometimes assenting,
often silent, hoped that at last, by each and all means employed by man,
the whole world might be redeemed. He was a Christian and devout, but
he, too, desired to redeem the world. His dream was one with Atmâ's. But
the highest dreams are soonest dissolved, for the dispelling of
illusions and breaking of idols is God's benison, and is given soonest
to those whom He approves.



CHAPTER XII.


There was fear of Evil Influence, pestilence and death in the country,
and as the time of new moon drew near, propitiatory sacrifices were
prepared. A number of the courtiers of Golab Singh declared their
intention of visiting sacred places and offering gifts. Many who abjured
these rites went also as to a festival. On such an errand many supposed
Lal Singh to be gone, although his prolonged absence led to unspoken
surmisings among those who looked on him as the emissary of a political
party, but at the close of a fierce contest men are chary of speech, and
none spoke his suspicions. At all events he had disappeared the day
after the events of our last chapter.

Atmâ resolved to take this opportunity of attempting to communicate with
the Maharanee, and intimated his purpose of resorting to the Well
designated by Nama. It was of course on the southern border of Kashmir,
and entailed a long pilgrimage. Bertram, tired of splendour, would
accompany him. Together they set out on horseback, followed by
attendants who bore gifts for the Shrine. They rode forward, leaving
their retinue, and conversed as was their wont.

Atmâ fain would know why his friend so devoutly went on pilgrimage.

"I suppose," said Bertram laughing, "that the Nawab would tell you,
though the ass goes to Mecca he becomes not a pilgrim thereby. But Atmâ
Singh, if I mistake not, your own creed does not recognize the rites we
are to witness; I ask, then, in my turn, why, since our mission is
meaningless, does your choice of a destination lead us to the most
distant of the sacred places?"

"I do not say that the Shrine is without sanctity to me," replied Atmâ
evasively, "and the place is one of great attractiveness, while the
journey thither, though longer, is more agreeable than other routes. But
your jesting challenge reminds me of what once befel the holy Nanuk, the
founder of the Sikh religion. He slept in the heat of the day on a
grassy bank with his feet turned westward. A Mohammedan priest finding
him, struck him and demanded how he dared direct his feet towards the
sacred city of Mecca. 'How dare you, infidel dog, to turn your feet
towards God?' he demanded. The wise one responded:

     'Though past the highest heaven of heavens I rise,
       Though cowering in the deep I hide mine eyes,
     I roam but through the Mosque his hands have wrought,
       Show me, O Moulvie, where thy God is not!'"

"Your wise man spoke a great truth," said Bertram. "The earth is a
Temple, it was designed for a House of Prayer, and in it God has placed
not a sect nor a nation, but all mankind. Many a Holy of Holies has man
raised within this temple, and vainly have the builders sought by every
device of loveliness, sensuous or shadowy, to achieve for their
inventions the Beauty of Holiness. Your Nanuk was divinely taught, for
leaving alike the Material and the Ideal, he grasped the True."

Now they paused where sat a mendicant who besought charity. Atmâ
bestowed a gift, saying,

"Our great teacher said:

       'The beggar's face a mirror is, in it
     We best learn how our zeal in heaven appears.
       Pause then and look--nor pious alms omit,
     Lest on its brightness fall an angel's tears.'"

Then Bertram, pleased with this, asked more regarding the founder of the
Sikh faith, and Atmâ related what things the teacher had accounted holy.
"This," he said, "did he instruct:

     'The hearts that justice and soft pity shrine
     Are the true Mecca, loved of the Divine.

     Who doth in good deeds duteous hours engage,
     Performs for God an holy pilgrimage.

     Who to his own hurt speaks the truth, he tells
     The Mystic Speech that pious rite excels.

     Rude orisons of alien He will bless
     If they are offered but in faithfulness.'"

"It is good," said Bertram, "modes of worship are many, faiths are
nearly as various as the temperaments of mankind, but virtue is one. No
universal intuition prompts to a form of ritual as acceptable to God,
but the moral sense of all the race points unswervingly to the pole-star
of the soul--Truth, another name for Purity.

"Many," he continued, "have been the self-ordained guides of the human
conscience, blind leaders of the blind, would-be saviours of the world!
Why should a mazed wandering soul be so eager to summon followers, so
ready to point the way? What strange prompting of love or daring is
here? It surely is not from desire of applause that men seek the
leadership on the road to heaven, for what man so decried in the history
of the world as he who arrogates to himself the place and name of
Priest? And yet priest and poet are akin. The man who seeks the place of
mediator and interpreter betwixt his fellows and the Unknowable must
needs be an idealist, and if he deal with illusion who so unfortunate as
he?"

They halted that night where two streams met. Bathed in moonlight it was
a scene of great beauty and repose, a confluence of the beatitudes of
earth and air. Peace filled their souls so that they perceived the
unexpressive adoration of the river, and the trees, and the solemn
moonlight. It was such an hour as makes poets of men, and Atmâ raised
his head and spoke:

     "At tranquil eve is proper time for prayer,
               When winds are fair,
     And gracious shadows 'mong the myrtles move.
     The list'ning eve it was ordained for prayer.

     By the soft murmur of thy cooing dove
               Teach me to love;
     Grant that thy starry front fill my death's night
               With joyful light;
     And hushed as on this bank the violet's close
               Be my repose.

     Abide Love, Happiness, and Peace till shining morn
     From the same birth that gave the past be borne."

Bertram:

     "Fair are these hillside haunts at even calm,
     And sweet the fragrance of each flowery spray.
     Dew of the Spirit, fall in heavenly balm
     Upon my slumbers; bounteous Lord, I pray,
     Like one who sang thy praise in other way,
     Bless Thou the wicked, for the Good, I know,
     Are blessed already, blessed they come and go."



CHAPTER XIII.


The shrine of the Well of Purity was on a dainty islet which lay in the
centre of a small lake. The grotto was almost concealed from view, but
moving forms of worshippers were visible among the trees when Atmâ and
Bertram drew near to the water's edge. A band of laughing girls carrying
laden baskets of corn, and rice, and flowers were leaving the shore in a
light skiff. It was a lovely scene, the shining lake reflecting again
the gem-like mound of foliage which rested on its breast. Bertram gazed
on the picture, whilst Atmâ, whose quick and expectant eyes had
discerned the form of Nama near at hand, followed her unnoticed by his
companion. The Maharanee, Nama related, had sent to Atmâ Singh the gold
which she carried, in token of her approval of her loyal servitor, and
also a box of onyx which she prayed him to open and read words contained
therein, retaining meanwhile possession of the casket and its contents
until further tidings. With many reverences Nama further informed him
that the Fairest of all the Lilies pined for him, was grieving at his
absence, but was now to be gladdened by the prospect of his speedy
return, which tidings the Maharanee had deputed her to convey forthwith
to the household of Lehna Singh. Notwithstanding the joy of knowing
himself an object of tender solicitude, a vague foreboding once again
filled the soul of Atmâ. When the woman left him he considered
thoughtfully the messages he had just received, slowly meanwhile undoing
the claspings of the onyx box and raised the lid. Immediately a powerful
odour issued from it and almost overcame him. He reeled and gasped for
breath, nearly losing consciousness. However, having seated himself, he
presently recovered, and somewhat more cautiously opening the casket, he
drew from it a paper which contained a strangely worded commendation of
himself, "The staunch and courageous friend of the Ranee, the Restorer
of the Sapphire of Fate, the foe of whatever was inimical or false to
the Sikh interest." Thought Atmâ, "This praise is no doubt won by the
good report conveyed to her by Lal Singh, who, notwithstanding faults,
can be generous as well as just to a Sikh brother."

He remained seated for some time, his head supported on his hand, for he
still felt giddy, thinking painfully and earnestly. The numbing effects
of the odour he had inhaled testified to its poisonous nature, but no
precautions, he reflected, had been taken to ensure its effect; on the
contrary, its immediate result was to alarm and warn the rash meddler
ere mischief could be wrought. Nama also had hastened away, as not
expecting any such terrible issue, of which certain tidings would be
desired if murder such as he dreamed of had been contemplated. It could
not be, he thought, and Rajah Lal would explain on his return what now
appeared so mysterious.

Returning the paper to its case he secured it about his attire and
sought Bertram, who had wandered along the woody banks of the lake, and
whom he found at some distance away, listening to the rare song of a
swan, distant and strange and sweet. Soon it glided into death at the
opposite shore. It brought back to Atmâ's mind the morning when a noble
bird had by his aid escaped its captors. He recalled its subsequent
restoration to its kind, and the sympathy and undefined aspirations
awakened in his breast.

They entered a boat and crossed the water, landing speedily on the soft,
damp islet sward. The grotto was still clad in morning freshness, for
the strong beams of the sun had not yet penetrated to the heart of the
sacred grove. The entrance was hung with garlands, votive offerings from
the poorer pilgrims. More costly gifts lay near and all around knelt
worshippers.

A new party arrived, bringing a snowy fleeced lamb to be offered in
sacrifice. It was decked with wreaths, and bleated piteously. Presently
it was killed, and its blood was caught in vessels to be taken home and
smeared on doors and walls to drive away blight and pestilence from the
dwellings of men. While this was being done, the crowd looked on
carelessly or curiously. But Bertram and Atmâ noticed that the man who
had made this offering looked upwards with famished eyes and despairing,
and a groan escaped his lips, and to Bertram it seemed as if he said:

"Behold I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot
perceive him."

They stood apart, watching the scene. Then Atmâ presented his gift for
the enriching of the shrine, and withdrawing aside he knelt on the grass
and prayed,

             "Bright God and Only God!
               Not to be understood!
     Illume the darkened twilight of thine earth;
           The dewdrop of so little worth
     Is garnished from the riches of the sun;
     Lead me from shadowy things to things that be,
                 Lest, all undone,
     I lose in dreams my dream's reality;
     Thy Home is in the Fatherland of Light,
                 Strong God and Bright!
     In still beatitude and boundless might!
                 I veil mine eyes,
     Thy holy Quietness I seek with sighs."

Said Bertram, "The earth has not a spectacle more fraught with meaning
than this; the acknowledged monarch of terrestrial things bowing in
dread--a dread of what? of that voice in his breast which, being silent,
is yet the loudest thing he knows? Why is the innocence of that
sacrificial lamb so pathetic to my sight? Why should religious rites in
which I do not participate move me strangely and deeply?"

"These things are a shadow," said Atmâ, "and a shadow is created by a
fact."

"I join in your prayer," said Bertram. "'Lead me from shadowy things to
things that be.' Types are not for him who believes that the horizon of
his sight bounds the possible."

"No," replied Atmâ, "better reject the image than accept it as the end
of our desire. The faith of my fathers, which grasped after Truth,
teaches me that if the outward semblance of divine verities lead captive
not only my senses, to which its appeal is made, but my heart's
allegiance, I am guilty of idolatry."

"How fair," said Bertram, "must be the thing imaged by earth's loveliest
pageantry! What must be the song of whose melody broken snatches and
stray notes reach us in the golden speech of those endowed with hearing
to catch its echoes! What harmony of beatitude is taught by the mystery
of heavenly colour! How dull must be our faculties, or how distant the
bliss for which our souls yearn as from behind a lattice, seeing only as
in a mirror of burnished silver, which, though it be never so bright,
reflects but dimly! How unutterable are our transitory glimpses of
eternal possibilities!"

"Therein," said Atmâ, "may lie the reason why evanescent beauty stirs
us most. It may be more heavenly in meaning or affinity than things that
remain. This has sometimes perplexed me.

     "For, ever most our love is given
     To glories whose decadence fleet
     Has more of changeful earth than heaven;

                   The heart's astir,
     And sympathies leap forth to greet
                   The mingling fair
     Of heavenly hues limned in empyreal bow
     Aloft in dewy air, but ere we know
     Their place and method true they fade away,
     And fancy follows still, though things as beauteous stay.

                     What joyous note,
                 Warbled in bliss of upper air,
     May with the one death-song compare
     That floats among the reeds, and blends
     With wild wind's plaint, till silence ends
                     In haunt remote
                     Sweet life and song;
     They float away the reeds among.

"I beware me of types," he continued, "though I know nothing real. I am
surrounded by images, my present state of being is a shadow, but I
crave reality. The symbol is fair, but Truth is fairer. To that verity
all types must yield, how beautiful soever they be, or meet to express
their burden."

       *       *       *       *       *

     And yet how dear the transient joys of time,
     Their purport not the Pearl of our desire.
     Loved are these confines as immortal clime,
     And dear the hearth-flame as the altar fire;
     When fate accomplished wins her utmost bourne,
     And fulness ousts for aye fair images,
     Will doting mem'ry from their funeral pyre
     Rise phoenix-wise and earth-sick spirits yearn
     For fragrant flower, and sward, and changeful trees,
     For storied rose, and sweet poetic morn,
     For sound of bird, and brook, and murmuring bees,
     For luckless fancies of illusion born,
     What time in dark we dwelt and framed our lore?
     Woe, woe, if then regretful we should mourn
     "What wisdom left we on that human shore!"
     For brooding kindness can a charm beget,
     Not duly won, and from Heaven's parapet
     These terrene colours shine with starry gleam--
     But this is all a fable and a dream;
     A fable, for this axiom it brings,
     Immortal loves must love immortal things;
     Dream is it, for uncurbed it took its flight,
     And roamed afar, a fancy of the Night.



CHAPTER XIV.


The roses in the gardens of Lehna Singh hung their heads, the sunbeams
danced no longer, and the pleasant fountains fell with monotonous plash
on sullen pools, where goldfish hid themselves and sad swans floated
apart. Moti wept in her bower, and Nature, which sympathizes with the
good, grieved around her. The sun-birds flew away, for their gay plumage
is not for times of mourning, but the doves lingered and hushed their
wooing that they might not offend the disconsolate.

And this was Moti's garden, where happiness and beauty had once their
dwelling.

         Bloomy roses die,
     Wan the petals floating,
     Whirling on the breeze's sigh,
     Ah, the worms were gloating,
         This is by-and-bye.

In the great hall princes and nobles feasted with mirth and music.
Laughter and outcries and mad revelry re-echoed through the stately
archways and marble courts. Lal Singh was there, and great honour was
rendered to him, for this was the time of his betrothal, and the bride
was Moti. The festival had lasted for two days, and would be prolonged
for many more. Moti was forgotten. The little maid who loved her lay on
the floor at her feet and wept because Moti wept. Those who with zither
and dance should have beguiled the hours, had stolen away to peep
through latticed screens at the revelry.

Moti thought of Atmâ and moaned, but the little maid thought only of her
mistress, and bewailed the fate that had joined her bright spirit by
unseen bonds of love to one pre-doomed by inheritance to misfortune.

"For adversity loved his father's house," she sighed; "it is ill to
consort with the unfortunate, for in time we share their woe."

But Moti wrung her beautiful hands and cried:

     "Ah if this breath of mine might purchase his!
     Then death were fair and lovely as he said
     In that enchanted even hour when he
     Of love, and death, and moans, and constancy
     Told till dark things grew lovely, and o'erhead
     Sweet stars seemed ghosts, and shadow all that is.

     But I have lost my life and yet not death
     Have won, and now to me shall joy be strange,
     And all my days the kindly winds that breathe
     From mirthful groves of Paradise shall change
     In my poor songless soul to wail, and sigh,
     And moan, and hollow silence--let me die!

     Poor me! who fearless snatched at bliss so high,
     Witless! and yet to be of slight esteem
     And little worth is sometimes well, no dream
     Of high unrest, no awful afterglow
     Affrights us simple ones when that we die.
     Vain flickering lamps soon quenchéd--we but go
     From this brief day, this short transition,
     This interlude of farcial joy and woe,
     Back to our native, kind oblivion.

     Can this be Moti, she who prates of being,
     And life, and death, and fallacy, and moan?
     Ah, how should I be fixed and steadfast? seeing
     All things about me shift, I need must change;
     Things which I thought were plain are waxen strange,
     Things are unfathomable which I deemed
     Shallow and bare; nay, maid, I do not rave,
     Sunbeams are mysteries, and Love that seemed
     All wingéd joy, and transport light as air,
     Ah me, but Love is deeper than the grave,
     Is deeper than the grave; I seek it there.
     Dear Death, bind Love for me, till that I die!

     And he is doomed to die who loved me!
     O bitter, bitter end of tenderness!
     O doleful issue of my happiness!
     Weep, little maid, for one that loved me!

     O might I with my last of mortal breath
     Bid him the cruel treachery to flee,
     And hear his voice and sink to happy death,
     So still might live the one that lovéd me!

     Cease, kindly maid, arise, and whisper low,
     As moon to weeping clouds, until there rise
     Like pallid rainbow, wan with spectral glow,
     A thing of fearful joy athwart my skies,
     A hope, a joy e'en yet that this might be,
     That I should die for him who lovéd me.

     I waste no life, no blame shall me dismay,
     For these brief days of mine are but a morn,
     A handful of poor violets, wind-worn,
     Or nurseling lily-buds which to mislay
     Were not the ill that to the perfect flower
     Might be if cruel hand should disarray
     Its starry splendour when in ripened hour
     It floats in tranquil state on Gunga's stream.

     Make ready, little maid; sweet is the gleam
     That lightens this ill night, soft clouds will weep,
     The fervid bulbul still his song, beneath
     Our tallices the blinking jasmines sleep,
     The kindly myrtles shadow all our parth.

     Speak, gentle maid, tell me it shall be so,
     That I shall find my love; speak and we go
     On pilgrimage more sweet than home-bent wing
     Of banished doves--now, I will chant of woe,
     And though my song be doleful, blithe I sing."

                      O Night!
                    O Night so true!
         The promise of the Day is full of guile.
         Fair is the Day, but crafty is her smile;
         The friendly Night, it knows no subtle wile.

                      Dear Night!
                    Bring weeping dew,
         And sad enchantments to undo the spells
         Of baleful day, while from thy silent cells
         Of dusk and slumber, still heart's-peace exhales.

                      O Night!
                   O Night, pursue
         The bitter Day, and from her keeping wrest
         Those cruel spoils, and to my empty breast
         Give lethean calm, and dearest death, and rest.



CHAPTER XV.


The Rajah of Kashmir and his court went a-hunting on the day of Lal
Singh's return to their good company. They swept down the valley, a
gorgeous train of nobles and host of attendants with falcons girt for
foray, and moved with much state and circumstance among the hills until
the sun grew hot, when silken tents were pitched in a walnut grove near
by a smoothly flowing river. Here they ate and drank and reposed while
obsequious servants fanned them, and the sweet music of vinas blended
with the murmur of the water and the droning of the bees.

The Rajah sat in the entrance of a crimson tent and enjoyed the
delicious air. The nest-laden branches drooped above, the twittering of
birds ceased, but gentle forms hopped lightly from twig to twig, and
curious eyes peeped from leafy lurking-places. In the turban of the
Rajah, the Sapphire of Fate shone with serene lustre like the blue
water-lily of Kashmir. His fingers toyed idly with the plumage of a
magnificent hawk, now unhooded but still wearing the leathern jesses
and tiny tinkling bells of the chase. The leash by which it was held
slipped gradually from the arm of an attendant and it was unconfined.
Its keen eye knew all the ambushed flurry overhead, but it did not
rise--a more curious prey lay nearer.

In a moment it was poised in air. Another second and it had gained
possession of the Mystic Stone, the augur of weal to the Khalsa, its
menace when borne by a foe, the portentous Sapphire of Fate!

All was consternation and clamour. The unlucky fellow who had slipped
the leash, waving his wrist, sought to induce the bold robber to alight,
but his cries were scarcely heard above the vociferation of the throng,
and he was fain to tear his beard and curse the day of his birth. But as
neither lamentation nor rage could restore the treasure, cooler heads
dispatched a party of horsemen with falcons and lures to decoy the
recreant.

With the first shout of dismay and horror Atmâ stood as if transfixed,
enwrapt in thought, and did not stir nor speak until the rescuing party
had long vanished across the plain, and Bertram touching him on the
shoulder rallied him on his abstraction, and told him that the Nawab
was about to beguile the time and reanimate the flagging spirits of the
illustrious company with a tale. Repressing a sigh, Atmâ smiled and
suffered his friend to lead him into the circle forming about the
story-teller.

"Far back," began the Nawab, "far back in the ages whose annals are lost
in story, when, Time and Eternity being nearer the point of their
divergence, things preternatural and strange entered into the lives of
men, there lived a mighty king of great renown, who, being stricken with
a lingering but fatal malady, spent the last years of his life in
adjusting the affairs of his kingdom and preparing all things to the
single end that the reign of his successor, who was his only son, might
excel in grandeur and dominion all other empires of that era. This son
ascended the throne while still of tender years, and found that parental
fondness had endowed him with unequalled power and dominion. His
subjects, under the beneficent rule of the departed king, had become a
great and prosperous nation; he was at peace with all neighbouring
monarchs; his treasuries were filled to overflowing; and, more than all,
the wisdom of the counsellors whom the king this father had appointed to
instruct and guide his early years had sunk deep into a heart
well-fitted by Nature to receive it, and his demeanour was such that the
loyal affection which was his by inheritance soon changed to a heartfelt
admiration and love of the virtues which all men perceived him to
possess. Surely no monarch ever began to reign under more auspicious
skies. One of his palaces, his chief pleasure-house, had been built for
him by command of the late king, and was of unique excellence. Its
progress during erection had been impatiently watched by the monarch,
who desired to see it complete and be assured of its perfection before
he closed his eyes on the world, so that the skilful builders who
wrought day and night were distracted between the injunction laid on
them that it should be in every part of unrivalled beauty, and the
hourly repetition of the royal mandate that the task be accomplished
immediately. But, notwithstanding, so well did they succeed that among
all the wonderful palaces of that age and land there was none to compare
with The Magic Isle, for thus was it called, because by ingenious device
it floated on the bosom of one of the lakes by which that country was
diversified. No bridge led to this palace, but gilded barges were ever
ready to spread their silken sails and convey the king to and from the
elysium, which sometimes, as if in coquetry, receded at his approach
among flower-decked islands, and sometimes bore down to meet the gay
flotilla, branches spread and garlands waving, like some enchanted
vessel of unknown fashion and fragrance.

"But strange to tell, the young king grew every day more grave and
pensive in the midst of all these delights. Music nor mirth could win
him from the melancholy which overshadowed him. The truth was, that amid
so much adulation as surrounded him, the idol of a nation, his soul no
longer increased in wisdom; and loving virtue beyond all other things,
he secretly bemoaned his defection whilst not perceiving its cause. His
virtues, the cynosure of all eyes, withered like tender flowers meant to
blossom in the shade, but unnaturally exposed to noon-day. His adoring
people bewailed what they thought must be a foreshadowing of mortal
illness, and the wise counsellors of his childhood vainly strove to
fathom his mood. But those who know us best are ever the Unseen, and
about the young monarch hovered the benignant influences that had
watched his infancy, and now rightly interpreted the sorrow of his
heart. In sooth, that this sorrow was matter of rejoicing in the Air, I
gather from the joyous mien of that river-sprite which one day surprised
him as he languidly mused in a balcony that overhung the water, and
spoke to him in accents strange to his ear and yet at once comprehended.

     "'Come, O king, my voice obey;
         Come where hidden things are seen;
     Come with me from garish day,
         Withering, blasting, grievous, vain,
             To retreat of mystery,
             Haunt of holy mystery.'

"These words, as I have related, were spoken in an unknown tongue, and
yet my story gives the mystic speech in pleasant and familiar rhythm. I
do not know how this may be," and Nawab Khan gravely shook his head,
"but perchance in recounting his experience, the king, unable to exactly
reproduce in his own tongue the message brought to him by the sprite,
for the thoughts of the Immortals cannot be expressed in human speech,
conveyed a semblance of it in such words as he could command, and sought
to veil their incompetency by an agreeable measure. In like manner I
think may the art of poetry have been invented. It is an effort to
cover by wile of dulcet utterance the impotence of mortal speech to tell
the things that belong to the spirit. And, after all, language as we
know it is an uncertain interpreter of even human emotions. So many of
our words, and they our dearest, are but symbols representing unknown
quantities.

"But to return to my story," continued the Nawab, "the sprite waving her
arms beckoned the king to follow her, and led the way towards the
river's mouth. It entered the lake only a short distance from where they
were. The king experienced a poignant grief when for a moment he feared
that, unable to follow her, he must forever lose sight of his beauteous
visitant. But in another instant he was stepping into a tiny skiff which
suddenly appeared where a moment before had floated a lily. The magical
craft followed its spirit guide, moving against the tide, impelled by
unseen power, and ever and anon the sprite beckoned him onward. Soon
they entered the river, which here was deep, broad, and smoothly
flowing. Motion ceased when they were under a high overhanging bank
whose drooping foliage screened them from view. Here his guide again
spoke:

     "'Ask and ye hear, O king, 'tis meet
     That mortal want should be replete
     From fulness of immortal state.'

"At once his soul's sadness found voice and he cried:

"'Tell me how may my increase in virtue resemble this river in its
onward flow?'

"Then the spirit answered:

     "'From veiled spring that river sweeps
       Whose swelling tides in glory
     Roll onward to th' infinite deeps,
       It is the soul's own story.'

"Again she beckoned him on, and without effort of his own he glided over
the water until they paused again where a lotus flower rested on the
tide. The bees clustered around it, attesting its sweetness, and when
the king bent over it and breathed its odour he cried:

"'Ah, how shall my piety be pure like the lotus, and the savour of my
virtues spread abroad?'

"And again the sprite replied:

     "'Fairest flowers bloom unseen,
       Graces that are manifest
     Are of largess less serene;
       Ever veiléd things are best.'

"When the eve deepened they were in a forest, a single star overhead
shone through the gloom, and was reflected in the water. Looking upward
the king asked for the third time:

"'How shall the days of my life be glorious and shine like the stars?'

"Ere she plunged beneath the flood to vanish forever, his guide
answered:

     "'Love, like the star, the shade of eve,
       Seclusion, heavenly rest,
     And calm, for these things interweave
       The bowers of the Blest?'

"The king was now at the river's secret source, and on the bank above
the deep pool he saw a man of a more princely aspect than any he had
ever known. He stood grand and divine, extending his hand with a most
benignant smile, and the story goes that the king perceived that he held
a luminous gem, some say a diamond and some an emerald--both stones, as
has often been proved, having magical potency. I cannot tell what it
was, but the king reached out his own hand to touch it, when instantly,
he knew not how, it seemed that something, a Resolve, a Desire, who can
say what, went from him into the bright orb, bearing which the creature
of light arose through the air, ascending higher and higher, bearing the
jewel which shone like the everlasting stars. And the king knew that his
soul's life had gone to other regions beyond the knowledge and speech of
men.

"The magical skiff bore him swiftly down the stream and disappeared as
he stepped from it to his palace. And tradition has it that his
heaviness of heart was gone from that night, and that his soul increased
in excellence and beauty, but that of its hidden life he was ever averse
to tell."



CHAPTER XVI.


When the Nawab had concluded his tale, much discourse ensued regarding
the unusual occurrences he had related and their significance.

"And," said the Rajah, who was a lover of verse, "how true it is that
poetry lends an illusive charm to conceptions ordinary in themselves,
like a lovely screen which bestows a grace on the scantiness it only
half conceals. Poetry hath an advantage over prose."

"But an advantage compensated on the other hand by the elusiveness of
its lightsome spirit, its grace so easily lost," said a poet who wrote
songs for the pleasure of the Court. "The charm of poetry," he said
sadly, "is too ethereal to live in sordid company, and perishes oft in
the handling that had only proved the vigour of prose."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a primary characteristic of poetry that it cannot be translated.
The most that a translator can do is to express in another tongue the
main thought embodied, and enshrine it in a new poem. I have in
changing some dainty wind-blossom of song from one dialect to another of
the same language witnessed its instant transition into the realms of
prose, and regarded the metamorphosis with the guilty awe of one who
deals unwittingly in baleful magic.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now they spoke of the marvellous properties of precious stones, a
topic suggested, no doubt, by the story-teller's mention of a gleaming
jewel, and probably still more by the unspoken anxiety with which many
noted the non-return of the party who had gone in quest of the Sapphire.

"The diamond is possessed of many occult powers," said a courtier.

"Ay," replied another, "among gems the diamond has greater subtlety than
all others."

"I would like," said one, "to wear a circlet of well-chosen stones to
serve as oracle and counsellor. The opal should assure me of my friend's
fealty, the invisible slaves of the diamond should guard my fortunes,
the serpent that cast its harmful eye on me would be blinded by my
emerald, for, in fine, I believe that vassal genii attend each gem, and
obey the behests of him who holds it."

"The diamond," said the poet, "guards the destinies of lovers."

"Love," said Atmâ smiling, "is its own security, for it makes no
unwilling captive."

The look of hatred and rage which Lal Singh darted at him startled the
onlookers.

"The worst of sorcerers," said he, "are those who disclaim the use of
enchantment. Success in love, Atmâ Singh, means sometimes to die like a
dog."

But the Nawab interposed with moderate speech. "It is," said he, "a wise
man who knows the omens of the future, and is thereby guided."

"The services of a skilful necromancer are greatly needed at the
present," whispered a courtier.

Many of the company were now standing, scanning with anxious gaze the
distant horizon. They looked far a-field, but high overhead the robber
looked down on them. There was the falcon mid-way between earth and sky.
Now it began to sink. Swiftly it fell, and a cry escaped the lips of the
few who observed it. The bird's keeper was off with the expedition, but
as it reached the earth, a very few yards from the Rajah's circle, a
dozen men were instantly upon it. Foremost was Atmâ Singh, his hand it
was that grasped it. It was tired, and stood on his left wrist with
anything but the air of a convicted thief, as with head bent sideways it
inspected the throng. Atmâ strode forward to the Rajah, and a dismayed
cry arose that the Sapphire was lost indeed. The bird no longer held it.
Atmâ took no heed, but advancing made obeisance before Golab Singh, and
extended to him his captive.

"Your clemency, Maharajah," he said, "for the truant."

"Had he brought back the Sapphire he might have gained mercy," said the
Rajah, with more anger, Bertram thought, than he had ever seen him
display. "Take away the knave out of my sight, and despatch a horseman
at once to the Palace with command that four hundred men forthwith
search all this plain, with every tree on it and every stream that
crosses it, until they find the jewel."

Lal Singh since his angry outburst had stood aside, his narrow face
contracted, and had not ceased to watch Atmâ from the moment when he
seized the falcon. His cunning eyes followed the young Sikh as he bowed
before the Ruler of Kashmir, and now gliding forward he cringed before
Golab Singh, as he hissed in a voice nearly inarticulate with triumph
and hate, "Maharajah, the plain is wide; before entering on so extensive
an undertaking, order someone more trusty than Atmâ Singh to recover the
stone by searching the leal descendant of the holy Nanuk! I, though less
lofty of sentiment and aspiration, am filled with horror and grief,
because I have perceived him to take the Sapphire from the bird the
moment it touched ground."

The effect of this charge can hardly be described: indignation on the
part of some, among whom were Atmâ's British friends, at what they felt
assured must be a groundless accusation; suspicion and anger on the part
of others. "Let him immediately be seized and searched," commanded the
Rajah.

The first part of his command was already obeyed, and almost before a
protest could be uttered, Atmâ's arms were bound behind him and Golab
Singh's servants proceeded zealously to search his person. In silence
and with lips compressed, Bertram and his brother officers looked on
whilst he submitted to this indignity, no syllable escaping him from
the moment when he fixed his accusing gaze on his foe. But when a tiny
onyx-box of curious workmanship was produced from the folds of his
girdle, and laid before the Rajah of Kashmir, he did not repeat the
look, although on its appearance Lal uttered an exulting exclamation.

The onyx-box was all that rewarded the scrutiny of the Rajah's servants.
"Open it!" he commanded, and forthwith the fatal casket was unclosed.
Golab Singh, bending over it, inhaled the strong and subtle odour that
had nearly overcome Atmâ the morning he received the box from the hands
of Nama at the sacred shrine. The Maharajah turned pale, and with
difficulty recovered his breath. "Miscreant!" cried the courtiers.

Now a paper was unfolded bearing the seal and superscription of the
Maharanee Junda Kowr, the dangerous foe of the British to whom Golab
Singh owed his throne.

"An emissary of the Ranee," cried some.

"A spy," shouted others, while Golab Singh had thoughts which it would
not have been prudent to utter aloud in that mixed assemblage.

"A despatch from the Ranee withheld by this traitor for who knows what
villainous purpose!"

"He shall pay the penalty," he thundered, "before the sun rise
to-morrow. Carry him bound to a dungeon!"

Now an Englishman who stood beside him touched the prisoner on the
shoulder. His face had grown stern, and he narrowly searched Atmâ's
countenance as he spoke gravely but gently enough. "Have you no word to
say, Atmâ Singh, when you are accused of playing so base a conspirator's
part against the life of your host and of your friends?"

Then Atmâ spoke and proudly, "No word, Sahib, which a Sikh may utter."

Excitement prevailed and great consternation. Englishmen exchanged
glances; plots, they believed, of an unguessed extent surrounded them.
Musselmen and Sikhs looked at one another with fierce suspicion.
"Where," their faces asked, "are his accomplices?" And no look of doubt
fell on his denouncer. The Rajah's rage increased every moment, adding
to the commotion which delayed the fulfilment of his commands. To
enhance the confusion, the party of horsemen now returned. They pressed
around, hearing and giving tidings. In the tumult Bertram reached
Atmâ's side, but before he could speak, Atmâ whispered in his ear, "Meet
me in the Moslem Burying ground to-morrow night." Then with a sudden and
strong effort, swift as a bird, he freed himself from the excited
uncertain grasp that held him, and springing upon a horse he was off on
the wings of the wind. A score of men scrambled to their saddles, but
they were in confusion, and their horses were tired, whilst Atmâ had
mounted a fresh horse just brought forward for his own safe escort to
prison. In the disorder, he gained a few priceless moments of time, and
threading well his way between the groves that dotted the plain, he was
soon lost to view.



CHAPTER XVII.


     How fair is Night, how hushed the scene,
     Earth's teeming hosts are here no longer seen,
                 Only a chosen few,
                            A happy few,
     The blooming cereus and the blessed dew
                 Ordained have been
     To weave beneath the solemn moon and still,
     Some holy rite, some mystic pledge fulfil.

     That loveliest star fades from my sight,
     Leaves the fond presence of the doting night,
                 And softly sinks awhile,
                            A little while,
     Its radiance into brief exile
                 From mourning night.
     So shall my blissful flame of life expire,
     So fail from light, and love, and life's desire.

So pondered Atmâ in that strange calm that follows an overwhelming
stroke of calamity. It was midnight, and the moon shone on the old
Moslem Burial Place, where he awaited the coming of Bertram. The trees
cast long black shadows, and here and there the monuments gleamed like
silver. His mind had not yet grasped the full enormity of the conspiracy
of which he was the victim, but he knew that the perfidy of Lal and the
loss of the Sapphire meant death to his hopes of winning victory for the
Khalsa. But his heart was strangely still. He had been waiting since
sundown, but he did not doubt his friend, and interrupted his
meditations every now and then to look expectantly in the direction
whence he knew he must come. At length a figure emerged from the
darkness and silence at the further end of a long avenue leading from
the entrance, and Atmâ knew the form and step grown in those past days
of pleasant intercourse so dear and familiar. He went to meet his
friend; Bertram's face was graver than he had known it in the past, and
the kindly eyes were full of questioning.

Atmâ spoke first, and the joyful tone of his voice surprised himself.
Perhaps he was more hopeful at heart than he knew.

"My heart was assured that you would come, Bertram Sahib."

"My English friends," replied Bertram, "have left Jummoo, and are now on
their way to Lahore, where I must join them. I could not go without an
effort to meet you here, not only because you bade me, but I also
desired it, for I have been full of distressful perplexity, refusing to
doubt you, my friend whom I have believed leal and true."

"But you are grieved no longer," returned Atmâ. "As your eyes meet mine,
their sadness vanishes like the clouds of morning before the light of
day."

Bertram smiled. "True, the candour of your ingenuous gaze does much to
reassure me. I gather from your brief reply to my brother officer that
loyalty to your nation and faith forbids you to speak openly, but surely
this much you can tell me, for I ask concerning yourself alone:--Can it
be that you who have seemed an embodiment of truth and candour have all
this time been contemplating the destruction of your host, and my
destruction also," he added slowly, "whose hand has so often been
clasped in yours? Truth and Purity seemed dear to you, Atmâ Singh. Can
it be possible that you and I have together searched into heavenly
truth, while one of us held in his heart the foulest treachery?"

"I know of no treachery to Golab Singh," replied Atmâ steadfastly. "As
for you, brother of my love, reflect that the dear hope, faint and
distant though it be now, of the triumph of the Khalsa need not imply
disgrace nor disaster to your people, who, unwillingly at first,
burdened themselves with the affairs of the Punjaub. The later treachery
at Mooltan has been abundantly expiated by the innocent as well as the
guilty."

He stopped abruptly, for a sound like distant sobbing broke the
stillness. They listened, but it was not repeated.

"Atmâ, I believe you. I can perceive your position, and how, so
unhappily, you have been able to reconcile insidious intrigue with
sentiments of honour and purity. But I have much to tell you, for I
would warn you against enemies on all sides. Rajah Lal, for some reason
your mortal foe, has convinced Golab Singh that you connived at his
death by means of the poison discovered in the casket." Here the
Englishman's eyes sought Atmâ's with sorrowful question in their blue
depths, but he received no other response than a frank and fearless
gaze. "He accuses you," continued Bertram, "of conspiring to rob him,
Lal Singh, of his bride," Atmâ started, "for it seems his betrothal was
celebrated during his recent absence from Kashmir. But I have startled
you, Atmâ Singh, tell me--"

A woman's scream interrupted him. It sounded near by, and both sprang
forward, when Bertram, recollecting himself, stayed his companion.

"Halt," he said, "you must remain concealed. I will go alone if we hear
more."

Another shriek rent the air, and he hastened forward, Atmâ proceeding
slowly in the same direction by a more circuitous way. He was stunned by
what he had just heard. It seemed to him that the shriek which had
broken into the midst of Bertram's communication had been his own, and
that it was being repeated on all sides. In reality the only sound that
now disturbed the night was the echo of his own and Bertram's footsteps,
the latter hurried and irregular for the ground was uneven.

A few moments passed and the steps ceased, and Atmâ standing still heard
a smothered exclamation. Another voice spoke from a distance angrily,
and, fearing for his friend, he now hastened forward rapidly, though
still cautiously. When he reached the spot, he found Bertram kneeling
beside a prostrate female form, a small and childlike figure. The veil,
torn aside, was stained with blood, and Atmâ's heart stood still, for
the unconscious form was that of Moti's little maid. He failed to see
Bertram's imperative gesture, motioning him back, and Bertram then spoke
in rapid though subdued accents.

"Go back, I entreat you; no one will harm me, but your life is marked--"

He had better not have spoken. There was a cry of fiendish glee and then
the report of a gun, and Bertram fell back with a groan. A shriek of
triumph rose at a distance. "The traitor Atmâ is dead!" A noise of the
flying feet of Lal's minions and then silence. Atmâ stood alone. With
anguished heart he raised the unconscious head which his own love had
lured to destruction. To his unspeakable joy the eyes opened, and the
loved voice faintly strove to bid him fly. The effort made him swoon
again, and when he next revived it was to ask for water. Atmâ ran to a
rill which he had noted before, and speedily returned with a draught.
After drinking, Bertram raised himself slightly, and directing his
friend's attention to the body of the servant-maid he whispered:

"With her last breath she bade me search the tomb." Until now Atmâ had
not observed that they were in the shadow of Sangita's tomb. The vines
were torn from its ancient portal, which hung open on broken hinge.

"Go," said Bertram, but Atmâ would first staunch and bind his wound.

At length he might leave him, and then lifting the door and the trailing
vines aside to allow the moonlight to penetrate he looked in. A moment
later he had entered. He remained long, so long that Bertram, uneasy and
suffering, called him again and again, but without response. Half an
hour--an hour passed, and then he feebly and painfully crept to the
doorway of the tomb. He saw Atmâ prostrate on the damp sepulchral mould,
his face buried in his hands, and beside him lay still, and cold, and
lifeless, a girl attired in bridal finery, with jewels gleaming on her
dark hair and on her stiffening arms. It was Moti.

     Ah, the worms were gloating,
         This is by-and-bye.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Far retired in the woody recesses to the south of Jummoo, thither come
by a winding labyrinth of ways were the fugitives. Bertram, languid and
pale, lay on a couch of moss and leaves built by his friend. His gaze
rested on Atmâ with compassion, for he knew that his wound was of the
spirit, and he feared that without a balm the sore must be mortal. The
soul dies sometimes before we say of the man "he is dead," and at that
strange death we shudder lest it should know no awakening.

Atmâ sat near by, dumb and unheeding. His fingers toyed idly with a
Pearl, on which he gazed as if seeing other forms than those about him.
For many hours he was silent, rising at times to proffer food and water
to the wounded man, but oblivious of his own needs, and only
half-conscious that he was not alone. Daylight faded and stars came out
before he spoke, addressing none and looking away into silence:--

         "O swift-winged Time,
     Bearing to what unknown estate,
         What silent clime,
     The burden of our hopes and fears,
     The story of our smiles and tears,
         And hapless fate?

         Those vanished days,
     Their golden light can none restore;
         Those sovereign rays
     That set o'er western seas to-night,
     This tranquil moon that shines so bright,
         Have paled before
     Returning in their time, but, oh!
     The golden light of long ago
         Returns no more.

         This little Pearl,
     Of water born, shall year by year
         Imprison in its tiny sphere
     Those fleeting tints whose mystic strife
         And shadowy whirl
     Of colour seem a form of life;
     Nor ever shall their sea-born home
         Dissolve in foam;
     But this frail build of love and trust
         Will sink to dust."

The magnitude of his calamity had dulled the sharpness of each stroke,
and thus it was not of loss of love, faith and fortune that he spoke,
but of the frailty of life. This is our habit. A ship too richly
freighted goes down, and straightway the owner laments, not his own
deprivation, but that "all flesh is grass." "Vanity of vanities," he
cries, "all is vanity," and we but guess at his hurt. A mysterious
consciousness is wiser than his reason, and connects the broken current
of his life with a mighty movement which he knows afar, but cannot tell
whether it be of Time or Eternity. He who designed all, "did not He make
one?"

Our days are empty, how should they be otherwise in a world whose very
vanity is infinite?

"Imperial Sorrow loves her sway, or I had sooner broken your vigil, my
brother," said Bertram. "I perceive that the falsity of life appals your
spirit. It is true that the faint lustre of that tiny orb will long
survive these poor frames of ours; it is a fitting emblem of the
deathless tenant within."

But to Atmâ it was the symbol of a lost love. He looked on it
listlessly. It seemed a long while since Moti died, for in his heart
joy, and hope, and youth had died since. The immortal destiny of man, a
belief dear to the Sikh, seemed a thing indifferent. Death might not be
final, but it was yesterday he mourned, and of it he said: "it is past."

He knew of the soul's Immortality, but of the Continuity of Life he had
not heard,

       *       *       *       *       *

     Dear Life, cling close, true friend, thro' well or ill,
       Mine aye, we cannot part our company.
     Though breathing cease and busy heart be still,
       Together will we wake eternally.

     Strange Life, in whose immeasurable clasp,
       The past, the present and the vast to be
     Mingle,--O Time, the world is for thy grasp,
       I and my life for immortality.

     Those bygone hours that were too bright to stay,
       And vanished from my sight like morning mist,
     Will dawn again, and, ne'er to fade away,
       The fleeting moments endlessly exist.

     The present lives, the past and future twine;
       My life, my days forevermore endure.
     My life--it comes I know not whence, but mine
       For aye 'twill be, indissolubly sure.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the night drew on, Atmâ went away. In thought Bertram followed him,
full of sad solicitude.

He strode along the heights. The cooling air and the sense of isolation
were grateful to his worn spirit. He wandered far until he found himself
in a rocky fortress, vast, black and terrible. The lowering peaks above
inclined their giant heads to one another in awful conclave, and the
ghastly moonbeams pierced to the gloom below, where they enwrapped the
lonely form of Atmâ in a phosphorescent glare. The winds broke among the
cliffs, and with shrieks and fearful laughter proclaimed the dark
councils of the peaks, and in the din were heard mutterings and
imprecations. A transport seized the soul of Atmâ. The horrible glee of
the night awoke wrath, and he hurled defiance to the mocking winds.

     "What! are th' infernal powers moved for me,
     That all the hosts of hell me welcome give,
     And claim me comrade in their revelry?
     Abhorrent things, I am not yours, I live,
     I know I live because I think on death!
     I live, dead things, to revel among tombs,
     A ghoul, henceforth I feast on buried joys,
     My soul the burial-place, where lie, beneath
     A fearful night of cries and hellish spumes,
     My lovely youth with jovial convoys,
     Hopes, happy-eyed, and linked solaces,
     And in the lapse of hateful years they will--
     My guileless joys, my rose-hued memories--
     Corrupt and rot and turn to venomed ill.

     O cherished dreams of Truth! O sacred bond
     Unlovely grown! O faith so mutable!
     Shades of my fathers, not august but fond!
     How hollow were the darlings of my dream!
     But she, O Lotus-flower, my promised bride,
     Star of my youth, my pure unspotted dove!
     Again I see her in her gentle pride,
     Her starry eyes meet mine with melting beam;
     Unsightly grief approach not near my Love,
     Flee from her presence, O thou gaunt Despair,
     Good Time, embalm her daintily and fair,
     Link her sweet fame with hymns and fragrancy.
     And happy stars, and blissful utterance,
     And with all transports that immortal be.
     Fold her, good Time, from my remembrance,
     O, this is bitterest mortality,
     That living heart of love should be the urn
     Where lie the ashes of our joys that turn
     To bitterness, and all our lives o'erflow
     Till dearest love be grown a hateful woe;
     My sun of youth has set, methinks it should
     Have set with such a splendour as had all
     My sober days with mellow light imbued;
     O bitter sun of youth whose knavish pledge
     Of high-born hope and holy privilege
     But led me undefended to my fall,
     O lamentable day when I was born!
     What shapes are those that mock me with their scorn?
     What trumpet-call is this within my breast?
     I am grown wise, my senses are increased,
     It is the breath of fiends that drowns my speech,
     The bellowing of devils as they feast.
     I am the taunt of devils, and they preach
     Of death, of cursing, and of endless woe;
     The lightnings of this devil-tempest show
     Horrors not dreamed of

            *       *       *       *       *

                            O thou Vengeful Power,
     I am forspent, if merit there can be
     In self accusing, in this darkest hour
     O hear me, and I pray thee pity me,
     For I have sinned, O fool, unwise and blind!
     And I am Atmâ; whom thou hadst designed
     For life of sanctity and holy quest.
     Lord, I am Atmâ, and I have transgressed;
     I sought the Present whom we may not seek,
     The Future whom I slighted went before
     And waited arméd and my goods did take.
     This is my sin that sent on high behest
     I slept; Lord, as one waited at thy golden door
     A hundred years, and snatched a little rest,
     And waked to see the closing gateway drawn
     And lived thereafter only in the dawn
     Of that brief moment's light, so also I
     Must dream of wasted radiance till I die."



CHAPTER XIX.


The quiet days were passing slowly. Bertram's wound did not heal, and
his strength grew less. The unseen powers that throng the air and watch
our ways arranged about him the phantasmagoria of dissolution. It was
the waning of the moon. A tender mist, which had long veiled a mountain
crest, now unfolded its depths and was wafted away. A star shot across
the welkin and was no more seen. Summer blossoms faded with the dying
season. The music of the pine-boughs had a more melancholy cadence, and
birds of passage took their flight. Atmâ marked these things, and often
withdrew to lament.

One evening they watched the shadows lengthening. Atmâ's heart was
oppressed, but Bertram looked on the shifting scene with happy undaunted
smile. In voice pathetic only from mortal weakness and strong with
immortality he said:

     "When mists and dreams and shadows flee,
       And happy hills so far and high
     Bend low in benedicite,
       I know the break of day is nigh.

     Thus have I watched in daisied mead
       A grayer heaven bending low,
     And heard the music of a brook
       In meet response more softly flow,
     Until at mystic signal given
     From realm entranced the spell was riven,
             The sunbeams glanced,
             The wavelets danced,
     And gladness spread from earth to heaven.

             This little flower
     Right bravely blooming at my feet
             So dainty, sweet,
     Has missed the spirit of the hour.
     But stay, the tender calyx thrills,
     It feels the silence of the hills,
     Behold it droops, in haste to be
     At one with that hushed company."

_Atmâ:_

     "Not day, but night, beloved friend,
             Long doleful night,
     The shadows of the eve portend."

_Bertram:_

     "Watcher unseeing! what of the night!
             'Tis past and gone.
     I know th' advance and joy of light!
     Look how for it all things put on
     Such hues as in comparison
     The earth and sky to darkness turn,
     Hues of the sard, and chrysolite
     And sapphire herald in the morn."

_Atmâ:_

     "Ah! woe is me for day so quickly past,
     For morning fled, and noontide unexpressed."

_Bertram:_

     "The subtly-quickening breath of morn
           my inmost being is borne,
     And I behold th' unearthly train
     Of solemn splendours that pertain
             To seraph state,
     Such as our glories symbolize.
     They sweep in countless bright convoys
     Athwart my blissful view, they seem
     Completion of all pleasure known
     Or loved, and of our fairest dream
             End and interpretation."

_Atmâ:_

     "Let be, my friend; so it be morn to thee
     I make no moan, though thy day's dawn shall be
     Night of desertion and lament to me."



CHAPTER XX.


Death, whether it be day or night, overtook Bertram in the mountain
fastness, and Atmâ knew once more that the human soul is lonely, which
he had been fain to doubt or deny in the pleasant delusion of
friendship. He lived alone, and, after a while, with returning mental
health, he sometimes gave way to bitter reflection on these, his wasted
days, though knowing himself unable still to take up the broken thread
of active existence. But, growing stronger, he was at last able to
perceive that this apparently barren season was the best harvest time of
his life, for, adrift from human ties and from religions, he was at last
alone with God. His battles were sore to fight, the solid earth seemed
gone from beneath his feet, and the heavens were become an illusion.
There was a time when he cried out that "all men are liars," as we have
all cried, but the instinct of the soul happily arrested him then.
Happily, for it is strangely true that he who loses faith in man will
soon lose faith in God. It is as if the great heart of the Racé,
recoiling from suicidal impulse, warned the individual from treason
against his kind--a suggestion of the unity underlying all created
things. This the best religions have known, and have founded on it a law
that he who loves God must love his brother also. Apprehending this,
Atmâ grew again in heart to forgive his fellowmen who had so sorely
sinned against him, and, musing on their ways he pitied them, and knew
that the true attitude towards humanity is one of pity. He pitied men in
their crimes, in their unbeliefs, and in their faiths, and presently he
saw in these faiths which he had decried a spiritual beauty. His own
creed, grown hateful to him as the vainest of delusions, reasserted its
claims to reverence, and the voice that had cried to his childhood out
of the desert of silence and mystery that surrounds every human soul
spoke to him again as a voice of inspiration. Every man's faith is the
faith of his fathers, the faith learned on his mother's knee. He, who,
increasing knowledge, discerns the different degrees of darkness that
characterize our religious theories, and chooses for himself one from
among them, increases his soul's sorrow, for our light is darkness, and
God is not to be found for searching. "It is not by our feet or change
of place that men leave Thee nor return unto Thee." The quietness of
habit is more conducive to spirituality than the progress whose gain is
so infinitesimal, and whose heavy price is the destruction of the habit
of faith. It is better to believe a falsehood than to doubt a truth. The
habitual attitude of the soul, its upward gaze is more important than
the quality of the veil through which it discerns the Eternal. During
the days when Atmâ lived without the religion which was so mortal that
it died in his heart because he found that its friends were false, he
knew God, for this veil was removed, and when the weakness of human
nature again demanded the support of habit and formula, he turned to the
mystic rites and prayers endeared and hallowed by association, but he
knew now that God is a spirit, for spirit with spirit had met. A
silence, born of great reverence, rested upon him, and he no more
clamoured to save the world. The fall of the Khalsa no longer meant the
downfall of God, and in time even the heartache for the vanquishment of
his early dreams disappeared.

And the memory of his love? Love is transient, but frozen lips and
closed eyes can speak with a power unknown to the living, and the power
abides to a longer day than the living voice had controlled. And so the
night of his mourning was long, but the longest night has a dawn, and it
seems to me that the saddest thing I can say in ending my tale is that
the morning dawned and grief was forgotten. It is sad that we forget
joys; it is sadder to forget sorrows.

And so this story of religion that called itself heavenly, and love that
was most mortal, is over. Atmâ had had of earth's most beautiful things,

     "O Love, Religion, Music--all
     That's left of Eden upon earth,"--

but no--Love and Religion are not left.

THE END.





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