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´╗┐Title: Complete Project Gutenberg Works of George Meredith
Author: Meredith, George, 1828-1909
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Complete Project Gutenberg Works of George Meredith" ***

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By George Meredith



   CONTENTS:
     The Shaving of Shagpat
     The Ordeal of Richard Feverel
     Sandra Belloni
     Rhoda Fleming
     Evan Harrington
     Vittoria
     The Adventures of Harry Richmond
     Beauchamp's Career
     The Egoist
     The Tragic Comedians
     Diana of the Crossways
     One of Our Conquerors
     Lord Ormont and his Aminta
     The Amazing Marriage
     Celt and Saxon
     Farina
     Case of General Ople
     The Tale of Chloe
     The House on the Beach
     The Gentleman of Fifty
     The Sentimentalists
     On The Idea Of Comedy And Of The Uses Of The Comic Spirit
     Miscellaneous Prose
       Introduction To W. M. Thackeray's "The Four Georges"
       A Pause In The Strife.
       Concession To The Celt.
       Leslie Stephen.
       Correspondence From The Seat Of War In Italy Letters
         Written To The 'Morning Post' From The Seat Of War In Italy.
     Poetry:
       A Reading of Life, and Other Poems
       Poems, Volume 1.
       Poems, Volume 2.
       Poems, Volume 3.



THE SHAVING OF SHAGPAT

By George Meredith

AN ARABIAN ENTERTAINMENT


1898/1909



     CONTENTS:

     THE THWACKINGS
     THE STORY OF BHANAVAR THE BEAUTIFUL
     THE BETROTHAL
     PUNISHMENT OF SHAHPESH, THE PERSIAN, ON KHIPIL, THE BUILDER
     THE GENIE KARAZ
     THE WELL OF PARAVID
     THE HORSE GARRAVEEN
     THE TALKING HAWK
     GOORELKA OF OOLB
     THE LILY OF THE ENCHANTED SEA
     STORY OF NOORNA BIN NOORKA, THE GENIE KARAZ, AND THE PRINCESS OF OOLB
     THE WILES OF RABESQURAT
     THE PALACE OF AKLIS
     THE SONS OF AKLIS
     THE SWORD OF AKLIS
     KOOROOKH
     THE VEILED FIGURE
     THE BOSOM OF NOORNA
     THE REVIVAL
     THE PLOT
     THE DISH OF POMEGRANATE GRAIN
     THE BURNING OF THE IDENTICAL
     THE FLASHES OF THE BLADE
     CONCLUSION



THE SHAVING OF SHAGPAT

BOOK I.

THE THWACKINGS
THE STORY OF BHANAVAR THE BEAUTIFUL



THE THWACKINGS

It was ordained that Shibli Bagarag, nephew to the renowned Baba
Mustapha, chief barber to the Court of Persia, should shave Shagpat, the
son of Shimpoor, the son of Shoolpi, the son of Shullum; and they had
been clothiers for generations, even to the time of Shagpat, the
illustrious.

Now, the story of Shibli Bagarag, and of the ball he followed, and of the
subterranean kingdom he came to, and of the enchanted palace he entered,
and of the sleeping king he shaved, and of the two princesses he
released, and of the Afrite held in subjection by the arts of one and
bottled by her, is it not known as 'twere written on the finger-nails of
men and traced in their corner-robes? As the poet says:

     Ripe with oft telling and old is the tale,
     But 'tis of the sort that can never grow stale.

Now, things were in that condition with Shibli Bagarag, that on a certain
day he was hungry and abject, and the city of Shagpat the clothier was
before him; so he made toward it, deliberating as to how he should
procure a meal, for he had not a dirhem in his girdle, and the
remembrance of great dishes and savoury ingredients were to him as the
illusion of rivers sheening on the sands to travellers gasping with
thirst.

And he considered his case, crying, 'Surely this comes of wandering, and
'tis the curse of the inquiring spirit! for in Shiraz, where my craft is
in favour, I should be sitting now with my uncle, Baba Mustapha, the
loquacious one, cross-legged, partaking of seasoned sweet dishes, dipping
my fingers in them, rejoicing my soul with scandal of the Court!'

Now, he came to a knoll of sand under a palm, from which the yellow domes
and mosques of the city of Shagpat, and its black cypresses, and marble
palace fronts, and shining pillars, and lofty carven arches that spanned
half-circles of the hot grey sky, were plainly visible. Then gazed he
awhile despondingly on the city of Shagpat, and groaned in contemplation
of his evil plight, as is said by the poet:

     The curse of sorrow is comparison!
        As the sun casteth shade, night showeth star,
     We, measuring what we were by what we are,
        Behold the depth to which we are undone.

Wherefore he counselleth:

     Look neither too much up, nor down at all,
     But, forward stepping, strive no more to fall.

And the advice is excellent; but, as is again said:

     The preacher preacheth, and the hearer heareth,
     But comfort first each function requireth.

And 'wisdom to a hungry stomach is thin pottage,' saith the shrewd reader
of men. Little comfort was there with Shibli Bagarag, as he looked on the
city of Shagpat the clothier! He cried aloud that his evil chance had got
the better of him, and rolled his body in the sand, beating his breast,
and conjuring up images of the profusion of dainties and the abundance of
provision in Shiraz, exclaiming, 'Well-a-way and woe's me! this it is to
be selected for the diversion of him that plotteth against man.' Truly is
it written:

     On different heads misfortunes come:
        One bears them firm, another faints,
     While this one hangs them like a drum
        Whereon to batter loud complaints.

And of the three kinds, they who bang the drum outnumber the silent ones
as do the billows of the sea the ships that swim, or the grains of sand
the trees that grow; a noisy multitude.

Now, he was in the pits of despondency, even as one that yieldeth without
further struggle to the waves of tempest at midnight, when he was ware of
one standing over him,--a woman, old, wrinkled, a very crone, with but
room for the drawing of a thread between her nose and her chin; she was,
as is cited of them who betray the doings of Time,

     Wrinkled at the rind, and overripe at the core,

and every part of her nodded and shook like a tree sapped by the waters,
and her joints were sharp as the hind-legs of a grasshopper; she was
indeed one close-wrecked upon the rocks of Time.

Now, when the old woman had scanned Shibli Bagarag, she called to him, 'O
thou! what is it with thee, that thou rollest as one reft of his wits?'

He answered her, 'I bewail my condition, which is beggary, and the lack
of that which filleth with pleasantness.'

So the old woman said, 'Tell me thy case.'

He answered her, 'O old woman, surely it was written at my birth that I
should take ruin from the readers of planets. Now, they proclaimed that I
was one day destined for great things, if I stood by my tackle, I, a
barber. Know then, that I have had many offers and bribes, seductive
ones, from the rich and the exalted in rank; and I heeded them not,
mindful of what was foretold of me. I stood by my tackle as a warrior
standeth by his arms, flourishing them. Now, when I found great things
came not to me, and 'twas the continuance of sameness and satiety with
Baba Mustapha, my uncle, in Shiraz,--the tongue-wagger, the endless
tattler,--surely I was advised by the words of the poet to go forth in
search of what was wanting, and he says:

        "Thou that dreamest an Event,
     While Circumstance is but a waste of sand,
     Arise, take up thy fortunes in thy hand,
        And daily forward pitch thy tent."

Now, I passed from city to city, proclaiming my science, holding aloft my
tackle. Wullahy! many adventures were mine, and if there's some day
propitiousness in fortune, O old woman, I'll tell thee of what befell me
in the kingdom of Shah Shamshureen: 'tis wondrous, a matter to draw down
the lower jaw with amazement! Now, so it was, that in the eyes of one
city I was honoured and in request, by reason of my calling, and I fared
sumptuously, even as a great officer of state surrounded by slaves,
lounging upon clouds of silk stuffs, circled by attentive ears: in
another city there was no beast so base as I. Wah! I was one hunted of
men and an abomination; no housing for me, nought to operate upon. I was
the lean dog that lieth in wait for offal. It seemeth certain, O old
woman, that a curse hath fallen on barbercraft in these days, because of
the Identical, whose might I know not. Everywhere it is growing in
disrepute; 'tis languishing! Nevertheless till now I have preserved my
tackle, and I would descend on yonder city to exercise it, even for a
livelihood, forgetting awhile great things, but that I dread men may have
changed there also,--and there's no stability in them, I call Allah
(whose name be praised!) to witness; so should I be a thing unsightly,
subject to hateful castigation; wherefore is it that I am in that state
described by the poet, when,

     "Dreading retreat, dreading advance to make,
     Round we revolve, like to the wounded snake."

Is not my case now a piteous one, one that toucheth the tender corner in
man and woman?'

When she that listened had heard him to an end, she shook her garments,
crying, 'O youth, son of my uncle, be comforted! for, if it is as I
think, the readers of planets were right, and thou art thus early within
reach of great things--nigh grasping them.'

Then she fell to mumbling and reciting jigs of verse, quaint measures;
and she pored along the sand to where a line had been drawn, and saw that
the footprints of the youth were traced along it. Lo, at that sight she
clapped her hands joyfully, and ran up to the youth, and peered in his
face, exclaiming, 'Great things indeed! and praise thou the readers of
planets, O nephew of the barber, they that sent thee searching the Event
thou art to master. Wullahy! have I not half a mind to call thee already
Master of the Event?'

Then she abated somewhat in her liveliness, and said to him, 'Know that
the city thou seest is the city of Shagpat, the clothier, and there's no
one living on the face of earth, nor a soul that requireth thy craft more
than he. Go therefore thou, bold of heart, brisk, full of the
sprightliness of the barber, and enter to him. Lo, thou'lt see him
lolling in his shop-front to be admired of this people--marvelled at. Oh!
no mistaking of Shagpat, and the mole might discern Shagpat among myriads
of our kind; and enter thou to him gaily, as to perform a friendly
office, one meriting thanks and gratulations, saying, ''I will preserve
thee the Identical!'' Now he'll at first feign not to understand thee,
dense of wit that he is! but mince not matters with him, perform well thy
operation, and thou wilt come to great things. What say I? 'tis certain
that when thou hast shaved Shagpat thou wilt have achieved the greatest
of things, and be most noteworthy of thy race, thou, Shibli Bagarag, even
thou! and thou wilt be Master of the Event, so named in anecdotes and
histories and records, to all succeeding generations.'

At her words the breast of Shibli Bagarag took in a great wind, and he
hung his head a moment to ponder them; and he thought, 'There's
provokingness in the speech of this old woman, and she's one that
instigateth keenly. She called me by my name! Heard I that? 'Tis a
mystery!' And he thought, 'Peradventure she is a Genie, one of an ill
tribe, and she's luring me to my perdition in this city! How if that be
so?' And again he thought, 'It cannot be! She's probably the Genie that
presided over my birth, and promised me dower of great things through the
mouths of the readers of planets.'

Now, when Shibli Bagarag had so deliberated, he lifted his sight, and lo,
the old woman was no longer before him! He stared, and rubbed his eyes,
but she was clean gone. Then ran he to the knolls and eminences that were
scattered about, to command a view, but she was nowhere visible. So he
thought, ''Twas a dream!' and he was composing himself to despair upon
the scant herbage of one of those knolls, when as he chanced to gaze down
the city below, he saw there a commotion and a crowd of people flocking
one way; he thought, ''Twas surely no dream? come not Genii, and go they
not, in the fashion of that old woman? I'll even descend on yonder city,
and try my tackle on Shagpat, inquiring for him, and if he is there, I
shall know I have had to do with a potent spirit. Allah protect me!'

So, having shut together the clasps of resolve, he arose and made for the
gates of the city, and entered it by the principal entrance. It was a
fair city, the fairest and chief of that country; prosperous, powerful; a
mart for numerous commodities, handicrafts, wares; round it a wild
country and a waste of sand, ruled by the lion in his wrath, and in it
the tiger, the camelopard, the antelope, and other animals. Hither, in
caravans, came the people of Oolb and the people of Damascus, and the
people of Vatz, and they of Bagdad, and the Ringheez, great traders, and
others, trading; and there was constant flow of intercourse between them
and the city of Shagpat. Now as Shibli Bagarag paced up one of the
streets of the city, he beheld a multitude in procession following one
that was crowned after the manner of kings, with a glittering crown, clad
in the yellow girdled robes, and he sporting a fine profusion of hair,
unequalled by all around him, save by one that was a little behind,
shadowed by his presence. So Shibli Bagarag thought, 'Is one of this
twain Shagpat? for never till now have I seen such rare growths, and
'twere indeed a bliss to slip the blade between them and those masses of
darkness that hang from them.' Then he stepped before the King, and made
himself prominent in his path, humbling himself; and it was as he
anticipated, the King prevented his removal by the slaves that would have
dragged him away, and desired a hearing as to his business, and what
brought him to the city, a stranger.

Thereupon Shibli Bagarag prostrated himself and cried, 'O great King,
Sovereign of the Time! surely I am one to be looked on with the eye of
grace; and I am nephew to Baba Mustapha, renowned in Shiraz, a barber;--I
a barber, and it is my prayer, O King of the Age, that thou take me under
thy protection and the shield of thy fair will, while I perform good work
in this city by operating on the unshorn.'

When he had spoken, the King made a point of his eyebrows, and exclaimed,
'Shiraz? So they hold out against Shagpat yet, aha? Shiraz! that nest of
them! that reptile's nest!' Then he turned to his Vizier beside him, and
said, 'What shall be done with this fellow?'

So the Vizier replied, ''Twere well, O King, he be summoned to a sense of
the loathsomeness of his craft by the agency of fifty stripes.'

The King said, ''Tis commanded!'

Then he passed forward in his majesty, and Shibli Bagarag was ware of the
power of five slaves upon him, and he was hurried at a quick pace through
the streets and before the eyes of the people, even to the common
receptacle of felons, and there received from each slave severally ten
thwacks with a thong: 'tis certain that at every thwack the thong took an
airing before it descended upon him. Then loosed they him, to wander
whither he listed; and disgust was strong in him by reason of the
disgrace and the severity of the administration of the blows. He strayed
along the streets in wretchedness, and hunger increased on him, assailing
him first as a wolf in his vitals, then as it had been a chasm yawning
betwixt his trunk and his lower members. And he thought, 'I have been
long in chase of great things, and the hope of attaining them is great;
yet, wullahy! would I barter all for one refreshing meal, and the sense
of fulness. 'Tis so, and sad is it!' And he was mindful of the poet's
words,--

     Who seeks the shadow to the substance sinneth,
     And daily craving what is not, he thinneth:
        His lean ambition how shall he attain?
     For with this constant foolishness he doeth,
     He, waxing liker to what he pursueth,
        Himself becometh what he chased in vain!

And again:

     Of honour half my fellows boast,--
        A thing that scorns and kills us:
     Methinks that honours us the most
        Which nourishes and fills us.

So he thought he would of a surety fling far away his tackle, discard
barbercraft, and be as other men, a mortal, forgotten with his
generation. And he cried aloud, 'O thou old woman! thou deceiver! what
halt thou obtained for me by thy deceits? and why put I faith in thee to
the purchase of a thwacking? Woe's me! I would thou hadst been but a
dream, thou crone! thou guileful parcel of belabouring bones!'

Now, while he lounged and strolled, and was abusing the old woman, he
looked before him, and lo, one lolling in his shop-front, and people
standing outside the shop, marking him with admiration and reverence, and
pointing him out to each other with approving gestures. He who lolled
there was indeed a miracle of hairiness, black with hair as he had been
muzzled with it, and his head as it were a berry in a bush by reason of
it. Then thought Shibli Bagarag, ''Tis Shagpat! If the mole could swear
to him, surely can I.' So he regarded the clothier, and there was naught
seen on earth like the gravity of Shagpat as he lolled before those
people, that failed not to assemble in groups and gaze at him. He was as
a sleepy lion cased in his mane; as an owl drowsy in the daylight. Now
would he close an eye, or move two fingers, but of other motion made he
none, yet the people gazed at him with eagerness. Shibli Bagarag was
astonished at them, thinking, 'Hair! hair! There is might in hair; but
there is greater might in the barber! Nevertheless here the barber is
scorned, the grower of crops held in amazing reverence.' Then thought he,
''Tis truly wondrous the crop he groweth; not even King Shamshureen,
after a thousand years, sported such mighty profusion! Him I sheared: it
was a high task!--why not this Shagpat?'

Now, long gazing on Shagpat awoke in Shibli Bagarag fierce desire to
shear him, and it was scarce in his power to restrain himself from flying
at the clothier, he saying, 'What obstacle now? what protecteth him? Nay,
why not trust to the old woman? Said she not I should first essay on
Shagpat? and 'twas my folly in appealing to the King that brought on me
that thwacking. 'Tis well! I'll trust to her words. Wullahy! will it not
lead me to great things?'

So it was, that as he thought this he continued to keep eye on Shagpat,
and the hunger that was in him passed, and became a ravenous vulture that
flew from him and singled forth Shagpat as prey; and there was no help
for it but in he must go and state his case to Shagpat, and essay
shearing him.

Now, when he was in the presence, he exclaimed, 'Peace, O vendor of
apparel, unto thee and unto thine!'

Shagpat answered, 'That with thee!'

Said Shibli Bagarag, 'I have heard of thee, O thou wonder! Wullahy! I am
here to render homage to that I behold.'

Shagpat answered, ''Tis well!'

Then said Shibli Bagarag, 'Praise my discretion! I have even this day
entered the city, and it is to thee I offer the first shave, O tangle of
glory!'

At these words Shagpat darkened, saying gruffly, 'Thy jest is offensive,
and it is unseasonable for staleness and lack of holiness.'

But Shibli Bagarag cried, 'No jest, O purveyor to the outward of us! but
a very excellent earnest.'

Thereat the face of Shagpat was as an exceeding red berry in a bush, and
he said angrily, 'Have done! no more of it! or haply my spleen will be
awakened, and that of them who see with more eyes than two.'

Nevertheless Shibli Bagarag urged him, and he winked, and gesticulated,
and pointed to his head, crying, 'Fall not, O man of the nicety of
measure, into the trap of error; for 'tis I that am a barber, and a
rarity in this city, even Shibli Bagarag of Shiraz! Know me nephew of the
renowned Baba Mustapha, chief barber to the Court of Persia. Languishest
thou not for my art? Lo! with three sweeps I'll give thee a clean poll,
all save the Identical! and I can discern and save it; fear me not, nor
distrust my skill and the cunning that is mine.'

When he had heard Shibli Bagarag to a close, the countenance of Shagpat
waxed fiery, as it had been flame kindled by travellers at night in a
thorny bramble-bush, and he ruffled, and heaved, and was as when dense
jungle-growths are stirred violently by the near approach of a wild
animal in his fury, shouting in short breaths, 'A barber! a barber! Is't
so? can it be? To me? A barber! O thou, thou reptile! filthy thing! A
barber! O dog! A barber? What? when I bid fair for the highest honours
known? O sacrilegious wretch! monster! How? are the Afrites jealous, that
they send thee to jibe me?'

Thereupon he set up a cry for his wife, and that woman rushed to him from
an inner room, and fell upon Shibli Bagarag, belabouring him.

So, when she was weary of this, she said, 'O light of my eyes! O golden
crop and adorable man! what hath he done to thee?'

Shagpat answered, ''Tis a barber! and he hath sworn to shave me, and
leave me not save shorn!'

Hardly had Shagpat spoken this, when she became limp with the hearing of
it. Then Shibli Bagarag slunk from the shop; but without the crowd had
increased, seeing an altercation, and as he took to his heels they
followed him, and there was uproar in the streets of the city and in the
air above them, as of raging Genii, he like a started quarry doubling
this way and that, and at the corners of streets and open places,
speeding on till there was no breath in his body, the cry still after him
that he had bearded Shagpat. At last they came up with him, and
belaboured him each and all; it was a storm of thwacks that fell on the
back of Shibli Bagarag. When they had wearied themselves in this fashion,
they took him as had he been a stray bundle or a damaged bale, and hurled
him from the gates of the city into the wilderness once more.

Now, when he was alone, he staggered awhile and then flung himself to the
earth, looking neither to the right nor to the left, nor above. All he
could think was, 'O accursed old woman!' and this he kept repeating to
himself for solace; as the poet says:

     'Tis sure the special privilege of hate,
     To curse the authors of our evil state.

As he was thus complaining, behold the very old woman before him! And she
wheezed, and croaked, and coughed, and shook herself, and screwed her
face into a pleasing pucker, and assumed womanish airs, and swayed
herself, like as do the full moons of the harem when the eye of the
master is upon them. Having made an end of these prettinesses, she said,
in a tone of soft insinuation, 'O youth, nephew of the barber, look upon
me.'

Shibli Bagarag knew her voice, and he would not look, thinking, 'Oh, what
a dreadful old woman is this! just calling on her name in detestation
maketh her present to us.' So the old woman, seeing him resolute to shun
her, leaned to him, and put one hand to her dress, and squatted beside
him, and said, 'O youth, thou hast been thwacked!'

He groaned, lifting not his face, nor saying aught. Then said she, 'Art
thou truly in search of great things, O youth?'

Still he groaned, answering no syllable. And she continued, ''Tis surely
in sweet friendliness I ask. Art thou not a fair youth, one to entice a
damsel to perfect friendliness?'

Louder yet did he groan at her words, thinking, 'A damsel, verily!' So
the old woman said, 'I wot thou art angry with me; but now look up, O
nephew of the barber! no time for vexation. What says the poet?--

     "Cares the warrior for his wounds
     When the steed in battle bounds?"

Moreover:

     "Let him who grasps the crown strip not for shame,
     Lest he expose what gain'd it blow and maim!"

So be it with thee and thy thwacking, O foolish youth! Hide it from
thyself, thou silly one! What! thou hast been thwacked, and refusest the
fruit of it--which is resoluteness, strength of mind, sternness in
pursuit of the object!'

Then she softened her tone to persuasiveness, saying, ''Twas written I
should be the head of thy fortune, O Shibli Bagarag! and thou'lt be
enviable among men by my aid, so look upon me, and (for I know thee
famished) thou shah presently be supplied with viands and bright wines
and sweetmeats, delicacies to cheer thee.'

Now, the promise of food and provision was powerful with Shibli Bagarag,
and he looked up gloomily. And the old woman smiled archly at him, and
wriggled in her seat like a dusty worm, and said, 'Dost thou find me
charming, thou fair youth?'

He was nigh laughing in her face, but restrained himself to reply, 'Thou
art that thou art!'

Said she, 'Not so, but that I shall be.' Then she said, 'O youth, pay me
now a compliment!'

Shibli Bagarag was at a loss what further to say to the old woman, for
his heart cursed her for her persecutions, and ridiculed her for her
vanities. At last he bethought himself of the saying of the poet, truly
the offspring of fine wit, where he says:

     Expect no flatteries from me,
        While I am empty of good things;
     I'll call thee fair, and I'll agree
        Thou boldest Love in silken strings,
   When thou bast primed me from thy plenteous store!
     But, oh! till then a clod am I:
        No seed within to throw up flowers:
     All's drouthy to the fountain dry:
        To empty stomachs Nature lowers:
   The lake was full where heaven look'd fair of yore!

So, when he had spoken that, the old woman laughed and exclaimed, 'Thou
art apt! it is well said! Surely I excuse thee till that time! Now
listen! 'Tis written we work together, and I know it by divination. Have
I not known thee wandering, and on thy way to this city of Shagpat, where
thou'lt some day sit throned? Now I propose to thee this--and 'tis an
excellent proposal--that I lead thee to great things, and make thee
glorious, a sitter in high seats, Master of an Event?'

Cried he, 'A proposal honourable to thee, and pleasant in the ear.'

She added, 'Provided thou marry me in sweet marriage.'

Thereat he stared on vacancy with a serious eye, and he could scarce
credit her earnestness, but she repeated the same. So presently he
thought, 'This old hag appeareth deep in the fountain of events, and she
will be a right arm to me in the mastering of one, a torch in darkness,
seeing there is wisdom in her as well as wickedness. The thwackings?--sad
was their taste, but they're in the road leading to greatness, and I
cannot say she put me out of that road in putting me where they were. Her
age?--shall I complain of that when it is a sign she goeth shortly
altogether?'

As he was thus debating he regarded the old woman stealthily, and she was
in agitation, so that her joints creaked like forest branches in a wind,
and the puckers of her visage moved as do billows of the sea to and fro,
and the anticipations of a fair young bride are not more eager than what
was visible in the old woman. Wheedlingly she looked at him, and shaped
her mouth like a bird's bill to soften it; and she drew together her
dress, to give herself the look of slimness, using all fascinations. He
thought, ''Tis a wondrous old woman! Marriage would seem a thing of
moment to her, yet is the profit with me, and I'll agree to it.' So he
said, ''Tis a pact between us, O old woman!'

Now, the eyes of the old woman brightened when she heard him, and were as
the eyes of a falcon that eyeth game, hungry with red fire, and she
looked brisk with impatience, laughing a low laugh and saying, 'O youth,
I must claim of thee, as is usual in such cases, the kiss of contract.'

So Shibli Bagarag was mindful of what is written,

   If thou wouldst take the great leap, be ready for the little jump,

and he stretched out his mouth to the forehead of the old woman. When he
had done so, it was as though she had been illuminated, as when light is
put in the hollow of a pumpkin. Then said she, 'This is well! this is a
fair beginning! Now look, for thy fortune will of a surety follow. Call
me now sweet bride, and knocker at the threshold of hearts!'

So Shibli Bagarag sighed, and called her this, and he said, 'Forget not
my condition, O old woman, and that I am nigh famished.'

Upon that she nodded gravely, and arose and shook her garments together,
and beckoned for Shibli Bagarag to follow her; and the two passed through
the gates of the city, and held on together through divers streets and
thoroughfares till they came before the doors of a palace with a pillared
entrance; and the old woman passed through the doors of the palace as one
familiar to them, and lo! they were in a lofty court, built all of
marble, and in the middle of it a fountain playing, splashing silvery.
Shibli Bagarag would have halted here to breathe the cool refreshingness
of the air, but the old woman would not; and she hurried on even to the
opening of a spacious Hall, and in it slaves in circle round a raised
seat, where sat one that was their lord, and it was the Chief Vizier of
the King.

Then the old woman turned round sharply to Shibli Bagarag, and said, 'How
of thy tackle, O my betrothed?'

He answered, 'The edge is keen, the hand ready.'

Then said she, ''Tis well.'

So the old woman put her two hands on the shoulders of Shibli Bagarag,
saying, 'Make thy reverence to him on the raised seat; have faith in thy
tackle and in me. Renounce not either, whatsoever ensueth. Be not
abashed, O my bridegroom to be!'

Thereupon she thrust him in; and Shibli Bagarag was abashed, and played
foolishly with his fingers, knowing not what to do. So when the Chief
Vizier saw him he cried out, 'Who art thou, and what wantest thou?'

Now, the back of Shibli Bagarag tingled when he heard the Vizier's voice,
and he said, 'I am, O man of exalted condition, he whom men know as
Shibli Bagarag, nephew to Baba Mustapha, the renowned of Shiraz; myself
barber likewise, proud of my art, prepared to exercise it.'

Then said the Chief Vizier, 'This even to our faces! Wonderful is the
audacity of impudence! Know, O nephew of the barber, thou art among them
that honour not thy art. Is it not written, For one thing thou shaft be
crowned here, for that thing be thwacked there? So also it is written,
The tongue of the insolent one is a lash and a perpetual castigation to
him. And it is written, O Shibli Bagarag, that I reap honour from thee,
and there is no help but that thou be made an example of.'

So the Chief Vizier uttered command, and Shibli Bagarag was ware of the
power of five slaves upon him; and they seized him familiarly, and placed
him in position, and made ready his clothing for the reception of fifty
other thwacks with a thong, each several thwack coming down on him with a
hiss, as it were a serpent, and with a smack, as it were the mouth of
satisfaction; and the people assembled extolled the Chief Vizier, saying,
'Well and valiantly done, O stay of the State! and such-like to the
accursed race of barbers.'

Now, when they had passed before the Chief Vizier and departed, lo! he
fell to laughing violently, so that his hair was agitated and was as a
sand-cloud over him, and his countenance behind it was as the sun of the
desert reflected ripplingly on the waters of a bubbling spring, for it
had the aspect of merriness; and the Chief Vizier exclaimed, 'O Shibli
Bagarag, have I not made fair show?'

And Shibli Bagarag said, 'Excellent fair show, O mighty one!' Yet knew he
not in what, but he was abject by reason of the thwacks.

So the Vizier said, 'Thou lookest lean, even as one to whom Fortune oweth
a long debt. Tell me now of thy barbercraft: perchance thy gain will be
great thereby?'

And Shibli Bagarag answered, 'My gain has been great, O eminent in rank,
but of evil quality, and I am content not to increase it.' And he broke
forth into lamentations, crying in excellent verse:--

     Why am I thus the sport of all--
     A thing Fate knocketh like a ball
     From point to point of evil chance,
     Even as the sneer of Circumstance?
     While thirsting for the highest fame,
      I hunger like the lowest beast:
     To be the first of men I aim
      And find myself the least.

Now, the Vizier delayed not when he heard this to have a fair supply set
before Shibli Bagarag, and meats dressed in divers fashions, spiced, and
coloured, and with herbs, and wines in golden goblets, and slaves in
attendance. So Shibli Bagarag ate and drank, and presently his soul arose
from its prostration, and he cried, 'Wullahy! the head cook of King
Shamshureen could have worked no better as regards the restorative
process.'

Then said the Chief Vizier, 'O Shibli Bagarag, where now is thy tackle?'

And Shibli Bagarag winked and nodded and turned his head in the manner of
the knowing ones, and he recited the verse:

     'Tis well that we are sometimes circumspect,
      And hold ourselves in witless ways deterred:
     One thwacking made me seriously reflect;
      A SECOND turned the cream of love to curd:
     Most surely that profession I reject
      Before the fear of a prospective THIRD.

So the Vizier said, ''Tis well, thou turnest verse neatly' And he
exclaimed extemporaneously:

   If thou wouldst have thy achievement as high

     As the wings of Ambition can fly:
   If thou the clear summit of hope wouldst attain,
     And not have thy labour in vain;
   Be steadfast in that which impell'd, for the peace
     Of earth he who leaves must have trust:
   He is safe while he soars, but when faith shall cease,
     Desponding he drops to the dust.

Then said he, 'Fear no further thwacking, but honour and prosperity in
the place of it. What says the poet?--

     "We faint, when for the fire
      There needs one spark;
     We droop, when our desire
      Is near its mark."

How near to it art thou, O Shibli Bagarag! Know, then, that among this
people there is great reverence for the growing of hair, and he that is
hairiest is honoured most, wherefore are barbers creatures of especial
abhorrence, and of a surety flourish not. And so it is that I owe my
station to the esteem I profess for the cultivation of hair, and to my
persecution of the clippers of it. And in this kingdom is no one that
beareth such a crop as I, saving one, a clothier, an accursed one!--and
may a blight fall upon him for his vanity and his affectation of solemn
priestliness, and his lolling in his shop-front to be admired and
marvelled at by the people. So this fellow I would disgrace and bring to
scorn,--this Shagpat! for he is mine enemy, and the eye of the King my
master is on him. Now I conceive thy assistance in this matter, Shibli
Bagarag,--thou, a barber.'

When Shibli Bagarag heard mention of Shagpat, and the desire for
vengeance in the Vizier, he was as a new man, and he smelt the sweetness
of his own revenge as a vulture smelleth the carrion from afar, and he
said, 'I am thy servant, thy slave, O Vizier!' Then smiled he as to his
own soul, and he exclaimed, 'On my head be it!'

And it was to him as when sudden gusts of perfume from garden roses of
the valley meet the traveller's nostril on the hill that overlooketh the
valley, filling him with ecstasy and newness of life, delicate visions.
And he cried, 'Wullahy! this is fair; this is well! I am he that was
appointed to do thy work, O man in office! What says the poet?--

     "The destined hand doth strike the fated blow:
     Surely the arrow's fitted to the bow!"

And he says:

     "The feathered seed for the wind delayeth,
     The wind above the garden swayeth,
     The garden of its burden knoweth,
     The burden falleth, sinketh, soweth."'

So the Vizier chuckled and nodded, saying, 'Right, right! aptly spoken, O
youth of favour! 'Tis even so, and there is wisdom in what is written:

       "Chance is a poor knave;
        Its own sad slave;
        Two meet that were to meet:
        Life 's no cheat."'

Upon that he cried, 'First let us have with us the Eclipser of Reason,
and take counsel with her, as is my custom.'

Now, the Vizier made signal to a slave in attendance, and the slave
departed from the Hall, and the Vizier led Shibli Bagarag into a closer
chamber, which had a smooth floor of inlaid silver and silken hangings,
the windows looking forth on the gardens of the palace and its fountains
and cool recesses of shade and temperate sweetness. While they sat there
conversing in this metre and that, measuring quotations, lo! the old
woman, the affianced of Shibli Bagarag--and she sumptuously arrayed, in
perfect queenliness, her head bound in a circlet of gems and gold, her
figure lustrous with a full robe of flowing crimson silk; and she wore
slippers embroidered with golden traceries, and round her waist a girdle
flashing with jewels, so that to look on she was as a long falling water
in the last bright slant of the sun. Her hair hung disarranged, and
spread in a scattered fashion off her shoulders; and she was younger by
many moons, her brow smooth where Shibli Bagarag had given the kiss of
contract, her hand soft and white where he had taken it. Shibli Bagarag
was smitten with astonishment at sight of her, and he thought, 'Surely
the aspect of this old woman would realise the story of Bhanavar the
Beautiful; and it is a story marvellous to think of; yet how great is the
likeness between Bhanavar and this old woman that groweth younger!'

And he thought again, 'What if the story of Bhanavar be a true one; this
old woman such as she--no other?'

So, while he considered her, the Vizier exclaimed, 'Is she not fair--my
daughter?'

And the youth answered, 'She is, O Vizier, that she is!'

But the Vizier cried, 'Nay, by Allah! she is that she will be.' And the
Vizier said, ''Tis she that is my daughter; tell me thy thought of her,
as thou thinkest it.'

And Shibli Bagarag replied, 'O Vizier, my thought of her is, she seemeth
indeed as Bhanavar the Beautiful--no other.'

Then the Vizier and the Eclipser of Reason exclaimed together, 'How of
Bhanavar and her story, O youth? We listen!'

So Shibli Bagarag leaned slightly on a cushion of a couch, and narrated
as followeth.



AND THIS IS THE STORY OF BHANAVAR THE BEAUTIFUL

Know that at the foot of a lofty mountain of the Caucasus there lieth a
deep blue lake; near to this lake a nest of serpents, wise and ancient.
Now, it was the habit of a damsel to pass by the lake early at morn, on
her way from the tents of her tribe to the pastures of the flocks. As she
pressed the white arch of her feet on the soft green-mossed grasses by
the shore of the lake she would let loose her hair, looking over into the
water, and bind the braid again round her temples and behind her ears, as
it had been in a lucent mirror: so doing she would laugh. Her laughter
was like the falls of water at moonrise; her loveliness like the very
moonrise; and she was stately as a palm-tree standing before the moon.

This was Bhanavar the Beautiful.

Now, the damsel was betrothed to the son of a neighbouring Emir, a youth
comely, well-fashioned, skilled with the bow, apt in all exercises; one
that sat his mare firm as the trained falcon that fixeth on the plunging
bull of the plains; fair and terrible in combat as the lightning that
strideth the rolling storm; and it is sung by the poet:

     When on his desert mare I see
        My prince of men,
        I think him then
     As high above humanity
     As he shines radiant over me.

     Lo! like a torrent he doth bound,
        Breasting the shock
        From rock to rock:
     A pillar of storm, he shakes the ground,

     His turban on his temples wound.

     Match me for worth to be adored
        A youth like him
        In heart and limb!
     Swift as his anger is his sword;
     Softer than woman his true word.

Now, the love of this youth for the damsel Bhanavar was a consuming
passion, and the father of the damsel and the father of the youth looked
fairly on the prospect of their union, which was near, and was plighted
as the union of the two tribes. So they met, and there was no voice
against their meeting, and all the love that was in them they were free
to pour forth far from the hearing of men, even where they would. Before
the rising of the sun, and ere his setting, the youth rode swiftly from
the green tents of the Emir his father, to waylay her by the waters of
the lake; and Bhanavar was there, bending over the lake, her image in the
lake glowing like the fair fulness of the moon; and the youth leaned to
her from his steed, and sang to her verses of her great loveliness ere
she was wistful of him. Then she turned to him, and laughed lightly a
welcome of sweetness, and shook the falls of her hair across the blushes
of her face and her bosom; and he folded her to him, and those two would
fondle together in the fashion of the betrothed ones (the blessing of
Allah be on them all!), gazing on each other till their eyes swam with
tears, and they were nigh swooning with the fulness of their bliss.
Surely 'twas an innocent and tender dalliance, and their prattle was that
of lovers till the time of parting, he showing her how she looked
best--she him; and they were forgetful of all else that is, in their
sweet interchange of flatteries; and the world was a wilderness to them
both when the youth parted with Bhanavar by the brook which bounded the
tents of her tribe.

It was on a night when they were so together, the damsel leaning on his
arm, her eyes toward the lake, and lo! what seemed the reflection of a
large star in the water; and there was darkness in the sky above it,
thick clouds, and no sight of the heavens; so she held her face to him
sideways and said, 'What meaneth this, O my betrothed? for there is
reflected in yonder lake a light as of a star, and there is no star
visible this night.'

The youth trembled as one in trouble of spirit, and exclaimed, 'Look not
on it, O my soul! It is of evil omen.'

But Bhanavar kept her gaze constantly on the light, and the light
increased in lustre; and the light became, from a pale sad splendour,
dazzling in its brilliancy. Listening, they heard presently a gurgling
noise as of one deeply drinking. Then the youth sighed a heavy sigh and
said, 'This is the Serpent of the Lake drinking of its waters, as is her
wont once every moon, and whoso heareth her drink by the sheening of that
light is under a destiny dark and imminent; so know I my days are
numbered, and it was foretold of me, this!' Now the youth sought to
dissuade Bhanavar from gazing on the light, and he flung his whole body
before her eyes, and clasped her head upon his breast, and clung about
her, caressing her; yet she slipped from him, and she cried, 'Tell me of
this serpent, and of this light.'

So he said, 'Seek not to hear of it, O my betrothed!'

Then she gazed at the light a moment more intently, and turned her fair
shape toward him, and put up her long white fingers to his chin, and
smoothed him with their softness, whispering, 'Tell me of it, my life!'

And so it was that her winningness melted him, and he said, 'Bhanavar!
the serpent is the Serpent of the Lake; old, wise, powerful; of the brood
of the sacred mountain, that lifteth by day a peak of gold, and by night
a point of solitary silver. In her head, upon her forehead, between her
eyes, there is a Jewel, and it is this light.'

Then she said, 'How came the Jewel there, in such a place?'

He answered, ''Tis the growth of one thousand years in the head of the
serpent.'

She cried, 'Surely precious?'

He answered, 'Beyond price!'

As he spake the tears streamed from him, and he was shaken with grief,
but she noted nought of this, and watched the wonder of the light, and
its increasing, and quivering, and lengthening; and the light was as an
arrow of beams and as a globe of radiance. Desire for the Jewel waxed in
her, and she had no sight but for it alone, crying, ''Tis a Jewel
exceeding in preciousness all jewels that are, and for the possessing it
would I forfeit all that is.'

So he said sorrowfully, 'Our love, O Bhanavar? and our hopes of
espousal?'

But she cried, 'No question of that! Prove now thy passion for me, O
warrior! and win for me that Jewel.'

Then he pleaded with her, and exclaimed, 'Urge not this! The winning of
the Jewel is worth my life; and my life, O Bhanavar--surely its breath is
but the love of thee.'

So she said, 'Thou fearest a risk?'

And he replied, 'Little fear I; my life is thine to cast away. This Jewel
it is evil to have, and evil followeth the soul that hath it.'

Upon that she cried, 'A trick to cheat me of the Jewel! thy love is
wanting at the proof.'

And she taunted the youth her betrothed, and turned from him, and
hardened at his tenderness, and made her sweet shape as a thorn to his
caressing, and his heart was charged with anguish for her. So at the
last, when he had wept a space in silence, he cried, 'Thou hast willed
it; the Jewel shall be thine, O my soul!'

Then said he, 'Thou hast willed it, O Bhanavar! and my life is as a grain
of sand weighed against thy wishes; Allah is my witness! Meet me
therefore here, O my beloved, at the end of one quarter-moon, even
beneath the shadow of this palm-tree, by the lake, and at this hour, and
I will deliver into thy hands the Jewel. So farewell! Wind me once about
with thine arms, that I may take comfort from thee.'

When their kiss was over the youth led her silently to the brook of their
parting--the clear, cold, bubbling brook--and passed from her sight; and
the damsel was exulting, and leapt and made circles in her glee, and she
danced and rioted and sang, and clapped her hands, crying, 'If I am now
Bhanavar the Beautiful how shall I be when that Jewel is upon me, the
bright light which beameth in the darkness, and needeth to light it no
other light? Surely there will be envy among the maidens and the widows,
and my name and the odour of my beauty will travel to the courts of far
kings.'

So was she jubilant; and her sisters that met her marvelled at her and
the deep glow that was upon her, even as the glow of the Great Desert
when the sun has fallen; and they said among themselves, 'She is covered
all over with the blush of one that is a bride, and the bridegroom's kiss
yet burneth upon Bhanavar!'

So they undressed her and she lay among them, and was all night even as a
bursting rose in a vase filled with drooping lilies; and one of the
maidens that put her hand on the left breast of Bhanavar felt it full,
and the heart beneath it panting and beating swifter than the ground is
struck by hooves of the chosen steed sent by the Chieftain to the city of
his people with news of victory and the summons for rejoicing.

Now, the nights and the days of Bhanavar were even as this night, and she
was as an unquiet soul till the appointed time for the meeting with her
lover had come. Then when the sun was lighting with slant beam the green
grass slope by the blue brook before her, Bhanavar arrayed herself and
went forth gaily, as a martial queen to certain conquest; and of all the
flowers that nodded to the setting,--yea, the crimson, purple, pure
white, streaked-yellow, azure, and saffron, there was no flower fairer in
its hues than Bhanavar, nor bird of the heavens freer in its glittering
plumage, nor shape of loveliness such as hers. Truly, when she had taken
her place under the palm by the waters of the lake, that was no
exaggeration of the poet, where he says:

     Snows of the mountain-peaks were mirror'd there
      Beneath her feet, not whiter than they were;
     Not rosier in the white, that falling flush
      Broad on the wave, than in her cheek the blush.

And again:

     She draws the heavens down to her,
        So rare she is, so fair she is;
     They flutter with a crown to her,
        And lighten only where she is.

And he exclaims, in verse that applieth to her:

        Exquisite slenderness!
         Sleek little antelope!
          Serpent of sweetness!
           Eagle that soaringly
           Wins me adoringly!
          Teach me thy fleetness,
         Vision of loveliness;
        Turn to my tenderness!

Now, when the sun was lost to earth, and all was darkness, Bhanavar fixed
her eyes upon an opening arch of foliage in the glade through which the
youth her lover should come to her, and clasped both hands across her
bosom, so shaken was she with eager longing and expectation. In her
hunger for his approach, she would at whiles pluck up the herbage about
her by the roots, and toss handfuls this way and that, chiding the
peaceful song of the nightbird in the leaves above her head; and she was
sinking with fretfulness, when lo! from the opening arch of the glade a
sudden light, and Bhanavar knew it for the Jewel in the fingers of her
betrothed, by the strength of its effulgence. Then she called to him
joyfully a cry of welcome, and quickened his coming with her calls, and
the youth alighted from his mare and left it to pasture, and advanced to
her, holding aloft the Jewel. And the Jewel was of great size and purity,
round, and all-luminous, throwing rays and beams everywhere about it, a
miracle to behold,--the light in it shining, and as the very life of the
blood, a sweet crimson, a ruby, a softer rose, an amethyst of tender
hues: it was a full globe of splendours, showing like a very kingdom of
the Blest; and blessed was the eye beholding it! So when he was within
reach of her arm, the damsel sprang to him and caught from his hand the
Jewel, and held it before her eyes, and danced with it, and pressed it on
her bosom, and was as a creature giddy with great joy in possessing it.
And she put the Jewel in her bosom, and looked on the youth to thank him
for the Jewel with all her beauty; for the passion of a mighty pride in
him who had won for her the Jewel exalted Bhanavar, and she said sweetly,
'Now hast thou proved to me thy love of me, and I am thine, O my
betrothed,--wholly thine. Kiss me, then, and cease not kissing me, for
bliss is in me.'

But the youth eyed her sorrowfully, even as one that hath great yearning,
and no power to move or speak.

So she said again, in the low melody of deep love-tones, 'Kiss me, O my
lover! for I desire thy kiss.'

Still he spake not, and was as a pillar of stone.

And she started, and cried, 'Thou art whole? without a hurt?' Then sought
she to coax him to her with all the softness of her half-closed eyes and
budded lips, saying, ''Twas an idle fear! and I have thee, and thou art
mine, and I am thine; so speak to me, my lover! for there is no music
like the music of thy voice, and the absence of it is the absence of all
sweetness, and there is no pleasure in life without it.'

So the tenderness of her fondling melted the silence in him, and
presently his tongue was loosed, and he breathed in pain of spirit, and
his words were the words of the proverb:

   He that fighteth with poison is no match for the prick of a thorn.

And he said, 'Surely, O Bhanavar, my love for thee surpasseth what is
told of others that have loved before us, and I count no loss a loss that
is for thy sake.' And he sighed, and sang:

     Sadder than is the moon's lost light,
      Lost ere the kindling of dawn,
      To travellers journeying on,

     The shutting of thy fair face from my sight.
      Might I look on thee in death,
      With bliss I would yield my breath.

     Oh! what warrior dies
     With heaven in his eyes?
     O Bhanavar! too rich a prize!
      The life of my nostrils art thou,
      The balm-dew on my brow;

   Thou art the perfume I meet as I speed o'er the plains,
   The strength of my arms, the blood of my veins.

Then said he, 'I make nothing matter of complaint, Allah witnesseth! not
even the long parting from her I love. What will be, will be: so was it
written! 'Tis but a scratch, O my soul! yet am I of the dead and them
that are passed away. 'Tis hard; but I smile in the face of bitterness.'

Now, at his words the damsel clutched him with both her hands, and the
blood went from her, and she was as a block of white marble, even as one
of those we meet in the desert, leaning together, marking the wrath of
the All-powerful on forgotten cities. And the tongue of the damsel was
dry, and she was without speech, gazing at him with wide-open eyes, like
one in trance. Then she started as a dreamer wakeneth, and flung herself
quickly on the breast of the youth, and put up the sleeve from his arm,
and beheld by the beams of the quarter-crescent that had risen through
the leaves, a small bite on the arm of the youth her betrothed, spotted
with seven spots of blood in a crescent; so she knew that the poison of
the serpent had entered by that bite; and she loosened herself to the
violence of her anguish, shrieking the shrieks of despair, so that the
voice of her lamentation was multiplied about and made many voices in the
night. Her spirit returned not to her till the crescent of the moon was
yellow to its fall; and lo! the youth was sighing heavy sighs and leaning
to the ground on one elbow, and she flung herself by him on the ground,
seeking for herbs that were antidotes to the poison of the serpent,
grovelling among the grasses and strewn leaves of the wood, peering at
them tearfully by the pale beams, and startling the insects as she moved.
When she had gathered some, she pressed them and bruised them, and laid
them along his lips, that were white as the ball of an eye; and she made
him drink drops of the juices of the herbs, wailing and swaying her body
across him, as one that seeketh vainly to give brightness again to the
flames of a dying fire. But now his time was drawing nigh, and he was
weak, and took her hand in his and gazed on her face, sighing, and said,
'There is nothing shall keep me by thee now, O my betrothed, my
beautiful! Weep not, for it is the doing of fate, and not thy doing. So
ere I go, and the grave-cloth separates thy heart from my heart, listen
to me. Lo, that Jewel! it is the giver of years and of powers, and of
loveliness beyond mortal, yet the wearing of it availeth not in the
pursuit of happiness. Now art thou Queen over the serpents of this lake:
it was the Queen-serpent I slew, and her vengeance is on me here. Now art
thou mighty, O Bhanavar! and look to do well by thy tribe, and that from
which I spring, recompensing my father for his loss, pouring ointment on
his affliction, for great is the grief of the old man, and he loveth me,
and is childless.'

Then the youth fell back and was still; and Bhanavar put her ear to his
mouth, and heard what seemed an inner voice murmuring in him, and it was
of his infancy and his boyhood, and of his father the Emir's first gift
to him, his horse Zoora, in old times. Presently the youth revived
somewhat, and looked upon her; but his sight was glazed with a film, and
she sang her name to him ere he knew her, and the sad sweetness of her
name filled his soul, and he replied to her with it weakly, like a far
echo that groweth fainter, 'Bhanavar! Bhanavar! Bhanavar!' Then a change
came over him, and the pain of the poison and the passion of the
death-throe, and he was wistful of her no more; but she lay by him,
embracing him, and in the last violence of his anguish he hugged her to
his breast. Then it was over, and he sank. And the twain were as a great
wave heaving upon the shore; lo, part is wasted where it falleth; part
draweth back into the waters. So was it!

Now the chill of dawn breathed blue on the lake and was astir among the
dewy leaves of the wood, when Bhanavar arose from the body of the youth,
and as she rose she saw that his mare Zoora, his father's first gift, was
snuffing at the ear of her dead master, and pawing him. At that sight the
tears poured from her eyelids, and she sobbed out to the mare, 'O Zoora!
never mare bore nobler burden on her back than thou in Zurvan my
betrothed. Zoora! thou weepest, for death is first known to thee in the
dearest thing that was thine; as to me, in the dearest that was mine! And
O Zoora, steed of Zurvan my betrothed, there's no loveliness for us in
life, for the loveliest is gone; and let us die, Zoora, mare of Zurvan my
betrothed, for what is dying to us, O Zoora, who cherish beyond all that
which death has taken?'

So spake she to Zoora the mare, kissing her, and running her fingers
through the long white mane of the mare. Then she stooped to the body of
her betrothed, and toiled with it to lift it across the crimson
saddle-cloth that was on the back of Zoora; and the mare knelt to her,
that she might lay on her back the body of Zurvan; when that was done,
Bhanavar paced beside Zoora the mare, weeping and caressing her,
reminding her of the deeds of Zurvan, and the battles she had borne him
to, and his greatness and his gentleness. And the mare went without
leading. It was broad light when they had passed the glade and the covert
of the wood. Before them, between great mountains, glimmered a space of
rolling grass fed to deep greenness by many brooks. The shadow of a
mountain was over it, and one slant of the rising sun, down a glade of
the mountain, touched the green tent of the Emir, where it stood a little
apart from the others of his tribe. Goats and asses of the tribe were
pasturing in the quiet, but save them nothing moved among the tents, and
it was deep peacefulness. Bhanavar led Zoora slowly before the tent of
the Emir, and disburdened Zoora of the helpless weight, and spread the
long fair limbs of the youth lengthwise across the threshold of the
Emir's tent, sitting away from it with clasped hands, regarding it. Ere
long the Emir came forth, and his foot was on the body of his son, and he
knew death on the chin and the eyes of Zurvan, his sole son. Now the Emir
was old, and with the shock of that sight the world darkened before him,
and he gave forth a groan and stumbled over the sunken breast of Zurvan,
and stretched over him as one without life. When Bhanavar saw that old
man stretched over the body of his son, she sickened, and her ear was
filled with the wailings of grief that would arise, and she stood up and
stole away from the habitations of the tribe, stricken with her guilt,
and wandered beyond the mountains, knowing not whither she went, looking
on no living thing, for the sight of a thing that moved was hateful to
her, and all sounds were sounds of lamentation for a great loss.

Now, she had wandered on alone two days and two nights, and nigh morn she
was seized with a swoon of weariness, and fell forward with her face to
the earth, and lay there prostrate, even as one that is adoring the
shrine; and it was on the sands of the desert she was lying. It chanced
that the Chieftain of a desert tribe passed at midday by the spot, and
seeing the figure of a damsel unshaded' by any shade of tree or herb or
tent-covering, and prostrate on the sands, he reined his steed and leaned
forward to her, and called to her. Then as she answered nothing he
dismounted, and thrust his arm softly beneath her and lifted her gently;
and her swoon had the whiteness of death, so that he thought her dead
verily, and the marvel of her great loveliness in death smote the heart
on his ribs as with a blow, and the powers of life went from him a moment
as he looked on her and the long dark wet lashes that clung to her
colourless face, as at night in groves where the betrothed ones wander,
the slender leaves of the acacia spread darkly over the full moon. And he
cried, ''Tis a loveliness that maketh the soul yearn to the cold bosom of
death, so lovely, exceeding all that liveth, is she!'

After he had contemplated her longwhile, he snatched his sight from her,
and swung her swiftly on the back of his mare, and leaned her on one arm,
and sped westward over the sands of the desert, halting not till he was
in the hum of many tents, and the sun of that day hung a red half-circle
across the sand. He alighted before the tent of his mother, and sent
women in to her. When his mother came forth to the greetings of her son,
he said no word, but pointed to the damsel where he had leaned her at the
threshold of her tent. His mother kissed him on the forehead, and turned
her shoulder to peer upon the damsel. But when she had close view of
Bhanavar, she spat, and scattered her hair, and stamped, and cried aloud,
'Away with her! this slut of darkness! there's poison on her very skirts,
and evil in the look of her.'

Then said he, 'O Rukrooth, my mother! art thou lost to charity and the
uses of kindliness and the laws of hospitality, that thou talkest this of
the damsel, a stranger? Take her now in, and if she be past help, as I
fear; be it thy care to give her decent burial; and if she live, O my
mother, tend her for the love of thy son, and for the love of him be
gentle with her.'

While he spake, Rukrooth his mother knelt over the damsel, as a cat that
sniffeth the suspected dish; and she flashed her eyes back on him,
exclaiming scornfully, 'So art thou befooled, and the poison is already
in thee! But I will not have her, O my son! and thou, Ruark, my son,
neither shalt thou have her. What! will I not die to save thee from a
harm? Surely thy frown is little to me, my son, if I save thee from a
harm; and the damsel here is--I shudder to think what; but never lay
shadow across my threshold dark as this!'

Now, Ruark gazed upon his mother, and upon Bhanavar, and the face of
Bhanavar was as a babe in sleep, and his soul melted to the parted
sweetness of her soft little curved red lips and her closed eyelids, and
her innocent open hands, where she lay at the threshold of the tent,
unconscious of hardness and the sayings of the unjust. So he cried
fiercely, 'No paltering, O Rukrooth, my mother: and if not to thy tent,
then to mine!'

When she heard him say that in the voice of his anger, Rukrooth fixed her
eyes on him sorrowfully, and sighed, and went up to him and drew his head
once against her heart, and retreated into the tent, bidding the women
that were there bring in the body of the damsel.

It was the morning of another day when Bhanavar awoke; and she awoke in a
dream of Zoora, the mare of Zurvan her betrothed, that was dead, and the
name of Zoora was on her tongue as she started up. She was on a couch of
silk and leopard-skins; at her feet a fair young girl with a fan of
pheasant feathers. She stared at the hangings of the tent, which were
richer than those of her own tribe; the cloths, and the cushions, and the
embroideries; and the strangeness of all was pain to her, she knew not
why. Then wept she bitterly, and with her tears the memory of what had
been came back to her, and she opened her arms to take into them the
little girl that fanned her, that she might love something and be beloved
awhile; and the child sobbed with her. After a time Bhanavar said, 'Where
am I, and amongst whom, my child, my sister?'

And the child answered her, 'Surely in the tent of the mother of Ruark,
the chief, even chief of the Beni-Asser, and he found thee in the desert,
nigh dead. 'Tis so; and this morning will Ruark be gone to meet the
challenge of Ebn Asrac, and they will fight at the foot of the Snow
Mountains, and the shadow of yonder date-palm will be over our tent here
at the hour they fight, and I shall sing for Ruark, and kneel here in the
darkness of the shadow.'

While the child was speaking there entered to them a tall aged woman,
with one swathe of a turban across her long level brows; and she had hard
black eyes, and close lips and a square chin; and it was the mother of
Ruark. She strode forward toward Bhanavar to greet her, and folded her
legs before the damsel. Presently she said, 'Tell me thy story, and of
thy coming into the hands of Ruark my son.'

Bhanavar shuddered. So Rukrooth dismissed the little maiden from the
chamber of the tent, and laid her left hand on one arm of Bhanavar, and
said, 'I would know whence comest thou, that we may deal well by thee and
thy people that have lost thee.'

The touch of a hand was as the touch of a corpse to Bhanavar, and the
damsel was constrained to speak by a power she knew not of, and she told
all to Rukrooth of what had been, the great misery, and the wickedness
that was hers. Then Ruark's mother took hold of Bhanavar a strong grasp,
and eyed her long, piteously, and with reproach, and rocked forward and
back, and kept rocking to and fro, crying at intervals, 'O Ruark! my son!
my son! this feared I, and thou art not the first! and I saw it, I saw
it! Well-away! why came she in thy way, why, Ruark, my son, my fire-eye?
Canst thou be saved by me, fated that thou art, thou fair-face? And wilt
thou be saved by me, my son, ere thy story be told in tears as this one,
that is as thine to me? And thou wilt seize a jewel, Ruark, O thou soul
of wrath, my son, my dazzling Chief, and seize it to wear it, and think
it bliss, this lovely jewel; but 'tis an anguish endless and for ever, my
son! Woe's me! an anguish is she without end.'

Rukrooth continued moaning, and the thought that was in the mother of
Ruark struck Bhanavar like a light in the land of despair that darkly
illumineth the dreaded gulfs and abysses of the land, and she knew
herself black in evil; and the scourge of her guilt was upon her, and she
cursed herself before Rukrooth, and fawned before her, abasing her body.
So Rukrooth was drawn to the damsel by the violence of her self-accusing
and her abandonment to grief, and lifted her, and comforted her, and
after awhile they had gentle speech together, and the two women opened
their hearts and wept. Then it was agreed between them that Bhanavar
should depart from the encampment of the tribe before the return of
Ruark, and seek shelter among her own people again, and aid them and the
tribe of Zurvan, her betrothed, by the might of the Jewel which was hers,
fulfilling the desire of Zurvan. The mind of the damsel was lowly, and
her soul yearned for the blessing of Rukrooth.

Darkness hung over the tent from the shadow of the date-palm when
Bhanavar departed, and the blessing of Rukrooth was on her head. She went
forth fairly mounted on a fresh steed; beside her two warriors of them
that were left to guard the encampment of the tribe of Ruark in his
absence; and Rukrooth watched at the threshold of her tent for the coming
of Ruark.

When it was middle night, and the splendour of the moon was beaming on
the edge of the desert, Bhanavar alighted to rest by the twigs of a
tamarisk that stood singly on the sands. The two warriors tied the
fetlocks of their steeds, and spread shawls for her, and watched over her
while she slept. And the damsel dreamed, and the roaring of the lion was
hoarse in her dream, and it was to her as were she the red whirlwind of
the desert before whom all bowed in terror, the Arab, the wild horsemen,
and the caravans of pilgrimage; and none could stay her, neither could
she stay herself, for the curse of Allah was on men by reason of her
guilt; and she went swinging great folds of darkness across kingdoms and
empires of earth where joy was and peace of spirit; and in her track
amazement and calamity, and the whitened bones of noble youths, valorous
chieftains. In that horror of her dream she stood up suddenly, and thrust
forth her hands as to avert an evil, and advanced a step; and with the
act her dream was cloven and she awoke, and lo! it was sunrise; and where
had been two warriors of the Beni-Asser, were now five, and besides her
own steed five others, one the steed of Ruark, and Ruark with them that
watched over her: pale was the visage of the Chief. Ruark eyed Bhanavar,
and signalled to his followers, and they, when they had lifted the damsel
to her steed and placed her in their front, mounted likewise, and
flourished their lances with cries, and jerked their heels to the flanks
of their steeds, and stretched forward till their beards were mixed with
the tossing manes, and the dust rose after them crimson in the sun. So
they coursed away, speeding behind their Chief and Bhanavar; sweet were
the desert herbs under their crushing hooves! Ere the shadow of the
acacia measured less than its height they came upon a spring of silver
water, and Ruark leaped from his steed, and Bhanavar from hers, and they
performed their ablutions by that spring, and ate and drank, and watered
their steeds. While they were there Bhanavar lifted her eyes to Ruark,
and said, 'Whither takest thou me, O my Chief?'

His brow was stern, and he answered, 'Surely to the dwelling of thy
tribe.'

Then she wept, and pulled her veil close, murmuring, ''Tis well!'

They spake no further, and pursued their journey toward the mountains and
across the desert that was as a sea asleep in the blazing heat, and the
sun till his setting threw no shade upon the sands bigger than what was
broad above them. By the beams of the growing moon they entered the first
gorge of the mountains. Here they relaxed the swiftness of their pace,
picking their way over broken rocks and stunted shrubs, and the mesh of
spotted creeping plants; all around them in shadow a freshness of noisy
rivulets and cool scents of flowers, asphodel and rose blooming in plots
from the crevices of the crags. These, as the troop advanced, wound and
widened, gradually receding, and their summits, which were silver in the
moonlight, took in the distance a robe of purple, and the sides of the
mountains were rounded away in purple beyond a space of emerald pasture.
Now, Ruark beheld the heaviness of Bhanavar, and that she drooped in her
seat, and he halted her by a cave at the foot of the mountains, browed
with white broom. Before it, over grass and cresses, ran a rill, a branch
from others, larger ones, that went hurrying from the heights to feed the
meadows below, and Bhanavar dipped her hand in the rill, and thought, 'I
am no more as thou, rill of the mountain, but a desert thing! Thy way is
forward, thy end before thee; but I go this way and that; my end is dark
to me; not a life is mine that will have its close kissing the cold
cheeks of the saffron-crocus. Cold art thou, and I--flames! They that
lean to thee are refreshed, they that touch me perish.' Then she looked
forth on the stars that were above the purple heights, and the blushes of
inner heaven that streamed up the sky, and a fear of meeting the eyes of
her kindred possessed her, and she cried out to Ruark, 'O Chief of the
Beni-Asser, must this be? and is there no help for it, but that I return
among them that look on me basely?'

Ruark stooped to her and said, 'Tell me thy name.'

She answered, 'Bhanavar is my name with that people.'

And he whispered, 'Surely when they speak of thee they say not Bhanavar
solely, but Bhanavar the Beautiful?'

She started and sought the eye of the Chief, and it was fixed on her face
in a softened light, as if his soul had said that thing. Then she sighed,
and exclaimed, 'Unhappy are the beautiful! born to misery! Allah dressed
them in his grace and favour for their certain wretchedness! Lo, their
countenances are as the sun, their existence as the desert; barren are
they in fruits and waters, a snare to themselves and to others!'

Now, the Chief leaned to her yet nearer, saying, 'Show me the Jewel.'

Bhanavar caught up her hands and clenched them, and she cried bitterly,
''Tis known to thee! She told thee, and there be none that know it not!'

Arising, she thrust her hand into her bosom, and held forth the Jewel in
the palm of her white hand. When Ruark beheld the marvel of the Jewel,
and the redness moving in it as of a panting heart, and the flashing eye
of fire that it was, and all its glory, he cried, 'It was indeed a Jewel
for queens to covet from the Serpent, and a prize the noblest might risk
all to win as a gift for thee.'

Then she said, 'Thy voice is friendly with me, O Ruark! and thou scornest
not the creature that I am. Counsel me as to my dealing with the Jewel.'

Surely the eyes of the Chief met the eyes of Bhanavar as when the
brightest stars of midnight are doubled in a clear dark lake, and he sang
in measured music:

     'Shall I counsel the moon in her ascending?
   Stay under that tall palm-tree through the night;
     Rest on the mountain-slope
     By the couching antelope,
   O thou enthroned supremacy of light!
    And for ever the lustre thou art lending,
   Lean on the fair long brook that leaps and leaps,--
     Silvery leaps and falls.
     Hang by the mountain walls,
   Moon! and arise no more to crown the steeps,
    For a danger and dolour is thy wending!

And, O Bhanavar, Bhanavar the Beautiful! shall I counsel thee, moon of
loveliness,--bright, full, perfect moon!--counsel thee not to ascend and
be seen and worshipped of men, sitting above them in majesty, thou that
art thyself the Jewel beyond price? Wah! What if thou cast it from
thee?--thy beauty remaineth!'

And Bhanavar smote her palms in the moonlight, and exclaimed, 'How then
shall I escape this in me, which is a curse to them that approach me?'

And he replied:

     Long we the less for the pearl of the sea
     Because in its depths there 's the death we flee?
     Long we the less, the less, woe's me!
     Because thou art deathly,--the less for thee?

She sang aloud among the rocks and the caves and the illumined waters:

     Destiny! Destiny! why am I so dark?
      I that have beauty and love to be fair.
     Destiny! Destiny! am I but a spark
      Track'd under heaven in flames and despair?
     Destiny! Destiny! why am I desired
      Thus like a poisonous fruit, deadly sweet?
     Destiny! Destiny! lo, my soul is tired,
      Make me thy plaything no more, I entreat!

Ruark laughed low, and said, 'What is this dread of Rukrooth my mother
which weigheth on thee but silliness! For she saw thee willing to do well
by her; and thou with thy Jewel, O Bhanavar, do thou but well by thyself,
and there will be no woman such as thou in power and excellence of
endowments, as there is nowhere one such as thou in beauty.' Then he
sighed to her, 'Dare I look up to thee, O my Queen of Serpents?' And he
breathed as one that is losing breath, and the words came from him, 'My
soul is thine!'

When she heard him say this, great trouble was on the damsel, for his
voice was not the voice of Zurvan her betrothed; and she remembered the
sorrow of Rukrooth. She would have fled from him, but a dread of the
displeasure of the Chief restrained her, knowing Ruark a soul of wrath.
Her eyelids dropped and the Chief gazed on her eagerly, and sang in a
passion of praises of her; the fires of his love had a tongue, his speech
was a torrent of flame at the feet of the damsel. And Bhanavar exclaimed,
'Oh, what am I, what am I, who have slain my love, my lover!--that one
should love me and call on me for love? My life is a long weeping for
him! Death is my wooer!'

Ruark still pleaded with her, and she said in fair gentleness, 'Speak not
of it now in the freshness of my grief! Other times and seasons are
there. My soul is but newly widowed!'

Fierce was the eye of the Chief, and he sprang up, crying, 'By the life
of my head, I know thy wiles and the reading of these delays: but I'll
never leave thee, nor lose sight of thee, Bhanavar! And think not to fly
from me, thou subtle, brilliant Serpent! for thy track is my track, and
thy condition my condition, and thy fate my fate. By Allah! this is so.'

Then he strode from her swiftly, and called to his Arabs. They had
kindled a fire to roast the flesh of a buffalo, slaughtered by them from
among a herd, and were laughing and singing beside the flames of the
fire. So by the direction of their Chief the Arabs brought slices of
sweet buffalo-flesh to Bhanavar, with cakes of grain: and Bhanavar ate
alone, and drank from the waters before her. Then they laid for her a
couch within the cave, and the aching of her spirit was lulled, and she
slept there a dreamless sleep till morning.

By the morning light Bhanavar looked abroad for the Chief, and he was
nowhere by. A pang of violent hope struck through her, and she pressed
her bosom, praying he might have left her, and climbed the clefts and
ledges of the mountain to search over the fair expanse of pasture beyond,
for a trace of him departing. The sun was on the heads of the heavy
flowers, and a flood of gold down the gorges, and a delicate rose hue on
the distant peaks and upper dells of snow, which were as a crown to the
scene she surveyed; but no sight of Ruark had she. And now she was
beginning to rejoice, but on a sudden her eye caught far to east a
glimpse of something in motion across an even slope of the lower hills
leaning to the valley; and it was a herd that rushed forward, like a
black torrent of the mountains flinging foam this way and that, and after
the herd and at the sides of the herd she distinguished the white cloaks
and scarfs and glittering steel of the Arabs of Ruark. Presently she saw
a horseman break from the rest, and race in a line toward her. She knew
this one for Ruark, and sighed and descended slowly to meet him. The
greeting of the Chief was sharp, his manner wild, and he said little ere
he said, 'I will see thee under the light of the Jewel, so tie it in a
band and set it on thy brow, Bhanavar!'

Her mouth was open to intercede with his desire, but his forehead became
black as night, and he shouted in the thunder of his lion-voice, 'Do
this!'

She took the Jewel from its warm bed in her bosom, and held it, and got
together a band of green weeds, and set it in the middle of the band, and
tied the band on her brow, and lifted her countenance to the Chief. Ruark
stood back from her and gazed on her; and he would have veiled his sight
from her, but his hand fell. Then the might of her loveliness seized
Bhanavar likewise, and the full orbs of her eyes glowed on the Chief as
on a mirror, and she moved her serpent figure scornfully, and smiled,
saying, 'Is it well?'

And he, when he could speak, replied, ''Tis well! I have seen thee! for
now can I die this day, if it be that I am to die. And well it is! for
now know I there is truly no place but the tomb can hold me from thee!'

Bhanavar put the Jewel from her brow into her bosom, and questioned him,
'What is thy dread this day, O my Chief?'

He answered her gravely, 'I have seen Rukrooth my mother while I slept;
and she was weeping, weeping by a stream, yea, a stream of blood; and it
was a stream that flowed in a hundred gushes from her own veins. The sun
of this dawn now, seest thou not? 'tis overcrimson; the vulture hangeth
low down yonder valley.' And he cried to her, 'Haste! mount with me; for
I have told Rukrooth a thing; and I know that woman crafty in the
thwarting of schemes; such a fox is she where aught accordeth not with
her forecastings, and the judgment of her love for me! By Allah! 'twere
well we clash not; for that I will do I do, and that she will do doth
she.'

So the twain mounted their steeds, and Ruark gathered his Arabs and
placed them, some in advance, some on either side of Bhanavar; and they
rode forward to the head of the valley, and across the meadows, through
the blushing crowds of flowers, baths of freshest scents, cool breezes
that awoke in the nostrils of the mares neighings of delight; and these
pranced and curvetted and swung their tails, and gave expression to their
joy in many graceful fashions; but a gloom was on Ruark, and a quick fire
in his falcon-eye, and he rode with heels alert on the flanks of his
mare, dashing onward to right and left, as do they that beat the jungle
for the crouching tiger. Once, when he was well-nigh half a league in
front, he wheeled his mare, and raced back full on Bhanavar, grasping her
bridle, and hissing between his teeth, 'Not a soul shall have thee save
I: by the tomb of my fathers, never, while life is with us!'

And he taunted her with bitter names, and was as one in the madness of
intoxication, drunken with the aspect of her matchless beauty and with
exceeding love for her. And Bhanavar knew that the dread of a mishap was
on the mind of the Chief.

Now, the space of pasture was behind them a broad lake of gold and
jasper, and they entered a region of hills, heights, and fastnesses,
robed in forests that rose in rounded swells of leafage, each over
each--above all points of snow that were as flickering silver flames in
the farthest blue. This was the country of Bhanavar, and she gazed
mournfully on the glades of golden green and the glens of iron blackness,
and the wild flowers, wild blossoms, and weeds well known to her that
would not let her memory rest, and were wistful of what had been. And she
thought, 'My sisters tend the flocks, my mother spinneth with the maidens
of the tribe, my father hunteth; how shall I come among them but strange?
Coldly will they regard me; I shall feel them shudder when they take me
to their bosoms.'

She looked on Ruark to speak with him, but the mouth of the Chief was set
and white; and even while she looked, cries of treason and battle arose
from the Arabs that were ahead, hidden by a branching wind of the way
round a mountain slant. Then the eyes of the Chief reddened, his nostrils
grew wide, and the darkness of his face was as flame mixed with smoke,
and he seized Bhanavar and hastened onward, and lo! yonder were his men
overmatched, and warriors of the mountains bursting on them from an
ambush on all sides. Ruark leapt in his seat, and the light of combat was
on him, and he dug his knees into his mare, and shouted the war-cry of
his tribe, lifting his hands as it were to draw down wrath from the very
heavens, and rushed to the encounter. Says the poet:

   Hast thou seen the wild herd by the jungle galloping close?
   With a thunder of hooves they trample what heads may oppose:
   Terribly, crushingly, tempest-like, onward they sweep:
   But a spring from the reeds, and the panther is sprawling in air,
   And with muzzle to dust and black beards foam-lash'd, here and there,
   Scatter'd they fly, crimson-eyed, track'd with blood to the deep.

Such was the onset of Ruark, his stroke the stroke of death; and ere the
echoes had ceased rolling from that cry of his, the mountain-warriors
were scattered before him on the narrow way, hurled down the scrub of the
mountain, even as dead leaves and loosened stones; so like an arm of
lightning was the Chief!

Now Ruark pursued them, and was lost to Bhanavar round a slope of the
mountain. She quickened her pace to mark him in the glory of the battle,
and behold! a sudden darkness enveloped her, and she felt herself in the
swathe of tightened folds, clasped in an arm, and borne rapidly she knew
not whither, for she could hear and see nothing. It was to her as were
she speeding constantly downward in darkness to the lower realms of the
Genii of the Caucasus, and every sense, and even that of fear, was
stunned in her. How long an interval had elapsed she knew not, when the
folds were unwound; but it was light of day, and the faces of men, and
they were warriors that were about her, warriors of the mountain; but of
Ruark and his Arabs no voice. So she said to them, 'What do ye with me?'

And one among them, that was a youth of dignity and grace, and a
countenance like morning on the mountains, answered, 'The will of
Rukrooth, O lady! and it is the plight of him we bow to with Rukrooth,
mother of the Desert-Chief.'

She cried, 'Is he here, the Prince, that I may speak with him?'

The same young warrior made answer, 'Not so; forewarned was he, and well
for him!'

Bhanavar drew her robe about her and was mute. Ere the setting of the
moon they journeyed on with her; and continued so three days and nights
through the defiles and ravines and matted growths of the mountains. On
the fourth dawn they were on the summit of a lofty mountain-rise; below
them the sun, shooting a current of gold across leagues of sea. Then he
that had spoken with Bhanavar said, 'A sail will come,' and a sail came
from under the sun. Scarce had the ship grated shore when the warriors
lifted Bhanavar, and waded through the water with her, and placed her
unwetted in the ship, and one, the fair youth among the warriors, sprang
on board with her, remaining by her. So the captain pushed off, and the
wind filled the sails, and Bhanavar was borne over the lustre of the sea,
that was as a changing opal in its lustre, even as a melted jewel flowing
from the fingers of the maker, the Almighty One. The ship ceased not
sailing till they came to a narrow strait, where the sea was but a river
between fair sloping hills alight with towers and palaces, opening a way
to a great city that was in its radiance over the waters of the sea as
the aspect of myriad sheeny white doves breasting the wave. Hitherto the
young warrior had held aloof in coldness of courtesy from Bhanavar; but
now he sat by her, and said, 'The bond between my prince and Rukrooth is
accomplished, and it was to snatch thee from the Chief of the Beni-Asser
and bring thee even to this city.'

Bhanavar exclaimed, 'Allah be praised in all things, and his will be
done!'

The youth continued, 'Thou art alone here, O lady, exposed to the perils
of loneliness; surely it were well if I linger with thee awhile, and see
to thy welfare in this city, even as a brother with a sister; and I will
deal honourably by thee.'

Bhanavar looked on the young warrior and blushed at his exceeding
sweetness with her; the soft freshness of his voice was to her as the
blossom-laden breeze in the valleys of the mountains, and she breathed
low the words of her gratitude, saying, 'If I am not a burden, let this
be so.'

Then said he, 'Know me by my name, which is Almeryl; and that we seem
indeed of one kin, make known unto me thine.'

She replied, 'Ill-omened is it, this name of Bhanavar!'

The youth among warriors gazed on her a moment with the fluttering eye of
bashfulness, and said, 'Can they that have marked thee call thee other
than Bhanavar the Beautiful?'

She remembered that Ruark had spoken in like manner, and the curse of her
beauty smote her, and she thought, 'This fair youth, he hath not a mother
to watch over him and ward off souls of evil. I dread there will come a
mishap to him through me; Allah shield him from it!' And she sought to
dissuade him from resting by her, but he cried, ''Tis but a choice to
dwell with thee or with the dogs in the street outside thy door, O
Bhanavar!'

Now, the ship sailed close up to the quay, and cast anchor there in the
midst of other ships of merchandise. Almeryl then threw a robe over his
mountain dress and spoke with the captain apart, and he and Bhanavar took
leave of the captain, and landed on the quay among the porters, and of
these one stepped forward to them and shouted cheerily, 'Where be the
burdens and the bales, O ye, fair couple fashioned in the eye of elegant
proportions? Ye twin palm-trees, male and female! Wullahy! broad is the
back of your servant.'

Almeryl beckoned to him that he should follow them, and he followed them,
blessing the wind that had brought them to that city and the day. So they
passed through the streets and lanes of the city, and the porter pointed
out this house and that house wanting an occupant, and Almeryl fixed on
one in an open thoroughfare that had before it a grass-plot, and behind a
garden with fountains and flowers, and grass-knolls shaded by trees; and
he paid down the half of its price, and had it furnished before nightfall
sumptuously, and women in it to wait on Bhanavar, and stuffs and goods,
and scents for the bath,--all luxuries whatsoever that tradesmen and
merchants there could give in exchange for gold. Then Almeryl dismissed
the porter in Allah's name, and gladdened his spirit with a gift over the
due of his hire that exalted him in the eyes of the porter, and the
porter went from him, exclaiming, 'In extremity Ukleet is thy slave!' and
he sang:

   Shouldst thou see a slim youth with a damsel arriving,
   Be sure 'tis the hour when thy fortune is thriving;
   A generous fee makes the members so supple
   That over the world they could carry this couple.

Now so it was that the youth Almeryl and the damsel Bhanavar abode in the
city they had come to weeks and months, and life to either of them as the
flowing of a gentle stream, even as brother and sister lived they,
chastely, and with temperate feasting. Surely the youth loved her with a
great love, and the heart of Bhanavar turned not from him, and was won
utterly by his gentleness and nobleness and devotion; and they relied on
each other's presence for any joy, and were desolate in absence, as the
poet says:

        When we must part, love,
        Such is my smart, love,
        Sweetness is savourless,
        Fairness is favourless!
        But when in sight, love,
        We two unite, love,
        Earth has no sour to me;
        Life is a flower to me!

And with the increase of every day their passion increased, and the
revealing light in their eyes brightened and was humid, as is sung by him
that luted to the rage of hearts:

        Evens star yonder
         Comes like a crown on us,
        Larger and fonder
         Grows its orb down on us;
        So, love, my love for thee
         Blossoms increasingly;
        So sinks it in the sea,
         Waxing unceasingly.

On a night, when the singing-girls had left them, the youth could contain
himself no more, and caught the two hands of Bhanavar in his, saying,
'This that is in my soul for thee thou knowest, O Bhanavar! and 'tis
spoken when I move and when I breathe, O my loved one! Tell me then the
cause of thy shunning me whenever I would speak of it, and be plain with
thee.'

For a moment Bhanavar sought to release herself from his hold, but the
love in his eyes entangled her soul as in a net, and she sank forward to
him, and sighed under his chin, ''Twas indeed my very love of thee that
made me.'

The twain embraced and kissed a long kiss, and leaned sideways together,
and Bhanavar said, 'Hear me, what I am.'

Then she related the story of the Serpent and the Jewel, and of the death
of her betrothed. When it was ended, Almeryl cried, 'And was this
all?--this that severed us?' And he said, 'Hear what I am.'

So he told Bhanavar how Rukrooth, the mother of Ruark, had sent
messengers to the Prince his father, warning him of the passage of Ruark
through the mountains with one a Queen of Serpents, a sorceress, that had
bewitched him and enthralled him in a mighty love for her, to the ruin of
Ruark; and how the Chief was on his way with her to demand her in
marriage at the hands of her parents; and the words of Rukrooth were, 'By
the service that was between thee and my husband, and by the death he
died, O Prince, rescue the Chief my son from this damsel, and entrap her
from him, and have her sent even to the city of the inland sea, for no
less a distance than that keepeth Ruark from her.'

And Almeryl continued, 'I questioned the messengers myself, and they told
me the marvel of thy loveliness and the peril to him that looked on it,
so I swore there was no power should keep me from a sight of thee, O my
loved one! my prize! my life! my sleek antelope of the hills! Surely when
my father appointed the warriors to lie in wait for thy coming, I slipped
among them, so that they thought it ordered by him I should head them.
The rest is known to thee, O my fountain of blissfulness! but the
treachery to Ruark was the treachery of Ebn Asrac, not of such warriors
as we; and I would have fallen on Ebn Asrac, had not Ruark so routed that
man without faith. 'Twas all as I have said, blessed be Allah and his
decrees!'

Bhanavar gazed on her beloved, and the bridal dew overflowed her
underlids, and she loosed her hair to let it flow, part over her
shoulders, part over his, and in sighs that were the measure of music she
sang:

     I thought not to love again!
      But now I love as I loved not before;
     I love not; I adore!
   O my beloved, kiss, kiss me! waste thy kisses like a rain.
     Are not thy red lips fain?
      Oh, and so softly they greet!
      Am I not sweet?
    Sweet must I be for thee, or sweet in vain:
     Sweet to thee only, my dear love!
    The lamps and censers sink, but cannot cheat
     These eyes of thine that shoot above
     Trembling lustres of the dove!
    A darkness drowns all lustres: still I see
      Thee, my love, thee!
    Thee, my glory of gold, from head to feet!
   Oh, how the lids of the world close quite when our lips meet!

Almeryl strained her to him, and responded:

     My life was midnight on the mountain side;
      Cold stars were on the heights:
     There, in my darkness, I had lived and died,
      Content with nameless lights.
     Sudden I saw the heavens flush with a beam,
      And I ascended soon,
     And evermore over mankind supreme,
      Stood silver in the moon.

And he fell playfully into a new metre, singing:

     Who will paint my beloved
      In musical word or colour?
     Earth with an envy is moved:
      Sea-shells and roses she brings,
      Gems from the green ocean-springs,
      Fruits with the fairy bloom-dews,
      Feathers of Paradise hues,
      Waters with jewel-bright falls,
      Ore from the Genii-halls:
     All in their splendour approved;
     All; but, match'd with my beloved,
      Darker, and denser, and duller.

Then she kissed him for that song, and sang:

     Once to be beautiful was my pride,
      And I blush'd in love with my own bright brow:
     Once, when a wooer was by my side,
      I worshipp'd the object that had his vow:
     Different, different, different now,
      Different now is my beauty to me:
     Different, different, different now!
      For I prize it alone because prized by thee.

Almeryl stretched his arm to the lattice, and drew it open, letting in
the soft night wind, and the sound of the fountain and the bulbul and the
beam of the stars, and versed to her in the languor of deep love:

     Whether we die or we live,
      Matters it now no more:
     Life has nought further to give:
      Love is its crown and its core.
     Come to us either, we're rife,--
      Death or life!

     Death can take not away,
      Darkness and light are the same:
     We are beyond the pale ray,
      Wrapt in a rosier flame:
     Welcome which will to our breath;
      Life or death!

So did these two lovers lute and sing in the stillness of the night,
pouring into each other's ears melodies from the new sea of fancy and
feeling that flowed through them.

Ere they ceased their sweet interchange of tenderness, which was but one
speech from one soul, a glow of light ran up the sky, and the edge of a
cloud was fired; and in the blooming of dawn Almeryl hung over Bhanavar,
and his heart ached to see the freshness of her wondrous loveliness; and
he sang, looking on her:

     The rose is living in her cheeks,
      The lily in her rounded chin;
     She speaks but when her whole soul speaks,
      And then the two flow out and in,
     And mix their red and white to make
      The hue for which I'd Paradise forsake.

     Her brow from her black falling hair
      Ascends like morn: her nose is clear
     As morning hills, and finely fair
      With pearly nostrils curving near
     The red bow of her upper lip;
      Her bosom's the white wave beneath the ship.

     The fair full earth, the enraptured skies,
      She images in constant play:
     Night and the stars are in her eyes,
      But her sweet face is beaming day,
     A bounteous interblush of flowers:
      A dewy brilliance in a dale of bowers.

Then he said, 'And this morning shall our contract of marriage be written
and witnessed?'

She answered, 'As my lord willeth; I am his.'

Said he, 'And it is thy desire?'

She nestled to him and dinted his bare arm with the pearls of her mouth
for a reply.

So that morning their contract of marriage was written, and witnessed by
the legal number of witnesses in the presence of the Cadi, with his
license on it endorsed; and Bhanavar was the bride of Almeryl, he her
husband. Never was youth blessed in a bride like that youth!

Now, the twain lived together the circle of a full year of delightful
marriage, and love lessened not in them, but was as the love of the first
day. Little cared they, having each other, for the loneliness of their
dwelling in that city, where they knew none save the porter Ukleet, who
went about their commissions. Sometimes to amuse themselves with his
drolleries, they sent for him, and were bountiful with him, and made him
drink with them on the lawn of their garden leaning to an inlet of the
sea; and then he would entertain them with all the scandal and gossip of
the city, and its little folk and great. When he was outrageously
extravagant in these stories of his, Bhanavar exclaimed, 'Are such
things, now? can it be true?'

And he nodded in his conceit, and replied loftily, ''Tis certain, O my
Prince and Princess! ye be from the mountains, unused to the follies and
dissipations of men where they herd; and ye know them not, men!'

The lamps being lit in the garden to the edges of the water, where they
lay one evening, Ukleet, who had been in his briskest mood, became grave,
and put his forefinger to the side of his nose and began, 'Hear ye aught
of the great tidings? Wullahy! no other than the departure of the wife of
Boolp, the broker, into darkness. 'Tis of Boolp ye hire this house, and
had ye a hundred houses in this city ye might have had them from Boolp
the broker, he that's rich; and glory to them whom Allah prospereth, say
I! And I mention this matter, for 'tis certain now Boolp will take
another wife to him to comfort him, for there be two things beloved of
Boolp, and therein manifesteth he taste and the discernment of
excellence, and what is approved; and of these two things let the love of
his hoards of the yellow-skinned treasure go first, and after that
attachment to the silver-skinned of creation, the fair, the rapturous;
even to them! So by this see ye not Boolp will yearn in his soul for
another spouse? Now, O ye well-matched pair! what a chance were this,
knew ye but a damsel of the mountains, exquisite in symmetry, a moon to
enrapture the imagination of Boolp, and in the nature of things herit his
possessions! for Boolp is an old man, even very old.'

They laughed, and cried, 'We know not of such a damsel, and the broker
must go unmarried for us.'

When next Ukleet sat before them, Almeryl took occasion to speak of Boolp
again, and said, 'This broker, O Ukleet, is he also a lender of money?'

Ukleet replied, 'O my Prince, he is or he is not: 'tis of the maybes. I
wot truly Boolp is one that baiteth the hook of an emergency.'

The brows of the Prince were downcast, and he said no more; but on the
following morning he left Bhanavar early under a pretext, and sallied
forth from the house of their abode alone.

Since their union in that city they had not been once apart, and Bhanavar
grieved and thought, 'Waneth his love for me?' and she called her women
to her, and dressed in this dress and that dress, and was satisfied with
none. The dews of the bath stood cold upon her, and she trembled, and
fled from mirror to mirror, and in each she was the same surpassing
vision of loveliness. Then her women held a glass to her, and she
examined herself closely, if there might be a fleck upon her anywhere,
and all was as the snow of the mountains on her round limbs sloping in
the curves of harmony, and the faint rose of the dawn on slants of snow
was their hue. Twining her fingers and sighing, she thought, 'It is not
that! he cannot but think me beautiful.' She smiled a melancholy smile at
her image in the glass, exclaiming, 'What availeth it, thy beauty? for he
is away and looketh not on thee, thou vain thing! And what of thy
loveliness if the light illumine it not, for he is the light to thee, and
it is darkness when he's away.'

Suddenly she thought, 'What's that which needeth to light it no other
light? I had well-nigh forgotten it in my bliss, the Jewel!' Then she
went to a case of ebony-wood, where she kept the Jewel, and drew it
forth, and shone in the beam of a pleasant imagination, thinking, ''Twill
surprise him!' And she robed herself in a robe of saffron, and set lesser
gems of the diamond and the emerald in the braid of her hair, and knotted
the Serpent Jewel firmly in a band of gold-threaded tissue, and had it
woven in her hair among the braids. In this array she awaited his coming,
and pleased her mind with picturing his astonishment and the joy that
would be his. Mute were the women who waited on her, for in their lives
they had seen no such sight as Bhanavar beneath the beams of the Jewel,
and the whole chamber was aglow with her.

Now, in her anxiety she sent them one and one repeatedly to look forth at
the window for the coming of the Prince. So, when he came not she went
herself to look forth, and stretched her white neck beyond the casement.
While her head was exposed, she heard a cry of some one from the house in
the street opposite, and Bhanavar beheld in the house of the broker an
old wrinkled fellow that gesticulated to her in a frenzy. She snatched
her veil down and drew in her head in anger at him, calling to her maids,
'What is yonder hideous old dotard?'

And they answered, laughing, ''Tis indeed Boolp the broker, O fair
mistress and mighty!'

To divert herself she made them tell her of Boolp, and they told her a
thousand anecdotes of the broker, and verses of him, and the constancy of
his amorous condition, and his greediness. And Bhanavar was beguiled of
her impatience till it was evening, and the Prince returned to her. So
they embraced, and she greeted him as usual, waiting what he would say,
searching his countenance for a token of wonderment; but the youth knew
not that aught was added to her beauty, for he looked nowhere save in her
eyes. Bhanavar was nigh weeping with vexation, and pushed him from her,
and chid him with lack of love and weariness of her; and the eye of the
Prince rose to her brow to read it, and he saw the Jewel. Almeryl clapped
his hands, crying, 'Wondrous! And this thy surprise for me, my fond one?
beloved of mine!' Then he gazed on her a space, and said, 'Knowest thou,
thou art terrible in thy beauty, Bhanavar, and hast the face of lightning
under that Jewel of the Serpent?'

She kissed him, whispering, 'Not lightning to thee! Yet lovest thou
Bhanavar?'

He replied, 'Surely so; and all save Bhanavar in this world is the
darkness of oblivion to me.'

When it was the next morning, Almeryl rose to go forth again. Ere he had
passed the curtain of the chamber Bhanavar caught him by the arm, and she
was trembling violently. Her visage was a wild inquiry: 'Thou goest?--and
again? There is something hidden from me!'

Almeryl took her to his heart, and caressed her with fond flatteries,
saying, 'Ask but what is beating under these two pomegranates, and thou
learnest all of me.'

But she stamped her foot, crying, 'No! no! I will hear it! There's a
mystery.'

So he said, 'Well, then, it is this only; small matter enough. I have a
business with the captain of the vessel that brought us hither, and I
must see him ere he setteth sail; no other than that, thou jealous,
watchful star! Pierce me with thine eyes; it is no other than that.'

She levelled her lids at him till her lustrous black eyelashes were as
arrows, and mimicked him softly, 'No other than that?'

And he replied, 'Even so.'

Then she clung to him like a hungry creature, repeating, 'Even so,' and
let him go. Alone, she summoned a slave, a black, and bade him fetch to
her without delay Ukleet the porter, and the porter was presently ushered
in to her, protesting service and devotion. So, she questioned him of
Almeryl, and the Prince's business abroad, what he knew of it. Ukleet
commenced reciting verses on the ills of jealousy, but Bhanavar checked
him with an eye that Ukleet had seen never before in woman or in man, and
he gaped at her helplessly, as one that has swallowed a bone. She
laughed, crying, 'Learn, O thou fellow, to answer my like by the letter.'

Now, what she heard from Ukleet when he had recovered his wits, was that
the Prince had a business with none save the lenders of money. So she
spake to Ukleet in a kindly tone, 'Thou art mine, to serve me?'

He was as one fascinated, and delivered himself, 'Yea, O my mistress!
with tongue-service, toe-service, back-service, brain-service, whatso
pleaseth thy sweet presence.'

Said she, 'Hie over to the broker opposite, and bring him hither to me.'

Ukleet departed, saying, 'To hear is to obey.'

She sat gazing on the Jewel and its counterchanging splendours in her
hand, and the thought of Almeryl and his necessity was her only thought.
Not ten minutes of the hour had passed before the women waiting on her
announced Ukleet and the broker Boolp. Bhanavar gave little heed to the
old fellow's grimaces, and the compliments he addressed her, but handed
him the Jewel and desired his valuation of its worth. The face of Boolp
was a keen edge when he regarded Bhanavar, but the sight of the Jewel
sharpened it tenfold, and he tossed his arms, exclaiming, 'A jewel,
this!'

So Bhanavar cried to him, 'Fix a price for it, O thou broker!'

And Boolp, the old miser, debated, and began prating,

'O lady! the soul of thy slave is abashed by a double beam, this the
jewel of jewels, thou truly of thy sex; and saving thee there's no jewel
of worth like this one, and together ye be--wullahy! never felt I aught
like this since my espousal of Soolka that 's gone, and 'twas nothing
like it then! Now, O my Princess, confess it freely--this is but a
pretext, this valuation of the Jewel, and Ukleet our go-between; and
leave the rewarding of him to me. Wullahy! I can be generous, and my days
of favour with fair ladies be not yet over. Blessed be Allah for this
day! And thinkest thou those eyes fell on me with discriminating
observation ere my sense of perception was struck by thee? Not so, for I
had noted thee, O moon of hearts, from my window yonder.'

In this fashion Boolp the broker went on prating, and bowing, and
screwing the corners of his little acid eyes to wink the wink of common
accord between himself and Bhanavar. Meantime she had spoken aside to one
of her women, and a second black slave entered the chamber, bearing in
his hand a twisted scourge, and that slave laid it on the back of Boolp
the broker, and by this means he was brought quickly to the valuation of
the Jewel. Then he named a sum that was a great sum, but not the value of
the Jewel to the fiftieth part, nay nor the five-hundredth part, of its
value; and Ukleet remonstrated with him, but he was resolute, saying,
'Even that sum leaves me a beggar.'

So Bhanavar said, 'My desire is for immediate payment of the money, and
the Jewel is thine for that sum.'

Now the broker went to fetch the money, and returned with it in bags of
gold one-half the amount, and bags of silver one-third, and the remainder
in writing made due at a certain period for payment. And he groaned and
handed her the money, and took the Jewel in his hands; ejaculating, 'In
the name of Allah!'

That evening, when it was dark and the lamps lit in the chamber, and the
wine set and the nosegay, Almeryl asked of Bhanavar to see her under the
light of the Jewel. She warded him with an excuse, but he was earnest
with her. So she feigned that he teased her, saying, ''Tis that thou art
no longer content with me as I am, O my husband!' Then she said, 'Wert
thou successful in thy dealings this day?'

His arm slackened round her, and he answered nothing. So she cried, 'Fie
on thee, thou foolish one! and what is thy need of running over this
city? Know I not thy case and thine occasion, O my beloved? Surely I am
Queen of Serpents, a mistress of enchantments, a diviner of things
hidden, and I know thee. Here, then, is what thou requirest, and conceal
not from me thy necessity another time, my husband!'

Upon that she pointed his eye to the money-bags of gold and of silver.
Almeryl was amazed, and asked her, 'How came these? for I was at the last
extremity, without coin of any kind.'

She answered, 'How, but by the Serpents!'

And he exclaimed, 'Would that I might work as that porter worketh, rather
than this!'

Now, seeing he bewailed her use of the powers of the Jewel, Bhanavar fell
between his arms, and related to him her discovery of his condition, and
how she disposed of the Jewel to the broker, and of the scourging of
Boolp; and he praised her, and clave to her, and they laughed and
delighted their souls in plenteousness, and bliss was their portion; as
the poet says,

     Bliss that is born of mutual esteem
     And tried companionship, I truly deem
     A well-based palace, wherein fountains rise
     From springs that have their sources in the skies.

So were they for awhile. It happened that one day, that was the last day
of the year since her wearing of the Jewel, Ukleet said to them, 'Be
wary! the Vizier Aswarak hath his eye on you, and it is no cool one. I
say nothing: the wise are discreet in their tellings of the great. 'Tis
certain the broker Boolp forgetteth not his treatment here.'

They smiled, turning to each other, and said, 'We live innocently, we
harm no one, what should we fear?'

During the night of that day Bhanavar awoke and kissed the Prince; and
lo! he shuddered in his sleep as with the grave-cold. A second time she
was awakened on the breast of Almeryl by a dream of the Serpents of the
Lake Karatis--the lake of the Jewel; and she stood up, and there was in
the street a hum of voices, and she saw there before the house armed men
with naked steel in their hands. Scarce had she called Almeryl to her,
when the outer door of their house was forced, and she shrieked to him,
''Tis thou they come for: fly, O my Prince, my husband! the way of the
garden is clear.'

But he said sadly, 'Nay, what am I? it is thou they would win from me.
I'll leave thee not in this life.'

So she cried, 'O my soul, then together!--but I shall hinder thee, and be
a burden to thy flight.'

And she called on the All-powerful for aid, and ran with him into the
garden of the house, and lo! by the water side at the end of the garden a
boat full of armed soldiers with scimitars. So these fell upon them, and
bound them, and haled them into the house again, where was the dark
Vizier Aswarak, and certain officers of the night watch with a force. The
Vizier cried when he saw them, 'I accuse thee, Prince Almeryl, of being
here in the city of our lord the King, to conspire against him and his
authority.'

Almeryl faced the Vizier firmly, and replied, 'I knew not in my life I
had made an enemy; but there is one here who telleth that of me.'

The Vizier frowned, saying, 'Thou deniest this? And thou here, and thy
father at war with the sovereignty of our lord the King!'

Almeryl beheld his danger, and he said, 'Is this so?'

Then cried the Vizier, 'Hear him! is not that a fair simulation?' So he
called to the guard, 'Shackle him!' When that was done, he ordered the
house to be sacked, and the women and the slaves he divided for a spoil,
but he reserved Bhanavar to himself: and lo! twice she burst away from
them that held her to hang upon the lips of Almeryl, and twice was she
torn from him as a grape-bunch is torn from the streaming vine, and the
third time she swooned and the anguish of life left her.

Now, Bhanavar was borne to the harem of the Vizier, and for days she
suffered no morsel of food to enter her mouth, and was dying, had not the
Vizier in the cunning of his dissimulation fed her with distant glimpses
of Almeryl, to show her he yet lived. Then she thought, 'While my beloved
liveth, life is due to me'; and she ate and drank and reassumed her fair
fulness and the queenliness that was hers; but the Vizier had no love of
her, and respected her, considering in his mind, 'Time will exhaust the
fury of this tigress, and she is a fruit worth the waiting for. Wullahy!
I shall have possessed her ere the days of over-ripening.'

There was in the harem of the Vizier a mountain-girl that had been
brought there in her childhood, and trained to play upon the lute and
accompany her voice with the instrument. To this little damsel Bhanavar
gave her heart, and would listen all day, as in a trance, to her luting,
till the desire to escape from that bondage and gather tidings of Almeryl
mastered her, and she persuaded one of the blacks of the harem with a
bribe to procure her an interview with the porter Ukleet. So at a certain
hour of the night Ukleet was introduced into the garden of the harem, and
he was in the darkness of that garden a white-faced porter with knees
that knocked the dread-march together; but Bhanavar strengthened his
soul, and he said to her, ''Twas the doing of Boolp the broker: and he
whispered the Vizier of thee and thy beauty, O my mistress! Surely thy
punishment and this ruin is but part payment to Boolp of the price of the
Jewel, the great Jewel that's in the hands of the Vizier.'

Then she questioned him: 'And Almeryl, the Prince, my husband, what of
him?'

Ukleet was dumb, and Bhanavar asked to hear no more. Surely she was at
the gates of pale spirits within an hour of her interview with Ukleet,
and there was no blessedness for her save in death, the stiffer of ills,
the drug that is infallible. As is said:

     Dark is that last stage of sorrow
     Which from Death alone can borrow
     Comfort:--

Bhanavar would have died then, but in a certain pause of her fever the
Vizier stood by her. She looked at him long as she lay, and the life in
her large eyes was ebbing away slowly; but there seemed presently a
check, as an eddy comes in the stream, and the light of intelligence
flowed like a reviving fire into her eyes, and her heart quickened with
desire of life while she looked on the Vizier. So she passed the pitch of
that fever, and bloomed anew in her beauty, and cherished it, for she had
a purpose.

Now, there was rejoicing in the harem of the Vizier Aswarak when Bhanavar
arose from the couch; and the Vizier exulted, thinking, 'I have tamed
this wild beauty, or she had reached death in that extremity.' So he
allowed Bhanavar greater freedom and indulgences, and Bhanavar feigned to
give her soul to the pleasures women delight in, and the Vizier buried
her in gems and trinkets and costly raiment, robes of exquisite silks,
the choicest of Samarcand and China; and he permitted her to make
purchases among certain of the warehouses of the city and the shops of
the tradesmen, jewellers and others, so that she went about as she would,
but for the slaves that attended her and the overseer of the harem. This
continued, and Aswarak became urgent with her, and to remove suspicion
from him she named a day from that period when she would be his. Meantime
she contrived to see Ukleet the porter frequently, and within a week of
her engagement with the Vizier she gazed from a lattice-window of the
harem, and beheld in the garden, by the beams of the moon, Ukleet, and he
was looking as on the watch for her. So she sent to him the little
mountain-girl she loved, but Ukleet would tell her nothing; then went she
herself, greeting him graciously, for his service was other than that of
self-seeking.

Ukleet said, 'O Lady, mistress of hearts, moon of the tides of will! 'tis
certain I was thy slave from the hour I beheld thee first, and of the
Prince, thy husband; Allah rest his soul! Now these be my tidings.
Wullahy! the King is one maddened with the reports I've spread about of
thy beauty, yea! raging. And I have a friend in his palace, even an
under-cook, acute in the interpreting of wishes. There was he always
gabbling of thy case, O my Princess, till the head-cook seized hold on
it, and so it went to the chamberlain, thence to the chief of the
eunuchs, and from him in a natural course, to the King. Now from the King
the tracking of this tale went to the under-cook down again, and from him
to me. So was I summoned to the King, and the King discoursed with me--I
with him, in fair fluency; he in ejaculations of desire to have sight of
thee, I in expatiation on that he would see when he had his desire. Now
in this have I not done thee a service, O sovereign of fancies?'

Bhanavar mused and said, 'On the after-morrow I pass through the city to
make a selection of goods, and I shall pass at noon by the great mosque,
on my way to the shop of Ebn Roulchook, the King's jeweller, beyond the
meat-market. Of a surety, I know not how my lord the King may see me.'

Said the porter, ''Tis enough! on my head be it.' And he went from her,
singing the song:

     How little a thing serves Fortune's turn
      When she's intent on doing!
     How easily the world may burn
      When kings come out a-wooing!

Now, ere she set forth on the after-morrow to make her purchases,
Bhanavar sent word to the Vizier Aswarak that she would see him, and he
came to her drunken with alacrity, for he augured favourably that her
reluctance was melting toward him: so she said, 'O my master, my time of
mourning is at an end, and I would look well before thee, even as one
worthy of being thy bride; so bestow on me, I pray thee, for my wearing
that day, the jewels that be in thy treasury, the brightest and clearest
of them, and the largest.'

The Vizier Aswarak replied, and he was one in great satisfaction of soul,
'All that I have are thine. Wullahy! and one, a marvel, that I bought of
Boolp the broker, that had it from an African merchant.' So he commanded
the box wherein he had deposited the Jewel to be brought to him there in
the chamber of Bhanavar, and took forth the Serpent Jewel between his
forefinger and thumb, and laughed at the eager eyes of Bhanavar when she
beheld it, saying, ''Tis thine! thy bridal gift the day I possess thee.'

Bhanavar trembled at the sight of the Jewel, and its redness was to her
as the blood of Zurvan and Almeryl. She stretched her hand out for it and
cried, 'This day, O my lord, make it mine.'

So the Vizier said, 'Nay, what I have spoken will I keep to; it has cost
me much.'

Bhanavar looked at him, and uttered in a soft tone, 'Truly it has cost
thee much.'

Then she exclaimed, as in play, 'See me, how I look by its beam.' And in
her guile she snatched the Jewel from him, and held it to her brow. Then
Aswarak started from her and feared her, for the red light of the Jewel
glowed, and darkened the chamber with its beam, darkening all save the
lustre that was on the visage of Bhanavar. He shouted, 'What's this! Art
thou a sorceress?'

She removed the Jewel, and ceased glaring on him, and said, 'Nothing but
thy poor slave!'

Then he coaxed her to give him the Jewel, and she would not; he commanded
her peremptorily, and she hesitated; so he grasped her tightened hand,
and his face loured with wrath; yet she withheld the Jewel from him
laughing; and he was stirred to extreme wrath, and drew from his girdle
the naked scimitar, and menaced her with it. And he looked mighty; but
she dreaded him little, and stood her full height before him, daring him,
and she was as the tigress defending a cub from a wilder beast. Now when
he was about to call in the armed slaves of the palace, she said, 'I warn
thee, Vizier Aswarak! tempt me not to match them that serve me with them
that serve thee.'

He ground his teeth in fury, crying, 'A conspiracy! and in the harem!
Now, thou traitress! the logic of the lash shall be tried upon thee.' And
he roared, 'Ho! ye without there! ho!'

But ere the slaves had entered Bhanavar rubbed the Jewel on her bosom,
muttering, 'I have forborne till now! Now will I have a sacrifice, though
I be it.' And rubbing the Jewel, she sang,

     Hither! hither!
      Come to your Queen;
     Come through the grey wall,
      Come through the green!

There was heard a noise like the noise of a wind coming down a narrow
gorge above falling waters, a hissing and a rushing of wings, and behold!
Bhanavar was circled by rings and rings of serpent-folds that glowed
round her, twisted each in each, with the fierceness of fire, she like a
flame rising up white in the midst of them. The black slaves, when they
had lifted the curtain of the harem-chamber, shrieked to see her, and
Aswarak crouched at her feet with the aspect of an angry beast carved in
stone. Then Bhanavar loosed on either of the slaves a serpent, saying,
'What these have seen they shall not say.' And while the sweat dropped
heavily from the forehead of Aswarak, she stepped out of the circle of
serpents, singing,

        Over! over!
         Hie to the lake!
        Sleep with the left eye,
         Keep the right awake.

Then the serpents spread with a great whirr, and flew through the high
window and the walls as they had come, and she said to the Vizier, 'What
now? Fearest thou? I have spared thee, thou that madest me desolate! and
thy slaves are a sacrifice for thee. Now this I ask: Where lies my
beloved, the Prince my husband? Speak nothing of him, save the place of
his burial!'

So he told her, 'In the burial-ground of the great prison.'

She rolled her eyes on the Vizier darkly, exclaiming, 'Even where the
felons lie entombed, he lieth!' And she began to pant, pale with what she
had done, and leaned to the floor, and called,

     Yellow stripe, with freckle red,
     Coil and curl, and watch by my head.

And a serpent with yellow stripes and red freckles came like a javelin
down to her, and coiled and curled round her head, and she slept an hour.
When she arose the Vizier was yet there, sitting with folded knees. So
she sped the serpent to the Lake Karatis, and called her women to her,
and went to an inner room, and drew an outer robe and a vest over that
she had on, and passed the Vizier, and said, 'Art thou not rejoiced in
thy bride, O Aswarak? 'Twas a wondrous clemency, hers! Now but four more
days and thou claimest her. Say nothing of what thou hast seen, or thou
wilt shortly see nothing further to say, my master.'

So she left the Vizier sitting still in that chamber, and mounted a mule,
attended by slaves on foot before and behind her, and passed through the
streets till she came to the shop of Ebn Roulchook. The King was in
disguise at the extremity of the shop, and while she examined this and
that of the precious stones, Bhanavar for a moment made bare the beauty,
of her face, and love's fires took fast hold of the King, and he cried,
'I marvel not at the eloquence of the porter.'

Now, she made Ebn Roulchook bring to her a circlet of gold, with a hollow
in the frontal centre, and fit into that hollow the Serpent Jewel. So,
while she laughed and chatted with her women Bhanavar lifted the circlet,
and made her countenance wholly bare even to the neck and the beginning
slope of the bosom, and fixed the circlet to her head with the Jewel
burning on her brow. Then when he beheld the glory of excelling
loveliness that she was, and the splendour in her eyes under the Jewel,
the King shouted and parted with his disguise, and Ebn Roulchook and the
women and slaves with Bhanavar fled to the courtyard that was behind the
shop, leaving Bhanavar alone with the King. Surely Bhanavar returned not
to the dwelling of the Vizier.

Now, the King Mashalleed espoused Bhanavar, and she became his queen and
ruled him, and her word was the dictate of the land. Then caused she the
body of Almeryl, with the severed head of the Prince, to be disinterred,
and entombed secretly in the palace; and she had lamps lit in the vault,
and the pall spread, and the readers of the Koran to read by the tomb;
and then she stole to the tomb hourly, in the day and in the night,
wailing of him and her utter misery, repeating verses at the side of the
tomb, and they were,

        Take me to thee!
       Like the deep-rooted tree,
      My life is half in earth, and draws
     Thence all sweetness; oh may my being pause
        Soon beside thee!

        Welcome me soon!
       As to the queenly moon,
      Man's homage to my beauty sets;
     Yet am I a rose-shrub budding regrets:
        Welcome me soon.

        Soul of my soul!
       Have me not half, but whole.
      Dear dust, thou art my eyes, my breath!
     Draw me to thee down the dark sea of death,
        Soul of my soul!

And she sang:

     Sad are they who drink life's cup
      Till they have come to the bitter-sweet:
     Better at once to toss it up,
      And trample it beneath the feet;
     For venom-charged as serpents' eggs
      'Tis then, and knows not other change.
    Early, early, early, have I reached the dregs
   Of life, and loathe and love the bittersweet, revenge!

Then turned she aside, and sang musingly:

     I came to his arms like the flower of the spring,
     And he was my bird of the radiant wing:
     He flutter'd above me a moment, and won
     The bliss of my breast as a beam of the sun,
     Untouch'd and untasted till then--

The voice in her throat was like a drowning creature, and she rose up,
and chanted wildly:

        I weep again?

    What play is this? for the thing is dead in me long since:
     Will all the reviving rain
    Of heaven bring me back my Prince?
     But I, when I weep, when I weep,
       Blood will I weep!
       And when I weep,
     Sons for fathers shall weep;
     Mothers for sons shall weep;
     Wives for husbands shall weep!
    Earth shall complain of floods red and deep,
        When I weep!

Upon that she ran up a secret passage to her chamber and rubbed the
Jewel, and called the serpents, to delight her soul with the sight of her
power, and rolled and sported madly among them, clutching them by the
necks till their thin little red tongues hung out, and their eyes were as
discoloured blisters of venom. Then she arose, and her arms and neck and
lips were glazed with the slime of the serpents, and she flung off her
robes to the close-fitting silken inner vest looped across her bosom with
pearls, and whirled in a mazy dance-measure among them, and sang
melancholy melodies, making them delirious, fascinating them; and they
followed her round and round, in twines and twists and curves, with
arched heads and stiffened tails; and the chamber swam like an undulating
sea of shifting sapphire lit by the moon of midnight. Not before the moon
of midnight was in the sky ceased Bhanavar sporting with the serpents,
and she sank to sleep exhausted in their midst.

Such was the occupation of the Queen of Mashalleed when he came not to
her. The women and slaves of the palace dreaded her, and the King himself
was her very slave.

Meanwhile the plot of her unforgivingness against Aswarak ripened: and
the Vizier beholding the bride he had lost Queen of Mashalleed his
master, it was as she conceived, that his heart was eaten with jealousy
and fierce rage. Bhanavar as she came across him spake mildly, and gave
him gentle looks, sad glances, suffering not his fires to abate, the
torment of his love to cool. Each night he awoke with a serpent in his
bed; the beam of her beauty was as the constant bite of a serpent,
poisoning his blood, and he deluded his soul with the belief that
Bhanavar loved him notwithstanding, and that she was seized forcibly from
him by the King. 'Otherwise,' thought he, 'why loosed she not a serpent
from the host to strangle me even as yonder black slaves?' Bhanavar knew
the mind of Aswarak, and considered, 'The King is cunning and weak, a
slave to his desires, and in the bondage of the jewel, my beauty. The
Vizier is unscrupulous, a hatcher of intrigues; but that he dreads me and
hopes a favour of me, he would have wrought against me ere now. 'Tis then
a combat 'twixt him and me. O my soul, art thou dreaming of a fair youth
that was the bliss of thy bosom night and day, night and day? The Vizier
shall die!'

One morning, and it was a year from the day she had become Queen of
Mashalleed, Bhanavar sprang up quickly from the side of the King; and he
was gazing on her in amazement and loathing. She flew to her chamber,
chasing forth her women, and ran to a mirror. Therein she saw three lines
that were on her brow, lines of age, and at the corners of her mouth and
about her throat a slackness of skin, the skin no longer its soft rosy
white, but withered brown as leaves of the forest. She shrieked, and fell
back in a swoon of horror. When she recovered, she ran to the mirror
again, and it was the same sight. And she rose from swooning a third
time, and still she beheld the visage of a hag; nothing of beauty there
save the hair and the brilliant eyes. Then summoned she the serpents in a
circle, and the number of them was that of the days in the year: and she
bared her wrist and seized one, a gray-silver with sapphire spots, and
hissed at him till he hissed, and foam whitened the lips of each.
Thereupon she cried:

        Treble-tongue and throat of hell,
        What is come upon me, tell!

And the Serpent replied,

        Jewel Queen! beauty's price!
        'Tis the time for sacrifice!

She grasped another, one of leaden colour, with yellow bars and silver
crescents, and cried:

        Treble-tongue and throat of fire,
        Name the creature ye require!

And the Serpent replied:

        Ruby lip! poison tooth!
        We are hungry for a youth.

She grasped another that writhed in her fingers like liquid emerald, and
cried:

        Treble-tongue and throat of glue!
        How to know the one that's due?

And the Serpent replied:

        Breast of snow! baleful bliss!
        He that wooing wins a kiss.

She clutched one at her elbow, a hairy serpent with yellow languid eyes
in flame-sockets and livid-lustrous length--a disease to look on, and
cried:

        Treble-tongue and throat of gall!
        There's a youth beneath the pall.

And the Serpent replied:

        Brilliant eye! bloody tear!
        He has fed us for a year.

She squeezed that hairy serpent till her finger-points whitened in his
neck, and he dropped lifelessly, crying:

        Treble-tongues and things of mud!
        Sprang my beauty from his blood?

And the Serpents rose erect, replying:

        Yearly one of us must die;
         Yearly for us dieth one;
        Else the Queen an ugly lie
         Lives till all our lives be done!

Bhanavar stood up, and hurried them to Karatis. When she was alone she
fell toward the floor, repeating, ''Tis the Curse!' Suddenly she thought,
'Yet another year my beauty shall be nourished by my vengeance, yet
another! And, O Vizier, the kiss shall be thine, the kiss of doom; for I
have doomed thee ere now. Thou, thou shalt restore me to my beauty: that
only love I now my Prince is lost.'

So she veiled her face in the close veil of the virtuous, and despatched
Ukleet, whom she exalted in the palace of the King, to the Vizier; and
Ukleet stood before Aswarak, and said, 'O Vizier, my mistress truly is
longing for you with excessive longing, and in what she now undergoeth is
forgotten an evil done by you to her; and she bids you come and concert
with her a scheme deliberately as to the getting rid of this tyrant who
is an affliction to her, and her life is lessened by him.'

The Vizier was deceived by his passion, and he chuckled and exclaimed,
'My very dream! and to mind me of her, then, she sent the serpents!
Wullahy, in the matter of women, wait! For, as the poet declareth:

     'Tis vanity our souls for such to vex;
     Patience is a harvest of the sex.''

And they fret themselves not overlong for husbands that are gone, these
young beauties. I know them. Tell the Queen of Serpents I am even hers to
the sole of my foot.'

So it was understood between them that the Vizier should be at the gate
of the garden of the palace that night, disguised; and the Vizier
rejoiced, thinking, 'If she have not the Jewel with her, it shall go ill
with me, and I foiled this time!'

Ukleet then proceeded to the house of Boolp the broker, fronting the
gutted ruins where Bhanavar had been happy in her innocence with Almeryl,
the mountain prince, her husband. Boolp was engaged haggling with a
slave-merchant the price of a fair slave, and Ukleet said to him,'Yet
awhile delay, O Boolp, ere you expend a fraction of treasure, for truly a
mighty bargain of jewels is waiting for you at the palace of my lord the
King. So come thither with all your money-bags of gold and silver, and
your securities, and your bonds and dues in writing, for 'tis the
favourite of the King requireth you to complete a bargain with her, and
the price of her jewels is the price of a kingdom.'

Said Boolp, 'Hearing is compliance in such a case.'

And Ukleet continued, 'What a fortune is yours, O Boolp! truly the tide
of fortune setteth into your lap. Fail not, wullahy! to come with all you
possess, or if you have not enough when she requireth it to complete the
bargain, my mistress will break off with you. I know not if she intend
even other game for you, O lucky one!'

Boolp hitched his girdle and shrugged, saying, ''Tis she will fail, I
wot,--she, in having therewith to complete the bargain between us. Wa!
wa!--there! I've done this before now. Wullahy! if she have not enough of
her rubies and pearls to outweigh me and my gold, go to, Boolp will
school her! What says the poet?--

  ''Earth and ocean search, East, West, and North, to the South,
   None will match the bright rubies and pearls of her mouth.''

'Aha! what? O Ukleet! And he says:

      ''The lovely ones a bargain made
      With me, and I renounced my trade,
     Half-ruined; 'Ah!' said they, 'return and win!
     To even scales ourselves we will throw in!'''

How so? But let discreetness reign and security flourisheth!'

Ukleet nodded at him, and repeated the distich:

     Men of worth and men of wits
     Shoot with two arrows, and make two hits.

So he arranged with Boolp the same appointment as with the Vizier, and
returned to Queen Bhanavar.

Now, in the dark of night Aswarak stood within the gate of the
palace-garden of Mashalleed that was ajar, and a hand from a veiled
figure reached to him, and he caught it, in the fulness of his delusion,
crying, 'Thou, my Queen?' But the hand signified silence, and drew him
past the tank of the garden and through a court of the palace into a
passage lit with lamps, and on into a close-curtained chamber, and beyond
a heavy curtain into another, a circular passage descending between black
hangings, and at the bottom a square vault draped with black, and in it
precious woods burning, oils in censers, and the odour of ambergris and
myrrh and musk floating in clouds, and the sight of the Vizier was for a
time obscured by the thickness of the incenses floating. As he became
familiar with the place, he saw marked therein a board spread at one end
with viands and wines, and the nosegay in a water-vase, and cups of gold
and a service of gold,--every preparation for feasting mightily. So the
soul of Aswarak leapt, and he cried, 'Now unveil thyself, O moon of our
meeting, my mistress!'

The voice of Bhanavar answered him, 'Not till we have feasted and
drunken, and it seemeth little in our eyes. Surely the chamber is secure:
could I have chosen one better for our meeting, O Aswarak?'

Upon that he entreated her to sit with him to the feast, but she cried,
'Nay! delay till the other is come.'

Cried he, 'Another?'

But she exclaimed, 'Hush!' and saying thus went forward to the foot of
the passage, and Boolp was there, following Ukleet, both of them under a
weight of bags and boxes. So she welcomed the broker, and led him to the
feast, he coughing and wheezing and blinking, unwitting the vexation of
the Vizier, nor that one other than himself was there. When Boolp heard
the voice of the Vizier, in astonishment, addressing him, he started back
and fell upon his bags, and the task of coaxing him to the board was as
that of haling a distempered beast to the water. Then they sat and
feasted together, and Ukleet with them; and if Aswarak or Boolp waxed
impatient of each other's presence, he whispered to them, 'Only wait! see
what she reserveth for you.' And Bhanavar mused with herself, 'Truly that
reserved shall be not long coming!' So they drank, and wine got the
mastery of Aswarak, so that he made no secret of his passion, and began
to lean to her and verse extemporaneously in her ear; and she stinted not
in her replies, answering to his urgency in girlish guise, sighing behind
the veil, as if under love's influence. And the Vizier pressed close, and
sang:

   'Tis said that love brings beauty to the cheeks
    Of them that love and meet, but mine are pale;
   For merciless disdain on me she wreaks,
    And hides her visage from my passionate tale:
   I have her only, only when she speaks.
        Bhanavar, unveil!

   I have thee, and I have thee not! Like one
    Lifted by spirits to a shining dale
   In Paradise, who seeks to leap and run
    And clasp the beauty, but his foot doth fail,
   For he is blind: ah! then more woful none!
        Bhanavar, unveil!

He thrust the wine-cup to her, and she lifted it under her veil, and then
sang, in answer to him:

   My beauty! for thy worth
        Thank the Vizier!

   He gives thee second birth:
        Thank the Vizier!

   His blooming form without a fault:
        Thank the Vizier!

   Is at thy foot in this blest vault:
        Thank the Vizier!

   He knoweth not he telleth such a truth,
        Thank the Vizier!

   That thou, thro' him, spring'st fresh in blushing youth:
        Thank the Vizier!

   He knoweth little now, but he shall soon be wise:
        Thank the Vizier!

   This meeting bringeth bloom to cheeks and lips and eyes:
        Thank the Vizier!

   O my beloved in this blest vault, if I love thee for aye,
        Thank the Vizier!

   Thine am I, thine! and learns his soul what it has taught--to die,
        Thank the Vizier!

Now, Aswarak divined not her meaning, and was enraptured with her, and
cried, 'Wullahy! so and such thy love! Thine am I, thine! And what a
music is thy voice, O my mistress! 'Twere a bliss to Eblis in his torment
could he hear it. Life of my head! and is thy beauty increased by me?
Nay, thou flatterer!' Then he said to her, 'Away with these importunate
dogs! 'tis the very hour of tenderness! Wullahy! they offend my nostril:
stung am I at the sight of them.'

She rejoined,--

        O Aswarak! star of the morn!
   Thou that wakenest my beauty from night and scorn,
        Thy time is near, and when 'tis come,
   Long will a jackal howl that this thy request had been dumb.
        O Aswarak! star of the morn!

So the Vizier imaged in his mind the neglect of Mashalleed from these
words, and said, 'Leave the King to my care, O Queen of Serpents, and
expend no portion of thy power on him; but hasten now the going of these
fellows; my heart is straitened by them, and I, wullahy! would gladly see
a serpent round the necks of either.'

She continued,--

     O Aswarak! star of the morn!
   Lo! the star must die when splendider light is born;
     In stronger floods the beam will drown:
   Shrink, thou puny orb, and dread to bring me my crown,
     O Aswarak! star of the morn!

Then said she, 'Hark awhile at those two! There's a disputation between
them.'

So they hearkened, and Ukleet was pledging Boolp, and passing the cup to
him; but a sullenness had seized the broker, and he refused it, and
Ukleet shouted, 'Out, boon-fellow! and what a company art thou, that thou
refusest the pledge of friendliness? Plague on all sulkers!'

And the broker, the old miser, obstinate as are the half-fuddled, began
to mumble, 'I came not here to drink, O Ukleet, but to make a bargain;
and my bags be here, and I like not yonder veil, nor the presence of
yonder Vizier, nor the secresy of this. Now, by the Prophet and that
interdict of his, I'll drink no further.'

And Ukleet said, 'Let her not mark your want of fellowship, or 'twill go
ill with you. Here be fine wines, spirited wines! choice flavours! and
you drink not! Where's the soul in you, O Boolp, and where's the life in
you, that you yield her to the Vizier utterly? Surely she waiteth a
gallant sign from you, so challenge her cheerily.'

Quoth Boolp, 'I care not. Shall I leave my wealth and all I possess void
of eyes? and she so that I recognise her not behind the veil?'

Ukleet pushed the old miser jeeringly: 'You not recognise her? Oh, Boolp,
a pretty dissimulation! Pledge her now a cup to the snatching of the
veil, and bethink you of a fitting verse, a seemly compliment,--something
sugary.'

Then Boolp smoothed his head, and was bothered; and tapped it, and
commenced repeating to Bhanavar:

       I saw the moon behind a cloud,
     And I was cold as one that's in his shroud:
        And I cried, Moon!--

Ukleet chorused him, 'Moon!' and Boolp was deranged in what he had to
say, and gasped,--

     Moon! I cried, Moon!--and I cried, Moon!

Then the Vizier and Ukleet laughed till they fell on their backs; so
Bhanavar took up his verse where he left it, singing,--

          And to the cry
     Moon did make fair the following reply:
     'Dotard, be still! for thy desire
     Is to embrace consuming fire.'

Then said Boolp, 'O my mistress, the laws of conviviality have till now
restrained me; but my coming here was on business, and with me my bags,
in good faith. So let us transact this matter of the jewels, and after
that the song of--

            ''Thou and I
             A cup will try,''

even as thou wilt.'

Bhanavar threw aside her outer robe and veil, and appeared in a dress of
sumptuous blue, spotted with gold bees; her face veiled with a veil of
gauzy silver, and she was as the moon in summer heavens, and strode mar
jestically forward, saying, 'The jewels? 'tis but one. Behold!'

The lamps were extinguished, and in her hand was the glory of the Serpent
Jewel, no other light save it in the vaulted chamber.

So the old miser perked his chin and brows, and cried wondering, 'I know
it, this Jewel, O my mistress.'

She turned to the Vizier, and said, lifting the red gloom of the Jewel on
him, 'And thou?'

Aswarak ate his under-lip.

Then she cried, 'There's much ye know in common, ye two.'

Thereupon Bhanavar passed from the feast on to the centre of the vault,
and stood before the tomb of Almeryl, and drew the cloth from it; and
they saw by the glow of the Jewel that it was a tomb. When she had
mounted some steps at the side of the tomb, she beckoned them to come,
crying, in a voice of sobs, 'This which is here, likewise ye may know.'

So they came with the coldness of a mystery in their blood, and looked as
she looked intently over a tomb. The lid was of glass, and through the
glass of the lid the Jewel flung a dark rosy ray on the body of Almeryl
lying beneath it.

Now, the miser was perplexed at the sight; but Aswarak stepped backward
in defiance, bellowing, ''Twas for this I was tricked to come here! Is 't
fooling me a second time? By Allah! look to it; not a second time will
Aswarak be fooled.'

Then she ran to him, and exclaimed, 'Fooled? For what cam'st thou to me?'

And he, foaming and grinding his breath, 'Thou woman of wiles!  thou
serpent! but I'll be gone from here.'

So she faltered in sweetness, knowing him doomed, and loving to dally
with him in her wickedness, 'Indeed if thou cam'st not for my kiss--'

Then said the Vizier, 'Yet a further guile! Was't not an outrage to bring
me here?'

She faltered again, leaning the fair length of her limbs on a couch,
''Tis ill that we are not alone, else could these lips convince thee
well: else indeed!'

And the Vizier cried, 'Chase then these intruders from us, O thou
sorceress, and above all serpents in power! for thou poisonest with a
touch; and the eye and the ear alike take in thy poisons greedily. Thou
overcomest the senses, the reason, the judgment; yea, vindictiveness,
wrath, suspicions; leading the soul captive with a breath of thine, as
'twere a breeze from the gardens of bliss.'

Bhanavar changed her manner a little, lisping, 'And why that starting
from the tomb of a dead harmless youth? And that abuse of me?'

He peered at her inquiringly, echoing 'Why?'

And she repeated, as a child might repeat it, 'Why that?'

Then the Vizier smote his forehead in the madness of utter perplexity,
changing his eye from Bhanavar to the tomb of Almeryl, doubting her
truth, yet dreading to disbelieve it. So she saw him fast enmeshed in her
subtleties, and clapped her hands crying, 'Come again with me to the
tomb, and note if there be aught I am to blame in, O Aswarak, and plight
thyself to me beside it.'

He did nothing save to widen his eye at her somewhat; and she said, 'The
two are yonside the tomb, and they hear us not, and see us not by this
light of the Jewel; so come up to it boldly with me; free thy mind of its
doubt, and for a reconcilement kiss me on the way.'

Aswarak moved not forward; but as Bhanavar laid the Jewel in her bosom he
tore the veil from her darkened head, and caught her to him and kissed
her. Then Bhanavar laughed and shouted, 'How is it with thee, Vizier
Aswarak?'

He was tottering, and muttered, ''Tis a death-chill hath struck me even
to my marrow.'

So she drew the Jewel forth once more, and rubbed it ablaze, and the
noise of the Serpents neared; and they streamed into the vault and under
it in fiery jets, surrounding Bhanavar, and whizzing about her till in
their velocity they were indivisible; and she stood as a fountain of fire
clothed in flashes of the underworld, the new loveliness of her face
growing vivid violet like an incessant lightning above them. Then
stretched she her two hands, and sang to the Serpents:--

        Hither, hither, to the feast!
        Hither to the sacrifice!
        Virtue for my sake hath ceased:
        Now to make an end of Vice!

        Twisted-tail and treble-tongue,
        Swelling length and greedy maw!
        I have had a horrid wrong;
        Retribution is the law!

        Ye that suck'd my youthful lord,
        Now shall make another meal:
        Seize the black Vizier abhorr'd;
        Seize him! seize him throat and heel!

        Set your serpent wits to find
        Tortures of a new device:
        Have him! have him heart and mind!
        Hither to the sacrifice'

Then she whirled with them round and round as a tempest whirls; and when
she had wound them to a fury, lo, she burst from the hissing circle and
dragged Ukleet from the vault into the passage, and blocked the entrance
to the vault. So was Queen Bhanavar avenged.

Now, she said to Ukleet, 'Ransom presently the broker,--him they will not
harm,' and hastened to the King that he might see her in her beauty. The
King reclined on cushions in the harem with a fair slave-girl, newly from
the mountains, toying with the pearls in her locks. Then thought
Bhanavar, 'Let him not slight me!' So she drew a rose-coloured veil over
her face and sat beside Mashalleed. The King continued his fondling with
the girl, saying to her, 'Was there no destiny foretold of thy coming to
the palace of the King to rule it, O Nashta, starbeam in the waters! and
hadst thou no dream of it?'

Bhanavar struck the King's arm, but he noticed her not, and Nashta
laughed. Then Bhanavar controlled her trembling and said, 'A word, O
King! and vouchsafe me a hearing.'

The King replied languidly, still looking on Nashta, ''Tis a command that
the voice of none that are crabbed and hideous be heard in the harem, and
I find comfort in it, O Nashta! but speak thou, my fountain of
sweet-dropping lute-notes!'

Bhanavar caught the King's hand and said, 'I have to speak with thee;
'tis the Queen. Chase from us this little wax puppet a space.'

The King disengaged his hand and leaned it over to Nashta, who began
playing with it, and fitting on it a ring, giggling. Then, as he answered
nothing, Bhanavar came nearer and slapped him on the cheek. Mashalleed
started to his feet, and his hand grasped his girdle; but that
wrathfulness was stayed when he beheld the veil slide from her visage. So
he cried, 'My Queen! my soul!'

She pointed to Nashta, and the King chid the girl, and sent her forth
lean with his shifted displeasure, as a kitten slinks wet from a
fish-pond where it had thought to catch a great fish. Then Bhanavar
exclaimed, 'There was a change in thy manner to me before that creature.'

He sought to dissimulate with her, but at last he confessed, 'I was truly
this morning the victim of a sorcery.'

Thereupon she cried, 'And thou went angered to find me not by thee on the
couch, but one in my place, a hag of ugliness. Hear then the case, O
Mashalleed! Surely that old crone had a dream, and it was that if she
slept one night by the King she would arise fresh in health from her
ills, and with powers lasting a year to heal others of all maladies with
a touch. So she came to me, petitioning me to bring this about. O my lord
the King, did I well in being privy to her desire?'

The King could not doubt this story of Bhanavar, seeing her constant
loveliness, and the arch of her flashing brow, and the oval of her cheek
and chin smooth as milk. So he said, 'O my Queen! I had thought to go, as
I must, gladly; but how shall I go, knowing thy truth, thy beauty
unchanged; thee faithful, a follower of the injunctions of the Prophet in
charitable deeds?'

Cried she, 'And whither goeth my lord, and on what errand?'

He answered, 'The people of a province southward have raised the standard
of revolt and mocked my authority; they have been joined by certain of
the Arab chiefs subject to my dominion, and have defeated my armies. 'Tis
to subdue them I go; yea, to crush them. Yet, wallaby! I know not. Care I
if kingdoms fall away, and nations, so that I have thee? Nay, let all
pass, so that thou remain by me.'

Bhanavar paced from him to a mirror, and frowned at the reflection of her
fairness, thinking, 'Such had he spoken to the girl Nashta, or another,
this King!' And she thought, 'I have been beloved by the noblest three on
earth; I will ask no more of love; vengeance I have had. 'Tis time that I
demand of my beauty nothing save power, and I will make this King my
stepping-stone to power, rejoicing my soul with the shock of armies.'

Now, she persuaded Mashalleed to take her with him on his expedition
against the Arabs; and they set forth, heading a great assemblage of
warriors, southward to the land bordering the Desert. The King credited
the suggestions of Bhanavar, that Aswarak had disappeared to join the
rebels, and pressed forward in his eagerness to inflict a chastisement
signal in swiftness upon them and that traitor; so eagerly Mashalleed
journeyed to his army in advance, that the main body, with Bhanavar, was
left by him long behind. She had encouraged him, saying, 'I shall love
thee much if thou art speedy in winning success.' The Queen was housed on
an elephant, harnessed with gold, and with silken purple trappings; from
the rose-hued curtains of her palanquin she looked on a mighty march of
warriors, filling the extent of the plains; all day she fed her sight on
them. Surely the story of her beauty became noised among the guards of
her person that rode and ran beneath the royal elephant, till the
soldiers of Mashalleed spake but of the beauty of the Queen, and Bhanavar
was as a moon shining over that sea of men.

Now, they had passed the cultivated fields, and were halting by the ford
of a river bordering the Desert, when lo! a warrior on the yonside,
riding in a cloud of dust, and his shout was, 'The King Mashalleed is
defeated, and flying.' Then the Captains of the host witnessed to the
greatness of Allah, and were troubled with a dread, fearing to advance;
but Bhanavar commanded a horse to be saddled for her, and mounted it, and
plunged through the ford singly; so they followed her, and all day she
rode forward on horseback, touching neither food nor drink. By night she
was a league beyond the foremost of them, and fell upon the King encamped
in the Desert, with the loose remnant of his forces. Mashalleed, when he
had looked on her, forgot his affliction, and stood up to embrace her,
but Bhanavar spurned him, crying, 'A time for this in the time of
disgrace?' Then she said, 'How came it?'

He answered, 'There was a Chief among the enemy, an Arab, before the
terror of whom my people fled.'

Cried she, 'Conquer him on the morrow, and till then I eat not, drink
not, sleep not.'

On the morrow Mashalleed again encountered the rebels, and Bhanavar,
seated on her elephant, from a sand-hillock under a palm, beheld the
prowess of the Arab Chief and the tempest of battle that he was. She
thought, 'I have seen but one mighty in combat like that one, Ruark, the
Chief of the Beni-Asser.' Thereupon she coursed toward the King, even
where the arrows gloomed like locusts, thick and dark in the air aloof,
and said, 'The victory is with yonder Chief! Hurl on him three of thy
sons of valour.'

The three were selected, and made onslaught on this Chief, and perished
under his arm.

Bhanavar saw them fall, and exclaimed, 'Another attack on him, and with
thrice three!'

Her will was the mandate of Mashalleed, and these likewise were ordered
forth, and closed on the Chief, but he darted from their toils and
wheeled about them, spearing them one by one till the nine were in the
dust. Bhanavar compressed her dry lips and muttered to the King, 'Head
thou a body against him.'

Mashalleed gathered round his standard the chosen of his warriors, and
smoothed his beard, and headed them. Then the Chief struck his lance
behind him, and stretched rapidly a half-circle across the sand, and
halted on a knoll. When they neared him he retreated in a further
half-circle, and continued this wise, wasting the fury of Mashalleed,
till he stood among his followers. There, as the King hesitated and
prepared to retreat, he and the others of the tribe levelled their lances
and hung upon his rear, fretting them, slaughtering captains of the
troop. When Mashalleed turned to face his pursuer, the Chief was alone,
immovable on his mare, fronting the ranks. Then Bhanavar taunted the
King, and he essayed the capture of that Chief a second time and a third,
and it was each time as the first. Bhanavar looked about her with rapid
eyes, murmuring, 'Oh, what a Chief is he! Oh that a cloud would fall, a
smoke arise, to blind these hosts, that I might sling my serpents on him
unseen, for I will not be vanquished, though it be by Ruark!' So she drew
to the King, and the altercation between them was fierce in the fury of
the battle, he saying, ''Tis a feint of the Chief, this challenge; and I
must succour the left of my army by the well, that he is overmatching
with numbers'; and she, 'If thou head them not, then will I, and thou
shalt behold a woman do what thou durst not, and lose her love and win
her scorn.' While they spake the Arabs they looked on seemed to flutter
and waver, and the Chief was backing to them, calling to them as 'twere
words of shame to rally them. Seeing this, Mashalleed charged against the
Chief once more, and lo! the Arabs opened to receive him, closing on his
band of warriors like waters whitened by the storm on a fleet of
swift-scudding vessels: and there was a dust and a tumult visible, such
as is seen in the darkness when a vessel struck by the lightning-bolt is
sinking--flashes of steel, lifting of hands, rolling of horsemen and
horses. Then Bhanavar groaned aloud, 'They are lost! Shame to us! only
one hope is left-that 'tis Ruark, this Chief!' Now, the view of the plain
cleared, and with it she beheld the army of Mashalleed broken, the King
borne down by a dust of Arabs; so she unveiled her face and rode on the
host with the horsemen that guarded her, glorious with a crown of gold
and the glowing Jewel on her brow. When she was a javelin's flight from
them the Arabs shouted and paused in terror, for the light of her head
was as the sun setting between clouds of thunder; but that Chief dashed
forward like a flame beaten level by the wind, crying, 'Bhanavar;
Bhanavar!' and she knew the features of Ruark; so she said, 'Even I!' And
he cried again, 'Bhanavar! Bhanavar!' and was as one stricken by a shaft.
Then Bhanavar threw on him certain of the horsemen with her, and he
suffered them without a sign to surround him and grasp his mare by the
bridle-rein, and bring him, disarmed, before the Queen. At sight of Ruark
a captive the Arabs fell into confusion, and lost heart, and were
speedily chased and scattered from the scene like a loose spray before
the wind; but Mashalleed the King rejoiced mightily and praised Bhanavar,
and the whole army of the King praised her, magnifying her.

Now, with Ruark she interchanged no syllable, and said not farewell to
him when she departed with Mashalleed, to encounter other tribes; and the
Chief was bound and conducted a prisoner to the city of the inland sea,
and cast into prison, in expectation of Death the releaser, and continued
there wellnigh a year, eating the bitter bread of captivity. In the
evening of every seventh day there came to him a little mountain girl,
that sat by him and leaned a lute to her bosom, singing of the mountain
and the desert, but he turned his face from her to the wall. One day she
sang of Death the releaser, and Ruark thought, ''Tis come! she warneth
me! Merciful is Allah!' On the morning that followed Ukleet entered the
cell, and with him three slaves, blacks, armed with scimitars. So Ruark
stood up and bore witness to his faith, saying, 'Swift with the stroke!'
but Ukleet exclaimed, 'Fear not! the end is not yet.'

Then said he, 'Peace with thee! These slaves, O Chief, excelling in
martial qualities! surely they're my retinue, and the retinue of them of
my rank in the palace; and where I go they go; for the exalted have more
shadows than one! yea, three have they in my case, even very grimly black
shadows, whereon the idle expend not laughter, and whoso joketh in their
hearing, 'tis, wullahy! the last joke of that person. In such-wise are
the powerful known among men, they that stand very prominent in the beams
of prosperity! Now this of myself; but for thee--of a surety the Queen
Bhanavar, my mistress, will be here by the time of the rising of the
moon. In the name of Allah!' Saying that he departed in his greatness,
and Ruark watched for her that rose in his soul as the moon in the
heavens.

Meanwhile Bhanavar had mused, ''Tis this day, the day when the Serpents
desire their due, and the King Mashalleed they shall have; for what is
life to him but a treachery and a dalliance, and what is my hold on him
but this Jewel of the Serpents? He has had the profit of beauty, and he
shall yield the penalty: my kiss is for him, my serpent-kiss. And I will
release Ruark, and espouse him, and war with kings, sultans, emperors,
infidels, subduing them till they worship me.'

She flashed her figure in the glass, and was lovely therein as one in the
light of Paradise; but ere she reached the King Mashalleed, lo! the hour
of the Serpents had struck, and her beauty melted from her as snow melts
from off the rock; and she was suddenly haggard in utter uncomeliness,
and knew it not, but marched, smiling a grand smile, on to the King. Now
as Mashalleed lifted his eyes to her he started amazed, crying, 'The hag
again!' and she said, 'What of the hag, O my lord the King?' Thereat he
was yet more amazed, and exclaimed, 'The hag of ugliness with the voice
of Bhanavar! Has then the Queen lent that loathsomeness her voice also?'

Bhanavar chilled a moment, and looked on the faces of the women present,
and they were staring at her, the younger ones tittering, and among them
Nashta, whom she hated. So she cried, 'Away with ye!' But the King
commanded them, 'Stay!' Then the Queen leaned to him, saying, 'I will
speak with my lord alone'; whereat he shrank from her, and spat. Ice and
flame shivered through the blood of Bhanavar, yet such was her eagerness
to give the kiss to Mashalleed, that she leaned to him, still wooing him
to her with smiles. Then the King seized her violently, and flung her
over the marble floor to the very basin of the fountain, and the crown
that was on her brow fell and rolled to the feet of Nashta. The girl
lifted it, laughing, and was in the act of fitting it to her fair head
amid the chuckles of her companions, when a slap from the hand of
Bhanavar spun her twice round, and she dropped to the marble insensible.
The King bellowed in wrath, and ran to Nashta, crying to the Queen,
'Surrender that crown to her, foul hag!' But Bhanavar had bent over the
basin of the fountain, and beheld the image of her change therein, and
was hurrying from the hall and down the corridors of the palace to the
private chamber. So he made bare the steel by his side, and followed her
with a number of the harem guard, menacing her, and commanding her to
surrender the crown with the Jewel. Ere she could lay hand on a veil, he
was beside her, and she was encompassed. In that extremity Bhanavar
plucked the Jewel from her crown, and rubbed it, calling the Serpents to
her. One came, one only, and that one would not move from her to sling
himself about the neck of Mashalleed, but whirled round her, hissing:

        Every hour a serpent dies,
        Till we have the sacrifice:
        Sweeten, sweeten, with thy kiss,
        Quick! a soul for Karatis.

Surely the King bit his breath, marvelling, and his fury became an awful
fear, and he fell back from her, molesting her no further. Then she
squeezed the serpent till his body writhed in knots, and veiled herself,
and sprang down a secret passage to the garden, and it was the time of
the rising of the moon. Coolness and soothingness dropped on her as a
balm from the great light, and she gazed on it murmuring, as in a memory:

     Shall I counsel the moon in her ascending?
     Stay under that dark palm-tree through the night,
        Rest on the mountain slope,
        By the couching antelope,
     O thou enthroned supremacy of light!
      And for ever the lustre thou art lending
     Lean on the fair long brook that leaps and leaps,
        Silvery leaps and falls:
        Hang by the mountain-walls,
     Moon! and arise no more to crown the steeps,
      For a danger and dolour is thy wending!

And she panted and sighed, and wept, crying, 'Who, who will kiss me or
have my kiss now, that I may indeed be as yonder beam? Who, that I may be
avenged on this King? And who sang that song of the ascending of the
moon, that comes to me as a part of me from old times?' As she gazed on
the circled radiance swimming under a plume of palm leaves, she
exclaimed, 'Ruark! Ruark the Chief!' So she clasped her hands to her
bosom, and crouched under the shadows of the garden, and fled through the
garden gates and the streets of the city, heavily veiled, to the prison
where Ruark awaited her within the walls and Ukleet without. The Governor
of the prison had been warned by Ukleet of her coming, and the doors and
bars opened before her unchallenged, till she stood in the cell of Ruark;
her eyes, that were alone unveiled, scanned the countenance of the Chief,
the fevered lustre-jet of his looks, and by the little moonlight in the
cell she saw with a glance the straw-heap and the fetters, and the
black-bread and water untasted on the bench--signs of his misery and
desire for her coming. So she greeted him with the word of peace, and he
replied with the name of the All-Merciful. Then said she, 'O Ruark, of
Rukrooth thy mother tell me somewhat.'

He answered, 'I know nought of her since that day. Allah have her in his
keeping!'

So she cried, 'How? What say'st thou, Ruark? 'tis a riddle.'

Then he, 'The oath of Ruark is no rope of sand! He swore to see her not
till he had set eyes on Bhanavar.'

She knelt by the Chief, saying in a soft voice, 'Very greatly the Chief
of the Beni-Asser loved Bhanavar.' And she thought, 'Yea! greatly and
verily love I him; and he shall be no victim of the Serpents, for I defy
them and give them other prey.' So she said in deeper notes, 'Ruark! the
Queen is come hither to release thee. O my Chief! O thou soul of wrath!
Ruark, my fire-eye! my eagle of the desert! where is one on earth beloved
as thou art by Bhanavar?' The dark light in his eyes kindled as light in
the eyes of a lion, and she continued, 'Ruark, what a yoke is hers who
weareth this crown! He that is my lord, how am I mated to him save in
loathing? O my Chief, my lion! hadst thou no dream of Bhanavar, that she
would come hither to unbind thee and lift thee beside her, and live with
thee in love and veilless loveliness,--thine? Yea! and in power over
lands and nations and armies, lording the infidel, taming them to
submission, exulting in defiance and assaults and victories and
magnanimities--thou and she?' Then while his breast heaved like a broad
wave, the Queen started to her feet, crying, 'Lo, she is here! and this
she offereth thee, Ruark!'

A shrill cry parted from her lips, and to the clapping of her hands
slaves entered the cell with lamps, and instruments to strike off the
fetters from the Chief; and they released him, and Ruark leaned on their
shoulders to bear the weight of a limb, so was he weakened by captivity;
but Bhanavar thrust them from the Chief, and took the pressure of his
elbow on her own shoulder, and walked with him thus to the door of the
cell, he sighing as one in a dream that dreameth the bliss of bliss. Now
they had gone three paces onward, and were in the light of many lamps,
when behold! the veil of Bhanavar caught in the sleeve of Ruark as he
lifted it, and her visage became bare. She shrieked, and caught up her
two hands to her brow, but the slaves had a glimpse of her, and said
among themselves, 'This is not the Queen.' And they murmured, ''Tis an
impostor! one in league with the Chief.' Bhanavar heard them say, 'Arrest
her with him at the Governor's gate,' and summoned her soul, thinking,
'He loveth me, the Chief! he will look into my eyes and mark not the
change. What need I then to dread his scorn when I ask of him the kiss:
now must it be given, or we are lost, both of us!' and she raised her
head on Ruark, and said to him, 'my Chief, ere we leave these walls and
join our fates, wilt thou plight thyself to me with a kiss?'

Ruark leapt to her like the bounding leopard, and gave her the kiss, as
were it his whole soul he gave. Then in a moment Bhanavar felt the blush
of beauty burn over her, and drew the veil down on her face, and suffered
the slaves to arrest her with Ruark, and bring her before the Governor,
and from the Governor to the King in his council-chamber, with the Chief
of the Beni-Asser.

Now, the King Mashalleed called to her, 'Thou traitress! thou sorceress!
thou serpent!'

And she answered under the veil, 'What, O my lord the King! and wherefore
these evil names of me?'

Cried he, 'Thou thing of guile! and thou hast pleaded with me for the
life of the Chief thus long to visit him in secret! Life of my head I but
Mashalleed is not one to be fooled.'

So she said, ''Tis Bhanavar! hast thou forgotten her?'

Then he waxed white with rage, exclaiming, 'Yea, 'tis she! a serpent in
the slough! and Ukleet in the torture hath told of thee what is known to
him. Unveil! unveil!'

She threw the veil from her figure, and smiled, for Mashalleed was mute,
the torrent of invective frozen on his mouth when he beheld the miracle
of beauty that she was, the splendid jewel of throbbing loveliness. So to
scourge him with the bitter lash of jealousy, Bhanavar turned her eyes on
Ruark, and said sweetly, 'Yet shalt thou live to taste again the bliss of
the Desert. Pleasant was our time in it, O my Chief!' The King glared and
choked, and she said again, 'Nor he conquered thee, but I; and I that
conquered thee, little will it be for me to conquer him: his threats are
the winds of idleness.'

Surely the world darkened before the eyes of Mashalleed, and he arose and
called to his guard hoarsely, 'Have off their heads!' They hesitated,
dreading the Queen, and he roared, 'Slay them!'

Bhanavar beheld the winking of the steel, but ere the scimitars
descended, she seized Ruark, and they stood in a whizzing ring of
serpents, the sound of whom was as the hum of a thousand wires struck by
storm-winds. Then she glowed, towering over them with the Chief clasped
to her, and crying:

     King of vileness! match thy slaves
     With my creatures of the caves.

And she sang to the Serpents:

     Seize upon him! sting him thro'!
     Thrice this day shall pay your due.

But they, instead of obeying her injunction, made narrower their circle
round Bhanavar and the Chief. She yellowed, and took hold of the nearest
Serpent horribly, crying:

        Dare against me to rebel,
        Ye, the bitter brood of hell?

And the Serpent gasped in reply:

        One the kiss to us secures:
        Give us ours, and we are yours.

Thereupon another of the Serpents swung on, the feet of Ruark, winding
his length upward round the body of the Chief; so she tugged at that one,
tearing it from him violently, and crying:

        Him ye shall not have, I swear!
        Seize the King that's crouching there.

And that Serpent hissed:

        This is he the kiss ensures:
        Give us ours, and we are yours.

Another and another Serpent she flung from the Chief, and they began to
swarm venomously, answering her no more. Then Ruark bore witness to his
faith, and folded his arms with the grave smile she had known in the
desert; and Bhanavar struggled and tussled with the Serpents in
fierceness, strangling and tossing them to right and left. 'Great is
Allah!' cried all present, and the King trembled, for never was sight
like that seen, the hall flashing with the Serpents, and a woman-serpent,
their Queen, raging to save one from their fury, shrieking at intervals:

        Never, never shall ye fold,
        Save with me the man I hold.

But now the hiss and scream of the Serpents and the noise of their
circling was quickened to a slurred savage sound and they closed on
Ruark, and she felt him stifling and that they were relentless. So in the
height of the tempest Bhanavar seized the Jewel in the gold circlet on
her brow and cast it from her. Lo! the Serpents instantly abated their
frenzy, and flew all of them to pluck the Jewel, chasing the one that had
it in his fangs through the casement, and the hall breathed empty of
them. Then in the silence that was, Bhanavar veiled her face and said to
the Chief, 'Pass from the hall while they yet dread me. No longer am I
Queen of Serpents.'

But he replied, 'Nay! said I not my soul is thine?'

She cried to him, 'Seest thou not the change in me? I was bound to those
Serpents for my beauty, and 'tis gone! Now am I powerless, hateful to
look on, O Ruark my Chief!'

He remained still, saying, 'What thou hast been thou art.'

She exclaimed, 'O true soul, the light is hateful to me as I to the
light; but I will yet save thee to comfort Rukrooth, thy mother.'

So she drew him with her swiftly from the hall of the King ere the King
had recovered his voice of command; but now the wrath of the All-powerful
was upon her and him! Surely within an hour from the flight of the
Serpents, the slaves and soldiers of Mashalleed laid at his feet two
heads that were the heads of Ruark and Bhanavar; and they said, 'O great
King, we tracked them to her chamber and through to a passage and a vault
hung with black, wherein were two corpses, one in a tomb and one
unburied, and we slew them there, clasping each other, O King of the
age!'

Mashalleed gazed upon the head of Bhanavar and sighed, for death had made
the head again fair with a wondrous beauty, a loveliness never before
seen on earth.



THE BETROTHAL

Now, when Shibli Bagarag had ceased speaking, the Vizier smiled gravely,
and shook his beard with satisfaction, and said to the Eclipser of
Reason, 'What opinest thou of this nephew of the barber, O Noorna bin
Noorka?'

She answered, "O Feshnavat, my father, truly I am content with the
bargain of my betrothal. He, Wullahy, is a fair youth of flowing speech.'
Then she said, 'Ask thou him what he opineth of me, his betrothed?"

So the Vizier put that interrogation to Shibli Bagarag, and the youth was
in perplexity; thinking, 'Is it possible to be joyful in the embrace of
one that hath brought thwackings upon us, serious blows?' Thinking, 'Yet
hath she, when the mood cometh, kindly looks; and I marked her eye
dwelling on me admiringly!' And he thought, 'Mayhap she that groweth
younger and counteth nature backwards, hath a history that would affect
me; or, it may be, my kisses--wah! I like not to give them, and it is
said,

     "Love is wither'd by the withered lip";

and that,

     "On bones become too prominent he'll trip."

Yet put the case, that my kisses--I shower them not, Allah the All-seeing
is my witness! and they be given daintily as 'twere to the leaf of a
nettle, or over-hot pilau. Yet haply kisses repeated might restore her to
a bloom, and it is certain youth is somehow stolen from her, if the
Vizier Feshnavat went before her, and his blood be her blood; and he is
powerful, she wise. I'll decide to act the part of a rejoicer, and
express of her opinions honeyed to the soul of that sex.'

Now, while he was thus debating he hung his head, and the Vizier awaited
his response, knitting his brows angrily at the delay, and at the last he
cried, 'What! no answer? how 's this? Shall thy like dare hold debate
when questioned of my like? And is my daughter Noorna bin Noorka,
thinkest thou, a slave-girl in the market,--thou haggling at her price, O
thou nephew of the barber?'

So Shibli Bagarag exclaimed, 'O exalted one, bestower of the bride!
surely I debated with myself but for appropriate terms; and I delayed to
select the metre of the verse fitting my thoughts of her, and my wondrous
good fortune, and the honour done me.'

Then the Vizier, 'Let us hear: we listen.'

And Shibli Bagarag was advised to deal with illustrations in his dilemma,
by-ways of expression, and spake in extemporaneous verse, and with a full
voice:

   The pupils of the Sage for living Beauty sought;
   And one a Vision clasped, and one a Model wrought.
  'I have it!' each exclaimed, and rivalry arose:
  'Paint me thy Maid of air!' 'Thy Grace of clay disclose.'
  'What! limbs that cannot move!' 'What! lips that melt away!'
  'Keep thou thy Maid of air!' 'Shroud up thy Grace of clay!'
  'Twas thus, contending hot, they went before the Sage,
   And knelt at the wise wells of cold ascetic age.
  'The fairest of the twain, O father, thou record':

He answered, 'Fairest she who's likest to her lord.'

Said they, 'What fairer thing matched with them might prevail?'

The Sage austerely smiled, and said, 'Yon monkey's tail.'

  'Tis left for after-time his wisdom to declare:
   That's loveliest we best love, and to ourselves compare.
   Yet lovelier than all hands shape or fancies build,
   The meanest thing of earth God with his fire hath filled.

Now, when Shibli Bagarag ceased, Noorna bin Noorka cried, 'Enough, O
wondrous turner of verse, thou that art honest!' And she laughed loudly,
rustling like a bag of shavings, and rolling in her laughter.

Then said she, 'O my betrothed, is not the thing thou wouldst say no
other than--

     "Each to his mind doth the fairest enfold,
     For broken long since was Beauty's mould";

and, "Thou that art old, withered, I cannot flatter thee, as I can in no
way pay compliments to the monkey's tail of high design; nevertheless the
Sage would do thee honour"? So read I thy illustration, O keen of wit!
and thou art forgiven its boldness, my betrothed,--Wullahy! utterly so.'

Now, the youth was abashed at her discernment, and the kindliness of her
manner won him to say:

   There's many a flower of sweetness, there's many a gem of earth
   Would thrill with bliss our being, could we perceive its worth.
   O beauteous is creation, in fashion and device!
   If I have fail'd to think thee fair, 'tis blindness is my vice.

And she answered him:

     I've proved thy wit and power of verse,
     That is at will diffuse and terse:
     Lest thou commence to lie--be dumb!
     I am content: the time will come!

Then she said to the Vizier Feshnavat, 'O my father, there is all in this
youth, the nephew of the barber, that's desirable for the undertaking;
and his feet will be on a level with the task we propose for him, he the
height of man above it. 'Tis clear that vanity will trip him, but honesty
is a strong upholder; and he is one that hath the spirit of enterprise
and the mask of dissimulation: gratitude I observe in him; and it is as I
thought when I came upon him on the sand-hill outside the city, that his
star is clearly in a web with our star, he destined for the Shaving of
Shagpat.'

So the Vizier replied, 'He hath had thwackings, yet is he not deterred
from making further attempt on Shagpat. I think well of him, and I augur
hopefully. Wullahy! the Cadi shall be sent for; I can sleep in his
secresy; and he shall perform the ceremonies of betrothal, even now and
where we sit, and it shall be for him to write the terms of contract: so
shall we bind the youth firmly to us, and he will be one of us as we are,
devoted to the undertaking by three bonds--the bond of vengeance, the
bond of ambition, and that of love.'

Now, so it was that the Vizier despatched a summons for the attendance of
the Cadi, and he came and performed between Shibli Bagarag and Noorna bin
Noorka ceremonies of betrothal, and wrote terms of contract; and they
were witnessed duly by the legal number of witnesses, and so worded that
he had no claim on her as wife till such time as the Event to which he
bound himself was mastered. Then the fees being paid, and compliments
interchanged, the Vizier exclaimed, 'Be ye happy! and let the weak cling
to the strong; and be ye two to one in this world, and no split halves
that betray division and stick not together when the gum is heated.' Then
he made a sign to the Cadi and them that had witnessed the contract to
follow him, leaving the betrothed ones to their own company.

So when they were alone Noorna gazed on the youth wistfully, and said in
a soft tone, 'Thou art dazed with the adventure, O youth! Surely there is
one kiss owing me: art thou willing? Am I reduced to beg it of thee? Or
dream'st thou?'

He lifted his head and replied, 'Even so.'

Thereat he stood up languidly, and went to her and kissed her. And she
smiled and said, 'I wot it will be otherwise, and thou wilt learn
swiftness of limb, brightness of eye, and the longing for earthly
beatitude, when next I ask thee, O my betrothed!'

Lo! while she spake, new light seemed in her; and it was as if a splendid
jewel were struggling to cast its beams through the sides of a crystal
vase smeared with dust and old dirt and spinnings of the damp spider. He
was amazed, and cried, 'How's this? What change is passing in thee?'

She said, 'Joy in thy kiss, and that I have 'scaped Shagpat.'

Then he: 'Shagpat? How? had that wretch claim over thee ere I came?'

But she looked fearfully at the corners of the room and exclaimed, 'Hush,
my betrothed! speak not of him in that fashion, 'tis dangerous; and my
power cannot keep off his emissaries at all times.' Then she said, 'O my
betrothed, know me a sorceress ensorcelled; not that I seem, but that I
shall be! Wait thou for the time and it will reward thee. What! thou
think'st to have plucked a wrinkled o'erripe fruit,--a mouldy pomegranate
under the branches, a sour tamarind? 'Tis well! I say nought, save that
time will come, and be thou content. It is truly as I said, that I have
thee between me and Shagpat; and that honoured one of this city thought
fit in his presumption to demand me in marriage at the hands of my
father, knowing me wise, and knowing the thing that transformed me to
this, the abominable fellow! Surely my father entertained not his
proposal save with scorn; but the King looked favourably on it, and it is
even now matter of reproach to Feshnavat, my father, that he withholdeth
me from Shagpat.'

Quoth Shibli Bagarag, 'A clothier, O Noorna, control the Vizier! and
demand of him his daughter in marriage! and a clothier influence the King
against his Vizier!'--tis, wullahy! a riddle.'

She replied, ''Tis even so, eyes of mine, my betrothed! but thou know'st
not Shagpat, and that he is. Lo! the King, and all of this city save we
three, are held in enchantment by him, and made foolish by one hair
that's in his head.'

Shibli Bagarag started in his seat like one that shineth with a
discovery, and cried, 'The Identical!'

Then she, sighing, ''Tis that indeed! but the Identical of Identicals,
the chief and head of them, and I, woe's me! I, the planter of it.'

So he said, 'How so?'

But she cried, 'I'll tell thee not here, nor aught of myself and him, and
the Genie held in bondage by me, till thou art proved by adventure, and
we float peacefully on the sea of the Bright Lily: there shalt thou see
me as I am, and hear my story, and marvel at it; for 'tis wondrous, and a
manifestation of the Power that dwelleth unseen.'

So Shibli Bagarag pondered awhile on the strange nature of the things she
hinted, and laughter seized him as he reflected on Shagpat, and the whole
city enchanted by one hair in his head; and he exclaimed, 'O Noorna,
knoweth he, Shagpat, of the might in him?'

She answered, 'Enough for his vain soul that homage is paid to him, and
he careth not for the wherefore!'

Shibli Bagarag fixed his eyes on the deep-flowered carpets of the floor,
as if reading there a matter quaintly written, and smiled, saying, 'What
boldness was mine--the making offer to shear Shagpat, the lion in his
lair, he that holdeth a whole city in enchantment! Wah! 'twas an instance
of daring!'

And Noorna said, 'Not only an entire city, but other cities affected by
him, as witness Oolb, whither thou wilt go; and there be governments and
states, and conditions of men remote, that hang upon him, Shagpat. 'Tis
even so; I swell not his size. When thou hast mastered the Event, and
sent him forth shivering from thy blade like the shorn lamb, 'twill be
known how great a thing has been achieved, and a record for the
generations to come; choice is that historian destined to record it!'

Quoth he, looking eagerly at her, 'O Noorna, what is it in thy speech
affecteth me? Surely it infuseth the vigour of wine, old wine; and I
shiver with desire to shave Shagpat, and spin threads for the historian
to weave in order. I, wullahy! had but dry visions of the greatness
destined for me till now, my betrothed! Shall I master an Event in
shaving him, and be told of to future ages? By Allah and his Prophet
(praise be to that name!), this is greatness! Say, Noorna, hadst thou
foreknowledge of me and my coming to this city?'

So she said, 'I was on the roofs one night among the stars ere moonrise,
O my betrothed, and 'twas close on the rise of this very month's moon.
The star of our enemy, Shagpat, was large and red, mine as it were
menaced by its proximity, nigh swallowed in its haughty beams and the
steady overbearings of its effulgence. 'Twas so as it had long been, when
suddenly, lo! a star from the upper heaven that shot down between them
wildly, and my star took lustre from it; and the star of Shagpat trembled
like a ring on a tightened rope, and waved and flickered, and seemed to
come forward and to retire; and 'twas presently as a comet in the sky,
bright,--a tadpole, with large head and lengthy tail, in the assembly of
the planets. This I saw: and that the stranger star was stationed by my
star, shielding it, and that it drew nearer to my star, and entered its
circle, and that the two stars seemed mixing the splendour that was
theirs. Now, that sight amazed me, and my heart in its beating quickened
with the expectation of things approaching. Surely I rendered praise, and
pressed both hands on my bosom, and watched, and behold! the comet, the
illumined tadpole, was becoming restless beneath the joint rays of the
twain that were dominating him; and he diminished, and lashed his tail
uneasily, half madly, darting as do captured beasts from the fetters that
constrain them. Then went there from thy star--for I know now 'twas
thine--a momentary flash across the head of the tadpole, and again
another and another, rapidly, pertinaciously. And from thy star there
passed repeated flashes across the head of the tadpole, till his
brilliance was as 'twere severed from him, and he, like drossy silver, a
dead shape in the conspicuous heavens. And he became yellow as the
rolling eyes of sick wretches in pain, and shrank in his place like pale
parchment at the touch of flame; dull was he as an animal fascinated by
fear, and deprived of all power to make head against the foe, darkness,
that now beset him, and usurped part of his yet lively tail, and settled
on his head, and coated part of his body. So when this tadpole, that was
once terrible to me, became turbaned, shoed, and shawled with darkness,
and there was little of him remaining visible, lo! a concluding flash
shot from thy star, and he fell heavily down the sky and below the hills,
into the sea, that is the Enchanted Sea, whose Queen is Rabesqurat,
Mistress of Illusions. Now when my soul recovered from amazement at the
marvels seen, I arose and went from the starry roofs to consult my books
of magic, and 'twas revealed to me that one was wandering to a junction
with my destiny, and that by his means the great aim would of a surety be
accomplished--Shagpat Shaved! So my purpose was to discover him; and I
made calculations, and summoned them that serve me to search for such a
youth as thou art; fairly, O my betrothed, did I preconceive thee. And so
it was that I traced a magic line from the sand-hills to the city, and
from the outer hills to the sand-hills; and whoso approached by that line
I knew was he marked out as my champion, my betrothed,--a youth destined
for great things. Was I right? The egg hatcheth. Thou art already proved
by thwackings, seasoned to the undertaking, and I doubt not thou art he
that will finish with that tadpole Shagpat, and sit in the high seat, thy
name an odour in distant lands, a joy to the historian, the Compiler of
Events, thou Master of the Event, the greatest which time will witness
for ages to come.'

When she had spoken Shibli Bagarag considered her words, and the
knowledge that he was selected by destiny as Master of the Event inflated
him; and he was a hawk in eagerness, a peacock in pride, an ostrich in
fulness of chest, crying, 'O Noorna bin Noorka! is't really so? Truly it
must be, for the readers of planets were also busy with me at the time of
my birth, interpreting of me in excessive agitation; and the thing they
foretold is as thou foretellest. I am, wullahy! marked: I walk manifest
in the eye of Providence.'

Thereupon he exulted, and his mind strutted through the future of his
days, and down the ladder of all time, exacting homage from men, his
brethren; and 'twas beyond the art of Noorna to fix him to the present
duties of the enterprise: he was as feathered seed before the breath of
vanity.

Now, while the twain discoursed, she of the preparations for shaving
Shagpat, he of his completion of the deed, and the honours due to him as
Master of the Event, Feshnavat the Vizier returned to them from his
entertainment of the Cadi; and he had bribed him to silence with a mighty
bribe. So he called to them--

'Ho! be ye ready to commence the work? and have ye advised together as to
the beginning? True is that triplet:

     "Whatever enterprize man hath,
     For waking love or curbing wrath,
     'Tis the first step that makes a path."

And how have ye determined as to that first step?'

Noorna replied, 'O my father! we have not decided, and there hath been
yet no deliberation between us as to that.'

Then he said, 'All this while have ye talked, and no deliberation as to
that! Lo, I have drawn the Cadi to our plot, and bribed him with a mighty
bribe; and I have prepared possible disguises for this nephew of the
barber; and I have had the witnesses of thy betrothal despatched to
foreign parts, far kingdoms in the land of Roum, to prevent tattling and
gabbling; and ye that were left alone for debating as to the great deed,
ye have not yet deliberated as to that! Is't known to ye, O gabblers,
aught of the punishment inflicted by Shahpesh, the Persian, on Khipil,
the Builder?--a punishment that, by Allah!'

Shibli Bagarag said, 'How of that punishment, O Vizier?'

And the Vizier narrated as followeth.



AND THIS IS THE PUNISHMENT OF SHAHPESH, THE PERSIAN, ON KHIPIL, THE
BUILDER

They relate that Shahpesh, the Persian, commanded the building of a
palace, and Khipil was his builder. The work lingered from the first year
of the reign of Shahpesh even to his fourth. One day Shahpesh went to the
riverside where it stood, to inspect it. Khipil was sitting on a marble
slab among the stones and blocks; round him stretched lazily the masons
and stonecutters and slaves of burden; and they with the curve of
humorous enjoyment on their lips, for he was reciting to them adventures,
interspersed with anecdotes and recitations and poetic instances, as was
his wont. They were like pleased flocks whom the shepherd hath led to a
pasture freshened with brooks, there to feed indolently; he, the
shepherd, in the midst.

Now, the King said to him, 'O Khipil, show me my palace where it
standeth, for I desire to gratify my sight with its fairness.'

Khipil abased himself before Shahpesh, and answered, ''Tis even here, O
King of the age, where thou delightest the earth with thy foot and the
ear of thy slave with sweetness. Surely a site of vantage, one that
dominateth earth, air, and water, which is the builder's first and chief
requisition for a noble palace, a palace to fill foreign kings and
sultans with the distraction of envy; and it is, O Sovereign of the time,
a site, this site I have chosen, to occupy the tongues of travellers and
awaken the flights of poets!'

Shahpesh smiled and said, 'The site is good! I laud the site! Likewise I
laud the wisdom of Ebn Busrac, where he exclaims:

     "Be sure, where Virtue faileth to appear,
     For her a gorgeous mansion men will rear;
     And day and night her praises will be heard,
     Where never yet she spake a single word."'

Then said he, 'O Khipil, my builder, there was once a farm servant that,
having neglected in the seed-time to sow, took to singing the richness of
his soil when it was harvest, in proof of which he displayed the
abundance of weeds that coloured the land everywhere. Discover to me now
the completeness of my halls and apartments, I pray thee, O Khipil, and
be the excellence of thy construction made visible to me!'

Quoth Khipil, 'To hear is to obey.'

He conducted Shahpesh among the unfinished saloons and imperfect courts
and roofless rooms, and by half erected obelisks, and columns pierced and
chipped, of the palace of his building. And he was bewildered at the
words spoken by Shahpesh; but now the King exalted him, and admired the
perfection of his craft, the greatness of his labour, the speediness of
his construction, his assiduity; feigning not to behold his negligence.

Presently they went up winding balusters to a marble terrace, and the
King said, 'Such is thy devotion and constancy in toil, Khipil, that thou
shaft walk before me here.'

He then commanded Khipil to precede him, and Khipil was heightened with
the honour. When Khipil had paraded a short space he stopped quickly, and
said to Shahpesh, 'Here is, as it chanceth, a gap, O King! and we can go
no further this way.'

Shahpesh said, 'All is perfect, and it is my will thou delay not to
advance.'

Khipil cried, 'The gap is wide, O mighty King, and manifest, and it is an
incomplete part of thy palace.'

Then said Shahpesh, 'O Khipil, I see no distinction between one part and
another; excellent are all parts in beauty and proportion, and there can
be no part incomplete in this palace that occupieth the builder four
years in its building: so advance, do my bidding.'

Khipil yet hesitated, for the gap was of many strides, and at the bottom
of the gap was a deep water, and he one that knew not the motion of
swimming. But Shahpesh ordered his guard to point their arrows in the
direction of Khipil, and Khipil stepped forward hurriedly, and fell in
the gap, and was swallowed by the water below. When he rose the second
time, succour reached him, and he was drawn to land trembling, his teeth
chattering. And Shahpesh praised him, and said, 'This is an apt
contrivance for a bath, Khipil O my builder! well conceived; one that
taketh by surprise; and it shall be thy reward daily when much talking
hath fatigued thee.'

Then he bade Khipil lead him to the hall of state. And when they were
there Shahpesh said, 'For a privilege, and as a mark of my approbation, I
give thee permission to sit in the marble chair of yonder throne, even in
my presence, O Khipil.'

Khipil said, 'Surely, O King, the chair is not yet executed.'

And Shahpesh exclaimed, 'If this be so, thou art but the length of thy
measure on the ground, O talkative one!'

Khipil said, 'Nay, 'tis not so, O King of splendours! blind that I am!
yonder's indeed the chair.'

And Khipil feared the King, and went to the place where the chair should
be, and bent his body in a sitting posture, eyeing the King, and made
pretence to sit in the chair of Shahpesh, as in conspiracy to amuse his
master.

Then said Shahpesh, 'For a token that I approve thy execution of the
chair, thou shalt be honoured by remaining seated in it up to the hour of
noon; but move thou to the right or to the left, showing thy soul
insensible of the honour done thee, transfixed thou shah be with twenty
arrows and five.'

The King then left him with a guard of twenty-five of his body-guard; and
they stood around him with bent bows, so that Khipil dared not move from
his sitting posture. And the masons and the people crowded to see Khipil
sitting on his master's chair, for it became rumoured about. When they
beheld him sitting upon nothing, and he trembling to stir for fear of the
loosening of the arrows, they laughed so that they rolled upon the floor
of the hall, and the echoes of laughter were a thousand-fold. Surely the
arrows of the guards swayed with the laughter that shook them.

Now, when the time had expired for his sitting in the chair, Shahpesh
returned to him, and he was cramped, pitiable to see; and Shahpesh said,
'Thou hast been exalted above men, O Khipil! for that thou didst execute
for thy master has been found fitting for thee.'

Then he bade Khipil lead the way to the noble gardens of dalliance and
pleasure that he had planted and contrived. And Khipil went in that state
described by the poet, when we go draggingly, with remonstrating members,

     Knowing a dreadful strength behind,
      And a dark fate before.

They came to the gardens, and behold, these were full of weeds and
nettles, the fountains dry, no tree to be seen--a desert. And Shahpesh
cried, 'This is indeed of admirable design, O Khipil! Feelest thou not
the coolness of the fountains?--their refreshingness? Truly I am grateful
to thee! And these flowers, pluck me now a handful, and tell me of their
perfume.'

Khipil plucked a handful of the nettles that were there in the place of
flowers, and put his nose to them before Shahpesh, till his nose was
reddened; and desire to rub it waxed in him, and possessed him, and
became a passion, so that he could scarce refrain from rubbing it even in
the King's presence. And the King encouraged him to sniff and enjoy their
fragrance, repeating the poet's words:

     Methinks I am a lover and a child,
      A little child and happy lover, both!
     When by the breath of flowers I am beguiled
      From sense of pain, and lulled in odorous sloth.
     So I adore them, that no mistress sweet
      Seems worthier of the love which they awake:
     In innocence and beauty more complete,
      Was never maiden cheek in morning lake.
     Oh, while I live, surround me with fresh flowers!
      Oh, when I die, then bury me in their bowers!

And the King said, 'What sayest thou, O my builder? that is a fair
quotation, applicable to thy feelings, one that expresseth them?'

Khipil answered, ''Tis eloquent, O great King! comprehensiveness would be
its portion, but that it alludeth not to the delight of chafing.'

Then Shahpesh laughed, and cried, 'Chafe not! it is an ill thing and a
hideous! This nosegay, O Khipil, it is for thee to present to thy
mistress. Truly she will receive thee well after its presentation! I will
have it now sent in thy name, with word that thou followest quickly. And
for thy nettled nose, surely if the whim seize thee that thou desirest
its chafing, to thy neighbour is permitted what to thy hand is refused.'

The King set a guard upon Khipil to see that his orders were executed,
and appointed a time for him to return to the gardens.

At the hour indicated Khipil stood before Shahpesh again. He was pale,
saddened; his tongue drooped like the tongue of a heavy bell, that when
it soundeth giveth forth mournful sounds only: he had also the look of
one battered with many beatings. So the King said, 'How of the
presentation of the flowers of thy culture, O Khipil?'

He answered, 'Surely, O King, she received me with wrath, and I am shamed
by her.'

And the King said, 'How of my clemency in the matter of the chafing?'

Khipil answered, 'O King of splendours! I made petition to my neighbours
whom I met, accosting them civilly and with imploring, for I ached to
chafe, and it was the very raging thirst of desire to chafe that was
mine, devouring eagerness for solace of chafing. And they chafed me, O
King; yet not in those parts which throbbed for the chafing, but in those
which abhorred it.'

Then Shahpesh smiled and said, ''Tis certain that the magnanimity of
monarchs is as the rain that falleth, the sun that shineth: and in this
spot it fertilizeth richness; in that encourageth rankness. So art thou
but a weed, O Khipil! and my grace is thy chastisement.'

Now, the King ceased not persecuting Khipil, under pretence of doing him
honour and heaping favours on him. Three days and three nights was Khipil
gasping without water, compelled to drink of the drought of the fountain,
as an honour at the hands of the King. And he was seven days and seven
nights made to stand with stretched arms, as they were the branches of a
tree, in each hand a pomegranate. And Shahpesh brought the people of his
court to regard the wondrous pomegranate shoot planted by Khipil, very
wondrous, and a new sort, worthy the gardens of a King. So the wisdom of
the King was applauded, and men wotted he knew how to punish offences in
coin, by the punishment inflicted on Khipil the builder. Before that time
his affairs had languished, and the currents of business instead of
flowing had become stagnant pools. It was the fashion to do as did
Khipil, and fancy the tongue a constructor rather than a commentator; and
there is a doom upon that people and that man which runneth to seed in
gabble, as the poet says in his wisdom:

   If thou wouldst be famous, and rich in splendid fruits,
   Leave to bloom the flower of things, and dig among the roots.

Truly after Khipil's punishment there were few in the dominions of
Shahpesh who sought to win the honours bestowed by him on gabblers and
idlers: as again the poet:

     When to loquacious fools with patience rare
     I listen, I have thoughts of Khipil's chair:
     His bath, his nosegay, and his fount I see,--
     Himself stretch'd out as a pomegranate-tree.
     And that I am not Shahpesh I regret,
     So to inmesh the babbler in his net.
     Well is that wisdom worthy to be sung,
     Which raised the Palace of the Wagging Tongue!

And whoso is punished after the fashion of Shahpesh, the Persian, on
Khipil the Builder, is said to be one 'in the Palace of the Wagging
Tongue' to this time.



THE GENIE KARAZ

Now, when the voice of the Vizier had ceased, Shibli Bagarag exclaimed,
'O Vizier, this night, no later, I'll surprise Shagpat, and shave him
while he sleepeth: and he shall wake shorn beside his spouse. Wullahy!
I'll delay no longer, I, Shibli Bagarag.'

Said the Vizier, 'Thou?'

And he replied, 'Surely, O Vizier! thou knowest little of my dexterity.'

So the Vizier laughed, and Noorna bin Noorka laughed, and he was at a
loss to interpret the cause of their laughter. Then said Noorna, 'O my
betrothed, there's not a doubt among us of thy dexterity, nor question of
thy willingness; but this shaving of Shagpat, wullahy! 'tis longer work
than what thou makest of it.'

And he cried, 'How? because of the Chief of Identicals planted by thee in
his head?'

She answered, 'Because of that; but 'tis the smallest opposer, that.'

Then the Vizier said, 'Let us consult.'

So Shibli Bagarag gave ear, and the Vizier continued, 'There's first, the
Chief of Identicals planted by thee in the head of that presumptuous
fellow, O my daughter! By what means shall that be overcome?'

She said, 'I rank not that first, O Feshnavat, my father; surely I rank
first the illusions with which Rabesqurat hath surrounded him, and made
it difficult to know him from his semblances, whenever real danger
threateneth him.'

The Vizier assented, saying, 'Second, then, the Chief of Identicals?'

She answered, 'Nay, O my father; second, the weakness that's in man, and
the little probability of his finishing with Shagpat at one effort; and
there is but a sole chance for whoso attempteth, and if he faileth, 'tis
forever he faileth.'

So the Vizier said, 'Even I knew not 'twas so grave! Third, then, the
Chief of Identicals?'

She replied, 'Third! which showeth the difficulty of the task. Read ye
not, first, how the barber must come upon Shagpat and fix him for his
operation; second, how the barber must be possessed of more than mortal
strength to master him in so many strokes; third, how the barber must
have a blade like no other blade in this world in sharpness, in temper,
in velocity of sweep, that he may reap this crop which flourisheth on
Shagpat, and with it the magic hair which defieth edge of mortal blades?'

Now, the Vizier sighed at the words, saying, 'Powerful is Shagpat. I knew
not the thing I undertook. I fear his mastery of us, and we shall be
contemned--objects for the red finger of scorn.'

Noorna turned to Shibli Bagarag and asked, 'Do the three bonds of
enterprise--vengeance, ambition, and love--shrink in thee from this great
contest?'

Shibli Bagarag said, ''Tis terrible! on my head be it!'

She gazed at him a moment tenderly, and said, 'Thou art worthy of what is
in store for thee, O my betrothed! and I think little of the dangers, in
contemplation of the courage in thee. Lo, if vengeance and ambition spur
thee so, how will not love when added to the two?'

Then said she, 'As to the enchantments and spells that shall overreach
him, and as to the blade wherewith to shear him?'

Feshnavat exclaimed, 'Yonder 's indeed where we stumble and are tripped
at starting.'

But she cried, 'What if I know of a sword that nought on earth or under
resisteth, and before the keen edge of which all Illusions and Identicals
are as summer grass to the scythe?'

They both shouted, 'The whereabout of that sword, O Noorna!'

So she said, ''Tis in Aklis, in the mountains of the Koosh; and the seven
sons of Aklis sharpen it day and night till the adventurer cometh to
claim it for his occasion. Whoso succeedeth in coming to them they know
to have power over the sword, and 'tis then holiday for them. Many are
the impediments, and they are as holes where the fox haunteth. So they
deliver to his hand the sword till his object is attained, his Event
mastered, smitten through with it; and 'tis called the Sword of Events.
Surely, with it the father of the Seven vanquished the mighty Roc,
Kroojis, that threatened mankind with ruin, and a stain of the Roc's
blood is yet on the hilt of the sword. How sayest thou, O
Feshnavat,--shall we devote ourselves to get possession of that Sword?'

So the Vizier brightened at her words, and said, 'O excellent in wisdom
and star of counsel! speak further, and as to the means.'

Noorna bin Noorka continued, 'Thou knowest, O my father, I am proficient
in the arts of magic, and I am what I am, and what I shall be, by its
uses. 'Tis known to thee also that I hold a Genie in bondage, and can
utter ten spells and one spell in a breath. Surely my services to the
youth in his attainment of the Sword will be beyond price! Now to reach
Aklis and the Sword there are three things needed--charms: and one is a
phial full of the waters of Paravid from the wells in the mountain
yon-side the desert; and one, certain hairs that grow in the tail of the
horse Garraveen, he that roameth wild in the meadows of Melistan; and
one, that the youth gather and bear to Aklis, for the white antelope
Gulrevaz, the Lily of the Lovely Light that groweth in the hollow of the
crags over the Enchanted Sea: with these spells he will command the Sword
of Aklis, and nothing can bar him passage. Moreover I will expend in his
aid all my subtleties, my transformations, the stores of my wisdom. Many
seek this Sword, and people the realms of Rabesqurat, or are beasts in
Aklis, or crowned Apes, or go to feed the Roc, Kroojis, in the abyss
beneath the Roc's-egg bridge; but there's virtue in Shibli Bagarag:
wullahy! I am wistful in him of the hand of Destiny, and he will succeed
in this undertaking if he dareth it.'

Shibli Bagarag cried, 'At thy bidding, O Noorna! Care I for dangers? I'm
on fire to wield the Sword, and master the Event.'

Thereupon, Noorna bin Noorka arose instantly, and took him by the cheeks
a tender pinch, and praised him. Then drew she round him a circle with
her forefinger that left a mark like the shimmering of evanescent green
flame, saying, 'White was the day I set eyes on thee!' Round the Vizier,
her father, she drew a like circle; and she took an unguent, and traced
with it characters on the two circles, and letters of strange form,
arrowy, lance-like, like leaning sheaves, and crouching baboons, and
kicking jackasses, and cocks a-crow, and lutes slack-strung; and she
knelt and mumbled over and over words of magic, like the drone of a bee
to hear, and as a roll of water, nothing distinguishable. After that she
sought for an unguent of a red colour, and smeared it on a part of the
floor by the corner of the room, and wrote on it in silver fluid a word
that was the word 'Eblis,' and over that likewise she droned awhile.
Presently she arose with a white-heated face, the sweat on her brow, and
said to Shibli Bagarag and Feshnavat hurriedly and in a harsh tone, 'How?
have ye fear?'

They answered, 'Our faith is in Allah, our confidence in thee.'

Said she then, 'I summon the Genie I hold in bondage. He will be
wrathful; but ye are secure from him. He's this moment in the farthest
region of earth, doing ill, as is his wont, and the wont of the stock of
Eblis.'

So the Vizier said, 'He'll be no true helper, this Genie, and I care not
for his company.'

She answered, 'O my father! leave thou that to me. What says the poet?--

     "It is the sapiency of fools,
     To shrink from handling evil tools."'

Now, while she was speaking, she suddenly inclined her ear as to a
distant noise; but they heard nothing. Then, after again listening, she
cried in a sharp voice, 'Ho! muffle your mouths with both hands, and stir
not from the ring of the circles, as ye value life and its blessings.'

So they did as she bade them, and watched her curiously. Lo! she swathed
the upper and lower part of her face in linen, leaving the lips and eyes
exposed; and she took water from an ewer, and sprinkled it on her head,
and on her arms and her feet, muttering incantations. Then she listened a
third time, and stooped to the floor, and put her lips to it, and called
the name, 'Karaz!' And she called this name seven times loudly, sneezing
between whiles. Then, as it were in answer to her summons, there was a
deep growl of thunder, and the palace rocked, tottering; and the air
became smoky and full of curling vapours. Presently they were aware of
the cry of a Cat, and its miaulings; and the patch of red unguent on the
floor parted and they beheld a tawny Cat with an arched back. So Noorna
bin Noorka frowned fiercely at the Cat, and cried, 'This is thy shape, O
Karaz; change! for it serves not the purpose.'

The Cat changed, and was a Leopard with glowing yellow eyes, crouched for
the spring. So Noorna bin Noorka stamped, and cried again, 'This is thy
shape, O Karaz; change! for it serves not the purpose.'

And the Leopard changed, and was a Serpent with many folds, sleek,
curled, venomous, hissing.

Noorna bin Noorka cried in wrath, 'This is thy shape, O Karaz; change! or
thou'lt be no other till Eblis is accepted in Paradise.'

And the Serpent vanished. Lo! in its place a Genie of terrible aspect,
black as a solitary tree seared by lightning; his forehead ridged and
cloven with red streaks; his hair and ears reddened; his eyes like two
hollow pits dug by the shepherd for the wolf, and the wolf in them. He
shouted, 'What work is it now, thou accursed traitress?'

Noorna replied, 'I've need of thee!'

He said, 'What shape?'

She answered, 'The shape of an Ass that will carry two on its back, thou
Perversity!'

Upon that, he cried, 'O faithless woman, how long shall I be the slave of
thy plotting? Now, but for that hair of my head, plucked by thy hand
while I slept, I were free, no doer of thy tasks. Say, who be these that
mark us?'

She answered, 'One, the Vizier Feshnavat; and one, Shibli Bagarag of
Shiraz, he that's destined to shave Shagpat, the son of Shimpoor, the son
of Shoolpi, the son of Shullum; and the youth is my betrothed.'

Now, at her words the whole Genie became as live coal with anger, and he
panted black and bright, and made a stride toward Shibli Bagarag, and
stretched his arm out to seize him; but Noorna, blew quickly on the
circles she had drawn, and the circles rose up in a white flame high as
the heads of those present, and the Genie shrank hastily back from the
flame, and was seized with fits of sneezing. Then she said in scorn,
'Easily, O Karaz, is a woman outwitted! Surely I could not guess what
would be thy action! and I was wanting in foresight and insight! and I am
a woman bearing the weight of my power as a woodman staggereth under the
logs he hath felled!'

So she taunted him, and he still sneezing and bent double with the might
of the sneeze. Then said Noorna in a stern voice, 'No more altercation
between us! Wait thou here till I reappear, Karaz!'

Thereupon, she went from them; and the two, Feshnavat and Shibli Bagarag,
feared greatly being left with the Genie, for he became all colours, and
loured on them each time that he ceased sneezing. He was clearly menacing
them when Noorna returned, and in her hand a saddle made of hide, traced
over with mystic characters and gold stripes.

So she cried, 'Take this!' Then, seeing he hesitated, she unclosed from
her left palm a powder, and scattered

it over him; and he grew meek, and the bending knee of obedience was his,
and he took the saddle. So she said, ''Tis well! Go now, and wait outside
the city in the shape of an Ass, with this saddle on thy back.'

The Genie groaned, and said, 'To hear is to obey!' And he departed with
those words, for she held him in bondage. Then she calmed down the white
flames of the circles that enclosed Shibli Bagarag and the Vizier
Feshnavat, and they stepped forth, marvelling at the greatness of her
sorceries that held such a Genie in bondage.



THE WELL OF PARAVID

Now, there was haste in the movements of Noorna bin Noorka, and she
arrayed herself and clutched Shibli Bagarag by the arm, and the twain
departed from Feshnavat the Vizier, and came to the outside of the city,
and lo! there was the Genie by a well under a palm, and he standing in
the shape of an Ass, saddled. So they mounted him, and in a moment they
were in the midst of the desert, and naught round them save the hot
glimmer of the sands and the grey of the sky. Surely, the Ass went at
such a pace as never Ass went before in this world, resting not by the
rivulets, nor under the palms, nor beside the date-boughs; it was as if
the Ass scurried without motion of his legs, so swiftly went he. At last
the desert gave signs of a border on the low line of the distance, and
this grew rapidly higher as they advanced, revealing a country of hills
and rocks, and at the base of these the Ass rested.

So Noorna, said, 'This desert that we have passed, O my betrothed, many
are they that perish in it, and reach not the well; but give thanks to
Allah that it is passed.'

Then said she, 'Dismount, and be wary of moving to the front or to the
rear of this Ass, and measure thy distance from the lash of his tail.'

So Shibli Bagarag dismounted, and followed her up the hills and the
rocks, through ravines and gorges of the rocks, and by tumbling torrents,
among hanging woods, over perilous precipices, where no sun hath pierced,
and the bones of travellers whiten in loneliness; and they continued
mounting upward by winding paths, now closed in by coverts, now upon open
heights having great views, and presently a mountain was disclosed to
them, green at the sides high up it; and Noorna bin Noorka said to Shibli
Bagarag, 'Mount here, for the cunning of this Ass can furnish him no
excuse further for making thee food for the birds of prey.'

So Shibli Bagarag mounted, and they ceased not to ascend the green slopes
till the grass became scanty and darkness fell, and they were in a region
of snow and cold. Then Noorna bin Noorka tethered the Ass to a stump of a
tree and breathed in his ear, and the Ass became as a creature carved in
stone; and she drew from her bosom two bags of silk, and blew in one and
entered it, bidding Shibli Bagarag do likewise with the other bag; and he
obeyed her, drawing it up to his neck, and the delightfulness of warmth
came over him. Then said she, 'To-morrow, at noon, we shall reach near
the summit of the mountain and the Well of Paravid, if my power last over
this Ass; and from that time thou wilt be on the high road to greatness,
so fail not to remember what I have done for thee, and be not guilty of
ingratitude when thy hand is the stronger.'

He promised her, and they lay and slept. When he awoke the sun was
half-risen, and he looked at Noorna bin Noorka in the silken bag, and she
was yet in the peacefulness of pleasant dreams; but for the Ass, surely
his eyes rolled, and his head and fore legs were endued with life, while
his latter half seemed of stone. And the youth called to Noorna bin
Noorka, and pointed to her the strangeness of the condition of the Ass.
As she cast eyes on him she cried out, and rushed to him, and took him by
the ears and blew up his nostrils, and the animal was quiet. Then she and
Shibli Bagarag mounted him again, and she said to him, 'It is well thou
wert more vigilant than I, and that the sun rose not on this Ass while I
slept, or my enchantment would have thawed on him, and he would have
'scaped us.'

She gave her heel to the Ass, and the Ass hung his tail in sullenness and
drooped his head; and she laughed, crying, 'Karaz, silly fellow! do thy
work willingly, and take wisely thine outwitting.'

She jeered him as they journeyed, and made the soul of Shibli Bagarag
merry, so that he jerked in his seat upon the Ass. Now, as they ascended
the mountain they came to the opening of a cavern, and Noorna bin Noorka
halted the Ass, and said to Shibli Bagarag, 'We part here, and I wait for
thee in this place. Take this phial, and fill it with the waters of the
well, after thy bath. The way is before thee--speed on it.'

He climbed the sides of the mountain, and was soon hidden in the clefts
and beyond the perches of the vulture. She kept her eyes on the rocky
point when he disappeared, awaiting his return; and the sun went over her
head and sank on the yon-side of the mountain, and it was by the beams of
the moon that she beheld Shibli Bagarag dropping from the crags and
ledges of rock, sliding and steadying himself downward till he reached
her with the phial in his hand, filled; and he was radiant, as it were
divine with freshness, so that Noorna, before she spoke welcome to him,
was lost in contemplating the warm shine of his visage, calling to mind
the poet's words:

     The wealth of light in sun and moon,
      All nature's wealth,
     Hath mortal beauty for a boon
      When match'd with health.

Then said she, 'O Shibli Bagarag, 'tis achieved, this first of thy tasks;
for mutely on the fresh red of thy mouth, my betrothed, speaketh the
honey of persuasiveness, and the children of Aklis will not resist thee.'
So she took the phial from him and led forth the Ass, and the twain
mounted the Ass and descended the slopes of the mountain in moonlight;
and Shibli Bagarag said, 'Lo! I have marked wonders, and lived a life
since our parting; and this well, 'tis a miracle to dip in it, and by it
sit many maidens weeping and old men babbling, and youths that were idle
youths striking bubbles from the surface of the water. The well is
rounded with marble, and the sky is clear in it, cool in it, the whole
earth imaged therein.'

Then Noorna said, 'Hadst thou a difficulty in obtaining the waters of the
well?'

He answered, 'Surely all was made smooth for me by thy aid. Now when I
came to the well I marked not them by it, but plunged, and the depth of
that well seemed to me the very depth of the earth itself, so went I ever
downward; and when I was near the bottom of the well I had forgotten life
above, and lo! no sooner had I touched the bottom of the well when my
head emerged from the surface: 'twas wondrous! But for a sign that
touched the bottom of the well, see, O Noorna bin Noorka, the Jewel, the
one of myriads that glitter at the bottom, and I plucked it for a gift to
thee.'

So Noorna took the Jewel from his hand that was torn and crimson, and she
cried, 'Thou fair youth, thou bleedest with the plucking of it, and it
was written, no hand shall pluck a jewel at the bottom of that well
without letting of blood. Even so it is! Worthy art thou, and I was not
mistaken in thee.'

At her words Shibli Bagarag burst forth into praises of her, and he sang:

       'What is my worthiness
        Match'd with thy worth?
        Darkness and earthiness,
        Dust and dearth!

O Noorna, thou art wise above women: great and glorious over them.'

In this fashion the youth lauded her that was his betrothed, but she
exclaimed, 'Hush! or the jealousy of this Ass will be aroused, and of a
surety he'll spill us.'

Then he laughed and she laughed till the tail of Karaz trembled.



THE HORSE GARRAVEEN

Now, they descended leisurely the slopes of the mountain, and when they
were again in the green of its base, Noorna called to the Ass, 'Ho!
Karaz! Sniff now the breezes, for the end of our journey by night is the
meadows of Melistan. Forward in thy might, and bray not when we are in
them, for thy comfort's sake!'

The Ass sniffed, turning to the four quarters, and chose a certain
direction, and bore them swiftly over hills and streams eddying in
silver; over huge mounds of sand, where the tents of Bedouins stood in
white clusters; over lakes smooth as the cheeks of sleeping loveliness;
by walls of cities, mosques, and palaces; under towers that rose as an
armed man with the steel on his brows and the frown of battle; by the
shores of the pale foaming sea it bore them, going at a pace that the
Arab on his steed outstrippeth not. So when the sun was red and the dews
were blushing with new light, they struggled from a wilderness of barren
broken ground, and saw beneath them, in the warm beams, green, peaceful,
deep, the meadows of Melistan. They were meadows dancing with flowers, as
it had been fresh damsels of the mountain, fair with variety of colours
that were so many gleams of changing light as the breezes of the morn
swept over them; lavish of hues, of sweetness, of pleasantness, fir for
the souls of the blest.

Then, after they had gazed awhile, Noorna bin Noorka said, 'In these
meadows the Horse Garraveen roameth at will. Heroes of bliss bestride him
on great days. He is black to look on; speed quivers in his flanks like
the lightning; his nostrils are wide with flame; there is that in his eye
which is settled fire, and that in his hoofs which is ready thunder; when
he paws the earth kingdoms quake: no animal liveth with blood like the
Horse Garraveen. He is under a curse, for that he bore on his back one
who defied the Prophet. Now, to make him come to thee thou must blow the
call of battle, and to catch him thou must contrive to strike him on the
fetlock as he runs with this musk-ball which I give thee; and to tame him
thou must trace between his eyes a figure or the crescent with thy
forenail. When that is done, bring him to me here, where I await thee,
and I will advise thee further.'

So she said, 'Go!' and Shibli Bagarag showed her the breadth of his
shoulders, and stepped briskly toward the meadows, and was soon brushing
among the flowers and soft mosses of the meadows, lifting his nostrils to
the joyful smells, looking about him with the broad eye of one that
hungereth for a coming thing. The birds went up above him, and the trees
shook and sparkled, and the waters of brooks and broad rivers flashed
like waving mirrors waved by the slave-girls in sport when the beauties
of the harem riot and dip their gleaming shoulders in the bath. He
wandered on, lost in the gladness that lived, till the loud neigh of a
steed startled him, and by the banks of a river before him he beheld the
Horse Garraveen stooping to drink of the river; glorious was the look of
the creature,--silver-hoofed, fashioned in the curves of beauty and
swiftness. So Shibli Bagarag put up his two hands and blew the call of
battle, and the Horse Garraveen arched his neck at the call, and swung
upon his haunches, and sought the call, answering it, and tossing his
mane as he advanced swiftly. Then, as he neared, Shibli Bagarag held the
musk-ball in his fingers, and aimed at the fetlock of the Horse
Garraveen, and flung it, and struck him so that he stumbled and fell. He
snorted fiercely as he bent to the grass, but Shibli Bagarag ran to him,
and grasped strongly the tuft of hair hanging forward between his ears,
and traced between his fine eyes a figure of the crescent with his
forenail, and the Horse ceased plunging, and was gentle as a colt by its
mother's side, and suffered Shibli Bagarag to bestride him, and spurn him
with his heel to speed, and bore him fleetly across the fair length of
the golden meadows to where Noorna bin Noorka sat awaiting him. She
uttered a cry of welcome, saying, 'This is achieved with diligence and
skill, O my betrothed! and on thy right wrist I mark strength like a
sleeping leopard, and the children of Aklis will not resist thee.'

So she bade him alight from the Horse, but he said, 'Nay.' And she called
to him again to alight, but he cried, 'I will not alight from him! By
Allah! such a bounding wave of bliss have I never yet had beneath me, and
I will give him rein once again; as the poet says:

       "Divinely rings the rushing air
        When I am on my mettled mare:
        When fast along the plains we fly,
        A creature of the heavens am I."

Then she levelled her brows at him, and said gravely, 'This is the
temptation thou art falling into, as have thousands before thy time. Give
him the rein a second time, and he will bear thee to the red pit, and
halt upon the brink, and pitch thee into it among bleeding masses and
skeletons of thy kind, where they lie who were men like to thee, and were
borne away by the Horse Garraveen.'

He gave no heed to her words, taunting her, and making the animal prance
up and prove its spirit.

And she cried reproachfully, 'O fool! is it thus our great aim will be
defeated by thy silly conceit? Lo, now, the greatness and the happiness
thou art losing for this idle vanity is to be as a dunghill cock matched
with an ostrich; and think not to escape the calamities thou bringest on
thyself, for as is said,

        No runner can outstrip his fate;

and it will overtake thee, though thou part like an arrow from the bow.'

He still made a jest of her remonstrance, trying the temper of the
animal, and rejoicing in its dark flushes of ireful vigour.

And she cried out furiously, 'How! art thou past counsel? then will we
match strength with strength ere 'tis too late, though it weaken both.'

Upon that, she turned quickly to the Ass and stroked it from one
extremity to the other, crying, 'Karaz! Karaz!' shouting, 'Come forth in
thy power!' And the Ass vanished, and the Genie stood in his place, tall,
dark, terrible as a pillar of storm to travellers ranging the desert. He
exclaimed, 'What is it, O woman? Charge me with thy command!'

And she said, 'Wrestle with him thou seest on the Horse Garraveen, and
fling him from his seat.'

Then he yelled a glad yell, and stooped to Shibli Bagarag on the horse
and enveloped him, and seized him, and plucked him from the Horse, and
whirled him round, and flung him off. The youth went circling in the air,
high in it, and descended, circling, at a distance in the deep
meadow-waters. When he crept up the banks he saw the Genie astride the
Horse Garraveen, with a black flame round his head; and the Genie urged
him to speed and put him to the gallop, and was soon lost to sight, as he
had been a thunderbeam passing over a still lake at midnight. And Shibli
Bagarag was smitten with the wrong and the folly of his act, and sought
to hide his sight from Noorna; but she called to him, 'Look up, O youth!
and face the calamity. Lo, we have now lost the service of Karaz! for
though I utter ten spells and one spell in a breath, the Horse Garraveen
will ere that have stretched beyond the circle of my magic, and the Genie
will be free to do his ill deeds and plot against us. Sad is it! but
profit thou by a knowledge of thy weakness.'

Then said she, 'See, I have not failed to possess myself of the three
hairs of Garraveen, and there is that to rejoice in.'

She displayed them, and they were sapphire hairs, and had a flickering
light; and they seemed to live, wriggling their lengths, and were as
snakes with sapphire skins. Then she said, 'Thy right wrist, O my
betrothed!'

He gave her his right wrist, and she tied round it the three hairs of
Garraveen, exclaiming, 'Thus do skilful carpenters make stronger what has
broken and indicated disaster. Surely, I confide in thy star? I have
faith in my foresight?'

And she cried, 'Eyes of mine, what sayest thou to me? Lo, we must part
awhile: it is written.'

Said he, 'Leave me not, my betrothed: what am I without thy counsel? And
go not from me, or this adventure will come to miserable issue.'

So she said, 'Thou beginnest to feel my worth?'

He answered, 'O Noorna! was woman like thee before in this world? Surely
'tis a mask I mark thee under; yet art thou perforce of sheer wisdom and
sweet manners lovely in my sight; and I have a thirst to hear thee and
look on thee.'

While he spake, a beam of struggling splendour burst from her, and she
said, 'O thou dear youth, yes! I must even go. But I go glad of heart,
knowing thee prepared to love me. I must go to counteract the
machinations of Karaz, for he's at once busy, vindictive, and cunning,
and there's no time for us to lose; so farewell, my betrothed, and make
thy wits keen to know me when we next meet.'

So he said, 'And I--whither go I?'

She answered, 'To the City of Oolb straightway.'

Then he, 'But I know not its bearing from this spot: how reach it?'

She answered, 'What! thou with the phial of Paravid in thy vest, that
endoweth, a single drop of it, the flowers, the herbage, the very stones
and desert sands, with a tongue to articulate intelligible talk?'

Said he, 'Is it so?'

She answered, 'Even so.'

Ere Slubli Bagarag could question her further she embraced him, and blew
upon his eyes, and he was blinded by her breath, and saw not her
departure, groping for a seat on the rocks, and thinking her still by
him. Sight returned not to him till long after weariness had brought the
balm of sleep upon his eyelids.



THE TALKING HAWK

Now, when he awoke he found himself alone in that place, the moon shining
over the low meadows and flower-cups fair with night-dew. Odours of
night-flowers were abroad, filling the cool air with deliciousness, and
he heard in the gardens below songs of the bulbul: it was like a dream to
his soul, and he lay somewhile contemplating the rich loveliness of the
scene, that showed no moving thing. Then rose he and bethought him of the
words of Noorna, and of the City of Oolb, and the phial of the waters of
Paravid in his vest; and he drew it forth, and dropped a drop of it on
the rock where he had reclined. A deep harmony seemed suddenly to awake
inside the rock, and to his interrogation as to the direction of Oolb, he
heard, 'The path of the shadows of the moon.'

Thereupon he advanced to a prominent part of the rocks above the meadows,
and beheld the shadows of the moon thrown forward into dimness across a
waste of sand. And he stepped downward to the level of sand, and went the
way of the shadows till it was dawn. Then dropped he a drop of the waters
of the phial on a spike of lavender, and there was a voice said to him in
reply to what he questioned, 'The path of the shadows of the sun.'

The shadows of the sun were thrown forward across the same waste of sand,
and he turned and pursued his way, resting at noon beneath a date-tree,
and refreshing himself at a clear spring beside it. Surely he was joyful
as he went, and elated with high prospects, singing:

     Sun and moon with their bright fingers
      Point the hero's path;

     If in his great work he lingers,
      Well may they be wroth.

Now, the extent of the duration of his travel was four days and an equal
number of nights; and it was on the fifth morn that he entered the gates
of a city by the sea, even at that hour when the inhabitants were rising
from sleep: fair was the sea beyond it, and the harbour was crowded with
vessels, ships stored with merchandise--silks, dates, diamonds, Damascus
steel, huge bales piled on the decks for the land of Roum and other
lands. Shibli Bagarag thought, 'There's scarce a doubt but that one of
those sails will set for Oolb shortly. Wullahy! if I knew which, I'd
board her and win a berth in her.' Presently he thought, 'I'll go to the
public fountain and question it with the speech-winning waters.'
Thereupon he passed down the streets of the city and came to an open
space, where stood the fountain, and sprinkled it with Paravid; and the
fountain spake, saying, 'Where men are, question not dumb things.'

Cried he, 'Faileth Paravid in its power? Have I done aught to baffle
myself?'

Then he thought, ''Twere nevertheless well to do as the fountain
directeth, and question men while I see them.' And he walked about among
the people, and came to the quays of the harbour where the ships lay
close in, many of them an easy leap from shore, and considered whom to
address. So, as he loitered about the quays, meditating on the means at
the disposal of the All-Wise, and marking the vessels wistfully, behold,
there advanced to him one at a quick pace, in the garb of a sailor. He
observed Shibli Bagarag attentively a moment, and exclaimed as it were in
the plenitude of respect and with the manner of one that is abashed,
'Surely, thou art Shibli Bagarag, the nephew of the barber, him we watch
for.'

So Shibli Bagarag marvelled at this recognition, and answered, 'Am I then
already famous to that extent?'

And he that accosted him said, ''Tis certain the trumpet was blown before
thy steps, and there is not a man in this city but knoweth of thy
destination to the City of Oolb, and that thou art upon the track of
great things, one chosen to bring about imminent changes.'

Then said Shibli Bagarag, 'For this I praise Noorna bin Noorka, daughter
of Feshnavat, Vizier of the King that ruleth in the city of Shagpat! She
saw me, that I was marked for greatness. Wullahy, the eagle knoweth me
from afar, and proclaimeth me; the antelope of the hills scenteth the
coming of one not as other men, and telleth his tidings; the wind of the
desert shapeth its gust to a meaning, so that the stranger may wot Shibli
Bagarag is at hand!'

He puffed his chest, and straightened his legs like the cock, and was as
a man upon whom the Sultan has bestowed a dress of honour, even as the
plumed peacock. Then the other said:

'Know that I am captain of yonder vessel, that stands farthest out from
the harbour with her sails slackened; and she is laden with figs and
fruits which I exchange for silks, spices, and other merchandise, with
the people of Oolb. Now, what says the poet?--

       "Delay in thine undertaking
        Is disaster of thy own making";

and he says also:

     "Greatness is solely for them that succeed;
     'Tis a rotten applause that gives earlier meed."

Therefore it is advisable for thee to follow me on board without loss of
time, and we will sail this very night for the City of Oolb.'

Now, Shibli Bagarag was ruled by the words of the captain albeit he
desired to stay awhile and receive the homage of the people of that city.
So he followed him into a boat that was by, and the twain were rowed by
sailors to the ship. Then, when they were aboard the captain set sail,
and they were soon in the hollows of deep waters. There was a berth in
the ship set apart for Shibli Bagarag, and one for the captain. Shibli
Bagarag, when he entered his berth, beheld at the head of his couch a
hawk; its eyes red as rubies, its beak sharp as the curve of a scimitar.
So he called out to the captain, and the captain came to him; but when he
saw the hawk, he plucked his turban from his head, and dashed it at the
hawk, and afterward ran to it, trying to catch it; and the hawk flitted
from corner to corner of the berth, he after it with open arms. Then he
took a sword, but the hawk flew past him, and fixed on the back part of
his head, tearing up his hair by the talons, and pecking over his
forehead at his eyes. And Shibli Bagarag heard the hawk scream the name
'Karaz,' and he looked closely at the Captain of the vessel, and knew him
for the Genie Karaz. Then trembled he with exceeding terror, cursing his
credulities, for he saw himself in the hands of the Genie, and nothing
but this hawk friendly to him on the fearful waters. When the hawk had
torn up a certain hair, the Genie stiffened, and glowed like copper in
the furnace, the whole length of him; and he descended heavily through
the bottom of the ship, and sank into the waters beneath, which hissed
and smoked as at a bar of heated iron. Then Shibli Bagarag gave thanks to
the Prophet, and praised the hawk, but the hawk darted out of the cabin,
and he followed it on deck, and, lo! the vessel was in flames, and the
hawk in a circle of the flames; and the flames soared with it, and left
it no outlet. Now, as Shibli Bagarag watched the hawk, the flames
stretched out towards him and took hold of his vestments. So he delayed
not to commend his soul to the All-merciful, and bore witness to his
faith, and plunged into the sea headlong. When he rose, the ship had
vanished, and all was darkness where it had been; so he buffeted with the
billows, thinking his last hour had come, and there was no help for him
in this world; and the spray shaken from the billows blinded him, the
great walls of water crumbled over him; strength failed him, and his
memory ceased to picture images of the old time--his heart to beat with
ambition; and to keep the weight of his head above the surface was
becoming a thing worth the ransom of kings. As he was sinking and turning
his eyes upward, he heard a flutter as of fledgling's wings, and the two
red ruby eyes of the hawk were visible above him, like steady fires in
the gloom. And the hawk perched on him, and buried itself among the wet
hairs of his head, and presently taking the Identical in its beak, the
hawk lifted him half out of water, and bore him a distance, and dropped
him. This the hawk did many times, and at the last, Shibli Bagarag felt
land beneath him, and could wade through the surges to the shore. He gave
thanks to the Supreme Disposer, kneeling prostrate on the shore, and fell
into a sleep deep in peacefulness as a fathomless well, unruffled by a
breath.

Now, when it was dawn Shibli Bagarag awoke and looked inland, and saw
plainly the minarets of a city shining in the first beams, and the front
of yellow mountains, and people moving about the walls and on the towers
and among the pastures round the city; so he made toward them, and
inquired of them the name of their city. And they stared at him, crying,
'What! know'st thou not the City of Oolb? the hawk on thy shoulder could
tell thee that much.' He looked and saw that the hawk was on his
shoulder; and its left wing was scorched, the plumage blackened. So he
said to the hawk, 'Is it profitable, O preserving bird, to ask of thee
questions?'

The hawk shook its wings and closed an eye.

So he said, 'Do I well in entering this city?'

The hawk shook its wings again and closed an eye.

So he said, 'To what house shall I direct my steps in this strange city
for the attainment of the purpose I have?'

The hawk flew, and soared, and alighted on the topmost of the towers of
Oolb. So when it returned he said, 'O bird! rare bird! my counsellor! it
is an indication, this alighting on the highest tower, that thou advisest
me to go straight to the palace of the King?'

The hawk flapped its wings and winked both eyes; so Shibli Bagarag took
forth the phial from his breast, remembering the virtues of the waters of
the Well of Paravid, and touched his lips with them, that he might be
endowed with flowing speech before the King of Oolb. As he did this the
phial was open, and the hawk leaned to it and dipped its beak into the
water; and he entered the city and passed through the long streets
towards the palace of the King, and craved audience of him as one that
had a thing marvellous to tell. So the King commanded that Shibli Bagarag
should be brought before him, for he was a lover of marvels. As he went
into the presence of the King, Shibli Bagarag listened to the hawk, for
the hawk spake his language, and it said, 'Proclaim to the King a new
wonder--"the talking hawk."'

So when he had bent his body to the King, he proclaimed the new wonder;
and the King seemed not to observe the hawk, and said, 'From what city
art thou?'

He answered, 'Native, O King, to Shiraz; newly from the City of Shagpat.'

And the King asked, 'How is it with that hairy wonder?'

He answered, 'The dark forest flourisheth about him.'

And the King said, 'That is well! We of the City of Oolb take our
fashions from them of the City of Shagpat, and it is but yesterday that I
bastinadoed a barber that strayed among us.'

Shibli Bagarag sighed when he heard the King, and thought to himself,
'How unfortunate is the race of barbers, once honourable and in esteem!
Surely it will not be otherwise till Shagpat is shaved!' And the King
called out to him for the cause of his sighing; so he said, 'I sigh, O
King of the age, considering how like may be the case of the barber
bastinadoed but yesterday, in his worth and value, to that of Roomdroom,
the reader of planets, that was a barber.'

And he related the story of Roomdroom for the edification of the King and
the exaltation of barbercraft, delivering himself neatly and winningly
and pointedly, so that the story should apply, which was its merit and
its origin.



GOORELKA OF OOLB

When Shibli Bagarag had finished his narration of the case of Roomdroom
the barber, the King of Oolb said, 'O thou, native of Shiraz, there is
persuasion and sweetness and fascination on thy tongue, and I am touched
with compassion for the soles of Baba Mustapha, that I bastinadoed but
yesterday, and he was from Shiraz likewise.'

Now, the heart of Shibli Bagarag leapt when he heard mention of Baba
Mustapha; and he knew him for his uncle that was searching him. He would
have cried aloud his relationship, but the hawk whispered in his ear.
Then the hawk said to him, 'There is danger in the King's muteness
respecting me, for I am visible to him. Proclaim the spirit of prophecy.'

So he proclaimed that spirit, and the King said, 'Prophesy to me of
barbercraft.'

And he cried, 'O King of the age, the barber is abased, trodden
underfoot, given over to the sneers and the gibes of them that flatter
the powerful ones; he is as the winter worm, as the crocodile in the
slime of his sleep by the bank, as the sick eagle before moulting. But I
say, O King, that he will come forth like the serpent in a new skin,
shaming the old one; he slept a caterpillar, and will come forth a
butterfly; he sank a star, and lo! he riseth a constellation.'

Now, while he was speaking in the fervour of his soul, the King said
something to one of the court officers surrounding him, and there was
brought to the King a basin, a soap-bowl, and barber's tackle. When
Shibli Bagarag saw these, the uses of the barber rushed upon his mind,
and desire to sway the tackle pushed him forward and agitated him, so
that he could not keep his hands from them.

Then the King exclaimed, 'It is as I thought. Our passions betray
themselves, and our habits; so is it written. By Allah! I swear thou art
thyself none other than a barber, O youth.'

Shibli Bagwrag was nigh fainting with terror at this discovery of the
King, but the hawk said in his ear, 'Proclaim speech in the tackle.' So
he proclaimed speech in the tackle; and the King smiled doubtfully, and
said, 'If this be a cheat, Shiraz will not see thy face more.'

Then the hawk whispered in his ear, 'Drop on the tackle secretly a drop
from the phial.' This he did, spreading his garments, and commanded the
tackle to speak. And the tackle spake, each portion of it, confusedly as
the noise of Babel. So the King marvelled greatly, and said, ''Tis a
greater wonder than the talking hawk, the talking tackle. Wullahy! it
ennobleth barbercraft! Yet it were well to comprehend the saying of the
tackle.'

Then the hawk flew to the tackle and fluttered about it, and lo! the
blade and the brush stood up and said in a shrill tone, 'It is ordained
that Shagpat shall be shaved, and that Shibli Bagarag shall shave him.'

The King bit the forefinger of amazement, and said, 'What then ensueth, O
talking tackle?'

And the brush and the blade stood up, and said in a shrill tone, 'Honour
to Shibli Bagarag and barbers! Shame unto Shagpat and his fellows!'

Upon that, the King cried, 'Enough, O talking tackle; I will forestall
the coming thing. I will be shaved! wullahy, that will I!'

Then the hawk whispered to Shibli Bagarag, 'Forward and shear him!' So he
stepped forth and seized the tackle, and addressed himself keenly to the
shaving of the King of Oolb, lathering him and performing his task with
perfect skill. And the courtiers crowded to follow the example of the
King, and Shibli Bagarag shaved them, all of them. Now, when they were
shaved, fear smote them, the fear of ridicule, and each laughed at the
change that was in the other; but the King cried, 'See that order is
issued for the people of Oolb to be as we before to-morrow's sun. So is
laughter taken in reverse.' And the King said aside to Shibli Bagarag,
'Say now, what may be thy price for yonder hawk?'

And the hawk bade him say, 'The loan of thy cockleshell.'

The King mused, and said, 'That is much to ask, for it is that which
beareth the Princess my daughter to the Lily of the Enchanted Sea, which
she nourisheth; and if 'tis harmed, she will be stricken with ugliness,
as was the daughter of the Vizier Feshnavat, who tended it before her.
Yet is this hawk a bird of price. What be its qualities, besides the gift
of speech?'

Shibli Bagarag answered, 'To counsel in extremity; to forewarn; to
counteract enchantments and foul magic.'

Upon that the King said, 'Follow me!'

And the King led the way from the hall, through many spacious chambers
fair with mirrors and silks and precious woods, and smooth marble floors,
down into a vault lit by a lamp that was shaped like an eye. Round the
vault were hung helm-pieces, and swords, and rich-studded housings; and
there were silken dresses, and costly shawls, and tall vases and jars of
China, tapestries, and gold services. And the King said, 'Take thy choice
of these in exchange for the hawk.'

But Shibli Bagarag said, 'Nought save a loan of the cockle-shell, King!'

Then the King threatened him, saying, 'There is a virtue in each of the
things thou seest: the China jar is brimmed with wine, and remaineth so
though a thousand drink of it; the dress of Samarcand rendereth the
wearer invisible; yet thou refusest to exchange them for thy hawk!'

And the King swore by the beard of his father he would seize perforce the
hawk and shut up Shibli Bagarag in the vault, if he fell not into his
bargain. Shibli Bagarag was advised by the hawk to accept the China jar
and the dress of Samarcand, and handed the hawk to the King in exchange
for these things. So the King took the hawk upon his wrist and departed
with it to the apartments of his daughter, and Shibli Bagarag went to the
chamber prepared for him in the palace.

Now, when it was night, Shibli Bagarag heard a noise at his lattice, and
he arose and peered through it, and lo! the hawk was fluttering without;
so he let it in, and caressed it, and the hawk bade him put on his silken
dress and carry forth his China jar, and go the round of the palace, and
offer drink to the sentinels and the slaves. So he did as the hawk
directed, and the sentinels and slaves were aware of a China jar brimmed
with wine that was lifted to their lips, but him that lifted it they saw
not: surely, they drank deep of the draught of astonishment.

Then the hawk flew before him, and he followed it to a chamber lit with
golden lamps, gorgeously hung, and full of a dusky splendour and the
faint sparkle of gems, ruby, amethyst, topaz, and beryl; in it there was
the hush of sleep, and the heart of Shibli Bagarag told him that one
beautiful was near. So he approached on tiptoe a couch of blue silk,
bordered with gold-wire, and inwoven with stars of blue turquoise stones,
as it had been the heavens of midnight. On the couch lay one, a woman,
pure in loveliness; the dark fringes of her closed lids like living
flashes of darkness, her mouth like an unstrung bow and as a double
rosebud, even as two isles of coral between which in the clear
transparent watery beds the pearls shine freshly.

And the hawk said to Shibli Bagarag, 'This is the Princess Goorelka, the
daughter of the King of Oolb, a sorceress, the Guardian of the Lily of
the Enchanted Sea. Beneath her pillow is the cockle-shell; grasp it, but
gaze not upon her.'

He approached and slid his arm beneath the pillow of the Princess, and
grasped the cockle-shell; but ere he drew it forth he gazed upon her, and
the lustre of her countenance transfixed him as with a javelin, so that
he could not stir, nor move his eyes from the contemplation of her
sweetness of feature. The hawk darted at him fiercely, and pecked at him
to draw his attention from her, and he stepped back, yet he continued
taking fatal draughts from the magic cup of her beauty. Then the hawk
screamed a loud scream of anguish, and the Princess awoke, and started
half-way from the couch, and stared about her, and saw the bird in
agitation. As she looked at the bird a shudder passed over her, and she
snatched a veil and drew it over her face, murmuring, 'I dream, or I am
under the eye of a man.' Then she felt beneath the pillow, and knew that
the cockle-shell had been touched; and in a moment she leapt from her
couch, and ran to a mirror and saw herself as she was, a full-moon made
to snare the wariest and sit singly high on a throne in the hearts of
men. At the sight of her beauty she smiled and seemed at peace, murmuring
still, 'I am under the eye of a man, or I dream.' Now, while she so
murmured she arrayed herself, and took the cockle-shell, and passed
through the ante-room among her women sleeping; and Shibli Bagarag
tracked her till she came to the vault; and she entered it and walked to
the corner from which had hung the dress of Samarcand. When she saw it
gone her face waxed pale, and she gazed slowly at all points, muttering,
'There is no further doubt but that I am under the eye of a man!'
Thereupon she ran hastily from the vault, and passed between the
sentinels of the palace, and saw them where they lay drowsy with
intoxication: so she knew that the China jar and the dress of Samarcand
had been used that night, and for no purpose friendly to her wishes. Then
she passed down the palace steps, and through the gates of the palace and
the city, till she came to the shore of the sea; there she launched the
cockle-shell and took the wind in her garments, and sat in it, filling it
to overflowing, yet it floated. And Shibli Bagarag waded to the
cockle-shell and took hold of it, and was drawn along by its motion
swiftly through the waters, so that a foam swept after him; and Goorelka
marked the foam. Now, they had passage over the billows smoothly, and
soon the length of the sea was darkened with two high rocks, and between
them there was a narrow channel of the sea, roughened with moonlight. So
they sped between the rocks, and came upon a purple sea, dark-blue
overhead, with large stars leaning to the waves. There was a soft
whisperingness in the breath of the breezes that swung there, and many
sails of charmed ships were seen in momentary gleams, flapping the mast
idly far away. Warm as new milk from the full udders were the waters of
that sea, and figures of fair women stretched lengthwise with the
current, and lifted a head as they rushed rolling by. Truly it was
enchanted even to the very bed!



THE LILY OF THE ENCHANTED SEA

Now, after the cockle-shell had skimmed calmly awhile, it began to pitch
and grew unquiet, and came upon a surging foam, pale, and with
scintillating bubbles. The surges increased in volume, and boiled,
hissing as with anger, like savage animals. Presently, the cockle-shell
rose upon one very lofty swell, and Shibli Bagarag lost hold of it, and
lo! it was overturned and engulfed in the descent of the great mountain
of water, and the Princess Goorelka was immersed in the depths. She would
have sunk, but Shibli Bagarag caught hold of her, and supported her to
the shore by the strength of his right arm. The shore was one of sand and
shells, their wet cheeks sparkling in the moonlight; over it hung a
promontory, a huge jut of black rock. Now, the Princess when she landed,
seeing not him that supported her, delayed not to run beneath the rock,
and ascended by steps cut from the base of the rock. And Shibli Bagarag
followed her by winding paths round the rock, till she came to the
highest peak commanding the circle of the Enchanted Sea, and glimpses of
enthralled vessels, and mariners bewitched on board; long paths of
starlight rippled into the distant gloom, and the reflection of the moon
opposite was as a wide nuptial sheet of silver on the waters: islands,
green and white, and with soft music floating from their foliage, sailed
slowly to and fro. Surely, to dwell reclining among the slopes of those
islands a man would forfeit Paradise! Now, the Princess, as she stood
upon the peak, knew that she was not alone, and pretended to slip from
her footing, and Shibli Bagarag called out and ran to her; but she turned
in the direction of his voice and laughed, and he knew he was outwitted.
Then, to deceive her, he dropped from the phial twenty drops round her on
the rock, and those twenty drops became twenty voices, so that she was
bewildered with their calls, and stopped her ears, and ran from them, and
descended from the eminence nimbly, slipping over ledges and leaping the
abysses. And Shibli Bagarag followed her, clutching at the trailers and
tearing them with him, letting loose a torrent of stones and earth, till
on a sudden they stood together above a greenswarded basin of the rock
opening to the sea; and in the middle of the basin, lo! in stature like a
maiden of the mountains, and one that droopeth her head pensively
thinking of her absent lover, the Enchanted Lily. Wonder knocked at the
breast of Shibli Bagarag when he saw that queenly flower waving its
illumined head to the breeze: he could not retain a cry of rapture. As he
did this the Princess stretched her hand to where he was and groped a
moment, and caught him by the silken dress and tore in it a great rent,
and by the rent he stood revealed to her. Then said she, 'O youth, thou
halt done ill to follow me here, and the danger of it is past computing;
surely, the motive was a deep one, nought other than the love of me.'

She spoke winningly, sweet words to a luted voice, and the youth fell
upon his knees before her, smitten by her beauty; and he said, 'I
followed thee here as I would follow such loveliness to the gates of
doom, O Princess of Oolb.'

She smiled and said playfully, 'I will read by thy hand whether thou be
one faithful in love.'

She took his hand and sprinkled on it earth and gravel, and commenced
scanning it curiously. As she scanned it her forehead wrinkled up, and a
shot like black lightning travelled across her countenance, withering its
beauty: she cried in a forced voice, 'Aha! it is well, O youth, for thee
and for me that thou lovest me, and art faithful in love.'

The look of the Princess of Oolb and her voice affrighted the soul of
Shibli Bagarag, and he would have turned from her; but she held him, and
went to the Lily, and emptied into the palm of her hand the dew that was
in the Lily, and raised it to the lips of Shibli Bagarag, bidding him
drink as a pledge for her sake and her love, and to appease his thirst.
As he was about to drink, there fell into the palm of the Princess from
above what seemed a bolt of storm scattering the dew; and after he had
blinked with the suddenness of the action he looked and beheld the hawk,
its red eyes inflamed with wrath. And the hawk screamed into the ear of
Shibli Bagarag, 'Pluck up the Lily ere it is too late, O fool!--the dew
was poison! Pluck it by the root with thy right hand!'

So thereat he strode to the Lily, and grasped it, and pulled with his
strength; and the Lily was loosened, and yielded, and came forth
streaming with blood from the bulb of the root; surely the bulb of the
root was a palpitating heart, yet warm, even as that we have within our
bosoms.

Now, from the terror of that sight the Princess hid her eyes, and shrank
away. And the lines of malice, avarice, and envy seemed ageing her at
every breath. Then the hawk pecked at her three pecks, and perched on a
corner of rock, and called shrilly the name 'Karaz!' And the Genie Karaz
came slanting down the night air, like a preying bird, and stood among
them. So the hawk cried, 'See, O Karaz, the freshness of thy Princess of
Oolb'; and the Genie regarded her till loathing curled his lip, for she
grew in ghastliness to the colour of a frog, and a frog's face was hers,
a camel's back, a pelican's throat, the legs of a peacock.

Then the hawk cried, 'Is this how ye meet, ye lovers,--ye that will be
wedded?' And the hawk made his tongue as a thorn to them. At the last it
exclaimed, 'Now let us fight our battle, Karaz!'

But the Genie said, 'Nay, there will come a time for that, traitress!'

The hawk cried, 'Thou delayest, till the phial of Paravid, the hairs of
Garraveen, and this Lily, my three helps, are expended, thinking Aklis,
for which we barter them, striketh but a single blow? That is well! Go,
then, and take thy Princess, and obtain permission of the King of Oolb,
her father, to wed her, O Karaz!'

The hawk whistled with laughter, and the Genie was stung with its
mockeries, and clutched the Princess of Oolb in a bunch, and arose from
the ground with her, slanting up the night-air like fire, till he was
seen high up even as an angry star reddening the seas beneath.

When he was lost to the eye, Shibli Bagarag drew a long breath and cried
aloud, 'The likeness of that Princess of Oolb in her ugliness to Noorna,
my betrothed, is a thing marvellous, if it be not she herself.' And he
reflected, 'Yet she seemed not to recognize and claim me'; and thought,
'I am bound to her by gratitude, and I should have rescued her from
Karaz, but I know not if it be she. Wullahy! I am bewildered; I will ask
counsel of the hawk.' He looked to the corner of the rock where the hawk
had perched, but the hawk was gone; as he searched for it, his eyes fell
upon the bed of earth where the Lily stood ere he plucked it, and lo! in
the place of the Lily, there was a damsel dressed in white shining silks,
fairer than the enchanted flower, straighter than the stalk of it; her
head slightly drooping, like the moon on a border of the night; her bosom
like the swell of the sea in moonlight; her eyes dark, under a low arch
of darker lashes, like stars on the skirts of storm; and she was the very
dream of loveliness, formed to freeze with awe, and to inflame with
passion. So Shibli Bagarag gazed at her with adoration, his hands
stretched half-way to her as if to clasp her, fearing she was a vision
and would fade; and the damsel smiled a sweet smile, and lifted her
antelope eyes, and said, 'Who am I, and to whom might I be likened, O
youth?'

And he answered, 'Who thou art, O young perfection, I know not, if not a
Houri of Paradise; but thou art like the Princess of Oolb, yet lovelier,
oh lovelier! And thy voice is the voice of Noorna, my betrothed; yet
purer, sweeter, younger.'

So the damsel laughed a laugh like a sudden sweeping of wild chords of
music, and said, 'O youth, saw'st thou not the ascent of Noorna, thy
betrothed, gathered in a bunch by Karaz?'

And he answered, 'I saw her; but I knew not, O damsel of beauty; surely I
was bewildered, amazed, without power to contend with the Genie.'

Then she said, 'Wouldst thou release her? So kiss me on the lips, on the
eyes, and on the forehead, three kisses each time; and with the first
say, "By the well of Paravid"; and with the second, "By the strength of
Garraveen!" and with the third, "By the Lily of the Sea!"'

Now, the heart of the youth bounded at her words, and he went to her, and
trembling kissed her all bashfully on the lips, on the eyes, and on the
forehead, saying each time as she directed. Then she took him by the
hand, and stepped from the bed of earth, crying joyfully, 'Thanks be to
Allah and the Prophet! Noorna, is released from the sorceries that held
her, and powerful.'

So, while he was wondering, she said, 'Knowest thou not the woman, thy
betrothed?'

He answered, 'O damsel of beauty, I am charged with many feelings; doubts
and hopes are mixed in me. Say first who thou art, and fill my two ears
with bliss.'

And she said, 'I will leave my name to other lips; surely I am the
daughter of the Vizier Feshnavat, betrothed to a wandering youth,--a
barber, who sickened at the betrothal, and consoled himself with a
proverb when he gave me the kiss of contract, and knew not how with truth
to pay me a compliment.'

Now, Shibli Bagarag saw this was indeed Noorna bin Noorka, his betrothed,
and he fell before her in love and astonishment; but she lifted him to
her neck, and embraced him, saying, 'Said I not truly when I said "I am
that I shall be"? My youth is not as that of Bhanavar the Beautiful,
gained at another's cost, but my own, and stolen from me by wicked
sorceries.' And he cried, 'Tell me, O Noorna, my betrothed, how this
matter came to pass?'

She said, 'On our way to Aklis.'

She bade him grasp the Lily, and follow her; and he followed her down the
rock and over the bright shells upon the sand, admiring her stateliness,
her willowy lightness, her slimness as of the palm-tree. Then she waded
in the water, and began to strike out with her arms, and swim boldly,--he
likewise; and presently they came to a current that hurried them off in
its course, and carried them as weeds, streaming rapidly. He was bearing
witness to his faith as a man that has lost hope of life, when a strong
eddy stayed him, and whirled him from the current into the calm water. So
he looked for Noorna, and saw her safe beside him flinging back the wet
tresses from her face, that was like the full moon growing radiant behind
a dispersing cloud. And she said, 'Ask not for the interpretation of
wonders in this sea, for they cluster like dates on a date branch.
Surely, to be with me is enough?'

And she bewitched him in the midst of the waters, making him oblivious of
all save her, so that he hugged the golden net of her smiles and fair
flatteries, and swam with an exulting stroke, giving his breast broadly
to the low billows, and shouting verses of love and delight to her. And
while they swam sweetly, behold, there was seen a pearly shell of
flashing crimson, amethyst, and emerald, that came scudding over the
waves toward them, raised to the wind, fan-shaped, and in its front two
silver seats. When she saw it, Noorna cried, 'She has sent me this,
Rabesqurat! Perchance is she favourable to my wishes, and this were
well!'

Then she swayed in the water sideways, and drew the shell to her, and the
twain climbed into it, and sat each on one of the silver seats, folded
together. In its lightness it was as a foam-bubble before the wind on the
blue water, and bore them onward airily. At his feet Shibli Bagarag
beheld a stool of carved topaz, and above his head the arch of the shell
was inlaid with wreaths of gems: never was vessel fairer than that.

Now, while they were speeding over the water, Noorna said, 'The end of
this fair sea is Aklis, and beyond it is the Koosh. So while the wind is
our helmsman, and we go circled by the quiet of this sea, I'll tell thee
of myself, if thou carest to hear.'

And he cried with the ardour of love, 'Surely, I would hear of nought
save thyself, Noorna, and the music of the happy garden compareth not in
sweetness with it. I long for the freshness of thy voice, as the desert
camel for the green spring, O my betrothed!'

So she said, 'And now give ear to the following':--



AND THIS IS THE STORY OF NOORNA BIN NOORKA, THE GENIE KARAZ, AND THE
PRINCESS OF OOLB

Know, that when I was a babe, I lay on my mother's bosom in the
wilderness, and it was the bosom of death. Surely, I slept and smiled,
and dreamed the infant's dream, and knew not the coldness of the thing I
touched. So were we even as two dead creatures lying there; but life was
in me, and I awoke with hunger at the time of feeding, and turned to my
mother, and put up my little mouth to her for nourishment, and sucked
her, but nothing came. I cried, and commenced chiding her, and after a
while it was as decreed, that certain horsemen of a troop passing through
the wilderness beheld me, and seeing my distress and the helpless being I
was, their hearts were stirred, and they were mindful of what the poet
says concerning succour given to the poor, helpless, and innocent of this
world, and took me up, and mixed for me camel's milk and water from the
bags, and comforted me, and bore me with them, after they had paid
funeral rites to the body of my mother.

Now, the rose-bud showeth if the rose-tree be of the wilds or of the
garden, and the chief of that troop seeing me born to the uses of
gentleness, carried me in his arms with him to his wife, and persuaded
her that was childless to make me the child of their adoption. So I abode
with them during the period of infancy and childhood, caressed and cared
for, as is said:

     The flower a stranger's hand may gather,
      Strikes root into the stranger's breast;
     Affection is our mother, father,
      Friend, and of cherishers the best.

And I loved them as their own child, witting not but that I was their
child, till on a day while I played among some children of my years, the
daughter of the King of Oolb passed by us on a mule, with her slaves and
drawn swords, and called to me, 'Thou little castaway!' and had me
brought to her, and peered upon my face in a manner that frightened me,
for I was young. Then she put me down from the neck of her mule where she
had seated me, saying, 'Child of a dead mother and a runaway father, what
need I fear from thy like, and the dreams of a love-sick Genie?' So she
departed, but I forgot not her words, and dwelt upon them, and grew
fevered with them, and drooped. Now, when he saw my bloom of health gone,
heaviness on my feet, the light hollowed from my eyes, my benefactor,
Ravaloke--he that I had thought my father--took me between his knees, and
asked me what it was and the cause of my ailing; and I told him.

Then said he, 'This is so: thou art not my child; but I love thee as
mine, O my little Desert-flower; and why the Princess should fancy fear
of thee I like not to think; but fear thou her, for she is a mask of
wiles and a vine trailing over pitfalls; such a sorceress the world
knoweth not as Goorelka of Oolb.'

Now, I was penetrated by what he said, and ceased to be a companion to
them that loved childish games and romps, and meditated by myself in
gardens and closets, feigning sleep when the elder ones discoursed, that
I might learn something of this mystery, and all that was spoken
perplexed me more, as the sage declareth:

     Who in a labyrinth wandereth without clue,
     More that he wandereth doth himself undo.

Though I was quick as the quick-eyed falcon, I discovered nought, flying
ever at false game,--

     A follower of misleading beams,
     A cheated soul, the mock of dreams.

At times I thought that it was the King of Oolb was my father, and
plotted to come in his path; and there were kings and princes of far
countries whom I sought to encounter, that they might claim me; but none
claimed me. O my betrothed, few gave me love beside Ravaloke, and when
the wife that he cherished died, he solely, for I was lost in waywardness
and the slave of moody imaginings. 'Tis said:

   If thou the love of the world for thyself wouldst gain,
     mould thy breast
   Liker the world to become, for its like the world loveth best;

and this was not I then.

Now, the sons and daughters of men are used to celebrate the days of
their birth with gifts and rejoicings, but I could only celebrate that
day which delivered me from death into the hands of Ravaloke, as none
knew my birth-hour. When it was the twelfth return of this event,
Ravaloke, my heart's father, called me to him and pressed in my hand a
glittering coin, telling me to buy with it in the bazaars what I would.
So I went forth, attended by a black slave, after the mid-noon, for I was
eager to expend my store, and cared not for the great heat. Scarcely had
we passed the cheese-market and were hurrying on to shops of the
goldsmiths and jewellers, when I saw an old man, a beggar, in a dirty
yellow turban and pieced particoloured cloth-stuff, and linen in rags his
other gear. So lean was he, and looked so weak that I wondered he did
other than lay his length on the ground; and as he asked me for alms his
voice had a piteousness that made me to weep, and I punished my slave for
seeking to drive him away, and gave my one piece of gold into his hand.
Then he asked me what I required of him in exchange, and I said, 'What
can a poor old man that is a beggar give?' He laughed, and asked me then
what I had intended to buy with that piece of money. So, beginning to
regret the power that was gone from me of commanding with my gold piece
this and that fine thing, I mused, and said, 'Truly, a blue dress
embroidered with gold, and a gold crown, and gold bracelets set with
turquoise stones,--these, and toys; but could I buy in this city a book
of magic, that were my purchase.'

The old fellow smiled, and said to my black slave, 'And thou, hadst thou
this coin, what were thy purchase therewith?'

He, scoffing the old beggar, answered, 'A plaister for sores as broad as
my back, and a camel's hump, O thou old villain!'

The old man grunted in his chest, and said, 'Thou art but a camel
thyself, to hinder a true Mussulman from passing in peace down a street
of Oolb; so 'twere a good purchase and a fitting: know'st thou what is
said of the blessing given by them that receive a charity?

  "'Tis the fertilizing dew that streameth after the sun,
   Strong as the breath of Allah to bless life well begun."

So is my blessing on the little damsel, and she shall have her wish,
wullahy, thou black face! and thou thine.'

This spake the old man, and hobbled off while my slave was jeering him.
So I strolled through the bazaars and thought no more of the old man's
words, and longed to purchase a hundred fineries, and came to the
confectioner's, and smelt the smell of his musk-scented sweetmeats and
lemon sweets and sugared pistachios that are delicious to crunch between
the teeth. My mouth watered, and I said to my slave, 'O Kadrab, a coin,
though 'twere small, would give us privilege in yonder shop to select,
and feast, and approve the skill of the confectioner.'

He grinned, and displayed in his black fist a petty coin of exchange, but
would not let me have it till I had sworn to give no more away to
beggars. So even as we were hurrying into the shop, another old beggar
wretcheder than the first fronted me, and I was moved, and forgot my
promise to Kadrab, and gave him the money. Then was Kadrab wroth, and
kicked the old beggar with his fore-foot, lifting him high in air, and
lo! he did not alight, but rose over the roofs of the houses and beyond
the city, till he was but a speck in the blue of the sky above. So Kadrab
bit his forefinger amazed, and glanced at his foot, and at what was
visible of the old beggarman, and again at his foot, thinking but of what
he had done with it, and the might manifested in that kick, fool that he
was! All the way homeward he kept scanning the sky and lifting his foot
aloft, and I saw him bewildered with a strange conceit, as the poet has
exclaimed in his scorn:

     Oh, world diseased! oh, race empirical!
     Where fools are the fathers of every miracle!

Now, when I was in my chamber, what saw I there but a dress of very
costly blue raiment with gold-work broidery and a lovely circlet of gold,
and gold bracelets set with stones of turquoise, and a basket of gold
woven wire, wherein were toys, wondrous ones--soldiers that cut off each
other's heads and put them on again, springing antelopes, palm-trees that
turned to fountains, and others; and lo! a book in red binding, with
figures on it and clasps of gold, a great book! So I clapped my hands
joyfully, crying, 'The old beggar has done it!' and robed myself in the
dress, and ran forth to tell Ravaloke. As I ran by a window looking on
the inner court, I saw below a crowd of all the slaves of Ravaloke round
one that was seeking to escape from them, and 'twas Kadrab with a camel's
hump on his back, and a broad brown plaister over it, the wretch howling,
peering across his shoulder, and trying to bolt from his burden, as a
horse that would run from his rider. Then I saw that Kadrab also had his
wish, his camel's hump, and thought, 'The old beggar, what was he but a
Genie?' Surely Ravaloke caressed me when he heard of the adventure, and
what had befallen Kadrab was the jest of the city; but for me I spared
little time away from that book, and studied in it incessantly the ways
and windings of magic, till I could hold communication with Genii, and
wield charms to summon them, and utter spells that subdue them,
discovering the haunts of talismans that enthral Afrites and are powerful
among men. There was that Kadrab coming to me daily to call out in the
air for the old beggarman to rid him of his hump; and he would waste
hours looking up into the sky moodily for him, and cursing the five toes
of his foot, for he doubted not the two beggars were one, and that he was
punished for the kick, and lamented it direly, saying in the thick of his
whimperings, 'I'd give the foot that did it to be released from my hump,
O my fair mistress.' So I pitied him, and made a powder and a spell, and
my first experiment in magic was to relieve Kadrab of his hump, and I
succeeded in loosening it, and it came away from him, and sank into the
ground of the garden where we stood. So I told Kadrab to say nothing of
this, but the idle-pated fellow blabbed it over the city, and it came to
the ears of Goorelka. Then she sent for me to visit her, and by the
advice of Ravaloke I went, and she fondled me, and sought to get at the
depth of my knowledge by a spell that tieth every faculty save the
tongue, and it is the spell of vain longing. Now, because I baffled her
arts she knew me more cunning than I seemed, and as night advanced she
affected to be possessed with pleasure in me, and took me in her arms and
sought to fascinate me, and I heard her mutter once, 'Shall I doubt the
warning of Karaz?' So presently she said, 'Come with me'; and I went with
her under the curtain of that apartment into another, a long saloon,
wherein were couches round a fountain, and beyond it an aviary lit with
lamps: when we were there she whistled, and immediately there was a
concert of birds, a wondrous accord of exquisite piping, and she leaned
on a couch and took me by her to listen; sweet and passionate was the
harmony of the birds; but I let not my faculties lull, and observed that
round the throat of every bird was a ringed mark of gold and stamps of
divers gems similar in colour to a ring on the forefinger of her right
hand, which she dazzled my sight with as she flashed it. When we had
listened a long hour to this music, the Princess gazed on me as if to
mark the effect of a charm, and I saw disappointment on her lovely face,
and she bit her lip and looked spiteful, saying, 'Thou art far gone in
the use of magic, and wary, O girl!' Then she laughed unnaturally, and
called slaves to bring in sweet drinks to us, and I drank with her, and
became less wary, and she fondled me more, calling me tender names,
heaping endearments on me; and as the hour of the middle-night approached
I was losing all suspicion in deep languor, and sighed at the song of the
birds, the long love-song, and dozed awake with eyes half shut. I felt
her steal from me, and continued still motionless without alarm: so was I
mastered. What hour it was or what time had passed I cannot say, when a
bird that was chained on a perch before me--a very quaint bird, with a
topknot awry, and black, heavy bill, and ragged gorgeousness of
plumage--the only object between my lids and darkness, suddenly, in the
midst of the singing, let loose a hoarse laugh that was followed by peals
of laughter from the other birds. Thereat I started up, and beheld the
Princess standing over a brazier, and she seized a slipper from her foot
and flung it at the bird that had first laughed, and struck him off his
perch, and went to him and seized him and shook him, crying, 'Dare to
laugh again!' and he kept clearing his throat and trying to catch the
tune he had lost, pitching a high note and a low note; but the marvel of
this laughter of the bird wakened me thoroughly, and I thanked the bird
in my soul, and said to Goorelka, 'More wondrous than their singing, this
laughter, O Princess!'

She would not speak till she had beaten every bird in the aviary, and
then said in the words of the poet:

   Shall they that deal in magic match degrees of wonder?
   From the bosom of one cloud comes the lightning and the thunder.

Then said she, 'O Noorna! I'll tell thee truly my intent, which was to
enchant thee; but I find thee wise, so let us join our powers, and thou
shah become mighty as a sorceress.'

Now, Ravaloke had said to me, 'Her friendship is fire, her enmity frost;
so be cold to the former, to the latter hot,' and I dissembled and
replied, 'Teach me, O Princess!'

So she asked me what I could do. Could I plant a mountain in the sea and
people it? could I anchor a purple cloud under the sun and live there a
year with them I delighted in? could I fix the eyes of the world upon one
head and make the nations bow to it; change men to birds, fishes to men;
and so on--a hundred sorceries that I had never attempted and dreamed not
of my betrothed! I had never offended Allah by a misuse of my powers.
When I told her, she cried, 'Thou art then of a surety she that's fitted
for the custody of the Lily of the Light, so come with me.'

Now, I had heard of the Lily, even this thou holdest may its influence be
unwithering!--and desired to see it. So she led me from the palace to the
shore of the sea, and flung a cockleshell on the waters, and seated
herself in it with me in her lap; and we scudded over the waters, and
entered this Enchanted Sea, and stood by the Lily. Then, I that loved
flowers undertook the custody of this one, knowing not the consequences
and the depth of her wiles. 'Tis truly said:

     The overwise themselves hoodwink,
   For simple eyesight is a modest thing:
     They on the black abysm's brink
   Smile, and but when they fall bitterly think,
   What difference 'twixt the fool and me, Creation's King?

Nevertheless for awhile nothing evil resulted, and I had great joy in the
flower, and tended it with exceeding watchfulness, and loved it, so that
I was brought in my heart to thank the Princess and think well of her.

Now, one summer eve as Ravaloke rested under the shade of his garden
palm, and I studied beside him great volumes of magic, it happened that
after I had read certain pages I closed one of the books marked on the
cover 'Alif,' and shut the clasp louder than I intended, so that he who
was dozing started up, and his head was in the sloped sun in an instant,
and I observed the shadow of his head lengthen out along the grass-plot
towards the mossed wall, and it shot up the wall, darkening it--then
drawing back and lessening, then darting forth like a beast of darkness
irritable for prey. I was troubled, for whatso is seen while the volume
Alif is in use hath a portent; but the discovery of what this might be
baffled me. So I determined to watch events, and it was not many days ere
Ravaloke, who was the leader of the armies of the King of Oolb, was
called forth to subdue certain revolted tributaries of the King, and at
my entreaty took me with him, and I saw battles and encounters lasting a
day's length. Once we were encamped in a fruitful country by a brook
running with a bright eye between green banks, and I that had freedom and
the password of the camp wandered down to it, and refreshed my forehead
with its coolness. So, as I looked under the falling drops, lo! on the
opposite bank the old beggar that had given me such fair return for my
alms and Kadrab his hump! I heard him call, 'This night is the key to the
mystery,' and he was gone. Every incantation I uttered was insufficient
to bring him back. Surely, I hurried to the tents and took no sleep,
watching zealously by the tent of Ravaloke, crouched in its shadow. About
the time of the setting of the moon I heard footsteps approach the tent
within the circle of the guard, and it was a youth that held in his hand
naked steel. When he was by the threshold of the tent, I rose before him
and beheld the favourite of Ravaloke, even the youth he had destined to
espouse me; so I reproached him, and he wept, denying not the intention
he had to assassinate Ravaloke, and when his soul was softened he
confessed to me, ''Twas that I might win the Princess Goorelka, and she
urged me to it, promising the King would promote me to the vacant post of
Ravaloke.'

Then I said to him, 'Lov'st thou Goorelka?'

And he answered, 'Yea, though I know my doom in loving her; and that it
will be the doom of them now piping to her pleasure and denied the
privilege of laughter.'

So I thought, 'Oh, cruel sorceress! the birds are men!' And as I mused,
my breast melted with pity at their desire to laugh, and the little
restraint they had upon themselves notwithstanding her harshness; for
could they think of their changed condition and folly without laughter?
and the folly that sent them fresh mates in misery was indeed matter for
laughter, fed to fulness by constant meditation on the perch. Meantime, I
uncharmed the youth and bade him retire quickly; but as he was going, he
said, 'Beware of the Genie Karaz!' Then I held him back, and after a
parley he told me what he had heard the Princess say, and it was that
Karaz had seen me and sworn to possess me for my beauty. 'Strangely
smiled Goorelka when she spake that,' said he.

Now, the City of Oolb fronts the sea, and behind it is a mountain and a
wood, where the King met Ravaloke on his return victorious over the
rebels. So, to escape the eye of the King I parted with Ravaloke, and
sought to enter the city by a circuitous way; but the paths wound about
and zigzagged, and my slaves suffered nightfall to surprise us in the
entanglements of the wood. I sent them in different directions to strike
into the main path, retaining Kadrab at the bridle of my mule; but that
creature now began to address me in a familiar tone, and he said
something of love for me that enraged me, so that I hit him a blow. Then
came from him sounds like the neighing of mares, and lo! he seized me and
rose with me in the air, and I thought the very heavens were opening to
that black beast, when on a sudden he paused, and shot down with me from
heights of the stars to the mouth of a cavern by the Putrid Sea, and
dragged me into a cavern greatly illuminated, hung like a palace chamber,
and supported on pillars of shining jasper. Then I fell upon the floor in
a swoon, and awaking saw Kadrab no longer, but in his place a Genie. O my
soul, thou halt seen him!--I thought at once, ''tis Karaz!' and when he
said to me, 'This is thy abode, O lady! and I he that have sworn to
possess thee from the hour I saw thee in the chamber of Goorelka,' then
was I certain 'twas Karaz. So, collecting the strength of my soul, I
said, in the words of the poet:

     'Woo not a heart preoccupied!
     What thorn is like a loathing bride?
     Mark ye the shrubs how they turn from the sea,
        The sea's rough whispers shun?
     But like the sun of heaven be,
     And every flower will open wide.
     Woo with the shining patience we
        Beheld in heaven's sun.'

Then he sang:

     Exquisite lady! name the smart
        That fills thy heart.
     Thou art the foot and I the worm:
        Prescribe the Term.

Finding him compliant, I said, 'O great Genie, truly the search of my
life has been to discover him that is, my father, and how I was left in
the wilderness. There 's no peace for me, nor understanding the word of
love, till I hear by whom I was left a babe on the bosom of a dead
mother.'

He exclaimed, and his eyes twinkled, ''Tis that? that shalt thou know in
a span of time. O my mistress, hast thou seen the birds of Goorelka? Thy
father Feshnavat is among them, perched like a bird.'

So I cried, 'And tell me how he may be disenchanted.'

He said, 'Swear first to be mine unreluctantly.'

Then I said, 'What is thy oath?'

He answered, 'I swear, when I swear, by the Identical.'

Thereupon I questioned him concerning the Identical, what it was; and he,
not suspecting, revealed to me the mighty hair in his head now in the
head of Shagpat, even that. So I swore by that to give myself to the
possessor of the Identical, and flattered him. Then said he, 'O lovely
damsel, I am truly one of the most powerful of the Genii; yet am I in
bondage to that sorceress Goorelka by reason of a ring she holdeth; and
could I get that ring from her and be slave to nothing mortal an hour, I
could light creation as a torch, and broil the inhabitants of earth at
one fire.'

I thought, 'That ring is known to me!' And he continued, 'Surely I cannot
assist thee in this work other than by revealing the means of
disenchantment, and it is to keep the birds laughing uninterruptedly an
hour; then are they men again, and take the forms of men that are
laughers--I know not why.'

So I cried, ''Tis well! carry me back to Oolb.'

Then the Genie lifted me into the air, and ceased not speeding rapidly
through it, till I was on the roof of the house of Ravaloke. O sweet
youth! moon of my soul! from that time to the disenchantment of
Feshnavat, I pored over my books, trying experiments in magic, dreadful
ones, hunting for talismans to countervail Goorelka; but her power was
great, and 'twas not in me to get her away from the birds one hour to
free them. On a certain occasion I had stolen to them, and kept them
laughing with stories of man to within an instant of the hour; and they
were laughing exultingly with the easy happy laugh of them that perceive
deliverance sure, when she burst in and beat them even to the door of
death. I saw too in her eyes, that glowed like the eyes of wild cats in
the dark, she suspected me, and I called Allah to aid the just cause
against the sinful, and prepared to war with her.

Now, my desire, which was to liberate my father and his fellows in
tribulation, I knew pure, and had no fear of the sequel, as is declared:

   Fear nought so much as Fear itself; for arm'd with Fear the Foe
   Finds passage to the vital part, and strikes a double blow.

So one day as I leaned from my casement looking on the garden seaward, I
saw a strange red and yellow-feathered bird that flew to the branch of a
citron-tree opposite, with a ring in its beak; and the bird was singing,
and with every note the ring dropped from its bill, and it descended
swiftly in an arrowy slant downward, and seized it ere it reached the
ground, and commenced singing afresh. When I had marked this to happen
many times, I thought, 'How like is this bird to an innocent soul
possessed of magic and using its powers! Lo, it seeketh still to sing as
one of the careless, and cannot relinquish the ring and be as the
careless, and between the two there is neither peace for it nor
pleasure.' Now, while my eyes were on the pretty bird, dwelling on it, I
saw it struck suddenly by an arrow beneath the left wing, and the bird
fluttered to my bosom and dropped in it the ring from its beak. Then it
sprang weakly, and sought to fly and soar, and fluttered; but a blue film
lodged over its eyes, and its panting was quickly ended. So I looked at
the ring and knew it for that one I had noted on the finger of Goorelka.
Red blushed my bliss, and 'twas revealed to me that the bird was of the
birds of the Princess that had escaped from her with the ring. I buried
the bird, weeping for it, and flew to my books, and as I read a glow
stole over me. O my betrothed, eyes of my soul! I read that the possessor
of that ring was mistress of the marvellous hair which is a magnet to the
homage of men, so that they crowd and crush and hunger to adore it, even
the Identical! This was the power that peopled the aviary of Goorelka,
and had well-nigh conquered all the resistance of my craft.

Now, while I read there arose a hubbub and noise in the outer court, and
shrieks of slaves. The noise approached with rapid strides, and before I
could close my books Goorelka burst in upon me, crying, 'Noorna! Noorna!'
Wild and haggard was her head, and she rushed to my books and saw them
open at the sign of the ring: then began our combat. She menaced me as
never mortal was menaced. Rapid lightning-flashes were her
transformations, and she was a serpent, a scorpion, a lizard, a lioness
in succession, but I leapt perpetually into fresh rings of fire and of
witched water; and at the fiftieth transformation, she fell on the floor
exhausted, a shuddering heap. Seeing that, I ran from her to the aviary
in her palace, and hurried over a story of men to the birds, that rocked
them on their perches with chestquakes of irresistible laughter. Then
flew I back to the Princess, and she still puffing on the floor,
commenced wheedling and begging the ring of me, stinting no promises. At
last she cried, 'Girl! what is this ring to thee without beauty? Thy
beauty is in my keeping.'

And I exclaimed, 'How? how?' smitten to the soul.

She answered, 'Yea; and I can wear it as my own, adding it to my own,
when thou'rt a hag!'

My betrothed! I was on the verge of giving her the ring for this secret,
when a violent remote laughter filled the inner hollow of my ears, and it
increased, till the Princess heard it; and now the light of my casement
was darkened with birds, the birds of Goorelka, laughing as on a wind of
laughter. So I opened to them, and they darted in, laughing all of them,
till I could hold out no longer, and the infection of laughter seized me,
and I rolled with it; and the Princess, she too laughed a hyaena-laugh
under a cat's grin, and we all of us remained in this wise some minutes,
laughing the breath out of our bodies, as if death would take us. Whoso
in the City of Oolb heard us, the slaves, the people, and the King,
laughed, knowing not the cause. This day is still remembered in Oolb as
the day of laughter. Now, at a stroke of the hour the laughter ceased,
and I saw in the chamber a crowd of youths and elders of various ranks;
but their visages were become long and solemn as that of them that have
seen a dark experience. 'Tis certain they laughed little in their lives
from that time, and the muscles of their cheeks had rest. So I caught
down my veil, and cried to the Princess, 'My father is among these; point
him out to me.'

Ere she replied one stepped forth, even Feshnavat, my father, and called
me by name, and knew me by a spot on the left arm, and made himself known
to me, and told me the story of my dead mother, how she had missed her
way from the caravan in the desert, and he searching her was set upon by
robbers, and borne on their expeditions. Nothing said he of the sorceries
of Goorelka, and I, not wishing to provoke the Princess, suffered his
dread to exist. So I kissed him, and bowed my head to him, and she fled
from the sight of innocent happiness. Then took I the ring, and summoned
Karaz, and ordered him to reinstate all those princes and chiefs and
officers in their possessions and powers, on what part of earth soever
that might be. Never till I stood as the Lily and thy voice sweetened the
name of love in my ears, heard I aught of delicate delightfulness, like
the sound of their gratitude. Many wooed me to let them stay by me and
guard me, and do service all their lives to me; but this I would not
allow, and though they were fair as moons, some of them, I responded not
to their soft glances, speaking calmly the word of farewell, for I was
burdened with other thoughts.

Now, when the Genie had done my bidding, he returned to me joyfully. My
soul sickened to think myself his by a promise; but I revolved the words
of my promise, and saw in them a loophole of escape. So, when he claimed
me, I said, 'Ay! ay! lay thy head in my lap,' as if my mind treasured it.
Then he lay there, and revealed to me his plans for the destruction of
men. 'Or,' said he, 'they shall be our slaves and burden-beasts, for
there 's now no restraint on me, now thou art mistress of the ring, and
mine.' Thereupon his imagination swelled, and he saw his evil will
enthroned, and the hopes of men beneath his heel, crying, 'And the more I
crush them the thicker they crowd, for the Identical compelleth their
very souls to adore in spite of distaste.'

Then said I, 'Tell me, O Genie! is the Identical subservient to me in
another head save thine?'

He answered, 'Nay I in another head 'tis a counteraction to the power of
the Ring, the Ring powerless over it.'

And I said, 'Must it live in a head, the Identical?'

Cried he, 'Woe to what else holdeth it!'

I whispered in his hairy pointed red ear, 'Sleep! sleep!' and lulled him
with a song, and he slept, being weary with my commissioning. Then I bade
Feshnavat, my father, fetch me one of my books of magic, and read in it
of the discovery of the Identical by means of the Ring; and I took the
Ring and hung it on a hair of my own head over the head of the Genie, and
saw one of the thin lengths begin to twist and dart and writhe, and shift
lustres as a creature in anguish. So I put the Ring on my forefinger, and
turned the hair round and round it, and tugged. Lo, with a noise that
stunned me, the hair came out! O my betrothed, what shrieks and roars
were those: with which the Genie awoke, finding himself bare of the
Identical! Oolb heard them, and the sea foamed like the mouth of madness,
as the Genie sped thunder-like over it, following me in mid-air. Such a
flight was that! Now, I found it not possible to hold the Identical, for
it twisted and stung, and was nigh slipping from me while I flew. I saw
white on a corner of the Desert, a city, and I descended on it by the
shop of a clothier that sat quietly by his goods and stuffs, thinking of
fate less than of kabobs and stews and rare seasonings. That city hath
now his name. Wullahy, had I not then sown in his head that hair which he
weareth yet, how had I escaped Karaz, and met thee? Wondrous are the
decrees of Providence! Praise be to Allah for them! So the Genie, when he
found himself baffled by me, and Shagpat with the mighty hair in his
head, the Identical, he yelled, and fetched Shagpat a slap that sent him
into the middle of the street; but Kadza screamed after him, and there
was immediately such lamentation in the city about Shagpat, and such
tearing of hair about him, that I perceived at once the virtue that was
in the Identical. As for Karaz, finding his claim as possessor of the
Identical no more valid, he vanished, and has been my rebellious slave
since, till thou, O my betrothed, mad'st me spend him in curing thy folly
on the horse Garraveen, and he escaped from my circles beyond the
dominion of the Ring; yet had he his revenge, for I that was keeper of
the Lily, had, I now learned ruefully, a bond of beauty with it, and
whatever was a stain to one withered the other. Then that sorceress
Goorelka stole my beauty from me by sprinkling a blight on the petals of
the fair flower, and I became as thou first saw'st me. But what am I as I
now am? Blissful! blissful! Surely I grew humble with the loss of beauty,
and by humility wise, so that I assisted Feshnavat to become Vizier by
the Ring, and watched for thy coming to shave Shagpat, as a star
watcheth; for 'tis written, 'A barber alone shall be shearer of the
Identical'; and he only, my betrothed, hath power to plant it in Aklis,
where it groweth as a pillar, bringing due reverence to Aklis.



THE WILES OF RABESQURAT

Now, when Noorna bin Noorka had made an end of her narration, she folded
her hands and was mute awhile; and to the ear of Shibli Bagarag it seemed
as if a sweet instrument had on a sudden ceased luting. So, as he leaned,
listening for her voice to recommence, she said quickly, 'See yonder fire
on the mountain's height!'

He looked and saw a great light on the summit of a lofty mountain before
them.

Then said she, 'That is Aklis! and it is ablaze, knowing a visitant near.
Tighten now the hairs of Garraveen about thy wrist; touch thy lips with
the waters of Paravid; hold before thee the Lily, and make ready to enter
the mountain. Lo, my betrothed, thou art in possession of the three means
that melt opposition, and the fault is thine if thou fail.'

He did as she directed; and they were taken on a tide and advanced
rapidly to the mountain, so that the waters smacked and crackled beneath
the shell, covering it with silver showering arches of glittering spray.
Then the fair beams of the moon became obscured, and the twain reddened
with the reflection of the fire, and the billows waxed like riotous
flames; and presently the shell rose upon the peak of many waves swollen
to one, and looking below, they saw in the scarlet abyss of waters at
their feet a monstrous fish, with open jaws and one baleful eye; and the
fish was lengthy as a caravan winding through the desert, and covered
with fiery scales. Shibli Bagarag heard the voice of Noorna shriek
affrightedly, 'Karaz!' and as they were sliding on the down slope, she
stood upright in the shell, pronouncing rapidly some words in magic; and
the shell closed upon them both, pressing them together, and writing
darkness on their very eyeballs. So, while they were thus, they felt
themselves gulped in, and borne forward with terrible swiftness, they
knew not where, like one that hath a dream of sinking; and outside the
shell a rushing, gurgling noise, and a noise as of shouting multitudes,
and muffled multitudes muttering complaints and yells and querulous
cries, told them they were yet speeding through the body of the depths in
the belly of the fish. Then there came a shock, and the shell was struck
with light, and they were sensible of stillness without motion. Then a
blow on the shell shivered it to fragments, and they were blinded with
seas of brilliancy on all sides from lamps and tapers and crystals,
cornelians and gems of fiery lustre, liquid lights and flashing mirrors,
and eyes of crowding damsels, bright ones. So, when they had risen, and
could bear to gaze on the insufferable splendour, they saw sitting on a
throne of coral and surrounded by slaves with scimitars, a fair Queen,
with black eyes, kindlers of storms, torches in the tempest, and with
floating tresses, crowned with a circlet of green-spiked precious stones
and masses of crimson weed with flaps of pearl; and she was robed with a
robe of amber, and had saffron sandals, loose silvery-silken trousers
tied in at the ankle, the ankle white as silver; wonderful was the
quivering of rays from the jewels upon her when she but moved a finger!
Now, as they stood with their hands across their brows, she cried out, 'O
ye traversers of my sea! how is this, that I am made to thank Karaz for a
sight of ye?'

And Noorna bin Noorka answered, 'Surely, O Queen Rabesqurat, the haven of
our voyage was Aklis, and we feared delay, seeing the fire of the
mountain ablaze with expectations of us.'

Then the Queen cried angrily, ''Tis well thou hadst wit to close the
shell, O Noorna, or there would have been delay indeed. Say, is not the
road to Aklis through my palace? And it is the road thousands travel.'

So Noorna bin Noorka said, 'O Queen, this do they; but are they of them
that reach Aklis?'

And the Queen cried violently, purpling with passion, 'This to me! when I
helped ye to the plucking of the Lily?'

Now, the Queen muttered an imprecation, and called the name 'Abarak!' and
lo, a door opened in one of the pillars of jasper leading from the
throne, and there came forth a little man, humped, with legs like bows,
and arms reaching to his feet; in his hand a net weighted with leaden
weights. So the Queen levelled her finger at Noorna, and he spun the net
above her head, and dropped it on her shoulder, and dragged her with him
to the pillar. When Shibli Bagarag saw that, the world darkened to him,
and he rushed upon Abarak; but Noorna called swiftly in his ear, 'Wait!
wait! Thou by thy spells art stronger than all here save Abarak. Be true!
Remember the seventh pillar!' Then, with a spurn from the hand of Abarak,
the youth fell back senseless at the feet of the Queen.

Now, with the return of consciousness his hearing was bewitched with
strange delicious melodies, the touch of stringed instruments, and others
breathed into softly as by the breath of love, delicate, tender, alive
with enamoured bashfulness. Surely, the soul that heard them dissolved
like a sweet in the goblet, mingling with so much ecstasy of sound; and
those melodies filling the white cave of the ear were even at once to
drown the soul in delightfulness and buoy it with bliss, as a
heavy-leaved flower is withered and refreshed by sun and dews. Surely,
the youth ceased not to listen, and oblivion of cares and aught other in
this life, save that hidden luting and piping, pillowed his drowsy head.
At last there was a pause, and it seemed every maze of music had been
wandered through. Opening his eyes hurriedly, as with the loss of the
music his own breath had gone likewise, he beheld a garden golden with
the light of lamps hung profusely from branches and twigs of trees by the
glowing cheeks of fruits, apple and grape, pomegranate and quince; and he
was reclining on a bank piled with purple cushions, his limbs clad in the
richest figured silks, fringed like the ends of clouds round the sun,
with amber fringes. He started up, striving to recall the confused memory
of his adventures and what evil had befallen him, and he would have
struggled with the vision of these glories, but it mastered him with the
strength of a potent drug, so that the very name of his betrothed was
forgotten by him, and he knew not whither he would, or the thing he
wished for. Now, when he had risen from the soft green bank that was his
couch, lo, at his feet a damsel weeping! So he lifted her by the hand,
and she arose and looked at him, and began plaining of love and its
tyrannies, softening him, already softened. Then said she, 'What I suffer
there is another, lovelier than I, suffering; thou the cause of it, O
cruel youth!'

He said, 'How, O damsel? what of my cruelty? Surely, I know nothing of
it.'

But she exclaimed, 'Ah, worse to feign forgetfulness!'

Now, he was bewildered at the words of the damsel, and followed her
leading till they entered a dell in the garden canopied with foliage, and
beyond it a green rise, and on the rise a throne. So he looked earnestly,
and beheld thereon Queen Rabesqurat, she sobbing, her dark hair pouring
in streams from the crown of her head. Seeing him, she cleared her eyes,
and advanced to meet him timidly and with hesitating steps; but he shrank
from her, and the Queen shrieked with grief, crying, 'Is there in this
cold heart no relenting?'

Then she said to him winningly, and in a low voice, 'O youth, my husband,
to whom I am a bride!'

He marvelled, saying, 'This is a game, for indeed I am no husband,
neither have I a bride . . . yet have I confused memory of some betrothal
. . .'

Thereupon she cried, 'Said I not so? and I the betrothed.'

Still he exclaimed, 'I cannot think it! Wullahy, it were a wonder!'

So she said, 'Consider how a poor youth of excellent proportions came to
a flourishing Court before one, a widowed Queen, and she cast eyes of
love on him, and gave him rule over her and all that was hers when he had
achieved a task, and they were wedded. Oh, the bliss of it! Knit together
with bond and a writing; and these were the dominions, I the Queen, woe's
me!--thou the youth!'

Now, he was roiled by the enchantments of the Queen, caught in the snare
of her beguilings; and he let her lead him to a seat beside her on the
throne, and sat there awhile in the midst of feastings, mazed, thinking,
'What life have I lived before this, if the matter be as I behold?'
thinking, ''Tis true I have had visions of a widowed queen, and I a poor
youth that came to her court, and espoused her, sitting in the vacant
seat beside her, ruling a realm; but it was a dream, a dream,--yet, wah!
here is she, here am I, yonder my dominions!' Then he thought, 'I will
solve it!' So, on a sudden he said to her beside him, 'O Queen, sovereign
of hearts! enlighten me as to a perplexity.'

She answered, 'The voice of my lord is music in the ear of the bride.'

Then said he, in the tone of one doubting realities, 'O fair Queen, is
there truly now such a one as Shagpat in the world?'

She laughed at his speech and the puzzled appearance of his visage,
replying, 'Surely there liveth one, Shagpat by name in the world; strange
is the history of him, his friends, and enemies; and it would bear
recital.'

Then he said, 'And one, the daughter of a Vizier, Vizier to the King in
the City of Shagpat?'

Thereat, she shook her head, saying, 'I know nought of that one.'

Now, Shibli Bagarag was mindful of his thwackings; and in this the wisdom
of Noorna, is manifest, that the sting of them yet chased away doubts of
illusion regarding their having been, as the poet says,

     If thou wouldst fix remembrance--thwack!
        'Tis that oblivion controls;
     I care not if't be on the back,
        Or on the soles.

He thought, 'Wah! yet feel I the thong, and the hiss of it as of the
serpent in the descent, and the smack of it as the mouth of satisfaction
in its contact with tender regions. This, wullahy! was no dream.'
Nevertheless, he was ashamed to allude thereto before the Queen, and he
said, 'O my mistress, another question, one only! This Shagpat--is he
shaved?'

She said, 'Clean shorn!'

Quoth he, astonished, grief-stricken, with drawn lips, 'By which hand,
chosen above men?'

And she exclaimed, 'O thou witty one that feignest not to know! Wullahy!
by this hand of thine, O my lord and king, daring that it is; dexterous!
surely so! And the shaving of Shagpat was the task achieved,--I the dower
of it, and the rich reward.'

Now, he was meshed yet deeper in the net of her subtleties, and by her
calling him 'lord and king'; and she gave a signal for fresh
entertainments, exhausting the resources of her art, the mines of her
wealth, to fascinate him. Ravishments of design and taste were on every
side, and he was in the lap of abundance, beguiled by magic, caressed by
beauty and a Queen. Marvel not that he was dazzled, and imagined himself
already come to the great things foretold of him by the readers of
planets and the casters of nativities in Shiraz. He assisted in beguiling
himself, trusting wilfully to the two witnesses of things visible; as is
declared by him of wise sayings:

     There is in every wizard-net a hole,
     So the entangler first must blind the soul.

And it is again said by that same teacher:

     Ye that the inner spirit's sight would seal,
     Nought credit but what outward orbs reveal.

And the soul of Shibli Bagarag was blinded by Rabesqurat in the depths of
the Enchanted Sea. She sang to him, luting deliriously; and he was
intoxicated with the blissfulness of his fortune, and took a lute and
sang to her love-verses in praise of her, rhyming his rapture. Then they
handed the goblet to each other, and drank till they were on fire with
the joy of things, and life blushed beauteousness. Surely, Rabesqurat was
becoming forgetful of her arts through the strength of those draughts,
till her eye marked the Lily by his side, which he grasped constantly,
the bright flower, and she started and said, 'One grant, O my King, my
husband!'

So he said courteously, 'All grants are granted to the lovely, the
fascinating; and their grief will be lack of aught to ask for?'

Then said she, 'O my husband, my King, I am jealous of that silly flower:
laugh at my weakness, but fling it from thee.'

Now, he was about to cast it from him, when a vanity possessed his mind,
and he exclaimed, 'See first the thing I will do, a wonder.'

She cried, 'No wonders, my life! I am sated with them.'

And he said, 'I am oblivious, O Queen, of how I came by this flower and
this phial; but thou shalt hear a thing beyond the power of common magic,
and see that I am something.'

Now, she plucked at him to abstain from his action, but he held the phial
to the flower. She signed imperiously to some slaves to stay his right
wrist, and they seized on it; but not all of them together could withhold
him from dropping a drop into the petals of the flower, and lo, the Lily
spake, a voice from it like the voice of Noorna, saying, 'Remember the
Seventh Pillar.' Thereat, he lifted his eyes to his brows and frowned
back memory to his aid, and the scene of Karaz, Rabesqurat, Abarak, and
his betrothed was present to him. So perceiving that, the Queen delayed
not while he grasped the phial to take in her hands some water from a
basin near, and flung it over him, crying, 'Oblivion!' And while his mind
was straining to bring back images of what had happened, he fell forward
once more at the feet of Rabesqurat, senseless as a stone falls; such was
the force of her enchantments.

Now, when he awoke the second time he was in the bosom of darkness, and
the Lily gone from his hand; so he lifted the phial to make certain of
that, and groped about till he came to what seemed an urn to the touch,
and into this he dropped a drop, and asked for the Lily; and a voice
said, 'I caught a light from it in passing.' And he came in the darkness
to a tree, and a bejewelled bank, and other urns, and swinging lamps
without light, and a running water, and a grassy bank, and flowers, and a
silver seat, sprinkling each; and they said all in answer to his question
of the Lily, 'I caught a light from it in passing.' At the last he
stumbled upon the steps of a palace, and ascended them, endowing the
steps with speech as he went, and they said, 'The light of it went over
us.' He groped at the porch of the palace, and gave the door a voice, and
it opened on jasper hinges, shrieking, 'The light of it went through me.'
Then he entered a spacious hall, scattering drops, and voices exclaimed,
'We glow with the light of it.' He passed, groping his way through other
halls and dusk chambers, scattering drops, and as he advanced the voices
increased in the fervour of their replies, saying sequently: 'We blush
with the light of it; We beam with the light of it; We burn with the
light of it.' So, presently he found himself in a long low room, sombrely
lit, roofed with crystals; and in a corner of the room, lo! a damsel on a
couch of purple, she white as silver, spreading radiance. Of such
lustrous beauty was she that beside her, the Princess Goorelka as Shibli
Bagarag first beheld her, would have paled like a morning moon; even
Noorna had waned as Both a flower in fierce heat; and the Queen of
Enchantments was but the sun behind a sand-storm, in comparison with that
effulgent damsel on the length of the purple couch. Well for him he wilt
of the magic which floated through that palace; as is said,

     Tempted by extremes,
     The soul is most secure;
   Too vivid loveliness blinds with its beams,
   And eyes turned inward perceive the lure.

Pulling down his turban hastily, he stepped on tiptoe to within arm's
reach of her, and, looking another way, inclined over her soft vermeil
mouth the phial slowly till it brimmed the neck, and dropped a drop of
Paravid between the bow of those sweet lips. Still not daring to gaze on
her, he said then, 'My question is of the Lily, the Lily of the Sea, and
where is it, O marvel?'

And he heard a voice answer in the tones of a silver bell, clear as a
wind in strung wires, 'Where I lie, lies the Lily, the Lily of the Sea; I
with it, it with me.'

Said he, 'O breather of music, tell me how I may lay hand on the flower
of beauty to bear it forth.'

And he heard the voice, 'An equal space betwixt my right side and my
left, and from the shoulder one span and half a span downward.'

Still without power to eye her, he measured the space and the spans, his
hand beneath the coverlids of the couch, and at a spot of the bosom his
hand sank in, and he felt a fluttering thing, fluttering like a frighted
bird in the midst of the fire. And the voice said, 'Quick, seize it, and
draw it out, and tie it to my feet by the twines of red silk about it.'

He seized it and drew it out, and it was a heart--a heart of
blood-streaming with crimson, palpitating. Tears flashed on his sight
beholding it, and pity took the seat of fear, and he turned his eyes full
on her, crying, 'O sad fair thing! O creature of anguish! O painful
beauty! Oh, what have I done to thee?'

But she panted, and gasped short and shorter gasps, pointing with one
finger to her feet. Then he took the warm living heart while it yet leapt
and quivered and sobbed; and he held it with a trembling hand, and tied
it by the red twines of silk about it to her feet, staining their
whiteness. When that was done, his whole soul melted with pity and
swelled with sorrow, and ere he could meet her eyes a swoon overcame him.
Surely, when the world dawned to him a third time in those regions the
damsel was no longer there, but in her place the Lily of Light. He
thought, 'It was a vision, that damsel! a terrible one; one to terrify
and bewilder! a bitter sweetness! Oh, the heart, the heart!' Reflecting
on the heart brought to his lids an overcharging of tears, and he wept
violently awhile. Then was he warned by the thought of his betrothed to
take the Lily and speed with it from the realms of Rabesqurat; and he
stole along the halls of the palace, and by the plashing fountains, and
across the magic courts, passing chambers of sleepers, fair dreamers, and
through ante-rooms crowded with thick-lipped slaves. Lo, as he held the
Lily to light him on, and the light of the Lily fell on them that were
asleep, they paled and shrank, and were such as the death-chill maketh of
us. So he called upon his head the protection of Allah, and went swifter,
to chase from his limbs the shudder of awe; and there were some that
slept not, but stared at him with fixed eyes, eyes frozen by the light of
the Lily, and he shunned those, for they were like spectres, haunting
spirits. After he had coursed the length of the palace, he came to a
steep place outside it, a rock with steps cut in stairs, and up these he
went till he came to a small door in the rock, and lying by it a bar; so
he seized the bar and smote the door, and the door shivered, for on his
right wrist were the hairs of Garraveen. Bending his body, he slipped
through the opening, and behold, an orchard dropping blossoms and ripe
golden fruits, streams flowing through it over sands, and brooks bounding
above glittering gems, and long dewy grasses, profusion of scented
flowers, shade and sweetness. So he let himself down to the ground, which
was an easy leap from the aperture, and walked through the garden,
holding the Lily behind him, for here it darkened all, and the glowing
orchard was a desert by its light. Presently, his eye fell on a couch
swinging between two almond trees, and advancing to it he beheld the
black-eyed Queen gathered up, folded temptingly, like a swaying fruit;
she with the gold circlet on her head, and she was fair as blossom of the
almond in a breeze of the wafted rose-leaf. Sweetly was she gathered up,
folded temptingly, and Shibli Bagarag refrained from using the Lily,
thinking, ''Tis like the great things foretold of me, this having of
Queens within the very grasp, swinging to and fro as if to taunt
backwardness!' Then he thought, ''Tis an enchantress! I will yet try her.'
So he made a motion of flourishing the Lily once or twice, but forbore,
fascinated, for she had on her fair face the softness of sleep, her lips
closed in dimples, and the wicked fire shut from beneath her lids.
Mastering his mind, the youth at last held the Lily to her, and saw a
sight to blacken the world and all bright things with its hideousness.
Scarce had he time to thrust the Lily in his robes, when the Queen
started up and clapped her hands, crying hurriedly, 'Abarak! Abarak!' and
the little man appeared in a moment at the door by which Shibli Bagarag
had entered the orchard. So, she cried still, 'Abarak!' and he moved
toward her. Then she said, 'How came this youth here, prying in my
private walks, my bowers? Speak!'

He answered, 'By the aid of Garraveen only, O Queen! and there is no
force resisteth the bar so wielded.'

Rabesqurat looked under her brows at Shibli Bagarag and saw the horror on
his face, and she cried out to Abarak in an agony, 'Fetch me the mirror!'
Then Abarak ran, and returned ere the Queen had drawn seven impatient
breaths, and in one hand he bore a sack, in the other a tray: so he
emptied the contents of the sack on the surface of the tray; surely they
were human eyes! and the Queen flung aside her tresses, and stood over
them. The youth saw her smile at them, and assume tender and taunting
manners before them, and imperious manners, killing glances, till in each
of the eyes there was a sparkle. Then she flung back her head as one that
feedeth on a mighty triumph, exclaiming, 'Yet am I Rabesqurat! wide is my
sovereignty.' Sideways then she regarded Shibli Bagarag, and it seemed
she was urging Abarak to do a deed beyond his powers, he frowning and
pointing to the right wrist of the youth. So she clenched her hands an
instant with that feeling which knocketh a nail in the coffin of a desire
not dead, and controlled herself, and went to the youth, breaking into
beams of beauty; and an enchanting sumptuousness breathed round her, so
that in spite of himself he suffered her to take him by the hand and lead
him from that orchard through the shivered door and into the palace and
the hall of the jasper pillars. Strange thrills went up his arm from the
touch of that Queen, and they were as little snakes twisting and darting
up, biting poison-bites of irritating blissfulness.

Now, the hall was spread for a feast, and it was hung with lamps of
silver, strewn with great golden goblets, and viands, coloured meats, and
ordered fruits on shining platters. Then said she to Shibli Bagarag, 'O
youth! there shall be no deceit, no guile between us. Thou art but my
guest, I no bride to thee, so take the place of the guest beside me.'

He took his seat beside her, Abarak standing by, and she helped the youth
to this dish and that dish, from the serving of slaves, caressing him
with flattering looks to starve aversion and nourish tender fellowship.
And he was like one that slideth down a hill and can arrest his descent
with a foot, yet faileth that freewill. When he had eaten and drunk with
her, the Queen said, 'O youth, no other than my guest! art thou not a
prince in the country thou comest from?'

In a moment the pride of the barber forsook him, and he equivocated,
saying, 'O Queen! there is among the stars somewhere, as was divined by
the readers of planets, a crown hanging for me, and I search a point of
earth to intercept its fall.'

She marked him beguiled by vanity, and put sweetmeats to his mouth,
exclaiming, 'Thy manners be those of a prince!' Then she sang to him of
the loneliness of her life, and of one with whom she wished to share her
state,--such as he. And at her signal came troops of damsels that stood
in rings and luted sweetly on the same theme--the Queen's loneliness, her
love. And he said to the Queen, 'Is this so?'

She answered, 'Too truly so!'

Now, he thought, 'She shall at least speak the thing that is, if she look
it not.' So he took the goblet, and contrived to drop a drop from the
phial of Paravid therein without her observing him; and he handed her the
goblet, she him; and they drank. Surely, the change that came over the
Queen was an enchantment, and her eyes shot lustre, her tongue was
loosed, and she laughed like one intoxicated, lolling in her seat, lost
to majesty and the sway of her magic, crying, 'O Abarak! Abarak! little
man, long my slave and my tool; ugly little man! And O Shibli Bagarag!
nephew of the barber! weak youth! small prince of the tackle! have I not
nigh fascinated thee? And thou wilt forfeit those two silly eyes of thine
to the sack. And, O Abarak, Abarak! little man, have I flattered thee? So
fetter I the strong with my allurements! and I stay the arrow in its
flight! and I blunt the barb of high intents! Wah! I have drunk a potent
stuff; I talk! Wullahy! I know there is a danger menacing Shagpat, and
the eyes of all Genii are fixed on him. And if he be shaved, what changes
will follow! But 'tis in me to delude the barber, wullahy! and I will
avert the calamity. I will save Shagpat!'

While the Queen Rabesqurat prated in this wise with flushed face, Shibli
Bagarag was smitten with the greatness of his task, and reproached his
soul with neglect of it. And he thought, 'I am powerful by spells as none
before me have been, and 'twas by my weakness the Queen sought to tangle
me. I will clasp the Seventh Pillar and make an end of it, by Allah and
his Prophet (praised be the name!), and I will reach Aklis by a short
path and shave Shagpat with the sword.'

So he looked up, and Abarak was before him, the lifted nostrils of the
little man wide with the flame of anger. And Abarak said, 'O youth,
regard me with the eyes of judgement! Now, is it not frightful to rate me
little?--an instigation of the evil one to repute me ugly?'

The promptings of wisdom counselled Shibli Bagarag to say, 'Frightful
beyond contemplation, O Abarak! one to shame our species! Surely, there
is a moon between thy legs, a pear upon thy shoulders, and the cock that
croweth is no match for thee in measure.'

Abarak cried, 'We be aggrieved, we two! O youth, son of my uncle, I will
give thee means of vengeance; give thou me means.'

Shibli Bagarag felt scorn at the Queen, and her hollowness, and he said,
''Tis well; take this Lily and hold it to her.'

Now, the Queen jeered Abarak, and as he approached her she shouted,
'What! thou small of build! mite of creation! sour mixture! thou puppet
of mine! thou! comest thou to seek a second kiss against the compact,
knowing that I give not the well-favoured of mortals beyond one, a
second.

Little delayed Abarak at this to put her to the test of the Lily, and he
held the flower to her, and saw the sight, and staggered back like one
stricken with a shaft. When he could get a breath he uttered such a howl
that Rabesqurat in her drunkenness was fain to save her ears, and the
hall echoed as with the bellows of a thousand beasts of the forest. Then,
to glut his revenge he ran for the sack, and emptied the contents of it,
the Queen's mirror, before her; and the sackful of eyes, they saw the
sight, and sickened, rolling their whites. That done, Abarak gave Shibli
Bagarag the bar of iron, and bade him smite the pillars, all save the
seventh; and he smote them strengthily, crumbling them at a blow, and
bringing down the great hall and its groves, and glasses and gems, lamps,
traceries, devices, a heap of ruin, the seventh pillar alone standing.
Then, while he pumped back breath into his body, Abarak said, 'There's no
delaying in this place now, O youth! Say, halt thou spells for the
entering of Aklis?'

He answered, 'Three!'

Then said Abarak, ''Tis well! Surely now, if thou takest me in thy
service, I'll help thee to master the Event, and serve thee faithfully,
requiring nought from thee save a sight of the Event, and 'tis I that
myself missed one, wiled by Rabesqurat.'

Quoth Shibli Bagarag, 'Thou?'

He answered, 'No word of it now. Is't agreed?'

So Shibli Bagarag cried, 'Even so.'

Thereupon, the twain entered the pillar, leaving Rabesqurat prone, and
the waves of the sea bounding toward her where she lay. Now, they
descended and ascended flights of slippery steps, and sped together along
murky passages, in which light never was, and under arches of caves with
hanging crystals, groping and tumbling on hurriedly, till they came to an
obstruction, and felt an iron door, frosty to the touch. Then Abarak said
to Shibli Bagarag, 'Smite!' And the youth lifted the bar to his right
shoulder, and smote; and the door obeyed the blow, and discovered an
opening into a strange dusky land, as it seemed a valley, on one side of
which was a ragged copper sun setting low, large as a warrior's battered
shield, giving deep red lights to a brook that fell, and over a flat
stream a red reflection, and to the sides of the hills a dark red glow.
The sky was a brown colour; the earth a deeper brown, like the skins of
tawny lions. Trees with reddened stems stood about the valley, scattered
and in groups, showing between their leaves the cheeks of melancholy
fruits swarthily tinged, and toward the centre of the valley a shining
palace was visible, supported by massive columns of marble reddened by
that copper sun. Shibli Bagarag was awed at the stillness that hung
everywhere, and said to Abarak, 'Where am I, O Abarak? the look of this
place is fearful!'

And the little man answered, 'Where, but beneath the mountains in Aklis?
Wullahy! I should know it, I that keep the passage of the seventh
pillar!'

Then the thought of his betrothed Noorna, and her beauty, and the words,
'Remember the seventh pillar,' struck the heart of Shibli Bagarag, and he
exclaimed passionately, 'Is she in safety? Noorna, my companion, my
betrothed, netted by thee, O Abarak!'

Abarak answered sharply, 'Speak not of betrothals in this place, or the
sword of Aklis will move without a hand!'

But Shibli Bagarag waxed the colour of the sun that was over them, and
cried, 'By Allah! I will smite thee with the bar, if thou swear not to
her safety, and point not out to me where she now is.'

Then said Abarak, 'Thou wilt make a better use of the bar by lifting it
to my shoulder, and poising it, and peering through it.'

Shibli Bagarag lifted the bar to the shoulder of Abarak, and poised it,
and peered through the length of it, and lo! there was a sea tossing in
tumult, and one pillar standing erect in the midst of the sea; and on the
pillar, above the washing waves, with hair blown back, and flapping
raiment, pale but smiling still, Noorna, his betrothed!

Now, when he saw her, he made a rush to the door of the passage; but
Abarak blocked the way, crying, 'Fool! a step backward in Aklis is
death!'

And when he had wrestled with him and reined him, Abarak said, 'Haste to
reach the Sword from the sons of Aklis, if thou wouldst save her.'

He drew him to the brink of the stream, and whistled a parrot's whistle;
and Shibli Bagarag beheld a boat draped with drooping white lotuses that
floated slowly toward them; and when it was near, he and Abarak entered
it, and saw one, a veiled figure, sitting in the stern, who neither moved
to them nor spake, but steered the boat to a certain point of land across
the stream, where stood an elephant ready girt for travellers to mount
him; and the elephant kneeled among the reeds as they approached, that
they might mount him, and when they had each taken a seat, moved off,
waving his trunk. Presently the elephant came to a halt, and went upon
his knees again, and the two slid off his back, and were among black
slaves that bowed to the ground before them, and led them to the shining
gates of the palace in silence. Now, on the first marble step of the
palace there sat an old white-headed man dressed like a dervish, who held
out at arm's length a branch of gold with golden singing-birds between
its leaves, saying, 'This for the strongest of ye!'

Abarak exclaimed, 'I am that one'; and he held forth his hand for the
branch.

But Shibli Bagarag cried, 'Nay, 'tis mine. Wullahy, what has not the
strength of this hand overthrown?'

Then the brows of Abarak twisted; his limbs twitched, and he bawled, 'To
the proof!' waking all the echoes of Aklis. Shibli Bagarag was tempted in
his desire for the golden branch to lift the iron bar upon Abarak, when
lo! the phial of Paravid fell from his vest, and he took it, and
sprinkled a portion of the waters over the singing birds, and in a moment
they burst into a sweet union of voices, singing, in the words of the
poet:

     When for one serpent were two asses match?
     How shall one foe but with wiles master double?
     So let the strong keep for ever good watch,
     Lest their strength prove a snare, and themselves a mere bubble;
     For vanity maketh the strongest most weak,
     As lions and men totter after the struggle.
     Ye heroes, be modest! while combats ye seek,
     The cunning one trippeth ye both with a juggle.

Now, at this verse of the birds Shibli Bagarag fixed his eye on the old
man, and the beard of the old man shrivelled; he waxed in size, and flew
up in a blaze and with a baffled shout bearing the branch; surely, his
features were those of Karaz, and Shibli Bagarag knew him by the length
of his limbs, his stiff ears, and copper skin. Then he laughed a loud
laugh, but Abarak sobbed, saying, 'By this know I that I never should
have seized the Sword, even though I had vanquished the illusions of
Rabesqurat, which held me fast half-way.'

So Shibli Bagarag stared at him, and said, 'Wert thou also a searcher, O
Abarak?'

But Abarak cried, 'Rouse not the talkative tongue of the past, O youth!
Wullahy! relinquish the bar that is my bar, won by me, for the Sword is
within thy grip, and they await thee up yonder steps. Go! go! and look
for me here on thy return.'



THE PALACE OF AKLIS

Now, Shibli Bagarag assured himself of his three spells, and made his
heart resolute, and hastened up the reddened marble steps of the Palace;
and when he was on the topmost step, lo! one with a man's body and the
head of a buffalo, that prostrated himself, and prayed the youth
obsequiously to enter the palace with the title of King. So Shibli
Bagarag held his head erect, and followed him with the footing of a
Sultan, and passed into a great hall, with fountains in it that were
fountains of gems, pearls, chrysolites, thousand-hued jewels, and by the
margin of the fountains were shapes of men with the heads of
beasts-wolves, foxes, lions, bears, oxen, sheep, serpents, asses, that
stretched their hands to the falls, and loaded their vestments with
brilliants, loading them without cessation, so that from the vestments of
each there was another pouring of the liquid lights. Then he with the
buffalo's head bade Shibli Bagarag help himself from the falls; but
Shibli Bagarag refused, for his soul was with Noorna, his betrothed; and
he saw her pale on that solitary pillar in the tumult of the sea, and
knew her safety depended on his faithfulness.

He cried, 'The Sword of Aklis! nought save the Sword!'

Now, at these words the fox-heads and the sheep-heads and the ass-heads
and the other heads of beasts were lifted up, and lo! they put their
hands to their ears, and tapped their foreheads with the finger of
reflection, as creatures seeking to bring to mind a serious matter. Then
the fountains rose higher, and flung jets of radiant jewels, and a
drenching spray of gems upon them, and new thirst aroused them to renew
their gulping of the falls, and a look of eagerness was even in the eyes
of the ass-heads and the silly sheep-heads; surely, Shibli Bagarag
laughed to see them! Now, when he had pressed his lips to recover his
sight from the dazzling of those wondrous fountains, he heard himself
again addressed by the title of King, and there was before him a lofty
cock with a man's head. So he resumed the majesty of his march, and
followed the fine-stepping cock into another hall, spacious, and clouded
with heavy scents and perfumes burning in censers and urns, musk, myrrh,
ambergris, and livelier odours, gladdening the nostril like wine, making
the soul reel as with a draught of the forbidden drink. Here, before a
feast that would prick the dead with appetite, were shapes of beasts with
heads of men, asses, elephants, bulls, horses, swine, foxes,
river-horses, dromedaries; and they ate and drank as do the famished with
munch and gurgle, clacking their lips joyfully. Shibli Bagarag remembered
the condition of his frame when first he looked upon the City of Shagpat,
and was incited to eat and accede to the invitation of the cock with the
man's head, and sit among these merry feeders and pickers of
mouth-watering morsels, when, with the City of Shagpat, lo! he had a
vision of Shagpat, hairier than at their interview, arrogant in
hairiness; his head remote in contemptuous waves and curls and frizzes,
and bushy protuberances of hair, lost in it, like an idolatrous temple in
impenetrable thickets. Then the yearning of the Barber seized Shibli
Bagarag, and desire to shear Shagpat was as a mighty overwhelming wave in
his bosom, and he shouted, 'The Sword of Aklis! nought save the Sword!'

Now, at these words the beasts with men's heads wagged their tails, all
of them, from right to left, and kept their jaws from motion, staring
stupidly at the dishes; but the dishes began to send forth stealthy
steams, insidious whispers to the nose, silver intimations of
savouriness, so that they on a sudden set up a howl, and Shibli Bagarag
puckered his garments from them as from devouring dogs, and hastened from
that hall to a third, where at the entrance a damsel stood that smiled to
him, and led him into a vast marbled chamber, forty cubits high, hung
with draperies, and in it a hundred doors; and he was in the midst of a
very rose-garden of young beauties, such as the Blest behold in Paradise,
robed in the colours of the rising and setting sun; plump, with long,
black, languishing, almond-shaped eyes, and undulating figures. So they
cried to him, 'What greeting, O our King?'

Now, he counted twenty and seven of them, and, fitting his gallantry to
verse, answered:

     Poor are the heavens that have not ye
      To swell their glowing plenty;
     Up there but one bright moon I see,
      Here mark I seven-and-twenty.

The damsels laughed and flung back their locks at his flattery, sporting
with him; and he thought, 'These be sweet maidens! I will know if they be
illusions like Rabesqurat'; so, as they were romping, he slung his right
arm round one, and held the Lily to her, but there was no change in her
save that she winked somewhat and her eyes watered; and it was so with
the others, for when they saw him hold the Lily to one they made him do
so to them likewise. Then he took the phial, and touched their lips with
the waters, and lo! they commenced luting and laughing, and singing
verses, and prattling, laughing betweenwhiles at each other; and one, a
noisy one, with long, black, unquiet tresses, and a curved foot and
roguish ankle, sang as she twirled:

     My heart is another's, I cannot be tender;
     Yet if thou storm it, I fain must surrender.

And another, a fresh-cheeked, fair-haired, full-eyed damsel, strong upon
her instep and stately in the bearing of her shoulders, sang shrilly:

     I'm of the mountains, and he that comes to me
     Like eagle must win, and like hurricane woo me.

And another, reclining on a couch buried in dusky silks, like a butterfly
under the leaves, a soft ball of beauty, sang moaningly:

     Here like a fruit on the branch am I swaying;
     Snatch ere I fall, love! there's death in delaying.

And another, light as an antelope on the hills, with antelope eyes edged
with kohl, and timid, graceful movements, and small, white, rounded ears,
sang clearly:

     Swiftness is mine, and I fly from the sordid;
     Follow me, follow! and you'll be rewarded.

And another, with large limbs and massive mould, that stepped like a cow
leisurely cropping the pasture, and shook with jewels amid her black hair
and above her brown eyes, and round her white neck and her wrists, and on
her waist, even to her ankle, sang as with a kiss upon every word:

     Sweet 'tis in stillness and bliss to be basking!
     He who would have me, may have for the asking.

And another, with eyebrows like a bow, and arrows of fire in her eyes,
and two rosebuds her full moist parted pouting lips, sang, clasping her
hands, and voiced like the tremulous passionate bulbul in the shadows of
the moon:

     Love is my life, and with love I live only;
     Give me life, lover, and leave me not lonely.

And a seventh, a very beam of beauty, and the perfection of all that is
imagined in fairness and ample grace of expression and proportion, lo!
she came straight to Shibli Bagarag, and took him by the hand and pierced
him with lightning glances, singing:

     Were we not destined to meet by one planet?
     Can a fate sever us?--can it, ah! can it?

And she sang tender songs to him, mazing him with blandishments, so that
the aim of existence and the summit of ambition now seemed to him the
life of a king in that palace among the damsels; and he thought, 'Wah!
these be no illusions, and they speak the thing that is in them. Wullahy,
loveliness is their portion; they call me King.'

Then she that had sung to him said, 'Surely we have been waiting thee
long to crown thee our King! Thou hast been in some way delayed, O
glorious one!'

And he answered, 'O fair ones, transcending in affability, I have
stumbled upon obstructions in my journey hither, and I have met with
adventures, but of this crowning that was to follow them I knew nought.
Wullahy, thrice have I been saluted King; I whom fate selecteth for the
shaving of Shagpat, and till now it was a beguilement, all emptiness.'

They marked his bewildered state, and some knelt before him, some held
their arms out adoringly, some leaned to him with glistening looks, and
he was fast falling a slave to their flatteries, succumbing to them;
imagination fired him with the splendours due to one that was a king, and
the thought of wearing a crown again took possession of his soul, and he
cried, 'Crown me, O my handmaidens, and delay not to crown me; for, as
the poet says:

       "The king without his crown
        Hath a forehead like the clown";

and the circle of my head itcheth for the symbols of majesty.'

At these words of Shibli Bagarag they arose quickly and clapped their
hands, and danced with the nimble step of gladness, exclaiming, 'O our
King! pleasant will be the time with him!' And one smoothed his head and
poured oil upon it; one brought him garments of gold and silk inwoven;
one fetched him slippers like the sun's beam in brightness; others stood
together in clusters, and with lutes and wood-instruments, low-toned,
singing odes to him; and lo! one took a needle and threaded it, and gave
the thread into the hands of Shibli Bagarag, and with the point of the
needle she pricked certain letters on his right wrist, and afterwards
pricked the same letters on a door in the wall. Then she said to him, 'Is
it in thy power to make those letters speak?'

He answered, 'We will prove how that may be.'

So he flung some drops from the phial over the letters, and they glowed
the colour of blood and flashed with a report, and it was as if a fiery
forked-tongue had darted before them and spake the words written, and
they were, 'This is the crown of him who bath achieved his aim and
resteth here.' Thereupon, she stuck the needle in the door, and he pulled
the thread, and the door drew apart, and lo! a small chamber, and on a
raised cushion of blue satin a glittering crown, thick with jewels as a
frost, such as Ambition pineth to wear, and the knees of men weaken and
bend beholding, and it lanced lights about it like a living sun. Beside
the cushion was a vacant throne, radiant as morning in the East, ablaze
with devices in gold and gems, a seat to fill the meanest soul with
sensations of majesty and tempt dervishes to the sitting posture. Shibli
Bagarag was intoxicated at the sight, and he thought, 'Wah! but if I sit
on this throne and am a king, with that crown I can command men and
things! and I have but to say, Fetch Noorna, my betrothed, from yonder
pillar in the midst of the uproarious sea!--Let the hairy Shagpat be
shaved! and behold, slaves, thousands of them, do my bidding! Wullahy,
this is greatness!' Now, he made a rush to the throne, but the damsels
held him back, crying, 'Not for thy life till we have crowned thee, our
master and lord!'

Then they took the crown and crowned him with it; and he sat upon the
throne calmly, serenely, like a Sultan of the great race accustomed to
sovereignty, tempering the awfulness of his brows with benignant glances.
So, while he sat the damsels hid their faces and started some paces from
him, as unable to bear the splendour of his presence, and in a moment,
lo! the door closed between him and them, and he was in darkness. Then he
heard a voice of the damsels cry in the hall, 'The ninety and ninth!
Peace now for us and blissfulness with our lords, for now all are filled
save the door of the Sword, which maketh the hundredth.' After that he
heard the same voice say, 'Leave them, O my sisters!'

So he listened to the noise of their departing, and knew he had been
duped. Surely his soul cursed him as he sat crowned and throned in that
darkness! He seized the crown to dash it to the earth, but the crown was
fixed on his forehead and would not come off; neither had he force to
rise from the throne. Now, the thought of Noorna, his betrothed, where
she rested waiting for him to deliver her, filled Shibli Bagarag with the
extremes of anguish; and he lifted his right arm and dashed it above his
head in the violence of his grief, striking in the motion a hidden gong
that gave forth a burst of thunder and a roll of bellowings, and lo! the
door opened before him, and the throne as he sat on it moved out of the
chamber into the hall where he had seen the damsels that duped him, and
on every side of the hall doors opened; and he marvelled to see men, old
and young, beardless and venerable, sitting upon thrones and crowned with
crowns, motionless, with eyes like stones in the recesses. He thought,
'These be other dupes! Wallaby! a drop of the waters of Paravid upon
their lips might reveal mysteries, and guide me to the Sword of my
seeking.' So, as he considered how to get at them from the seat of his
throne, his gaze fell on a mirror, and he beheld the crown on his
forehead what it was, bejewelled asses' ears stiffened upright, and
skulls of monkeys grinning with gems! The sight of that crowning his head
convulsed Shibli Bagarag with laughter, and, as he laughed, his seat upon
the throne was loosened, and he pitched from it, but the crown stuck to
him and was tenacious of its hold as the lion that pounceth upon a
victim. He bowed to the burden of necessity, and took the phial, and
touched the lips of one that sat crowned on a throne with the waters in
the phial; and it was a man of exceeding age, whitened with time, and in
the long sweep of his beard like a mountain clad with snow from the peak
that is in the sky to the base that slopeth to the valley. Then he
addressed the old man on his throne, saying, 'Tell me, O King! how camest
thou here? and in search of what?'

The old man's lips moved, and he muttered in deep tones, 'When cometh he
of the ninety-and-ninth door?'

So Shibli Bagarag cried, 'Surely he is before thee, in Aklis.'

And the old man said, 'Let him ask no secrets; but when he hath reached
the Sword forget not to flash it in this hall, for the sake of
brotherhood in adventure.'

After that he would answer no word to any questioning.



THE SONS OF AKLIS

Now, Shibli Bagarag thought, 'The poet is right in Aklis as elsewhere, in
his words:

     "The cunning of our oft-neglected wit
     Doth best the keyhole of occasion fit";

and whoso looketh for help from others looketh the wrong way in an
undertaking. Wah! I will be bold and batter at the hundredth door, which
is the door of the Sword.' So he advanced straightway to the door, which
was one of solid silver, charactered with silver letters, and knocked
against it three knocks; and a voice within said, 'What spells?'

He answered, 'Paravid; Garraveen; and the Lily of the Sea!'

Upon that the voice said, 'Enter by virtue of the spells!' and the silver
door swung open, discovering a deep pit, lightened by a torch, and across
it, bridging it, a string of enormous eggs, rocs' eggs, hollowed, and so
large that a man might walk through them without stooping. At the side of
each egg three lamps were suspended from a claw, and the shell passage
was illumined with them from end to end. Shibli Bagarag thought, 'These
eggs are of a surety the eggs of the Roc mastered by Aklis with his
sword!' Now, as the sight of Shibli Bagarag grew familiar to the place,
he beheld at the bottom of the pit a fluttering mass of blackness and two
sickly eyes that glittered below.

Then thought he, 'Wah! if that be the Roc, and it not dead, will the bird
suffer one to defile its eggs with other than the sole of the foot,
naked?' He undid his sandals and kicked off the slippers given him by the
damsels that had duped him, and went into the first egg over the abyss,
and into the second, and into the third, and into the fourth, and into
the fifth. Surely the eggs swung with him, and bent; and the fear of
their breaking and he falling into the maw of the terrible bird made him
walk unevenly. When he had come to the seventh egg, which was the last,
it shook and swung violently, and he heard underneath the flapping of the
wings of the Roc, as with eagerness expecting a victim to prey upon. He
sustained his soul with the firmness of resolve and darted himself
lengthwise to the landing, clutching a hold with his right hand; as he
did so, the bridge of eggs broke, and he heard the feathers of the bird
in agitation, and the bird screaming a scream of disappointment as he
scrambled up the sides of the pit.

Now, Shibli Bagarag failed not to perform two prostrations to Allah, and
raised the song of gratitude for his preservation when he found himself
in safety. Then he looked up, and lo! behind a curtain, steps leading to
an anteroom, and beyond that a chamber like the chamber of kings where
they sit in state dispensing judgements, like the sun at noon in
splendour; and in the chamber seven youths, tall and comely young men,
calm as princes in their port, each one dressed in flowing robes, and
with a large glowing pearl in the front of their turbans. They advanced
to meet him, saying, 'Welcome to Aklis, thou that art proved worthy! 'Tis
holiday now with us'; and they took him by the hand and led him with them
in silence past fountain-jets and porphyry pillars to where a service
with refreshments was spread, meats, fowls with rice, sweetmeats,
preserves, palateable mixtures, and monuments of the cook's art, goblets
of wine like liquid rubies. Then one of the youths said to Shibli
Bagarag, 'Thou hast come to us crowned, O our guest! Now, it is not our
custom to pay homage, but thou shalt presently behold them that will, so
let not thy kingliness droop with us, but feast royally.'

And Shibli Bagarag said, 'O my princes, surely it is a silly matter to
crown a mouse! Humility hath depressed my stature! Wullahy, I have had
warning in the sticking of this crown to my brows, and it sticketh like
an abomination.'

They laughed at him, saying, 'It was the heaviness of that crown which
overweighted thee in the bridge of the abyss, and few be they that bear
it and go not to feed the Roc.'

Now, they feasted together, interchanging civilities, offering to each
other choice morsels, dainties. And the anecdotes of Shibli Bagarag, his
simplicity and his honesty, and his vanity and his airiness, and the
betraying tongue of the barber, diverted the youths; and they plied him
with old wine till his stores of merriment broke forth and were as a
river swollen by torrents of the mountain; and the seven youths laughed
at him, spluttering with laughter, lurching with it. Surely, he described
to them the loquacity of Baba Mustapha his uncle, and they laughed so
that their chins were uppermost; but at his mention of Shagpat greater
gravity was theirs, and they smoothed their faces solemnly, and the sun
of their merriment was darkened for awhile. Then they took to flinging
about pellets of a sugared preparation, and reciting verses in praise of
jovial living, challenging to drink this one and that one, passing the
cup with a stanza. Shibli Bagarag thought, 'What a life is this led by
these youths! a fair one! 'Tis they that be the sons of Aklis who sharpen
the Sword of Events; yet live they in jollity, skimming from the
profusion of abundance that which floateth!'

Now, marking him contemplative, one of the youths shouted, 'The King
lacketh homage!'

And another called, 'Admittance for his people!'

Then the seven arose and placed Shibli Bagarag on an elevation in the
midst of them, and lo! a troop of black slaves leading by the collar,
asses, and by a string, monkeys. Now, for the asses they brayed to the
Evil One, and the monkeys were prankish, pulling against the string, till
they caught sight of Shibli Bagarag. Then was it as if they had been
awestricken; and they came forward to him with docile steps, eyeing the
crown on his head, and prostrated themselves, the asses and the monkeys,
like creatures in whom glowed the lamp of reason and the gift of
intelligence. So Shibli Bagarag drooped his jaw and was ashamed, and he
cried, 'my princes! am I a King of these?'

They answered, 'A King in mightiness! Sultan of a race!'

So he said, 'It is certain I shall need physic to support such a
sovereignty! And I must be excused liberal allowances of old wine to sit
in state among them. Wullahy! they were best gone for awhile. Send them
from me, O my princes! I sicken.'

And he called to the animals, 'Away! begone!' frowning.

Then said the youths, 'Well commanded! and like a King! See, they troop
from thy presence obediently.'

Now the animals fled from before the brows of Shibli Bagarag, and when
the chamber was empty of them the seven young men said, 'Of a surety thou
wert flattered to observe the aspect of these animals at beholding thee.'

But he cried, 'Not so, O my princes; there is nought flattering in the
homage of asses and monkeys.'

Then they said, 'O Sultan of asses, ruler of monkeys, better that than
thyself an ass and an ape! As was said by Shah Kasirwan, "I prefer being
king of beasts worshipped by beasts, rather than a crowned beast
worshipped by men"; and it was well said. Wullahy! the kings of Roum
quote it.'

Now Shibli Bagarag was not rendered oblivious of the Sword of his quest
by the humour of these youths, or the wine-bibbings, and he exclaimed
while they were turning up the heels of their cups, 'O ye sons of Aklis,
know that I have come hither for the Sword sharpened by your hands, for
the releasing of my betrothed, Noorna bin Noorka, daughter of the Vizier
Feshnavat, and for the shaving of Shagpat.'

While he was proceeding to recount the story of his search for the Sword,
they said, 'Enough, O potentate of the braying class and of the
scratching tribe! we have seen thee through the eye of Aklis since the
time of thy first thwacking. What says the poet?

     "A day for toil and a day for rest
     Gives labour zeal, and pleasure zest."

So, of thy seeking let us hear to-morrow; but now drink with us, and make
merry, and touch the springs of memory; spout forth verses, quaint ones,
suitable to the hour and the entertainment. Wullahy! drink with us! taste
life! Let the humours flow.'

Then they made a motion to some slaves, and presently a clattering of
anklets struck the ear of Shibli Bagarag: and he beheld dancing-girls,
moons of beauty and elegance, and they danced wild dances, and dances
graceful and leopard-like and serpent-like in movement; and the youths
flung flowers at them, applauding them. Then came other sets of dancers
even lovelier, more languishing; and again others with tambourines and
musical instruments, that sang ravishingly. So the senses of Shibli
Bagarag were all taken with what he saw and heard, and ate and drank; and
by degrees a mist came before his eyes, and the sweet sounds and voices
of the girls grew distant, and it was with difficulty he kept his back
from the length of the cushions that were about him. Then he thought of
Noorna, and that she sang to him and danced, and when he rose to embrace
her she was Rabesqurat by the light of the Lily! And he thought of
Shagpat, and that in shaving him the blade was checked in its rapid
sweep, and blunted by a stumpy twine of hair that waxed in size and
became the head of Karaz that gulped at him a wide devouring gulp, and
took him in, and flew up with him, leaving Shagpat half sheared. Then he
thought himself struggling halfway down the throat of the monstrous Roc,
and that, when he was wholly inside the Roc, he was in a wide-arched
passage crowded with lamps, and at the end of the passage Noorna in the
clutch of Karaz, she shouting, 'The Sword, the Sword!'

Now, while he felt for the Sword wherewith to release her from the Genie,
his eyes opened, and he saw day through a casement, and that he had
reposed on an embroidered couch in the corner of a stately room
ornamented with carvings of blue and gold. So while he wondered and
yawned, gaping, slaves started up from the floor and led him to a bath of
coloured marble, and bathed him in perfumed waters, and dressed him in a
dress of yellow silk, rich and ample. Then they paraded before him
through lesser apartments and across terraces, till they came to a great
hall; loftier and more spacious than any he had yet beheld, with
fountains at the two ends, and in the centre a tree with golden spreading
branches and leaves of gold; among the leaves gold-feathered birds, and
fruits of all seasons and every description--the drooping grape and the
pleasant-smelling quince, and the blood-red pomegranate, and the apricot,
and the green and rosy apple, and the gummy date, and the oily
pistachio-nut, and peaches, and citrons, and oranges, and the plum, and
the fig. Surely, they were countless in number, melting with ripeness,
soft, full to bursting; and the birds darted among them like sun-flashes.
Now, Shibli Bagarag thought, 'This is a wondrous tree! Wullahy! there is
nought like it save the tree in the hall of the Prophet in Paradise,
feeding the faithful!' As he regarded it he heard his name spoken in the
hall, and turning he beheld seven youths in royal garments, that were
like the youths he had feasted with, and yet unlike them, pale, and stern
in their manners, their courtesy as the courtesy of kings. They said,
'Sit with us and eat the morning's meal, O our guest!'

So he sat with them under the low branches of the tree; and they whistled
the tune of one bird and of another bird, and of another, and lo! those
different birds flew down with golden baskets hanging from their bills,
and in the baskets fruits and viands and sweetmeats, and cool drinks. And
Shibli Bagarag ate from the baskets of the birds, watching the action of
the seven youths and the difference that was in them. He sought to make
them recognise him and acknowledge their carouse of the evening that was
past, but they stared at him strangely and seemed offended at the
allusion, neither would they hear mention of the Sword of his seeking.
Presently, one of the youths stood upon his feet and cried, "The time for
kings to sit in judgement!"

And the youths arose and led Shibli Bagarag to a hall of ebony, and
seated him on the upper seat, themselves standing about him; and lo!
asses and monkeys came before him, complaining of the injustice of men
and their fellows, in brays and bellows and hoots. Now, at the sight of
them again Shibli Bagarag was enraged, and he said to the youths, 'How!
do ye not mock me, O masters of Aklis!'

But they said only, 'The burden of his crown is for the King.'

He cooled, thinking, 'I will use a spell.' So he touched the lips of an
animal with the waters of Paravid, and the animal prated volubly in our
language of the kick this ass had given him, and the jibe of that monkey,
and of his desire of litigation with such and such a beast for pasture;
and the others when they spake had the same complaints to make. Shibli
Bagarag listened to them gravely, and it was revealed to him that he who
ruleth over men hath a labour and duties of hearing and judging and
dispensing judgement similar to those of him who ruleth over apes and
asses. Then said he, 'O youths, my princes! methinks the sitting in this
seat giveth a key to secret sources of wisdom; and I see what it is, the
glory and the exaltation coveted by men.' Now, he took from the asses and
the monkeys one, and said to it, 'Be my chief Vizier,' and to another,
'Be my Chamberlain!' and to another, 'Be my Treasurer!' and so on, till a
dispute arose between the animals, and jealousy of each other was visible
in their glances, and they appealed to him clamorously. So he said, 'What
am I to ye?'

They answered, 'Our King!'

And he said, 'How so?'

They answered, 'By the crowning of the brides of Aklis.'

Then he said, 'What be ye, O my subjects?'

They answered, 'Men that were searchers of the Sword and plunged into the
tank of temptation.'

And he said, 'How that?'

They answered, 'By the lures of vanity, the blinding of ambition, and
tasting the gall of the Roc.'

So Shibli Bagarag leaned to the seven youths, saying, 'O my princes, but
for not tasting the gall of the Roc I might be as one of these. Wullahy!
I the King am warned by base creatures.' Then he said to the animals,
'Have ye still a longing for the crown?'

And they cried, all of them, 'O light of the astonished earth, we care
for nought other than it.'

So he said, 'And is it known to ye how to dispossess the wearer of his
burden?'

They answered, 'By a touch of the gall of the Roc on his forehead.'

Then he lifted his arms, crying, 'Hie out of my presence! and whoso of ye
fetcheth a drop of the gall, with that one will I exchange the crown.'

At these words some moved hastily, but the most faltered, as doubting and
incredulous that he would propose such an exchange; and one, an old
monkey, sat down and crossed his legs, and made a study of Shibli
Bagarag, as of a sovereign that held forth a deceiving bargain. But he
cried again, 'Hie and haste! as my head is now cased I think it not the
honoured part.'

Then the old monkey arose with a puzzled look, half scornful, and made
for the door slowly, turning his head toward Shibli Bagarag betweenwhiles
as he went, and scratching his lower limbs with the mute reflectiveness
of age and extreme caution.

Now, when they were gone, Shibli Bagarag looked in the eyes of the seven
youths, and saw they were content with him, and his countenance was
brightened with approval. So he descended from his seat, and went with
them from the hall of ebony to a court where horses were waiting saddled,
and slaves with hawks on their wrists stood in readiness; and they
mounted each a horse, but he loitered. The seven youths divined his
feeling, and cried impatiently, 'Come! no lingering in Aklis!' So he
mounted likewise, and they emerged from the palace, and entered the hills
that glowed under the copper sun, and started a milk-white antelope with
ruby spots, and chased it from its cover over the sand-hills, a hawk
being let loose to worry it and distress its timid beaming eyes. When the
creature was quite overcome, one of the youths struck his heel into his
horse's side and flung a noose over the head of the quarry, and drew it
with them, gently petting it the way home to the palace. At the gates of
the palace it was released, and lo! it went up the steps, and passed
through the halls as one familiar with them. Now, when they were all
assembled in the anteroom of the hall, where Shibli Bagarag had first
seen the seven youths, sons of Aklis, in their jollity, one of them said
to the Antelope, 'We have need of thee to speak a word with Aklis, O our
sister!'

So the same youth requested the use of the phial of Paravid, and Shibli
Bagarag applied it carefully, tenderly, to the mouth of the Antelope.
Then the Antelope spake in a silver-ringing voice, saying, 'What is it, O
my brothers?'

They answered, 'Thou knowest we dare not attempt interchange of speech
with Aklis, seeing that we disobeyed him in visiting the kingdoms of the
earth: so it is for thee to question him as to the object of this youth,
and it is the Shaving of Shagpat.'

So she said, ''Tis well; I wot of it.'

Then she advanced to the curtain concealing the abyss of the Roc and the
bridge of its eggs, and went behind it. There was a pause, and they heard
her say presently in a grave voice, toned with reverence, 'How is it, O
our father? is it a good thing that thy Sword be in use at this season?'

And they heard the Voice answer from a depth, ''Twere well it rust not!'

They heard her say, 'O our father Aklis, and we wish to know if be held
in favour by thee, and thou sanction it with thy Sword.'

And they heard the Voice answer, 'The Shaving of Shagpat is my Sword
alone equal to, and he that shaveth him performeth a service to mankind
ranking next my vanquishing of the Roc.'

Then they heard her say, 'And it is thy will we teach him the mysteries
of the Sword, and that which may be done with it?'

And they heard the Voice answer, 'Even so!'

After that the Voice was still, and soon the Antelope returned from
behind the curtain, and the youths caressed her with brotherly caresses,
and took a circle of hands about her, and so moved to the great Hall of
the gorgeous Tree, and fed her from the branches. Now, while they were
there, Shibli Bagarag advanced to the Antelope, and knelt at her feet,
and said, 'O Princess of Aklis, surely I am betrothed to one constant as
a fixed star, and brighter; a mistress of magic, and innocent as the
bleating lamb; and she is now on a pillar, chained there, in the midst of
the white wrathful sea, wailing for me to deliver her with this Sword of
my seeking. So, now, I pray thee help me to the Sword swiftly, that I may
deliver her.'

The youths, her brothers, clamoured and interposed, saying, 'Take thy
shape ere that, O Gulrevaz, our sister!'

But she cried, 'He is betrothed! not till he graspeth the Sword. Tell
him, the youth, our conditions, and for what exchange the Sword is
yielded.'

And they said, 'The conditions are, thou part with thy spells, all of
them, O youth!'

And he said, 'There is no condition harsh that exchangeth the Sword; O ye
Seven, I agree!'

Then she said, ''Tis well! nobility is in the soul of this youth. Go
before us now to the Cave of Chrysolites, O my brothers.'

So these departed before, and she in her antelope form followed footing
gracefully, and made Shibli Bagarag repeat the story of his betrothal as
they went.



THE SWORD OF AKLIS

Now, when they had made the passage of many halls, built of different
woods, filled with divers wonders, they descended a sloping vault, and
came to a narrow way in the earth, hung with black, at the end of it a
stedfast blaze like a sun, that grew larger as they advanced, and they
heard the sea above them. The noise of it, and its plunging and weltering
and its pitilessness, struck on the heart of Shibli Bagarag as with a
blow, and he cried, 'Haste, haste, O Princess! perchance she is even now
calling to me with her tongue, and I not aiding her; delayed by the
temptation of this crown and the guile of the Brides.'

She checked him, and said, 'In Aklis no haste!' Then she said, 'Look!'
And lo, fronting them the single blaze became two fires; and drawing
nigh, Shibli Bagarag beheld them what they were, angry eyes in the head
of a great lion, a model of majesty, and passion was in his mane and
power was in his forepaws; so while he lashed his tail as a tempest
whippeth the tawny billows at night, and was lifting himself for a roar,
she said, 'A hair of Garraveen, and touch him with it!'

Shibli Bagarag pushed up his sleeve and broke one of the three sapphire
hairs and stepped forward to the lion, holding in his right hand the hair
of vivid light. The lion crouched, and was in the vigour of the spring
when that hair touched him, and he trembled, tumbling on his knees and
letting the twain pass. So they advanced beyond him, and lo! the Cave of
Chrysolites irradiate with beams, breaks of brilliance, confluences of
lively hues, restless rays, meeting, vanishing, flooding splendours, now
scattered in dazzling joints and spars, now uniting in momentary disks of
radiance. In the centre of the cave glowed a furnace, and round it he
distinguished the seven youths, swarthier and sterner than before, dark
sweat standing on the brows of each. Their words were brief, and they
wore each a terrible frown, saying to him, without further salutation,
'Thrust in the flame of this furnace thy right wrist.'

At the same moment, the Antelope said in his ear, 'Do thou their bidding,
and be not backward! In Aklis fear is ruin, and hesitation a destroyer.'

He fixed his mind on the devotedness of Noorna, and held his nether lip
tightly between his teeth, and thrust his right wrist in the flame of the
furnace. The wrist reddened, and became transparent with heat, but he
felt no pain, only that his whole arm was thrice its natural weight. Then
the flame of the furnace fell, and the seven youths made him kneel by a
brook of golden waters and dip his forehead up to his eyes in the waters.
Then they took him to the other side of the cave, and his sight was
strengthened to mark the glory of the Sword, where it hung in slings, a
little way from the wall, outshining the lights of the cave, and throwing
them back with its superior force and stedfastness of lustre. Lo! the
length of it was as the length of crimson across the sea when the sun is
sideways on the wave, and it seemed full a mile long, the whole blade
sheening like an arrested lightning from the end to the hilt; the hilt
two large live serpents twined together, with eyes like sombre jewels,
and sparkling spotted skins, points of fire in their folds, and
reflections of the emerald and topaz and ruby stones, studded in the
blood-stained haft. Then the seven young men, sons of Aklis, said to
Shibli Bagarag, 'Surrender the Lily!' And when he had given into their
hands the Lily, they said, 'Grasp the handle of the Sword!'

Now, he beheld the Sword and the ripples of violet heat that were
breathing down it, and those two venomous serpents twined together, and
the size of it, its ponderousness; and to essay lifting it appeared to
him a madness, but he concealed his thought, and, setting his soul on the
safety of Noorna, went forward to it boldly, and piercing his right arm
between the twists of the serpents, grasped the jewelled haft. Surely,
the Sword moved from the slings as if a giant had swayed it! But what
amazed him was the marvel of the blade, for its sharpness was such that
nothing stood in its way, and it slipped through everything as we pass
through still water, the stone columns, blocks of granite by the walls,
the walls of earth, and the thick solidity of the ground beneath his
feet. They bade him say to the Sword, 'Sleep!' and it was no longer than
a knife in the girdle. Likewise, they bade him hiss on the heads of the
serpents, and say, 'Wake!' and while he held it lengthwise it shot
lengthening out. Then they bade him hold in one hand the sapphire hair
that conquered the lion, and with the edge of the Sword touch one point
of it. So he did that, and it split in half, and the two halves he also
split; and he split those four, and those eight, till the hairs were thin
as light and not distinguishable from it. When Shibli Bagarag saw the
power of the Sword, he exulted and cried, 'Praise be to the science of
them that forecast events and the haps of life!' Now, in the meantime he
marked the youths take those hairs of Garraveen that he had split, and
tie them round the neck of the Antelope, and empty the contents of the
phial down her throat; and they put the bulb of the Lily, that was a
heart, in her mouth, and she swallowed it till the flower covered her
face. Then they took each a handful of the golden waters of the brook
flowing through the cave, and flung the waters over her, exclaiming, 'By
the three spells that have power in Aklis, and by which these waters are
a blessing!'

In the passing of a flash she took her shape, and was a damsel taller
than the tallest of them that descend from the mountains, a vision of
loveliness, with queenly brows, closed red lips, and large full black
eyes; her hair black, and on it a net of amber strung with pearls. To
look upon her was to feel the tyranny of love, love's pangs of alarm and
hope and anguish; and she was dressed in a dress of white silk, threaded
with gold and sapphire, showing in shadowy beams her rounded figure and
the stateliness that was hers. So she ran to her brothers and embraced
them, calling them by their names, catching their hands, caressing them
as one that had been long parted from them. Then, seeing Shibli Bagarag
as he stood transfixed with the javelins of loveliness that flew from her
on all sides, she cried: 'What, O Master of the Event! halt thou nought
for the Sword but to gaze before thee in silliness?'

Then he said, 'O rare in beauty! marvel of Aklis and the world! surely
the paradise of eyes is thy figure and the glory of thy face!'

But she shouted, 'To work with the Sword! Shame on thee! is there not
one, a bright one, a miracle in faithfulness, that awaiteth thy rescue on
the pillar?'

And she repeated the praises he had spoken of Noorna bin Noorka, his
betrothed. Then he grasped the Sword firmly, remembering the love of
Noorna, and crying, 'Lead me from this, O ye sons of Aklis, and thou,
Princess Gulrevaz, lead me, that I may come to her.'

So they said, 'Follow us!' and he sheathed the Sword in his girdle with
the word 'Sleep!' and followed them, his heart beating violently.



KOOROOKH

Now, they sped from the Cave of Chrysolites by another passage than that
by which they entered it, and nothing but the light of the Sword to guide
them. By that light Shibli Bagarag could distinguish glimmering shapes,
silent and statue-like, to the right and the left of them, their visages
hidden in a veil of heavy webs; and he saw what seemed in the dusk broad
halls, halls of council, and again black pools and black groves, and
columns of crowded porticoes,--all signs of an underground kingdom. They
came to some steps and mounted these severally, coming to a platform, in
the middle of which leapt a fountain, the top spray of it touched with a
beam of earth and the air breathed by men. Here he heard the youths
dabble with the dark waters, and he discerned Gulrevaz tossing it in her
two hands, calling, 'Koorookh! Koorookh!' Then they said to him, 'Stir
this fountain with the Sword, O Master of the Event!' So he stirred the
fountain, and the whole body of it took a leap toward the light that was
like the shoot of a long lance of silver in the moon's rays, and lo! in
its place the ruffled feathers of a bird. Then the seven youths and the
Princess and Shibli Bagarag got up under its feathers like a brood of
water-fowl; and the bird winged straight up as doth a blinded bee,
ascending, and passing in the ascent a widening succession of winding
terraces, till he observed the copper sun of Aklis and the red lands
below it. Thrice, in the exuberance of his gladness, he waved the Sword,
and the sun lost that dulness on its disk and took a bright flame, and
threw golden arrows everywhere; and the pastures were green, the streams
clear, the sands sparkling. The bird flew, and circled, and hung poised a
moment, presently descending on the roof of the palace. Now, there was
here a piece of solid glass, propped on two crossed bars of gold, and it
was shaped like an eye, and might have been taken for one of the eyes
inhabiting the head of some monstrous Genie. Shibli Bagarag ran to it
when he was afoot, and peered through it. Surely, it was the first object
of his heart that he beheld--Noorna, his betrothed, pale on the pillar;
she with her head between her hands and her hair scattered by the storm,
as one despairing. Still he looked, and he save swimming round the pillar
that monstrous fish, with its sole baleful eye, which had gulped them
both in the closed shell of magic pearl; and he knew the fish for Karaz,
the Genie, their enemy. Then he turned to the Princess, with an imploring
voice for counsel how to reach her and bring her rescue; but she said,
'The Sword is in thy hands, none of us dare wield it'; and the seven
youths answered likewise. So, left to himself, he drew the Sword from his
girdle, and hissed on the heads of the serpents, at the same time holding
it so that it might lengthen out inimitably. Then he leaned it over the
eye of the glass, in the direction of the pillar besieged by the billows,
and lo! with one cut, even at that distance, he divided the fishy
monster, and with another severed the chains that had fettered Noorna;
and she arose and smiled blissfully to the sky, and stood upright, and
signalled him to lay the point of the blade on the pillar. When he had
done this, knowing her wisdom, she put a foot boldly upon the blade and
ran up it toward him, and she was half-way up the blade, when suddenly a
kite darted down upon her, pecking at her eyes, to confuse her. She waxed
unsteady and swayed this way and that, balancing with one arm and
defending herself from the attacks of the kite with another. It seemed to
Shibli Bagarag she must fall and be lost; and the sweat started on his
forehead in great drops big as nuts. Seeing that and the agitation of his
limbs, Gulrevaz cried, 'O Master of the Event, let us hear it!'

But he shrieked, 'The kite! the kite! she is running up the blade, and
the kite is at her eyes! and she swaying, swaying! falling, falling!'

So the Princess exclaimed, 'A kite! Koorookh is match for a kite!'

Then she smoothed the throat of Koorookh, and clasped round it a collar
of bright steel, roughened with secret characters; and she took a hoop of
gold, and passed the bird through it, urging it all the while with one
strange syllable; and the bird went up with a strong whirr of the wing
till he was over the sea, and caught sight of Noorna tottering beneath
him on the blade, and the kite pecking fiercely at her. Thereat he
fluttered eagerly a twinkle of time, and the next was down with his beak
in the neck of the kite, crimsoned in it. Now, by the shouts and
exclamations of Shibli Bagarag, the Princess and the seven youths, her
brothers, knew that the bird had performed well his task, and that the
fight was between Koorookh and the kite. Then he cried gladly to them,
'Joy for us, and Allah be praised! The kite is dropping, and she leaneth
on one wing of Koorookh!'

And he cried in anguish, 'What see I? The kite is become a white ball,
rolling down the blade toward her; and it will of a surety destroy her.'
And he called to her, thinking vainly his voice might reach her. So the
Princess said, 'A white ball? 'tis I that am match for a white ball!'

Now, she seized from the corner of the palace-roof a bow and an arrow,
and her brothers lifted her to a level with the hilt of the Sword,
leaning on the eye of glass. Then she planted one foot on the shoulder of
Shibli Bagarag as he bent peering through the eye, and fitted the arrow
to a level of the Sword, slanting its slant, and let it fly, doubling the
bow. Shibli Bagarag saw the ball roll to within a foot of Noorna, when it
was as if stricken by a gleam of light, and burst, and was a black cloud
veined with fire, swathing her in folds. He lost all sight of Noorna; and
where she had been were vivid flashes, and then a great flame, and in the
midst a red serpent and a green serpent twisted as in the death-struggle.
So he cried, 'A red serpent and a green serpent!'

And the sons of Aklis exclaimed, 'A red serpent? 'Tis we that are match
for a red serpent!'

Thereupon they descended steps through the palace roof, and while the
fight between those two serpents was rageing, Shibli Bagarag beheld seven
small bright birds, bee-catchers, that entered the flame, bearing in
their bills slips of a herb, and hovering about the heal of the red
serpent, distracting it. Then he saw the red serpent hiss and snap at
one, darting out its tongue, and lo! on the fork of its tongue the little
bird let fall the slip of herb in its bill, and in an instant the serpent
changed from red to yellow and from yellow to pale-spotted blue, and from
that to a speckled indigo-colour, writhing at every change, and hissing
fire from its open jaws. Meantime the green serpent was released and was
making circles round the flame, seeking to complete some enchantment,
when suddenly the whole scene vanished, and Shibli Bagarag again beheld
Noorna steadying her steps on the blade, and leaning on one wing of
Koorookh. She advanced up the blade, coming nearer and nearer; and he
thought her close, and breathed quick and ceased looking through the
glass. When he gazed abroad, lo! she was with Koorookh, on a far hill
beyond the stream in outer Aklis. So he said to the Princess Gulrevaz, 'O
Princess, comes she not to me here in the palace?'

But the Princess shook her head, and said, 'She hath not a spell! She
waiteth for thee yonder with Koorookh. Now, look through the glass once
more.'

He looked through the glass, and there on a plain, as he had first seen
it when Noorna appeared to him, was the City of Shagpat, and in the
streets of the city a vast assembly, and a procession passing on, its
front banner surmounted by the Crescent, and bands with curled and curved
instruments playing, and slaves scattering gold and clashing cymbals,
every demonstration and evidence of a great day and a high occasion in
the City of Shagpat! So he peered yet keenlier through the glass, and
behold, the Vizier Feshnavat, father of Noorna, walking in fetters,
subject to the jibes and evil-speaking of the crowds of people, his
turban off, and he in a robe of drab-coloured stuff, in the scorned
condition of an unbeliever. Shibli Bagarag peered yet more earnestly
through the glass eye, and in the centre of the procession, clad
gorgeously in silks and stuffs, woven with gold and gems, a crown upon
his head, and the appanages of supremacy and majesty about him, was
Shagpat. He paced upon a yellow flooring that was unrolled before him
from a mighty roll; and there were slaves that swarmed on all sides of
him, supporting upon gold pans and platters the masses of hair that
spread bushily before and behind, and to the right and left of him. Truly
the gravity of his demeanour exceeded that which is attained by Sheiks
and Dervishes after much drinking of the waters of wisdom, and fasting,
and abnegation of the pleasures that betray us to folly in this world!
Now, when he saw Shagpat, the soul of Shibli Bagarag was quickened to do
his appointed work upon him, shear him, and release the Vizier Feshnavat.
Desire to shave Shagpat was as a salt thirst rageing in him, as the dream
of munching to one that starveth; even as the impelling of violent
tempests to skiffs on the sea; and he hungered to be at him, crying, as
he peered, ''Tis he! even he, Shagpat!'

Then he turned to the Princess Gulrevaz, and said, ''Tis Shagpat,
exalted, clothed with majesty, O thou morning star of Aklis!'

She said, 'Koorookh is given thee, and waiteth to carry ye both; and for
me I will watch that this glass send forth a beam to light ye to that
city; so farewell, O thou that art loved! And delay in nothing to finish
the work in hand.'

Now, when he had set his face from the Princess he descended through the
roof of the palace, and met the seven youths returning, and they
accompanied him through the halls of the palace to that hall where the
damsels had duped him. He was mindful of his promise to the old man
crowned, and flashed the Sword a strong flash, so that he who looked on
it would be seared in the eyelashes. Then the doors of the recesses flew
apart, eight-and-ninety in number, and he beheld divers sitters on
thrones, with the diadem of asses' ears stiffened upright, and monkeys'
skulls grinning with gems; they having on each countenance the look of
sovereigns and the serenity of high estate. Shibli Bagarag laughed at
them, and he thought, 'Wullahy! was I one of these? I, the beloved of
Noorna, destined Master of the Event!' and he thought, 'Of a surety, if
these sitters could but laugh at themselves, there would be a release for
them, and the crown would topple off which getteth the homage of asses
and monkeys!' He would have spoken to them, but the sons of Aklis said,
'They have seen the flashing of the Sword, and 'twere well they wake
not.' As they went from the hall the seven youths said, 'Reflect upon the
age of these sitters, that have been sitting in the chairs from three to
eleven generations back! And they were searchers of the Sword like thee,
but were duped! In like manner, the hen sitteth in complacency, but she
bringeth forth and may cackle; 'tis owing to the aids of Noorna that thou
art not one of these sitters, O Master of the Event!' Now, they paced
through the hall of dainty provender, and through the hall of the
jewel-fountains, coming to the palace steps, where stood Abarak leaning
on his bar. As they advanced to Abarak, there was a clamour in the halls
behind, that gathered in noise like a torrent, and approached, and
presently the Master was ware of a sharp stroke on his forehead with a
hairy finger, and then a burn, and the Crown that had clung to him
toppled off; surely it fell upon the head of the old monkey, the cautious
and wise one, he that had made a study of Shibli Bagarag. Thereupon that
monkey stalked scornfully from them; and Abarak cried, 'O Master of the
Event! it was better for me to keep the passage of the Seventh Pillar,
than be an ape of this order. Wah! the flashing of the Sword scorcheth
them, and they scamper.'



THE VEILED FIGURE

Verily there was lightning in Aklis as Shibli Bagarag flashed the Sword
over the clamouring beasts: the shape of the great palace stood forth
vividly, and a wide illumination struck up the streams, and gilded the
large hanging leaves, and drew the hills glimmeringly together, and
scattered fires on the flat faces of the rocks. Then the seven youths
said quickly, 'Away! out of Aklis, O Master of the Event! from city to
city of earth this light is visible, and men will know that Fate is in
travail, and an Event preparing for them, and Shagpat will be warned by
the portent; wherefore lose not the happy point of time on which thy star
is manifest.' And they cried again, 'Away! out of Aklis!' with gestures
of impatience, urging his departure.

Then said he, 'O youths, Sons of Aklis, it is written that gratitude is
the poor man's mine of wealth, and the rich man's flower of beauty; and I
have but that to give ye for all this aid and friendliness of yours.'

But they exclaimed, 'No aid or friendliness in Aklis! By the gall of the
Roc! it is well for thee thou camest armed with potent spells, and hadst
one to advise and inspirit thee, or thou wouldst have stayed here to
people Aklis, and grazed in a strange shape.'

Now, the seven waxed in impatience, and he laid their hands upon his head
and moved from them with Abarak, to where in the dusk the elephant that
had brought them stood. Then the elephant kneeled and took the twain upon
his back, and bore them across the dark land to that reach of the river
where the boat was moored in readiness. They entered the boat silently
among its drapery of lotuses, and the Veiled Figure ferried them over the
stream that rippled not with their motion. As they were crossing, desire
to know that Veiled Figure counselled Shibli Bagarag evilly to draw the
Sword again, and flash it, so that the veil became transparent. Then,
when Abarak turned to him for the reason of the flashing of the Sword, he
beheld the eyes of the youth fixed in horror, glaring as at sights beyond
the tomb. He said nought, but as the boat's-head whispered among the
reeds and long flowers of the opposite marge, he took Shibli Bagarag by
the shoulders and pushed him out of the boat, and leaped out likewise,
leading him from the marge forcibly, hurrying him forward from it, he at
the heels of the youth propelling him; and crying in out-of-breath voice
at intervals, 'What sight? what sight?' But the youth was powerless of
speech, and when at last he opened his lips, the little man shrank from
him, for he laughed as do the insane, a peal of laughter ended by gasps;
then a louder peal, presently softer; then a peal that started all the
echoes in Aklis. After awhile, as Abarak still cried in his ear, 'What
sight?' he looked at him with a large eye, saying querulously, 'Is it
written I shall be pushed by the shoulder through life? And is it in the
pursuit of further thwackings?'

Abarak heeded him not, crying still, 'What sight?' and Shibli Bagarag
lowered his tone, and jerked his body, pronouncing the name 'Rabesqurat!'
Then Abarak exclaimed, ''Tis as I weened. Oh, fool! to flash the Sword
and peer through the veil! Truly, there be few wits will bear that
sight!' On a sudden he cried, 'No cure but one, and that a sleep in the
bosom of the betrothed!'

Thereupon he hurried the youth yet faster across the dark lawns of Aklis
toward the passage of the Seventh Pillar, by which the twain had entered
that kingdom. And Shibli Bagarag saw as in a dream the shattered door,
shattered by the bar, remembering dimly as a thing distant in years the
netting of the Queen, and Noorna chained upon the pillar; he remembered
Shagpat even vacantly in his mind, as one sheaf of barley amid other
sheaves of the bearded field, so was he overcome by the awfulness of that
sight behind the veil of the Veiled Figure!

As they advanced to the passage, he was aware of an impediment to its
entrance, as it had been a wall of stone there; and seeing Abarak enter
the passage without let, he kicked hard in front at the invisible
obstruction, but there was no coming by. Abarak returned to him, and took
his right arm, and raised the sleeve from his wrist, and lo, the two
remaining hairs of Garraveen twisted round it in sapphire winds. Cried
he, 'Oh, the generosity of Gulrevaz! she has left these two hairs that he
may accomplish swiftly the destiny marked for him! but now, since his
gazing through that veil, he must part with them to get out of Aklis.'
And he muttered, 'His star is a strange one! one that leadeth him to
fortune by the path of frowns! to greatness by the aid of thwackings!
Truly the ways of Allah are wonderful!' Shibli Bagarag resisted him in
nothing, and Abarak loosed the two bright hairs from his wrist, and those
two hairs swelled and took glittering scales, and were sapphire snakes
with wings of intense emerald; and they rose in the air spirally
together, each over each, so that to see them one would fancy in the
darkness a fountain of sapphire waters flashed with the sheen of emerald.
When they had reached a height loftier than the topmost palace-towers of
Aklis, they descended like javelins into the earth, and in a moment
re-appeared, in the shape of Genii when they are charitably disposed to
them they visit; not much above the mortal size, nor overbright, save for
a certain fire in their eyes when they turned them; and they were clothed
each from head to foot in an armour of sapphire plates shot with steely
emerald. Surely the dragon-fly that darteth all day in the blaze over
pools is like what they were. Abarak bit his forefinger and said, 'Who be
ye, O sons of brilliance?'

They answered, 'Karavejis and Veejravoosh, slaves of the Sword.'

Then he said, 'Come with us now, O slaves of the Sword, and help us to
the mountain of outer Aklis.'

They answered, 'O thou, there be but two means for us of quitting Aklis:
on the wrist of the Master, or down the blade of the Sword! and from the
wrist of the Master we have been loosed, and no one of thy race can tie
us to it again.'

Abarak said, 'How then shall the Master leave Aklis?'

They answered, 'By Allah in Aklis! he can carve a way whither he will
with the Sword.'

But Abarak cried, 'O Karavejis and Veejravoosh! he bath peered through
the veil of the Ferrying Figure.'

Now, when they heard his words, the visages of the Genii darkened, and
they exclaimed sorrowfully, 'Serve we such a one?'

And they looked at Shibli Bagarag a look of anger, so that he, whose wits
were in past occurrences, imagined them his enemy and the foe of Noorna
split in two, crying, 'How? Is Karaz a couple? and do I multiply him with
strokes of the Sword?'

Thereupon he drew the Sword from his girdle in wrath, flourishing it; and
Karavejis and Veejravoosh felt the might of the Sword, and prostrated
themselves to the ground at his feet. And Abarak said, 'Arise, and bring
us swiftly to the mountain of outer Aklis.'

Then said they, 'Seek a passage down yonder brook in the moonbeams; and
it is the sole passage for him now.'

Abarak went with them to the brook that was making watery music to itself
between banks of splintered rock and over broad slabs of marble, bubbling
here and there about the roots of large-leaved water-flowers, and
catching the mirrored moon of Aklis in whirls, breaking it in lances.
Then they waded into the water knee-deep, and the two Genii seized hold
of a great slab of marble in the middle of the water, and under was a
hollow brimmed with the brook, that the brook partly filled and flowed
over. Then the Genii said to Abarak, 'Plunge!' and they said the same to
Shibli Bagarag. The swayer of the Sword replied, as it had been a simple
occasion, a common matter, and a thing for the exercise of civility,
'With pleasure and all willingness!' Thereupon he tightened his girth,
and arrowing his two hands, flung up his heels and disappeared in the
depths, Abarak following. Surely, those two went diving downward till it
seemed to each there was no bottom in the depth, and they would not cease
to feel the rushing of the water in their ears till the time anticipated
by mortals.



THE BOSOM OF NOORNA

Now, while a thousand sparks of fire were bursting on the sight of the
two divers, and they speeded heels uppermost to the destiny marked out
for them by the premeditations of the All-Wise, lo! Noorna was on the
mountain in outer Aklis with Koorookh, waiting for the appearance of her
betrothed, Sword in hand. She saw beams from the blazing eye of Aklis,
and knew by the redness of it that one, a mortal, was peering on the
earth and certain of created things. So she waited awhile in patience for
the return of her betrothed, with the head of Koorookh in her lap,
caressing the bird, and teaching it words of our language; and the bird
fashioned its bill to the pronouncing of names, such as 'Noorna' and
'Feshnavat,' and 'Goorelka'; and it said 'Karaz,' and stuck not at the
name 'Shagpat,' and it learnt to say even 'Shagpat shall be shaved!
Shagpat shall be shaved!' but no effort of Noorna could teach it to say,
'Shibli Bagarag,' the bird calling instead, 'Shiparack, Shiplabarack,
Shibblisharack.' And Noorna chid it with her forefinger, crying, 'O
Koorookh! wilt thou speak all names but that one of my betrothed?'

So she said again, 'Shibli Bagarag.' And the bird answered, imitating its
best, 'Shibberacavarack.' Noorna was wroth with it, crying, 'Oh naughty
bird! is the name of my beloved hateful to thee?'

And she chid Koorookh angrily, he with a heavy eye sulking, and keeping
the sullen feathers close upon his poll. Now, she thought, 'There is in
this a meaning and I will fathom it.' So she counted the letters in the
name of her betrothed, that were thirteen, and spelt them backwards,
afterwards multiplying them by an equal number, and fashioning words from
the selection of every third and seventh letter. Then took she the leaf
from a tree and bade Koorookh fly with her to the base of the mountain
sloping from Aklis to the sea, and there wrote with a pin's point on the
leaf the words fashioned, dipping the leaf in the salt ripple by the
beach, till they were distinctly traced. And it was revealed to her that
Shibli Bagarag bore now a name that might be uttered by none, for that
the bearer of it had peered through the veil of the ferrying figure in
Aklis. When she knew that, her grief was heavy, and she sat on the cold
stones of the beach and among the bright shells, weeping in anguish,
loosing her hair, scattering it wildly, exclaiming, 'Awahy! woe on me!
Was ever man more tired than he before entering Aklis, he that was in
turns abased and beloved and exalted! yet his weakness clingeth to him,
even in Aklis and with the Wondrous Sword in his grasp.'

Then she thought, 'Still he had strength to wield the Sword, for I marked
the flashing of it, and 'twas he that leaned forward the blade to me; and
he possesses the qualities that bring one gloriously to the fruits of
enterprise!' And she thought, 'Of a surety, if Abarak be with him, and a
single of the three slaves of the Sword that I released from the tail of
Garraveen, Ravejoura, Karavejis, and Veejravoosh, he will yet come
through, and I may revive him in my bosom for the task.' So, thinking
upon that, the sweet crimson surprised her cheeks, and she arose and drew
Koorookh with her along the beach till they came to some rocks piled
ruggedly and the waves breaking over them. She mounted these, and stepped
across them to the entrance of a cavern, where flowed a full water
swiftly to the sea, rolling smooth bulks over and over, and with a
translucent light in each, showing precious pebbles in the bed of the
water below; agates of size, limpid cornelians, plates of polished jet,
rubies, diamonds innumerable that were smitten into sheen by slant rays
of the level sun, the sun just losing its circle behind lustrous billows
of that Enchanted Sea. She turned to Koorookh a moment, saying, with a
coax of smiles, 'Will my bird wait here for me, even at this point?'
Koorookh clapped both his wings, and she said again, petting him, 'He
will keep watch to pluck me from the force of water as I roll past, that
I be not carried to the sea, and lost?'

Koorookh still clapped his wings, and she entered under the arch of the
cavern. It was roofed with crystals, a sight of glory, with golden lamps
at intervals, still centres of a thousand beams. Taking the sandal from
her left foot and tucking up the folds of her trousers to the bend of her
clear white knee, she advanced, half wading, up the winds of the cavern,
and holding by the juts of granite here and there, till she came to a
long straight lane in the cavern, and at the end of it, far down, a solid
pillar of many-coloured water that fell into the current, as it had been
one block of gleaming marble from the roof, without ceasing. Now, she
made toward it, and fixed her eye warily wide on it, and it was bright,
flawless in brilliancy; but while she gazed a sudden blot was visible,
and she observed in the body of the fall two dark objects plumping
downward one after the other, like bolts, and they splashed in the
current and were carried off by the violence of its full sweep, shooting
by her where she stood, rapidly; but she, knotting her garments round the
waist to give her limbs freedom and swiftness, ran a space, and then bent
and plunged, catching, as she rose, the foremost to her bosom, and
whirled away under the flashing crystals like a fish scaled with
splendours that hath darted and seized upon a prey, and is bearing it
greedily to some secure corner of the deeps to swallow the quivering
repast at leisure. Surely, the heart of Noorna was wise of what she bore
against her bosom; and it beat exulting strokes in the midst of the rush
and roar and gurgle of the torrent, and the gulping sounds and
multitudinous outcries of the headlong water. That verse of the poet
would apply to her where he says:

     Lead me to the precipice,
     And bid me leap the dark abyss:
      I care not what the danger be,
     So my beloved, my beauteous vision,
      Be but the prize I bear with me,
    For she to Paradise can turn Perdition.

Praise be to him that planteth love, the worker of this marvel, within
us! Now, she sped in the manner narrated through the mazes of the cavern,
coming suddenly to the point at the entrance where perched Koorookh
gravely upon one leg, like a bird with an angling beak: he caught at her
as she was hurling toward the sea, and drew her to the bank of rock, that
burden on her bosom; and it was Shibli Bagarag, her betrothed, his eyes
closed, his whole countenance colourless. Behind him like a shadow
streamed Abarak, and Noorna kneeled by the waterside and fetched the
little man from it likewise; he was without a change, as if drawn from a
familiar element; and when he had prostrated himself thrice and called on
the Prophet's name in the form of thanksgiving, he wrung his beard of the
wet, and had wit to bless the action of Noorna, that saved him. Then the
two raised Shibli Bagarag from the rock, and reclined him lengthwise
under the wings of Koorookh, and Noorna stretched herself there beside
him with one arm about his neck, the fair head of the youth on her bosom.
And she said to Abarak, 'He hath dreamed many dreams, my betrothed, but
never one so sweet as that I give him. Already, see, the hue returneth to
his cheek and the dimples of pleasure.' So was it; and she said, 'Mount,
O thou of the net and the bar! and stride Koorookh across the neck, for
it is nigh the setting of the moon, and by dawn we must be in our middle
flight, seen of men, a cloud over them.'

Said Abarak, 'To hear is to obey!'

He bestrode the neck of Koorookh and sat with dangling feet, till she
cried, 'Rise!' and the bird spread its wings and flapped them wide,
rising high in the silver rays, and flying rapidly forward with the three
on him from the mountain in front of Aklis, and the white sea with its
enchanted isles and wonders; flying and soaring till the earth was as
what might be held in the hollow of the hand, and the kingdoms of the
earth a mingled heap of shining dust in the midst.



THE REVIVAL

Now, the feathers of Koorookh in his flight were ruffled by a chill
breeze, and they were speeding through a light glow of cold rose-colour.
Then said Noorna, ''Tis the messenger of morning, the blush. Oh, what
changes will date from this day!'

The glow of rose became golden, and they beheld underneath them, on one
side, the rim of the rising red sun, and rays streaming over the earth
and its waters. And Noorna said, 'I must warn Feshnavat, my father, and
prepare him for our coming.'

So she plucked a feather from Koorookh and laid the quill downward,
letting it drop. Then said she, 'Now for the awakening of my betrothed!'

Thereupon she hugged his head a moment, and kissed him on the eyelids,
the cheeks, and the lips, crying, 'By this means only!' Crying that, she
pushed him, sliding, from the back of the bird, and he parted from them,
falling headforemost in the air like a stricken eagle. Then she called to
Koorookh, 'Seize him!' and the bird slanted his beak and closed his
wings, the two, Abarak and Noorna, clinging to him tightly; and he was
down like an arrow between Shibli Bagarag and the ground, spreading
beneath him like a tent, and Noorna caught the youth gently to her lap;
then she pushed him off again, intercepting his descent once more, till
they were on a level with one of the mountains of the earth, from which
the City of Shagpat is visible among the yellow sands like a white spot
in the yolk of an egg. So by this time the eyes of the youth gave
symptoms of a desire to look upon the things that be, peeping faintly
beneath the lashes, and she exclaimed joyfully, raising her white hands
above her head, 'One plunge in the lake, and life will be his again!'

Below them was a green lake, tinted by the dawn with crimson and yellow,
deep, and with high banks. As they crossed it to the middle, she slipped
off the youth from Koorookh, and he with a great plunge was received into
the stillness of the lake. Meanwhile Koorookh quivered his wings and
seized him when he arose, bearing him to an end of the lake, where stood
one dressed like a Dervish, and it was the Vizier Feshnavat, the father
of Noorna. So when he saw them, he shouted the shout of congratulation,
catching Noorna to his breast, and Shibli Bagarag stretched as doth a
heavy sleeper in his last doze, saying, in a yawning voice, 'What
trouble? I wot there is nought more for us now that Shagpat is shaved!
Oh, I have had a dream, a dream! He that is among Houris in Paradise
dreameth not a dream like that. And I dreamed--'tis gone!'

Then said he, staring at them, 'Who be ye? What is this?'

Noorna, took him again to her bosom, and held him there; and she plucked
a herb, and squeezed it till a drop from it fell on either of his lids,
applying to them likewise a dew from the serpents of the Sword, and he
awoke to the reality of things. Surely, then he prostrated himself and
repeated the articles of his faith, taking one hand of his betrothed and
kissing her; and he embraced Abarak and Feshnavat, saying to the father
of Noorna, 'I know, O Feshnavat, that by my folly and through my weakness
I have lost time in this undertaking, but it shall be short work now with
Shagpat. This thy daughter, the Eclipser of Reason, was ever such a prize
as she? I will deserve her. Wullahy! I am now a new man, sprung like fire
from ashes. Lo, I am revived by her for the great work.'

Said Abarak: 'O Master of the Event, secure now without delay the two
slaves of the Sword, and lean the blade toward Aklis.'

Upon that, he ran up rapidly to the summit of the mountain and drew the
Sword from his girdle, and leaned it toward Aklis, and it lengthened out
over lands, the blade of it a beam of solid brilliance. Presently, from
forth the invisible remoteness they saw the two Genii, Karavejis and
Veejravoosh, and they were footing the blade swiftly, like stars,
speeding up till they were within reach of the serpents of the hilt, when
they dropped to the earth, bowing their heads; so he commanded them to
rise, crying, 'Search ye the earth and its confines, and bring hither
tidings of the Genie Karaz.'

They said, 'To hear is to obey.'

Then they began to circle each round the other, circling more and more
sharply till beyond the stretch of sight, and Shibli Bagarag said to
Feshnavat, 'Am I not awake, O Feshnavat? I will know where is Karaz ere I
seek to operate on Shagpat, for it is well spoken of the poet:

       "Obstructions first remove
        Ere thou thy cunning prove";

and I will encounter this Karaz that was our Ass, ere I try the great
shave.'

Then said he, turning quickly, 'Yonder is the light from Aklis striking
on the city, and I mark Shagpat, even he, illumined by it, singled out,
where he sitteth on the roof of the palace by the market-place.'

So they looked, and it was as he had spoken, that Shagpat was singled out
in the midst of the city by the wondrous beams of the eye of Aklis, and
made prominent in effulgence.

Said Abarak, climbing to the level of observation, 'He hath a redness
like the inside of a halved pomegranate.'

Feshnavat stroked his chin, exclaiming, 'He may be likened to a mountain
goat in the midst of a forest roaring with conflagration.'

Said Shibli Bagarag, 'Now is he the red-maned lion, the bristling boar,
the uncombed buffalo, the plumaged cock, but soon will he be like nothing
else save the wrinkled kernel of a shaggy fruit. Lo, now, the Sword! it
leapeth to be at him, and 'twill be as the keen icicle of winter to that
perishing foliage, that doomed crop! So doth the destined minute destroy
with a flash the hoarded arrogance of ages; and the destined hand doeth
what creation failed to perform; and 'tis by order, destiny, and
preordainment, that the works of this world come to pass. This know I,
and I witness thereto that am of a surety ordained to the Shaving of
Shagpat!'

Then he stood apart and gazed from Shagpat to the city that now began to
move with the morning; elephants and coursers saddled by the gates of the
King's palace were visible, and camels blocking the narrow streets, and
the markets bustling. Surely, though the sun illumined that city, it was
as a darkness behind Shagpat singled by the beams of Aklis.



THE PLOT

Now, while Shibli Bagarag gazed on Shagpat kindled by the beams of Aklis,
lo, the Genii Karavejis and Veejravoosh circling each other in swift
circles like two sapphire rings toward him, and they whirled to a point
above his head, and fell and prostrated themselves at his feet: so he
cried, 'O ye slaves of the Sword, my servitors! how of the whereabout of
Karaz?'

They answered, 'O Master of the Event, we found him after many circlings
far off, and 'twas by the borders of the Putrid Sea. We came not close on
him, for he is stronger than we without the Sword, but it seemed he was
distilling drops of an oil from certain substances, large thickened drops
that dropped into a phial.'

Then Shibli Bagarag said, 'The season of weakness with me is over, and
they that confide in my strength, my cunning, my watchfulness, my
wielding of the Sword, have nought to fear for themselves. Now, this is
my plot, O Feshnavat,--that part of it in which thou art to have a share.
'Tis that thou depart forthwith to the City yonder, and enter thy palace
by a back entrance, and I will see that thou art joined within an hour of
thy arrival there by Baba Mustapha, my uncle, the gabbler. He is there,
as I guess by signs; I have had warnings of him. Discover him speedily.
Thy task is then to induce him to make an attempt on the head of Shagpat
in all wiliness, as he and thou think well to devise. He will fail, as I
know, but what is that saying of the poet?

     "Persist, if thou wouldst truly reach thine ends,
     For failures oft are but advising friends."

And he says:

     "Every failure is a step advanced,
     To him who will consider how it chanced."

Wherefore, will I that this attempt be made, keeping the counsel that is
mine. Thou must tell Baba Mustapha I wait without the city to reward him
by my powers of reward with all that he best loveth. So, when he has
failed in his attempt on Shagpat, and blows fall plenteously upon him,
and he is regaled with the accustomed thwacking, as I have tasted it in
this undertaking, do thou waste no further word on him, for his part is
over, and as is said:

     "Waste not a word in enterprise!
     Against--or for--the minute flies."

'Tis then for thee, O Feshnavat, to speed to the presence of the King in
his majesty, and thou wilt find means of coming to him by a disguise.
Once in the Hall of Council, challenge the tongue of contradiction to
affirm Shagpat other than a bald-pate bewigged. This is for thee to do.'

Quoth Feshnavat plaintively, after thought, 'And what becometh of me, O
thou Master of the Event?'

Shibli Bagarag said, 'The clutch of the executioner will be upon thee, O
Feshnavat, and a clamouring multitude around; short breathing-time given
thee, O father of Noorna, ere the time of breathing is commanded to
cease. Now, in that respite the thing that will occur, 'tis for thee to
see and mark; sure, never will reverse of things be more complete, and
the other side of the picture more rapidly exhibited, if all go as I
conceive and plot, and the trap be not premature nor too perfect for the
trappers; as the poet has declared:

  "Ye that intrigue, to thy slaves proper portions adapt;
   Perfectest plots burst too often, for all are not apt."

And I witness likewise to the excellence of his saying:

       "To master an Event,
        Study men!
        The minutes are well spent
        Only then."

Also 'tis he that says:

  "The man of men who knoweth men, the Man of men is he!
   His army is the human race, and every foe must flee."

So have I apportioned to thee thy work, to Baba Mustapha his; reserving
to myself the work that is mine!'

Thereat Feshnavat exclaimed, 'O Master of the Event, may I be thy
sacrifice! on my head be it! and for thee to command is for me to obey!
but surely, this Sword of thine that is in thy girdle, the marvellous
blade--'tis alone equal to the project and the shave; and the matter
might be consummated, the great thing done, even from this point whence
we behold Shagpat visible, as 'twere brought forward toward us by the
beams! And this Sword swayed by thee, and with thy skill and strength and
the hardihood of hand that is thine, wullahy! 'twould shear him now, this
moment, taking the light of Aklis for a lather.'

Shibli Bagarag knotted the brows of impatience, crying, 'Hast thou
forgotten Karaz in thy calculations? I know of a surety what this Sword
will do, and I wot the oil he distilleth strengtheneth Shagpat but
against common blades. Yet shall it not be spoken of me, Shibli Bagarag,
that I was tripped by my own conceit; the poet counselleth:

  "When for any mighty end thou hast the aid of heaven,
   Mount until thy strength shall match those great means which are
   given":

nor that I was overthrown in despising mine enemy, forgetful of the
saying of the sage:

  "Read the features of thy foe, wherever he may find thee,
   Small he is, seen face to face, but thrice his size behind thee."

Wullahy! this Karaz is a Genie of craft and resources, one of a mighty
stock, and I must close with Shagpat to be sure of him; and that I am not
deceived by semblances, opposing guile with guile, and guile deeper than
his, for that he awaiteth it not, thinking I have leaped in fancy beyond
the Event, and am puffed by the after-breaths of adulation, I!--thinking
I pluck the blossoms in my hunger for the fruit, that I eat the chick of
the yet unlaid egg, O Feshnavat. As is said, and the warrior beareth
witness to the wisdom of it:

     "His weapon I'll study; my own conceal;
     So with two arms to his one shall I deal."

The same also testifieth:

  "'Tis folly of the hero, though resistless in the field,
   To stake the victory on his steel, and fling away the shield."

And likewise:

     "Examine thine armour in every joint,
     For slain was the Giant, and by a pin's point."

Wah! 'tis certain there will need subtlety in this undertaking, and a
plot plotted, so do thou my bidding, and fail not in the part assigned to
thee.'

Now, Feshnavat was persuaded by his words, and cried, 'In diligence,
discretion, and the virtues which characterize subordinates, I go, and I
delay not! I will perform the thing required of me, O Master of the
Event.' And he repeated in verse:

     With danger beset, be the path crooked or narrow,
     Thou art the bow, and I the arrow.

Then embraced he his daughter, kissing her on the forehead and the eyes,
and tightening the girdle of his robe, departed, with the name of Allah
on his lips, in the direction of the City.

So Shibli Bagarag called to him the two Genii, and his command was,
'Soar, ye slaves of the Sword, till the range of earth and its mountains
and seas and deserts are a cluster in the orb of the eye, Shiraz
conspicuous as a rose among garlands, and the ruby consorted with other
gems in a setting. In Shiraz or the country adjoining ye will come upon
one Baba Mustapha by name; and, if he be alone, ye may recognize him by
his forlorn look and the hang of his cheeks, his vacancy as of utter
abandonment; if in company, 'twill be the only talker that's he; seize on
him, give him a taste of thin air, and deposit him without speech on the
roof of a palace, where ye will see Feshnavat in yonder city: this do ere
the shadows of the palm-tree by the well in the plain move up the mounds
that enclose the fortified parts.'

Cried Karavejis and Veejravoosh, 'To hear is to obey.'

Up into the sky, like two bright balls tossed by jugglers, the two Genii
shot; and, watching them, Noorna bin Noorka said, 'My life, there is a
third wanting, Ravejoura; and with aid of the three, earth could have
planted no obstruction to thy stroke; but thou wert tempted by the third
temptation in Aklis, and left not the Hall in triumph, the Hall of the
Duping Brides!'

He answered, 'That is so, my soul; and the penalty is mine, by which I am
made to employ deceits ere I strike.'

And she said, ''Tis to the generosity of Gulrevaz thou owest Karavejis
and Veejravoosh; and I think she was generous, seeing thee true to me in
love, she that hath sorrows!'

So he said, 'What of the sorrows of Gulrevaz? Tell me of them.'

But she said, 'Nay, O my betrothed! wouldst thou have this tongue
blistered, and a consuming spark shot against this bosom?'

Then he: 'Make it clear to me.'

She put her mouth to his ear, saying, 'There is a curse on whoso telleth
of things in Aklis, and to tattle of the Seven and their sister
forerunneth wretchedness.'

Surely, he stooped to that fair creature, and folded her to his heart,
his whole soul heaving to her; and he cried again and again, 'Shall harm
hap to thee through me? by Allah, no!'

And he closed the privileged arm of the bridegroom round her waist, that
had the yieldingness of the willow-branchlet, the flowingness of the
summer sea-wave, and seemed as 'twere melting honey-like at the first
gentle pressure; she leaning her head shyly on his shoulder, yet
confiding in his faithfulness; it was that she was shy of the great bliss
in her bosom, and was made timid by the fervour of her affection; as is
sung:

     Deeper than the source of blushes
     Is the power that makes them start;
     Up in floods the red stream rushes,
     At one whisper of the heart.

And it is sung in words present to the youth as he surveyed her:

     O beauty of the bride! O beauty of the bride!
     Her bashful joys like serpents sting her tenderness to
     tears:
   Her hopes are sleeping eagles in the shining of the spheres;
     O beauty of the bride! O beauty of the bride!
   And she's a lapping antelope that from her image flees;
   And she's a dove caught in two hands, to pant as she shall
     please;
     O beauty of the bride! O beauty of the bride!
   Like torrents over Paradise her lengthy tresses roll:
   She moves as doth a swaying rose, and chides her hasty soul;
   The thing she will, that will she not, yet can no will  control
     O beauty, beauty, beauty of the bride!

They were thus together, Abarak leaning under one wing of Koorookh for
shade up the slope of the hill, and Shibli Bagarag called to him, 'Ho,
Abarak! look if there be aught impending over the City.'

So he arose and looked, crying, 'One with plunging legs, high up in air
over the City, between two bright bodies.' Shibli Bagarag exclaimed,
''Tis well! The second chapter of the Event is opened; so call it, thou
that tellest of the Shaving of Shagpat. It will be the shortest.'

Then he said, 'The shadow of yonder palm is now a slanted spear up the
looped wall of the City. Now, the time of Shagpat's triumph, and his
greatest majesty, will be when yonder walls chase the shadow of the palm
up this hill; and then will Baba Mustapha be joining the chorus of
creatures that shriek toward even ere they snooze. There's not an ape in
the woods, nor hyaena in the forest, nor birds on the branches, nor frogs
in the marsh that will outnoise Baba Mustapha under the thong! Wullahy,
'twill grieve his soul in aftertime when he sitteth secure in honours,
courted, with a thousand ears at his bidding, that so much breath 'scaped
him without toll of the tongue! But as the poet says truly:

     "The chariot of Events lifteth many dusty heels,
     And many, high and of renown, it crusheth with its wheels."

Wah! I have had my share of the thong, and am I, Master of the Event, to
be squeamish in attaining an end by its means? Nay, by this Sword!'

Thereat, he strode once again to the summit of the hill, and in a moment
the Genii fronted him like two shot arrows quivering from the flight. So
he cried, 'It is done?'

They answered, 'In faithfulness.'

So he beckoned to Noorna, and she came forward swiftly to him,
exclaiming, 'I read the plot, and the thing required of me; so say
nought, but embrace me ere I leave thee, my betrothed, my master!'

He embraced her, and led her to where the Genii stood. Then said he to
the Genii, 'Convey her to the City, O ye slaves of the Sword, and watch
over her there. If ye let but an evil wind ruffle the hair of her head,
lo! I sever ye with a stroke that shaketh the under worlds. Remain by her
till the shrieks of Baba Mustapha greet ye, and then will follow
commotion among the crowd, and cries for Shagpat to show himself to the
people, cries also of death to Feshnavat; and there will be an assembly
in the King's Hall of Justice; thither lead ye my betrothed, and watch
over her.' And he said to Noorna, 'Thou knowest my design?'

So she said, 'When condemnation is passed on Feshnavat, that I appear in
the hall as bride of Shagpat, and so rescue him that is my father.' And
she cried, 'Oh, fair delightful time that is coming! my happiness and thy
honour on earth dateth from it. Farewell, O my betrothed, beloved youth!
Eyes of mine! these Genii will be by, and there's no cause for fear or
sorrow, and 'tis for thee to look like morning that speeds the march of
light. Thou, my betrothed, art thou not all that enslaveth the heart of
woman?'

Cried Shibli Bagarag, 'And thou, O Noorna, all that enraptureth the soul
of man! Allah keep thee, my life!'

Lo! while they were wasting the rich love in their hearts, the Genii rose
up with Noorna, and she, waving her hand to him, was soon distant and as
the white breast of a bird turned to the sun. Then went he to where
Abarak was leaning, and summoned Koorookh, and the twain mounted him, and
rose up high over the City of Shagpat to watch the ripening of the Event,
as a vulture watcheth over the desert.



THE DISH OF POMEGRANATE GRAIN

Now, in the City of Shagpat, Kadza, spouse of Shagpat, she that had
belaboured Shibli Bagarag, had a dream while these things were doing; and
it was a dream of danger and portent to the glory of her eyes, Shagpat.
So, at the hour when he was revealed to Shibli Bagarag, made luminous by
the beams of Aklis, Kadza went to an inner chamber, and greased her hands
and her eyelids, and drank of a phial, and commenced tugging at a brass
ring fixed in the floor, and it yielded and displayed an opening, over
which she stooped the upper half of her leanness, and pitching her note
high, called 'Karaz!' After that, she rose and retreated from the hole
hastily, and in the winking of an eye it was filled, as 'twere a pillar
of black smoke, by the body of the Genie, he breathing hard with mighty
travel. So he cried to her between his pantings and puffings, 'Speak!
where am I wanted, and for what?'

Now, Kadza was affrighted at the terribleness of his manner, and the
great smell of the Genie was an intoxication in her nostril, so that she
reeled and could just falter out, 'Danger to the Identical!'

Then he, in a voice like claps of thunder, 'Out with it!'

She answered beseechingly, ''Tis a dream I had, O Genie; a dream of
danger to him.'

While she spake, the Genie clenched his fists and stamped so that the
palace shook and the earth under it, exclaiming, 'O abominable Kadza! a
dream is it? another dream? Wilt thou cease dreaming awhile, thou silly
woman? Know I not he that's powerful against us is in Aklis, crowned ape,
and that his spells are gone? And I was distilling drops to defy the
Sword and strengthen Shagpat from assault, yet bringest thou me from my
labour by the Putrid Sea with thy accursed dream!' Thereat, he frowned
and shot fire at her from his eyes, so that she singed, and the room
thickened with a horrible smell of burning. She feared greatly and
trembled, but he cooled himself against the air, crying presently in a
diminished voice, 'Let's hear this dream, thou foolish Kadza! 'Tis as
well to hear it. Probably Rabesqurat hath sent thee some sign from Aklis,
where she ferryeth a term. What's that saying:

  "A woman's at the core of every plot man plotteth,
   And like an ill-reared fruit, first at the core it rotteth."

So, out with it, thou Kadza!'

Now, the urgency of that she had dreamed overcame fear in Kadza, and she
said, 'O great Genie and terrible, my dream was this. Lo! I saw an
assemblage of the beasts of the forests and them that inhabit wild
places. And there was the elephant and the rhinoceros and the
hippopotamus, and the camel and the camelopard, and the serpent and the
striped tiger; also the antelope, the hyena, the jackal, and above them,
eminent in majesty, the lion. Surely, he sat as 'twere on a high seat,
and they like suppliants thronging the presence: this I saw, the heart on
my ribs beating for Shagpat. And there appeared among the beasts a monkey
all ajoint with tricks, jerking with malice, he looking as 'twere hungry
for the doing of things detestable; and the lion scorned him, and I
marked him ridicule the lion: 'twas so. And the lion began to scowl, and
the other beasts marked the displeasure of the lion. Then chased they
that monkey from the presence, and for awhile he was absent, and the lion
sat in his place gravely, with calm, receiving homage of the other
beasts; and down to his feet came the eagle that's lord of air, and
before him kneeled the great elephant, and the subtle serpent eyed him
with awe. But soon did that monkey, the wretched animal! reappear, and
there was no peace for the lion, he worrying till close within stretch of
the lion's paw! Wah! the lion might have crushed him, but that he's
magnanimous. And so it was that as the monkey advanced the lion roared to
him, "Begone!"

'And the monkey cried, "Who commandeth?"

'So the lion roared, "The King of beasts and thy King!"

'Then that monkey cried, "Homage to the King of beasts and my King! Allah
keep him in his seat, and I would he were visible."

'So the lion roared, "He sitteth here acknowledged, thou graceless
animal! and he's before thee apparent."

'Then the monkey affected eagerness, and gazed about him, and peered on
this beast and on that, exclaiming like one that's injured and under
slight, "What's this I've done, and wherein have I offended, that he
should be hidden from me when pointed out?"

'So the lion roared, "'Tis I where I sit, thou offensive monkey!"

'Then that monkey in the upper pitch of amazement, "Thou! Is it for
created thing to acknowledge a king without a tail? And, O beasts of the
forest and the wilderness, how say ye? Am I to blame that I bow not to
one that hath it not?"

'Upon that, the lion rose, and roared in the extreme of wrath; but the
word he was about to utter was checked in him, for 'twas manifest that
where he would have lashed a tail he shook a stump, wagging it as the dog
doth. Lo! when the lion saw that, the majesty melted from him, and in a
moment the plumpness of content and prosperity forsook him, so that his
tawny skin hung flabbily and his jaw drooped, and shame deprived him of
stateliness; abashed was he! Now, seeing the lion shamed in this manner,
my heart beat violently for Shagpat, so that I awoke with the strength of
its beating, and 'twas hidden from me whether the monkey was punished by
the lion, or exalted by the other beasts in his place, or how came it
that the lion's tail was lost, witched from him by that villain of
mischief, the monkey; but, O great Genie, I knew there was a lion among
men, reverenced, and with enemies; that lion, he that espoused me and my
glory, Shagpat! 'Twas enough to know that and tremble at the omen of my
dream, O Genie. Wherefore I thought it well to summon thee here, that
thou mightest set a guard over Shagpat, and shield him from the
treacheries that beset him.'

When Kadza had ceased speaking, the Genie glowered at her awhile in
silence. Then said he, 'What creature is that, Kadza, which tormenteth
like the tongue of a woman, is small as her pretensions to virtue, and
which showeth how the chapters of her history should be read by the holy
ones, even in its manner of movement?'

Cried Kadza, 'The flea that hoppeth!'

So he said, ''Tis well! Hast thou strength to carry one of my weight, O
Kadza?'

She answered in squeamishness, 'I, wullahy! I'm but a woman, Genie,
though the wife of Shagpat: and to carry thee is for the camel and the
elephant and the horse.'

Then he, 'Tighten thy girdle, and when tightened, let a loose loop hang
from it.'

She did that, and he gave her a dark powder in her hand, saying, 'Swallow
the half of this, and what remaineth mix with water, and sprinkle over
thee.'

That did she, and thereupon he exclaimed, 'Now go, and thy part is to
move round Shagpat; and a wind will strike thee from one quarter, and
from which quarter it striketh is the one of menace and danger to
Shagpat.'

So Kadza was diligent in doing what the Genie commanded, and sought for
Shagpat, and moved round him many times; but no wind struck her. She went
back to the Genie, and told him of this, and the Genie cried, 'What? no
wind? not one from Aklis? Then will Shagpat of a surety triumph, and we
with him.'

Now, there was joy on the features of Kadza and Karaz, till suddenly he
said, 'Halt in thy song! How if there be danger and menace above? and
'tis the thing that may be.'

Then he seized Kadza, and slung her by him, and went into the air, and up
it till the roofs of the City of Shagpat were beneath their feet, all on
them visible. And under an awning, on the roof of a palace, there was the
Vizier Feshnavat and Baba Mustapha, they ear to lip in consultation, and
Baba Mustapha brightening with the matter revealed to him, and bobbing
his head, and breaking on the speech of the Vizier. Now, when he saw them
the Genie blew from his nostrils a double stream of darkness which curled
in a thick body round and round him, and Kadza slung at his side was
enveloped in it, as with folds of a huge serpent. Then the Genie hung
still, and lo! two radiant figures swept toward the roof he watched, and
between them Noorna bin Noorka, her long dark hair borne far backward,
and her robe of silken stuff fluttering and straining on the pearl
buttons as she flew. There was that in her beauty and the silver
clearness of her temples and her eyes, and her cheeks, and her neck, and
chin and ankles, that made the Genie shudder with love of her, and he was
nigh dropping Kadza to the ground, forgetful of all save Noorna. When he
recovered, and it was by tightening his muscles till he was all over hard
knots, Noorna was seated on a cushion, and descending he heard her speak
his name. Then sniffed he the air, and said to Kadza, 'O spouse of
Shagpat, a plot breweth, and the odour of it is in my nostril. Fearest
thou a scorching for his sake thou adorest, the miracle of men?'

She answered, 'On my head be it, and my eyes!'

He said, 'I shall alight thee behind the pole of awning on yonder roof,
where are the two bright figures and the dingy one, and the Vizier
Feshnavat and Noorna bin Noorka. A flame will spring up severing thee
from them; but thou'rt secure from it by reason of the powder I gave
thee, all save the hair that's on thee. Thou'lt have another shape than
that which is thine, even that of a slave of Noorna bin Noorka, and say
to her when she asketh thy business with her, "O my mistress, let the
storm gather-in the storm-bird when it would surprise men." Do this, and
thy part's done, O Kadza!'

Thereupon he swung a circle, and alighted her behind the pole of awning
on the roof, and vanished, and the circle of flame rose up, and Kadza
passed through it slightly scorched, and answered to the question of
Noorna, 'O my mistress, let the storm gather-in the storm-bird when it
would surprise men.' Now, when Noorna beheld her, and heard her voice,
she pierced the disguise, and was ware of the wife of Shagpat, and
glanced her large eyes over Kadza from head to sole till they rested on
the loose loop in her girdle. Seeing that, she rose up, and stretched her
arms, and spread open the palm of her hand, and slapped Kadza on the
cheek and ear a hard slap, so that she heard bells; and ere she ceased to
hear them, another, so that Kadza staggered back and screamed, and
Feshnavat was moved to exclaim, 'What has the girl, thy favourite,
offended in, O my daughter?'

So Noorna continued slapping Kadza, and cried, 'Is she not sluttish? and
where's the point of decency established in her, this Luloo? Shall her
like appear before thee and me with loose girdle!'

Then she pointed to the girdle, and Kadza tightened the loose loop, and
fell upon the ground to avoid the slaps, and Noorna knelt by her, and
clutched at a portion of her dress and examined it, peering intently; and
she caught up another part, and knotted it as if to crush a living
creature, hunting over her, and grasping at her; and so it was that while
she tore strips from the garments of Kadza, Feshnavat jumped suddenly in
wrath, and pinched over his garments, crying, 'Tis unbearable! 'Tis I
know not what other than a flea that persecuteth me:'

Upon that, Noorna ran to him, and while they searched together for the
flea, Baba Mustapha fidgeted and worried in his seat, lurching to the
right and to the left, muttering curses; and it was evident he too was
persecuted, and there was no peace on the roof of that palace, but
pinching and howling and stretching of limbs, and curses snarled in the
throat and imprecations on the head of the tormenting flea. Surely, the
soul of Kadza rejoiced, for she knew the flea was Karaz, whom she had
brought with her in the loose loop of her girdle through the circle of
flame which was a barrier against him. She glistened at the triumph of
the flea, but Noorna strode to her, and took her to the side of the roof,
and pitched her down it, and closed the passage to her. Then ran she to
Karavejis and Veejravoosh, whispering in the ear of each, 'No word of the
Sword?' and afterward aloud, 'What think ye will be the term of the
staying of my betrothed in Aklis, crowned ape?'

They answered, 'O pearl of the morn, crowned ape till such time as
Shagpat be shaved.'

So she beat her breast, crying, 'Oh, utter stagnation, till Shagpat be
shaved! and oh, stoppage in the tide of business, dense cloud upon the
face of beauty, and frost on the river of events, till Shagpat be shaved!
And oh! my betrothed, crowned ape in Aklis till Shagpat be shaved!'

Then she lifted her hands and arms, and said, 'To him where he is, ye
Genii! and away, for he needeth comfort.'

Thereat the glittering spirits dissolved and thinned, and were as taper
gleams of curved light across the water in their ascent of the heavens.
When they were gone Noorna, exclaimed, 'Now for the dish of pomegrante
grain, O Baba Mustapha, and let nothing delay us further.'

Quoth Baba Mustapha, ''Tis ordered, O my princess and fair mistress, from
the confectioner's; and with it the sleepy drug from the seller of
medicaments--accursed flea!'

Now, she laughed, and said, 'What am I, O Baba Mustapha?'

So he said, 'Not thou, O bright shooter of beams, but I, wullahy! I'm but
a bundle of points through the pertinacity of this flea! a house of
irritabilities! a mere mass of fretfulness! and I've no thought but for
the chasing of this unlucky flea: was never flea like it in the world
before this flea; and 'tis a flea to anger the holy ones, and make the
saintly Dervish swear at such a flea.' He wriggled and curled where he
sat, and Noorna cried, 'What! shall we be defeated by a flea, we that
would shave Shagpat, and release this city and the world from bondage?'
And she looked up to the sky that was then without a cloud, blazing with
the sun on his mid seat, and exclaimed, 'O star of Shagpat! wilt thou
constantly be in the ascendant, and defeat us, the liberators of men,
with a flea?'

Now, whenever one of the twain, Baba Mustapha and the Vizier Feshnavat,
commenced speaking of the dish of pomegranate grain, the torment of the
flea took all tongue from him, and was destruction to the gravity of
council and deliberation. The dish of pomegranate grain was brought to
them by slaves, and the drug to induce sleep, yet neither could say aught
concerning it, they were as jointy grasshoppers through the action of the
flea, and the torment of the flea became a madness, they shrieking, ''Tis
now with thee! 'Tis now with me! Fires of the damned on this flea!' In
their extremity, they called to Allah for help, but no help came, save
when they abandoned all speech concerning the dish of pomegranate grain,
then were they for a moment eased of the flea. So Noorna recognized the
presence of her enemy Karaz, and his malicious working; and she went and
fetched a jar brimmed with water for the bath, and stirred it with her
forefinger, and drew on it a flame from the rays of the sun till there
rose up from the jar a white thick smoke. She rustled her raiment, making
the wind of it collect round Baba Mustapha and Feshnavat, and did this
till the sweat streamed from their brows and bodies, and they were
sensible of peace and the absence of the flea. Then she whisked away the
smoke, and they were attended by slaves with fresh robes, and were as new
men, and sat together over the dish of pomegranate grain, praising the
wisdom of Noorna and her power. Then Baba Mustapha revived in briskness,
and cried, 'Here the dish! and 'tis in my hands an instrument, an
instrument of vengeance! and one to endow the skilful wielder of it with
glory. And 'tis as I designed it,--sweet, seasoned, savoury,--a flattery
to the eye and no deceiver to the palate. Wah! and such an instrument in
the hands of the discerning and the dexterous, and the discreet and the
judicious, and them gifted with determination, is't not such as sufficeth
for the overturning of empires and systems, O my mistress, fair one,
sapphire of this city? And is't not written that I shall beguile Shagpat
by its means, and master the Event, and shame the King of Oolb and his
Court? And I shall then sit in state among men, and surround myself with
adornments and with slaves, mute, that speak not save at the signal, and
are as statues round the cushions of their lord--that's myself. And I
shall surround myself with the flatteries of wealth, and walk bewildered
in silks and stuffs and perfumeries; and sweet young beauties shall I
have about me, antelopes of grace, as I like them, and select them,
long-eyed, lazy, fond of listening, and with bashful looks that timidly
admire the dignity that's in man.'

While he was prating Noorna took the dish in her lap, and folded her
silvery feet beneath her, and commenced whipping into it the drug: and
she whipped it dexterously and with equal division among the grain,
whipping it and the flea with it, but she feigned not to mark the flea
and whipped harder. Then took she colour and coloured it saffron, and
laid over it gold-leaf, so that it glittered and was an enticing sight;
and the dish was of gold, crusted over with devices and patterns, and
heads of golden monsters, a ravishment of skill in him that executed it,
cumbrous with ornate golden workmanship; likewise there were places round
the dish for sticks of perfume and cups carved for the storing of
perfumed pellets, and into these Noorna put myrrh and ambergris and rich
incenses, aloes, sandalwood, prepared essences, divers keen and sweet
scents. Then when all was in readiness, she put the dish upon the knee of
Baba Mustapha, and awoke him from his babbling reverie with a shout, and
said, 'An instrument verily, O Baba Mustapha! and art thou a cat to shave
Shagpat with that tongue of thine?'

Now, he arose and made the sign of obedience and said, ''Tis well, O lady
of grace and bright wit! and now for the cap of Shiraz and the Persian
robe, and my twenty slaves and seven to follow me to the mansion of
Shagpat. I'll do: I'll act.'

So she motioned to a slave to bring the cap of Shiraz and the Persian
robe, and in these Baba Mustapha arrayed himself. Then called he for the
twenty-and-seven slaves, and they were ranged, some to go before, some to
follow him. And he was exalted, and made the cap of Shiraz nod in his
conceit, crying, 'Am I not leader in this complot? Wullahy! all bow to me
and acknowledge it.' Then, to check himself, he called out sternly to the
slaves, 'Ho ye! forward to the mansion of Shagpat; and pass at a slow
pace through the streets of the city--solemnly, gravely, as before a
potentate; then will the people inquire of ye, Who't is ye marshal, and
what mighty one? and ye will answer, He's from the court of Shiraz,
nothing less than a Vizier--bearing homage to Shagpat, even this dish of
pomegranate grain.'

So they said, 'To hear is to obey.'

Upon that he waved his hand and stalked majestically, and they descended
from the roof into the street, criers running in front to clear the way.
When Baba Mustapha was hidden from view by a corner of the street, Noorna
shrank in her white shoulders and laughed, and was like a flashing pearl
as she swayed and dimpled with laughter. And she cried, 'True are those
words of the poet, and I testify to them in the instance of Baba
Mustapha:

  "With feathers of the cock, I'll fashion a vain creature;
   With feathers of the owl, I'll make a judge in feature";

Is not the barber elate and lofty? He goeth forth to the mastery of this
Event as go many, armed with nought other than their own conceit: and
'tis written:

     "Fools from their fate seek not to urge:
     The coxcomb carrieth his scourge."'

So Feshnavat smoothed his face, and said, 'Is't not also written?--

     "Oft may the fall of fools make wise men moan!
     Too often hangs the house on one loose stone!"

'Tis so, O Noorna, my daughter, and I am as a reed shaken by the wind of
apprehensiveness, and doubt in me is a deep root as to the issue of this
undertaking, for the wrath of the King will be terrible, and the clamour
of the people soundeth in my ears already. If Shibli Bagarag fail in one
stroke, where be we? 'Tis certain I knew not the might in Shagpat when I
strove with him, and he's powerful beyond the measure of man's subtlety;
and yonder flies a rook without fellow--an omen; and all's ominous, and
ominous of ill: and I marked among the troop of slaves that preceded Baba
Mustapha one that squinted, and that's an omen; and, O my daughter, I
counsel that thou by thy magic speed us to some remote point in the
Caucasus, where we may abide the unravelling of this web securely, one
way or the other way. 'Tis my counsel, O Noorna.'

Then she, 'Abandon my betrothed? and betray him on the very stroke of the
Sword? and diminish him by a withdrawal of that faith in his right wrist
which strengtheneth it more than Karavejis and Veejravoosh wound round it
in coils?' And she leaned her head, and cried, 'Hark! hear'st thou?
there's shouting in the streets of Shiraz and of Shagpat! Shall we merit
the punishment of Shahpesh the Persian on Khipil the builder, while the
Event is mastering? I'll mark this interview between Baba Mustapha and
Shagpat; and do thou, O my father, rest here on this roof till the King's
guard of horsemen and soldiers of the law come hither for thee, and go
with them sedately, fearing nought, for I shall be by thee in the garb of
an old woman; and preserve thy composure in the presence of the King and
Shagpat exalted, and allow not the thing that happeneth let fly from thee
the shaft of speech, but remain a slackened bow till the strength of my
betrothed is testified, fearing nought, for fear is that which defeateth
men, and 'tis declared in a distich,--

     "The strongest weapon one can see
     In mortal hands is constancy."

And for us to flee now would rank us with that King described by the
poet:

     "A king of Ind there was who fought a fight
     From the first gleam of morn till fall of night;
     But when the royal tent his generals sought,
     Proclaiming victory, fled was he who fought.
     Despair possessed them, till they chanced to spy
     A Dervish that paced on with downward eye;
     They questioned of the King; he answer'd slow,
     'Ye fought but one, the King a double, foe."'

And, O my father, they interpreted of this that the King had been
vanquished, he that was victor, by the phantom army of his fears.'

Now, the Vizier cried, 'Be the will of Allah achieved and consummated!'
and he was silenced by her wisdom and urgency, and sat where he was,
diverting not the arch on his brow from its settled furrow. He was as one
that thirsteth, and whose eye hath marked a snake of swift poison by the
water, so thirsted he for the Event, yet hung with dread from advancing;
but Noorna bin Noorka busied herself about the roof, drawing circles to
witness the track of an enemy, and she clapped her hands and cried,
'Luloo!' and lo, a fair slave-girl that came to her and stood by with
bent head, like a white lily by a milk-white antelope; so Noorna clouded
her brow a moment, as when the moon darkeneth behind a scud, and cried,
'Speak! art thou in league with Karaz, girl?'

Luloo strained her hands to her temples, exclaiming, 'With the terrible
Genie?--I?--in league with him? my mistress, surely the charms I wear,
and the amulets, I wear them as a protection from that Genie, and a
safeguard, he that carrieth off the maidens and the young sucklings,
walking under the curse of mothers.'

Said Noorna, 'O Luloo, have I boxed those little ears of thine this day?'

The fair slave-girl smiled a smile of submissive tenderness, and
answered, 'Not this day, nor once since Luloo was rescued from the wicked
old merchant by thy overbidding, and was taken to the arms of a wise kind
sister, wiser and kinder than any she had been stolen from, she that is
thy slave for ever.'

She said this weeping, and Noorna mused, ''Twas as I divined, that
wretched Kadza: her grief 's to come!' Then spake she aloud as to
herself, 'Knew I, or could one know, I should this day be a bride?' And,
hearing that, Luloo shrieked, 'Thou a bride, and torn from me, and we two
parted? and I, a poor drooping tendril, left to wither? for my life is
round thee and worthless away from thee, O cherisher of the fallen
flower.'

And she sobbed out wailful verses and words, broken and without a
meaning; but Noorna caught her by the arm and swung her, and bade her
fetch on the instant a robe of blue, and pile in her chamber robes of
amber and saffron and grey, bridal-robes of many-lighted silks,
plum-coloured, peach-coloured, of the colour of musk mixed with pale
gold, together with bridal ornaments and veils of the bride, and a
jewelled circlet for the brow. When this was done, Noorna went with Luloo
to her chamber, attended by slave-girls, and arrayed herself in the first
dress of blue, and swayed herself before the mirror, and rattled the gold
pieces in her hair and on her neck with laughter. And Luloo was
bewildered, and forgot her tears to watch the gaiety of her mistress; and
lo! Noorna, made her women take off one set of ornaments with every
dress, and with every dress she put on another set; and after she had
gone the round of the different dresses, she went to the bathroom with
Luloo, and at her bidding Luloo entered the bath beside Noorna, and the
twain dipped and shouldered in the blue water, and were as when a single
star is by the full moon on a bright midnight pouring lustre about. And
Noorna splashed Luloo, and said, 'This night we shall not sleep together,
O Luloo, nor lie close, thy bosom on mine.'

Thereat, Luloo wept afresh, and cried, 'Ah, cruel! and 'tis a sweet
thought for thee, and thou'lt have no mind for me, tossing on my hateful
lonely couch.'

Tenderly Noorna eyed Luloo, and the sprinkles of the bath fell with the
tears of both, and they clung together, and were like the lily and its
bud on one stalk in a shower. Then, when Noorna had spent her affection,
she said, 'O thou of the long downward lashes, thy love was constant when
I stood under a curse and was an old woman--a hag! Carest thou so little
to learn the name of him that claimeth me?'

Luloo replied, 'I thought of no one save myself and my loss, O my lost
pearl; happy is he, a youth of favour. Oh, how I shall hate him that
taketh thee from me. Tell me now his name, O sovereign of hearts!'

So Noorna smoothed the curves and corners of her mouth and calmed her
countenance, crying in a deep tone and a voice as of reverence,
'Shagpat!'

Now, at that name Luloo drank in her breath and was awed, and sank in
herself, and had just words to ask, 'Hath he demanded thee again in
marriage, O my mistress?'

Said Noorna, 'Even so.'

Luloo muttered, 'Great is the Dispenser of our fates!'

And she spake no further, but sighed and took napkins and summoned the
slave-girls, and arrayed Noorna silently in the robe of blue and bridal
ornaments. Then Noorna said to them that thronged about her, 'Put on,
each of ye, a robe of white, ye that are maidens, and a fillet of blue,
and a sash of saffron, and abide my coming.'

And she said to Luloo, 'Array thyself in a robe of blue, even as mine,
and let trinkets lurk in thy tresses, and abide my coming.'

Then went she forth from them, and veiled her head and swathed her figure
in raiment of a coarse white stuff, and was as the moon going behind a
hill of dusky snow; and she left the house, and passed along the streets
and by the palaces, till she came to the palace of her father, now filled
by Shagpat. Before the palace grouped a great concourse and a multitude
of all ages and either sex in that city, despite the blaze and the heat.
Like roaring of a sea beyond the mountains was the noise that issued from
them, and their eyes were a fire of beams against the portal of the
palace. Now, she saw in the crowd one Shafrac, a shoemaker, and
addressed him, saying, 'O Shafrac, the shoemaker, what's this assembly
and how got together? for the poet says:

     "Ye string not such assemblies in the street,
     Save when some high Event should be complete."'

He answered, ''Tis an Event complete. Wullahy! the deputation from Shiraz
to Shagpat, and the submission of that vain city to the might of
Shagpat.' And he asked her, jestingly, 'Art thou a witch, to guess that,
O veiled and virtuous one?'

Quoth she, 'I read the thing that cometh ere 'tis come, and I read danger
to Shagpat in this deputation from Shiraz, and this dish of pomegranate
grain.'

So Shafrac cried, 'By the beard of my fathers and that of Shagpat! let's
speak of this to Zeel, the garlic-seller.'

He broadened to one that was by him, and said, 'O Zeel, what's thy mind?
Here's a woman, a wise woman, a witch, and she sees danger to Shagpat in
this deputation from Shiraz and this dish of pomegranate grain.'

Now, Zeel screwed his visage and gazed up into his forehead, and said,
''Twere best to consult with Bootlbac, the drum-beater.'

The two then called to Bootlbac, the drum-beater, and told him the
matter, and Bootlbac pondered, and tapped his brow and beat on his
stomach, and said, 'Krooz el Krazawik, the carrier, is good in such a
case.'

Now, from Krooz el Krazawik, the carrier, they went to Dob, the
confectioner; and from Dob, the confectioner, to Azawool, the builder;
and from Azawool, the builder, to Tcheik, the collector of taxes; and
each referred to some other, till perplexity triumphed and was a cloud
over them, and the words, 'Danger to Shagpat,' went about like bees, and
were canvassing, when suddenly a shrill voice rose from the midst,
dominating other voices, and it was that of Kadza, and she cried, 'Who
talks here of danger to Shagpat, and what wretch is it?'

Now, Tcheik pointed out Azawool, and Azawool Dob, and Dob Krooz el
Krazawik, and he Bootlbac, and the drum-beater shrugged his shoulder at
Zeel, and Zeel stood away from Shafrac, and Shafrac seized Noorna and
shouted, ''Tis she, this woman, the witch!'

Kadza fronted Noorna, and called to her, 'O thing of infamy, what's this
talk of thine concerning danger to our glory, Shagpat?'

Then Noorna replied, 'I say it, O Kadza! and I say it; there's danger
threateneth him, and from that deputation and that dish of pomegranate
grain.'

Now, Kadza laughed a loose laugh, and jeered at Noorna, crying, 'Danger
to Shagpat! he that's attended by Genii, and watched over by the greatest
of them, day and night incessantly?'

And Noorna said, 'I ask pardon of the Power that seeth, and of thee, if I
be wrong. Wah! am I not also of them that watch over Shagpat? So then let
thou and I go into the palace and examine the doings of this deputation
and this dish of pomegranate grain.'

Now, Kadza remembered the scene on the roofs of the Vizier Feshnavat, and
relaxed in her look of suspicion, and said, ''Tis well! Let's in to
them.'

Thereupon the twain threaded through the crowd and locked at the portals
of the palace, and it was opened to them and they entered, and lo! the
hand that opened the portals was the hand of a slave of the Sword, and
against corners of the Court leaned slaves silly with slumber. So Kadza
went up to them, and beat them, and shook them, and they yawned and
mumbled, 'Excellent grain! good grain! the grain of Shiraz!' And she beat
them with what might was hers, till some fell sideways and some forward,
still mumbling, 'Excellent pomegranate grain!' Kadza was beside herself
with anger and vexation at them, tearing them and cuffing them; but
Noorna cried, 'O Kadza! what said I? there's danger to Shagpat in this
dish of pomegranate grain! and what's that saying:

    "'Tis much against the Master's wish
     That slaves too greatly praise his dish."

Wullahy! I like not this talk of the grain of Shiraz.'

Now, while Noorna spake, the eyes of Kadza became like those of the
starved wild-cat, and she sprang off and along the marble of the Court,
and clawed a passage through the air and past the marble pillars of the
palace toward the first room of reception, Noorna following her. And in
the first room were slaves leaning and lolling like them about the Court,
and in the second room and in the third room, silent all of them and
senseless. So at this sight the spark of suspicion became a mighty flame
in the bosom of Kadza, and horror burst out at all ends of her, and she
shuddered, and cried, 'What for us, and where's our hope if Shagpat be
shorn, and he lopped of the Identical, shamed like the lion of my dream!'

And Noorna clasped her hands, and said, ''Tis that I fear! Seek for him,
O Kadza!'

So Kadza ran to a window and looked forth over the garden of the palace,
and it was a fair garden with the gleam of a fountain and watered plants
and cool arches of shade, thick bowers, fragrant alleys, long sheltered
terraces, and beyond the garden a summer-house of marble fanned by the
broad leaves of a palm. Now, when Kadza had gazed a moment, she shrieked,
'He's there! Shagpat! giveth he not the light of a jewel to the house
that holdeth him? Awahy! and he's witched there for an ill purpose.'

Then tore she from that room like a mad wild thing after its stolen cubs,
and sped along corridors of the palace, and down the great flight of
steps into the garden and across the garden, knocking over the
ablution-pots in her haste; and Noorna had just strength to withhold her
from dashing through the doors of the summer-house to come upon Shagpat,
she straining and crying, 'He's there, I say, O wise woman! Shagpat!
let's into him.'

But Noorna clung to her, and spake in her ear, 'Wilt thou blow the fire
that menaces him, O Kadza? and what are two women against the assailants
of such a mighty one as he?' Then said she, 'Watch, rather, and avail
thyself of yonder window by the blue-painted pillar.'

So Kadza crept up to the blue-painted pillar which was on the right side
of the porch, and the twain peered through the window. Noorna beheld the
Dish of Pomegranate Grain; and it was on the floor, empty of the grain,
and Baba Mustapha was by it alone making a lather, and he was twitching
his mouth and his legs, and flinging about his arms, and Noorna heard him
mutter wrathfully, 'O accursed flea! art thou at me again?' And she heard
him mutter as in anguish, 'No peace for thee, O pertinacious flea! and my
steadiness of hand will be gone, now when I have him safe as the hawk his
prey, mine enemy, this Shagpat that abused me: thou abominable flea! And,
O thou flea, wilt thou, vile thing! hinder me from mastering the Event,
and releasing this people and the world from enchantment and bondage? And
shall I fail to become famous to the ages and the times because of such
as thee, flea?'

So Kadza whispered to Noorna, 'What's that he's muttering? Is't of
Shagpat? for I mark him not here, nor the light by which he's girt.'

She answered, 'Listen with the ear and the eye and all the senses.'

Now, presently they heard Baba Mustapha say in a louder tone, like one
that is secure from interruption, 'Two lathers, and this the third! a
potent lather! and I wot there's not a hair in this world resisteth the
sweep of my blade over such a lather as--Ah! flea of iniquity and
abomination! what! am I doomed to thy torments?--so let's spread! Lo!
this lather, is't not the pride of Shiraz? and the polish and smoothness
it sheddeth, is't not roseate? my invention! as the poet says,--O
accursed flea! now the knee-joint, now the knee-cap, and 'tis but a hop
for thee to the arm-pit. Fires of the pit without bottom seize thee! is
no place sacred from thee, and art thou a restless soul, infernal flea?
So then, peace awhile, and here's for the third lather.'

While he was speaking Baba Mustapha advanced to a large white object that
sat motionless, upright like a snow-mound on a throne of cushions, and
commenced lathering. When she saw that, Kadza tossed up her head and her
throat, and a shriek was coming from her, for she was ware of Shagpat;
but Noorna stifled the shriek, and clutched her fast, whispering, 'He's
safe if thou have but patience, thou silly Kadza! and the flea will
defeat this fellow if thou spoil it not.'

So Kadza said, looking up, 'Is 't seen of Allah, and be the Genii still
in their depths?' but she constrained herself, peering and perking out
her chin, and lifting one foot and the other foot, as on furnaces of fire
in the excess of the fury she smothered. And lo, Baba Mustapha worked
diligently, and Shagpat was behind an exulting lather, even as one pelted
with wheaten flour-balls or balls of powdery perfume, and his hairiness
was as branches of the forest foliage bent under a sudden fall of
overwhelming snow that filleth the pits and sharpeneth the wolves with
hunger, and teacheth new cunning to the fox. A fox was Baba Mustapha in
his stratagems, and a wolf in the fierceness of his setting upon Shagpat.
Surely he drew forth the blade that was to shear Shagpat, and made with
it in the air a preparatory sweep and flourish; and the blade frolicked
and sent forth a light, and seemed eager for Shagpat. So Baba Mustapha
addressed his arm to the shearing, and inclined gently the edge of the
blade, and they marked him let it slide twice to a level with the head of
Shagpat, and at the third time it touched, and Kadza howled, but from
Baba Mustapha there burst a howl to madden the beasts; and he flung up
his blade, and wrenched open his robe, crying, 'A flea was it to bite in
that fashion? Now, I swear by the Merciful, a fang like that's common to
tigers and hyaenas and ferocious animals.'

Then looked he for the mark of the bite, plaining of its pang, and he
could find the mark nowhere. So, as he caressed himself, eyeing Shagpat
sheepishly and with gathering awe, Noorna said hurriedly to Kadza, 'Away
now, and call them in, the crowd about the palace, that they may behold
the triumph of Shagpat, for 'tis ripe, O Kadza!'

And Kadza replied, 'Thou'rt a wise woman, and I'll have thee richly
rewarded. Lo, I'm as a camel lightened of fifty loads, and the glory of
Shagpat see I as a new sun rising in the desert. Wullahy! thou'rt wise,
and I'll do thy bidding.'

Now, she went flying back to the palace, and called shrill calls to the
crowd, and collected them in the palace, and headed them through the
garden, and it was when Baba Mustapha had summoned courage for a second
essay, and was in the act of standing over Shagpat to operate on him,
that the crowd burst the doors, and he was quickly seized by them, and
tugged at and hauled at and pummelled, and torn and vituperated, and as a
wrecked vessel on stormy waters, plunging up and down with tattered
sails, when the crew fling overboard freight and ballast and provision.
Surely his time would have been short with that mob, but Noorna made
Kadza see the use of examining him before the King, and there were in
that mob sheikhs and fakirs, holy men who listened to the words of Kadza,
and exerted themselves to rescue Baba Mustapha, and quieted the rage that
was prevailing, and bore Baba Mustapha with them to the great palace of
the King, which was in the centre of that City. Now, when the King heard
of the attempt on Shagpat, and the affair of the Pomegranate Grain, he
gave orders for the admission of the people, as many of them as could be
contained in the Hall of Justice: and he set a guard over Baba Mustapha,
and commanded that Shagpat should be brought to the palace even as he
then was, and with the lather on him. So the regal mandate went forth,
and Shagpat was brought in state on cushions, and the potency of the drug
preserved his sedateness through all this, and he remained motionless in
sleep, folded in the centre of calm and satisfaction, while this tumult
was rageing and the City shook with uproar. But the people, when they saw
him whitened behind a lather, wrath at Baba Mustapha's polluting touch
and the audacity of barbercraft wrestled in them with the outpouring of
reverence for Shagpat, and a clamour arose for the instant sacrifice of
Baba Mustapha at the foot of their idol Shagpat. And the whole of the
City of Shagpat, men, women, and children, and the sheikhs and the
dervishes and crafts of the City besieged the King's palace in that
middle hour of the noon, clamouring for the sacrifice of Baba Mustapha at
the feet of their idol Shagpat.



THE BURNING OF THE IDENTICAL

Now, the Great Hall for the dispensing of justice in the palace of the
King was one on which the architect and the artificers had lavished all
their arts and subtleties of design and taste and their conceptions of
uniformity and grandeur, so that none entered it without a sense of
abasement, and the soul acknowledged awfulness and power in him that
ruled and sat eminent on the throne of that Hall. For, lo! the throne was
of solid weighty gold, overhung with rich silks and purples; and the hall
was lofty, with massive pillars, fifty on either side, ranging in
stateliness down toward the blaze of the throne; and the pillars were
pillars of porphyry and of jasper and precious marble, carven over all of
them with sentences of the cunningest wisdom, distichs of excellence,
odes of the poet, stanzas sharp with the incisiveness of wit, and that
solve knotty points with but one stroke; and these pillars were each the
gift of a mighty potentate of earth or of a Genie.

In the centre of the Hall a fountain set up a glittering jet, and spread
abroad the breath of freshness, leaping a height of sixty feet, and
shimmering there in a wide bright canopy with dropping silver sides. It
was rumoured of the waters of this fountain that they were fed
underground from the waters of the Sacred River, brought there in the
reign of El Rasoon, a former sovereign in the City of Shagpat, by the
labours of Zak,--a Genie subject to the magic of Azrooka, the Queen of El
Rasoon; but, of a surety, none of earth were like to them in silveriness
and sweet coolingness, and they were as wine to the weary.

Now, the King sat on his throne in the Hall, and around him his
ministers, and Emirs, and chamberlains, and officers of state, and black
slaves, and the soldiers of his guard armed with naked scimitars. And the
King was as a sun in splendour, severely grave, and a frown on his
forehead to darken kingdoms, for the attempt on Shagpat had stirred his
kingly wrath, and awakened zeal for the punishment of all conspirators
and offenders. So when Shagpat was borne in to the King upon his throne
of cushions where he sat upright, smiling and inanimate, the King
commanded that he should be placed at his side, the place of honour; and
Shagpat was as a moon behind the whiteness of the lathers; even as we
behold moon and sun together in the heavens, was Shagpat by the King.

There was great hubbub in the Hall at the entrance of Shagpat, and a hum
of rage and muttered vehemence passed among the assembled people that
filled the hall like a cavern of the sea, the sea roaring outside; but
presently the King spake, and all hushed. Then said he, 'O people!
thought I to see a day that would shame Shagpat? he that has brought
honour and renown upon me and all of this city, so that we shine a
constellation and place of pilgrimage to men in remote islands and
corners of the earth? Yea! and to Afrites and Genii? Have I not
castigated barbers, and brought barbercraft to degradation, so that no
youth is taught to exercise it? And through me the tackle of the barber,
is't not a rusty and abominated weapon, and as a sword thrown by and
broken, for that it dishonoured us? Surely, too, I have esteemed Shagpat
precious.'

While he spake, the King gazed on Shagpat, and was checked by passion at
beholding him under the lather, so that the people praised Shagpat and
the King. Then said he, 'O people, who shall forecast disasters and
triumphs? Lo, I had this day at dawn intelligence from recreant Oolb, and
its King and Court, and of their return to do honour to Shagpat! And I
had this day at dawn tidings, O people, from Shiraz, and of the adhesion
of that vain city and its provinces to the might of Shagpat! So commenced
the day, yet is he, the object of the world's homage, within a few hours
defiled by a lather and the hand of an impious one!'

At these words of the King there rose a shout of vindictiveness and fury;
but he cried, 'Punishment on the offenders in season, O people! Probably
we have not abased ourselves for the honour that has befallen us in
Shagpat, and the distinction among nations and tribes and races, and
creeds and sects, that we enjoy because of Shagpat. Behold! in abasement
voluntarily undertaken there is exceeding brightness and exaltation; for
how is the sun a sun save that daily he dippeth in darkness, to rise
again freshly majestic? So then, be mine the example, O people of the
City of Shagpat!'

Thereupon lo, the King descended from his throne, and stripped to the
loins, flinging away his glittering crown and his robes, and abased
himself to the dust with loud cries and importunities and howls, and
penitential ejaculations and sobbings; and it was in that Hall as when
the sun goeth down in storm. Likewise the ministers of the King, and the
Viziers and Emirs and officers of state, and slaves, and soldiers of the
guard, bared their limbs, and fell beside the King with violent outcries
and wailings; and the whole of the people in the Hall prostrated their
bodies with wailings and lamentations. And Baba Mustapha feigned to
bewail himself, and Noorna bin Noorka knelt beside Kadza, and shrieked
loudest, striking her breast and scattering her hair; and that Hall was
as a pit full of serpents writhing, and of tigers and lions and wild
beasts howling, each pitching his howl a note above his neighbours, so
that the tone rose and sank, and there was no one soul erect in that Hall
save Shagpat, he on his throne of cushions smiling behind the lathers,
inanimate, serene as they that sin not. After an hour's lapse there came
a pause, and the people hearkened for the voice of the King; but in the
intervals a louder moan would strike their ears, and they whispered among
themselves, "Tis that of the fakir, El Zoop!' and the moaning and howling
prevailed again. And again they heard another moan, a deep one, as of the
earth in its throes, and said among themselves, ''Tis that of Bootlbac,
the drumbeater!' and this led off to the howl of Areep, the dervish; and
this was followed by the shriek of Zeel, the garlic-seller; and the waul
of Krooz el Krazawik, the carrier; and the complainings of Dob, the
confectioner; and the groan of Sallap, the broker; and the yell of
Azawool, the builder. There would have been no end to it known; but the
King rose and commenced plucking his beard and his hair,--they likewise
in silence. When he had performed this ceremony a space, the King called,
and a basin of water was brought to him, and handed round by slaves, and
all dipped in it their hands, and renewed their countenances and
re-arranged their limbs; and the Hall brightened with the eye of the
King, and he cried, 'O people, lo, the plot is revealed to me, and 'tis a
deep one; but, by this beard, we'll strike at the root of it, and a blow
of deadliness. Surely we have humiliated ourselves, and vengeance is
ours! How say ye?'

A noise like the first sullen growl of a vexed wild beast which telleth
that fury is fast travelling and the teeth will flash, followed these
words; and the King called to his soldiers of the guard, 'Ho! forth with
this wretch that dared defile Shagpat, the holy one! and on your heads be
it to fetch hither Feshnavat, the son of Feil, that was my Vizier, he
that was envious of Shagpat, and whom we spared in our clemency.'

Some of the guard went from the Hall to fulfil the King's injunction on
Feshnavat, others thrust forth Baba Mustapha in the eyes of the King.
Baba Mustapha was quaking as a frog quaketh for water, and he trembled
and was a tongueless creature deserted of his lower limbs, and with
eyeballs goggling, through exceeding terror. Now, when the King saw him,
he contracted his brows as one that peereth on a small and minute object,
crying, 'How! is't such as he, this monster of audaciousness and horrible
presumption? Truly 'tis said:

     "For ruin and the deeds preluding change,
     Fear not great Beasts, nor Eagles when they range:
     But dread the crawling worm or pismire mean,
     Satan selects them, for they are unseen."

And this wretch is even of that sort, the select of Satan! Off with the
top of the reptile, and away with him!'

Now, at the issue of the mandate Baba Mustapha choked, and horror blocked
the throat of confession in him, so that he did nought save stagger
imploringly; but the prompting of Noorna sent Kadza to the foot of the
throne, and Kadza bent her body and exclaimed, 'O King of the age! 'tis
Kadza, the espoused of Shagpat thy servant, that speaketh; and lo! a wise
woman has said in my ear, "How if this emissary and instrument of the
Evil One, this barber, this filthy fellow, be made to essay on Shagpat
before the people his science and his malice? for 'tis certain that
Shagpat is surrounded where he sitteth by Genii invisible, defended by
them, and no harm can hap to him, but an illumination of glory and
triumph manifest": and for this barber, his punishment can afterwards be
looked to, O great King!'

The King mused awhile and sank in his beard. Then said he to them that
had hold of Baba Mustapha watching for the signal, 'I have thought over
it, and the means of bringing double honour on the head of Shagpat. So
release this fellow, and put in his hands the tackle taken from him.'

This was done, and the people applauded the wisdom of the King, and
crowded forward with sharpness of expectation; but Baba Mustapha, when he
felt in his hands the tackle, the familiar instruments, strength and wit
returned to him in petty measures, and he thought, 'Perchance there'll
yet be time for my nephew to strike, if he fail me not; fool that I was
to look for glory, and not leave the work to him, for this Shagpat is a
mighty one, powerful in fleas, and it needeth something other than tackle
to combat such as he. A mighty one, said I? by Allah, he's awful in his
mightiness!'

So Baba Mustapha kept delaying, and feigned to sharpen the blade, and the
King called to him, 'Haste! to the work! is it for thee, vile wretch, to
make preparation for the accursed thing in our presence?' And the people
murmured and waxed impatient, and the King called again, 'Thou'lt essay
this, thou wretch, without a head, let but another minute pass.' So when
Baba Mustapha could delay no longer, he sighed heavily and his trembling
returned, and the power of Shagpat smote him with an invisible hand, so
that he could scarce move; but dread pricked him against dread, and he
advanced upon Shagpat to shear him, and assumed the briskness of the
barber, and was in the act of bending over him to bring the blade into
play, when, behold, one of the chamberlains of the King stood up in the
presence and spake a word that troubled him, and the King rose and
hurried to a balcony looking forth on the Desert, and on three sides of
the Desert three separate clouds of dust were visible, and from these
clouds presently emerged horsemen with spears and pennons and plumes; and
he could discern the flashing of their helms and the glistening of
steel-plates and armour of gold and silver. Seeing this, the colour went
from the cheeks of the King and his face became as a pinched pomegranate,
and he cried aloud, 'What visitation's this? Awahy! we are beset, and
here's abasement brought on us without self-abasing!' Meantime these
horsemen detached themselves from the main bodies and advanced at a
gallop, wheeling and circling round each other, toward the walls of the
city, and when they were close they lowered their arms and made signs of
amity, and proclaimed their mission and the name of him they served. So
tidings were brought to the King that the Lords of three cities, with
vast retinues, were come, by reason of a warning, to pay homage to
Shagpat, the son of Shimpoor; and these three cities were the cities of
Oolb, and of Gaf, and of Shiraz, even these!

Now, when the King heard of it, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy, and
arrayed himself in glory, and mounted a charger, the pride of his
stables, and rode out to meet the Lords of the three cities surrounded by
the horsemen of his guard. And it was within half-a-mile of the city
walls that the four sovereigns met, and dismounted and saluted and
embraced, and bestowed on one another kingly flatteries, and the titles
of Cousin and Brother. So when the unctions of Royalty were over, these
three Kings rode back to the city with the King that was their host, and
the horsemen of the three kingdoms pitched their tents and camped outside
the walls, making cheer. Then the King of the City of Shagpat related to
the three Kings the story of Shagpat and the attempt that had been made
on him; and in the great Hall of Justice he ordained the erecting of
thrones for them whereon to sit; and they, when they had paid homage to
Shagpat, sat by him there on either side. Then the King cried, 'This
likewise owe we to Shagpat, our glory! See, now, how the might that's in
him shall defeat the machinations of evil, O my cousins of Oolb, and of
Gaf, and of Shiraz.' Thereupon he called, 'Bring forth the barber!'

So Baba Mustapha was thrust forth by the soldiers of the guard; and the
King of Shiraz, who was no other than the great King Shahpushan,
exclaimed, when he beheld Baba Mustapha, 'He? why, it is the prince of
barbers and talkative ones! Hath he not operated on my head, the head of
me in old time? Truly now, if it be in man to shave Shagpat, the hand of
this barber will do it!'

And the King of Oolb peered on Baba Mustapha, crying, 'Even this fellow I
bastinadoed!'

And the King of Gaf, that was Kresnuk, famous in the annals of the time,
said aloud, 'I'm amazed at the pertinacity of this barber! To my court he
came, searching some silly nephew, and would have shaved us all in spite
of our noses; yea, talked my chief Vizier into a dead sleep, and so
thinned him. And there was no safety from him save in thongs and stripes
and lashes!'

Now, upon that the King of the City cried, 'Be the will of Allah
achieved, and the inviolacy of Shagpat made manifest! Thou barber, thou!
do thy worst to contaminate him, and take the punishment in store for
thee. And if it is written thou succeed, then keep thy filthy life: small
chance of that!'

Baba Mustapha remembered the poet's words:

     The abyss is worth a leap, however wide,
     When life, sweet life, is on the other side.

And he controlled himself to the mastery of his members, and stepped
forward to essay once more the Shaving of Shagpat. Lo, the great Hall was
breathless, nought heard save the splashing of the fountain in its fall,
and the rustle of the robe of Baba Mustapha as he aired his right arm,
hovering round Shagpat like a bird about the nest; and he was buzzing as
a bee ere it entereth the flower, and quivered like a butterfly when 'tis
fluttering over a blossom; and Baba Mustapha sniffed at Shagpat within
arm's reach, fearing him, so that the people began to hum with a great
rapture, and the King Shahpushan cried, 'Aha! mark him! this monkey
knoweth the fire!'

But the King of the City of Shagpat was wroth, and commanded his guards
to flourish their scimitars, and the keen light cut the chords of
indecision in Baba Mustapha, and drove him upon Shagpat with a dash of
desperation; and lo! he stretched his hand and brought down the blade
upon the head of Shagpat. Then was the might of Shagpat made manifest,
for suddenly in his head the Identical rose up straight, even to a level
with the roof of that hall, burning as it had been an angry flame of many
fiery colours, and Baba Mustapha was hurled from him a great space like a
ball that reboundeth, and he was twisting after the fashion of envenomed
serpents, sprawling and spurning, and uttering cries of horror. Surely,
to see that sight the four Kings and the people bit their forefingers,
and winked till the water stood in their eyes, and Kadza, turning about,
exclaimed, 'This owe we to the wise woman! where lurketh she?' So she
called about the hall, 'wise woman! wise woman!'

Now, when she could find Noorna bin Noorka nowhere in that crowd, she
shrieked exultingly, ''Twas a Genie! Wullahy! all Afrites, male and
female, are in the service of Shagpat, my light, my eyes, my sun! I his
moon!'

Meantime the King of the City called to Baba Mustapha, 'Hast thou had
enough of barbering, O vile one? Ho! a second essay on the head of
Shagpat! so shall the might that's in him be indisputable, bruited
abroad, and a great load upon the four winds.'

Now, Baba Mustapha was persuaded by the scimitars of the guard to a
second essay on the head of Shagpat, and the second time he was shot away
from Shagpat through the crowd and great assemblage to the extreme end of
the hall, where he lay writhing about, abandoned in loathliness; and he
in his despondency, and despite of protestation and the slackness of his
limbs, was pricked again by the scimitars of the guard to a third essay
on the head of Shagpat, the people jeering at him, for they were joyous,
light of heart; and lo! the third time he was shot off violently, and
whirled away like a stone from a sling, even into the outer air and
beyond the city walls, into the distance of waste places. And now a great
cry rose from the people, as it were a song of triumph, for the Identical
stood up wrathfully from the head of Shagpat, burning in brilliance,
blinding to look on, he sitting inanimate beneath it; and it waxed in
size and pierced through the roof of the hall, and was a sight to the
streets of the city; and the horsemen camped without the walls beheld it,
and marvelled, and it was as a pillar of fire to the solitudes of the
Desert afar, and the wild Arab and wandering Bedouins and caravans of
pilgrimage. Distant cities asked the reason of that appearance, and the
cunning fakir interpreted it, and the fervent dervish expounded from it,
and messengers flew from gate to gate and from land to land in
exultation, and barbers hid their heads, and were friendly with the fox
in his earth, because of that light. So the Identical burned on the head
of Shagpat as in wrath, and with exceeding splendour of attraction, three
nights and three days; and the fishes of the sea shoaled to the sea's
surface and stared at it, and the fowls of the air congregated about the
fury of the light with screams and mad flutters, till the streets and
mosques and minarets and bright domes and roofs and cupolas of the City
of Shagpat were blackened with scorched feathers of the vulture and the
eagle and the rook and the raven and the hawk, and other birds, sacred
and obscene; so was the triumph of Shagpat made manifest to men and the
end of the world by the burning of the Identical three days and three
nights.



THE FLASHES OF THE BLADE

Now, it was the morning of the fourth day, and lo! at the first leap of
the sun of that day the flame of the Identical abated in its fierceness,
and it dwindled and darkened, and tapered and flickered feebly,
descending from its altitude in the heavens and through the ceiling of
the Hall, and lay down to sleep among the intricate lengths and frizzled
convolutions and undulating weights flowing from Shagpat, an
undistinguished hair, even as the common hairs of his head. So, upon
that, the four fasting Kings breathed, and from the people of the City
there went up a mighty shout of gladness and congratulation at the glory
they had witnessed; and they took the air deeply into their chests, and
were as divers that have been long fathoms-deep under water, and ascend
and puff hard and press the water from their eyes, that yet refuse to
acknowledge with a recognition the things that be and the sights above,
so mazed are they with those unmentionable marvels and treasures and
profusion of jewels, and splendid lazy growths and lavish filmy
illuminations, and multitudinous pearls and sheering shells, that lie
heaped in the beds of the ocean. As the poet has said:

        After too strong a beam,
         Too bright a glory,
        We ask, Is this a dream
         Or magic story?

And he says:

     When I've had rapturous visions such as make
     The sun turn pale, and suddenly awake,
     Long must I pull at memory in this beard,
     Ere I remember men and things revered.

So was it with the people of the City, and they stood in the Hall and
winked staringly at one another, shouting and dancing at intervals,
capering with mad gravity, exclaiming on the greatness of that they had
witnessed. And Zeel the garlic-seller fell upon Mob the confectioner, and
cried, 'Was this so, O Dob? Wullahy! this glory, was it verily?' And Dob
peered dimly upon Zeel, whispering solemnly, 'Say, now, art thou of a
surety that Zeel the garlic-seller known to me, my boon-fellow?' And the
twain turned to Sallap the broker, and exchanged interjections with him,
and with Azawool the builder, and with Krooz el Krazawik the carrier; and
they accosted Bootlbac the drum-beater, where he stood apart, drumming
the air as to a march of triumph, and no word would he utter, neither to
Zeel, nor to Sallap, nor to Krooz el Krazawik, nor to Azawool his
neighbour, nor to any present, but continued drumming on the air rapidly
as in answer, increasing in the swiftness of his drumming till it was a
rage to mark him, and the excitement about Bootlbac became as a mad eddy
in the midst of a mighty stream, he drumming the air with exceeding
swiftness to various measures, beating before him as on the tightened
skin, lost to all presences save the Identical and Shagpat. So they edged
away from Bootlbac in awe, saying, 'He's inspired, Bootlbac! 'tis the
triumph of Shagpat he drummeth.' They feigned to listen to him till their
ears deceived them, and they rejoiced in the velocity of the soundless
tune of Bootlbac the drum-beater, and were stirred by it, excited to a
forgetfulness of their fasting. Such was the force of the inspiration of
Bootlbac the drum-beater, caused by the burning of the Identical.

Now, the four Kings, when they had mastered their wits, gazed in silence
on Shagpat, and sighed and shook their heads, and were as they that have
swallowed a potent draught and ponder sagely over the gulp. Surely, the
visages of the Kings of Shiraz and of Gaf and of Oolb betokened dread of
Shagpat and amazement at him; but the King of the City exulted, and the
shining of content was on his countenance, and he cried, 'Wondrous!' and
again, 'Wullahy, wondrous!' and 'Oh, glory!' And he laughed and clucked
and chuckled, and the triumph of Shagpat was to him as a new jewel in his
crown outshining all others, and he was for awhile as the cock smitten
with the pride of his comb, the peacock magnified by admiration of his
tail. Then he cried, 'For this, praise we Allah and the Prophet. Wullahy,
'twas wondrous!' and he went off again into a roll of cluckings and
chucklings and exclamations of delight, crying, 'Need they further proof
of the power in Shagpat now? Has he not manifested it? So true is that
saying--

     "The friend that flattereth weakeneth at length;
     It is the foe that calleth forth our strength."

Wondrous! and never knew earth a thing to equal it in the range of
marvels!'

Now, ere the last word was spoken by the King, there passed through the
sky a mighty flash. Those in the Hall saw it, and the horsemen of the
three cities encamped without the walls were nigh blinded by the keenness
of its blaze. So they looked into the height, and saw straight over the
City a speck of cloud, but no thunder came from it; and the King cried,
'These be Genii! the issue of this miracle is yet to come! look for it,
and exult.' Then he turned to the other Kings, but they were leaning to
right and left in their seats, as do the intoxicated, without strength to
answer his questioning. So he exclaimed, 'A curse on my head! have I
forgotten the laws of hospitality? my cousins are famished!' He was
giving orders for the spreading of a sumptuous banquet when there passed
through the sky another mighty flash. They awaited the thunder this time
confidently, yet none came. Suddenly the King exclaimed, ''Tis the wrath
of Shagpat that his assailants remain uncastigated!' Then cried he to the
eunuchs of the guard, 'Hither with Feshnavat, the son of Feil!' And the
King said to Feshnavat, 'Thou plotter! envious of Shagpat!' Here the
King, Kresnuk, fell forward at the feet of Shagpat from sheer inanition,
and the King of the City ordered instantly wines and viands to be brought
into the Hall, and commenced saying to Feshnavat, in the words of the
wise entablature:

    '"Of reckless mercy thus the Sage declared:
     More culpable the sparer than the spared;
     For he that breaks one law, breaks one alone:
     But who thwarts Justice flouts Law's sovereign throne."

And have I not been over-merciful in thy case?'

As the King was haranguing Feshnavat, his nostril took in the steam of
the viands and the fresh odours of the wines, and he could delay no
longer to satisfy his craving, but caught up the goblet, and drank from
it till his visage streamed the tears of contentment. Lo, while he put
forth his hand tremblingly, as to continue the words of his condemnation
of the Vizier, the heavens were severed by a third flash, one exceeding
in fierceness the other flashes; and now the Great Hall rocked, and the
pillars and thrones trembled, and the eyes of Shagpat opened. He made no
motion, but sat like a wonder of stone, looking before him. Surely, Kadza
shrieked, and rushed forward to him from the crowd, yet he said nothing,
and was as one frozen. So the King cried, 'He waketh! the flashes
preceded his wakening! Now shall he see the vengeance of kings on his
enemies.' Thereupon he made a signal, and the scimitars of the guard were
in air over the head of Feshnavat, when darkness as of the dropping of
night fell upon all, and the darkness spake, saying, 'I am Abarak of the
Bar, preceder of the Event!'

Then it was light, but the ears of every soul present were pierced with
the wailing of wild animals, and on all sides from the Desert hundreds of
them were seen making toward the City, some swiftly, others at a heavy
pace; and when they were come near they crouched and fawned, and dropped
their dry tongues as in awe. There was the serpent, meek as before the
days of sin, and the leopard slinking to get among the legs of men, and
the lion came trundling along in utter flabbiness, raising not his head.
Soon the streets were thronged with elephants and lions and sullen
tigers, and wild cats and wolves, not a tail erect among them: great was
the marvel! So the King cried, 'We 're in the thick of wonders; banquet
we lightly while they increase upon us! What's yonder little man?' This
was Abarak that stood before the King, and exclaimed, 'I am the darkness
that announceth the mastery of the Event, as a shadow before the sun's
approach, and it is the Shaving of Shagpat!' The world darkened before
the eyes of the King when he heard this, and in a moment Abarak was
clutched by the soldiers of the guard, and dragged beside Feshnavat to
await the final blow; and this would have parted two heads from two
bodies at one stroke, but now Noorna bin Noorka entered the hall, veiled
and in the bright garb of a bride, with veiled attendants about her, and
the people opened to give her passage to the throne of the King. So she
said, 'Delay the stroke yet awhile, O Head of the Magnanimous! I am she
claimed by Shagpat; surely, I am bride of him that is Master of the
Event, and the hour of bridals is the hour of clemency.'

The King looked at Shagpat, perplexed; but the eye of Shagpat gazed as
into the distance of another world. Then said he, 'We shall hear nought
from the mouth of Shagpat till he is avenged, and till then he is silent
with exceeding wrath.' Hearing this, Noorna ran quickly to a window of
the Hall, and let loose a white dove from her bosom.

Then came there that flash which is recorded in old traditions as the
fourth of the flashes of thunderless lightnings, after the passing of
which, hundreds of fakirs that had been awaiting it saw nothing further
on this earth. Down through the Hall it swept; and lo! when the Kings and
the people recovered their sight to regard Shagpat, he was, one side of
him, clean shorn, the shaven side shining as the very moon!

Surely from that moment there was no longer aught mortal in the combat
that ensued. For now, while amazement and horror palsied all present, the
Genie Karaz, uttering a howl of fury, shot down the length of the Hall
like a black storm-bolt, and caught up Shagpat, and whirled off with him
into the air; and they beheld him dive and dodge the lightnings that
beset him from upper heaven, catching Shagpat from them, now by the
heels, now by the hair remaining one side his head. This lasted a full
hour, when the Genie paused a second, and made a sheer descent into the
earth. Then saw they the wings of Koorookh, each a league in length,
overshadow the entire land, and on the neck of the bird sat Shibli
Bagarag cleaving through the earth with his blade, and he sat on Koorookh
as the moon sits on the midnight. There was no light save the light shed
abroad by the flashes of the blade, and in these they beheld the air
suffocated with Afrites and Genii in a red and brown and white heat,
followers of Karaz. Strokes of the blade clove them, and their blood was
fire that flowed over the feathers of Koorookh, lighting him in a
conflagration; but the bird flew constantly to a fountain of earth below
and extinguished it. Then the battle recommenced, and the solid earth
yawned at the gashes made by the mighty blade, and its depths revealed
how Karaz was flying with Shagpat from circle to circle of the
under-regions, hurrying with him downward to the lowest circle, that was
flaming to points, like the hair of vast heads. Presently they saw a
wondrous quivering flash divide the Genie, and his heels and head fell
together in the abysses, leaving Shagpat prone on great brasiers of penal
flame. Then the blade made another hissing sweep over Shagpat, leaving
little of the wondrous growths on him save a topknot.

But now was the hour struck when Rabesqurat could be held no longer
serving the ferry in Aklis; and the terrible Queen streamed in the sky,
like a red disastrous comet, and dived, eagle-like, into the depths,
re-ascending with Shagpat in her arms, cherishing him; and lo, there were
suddenly a thousand Shagpats multiplied about, and the hand of Shibli
Bagarag became exhausted with hewing at them. The scornful laugh of the
Queen was heard throughout earth as she triumphed over Shibli Bagarag
with hundreds of Shagpats, Illusions; and he knew not where to strike at
the Shagpat, and was losing all sleight of hand, dexterity, and cunning.
Noorna shrieked, thinking him lost; but Abarak seized his bar, and
leaning it in the direction of Aklis, blew a pellet from it that struck
on the eye of Aklis, and this sent out a stretching finger of beams, and
singled forth very Shagpat from the myriads of semblances, so that he
glowed and was ruddy, the rest cowering pale, and dissolving like
salt-grains in water.

Then saw earth and its inhabitants how the Genie Karaz re-ascended in the
shape of a vulture with a fire beak, pecking at the eyes of him that
wielded the Sword, so that he was bewildered and shook this way and that
over the neck of Koorookh, striking wildly, languidly cleaving towers and
palaces, and monuments of earth underneath him. Now, Shibli Bagarag
discerned his danger, and considered, 'The power of the Sword is to sever
brains and thoughts. Great is Allah! I'll seek my advantage in that.'

So he whirled Koorookh thrice in the crimson smoke of the atmosphere, and
put the blade between the first and second thought in the head of
Rabesqurat, whereby the sense of the combat became immediately confused
in her mind, and she used her powers as the fool does, equally against
all, for the sake of mischief solely--no longer mistress of her own
Illusions; and she began doubling and trebling Shibli Bagarag on the neck
of monstrous birds, speeding in draggled flightiness from one point of
the sky to another. Even in the terror of the combat, Shibli Bagarag was
fair to burst into a fit of violent laughter at the sight of the Queen
wagging her neck loosely, perking it like a mad raven; and he took heart,
and swept the blade rapidly over Shagpat as she dandled him, leaving
Shagpat but one hair remaining on him; yet was that the Identical; and it
arose, and was a serpent in his head, and from its jaws issued a river of
fiery serpents: these and a host of Afrites besieged Shibli Bagarag; and
now, to defend himself, he unloosed the twin Genii, Karavejis and
Veejravoosh, from the wrist of that hand which wielded the Sword of
Aklis, and these alternately interwound before and about him, and were
even as a glittering armour of emerald plates, warding from him the
assaults of the host; and lo! he flew, and the battle followed him over
blazing cities and lands on fire with the slanting hail of sparkles.

By this time every soul in the City of Shagpat, kings and people, all
save Abarak and Noorna bin Noorka, were overcome and prostrate with their
faces to the ground; but Noorna watched the conflict eagerly, and saw the
head of Shagpat sprouting incessant fresh crops of hair, despite the
pertinacious shearing of her betrothed. Then she smote her hands, and
cried, 'Yea! though I lose my beauty and the love of my betrothed, I must
join in this, or he'll be lost.' So, saying to Abarak, 'Watch over me,'
she went into the air, and, as she passed Rabesqurat, was multiplied into
twenty damsels of loveliness. Then Abarak beheld a scorpion following the
twenty in mid-air, and darting stings among them. Noorna tossed a ring,
and it fell in a circle of flame round the scorpion. So, while the
scorpion was shooting in squares to escape from the circle, the
fire-beaked vulture flew to it, and fluttered a dense rain which
swallowed the flame, and the scorpion and vulture assailed Noorna, that
was changed to a golden hawk in the midst of nineteen other golden hawks.
Now, as Rabesqurat came scudding by, and saw the encounter, she made the
twenty hawks a hundred. The Genie Karaz howled at her, and pinioned her
to a pillar below in the Desert, with Shagpat in her arms. But, as he
soared aloft to renew the fight with Noorna, Shibli Bagarag loosed to her
aid the Slaves of the Sword, and Abarak marked him slope to a distant
corner of earth, and reascend in a cloud, which drew swiftly over the
land toward the Great Hall. Lo, Shibli Bagarag stepped from it through a
casement of the Hall, and with him Shagpat, a slack weight, mated out of
all power of motion. Koorookh swooped low, on his back Baba Mustapha, and
Shibli Bagarag flung Abarak beside him on the bird. Then Koorookh whirred
off with them; and while the heavens raged, Shibli Bagarag prepared a
rapid lather, and dashed it over Shagpat, and commenced shearing him with
lightning sweeps of the blade. 'Twas as a racing wheel of fire to see
him! Suddenly he desisted, and wiped the sweat from his face. Then
calling on the name of Allah, he gave a last keen cunning sweep with the
blade, and following that, the earth awfully quaked and groaned, as if
speaking in the abysmal tongue the Mastery of the Event to all men. Aklis
was revealed in burning beams as of a sun, and the trouble of the air
ceased, vapours slowly curling to the four quarters. Shibli Bagarag had
smitten clean through the Identical! Terribly had Noorna and those that
aided her been oppressed by the multitude of their enemies; but, in a
moment these melted away, and Karaz, together with the scorpion that was
Goorelka, vanished. Day was on the baldness of Shagpat.



CONCLUSION

So was shaved Shagpat, the son of Shimpoor, the son of Shoolpi, the son
of Shullum, by Shibli Bagarag, of Shiraz, according to preordainment.

The chronicles relate, that no sooner had he mastered the Event, than men
on the instant perceived what illusion had beguiled them, and, in the
words of the poet,--

     The blush with which their folly they confess
     Is the first prize of his supreme success.

Even Bootlbac, the drum-beater, drummed in homage to him, and the four
Kings were they that were loudest in their revilings of the spouse of
Kadza, and most obsequious in praises of the Master. The King of the City
was fain to propitiate his people by a voluntary resignation of his
throne to Shibli Bagarag, and that King took well to heart the wisdom of
the sage, when he says:

     Power, on Illusion based, o'ertoppeth all;
     The more disastrous is its certain fall!

Surely Shibli Bagarag returned the Sword to the Sons of Aklis, flashing
it in midnight air, and they, with the others, did reverence to his
achievement. They were now released from the toil of sharpening the Sword
a half-cycle of years, to wander in delight on the fair surface of the
flowery earth, breathing its roses, wooing its brides; for the mastery of
an Event lasteth among men the space of one cycle of years, and after
that a fresh Illusion springeth to befool mankind, and the Seven must
expend the concluding half-cycle in preparing the edge of the Sword for a
new mastery. As the poet declareth in his scorn:

     Some doubt Eternity: from life begun,
     Has folly ceased within them, sire to son?
     So, ever fresh Illusions will arise
     And lord creation, until men are wise.

And he adds:

     That is a distant period; so prepare
     To fight the false, O youths, and never spare!
     For who would live in chronicles renowned
     Must combat folly, or as fool be crowned.

Now, for the Kings of Shiraz and of Gaf, Shibli Bagarag entertained them
in honour; but the King of Oolb he disgraced and stripped of his robes,
to invest Baba Mustapha in those royal emblems--a punishment to the
treachery of the King of Oolb, as is said by Aboo Eznol:

     When nations with opposing forces, rash,
      Shatter each other, thou that wouldst have stood
      Apart to profit by the monstrous feud,
     Thou art the surest victim of the crash.

     Take colours of whichever side thou wilt,
      And stedfastly thyself in battle range;
      Yet, having taken, shouldst thou dare to change,
     Suspicion hunts thee as a thing of guilt.

Baba Mustapha, was pronounced Sovereign of Oolb, amid the acclamations of
the guard encamped under the command of Ravaloke, without the walls.

No less did Shibli Bagarag honour the benefactor of Noorna, making him
chief of his armies; and he, with his own hand, bestowed on the good old
warrior the dress of honour presented to him by the Seven Sons,
charactered with all the mysteries of Aklis, a marvel lost to men in the
failure to master the Illusion now dominating earth.

So, then, of all that had worshipped Shagpat, only Kadza clung to him,
and she departed with him into the realms of Rabesqurat, who reigned
there, divided against herself by the stroke of the Sword. The Queen is
no longer mighty, for the widening of her power has weakened it, she
being now the mistress of the single-thoughted, and them that follow one
idea to the exclusion of a second. The failure in the unveiling of her
last-cherished Illusion was in the succumbing frailty of him that
undertook the task, the world and its wise men having come to the belief
that in thwackings there was ignominy to the soul of man, and a tarnish
on the lustre of heroes. On that score, hear the words of the poet, a
vain protest:

        Ye that nourish hopes of fame!
        Ye who would be known in song!
     Ponder old history, and duly frame
     Your souls to meek acceptance of the thong.

        Lo! of hundreds who aspire,
        Eighties perish-nineties tire!
     They who bear up, in spite of wrecks and wracks,
     Were season 'd by celestial hail of thwacks.

        Fortune in this mortal race
        Builds on thwackings for its base;
     Thus the All-Wise doth make a flail a staff,
     And separates his heavenly corn from chaff.

        Think ye, had he never known
        Noorna a belabouring crone,
     Shibli Bagarag would have shaved Shagpat
     The unthwack'd lives in chronicle a rat!

       'Tis the thwacking in this den
        Maketh lions of true men!
     So are we nerved to break the clinging mesh
     Which tames the noblest efforts of poor flesh.

Feshnavat became the Master's Vizier, and Abarak remained at the right
hand of Shibli Bagarag, his slave in great adventure. No other condition
than bondage gave peace to Abarak. He was of the class enumerated by the
sage:

     Who, with the strength of giants, are but tools,
     The weighty hands which serve selected fools.

Now, this was how it was in the case of Baba Mustapha, and the four
Kings, and Feshnavat, and Abarak, and Ravaloke, and Kadza, together with
Shagpat; but, in the case of Noorna bin Noorka, surely she was withering
from a sting of the scorpion shot against her bosom, but the Seven Sons
of Aklis gave her a pass into Aklis on the wings of Koorookh, and
Gulrevaz, the daughter of Aklis, tended her, she that was alone capable
of restoring her, and counteracting the malice of the scorpion by the
hand of purity. So Noorna, prospered; but Shibli Bagarag drooped in
uncertainty of her state, and was as a reaper in a field of harvest,
around whom lie the yellow sheaves, and the brown beam of autumn on his
head, the blaze of plenty; yet is he joyless and stands musing, for one
is away who should be there, and without whom the goblet of Success
giveth an unsweetened draught, and there is nothing pleasant in life, and
the flower on the summit of achievement is blighted. At last, as he was
listlessly dispensing justice in the Great Hall, seven days after the
mastery of the Event, lo, Noorna, in air, borne by Gulrevaz, she fair and
fresh in the revival of health and beauty, and the light of constant
love. Of her entry into the Great Hall, to the embrace of her betrothed,
the poet exclaims, picturing her in a rapture:

   Her march is music, and my soul obeys
    Each motion, as a lute to cunning fingers
   I see the earth throb for her as she sways
    Wave-like in air, and like a great flower lingers
   Heavily over all, as loath to leave
   What loves her so, and for her loss would grieve.

   But oh, what other hand than heaven's can paint
    Her eyes, and that black bow from which their lightning
   Pierces afar! long lustrous eyes, that faint
    In languor, or with stormy passion brightening:
   Within them world in world lights up from sleep,
   And gives a glimpse of the eternal deep.

   Sigh round her, odorous winds; and, envious rose,
    So vainly envious, with such blushes gifted,
   Bow to her; die, strangled with jealous throes,
    O Bulbul! when she sings with brow uplifted;
   Gather her, happy youth, and for thy gain
   Thank Him who could such loveliness ordain.

Surely the Master of the Event advanced to her in the glory of a Sultan,
and seated her beside him in majesty, and their contract of marriage was
read aloud in the Hall, and witnessed, and sealed: joyful was he! Then
commenced that festival which lasted forty days, and is termed the
Festival of the honours of hospitality to the Sons of Aldis, wherein the
head-cook of the palace, Uruish, performed wonders in his science, and
menaced the renown of Zrmack, the head-cook of King Shamshureen. Even so
the confectioner, Dob, excelled himself in devices and inventions, and
his genius urged him to depict in sugars and pastes the entire adventures
of Shibli Bagarag in search of the Sword. Honour we Uruish and Do-b! as
the poet sayeth:

     Divide not this fraternal twain;
     One are they, and one should for ever remain:
     As to sweet close in fine music we look,
     So the Confectioner follows the Cook.

And one of the Sons of Aklis, Zaragal, beholding this masterpiece of Dob,
which was served to the guests in the Great Hall on the fortieth evening,
was fair to exclaim in extemporaneous verse:

        Have I been wafted to a rise
        Of banquet spread in Paradise,
        Dower'd with consuming powers divine;--
        That I, who have not fail'd to dine,
               And greatly,
        Fall thus upon the cater and wine
               Sedately?

So there was feasting in the Hall, and in the City, and over Earth; great
pledging the Sovereign of Barbers, who had mastered an Event, and become
the benefactor of his craft and of his kind. 'Tis certain the race of the
Bagarags endured for many centuries, and his seed were the rulers of men,
and the seal of their empire stamped on mighty wax the Tackle of Barbers.

Now, of the promise made by the Sons of Aklis to visit Shibli Bagarag
before their compulsory return to the labour of the Sword, and recount to
him the marvel of their antecedent adventures; and of the love and grief
nourished in the souls of men by the beauty and sorrowful eyes of
Gulrevaz, that was mined the Bleeding Lily, and of her engagement to tell
her story, on condition of receiving the first-born of Noorna to nurse
for a season in Aklis; and of Shibli Bagarag's restoration of towns and
monuments destroyed by his battle with Karaz; and of the constancy of
passion of Shibli Bagarag for Noorna, and his esteem for her sweetness,
and his reverence for her wisdom; and of the glory of his reign, and of
the Songs and Sentences of Noorna, and of his Laws for the protection and
upholding of women, in honour of Noorna, concerning which the Sage has
said:

     Were men once clad in them, we should create
     A race not following, but commanding, fate:

--of all these records, and of the reign of Baba Mustapha in Oolb, surely
the chronicles give them in fulness; and they that have searched say of
them, there is matter therein for the amusement of generations.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS

     A woman's at the core of every plot man plotteth
     Arm'd with Fear the Foe finds passage to the vital part
     Delay in thine undertaking Is disaster of thy own making
     Every failure is a step advanced
     Failures oft are but advising friends
     Fear nought so much as Fear itself
     How little a thing serves Fortune's turn
     If thou wouldst fix remembrance--thwack!
     Lest thou commence to lie--be dumb!
     Like an ill-reared fruit, first at the core it rotteth
     More culpable the sparer than the spared
     No runner can outstrip his fate
     Nought credit but what outward orbs reveal
     Persist, if thou wouldst truly reach thine ends
     Ripe with oft telling and old is the tale
     The curse of sorrow is comparison!
     The king without his crown hath a forehead like the clown
     The overwise themselves hoodwink
     'Tis the first step that makes a path
     Too often hangs the house on one loose stone
     Vanity maketh the strongest most weak
     When to loquacious fools with patience rare I listen
     Where fools are the fathers of every miracle
     Who in a labyrinth wandereth without clue



THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL

By George Meredith

1905



CONTENTS
I.        THE INMATES OF RAYNHAM ABBEY
II.       FATES SELECTED THE FOURTEENTH BIRTHDAY TO TRY THE STRENGTH
III.      THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
IV.       ARSON
V.        ADRIAN PLIES HIS HOOK
VI.       JUVENILE STRATAGEMS
VII.      DAPHNE'S BOWER
VIII.     THE BITTER CUP
IX.       A FINE DISTINCTION
X.        RICHARD PASSES THROUGH HIS PRELIMINARY ORDEAL
XI.       THE LAST ACT OF THE BAKEWELL COMEDY IS CLOSED IN A LETTER
XII.      THE BLOSSOMING SEASON
XIII.     THE MAGNETIC AGE
XIV.      AN ATTRACTION
XV.       FERDINAND AND MIRANDA
XVI.      UNMASKING OF MASTER RIPTON THOMPSON
XVII.     GOOD WINE AND GOOD BLOOD
XVIII.    THE SYSTEM ENCOUNTERS THE WILD OATS SPECIAL PLEA
XIX.      A DIVERSION PLAYED ON A PENNY WHISTLE
XX.       CELEBRATES THE TIME-HONOURED TREATMENT OF A DRAGON BY THE HERO
XXI.      RICHARD IS SUMMONED TO TOWN TO HEAR A SERMON
XXII.     INDICATES THE APPROACHES OF FEVER
XXIII.    CRISIS IN THE APPLE-DISEASE
XXIV.     OF THE SPRING PRIMROSE AND THE AUTUMNAL
XXV.      IN WHICH THE HERO TAKES A STEP
XXVI.     RECORDS THE RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF THE HERO
XXVII.    CONTAINS AN INTERCESSION FOR THE HEROINE
XXVIII.   PREPARATIONS FOR ACTION WERE CONDUCTED UNDER THE APRIL OF LOVERS
XIX.      THE LAST ACT OF THE COMEDY TAKES THE PLACE OF THE FIRST
XXX.      CELEBRATES THE BREAKFAST
XXXI.     THE PHILOSOPHER APPEARS IN PERSON
XXXII.    PROCESSION OF THE CAKE
XXXIII.   NURSING THE DEVIL
XXXIV.    CONQUEST OF AN EPICURE
XXXV.     CLARE'S MARRIAGE
XXXVI.    A DINNER-PARTY AT RICHMOND
XXXVII.   MRS. BERRY ON MATRIMONY
XXXVIII.  AN ENCHANTRESS
XXXIX.    THE LITTLE BIRD AND THE FALCON: A BERRY TO THE RESCUE!
XL.       CLARE'S DIARY
XLI.      AUSTIN RETURNS
XLII.     NATURE SPEAKS
XLIII.    AGAIN THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
XLIV.     THE LAST SCENE
XLV.      LADY BLANDISH TO AUSTIN WENTWORTH



CHAPTER I

Some years ago a book was published under the title of "The Pilgrim's
Scrip." It consisted of a selection of original aphorisms by an anonymous
gentleman, who in this bashful manner gave a bruised heart to the world.

He made no pretension to novelty. "Our new thoughts have thrilled dead
bosoms," he wrote; by which avowal it may be seen that youth had
manifestly gone from him, since he had ceased to be jealous of the
ancients. There was a half-sigh floating through his pages for those days
of intellectual coxcombry, when ideas come to us affecting the embraces
of virgins, and swear to us they are ours alone, and no one else have
they ever visited: and we believe them.

For an example of his ideas of the sex he said:

"I expect that Woman will be the last thing civilized by Man."

Some excitement was produced in the bosoms of ladies by so monstrous a
scorn of them.

One adventurous person betook herself to the Heralds' College, and there
ascertained that a Griffin between two Wheatsheaves, which stood on the
title-page of the book, formed the crest of Sir Austin Absworthy Bearne
Feverel, Baronet, of Raynham Abbey, in a certain Western county folding
Thames: a man of wealth and honour, and a somewhat lamentable history.

The outline of the baronet's story was by no means new. He had a wife,
and he had a friend. His marriage was for love; his wife was a beauty;
his friend was a sort of poet. His wife had his whole heart, and his
friend all his confidence. When he selected Denzil Somers from among his
college chums, it was not on account of any similarity of disposition
between them, but from his intense worship of genius, which made him
overlook the absence of principle in his associate for the sake of such
brilliant promise. Denzil had a small patrimony to lead off with, and
that he dissipated before he left college; thenceforth he was dependent
upon his admirer, with whom he lived, filling a nominal post of bailiff
to the estates, and launching forth verse of some satiric and sentimental
quality; for being inclined to vice, and occasionally, and in a quiet
way, practising it, he was of course a sentimentalist and a satirist,
entitled to lash the Age and complain of human nature. His earlier poems,
published under the pseudonym of Diaper Sandoe, were so pure and
bloodless in their love passages, and at the same time so biting in their
moral tone, that his reputation was great among the virtuous, who form
the larger portion of the English book-buying public. Election-seasons
called him to ballad-poetry on behalf of the Tory party. Dialer possessed
undoubted fluency, but did tittle, though Sir Austin was ever expecting
much of him.

A languishing, inexperienced woman, whose husband in mental and in moral
stature is more than the ordinary height above her, and who, now that her
first romantic admiration of his lofty bearing has worn off, and her
fretful little refinements of taste and sentiment are not instinctively
responded to, is thrown into no wholesome household collision with a
fluent man, fluent in prose and rhyme. Lady Feverel, when she first
entered on her duties at Raynham, was jealous of her husband's friend. By
degrees she tolerated him. In time he touched his guitar in her chamber,
and they played Rizzio and Mary together.

       "For I am not the first who found
        The name of Mary fatal!"

says a subsequent sentimental alliterative love-poem of Diaper's.

Such was the outline of the story. But the baronet could fill it up. He
had opened his soul to these two. He had been noble Love to the one, and
to the other perfect Friendship. He had bid them be brother and sister
whom he loved, and live a Golden Age with him at Raynham. In fact, he had
been prodigal of the excellences of his nature, which it is not good to
be, and, like Timon, he became bankrupt, and fell upon bitterness.

The faithless lady was of no particular family; an orphan daughter of an
admiral who educated her on his half-pay, and her conduct struck but at
the man whose name she bore.

After five years of marriage, and twelve of friendship, Sir Austin was
left to his loneliness with nothing to ease his heart of love upon save a
little baby boy in a cradle. He forgave the man: he put him aside as poor
for his wrath. The woman he could not forgive; she had sinned every way.
Simple ingratitude to a benefactor was a pardonable transgression, for he
was not one to recount and crush the culprit under the heap of his good
deeds. But her he had raised to be his equal, and he judged her as his
equal. She had blackened the world's fair aspect for him.

In the presence of that world, so different to him now, he preserved his
wonted demeanor, and made his features a flexible mask. Mrs. Doria Forey,
his widowed sister, said that Austin might have retired from his
Parliamentary career for a time, and given up gaieties and that kind of
thing; her opinion, founded on observation of him in public and private,
was, that the light thing who had taken flight was but a feather on her
brother's Feverel-heart, and his ordinary course of life would be
resumed. There are times when common men cannot bear the weight of just
so much. Hippias Feverel, one of his brothers, thought him immensely
improved by his misfortune, if the loss of such a person could be so
designated; and seeing that Hippias received in consequence free quarters
at Raynham, and possession of the wing of the Abbey she had inhabited, it
is profitable to know his thoughts. If the baronet had given two or three
blazing dinners in the great hall he would have deceived people
generally, as he did his relatives and intimates. He was too sick for
that: fit only for passive acting.

The nursemaid waking in the night beheld a solitary figure darkening a
lamp above her little sleeping charge, and became so used to the sight as
never to wake with a start. One night she was strangely aroused by a
sound of sobbing. The baronet stood beside the cot in his long black
cloak and travelling cap. His fingers shaded a lamp, and reddened against
the fitful darkness that ever and anon went leaping up the wall. She
could hardly believe her senses to see the austere gentleman, dead
silent, dropping tear upon tear before her eyes. She lay stone-still in a
trance of terror and mournfulness, mechanically counting the tears as
they fell, one by one. The hidden face, the fall and flash of those heavy
drops in the light of the lamp he held, the upright, awful figure,
agitated at regular intervals like a piece of clockwork by the low
murderous catch of his breath: it was so piteous to her poor human nature
that her heart began wildly palpitating. Involuntarily the poor girl
cried out to him, "Oh, sir!" and fell a-weeping. Sir Austin turned the
lamp on her pillow, and harshly bade her go to sleep, striding from the
room forthwith. He dismissed her with a purse the next day.

Once, when he was seven years old, the little fellow woke up at night to
see a lady bending over him. He talked of this the neat day, but it was
treated as a dream; until in the course of the day his uncle Algernon was
driven home from Lobourne cricket-ground with a broken leg. Then it was
recollected that there was a family ghost; and, though no member of the
family believed in the ghost, none would have given up a circumstance
that testified to its existence; for to possess a ghost is a distinction
above titles.

Algernon Feverel lost his leg, and ceased to be a gentleman in the
Guards. Of the other uncles of young Richard, Cuthbert, the sailor,
perished in a spirited boat expedition against a slaving negro chief up
the Niger. Some of the gallant lieutenant's trophies of war decorated the
little boy's play-shed at Raynham, and he bequeathed his sword to
Richard, whose hero he was. The diplomatist and beau, Vivian, ended his
flutterings from flower to flower by making an improper marriage, as is
the fate of many a beau, and was struck out of the list of visitors.
Algernon generally occupied the baronet's disused town-house, a wretched
being, dividing his time between horse and card exercise: possessed, it
was said, of the absurd notion that a man who has lost his balance by
losing his leg may regain it by sticking to the bottle. At least,
whenever he and his brother Hippias got together, they never failed to
try whether one leg, or two, stood the bottle best. Much of a puritan as
Sir Austin was in his habits, he was too good a host, and too thorough a
gentleman, to impose them upon his guests. The brothers, and other
relatives, might do as they would while they did not disgrace the name,
and then it was final: they must depart to behold his countenance no
more.

Algernon Feverel was a simple man, who felt, subsequent to his
misfortune, as he had perhaps dimly fancied it before, that his career
lay in his legs, and was now irrevocably cut short. He taught the boy
boxing, and shooting, and the arts of fence, and superintended the
direction of his animal vigour with a melancholy vivacity. The remaining
energies of Algernon's mind were devoted to animadversions on swift
bowling. He preached it over the county, struggling through laborious
literary compositions, addressed to sporting newspapers, on the Decline
of Cricket. It was Algernon who witnessed and chronicled young Richard's
first fight, which was with young Tom Blaize of Belthorpe Farm, three
years the boy's senior.

Hippias Feverel was once thought to be the genius of the family. It was
his ill luck to have strong appetites and a weak stomach; and, as one is
not altogether fit for the battle of life who is engaged in a perpetual
contention with his dinner, Hippias forsook his prospects at the Bar,
and, in the embraces of dyspepsia, compiled his ponderous work on the
Fairy Mythology of Europe. He had little to do with the Hope of Raynham
beyond what he endured from his juvenile tricks.

A venerable lady, known as Great-Aunt Grantley, who had money to bequeath
to the heir, occupied with Hippias the background of the house and shared
her candles with him. These two were seldom seen till the dinner hour,
for which they were all day preparing, and probably all night
remembering, for the Eighteenth Century was an admirable trencherman, and
cast age aside while there was a dish on the table.

Mrs. Doris Foray was the eldest of the three sisters of the baronet, a
florid affable woman, with fine teeth, exceedingly fine light wavy hair,
a Norman nose, and a reputation for understanding men; and that, with
these practical creatures, always means the art of managing them. She had
married an expectant younger son of a good family, who deceased before
the fulfilment of his prospects; and, casting about in her mind the
future chances of her little daughter and sole child, Clare, she marked
down a probability. The far sight, the deep determination, the resolute
perseverance of her sex, where a daughter is to be provided for and a man
to be overthrown, instigated her to invite herself to Raynham, where,
with that daughter, she fixed herself.

The other two Feverel ladies were the wife of Colonel Wentworth and the
widow of Mr. Justice Harley: and the only thing remarkable about them was
that they were mothers of sons of some distinction.

Austin Wentworth's story was of that wretched character which to be
comprehended, that justice should be dealt him, must be told out and
openly; which no one dares now do.

For a fault in early youth, redeemed by him nobly, according to his
light, he was condemned to undergo the world's harsh judgment: not for
the fault--for its atonement.

"--Married his mother's housemaid," whispered Mrs. Doria, with a ghastly
look, and a shudder at young men of republican sentiments, which he was
reputed to entertain. "'The compensation for Injustice,' says the
'Pilgrim's Scrip,' is, that in that dark Ordeal we gather the worthiest
around us."

And the baronet's fair friend, Lady Blandish, and some few true men and
women, held Austin Wentworth high.

He did not live with his wife; and Sir Austin, whose mind was bent on the
future of our species, reproached him with being barren to posterity,
while knaves were propagating.

The principal characteristic of the second nephew, Adrian Harley, was his
sagacity. He was essentially the wise youth, both in counsel and in
action.

"In action," the "Pilgrim's Scrip" observes, "Wisdom goes by majorities."

Adrian had an instinct for the majority, and, as the world invariably
found him enlisted in its ranks, his appellation of wise youth was
acquiesced in without irony.

The wise youth, then, had the world with him, but no friends. Nor did he
wish for those troublesome appendages of success. He caused himself to be
required by people who could serve him; feared by such as could injure.
Not that he went out of the way to secure his end, or risked the expense
of a plot. He did the work as easily as he ate his daily bread. Adrian
was an epicurean; one whom Epicurus would have scourged out of his
garden, certainly: an epicurean of our modern notions. To satisfy his
appetites without rashly staking his character, was the wise youth's
problem for life. He had no intimates except Gibbon and Horace, and the
society of these fine aristocrats of literature helped him to accept
humanity as it had been, and was; a supreme ironic procession, with
laughter of Gods in the background. Why not laughter of mortals also?
Adrian had his laugh in his comfortable corner. He possessed peculiar
attributes of a heathen God. He was a disposer of men: he was polished,
luxurious, and happy--at their cost. He lived in eminent self-content, as
one lying on soft cloud, lapt in sunshine. Nor Jove, nor Apollo, cast eye
upon the maids of earth with cooler fire of selection, or pursued them in
the covert with more sacred impunity. And he enjoyed his reputation for
virtue as something additional. Stolen fruits are said to be sweet;
undeserved rewards are exquisite.

The best of it was, that Adrian made no pretences. He did not solicit the
favourable judgment of the world. Nature and he attempted no other
concealment than the ordinary mask men wear. And yet the world would
proclaim him moral, as well as wise, and the pleasing converse every way
of his disgraced cousin Austin.

In a word, Adrian Harley had mastered his philosophy at the early age of
one-and-twenty. Many would be glad to say the same at that age
twice-told: they carry in their breasts a burden with which Adrian's was
not loaded. Mrs. Doria was nearly right about his heart. A singular
mishap (at his birth, possibly, or before it) had unseated that organ,
and shaken it down to his stomach, where it was a much lighter, nay, an
inspiring weight, and encouraged him merrily onward. Throned there it
looked on little that did not arrive to gratify it. Already that region
was a trifle prominent in the person of the wise youth, and carried, as
it were, the flag of his philosophical tenets in front of him. He was
charming after dinner, with men or with women: delightfully sarcastic:
perhaps a little too unscrupulous in his moral tone, but that his moral
reputation belied him, and it must be set down to generosity of
disposition.

Such was Adrian Harley, another of Sir Austin's intellectual favourites,
chosen from mankind to superintend the education of his son at Raynham.
Adrian had been destined for the Church. He did not enter into Orders. He
and the baronet had a conference together one day, and from that time
Adrian became a fixture in the Abbey. His father died in his promising
son's college term, bequeathing him nothing but his legal complexion, and
Adrian became stipendiary officer in his uncle's household.

A playfellow of Richard's occasionally, and the only comrade of his age
that he ever saw, was Master Ripton Thompson, the son of Sir Austin's
solicitor, a boy without a character.

A comrade of some description was necessary, for Richard was neither to
go to school nor to college. Sir Austin considered that the schools were
corrupt, and maintained that young lads might by parental vigilance be
kept pretty secure from the Serpent until Eve sided with him: a period
that might be deferred, he said. He had a system of education for his
son. How it worked we shall see.



CHAPTER II

October, shone royally on Richard's fourteenth birthday. The brown
beechwoods and golden birches glowed to a brilliant sun. Banks of
moveless cloud hung about the horizon, mounded to the west, where slept
the wind. Promise of a great day for Raynham, as it proved to be, though
not in the manner marked out.

Already archery-booths and cricketing-tents were rising on the lower
grounds towards the river, whither the lads of Bursley and Lobourne, in
boats and in carts, shouting for a day of ale and honour, jogged merrily
to match themselves anew, and pluck at the lining laurel from each
other's brows, line manly Britons. The whole park was beginning to be
astir and resound with holiday cries. Sir Austin Feverel, a thorough good
Tory, was no game-preserver, and could be popular whenever he chose,
which Sir Males Papworth, on the other side of the river, a fast-handed
Whig and terror to poachers, never could be. Half the village of Lobourne
was seen trooping through the avenues of the park. Fiddlers and gipsies
clamoured at the gates for admission: white smocks, and slate, surmounted
by hats of serious brim, and now and then a scarlet cloak, smacking of
the old country, dotted the grassy sweeps to the levels.

And all the time the star of these festivities was receding further and
further, and eclipsing himself with his reluctant serf Ripton, who kept
asking what they were to do and where they were going, and how late it
was in the day, and suggesting that the lads of Lobourne would be calling
out for them, and Sir Austin requiring their presence, without getting
any attention paid to his misery or remonstrances. For Richard had been
requested by his father to submit to medical examination like a boor
enlisting for a soldier, and he was in great wrath.

He was flying as though he would have flown from the shameful thought of
what had been asked of him. By-and-by he communicated his sentiments to
Ripton, who said they were those of a girl: an offensive remark,
remembering which, Richard, after they had borrowed a couple of guns at
the bailiff's farm, and Ripton had fired badly, called his friend a fool.

Feeling that circumstances were making him look wonderfully like one,
Ripton lifted his head and retorted defiantly, "I'm not!"

This angry contradiction, so very uncalled for, annoyed Richard, who was
still smarting at the loss of the birds, owing to Ripton's bad shot, and
was really the injured party. He, therefore bestowed the abusive epithet
on Ripton anew, and with increase of emphasis.

"You shan't call me so, then, whether I am or not," says Ripton, and
sucks his lips.

This was becoming personal. Richard sent up his brows, and stared at his
defier an instant. He then informed him that he certainly should call him
so, and would not object to call him so twenty times.

"Do it, and see!" returns Ripton, rocking on his feet, and breathing
quick.

With a gravity of which only boys and other barbarians are capable,
Richard went through the entire number, stressing the epithet to increase
the defiance and avoid monotony, as he progressed, while Ripton bobbed
his head every time in assent, as it were, to his comrade's accuracy, and
as a record for his profound humiliation. The dog they had with them
gazed at the extraordinary performance with interrogating wags of the
tail.

Twenty times, duly and deliberately, Richard repeated the obnoxious word.

At the twentieth solemn iteration of Ripton's capital shortcoming, Ripton
delivered a smart back-hander on Richard's mouth, and squared
precipitately; perhaps sorry when the deed was done, for he was a
kind-hearted lad, and as Richard simply bowed in acknowledgment of the
blow he thought he had gone too far. He did not know the young gentleman
he was dealing with. Richard was extremely cool.

"Shall we fight here?" he said.

"Anywhere you like," replied Ripton.

"A little more into the wood, I think. We may be interrupted." And
Richard led the way with a courteous reserve that somewhat chilled
Ripton's ardour for the contest. On the skirts of the wood, Richard threw
off his jacket and waistcoat, and, quite collected, waited for Ripton to
do the same. The latter boy was flushed and restless; older and broader,
but not so tight-limbed and well-set. The Gods, sole witnesses of their
battle, betted dead against him. Richard had mounted the white cockade of
the Feverels, and there was a look in him that asked for tough work to
extinguish. His brows, slightly lined upward at the temples, converging
to a knot about the well-set straight nose; his full grey eyes, open
nostrils, and planted feet, and a gentlemanly air of calm and alertness,
formed a spirited picture of a young combatant. As for Ripton, he was all
abroad, and fought in school-boy style--that is, he rushed at the foe
head foremost, and struck like a windmill. He was a lumpy boy. When he
did hit, he made himself felt; but he was at the mercy of science. To see
him come dashing in, blinking and puffing and whirling his arms abroad
while the felling blow went straight between them, you perceived that he
was fighting a fight of desperation, and knew it. For the dreaded
alternative glared him in the face that, if he yielded, he must look like
what he had been twenty times calumniously called; and he would die
rather than yield, and swing his windmill till he dropped. Poor boy! he
dropped frequently. The gallant fellow fought for appearances, and down
he went. The Gods favour one of two parties. Prince Turnus was a noble
youth; but he had not Pallas at his elbow. Ripton was a capital boy; he
had no science. He could not prove he was not a fool! When one comes to
think of it, Ripton did choose the only possible way, and we should all
of us have considerable difficulty in proving the negative by any other.
Ripton came on the unerring fist again and again; and if it was true, as
he said in short colloquial gasps, that he required as much beating as an
egg to be beaten thoroughly, a fortunate interruption alone saved our
friend from resembling that substance. The boys heard summoning voices,
and beheld Mr. Morton of Poer Hall and Austin Wentworth stepping towards
them.

A truce was sounded, jackets were caught up, guns shouldered, and off
they trotted in concert through the depths of the wood, not stopping till
that and half-a-dozen fields and a larch plantation were well behind
them.

When they halted to take breath, there was a mutual study of faces.
Ripton's was much discoloured, and looked fiercer with its natural
war-paint than the boy felt. Nevertheless, he squared up dauntlessly on
the new ground, and Richard, whose wrath was appeased, could not refrain
from asking him whether he had not really had enough.

"Never!" shouts the noble enemy.

"Well, look here," said Richard, appealing to common sense, "I'm tired of
knocking you down. I'll say you're not a fool, if you'll give me your
hand."

Ripton demurred an instant to consult with honour, who bade him catch at
his chance.

He held out his hand. "There!" and the boys grasped hands and were fast
friends. Ripton had gained his point, and Richard decidedly had the best
of it. So, they were on equal ground. Both, could claim a victory, which
was all the better for their friendship.

Ripton washed his face and comforted his nose at a brook, and was now
ready to follow his friend wherever he chose to lead. They continued to
beat about for birds. The birds on the Raynham estates were found
singularly cunning, and repeatedly eluded the aim of these prime shots,
so they pushed their expedition into the lands of their neighbors, in
search of a stupider race, happily oblivious of the laws and conditions
of trespass; unconscious, too, that they were poaching on the demesne of
the notorious Farmer Blaize, the free-trade farmer under the shield of
the Papworths, no worshipper of the Griffin between two Wheatsheaves;
destined to be much allied with Richard's fortunes from beginning to end.
Farmer Blaize hated poachers, and, especially young chaps poaching, who
did it mostly from impudence. He heard the audacious shots popping right
and left, and going forth to have a glimpse at the intruders, and
observing their size, swore he would teach my gentlemen a thing, lords or
no lords.

Richard had brought down a beautiful cock-pheasant, and was exulting over
it, when the farmer's portentous figure burst upon them, cracking an
avenging horsewhip. His salute was ironical.

"Havin' good sport, gentlemen, are ye?"

"Just bagged a splendid bird!" radiant Richard informed him.

"Oh!" Farmer Blaize gave an admonitory flick of the whip.

"Just let me clap eye on't, then."

"Say, please," interposed Ripton, who was not blind to doubtful aspects.

Farmer Blaize threw up his chin, and grinned grimly.

"Please to you, sir? Why, my chap, you looks as if ye didn't much mind
what come t'yer nose, I reckon. You looks an old poacher, you do. Tall ye
what 'tis'!" He changed his banter to business, "That bird's mine! Now
you jest hand him over, and sheer off, you dam young scoundrels! I know
ye!" And he became exceedingly opprobrious, and uttered contempt of the
name of Feverel.

Richard opened his eyes.

"If you wants to be horsewhipped, you'll stay where y'are!" continued the
farmer. "Giles Blaize never stands nonsense!"

"Then we'll stay," quoth Richard.

"Good! so be't! If you will have't, have't, my men!"

As a preparatory measure, Farmer Blaize seized a wing of the bird, on
which both boys flung themselves desperately, and secured it minus the
pinion.

"That's your game," cried the farmer. "Here's a taste of horsewhip for
ye. I never stands nonsense!" and sweetch went the mighty whip, well
swayed. The boys tried to close with him. He kept his distance and lashed
without mercy. Black blood was made by Farmer Blaize that day! The boys
wriggled, in spite of themselves. It was like a relentless serpent
coiling, and biting, and stinging their young veins to madness. Probably
they felt the disgrace of the contortions they were made to go through
more than the pain, but the pain was fierce, for the farmer laid about
from a practised arm, and did not consider that he had done enough till
he was well breathed and his ruddy jowl inflamed. He paused, to receive
the remainder of the cock-pheasant in his face.

"Take your beastly bird," cried Richard.

"Money, my lads, and interest," roared the farmer, lashing out again.

Shameful as it was to retreat, there was but that course open to them.
They decided to surrender the field.

"Look! you big brute," Richard shook his gun, hoarse with passion, "I'd
have shot you, if I'd been loaded. Mind if I come across you when I'm
loaded, you coward, I'll fire!" The un-English nature of this threat
exasperated Farmer Blaize, and he pressed the pursuit in time to bestow a
few farewell stripes as they were escaping tight-breeched into neutral
territory. At the hedge they parleyed a minute, the farmer to inquire if
they had had a mortal good tanning and were satisfied, for when they
wanted a further instalment of the same they were to come for it to
Belthorpe Farm, and there it was in pickle: the boys meantime exploding
in menaces and threats of vengeance, on which the farmer contemptuously
turned his back. Ripton had already stocked an armful of flints for the
enjoyment of a little skirmishing. Richard, however, knocked them all
out, saying, "No! Gentlemen don't fling stones; leave that to the
blackguards."

"Just one shy at him!" pleaded Ripton, with his eye on Farmer Blaize's
broad mark, and his whole mind drunken with a sudden revelation of the
advantages of light troops in opposition to heavies.

"No," said Richard, imperatively, "no stones," and marched briskly away.
Ripton followed with a sigh. His leader's magnanimity was wholly beyond
him. A good spanking mark at the farmer would have relieved Master
Ripton; it would have done nothing to console Richard Feverel for the
ignominy he had been compelled to submit to. Ripton was familiar with the
rod, a monster much despoiled of his terrors by intimacy. Birch-fever was
past with this boy. The horrible sense of shame, self-loathing, universal
hatred, impotent vengeance, as if the spirit were steeped in abysmal
blackness, which comes upon a courageous and sensitive youth condemned
for the first time to taste this piece of fleshly bitterness, and suffer
what he feels is a defilement, Ripton had weathered and forgotten. He was
seasoned wood, and took the world pretty wisely; not reckless of
castigation, as some boys become, nor oversensitive as to dishonour, as
his friend and comrade beside him was.

Richard's blood was poisoned. He had the fever on him severely. He would
not allow stone-flinging, because it was a habit of his to discountenance
it. Mere gentlemanly considerations has scarce shielded Farmer Blaize,
and certain very ungentlemanly schemes were coming to ghastly heads in
the tumult of his brain; rejected solely from their glaring
impracticability even to his young intelligence. A sweeping and
consummate vengeance for the indignity alone should satisfy him.
Something tremendous must be done; and done without delay. At one moment
he thought of killing all the farmer's cattle; next of killing him;
challenging him to single combat with the arms, and according to the
fashion of gentlemen. But the farmer was a coward; he would refuse. Then
he, Richard Feverel, would stand by the farmer's bedside, and rouse him;
rouse him to fight with powder and ball in his own chamber, in the
cowardly midnight, where he might tremble, but dare not refuse.

"Lord!" cried simple Ripton, while these hopeful plots were raging in his
comrade's brain, now sparkling for immediate execution, and anon lapsing
disdainfully dark in their chances of fulfilment, "how I wish you'd have
let me notch him, Ricky! I'm a safe shot. I never miss. I should feel
quite jolly if I'd spanked him once. We should have had the beat of him
at that game. I say!" and a sharp thought drew Ripton's ideas nearer
home, "I wonder whether my nose is as bad as he says! Where can I see
myself?"

To these exclamations Richard was deaf, and he trudged steadily forward,
facing but one object.

After tearing through innumerable hedges, leaping fences, jumping dykes,
penetrating brambly copses, and getting dirty, ragged, and tired, Ripton
awoke from his dream of Farmer Blaize and a blue nose to the vivid
consciousness of hunger; and this grew with the rapidity of light upon
him, till in the course of another minute he was enduring the extremes of
famine, and ventured to question his leader whither he was being
conducted. Raynham was out of sight. They were a long way down the
valley, miles from Lobourne, in a country of sour pools, yellow brooks,
rank pasturage, desolate heath. Solitary cows were seen; the smoke of a
mud cottage; a cart piled with peat; a donkey grazing at leisure,
oblivious of an unkind world; geese by a horse-pond, gabbling as in the
first loneliness of creation; uncooked things that a famishing boy cannot
possibly care for, and must despise. Ripton was in despair.

"Where are you going to?" he inquired with a voice of the last time of
asking, and halted resolutely.

Richard now broke his silence to reply, "Anywhere."

"Anywhere!" Ripton took up the moody word. "But ain't you awfully
hungry?" he gasped vehemently, in a way that showed the total emptiness
of his stomach.

"No," was Richard's brief response.

"Not hungry!" Ripton's amazement lent him increased vehemence. "Why, you
haven't had anything to eat since breakfast! Not hungry? I declare I'm
starving. I feel such a gnawing I could eat dry bread and cheese!"

Richard sneered: not for reasons that would have actuated a similar
demonstration of the philosopher.

"Come," cried Ripton, "at all events, tell us where you're going to
stop."

Richard faced about to make a querulous retort. The injured and hapless
visage that met his eye disarmed him. The lad's nose, though not exactly
of the dreaded hue, was really becoming discoloured. To upbraid him would
be cruel. Richard lifted his head, surveyed the position, and exclaiming
"Here!" dropped down on a withered bank, leaving Ripton to contemplate
him as a puzzle whose every new move was a worse perplexity.



CHAPTER III

Among boys there are laws of honour and chivalrous codes, not written or
formally taught, but intuitively understood by all, and invariably acted
upon by the loyal and the true. The race is not nearly civilized, we must
remember. Thus, not to follow your leader whithersoever he may think
proper to lead; to back out of an expedition because the end of it frowns
dubious, and the present fruit of it is discomfort; to quit a comrade on
the road, and return home without him: these are tricks which no boy of
spirit would be guilty of, let him come to any description of mortal
grief in consequence. Better so than have his own conscience denouncing
him sneak. Some boys who behave boldly enough are not troubled by this
conscience, and the eyes and the lips of their fellows have to supply the
deficiency. They do it with just as haunting, and even more horrible
pertinacity, than the inner voice, and the result, if the probation be
not very severe and searching, is the same. The leader can rely on the
faithfulness of his host: the comrade is sworn to serve. Master Ripton
Thompson was naturally loyal. The idea of turning off and forsaking his
friend never once crossed his mind, though his condition was desperate,
and his friend's behaviour that of a Bedlamite. He announced several
times impatiently that they would be too late for dinner. His friend did
not budge. Dinner seemed nothing to him. There he lay plucking grass, and
patting the old dog's nose, as if incapable of conceiving what a thing
hunger was. Ripton took half-a-dozen turns up and down, and at last flung
himself down beside the taciturn boy, accepting his fate.

Now, the chance that works for certain purposes sent a smart shower from
the sinking sun, and the wet sent two strangers for shelter in the lane
behind the hedge where the boys reclined. One was a travelling tinker,
who lit a pipe and spread a tawny umbrella. The other was a burly young
countryman, pipeless and tentless. They saluted with a nod, and began
recounting for each other's benefit the daylong-doings of the weather, as
it had affected their individual experience and followed their
prophecies. Both had anticipated and foretold a bit of rain before night,
and therefore both welcomed the wet with satisfaction. A monotonous
betweenwhiles kind of talk they kept droning, in harmony with the still
hum of the air. From the weather theme they fell upon the blessings of
tobacco; how it was the poor man's friend, his company, his consolation,
his comfort, his refuge at night, his first thought in the morning.

"Better than a wife!" chuckled the tinker. "No curtain-lecturin' with a
pipe. Your pipe an't a shrew."

"That be it!" the other chimed in. "Your pipe doan't mak' ye out wi' all
the cash Saturday evenin'."

"Take one," said the tinker, in the enthusiasm of the moment, handing a
grimy short clay. Speed-the-Plough filled from the tinker's pouch, and
continued his praises.

"Penny a day, and there y'are, primed! Better than a wife? Ha, ha!"

"And you can get rid of it, if ye wants for to, and when ye wants," added
tinker.

"So ye can!" Speed-the-Plough took him up. "And ye doan't want for to.
Leastways, t'other case. I means pipe."

"And," continued tinker, comprehending him perfectly, it don't bring
repentance after it."

"Not nohow, master, it doan't! And"--Speed-the-Plough cocked his eye--"it
doan't eat up half the victuals, your pipe doan't."

Here the honest yeoman gesticulated his keen sense of a clincher, which
the tinker acknowledged; and having, so to speak, sealed up the subject
by saying the best thing that could be said, the two smoked for some time
in silence to the drip and patter of the shower.

Ripton solaced his wretchedness by watching them through the briar hedge.
He saw the tinker stroking a white cat, and appealing to her, every now
and then, as his missus, for an opinion or a confirmation; and he thought
that a curious sight. Speed-the-Plough was stretched at full length, with
his boots in the rain, and his head amidst the tinker's pots, smoking,
profoundly contemplative. The minutes seemed to be taken up alternately
by the grey puffs from their mouths.

It was the tinker who renewed the colloquy. Said he, "Times is bad!"

His companion assented, "Sure-ly!"

"But it somehow comes round right," resumed the tinker. "Why, look here.
Where's the good o' moping? I sees it all come round right and tight. Now
I travels about. I've got my beat. 'Casion calls me t'other day to
Newcastle!--Eh?"

"Coals!" ejaculated Speed-the-Plough sonorously.

"Coals!" echoed the tinker. "You ask what I goes there for, mayhap? Never
you mind. One sees a mort o' life in my trade. Not for coals it isn't.
And I don't carry 'em there, neither. Anyhow, I comes back. London's my
mark. Says I, I'll see a bit o' the sea, and steps aboard a collier. We
were as nigh wrecked as the prophet Paul."

"--A--who's him?" the other wished to know.

"Read your Bible," said the tinker. "We pitched and tossed--'tain't that
game at sea 'tis on land, I can tell ye! I thinks, down we're
a-going--say your prayers, Bob Tiles! That was a night, to be sure! But
God's above the devil, and here I am, ye see." Speed-the-Plough lurched
round on his elbow and regarded him indifferently. "D'ye call that
doctrin'? He bean't al'ays, or I shoo'n't be scrapin' my heels wi'
nothin' to do, and, what's warse, nothin' to eat. Why, look heer. Luck's
luck, and bad luck's the con-trary. Varmer Bollop, t'other day, has's
rick burnt down. Next night his gran'ry's burnt. What do he tak' and go
and do? He takes and goes and hangs unsel', and turns us out of his
employ. God warn't above the devil then, I thinks, or I can't make out
the reckonin'."

The tinker cleared his throat, and said it was a bad case.

"And a darn'd bad case. I'll tak' my oath on't!" cried Speed-the-Plough.
"Well, look heer! Heer's another darn'd bad case. I threshed for Varmer
Blaize Blaize o' Beltharpe afore I goes to Varmer Bollop. Varmer Blaize
misses pilkins. He swears our chaps steals pilkins. 'Twarn't me steals
'em. What do he tak' and go and do? He takes and tarns us off, me and
another, neck and crop, to scuffle about and starve, for all he keers.
God warn't above the devil then, I thinks. Not nohow, as I can see!"

The tinker shook his head, and said that was a bad case also.

"And you can't mend it," added Speed-the-Plough. "It's bad, and there it
be. But I'll tell ye what, master. Bad wants payin' for." He nodded and
winked mysteriously. "Bad has its wages as well's honest work, I'm
thinkin'. Varmer Bollop I don't owe no grudge to: Varmer Blaize I do. And
I shud like to stick a Lucifer in his rick some dry windy night."
Speed-the-Plough screwed up an eye villainously. "He wants hittin' in the
wind,--jest where the pocket is, master, do Varmer Blaize, and he'll cry
out 'O Lor'!' Varmer Blaize will. You won't get the better o' Varmer
Blaize by no means, as I makes out, if ye doan't hit into him jest
there."

The tinker sent a rapid succession of white clouds from his mouth, and
said that would be taking the devil's side of a bad case.
Speed-the-Plough observed energetically that, if Farmer Blaize was on the
other, he should be on that side.

There was a young gentleman close by, who thought with him. The hope of
Raynham had lent a careless half-compelled attention to the foregoing
dialogue, wherein a common labourer and a travelling tinker had
propounded and discussed one of the most ancient theories of transmundane
dominion and influence on mundane affairs. He now started to his feet,
and came tearing through the briar hedge, calling out for one of them to
direct them the nearest road to Bursley. The tinker was kindling
preparations for his tea, under the tawny umbrella. A loaf was set forth,
oh which Ripton's eyes, stuck in the edge, fastened ravenously.
Speed-the-Plough volunteered information that Bursley was a good three
mile from where they stood, and a good eight mile from Lobourne.

"I'll give you half-a-crown for that loaf, my good fellow," said Richard
to the tinker.

"It's a bargain;" quoth the tinker, "eh, missus?"

His cat replied by humping her back at the dog.

The half-crown was tossed down, and Ripton, who had just succeeded in
freeing his limbs from the briar, prickly as a hedgehog, collared the
loaf.

"Those young squires be sharp-set, and no mistake," said the tinker to
his companion. "Come! we'll to Bursley after 'em, and talk it out over a
pot o' beer." Speed-the-Plough was nothing loath, and in a short time
they were following the two lads on the road to Bursley, while a
horizontal blaze shot across the autumn and from the Western edge of the
rain-cloud.



CHAPTER IV

Search for the missing boys had been made everywhere over Raynham, and
Sir Austin was in grievous discontent. None had seen them save Austin
Wentworth and Mr. Morton. The baronet sat construing their account of the
flight of the lads when they were hailed, and resolved it into an act of
rebellion on the part of his son. At dinner he drank the young heir's
health in ominous silence. Adrian Harley stood up in his place to propose
the health. His speech was a fine piece of rhetoric. He warmed in it
till, after the Ciceronic model, inanimate objects were personified, and
Richard's table-napkin and vacant chair were invoked to follow the steps
of a peerless father, and uphold with his dignity the honour of the
Feverels. Austin Wentworth, whom a soldier's death compelled to take his
father's place in support of the toast, was tame after such
magniloquence. But the reply, the thanks which young Richard should have
delivered in person were not forthcoming. Adrian's oratory had given but
a momentary life to napkin and chair. The company of honoured friends,
and aunts and uncles, remotest cousins, were glad to disperse and seek
amusement in music and tea. Sir Austin did his utmost to be hospitable
cheerful, and requested them to dance. If he had desired them to laugh he
would have been obeyed, and in as hearty a manner.

"How triste!" said Mrs. Doria Forey to Lobourne's curate, as that most
enamoured automaton went through his paces beside her with professional
stiffness.

"One who does not suffer can hardly assent," the curate answered, basking
in her beams.

"Ah, you are good!" exclaimed the lady. "Look at my Clare. She will not
dance on her cousin's birthday with anyone but him. What are we to do to
enliven these people?"

"Alas, madam! you cannot do for all what you do for one," the curate
sighed, and wherever she wandered in discourse, drew her back with silken
strings to gaze on his enamoured soul.

He was the only gratified stranger present. The others had designs on the
young heir. Lady Attenbury of Longford House had brought her
highly-polished specimen of market-ware, the Lady Juliana Jaye, for a
first introduction to him, thinking he had arrived at an age to estimate
and pine for her black eyes and pretty pert mouth. The Lady Juliana had
to pair off with a dapper Papworth, and her mama was subjected to the
gallantries of Sir Miles, who talked land and steam-engines to her till
she was sick, and had to be impertinent in self-defence. Lady Blandish,
the delightful widow, sat apart with Adrian, and enjoyed his sarcasms on
the company. By ten at night the poor show ended, and the rooms were
dark, dark as the prognostics multitudinously hinted by the disappointed
and chilled guests concerning the probable future of the hope of Raynham.
Little Clare kissed her mama, curtsied to the lingering curate, and went
to bed like a very good girl. Immediately the maid had departed, little
Clare deliberately exchanged night, attire for that of day. She was noted
as an obedient child. Her light was allowed to burn in her room for
half-an-hour, to counteract her fears of the dark. She took the light,
and stole on tiptoe to Richard's room. No Richard was there. She peeped
in further and further. A trifling agitation of the curtains shot her
back through the door and along the passage to her own bedchamber with
extreme expedition. She was not much alarmed, but feeling guilty she was
on her guard. In a short time she was prowling about the passages again.
Richard had slighted and offended the little lady, and was to be asked
whether he did not repent such conduct toward his cousin; not to be asked
whether he had forgotten to receive his birthday kiss from her; for, if
he did not choose to remember that, Miss Clare would never remind him of
it, and to-night should be his last chance of a reconciliation. Thus she
meditated, sitting on a stair, and presently heard Richard's voice below
in the hall, shouting for supper.

"Master Richard has returned," old Benson the butler tolled out
intelligence to Sir Austin.

"Well?" said the baronet.

"He complains of being hungry," the butler hesitated, with a look of
solemn disgust.

"Let him eat."

Heavy Benson hesitated still more as he announced that the boy had called
for wine. It was an unprecedented thing. Sir Austin's brows were
portending an arch, but Adrian suggested that he wanted possibly to drink
his birthday, and claret was conceded.

The boys were in the vortex of a partridge-pie when Adrian strolled in to
them. They had now changed characters. Richard was uproarious. He drank a
health with every glass; his cheeks were flushed and his eyes brilliant.
Ripton looked very much like a rogue on the tremble of detection, but his
honest hunger and the partridge-pie shielded him awhile from Adrian's
scrutinizing glance. Adrian saw there was matter for study, if it were
only on Master Ripton's betraying nose, and sat down to hear and mark.

"Good sport, gentlemen, I trust to hear?" he began his quiet banter, and
provoked a loud peal of laughter from Richard.

"Ha, ha! I say, Rip: 'Havin' good sport, gentlemen, are ye?' You remember
the farmer! Your health, parson! We haven't had our sport yet. We're
going to have some first-rate sport. Oh, well! we haven't much show of
birds. We shot for pleasure, and returned them to the proprietors. You're
fond of game, parson! Ripton is a dead shot in what Cousin Austin calls
the Kingdom of 'would-have-done' and 'might-have-been.' Up went the
birds, and cries Rip, 'I've forgotten to load!' Oh, ho!--Rip! some more
claret.--Do just leave that nose of yours alone.--Your health, Ripton
Thompson! The birds hadn't the decency to wait for him, and so, parson,
it's their fault, and not Rip's, you haven't a dozen brace at your feet.
What have you been doing at home, Cousin Rady?"

"Playing Hamlet, in the absence of the Prince of Denmark. The day without
you, my dear boy, must be dull, you know."

  "'He speaks: can I trust what he says is sincere?
   There's an edge to his smile that cuts much like a sneer.'

"Sandoe's poems! You know the couplet, Mr. Rady. Why shouldn't I quote
Sandoe? You know you like him, Rady. But, if you've missed me, I'm sorry.
Rip and I have had a beautiful day. We've made new acquaintances. We've
seen the world. I'm the monkey that has seen the world, and I'm going to
tell you all about it. First, there's a gentleman who takes a rifle for a
fowling-piece. Next, there's a farmer who warns everybody, gentleman and
beggar, off his premises. Next, there's a tinker and a ploughman, who
think that God is always fighting with the devil which shall command the
kingdoms of the earth. The tinker's for God, and the ploughman"--

"I'll drink your health, Ricky," said Adrian, interrupting.

"Oh, I forgot, parson;--I mean no harm, Adrian. I'm only telling what
I've heard."

"No harm, my dear boy," returned Adrian. "I'm perfectly aware that
Zoroaster is not dead. You have been listening to a common creed. Drink
the Fire-worshippers, if you will."

"Here's to Zoroaster, then!" cried Richard. "I say, Rippy! we'll drink
the Fire-worshippers to-night won't we?"

A fearful conspiratorial frown, that would not have disgraced Guido
Fawkes, was darted back from the, plastic features of Master Ripton.

Richard gave his lungs loud play.

"Why, what did you say about Blaizes, Rippy? Didn't you say it was fun?"

Another hideous and silencing frown was Ripton's answer. Adrian matched
the innocent youths, and knew that there was talking under the table.
"See," thought he, "this boy has tasted his first scraggy morsel of life
today, and already he talks like an old stager, and has, if I mistake
not, been acting too. My respected chief," he apostrophized Sir Austin,
"combustibles are only the more dangerous for compression. This boy will
be ravenous for Earth when he is let loose, and very soon make his share
of it look as foolish as yonder game-pie!"--a prophecy Adrian kept to
himself.

Uncle Algernon shambled in to see his nephew before the supper was
finished, and his more genial presence brought out a little of the plot.

"Look here, uncle!" said Richard. "Would you let a churlish old brute of
a farmer strike you without making him suffer for it?"

"I fancy I should return the compliment, my lad," replied his uncle.

"Of course you would! So would I. And he shall suffer for it." The boy
looked savage, and his uncle patted him down.

"I've boxed his son; I'll box him," said Richard, shouting for more wine.

"What, boy! Is it old Blaize has been putting you up!"

"Never mind, uncle!" The boy nodded mysteriously.

'Look there!' Adrian read on Ripton's face, he says 'never mind,' and
lets it out!

"Did we beat to-day, uncle?"

"Yes, boy; and we'd beat them any day they bowl fair. I'd beat them on
one leg. There's only Watkins and Featherdene among them worth a
farthing."

"We beat!" cries Richard. "Then we'll have some more wine, and drink
their healths."

The bell was rung; wine ordered. Presently comes in heavy Benson, to say
supplies are cut off. One bottle, and no more. The Captain whistled:
Adrian shrugged.

The bottle, however, was procured by Adrian subsequently. He liked
studying intoxicated urchins.

One subject was at Richard's heart, about which he was reserved in the
midst of his riot. Too proud to inquire how his father had taken his
absence, he burned to hear whether he was in disgrace. He led to it
repeatedly, and it was constantly evaded by Algernon and Adrian. At last,
when the boy declared a desire to wish his father good-night, Adrian had
to tell him that he was to go straight to bed from the supper-table.
Young Richard's face fell at that, and his gaiety forsook him. He marched
to his room without another word.

Adrian gave Sir Austin an able version of his son's behaviour and
adventures; dwelling upon this sudden taciturnity when he heard of his
father's resolution not to see him. The wise youth saw that his chief was
mollified behind his moveless mask, and went to bed, and Horace, leaving
Sir Austin in his study. Long hours the baronet sat alone. The house had
not its usual influx of Feverels that day. Austin Wentworth was staying
at Poer Hall, and had only come over for an hour. At midnight the house
breathed sleep. Sir Austin put on his cloak and cap, and took the lamp to
make his rounds. He apprehended nothing special, but with a mind never at
rest he constituted himself the sentinel of Raynham. He passed the
chamber where the Great-Aunt Grantley lay, who was to swell Richard's
fortune, and so perform her chief business on earth. By her door he
murmured, "Good creature! you sleep with a sense of duty done," and paced
on, reflecting, "She has not made money a demon of discord," and blessed
her. He had his thoughts at Hippias's somnolent door, and to them the
world might have subscribed.

A monomaniac at large, watching over sane people in slumber! thinks
Adrian Harley, as he hears Sir Austin's footfall, and truly that was a
strange object to see.--Where is the fortress that has not one weak gate?
where the man who is sound at each particular angle? Ay, meditates the
recumbent cynic, more or less mad is not every mother's son? Favourable
circumstances--good air, good company, two or three good rules rigidly
adhered to--keep the world out of Bedlam. But, let the world fly into a
passion, and is not Bedlam the safest abode for it?

Sir Austin ascended the stairs, and bent his steps leisurely toward the
chamber where his son was lying in the left wing of the Abbey. At the end
of the gallery which led to it he discovered a dim light. Doubting it an
illusion, Sir Austin accelerated his pace. This wing had aforetime a bad
character. Notwithstanding what years had done to polish it into fair
repute, the Raynham kitchen stuck to tradition, and preserved certain
stories of ghosts seen there, that effectually blackened it in the
susceptible minds of new house-maids and under-crooks, whose fears would
not allow the sinner to wash his sins. Sir Austin had heard of the tales
circulated by his domestics underground. He cherished his own belief, but
discouraged theirs, and it was treason at Raynham to be caught traducing
the left wing. As the baronet advanced, the fact of a light burning was
clear to him. A slight descent brought him into the passage, and he
beheld a poor human candle standing outside his son's chamber. At the
same moment a door closed hastily. He entered Richard's room. The boy was
absent. The bed was unpressed: no clothes about: nothing to show that he
had been there that night. Sir Austin felt vaguely apprehensive. Has he
gone to my room to await me? thought the father's heart. Something like a
tear quivered in his arid eyes as he meditated and hoped this might be
so. His own sleeping-room faced that of his son. He strode to it with a
quick heart. It was empty. Alarm dislodged anger from his jealous heart,
and dread of evil put a thousand questions to him that were answered in
air. After pacing up and down his room he determined to go and ask the
boy Thompson, as he called Ripton, what was known to him.

The chamber assigned to Master Ripton Thompson was at the northern
extremity of the passage, and overlooked Lobourne and the valley to the
West. The bed stood between the window and the door. Six Austin found the
door ajar, and the interior dark. To his surprise, the boy Thompson's
couch, as revealed by the rays of his lamp, was likewise vacant. He was
turning back when he fancied he heard the sibilation of a whispering in
the room. Sir Austin cloaked the lamp and trod silently toward the
window. The heads of his son Richard and the boy Thompson were seen
crouched against the glass, holding excited converse together. Sir Austin
listened, but he listened to a language of which he possessed not the
key. Their talk was of fire, and of delay: of expected agrarian
astonishment: of a farmer's huge wrath: of violence exercised upon
gentlemen, and of vengeance: talk that the boys jerked out by fits, and
that came as broken links of a chain impossible to connect. But they
awake curiosity. The baronet condescended to play the spy upon his son.

Over Lobourne and the valley lay black night and innumerable stars.

"How jolly I feel!" exclaimed Ripton, inspired by claret; and then, after
a luxurious pause--"I think that fellow has pocketed his guinea, and cut
his lucky."

Richard allowed a long minute to pass, during which the baronet waited
anxiously for his voice, hardly recognizing it when he heard its altered
tones.

"If he has, I'll go; and I'll do it myself."

"You would?" returned Master Ripton. "Well, I'm hanged!--I say, if you
went to school, wouldn't you get into rows! Perhaps he hasn't found the
place where the box was stuck in. I think he funks it. I almost wish you
hadn't done it, upon my honour--eh? Look there! what was that? That
looked like something.--I say! do you think we shall ever be found out?"

Master Ripton intoned this abrupt interrogation verb seriously.

"I don't think about it," said Richard, all his faculties bent on signs
from Lobourne.

"Well, but," Ripton persisted, "suppose we are found out?"

"If we are, I must pay for it."

Sir Austin breathed the better for this reply. He was beginning to gather
a clue to the dialogue. His son was engaged in a plot, and was, moreover,
the leader of the plot. He listened for further enlightenment.

"What was the fellow's name?" inquired Ripton.

His companion answered, "Tom Bakewell."

"I'll tell you what," continued Ripton. "You let it all clean out to your
cousin and uncle at supper.--How capital claret is with partridge-pie!
What a lot I ate!--Didn't you see me frown?"

The young sensualist was in an ecstasy of gratitude to his late
refection, and the slightest word recalled him to it. Richard answered
him:

"Yes; and felt your kick. It doesn't matter. Rady's safe, and uncle never
blabs."

"Well, my plan is to keep it close. You're never safe if you don't.--I
never drank much claret before," Ripton was off again. "Won't I now,
though! claret's my wine. You know, it may come out any day, and then
we're done for," he rather incongruously appended.

Richard only took up the business-thread of his friend's rambling
chatter, and answered:

"You've got nothing to do with it, if we are."

"Haven't I, though! I didn't stick-in the box but I'm an accomplice,
that's clear. Besides," added Ripton, "do you think I should leave you to
bear it all on your shoulders? I ain't that sort of chap, Ricky, I can
tell you."

Sir Austin thought more highly of the boy Thompson. Still it looked a
detestable conspiracy, and the altered manner of his son impressed him
strangely. He was not the boy of yesterday. To Sir Austin it seemed as if
a gulf had suddenly opened between them. The boy had embarked, and was on
the waters of life in his own vessel. It was as vain to call him back as
to attempt to erase what Time has written with the Judgment Blood! This
child, for whom he had prayed nightly in such a fervour and humbleness to
God, the dangers were about him, the temptations thick on him, and the
devil on board piloting. If a day had done so much, what would years do?
Were prayers and all the watchfulness he had expended of no avail?

A sensation of infinite melancholy overcame the poor gentleman--a thought
that he was fighting with a fate in this beloved boy.

He was half disposed to arrest the two conspirators on the spot, and make
them confess, and absolve themselves; but it seemed to him better to keep
an unseen eye over his son: Sir Austin's old system prevailed.

Adrian characterized this system well, in saying that Sir Austin wished
to be Providence to his son.

If immeasurable love were perfect wisdom, one human being might almost
impersonate Providence to another. Alas! love, divine as it is, can do no
more than lighten the house it inhabits--must take its shape, sometimes
intensify its narrowness--can spiritualize, but not expel, the old
lifelong lodgers above-stairs and below.

Sir Austin decided to continue quiescent.

The valley still lay black beneath the large autumnal stars, and the
exclamations of the boys were becoming fevered and impatient. By-and-by
one insisted that he had seen a twinkle. The direction he gave was out of
their anticipations. Again the twinkle was announced. Both boys started
to their feet. It was a twinkle in the right direction now.

"He's done it!" cried Richard, in great heat. "Now you may say old
Blaize'll soon be old Blazes, Rip. I hope he's asleep."

"I'm sure he's snoring!--Look there! He's alight fast enough. He's dry.
He'll burn.--I say," Ripton re-assumed the serious intonation, "do you
think they'll ever suspect us?"

"What if they do? We must brunt it."

"Of course we will. But, I say! I wish you hadn't given them the scent,
though. I like to look innocent. I can't when I know people suspect me.
Lord! look there! Isn't it just beginning to flare up!"

The farmer's grounds were indeed gradually standing out in sombre
shadows.

"I'll fetch my telescope," said Richard. Ripton, somehow not liking to be
left alone, caught hold of him.

"No; don't go and lose the best of it. Here, I'll throw open the window,
and we can see."

The window was flung open, and the boys instantly stretched half their
bodies out of it; Ripton appearing to devour the rising flames with his
mouth: Richard with his eyes.

Opaque and statuesque stood the figure of the baronet behind them. The
wind was low. Dense masses of smoke hung amid the darting snakes of fire,
and a red malign light was on the neighbouring leafage. No figures could
be seen. Apparently the flames had nothing to contend against, for they
were making terrible strides into the darkness.

"Oh!" shouted Richard, overcome by excitement, "if I had my telescope! We
must have it! Let me go and fetch it! I Will!"

The boys struggled together, and Sir Austin stepped back. As he did so, a
cry was heard in the passage. He hurried out, closed the chamber, and
came upon little Clare lying senseless along the door.



CHAPTER V

In the morning that followed this night, great gossip was interchanged
between Raynham and Lobourne. The village told how Farmer Blaize, of
Belthorpe Farm, had his Pick feloniously set fire to; his stables had
caught fire, himself had been all but roasted alive in the attempt to
rescue his cattle, of which numbers had perished in the flames. Raynham
counterbalanced arson with an authentic ghost seen by Miss Clare in the
left wing of the Abbey--the ghost of a lady, dressed in deep mourning, a
scar on her forehead and a bloody handkerchief at her breast, frightful
to behold! and no wonder the child was frightened out of her wits, and
lay in a desperate state awaiting the arrival of the London doctors. It
was added that the servants had all threatened to leave in a body, and
that Sir Austin to appease them had promised to pull down the entire left
wing, like a gentleman; for no decent creature, said Lobourne, could
consent to live in a haunted house.

Rumour for the nonce had a stronger spice of truth than usual. Poor
little Clare lay ill, and the calamity that had befallen Farmer Blaize,
as regards his rick, was not much exaggerated. Sir Austin caused an
account of it be given him at breakfast, and appeared so scrupulously
anxious to hear the exact extent of injury sustained by the farmer that
heavy Benson went down to inspect the scene. Mr. Benson returned, and,
acting under Adrian's malicious advice, framed a formal report of the
catastrophe, in which the farmer's breeches figured, and certain cooling
applications to a part of the farmer's person. Sir Austin perused it
without a smile. He took occasion to have it read out before the two
boys, who listened very demurely, as to ordinary newspaper incident; only
when the report particularized the garments damaged, and the unwonted
distressing position Farmer Blaize was reduced to in his bed, indecorous
fit of sneezing laid hold of Master Ripton Thompson, and Richard bit his
lip and burst into loud laughter, Ripton joining him, lost to
consequences.

"I trust you feel for this poor man," said Sir Austin to his son,
somewhat sternly. He saw no sign of feeling.

It was a difficult task for Sir Austin to keep his old countenance toward
the hope of Raynham, knowing him the accomplice-incendiary, and believing
the deed to have been unprovoked and wanton. But he must do so, he knew,
to let the boy have a fair trial against himself. Be it said, moreover,
that the baronet's possession of his son's secret flattered him. It
allowed him to act, and in a measure to feel, like Providence; enabled
him to observe and provide for the movements of creatures in the dark. He
therefore treated the boy as he commonly did, and Richard saw no change
in his father to make him think he was suspected.

The youngster's game was not so easy against Adrian.  Adrian did not
shoot or fish. Voluntarily he did nothing to work off the destructive
nervous fluid, or whatever it may be, which is in man's nature; so that
two culprit boys once in his power were not likely to taste the gentle
hand of mercy; and Richard and Ripton paid for many a trout and partridge
spared. At every minute of the day Ripton was thrown into sweats of
suspicion that discovery was imminent, by some stray remark or message
from Adrian. He was as a fish with the hook in his gills, mysteriously
caught without having nibbled; and dive into what depths he would he was
sensible of a summoning force that compelled him perpetually towards the
gasping surface, which he seemed inevitably approaching when the
dinner-bell sounded. There the talk was all of Farmer Blaize. If it
dropped, Adrian revived it, and his caressing way with Ripton was just
such as a keen sportsman feels toward the creature that had owned his
skill, and is making its appearance for the world to acknowledge the
same. Sir Austin saw the manoeuvres, and admired Adrian's shrewdness. But
he had to check the young natural lawyer, for the effect of so much
masked examination upon Richard was growing baneful. This fish also felt
the hook in his gills, but this fish was more of a pike, and lay in
different waters, where there were old stumps and black roots to wind
about, and defy alike strong pulling and delicate handling. In other
words, Richard showed symptoms of a disposition to take refuge in lies.

"You know the grounds, my dear boy," Adrian observed to him. "Tell me; do
you think it easy to get to the rick unperceived? I hear they suspect one
of the farmer's turned-off hands."

"I tell you I don't know the grounds," Richard sullenly replied.

"Not?" Adrian counterfeited courteous astonishment. "I thought Mr.
Thompson said you were over there yesterday?"

Ripton, glad to speak the truth, hurriedly assured Adrian that it was not
he had said so.

"Not? You had good sport, gentlemen, hadn't you?"

"Oh, yes!" mumbled the wretched victims, reddening as they remembered, in
Adrian's slightly drawled rusticity of tone, Farmer Blaize's first
address to them.

"I suppose you were among the Fire-worshippers last night, too?"
persisted Adrian. "In some countries, I hear, they manage their best
sport at night-time, and beat up for game with torches. It must be a fine
sight. After all, the country would be dull if we hadn't a rip here and
there to treat us to a little conflagration."

"A rip!" laughed Richard, to his friend's disgust and alarm at his
daring. "You don't mean this Rip, do you?"

"Mr. Thompson fire a rick? I should as soon suspect you, my dear
boy.--You are aware, young gentlemen, that it is rather a serious thing
eh? In this country, you know, the landlord has always been the pet of
the Laws. By the way," Adrian continued, as if diverging to another
topic, "you met two gentlemen of the road in your explorations yesterday,
Magians. Now, if I were a magistrate of the county, like Sir Miles
Papworth, my suspicions would light upon those gentlemen. A tinker and a
ploughman, I think you said, Mr. Thompson. Not? Well, say two ploughmen."

"More likely two tinkers," said Richard.

"Oh! if you wish to exclude the ploughman--was he out of employ?"

Ripton, with Adrian's eyes inveterately fixed on him, stammered an
affirmative.

"The tinker, or the ploughman?"

"The ploughm--" Ingenuous Ripton looking about, as if to aid himself
whenever he was able to speak the truth, beheld Richard's face blackening
at him, and swallowed back half the word.

"The ploughman!" Adrian took him up cheerily. "Then we have here a
ploughman out of employ. Given a ploughman out of employ, and a rick
burnt. The burning of a rick is an act of vengeance, and a ploughman out
of employ is a vengeful animal. The rick and the ploughman are advancing
to a juxtaposition. Motive being established, we have only to prove their
proximity at a certain hour, and our ploughman voyages beyond seas."

"Is it transportation for rick-burning?" inquired Ripton aghast.

Adrian spoke solemnly: "They shave your head. You are manacled. Your diet
is sour bread and cheese-parings. You work in strings of twenties and
thirties. ARSON is branded on your backs in an enormous A. Theological
works are the sole literary recreation of the well-conducted and
deserving. Consider the fate of this poor fellow, and what an act of
vengeance brings him to! Do you know his name?"

"How should I know his name?" said Richard, with an assumption of
innocence painful to see.

Sir Austin remarked that no doubt it would soon be known, and Adrian
perceived that he was to quiet his line, marvelling a little at the
baronet's blindness to what was so clear. He would not tell, for that
would ruin his influence with Richard; still he wanted some present
credit for his discernment and devotion. The boys got away from dinner,
and, after deep consultation, agreed upon a course of conduct, which was
to commiserate with Farmer Blaize loudly, and make themselves look as
much like the public as it was possible for two young malefactors to
look, one of whom already felt Adrian's enormous A devouring his back
with the fierceness of the Promethean eagle, and isolating him forever
from mankind. Adrian relished their novel tactics sharply, and led them
to lengths of lamentation for Farmer Blaize. Do what they might, the hook
was in their gills. The farmer's whip had reduced them to bodily
contortions; these were decorous compared with the spiritual writhings
they had to perform under Adrian's manipulation. Ripton was fast becoming
a coward, and Richard a liar, when next morning Austin Wentworth came
over from Poer Hall bringing news that one Mr. Thomas Bakewell, yeoman,
had been arrested on suspicion of the crime of Arson and lodged in jail,
awaiting the magisterial pleasure of Sir Miles Papworth. Austin's eye
rested on Richard as he spoke these terrible tidings. The hope of Raynham
returned his look, perfectly calm, and had, moreover, the presence of
mind not to look at Ripton.



CHAPTER VI

As soon as they could escape, the boys got together into an obscure
corner of the park, and there took counsel of their extremity.

"Whatever shall we do now?" asked Ripton of his leader.

Scorpion girt with fire was never in a more terrible prison-house than
poor Ripton, around whom the raging element he had assisted to create
seemed to be drawing momently narrower circles.

"There's only one chance," said Richard, coming to a dead halt, and
folding his arms resolutely.

His comrade inquired with the utmost eagerness what that chance might be.

Richard fixed his eyes on a flint, and replied: "We must rescue that
fellow from jail."

Ripton gazed at his leader, and fell back with astonishment. "My dear
Ricky! but how are we to do it?"

Richard, still perusing his flint, replied: "We must manage to get a file
in to him and a rope. It can be done, I tell you. I don't care what I
pay. I don't care what I do. He must be got out."

"Bother that old Blaize!" exclaimed Ripton, taking off his cap to wipe
his frenzied forehead, and brought down his friend's reproof.

"Never mind old Blaize now. Talk about letting it out! Look at you. I'm
ashamed of you. You talk about Robin Hood and King Richard! Why, you
haven't an atom of courage. Why, you let it out every second of the day.
Whenever Rady begins speaking you start; I can see the perspiration
rolling down you. Are you afraid?--And then you contradict yourself. You
never keep to one story. Now, follow me. We must risk everything to get
him out. Mind that! And keep out of Adrian's way as much as you can. And
keep to one story."

With these sage directions the young leader marched his companion-culprit
down to inspect the jail where Tom Bakewell lay groaning over the results
of the super-mundane conflict, and the victim of it that he was.

In Lobourne Austin Wentworth had the reputation of the poor man's friend;
a title he earned more largely ere he went to the reward God alone can
give to that supreme virtue. Dame Bakewell, the mother of Tom, on hearing
of her son's arrest, had run to comfort him and render him what help she
could; but this was only sighs and tears, and, oh deary me! which only
perplexed poor Tom, who bade her leave an unlucky chap to his fate, and
not make himself a thundering villain. Whereat the dame begged him to
take heart, and he should have a true comforter. "And though it's a
gentleman that's coming to you, Tom--for he never refuses a poor body,"
said Mrs. Bakewell, "it's a true Christian, Tom! and the Lord knows if
the sight of him mayn't be the saving of you, for he's light to look on,
and a sermon to listen to, he is!"

Tom was not prepossessed by the prospect of a sermon, and looked a sullen
dog enough when Austin entered his cell. He was surprised at the end of
half-an-hour to find himself engaged in man-to-man conversation with a
gentleman and a Christian. When Austin rose to go Tom begged permission
to shake his hand.

"Take and tell young master up at the Abbey that I an't the chap to
peach. He'll know. He's a young gentleman as'll make any man do as he
wants 'em! He's a mortal wild young gentleman! And I'm a Ass! That's
where 'tis. But I an't a blackguard. Tell him that, sir!"

This was how it came that Austin eyed young Richard seriously while he
told the news at Raynham. The boy was shy of Austin more than of Adrian.
Why, he did not know; but he made it a hard task for Austin to catch him
alone, and turned sulky that instant. Austin was not clever like Adrian:
he seldom divined other people's ideas, and always went the direct road
to his object; so instead of beating about and setting the boy on the
alert at all points, crammed to the muzzle with lies, he just said, "Tom
Bakewell told me to let you know he does not intend to peach on you," and
left him.

Richard repeated the intelligence to Ripton, who cried aloud that Tom was
a brick.

"He shan't suffer for it," said Richard, and pondered on a thicker rope
and sharper file.

"But will your cousin tell?" was Ripton's reflection.

"He!" Richard's lip expressed contempt. "A ploughman refuses to peach,
and you ask if one of our family will?"

Ripton stood for the twentieth time reproved on this point.

The boys had examined the outer walls of the jail, and arrived at the
conclusion that Tom's escape might be managed if Tom had spirit, and the
rope and file could be anyway reached to him. But to do this, somebody
must gain admittance to his cell, and who was to be taken into their
confidence?

"Try your cousin," Ripton suggested, after much debate.

Richard, smiling, wished to know if he meant Adrian.

"No, no!" Ripton hurriedly reassured him. "Austin."

The same idea was knocking at Richard's head.

"Let's get the rope and file first," said he, and to Bursley they went
for those implements to defeat the law, Ripton procuring the file at one
shop and Richard the rope at another, with such masterly cunning did they
lay their measures for the avoidance of every possible chance of
detection. And better to assure this, in a wood outside Bursley Richard
stripped to his shirt and wound the rope round his body, tasting the
tortures of anchorites and penitential friars, that nothing should be
risked to make Tom's escape a certainty. Sir Austin saw the marks at
night as his son lay asleep, through the half-opened folds of his
bed-gown.

It was a severe stroke when, after all their stratagems and trouble,
Austin Wentworth refused the office the boys had zealously designed for
him. Time pressed. In a few days poor Tom would have to face the
redoubtable Sir Miles, and get committed, for rumours of overwhelming
evidence to convict him were rife about Lobourne, and Farmer Blaize's
wrath was unappeasable. Again and again young Richard begged his cousin
not to see him disgraced, and to help him in this extremity. Austin
smiled on him.

"My dear Ricky," said he, "there are two ways of getting out of a scrape:
a long way and a short way. When you've tried the roundabout method, and
failed, come to me, and I'll show you the straight route."

Richard was too entirely bent upon the roundabout method to consider this
advice more than empty words, and only ground his teeth at Austin's
unkind refusal.

He imparted to Ripton, at the eleventh hour, that they must do it
themselves, to which Ripton heavily assented.

On the day preceding poor Tom's doomed appearance before the magistrate,
Dame Bakewell had an interview with Austin, who went to Raynham
immediately, and sought Adrian's counsel upon what was to be done.
Homeric laughter and nothing else could be got out of Adrian when he
heard of the doings of these desperate boys: how they had entered Dame
Bakewell's smallest of retail shops, and purchased tea, sugar, candles,
and comfits of every description, till the shop was clear of customers:
how they had then hurried her into her little back-parlour, where Richard
had torn open his shirt and revealed the coils of rope, and Ripton
displayed the point of a file from a serpentine recess in his jacket: how
they had then told the astonished woman that the rope she saw and the
file she saw were instruments for the liberation of her son; that there
existed no other means on earth to save him, they, the boys, having
unsuccessfully attempted all: how upon that Richard had tried with the
utmost earnestness to persuade her to disrobe and wind the rope round her
own person: and Ripton had aired his eloquence to induce her to secrete
the file: how, when she resolutely objected to the rope, both boys began
backing the file, and in an evil hour, she feared, said Dame Bakewell,
she had rewarded the gracious permission given her by Sir Miles Papworth
to visit her son, by tempting Tom to file the Law. Though, thanks be to
the Lord! Dame Bakewell added, Tom had turned up his nose at the file,
and so she had told young Master Richard, who swore very bad for a young
gentleman.

"Boys are like monkeys," remarked Adrian, at the close of his explosions,
"the gravest actors of farcical nonsense that the world possesses. May I
never be where there are no boys! A couple of boys left to themselves
will furnish richer fun than any troop of trained comedians. No: no Art
arrives at the artlessness of nature in matters of comedy. You can't
simulate the ape. Your antics are dull. They haven't the charming
inconsequence of the natural animal. Lack at these two! Think of the
shifts they are put to all day long! They know I know all about it, and
yet their serenity of innocence is all but unruffled in my presence.
You're sorry to think about the end of the business, Austin? So am I! I
dread the idea of the curtain going down. Besides, it will do Ricky a
world of good. A practical lesson is the best lesson."

"Sinks deepest," said Austin, "but whether he learns good or evil from it
is the question at stake."

Adrian stretched his length at ease.

"This will be his first nibble at experience, old Time's fruit, hateful
to the palate of youth! for which season only hath it any nourishment!
Experience! You know Coleridge's capital simile?--Mournful you call it?
Well! all wisdom is mournful. 'Tis therefore, coz, that the wise do love
the Comic Muse. Their own high food would kill them. You shall find great
poets, rare philosophers, night after night on the broad grin before a
row of yellow lights and mouthing masks. Why? Because all's dark at home.
The stage is the pastime of great minds. That's how it comes that the
stage is now down. An age of rampant little minds, my dear Austin! How I
hate that cant of yours about an Age of Work--you, and your Mortons, and
your parsons Brawnley, rank radicals all of you, base materialists! What
does Diaper Sandoe sing of your Age of Work? Listen!

     'An Age of betty tit for tat,
      An Age of busy gabble:
     An Age that's like a brewer's vat,
      Fermenting for the rabble!

     'An Age that's chaste in Love, but lax
      To virtuous abuses:
     Whose gentlemen and ladies wax
      Too dainty for their uses.

     'An Age that drives an Iron Horse,
      Of Time and Space defiant;
     Exulting in a Giant's Force,
      And trembling at the Giant.

     'An Age of Quaker hue and cut,
      By Mammon misbegotten;
     See the mad Hamlet mouth and strut!
      And mark the Kings of Cotton!

     'From this unrest, lo, early wreck'd,
      A Future staggers crazy,
     Ophelia of the Ages, deck'd
      With woeful weed and daisy!'"

Murmuring, "Get your parson Brawnley to answer that!" Adrian changed the
resting-place of a leg, and smiled. The Age was an old battle-field
between him and Austin.

"My parson Brawnley, as you call him, has answered it," said Austin, "not
by hoping his best, which would probably leave the Age to go mad to your
satisfaction, but by doing it. And he has and will answer your Diaper
Sandoe in better verse, as he confutes him in a better life."

"You don't see Sandoe's depth," Adrian replied. "Consider that phrase,
'Ophelia of the Ages'! Is not Brawnley, like a dozen other leading
spirits--I think that's your term just the metaphysical Hamlet to drive
her mad? She, poor maid! asks for marriage and smiling babes, while my
lord lover stands questioning the Infinite, and rants to the Impalpable."

Austin laughed. "Marriage and smiling babes she would have in abundance,
if Brawnley legislated. Wait till you know him. He will be over at Poer
Hall shortly, and you will see what a Man of the Age means. But now,
pray, consult with me about these boys."

"Oh, those boys!" Adrian tossed a hand. "Are there boys of the Age as
well as men? Not? Then boys are better than men: boys are for all Ages.
What do you think, Austin? They've been studying Latude's Escape. I found
the book open in Ricky's room, on the top of Jonathan Wild. Jonathan
preserved the secrets of his profession, and taught them nothing. So
they're going to make a Latude of Mr. Tom Bakewell. He's to be Bastille
Bakewell, whether he will or no. Let them. Let the wild colt run free! We
can't help them. We can only look on. We should spoil the play."

Adrian always made a point of feeding the fretful beast Impatience with
pleasantries--a not congenial diet; and Austin, the most patient of human
beings, began to lose his self-control.

"You talk as if Time belonged to you, Adrian. We have but a few hours
left us. Work first, and joke afterwards. The boy's fate is being decided
now."

"So is everybody's, my dear Austin!" yawned the epicurean.

"Yes, but this boy is at present under our guardianship--under yours
especially."

"Not yet! not yet!" Adrian interjected languidly. "No getting into
scrapes when I have him. The leash, young hound! the collar, young colt!
I'm perfectly irresponsible at present."

"You may have something different to deal with when you are responsible,
if you think that."

"I take my young prince as I find him, coz: a Julian, or a Caracalla: a
Constantine, or a Nero. Then, if he will play the fiddle to a
conflagration, he shall play it well: if he must be a disputatious
apostate, at any rate he shall understand logic and men, and have the
habit of saying his prayers."

"Then you leave me to act alone?" said Austin, rising.

"Without a single curb!" Adrian gesticulated an acquiesced withdrawal.
"I'm sure you would not, still more certain you cannot, do harm. And be
mindful of my prophetic words: Whatever's done, old Blaize will have to
be bought off. There's the affair settled at once. I suppose I must go to
the chief to-night and settle it myself. We can't see this poor devil
condemned, though it's nonsense to talk of a boy being the prime
instigator."

Austin cast an eye at the complacent languor of the wise youth, his
cousin, and the little that he knew of his fellows told him he might talk
forever here, and not be comprehended. The wise youth's two ears were
stuffed with his own wisdom. One evil only Adrian dreaded, it was
clear--the action of the law.

As he was moving away, Adrian called out to him, "Stop, Austin! There!
don't be anxious! You invariably take the glum side. I've done something.
Never mind what. If you go down to Belthorpe, be civil, but not
obsequious. You remember the tactics of Scipio Africanus against the
Punic elephants? Well, don't say a word--in thine ear, coz: I've turned
Master Blaize's elephants. If they charge, 'twill bye a feint, and back
to the destruction of his serried ranks! You understand. Not? Well, 'tis
as well. Only, let none say that I sleep. If I must see him to-night, I
go down knowing he has not got us in his power." The wise youth yawned,
and stretched out a hand for any book that might be within his reach.
Austin left him to look about the grounds for Richard.



CHAPTER VII

A little laurel-shaded temple of white marble looked out on the river
from a knoll bordering the Raynham beechwoods, and was dubbed by Adrian
Daphne's Bower. To this spot Richard had retired, and there Austin found
him with his head buried in his hands, a picture of desperation, whose
last shift has been defeated. He allowed Austin to greet him and sit by
him without lifting his head. Perhaps his eyes were not presentable.

"Where's your friend?" Austin began.

"Gone!" was the answer, sounding cavernous from behind hair and fingers.
An explanation presently followed, that a summons had come for him in the
morning from Mr. Thompson; and that Mr. Ripton had departed against his
will.

In fact, Ripton had protested that he would defy his parent and remain by
his friend in the hour of adversity and at the post of danger. Sir Austin
signified his opinion that a boy should obey his parent, by giving orders
to Benson for Ripton's box to be packed and ready before noon; and
Ripton's alacrity in taking the baronet's view of filial duty was as
little feigned as his offer to Richard to throw filial duty to the winds.
He rejoiced that the Fates had agreed to remove him from the very hot
neighbourhood of Lobourne, while he grieved, like an honest lad, to see
his comrade left to face calamity alone. The boys parted amicably, as
they could hardly fail to do, when Ripton had sworn fealty to the
Feverals with a warmth that made him declare himself bond, and due to
appear at any stated hour and at any stated place to fight all the
farmers in England, on a mandate from the heir of the house.

"So you're left alone," said Austin, contemplating the boy's shapely
head. "I'm glad of it. We never know what's in us till we stand by
ourselves."

There appeared to be no answer forthcoming. Vanity, however, replied at
last, "He wasn't much support."

"Remember his good points now he's gone, Ricky."

"Oh! he was staunch," the boy grumbled.

"And a staunch friend is not always to be found. Now, have you tried your
own way of rectifying this business, Ricky?"

"I have done everything."

"And failed!"

There was a pause, and then the deep-toned evasion--

"Tom Bakewell's a coward!"

"I suppose, poor fellow," said Austin, in his kind way, "he doesn't want
to get into a deeper mess. I don't think he's a coward."

"He is a coward," cried Richard. "Do you think if I had a file I would
stay in prison? I'd be out the first night! And he might have had the
rope, too--a rope thick enough for a couple of men his size and weight.
Ripton and I and Ned Markham swung on it for an hour, and it didn't give
way. He's a coward, and deserves his fate. I've no compassion for a
coward."

"Nor I much," said Austin.

Richard had raised his head in the heat of his denunciation of poor Tom.
He would have hidden it had he known the thought in Austin's clear eyes
while he faced them.

"I never met a coward myself," Austin continued. "I have heard of one or
two. One let an innocent man die for him."

"How base!" exclaimed the boy.

"Yes, it was bad," Austin acquiesced.

"Bad!" Richard scorned the poor contempt. "How I would have spurned him!
He was a coward!"

"I believe he pleaded the feelings of his family in his excuse, and tried
every means to get the man off. I have read also in the confessions of a
celebrated philosopher, that in his youth he committed some act of
pilfering, and accused a young servant-girl of his own theft, who was
condemned and dismissed for it, pardoning her guilty accuser."

"What a coward!" shouted Richard. "And he confessed it publicly?"

"You may read it yourself."

"He actually wrote it down, and printed it?"

"You have the book in your father's library. Would you have done so
much?"

Richard faltered. No! he admitted that he never could have told people.

"Then who is to call that man a coward?" said Austin. "He expiated his
cowardice as all who give way in moments of weakness, and are not
cowards, must do. The coward chooses to think 'God does not see.' I shall
escape.' He who is not a coward, and has succumbed, knows that God has
seen all, and it is not so hard a task for him to make his heart bare to
the world. Worse, I should fancy it, to know myself an impostor when men
praised me."

Young Richard's eyes were wandering on Austin's gravely cheerful face. A
keen intentness suddenly fixed them, and he dropped his head.

"So I think you're wrong, Ricky, in calling this poor Tom a coward
because he refuses to try your means of escape," Austin resumed. "A
coward hardly objects to drag in his accomplice. And, where the person
involved belongs to a great family, it seems to me that for a poor
plough-lad to volunteer not to do so speaks him anything but a coward."

Richard was dumb. Altogether to surrender his rope and file was a fearful
sacrifice, after all the time, trepidation, and study he had spent on
those two saving instruments. If he avowed Tom's manly behaviour, Richard
Feverel was in a totally new position. Whereas, by keeping Tom a coward,
Richard Feverel was the injured one, and to seem injured is always a
luxury; sometimes a necessity, whether among boys or men.

In Austin the Magian conflict would not have lasted long. He had but a
blind notion of the fierceness with which it raged in young Richard.
Happily for the boy, Austin was not a preacher. A single instance, a cant
phrase, a fatherly manner, might have wrecked him, by arousing ancient or
latent opposition. The born preacher we feel instinctively to be our foe.
He may do some good to the wretches that have been struck down and lie
gasping on the battlefield: he rouses antagonism in the strong. Richard's
nature, left to itself, wanted little more than an indication of the
proper track, and when he said, "Tell me what I can do, Austin?" he had
fought the best half of the battle. His voice was subdued. Austin put his
hand on the boy's shoulder.

"You must go down to Farmer Blaize."

"Well!" said Richard, sullenly divining the deed of penance.

"You'll know what to say to him when you're there."

The boy bit his lip and frowned. "Ask a favour of that big brute, Austin?
I can't!"

"Just tell him the whole case, and that you don't intend to stand by and
let the poor fellow suffer without a friend to help him out of his
scrape."

"But, Austin," the boy pleaded, "I shall have to ask him to help off Tom
Bakewell! How can I ask him, when I hate him?"

Austin bade him go, and think nothing of the consequences till he got
there.

Richard groaned in soul.

"You've no pride, Austin."

"Perhaps not."

"You don't know what it is to ask a favour of a brute you hate."

Richard stuck to that view of the case, and stuck to it the faster the
more imperatively the urgency of a movement dawned upon him.

"Why," continued the boy, "I shall hardly be able to keep my fists off
him!"

"Surely you've punished him enough, boy?" said Austin.

"He struck me!" Richard's lip quivered. "He dared not come at me with his
hands. He struck me with a whip. He'll be telling everybody that he
horsewhipped me, and that I went down and begged his pardon. Begged his
pardon! A Feverel beg his pardon! Oh, if I had my will!"

"The man earns his bread, Ricky. You poached on his grounds. He turned
you off, and you fired his rick."

"And I'll pay him for his loss. And I won't do any more."

"Because you won't ask a favour of him?"

"No! I will not ask a favour of him."

Austin looked at the boy steadily. "You prefer to receive a favour from
poor Tom Bakewell?"

At Austin's enunciation of this obverse view of the matter Richard raised
his brow. Dimly a new light broke in upon him. "Favour from Tom Bakewell,
the ploughman? How do you mean, Austin?"

"To save yourself an unpleasantness you permit a country lad to sacrifice
himself for you? I confess I should not have so much pride."

"Pride!" shouted Richard, stung by the taunt, and set his sight hard at
the blue ridges of the hills.

Not knowing for the moment what else to do, Austin drew a picture of Tom
in prison, and repeated Tom's volunteer statement. The picture, though
his intentions were far from designing it so, had to Richard, whose
perception of humour was infinitely keener, a horrible chaw-bacon smack
about it. Visions of a grinning lout, open from ear to ear, unkempt,
coarse, splay-footed, rose before him and afflicted him with the
strangest sensations of disgust and comicality, mixed up with pity and
remorse--a sort of twisted pathos. There lay Tom; hobnail Tom! a
bacon-munching, reckless, beer-swilling animal! and yet a man; a dear
brave human heart notwithstanding; capable of devotion and unselfishness.
The boy's better spirit was touched, and it kindled his imagination to
realize the abject figure of poor clodpole Tom, and surround it with a
halo of mournful light. His soul was alive. Feelings he had never known
streamed in upon him as from an ethereal casement, an unwonted
tenderness, an embracing humour, a consciousness of some ineffable glory,
an irradiation of the features of humanity. All this was in the bosom of
the boy, and through it all the vision of an actual hob-nail Tom, coarse,
unkempt, open from ear to ear; whose presence was a finger of shame to
him and an oppression of clodpole; yet toward whom he felt just then a
loving-kindness beyond what he felt for any living creature. He laughed
at him, and wept over him. He prized him, while he shrank from him. It
was a genial strife of the angel in him with constituents less divine;
but the angel was uppermost and led the van--extinguished loathing,
humanized laughter, transfigured pride--pride that would persistently
contemplate the corduroys of gaping Tom, and cry to Richard, in the very
tone of Adrian's ironic voice, "Behold your benefactor!"

Austin sat by the boy, unaware of the sublimer tumult he had stirred.
Little of it was perceptible in Richard's countenance. The lines of his
mouth were slightly drawn; his eyes hard set into the distance. He
remained thus many minutes. Finally he jumped to his legs, saying, "I'll
go at once to old Blaize and tell him."

Austin grasped his hand, and together they issued out of Daphne's Bower,
in the direction of Lobourne.



CHAPTER VIII

Farmer Blaize was not so astonished at the visit of Richard Feverel as
that young gentleman expected him to be. The farmer, seated in his
easy-chair in the little low-roofed parlour of an old-fashioned
farm-house, with a long clay pipe on the table at his elbow, and a
veteran pointer at his feet, had already given audience to three
distinguished members of the Feverel blood, who had come separately,
according to their accustomed secretiveness, and with one object. In the
morning it was Sir Austin himself. Shortly after his departure, arrived
Austin Wentworth; close on his heels, Algernon, known about Lobourne as
the Captain, popular wherever he was known. Farmer Blaize reclined in
considerable elation. He had brought these great people to a pretty low
pitch. He had welcomed them hospitably, as a British yeoman should; but
not budged a foot in his demands: not to the baronet: not to the Captain:
not to good young Mr. Wentworth. For Farmer Blaize was a solid
Englishman; and, on hearing from the baronet a frank confession of the
hold he had on the family, he determined to tighten his hold, and only
relax it in exchange for tangible advantages--compensation to his pocket,
his wounded person, and his still more wounded sentiments: the total
indemnity being, in round figures, three hundred pounds, and a spoken
apology from the prime offender, young Mister Richard. Even then there
was a reservation. Provided, the farmer said, nobody had been tampering
with any of his witnesses. In that ease Farmer Blaize declared the money
might go, and he would transport Tom Bakewell, as he had sworn he would.
And it goes hard, too, with an accomplice, by law, added the farmer,
knocking the ashes leisurely out of his pipe. He had no wish to bring any
disgrace anywhere; he respected the inmates of Raynham Abbey, as in duty
bound; he should be sorry to see them in trouble. Only no tampering with
his witnesses. He was a man for Law. Rank was much: money was much: but
Law was more. In this country Law was above the sovereign. To tamper with
the Law was treason to the realm.

"I come to you direct," the baronet explained. "I tell you candidly what
way I discovered my son to be mixed up in this miserable affair. I
promise you indemnity for your loss, and an apology that shall, I trust,
satisfy your feelings, assuring you that to tamper with witnesses is not
the province of a Feverel. All I ask of you in return is, not to press
the prosecution. At present it rests with you. I am bound to do all that
lies in my power for this imprisoned man. How and wherefore my son was
prompted to suggest, or assist in, such an act, I cannot explain, for I
do not know."

"Hum!" said the farmer. "I think I do."

"You know the cause?" Sir Austin stared. "I beg you to confide it to me."

"'Least, I can pretty nigh neighbour it with a gues," said the farmer.
"We an't good friends, Sir Austin, me and your son, just now--not to say
cordial. I, ye see, Sir Austin, I'm a man as don't like young gentlemen
a-poachin' on his grounds without his permission,--in special when birds
is plentiful on their own. It appear he do like it. Consequently I has to
flick this whip--as them fellers at the races: All in this 'ere Ring's
mine! as much as to say; and who's been hit, he's had fair warnin'. I'm
sorry for't, but that's just the case."

Sir Austin retired to communicate with his son, when he should find him.

Algernon's interview passed off in ale and promises. He also assured
Farmer Blaize that no Feverel could be affected by his proviso.

No less did Austin Wentworth. The farmer was satisfied.

"Money's safe, I know," said he; "now for the 'pology!" and Farmer Blaize
thrust his legs further out, and his head further back.

The farmer naturally reflected that the three separate visits had been
conspired together. Still the baronet's frankness, and the baronet's not
having reserved himself for the third and final charge, puzzled him. He
was considering whether they were a deep, or a shallow lot, when young
Richard was announced.

A pretty little girl with the roses of thirteen springs in her cheeks,
and abundant beautiful bright tresses, tripped before the boy, and
loitered shyly by the farmer's arm-chair to steal a look at the handsome
new-comer. She was introduced to Richard as the farmer's niece, Lucy
Desborough, the daughter of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and, what was
better, though the farmer did not pronounce it so loudly, a real good
girl.

Neither the excellence of her character, nor her rank in life, tempted
Richard to inspect the little lady. He made an awkward bow, and sat down.

The farmer's eyes twinkled. "Her father," he continued, "fought and fell
for his coontry. A man as fights for's coontry's a right to hould up his
head--ay! with any in the land. Desb'roughs o' Dorset! d'ye know that
family, Master Feverel?"

Richard did not know them, and, by his air, did not desire to become
acquainted with any offshoot of that family.

"She can make puddens and pies," the farmer went on, regardless of his
auditor's gloom. "She's a lady, as good as the best of 'em. I don't care
about their being Catholics--the Desb'roughs o' Dorset are gentlemen. And
she's good for the pianer, too! She strums to me of evenin's. I'm for the
old tunes: she's for the new. Gal-like! While she's with me she shall be
taught things use'l. She can parley-voo a good 'un and foot it, as it
goes; been in France a couple of year. I prefer the singin' of 't to the
talkin' of 't. Come, Luce! toon up--eh?--Ye wun't? That song abort the
Viffendeer--a female"--Farmer Blaize volunteered the translation of the
title--"who wears the--you guess what! and marches along with the French
sojers: a pretty brazen bit o' goods, I sh'd fancy."

Mademoiselle Lucy corrected her uncle's French, but objected to do more.
The handsome cross boy had almost taken away her voice for speech, as it
was, and sing in his company she could not; so she stood, a hand on her
uncle's chair to stay herself from falling, while she wriggled a dozen
various shapes of refusal, and shook her head at the farmer with fixed
eyes.

"Aha!" laughed the farmer, dismissing her, "they soon learn the
difference 'twixt the young 'un and the old 'un. Go along, Luce! and
learn yer lessons for to-morrow."

Reluctantly the daughter of the Royal Navy glided away. Her uncle's head
followed her to the door, where she dallied to catch a last impression of
the young stranger's lowering face, and darted through.

Farmer Blaize laughed and chuckled. "She an't so fond of her uncle as
that, every day! Not that she an't a good nurse--the kindest little soul
you'd meet of a winter's walk! She'll read t' ye, and make drinks, and
sing, too, if ye likes it, and she won't be tired. A obstinate good 'un,
she be! Bless her!"

The farmer may have designed, by these eulogies of his niece, to give his
visitor time to recover his composure, and establish a common topic. His
diversion only irritated and confused our shame-eaten youth. Richard's
intention had been to come to the farmer's threshold: to summon the
farmer thither, and in a loud and haughty tone then and there to take
upon himself the whole burden of the charge against Tom Bakewell. He had
strayed, during his passage to Belthorpe, somewhat back to his old
nature; and his being compelled to enter the house of his enemy, sit in
his chair, and endure an introduction to his family, was more than he
bargained for. He commenced blinking hard in preparation for the horrible
dose to which delay and the farmer's cordiality added inconceivable
bitters. Farmer Blaize was quite at his ease; nowise in a hurry. He spoke
of the weather and the harvest: of recent doings up at the Abbey: glanced
over that year's cricketing; hoped that no future Feverel would lose a
leg to the game. Richard saw and heard Arson in it all. He blinked harder
as he neared the cup. In a moment of silence, he seized it with a gasp.

"Mr. Blaize! I have come to tell you that I am the person who set fire to
your rick the other night."

An odd consternation formed about the farmer's mouth. He changed his
posture, and said, "Ay? that's what ye're come to tell me sir?"

"Yes!" said Richard, firmly.

"And that be all?"

"Yes!" Richard reiterated.

The farmer again changed his posture. "Then, my lad, ye've come to tell
me a lie!"

Farmer Blaize looked straight at the boy, undismayed by the dark flush of
ire he had kindled.

"You dare to call me a liar!" cried Richard, starting up.

"I say," the farmer renewed his first emphasis, and smacked his thigh
thereto, "that's a lie!"

Richard held out his clenched fist. "You have twice insulted me. You have
struck me: you have dared to call me a liar. I would have apologized--I
would have asked your pardon, to have got off that fellow in prison. Yes!
I would have degraded myself that another man should not suffer for my
deed"--

"Quite proper!" interposed the farmer.

"And you take this opportunity of insulting me afresh. You're a coward,
sir! nobody but a coward would have insulted me in his own house."

"Sit ye down, sit ye down, young master," said the farmer, indicating the
chair and cooling the outburst with his hand. "Sit ye down. Don't ye be
hasty. If ye hadn't been hasty t'other day, we sh'd a been friends yet.
Sit ye down, sir. I sh'd be sorry to reckon you out a liar, Mr. Feverel,
or anybody o' your name. I respects yer father though we're opp'site
politics. I'm willin' to think well o' you. What I say is, that as you
say an't the trewth. Mind! I don't like you none the worse for't. But it
an't what is. That's all! You knows it as well's I!"

Richard, disdaining to show signs of being pacified, angrily reseated
himself. The farmer spoke sense, and the boy, after his late interview
with Austin, had become capable of perceiving vaguely that a towering
passion is hardly the justification for a wrong course of conduct.

"Come," continued the farmer, not unkindly, "what else have you to say?"

Here was the same bitter cup he had already once drained brimming at
Richard's lips again! Alas, poor human nature! that empties to the dregs
a dozen of these evil drinks, to evade the single one which Destiny, less
cruel, had insisted upon.

The boy blinked and tossed it off.

"I came to say that I regretted the revenge I had taken on you for your
striking me."

Farmer Blaize nodded.

"And now ye've done, young gentleman?"

Still another cupful!

"I should be very much obliged," Richard formally began, but his stomach
was turned; he could but sip and sip, and gather a distaste which
threatened to make the penitential act impossible. "Very much obliged,"
he repeated: "much obliged, if you would be so kind," and it struck him
that had he spoken this at first he would have given it a wording more
persuasive with the farmer and more worthy of his own pride: more honest,
in fact: for a sense of the dishonesty of what he was saying caused him
to cringe and simulate humility to deceive the farmer, and the more he
said the less he felt his words, and, feeling them less, he inflated them
more. "So kind," he stammered, "so kind" (fancy a Feverel asking this big
brute to be so kind!) "as to do me the favour" (me the favour!) "to exert
yourself" (it's all to please Austin) "to endeavour to--hem! to" (there's
no saying it!)--

The cup was full as ever. Richard dashed at it again.

"What I came to ask is, whether you would have the kindness to try what
you could do" (what an infamous shame to have to beg like this!) "do to
save--do to ensure--whether you would have the kindness"  It seemed out
of all human power to gulp it down. The draught grew more and more
abhorrent. To proclaim one's iniquity, to apologize for one's wrongdoing;
thus much could be done; but to beg a favour of the offended party--that
was beyond the self-abasement any Feverel could consent to. Pride,
however, whose inevitable battle is against itself, drew aside the
curtains of poor Tom's prison, crying a second time, "Behold your
Benefactor!" and, with the words burning in his ears, Richard swallowed
the dose:

"Well, then, I want you, Mr. Blaize,--if you don't mind--will you help me
to get this man Bakewell off his punishment?"

To do Farmer Blaize justice, he waited very patiently for the boy, though
he could not quite see why he did not take the gate at the first offer.

"Oh!" said he, when he heard and had pondered on the request. "Hum! ha!
we'll see about it t'morrow. But if he's innocent, you know, we shan't
mak'n guilty."

"It was I did it!" Richard declared.

The farmer's half-amused expression sharpened a bit.

"So, young gentleman! and you're sorry for the night's work?"

"I shall see that you are paid the full extent of your losses."

"Thank'ee," said the farmer drily.

"And, if this poor man is released to-morrow, I don't care what the
amount is."

Farmer Blaize deflected his head twice in silence. "Bribery," one motion
expressed: "Corruption," the other.

"Now," said he, leaning forward, and fixing his elbows on his knees,
while he counted the case at his fingers' ends, "excuse the liberty, but
wishin' to know where this 'ere money's to come from, I sh'd like jest
t'ask if so be Sir Austin know o' this?"

"My father knows nothing of it," replied Richard.

The farmer flung back in his chair. "Lie number Two," said his shoulders,
soured by the British aversion to being plotted at, and not dealt with
openly.

"And ye've the money ready, young gentleman?"

"I shall ask my father for it."

"And he'll hand't out?"

"Certainly he will!"

Richard had not the slightest intention of ever letting his father into
his counsels.

"A good three hundred pounds, ye know?" the farmer suggested.

No consideration of the extent of damages, and the size of the sum,
affected young Richard, who said boldly, "He will not object when I tell
him I want that sum."

It was natural Farmer Blaize should be a trifle suspicious that a youth's
guarantee would hardly be given for his father's readiness to disburse
such a thumping bill, unless he had previously received his father's
sanction and authority.

"Hum!" said he, "why not 'a told him before?"

The farmer threw an objectionable shrewdness into his query, that caused
Richard to compress his mouth and glance high.

Farmer Blaize was positive 'twas a lie.

"Hum! Ye still hold to't you fired the rick?" he asked.

"The blame is mine!" quoth Richard, with the loftiness of a patriot of
old Rome.

"Na, na!" the straightforward Briton put him aside. "Ye did't, or ye
didn't do't. Did ye do't, or no?"

Thrust in a corner, Richard said, "I did it."

Farmer Blaize reached his hand to the bell. It was answered in an instant
by little Lucy, who received orders to fetch in a dependent at Belthorpe
going by the name of the Bantam, and made her exit as she had entered,
with her eyes on the young stranger.

"Now," said the farmer, "these be my principles. I'm a plain man, Mr.
Feverel. Above board with me, and you'll find me handsome. Try to
circumvent me, and I'm a ugly customer. I'll show you I've no animosity.
Your father pays--you apologize. That's enough for me! Let Tom Bakewell
fight't out with the Law, and I'll look on. The Law wasn't on the spot, I
suppose? so the Law ain't much witness. But I am. Leastwise the Bantam
is. I tell you, young gentleman, the Bantam saw't! It's no moral use
whatever your denyin' that ev'dence. And where's the good, sir, I ask?
What comes of 't? Whether it be you, or whether it be Tom Bakewell--ain't
all one? If I holds back, ain't it sim'lar? It's the trewth I want! And
here't comes," added the farmer, as Miss Lucy ushered in the Bantam, who
presented a curious figure for that rare divinity to enliven.



CHAPTER IX

In build of body, gait and stature, Giles Jinkson, the Bantam, was a
tolerably fair representative of the Punic elephant, whose part, with
diverse anticipations, the generals of the Blaize and Feverel forces,
from opposing ranks, expected him to play. Giles, surnamed the Bantam, on
account of some forgotten sally of his youth or infancy, moved and looked
elephantine. It sufficed that Giles was well fed to assure that Giles was
faithful--if uncorrupted. The farm which supplied to him ungrudging
provender had all his vast capacity for work in willing exercise: the
farmer who held the farm his instinct reverenced as the fountain source
of beef and bacon, to say nothing of beer, which was plentiful at
Belthorpe, and good. This Farmer Blaize well knew, and he reckoned
consequently that here was an animal always to be relied on--a sort of
human composition out of dog, horse, and bull, a cut above each of these
quadrupeds in usefulness, and costing proportionately more, but on the
whole worth the money, and therefore invaluable, as everything worth its
money must be to a wise man. When the stealing of grain had been made
known at Belthorpe, the Bantam, a fellow-thresher with Tom Bakewell, had
shared with him the shadow of the guilt. Farmer Blaize, if he hesitated
which to suspect, did not debate a second as to which he would discard;
and, when the Bantam said he had seen Tom secreting pilkins in a sack,
Farmer Blaize chose to believe him, and off went poor Tom, told to
rejoice in the clemency that spared his appearance at Sessions.

The Bantam's small sleepy orbits saw many things, and just at the right
moment, it seemed. He was certainly the first to give the clue at
Belthorpe on the night of the conflagration, and he may, therefore, have
seen poor Tom retreating stealthily from the scene, as he averred he did.
Lobourne had its say on the subject. Rustic Lobourne hinted broadly at a
young woman in the case, and, moreover, told a tale of how these
fellow-threshers had, in noble rivalry, one day turned upon each other to
see which of the two threshed the best; whereof the Bantam still bore
marks, and malice, it was said. However, there he stood, and tugged his
forelocks to the company, and if Truth really had concealed herself in
him she must have been hard set to find her unlikeliest hiding-place.

"Now," said the farmer, marshalling forth his elephant with the
confidence of one who delivers his ace of trumps, "tell this young
gentleman what ye saw on the night of the fire, Bantam!"

The Bantam jerked a bit of a bow to his patron, and then swung round,
fully obscuring him from Richard.

Richard fixed his eyes on the floor, while the Bantam in rudest Doric
commenced his narrative. Knowing what was to come, and thoroughly nerved
to confute the main incident, Richard barely listened to his barbarous
locution: but when the recital arrived at the point where the Bantam
affirmed he had seen "T'm Baak'll wi's owen hoies," Richard faced him,
and was amazed to find himself being mutely addressed by a series of
intensely significant grimaces, signs, and winks.

"What do you mean? Why are you making those faces at me?" cried the boy
indignantly.

Farmer Blaize leaned round the Bantam to have a look at him, and beheld
the stolidest mask ever given to man.

"Bain't makin' no faces at nobody," growled the sulky elephant.

The farmer commanded him to face about and finish.

"A see T'm Baak'll," the Bantam recommenced, and again the contortions of
a horrible wink were directed at Richard. The boy might well believe this
churl was lying, and he did, and was emboldened to exclaim--

"You never saw Tom Bakewell set fire to that rick!"

The Bantam swore to it, grimacing an accompaniment.

"I tell you," said Richard, "I put the lucifers there myself!"

The suborned elephant was staggered. He meant to telegraph to the young
gentleman that he was loyal and true to certain gold pieces that had been
given him, and that in the right place and at the right time he should
prove so. Why was he thus suspected? Why was he not understood?

"A thowt I see 'un, then," muttered the Bantam, trying a middle course.

This brought down on him the farmer, who roared, "Thought! Ye thought!
What d'ye mean? Speak out, and don't be thinkin'. Thought? What the
devil's that?"

"How could he see who it was on a pitch-dark night?" Richard put in.

"Thought!" the farmer bellowed louder. "Thought--Devil take ye, when ye
took ye oath on't. Hulloa! What are ye screwin' yer eye at Mr. Feverel
for?--I say, young gentleman, have you spoke to this chap before now?"

"I?" replied Richard. "I have not seen him before."

Farmer Blaize grasped the two arms of the chair he sat on, and glared his
doubts.

"Come," said he to the Bantam, "speak out, and ha' done wi't. Say what ye
saw, and none o' yer thoughts. Damn yer thoughts! Ye saw Tom Bakewell
fire that there rick!" The farmer pointed at some musk-pots in the
window. "What business ha' you to be a-thinkin'? You're a witness?
Thinkin' an't ev'dence. What'll ye say to morrow before magistrate! Mind!
what you says today, you'll stick by to-morrow."

Thus adjured, the Bantam hitched his breech. What on earth the young
gentleman meant he was at a loss to speculate. He could not believe that
the young gentleman wanted to be transported, but if he had been paid to
help that, why, he would. And considering that this day's evidence rather
bound him down to the morrow's, he determined, after much ploughing and
harrowing through obstinate shocks of hair, to be not altogether positive
as to the person. It is possible that he became thereby more a mansion of
truth than he previously had been; for the night, as he said, was so dark
that you could not see your hand before your face; and though, as he
expressed it, you might be mortal sure of a man, you could not identify
him upon oath, and the party he had taken for Tom Bakewell, and could
have sworn to, might have been the young gentleman present, especially as
he was ready to swear it upon oath.

So ended the Bantam.

No sooner had he ceased, than Farmer Blaize jumped up from his chair, and
made a fine effort to lift him out of the room from the point of his toe.
He failed, and sank back groaning with the pain of the exertion and
disappointment.

"They're liars, every one!" he cried. "Liars, perj'rers, bribers, and
c'rrupters!--Stop!" to the Bantam, who was slinking away. "You've done
for yerself already! You swore to it!"

"A din't!" said the Bantam, doggedly.

"You swore to't!" the farmer vociferated afresh.

The Bantam played a tune upon the handle of the door, and still affirmed
that he did not; a double contradiction at which the farmer absolutely
raged in his chair, and was hoarse, as he called out a third time that
the Bantam had sworn to it.

"Noa!" said the Bantam, ducking his poll. "Noa!" he repeated in a lower
note; and then, while a sombre grin betokening idiotic enjoyment of his
profound casuistical quibble worked at his jaw:

"Not up'n o-ath!" he added, with a twitch of the shoulder and an angular
jerk of the elbow.

Farmer Blaize looked vacantly at Richard, as if to ask him what he
thought of England's peasantry after the sample they had there. Richard
would have preferred not to laugh, but his dignity gave way to his sense
of the ludicrous, and he let fly a shout. The farmer was in no laughing
mood. He turned a wide eye back to the door, "Lucky for'm," he exclaimed,
seeing the Bantam had vanished, for his fingers itched to break that
stubborn head. He grew very puffy, and addressed Richard solemnly:

"Now, look ye here, Mr. Feverel! You've been a-tampering with my witness.
It's no use denyin'! I say y' 'ave, sir! You, or some of ye. I don't care
about no Feverel! My witness there has been bribed. The Bantam's been
bribed," and he shivered his pipe with an energetic thump on the
table--"bribed! I knows it! I could swear to't!"--

"Upon oath?" Richard inquired, with a grave face.

"Ay, upon oath!" said the farmer, not observing the impertinence.

"I'd take my Bible oath on't! He's been corrupted, my principal witness!
Oh! it's dam cunnin', but it won't do the trick. I'll transport Tom
Bakewell, sure as a gun. He shall travel, that man shall. Sorry for you,
Mr. Feverel--sorry you haven't seen how to treat me proper--you, or
yours. Money won't do everything--no! it won't. It'll c'rrupt a witness,
but it won't clear a felon. I'd ha' 'soused you, sir! You're a boy and'll
learn better. I asked no more than payment and apology; and that I'd ha'
taken content--always provided my witnesses weren't tampered with. Now
you must stand yer luck, all o' ye."

Richard stood up and replied, "Very well, Mr. Blaize."

"And if," continued the farmer, "Tom Bakewell don't drag you into't after
'm, why, you're safe, as I hope ye'll be, sincere!"

"It was not in consideration of my own safety that I sought this
interview with you," said Richard, head erect.

"Grant ye that," the farmer responded. "Grant ye that! Yer bold enough,
young gentleman--comes of the blood that should be! If y' had only ha'
spoke trewth!--I believe yer father--believe every word he said. I do
wish I could ha' said as much for Sir Austin's son and heir."

"What!" cried Richard, with an astonishment hardly to be feigned, "you
have seen my father?"

But Farmer Blaize had now such a scent for lies that he could detect them
where they did not exist, and mumbled gruffly,

"Ay, we knows all about that!"

The boy's perplexity saved him from being irritated. Who could have told
his father? An old fear of his father came upon him, and a touch of an
old inclination to revolt.

"My father knows of this?" said he, very loudly, and staring, as he
spoke, right through the farmer. "Who has played me false? Who would
betray me to him? It was Austin! No one knew it but Austin. Yes, and it
was Austin who persuaded me to come here and submit to these indignities.
Why couldn't he be open with me? I shall never trust him again!"

"And why not you with me, young gentleman?" said the farmer. "I sh'd
trust you if ye had."

Richard did not see the analogy. He bowed stiffly and bade him good
afternoon.

Farmer Blaize pulled the bell. "Company the young gentleman out, Lucy,"
he waved to the little damsel in the doorway. "Do the honours. And, Mr.
Richard, ye might ha' made a friend o' me, sir, and it's not too late so
to do. I'm not cruel, but I hate lies. I whipped my boy Tom, bigger than
you, for not bein' above board, only yesterday,--ay! made 'un stand
within swing o' this chair, and take's measure. Now, if ye'll come down
to me, and speak trewth before the trial--if it's only five minutes
before't; or if Sir Austin, who's a gentleman, 'll say there's been no
tamperin' with any o' my witnesses, his word for't--well and good! I'll
do my best to help off Tom Bakewell. And I'm glad, young gentleman,
you've got a conscience about a poor man, though he's a villain. Good
afternoon, sir."

Richard marched hastily out of the room, and through the garden, never so
much as deigning a glance at his wistful little guide, who hung at the
garden gate to watch him up the lane, wondering a world of fancies about
the handsome proud boy.



CHAPTER X

To have determined upon an act something akin to heroism in its way, and
to have fulfilled it by lying heartily, and so subverting the whole
structure built by good resolution, seems a sad downfall if we forget
what human nature, in its green weedy spring, is composed of. Young
Richard had quitted his cousin Austin fully resolved to do his penance
and drink the bitter cup; and he had drunk it; drained many cups to the
dregs; and it was to no purpose. Still they floated before him, brimmed,
trebly bitter. Away from Austin's influence, he was almost the same boy
who had slipped the guinea into Tom Bakewell's hand, and the lucifers
into Farmer Blaize's rick. For good seed is long ripening; a good boy is
not made in a minute. Enough that the seed was in him. He chafed on his
road to Raynham at the scene he had just endured, and the figure of
Belthorpe's fat tenant burnt like hot copper on the tablet of his brain,
insufferably condescending, and, what was worse, in the right. Richard,
obscured as his mind's eye was by wounded pride, saw that clearly, and
hated his enemy for it the more.

Heavy Benson's tongue was knelling dinner as Richard arrived at the
Abbey. He hurried up to his room to dress. Accident, or design, had laid
the book of Sir Austin's aphorisms open on the dressing-table. Hastily
combing his hair, Richard glanced down and read--

   "The Dog returneth to his vomit: the Liar must eat his Lie."

Underneath was interjected in pencil: "The Devil's mouthful!"

Young Richard ran downstairs feeling that his father had struck him in
the face.

Sir Austin marked the scarlet stain on his son's cheekbones. He sought
the youth's eye, but Richard would not look, and sat conning his plate,
an abject copy of Adrian's succulent air at that employment. How could he
pretend to the relish of an epicure when he was painfully endeavouring to
masticate The Devil's mouthful?

Heavy Benson sat upon the wretched dinner. Hippias usually the silent
member, as if awakened by the unnatural stillness, became sprightly, like
the goatsucker owl at night and spoke much of his book, his digestion,
and his dreams, and was spared both by Algernon and Adrian. One
inconsequent dream he related, about fancying himself quite young and
rich, and finding himself suddenly in a field cropping razors around him,
when, just as he had, by steps dainty as those of a French
dancing-master, reached the middle, he to his dismay beheld a path clear
of the blood, thirsty steel-crop, which he might have taken at first had
he looked narrowly; and there he was.

Hippias's brethren regarded him with eyes that plainly said they wished
he had remained there. Sir Austin, however, drew forth his note-book, and
jotted down a reflection. A composer of aphorisms can pluck blossoms even
from a razor-prop. Was not Hippias's dream the very counterpart of
Richard's position? He, had he looked narrowly, might have taken the
clear path: he, too, had been making dainty steps till he was surrounded
by the grinning blades. And from that text Sir Austin preached to his son
when they were alone. Little Clare was still too unwell to be permitted
to attend the dessert, and father and son were soon closeted together.

It was a strange meeting. They seemed to have been separated so long. The
father took his son's hand; they sat without a word passing between them.
Silence said most. The boy did not understand his father: his father
frequently thwarted him: at times he thought his father foolish: but that
paternal pressure of his hand was eloquent to him of how warmly he was
beloved. He tried once or twice to steal his hand away, conscious it was
melting him. The spirit of his pride, and old rebellion, whispered him to
be hard, unbending, resolute. Hard he had entered his father's study:
hard he had met his father's eyes. He could not meet them now. His father
sat beside him gently; with a manner that was almost meekness, so he
loved this boy. The poor gentleman's lips moved. He was praying
internally to God for him.

By degrees an emotion awoke in the boy's bosom. Love is that blessed wand
which wins the waters from the hardness of the heart. Richard fought
against it, for the dignity of old rebellion. The tears would come; hot
and struggling over the dams of pride. Shamefully fast they began to
fall. He could no longer conceal them, or check the sobs. Sir Austin drew
him nearer and nearer, till the beloved head was on his breast.

An hour afterwards, Adrian Harley, Austin Wentworth, and Algernon Feverel
were summoned to the baronet's study.

Adrian came last. There was a style of affable omnipotence about the wise
youth as he slung himself into a chair, and made an arch of the points of
his fingers, through which to gaze on his blundering kinsmen. Careless as
one may be whose sagacity has foreseen, and whose benevolent efforts have
forestalled, the point of danger at the threshold, Adrian crossed his
legs, and only intruded on their introductory remarks so far as to hum
half audibly at intervals,

     "Ripton and Richard were two pretty men,"

in parody of the old ballad. Young Richard's red eyes, and the baronet's
ruffled demeanour, told him that an explanation had taken place, and a
reconciliation. That was well. The baronet would now pay cheerfully.
Adrian summed and considered these matters, and barely listened when the
baronet called attention to what he had to say: which was elaborately to
inform all present, what all present very well knew, that a rick had been
fired, that his son was implicated as an accessory to the fact, that the
perpetrator was now imprisoned, and that Richard's family were, as it
seemed to him, bound in honour to do their utmost to effect the man's
release.

Then the baronet stated that he had himself been down to Belthorpe, his
son likewise: and that he had found every disposition in Blaize to meet
his wishes.

The lamp which ultimately was sure to be lifted up to illumine the acts
of this secretive race began slowly to dispread its rays; and, as
statement followed statement, they saw that all had known of the
business: that all had been down to Belthorpe: all save the wise youth
Adrian, who, with due deference and a sarcastic shrug, objected to the
proceeding, as putting them in the hands of the man Blaize. His wisdom
shone forth in an oration so persuasive and aphoristic that had it not
been based on a plea against honour, it would have made Sir Austin waver.
But its basis was expediency, and the baronet had a better aphorism of
his own to confute him with.

"Expediency is man's wisdom, Adrian Harley. Doing right is God's."

Adrian curbed his desire to ask Sir Austin whether an attempt to
counteract the just working of the law was doing right. The direct
application of an aphorism was unpopular at Raynham.

"I am to understand then," said he, "that Blaize consents not to press
the prosecution."

"Of course he won't," Algernon remarked. "Confound him! he'll have his
money, and what does he want besides?"

"These agricultural gentlemen are delicate customers to deal with.
However, if he really consents"--

"I have his promise," said the baronet, fondling his son.

Young Richard looked up to his father, as if he wished to speak. He said
nothing, and Sir Austin took it as a mute reply to his caresses; and
caressed him the more. Adrian perceived a reserve in the boy's manner,
and as he was not quite satisfied that his chief should suppose him to
have been the only idle, and not the most acute and vigilant member of
the family, he commenced a cross-examination of him by asking who had
last spoken with the tenant of Belthorpe?

"I think I saw him last," murmured Richard, and relinquished his father's
hand.

Adrian fastened on his prey. "And left him with a distinct and
satisfactory assurance of his amicable intentions?"

"No," said Richard.

"Not?" the Feverels joined in astounded chorus.

Richard sidled away from his father, and repeated a shamefaced "No."

"Was he hostile?" inquired Adrian, smoothing his palms, and smiling.

"Yes," the boy confessed.

Here was quite another view of their position. Adrian, generally patient
of results, triumphed strongly at having evoked it, and turned upon
Austin Wentworth, reproving him for inducing the boy to go down to
Belthorpe. Austin looked grieved. He feared that Richard had faded in his
good resolve.

"I thought it his duty to go," he observed.

"It was!" said the baronet, emphatically.

"And you see what comes of it, sir," Adrian struck in. "These
agricultural gentlemen, I repeat, are delicate customers to deal with.
For my part I would prefer being in the hands of a policeman. We are
decidedly collared by Blaize. What were his words, Ricky? Give it in his
own Doric."

"He said he would transport Tom Bakewell."

Adrian smoothed his palms, and smiled again. Then they could afford to
defy Mr. Blaize, he informed them significantly, and made once more a
mysterious allusion to the Punic elephant, bidding his relatives be at
peace. They were attaching, in his opinion, too much importance to
Richard's complicity. The man was a fool, and a very extraordinary
arsonite, to have an accomplice at all. It was a thing unknown in the
annals of rick-burning. But one would be severer than law itself to say
that a boy of fourteen had instigated to crime a full-grown man. At that
rate the boy was 'father of the man' with a vengeance, and one might hear
next that 'the baby was father of the boy.' They would find common sense
a more benevolent ruler than poetical metaphysics.

When he had done, Austin, with his customary directness, asked him what
he meant.

"I confess, Adrian," said the baronet, hearing him expostulate with
Austin's stupidity, "I for one am at a loss. I have heard that this man,
Bakewell, chooses voluntarily not to inculpate my son. Seldom have I
heard anything that so gratified me. It is a view of innate nobleness in
the rustic's character which many a gentleman might take example from. We
are bound to do our utmost for the man." And, saying that he should pay a
second visit to Belthorpe, to inquire into the reasons for the farmer's
sudden exposition of vindictiveness, Sir Austin rose.

Before he left the room, Algernon asked Richard if the farmer had
vouchsafed any reasons, and the boy then spoke of the tampering with the
witnesses, and the Bantam's "Not upon oath!" which caused Adrian to choke
with laughter. Even the baronet smiled at so cunning a distinction as
that involved in swearing a thing, and not swearing it upon oath.

"How little," he exclaimed, "does one yeoman know another! To elevate a
distinction into a difference is the natural action of their minds. I
will point that out to Blaize. He shall see that the idea is native
born."

Richard saw his father go forth. Adrian, too, was ill at ease.

"This trotting down to Belthorpe spoils all," said he. "The affair would
pass over to-morrow--Blaize has no witnesses. The old rascal is only
standing out for more money."

"No, he isn't," Richard corrected him. "It's not that. I'm sure he
believes his witnesses have been tampered with, as he calls it."

"What if they have, boy?" Adrian put it boldly. "The ground is cut from
under his feet."

"Blaize told me that if my father would give his word there had been
nothing of the sort, he would take it. My father will give his word."

"Then," said Adrian, "you had better stop him from going down."

Austin looked at Adrian keenly, and questioned him whether he thought the
farmer was justified in his suspicions. The wise youth was not to be
entrapped. He had only been given to understand that the witnesses were
tolerably unstable, and, like the Bantam, ready to swear lustily, but not
upon the Book. How given to understand, he chose not to explain, but he
reiterated that the chief should not be allowed to go down to Belthorpe.

Sir Austin was in the lane leading to the farm when he heard steps of
some one running behind him. It was dark, and he shook off the hand that
laid hold of his cloak, roughly, not recognizing his son.

"It's I, sir," said Richard panting. "Pardon me. You mustn't go in
there."

"Why not?" said the baronet, putting his arm about him.

"Not now," continued the boy. "I will tell you all to-night. I must see
the farmer myself. It was my fault, sir. I-I lied to him--the Liar must
eat his Lie. Oh, forgive me for disgracing you, sir. I did it--I hope I
did it to save Tom Bakewell. Let me go in alone, and speak the truth."

"Go, and I will wait for you here," said his father.

The wind that bowed the old elms, and shivered the dead leaves in the
air, had a voice and a meaning for the baronet during that half-hour's
lonely pacing up and down under the darkness, awaiting his boy's return.
The solemn gladness of his heart gave nature a tongue. Through the
desolation flying overhead--the wailing of the Mother of Plenty across
the bare-swept land--he caught intelligible signs of the beneficent order
of the universe, from a heart newly confirmed in its grasp of the
principle of human goodness, as manifested in the dear child who had just
left him; confirmed in its belief in the ultimate victory of good within
us, without which nature has neither music nor meaning, and is rock,
stone, tree, and nothing more.

In the dark, the dead leaves beating on his face, he had a word for his
note-book: "There is for the mind but one grasp of happiness: from that
uppermost pinnacle of wisdom, whence we see that this world is well
designed."



CHAPTER XI

Of all the chief actors in the Bakewell Comedy, Master Ripton Thompson
awaited the fearful morning which was to decide Tom's fate, in
dolefullest mood, and suffered the gravest mental terrors. Adrian, on
parting with him, had taken casual occasion to speak of the position of
the criminal in modern Europe, assuring him that International Treaty now
did what Universal Empire had aforetime done, and that among Atlantic
barbarians now, as among the Scythians of old, an offender would find
precarious refuge and an emissary haunting him.

In the paternal home, under the roofs of Law, and removed from the
influence of his conscienceless young chief, the staggering nature of the
act he had put his hand to, its awful felonious aspect, overwhelmed
Ripton. He saw it now for the first time. "Why, it's next to murder!" he
cried out to his amazed soul, and wandered about the house with a prickly
skin. Thoughts of America, and commencing life afresh as an innocent
gentleman, had crossed his disordered brain. He wrote to his friend
Richard, proposing to collect disposable funds, and embark, in case of
Tom's breaking his word, or of accidental discovery. He dared not confide
the secret to his family, as his leader had sternly enjoined him to avoid
any weakness of that kind; and, being by nature honest and communicative,
the restriction was painful, and melancholy fell upon the boy. Mama
Thompson attributed it to love.

The daughters of parchment rallied him concerning Miss Clare Forey. His
hourly letters to Raynham, and silence as to everything and everybody
there, his nervousness, and unwonted propensity to sudden inflammation of
the cheeks, were set down for sure signs of the passion. Miss Letitia
Thompson, the pretty and least parchmenty one, destined by her Papa for
the heir of Raynham, and perfectly aware of her brilliant future, up to
which she had, since Ripton's departure, dressed and grimaced, and
studied cadences (the latter with such success, though not yet fifteen,
that she languished to her maid, and melted the small factotum
footman)--Miss Letty, whose insatiable thirst for intimations about the
young heir Ripton could not satisfy, tormented him daily in revenge, and
once, quite unconsciously, gave the lad a fearful turn; for after dinner,
when Mr. Thompson read the paper by the fire, preparatory to sleeping at
his accustomed post, and Mama Thompson and her submissive female brood
sat tasking the swift intricacies of the needle, and emulating them with
the tongue, Miss Letty stole behind Ripton's chair, and introduced
between him and his book the Latin initial letter, large and illuminated,
of the theme she supposed to be absorbing him, as it did herself. The
unexpected vision of this accusing Captain of the Alphabet, this
resplendent and haunting A. fronting him bodily, threw Ripton straight
back in his chair, while Guilt, with her ancient indecision what colours
to assume on detection, flew from red to white, from white to red, across
his fallen chaps. Letty laughed triumphantly. Amor, the word she had in
mind, certainly has a connection with Arson.

But the delivery of a letter into Master Ripton's hands, furnished her
with other and likelier appearances to study. For scarce had Ripton
plunged his head into the missive than he gave way to violent transports,
such as the healthy-minded little damsel, for all her languishing
cadences, deemed she really could express were a downright declaration to
be made to her. The boy did not stop at table. Quickly recollecting the
presence of his family, he rushed to his own room. And now the girl's
ingenuity was taxed to gain possession of that letter. She succeeded, of
course, she being a huntress with few scruples and the game unguarded.
With the eyes of amazement she read this foreign matter:

"Dear Ripton,--If Tom had been committed I would have shot old Blaize.
Do you know my father was behind us that night when Clare saw the ghost
and heard all we said before the fire burst out. It is no use trying to
conceal anything from him. Well as you are in an awful state I will tell
you all about it. After you left Ripton I had a conversation with Austin
and he persuaded me to go down to old Blaize and ask him to help off Tom.
I went for I would have done anything for Tom after what he said to
Austin and I defied the old churl to do his worst. Then he said if my
father paid the money and nobody had tampered with his witnesses he would
not mind if Tom did get off and he had his chief witness in called the
Bantam very like his master I think and the Bantam began winking at me
tremendously as you say, and said he had sworn he saw Tom Bakewell but
not upon oath. He meant not on the Bible. He could swear to it but not
on the Bible. I burst out laughing and you should have seen the rage old
Blaize was in. It was splendid fun. Then we had a consultation at home
Austin Rady my father Uncle Algernon who has come down to us again and
your friend in prosperity and adversity R.D.F. My father said he would
go down to old Blaize and give him the word of a gentleman we had not
tampered with his witnesses and when he was gone we were all talking and
Rady says he must not see the farmer. I am as certain as I live that it
was Rady bribed the Bantam. Well I ran and caught up my father and told
him not to go in to old Blaize but I would and eat my words and tell him
the truth. He waited for me in the lane. Never mind what passed between
me and old Blaize. He made me beg and pray of him not to press it
against Tom and then to complete it he brought in a little girl a niece
of his and says to me, she's your best friend after all and told me to
thank her. A little girl twelve years of age. What business had she to
mix herself up in my matters. Depend upon it Ripton, wherever there is
mischief there are girls I think. She had the insolence to notice my
face, and ask me not to be unhappy. I was polite of course but I would
not look at her. Well the morning came and Tom was had up before Sir
Miles Papworth. It was Sir Miles gout gave us the time or Tom would have
been had up before we could do anything. Adrian did not want me to go
but my father said I should accompany him and held my hand all the time.
I shall be careful about getting into these scrapes again. When you have
done anything honourable you do not mind but getting among policemen and
magistrates makes you ashamed of yourself. Sir Miles was very attentive
to my father and me and dead against Tom. We sat beside him and Tom was
brought in, Sir Miles told my father that if there was one thing that
showed a low villain it was rick-burning. What do you think of that.
I looked him straight in the face and he said to me he was doing me a
service in getting Tom committed and clearing the country of such fellows
and Rady began laughing. I hate Rady. My father said his son was not in
haste to inherit and have estates of his own to watch and Sir Miles
laughed too. I thought we were discovered at first. Then they began the
examination of Tom. The Tinker was the first witness and he proved that
Tom had spoken against old Blaize and said something about burning his
rick. I wished I had stood in the lane to Bursley with him alone. Our
country lawyer we engaged for Tom cross-questioned him and then he said
he was not ready to swear to the exact words that had passed between him
and Tom. I should think not. Then came another who swore he had seen
Tom lurking about the farmer's grounds that night. Then came the Bantam
and I saw him look at Rady. I was tremendously excited and my father
kept pressing my hand. Just fancy my being brought to feel that a word
from that fellow would make me miserable for life and he must perjure
himself to help me. That comes of giving way to passion. My father says
when we do that we are calling in the devil as doctor. Well the Bantam
was told to state what he had seen and the moment he began Rady who was
close by me began to shake and he was laughing I knew though his face was
as grave as Sir Miles. You never heard such a rigmarole but I could not
laugh. He said he thought he was certain he had seen somebody by the
rick and it was Tom Bakewell who was the only man he knew who had a
grudge against Farmer Blaize and if the object had been a little bigger
he would not mind swearing to Tom and would swear to him for he was dead
certain it was Tom only what he saw looked smaller and it was pitch-dark
at the time. He was asked what time it was he saw the person steal away
from the rick and then he began to scratch his head and said supper-time.
Then they asked what time he had supper and he said nine o'clock by the
clock and we proved that at nine o'clock Tom was drinking in the
ale-house with the Tinker at Bursley and Sir Miles swore and said he was
afraid he could not commit Tom and when he heard that Tom looked up at me
and I say he is a noble fellow and no one shall sneer at Tom while I
live. Mind that. Well Sir Miles asked us to dine with him and Tom was
safe and I am to have him and educate him if I like for my servant and I
will. And I will give money to his mother and make her rich and he shall
never repent he knew me. I say Rip. The Bantam must have seen me. It
was when I went to stick in the lucifers. As we were all going home from
Sir Miles's at night he has lots of red-faced daughters but I did not
dance with them though they had music and were full of fun and I did not
care to I was so delighted and almost let it out. When we left and rode
home Rady said to my father the Bantam was not such a fool as he was
thought and my father said one must be in a state of great personal
exaltation to apply that epithet to any man and Rady shut his mouth and I
gave my pony a clap of the heel for joy. I think my father suspects what
Rady did and does not approve of it. And he need not have done it after
all and might have spoilt it. I have been obliged to order him not to
call me Ricky for he stops short at Rick so that everybody knows what he
means. My dear Austin is going to South America. My pony is in capital
condition. My father is the cleverest and best man in the world. Clare
is a little better. I am quite happy. I hope we shall meet soon my dear
Old Rip and we will not get into any more tremendous scrapes will we.--I
remain,
          Your sworn friend,
               "RICHARD DORIA FEVEREL."

"P.S. I am to have a nice River Yacht. Good-bye, Rip. Mind you learn to
box. Mind you are not to show this to any of your friends on pain of my
displeasure.

"N.B. Lady B. was so angry when I told her that I had not come to her
before. She would do anything in the world for me. I like her next best
to my father and Austin. Good-bye old Rip."

Poor little Letitia, after three perusals of this ingenuous epistle,
where the laws of punctuation were so disregarded, resigned it to one of
the pockets of her brother Ripton's best jacket, deeply smitten with the
careless composer. And so ended the last act of the Bakewell Comedy, in
which the curtain closes with Sir Austin's pointing out to his friends
the beneficial action of the System in it from beginning to end.



CHAPTER XII

Laying of ghosts is a public duty, and, as the mystery of the apparition
that had frightened little Clare was never solved on the stage of events
at Raynham, where dread walked the Abbey, let us go behind the scenes a
moment. Morally superstitious as the baronet was, the character of his
mind was opposed to anything like spiritual agency in the affairs of men,
and, when the matter was made clear to him, it shook off a weight of
weakness and restored his mental balance; so that from this time he went
about more like the man he had once been, grasping more thoroughly the
great truth, that This World is well designed. Nay, he could laugh on
hearing Adrian, in reminiscence of the ill luck of one of the family
members at its first manifestation, call the uneasy spirit, Algernon's
Leg.

Mrs. Doria was outraged. She maintained that her child had seen ---- Not
to believe in it was almost to rob her of her personal property. After
satisfactorily studying his old state of mind in her, Sir Austin, moved
by pity, took her aside one day and showed her that her Ghost could write
words in the flesh. It was a letter from the unhappy lady who had given
Richard birth,--brief cold lines, simply telling him his house would be
disturbed by her no more. Cold lines, but penned by what heart-broken
abnegation, and underlying them with what anguish of soul! Like most who
dealt with him, Lady Feverel thought her husband a man fatally stern and
implacable, and she acted as silly creatures will act when they fancy
they see a fate against them: she neither petitioned for her right nor
claimed it: she tried to ease her heart's yearning by stealth, and, now
she renounced all. Mrs. Doria, not wanting in the family tenderness and
softness, shuddered at him for accepting the sacrifice so composedly: but
he bade her to think how distracting to this boy would be the sight of
such relations between mother and father. A few years, and as man he
should know, and judge, and love her. "Let this be her penance, not
inflicted by me!" Mrs. Doria bowed to the System for another, not opining
when it would be her turn to bow for herself.

Further behind the scenes we observe Rizzio and Mary grown older, much
disenchanted: she discrowned, dishevelled,--he with gouty fingers on a
greasy guitar. The Diaper Sandoe of promise lends his pen for small
hires. His fame has sunk; his bodily girth has sensibly increased. What
he can do, and will do, is still his theme; meantime the juice of the
juniper is in requisition, and it seems that those small hires cannot be
performed without it. Returning from her wretched journey to her
wretcheder home, the lady had to listen to a mild reproof from easy-going
Diaper,--a reproof so mild that he couched it in blank verse: for, seldom
writing metrically now, he took to talking it. With a fluent sympathetic
tear, he explained to her that she was damaging her interests by these
proceedings; nor did he shrink from undertaking to elucidate wherefore.
Pluming a smile upon his succulent mouth, he told her that the poverty
she lived in was utterly unbefitting her gentle nurture, and that he had
reason to believe--could assure her--that an annuity was on the point of
being granted her by her husband. And Diaper broke his bud of a smile
into full flower as he delivered this information. She learnt that he had
applied to her husband for money. It is hard to have one's prop of
self-respect cut away just when we are suffering a martyr's agony at the
stake. There was a five minutes' tragic colloquy in the recesses behind
the scenes,--totally tragic to Diaper, who had fondly hoped to bask in
the warm sun of that annuity, and re-emerge from his state of grub. The
lady then wrote the letter Sir Austin held open to his sister. The
atmosphere behind the scenes is not wholesome, so, having laid the Ghost,
we will return and face the curtain.

That infinitesimal dose of The World which Master Ripton Thompson had
furnished to the System with such instantaneous and surprising effect was
considered by Sir Austin to have worked well, and to be for the time
quite sufficient, so that Ripton did not receive a second invitation to
Raynham, and Richard had no special intimate of his own age to rub his
excessive vitality against, and wanted none. His hands were full enough
with Tom Bakewell. Moreover, his father and he were heart in heart. The
boy's mind was opening, and turned to his father affectionately reverent.
At this period, when the young savage grows into higher influences, the
faculty of worship is foremost in him. At this period Jesuits will stamp
the future of their chargeling flocks; and all who bring up youth by a
System, and watch it, know that it is the malleable moment. Boys
possessing any mental or moral force to give them a tendency, then
predestinate their careers; or, if under supervision, take the impress
that is given them: not often to cast it off, and seldom to cast it off
altogether.

In Sir Austin's Note-book was written: "Between Simple Boyhood and
Adolescence--The Blossoming Season--on the threshold of Puberty, there is
one Unselfish Hour--say, Spiritual Seed-time."

He took care that good seed should be planted in Richard, and that the
most fruitful seed for a youth, namely, Example, should be of a kind to
germinate in him the love of every form of nobleness.

"I am only striving to make my son a Christian," he said, answering them
who persisted in expostulating with the System. And to these instructions
he gave an aim: "First be virtuous," he told his son, "and then serve
your country with heart and soul." The youth was instructed to cherish an
ambition for statesmanship, and he and his father read history and the
speeches of British orators to some purpose; for one day Sir Austin found
him leaning cross-legged, and with his hand to his chin, against a
pedestal supporting the bust of Chatham, contemplating the hero of our
Parliament, his eyes streaming with tears.

People said the baronet carried the principle of Example so far that he
only retained his boozing dyspeptic brother Hippias at Raynham in order
to exhibit to his son the woeful retribution nature wreaked upon a life
of indulgence; poor Hippias having now become a walking complaint. This
was unjust, but there is no doubt he made use of every illustration to
disgust or encourage his son that his neighbourhood afforded him, and did
not spare his brother, for whom Richard entertained a contempt in
proportion to his admiration of his father, and was for flying into
penitential extremes which Sir Austin had to soften.

The boy prayed with his father morning and night.

"How is it, sir," he said one night, "I can't get Tom Bakewell to pray?"

"Does he refuse?" Sir Austin asked.

"He seems to be ashamed to," Richard replied. "He wants to know what is
the good? and I don't know what to tell him."

"I'm afraid it has gone too far with him," said Sir Austin, "and until he
has had some deep sorrows he will not find the divine want of Prayer.
Strive, my son, when you represent the people, to provide for their
education. He feels everything now through a dull impenetrable rind.
Culture is half-way to heaven. Tell him, my son, should he ever be
brought to ask how he may know the efficacy of Prayer, and that his
prayer will be answered, tell him (he quoted The Pilgrim's Scrip):

"'Who rises from Prayer a better man, his prayer is answered.'"

"I will, sir," said Richard, and went to sleep happy.

Happy in his father and in himself, the youth now lived. Conscience was
beginning to inhabit him, and he carried some of the freightage known to
men; though in so crude a form that it overweighed him, now on this side,
now on that.

The wise youth Adrian observed these further progressionary developments
in his pupil, soberly cynical. He was under Sir Austin's interdict not to
banter him, and eased his acrid humours inspired by the sight of a
felonious young rick-burner turning saint, by grave affectations of
sympathy and extreme accuracy in marking the not widely-distant dates of
his various changes. The Bread-and-water phase lasted a fortnight: the
Vegetarian (an imitation of his cousin Austin), little better than a
month: the religious, somewhat longer: the religious-propagandist (when
he was for converting the heathen of Lobourne and Burnley, and the
domestics of the Abbey, including Tom Bakewell), longer still, and hard
to bear;--he tried to convert Adrian! All the while Tom was being
exercised like a raw recruit. Richard had a drill-sergeant from the
nearest barracks down for him, to give him a proper pride in himself, and
marched him to and fro with immense satisfaction, and nearly broke his
heart trying to get the round-shouldered rustic to take in the rudiments
of letters: for the boy had unbounded hopes for Tom, as a hero in grain.

Richard's pride also was cast aside. He affected to be, and really
thought he was, humble. Whereupon Adrian, as by accident, imparted to him
the fact that men were animals, and he an animal with the rest of them.

"I an animal!" cries Richard in scorn, and for weeks he was as troubled
by this rudiment of self-knowledge as Tom by his letters. Sir Austin had
him instructed in the wonders of anatomy, to restore his self-respect.

Seed-Time passed thus smoothly, and adolescence came on, and his cousin
Clare felt what it was to be of an opposite sex to him. She too was
growing, but nobody cared how she grew. Outwardly even her mother seemed
absorbed in the sprouting of the green off-shoot of the Feverel tree, and
Clare was his handmaiden, little marked by him.

Lady Blandish honestly loved the boy. She would tell him: "If I had been
a girl, I would have had you for my husband." And he with the frankness
of his years would reply: "And how do you know I would have had you?"
causing her to laugh and call him a silly boy, for had he not heard her
say she would have had him? Terrible words, he knew not then the meaning
of!

"You don't read your father's Book," she said. Her own copy was bound in
purple velvet, gilt-edged, as decorative ladies like to have holier
books, and she carried it about with her, and quoted it, and (Adrian
remarked to Mrs. Doria) hunted a noble quarry, and deliberately aimed at
him therewith, which Mrs. Doria chose to believe, and regretted her
brother would not be on his guard.

"See here," said Lady Blandish, pressing an almondy finger-nail to one of
the Aphorisms, which instanced how age and adversity must clay-enclose us
ere we can effectually resist the magnetism of any human creature in our
path. "Can you understand it, child?"

Richard informed her that when she read he could.

"Well, then, my squire," she touched his cheek and ran her fingers
through his hair, "learn as quick as you can not to be all hither and yon
with a hundred different attractions, as I was before I met a wise man to
guide me."

"Is my father very wise?" Richard asked.

"I think so," the lady emphasized her individual judgment.

"Do you--" Richard broke forth, and was stopped by a beating of his
heart.

"Do I--what?" she calmly queried.

"I was going to say, do you--I mean, I love him so much."

Lady Blandish smiled and slightly coloured.

They frequently approached this theme, and always retreated from it;
always with the same beating of heart to Richard, accompanied by the
sense of a growing mystery, which, however, did not as yet generally
disturb him.

Life was made very pleasant to him at Raynham, as it was part of Sir
Austin's principle of education that his boy should be thoroughly joyous
and happy; and whenever Adrian sent in a satisfactory report of his
pupil's advancement, which he did pretty liberally, diversions were
planned, just as prizes are given to diligent school-boys, and Richard
was supposed to have all his desires gratified while he attended to his
studies. The System flourished. Tall, strong, bloomingly healthy, he took
the lead of his companions on land and water, and had more than one
bondsman in his service besides Ripton Thompson--the boy without a
Destiny! Perhaps the boy with a Destiny was growing up a trifle too
conscious of it. His generosity to his occasional companions was
princely, but was exercised something too much in the manner of a prince;
and, notwithstanding his contempt for baseness, he would overlook that
more easily than an offence to his pride, which demanded an utter
servility when it had once been rendered susceptible. If Richard had his
followers he had also his feuds. The Papworths were as subservient as
Ripton, but young Ralph Morton, the nephew of Mr. Morton, and a match for
Richard in numerous promising qualities, comprising the noble science of
fisticuffs, this youth spoke his mind too openly, and moreover would not
be snubbed. There was no middle course for Richard's comrades between
high friendship or absolute slavery. He was deficient in those
cosmopolite habits and feelings which enable boys and men to hold
together without caring much for each other; and, like every insulated
mortal, he attributed the deficiency, of which he was quite aware, to the
fact of his possessing a superior nature. Young Ralph was a lively
talker: therefore, argued Richard's vanity, he had no intellect. He was
affable: therefore he was frivolous. The women liked him: therefore he
was a butterfly. In fine, young Ralph was popular, and our superb prince,
denied the privilege of despising, ended by detesting him.

Early in the days of their contention for leadership, Richard saw the
absurdity of affecting to scorn his rival. Ralph was an Eton boy, and
hence, being robust, a swimmer and a cricketer. A swimmer and a cricketer
is nowhere to be scorned in youth's republic. Finding that manoeuvre
would not do, Richard was prompted once or twice to entrench himself
behind his greater wealth and his position; but he soon abandoned that
also, partly because his chilliness to ridicule told him he was exposing
himself, and chiefly that his heart was too chivalrous. And so he was
dragged into the lists by Ralph, and experienced the luck of champions.
For cricket, and for diving, Ralph bore away the belt: Richard's
middle-stump tottered before his ball, and he could seldom pick up more
than three eggs underwater to Ralph's half-dozen. He was beaten, too, in
jumping and running. Why will silly mortals strive to the painful
pinnacles of championship? Or why, once having reached them, not have the
magnanimity and circumspection to retire into private life immediately?
Stung by his defeats, Richard sent one of his dependent Papworths to Poer
Hall, with a challenge to Ralph Barthrop Morton; matching himself to swim
across the Thames and back, once, trice, or thrice, within a less time
than he, Ralph Barthrop Morton, would require for the undertaking. It was
accepted, and a reply returned, equally formal in the trumpeting of
Christian names, wherein Ralph Barthrop Morton acknowledged the challenge
of Richard Doria Feverel, and was his man. The match came off on a
midsummer morning, under the direction of Captain Algernon. Sir Austin
was a spectator from the cover of a plantation by the river-side, unknown
to his son, and, to the scandal of her sex, Lady Blandish accompanied the
baronet. He had invited her attendance, and she, obeying her frank
nature, and knowing what The Pilgrim's Scrip said about prudes, at once
agreed to view the match, pleasing him mightily. For was not here a woman
worthy the Golden Ages of the world? one who could look upon man as a
creature divinely made, and look with a mind neither tempted, nor
taunted, by the Serpent! Such a woman was rare. Sir Austin did not
discompose her by uttering his praises. She was conscious of his approval
only in an increased gentleness of manner, and something in his voice and
communications, as if he were speaking to a familiar, a very high
compliment from him. While the lads were standing ready for the signal to
plunge from the steep decline of greensward into the shining waters, Sir
Austin called upon her to admire their beauty, and she did, and even
advanced her head above his shoulder delicately. In so doing, and just as
the start was given, a bonnet became visible to Richard. Young Ralph was
heels in air before he moved, and then he dropped like lead. He was
beaten by several lengths.

The result of the match was unaccountable to all present, and Richard's
friends unanimously pressed him to plead a false start. But though the
youth, with full confidence in his better style and equal strength, had
backed himself heavily against his rival, and had lost his little
river-yacht to Ralph, he would do nothing of the sort. It was the Bonnet
had beaten him, not Ralph. The Bonnet, typical of the mystery that caused
his heart those violent palpitations, was his dear, detestable enemy.

And now, as he progressed from mood to mood, his ambition turned towards
a field where Ralph could not rival him, and where the Bonnet was
etherealized, and reigned glorious mistress. A cheek to the pride of a
boy will frequently divert him to the path where lie his subtlest powers.
Richard gave up his companions, servile or antagonistic: he relinquished
the material world to young Ralph, and retired into himself, where he was
growing to be lord of kingdoms where Beauty was his handmaid, and History
his minister and Time his ancient harper, and sweet Romance his bride;
where he walked in a realm vaster and more gorgeous than the great
Orient, peopled with the heroes that have been. For there is no princely
wealth, and no loftiest heritage, to equal this early one that is made
bountifully common to so many, when the ripening blood has put a spark to
the imagination, and the earth is seen through rosy mists of a thousand
fresh-awakened nameless and aimless desires; panting for bliss and taking
it as it comes; making of any sight or sound, perforce of the enchantment
they carry with them, a key to infinite, because innocent, pleasure. The
passions then are gambolling cubs; not the ravaging gluttons they grow
to. They have their teeth and their talons, but they neither tear nor
bite. They are in counsel and fellowship with the quickened heart and
brain. The whole sweet system moves to music.

Something akin to the indications of a change in the spirit of his son,
which were now seen, Sir Austin had marked down to be expected, as due to
his plan. The blushes of the youth, his long vigils, his clinging to
solitude, his abstraction, and downcast but not melancholy air, were
matters for rejoicing to the prescient gentleman. "For it comes," said he
to Dr. Clifford of Lobourne, after consulting him medically on the
youth's behalf and being assured of his soundness, "it comes of a
thoroughly sane condition. The blood is healthy, the mind virtuous:
neither instigates the other to evil, and both are perfecting toward the
flower of manhood. If he reach that pure--in the untainted fulness and
perfection of his natural powers--I am indeed a happy father! But one
thing he will owe to me: that at one period of his life he knew paradise,
and could read God's handwriting on the earth! Now those abominations
whom you call precocious boys--your little pet monsters, doctor!--and who
can wonder that the world is what it is? when it is full of them--as they
will have no divine time to look back upon in their own lives, how can
they believe in innocence and goodness, or be other than sons of
selfishness and the Devil? But my boy," and the baronet dropped his voice
to a key that was touching to hear, "my boy, if he fall, will fall from
an actual region of purity. He dare not be a sceptic as to that. Whatever
his darkness, he will have the guiding light of a memory behind him. So
much is secure."

To talk nonsense, or poetry, or the dash between the two, in a tone of
profound sincerity, and to enunciate solemn discordances with received
opinion so seriously as to convey the impression of a spiritual insight,
is the peculiar gift by which monomaniacs, having first persuaded
themselves, contrive to influence their neighbours, and through them to
make conquest of a good half of the world, for good or for ill. Sir
Austin had this gift. He spoke as if he saw the truth, and, persisting in
it so long, he was accredited by those who did not understand him, and
silenced them that did.

"We shall see," was all the argument left to Dr. Clifford, and other
unbelievers.

So far certainly the experiment had succeeded. A comelier, bracer, better
boy was nowhere to be met. His promise was undeniable. The vessel, too,
though it lay now in harbour and had not yet been proved by the buffets
of the elements on the great ocean, had made a good trial trip, and got
well through stormy weather, as the records of the Bakewell Comedy
witnessed to at Raynham. No augury could be hopefuller. The Fates must
indeed be hard, the Ordeal severe, the Destiny dark, that could destroy
so bright a Spring! But, bright as it was, the baronet relaxed nothing of
his vigilant supervision. He said to his intimates: "Every act, every
fostered inclination, almost every thought, in this Blossoming Season,
bears its seed for the Future. The living Tree now requires incessant
watchfulness." And, acting up to his light, Sir Austin did watch. The
youth submitted to an examination every night before he sought his bed;
professedly to give an account of his studies, but really to recapitulate
his moral experiences of the day. He could do so, for he was pure. Any
wildness in him that his father noted, any remoteness or richness of
fancy in his expressions, was set down as incidental to the Blossoming
Season. There is nothing like a theory for binding the wise. Sir Austin,
despite his rigid watch and ward, knew less of his son than the servant
of his household. And he was deaf, as well as blind. Adrian thought it
his duty to tell him that the youth was consuming paper. Lady Blandish
likewise hinted at his mooning propensities. Sir Austin from his lofty
watch-tower of the System had foreseen it, he said. But when he came to
hear that the youth was writing poetry, his wounded heart had its reasons
for being much disturbed.

"Surely," said Lady Blandish, "you knew he scribbled?"

"A very different thing from writing poetry," said the baronet. "No
Feverel has ever written poetry."

"I don't think it's a sign of degeneracy," the lady remarked. "He rhymes
very prettily to me."

A London phrenologist, and a friendly Oxford Professor of poetry, quieted
Sir Austin's fears.

The phrenologist said he was totally deficient in the imitative faculty;
and the Professor, that he was equally so in the rhythmic, and instanced
several consoling false quantities in the few effusions submitted to him.
Added to this, Sir Austin told Lady Blandish that Richard had, at his
best, done what no poet had ever been known to be capable of doing: he
had, with his own hands, and in cold blood, committed his virgin
manuscript to the flames: which made Lady Blandish sigh forth, "Poor
boy!"

Killing one's darling child is a painful imposition. For a youth in his
Blossoming Season, who fancies himself a poet, to be requested to destroy
his first-born, without a reason (though to pretend a reason cogent
enough to justify the request were a mockery), is a piece of abhorrent
despotism, and Richard's blossoms withered under it. A strange man had
been introduced to him, who traversed and bisected his skull with
sagacious stiff fingers, and crushed his soul while, in an infallible
voice, declaring him the animal he was making him feel such an animal!
Not only his blossoms withered, his being seemed to draw in its shoots
and twigs. And when, coupled thereunto (the strange man having departed,
his work done), his father, in his tenderest manner, stated that it would
give him pleasure to see those same precocious, utterly valueless,
scribblings among the cinders, the last remaining mental blossoms
spontaneously fell away. Richard's spirit stood bare. He protested not.
Enough that it could be wished! He would not delay a minute in doing it.
Desiring his father to follow him, he went to a drawer in his room, and
from a clean-linen recess, never suspected by Sir Austin, the secretive
youth drew out bundle after bundle: each neatly tied, named, and
numbered: and pitched them into flames. And so Farewell my young
Ambition! and with it farewell all true confidence between Father and
Son.



CHAPTER XIII

It was now, as Sir Austin had written it down, The Magnetic Age: the Age
of violent attractions, when to hear mention of love is dangerous, and to
see it, a communication of the disease. People at Raynham were put on
their guard by the baronet, and his reputation for wisdom was severely
criticized in consequence of the injunctions he thought fit to issue
through butler and housekeeper down to the lower household, for the
preservation of his son from any visible symptom of the passion. A
footman and two housemaids are believed to have been dismissed on the
report of heavy Benson that they were in or inclining to the state; upon
which an undercook and a dairymaid voluntarily threw up their places,
averring that "they did not want no young men, but to have their sex
spied after by an old wretch like that," indicating the ponderous butler,
"was a little too much for a Christian woman," and then they were
ungenerous enough to glance at Benson's well-known marital calamity,
hinting that some men met their deserts. So intolerable did heavy
Benson's espionage become, that Raynham would have grown depopulated of
its womankind had not Adrian interfered, who pointed out to the baronet
what a fearful arm his butler was wielding. Sir Austin acknowledged it
despondently. "It only shows," said he, with a fine spirit of justice,
"how all but impossible it is to legislate where there are women!"

"I do not object," he added; "I hope I am too just to object to the
exercise of their natural inclinations. All I ask from them is
discreetness."

"Ay," said Adrian, whose discreetness was a marvel.

"No gadding about in couples," continued the baronet, "no kissing in
public. Such occurrences no boy should witness. Whenever people of both
sexes are thrown together, they will be silly; and where they are
high-fed, uneducated, and barely occupied, it must be looked for as a
matter of course. Let it be known that I only require discreetness."

Discreetness, therefore, was instructed to reign at the Abbey. Under
Adrian's able tuition the fairest of its domestics acquired that virtue.

Discreetness, too, was enjoined to the upper household. Sir Austin, who
had not previously appeared to notice the case of Lobourne's hopeless
curate, now desired Mrs. Doria to interdict, or at least discourage, his
visits, for the appearance of the man was that of an embodied sigh and
groan.

"Really, Austin!" said Mrs. Doria, astonished to find her brother more
awake than she had supposed, "I have never allowed him to hope."

"Let him see it, then," replied the baronet; "let him see it."

"The man amuses me," said Mrs. Doria. "You know, we have few amusements
here, we inferior creatures. I confess I should like a barrel-organ
better; that reminds one of town and the opera; and besides, it plays
more than one tune. However, since you think my society bad for him, let
him stop away."

With the self-devotion of a woman she grew patient and sweet the moment
her daughter Clare was spoken of, and the business of her life in view.
Mrs. Doria's maternal heart had betrothed the two cousins, Richard and
Clare; had already beheld them espoused and fruitful. For this she
yielded the pleasures of town; for this she immured herself at Raynham;
for this she bore with a thousand follies, exactions, inconveniences,
things abhorrent to her, and heaven knows what forms of torture and
self-denial, which are smilingly endured by that greatest of voluntary
martyrs--a mother with a daughter to marry. Mrs. Doria, an amiable widow,
had surely married but for her daughter Clare. The lady's hair no woman
could possess without feeling it her pride. It was the daily theme of her
lady's-maid,--a natural aureole to her head. She was gay, witty, still
physically youthful enough to claim a destiny; and she sacrificed it to
accomplish her daughter's! sacrificed, as with heroic scissors, hair,
wit, gaiety--let us not attempt to enumerate how much! more than may be
said. And she was only one of thousands; thousands who have no portion of
the hero's reward; for he may reckon on applause, and condolence, and
sympathy, and honour; they, poor slaves! must look for nothing but the
opposition of their own sex and the sneers of ours. O, Sir Austin! had
you not been so blinded, what an Aphorism might have sprung from this
point of observation! Mrs. Doria was coolly told, between sister and
brother, that during the Magnetic Age her daughter's presence at Raynham
was undesirable. Instead of nursing offence, her sole thought was the
mountain of prejudice she had to contend against. She bowed, and said,
Clare wanted sea-air--she had never quite recovered the shock of that
dreadful night. How long, Mrs. Doria wished to know, might the Peculiar
Period be expected to last?

"That," said Sir Austin, "depends. A year, perhaps. He is entering on it.
I shall be most grieved to lose you, Helen. Clare is now--how old?"

"Seventeen."

"She is marriageable."

"Marriageable, Austin! at seventeen! don't name such a thing. My child
shall not be robbed of her youth."

"Our women marry early, Helen."

"My child shall not!"

The baronet reflected a moment. He did not wish to lose his sister.

"As you are of that opinion, Helen," said he, "perhaps we may still make
arrangements to retain you with us. Would you think it advisable to send
Clare--she should know discipline--to some establishment for a few
months?"

"To an asylum, Austin?" cried Mrs. Doria, controlling her indignation as
well as she could.

"To some select superior seminary, Helen. There are such to be found."

"Austin!" Mrs. Doria exclaimed, and had to fight with a moisture in her
eyes. "Unjust! absurd!" she murmured. The baronet thought it a natural
proposition that Clare should be a bride or a schoolgirl.

"I cannot leave my child." Mrs. Doria trembled. "Where she goes, I go. I
am aware that she is only one of our sex, and therefore of no value to
the world, but she is my child. I will see, poor dear, that you have no
cause to complain of her."

"I thought," Sir Austin remarked, "that you acquiesced in my views with
regard to my son."

"Yes--generally," said Mrs. Doria, and felt culpable that she had not
before, and could not then, tell her brother that he had set up an Idol
in his house--an Idol of flesh! more retributive and abominable than wood
or brass or gold. But she had bowed to the Idol too long--she had too
entirely bound herself to gain her project by subserviency. She had, and
she dimly perceived it, committed a greater fault in tactics, in teaching
her daughter to bow to the Idol also. Love of that kind Richard took for
tribute. He was indifferent to Clare's soft eyes. The parting kiss he
gave her was ready and cold as his father could desire. Sir Austin now
grew eloquent to him in laudation of manly pursuits: but Richard thought
his eloquence barren, his attempts at companionship awkward, and all
manly pursuits and aims, life itself, vain and worthless. To what end?
sighed the blossomless youth, and cried aloud, as soon as he was relieved
of his father's society, what was the good of anything? Whatever he
did--whichever path he selected, led back to Raynham. And whatever he
did, however wretched and wayward he showed himself, only confirmed Sir
Austin more and more in the truth of his previsions. Tom Bakewell, now
the youth's groom, had to give the baronet a report of his young master's
proceedings, in common with Adrian, and while there was no harm to tell,
Tom spoke out. "He do ride like fire every day to Pig's Snout," naming
the highest hill in the neighbourhood, "and stand there and stare, never
movin', like a mad 'un. And then hoam agin all slack as if he'd been
beaten in a race by somebody."

"There is no woman in that!" mused the baronet. "He would have ridden
back as hard as he went," reflected this profound scientific humanist,
"had there been a woman in it. He would shun vast expanses, and seek
shade, concealment, solitude. The desire for distances betokens emptiness
and undirected hunger: when the heart is possessed by an image we fly to
wood and forest, like the guilty."

Adrian's report accused his pupil of an extraordinary access of cynicism.

"Exactly," said the baronet. "As I foresaw. At this period an insatiate
appetite is accompanied by a fastidious palate. Nothing but the
quintessences of existence, and those in exhaustless supplies, will
satisfy this craving, which is not to be satisfied! Hence his bitterness.
Life can furnish no food fitting for him. The strength and purity of his
energies have reached to an almost divine height, and roam through the
Inane. Poetry, love, and such-like, are the drugs earth has to offer to
high natures, as she offers to low ones debauchery. 'Tis a sign, this
sourness, that he is subject to none of the empiricisms that are afloat.
Now to keep him clear of them!"

The Titans had an easier task in storming Olympus. As yet, however, it
could not be said that Sir Austin's System had failed. On the contrary,
it had reared a youth, handsome, intelligent, well-bred, and, observed
the ladies, with acute emphasis, innocent. Where, they asked, was such
another young man to be found?

"Oh!" said Lady Blandish to Sir Austin, "if men could give their hands to
women unsoiled--how different would many a marriage be! She will be a
happy girl who calls Richard husband."

"Happy, indeed!" was the baronet's caustic ejaculation. "But where shall
I meet one equal to him, and his match?"

"I was innocent when I was a girl," said the lady.

Sir Austin bowed a reserved opinion.

"Do you think no girls innocent?"

Sir Austin gallantly thought them all so.

"No, that you know they are not," said the lady, stamping. "But they are
more innocent than boys, I am sure."

"Because of their education, madam. You see now what a youth can be.
Perhaps, when my System is published, or rather--to speak more
humbly--when it is practised, the balance may be restored, and we shall
have virtuous young men."

"It's too late for poor me to hope for a husband from one of them," said
the lady, pouting and laughing.

"It is never too late for beauty to waken love," returned the baronet,
and they trifled a little. They were approaching Daphne's Bower, which
they entered, and sat there to taste the coolness of a descending
midsummer day.

The baronet seemed in a humour for dignified fooling; the lady for
serious converse.

"I shall believe again in Arthur's knights," she said. "When I was a girl
I dreamed of one."

"And he was in quest of the San Greal?"

"If you like."

"And showed his good taste by turning aside for the more tangible San
Blandish?"

"Of course you consider it would have been so," sighed the lady,
ruffling.

"I can only judge by our generation," said Sir Austin, with a bend of
homage.

The lady gathered her mouth. "Either we are very mighty or you are very
weak."

"Both, madam."

"But whatever we are, and if we are bad, bad! we love virtue, and truth,
and lofty souls, in men: and, when we meet those qualities in them, we
are constant, and would die for them--die for them. Ah! you know men but
not women."

"The knights possessing such distinctions must be young, I presume?" said
Sir Austin.

"Old, or young!"

"But if old, they are scarce capable of enterprise?"

"They are loved for themselves, not for their deeds."

"Ah!"

"Yes--ah!" said the lady. "Intellect may subdue women--make slaves of
them; and they worship beauty perhaps as much as you do. But they only
love for ever and are mated when they meet a noble nature."

Sir Austin looked at her wistfully.

"And did you encounter the knight of your dream?"

"Not then." She lowered her eyelids. It was prettily done.

"And how did you bear the disappointment?"

"My dream was in the nursery. The day my frock was lengthened to a gown I
stood at the altar. I am not the only girl that has been made a woman in
a day, and given to an ogre instead of a true knight."

"Good God!" exclaimed Sir Austin, "women have much to bear."

Here the couple changed characters. The lady became gay as the baronet
grew earnest.

"You know it is our lot," she said. "And we are allowed many amusements.
If we fulfil our duty in producing children, that, like our virtue, is
its own reward. Then, as a widow, I have wonderful privileges."

"To preserve which, you remain a widow?"

"Certainly," she responded. "I have no trouble now in patching and
piecing that rag the world calls--a character. I can sit at your feet
every day unquestioned. To be sure, others do the same, but they are
female eccentrics, and have cast off the rag altogether."

Sir Austin drew nearer to her. "You would have made an admirable mother,
madam."

This from Sir Austin was very like positive wooing.

"It is," he continued, "ten thousand pities that you are not one."

"Do you think so?" She spoke with humility.

"I would," he went on, "that heaven had given you a daughter."

"Would you have thought her worthy of Richard?"

"Our blood, madam, should have been one!"

The lady tapped her toe with her parasol. "But I am a mother," she said.
"Richard is my son. Yes! Richard is my boy," she reiterated.

Sir Austin most graciously appended, "Call him ours, madam," and held his
head as if to catch the word from her lips, which, however, she chose to
refuse, or defer. They made the coloured West a common point for their
eyes, and then Sir Austin said:

"As you will not say 'ours,' let me. And, as you have therefore an equal
claim on the boy, I will confide to you a project I have lately
conceived."

The announcement of a project hardly savoured of a coming proposal, but
for Sir Austin to confide one to a woman was almost tantamount to a
declaration. So Lady Blandish thought, and so said her soft, deep-eyed
smile, as she perused the ground while listening to the project. It
concerned Richard's nuptials. He was now nearly eighteen. He was to marry
when he was five-and-twenty. Meantime a young lady, some years his
junior, was to be sought for in the homes of England, who would be every
way fitted by education, instincts, and blood--on each of which
qualifications Sir Austin unreservedly enlarged--to espouse so perfect a
youth and accept the honourable duty of assisting in the perpetuation of
the Feverels. The baronet went on to say that he proposed to set forth
immediately, and devote a couple of months, to the first essay in his
Coelebite search.

"I fear," said Lady Blandish, when the project had been fully unfolded,
"you have laid down for yourself a difficult task. You must not be too
exacting."

"I know it." The baronet's shake of the head was piteous.

"Even in England she will be rare. But I confine myself to no class. If I
ask for blood it is for untainted, not what you call high blood. I
believe many of the middle classes are frequently more careful--more
pure-blooded--than our aristocracy. Show me among them a God-fearing
family who educate their children--I should prefer a girl without
brothers and sisters--as a Christian damsel should be educated--say, on
the model of my son, and she may be penniless, I will pledge her to
Richard Feverel."

Lady Blandish bit her lip. "And what do you do with Richard while you are
absent on this expedition?"

"Oh!" said the baronet, "he accompanies his father."

"Then give it up. His future bride is now pinafored and
bread-and-buttery. She romps, she cries, she dreams of play and pudding.
How can he care for her? He thinks more at his age of old women like me.
He will be certain to kick against her, and destroy your plan, believe
me, Sir Austin."

"Ay? ay? do you think that?" said the baronet.

Lady Blandish gave him a multitude of reasons.

"Ay! true," he muttered. "Adrian said the same. He must not see her. How
could I think of it! The child is naked woman. He would despise her.
Naturally!"

"Naturally!" echoed the lady.

"Then, madam," and the baronet rose, "there is one thing for me to
determine upon. I must, for the first time in his life, leave him."

"Will you, indeed?" said the lady.

"It is my duty, having thus brought him up, to see that he is properly
mated,--not wrecked upon the quicksands of marriage, as a youth so
delicately trained might be; more easily than another! Betrothed, he will
be safe from a thousand snares. I may, I think, leave him for a term. My
precautions have saved him from the temptations of his season."

"And under whose charge will you leave him?" Lady Blandish inquired.

She had emerged from the temple, and stood beside Sir Austin on the upper
steps, under a clear summer twilight.

"Madam!" he took her hand, and his voice was gallant and tender, "under
whose but yours?"

As the baronet said this, he bent above her hand, and raised it to his
lips.

Lady Blandish felt that she had been wooed and asked in wedlock. She did
not withdraw her hand. The baronet's salute was flatteringly reverent. He
deliberated over it, as one going through a grave ceremony. And he, the
scorner of women, had chosen her for his homage! Lady Blandish forgot
that she had taken some trouble to arrive at it. She received the
exquisite compliment in all its unique honey-sweet: for in love we must
deserve nothing or the fine bloom of fruition is gone.

The lady's hand was still in durance, and the baronet had not recovered
from his profound inclination, when a noise from the neighbouring
beechwood startled the two actors in this courtly pantomime. They turned
their heads, and beheld the hope of Raynham on horseback surveying the
scene. The next moment he had galloped away.



CHAPTER XIV

All night Richard tossed on his bed with his heart in a rapid canter, and
his brain bestriding it, traversing the rich untasted world, and the
great Realm of Mystery, from which he was now restrained no longer.
Months he had wandered about the gates of the Bonnet, wondering, sighing,
knocking at them, and getting neither admittance nor answer. He had the
key now. His own father had given it to him. His heart was a lightning
steed, and bore him on and on over limitless regions bathed in superhuman
beauty and strangeness, where cavaliers and ladies leaned whispering upon
close green swards, and knights and ladies cast a splendour upon savage
forests, and tilts and tourneys were held in golden courts lit to a
glorious day by ladies' eyes, one pair of which, dimly visioned,
constantly distinguishable, followed him through the boskage and dwelt
upon him in the press, beaming while he bent above a hand glittering
white and fragrant as the frosted blossom of a May night.

Awhile the heart would pause and flutter to a shock: he was in the act of
consummating all earthly bliss by pressing his lips to the small white
hand. Only to do that, and die! cried the Magnetic Youth: to fling the
Jewel of Life into that one cup and drink it off! He was intoxicated by
anticipation. For that he was born. There was, then, some end in
existence, something to live for! to kiss a woman's hand, and die! He
would leap from the couch, and rush to pen and paper to relieve his
swarming sensations. Scarce was he seated when the pen was dashed aside,
the paper sent flying with the exclamation, "Have I not sworn I would
never write again?" Sir Austin had shut that safety-valve. The nonsense
that was in the youth might have poured harmlessly out, and its urgency
for ebullition was so great that he was repeatedly oblivious of his oath,
and found himself seated under the lamp in the act of composition before
pride could speak a word. Possibly the pride even of Richard Feverel had
been swamped if the act of composition were easy at such a time, and a
single idea could stand clearly foremost; but myriads were demanding the
first place; chaotic hosts, like ranks of stormy billows, pressed
impetuously for expression, and despair of reducing them to form, quite
as much as pride, to which it pleased him to refer his incapacity, threw
down the powerless pen, and sent him panting to his outstretched length
and another headlong career through the rosy-girdled land.

Toward morning the madness of the fever abated somewhat, and he went
forth into the air. A lamp was still burning in his father's room, and
Richard thought, as he looked up, that he saw the ever-vigilant head on
the watch. Instantly the lamp was extinguished, the window stood cold
against the hues of dawn.

Strong pulling is an excellent medical remedy for certain classes of
fever. Richard took to it instinctively. The clear fresh water, burnished
with sunrise, sparkled against his arrowy prow; the soft deep shadows
curled smiling away from his gliding keel. Overhead solitary morning
unfolded itself, from blossom to bud, from bud to flower; still,
delicious changes of light and colour, to whose influences he was
heedless as he shot under willows and aspens, and across sheets of
river-reaches, pure mirrors to the upper glory, himself the sole tenant
of the stream. Somewhere at the founts of the world lay the land he was
rowing toward; something of its shadowed lights might be discerned here
and there. It was not a dream, now he knew. There was a secret abroad.
The woods were full of it; the waters rolled with it, and the winds. Oh,
why could not one in these days do some high knightly deed which should
draw down ladies' eyes from their heaven, as in the days of Arthur! To
such a meaning breathed the unconscious sighs of the youth, when he had
pulled through his first feverish energy.

He was off Bursley, and had lapsed a little into that musing quietude
which follows strenuous exercise, when he heard a hail and his own name
called. It was no lady, no fairy, but young Ralph Morton, an irruption of
miserable masculine prose. Heartily wishing him abed with the rest of
mankind, Richard rowed in and jumped ashore. Ralph immediately seized his
arm, saying that he desired earnestly to have a talk with him, and
dragged the Magnetic Youth from his water-dreams, up and down the wet
mown grass. That he had to say seemed to be difficult of utterance, and
Richard, though he barely listened, soon had enough of his old rival's
gladness at seeing him, and exhibited signs of impatience; whereat Ralph,
as one who branches into matter somewhat foreign to his mind, but of
great human interest and importance, put the question to him:

"I say, what woman's name do you like best?"

"I don't know any," quoth Richard, indifferently. "Why are you out so
early?"

In answer to this, Ralph suggested that the name of Mary might be
considered a pretty name.

Richard agreed that it might be; the housekeeper at Raynham, half the
women cooks, and all the housemaids enjoyed that name; the name of Mary
was equivalent for women at home.

"Yes, I know," said Ralph. "We have lots of Marys. It's so common. Oh! I
don't like Mary best. What do you think?"

Richard thought it just like another.

"Do you know," Ralph continued, throwing off the mask and plunging into
the subject, "I'd do anything on earth for some names--one or two. It's
not Mary, nor Lucy. Clarinda's pretty, but it's like a novel. Claribel, I
like. Names beginning with 'Cl' I prefer. The 'Cl's' are always gentle
and lovely girls you would die for! Don't you think so?"

Richard had never been acquainted with any of them to inspire that
emotion. Indeed these urgent appeals to his fancy in feminine names at
five o'clock in the morning slightly surprised him, though he was but
half awake to the outer world. By degrees he perceived that Ralph was
changed. Instead of the lusty boisterous boy, his rival in manly
sciences, who spoke straightforwardly and acted up to his speech, here
was an abashed and blush-persecuted youth, who sued piteously for a
friendly ear wherein to pour the one idea possessing him. Gradually, too,
Richard apprehended that Ralph likewise was on the frontiers of the Realm
of Mystery, perhaps further toward it than he himself was; and then, as
by a sympathetic stroke, was revealed to him the wonderful beauty and
depth of meaning in feminine names. The theme appeared novel and
delicious, fitted to the season and the hour. But the hardship was, that
Richard could choose none from the number; all were the same to him; he
loved them all.

"Don't you really prefer the 'Cl's'?" said Ralph, persuasively.

"Not better than the names ending in 'a' and 'y,' Richard replied,
wishing he could, for Ralph was evidently ahead of him.

"Come under these trees," said Ralph. And under the trees Ralph
unbosomed. His name was down for the army: Eton was quitted for ever. In
a few months he would have to join his regiment, and before he left he
must say goodbye to his friends.... Would Richard tell him Mrs. Forey's
address? he had heard she was somewhere by the sea. Richard did not
remember the address, but said he would willingly take charge of any
letter and forward it.

Ralph dived his hand into his pocket. "Here it is. But don't let anybody
see it."

"My aunt's name is not Clare," said Richard, perusing what was composed
of the exterior formula. "You've addressed it to Clare herself."

That was plain to see.

"Emmeline Clementina Matilda Laura, Countess Blandish," Richard continued
in a low tone, transferring the names, and playing on the musical strings
they were to him. Then he said: "Names of ladies! How they sweeten their
names!"

He fixed his eyes on Ralph. If he discovered anything further he said
nothing, but bade the good fellow good-bye, jumped into his boat, and
pulled down the tide. The moment Ralph was hidden by an abutment of the
banks, Richard perused the address. For the first time it struck him that
his cousin Clare was a very charming creature: he remembered the look of
her eyes, and especially the last reproachful glance she gave him at
parting. What business had Ralph to write to her? Did she not belong to
Richard Feverel? He read the words again and again: Clare Doria Forey.
Why, Clare was the name he liked best--nay, he loved it. Doria, too--she
shared his own name with him. Away went his heart, not at a canter now,
at a gallop, as one who sights the quarry. He felt too weak to pull.
Clare Doria Forey--oh, perfect melody! Sliding with the tide, he heard it
fluting in the bosom of the hills.

When nature has made us ripe for love, it seldom occurs that the Fates
are behindhand in furnishing a temple for the flame.

Above green-flashing plunges of a weir, and shaken by the thunder below,
lilies, golden and white, were swaying at anchor among the reeds.
Meadow-sweet hung from the banks thick with weed and trailing bramble,
and there also hung a daughter of earth. Her face was shaded by a broad
straw hat with a flexible brim that left her lips and chin in the sun,
and, sometimes nodding, sent forth a light of promising eyes. Across her
shoulders, and behind, flowed large loose curls, brown in shadow, almost
golden where the ray touched them. She was simply dressed, befitting
decency and the season. On a closer inspection you might see that her
lips were stained. This blooming young person was regaling on dewberries.
They grew between the bank and the water. Apparently she found the fruit
abundant, for her hand was making pretty progress to her mouth.
Fastidious youth, which revolts at woman plumping her exquisite
proportions on bread-and-butter, and would (we must suppose) joyfully
have her scraggy to have her poetical, can hardly object to dewberries.
Indeed the act of eating them is dainty and induces musing. The dewberry
is a sister to the lotus, and an innocent sister. You eat: mouth, eye,
and hand are occupied, and the undrugged mind free to roam. And so it was
with the damsel who knelt there. The little skylark went up above her,
all song, to the smooth southern cloud lying along the blue: from a dewy
copse dark over her nodding hat the blackbird fluted, calling to her with
thrice mellow note: the kingfisher flashed emerald out of green osiers: a
bow-winged heron travelled aloft, seeking solitude a boat slipped toward
her, containing a dreamy youth; and still she plucked the fruit, and ate,
and mused, as if no fairy prince were invading her territories, and as if
she wished not for one, or knew not her wishes. Surrounded by the green
shaven meadows, the pastoral summer buzz, the weir-fall's thundering
white, amid the breath and beauty of wild flowers, she was a bit of
lovely human life in a fair setting; a terrible attraction. The Magnetic
Youth leaned round to note his proximity to the weir-piles, and beheld
the sweet vision. Stiller and stiller grew nature, as at the meeting of
two electric clouds. Her posture was so graceful, that though he was
making straight for the weir, he dared not dip a scull. Just then one
enticing dewberry caught her eyes. He was floating by unheeded, and saw
that her hand stretched low, and could not gather what it sought. A
stroke from his right brought him beside her. The damsel glanced up
dismayed, and her whole shape trembled over the brink. Richard sprang
from his boat into the water. Pressing a hand beneath her foot, which she
had thrust against the crumbling wet sides of the bank to save herself,
he enabled her to recover her balance, and gain safe earth, whither he
followed her.



CHAPTER XV

He had landed on an island of the still-vexed Bermoothes. The world lay
wrecked behind him: Raynham hung in mists, remote, a phantom to the vivid
reality of this white hand which had drawn him thither away thousands of
leagues in an eye-twinkle. Hark, how Ariel sang overhead! What splendour
in the heavens! What marvels of beauty about his enchanted brows! And, O
you wonder! Fair Flame! by whose light the glories of being are now first
seen....Radiant Miranda! Prince Ferdinand is at your feet.

Or is it Adam, his rib taken from his side in sleep, and thus
transformed, to make him behold his Paradise, and lose it?...

The youth looked on her with as glowing an eye. It was the First Woman to
him.

And she--mankind was all Caliban to her, saving this one princely youth.

So to each other said their changing eyes in the moment they stood
together; he pale, and she blushing.

She was indeed sweetly fair, and would have been held fair among rival
damsels. On a magic shore, and to a youth educated by a System, strung
like an arrow drawn to the head, he, it might be guessed, could fly fast
and far with her. The soft rose in her cheeks, the clearness of her eyes,
bore witness to the body's virtue; and health and happy blood were in her
bearing. Had she stood before Sir Austin among rival damsels, that
Scientific Humanist, for the consummation of his System, would have
thrown her the handkerchief for his son. The wide summer-hat, nodding
over her forehead to her brows, seemed to flow with the flowing heavy
curls, and those fire-threaded mellow curls, only half-curls, waves of
hair call them, rippling at the ends, went like a sunny red-veined
torrent down her back almost to her waist: a glorious vision to the
youth, who embraced it as a flower of beauty, and read not a feature.
There were curious features of colour in her face for him to have read.
Her brows, thick and brownish against a soft skin showing the action of
the blood, met in the bend of a bow, extending to the temples long and
level: you saw that she was fashioned to peruse the sights of earth, and
by the pliability of her brows that the wonderful creature used her
faculty, and was not going to be a statue to the gazer. Under the dark
thick brows an arch of lashes shot out, giving a wealth of darkness to
the full frank blue eyes, a mystery of meaning--more than brain was ever
meant to fathom: richer, henceforth, than all mortal wisdom to Prince
Ferdinand. For when nature turns artist, and produces contrasts of colour
on a fair face, where is the Sage, or what the Oracle, shall match the
depth of its lightest look?

Prince Ferdinand was also fair. In his slim boating-attire his figure
looked heroic. His hair, rising from the parting to the right of his
forehead, in what his admiring Lady Blandish called his plume, fell away
slanting silkily to the temples across the nearly imperceptible upward
curve of his brows there--felt more than seen, so slight it was--and gave
to his profile a bold beauty, to which his bashful, breathless air was a
flattering charm. An arrow drawn to the head, capable of flying fast and
far with her! He leaned a little forward, drinking her in with all his
eyes, and young Love has a thousand. Then truly the System triumphed,
just ere it was to fall; and could Sir Austin have been content to draw
the arrow to the head, and let it fly, when it would fly, he might have
pointed to his son again, and said to the world, "Match him!" Such keen
bliss as the youth had in the sight of her, an innocent youth alone has
powers of soul in him to experience.

"O Women!" says The Pilgrim's Scrip, in one of its solitary outbursts,
"Women, who like, and will have for hero, a rake! how soon are you not to
learn that you have taken bankrupts to your bosoms, and that the
putrescent gold that attracted you is the slime of the Lake of Sin!"

If these two were Ferdinand and Miranda, Sir Austin was not Prospero, and
was not present, or their fates might have been different.

So they stood a moment, changing eyes, and then Miranda spoke, and they
came down to earth, feeling no less in heaven.

She spoke to thank him for his aid. She used quite common simple words;
and used them, no doubt, to express a common simple meaning: but to him
she was uttering magic, casting spells, and the effect they had on him
was manifested in the incoherence of his replies, which were too foolish
to be chronicled.

The couple were again mute. Suddenly Miranda, with an exclamation of
anguish, and innumerable lights and shadows playing over her lovely face,
clapped her hands, crying aloud, "My book! my book!" and ran to the bank.

Prince Ferdinand was at her side. "What have you lost?" he said.

"My book!" she answered, her delicious curls swinging across her
shoulders to the stream. Then turning to him, "Oh, no, no! let me entreat
you not to," she said; "I do not so very much mind losing it." And in her
eagerness to restrain him she unconsciously laid her gentle hand upon his
arm, and took the force of motion out of him.

"Indeed, I do not really care for the silly book," she continued,
withdrawing her hand quickly, and reddening. "Pray, do not!"

The young gentleman had kicked off his shoes. No sooner was the spell of
contact broken than he jumped in. The water was still troubled and
discoloured by his introductory adventure, and, though he ducked his head
with the spirit of a dabchick, the book was missing. A scrap of paper
floating from the bramble just above the water, and looking as if fire
had caught its edges and it had flown from one adverse element to the
other, was all he could lay hold of; and he returned to land
disconsolately, to hear Miranda's murmured mixing of thanks and pretty
expostulations.

"Let me try again," he said.

"No, indeed!" she replied, and used the awful threat: "I will run away if
you do," which effectually restrained him.

Her eye fell on the fire-stained scrap of paper, and brightened, as she
cried, "There, there! you have what I want. It is that. I do not care for
the book. No, please! You are not to look at it. Give it me."

Before her playfully imperative injunction was fairly spoken, Richard had
glanced at the document and discovered a Griffin between two
Wheatsheaves: his crest in silver: and below--O wonderment immense! his
own handwriting!

He handed it to her. She took it, and put it in her bosom.

Who would have thought, that, where all else perished, Odes, Idyls,
Lines, Stanzas, this one Sonnet to the stars should be miraculously
reserved for such a starry fate--passing beatitude!

As they walked silently across the meadow, Richard strove to remember the
hour and the mood of mind in which he had composed the notable
production. The stars were invoked, as seeing and foreseeing all, to tell
him where then his love reclined, and so forth; Hesper was complacent
enough to do so, and described her in a couplet--

     "Through sunset's amber see me shining fair,
     As her blue eyes shine through her golden hair."

And surely no words could be more prophetic. Here were two blue eyes and
golden hair; and by some strange chance, that appeared like the working
of a divine finger, she had become the possessor of the prophecy, she
that was to fulfil it! The youth was too charged with emotion to speak.
Doubtless the damsel had less to think of, or had some trifling burden on
her conscience, for she seemed to grow embarrassed. At last she drew up
her chin to look at her companion under the nodding brim of her hat (and
the action gave her a charmingly freakish air), crying, "But where are
you going to? You are wet through. Let me thank you again; and, pray,
leave me, and go home and change instantly."

"Wet?" replied the magnetic muser, with a voice of tender interest; "not
more than one foot, I hope. I will leave you while you dry your stockings
in the sun."

At this she could not withhold a shy laugh.

"Not I, but you. You would try to get that silly book for me, and you are
dripping wet. Are you not very uncomfortable?"

In all sincerity he assured her that he was not.

"And you really do not feel that you are wet?"

He really did not: and it was a fact that he spoke truth.

She pursed her dewberry mouth in the most comical way, and her blue eyes
lightened laughter out of the half-closed lids.

"I cannot help it," she said, her mouth opening, and sounding harmonious
bells of laughter in his ears. "Pardon me, won't you?"

His face took the same soft smiling curves in admiration of her.

"Not to feel that you have been in the water, the very moment after!" she
musically interjected, seeing she was excused.

"It's true," he said; and his own gravity then touched him to join a duet
with her, which made them no longer feel strangers, and did the work of a
month of intimacy. Better than sentiment, laughter opens the breast to
love; opens the whole breast to his full quiver, instead of a corner here
and there for a solitary arrow. Hail the occasion propitious, O British
young! and laugh and treat love as an honest God, and dabble not with the
sentimental rouge. These two laughed, and the souls of each cried out to
other, "It is I it is I."

They laughed and forgot the cause of their laughter, and the sun dried
his light river clothing, and they strolled toward the blackbird's copse,
and stood near a stile in sight of the foam of the weir and the
many-coloured rings of eddies streaming forth from it.

Richard's boat, meanwhile, had contrived to shoot the weir, and was
swinging, bottom upward, broadside with the current down the rapid
backwater.

"Will you let it go?" said the damsel, eying it curiously.

"It can't be stopped," he replied, and could have added: "What do I care
for it now!"

His old life was whirled away with it, dead, drowned. His new life was
with her, alive, divine.

She flapped low the brim of her hat. "You must really not come any
farther," she softly said.

"And will you go, and not tell me who you are?" he asked, growing bold as
the fears of losing her came across him. "And will you not tell me before
you go"--his face burned--"how you came by that--that paper?"

She chose to select the easier question for answer: "You ought to know
me; we have been introduced." Sweet was her winning off-hand affability.

"Then who, in heaven's name, are you? Tell me! I never could have
forgotten you."

"You have, I think," she said.

"Impossible that we could ever have met, and I forget you!"

She looked up at him.

"Do you remember Belthorpe?"

"Belthorpe! Belthorpe!" quoth Richard, as if he had to touch his brain to
recollect there was such a place. "Do you mean old Blaize's farm?"

"Then I am old Blaize's niece." She tripped him a soft curtsey.

The magnetized youth gazed at her. By what magic was it that this divine
sweet creature could be allied with that old churl!

"Then what--what is your name?" said his mouth, while his eyes added, "O
wonderful creature! How came you to enrich the earth?"

"Have you forgot the Desboroughs of Dorset, too?" she peered at him from
a side-bend of the flapping brim.

"The Desboroughs of Dorset?" A light broke in on him. "And have you grown
to this? That little girl I saw there!"

He drew close to her to read the nearest features of the vision. She
could no more laugh off the piercing fervour of his eyes. Her volubility
fluttered under his deeply wistful look, and now neither voice was high,
and they were mutually constrained.

"You see," she murmured, "we are old acquaintances."

Richard, with his eyes still intently fixed on her, returned, "You are
very beautiful!"

The words slipped out. Perfect simplicity is unconsciously audacious. Her
overpowering beauty struck his heart, and, like an instrument that is
touched and answers to the touch, he spoke.

Miss Desborough made an effort to trifle with this terrible directness;
but his eyes would not be gainsaid, and checked her lips. She turned away
from them, her bosom a little rebellious. Praise so passionately spoken,
and by one who has been a damsel's first dream, dreamed of nightly many
long nights, and clothed in the virgin silver of her thoughts in bud,
praise from him is coin the heart cannot reject, if it would. She
quickened her steps.

"I have offended you!" said a mortally wounded voice across her shoulder.

That he should think so were too dreadful.

"Oh no, no! you would never offend me." She gave him her whole sweet
face.

"Then why--why do you leave me?"

"Because," she hesitated, "I must go."

"No. You must not go. Why must you go? Do not go."

"Indeed I must," she said, pulling at the obnoxious broad brim of her
hat; and, interpreting a pause he made for his assent to her rational
resolve, shyly looking at him, she held her hand out, and said,
"Good-bye," as if it were a natural thing to say.

The hand was pure white--white and fragrant as the frosted blossom of a
Maynight. It was the hand whose shadow, cast before, he had last night
bent his head reverentially above, and kissed--resigning himself
thereupon over to execution for payment of the penalty of such daring--by
such bliss well rewarded.

He took the hand, and held it, gazing between her eyes.

"Good-bye," she said again, as frankly as she could, and at the same time
slightly compressing her fingers on his in token of adieu. It was a
signal for his to close firmly upon hers.

"You will not go?"

"Pray, let me," she pleaded, her sweet brows suing in wrinkles.

"You will not go?" Mechanically he drew the white hand nearer his
thumping heart.

"I must," she faltered piteously.

"You will not go?"

"Oh yes! yes!"

"Tell me. Do you wish to go?"

The question was a subtle one. A moment or two she did not answer, and
then forswore herself, and said, Yes.

"Do you--you wish to go?" He looked with quivering eyelids under hers.

A fainter Yes responded.

"You wish--wish to leave me?" His breath went with the words.

"Indeed I must."

Her hand became a closer prisoner.

All at once an alarming delicious shudder went through her frame. From
him to her it coursed, and back from her to him. Forward and back love's
electric messenger rushed from heart to heart, knocking at each, till it
surged tumultuously against the bars of its prison, crying out for its
mate. They stood trembling in unison, a lovely couple under these fair
heavens of the morning.

When he could get his voice it said, "Will you go?"

But she had none to reply with, and could only mutely bend upward her
gentle wrist.

"Then, farewell!" he said, and, dropping his lips to the soft fair hand,
kissed it, and hung his head, swinging away from her, ready for death.

Strange, that now she was released she should linger by him. Strange,
that his audacity, instead of the executioner, brought blushes and timid
tenderness to his side, and the sweet words, "You are not angry with me?"

"With you, O Beloved!" cried his soul. "And you forgive me, fair
charity!"

"I think it was rude of me to go without thanking you again," she said,
and again proffered her hand.

The sweet heaven-bird shivered out his song above him. The gracious glory
of heaven fell upon his soul. He touched her hand, not moving his eyes
from her, nor speaking, and she, with a soft word of farewell, passed
across the stile, and up the pathway through the dewy shades of the
copse, and out of the arch of the light, away from his eyes.

And away with her went the wild enchantment. He looked on barren air. But
it was no more the world of yesterday. The marvellous splendours had sown
seeds in him, ready to spring up and bloom at her gaze; and in his bosom
now the vivid conjuration of her tones, her face, her shape, makes them
leap and illumine him like fitful summer lightnings ghosts of the
vanished sun.

There was nothing to tell him that he had been making love and declaring
it with extraordinary rapidity; nor did he know it. Soft flushed cheeks!
sweet mouth! strange sweet brows! eyes of softest fire! how could his
ripe eyes behold you, and not plead to keep you? Nay, how could he let
you go? And he seriously asked himself that question.

To-morrow this place will have a memory--the river and the meadow, and
the white falling weir: his heart will build a temple here; and the
skylark will be its high-priest, and the old blackbird its glossy-gowned
chorister, and there will be a sacred repast of dewberries. To-day the
grass is grass: his heart is chased by phantoms and finds rest nowhere.
Only when the most tender freshness of his flower comes across him does
he taste a moment's calm; and no sooner does it come than it gives place
to keen pangs of fear that she may not be his for ever.

Erelong he learns that her name is Lucy. Erelong he meets Ralph, and
discovers that in a day he has distanced him by a sphere. He and Ralph
and the curate of Lobourne join in their walks, and raise classical
discussions on ladies' hair, fingering a thousand delicious locks, from
those of Cleopatra to the Borgia's. "Fair! fair! all of them fair!" sighs
the melancholy curate, "as are those women formed for our perdition! I
think we have in this country what will match the Italian or the Greek."
His mind flutters to Mrs. Doria, Richard blushes before the vision of
Lucy, and Ralph, whose heroine's hair is a dark luxuriance, dissents, and
claims a noble share in the slaughter of men for dark-haired Wonders.
They have no mutual confidences, but they are singularly kind to each
other, these three children of instinct.



CHAPTER XVI

Lady Blandish, and others who professed an interest in the fortunes and
future of the systematized youth, had occasionally mentioned names of
families whose alliance according to apparent calculations, would not
degrade his blood: and over these names, secretly preserved on an open
leaf of the note-book, Sir Austin, as he neared the metropolis, distantly
dropped his eye. There were names historic and names mushroomic; names
that the Conqueror might have called in his muster-roll; names that had
been, clearly, tossed into the upper stratum of civilized lifer by a
millwheel or a merchant-stool. Against them the baronet had written M. or
Po. or Pr.--signifying, Money, Position, Principles, favouring the latter
with special brackets. The wisdom of a worldly man, which he could now
and then adopt, determined him, before he commenced his round of visits,
to consult and sound his solicitor and his physician thereanent; lawyers
and doctors being the rats who know best the merits of a house, and on
what sort of foundation it may be standing.

Sir Austin entered the great city with a sad mind. The memory of his
misfortune came upon him vividly, as if no years had intervened, and it
were but yesterday that he found the letter telling him that he had no
wife and his son no mother. He wandered on foot through the streets the
first night of his arrival, looking strangely at the shops and shows and
bustle of the world from which he had divorced himself; feeling as
destitute as the poorest vagrant. He had almost forgotten how to find his
way about, and came across his old mansion in his efforts to regain his
hotel. The windows were alight--signs of merry life within. He stared at
it from the shadow of the opposite side. It seemed to him he was a ghost
gazing upon his living past. And then the phantom which had stood there
mocking while he felt as other men--the phantom, now flesh and blood
reality, seized and convulsed his heart, and filled its unforgiving
crevices with bitter ironic venom. He remembered by the time reflection
returned to him that it was Algernon, who had the house at his disposal,
probably giving a card-party, or something of the sort. In the morning,
too, he remembered that he had divorced the world to wed a System, and
must be faithful to that exacting Spouse, who, now alone of things on
earth, could fortify and recompense him.

Mr. Thompson received his client with the dignity and emotion due to such
a rent-roll and the unexpectedness of the honour. He was a thin stately
man of law, garbed as one who gave audience to acred bishops, and
carrying on his countenance the stamp of paternity to the parchment
skins, and of a virtuous attachment to Port wine sufficient to increase
his respectability in the eyes of moral Britain. After congratulating Sir
Austin on the fortunate issue of two or three suits, and being assured
that the baronet's business in town had no concern therewith, Mr.
Thompson ventured to hope that the young heir was all his father could
desire him to be, and heard with satisfaction that he was a pattern to
the youth of the Age.

"A difficult time of life, Sir Austin!" said the old lawyer, shaking his
head. "We must keep our eyes on them--keep awake! The mischief is done in
a minute."

"We must take care to have seen where we planted, and that the root was
sound, or the mischief will do itself in site of, or under the very
spectacles of, supervision," said the baronet.

His legal adviser murmured "Exactly," as if that were his own idea,
adding, "It is my plan with Ripton, who has had the honour of an
introduction to you, and a very pleasant time he spent with my young
friend, whom he does not forget. Ripton follows the Law. He is articled
to me, and will, I trust, succeed me worthily in your confidence. I bring
him into town in the morning; I take him back at night. I think I may say
that I am quite content with him."

"Do you think," said Sir Austin, fixing his brows, "that you can trace
every act of his to its motive?"

The old lawyer bent forward and humbly requested that this might be
repeated.

"Do you"--Sir Austin held the same searching expression--"do you
establish yourself in a radiating centre of intuition: do you base your
watchfulness on so thorough an acquaintance with his character, so
perfect a knowledge of the instrument, that all its movements--even the
eccentric ones--are anticipated by you, and provided for?"

The explanation was a little too long for the old lawyer to entreat
another repetition. Winking with the painful deprecation of a deaf man,
Mr. Thompson smiled urbanely, coughed conciliatingly, and said he was
afraid he could not affirm that much, though he was happily enabled to
say that Ripton had borne an extremely good character at school.

"I find," Sir Austin remarked, as sardonically he relaxed his inspecting
pose and mien, "there are fathers who are content to be simply obeyed.
Now I require not only that my son should obey; I would have him
guiltless of the impulse to gainsay my wishes--feeling me in him stronger
than his undeveloped nature, up to a certain period, where my
responsibility ends and his commences. Man is a self-acting machine. He
cannot cease to be a machine; but, though self-acting, he may lose the
powers of self-guidance, and in a wrong course his very vitalities hurry
him to perdition. Young, he is an organism ripening to the set mechanic
diurnal round, and while so he needs all the angels to hold watch over
him that he grow straight and healthy, and fit for what machinal duties
he may have to perform"...

Mr. Thompson agitated his eyebrows dreadfully. He was utterly lost. He
respected Sir Austin's estates too much to believe for a moment he was
listening to downright folly. Yet how otherwise explain the fact of his
excellent client being incomprehensible to him? For a middle-aged
gentleman, and one who has been in the habit of advising and managing,
will rarely have a notion of accusing his understanding; and Mr. Thompson
had not the slightest notion of accusing his. But the baronet's
condescension in coming thus to him, and speaking on the subject nearest
his heart, might well affect him, and he quickly settled the case in
favour of both parties, pronouncing mentally that his honoured client had
a meaning, and so deep it was, so subtle, that no wonder he experienced
difficulty in giving it fitly significant words.

Sir Austin elaborated his theory of the Organism and the Mechanism, for
his lawyer's edification. At a recurrence of the word "healthy" Mr.
Thompson caught him up:

"I apprehended you! Oh, I agree with you, Sir Austin! entirely! Allow me
to ring for my son Ripton. I think, if you condescend to examine him, you
will say that regular habits, and a diet of nothing but law-reading--for
other forms of literature I strictly interdict--have made him all that
you instance."

Mr. Thompson's hand was on the bell. Sir Austin arrested him.

"Permit me to see the lad at his occupation," said he.

Our old friend Ripton sat in a room apart with the confidential clerk,
Mr. Beazley, a veteran of law, now little better than a document, looking
already signed and sealed, and shortly to be delivered, who enjoined
nothing from his pupil and companion save absolute silence, and sounded
his praises to his father at the close of days when it had been rigidly
observed--not caring, or considering, the finished dry old document that
he was, under what kind of spell a turbulent commonplace youth could be
charmed into stillness for six hours of the day. Ripton was supposed to
be devoted to the study of Blackstone. A tome of the classic legal
commentator lay extended outside his desk, under the partially lifted lid
of which nestled the assiduous student's head--law being thus brought
into direct contact with his brain-pan. The office-door opened, and he
heard not; his name was called, and he remained equally moveless. His
method of taking in Blackstone seemed absorbing as it was novel.

"Comparing notes, I daresay," whispered Mr. Thompson to Sir Austin. "I
call that study!"

The confidential clerk rose, and bowed obsequious senility.

"Is it like this every day, Beazley?" Mr. Thompson asked with parental
pride.

"Ahem!" the old clerk replied, "he is like this every day, sir. I could
not ask more of a mouse."

Sir Austin stepped forward to the desk. His proximity roused one of
Ripton's senses, which blew a pall to the others. Down went the lid of
the desk. Dismay, and the ardours of study, flashed together in Ripton's
face. He slouched from his perch with the air of one who means rather to
defend his position than welcome a superior, the right hand in his
waistcoat pocket fumbling a key, the left catching at his vacant stool.

Sir Austin put two fingers on the youth's shoulder, and said, leaning his
head a little on one side, in a way habitual to him, "I am glad to find
my son's old comrade thus profitably occupied. I know what study is
myself. But beware of prosecuting it too excitedly! Come! you must not be
offended at our interruption; you will soon take up the thread again.
Besides, you know, you must get accustomed to the visits of your client."

So condescending and kindly did this speech sound to Mr. Thompson, that,
seeing Ripton still preserve his appearance of disorder and sneaking
defiance, he thought fit to nod and frown at the youth, and desired him
to inform the baronet what particular part of Blackstone he was absorbed
in mastering at that moment.

Ripton hesitated an instant, and blundered out, with dubious
articulation, "The Law of Gravelkind."

"What Law?" said Sir Austin, perplexed.

"Gravelkind," again rumbled Ripton's voice.

Sir Austin turned to Mr. Thompson for an explanation. The old lawyer was
shaking his law-box.

"Singular!" he exclaimed. "He will make that mistake! What law, sir?"

Ripton read his error in the sternly painful expression of his father's
face, and corrected himself. "Gavelkind, sir."

"Ah!" said Mr. Thompson, with a sigh of relief. "Gravelkind, indeed!
Gavelkind! An old Kentish"--He was going to expound, but Sir Austin
assured him he knew it, and a very absurd law it was, adding, "I should
like to look at your son's notes, or remarks on the judiciousness of that
family arrangement, if he had any."

"You were making notes, or referring to them, as we entered," said Mr.
Thompson to the sucking lawyer; "a very good plan, which I have always
enjoined on you. Were you not?"

Ripton stammered that he was afraid he hid not any notes to show, worth
seeing.

"What were you doing then, sir?"

"Making notes," muttered Ripton, looking incarnate subterfuge.

"Exhibit!"

Ripton glanced at his desk and then at his father; at Sir Austin, and at
the confidential clerk. He took out his key. It would not fit the hole.

"Exhibit!" was peremptorily called again.

In his praiseworthy efforts to accommodate the keyhole, Ripton discovered
that the desk was already unlocked. Mr. Thompson marched to it, and held
the lid aloft. A book was lying open within, which Ripton immediately
hustled among a mass of papers and tossed into a dark corner, not before
the glimpse of a coloured frontispiece was caught by Sir Austin's eye.

The baronet smiled, and said, "You study Heraldry, too? Are you fond of
the science?"

Ripton replied that he was very fond of it--extremely attached, and threw
a further pile of papers into the dark corner.

The notes had been less conspicuously placed, and the search for them was
tedious and vain. Papers, not legal, or the fruits of study, were found,
that made Mr. Thompson more intimate with the condition of his son's
exchequer; nothing in the shape of a remark on the Law of Gavelkind.

Mr. Thompson suggested to his son that they might be among those scraps
he had thrown carelessly into the dark corner. Ripton, though he
consented to inspect them, was positive they were not there.

"What have we here?" said Mr. Thompson, seizing a neatly folded paper
addressed to the Editor of a law publication, as Ripton brought them
forth, one by one. Forthwith Mr. Thompson fixed his spectacles and read
aloud:

        "To the Editor of the 'Jurist.'

"Sir,--In your recent observations on the great case of Crim"--

Mr. Thompson hem'd! and stopped short, like a man who comes unexpectedly
upon a snake in his path. Mr. Beazley's feet shuffled. Sir Austin changed
the position of an arm.

"It's on the other side, I think," gasped Ripton.

Mr. Thompson confidently turned over, and intoned with emphasis.

"To Absalom, the son of David, the little Jew usurer of Bond Court,
Whitecross Gutters, for his introduction to Venus, I O U Five pounds,
when I can pay.

             "Signed: RIPTON THOMPSON."

Underneath this fictitious legal instrument was discreetly appended:

"(Mem. Document not binding.)"

There was a pause: an awful under-breath of sanctified wonderment and
reproach passed round the office. Sir Austin assumed an attitude. Mr.
Thompson shed a glance of severity on his confidential clerk, who parried
by throwing up his hands.

Ripton, now fairly bewildered, stuffed another paper under his father's
nose, hoping the outside perhaps would satisfy him: it was marked "Legal
Considerations." Mr. Thompson had no idea of sparing or shielding his
son. In fact, like many men whose self-love is wounded by their
offspring, he felt vindictive, and was ready to sacrifice him up to a
certain point, for the good of both. He therefore opened the paper,
expecting something worse than what he had hitherto seen, despite its
formal heading, and he was not disappointed.

The "Legal Considerations" related to the Case regarding, which Ripton
had conceived it imperative upon him to address a letter to the Editor of
the "Jurist," and was indeed a great case, and an ancient; revived
apparently for the special purpose of displaying the forensic abilities
of the Junior Counsel for the Plaintiff, Mr. Ripton Thompson, whose
assistance the Attorney-General, in his opening statement, congratulated
himself on securing; a rather unusual thing, due probably to the eminence
and renown of that youthful gentleman at the Bar of his country. So much
was seen from the copy of a report purporting to be extracted from a
newspaper, and prefixed to the Junior Counsel's remarks, or Legal
Considerations, on the conduct of the Case, the admissibility and
non-admissibility of certain evidence, and the ultimate decision of the
judges.

Mr. Thompson, senior, lifted the paper high, with the spirit of one
prepared to do execution on the criminal, and in the voice of a
town-crier, varied by a bitter accentuation and satiric sing-song tone,
deliberately read:

          "VULCAN v. MARS.

"The Attorney-General, assisted by Mr. Ripton Thompson, appeared on
behalf of the Plaintiff. Mr. Serjeant Cupid, Q.C., and Mr. Capital
Opportunity, for the Defendant."

"Oh!" snapped Mr. Thompson, senior, peering venom at the unfortunate
Ripton over his spectacles, "your notes are on that issue, sir! Thus you
employ your time, sir!"

With another side-shot at the confidential clerk, who retired immediately
behind a strong entrenchment of shrugs, Mr. Thompson was pushed by the
devil of his rancour to continue reading:

"This Case is too well known to require more than a partial summary of
particulars"...

"Ahem! we will skip the particulars, however partial," said Mr. Thompson.
"Ah!--what do you mean here, sir,--but enough! I think we may be excused
your Legal Considerations on such a Case. This is how you employ your
law-studies, sir! You put them to this purpose? Mr. Beazley! you will
henceforward sit alone. I must have this young man under my own eye. Sir
Austin! permit me to apologize to you for subjecting you to a scene so
disagreeable. It was a father's duty not to spare him."

Mr. Thompson wiped his forehead, as Brutes might have done after passing
judgment on the scion of his house.

"These papers," he went on, fluttering Ripton's precious lucubrations in
a waving judicial hand, "I shall retain. The day will come when he will
regard them with shame. And it shall be his penance, his punishment, to
do so! Stop!" he cried, as Ripton was noiselessly shutting his desk,
"have you more of them, sir; of a similar description? Rout them out! Let
us know you at your worst. What have you there--in that corner?"

Ripton was understood to say he devoted that corner to old briefs on
important cases.

Mr. Thompson thrust his trembling fingers among the old briefs, and
turned over the volume Sir Austin had observed, but without much
remarking it, for his suspicions had not risen to print.

"A Manual of Heraldry?" the baronet politely, and it may be ironically,
inquired, before it could well escape.

"I like it very much," said Ripton, clutching the book in dreadful
torment.

"Allow me to see that you have our arms and crest correct." The baronet
proffered a hand for the book.

"A Griffin between two Wheatsheaves," cried Ripton, still clutching it
nervously.

Mr. Thompson, without any notion of what he was doing, drew the book from
Ripton's hold; whereupon the two seniors laid their grey heads together
over the title-page. It set forth in attractive characters beside a
coloured frontispiece, which embodied the promise displayed there, the
entrancing adventures of Miss Random, a strange young lady.

Had there been a Black Hole within the area of those law regions to
consign Ripton to there and then, or an Iron Rod handy to mortify his
sinful flesh, Mr. Thompson would have used them. As it was, he contented
himself by looking Black Holes and Iron Rods at the detected youth, who
sat on his perch insensible to what might happen next, collapsed.

Mr. Thompson cast the wicked creature down with a "Pah!" He, however,
took her up again, and strode away with her. Sir Austin gave Ripton a
forefinger, and kindly touched his head, saying, "Good-bye, boy! At some
future date Richard will be happy to see you at Raynham."

Undoubtedly this was a great triumph to the System!



CHAPTER XVII

The conversation between solicitor and client was resumed.

"Is it possible," quoth Mr. Thompson, the moment he had ushered his
client into his private room, "that you will consent, Sir Austin, to see
him and receive him again?"

"Certainly," the baronet replied. "Why not? This by no means astonishes
me. When there is no longer danger to my son he will be welcome as he was
before. He is a schoolboy. I knew it. I expected it. The results of your
principle, Thompson!"

"One of the very worst books of that abominable class!" exclaimed the old
lawyer, opening at the coloured frontispiece, from which brazen Miss
Random smiled bewitchingly out, as if she had no doubt of captivating
Time and all his veterans on a fair field. "Pah!" he shut her to with the
energy he would have given to the office of publicly slapping her face;
"from this day I diet him on bread and water--rescind his
pocket-money!--How he could have got hold of such a book! How he--! And
what ideas! Concealing them from me as he has done so cunningly! He
trifles with vice! His mind is in a putrid state! I might have
believed--I did believe--I might have gone on believing--my son Ripton to
be a moral young man!" The old lawyer interjected on the delusion of
fathers, and sat down in a lamentable abstraction.

"The lad has come out!" said Sir Austin. "His adoption of the legal form
is amusing. He trifles with vice, true: people newly initiated are as
hardy as its intimates, and a young sinner's amusements will resemble
those of a confirmed debauchee. The satiated, and the insatiate, appetite
alike appeal to extremes. You are astonished at this revelation of your
son's condition. I expected it; though assuredly, believe me, not this
sudden and indisputable proof of it. But I knew that the seed was in him,
and therefore I have not latterly invited him to Raynham. School, and the
corruption there, will bear its fruits sooner or later. I could advise
you, Thompson, what to do with him: it would be my plan."

Mr. Thompson murmured, like a true courtier, that he should esteem it an
honour to be favoured with Sir Austin Feverel's advice: secretly
resolute, like a true Briton, to follow his own.

"Let him, then," continued the baronet, "see vice in its nakedness. While
he has yet some innocence, nauseate him! Vice, taken little by little,
usurps gradually the whole creature. My counsel to you, Thompson, would
be, to drag him through the sinks of town."

Mr. Thompson began to blink again.

"Oh, I shall punish him, Sir Austin! Do not fear me, air. I have no
tenderness for vice."

"That is not what is wanted, Thompson. You mistake me. He should be dealt
with gently. Heavens! do you hope to make him hate vice by making him a
martyr for its sake? You must descend from the pedestal of age to become
his Mentor: cause him to see how certainly and pitilessly vice itself
punishes: accompany him into its haunts"--

"Over town?" broke forth Mr. Thompson.

"Over town," said the baronet.

"And depend upon it," he added, "that, until fathers act thoroughly up to
their duty, we shall see the sights we see in great cities, and hear the
tales we hear in little villages, with death and calamity in our homes,
and a legacy of sorrow and shame to the generations to come. I do aver,"
he exclaimed, becoming excited, "that, if it were not for the duty to my
son, and the hope I cherish in him, I, seeing the accumulation of misery
we are handing down to an innocent posterity--to whom, through our sin,
the fresh breath of life will be foul--I--yes! I would hide my name! For
whither are we tending? What home is pure absolutely? What cannot our
doctors and lawyers tell us?"

Mr. Thompson acquiesced significantly.

"And what is to come of this?" Sir Austin continued. "When the sins of
the fathers are multiplied by the sons, is not perdition the final sum of
things? And is not life, the boon of heaven, growing to be the devil's
game utterly? But for my son, I would hide my name. I would not bequeath
it to be cursed by them that walk above my grave!"

This was indeed a terrible view of existence. Mr. Thompson felt uneasy.
There was a dignity in his client, an impressiveness in his speech, that
silenced remonstrating reason and the cry of long years of comfortable
respectability. Mr. Thompson went to church regularly; paid his rates and
dues without overmuch, or at least more than common, grumbling. On the
surface he was a good citizen, fond of his children, faithful to his
wife, devoutly marching to a fair seat in heaven on a path paved by
something better than a thousand a year. But here was a man sighting him
from below the surface, and though it was an unfair, unaccustomed, not to
say un-English, method of regarding one's fellow-man, Mr. Thompson was
troubled by it. What though his client exaggerated? Facts were at the
bottom of what he said. And he was acute--he had unmasked Ripton! Since
Ripton's exposure he winced at a personal application in the text his
client preached from. Possibly this was the secret source of part of his
anger against that peccant youth.

Mr. Thompson shook his head, and, with dolefully puckered visage and a
pitiable contraction of his shoulders, rose slowly up from his chair.
Apparently he was about to speak, but he straightway turned and went
meditatively to a side-recess in the room, whereof he opened a door, drew
forth a tray and a decanter labelled Port, filled a glass for his client,
deferentially invited him to partake of it; filled another glass for
himself, and drank.

That was his reply.

Sir Austin never took wine before dinner. Thompson had looked as if he
meant to speak: he waited for Thompson's words.

Mr. Thompson saw that, as his client did not join him in his glass, the
eloquence of that Porty reply was lost on his client.

Having slowly ingurgitated and meditated upon this precious draught, and
turned its flavour over and over with an aspect of potent Judicial wisdom
(one might have thought that he was weighing mankind m the balance), the
old lawyer heaved, and said, sharpening his lips over the admirable
vintage, "The world is in a very sad state, I fear, Sir Austin!"

His client gazed at him queerly.

"But that," Mr. Thompson added immediately, ill-concealing by his gaze
the glowing intestinal congratulations going on within him, "that is, I
think you would say, Sir Austin--if I could but prevail upon you--a
tolerably good character wine!"

"There's virtue somewhere, I see, Thompson!" Sir Austin murmured, without
disturbing his legal adviser's dimples.

The old lawyer sat down to finish his glass, saying, that such a wine was
not to be had everywhere.

They were then outwardly silent for a apace. Inwardly one of them was
full of riot and jubilant uproar: as if the solemn fields of law were
suddenly to be invaded and possessed by troops of Bacchanals: and to
preserve a decently wretched physiognomy over it, and keep on terms with
his companion, he had to grimace like a melancholy clown in a pantomime.

Mr. Thompson brushed back his hair. The baronet was still expectant. Mr.
Thompson sighed deeply, and emptied his glass. He combated the change
that had come over him. He tried not to see Ruby. He tried to feel
miserable, and it was not in him. He spoke, drawing what appropriate
inspirations he could from his client's countenance, to show that they
had views in common: "Degenerating sadly, I fear!"

The baronet nodded.

"According to what my wine-merchants say," continued Mr. Thompson, "there
can be no doubt about it."

Sir Austin stared.

"It's the grape, or the ground, or something," Mr. Thompson went on. "All
I can say is, our youngsters will have a bad look-out! In my opinion
Government should be compelled to send out a Commission to inquire into
the cause. To Englishmen it would be a public calamity. It surprises
me--I hear men sit and talk despondently of this extraordinary disease of
the vine, and not one of them seems to think it incumbent on him to act,
and do his best to stop it." He fronted his client like a man who accuses
an enormous public delinquency. "Nobody makes a stir! The apathy of
Englishmen will become proverbial. Pray, try it, Sir Austin! Pray, allow
me. Such a wine cannot disagree at any hour. Do! I am allowanced two
glasses three hours before dinner. Stomachic. I find it agree with me
surprisingly: quite a new man. I suppose it will last our time. It must!
What should we do? There's no Law possible without it. Not a lawyer of us
could live. Ours is an occupation which dries the blood."

The scene with Ripton had unnerved him, the wine had renovated, and
gratitude to the wine inspired his tongue. He thought that his client, of
the whimsical mind, though undoubtedly correct moral views, had need of a
glass.

"Now that very wine--Sir Austin--I think I do not err in saying, that
very wine your respected father, Sir Pylcher Feverel, used to taste
whenever he came to consult my father, when I was a boy. And I remember
one day being called in, and Sir Pylcher himself poured me out a glass. I
wish I could call in Ripton now, and do the same. No! Leniency in such a
case as that!--The wine would not hurt him--I doubt if there be much left
for him to welcome his guests with. Ha! ha! Now if I could persuade you,
Sir Austin, as you do not take wine before dinner, some day to favour me
with your company at my little country cottage I have a wine there--the
fellow to that--I think you would, I do think you would"--Mr. Thompson
meant to say, he thought his client would arrive at something of a
similar jocund contemplation of his fellows in their degeneracy that
inspirited lawyers after potation, but condensed the sensual promise into
"highly approve."

Sir Austin speculated on his legal adviser with a sour mouth comically
compressed.

It stood clear to him that Thompson before his Port, and Thompson after,
were two different men. To indoctrinate him now was too late: it was
perhaps the time to make the positive use of him he wanted.

He pencilled on a handy slip of paper: "Two prongs of a fork; the World
stuck between them--Port and the Palate: 'Tis one which fails first--Down
goes World;" and again the hieroglyph--"Port-spectacles." He said, "I
shall gladly accompany you this evening, Thompson," words that
transfigured the delighted lawyer, and ensigned the skeleton of a great
Aphorism to his pocket, there to gather flesh and form, with numberless
others in a like condition.

"I came to visit my lawyer," he said to himself. "I think I have been
dealing with The World in epitome!"



CHAPTER XVIII

The rumour circulated that Sir Austin Feverel, the recluse of Raynham,
the rank misogynist, the rich baronet, was in town, looking out a bride
for his only son and uncorrupted heir. Doctor Benjamin Bairam was the
excellent authority. Doctor Bairam had safely delivered Mrs. Deborah
Gossip of this interesting bantling, which was forthwith dandled in
dozens of feminine laps. Doctor Bairam could boast the first interview
with the famous recluse. He had it from his own lips that the object of
the baronet was to look out a bride for his only son and uncorrupted
heir; "and," added the doctor, "she'll be lucky who gets him." Which was
interpreted to mean, that he would be a catch; the doctor probably
intending to allude to certain extraordinary difficulties in the way of a
choice.

A demand was made on the publisher of The Pilgrim's Scrip for all his
outstanding copies. Conventionalities were defied. A summer-shower of
cards fell on the baronet's table.

He had few male friends. He shunned the Clubs as nests of scandal. The
cards he contemplated were mostly those of the sex, with the husband, if
there was a husband, evidently dragged in for propriety's sake. He
perused the cards and smiled. He knew their purpose. What terrible light
Thompson and Bairam had thrown on some of them! Heavens! in what a state
was the blood of this Empire.

Before commencing his campaign he called on two ancient intimates, Lord
Heddon, and his distant cousin Darley Absworthy, both Members of
Parliament, useful men, though gouty, who had sown in their time a fine
crop of wild oats, and advocated the advantage of doing so, seeing that
they did not fancy themselves the worse for it. He found one with an
imbecile son and the other with consumptive daughters. "So much," he
wrote in the Note-book, "for the Wild Oats theory!"

Darley was proud of his daughters' white and pink skins. "Beautiful
complexions," he called them. The eldest was in the market, immensely
admired. Sir Austin was introduced to her. She talked fluently and
sweetly. A youth not on his guard, a simple school-boy youth, or even a
man, might have fallen in love with her, she was so affable and fair.
There was something poetic about her. And she was quite well, she said,
the baronet frequently questioning her on that point. She intimated that
she was robust; but towards the close of their conversation her hand
would now and then travel to her side, and she breathed painfully an
instant, saying, "Isn't it odd? Dora, Adela, and myself, we all feel the
same queer sensation--about the heart, I think it is--after talking
much."

Sir Austin nodded and blinked sadly, exclaiming to his soul, "Wild oats!
wild oats!"

He did not ask permission to see Dora and Adela.

Lord Heddon vehemently preached wild oats.

"It's all nonsense, Feverel," he said, "about bringing up a lad out of
the common way. He's all the better for a little racketing when he's
green--feels his bone and muscle learns to know the world. He'll never be
a man if he hasn't played at the old game one time in his life, and the
earlier the better. I've always found the best fellows were wildish once.
I don't care what he does when he's a green-horn; besides, he's got an
excuse for it then. You can't expect to have a man, if he doesn't take a
man's food. You'll have a milksop. And, depend upon it, when he does
break out he'll go to the devil, and nobody pities him. Look what those
fellows the grocers, do when they get hold of a young--what d'ye call
'em?--apprentice. They know the scoundrel was born with a sweet tooth.
Well! they give him the run of the shop, and in a very short time he
soberly deals out the goods, a devilish deal too wise to abstract a
morsel even for the pleasure of stealing. I know you have contrary
theories. You hold that the young grocer should have a soul above sugar.
It won't do! Take my word for it, Feverel, it's a dangerous experiment,
that of bringing up flesh and blood in harness. No colt will bear it, or
he's a tame beast. And look you: take it on medical grounds. Early
excesses the frame will recover from: late ones break the constitution.
There's the case in a nutshell. How's your son?"

"Sound and well!" replied Sir Austin. "And yours?"

"Oh, Lipscombe's always the same!" Lord Heddon sighed peevishly. "He's
quiet--that's one good thing; but there's no getting the country to take
him, so I must give up hopes of that."

Lord Lipscombe entering the room just then, Sir Austin surveyed him, and
was not astonished at the refusal of the country to take him.

"Wild oats!" he thought, as he contemplated the headless, degenerate,
weedy issue and result.

Both Darley Absworthy and Lord Heddon spoke of the marriage of their
offspring as a matter of course. "And if I were not a coward," Sir Austin
confessed to himself, "I should stand forth and forbid the banns! This
universal ignorance of the inevitable consequence of sin is frightful!
The wild oats plea is a torpedo that seems to have struck the world, and
rendered it morally insensible." However, they silenced him. He was
obliged to spare their feelings on a subject to him so deeply sacred. The
healthful image of his noble boy rose before him, a triumphant living
rejoinder to any hostile argument.

He was content to remark to his doctor, that he thought the third
generation of wild oats would be a pretty thin crop!

Families against whom neither Thompson lawyer nor Bairam physician could
recollect a progenitorial blot, either on the male or female side, were
not numerous. "Only," said the doctors "you really must not be too
exacting in these days, my dear Sir Austin. It is impossible to contest
your principle, and you are doing mankind incalculable service in calling
its attention to this the gravest of its duties: but as the stream of
civilization progresses we must be a little taken in the lump, as it
were. The world is, I can assure you--and I do not look only above the
surface, you can believe--the world is awakening to the vital importance
of the question."

"Doctor," replied Sir Austin, "if you had a pure-blood Arab barb would
you cross him with a screw?"

"Decidedly not," said the doctor.

"Then permit me to say, I shall employ every care to match my son
according to his merits," Sir Austin returned. "I trust the world is
awakening, as you observe. I have been to my publisher, since my arrival
in town, with a manuscript 'Proposal for a New System of Education of our
British Youth,' which may come in opportunely. I think I am entitled to
speak on that subject."

"Certainly," said the doctor. "You will admit, Sir Austin, that, compared
with continental nations--our neighbours, for instance--we shine to
advantage, in morals, as in everything else. I hope you admit that?"

"I find no consolation in shining by comparison with a lower standard,"
said the baronet. "If I compare the enlightenment of your views--for you
admit my principle--with the obstinate incredulity of a country doctor's,
who sees nothing of the world, you are hardly flattered, I presume?"

Doctor Bairam would hardly be flattered at such a comparison, assuredly,
he interjected.

"Besides," added the baronet, "the French make no pretences, and thereby
escape one of the main penalties of hypocrisy. Whereas we!--but I am not
their advocate, credit me. It is better, perhaps, to pay our homage to
virtue. At least it delays the spread of entire corruptness."

Doctor Bairam wished the baronet success, and diligently endeavoured to
assist his search for a mate worthy of the pure-blood barb, by putting
several mamas, whom he visited, on the alert.



CHAPTER XIX

Away with Systems! Away with a corrupt World! Let us breathe the air of
the Enchanted Island.

Golden lie the meadows: golden run the streams; red gold is on the
pine-stems. The sun is coming down to earth, and walks the fields and the
waters.

The sun is coming down to earth, and the fields and the waters shout to
him golden shouts. He comes, and his heralds run before him, and touch
the leaves of oaks and planes and beeches lucid green, and the pine-stems
redder gold; leaving brightest footprints upon thickly-weeded banks,
where the foxglove's last upper-bells incline, and bramble-shoots wander
amid moist rich herbage. The plumes of the woodland are alight; and
beyond them, over the open, 'tis a race with the long-thrown shadows; a
race across the heaths and up the hills, till, at the farthest bourne of
mounted eastern cloud, the heralds of the sun lay rosy fingers and rest.

Sweet are the shy recesses of the woodland. The ray treads softly there.
A film athwart the pathway quivers many-hued against purple shade
fragrant with warm pines, deep moss-beds, feathery ferns. The little
brown squirrel drops tail, and leaps; the inmost bird is startled to a
chance tuneless note. From silence into silence things move.

Peeps of the revelling splendour above and around enliven the conscious
full heart within. The flaming West, the crimson heights, shower their
glories through voluminous leafage. But these are bowers where deep bliss
dwells, imperial joy, that owes no fealty to yonder glories, in which the
young lamb gambols and the spirits of men are glad. Descend, great
Radiance! embrace creation with beneficent fire, and pass from us! You
and the vice-regal light that succeeds to you, and all heavenly pageants,
are the ministers and the slaves of the throbbing content within.

For this is the home of the enchantment. Here, secluded from vexed
shores, the prince and princess of the island meet: here like darkling
nightingales they sit, and into eyes and ears and hands pour endless
ever-fresh treasures of their souls.

Roll on, grinding wheels of the world: cries of ships going down in a
calm, groans of a System which will not know its rightful hour of
exultation, complain to the universe. You are not heard here.

He calls her by her name, Lucy: and she, blushing at her great boldness,
has called him by his, Richard. Those two names are the key-notes of the
wonderful harmonies the angels sing aloft.

"Lucy! my beloved!"

"O Richard!"

Out in the world there, on the skirts of the woodland, a sheep-boy pipes
to meditative eve on a penny-whistle.

Love's musical instrument is as old, and as poor: it has but two stops;
and yet, you see, the cunning musician does thus much with it!

Other speech they have little; light foam playing upon waves of feeling,
and of feeling compact, that bursts only when the sweeping volume is too
wild, and is no more than their sigh of tenderness spoken.

Perhaps love played his tune so well because their natures had unblunted
edges, and were keen for bliss, confiding in it as natural food. To
gentlemen and ladies he fine-draws upon the viol, ravishingly; or blows
into the mellow bassoon; or rouses the heroic ardours of the trumpet; or,
it may be, commands the whole Orchestra for them. And they are pleased.
He is still the cunning musician. They languish, and taste ecstasy: but
it is, however sonorous, an earthly concert. For them the spheres move
not to two notes. They have lost, or forfeited and never known, the first
super-sensual spring of the ripe senses into passion; when they carry the
soul with them, and have the privileges of spirits to walk disembodied,
boundlessly to feel. Or one has it, and the other is a dead body.
Ambrosia let them eat, and drink the nectar: here sit a couple to whom
Love's simple bread and water is a finer feast.

Pipe, happy sheep-bop, Love! Irradiated angels, unfold your wings and
lift your voices!

They have out-flown philosophy. Their instinct has shot beyond the ken of
science. They were made for their Eden.

"And this divine gift was in store for me!"

So runs the internal outcry of each, clasping each: it is their recurring
refrain to the harmonies. How it illumined the years gone by and suffused
the living Future!

"You for me: I for you!"

"We are born for each other!"

They believe that the angels have been busy about them from their
cradles. The celestial hosts have worthily striven to bring them
together. And, O victory! O wonder! after toil and pain, and difficulties
exceeding, the celestial hosts have succeeded!

"Here we two sit who are written above as one!"

Pipe, happy Love! pipe on to these dear innocents!

The tide of colour has ebbed from the upper sky. In the West the sea of
sunken fire draws back; and the stars leap forth, and tremble, and retire
before the advancing moon, who slips the silver train of cloud from her
shoulders, and, with her foot upon the pine-tops, surveys heaven.

"Lucy, did you never dream of meeting me?"

"O Richard! yes; for I remembered you."

"Lucy! and did you pray that we might meet?"

"I did!"

Young as when she looked upon the lovers in Paradise, the fair Immortal
journeys onward. Fronting her, it is not night but veiled day. Full half
the sky is flushed. Not darkness, not day, but the nuptials of the two.

"My own! my own for ever! You are pledged to me? Whisper!"

He hears the delicious music.

"And you are mine?"

A soft beam travels to the fern-covert under the pinewood where they sit,
and for answer he has her eyes turned to him an instant, timidly
fluttering over the depths of his, and then downcast; for through her
eyes her soul is naked to him.

"Lucy! my bride! my life!"

The night-jar spins his dark monotony on the branch of the pine. The soft
beam travels round them, and listens to their hearts. Their lips are
locked.

Pipe no more, Love, for a time! Pipe as you will you cannot express their
first kiss; nothing of its sweetness, and of the sacredness of it
nothing. St. Cecilia up aloft, before the silver organ-pipes of Paradise,
pressing fingers upon all the notes of which Love is but one, from her
you may hear it.

So Love is silent. Out in the world there, on the skirts of the woodland,
the self-satisfied sheep-boy delivers a last complacent squint down the
length of his penny-whistle, and, with a flourish correspondingly awry,
he also marches into silence, hailed by supper. The woods are still.
There is heard but the night-jar spinning on the pine-branch, circled by
moonlight.



CHAPTER XX

Enchanted Islands have not yet rooted out their old brood of dragons.
Wherever there is romance, these monsters come by inimical attraction.
Because the heavens are certainly propitious to true lovers, the beasts
of the abysses are banded to destroy them, stimulated by innumerable sad
victories; and every love-tale is an Epic Par of the upper and lower
powers. I wish good fairies were a little more active. They seem to be
cajoled into security by the happiness of their favourites; whereas the
wicked are always alert, and circumspect. They let the little ones shut
their eyes to fancy they are not seen, and then commence.

These appointments and meetings, involving a start from the dinner-table
at the hour of contemplative digestion and prime claret; the hour when
the wise youth Adrian delighted to talk at his ease--to recline in dreamy
consciousness that a work of good was going on inside him; these
abstractions from his studies, excesses of gaiety, and glumness, heavings
of the chest, and other odd signs, but mainly the disgusting behaviour of
his pupil at the dinner-table, taught Adrian to understand, though the
young gentleman was clever in excuses, that he had somehow learnt there
was another half to the divided Apple of Creation, and had embarked upon
the great voyage of discovery of the difference between the two halves.
With his usual coolness Adrian debated whether he might be in the
observatory or the practical stage of the voyage. For himself, as a man
and a philosopher, Adrian had no objection to its being either; and he
had only to consider which was temporarily most threatening to the
ridiculous System he had to support. Richard's absence annoyed him. The
youth was vivacious, and his enthusiasm good fun; and besides, when he
left table, Adrian had to sit alone with Hippias and the Eighteenth
Century, from both of whom he had extracted all the amusement that could
be got, and he saw his digestion menaced by the society of two ruined
stomachs, who bored him just when he loved himself most. Poor Hippias was
now so reduced that he had profoundly to calculate whether a particular
dish, or an extra-glass of wine, would have a bitter effect on him and be
felt through the remainder of his years. He was in the habit of uttering
his calculations half aloud, wherein the prophetic doubts of experience,
and the succulent insinuations of appetite, contended hotly. It was
horrible to hear him, so let us pardon Adrian for tempting him to a
decision in favour of the moment.

"Happy to take wine with you," Adrian would say, and Hippias would regard
the decanter with a pained forehead, and put up the doctor.

"Drink, nephew Hippy, and think of the doctor to-morrow!" the Eighteenth
Century cheerily ruffles her cap at him, and recommends her own practice.

"It's this literary work!" interjects Hippias, handling his glass of
remorse. "I don't know what else it can be. You have no idea how anxious
I feel. I have frightful dreams. I'm perpetually anxious."

"No wonder," says Adrian, who enjoys the childish simplicity to which an
absorbed study of his sensational existence has brought poor Hippias. "No
wonder. Ten years of Fairy Mythology! Could anyone hope to sleep in peace
after that? As to your digestion, no one has a digestion who is in the
doctor's hands. They prescribe from dogmas, and don't count on the
system. They have cut you down from two bottles to two glasses. It's
absurd. You can't sleep, because your system is crying out for what it's
accustomed to."

Hippias sips his Madeira with a niggerdly confidence, but assures Adrian
that he really should not like to venture on a bottle now: it would be
rank madness to venture on a bottle now, he thinks. Last night only,
after partaking, under protest, of that rich French dish, or was it the
duck?--Adrian advised him to throw the blame on that vulgar bird.--Say
the duck, then. Last night, he was no sooner stretched in bed, than he
seemed to be of an enormous size all his limbs--his nose, his mouth, his
toes--were elephantine! An elephant was a pigmy to him. And his
hugeousness seemed to increase the instant he shut his eyes. He turned on
this side; he turned on that. He lay on his back; he tried putting his
face to the pillow; and he continued to swell. He wondered the room could
hold him--he thought he must burst it--and absolutely lit a candle, and
went to the looking-glass to see whether he was bearable.

By this time Adrian and Richard were laughing uncontrollably. He had,
however, a genial auditor in the Eighteenth Century, who declared it to
be a new disease, not known in her day, and deserving investigation. She
was happy to compare sensations with him, but hers were not of the
complex order, and a potion soon righted her. In fact, her system
appeared to be a debatable ground for aliment and medicine, on which the
battle was fought, and, when over, she was none the worse, as she
joyfully told Hippias. Never looked ploughman on prince, or village belle
on Court Beauty, with half the envy poor nineteenth-century Hippias
expended in his gaze on the Eighteenth. He was too serious to note much
the laughter of the young men.

This 'Tragedy of a Cooking-Apparatus,' as Adrian designated the malady of
Hippias, was repeated regularly ever evening. It was natural for any
youth to escape as quick as he could from such a table of stomachs.

Adrian bore with his conduct considerately, until a letter from the
baronet, describing the house and maternal System of a Mrs. Caroline
Grandison, and the rough grain of hopefulness in her youngest daughter,
spurred him to think of his duties, and see what was going on. He gave
Richard half-an-hour's start, and then put on his hat to follow his own
keen scent, leaving Hippias and the Eighteenth Century to piquet.

In the lane near Belthorpe he met a maid of the farm not unknown to him,
one Molly Davenport by name, a buxom lass, who, on seeing him, invoked
her Good Gracious, the generic maid's familiar, and was instructed by
reminiscences vivid, if ancient, to giggle.

"Are you looking for your young gentleman?" Molly presently asked.

Adrian glanced about the lane like a cool brigand, to see if the coast
was clear, and replied to her, "I am, miss. I want you to tell me about
him."

"Dear!" said the buxom lass, "was you coming for me to-night to know?"

Adrian rebuked her: for her bad grammar, apparently.

"'Cause I can't stop out long to-night," Molly explained, taking the
rebuke to refer altogether to her bad grammar.

"You may go in when you please, miss. Is that any one coming? Come here
in the shade."

"Now, get along!" said Miss Molly.

Adrian spoke with resolution. "Listen to me, Molly Davenport!" He put a
coin in her hand, which had a medical effect in calming her to attention.
"I want to know whether you have seen him at all?"

"Who? Your young gentleman? I sh'd think I did. I seen him to-night only.
Ain't he grooved handsome. He's al'ays about Beltharp now. It ain't to
fire no more ricks. He's afire 'unself. Ain't you seen 'em together? He's
after the missis"--

Adrian requested Miss Davenport to be respectful, and confine herself to
particulars. This buxom lass then told him that her young missis and
Adrian's young gentleman were a pretty couple, and met one another every
night. The girl swore for their innocence.

"As for Miss Lucy, she haven't a bit of art in her, nor have he."

"They're all nature, I suppose," said Adrian. "How is it I don't see her
at church?"

"She's Catholic, or some think," said Molly. "Her father was, and a
leftenant. She've a Cross in her bedroom. She don't go to church. I see
you there last Sunday a-lookin' so solemn," and Molly stroked her hand
down her chin to give it length.

Adrian insisted on her keeping to facts. It was dark, and in the dark he
was indifferent to the striking contrasts suggested by the lass, but he
wanted to hear facts, and he again bribed her to impart nothing but
facts. Upon which she told him further, that her young lady was an
innocent artless creature who had been to school upwards of three years
with the nuns, and had a little money of her own, and was beautiful
enough to be a lord's lady, and had been in love with Master Richard ever
since she was a little girl. Molly had got from a friend of hers up at
the Abbey, Mary Garner, the housemaid who cleaned Master Richard's room,
a bit of paper once with the young gentleman's handwriting, and had given
it to her Miss Lucy, and Miss Lucy had given her a gold sovereign for
it--just for his handwriting! Miss Lucy did not seem happy at the farm,
because of that young Tom, who was always leering at her, and to be sure
she was quite a lady, and could play, and sing, and dress with the best.

"She looks like angels in her nightgown!" Molly wound up.

The next moment she ran up close, and speaking for the first time as if
there were a distinction of position between them, petitioned: "Mr.
Harley! you won't go for doin' any harm to 'em 'cause of what I said,
will you now? Do say you won't now, Mr. Harley! She is good, though she's
a Catholic. She was kind to me when I was ill, and I wouldn't have her
crossed--I'd rather be showed up myself, I would!"

The wise youth gave no positive promise to Molly, and she had to read his
consent in a relaxation of his austerity. The noise of a lumbering foot
plodding down the lane caused her to be abruptly dismissed. Molly took to
flight, the lumbering foot accelerated its pace, and the pastoral appeal
to her flying skirts was heard--"Moll! you theyre! It be I--Bantam!" But
the sprightly Silvia would not stop to his wooing, and Adrian turned away
laughing at these Arcadians.

Adrian was a lazy dragon. All he did for the present was to hint and
tease. "It's the Inevitable!" he said, and asked himself why he should
seek to arrest it. He had no faith in the System. Heavy Benson had.
Benson of the slow thick-lidded antediluvian eye and loose-crumpled skin;
Benson, the Saurian, the woman-hater; Benson was wide awake. A sort of
rivalry existed between the wise youth and heavy Benson. The fidelity of
the latter dependant had moved the baronet to commit to him a portion of
the management of the Raynham estate, and this Adrian did not like. No
one who aspires to the honourable office of leading another by the nose
can tolerate a party in his ambition. Benson's surly instinct told him he
was in the wise youth's way, and he resolved to give his master a
striking proof of his superior faithfulness. For some weeks the Saurian
eye had been on the two secret creatures. Heavy Benson saw letters come
and go in the day, and now the young gentleman was off and out every
night, and seemed to be on wings. Benson knew whither he went, and the
object he went for. It was a woman--that was enough. The Saurian eye had
actually seen the sinful thing lure the hope of Raynham into the shades.
He composed several epistles of warning to the baronet of the work that
was going on; but before sending one he wished to record a little of
their guilty conversation; and for this purpose the faithful fellow
trotted over the dews to eavesdrop, and thereby aroused the good fairy,
in the person of Tom Bakewell, the sole confidant of Richard's state.

Tom said to his young master, "Do you know what, sir? You be watched!"

Richard, in a fury, bade him name the wretch, and Tom hung his arms, and
aped the respectable protrusion of the butler's head.

"It's he, is it?" cried Richard. "He shall rue it, Tom. If I find him
near me when we're together he shall never forget it."

"Don't hit too hard, sir," Tom suggested. "You hit mortal hard when
you're in earnest, you know."

Richard averred he would forgive anything but that, and told Tom to be
within hail to-morrow night--he knew where. By the hour of the
appointment it was out of the lover's mind.

Lady Blandish dined that evening at Raynham, by Adrian's pointed
invitation. According to custom, Richard started up and off, with few
excuses. The lady exhibited no surprise. She and Adrian likewise strolled
forth to enjoy the air of the Summer night. They had no intention of
spying. Still they may have thought, by meeting Richard and his
inamorata, there was a chance of laying a foundation of ridicule to sap
the passion. They may have thought so--they were on no spoken
understanding.

"I have seen the little girl," said Lady Blandish. "She is pretty--she
would be telling if she were well set up. She speaks well. How absurd it
is of that class to educate their women above their station! The child is
really too good for a farmer. I noticed her before I knew of this; she
has enviable hair. I suppose she doesn't paint her eyelids. Just the sort
of person to take a young man. I thought there was something wrong. I
received, the day before yesterday, an impassioned poem evidently not
intended for me. My hair was gold. My meeting him was foretold. My eyes
were homes of light fringed with night. I sent it back, correcting the
colours."

"Which was death to the rhymes," said Adrian. "I saw her this morning.
The boy hasn't bad taste. As you say, she is too good for a farmer. Such
a spark would explode any System. She slightly affected mine. The Huron
is stark mad about her."

"But we must positively write and tell his father," said Lady Blandish.

The wise youth did not see why they should exaggerate a trifle. The lady
said she would have an interview with Richard, and then write, as it was
her duty to do. Adrian shrugged, and was for going into the scientific
explanation of Richard's conduct, in which the lady had to discourage
him.

"Poor boy!" she sighed. "I am really sorry for him. I hope he will not
feel it too strongly. They feel strongly, father and son."

"And select wisely," Adrian added.

"That's another thing," said Lady Blandish.

Their talk was then of the dulness of neighbouring county people, about
whom, it seemed, there was little or no scandal afloat: of the lady's
loss of the season in town, which she professed not to regret, though she
complained of her general weariness: of whether Mr. Morton of Poer Hall
would propose to Mrs. Doria, and of the probable despair of the hapless
curate of Lobourne; and other gossip, partly in French.

They rounded the lake, and got upon the road through the park to
Lobourne. The moon had risen. The atmosphere was warm and pleasant.

"Quite a lover's night," said Lady Blandish.

"And I, who have none to love pity me!" The wise youth attempted a sigh.

"And never will have," said Lady Blandish, curtly. "You buy your loves."

Adrian protested. However, he did not plead verbally against the
impeachment, though the lady's decisive insight astonished him. He began
to respect her, relishing her exquisite contempt, and he reflected that
widows could be terrible creatures.

He had hoped to be a little sentimental with Lady Blandish, knowing her
romantic. This mixture of the harshest common sense and an air of "I know
you men," with romance and refined temperament, subdued the wise youth
more than a positive accusation supported by witnesses would have done.
He looked at the lady. Her face was raised to the moon. She knew
nothing--she had simply spoken from the fulness of her human knowledge,
and had forgotten her words. Perhaps, after all, her admiration, or
whatever feeling it was, for the baronet, was sincere, and really the
longing for a virtuous man. Perhaps she had tried the opposite set pretty
much. Adrian shrugged. Whenever the wise youth encountered a mental
difficulty he instinctively lifted his shoulders to equal altitudes, to
show that he had no doubt there was a balance in the case--plenty to be
said on both sides, which was the same to him as a definite solution.

At their tryst in the wood, abutting on Raynham Park, wrapped in
themselves, piped to by tireless Love, Richard and Lucy sat, toying with
eternal moments. How they seem as if they would never end! What mere
sparks they are when they have died out! And how in the distance of time
they revive, and extend, and glow, and make us think them full the half,
and the best of the fire, of our lives!

With the onward flow of intimacy, the two happy lovers ceased to be so
shy of common themes, and their speech did not reject all as dross that
was not pure gold of emotion.

Lucy was very inquisitive about everything and everybody at Raynham.
Whoever had been about Richard since his birth, she must know the history
of, and he for a kiss will do her bidding.

Thus goes the tender duet:

"You should know my cousin Austin, Lucy.--Darling! Beloved!"

"My own! Richard!"

"You should know my cousin Austin. You shall know him. He would take to
you best of them all, and you to him. He is in the tropics now, looking
out a place--it's a secret--for poor English working-men to emigrate to
and found a colony in that part of the world:--my white angel!"

"Dear love!"

"He is such a noble fellow! Nobody here understands him but me. Isn't it
strange? Since I met you I love him better! That's because I love all
that's good and noble better now--Beautiful! I love--I love you!"

"My Richard!"

"What do you think I've determined, Lucy? If my father--but no! my father
does love me.--No! he will not; and we will be happy together here. And I
will win my way with you. And whatever I win will be yours; for it will
be owing to you. I feel as if I had no strength but yours--none! and you
make me--O Lucy!"

His voice ebbs. Presently Lucy murmurs--

"Your father, Richard."

"Yes, my father?"

"Dearest Richard! I feel so afraid of him."

"He loves me, and will love you, Lucy."

"But I am so poor and humble, Richard."

"No one I have ever seen is like you, Lucy."

"You think so, because you"--

"What?"

"Love me," comes the blushing whisper, and the duet gives place to dumb
variations, performed equally in concert.

It is resumed.

"You are fond of the knights, Lucy. Austin is as brave as any of
them.--My own bride! Oh, how I adore you! When you are gone, I could fall
upon the grass you tread upon, and kiss it. My breast feels empty of my
heart--Lucy! if we lived in those days, I should have been a knight, and
have won honour and glory for you. Oh! one can do nothing now. My
lady-love! My lady-love!--A tear?--Lucy?"

"Dearest! Ah, Richard! I am not a lady."

"Who dares say that? Not a lady--the angel I love!"

"Think, Richard, who I am."

"My beautiful! I think that God made you, and has given you to me."

Her eyes fill with tears, and, as she lifts them heavenward to thank her
God, the light of heaven strikes on them, and she is so radiant in her
pure beauty that the limbs of the young man tremble.

"Lucy! O heavenly spirit! Lucy!"

Tenderly her lips part--"I do not weep for sorrow,"

The big bright drops lighten, and roll down, imaged in his soul.

They lean together--shadows of ineffable tenderness playing on their
thrilled cheeks and brows.

He lifts her hand, and presses his mouth to it. She has seen little of
mankind, but her soul tells her this one is different from others, and at
the thought, in her great joy, tears must come fast, or her heart will
break--tears of boundless thanksgiving. And he, gazing on those soft,
ray-illumined, dark-edged eyes, and the grace of her loose falling
tresses, feels a scarce-sufferable holy fire streaming through his
members.

It is long ere they speak in open tones.

"O happy day when we met!"

What says the voice of one, the soul of the other echoes.

"O glorious heaven looking down on us!"

Their souls are joined, are made one for evermore beneath that bending
benediction.

"O eternity of bliss!"

Then the diviner mood passes, and they drop to earth.

"Lucy! come with me to-night, and look at the place where you are some
day to live. Come, and I will row you on the lake. You remember what you
said in your letter that you dreamt?--that we were floating over the
shadow of the Abbey to the nuns at work by torchlight felling the
cypress, and they handed us each a sprig. Why, darling, it was the best
omen in the world, their felling the old trees. And you write such lovely
letters. So pure and sweet they are. I love the nuns for having taught
you."

"Ah, Richard! See! we forget! Ah!" she lifts up her face pleadingly, as
to plead against herself, "even if your father forgives my birth, he will
not my religion. And, dearest, though I would die for you I cannot change
it. It would seem that I was denying God; and--oh! it would make me
ashamed of my love."

"Fear nothing!" He winds her about with his arm. "Come! He will love us
both, and love you the more for being faithful to your father's creed.
You don't know him, Lucy. He seems harsh and stern--he is full of
kindness and love. He isn't at all a bigot. And besides, when he hears
what the nuns have done for you, won't he thank them, as I do? And--oh! I
must speak to him soon, and you must be prepared to see him soon, for I
cannot bear your remaining at Belthorpe, like a jewel in a sty. Mind! I'm
not saying a word against your uncle. I declare I love everybody and
everything that sees you and touches you. Stay! it is a wonder how you
could have grown there. But you were not born there, and your father had
good blood. Desborough!--here was a Colonel Desborough--never mind!
Come!"

She dreads to. She begs not to. She is drawn away.

The woods are silent, and then--

"What think you of that for a pretty pastoral?" says a very different
voice.

Adrian reclined against a pine overlooking the fern-covert. Lady Blandish
was recumbent upon the brown pine-droppings, gazing through a vista of
the lower greenwood which opened out upon the moon-lighted valley, her
hands clasped round one knee, her features almost stern in their set hard
expression.

They had heard, by involuntarily overhearing about as much as may be
heard in such positions, a luminous word or two.

The lady did not answer. A movement among the ferns attracted Adrian, and
he stepped down the decline across the pine-roots to behold heavy Benson
below; shaking fern-seed and spidery substances off his crumpled skin.

"Is that you, Mr. Hadrian?" called Benson, starting, as he puffed, and
exercised his handkerchief.

"Is it you, Benson, who have had the audacity to spy upon these
Mysteries?" Adrian called back, and coming close to him, added, "You look
as if you had just been well thrashed."

"Isn't it dreadful, sir?" snuffled Benson. "And his father in ignorance,
Mr. Hadrian!"

"He shall know, Benson! He shall know how, you have endangered your
valuable skin in his service. If Mr. Richard had found you there just now
I wouldn't answer for the consequences."

"Ha!" Benson spitefully retorted. "This won't go on; Mr. Hadrian. It
shan't, sir. It will be put a stop to tomorrow, sir. I call it corruption
of a young gentleman like him, and harlotry, sir, I call it. I'd have
every jade flogged that made a young innocent gentleman go on like that,
sir."

"Then, why didn't you stop it yourself, Benson? Ah, I see! you
waited--what? This is not the first time you have been attendant on
Apollo and Miss Dryope? You have written to headquarters?"

"I did my duty, Mr. Hadrian."

The wise youth returned to Lady Blandish, and informed her of Benson's
zeal. The lady's eyes flashed. "I hope Richard will treat him as he
deserves," she said.

"Shall we home?" Adrian inquired.

"Do me a favour;" the lady replied. "Get my carriage sent round to meet
me at the park-gates."

"Won't you?"--

"I want to be alone."

Adrian bowed and left her. She was still sitting with her hands clasped
round one knee, gazing towards the dim ray-strewn valley.

"An odd creature!" muttered the wise youth. "She's as odd as any of them.
She ought to be a Feverel. I suppose she's graduating for it. Hang that
confounded old ass of a Benson! He has had the impudence to steal a march
on me!"

The shadow of the cypress was lessening on the lake. The moon was
climbing high. As Richard rowed the boat, Lucy, sang to him softly. She
sang first a fresh little French song, reminding him of a day when she
had been asked to sing to him before, and he did not care to hear. "Did I
live?" he thinks. Then she sang to him a bit of one of those majestic old
Gregorian chants, that, wherever you may hear them, seem to build up
cathedral walls about you. The young man dropped the sculls. The strange
solemn notes gave a religions tone to his love, and wafted him into the
knightly ages and the reverential heart of chivalry.

Hanging between two heavens on the lake: floating to her voice: the moon
stepping over and through white shoal's of soft high clouds above and
below: floating to her void--no other breath abroad! His soul went out of
his body as he listened.

They must part. He rows her gently shoreward.

"I never was so happy as to-night," she murmurs.

"Look, my Lucy. The lights of the old place are on the lake. Look where
you are to live."

"Which is your room, Richard?"

He points it out to her.

"O Richard! that I were one of the women who wait on you! I should ask
nothing more. How happy she must be!"

"My darling angel-love. You shall be happy; but all shall wait on you,
and I foremost, Lucy."

"Dearest! may I hope for a letter?"

"By eleven to-morrow. And I?"

"Oh! you will have mine, Richard."

"Tom shall wait far it. A long one, mind! Did you like my last song?"

She pats her hand quietly against her bosom, and he knows where it rests.
O love! O heaven!

They are aroused by the harsh grating of the bow of the boat against the
shingle. He jumps out, and lifts her ashore.

"See!" she says, as the blush of his embrace subsides--"See!" and
prettily she mimics awe and feels it a little, "the cypress does point
towards us. O Richard! it does!"

And he, looking at her rather than at the cypress, delighting in her arch
grave ways--

"Why, there's hardly any shadow at all, Lucy. She mustn't dream, my
darling! or dream only of me."

"Dearest! but I do."

"To-morrow, Lucy! The letter in the morning, and you at night. O happy
to-morrow!"

"You will be sure to be there, Richard?"

"If I am not dead, Lucy."

"O Richard! pray, pray do not speak of that. I shall not survive you."

"Let us pray, Lucy, to die together, when we are to die. Death or life,
with you! Who is it yonder? I see some one--is it Tom? It's Adrian!"

"Is it Mr. Harley?" The fair girl shivered.

"How dares he come here!" cried Richard.

The figure of Adrian, instead of advancing, discreetly circled the lake.
They were stealing away when he called. His call was repeated. Lucy
entreated Richard to go to him; but the young man preferred to summon his
attendant, Tom, from within hail, and send him to know what was wanted.

"Will he have seen me? Will he have known me?" whispered Lucy,
tremulously.

"And if he does, love?" said Richard.

"Oh! if he does, dearest--I don't know, but I feel such a presentiment.
You have not spoken of him to-night, Richard. Is he good?"

"Good?" Richard clutched her hand for the innocent maiden phrase. "He's
very fond of eating; that's all I know of Adrian."

Her hand was at his lips when Tom returned.

"Well, Tom?"

"Mr. Adrian wishes particular to speak to you, sir," said Tom.

"Do go to him, dearest! Do go!" Lucy begs him.

"Oh, how I hate Adrian!" The young man grinds his teeth.

"Do go!" Lucy urges him. "Tom--good Tom--will see me home. To-morrow,
dear love! To-morrow!"

"You wish to part from me?"

"Oh, unkind! but you must not come with me now. It may be news of
importance, dearest. Think, Richard!"

"Tom! go back!"

At the imperious command the well-drilled Tom strides off a dozen paces,
and sees nothing. Then the precious charge is confided to him. A heart is
cut in twain.

Richard made his way to Adrian. "What is it you want with me, Adrian?"

"Are we seconds, or principals, O fiery one?" was Adrian's answer. "I
want nothing with you, except to know whether you have seen Benson."

"Where should I see Benson? What do I know of Benson's doings?"

"Of course not--such a secret old fist as he is! I want some one to tell
him to order Lady Blandish's carriage to be sent round to the park-gates.
I thought he might be round your way over there--I came upon him
accidentally just now in Abbey-wood. What's the matter, boy?"

"You saw him there?"

"Hunting Diana, I suppose. He thinks she's not so chaste as they say,"
continued Adrian. "Are you going to knock down that tree?"

Richard had turned to the cypress, and was tugging at the tough wood. He
left it and went to an ash.

"You'll spoil that weeper," Adrian cried. "Down she comes! But
good-night, Ricky. If you see Benson mind you tell him."

Doomed Benson following his burly shadow hove in sight on the white road
while Adrian spoke. The wise youth chuckled and strolled round the lake,
glancing over his shoulder every now and then.

It was not long before he heard a bellow for help--the roar of a dragon
in his throes. Adrian placidly sat down on the grass, and fixed his eyes
on the water. There, as the roar was being repeated amid horrid
resounding echoes, the wise youth mused in this wise--

"'The Fates are Jews with us when they delay a punishment,' says The
Pilgrim's Scrip, or words to that effect. The heavens evidently love
Benson, seeing that he gets his punishment on the spot. Master Ricky is a
peppery young man. He gets it from the apt Gruffudh. I rather believe in
race. What a noise that old ruffian makes! He'll require poulticing with
The Pilgrim's Scrip. We shall have a message to-morrow, and a hubbub, and
perhaps all go to town, which won't be bad for one who's been a prey to
all the desires born of dulness. Benson howls: there's life in the old
dog yet! He bays the moon. Look at her. She doesn't care. It's the same
to her whether we coo like turtle-doves or roar like twenty lions. How
complacent she looks! And yet she has dust as much sympathy for Benson as
for Cupid. She would smile on if both were being birched. Was that a
raven or Benson? He howls no more. It sounds guttural: frog-like
--something between the brek-kek-kek and the hoarse raven's croak. The
fellow'll be killing him. It's time to go to the rescue. A deliverer gets
more honour by coming in at the last gasp than if he forestalled
catastrophe.--Ho, there, what's the matter?"

So saying, the wise youth rose, and leisurely trotted to the scene of
battle, where stood St. George puffing over the prostrate Dragon.

"Holloa, Ricky! is it you?" said Adrian. "What's this? Whom have we
here?--Benson, as I live!"

"Make this beast get up," Richard returned, breathing hard, and shaking
his great ash-branch.

"He seems incapable, my dear boy. What have you been up to?--Benson!
Benson!--I say, Ricky, this looks bad."

"He's shamming!" Richard clamoured like a savage. "Spy upon me, will he?
I tell you, he's shamming. He hasn't had half enough. Nothing's too bad
for a spy. Let him getup!"

"Insatiate youth! do throw away that enormous weapon."

"He has written to my father," Richard shouted. "The miserable spy! Let
him get up!"

"Ooogh? I won't!" huskily groaned Benson. "Mr. Hadrian, you're a
witness--he's my back!"--Cavernous noises took up the tale of his
maltreatment.

"I daresay you love your back better than any part of your body now,"
Adrian muttered. "Come, Benson! be a man. Mr. Richard has thrown away the
stick. Come, and get off home, and let's see the extent of the damage."

"Ooogh! he's a devil! Mr. Hadrian, sir, he's a devil!" groaned Benson,
turning half over in the road to ease his aches.

Adrian caught hold of Benson's collar and lifted him to a sitting
posture. He then had a glimpse of what his hopeful pupil's hand could do
in wrath. The wretched butler's coat was slit and welted; his hat knocked
in; his flabby spirit so broken that he started and trembled if his
pitiless executioner stirred a foot. Richard stood over him, grasping his
great stick; no dawn of mercy for Benson in any corner of his features.

Benson screwed his neck round to look up at him, and immediately gasped,
"I won't get up! I won't! He's ready to murder me again!--Mr. Hadrian! if
you stand by and see it, you're liable to the law, sir--I won't get up
while he's near." No persuasion could induce Benson to try his legs while
his executioner stood by.

Adrian took Richard aside: "You've almost killed the poor devil, Ricky.
You must be satisfied with that. Look at his face."

"The coward bobbed while I struck" said Richard. "I marked his back. He
ducked. I told him he was getting it worse."

At so civilized piece of savagery, Adrian opened his mouth wide.

"Did you really? I admire that. You told him he was getting it worse?"

Adrian opened his mouth again to shake another roll of laughter out.

"Come," he said, "Excalibur has done his word. Pitch him into the lake.
And see--here comes the Blandish. You can't be at it again before a
woman. Go and meet her, and tell her the noise was an ox being
slaughtered. Or say Argus."

With a whirr that made all Benson's bruises moan and quiver, the great
ash-branch shot aloft, and Richard swung off to intercept Lady Blandish.

Adrian got Benson on his feet. The heavy butler was disposed to summon
all the commiseration he could feel for his bruised flesh. Every
half-step he attempted was like a dislocation. His groans and grunts were
frightful.

"How much did that hat cost, Benson?" said Adrian, as he put it on his
head.

"A five-and-twenty shilling beaver, Mr. Hadrian!" Benson caressed its
injuries.

"The cheapest policy of insurance I remember to have heard of!" said
Adrian.

Benson staggered, moaning at intervals to his cruel comforter.

"He's a devil, Mr. Hadrian! He's a devil, sir, I do believe, sir. Ooogh!
he's a devil!--I can't move, Mr. Hadrian. I must be fetched. And Dr.
Clifford must be sent for, sir. I shall never be fit for work again. I
haven't a sound bone in my body, Mr. Hadrian."

"You see, Benson, this comes of your declaring war upon Venus. I hope the
maids will nurse you properly. Let me see: you are friends with the
housekeeper, aren't you? All depends upon that."

"I'm only a faithful servant, Mr. Hadrian," the miserable butler snarled.

"Then you've got no friend but your bed. Get to it as quick as possible,
Benson."

"I can't move." Benson made a resolute halt. "I must be fetched," he
whinnied. "It's a shame to ask me to move, Mr. Hadrian."

"You will admit that you are heavy, Benson," said Adrian, "so I can't
carry you. However, I see Mr. Richard is very kindly returning to help
me."

At these words heavy Benson instantly found his legs, and shambled on.

Lady Blandish met Richard in dismay.

"I have been horribly frightened," she said. "Tell me, what was the
meaning of those cries I heard?"

"Only some one doing justice on a spy," said Richard, and the lady
smiled, and looked on him fondly, and put her hand through his hair.

"Was that all? I should have done it myself if I had been a man. Kiss
me."



CHAPTER XXI

By twelve o'clock at noon next day the inhabitants of Raynham Abbey knew
that Berry, the baronet's man, had arrived post-haste from town, with
orders to conduct Mr. Richard thither, and that Mr. Richard had refused
to go, had sworn he would not, defied his father, and despatched Berry to
the Shades. Berry was all that Benson was not. Whereas Benson hated
woman, Berry admired her warmly. Second to his own stately person, woman
occupied his reflections, and commanded his homage. Berry was of majestic
port, and used dictionary words. Among the maids of Raynham his conscious
calves produced all the discord and the frenzy those adornments seem
destined to create in tender bosoms. He had, moreover, the reputation of
having suffered for the sex; which assisted his object in inducing the
sex to suffer for him. What with his calves, and his dictionary words,
and the attractive halo of the mysterious vindictiveness of Venus
surrounding him, this Adonis of the lower household was a mighty man
below, and he moved as one.

On hearing the tumult that followed Berry's arrival, Adrian sent for him,
and was informed of the nature of his mission, and its result.

"You should come to me first," said Adrian. "I should have imagined you
were shrewd enough for that, Berry?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Adrian," Berry doubled his elbow to explain. "Pardon me,
sir. Acting recipient of special injunctions I was not a free agent."

"Go to Mr. Richard again, Berry. There will be a little confusion if he
holds back. Perhaps you had better throw out a hint or so of apoplexy. A
slight hint will do. And here--Berry! when you return to town, you had
better not mention anything--to quote Johnson--of Benson's spiflication."

"Certainly not, sir."

The wise youth's hint had the desired effect on Richard.

He dashed off a hasty letter by Tom to Belthorpe, and, mounting his
horse, galloped to the Bellingham station.

Sir Austin was sitting down to a quiet early dinner at his hotel, when
the Hope of Raynham burst into his room.

The baronet was not angry with his son. On the contrary, for he was
singularly just and self-accusing while pride was not up in arms, he had
been thinking all day after the receipt of Benson's letter that he was
deficient in cordiality, and did not, by reason of his excessive anxiety,
make himself sufficiently his son's companion: was not enough, as he
strove to be, mother and father to him; preceptor and friend; previsor
and associate. He had not to ask his conscience where he had lately been
to blame towards the System. He had slunk away from Raynham in the very
crisis of the Magnetic Age, and this young woman of the parish (as Benson
had termed sweet Lucy in his letter) was the consequence.

Yes! pride and sensitiveness were his chief foes, and he would trample on
them. To begin, he embraced his son: hard upon an Englishman at any
time--doubly so to one so shamefaced at emotion in cool blood, as it
were. It gave him a strange pleasure, nevertheless. And the youth seemed
to answer to it; he was excited. Was his love, then, beginning to
correspond with his father's as in those intimate days before the
Blossoming Season?

But when Richard, inarticulate at first in his haste, cried out, "My
dear, dear father! You are safe! I feared--You are better, sir? Thank
God!" Sir Austin stood away from him.

"Safe?" he said. "What has alarmed you?"

Instead of replying, Richard dropped into a chair, and seized his hand
and kissed it.

Sir Austin took a seat, and waited for his son to explain.

"Those doctors are such fools!" Richard broke out. "I was sure they were
wrong. They don't know headache from apoplexy. It's worth the ride, sir,
to see you. You left Raynham so suddenly.--But you are well! It was not
an attack of real apoplexy?"

His father's brows contorted, and he said, No, it was not. Richard
pursued:

"If you were ill, I couldn't come too soon, though, if coroners' inquests
sat on horses, those doctors would be found guilty of mare-slaughter.
Cassandra'll be knocked up. I was too early for the train at Bellingham,
and I wouldn't wait. She did the distance in four hours and
three-quarters. Pretty good, sir, wasn't it?"

"It has given you appetite for dinner, I hope," said the baronet, not so
well pleased to find that it was not simple obedience that had brought
the youth to him in such haste.

"I'm ready," replied Richard. "I shall be in time to return by the last
train to-night. I will leave Cassandra in your charge for a rest."

His father quietly helped him to soup, which he commenced gobbling with
an eagerness that might pass for appetite.

"All well at Raynham?" said the baronet.

"Quite, sir."

"Nothing new?"

"Nothing, sir."

"The same as when I left?"

"No change whatever!"

"I shall be glad to get back to the old place," said the baronet. "My
stay in town has certainly been profitable. I have made some pleasant
acquaintances who may probably favour us with a visit there in the late
autumn--people you may be pleased to know. They are very anxious to see
Raynham."

"I love the old place," cried Richard. "I never wish to leave it."

"Why, boy, before I left you were constantly begging to see town."

"Was I, sir? How odd! Well! I don't want to remain here. I've seen enough
of it."

"How did you find your way to me?"

Richard laughed, and related his bewilderment at the miles of brick, and
the noise, and the troops of people, concluding, "There's no place like
home!"

The baronet watched his symptomatic brilliant eyes, and favoured him with
a double-dealing sentence--

"To anchor the heart by any object ere we have half traversed the world,
is youth's foolishness, my son. Reverence time! A better maxim that than
your Horatian."

"He knows all!" thought Richard, and instantly drew away leagues from his
father, and threw up fortifications round his love and himself.

Dinner over, Richard looked hurriedly at his watch, and said, with much
briskness, "I shall just be in time, sir, if we walk. Will you come with
me to the station?"

The baronet did not answer.

Richard was going to repeat the question, but found his father's eyes
fixed on him so meaningly that he wavered, and played with his empty
glass.

"I think we will have a little more claret," said the baronet.

Claret was brought, and they were left alone.

The baronet then drew within arm's-reach of his son, and began:

"I am not aware what you may have thought of me, Richard, during the
years we have lived together; and indeed I have never been in a hurry to
be known to you; and, if I had died before my work was done, I should not
have complained at losing half my reward, in hearing you thank me.
Perhaps, as it is, I never may. Everything, save selfishness, has its
recompense. I shall be content if you prosper."

He fetched a breath and continued: "You had in your infancy a great
loss." Father and son coloured simultaneously. "To make that good to you
I chose to isolate myself from the world, and devote myself entirely to
your welfare; and I think it is not vanity that tells me now that the son
I have reared is one of the most hopeful of God's creatures. But for that
very reason you are open to be tempted the most, and to sink the deepest.
It was the first of the angels who made the road to hell."

He paused again. Richard fingered at his watch.

"In our House, my son, there is peculiar blood. We go to wreck very
easily. It sounds like superstition; I cannot but think we are tried as
most men are not. I see it in us all. And you, my son, are compounded of
two races. Your passions are violent. You have had a taste of revenge.
You have seen, in a small way, that the pound of flesh draws rivers of
blood. But there is now in you another power. You are mounting to the
table-land of life, where mimic battles are changed to real ones. And you
come upon it laden equally with force to create and to destroy." He
deliberated to announce the intelligence, with deep meaning: "There are
women in the world, my son!"

The young man's heart galloped back to Raynham.

"It is when you encounter them that you are thoroughly on trial. It is
when you know them that life is either a mockery to you, or, as some find
it, a gift of blessedness. They are our ordeal. Love of any human object
is the soul's ordeal; and they are ours, loving them, or not."

The young man heard the whistle of the train. He saw the moon-lighted
wood, and the vision of his beloved. He could barely hold himself down
and listen.

"I believe," the baronet spoke with little of the cheerfulness of belief,
"good women exist."

Oh, if he knew Lucy!

"But," and he gazed on Richard intently, "it is given to very few to meet
them on the threshold--I may say, to none. We find them after hard
buffeting, and usually, when we find the one fitted for us, our madness
has misshaped our destiny, our lot is cast. For women are not the end,
but the means, of life. In youth we think them the former, and thousands,
who have not even the excuse of youth, select a mate--or worse--with that
sole view. I believe women punish us for so perverting their uses. They
punish Society."

The baronet put his hand to his brow as his mind travelled into
consequences.

'Our most diligent pupil learns not so much as an earnest teacher,' says
The Pilgrim's Scrip; and Sir Austin, in schooling himself to speak with
moderation of women, was beginning to get a glimpse of their side of the
case.

Cold Blood now touched on love to Hot Blood.

Cold Blood said, "It is a passion coming in the order of nature, the ripe
fruit of our animal being."

Hot Blood felt: "It is a divinity! All that is worth living for in the
world."

Cold Blood said: "It is a fever which tests our strength, and too often
leads to perdition."

Hot Blood felt: "Lead whither it will, I follow it."

Cold Blood said: "It is a name men and women are much in the habit of
employing to sanctify their appetites."

Hot Blood felt: "It is worship; religion; life!"

And so the two parallel lines ran on.

The baronet became more personal:

"You know my love for you, my son. The extent of it you cannot know; but
you must know that it is something very deep, and--I do not wish to speak
of it--but a father must sometimes petition for gratitude, since the only
true expression of it is his son's moral good. If you care for my love,
or love me in return, aid me with all your energies to keep you what I
have made you, and guard you from the snares besetting you. It was in my
hands once. It is ceasing to be so. Remember, my son, what my love is. It
is different, I fear, with most fathers: but I am bound up in your
welfare: what you do affects me vitally. You will take no step that is
not intimate with my happiness, or my misery. And I have had great
disappointments, my son."

So far it was well. Richard loved his father, and even in his frenzied
state he could not without emotion hear him thus speak.

Unhappily, the baronet, who by some fatality never could see when he was
winning the battle, thought proper in his wisdom to water the dryness of
his sermon with a little jocoseness, on the subject of young men fancying
themselves in love, and, when they were raw and green, absolutely wanting
to be--that most awful thing, which the wisest and strongest of men
undertake in hesitation and after self-mortification and
penance--married! He sketched the Foolish Young Fellow--the object of
general ridicule and covert contempt. He sketched the Woman--the strange
thing made in our image, and with all our faculties--passing to the rule
of one who in taking her proved that he could not rule himself, and had
no knowledge of her save as a choice morsel which he would burn the whole
world, and himself in the bargain, to possess. He harped upon the Foolish
Young Fellow, till the foolish young fellow felt his skin tingle and was
half suffocated with shame and rage.

After this, the baronet might be as wise as he pleased: he had quite
undone his work. He might analyze Love and anatomize Woman. He might
accord to her her due position, and paint her fair: he might be shrewd,
jocose, gentle, pathetic, wonderfully wise: he spoke to deaf ears.

Closing his sermon with the question, softly uttered: "Have you anything
to tell me, Richard?" and hoping for a confession, and a thorough
re-establishment of confidence, the callous answer struck him cold: "I
have not."

The baronet relapsed in his chair, and made diagrams of his fingers.

Richard turned his back on further dialogue by going to the window. In
the section of sky over the street twinkled two or three stars; shining
faintly, feeling the moon. The moon was rising: the woods were lifting up
to her: his star of the woods would be there. A bed of moss set about
flowers in a basket under him breathed to his nostril of the woodland
keenly, and filled him with delirious longing.

A succession of hard sighs brought his father's hand on his shoulder.

"You have nothing you could say to me, my son? Tell me, Richard!
Remember, there is no home for the soul where dwells a shadow of
untruth!"

"Nothing at all, sir," the young man replied, meeting him with the full
orbs of his eyes.

The baronet withdrew his hand, and paced the room.

At last it grew impossible for Richard to control his impatience, and he
said: "Do you intend me to stay here, sir? Am I not to return to Raynham
at all to-night?"

His father was again falsely jocular:

"What? and catch the train after giving it ten minutes' start?"

"Cassandra will take me," said the young man earnestly. "I needn't ride
her hard, sir. Or perhaps you would lend me your Winkelried? I should be
down with him in little better than three hours."

"Even then, you know, the park-gates would be locked."

"Well, I could stable him in the village. Dowling knows the horse, and
would treat him properly. May I have him, sir?"

The cloud cleared off Richard's face as he asked. At least, if he missed
his love that night he would be near her, breathing the same air, marking
what star was above her bedchamber, hearing the hushed night-talk of the
trees about her dwelling: looking on the distances that were like hope
half fulfilled and a bodily presence bright as Hesper, since he knew her.
There were two swallows under the eaves shadowing Lucy's chamber-windows:
two swallows, mates in one nest, blissful birds, who twittered and
cheep-cheeped to the sole-lying beauty in her bed. Around these birds the
lover's heart revolved, he knew not why. He associated them with all his
close-veiled dreams of happiness. Seldom a morning passed when he did not
watch them leave the nest on their breakfast-flight, busy in the happy
stillness of dawn. It seemed to him now that if he could be at Raynham to
see them in to-morrow's dawn he would be compensated for his incalculable
loss of to-night: he would forgive and love his father, London, the life,
the world. Just to see those purple backs and white breasts flash out
into the quiet morning air! He wanted no more.

The baronet's trifling had placed this enormous boon within the young
man's visionary grasp.

He still went on trying the boy's temper.

"You know there would be nobody ready for you at Raynham. It is unfair to
disturb the maids."

Richard overrode every objection.

"Well, then, my son," said the baronet, preserving his half-jocular air,
"I must tell you that it is my wish to have you in town."

"Then you have not been ill at all, sir!" cried Richard, as in his
despair he seized the whole plot.

"I have been as well as you could have desired me to be," said his
father.

"Why did they lie to me?" the young man wrathfully exclaimed.

"I think, Richard, you can best answer that," rejoined Sir Austin, kindly
severe.

Dread of being signalized as the Foolish Young Fellow prevented Richard
from expostulating further. Sir Austin saw him grinding his passion into
powder for future explosion, and thought it best to leave him for awhile.



CHAPTER XXII

For three weeks Richard had to remain in town and endure the teachings of
the System in a new atmosphere. He had to sit and listen to men of
science who came to renew their intimacy with his father, and whom of all
men his father wished him to respect and study; practically scientific
men being, in the baronet's estimation, the only minds thoroughly mated
and enviable. He had to endure an introduction to the Grandisons, and
meet the eyes of his kind, haunted as he was by the Foolish Young Fellow.
The idea that he might by any chance be identified with him held the poor
youth in silent subjection. And it was horrible. For it was a continued
outrage on the fair image he had in his heart. The notion of the world
laughing at him because he loved sweet Lucy stung him to momentary
frenzies, and developed premature misanthropy in his spirit. Also the
System desired to show him whither young women of the parish lead us, and
he was dragged about at nighttime to see the sons and daughters of
darkness, after the fashion prescribed to Mr. Thompson; how they danced
and ogled down the high road to perdition. But from this sight possibly
the teacher learnt more than his pupil, since we find him seriously
asking his meditative hours, in the Note-book: "Wherefore Wild Oats are
only of one gender?" a question certainly not suggested to him at
Raynham; and again--"Whether men might not be attaching too rigid an
importance?"...to a subject with a dotted tail apparently, for he gives
it no other in the Note-book. But, as I apprehend, he had come to plead
in behalf of women here, and had deduced something from positive
observation. To Richard the scenes he witnessed were strange wild
pictures, likely if anything to have increased his misanthropy, but for
his love.

Certain sweet little notes from Lucy sustained the lover during the first
two weeks of exile. They ceased; and now Richard fell into such
despondency that his father in alarm had to take measures to hasten their
return to Raynham. At the close of the third week Berry laid a pair of
letters, bearing the Raynham post-mark, on the breakfast-table, and,
after reading one attentively, the baronet asked his son if he was
inclined to quit the metropolis.

"For Raynham, air?" cried Richard, and relapsed, saying, "As you will!"
aware that he had given a glimpse of the Foolish Young Fellow.

Berry accordingly received orders to make arrangements for their instant
return to Raynham.

The letter Sir Austin lifted his head from to bespeak his son's wishes
was a composition of the wise youth Adrian's, and ran thus:

"Benson is doggedly recovering. He requires great indemnities. Happy when
a faithful fool is the main sufferer in a household! I quite agree with
you that our faithful fool is the best servant of great schemes. Benson
is now a piece of history. I tell him that this is indemnity enough, and
that the sweet Muse usually insists upon gentlemen being half-flayed
before she will condescend to notice them; but Benson, I regret to say,
rejects the comfort so fine a reflection should offer, and had rather
keep his skin and live opaque. Heroism seems partly a matter of training.
Faithful folly is Benson's nature: the rest has been thrust upon.

"The young person has resigned the neighbourhood. I had an interview with
the fair Papist myself, and also with the man Blaize. They were both
sensible, though one swore and the other sighed. She is pretty. I hope
she does not paint. I can affirm that her legs are strong, for she walks
to Bellingham twice a week to take her Scarlet bath, when, having
confessed and been made clean by the Romish unction, she walks back the
brisker, of which my Protestant muscular systems is yet aware. It was on
the road to Bellingham I engaged her. She is well in the matter of hair.
Madam Godiva might challenge her, it would be a fair match. Has it never
struck you that Woman is nearer the vegetable than Man?--Mr. Blaize
intends her for his son a junction that every lover of fairy mythology
must desire to see consummated. Young Tom is heir to all the agremens of
the Beast. The maids of Lobourne say (I hear) that he is a very Proculus
among them. Possibly the envious men say it for the maids. Beauty does
not speak bad grammar--and altogether she is better out of the way."

The other letter was from Lady Blandish, a lady's letter, and said:

"I have fulfilled your commission to the best of my ability, and heartily
sad it has made me. She is indeed very much above her station--pity that
it is so! She is almost beautiful--quite beautiful at times, and not in
any way what you have been led to fancy. The poor child had no story to
tell. I have again seen her, and talked with her for an hour as kindly as
I could. I could gather nothing more than we know. It is just a woman's
history as it invariably commences. Richard is the god of her idolatry.
She will renounce him, and sacrifice herself for his sake. Are we so bad?
She asked me what she was to do. She would do whatever was imposed upon
her--all but pretend to love another, and that she never would, and, I
believe, never will. You know I am sentimental, and I confess we dropped
a few tears together. Her uncle has sent her for the Winter to the
institution where it appears she was educated, and where they are very
fond of her and want to keep her, which it would be a good thing if they
were to do. The man is a good sort of man. She was entrusted to him by
her father, and he never interferes with her religion, and is very
scrupulous about all that pertains to it, though, as he says, he is a
Christian himself. In the Spring (but the poor child does not know this)
she is to come back, and be married to his lout of a son. I am determined
to prevent that. May I not reckon on your promise to aid me? When you see
her, I am sure you will. It would be sacrilege to look on and permit such
a thing. You know, they are cousins. She asked me, where in the world
there was one like Richard? What could I answer? They were your own
words, and spoken with a depth of conviction! I hope he is really calm. I
shudder to think of him when he comes, and discovers what I have been
doing. I hope I have been really doing right! A good deed, you say, never
dies; but we cannot always know--I must rely on you. Yes, it is; I should
think, easy to suffer martyrdom when one is sure of one's cause! but then
one must be sure of it. I have done nothing lately but to repeat to
myself that saying of yours, No. 54, C. 7, P.S.; and it has consoled me,
I cannot say why, except that all wisdom consoles, whether it applies
directly or not:

"'For this reason so many fall from God, who have attained to Him; that
they cling to Him with their Weakness, not with their Strength.'

"I like to know of what you are thinking when you composed this or that
saying--what suggested it. May not one be admitted to inspect the
machinery of wisdom? I feel curious to know how thoughts--real
thoughts--are born. Not that I hope to win the secret. Here is the
beginning of one (but we poor women can never put together even two of
the three ideas which you say go to form a thought): 'When a wise man
makes a false step, will he not go farther than a fool?' It has just
flitted through me.

"I cannot get on with Gibbon, so wait your return to recommence the
readings. I dislike the sneering essence of his writings. I keep
referring to his face, until the dislike seems to become personal. How
different is it with Wordsworth! And yet I cannot escape from the thought
that he is always solemnly thinking of himself (but I do reverence him).
But this is curious; Byron was a greater egoist, and yet I do not feel
the same with him. He reminds me of a beast of the desert, savage and
beautiful; and the former is what one would imagine a superior donkey
reclaimed from the heathen to be--a very superior donkey, I mean, with
great power of speech and great natural complacency, and whose
stubbornness you must admire as part of his mission. The worst is that no
one will imagine anything sublime in a superior donkey, so my simile is
unfair and false. Is it not strange? I love Wordsworth best, and yet
Byron has the greater power over me. How is that?"

("Because," Sir Austin wrote beside the query in pencil, "women are
cowards, and succumb to Irony and Passion, rather than yield their hearts
to Excellence and Nature's Inspiration.")

The letter pursued:

"I have finished Boiardo and have taken up Berni. The latter offends me.
I suppose we women do not really care for humour. You are right in saying
we have none ourselves, and 'cackle' instead of laugh. It is true (of me,
at least) that 'Falstaff is only to us an incorrigible fat man.' I want
to know what he illustrates. And Don Quixote--what end can be served in
making a noble mind ridiculous?--I hear you say--practical. So it is. We
are very narrow, I know. But we like wit--practical again! Or in your
words (when I really think they generally come to my aid--perhaps it is
that it is often all your thought); we 'prefer the rapier thrust, to the
broad embrace, of Intelligence.'"

He trifled with the letter for some time, re-reading chosen passages as
he walked about the room, and considering he scarce knew what. There are
ideas language is too gross for, and shape too arbitrary, which come to
us and have a definite influence upon us, and yet we cannot fasten on the
filmy things and make them visible and distinct to ourselves, much less
to others. Why did he twice throw a look into the glass in the act of
passing it? He stood for a moment with head erect facing it. His eyes for
the nonce seemed little to peruse his outer features; the grey gathered
brows, and the wrinkles much action of them had traced over the circles
half up his high straight forehead; the iron-grey hair that rose over his
forehead and fell away in the fashion of Richard's plume. His general
appearance showed the tints of years; but none of their weight, and
nothing of the dignity of his youth, was gone. It was so far
satisfactory, but his eyes were wide, as one who looks at his essential
self through the mask we wear.

Perhaps he was speculating as he looked on the sort of aspect he
presented to the lady's discriminative regard. Of her feelings he had not
a suspicion. But he knew with what extraordinary lucidity women can, when
it pleases them, and when their feelings are not quite boiling under the
noonday sun, seize all the sides of a character, and put their fingers on
its weak point. He was cognizant of the total absence of the humorous in
himself (the want that most shut him out from his fellows), and perhaps
the clear-thoughted, intensely self-examining gentleman filmily
conceived, Me also, in common with the poet, she gazes on as one of the
superior--grey beasts!

He may have so conceived the case; he was capable of that
great-mindedness, and could snatch at times very luminous glances at the
broad reflector which the world of fact lying outside our narrow compass
holds up for us to see ourselves in when we will. Unhappily, the faculty
of laughter, which is due to this gift, was denied him; and having seen,
he, like the companion of friend Balsam, could go no farther. For a good
wind of laughter had relieved him of much of the blight of
self-deception, and oddness, and extravagance; had given a healthier view
of our atmosphere of life; but he had it not.

Journeying back to Bellingham in the train, with the heated brain and
brilliant eye of his son beside him, Sir Austin tried hard to feel
infallible, as a man with a System should feel; and because he could not
do so, after much mental conflict, he descended to entertain a personal
antagonism to the young woman who had stepped in between his experiment
and success. He did not think kindly of her. Lady Blandish's encomiums of
her behaviour and her beauty annoyed him. Forgetful that he had in a
measure forfeited his rights to it, he took the common ground of fathers,
and demanded, "Why he was not justified in doing all that lay in his
power to prevent his son from casting himself away upon the first
creature with a pretty face he encountered?" Deliberating thus, he lost
the tenderness he should have had for his experiment--the living, burning
youth at his elbow, and his excessive love for him took a rigorous tone.
It appeared to him politic, reasonable, and just, that the uncle of this
young woman, who had so long nursed the prudent scheme of marrying her to
his son, should not only not be thwarted in his object but encouraged and
even assisted. At least, not thwarted. Sir Austin had no glass before him
while these ideas hardened in his mind, and he had rather forgotten the
letter of Lady Blandish.

Father and son were alone in the railway carriage. Both were too
preoccupied to speak. As they neared Bellingham the dark was filling the
hollows of the country. Over the pine-hills beyond the station a last
rosy streak lingered across a green sky. Richard eyed it while they flew
along. It caught him forward: it seemed full of the spirit of his love,
and brought tears of mournful longing to his eyelids. The sad beauty of
that one spot in the heavens seemed to call out to his soul to swear to
his Lucy's truth to him: was like the sorrowful visage of his
fleur-de-luce as he called her, appealing to him for faith. That
tremulous tender way she had of half-closing and catching light on the
nether-lids, when sometimes she looked up in her lover's face--as look so
mystic-sweet that it had grown to be the fountain of his dreams: he saw
it yonder, and his blood thrilled.

Know you those wand-like touches of I know not what, before which our
grosser being melts; and we, much as we hope to be in the Awaking, stand
etherealized, trembling with new joy? They come but rarely; rarely even
in love, when we fondly think them revelations. Mere sensations they are,
doubtless: and we rank for them no higher in the spiritual scale than so
many translucent glorious polypi that quiver on the shores, the hues of
heaven running through them. Yet in the harvest of our days it is
something for the animal to have had such mere fleshly polypian
experiences to look back upon, and they give him an horizon--pale seas of
luring splendour.  One who has had them (when they do not bound him) may
find the Isles of Bliss sooner than another. Sensual faith in the upper
glories is something. "Let us remember," says The Pilgrim's Scrip, "that
Nature, though heathenish, reaches at her best to the footstool of the
Highest. She is not all dust, but a living portion of the spheres. In
aspiration it is our error to despise her, forgetting that through Nature
only can we ascend. Cherished, trained, and purified, she is then partly
worthy the divine mate who is to make her wholly so. St. Simeon saw the
Hog in Nature, and took Nature for the Hog."

It was one of these strange bodily exaltations which thrilled the young
man, he knew not how it was, for sadness and his forebodings vanished.
The soft wand touched him. At that moment, had Sir Austin spoken openly,
Richard might have fallen upon his heart. He could not.

He chose to feel injured on the common ground of fathers, and to pursue
his System by plotting. Lady Blandish had revived his jealousy of the
creature who menaced it, and jealousy of a System is unreflecting and
vindictive as jealousy of woman.

Heath-roots and pines breathed sharp in the cool autumn evening about the
Bellingham station. Richard stood a moment as he stepped from the train,
and drew the country air into his lungs with large heaves of the chest.
Leaving his father to the felicitations of the station-master, he went
into the Lobourne road to look for his faithful Tom, who had received
private orders through Berry to be in attendance with his young master's
mare, Cassandra, and was lurking in a plantation of firs unenclosed on
the borders of the road, where Richard, knowing his retainer's zest for
conspiracy too well to seek him anywhere but in the part most favoured
with shelter and concealment, found him furtively whiffing tobacco.

"What news, Tom? Is there an illness?"

Tom sent his undress cap on one side to scratch at dilemma, an old
agricultural habit to which he was still a slave in moments of abstract
thought or sudden difficulty.

"No, I don't want the rake, Mr. Richard," he whinnied with a false grin,
as he beheld his master's eye vacantly following the action.

"Speak out!" he was commanded. "I haven't had a letter for a week!"

Richard learnt the news. He took it with surprising outward calm, only
getting a little closer to Cassandra's neck, and looking very hard at Tom
without seeing a speck of him, which had the effect on Tom of making him
sincerely wish his master would punch his head at once rather than fix
him in that owl-like way.

"Go on!" said Richard, huskily. "Yes? She's gone! Well?"

Tom was brought to understand he must make the most of trifles, and
recited how he had heard from a female domestic at Belthorpe of the name
of Davenport, formerly known to him, that the young lady never slept a
wink from the hour she knew she was going, but sat up in her bed till
morning crying most pitifully, though she never complained. Hereat the
tears unconsciously streamed down Richard's cheeks. Tom said he had tried
to see her, but Mr. Adrian kept him at work, ciphering at a terrible
sum--that and nothing else all day! saying, it was to please his young
master on his return. "Likewise something in Lat'n," added Tom. "Nom'tive
Mouser!--'nough to make ye mad, sir!" he exclaimed with pathos. The
wretch had been put to acquire a Latin declension.

Tom saw her on the morning she went away, he said: she was very
sorrowful-looking, and nodded kindly to him as she passed in the fly
along with young Tom Blaize. "She have got uncommon kind eyes, sir," said
Tom, "and cryin' don't spoil them." For which his hand was wrenched.

Tom had no more to tell, save that, in rounding the road, the young lady
had hung out her hand, and seemed to move it forward and back, as much as
to sap, Good-bye, Tom! "And though she couldn't see me," said Tom, "I
took off my hat. I did take it so kind of her to think of a chap like
me." He was at high-pressure sentiment--what with his education for a
hero and his master's love-stricken state.

"You saw no more of her, Tom?"

"No, sir. That was the last!"

"That was the last you saw of her, Tom?"

"Well, sir, I saw nothin' more."

"And so she went out of sight!"

"Clean gone, that she were, sir."

"Why did they take her away? what have they done with her? where have
they taken her to?"

These red-hot questionings were addressed to the universal heaven rather
than to Tom.

"Why didn't she write?" they were resumed. "Why did she leave? She's
mine. She belongs to me! Who dared take her away? Why did she leave
without writing?--Tom!"

"Yes, sir," said the well-drilled recruit, dressing himself up to the
word of command. He expected a variation of the theme from the change of
tone with which his name had been pronounced, but it was again, "Where
have they taken her to?" and this was even more perplexing to Tom than
his hard sum in arithmetic had been. He could only draw down the corners
of his mouth hard, and glance up queerly.

"She had been crying--you saw that, Tom?"

"No mistake about that, Mr. Richard. Cryin' all night and all day, I sh'd
say."

"And she was crying when you saw her?"

"She look'd as if she'd just done for a moment, sir."

"But her face was white?"

"White as a sheet."

Richard paused to discover whether his instinct had caught a new view
from these facts. He was in a cage, always knocking against the same
bars, fly as he might. Her tears were the stars in his black night. He
clung to them as golden orbs. Inexplicable as they were, they were at
least pledges of love.

The hues of sunset had left the West. No light was there but the
steadfast pale eye of twilight. Thither he was drawn. He mounted
Cassandra, saying: "Tell them something, Tom. I shan't be home to
dinner," and rode off toward the forsaken home of light over Belthorpe,
whereat he saw the wan hand of his Lucy, waving farewell, receding as he
advanced. His jewel was stolen,--he must gaze upon the empty box.



CHAPTER XXIII

Night had come on as Richard entered the old elm-shaded, grass-bordered
lane leading down from Raynham to Belthorpe. The pale eye of twilight was
shut. The wind had tossed up the bank of Western cloud, which was now
flying broad and unlighted across the sky, broad and balmy--the charioted
South-west at full charge behind his panting coursers. As he neared the
farm his heart fluttered and leapt up. He was sure she must be there. She
must have returned. Why should she have left for good without writing? He
caught suspicion by the throat, making it voiceless, if it lived: he
silenced reason. Her not writing was now a proof that she had returned.
He listened to nothing but his imperious passion, and murmured sweet
words for her, as if she were by: tender cherishing epithet's of love in
the nest. She was there--she moved somewhere about like a silver flame in
the dear old house, doing her sweet household duties. His blood began to
sing: O happy those within, to see her, and be about her! By some
extraordinary process he contrived to cast a sort of glory round the
burly person of Farmer Blaize himself. And oh! to have companionship with
a seraph one must know a seraph's bliss, and was not young Tom to be
envied? The smell of late clematis brought on the wind enwrapped him, and
went to his brain, and threw a light over the old red-brick house, for he
remembered where it grew, and the winter rose-tree, and the jessamine,
and the passion-flower: the garden in front with the standard roses
tended by her hands; the long wall to the left striped by the branches of
the cherry, the peep of a further garden through the wall, and then the
orchard, and the fields beyond--the happy circle of her dwelling! it
flashed before his eyes while he looked on the darkness. And yet it was
the reverse of hope which kindled this light and inspired the momentary
calm he experienced: it was despair exaggerating delusion, wilfully
building up on a groundless basis. "For the tenacity of true passion is
terrible," says The Pilgrim's Scrip: "it will stand against the hosts of
heaven, God's great array of Facts, rather than surrender its aim, and
must be crushed before it will succumb--sent to the lowest pit!" He knew
she was not there; she was gone. But the power of a will strained to
madness fought at it, kept it down, conjured forth her ghost, and would
have it as he dictated. Poor youth! the great array of facts was in due
order of march.

He had breathed her name many times, and once over-loud; almost a cry for
her escaped him. He had not noticed the opening of a door and the noise
of a foot along the gravel walk. He was leaning over Cassandra's uneasy
neck watching the one window intently, when a voice addressed him out of
the darkness.

"Be that you, young gentleman?--Mr. Fev'rel?"

Richard's trance was broken. "Mr. Blaize!" he said; recognizing the
farmer's voice.

"Good even'n t' you, sir," returned the farmer. "I knew the mare though I
didn't know you. Rather bluff to-night it be. Will ye step in, Mr.
Fev'rel? it's beginning' to spit,--going to be a wildish night, I
reckon."

Richard dismounted. The farmer called one of his men to hold the mare,
and ushered the young man in. Once there, Richard's conjurations ceased.
There was a deadness about the rooms and passages that told of her
absence. The walls he touched--these were the vacant shells of her. He
had never been in the house since he knew her, and now what strange
sweetness, and what pangs!

Young Tom Blaize was in the parlour, squared over the table in
open-mouthed examination of an ancient book of the fashions for a summer
month which had elapsed during his mother's minority. Young Tom was
respectfully studying the aspects of the radiant beauties of the polite
work. He also was a thrall of woman, newly enrolled, and full of wonder.

"What, Tom!" the farmer sang out as soon as he had opened the door;
"there ye be! at yer Folly agin, are ye? What good'll them fashens do to
you, I'd like t'know? Come, shut up, and go and see to Mr. Fev'rel's
mare. He's al'ays at that ther' Folly now. I say there never were a
better name for a book than that ther' Folly! Talk about attitudes!"

The farmer laughed his fat sides into a chair, and motioned his visitor
to do likewise.

"It's a comfort they're most on 'em females," he pursued, sounding a
thwack on his knee as he settled himself agreeably in his seat. "It don't
matter much what they does, except pinchin' in--waspin' it at the waist.
Give me nature, I say--woman as she's made! eh, young gentleman?"

"You seem very lonely here," said Richard, glancing round, and at the
ceiling.

"Lonely?" quoth the farmer. "Well, for the matter o' that, we be!--jest
now, so't happens; I've got my pipe, and Tom've got his Folly. He's on
one side the table, and I'm on t'other. He gapes, and I gazes. We are a
bit lonesome. But there--it's for the best!"

Richard resumed, "I hardly expected to see you to-night, Mr. Blaize."

"Y'acted like a man in coming, young gentleman, and I does ye honour for
it!" said Farmer Blaize with sudden energy and directness.

The thing implied by the farmer's words caused Richard to take a quick
breath. They looked at each other, and looked away, the farmer thrumming
on the arm of his chair.

Above the mantel-piece, surrounded by tarnished indifferent miniatures of
high-collared, well-to-do yeomen of the anterior generation, trying their
best not to grin, and high-waisted old ladies smiling an encouraging
smile through plentiful cap-puckers, there hung a passably executed
half-figure of a naval officer in uniform, grasping a telescope under his
left arm, who stood forth clearly as not of their kith and kin. His eyes
were blue, his hair light, his bearing that of a man who knows how to
carry his head and shoulders. The artist, while giving him an epaulette
to indicate his rank, had also recorded the juvenility which a lieutenant
in the naval service can retain after arriving at that position, by
painting him with smooth cheeks and fresh ruddy lips. To this portrait
Richard's eyes were directed. Farmer Blaize observed it, and said--

"Her father, sir!"

Richard moderated his voice to praise the likeness.

"Yes," said the farmer, "pretty well. Next best to havin' her, though
it's a long way off that!"

"An old family, Mr. Blaize--is it not?" Richard asked in as careless a
tone as he could assume.

"Gentlefolks--what's left of 'em," replied the farmer with an equally
affected indifference.

"And that's her father?" said Richard, growing bolder to speak of her.

"That's her father, young gentleman!"

"Mr. Blaize," Richard turned to face him, and burst out, "where is she?"

"Gone, sir! packed off!--Can't have her here now." The farmer thrummed a
step brisker, and eyed the young man's wild face resolutely.

"Mr. Blaize," Richard leaned forward to get closer to him. He was
stunned, and hardly aware of what he was saying or doing: "Where has she
gone? Why did she leave?"

"You needn't to ask, sir--ye know," said the farmer, with a side shot of
his head.

"But she did not--it was not her wish to go?"

"No! I think she likes the place. Mayhap she likes't too well!"

"Why did you send her away to make her unhappy, Mr. Blaize?"

The farmer bluntly denied it was he was the party who made her unhappy.
"Nobody can't accuse me. Tell ye what, sir. I wunt have the busybodies
set to work about her, and there's all the matter. So let you and I come
to an understandin'."

A blind inclination to take offence made Richard sit upright. He forgot
it the next minute, and said humbly: "Am I the cause of her going?"

"Well!" returned the farmer, "to speak straight--ye be!"

"What can I do, Mr. Blaize, that she may come back again" the young
hypocrite asked.

"Now," said the farmer, "you're coming to business. Glad to hear ye talk
in that sensible way, Mr. Feverel. You may guess I wants her bad enough.
The house ain't itself now she's away, and I ain't myself. Well, sir!
This ye can do. If you gives me your promise not to meddle with her at
all--I can't mak' out how you come to be acquainted; not to try to get
her to be meetin' you--and if you'd 'a seen her when she left, you
would--when did ye meet?--last grass, wasn't it?--your word as a
gentleman not to be writing letters, and spyin' after her--I'll have her
back at once. Back she shall come!"

"Give her up!" cried Richard.

"Ay, that's it!" said the farmer. "Give her up."

The young man checked the annihilation of time that was on his mouth.

"You sent her away to protect her from me, then?" he said savagely.

"That's not quite it, but that'll do," rejoined the farmer.

"Do you think I shall harm her, sir?"

"People seem to think she'll harm you, young gentleman," the farmer said
with some irony.

"Harm me--she? What people?"

"People pretty intimate with you, sir."

"What people? Who spoke of us?" Richard began to scent a plot, and would
not be balked.

"Well, sir, look here," said the farmer. "It ain't no secret, and if it
be, I don't see why I'm to keep it. It appears your education's
peculiar!" The farmer drawled out the word as if he were describing the
figure of a snake. "You ain't to be as other young gentlemen. All the
better! You're a fine bold young gentleman, and your father's a right to
be proud of ye. Well, sir--I'm sure I thank him for't he comes to hear of
you and Luce, and of course he don't want nothin' o' that--more do I. I
meets him there! What's more I won't have nothin' of it. She be my gal.
She were left to my protection. And she's a lady, sir. Let me tell ye, ye
won't find many on 'em so well looked to as she be--my Luce! Well, Mr.
Fev'rel, it's you, or it's her--one of ye must be out o' the way. So
we're told. And Luce--I do believe she's just as anxious about yer
education as yer father she says she'll go, and wouldn't write, and'd
break it off for the sake o' your education. And she've kep' her word,
haven't she?--She's a true'n. What she says she'll do!--True blue she be,
my Luce! So now, sir, you do the same, and I'll thank ye."

Any one who has tossed a sheet of paper into the fire, and seen it
gradually brown with heat, and strike to flame, may conceive the mind of
the lover as he listened to this speech.

His anger did not evaporate in words, but condensed and sank deep. "Mr.
Blaize," he said, "this is very kind of the people you allude to, but I
am of an age now to think and act for myself--I love her, sir!" His whole
countenance changed, and the muscles of his face quivered.

"Well!" said the farmer, appeasingly, "we all do at your age--somebody or
other. It's natural!"

"I love her!" the young man thundered afresh, too much possessed by his
passion to have a sense of shame in the confession. "Farmer!" his voice
fell to supplication, "will you bring her back?"

Farmer Blaize made a queer face. He asked--what for? and where was the
promise required?--But was not the lover's argument conclusive? He said
he loved her! and he could not see why her uncle should not in
consequence immediately send for her, that they might be together. All
very well, quoth the farmer, but what's to come of it?--What was to come
of it? Why, love, and more love! And a bit too much! the farmer added
grimly.

"Then you refuse me, farmer," said Richard. "I must look to you for
keeping her away from me, not to--to--these people. You will not have her
back, though I tell you I love her better than my life?"

Farmer Blaize now had to answer him plainly, he had a reason and an
objection of his own. And it was, that her character was at stake, and
God knew whether she herself might not be in danger. He spoke with a
kindly candour, not without dignity. He complimented Richard personally,
but young people were young people; baronets' sons were not in the habit
of marrying farmers' nieces.

At first the son of a System did not comprehend him. When he did, he
said: "Farmer! if I give you my word of honour, as I hope for heaven, to
marry her when I am of age, will you have her back?"

He was so fervid that, to quiet him, the farmer only shook his head
doubtfully at the bars of the grate, and let his chest fall slowly.
Richard caught what seemed to him a glimpse of encouragement in these
signs, and observed: "It's not because you object to me, Mr. Blaize?"

The farmer signified it was not that.

"It's because my father is against me," Richard went on, and undertook to
show that love was so sacred a matter that no father could entirely and
for ever resist his son's inclinations. Argument being a cool field where
the farmer could meet and match him, the young man got on the tramroad of
his passion, and went ahead. He drew pictures of Lucy, of her truth, and
his own. He took leaps from life to death, from death to life, mixing
imprecations and prayers in a torrent. Perhaps he did move the stolid old
Englishman a little, he was so vehement, and made so visible a sacrifice
of his pride.

Farmer Blaize tried to pacify him, but it was useless. His jewel he must
have.

The farmer stretched out his hand for the pipe that allayeth botheration.
"May smoke heer now," he said. "Not when--somebody's present. Smoke in
the kitchen then. Don't mind smell?"

Richard nodded, and watched the operations while the farmer filled, and
lighted, and began to puff, as if his fate hung on them.

"Who'd a' thought, when you sat over there once, of its comin' to this?"
ejaculated the farmer, drawing ease and reflection from tobacco. "You
didn't think much of her that day, young gentleman! I introduced ye.
Well! things comes about. Can't you wait till she returns in due course,
now?"

This suggestion, the work of the pipe, did but bring on him another
torrent.

"It's queer," said the farmer, putting the mouth of the pipe to his
wrinkled-up temples.

Richard waited for him, and then he laid down the pipe altogether, as no
aid in perplexity, and said, after leaning his arm on the table and
staring at Richard an instant:

"Look, young gentleman! My word's gone. I've spoke it. I've given 'em the
'surance she shan't be back till the Spring, and then I'll have her, and
then--well! I do hope, for more reasons than one, ye'll both be
wiser--I've got my own notions about her. But I an't the man to force a
gal to marry 'gainst her inclines. Depend upon it I'm not your enemy, Mr.
Fev'rel. You're jest the one to mak' a young gal proud. So wait,--and
see. That's my 'dvice. Jest tak' and wait. I've no more to say."

Richard's impetuosity had made him really afraid of speaking his notions
concerning the projected felicity of young Tom, if indeed they were
serious.

The farmer repeated that he had no more to say; and Richard, with "Wait
till the Spring! Wait till the Spring!" dinning despair in his ears,
stood up to depart. Farmer Blaize shook his slack hand in a friendly way,
and called out at the door for young Tom, who, dreading allusions to his
Folly, did not appear. A maid rushed by Richard in the passage, and
slipped something into his grasp, which fixed on it without further
consciousness than that of touch. The mare was led forth by the Bantam. A
light rain was falling down strong warm gusts, and the trees were noisy
in the night. Farmer Blaize requested Richard at the gate to give him his
hand, and say all was well. He liked the young man for his earnestness
and honest outspeaking. Richard could not say all was well, but he gave
his hand, and knitted it to the farmer's in a sharp squeeze, when he got
upon Cassandra, and rode into the tumult.

A calm, clear dawn succeeded the roaring West, and threw its glowing grey
image on the waters of the Abbey-lake. Before sunrise Tom Bakewell was
abroad, and met the missing youth, his master, jogging Cassandra
leisurely along the Lobourne park-road, a sorry couple to look at.
Cassandra's flanks were caked with mud, her head drooped: all that was in
her had been taken out by that wild night. On what heaths and heavy
fallows had she not spent her noble strength, recklessly fretting through
the darkness!

"Take the mare," said Richard, dismounting and patting her between the
eyes. "She's done up, poor old gal! Look to her, Tom, and then come to me
in my room."

Tom asked no questions.

Three days would bring the anniversary of Richard's birth, and though Tom
was close, the condition of the mare, and the young gentleman's strange
freak in riding her out all night becoming known, prepared everybody at
Raynham for the usual bad-luck birthday, the prophets of which were full
of sad gratification. Sir Austin had an unpleasant office to require of
his son; no other than that of humbly begging Benson's pardon, and
washing out the undue blood he had spilt in taking his Pound of Flesh.
Heavy Benson was told to anticipate the demand for pardon, and practised
in his mind the most melancholy Christian deportment he could assume on
the occasion. But while his son was in this state, Sir Austin considered
that he would hardly be brought to see the virtues of the act, and did
not make the requisition of him, and heavy Benson remained drawn up
solemnly expectant at doorways, and at the foot of the staircase, a
Saurian Caryatid, wherever he could get a step in advance of the young
man, while Richard heedlessly passed him, as he passed everybody else,
his head bent to the ground, and his legs bearing him like random
instruments of whose service he was unconscious. It was a shock to
Benson's implicit belief in his patron; and he was not consoled by the
philosophic explanation, "That Good in a strong many-compounded nature is
of slower growth than any other mortal thing, and must not be forced."
Damnatory doctrines best pleased Benson. He was ready to pardon, as a
Christian should, but he did want his enemy before him on his knees. And
now, though the Saurian Eye saw more than all the other eyes in the
house, and saw that there was matter in hand between Tom and his master
to breed exceeding discomposure to the System, Benson, as he had not
received his indemnity, and did not wish to encounter fresh perils for
nothing, held his peace.

Sir Austin partly divined what was going on in the breast of his son,
without conceiving the depths of distrust his son cherished or quite
measuring the intensity of the passion that consumed him. He was very
kind and tender with him. Like a cunning physician who has, nevertheless,
overlooked the change in the disease superinduced by one false dose, he
meditated his prescriptions carefully and confidently, sure that he knew
the case, and was a match for it. He decreed that Richard's erratic
behaviour should pass unnoticed. Two days before the birthday, he asked
him whether he would object to having company? To which Richard said:
"Have whom you will, sir." The preparation for festivity commenced
accordingly.

On the birthday eve he dined with the rest. Lady Blandish was there, and
sat penitently at his right. Hippias prognosticated certain indigestion
for himself on the morrow. The Eighteenth Century wondered whether she
should live to see another birthday. Adrian drank the two-years' distant
term of his tutorship, and Algernon went over the list of the Lobourne
men who would cope with Bursley on the morrow. Sir Austin gave ear and a
word to all, keeping his mental eye for his son. To please Lady Blandish
also, Adrian ventured to make trifling jokes about London's Mrs.
Grandison; jokes delicately not decent, but so delicately so, that it was
not decent to perceive it.

After dinner Richard left them. Nothing more than commonly peculiar was
observed about him, beyond the excessive glitter of his eyes, but the
baronet said, "Yes, yes! that will pass." He and Adrian, and Lady
Blandish, took tea in the library, and sat till a late hour discussing
casuistries relating mostly to the Apple-disease. Converse very amusing
to the wise youth, who could suggest to the two chaste minds situations
of the shadiest character, with the air of a seeker after truth, and lead
them, unsuspecting, where they dared not look about them. The Aphorist
had elated the heart of his constant fair worshipper with a newly rounded
if not newly conceived sentence, when they became aware that they were
four. Heavy Benson stood among them. He said he had knocked, but received
no answer. There was, however, a vestige of surprise and dissatisfaction
on his face beholding Adrian of the company, which had not quite worn
away, and gave place, when it did vanish, to an aspect of flabby
severity.

"Well, Benson? well?" said the baronet.

The unmoving man replied: "If you please, Sir Austin--Mr. Richard!"

"Well!"

"He's out!"

"Well?"

"With Bakewell!"

"Well?"

"And a carpet-bag!"

The carpet-bag might be supposed to contain that funny thing called a
young hero's romance in the making.

Out Richard was, and with a carpet-bag, which Tom Bakewell carried. He
was on the road to Bellingham, under heavy rain, hasting like an escaped
captive, wild with joy, while Tom shook his skin, and grunted at his
discomforts. The mail train was to be caught at Bellingham. He knew where
to find her now, through the intervention of Miss Davenport, and thither
he was flying, an arrow loosed from the bow: thither, in spite of fathers
and friends and plotters, to claim her, and take her, and stand with her
against the world.

They were both thoroughly wet when they entered Bellingham, and Tom's
visions were of hot drinks. He hinted the necessity for inward
consolation to his master, who could answer nothing but "Tom! Tom! I
shall see her tomorrow!" It was bad--travelling in the wet, Tom hinted
again, to provoke the same insane outcry, and have his arm seized and
furiously shaken into the bargain. Passing the principal inn of the
place, Tom spoke plainly for brandy.

"No!" cried Richard, "there's not a moment to be lost!" and as he said
it, he reeled, and fell against Tom, muttering indistinctly of faintness,
and that there was no time to lose. Tom lifted him in his arms, and got
admission to the inn. Brandy, the country's specific, was advised by host
and hostess, and forced into his mouth, reviving him sufficiently to cry
out, "Tom! the bell's ringing: we shall be late," after which he fell
back insensible on the sofa where they had stretched him. Excitement of
blood and brain had done its work upon him. The youth suffered them to
undress him and put him to bed, and there he lay, forgetful even of love;
a drowned weed borne onward by the tide of the hours. There his father
found him.

Was the Scientific Humanist remorseful? He had looked forward to such a
crisis as that point in the disease his son was the victim of, when the
body would fail and give the spirit calm to conquer the malady, knowing
very well that the seeds of the evil were not of the spirit. Moreover, to
see him and have him was a repose after the alarm Benson had sounded.
"Mark!" he said to Lady Blandish, "when he recovers he will not care for
her."

The lady had accompanied him to the Bellingham inn on first hearing of
Richard's seizure.

"What an iron man you can be," she exclaimed, smothering her intuitions.
She was for giving the boy his bauble; promising it him, at least, if he
would only get well and be the bright flower of promise he once was.

"Can you look on him," she pleaded, "can you look on him and persevere?"

It was a hard sight for this man who loved his son so deeply. The youth
lay in his strange bed, straight and motionless, with fever on his
cheeks, and altered eyes.

Old Dr. Clifford of Lobourne was the medical attendant, who, with
head-shaking, and gathering of lips, and reminiscences of ancient
arguments, guaranteed to do all that leech could do in the matter. The
old doctor did admit that Richard's constitution was admirable, and
answered to his prescriptions like a piano to the musician. "But," he
said at a family consultation, for Sir Austin had told him how it stood
with the young man, "drugs are not much in cases of this sort. Change!
That's what's wanted, and as soon as may be. Distraction! He ought to see
the world, and know what he is made of. It's no use my talking, I know,"
added the doctor.

"On the contrary," said Sir Austin, "I am quite of your persuasion. And
the world he shall see--now."

"We have dipped him in Styx, you know, doctor," Adrian remarked.

"But, doctor," said Lady Blandish, "have you known a case of this sort
before."

"Never, my lady," said the doctor, "they're not common in these parts.
Country people are tolerably healthy-minded."

"But people--and country people--have died for love, doctor?"

The doctor had not met any of them.

"Men, or women?" inquired the baronet.

Lady Blandish believed mostly women.

"Ask the doctor whether they were healthy-minded women," said the
baronet. "No! you are both looking at the wrong end. Between a
highly-cultured being, and an emotionless animal, there is all the
difference in the world. But of the two, the doctor is nearer the truth.
The healthy nature is pretty safe. If he allowed for organization he
would be right altogether. To feel, but not to feel to excess, that is
the problem."

     "If I can't have the one I chose,
     To some fresh maid I will propose,"

Adrian hummed a country ballad.



CHAPTER XXIV

When the young Experiment again knew the hours that rolled him onward, he
was in his own room at Raynham. Nothing had changed: only a strong fist
had knocked him down and stunned him, and he opened his eyes to a grey
world: he had forgotten what he lived for. He was weak and thin, and with
a pale memory of things. His functions were the same, everything
surrounding him was the same: he looked upon the old blue hills, the
far-lying fallows, the river, and the woods: he knew them, they seemed to
have lost recollection of him. Nor could he find in familiar human faces
the secret of intimacy of heretofore. They were the same faces: they
nodded and smiled to him. What was lost he could not tell. Something had
been knocked out of him! He was sensible of his father's sweetness of
manner, and he was grieved that he could not reply to it, for every sense
of shame and reproach had strangely gone. He felt very useless. In place
of the fiery love for one, he now bore about a cold charity to all.

Thus in the heart of the young man died the Spring Primrose, and while it
died another heart was pushing forth the Primrose of Autumn.

The wonderful change in Richard, and the wisdom of her admirer, now
positively proved, were exciting matters to Lady Blandish. She was
rebuked for certain little rebellious fancies concerning him that had
come across her enslaved mind from time to time. For was he not almost a
prophet? It distressed the sentimental lady that a love like Richard's
could pass off in mere smoke, and words such as she had heard him speak
in Abbey-wood resolve to emptiness. Nay, it humiliated her personally,
and the baronet's shrewd prognostication humiliated her. For how should
he know, and dare to say, that love was a thing of the dust that could be
trodden out under the heel of science? But he had said so; and he had
proved himself right. She heard with wonderment that Richard of his own
accord had spoken to his father of the folly he had been guilty of, and
had begged his pardon. The baronet told her this, adding that the youth
had done it in a cold unwavering way, without a movement of his features:
had evidently done it to throw off the burden of the duty, he had
conceived. He had thought himself bound to acknowledge that he had been
the Foolish Young Fellow, wishing, possibly, to abjure the fact by an set
of penance. He had also given satisfaction to Benson, and was become a
renovated peaceful spirit, whose main object appeared to be to get up his
physical strength by exercise and no expenditure of speech.

In her company he was composed and courteous; even when they were alone
together, he did not exhibit a trace of melancholy. Sober he seemed, as
one who has recovered from a drunkenness and has determined to drink no
more. The idea struck her that he might be playing a part, but Tom
Bakewell, in a private conversation they had, informed her that he had
received an order from his young master, one day while boxing with him,
not to mention the young lady's name to him as long as he lived; and Tom
could only suppose that she had offended him. Theoretically wise Lady
Blandish had always thought the baronet; she was unprepared to find him
thus practically sagacious. She fell many degrees; she wanted something
to cling to; so she clung to the man who struck her low. Love, then, was
earthly; its depth could be probed by science! A man lived who could
measure it from end to end; foretell its term; handle the young cherub as
were he a shot owl! We who have flown into cousinship with the empyrean,
and disported among immortal hosts, our base birth as a child of Time is
made bare to us!--our wings are cut! Oh, then, if science is this
victorious enemy of love, let us love science! was the logic of the
lady's heart; and secretly cherishing the assurance that she should
confute him yet, and prove him utterly wrong, she gave him the fruits of
present success, as it is a habit of women to do; involuntarily partly.
The fires took hold of her. She felt soft emotions such as a girl feels,
and they flattered her. It was like youth coming back. Pure women have a
second youth. The Autumn primrose flourished.

We are advised by The Pilgrim's Scrip that--

"The ways of women, which are Involution, and their practices, which are
Opposition, are generally best hit upon by guess work, and a bold
word;"--it being impossible to track them and hunt them down in the
ordinary style.

So that we may not ourselves become involved and opposed, let us each of
us venture a guess and say a bold word as to how it came that the lady,
who trusted love to be eternal, grovelled to him that shattered her
tender faith, and loved him.

Hitherto it had been simply a sentimental dalliance, and gossips had
maligned the lady. Just when the gossips grew tired of their slander, and
inclined to look upon her charitably, she set about to deserve every word
they had said of her; which may instruct us, if you please, that gossips
have only to persist in lying to be crowned with verity, or that one has
only to endure evil mouths for a period to gain impunity. She was always
at the Abbey now. She was much closeted with the baronet. It seemed to be
understood that she had taken Mrs. Doria's place. Benson in his misogynic
soul perceived that she was taking Lady Feverel's: but any report
circulated by Benson was sure to meet discredit, and drew the gossips
upon himself; which made his meditations tragic. No sooner was one woman
defeated than another took the field! The object of the System was no
sooner safe than its great author was in danger!

"I can't think what has come to Benson" he said to Adrian.

"He seems to have received a fresh legacy of several pounds of lead,"
returned the wise youth, and imitating Dr. Clifford's manner. "Change is
what he wants! distraction! send him to Wales for a month, sir, and let
Richard go with him. The two victims of woman may do each other good."

"Unfortunately I can't do without him," said the baronet.

"Then we must continue to have him on our shoulders all day, and on our
chests all night!" Adrian ejaculated.

"I think while he preserves this aspect we won't have him at the
dinner-table," said the baronet.

Adrian thought that would be a relief to their digestions; and added:
"You know, sir, what he says?"

Receiving a negative, Adrian delicately explained to him that Benson's
excessive ponderosity of demeanour was caused by anxiety for the safety
of his master.

"You must pardon a faithful fool, sir," he continued, for the baronet
became red, and exclaimed:

"His stupidity is past belief! I have absolutely to bolt my study-door
against him."

Adrian at once beheld a charming scene in the interior of the study, not
unlike one that Benson had visually witnessed. For, like a wary prophet,
Benson, that he might have warrant for what he foretold of the future,
had a care to spy upon the present: warned haply by The Pilgrim's Scrip,
of which he was a diligent reader, and which says, rather emphatically:
"Could we see Time's full face, we were wise of him." Now to see Time's
full face, it is sometimes necessary to look through keyholes, the
veteran having a trick of smiling peace to you on one cheek and grimacing
confusion on the other behind the curtain. Decency and a sense of honour
restrain most of us from being thus wise and miserable for ever. Benson's
excuse was that he believed in his master, who was menaced. And moreover,
notwithstanding his previous tribulation, to spy upon Cupid was sweet to
him. So he peeped, and he saw a sight. He saw Time's full face; or, in
other words, he saw the wiles of woman and the weakness of man: which is
our history, as Benson would have written it, and a great many poets and
philosophers have written it.

Yet it was but the plucking of the Autumn primrose that Benson had seen:
a somewhat different operation from the plucking of the Spring one: very
innocent! Our staid elderly sister has paler blood, and has, or thinks
she has, a reason or two about the roots. She is not all instinct. "For
this high cause, and for that I know men, and know him to be the flower
of men, I give myself to him!" She makes that lofty inward exclamation
while the hand is detaching her from the roots. Even so strong a
self-justification she requires. She has not that blind glory in excess
which her younger sister can gild the longest leap with. And if,
moth-like, she desires the star, she is nervously cautious of candles.
Hence her circles about the dangerous human flame are wide and shy. She
must be drawn nearer and nearer by a fresh reason. She loves to
sentimentalize. Lady Blandish had been sentimentalizing for ten years.
She would have preferred to pursue the game. The dark-eyed dame was
pleased with her smooth life and the soft excitement that did not ruffle
it. Not willingly did she let herself be won.

"Sentimentalists," says The Pilgrim's Scrip, "are they who seek to enjoy
without incurring the Immense Debtorship for a thing done."

"It is," the writer says of Sentimentalism elsewhere, "a happy pastime
and an important science to the timid, the idle, and the heartless; but a
damning one to them who have anything to forfeit."

However, one who could set down the dying for love, as a sentimentalism,
can hardly be accepted as a clear authority. Assuredly he was not one to
avoid the incurring of the immense debtorship in any way: but he was a
bondsman still to the woman who had forsaken him, and a spoken word would
have made it seem his duty to face that public scandal which was the last
evil to him. What had so horrified the virtuous Benson, Richard had
already beheld in Daphne's Bower; a simple kissing of the fair white
hand! Doubtless the keyhole somehow added to Benson's horror. The two
similar performances, so very innocent, had wondrous opposite
consequences. The first kindled Richard to adore Woman; the second
destroyed Benson's faith in Man. But Lady Blandish knew the difference
between the two. She understood why the baronet did not speak; excused,
and respected him for it. She was content, since she must love, to love
humbly, and she had, besides, her pity for his sorrows to comfort her. A
hundred fresh reasons for loving him arose and multiplied every day. He
read to her the secret book in his own handwriting, composed for
Richard's Marriage Guide: containing Advice and Directions to a Young
Husband, full of the most tender wisdom and delicacy; so she thought;
nay, not wanting in poetry, though neither rhymed nor measured. He
expounded to her the distinctive character of the divers ages of love,
giving the palm to the flower she put forth, over that of Spring, or the
Summer rose. And while they sat and talked; "My wound has healed," he
said. "How?" she asked. "At the fountain of your eyes," he replied, and
drew the joy of new life from her blushes, without incurring further
debtor ship for a thing done.



CHAPTER XXV

Let it be some apology for the damage caused by the careering hero, and a
consolation to the quiet wretches, dragged along with him at his
chariot-wheels, that he is generally the last to know when he has made an
actual start; such a mere creature is he, like the rest of us, albeit the
head of our fates. By this you perceive the true hero, whether he be a
prince or a pot-boy, that he does not plot; Fortune does all for him. He
may be compared to one to whom, in an electric circle, it is given to
carry the battery.

We caper and grimace at his will; yet not his the will, not his the
power. 'Tis all Fortune's, whose puppet he is. She deals her
dispensations through him. Yea, though our capers be never so comical, he
laughs not. Intent upon his own business, the true hero asks little
services of us here and there; thinks it quite natural that they should
be acceded to, and sees nothing ridiculous in the lamentable contortions
we must go through to fulfil them. Probably he is the elect of Fortune,
because of that notable faculty of being intent upon his own business:
"Which is," says The Pilgrim's Scrip, "with men to be valued equal to
that force which in water makes a stream." This prelude was necessary to
the present chapter of Richard's history.

It happened that in the turn of the year, and while old earth was busy
with her flowers, the fresh wind blew, the little bird sang, and Hippias
Feverel, the Dyspepsy, amazed, felt the Spring move within him. He
communicated his delightful new sensations to the baronet, his brother,
whose constant exclamation with regard to him, was: "Poor Hippias! All
his machinery is bare!" and had no hope that he would ever be in a
condition to defend it from view. Nevertheless Hippias had that hope, and
so he told his brother, making great exposure of his machinery to effect
the explanation. He spoke of all his physical experiences exultingly, and
with wonder. The achievement of common efforts, not usually blazoned, he
celebrated as triumphs, and, of course, had Adrian on his back very
quickly. But he could bear him, or anything, now. It was such ineffable
relief to find himself looking out upon the world of mortals instead of
into the black phantasmal abysses of his own complicated frightful
structure.  "My mind doesn't so much seem to haunt itself, now," said
Hippias, nodding shortly and peering out of intense puckers to convey a
glimpse of what hellish sufferings his had been: "I feel as if I had come
aboveground."

A poor Dyspepsy may talk as he will, but he is the one who never gets
sympathy, or experiences compassion: and it is he whose groaning
petitions for charity do at last rout that Christian virtue. Lady
Blandish, a charitable soul, could not listen to Hippias, though she had
a heart for little mice and flies, and Sir Austin had also small patience
with his brother's gleam of health, which was just enough to make his
disease visible. He remembered his early follies and excesses, and bent
his ear to him as one man does to another who complains of having to pay
a debt legally incurred.

"I think," said Adrian, seeing how the communications of Hippias were
received, "that when our Nemesis takes lodgings in the stomach, it's best
to act the Spartan, smile hard, and be silent."

Richard alone was decently kind to Hippias; whether from opposition, or
real affection, could not be said, as the young man was mysterious. He
advised his uncle to take exercise, walked with him, cultivated cheerful
impressions in him, and pointed out innocent pursuits. He made Hippias
visit with him some of the poor old folk of the village, who bewailed the
loss of his cousin Austin Wentworth, and did his best to waken him up,
and give the outer world a stronger hold on him. He succeeded in nothing
but in winning his uncle's gratitude. The season bloomed scarce longer
than a week for Hippias, and then began to languish. The poor Dyspepsy's
eager grasp at beatification relaxed: he went underground again. He
announced that he felt "spongy things"--one of the more constant throes
of his malady. His bitter face recurred: he chewed the cud of horrid
hallucinations. He told Richard he must give up going about with him:
people telling of their ailments made him so uncomfortable--the birds
were so noisy, pairing--the rude bare soil sickened him.

Richard treated him with a gravity equal to his father's. He asked what
the doctors said.

"Oh! the doctors!" cried Hippias with vehement scepticism. "No man of
sense believes in medicine for chronic disorder. Do you happen to have
heard of any new remedy then, Richard? No? They advertise a great many
cures for indigestion, I assure you, my dear boy. I wonder whether one
can rely upon the authenticity of those signatures? I see no reason why
there should be no cure for such a disease?--Eh? And it's just one of the
things a quack, as they call them, would hit upon sooner than one who is
in the beaten track. Do you know, Richard, my dear boy, I've often
thought that if we could by any means appropriate to our use some of the
extraordinary digestive power that a boa constrictor has in his gastric
juices, there is really no manner of reason why we should not comfortably
dispose of as much of an ox as our stomachs will hold, and one might eat
French dishes without the wretchedness of thinking what's to follow. And
this makes me think that those fellows may, after all, have got some
truth in them: some secret that, of course, they require to be paid for.
We distrust each other in this world too much, Richard. I've felt
inclined once or twice--but it's absurd!--If it only alleviated a few of
my sufferings I should be satisfied. I've no hesitation in saying that I
should be quite satisfied if it only did away with one or two, and left
me free to eat and drink as other people do. Not that I mean to try them.
It's only a fancy--Eh? What a thing health is, my dear boy! Ah! if I were
like you! I was in love once!"

"Were you!" said Richard, coolly regarding him.

"I've forgotten what I felt!" Hippias sighed. "You've very much improved,
my dear boy."

"So people say," quoth Richard.

Hippias looked at him anxiously: "If I go to town and get the doctor's
opinion about trying a new course--Eh, Richard? will you come with me? I
should like your company. We could see London together, you know. Enjoy
ourselves," and Hippias rubbed his hands.

Richard smiled at the feeble glimmer of enjoyment promised by his uncle's
eyes, and said he thought it better they should stay where they were--an
answer that might mean anything. Hippias immediately became possessed by
the beguiling project. He went to the baronet, and put the matter before
him, instancing doctors as the object of his journey, not quacks, of
course; and requesting leave to take Richard. Sir Austin was getting
uneasy about his son's manner. It was not natural. His heart seemed to be
frozen: he had no confidences: he appeared to have no ambition--to have
lost the virtues of youth with the poison that had passed out of him. He
was disposed to try what effect a little travelling might have on him,
and had himself once or twice hinted to Richard that it would be good for
him to move about, the young man quietly replying that he did not wish to
quit Raynham at all, which was too strict a fulfilment of his father's
original views in educating him there entirely. On the day that Hippias
made his proposal, Adrian, seconded by Lady Blandish, also made one. The
sweet Spring season stirred in Adrian as well as in others: not to
pastoral measures: to the joys of the operatic world and bravura glories.
He also suggested that it would be advisable to carry Richard to town for
a term, and let him know his position, and some freedom. Sir Austin
weighed the two proposals. He was pretty certain that Richard's passion
was consumed, and that the youth was now only under the burden of its
ashes. He had found against his heart, at the Bellingham inn: a great
lock of golden hair. He had taken it, and the lover, after feeling about
for it with faint hands, never asked for it. This precious lock (Miss
Davenport had thrust it into his hand at Belthorpe as Lucy's last gift),
what sighs and tears it had weathered! The baronet laid it in Richard's
sight one day, and beheld him take it up, turn it over, and drop it down
again calmly, as if he were handling any common curiosity. It pacified
him on that score. The young man's love was dead. Dr. Clifford said
rightly: he wanted distractions. The baronet determined that Richard
should go. Hippias and Adrian then pressed their several suits as to
which should have him. Hippias, when he could forget himself, did not
lack sense. He observed that Adrian was not at present a proper companion
for Richard, and would teach him to look on life from the false point.

"You don't understand a young philosopher," said the baronet.

"A young philosopher's an old fool!" returned Hippias, not thinking that
his growl had begotten a phrase.

His brother smiled with gratification, and applauded him loudly:
"Excellent! worthy of your best days! You're wrong, though, in applying
it to Adrian. He has never been precocious. All he has done has been to
bring sound common sense to bear upon what he hears and sees. I think,
however," the baronet added, "he may want faith in the better qualities
of men." And this reflection inclined him not to let his son be alone
with Adrian. He gave Richard his choice, who saw which way his father's
wishes tended, and decided so to please him. Naturally it annoyed Adrian
extremely. He said to his chief:

"I suppose you know what you are doing, sir. I don't see that we derive
any advantage from the family name being made notorious for twenty years
of obscene suffering, and becoming a byword for our constitutional
tendency to stomachic distension before we fortunately encountered
Quackem's Pill. My uncle's tortures have been huge, but I would rather
society were not intimate with them under their several headings." Adrian
enumerated some of the most abhorrent. "You know him, sir. If he
conceives a duty, he will do it in the face of every decency--all the
more obstinate because the conception is rare. If he feels a little brisk
the morning after the pill, he sends the letter that makes us famous! We
go down to posterity with heightened characteristics, to say nothing of a
contemporary celebrity nothing less than our being turned inside-out to
the rabble. I confess I don't desire to have my machinery made bare to
them."

Sir Austin assured the wise youth that Hippias had arranged to go to Dr.
Bairam. He softened Adrian's chagrin by telling him that in about two
weeks they would follow to London: hinting also at a prospective Summer
campaign. The day was fixed for Richard to depart, and the day came.
Madame the Eighteenth Century called him to her chamber and put into his
hand a fifty-pound note, as her contribution toward his pocket-expenses.
He did not want it, he said, but she told him he was a young man, and
would soon make that fly when he stood on his own feet. The old lady did
not at all approve of the System in her heart, and she gave her
grandnephew to understand that, should he require more, he knew where to
apply, and secrets would be kept. His father presented him with a hundred
pounds--which also Richard said he did not want--he did not care for
money. "Spend it or not," said the baronet, perfectly secure in him.

Hippias had few injunctions to observe. They were to take up quarters at
the hotel, Algernon's general run of company at the house not being
altogether wholesome. The baronet particularly forewarned Hippias of the
imprudence of attempting to restrict the young man's movements, and
letting him imagine he was under surveillance. Richard having been, as it
were, pollarded by despotism, was now to grow up straight, and bloom
again, in complete independence, as far as he could feel. So did the sage
decree; and we may pause a moment to reflect how wise were his
previsions, and how successful they must have been, had not Fortune, the
great foe to human cleverness, turned against him, or he against himself.

The departure took place on a fine March morning. The bird of Winter sang
from the budding tree; in the blue sky sang the bird of Summer. Adrian
rode between Richard and Hippias to the Bellingham station, and vented
his disgust on them after his own humorous fashion, because it did not
rain and damp their ardour. In the rear came Lady Blandish and the
baronet, conversing on the calm summit of success.

"You have shaped him exactly to resemble yourself," she said, pointing
with her riding-whip to the grave stately figure of the young man.

"Outwardly, perhaps," he answered, and led to a discussion on Purity and
Strength, the lady saying that she preferred Purity.

"But you do not," said the baronet. "And there I admire the always true
instinct of women, that they all worship Strength in whatever form, and
seem to know it to be the child of heaven; whereas Purity is but a
characteristic, a garment, and can be spotted--how soon! For there are
questions in this life with which we must grapple or be lost, and when,
hunted by that cold eye of intense inner-consciousness, the clearest soul
becomes a cunning fox, if it have not courage to stand and do battle.
Strength indicates a boundless nature--like the Maker. Strength is a God
to you--Purity a toy. A pretty one, and you seem to be fond of playing
with it," he added, with unaccustomed slyness.

The lady listened, pleased at the sportive malice which showed that the
constraint on his mind had left him. It was for women to fight their
fight now; she only took part in it for amusement. This is how the ranks
of our enemies are thinned; no sooner do poor women put up a champion in
their midst than she betrays them.

"I see," she said archly, "we are the lovelier vessels; you claim the
more direct descent. Men are seedlings: Women--slips! Nay, you have said
so," she cried out at his gestured protestation, laughing.

"But I never printed it."

"Oh! what you speak answers for print with me."

Exquisite Blandish! He could not choose but love her.

"Tell me what are your plans?" she asked. "May a woman know?"

He replied, "I have none or you would share them. I shall study him in
the world. This indifference must wear off. I shall mark his inclinations
now, and he shall be what he inclines to. Occupation will be his prime
safety. His cousin Austin's plan of life appears most to his taste, and
he can serve the people that way as well as in Parliament, should he have
no stronger ambition. The clear duty of a man of any wealth is to serve
the people as he best can. He shall go among Austin's set, if he wishes
it, though personally I find no pleasure in rash imaginations, and
undigested schemes built upon the mere instinct of principles."

"Look at him now," said the lady. "He seems to care for nothing; not even
for the beauty of the day."

"Or Adrian's jokes," added the baronet.

Adrian could be seen to be trying zealously to torment a laugh, or a
confession of irritation, out of his hearers, stretching out his chin to
one, and to the other, with audible asides. Richard he treated as a new
instrument of destruction about to be let loose on the slumbering
metropolis; Hippias as one in an interesting condition; and he got so
much fun out of the notion of these two journeying together, and the
mishaps that might occur to them, that he esteemed it almost a personal
insult for his hearers not to laugh. The wise youth's dull life at
Raynham had afflicted him with many peculiarities of the professional
joker.

"Oh! the Spring! the Spring!" he cried, as in scorn of his sallies they
exchanged their unmeaning remarks on the sweet weather across him. "You
seem both to be uncommonly excited by the operations of turtles, rooks,
and daws. Why can't you let them alone?"

          'Wind bloweth,
          Cock croweth,
             Doodle-doo;
          Hippy verteth,
          Ricky sterteth,
             Sing Cuckoo!'

There's an old native pastoral!--Why don't you write a Spring sonnet,
Ricky? The asparagus-beds are full of promise, I hear, and eke the
strawberry. Berries I fancy your Pegasus has a taste for. What kind of
berry was that I saw some verses of yours about once?--amatory verses to
some kind of berry--yewberry, blueberry, glueberry! Pretty verses,
decidedly warm. Lips, eyes, bosom, legs--legs? I don't think you gave her
any legs. No legs and no nose. That appears to be the poetic taste of the
day. It shall be admitted that you create the very beauties for a chaste
people.

     'O might I lie where leans her lute!'

and offend no moral community. That's not a bad image of yours, my dear
boy:

       'Her shape is like an antelope
        Upon the Eastern hills.'

But as a candid critic, I would ask you if the likeness can be considered
correct when you give her no legs? You will see at the ballet that you
are in error about women at present, Richard. That admirable institution
which our venerable elders have imported from Gallia for the instruction
of our gaping youth, will edify and astonish you. I assure you I used,
from reading The Pilgrim's Scrip, to imagine all sorts of things about
them, till I was taken there, and learnt that they are very like us after
all, and then they ceased to trouble me. Mystery is the great danger to
youth, my son! Mystery is woman's redoubtable weapon, O Richard of the
Ordeal! I'm aware that you've had your lessons in anatomy, but nothing
will persuade you that an anatomical figure means flesh and blood. You
can't realize the fact. Do you intend to publish when you're in town?
It'll be better not to put your name. Having one's name to a volume of
poems is as bad as to an advertising pill."

"I will send you an early copy, Adrian, when I publish," quoth Richard.
"Hark at that old blackbird, uncle."

"Yes!" Hippias quavered; looking up from the usual subject of his
contemplation, and trying to take an interest in him, "fine old fellow!"

"What a chuckle he gives out before he flies! Not unlike July
nightingales. You know that bird I told you of--the blackbird that had
its mate shot, and used to come to sing to old Dame Bakewell's bird from
the tree opposite. A rascal knocked it over the day before yesterday, and
the dame says her bird hasn't sung a note since."

"Extraordinary!" Hippias muttered abstractedly. "I remember the verses."

"But where's your moral?" interposed the wrathful Adrian. "Where's
constancy rewarded?

       'The ouzel-cock so black of hue,
        With orange-tawny bill;
        The rascal with his aim so true;
        The Poet's little quill!'

"Where's the moral of that? except that all's game to the poet! Certainly
we have a noble example of the devotedness of the female, who for three
entire days refuses to make herself heard, on account of a defunct male.
I suppose that's what Ricky dwells on."

"As you please, my dear Adrian," says Richard, and points out larch-buds
to his uncle, as they ride by the young green wood.

The wise youth was driven to extremity. Such a lapse from his pupil's
heroics to this last verge of Arcadian coolness, Adrian could not believe
in. "Hark at this old blackbird!" he cried, in his turn, and pretending
to interpret his fits of song:

"Oh, what a pretty comedy!--Don't we wear the mask well, my
Fiesco?--Genoa will be our own to-morrow!--Only wait until the train has
started--jolly! jolly! jolly! We'll be winners yet!

"Not a bad verse--eh, Ricky? my Lucius Junius!"

"You do the blackbird well," said Richard, and looked at him in a manner
mildly affable.

Adrian shrugged. "You're a young man of wonderful powers," he
emphatically observed; meaning to say that Richard quite beat him; for
which opinion Richard gravely thanked him, and with this they rode into
Bellingham.

There was young Tom Blaize at the station, in his Sunday beaver and gala
waistcoat and neckcloth, coming the lord over Tom Bakewell, who had
preceded his master in charge of the baggage. He likewise was bound for
London. Richard, as he was dismounting, heard Adrian say to the baronet:
"The Beast, sir, appears to be going to fetch Beauty;" but he paid no
heed to the words. Whether young Tom heard them or not, Adrian's look
took the lord out of him, and he shrunk away into obscurity, where the
nearest approach to the fashions which the tailors of Bellingham could
supply to him, sat upon him more easily, and he was not stiffened by the
eyes of the superiors whom he sought to rival. The baronet, Lady
Blandish, and Adrian remained on horseback, and received Richard's adieux
across the palings. He shook hands with each of them in the same kindly
cold way, elicitating from Adrian a marked encomium on his style of doing
it. The train came up, and Richard stepped after his uncle into one of
the carriages.

Now surely there will come an age when the presentation of science at war
with Fortune and the Fates, will be deemed the true epic of modern life;
and the aspect of a scientific humanist who, by dint of incessant
watchfulness, has maintained a System against those active forties,
cannot be reckoned less than sublime, even though at the moment he but
sit upon his horse, on a fine March morning such as this, and smile
wistfully to behold the son of his heart, his System incarnate, wave a
serene adieu to tutelage, neither too eager nor morbidly unwilling to try
his luck alone for a term of two weeks. At present, I am aware, an
audience impatient for blood and glory scorns the stress I am putting on
incidents so minute, a picture so little imposing. An audience will come
to whom it will be given to see the elementary machinery at work: who, as
it were, from some slight hint of the straws, will feel the winds of
March when they do not blow. To them will nothing be trivial, seeing that
they will have in their eyes the invisible conflict going on around us,
whose features a nod, a smile, a laugh of ours perpetually changes. And
they will perceive, moreover, that in real life all hangs together: the
train is laid in the lifting of an eyebrow, that bursts upon the field of
thousands. They will see the links of things as they pass, and wonder
not, as foolish people now do, that this great matter came out of that
small one.

Such an audience, then, will participate in the baronet's gratification
at his son's demeanour, wherein he noted the calm bearing of experience
not gained in the usual wanton way: and will not be without some excited
apprehension at his twinge of astonishment, when, just as the train went
sliding into swiftness, he beheld the grave, cold, self-possessed young
man throw himself back in the carriage violently laughing. Science was at
a loss to account for that. Sir Austin checked his mind from inquiring,
that he might keep suspicion at a distance, but he thought it odd, and
the jarring sensation that ran along his nerves at the sight, remained
with him as he rode home.

Lady Blandish's tender womanly intuition bade her say: "You see it was
the very thing he wanted. He has got his natural spirits already."

"It was," Adrian put in his word, "the exact thing he wanted. His spirits
have returned miraculously."

"Something amused him," said the baronet, with an eye on the puffing
train.

"Probably something his uncle said or did," Lady Blandish suggested, and
led off at a gallop.

Her conjecture chanced to be quite correct. The cause for Richard's
laughter was simple enough. Hippias, on finding the carriage-door closed
on him, became all at once aware of the bright-haired hope which dwells
in Change; for one who does not woo her too frequently; and to express
his sudden relief from mental despondency at the amorous prospect, the
Dyspepsy bent and gave his hands a sharp rub between his legs: which
unlucky action brought Adrian's pastoral,

          "Hippy verteth,
          Sing cuckoo!"

in such comic colours before Richard, that a demon of laughter seized
him.

          "Hippy verteth!"

Every time he glanced at his uncle the song sprang up, and he laughed so
immoderately that it looked like madness come upon him.

"Why, why, why, what are you laughing at, my dear boy," said Hippias, and
was provoked by the contagious exercise to a modest "ha! ha!"

"Why, what are you laughing at, uncle?" cried Richard.

"I really don't know," Hippias chuckled.

"Nor I, uncle! Sing, cuckoo!"

They laughed themselves into the pleasantest mood imaginable. Hippias not
only came aboveground, he flew about in the very skies, verting like any
blithe creature of the season. He remembered old legal jokes, and
anecdotes of Circuit; and Richard laughed at them all, but more at
him--he was so genial, and childishly fresh, and innocently joyful at his
own transformation, while a lurking doubt in the bottom of his eyes, now
and then, that it might not last, and that he must go underground again,
lent him a look of pathos and humour which tickled his youthful companion
irresistibly, and made his heart warm to him.

"I tell you what, uncle," said Richard, "I think travelling's a capital
thing."

"The best thing in the world, my dear boy," Hippias returned. "It makes
me wish I had given up that Work of mine, and tried it before, instead of
chaining myself to a task. We're quite different beings in a minute. I
am. Hem! what shall we have for dinner?"

"Leave that to me, uncle. I shall order for you. You know, I intend to
make you well. How gloriously we go along! I should like to ride on a
railway every day."

Hippias remarked: "They say it rather injures the digestion."

"Nonsense! see how you'll digest to-night and to-morrow."

"Perhaps I shall do something yet," sighed Hippias, alluding to the vast
literary fame he had aforetime dreamed of. "I hope I shall have a good
night to-night."

"Of course you will! What! after laughing like that?"

"Ugh!" Hippias grunted, "I daresay, Richard, you sleep the moment you get
into bed!"

"The instant my head's on my pillow, and up the moment I wake. Health's
everything!"

"Health's everything!" echoed Hippias, from his immense distance.

"And if you'll put yourself in my hands," Richard continued, "you shall
do just as I do. You shall be well and strong, and sing 'Jolly!' like
Adrian's blackbird. You shall, upon my honour, uncle!"

He specified the hours of devotion to his uncle's recovery--no less than
twelve a day--that he intended to expend, and his cheery robustness
almost won his uncle to leap up recklessly and clutch health as his own.

"Mind," quoth Hippias, with a half-seduced smile, "mind your dishes are
not too savoury!"

"Light food and claret! Regular meals and amusement! Lend your heart to
all, but give it to none!" exclaims young Wisdom, and Hippias mutters,
"Yes! yes!" and intimates that the origin of his malady lay in his not
following that maxim earlier.

"Love ruins us, my dear boy," he said, thinking to preach Richard a
lesson, and Richard boisterously broke out:

       "The love of Monsieur Francatelli,
        It was the ruin of--et coetera."

Hippias blinked, exclaiming, "Really, my dear boy! I never saw you so
excited."

"It's the railway! It's the fun, uncle!"

"Ah!" Hippias wagged a melancholy head, "you've got the Golden Bride!
Keep her if you can. That's a pretty fable of your father's. I gave him
the idea, though. Austin filches a great many of my ideas!"

"Here's the idea in verse, uncle:

       'O sunless walkers by the tide!
        O have you seen the Golden Bride!
        They say that she is fair beyond
        All women; faithful, and more fond!

"You know, the young inquirer comes to a group of penitent sinners by the
brink of a stream. They howl, and answer:

        Faithful she is, but she forsakes:
        And fond, yet endless woe she makes:
        And fair! but with this curse she's cross'd;
        To know her not till she is lost!'

"Then the doleful party march off in single file solemnly, and the
fabulist pursues:

       'She hath a palace in the West:
        Bright Hesper lights her to her rest:
        And him the Morning Star awakes
        Whom to her charmed arms she takes.

        So lives he till he sees, alas!
        The maids of baser metal pass.'

"And prodigal of the happiness she lends him, he asks to share it with
one of them. There is the Silver Maid, and the Copper, and the Brassy
Maid, and others of them. First, you know, he tries Argentine, and finds
her only twenty to the pound, and has a worse experience with Copperina,
till he descends to the scullery; and the lower he goes, the less obscure
become the features of his Bride of Gold, and all her radiance shines
forth, my uncle."

"Verse rather blunts the point. Well, keep to her, now you've got her,"
says Hippias.

"We will, uncle!--Look how the farms fly past! Look at the cattle in the
fields! And how the lines duck, and swim up!

     'She claims the whole, and not the part--
     The coin of an unused heart!
     To gain his Golden Bride again,
     He hunts with melancholy men,'

--and is waked no longer by the Morning Star!"

"Not if he doesn't sleep till an hour before it rises!" Hippias
interjected. "You don't rhyme badly. But stick to prose. Poetry's a
Base-metal maid. I'm not sure that any writing's good for the digestion.
I'm afraid it has spoilt mine."

"Fear nothing, uncle!" laughed Richard. "You shall ride in the park with
me every day to get an appetite. You and I and the Golden Bride. You know
that little poem of Sandoe's?

     'She rides in the park on a prancing bay,
      She and her squires together;
     Her dark locks gleam from a bonnet of grey,
      And toss with the tossing feather.

     'Too calmly proud for a glance of pride
      Is the beautiful face as it passes;
     The cockneys nod to each other aside,
      The coxcombs lift their glasses.

     'And throng to her, sigh to her, you that can breach
      The ice-wall that guards her securely;
     You have not such bliss, though she smile on you each,
      As the heart that can image her purely.'

"Wasn't Sandoe once a friend of my father's? I suppose they quarrelled.
He understands the heart. What does he make his 'Humble Lover' say?

     'True, Madam, you may think to part
      Conditions by a glacier-ridge,
     But Beauty's for the largest heart,
      And all abysses Love can bridge!

"Hippias now laughed; grimly, as men laugh at the emptiness of words."

"Largest heart!" he sneered. "What's a 'glacier-ridge'? I've never seen
one. I can't deny it rhymes with 'bridge.' But don't go parading your
admiration of that person, Richard. Your father will speak to you on the
subject when he thinks fit."

"I thought they had quarrelled," said Richard. "What a pity!" and he
murmured to a pleased ear:

        "Beauty's for the largest heart!"

The flow of their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of
passengers at a station. Richard examined their faces with pleasure. All
faces pleased him. Human nature sat tributary at the feet of him and his
Golden Bride. As he could not well talk his thoughts before them, he
looked out at the windows, and enjoyed the changing landscape, projecting
all sorts of delights for his old friend Ripton, and musing hazily on the
wondrous things he was to do in the world; of the great service he was to
be to his fellow-creatures. In the midst of his reveries he was landed in
London. Tom Bakewell stood at the carriage door. A glance told Richard
that his squire had something curious on his mind; and he gave Tom the
word to speak out. Tom edged his master out of hearing, and began
sputtering a laugh.

"Dash'd if I can help it, sir!" he said. "That young Tom! He've come to
town dressed that spicy! and he don't know his way about no more than a
stag. He's come to fetch somebody from another rail, and he don't know
how to get there, and he ain't sure about which rail 'tis. Look at him,
Mr. Richard! There he goes."

Young Tom appeared to have the weight of all London on his beaver.

"Who has he come for?" Richard asked.

"Don't you know, sir? You don't like me to mention the name," mumbled
Tom, bursting to be perfectly intelligible.

"Is it for her, Tom?"

"Miss Lucy, sir."

Richard turned away, and was seized by Hippias, who begged him to get out
of the noise and pother, and caught hold of his slack arm to bear him
into a conveyance; but Richard, by wheeling half to the right, or left,
always got his face round to the point where young Tom was manoeuvring to
appear at his ease. Even when they were seated in the conveyance, Hippias
could not persuade him to drive off. He made the excuse that he did not
wish to start till there was a clear road. At last young Tom cast anchor
by a policeman, and, doubtless at the official's suggestion, bashfully
took seat in a cab, and was shot into the whirlpool of London. Richard
then angrily asked his driver what he was waiting for.

"Are you ill, my boy?" said Hippias. "Where's your colour?"

He laughed oddly, and made a random answer that he hoped the fellow would
drive fast.

"I hate slow motion after being in the railway," he said.

Hippias assured him there was something the matter with him.

"Nothing, uncle! nothing!" said Richard, looking fiercely candid.

They say, that when the skill and care of men rescue a drowned wretch
from extinction, and warm the flickering spirit into steady flame, such
pain it is, the blood forcing its way along the dry channels, and the
heavily-ticking nerves, and the sullen heart--the struggle of life and
death in him--grim death relaxing his gripe; such pain it is, he cries
out no thanks to them that pull him by inches from the depths of the dead
river. And he who has thought a love extinct, and is surprised by the old
fires, and the old tyranny, he rebels, and strives to fight clear of the
cloud of forgotten sensations that settle on him; such pain it is, the
old sweet music reviving through his frame, and the charm of his passion
filing him afresh. Still was fair Lucy the one woman to Richard. He had
forbidden her name but from an instinct of self-defence. Must the maids
of baser metal dominate him anew, it is in Lucy's shape. Thinking of her
now so near him--his darling! all her graces, her sweetness, her truth;
for, despite his bitter blame of her, he knew her true--swam in a
thousand visions before his eyes; visions pathetic, and full of glory,
that now wrung his heart, and now elated it. As well might a ship attempt
to calm the sea, as this young man the violent emotion that began to rage
in his breast. "I shall not see her!" he said to himself exultingly, and
at the same instant thought, how black was every corner of the earth but
that one spot where Lucy stood! how utterly cheerless the place he was
going to! Then he determined to bear it; to live in darkness; there was a
refuge in the idea of a voluntary martyrdom. "For if I chose I could see
her--this day within an hour!--I could see her, and touch her hand, and,
oh, heaven!--But I do not choose." And a great wave swelled through him,
and was crushed down only to swell again more stormily.

Then Tom Bakewell's words recurred to him that young Tom Blaize was
uncertain where to go for her, and that she might be thrown on this
Babylon alone. And flying from point to point, it struck him that they
had known at Raynham of her return, and had sent him to town to be out of
the way--they had been miserably plotting against him once more. "They
shall see what right they have to fear me. I'll shame them!" was the
first turn taken by his wrathful feelings, as he resolved to go, and see
her safe, and calmly return to his uncle, whom he sincerely believed not
to be one of the conspirators. Nevertheless, after forming that resolve,
he sat still, as if there were something fatal in the wheels that bore
him away from it--perhaps because he knew, as some do when passion is
lord, that his intelligence juggled with him; though none the less keenly
did he feel his wrongs and suspicions. His Golden Bride was waning fast.
But when Hippias ejaculated to cheer him: "We shall soon be there!" the
spell broke. Richard stopped the cab, saying he wanted to speak to Tom,
and would ride with him the rest of the journey. He knew well enough
which line of railway his Lucy must come by. He had studied every town
and station on the line. Before his uncle could express more than a mute
remonstrance, he jumped out and hailed Tom Bakewell, who came behind with
the boxes and baggage in a companion cab, his head a yard beyond the
window to make sure of his ark of safety, the vehicle preceding.

"What an extraordinary, impetuous boy it is," said Hippias. "We're in the
very street!"

Within a minute the stalwart Berry, despatched by the baronet to arrange
everything for their comfort, had opened the door, and made his bow.

"Mr. Richard, sir?--evaporated?" was Berry's modulated inquiry.

"Behind--among the boxes, fool!" Hippias growled, as he received Berry's
muscular assistance to alight. "Lunch ready--eh!"

"Luncheon was ordered precise at two o'clock, sir--been in attendance one
quarter of an hour. Heah!" Berry sang out to the second cab, which, with
its pyramid of luggage, remained stationary some thirty paces distant. At
his voice the majestic pile deliberately turned its back on them, and
went off in a contrary direction.



CHAPTER XXVI

On the stroke of the hour when Ripton Thompson was accustomed to consult
his gold watch for practical purposes, and sniff freedom and the
forthcoming dinner, a burglarious foot entered the clerk's office where
he sat, and a man of a scowling countenance, who looked a villain, and
whom he was afraid he knew, slid a letter into his hands, nodding that it
would be prudent for him to read, and be silent. Ripton obeyed in alarm.
Apparently the contents of the letter relieved his conscience; for he
reached down his hat, and told Mr. Beazley to inform his father that he
had business of pressing importance in the West, and should meet him at
the station. Mr. Beazley zealously waited upon the paternal Thompson
without delay, and together making their observations from the window,
they beheld a cab of many boxes, into which Ripton darted and was
followed by one in groom's dress. It was Saturday, the day when Ripton
gave up his law-readings, magnanimously to bestow himself upon his
family, and Mr. Thompson liked to have his son's arm as he walked down to
the station; but that third glass of Port which always stood for his
second, and the groom's suggestion of aristocratic acquaintances,
prevented Mr. Thompson from interfering: so Ripton was permitted to
depart.

In the cab Ripton made a study of the letter he held. It had the
preciseness of an imperial mandate.

Dear Ripton,--You are to get lodgings for a lady immediately. Not a word
to a soul. Then come along with Tom. R.D.F."

"Lodgings for a lady!" Ripton meditated aloud: "What sort of lodgings?
Where am I to get lodgings? Who's the lady?--I say!" he addressed the
mysterious messenger. "So you're Tom Bakewell, are you, Tom?"

Tom grinned his identity.

"Do you remember the rick, Tom? Ha! ha! We got out of that neatly. We
might all have been transported, though. I could have convicted you, Tom,
safe! It's no use coming across a practised lawyer. Now tell me." Ripton
having flourished his powers, commenced his examination: "Who's this
lady?"

"Better wait till you see Mr. Richard, sir," Tom resumed his scowl to
reply.

"Ah!" Ripton acquiesced. "Is she young, Tom?"

Tom said she was not old.

"Handsome, Tom?"

"Some might think one thing, some another," Tom said.

"And where does she come from now?" asked Ripton, with the friendly
cheerfulness of a baffled counsellor.

"Comes from the country, sir."

"A friend of the family, I suppose? a relation?"

Ripton left this insinuating query to be answered by a look. Tom's face
was a dead blank.

"Ah!" Ripton took a breath, and eyed the mask opposite him. "Why, you're
quite a scholar, Tom! Mr. Richard is well. All right at home?"

"Come to town this mornin' with his uncle," said Tom. "All well, thank
ye, sir."

"Ha!" cried Ripton, more than ever puzzled, "now I see. You all came to
town to-day, and these are your boxes outside. So, so! But Mr. Richard
writes for me to get lodgings for a lady. There must be some mistake--he
wrote in a hurry. He wants lodgings for you all--eh?"

"'M sure I d'n know what he wants," said Tom. "You'd better go by the
letter, sir."

Ripton re-consulted that document. "'Lodgings for a lady, and then come
along with Tom. Not a word to a soul.' I say! that looks like--but he
never cared for them. You don't mean to say, Tom, he's been running away
with anybody?"

Tom fell back upon his first reply: "Better wait till ye see Mr. Richard,
sir," and Ripton exclaimed: "Hanged if you ain't the tightest witness I
ever saw! I shouldn't like to have you in a box. Some of you country
fellows beat any number of cockneys. You do!"

Tom received the compliment stubbornly on his guard, and Ripton, as
nothing was to be got out of him, set about considering how to perform
his friend's injunctions; deciding firstly, that a lady fresh from the
country ought to lodge near the parks, in which direction he told the
cabman to drive. Thus, unaware of his high destiny, Ripton joined the
hero, and accepted his character in the New Comedy.

It is, nevertheless, true that certain favoured people do have beneficent
omens to prepare them for their parts when the hero is in full career, so
that they really may be nerved to meet him; ay, and to check him in his
course, had they that signal courage. For instance, Mrs. Elizabeth Berry,
a ripe and wholesome landlady of advertised lodgings, on the borders of
Kensington, noted, as she sat rocking her contemplative person before the
parlour fire this very March afternoon, a supernatural tendency in that
fire to burn all on one side: which signifies that a wedding approaches
the house. Why--who shall say? Omens are as impassable as heroes. It may
be because in these affairs the fire is thought to be all on one side.
Enough that the omen exists, and spoke its solemn warning to the devout
woman. Mrs. Berry, in her circle, was known as a certificated lecturer
against the snares of matrimony. Still that was no reason why she should
not like a wedding. Expectant, therefore, she watched the one glowing
cheek of Hymen, and with pleasing tremours beheld a cab of many boxes
draw up by her bit of garden, and a gentleman emerge from it in the set
of consulting an advertisement paper. The gentleman required lodgings for
a lady. Lodgings for a lady Mrs. Berry could produce, and a very roseate
smile for a gentleman; so much so that Ripton forgot to ask about the
terms, which made the landlady in Mrs. Berry leap up to embrace him as
the happy man. But her experienced woman's eye checked her enthusiasm. He
had not the air of a bridegroom: he did not seem to have a weight on his
chest, or an itch to twiddle everything with his fingers. At any rate, he
was not the bridegroom for whom omens fly abroad. Promising to have all
ready for the lady within an hour, Mrs. Berry fortified him with her
card, curtsied him back to his cab, and floated him off on her smiles.

The remarkable vehicle which had woven this thread of intrigue through
London streets, now proceeded sedately to finish its operations. Ripton
was landed at a hotel in Westminster. Ere he was halfway up the stairs, a
door opened, and his old comrade in adventure rushed down. Richard
allowed no time for salutations. "Have you done it?" was all he asked.
For answer Ripton handed him Mrs. Berry's card. Richard took it, and left
him standing there. Five minutes elapsed, and then Ripton heard the
gracious rustle of feminine garments above. Richard came a little in
advance, leading and half-supporting a figure in a black-silk mantle and
small black straw bonnet; young--that was certain, though she held her
veil so close he could hardly catch the outlines of her face; girlishly
slender, and sweet and simple in appearance. The hush that came with her,
and her soft manner of moving, stirred the silly youth to some of those
ardours that awaken the Knight of Dames in our bosoms. He felt that he
would have given considerable sums for her to lift her veil. He could see
that she was trembling--perhaps weeping. It was the master of her fate
she clung to. They passed him without speaking. As she went by, her head
passively bent, Ripton had a glimpse of noble tresses and a lovely neck;
great golden curls hung loosely behind, pouring from under her bonnet.
She looked a captive borne to the sacrifice. What Ripton, after a sight
of those curls, would have given for her just to lift her veil an instant
and strike him blind with beauty, was, fortunately for his exchequer,
never demanded of him. And he had absolutely been composing speeches as
he came along in the cab! gallant speeches for the lady, and sly
congratulatory ones for his friend, to be delivered as occasion should
serve, that both might know him a man of the world, and be at their ease.
He forgot the smirking immoralities he had revelled in. This was clearly
serious. Ripton did not require to be told that his friend was in love,
and meant that life and death business called marriage, parents and
guardians consenting or not.

Presently Richard returned to him, and said hurriedly, "I want you now to
go to my uncle at our hotel. Keep him quiet till I come. Say I had to see
you--say anything. I shall be there by the dinner hour. Rip! I must talk
to you alone after dinner."

Ripton feebly attempted to reply that he was due at home. He was very
curious to hear the plot of the New Comedy; and besides, there was
Richard's face questioning him sternly and confidently for signs of
unhesitating obedience. He finished his grimaces by asking the name and
direction of the hotel. Richard pressed his hand. It is much to obtain
even that recognition of our devotion from the hero.

Tom Bakewell also received his priming, and, to judge by his chuckles and
grins, rather appeared to enjoy the work cut out for him. In a few
minutes they had driven to their separate destinations; Ripton was left
to the unusual exercise of his fancy. Such is the nature of youth and its
thirst for romance, that only to act as a subordinate is pleasant. When
one unfurls the standard of defiance to parents and guardians, he may be
sure of raising a lawless troop of adolescent ruffians, born rebels, to
any amount. The beardless crew know that they have not a chance of pay;
but what of that when the rosy prospect of thwarting their elders is in
view? Though it is to see another eat the Forbidden Fruit, they will run
all his risks with him. Gaily Ripton took rank as lieutenant in the
enterprise, and the moment his heart had sworn the oaths, he was rewarded
by an exquisite sense of the charms of existence. London streets wore a
sly laugh to him. He walked with a dandified heel. The generous youth
ogled aristocratic carriages, and glanced intimately at the ladies,
overflowingly happy. The crossing-sweepers blessed him. He hummed lively
tunes, he turned over old jokes in his mouth unctuously, he hugged
himself, he had a mind to dance down Piccadilly, and all because a friend
of his was running away with a pretty girl, and he was in the secret.

It was only when he stood on the doorstep of Richard's hotel, that his
jocund mood was a little dashed by remembering that he had then to
commence the duties of his office, and must fabricate a plausible story
to account for what he knew nothing about--a part that the greatest of
sages would find it difficult to perform. The young, however, whom sages
well may envy, seldom fail in lifting their inventive faculties to the
level of their spirits, and two minutes of Hippias's angry complaints
against the friend he serenely inquired for, gave Ripton his cue.

"We're in the very street--within a stone's-throw of the house, and he
jumps like a harlequin out of my cab into another; he must be mad--that
boy's got madness in him!--and carries off all the boxes--my
dinner-pills, too! and keeps away the whole of the day, though he
promised to go to the doctor, and had a dozen engagements with me," said
Hippias, venting an enraged snarl to sum up his grievances.

Ripton at once told him that the doctor was not at home.

"Why, you don't mean to say he's been to the doctor?" Hippias cried out.

"He has called on him twice, sir," said Ripton, expressively. "On leaving
me he was going a third time. I shouldn't wonder that's what detains
him--he's so determined."

By fine degrees Ripton ventured to grow circumstantial, saying that
Richard's case was urgent and required immediate medical advice; and that
both he and his father were of opinion Richard should not lose an hour in
obtaining it.

"He's alarmed about himself," said Ripton, and tapped his chest.

Hippias protested he had never heard a word from his nephew of any
physical affliction.

"He was afraid of making you anxious, I think, sir."

Algernon Feverel and Richard came in while he was hammering at the
alphabet to recollect the first letter of the doctor's name. They had met
in the hall below, and were laughing heartily as they entered the room.
Ripton jumped up to get the initiative.

"Have you seen the doctor?" he asked, significantly plucking at Richard's
fingers.

Richard was all abroad at the question.

Algernon clapped him on the back. "What the deuce do you want with
doctor, boy?"

The solid thump awakened him to see matters as they were. "Oh, ay! the
doctor!" he said, smiling frankly at his lieutenant. "Why, he tells me
he'd back me to do Milo's trick in a week from the present day.--Uncle,"
he came forward to Hippias, "I hope you'll excuse me for running off as I
did. I was in a hurry. I left something at the railway. This stupid Rip
thinks I went to the doctor about myself. The fact was, I wanted to fetch
the doctor to see you here--so that you might have no trouble, you know.
You can't bear the sight of his instruments and skeletons--I've heard you
say so. You said it set all your marrow in revolt--'fried your marrow,' I
think were the words, and made you see twenty thousand different ways of
sliding down to the chambers of the Grim King. Don't you remember?"

Hippias emphatically did not remember, and he did not believe the story.
Irritation at the mad ravishment of his pill-box rendered him
incredulous. As he had no means of confuting his nephew, all he could do
safely to express his disbelief in him, was to utter petulant remarks on
his powerlessness to appear at the dinner-table that day: upon
which--Berry just then trumpeting dinner--Algernon seized one arm of the
Dyspepsy, and Richard another, and the laughing couple bore him into the
room where dinner was laid, Ripton sniggering in the rear, the really
happy man of the party.

They had fun at the dinner-table. Richard would have it; and his gaiety,
his by-play, his princely superiority to truth and heroic promise of
overriding all our laws, his handsome face, the lord and possessor of
beauty that he looked, as it were a star shining on his forehead, gained
the old complete mastery over Ripton, who had been, mentally at least,
half patronizing him till then, because he knew more of London and life,
and was aware that his friend now depended upon him almost entirely.

After a second circle of the claret, the hero caught his lieutenant's eye
across the table, and said:

"We must go out and talk over that law-business, Rip, before you go. Do
you think the old lady has any chance?"

"Not a bit!" said Ripton, authoritatively.

"But it's worth fighting--eh, Rip?"

"Oh, certainly!" was Ripton's mature opinion.

Richard observed that Ripton's father seemed doubtful. Ripton cited his
father's habitual caution. Richard made a playful remark on the necessity
of sometimes acting in opposition to fathers. Ripton agreed to it--in
certain cases.

"Yes, yes! in certain cases," said Richard.

"Pretty legal morality, gentlemen!" Algernon interjected; Hippias adding:
"And lay, too!"

The pair of uncles listened further to the fictitious dialogue, well kept
up on both sides, and in the end desired a statement of the old lady's
garrulous case; Hippias offering to decide what her chances were in law,
and Algernon to give a common-sense judgment.

"Rip will tell you," said Richard, deferentially signalling the lawyer.
"I'm a bad hand at these matters. Tell them how it stands, Rip."

Ripton disguised his excessive uneasiness under endeavours to right his
position on his chair, and, inwardly praying speed to the claret jug to
come and strengthen his wits, began with a careless aspect: "Oh, nothing!
She very curious old character! She--a--wears a wig. She--a--very curious
old character indeed! She--a--quite the old style. There's no doing
anything with her!" and Ripton took a long breath to relieve himself
after his elaborate fiction.

"So it appears," Hippias commented, and Algernon asked: "Well? and about
her wig? Somebody stole it?" while Richard, whose features were grim with
suppressed laughter, bade the narrator continue.

Ripton lunged for the claret jug. He had got an old lady like an
oppressive bundle on his brain, and he was as helpless as she was. In the
pangs of ineffectual authorship his ideas shot at her wig, and then at
her one characteristic of extreme obstinacy, and tore back again at her
wig, but she would not be animated. The obstinate old thing would remain
a bundle. Law studies seemed light in comparison with this tremendous
task of changing an old lady from a doll to a human creature. He flung
off some claret, perspired freely, and, with a mental tribute to the
cleverness of those author fellows, recommenced: "Oh, nothing!
She--Richard knows her better than I do--an old lady--somewhere down in
Suffolk. I think we had better advise her not to proceed. The expenses of
litigation are enormous! She--I think we had better advise her to stop
short, and not make any scandal."

"And not make any scandal!" Algernon took him up. "Come, come! there's
something more than a wig, then?"

Ripton was commanded to proceed, whether she did or no. The luckless
fictionist looked straight at his pitiless leader, and blurted out
dubiously, "She--there's a daughter."

"Born with effort!" ejaculated Hippias. "Must give her pause after that!
and I'll take the opportunity to stretch my length on the sofa. Heigho!
that's true what Austin says: 'The general prayer should be for a full
stomach, and the individual for one that works well; for on that basis
only are we a match for temporal matters, and able to contemplate
eternal.' Sententious, but true. I gave him the idea, though! Take care
of your stomachs, boys! and if ever you hear of a monument proposed to a
scientific cook or gastronomic doctor, send in your subscriptions. Or say
to him while he lives, Go forth, and be a Knight! Ha! They have a good
cook at this house. He suits me better than ours at Raynham. I almost
wish I had brought my manuscript to town, I feel so much better. Aha! I
didn't expect to digest at all without my regular incentive. I think I
shall give it up.--What do you say to the theatre to-night, boys!"

Richard shouted, "Bravo, uncle!"

"Let Mr. Thompson finish first," said Algernon. "I want to hear the
conclusion of the story. The old girl has a wig and a daughter. I'll
swear somebody runs away with one of the two! Fill your glass, Mr.
Thompson, and forward!"

"So somebody does," Ripton received his impetus. "And they're found in
town together," he made a fresh jerk. "She--a--that is, the old
lady--found them in company."

"She finds him with her wig on in company!" said Algernon. "Capital!
Here's matter for the lawyers!"

"And you advise her not to proceed, under such circumstances of
aggravation?" Hippias observed, humorously twinkling with his stomachic
contentment.

"It's the daughter," Ripton sighed, and surrendering to pressure, hurried
on recklessly, "A runaway match--beautiful girl!--the only son of a
baronet--married by special licence. A--the point is," he now brightened
and spoke from his own element, "the point is whether the marriage can be
annulled, as she's of the Catholic persuasion and he's a Protestant, and
they're both married under age. That's the point."

Having come to the point he breathed extreme relief, and saw things more
distinctly; not a little amazed at his leader's horrified face.

The two elders were making various absurd inquiries, when Richard sent
his chair to the floor, crying, "What a muddle you're in, Rip! You're
mixing half-a-dozen stories together. The old lady I told you about was
old Dame Bakewell, and the dispute was concerning a neighbour of hers who
encroached on her garden, and I said I'd pay the money to see her
righted!"

"Ah," said Ripton, humbly, "I was thinking of the other. Her garden!
Cabbages don't interest me"--

"Here, come along," Richard beckoned to him savagely. "I'll be back in
five minutes, uncle," he nodded coolly to either.

The young men left the room. In the hall-passage they met Berry, dressed
to return to Raynham. Richard dropped a helper to the intelligence into
his hand, and warned him not to gossip much of London. Berry bowed
perfect discreetness.

"What on earth induced you to talk about Protestants and Catholics
marrying, Rip?" said Richard, as soon as they were in the street.

"Why," Ripton answered, "I was so hard pushed for it, 'pon my honour, I
didn't know what to say. I ain't an author, you know; I can't make a
story. I was trying to invent a point, and I couldn't think of any other,
and I thought that was just the point likely to make a jolly good
dispute. Capital dinners they give at those crack hotels. Why did you
throw it all upon me? I didn't begin on the old lady."

The hero mused, "It's odd! It's impossible you could have known! I'll
tell you why, Rip! I wanted to try you. You fib well at long range, but
you don't do at close quarters and single combat. You're good behind
walls, but not worth a shot in the open. I just see what you're fit for.
You're staunch--that I am certain of. You always were. Lead the way to
one of the parks--down in that direction. You know?--where she is!"

Ripton led the way. His dinner had prepared this young Englishman to defy
the whole artillery of established morals. With the muffled roar of
London around them, alone in a dark slope of green, the hero, leaning on
his henchman, and speaking in a harsh clear undertone, delivered his
explanations. Doubtless the true heroic insignia and point of view will
be discerned, albeit in common private's uniform.

"They've been plotting against me for a year, Rip! When you see her,
you'll know what it was to have such a creature taken away from you. It
nearly killed me. Never mind what she is. She's the most perfect and
noble creature God ever made! It's not only her beauty--I don't care so
much about that!--but when you've once seen her, she seems to draw music
from all the nerves of your body; but she's such an angel. I worship her.
And her mind's like her face. She's pure gold. There, you'll see her
to-night.

"Well," he pursued, after inflating Ripton with this rapturous prospect,
"they got her away, and I recovered. It was Mister Adrian's work. What's
my father's objection to her? Because of her birth? She's educated; her
manners are beautiful--full of refinement--quick and soft! Can they show
me one of their ladies like her?--she's the daughter of a naval
lieutenant! Because she's a Catholic? What has religion to do with"--he
pronounced "Love!" a little modestly--as it were a blush in his voice.

"Well, when I recovered I thought I did not care for her. It shows how we
know ourselves! And I cared for nothing. I felt as if I had no blood. I
tried to imitate my dear Austin. I wish to God he were here. I love
Austin. He would understand her. He's coming back this year, and
then--but it'll be too late then.--Well, my father's always scheming to
make me perfect--he has never spoken to me a word about her, but I can
see her in his eyes--he wanted to give me a change, he said, and asked me
to come to town with my uncle Hippy, and I consented. It was another plot
to get me out of the way! As I live, I had no more idea of meeting her
than of flying to heaven!"

He lifted his face. "Look at those old elm branches! How they seem to mix
among the stars!--glittering fruits of Winter!"

Ripton tipped his comical nose upward, and was in duty bound to say, Yes!
though he observed no connection between them and the narrative.

"Well," the hero went on, "I came to town. There I heard she was coming,
too--coming home. It must have been fate, Ripton! Heaven forgive me! I
was angry with her, and I thought I should like to see her once--only
once--and reproach her for being false--for she never wrote to me. And,
oh, the dear angel! what she must have suffered!--I gave my uncle the
slip, and got to the railway she was coming by. There was a fellow going
to meet her--a farmer's son--and, good God! they were going to try and
make her marry him! I remembered it all then. A servant of the farm had
told me. That fellow went to the wrong station, I suppose, for we saw
nothing of him. There she was--not changed a bit!--looking lovelier than
ever! And when she saw me, I knew in a minute that she must love me till
death!--You don't know what it is yet, Rip!--Will you believe,
it?--Though I was as sure she loved me and had been true as steel, as
that I shall see her to-night, I spoke bitterly to her. And she bore it
meekly--she looked like a saint. I told her there was but one hope of
life for me--she must prove she was true, and as I give up all, so must
she. I don't know what I said. The thought of losing her made me mad. She
tried to plead with me to wait--it was for my sake, I know. I pretended,
like a miserable hypocrite, that she did not love me at all. I think I
said shameful things. Oh what noble creatures women are! She hardly had
strength to move. I took her to that place where you found us, Rip! she
went down on her knees to me, I never dreamed of anything in life so
lovely as she looked then. Her eyes were thrown up, bright with a crowd
of tears--her dark brows bent together, like Pain and Beauty meeting in
one; and her glorious golden hair swept off her shoulders as she hung
forward to my hands.--Could I lose such a prize.--If anything could have
persuaded me, would not that?--I thought of Dante's Madonna--Guido's
Magdalen.--Is there sin in it? I see none! And if there is, it's all
mine! I swear she's spotless of a thought of sin. I see her very soul?
Cease to love her? Who dares ask me? Cease to love her? Why, I live on
her!--To see her little chin straining up from her throat, as she knelt
to me!--there was one curl that fell across her throat"....

Ripton listened for more. Richard had gone off in a muse at the picture.

"Well?" said Ripton, "and how about that young farmer fellow?"

The hero's head was again contemplating the starry branches. His
lieutenant's question came to him after an interval.

"Young Tom? Why, it's young Torn Blaize--son of our old enemy, Rip! I
like the old man now. Oh! I saw nothing of the fellow."

"Lord!" cried Ripton, "are we going to get into a mess with Blaizes
again? I don't like that!"

His commander quietly passed his likes or dislikes.

"But when he goes to the train, and finds she's not there?" Ripton
suggested.

"I've provided for that. The fool went to the South-east instead of the
South-west. All warmth, all sweetness, comes with the South-west!--I've
provided for that, friend Rip. My trusty Tom awaits him there, as if by
accident. He tells him he has not seen her, and advises him to remain in
town, and go for her there to-morrow, and the day following. Tom has
money for the work. Young Tom ought to see London, you know, Rip!--like
you. We shall gain some good clear days. And when old Blaize hears of
it--what then? I have her! she's mine!--Besides, he won't hear for a
week. This Tom beats that Tom in cunning, I'll wager. Ha! ha!" the hero
burst out at a recollection. "What do you think, Rip? My father has some
sort of System with me, it appears, and when I came to town the time
before, he took me to some people--the Grandisons--and what do you think?
one of the daughters is a little girl--a nice little thing enough very
funny--and he wants me to wait for her! He hasn't said so, but I know it.
I know what he means. Nobody understands him but me. I know he loves me,
and is one of the best of men--but just consider!--a little girl who just
comes up to my elbow. Isn't it ridiculous? Did you ever hear such
nonsense?"

Ripton emphasized his opinion that it certainly was foolish.

"No, no! The die's cast!" said Richard. "They've been plotting for a year
up to this day, and this is what comes of it! If my father loves me, he
will love her. And if he loves me, he'll forgive my acting against his
wishes, and see it was the only thing to be done. Come! step out! what a
time we've been!" and away he went, compelling Ripton to the sort of
strides a drummer-boy has to take beside a column of grenadiers.

Ripton began to wish himself in love, seeing that it endowed a man with
wind so that he could breathe great sighs, while going at a tremendous
pace, and experience no sensation of fatigue. The hero was communing with
the elements, his familiars, and allowed him to pant as he pleased. Some
keen-eyed Kensington urchins, noticing the discrepancy between the
pedestrian powers of the two, aimed their wit at Mr. Thompson junior's
expense. The pace, and nothing but the pace, induced Ripton to proclaim
that they had gone too far, when they discovered that they had over shot
the mark by half a mile. In the street over which stood love's star, the
hero thundered his presence at a door, and evoked a flying housemaid, who
knew not Mrs. Berry. The hero attached significance to the fact that his
instincts should have betrayed him, for he could have sworn to that
house. The door being shut he stood in dead silence.

"Haven't you got her card?" Ripton inquired, and heard that it was in the
custody of the cabman. Neither of them could positively bring to mind the
number of the house.

"You ought to have chalked it, like that fellow in the Forty Thieves,"
Ripton hazarded a pleasantry which met with no response.

Betrayed by his instincts, the magic slaves of Love! The hero heavily
descended the steps.

Ripton murmured that they were done for. His commander turned on him, and
said: "Take all the houses on the opposite side, one after another. I'll
take these." With a wry face Ripton crossed the road, altogether subdued
by Richard's native superiority to adverse circumstances.

Then were families aroused. Then did mortals dimly guess that something
portentous was abroad. Then were labourers all day in the vineyard,
harshly wakened from their evening's nap. Hope and Fear stalked the
street, as again and again the loud companion summonses resounded.
Finally Ripton sang out cheerfully. He had Mrs. Berry before him, profuse
of mellow curtsies.

Richard ran to her and caught her hands: "She's well?--upstairs?"

"Oh, quite well! only a trifle tired with her journey, and
fluttering-like," Mrs. Berry replied to Ripton alone. The lover had flown
aloft.

The wise woman sagely ushered Ripton into her own private parlour, there
to wait till he was wanted.



CHAPTER XXVII

"In all cases where two have joined to commit an offence, punish one of
the two lightly," is the dictum of The Pilgrim's's Scrip.

It is possible for young heads to conceive proper plans of action, and
occasionally, by sheer force of will, to check the wild horses that are
ever fretting to gallop off with them. But when they have given the reins
and the whip to another, what are they to do? They may go down on their
knees, and beg and pray the furious charioteer to stop, or moderate his
pace. Alas! each fresh thing they do redoubles his ardour: There is a
power in their troubled beauty women learn the use of, and what wonder?
They have seen it kindle Ilium to flames so often! But ere they grow
matronly in the house of Menelaus, they weep, and implore, and do not, in
truth, know how terribly two-edged is their gift of loveliness. They
resign themselves to an incomprehensible frenzy; pleasant to them,
because they attribute it to excessive love. And so the very sensible
things which they can and do say, are vain.

I reckon it absurd to ask them to be quite in earnest. Are not those
their own horses in yonder team? Certainly, if they were quite in
earnest, they might soon have my gentleman as sober as a carter. A
hundred different ways of disenchanting him exist, and Adrian will point
you out one or two that shall be instantly efficacious. For Love, the
charioteer, is easily tripped, while honest jog-trot Love keeps his legs
to the end. Granted dear women are not quite in earnest, still the mere
words they utter should be put to their good account. They do mean them,
though their hearts are set the wrong way. 'Tis a despairing, pathetic
homage to the judgment of the majority, in whose faces they are flying.
Punish Helen, very young, lightly. After a certain age you may select her
for special chastisement. An innocent with Theseus, with Paris she is an
advanced incendiary.

The fair young girl was sitting as her lover had left her; trying to
recall her stunned senses. Her bonnet was un-removed, her hands clasped
on her knees; dry tears in her eyes. Like a dutiful slave, she rose to
him. And first he claimed her mouth. There was a speech, made up of all
the pretty wisdom her wild situation and true love could gather, awaiting
him there; but his kiss scattered it to fragments. She dropped to her
seat weeping, and hiding her shamed cheeks.

By his silence she divined his thoughts, and took his hand and drew it to
her lips.

He bent beside her, bidding her look at him.

"Keep your eyes so."

She could not.

"Do you fear me, Lucy?"

A throbbing pressure answered him.

"Do you love me, darling?"

She trembled from head to foot.

"Then why do you turn from me?"

She wept: "O Richard, take me home! take me home!"

"Look at me, Lucy!"

Her head shrank timidly round.

"Keep your eyes on me, darling! Now speak!"

But she could not look and speak too. The lover knew his mastery when he
had her eyes.

"You wish me to take you home?"

She faltered: "O Richard? it is not too late."

"You regret what you have done for me?"

"Dearest! it is ruin."

"You weep because you have consented to be mine?"

"Not for me! O Richard!"

"For me you weep? Look at me! For me?"

"How will it end! O Richard!"

"You weep for me?"

"Dearest! I would die for you!"

"Would you see me indifferent to everything in the world? Would you have
me lost? Do you think I will live another day in England without you? I
have staked all I have on you, Lucy. You have nearly killed me once. A
second time, and the earth will not be troubled by me. You ask me to
wait, when they are plotting against us on all sides? Darling Lucy! look
on me. Fix--your fond eyes on me. You ask me to wait when here you are
given to me when you have proved my faith--when we know we love as none
have loved. Give me your eyes! Let them tell me I have your heart!"

Where was her wise little speech? How could she match such mighty
eloquence? She sought to collect a few more of the scattered fragments.

"Dearest! your father may be brought to consent by and by, and then--oh!
if you take me home now"--

The lover stood up. "He who has been arranging that fine scheme to
disgrace and martyrize you? True, as I live! that's the reason of their
having you back. Your old servant heard him and your uncle discussing it.
He!--Lucy! he's a good man, but he must not step in between you and me. I
say God has given you to me."

He was down by her side again, his arms enfolding her.

She had hoped to fight a better battle than in the morning, and she was
weaker and softer.

Ah! why should she doubt that his great love was the first law to her?
Why should she not believe that she would wreck him by resisting? And if
she suffered, oh sweet to think it was for his sake! Sweet to shut out
wisdom; accept total blindness, and be led by him!

The hag Wisdom annoyed them little further. She rustled her garments
ominously, and vanished.

"Oh, my own Richard!" the fair girl just breathed.

He whispered, "Call me that name."

She blushed deeply.

"Call me that name," he repeated. "You said it once today."

"Dearest!"

Not that."

"O darling!"

"Not that."

"Husband!"

She was won. The rosy gate from which the word had issued was closed with
a seal.

Ripton did not enjoy his introduction to the caged bird of beauty that
night. He received a lesson in the art of pumping from the worthy
landlady below, up to an hour when she yawned, and he blinked, and their
common candle wore with dignity the brigand's hat of midnight, and cocked
a drunken eye at them from under it.



CHAPTER XXVIII

Beauty, of course, is for the hero. Nevertheless, it is not always he on
whom beauty works its most conquering influence. It is the dull
commonplace man into whose slow brain she drops like a celestial light,
and burns lastingly. The poet, for instance, is a connoisseur of beauty:
to the artist she is a model. These gentlemen by much contemplation of
her charms wax critical. The days when they had hearts being gone, they
are haply divided between the blonde and the brunette; the aquiline nose
and the Proserpine; this shaped eye and that. But go about among simple
unprofessional fellows, boors, dunderheads, and here and there you shall
find some barbarous intelligence which has had just strength enough to
conceive, and has taken Beauty as its Goddess, and knows but one form to
worship, in its poor stupid fashion, and would perish for her. Nay, more:
the man would devote all his days to her, though he is dumb as a dog.
And, indeed, he is Beauty's Dog. Almost every Beauty has her Dog. The
hero possesses her; the poet proclaims her; the painter puts her upon
canvas; and the faithful Old Dog follows her: and the end of it all is
that the faithful Old Dog is her single attendant. Sir Hero is revelling
in the wars, or in Armida's bowers; Mr. Poet has spied a wrinkle; the
brush is for the rose in its season. She turns to her Old Dog then. She
hugs him; and he, who has subsisted on a bone and a pat till there he
squats decrepit, he turns his grateful old eyes up to her, and has not a
notion that she is hugging sad memories in him: Hero, Poet, Painter, in
one scrubby one! Then is she buried, and the village hears languid howls,
and there is a paragraph in the newspapers concerning the extraordinary
fidelity of an Old Dog.

Excited by suggestive recollections of Nooredeen and the Fair Persian,
and the change in the obscure monotony of his life by his having quarters
in a crack hotel, and living familiarly with West-End people--living on
the fat of the land (which forms a stout portion of an honest youth's
romance), Ripton Thompson breakfasted next morning with his chief at
half-past eight. The meal had been fixed overnight for seven, but Ripton
slept a great deal more than the nightingale, and (to chronicle his exact
state) even half-past eight rather afflicted his new aristocratic senses
and reminded him too keenly of law and bondage. He had preferred to
breakfast at Algernon's hour, who had left word for eleven. Him, however,
it was Richard's object to avoid, so they fell to, and Ripton no longer
envied Hippias in bed. Breakfast done, they bequeathed the consoling
information for Algernon that they were off to hear a popular preacher,
and departed.

"How happy everybody looks!" said Richard, in the quiet Sunday streets.

"Yes--jolly!" said Ripton.

"When I'm--when this is over, I'll see that they are, too--as many as I
can make happy," said the hero; adding softly: "Her blind was down at a
quarter to six. I think she slept well!"

"You've been there this morning?" Ripton exclaimed; and an idea of what
love was dawned upon his dull brain.

"Will she see me, Ricky?"

"Yes. She'll see you to-day. She was tired last night."

"Positively?"

Richard assured him that the privilege would be his.

"Here," he said, coming under some trees in the park, "here's where I
talked to you last night. What a time it seems! How I hate the night!"

On the way, that Richard might have an exalted opinion of him, Ripton
hinted decorously at a somewhat intimate and mysterious acquaintance with
the sex. Headings of certain random adventures he gave.

"Well!" said his chief, "why not marry her?"

Then was Ripton shocked, and cried, "Oh!" and had a taste of the feeling
of superiority, destined that day to be crushed utterly.

He was again deposited in Mrs. Berry's charge for a term that caused him
dismal fears that the Fair Persian still refused to show her face, but
Richard called out to him, and up Ripton went, unaware of the
transformation he was to undergo. Hero and Beauty stood together to
receive him. From the bottom of the stairs he had his vivaciously
agreeable smile ready for them, and by the time he entered the room his
cheeks were painfully stiff, and his eyes had strained beyond their exact
meaning. Lucy, with one hand anchored to her lover, welcomed him kindly.
He relieved her shyness by looking so extremely silly. They sat down, and
tried to commence a conversation, but Ripton was as little master of his
tongue as he was of his eyes. After an interval, the Fair Persian having
done duty by showing herself, was glad to quit the room. Her lord and
possessor then turned inquiringly to Ripton.

"You don't wonder now, Rip?" he said.

"No, Richard!" Ripton waited to reply with sufficient solemnity, "indeed
I don't!"

He spoke differently; he looked differently. He had the Old Dog's eyes in
his head. They watched the door she had passed through; they listened for
her, as dogs' eyes do. When she came in, bonneted for a walk, his
agitation was dog-like. When she hung on her lover timidly, and went
forth, he followed without an idea of envy, or anything save the secret
raptures the sight of her gave him, which are the Old Dog's own. For
beneficent Nature requites him: His sensations cannot be heroic, but they
have a fulness and a wagging delight as good in their way. And this
capacity for humble unaspiring worship has its peculiar guerdon. When
Ripton comes to think of Miss Random now, what will he think of himself?
Let no one despise the Old Dog. Through him doth Beauty vindicate her
sex.

It did not please Ripton that others should have the bliss of beholding
her, and as, to his perceptions, everybody did, and observed her
offensively, and stared, and turned their heads back, and interchanged
comments on her, and became in a minute madly in love with her, he had to
smother low growls. They strolled about the pleasant gardens of
Kensington all the morning, under the young chestnut buds, and round the
windless waters, talking, and soothing the wild excitement of their
hearts. If Lucy spoke, Ripton pricked up his ears. She, too, made the
remark that everybody seemed to look happy, and he heard it with thrills
of joy. "So everybody is, where you are!" he would have wished to say, if
he dared, but was restrained by fears that his burning eloquence would
commit him. Ripton knew the people he met twice. It would have been
difficult to persuade him they were the creatures of accident.

From the Gardens, in contempt of Ripton's frowned protest, Richard boldly
struck into the park, where solitary carriages were beginning to perform
the circuit. Here Ripton had some justification for his jealous pangs.
The young girl's golden locks of hair; her sweet, now dreamily sad, face;
her gentle graceful figure in the black straight dress she wore; a sort
of half-conventual air she had--a mark of something not of class, that
was partly beauty's, partly maiden innocence growing conscious, partly
remorse at her weakness and dim fear of the future it was sowing--did
attract the eye-glasses. Ripton had to learn that eyes are bearable, but
eye-glasses an abomination. They fixed a spell upon his courage; for
somehow the youth had always ranked them as emblems of our nobility, and
hearing two exquisite eye-glasses, who had been to front and rear several
times, drawl in gibberish generally imputed to lords, that his heroine
was a charming little creature, just the size, but had no style,--he was
abashed; he did not fly at them and tear them. He became dejected.
Beauty's dog is affected by the eye-glass in a manner not unlike the
common animal's terror of the human eye.

Richard appeared to hear nothing, or it was homage that he heard. He
repeated to Lucy Diaper Sandoe's verses--

     "The cockneys nod to each other aside,
     The coxcombs lift their glasses,"

and projected hiring a horse for her to ride every day in the park, and
shine among the highest.

They had turned to the West, against the sky glittering through the bare
trees across the water, and the bright-edged rack. The lover, his
imagination just then occupied in clothing earthly glories in celestial,
felt where his senses were sharpest the hand of his darling falter, and
instinctively looked ahead. His uncle Algernon was leisurely jolting
towards them on his one sound leg. The dismembered Guardsman talked to a
friend whose arm supported him, and speculated from time to time on the
fair ladies driving by. The two white faces passed him unobserved.
Unfortunately Ripton, coming behind, went plump upon the Captain's live
toe--or so he pretended, crying, "Confound it, Mr. Thompson! you might
have chosen the other."

The horrible apparition did confound Ripton, who stammered that it was
extraordinary.

"Not at all," said Algernon. "Everybody makes up to that fellow.
Instinct, I suppose!"

He had not to ask for his nephew. Richard turned to face the matter.

"Sorry I couldn't wait for you this morning, uncle," he said, with the
coolness of relationship. "I thought you never walked so far."

His voice was in perfect tone--the heroic mask admirable.

Algernon examined the downcast visage at his side, and contrived to
allude to the popular preacher. He was instantly introduced to Ripton's
sister, Miss Thompson.

The Captain bowed, smiling melancholy approval of his nephew's choice of
a minister. After a few stray remarks, and an affable salute to Miss
Thompson, he hobbled away, and then the three sealed volcanoes breathed,
and Lucy's arm ceased to be squeezed quite so much up to the heroic
pitch.

This incident quickened their steps homeward to the sheltering wings of
Mrs. Berry. All that passed between them on the subject comprised a
stammered excuse from Ripton for his conduct, and a good-humoured
rejoinder from Richard, that he had gained a sister by it: at which
Ripton ventured to wish aloud Miss Desborough would only think so, and a
faint smile twitched poor Lucy's lips to please him. She hardly had
strength to reach her cage. She had none to eat of Mrs. Berry's nice
little dinner. To be alone, that she might cry and ease her heart of its
accusing weight of tears, was all she prayed for. Kind Mrs. Berry,
slipping into her bedroom to take off her things, found the fair body in
a fevered shudder, and finished by undressing her completely and putting
her to bed.

"Just an hour's sleep, or so," the mellifluous woman explained the case
to the two anxious gentlemen. "A quiet sleep and a cup of warm tea goes
for more than twenty doctors, it do--when there's the flutters," she
pursued. "I know it by myself. And a good cry beforehand's better than
the best of medicine."

She nursed them into a make-believe of eating, and retired to her softer
charge and sweeter babe, reflecting, "Lord! Lord! the three of 'em don't
make fifty! I'm as old as two and a half of 'em, to say the least." Mrs.
Berry used her apron, and by virtue of their tender years took them all
three into her heart.

Left alone, neither of the young men could swallow a morsel.

"Did you see the change come over her?" Richard whispered.

Ripton fiercely accused his prodigious stupidity.

The lover flung down his knife and fork: "What could I do? If I had said
nothing, we should have been suspected. I was obliged to speak. And she
hates a lie! See! it has struck her down. God forgive me!"

Ripton affected a serene mind: "It was a fright, Richard," he said.
"That's what Mrs. Berry means by flutters. Those old women talk in that
way. You heard what she said. And these old women know. I'll tell you
what it is. It's this, Richard!--it's because you've got a fool for your
friend!"

"She regrets it," muttered the lover. "Good God! I think she fears me."
He dropped his face in his hands.

Ripton went to the window, repeating energetically for his comfort: "It's
because you've got a fool for your friend!"

Sombre grew the street they had last night aroused. The sun was buried
alive in cloud. Ripton saw himself no more in the opposite window. He
watched the deplorable objects passing on the pavement. His aristocratic
visions had gone like his breakfast. Beauty had been struck down by his
egregious folly, and there he stood--a wretch!

Richard came to him: "Don't mumble on like that, Rip!" he said. "Nobody
blames you."

"Ah! you're very kind, Richard," interposed the wretch, moved at the face
of misery he beheld.

"Listen to me, Rip! I shall take her home to-night. Yes! If she's happier
away from me!--do you think me a brute, Ripton? Rather than have her shed
a tear, I'd!--I'll take her home to-night!"

Ripton suggested that it was sudden; adding from his larger experience,
people perhaps might talk.

The lover could not understand what they should talk about, but he said:
"If I give him who came for her yesterday the clue? If no one sees or
hears of me, what can they say? O Rip! I'll give her up. I'm wrecked for
ever! What of that? Yes--let them take her! The world in arms should
never have torn her from me, but when she cries--Yes! all's over. I'll
find him at once."

He searched in out-of-the-way corners for the hat of resolve. Ripton
looked on, wretcheder than ever.

The idea struck him:--"Suppose, Richard, she doesn't want to go?"

It was a moment when, perhaps, one who sided with parents and guardians
and the old wise world, might have inclined them to pursue their
righteous wretched course, and have given small Cupid a smack and sent
him home to his naughty Mother. Alas!(it is The Pilgrim's Scrip
interjecting) women are the born accomplices of mischief! In bustles Mrs.
Berry to clear away the refection, and finds the two knights helmed, and
sees, though 'tis dusk, that they wear doubtful brows, and guesses bad
things for her dear God Hymen in a twinkling.

"Dear! dear!" she exclaimed, "and neither of you eaten a scrap! And
there's my dear young lady off into the prettiest sleep you ever see!"

"Ha?" cried the lover, illuminated.

"Soft as a baby!" Mrs. Berry averred. "I went to look at her this very
moment, and there's not a bit of trouble in her breath. It come and it go
like the sweetest regular instrument ever made. The Black Ox haven't trod
on her foot yet! Most like it was the air of London. But only fancy, if
you had called in a doctor! Why, I shouldn't have let her take any of his
quackery. Now, there!"

Ripton attentively observed his chief, and saw him doff his hat with a
curious caution, and peer into its recess, from which, during Mrs.
Berry's speech, he drew forth a little glove--dropped there by some freak
of chance.

"Keep me, keep me, now you have me!" sang the little glove, and amused
the lover with a thousand conceits.

"When will she wake, do you think, Mrs. Berry?" he asked.

"Oh! we mustn't go for disturbing her," said the guileful good creature.
"Bless ye! let her sleep it out. And if you young gentlemen was to take
my advice, and go and take a walk for to get a appetite--everybody should
eat! it's their sacred duty, no matter what their feelings be! and I say
it who'm no chicken!--I'll frickashee this--which is a chicken--against
your return. I'm a cook, I can assure ye!"

The lover seized her two hands. "You're the best old soul in the world!"
he cried. Mrs. Berry appeared willing to kiss him. "We won't disturb her.
Let her sleep. Keep her in bed, Mrs. Berry. Will you? And we'll call to
inquire after her this evening, and come and see her to-morrow. I'm sure
you'll be kind to her. There! there!" Mrs. Berry was preparing to
whimper. "I trust her to you, you see. Good-bye, you dear old soul."

He smuggled a handful of gold into her keeping, and went to dine with his
uncles, happy and hungry.

Before they reached the hotel, they had agreed to draw Mrs. Berry into
their confidence, telling her (with embellishments) all save their names,
so that they might enjoy the counsel and assistance of that trump of a
woman, and yet have nothing to fear from her. Lucy was to receive the
name of Letitia, Ripton's youngest and best-looking sister. The heartless
fellow proposed it in cruel mockery of an old weakness of hers.

"Letitia!" mused Richard. "I like the name. Both begin with L. There's
something soft--womanlike--in the L.'s."

Material Ripton remarked that they looked like pounds on paper. The lover
roamed through his golden groves. "Lucy Feverel! that sounds better! I
wonder where Ralph is. I should like to help him. He's in love with my
cousin Clare. He'll never do anything till he marries. No man can. I'm
going to do a hundred things when it's over. We shall travel first. I
want to see the Alps. One doesn't know what the earth is till one has
seen the Alps. What a delight it will be to her! I fancy I see her eyes
gazing up at them.

  'And oh, your dear blue eyes, that heavenward glance
    With kindred beauty, banished humbleness,
    Past weeping for mortality's distress--
   Yet from your soul a tear hangs there in trance.
     And fills, but does not fall;
     Softly I hear it call
   At heaven's gate, till Sister Seraphs press
   To look on you their old love from the skies:
   Those are the eyes of Seraphs bright on your blue eyes!

"Beautiful! These lines, Rip, were written by a man who was once a friend
of my father's. I intend to find him and make them friends again. You
don't care for poetry. It's no use your trying to swallow it, Rip!"

"It sounds very nice," said Ripton, modestly shutting his mouth.

"The Alps! Italy! Rome! and then I shall go to the East," the hero
continued. "She's ready to go anywhere with me, the dear brave heart! Oh,
the glorious golden East! I dream of the desert. I dream I'm chief of an
Arab tribe, and we fly all white in the moonlight on our mares, and hurry
to the rescue of my darling! And we push the spears, and we scatter them,
and I come to the tent where she crouches, and catch her to my saddle,
and away!--Rip! what a life!"

Ripton strove to imagine he could enjoy it.

"And then we shall come home, and I shall lead Austin's life, with her to
help me. First be virtuous, Rip! and then serve your country heart and
soul. A wise man told me that. I think I shall do something."

Sunshine and cloud, cloud and sunshine, passed over the lover. Now life
was a narrow ring; now the distances extended, were winged, flew
illimitably. An hour ago and food was hateful. Now he manfully refreshed
his nature, and joined in Algernon's encomiums on Miss Letitia Thompson.

Meantime Beauty slept, watched by the veteran volunteer of the hero's
band. Lucy awoke from dreams which seemed reality, to the reality which
was a dream. She awoke calling for some friend, "Margaret!" and heard one
say, "My name is Bessy Berry, my love! not Margaret." Then she asked
piteously where she was, and where was Margaret, her dear friend, and
Mrs. Berry whispered, "Sure you've got a dearer!"

"Ah!" sighed Lucy, sinking on her pillow, overwhelmed by the strangeness
of her state.

Mrs. Berry closed the frill of her nightgown and adjusted the bedclothes
quietly.

Her name was breathed.

"Yes, my love?" she said.

"Is he here?"

"He's gone, my dear."

"Gone?--Oh, where?" The young girl started up in disorder.

"Gone, to be back, my love! Ah! that young gentleman!" Mrs. Berry
chanted: "Not a morsel have he eat; not a drop have he drunk!"

"O Mrs. Berry! why did you not make him?" Lucy wept for the famine-struck
hero, who was just then feeding mightily.

Mrs. Berry explained that to make one eat who thought the darling of his
heart like to die, was a sheer impossibility for the cleverest of women;
and on this deep truth Lucy reflected, with her eyes wide at the candle.
She wanted one to pour her feelings out to. She slid her hand from under
the bedclothes, and took Mrs. Berry's, and kissed it. The good creature
required no further avowal of her secret, but forthwith leaned her
consummate bosom to the pillow, and petitioned heaven to bless them
both!--Then the little bride was alarmed, and wondered how Mrs. Berry
could have guessed it.

"Why," said Mrs. Berry, "your love is out of your eyes, and out of
everything ye do." And the little bride wondered more. She thought she
had been so very cautious not to betray it. The common woman in them made
cheer together after their own April fashion. Following which Mrs. Berry
probed for the sweet particulars of this beautiful love-match; but the
little bride's lips were locked. She only said her lover was above her in
station.

"And you're a Catholic, my dear!"

"Yes, Mrs. Berry!"

"And him a Protestant."

"Yes, Mrs. Berry!"

"Dear, dear!--And why shouldn't ye be?" she ejaculated, seeing sadness
return to the bridal babe. "So as you was born, so shall ye be! But
you'll have to make your arrangements about the children. The girls to
worship with yet, the boys with him. It's the same God, my dear! You
mustn't blush at it, though you do look so pretty. If my young gentleman
could see you now!"

"Please, Mrs. Berry!" Lucy murmured.

"Why, he will, you know, my dear!"

"Oh, please, Mrs. Berry!"

"And you that can't bear the thoughts of it! Well, I do wish there was
fathers and mothers on both sides and dock-ments signed, and bridesmaids,
and a breakfast! but love is love, and ever will be, in spite of them."

She made other and deeper dives into the little heart, but though she
drew up pearls, they were not of the kind she searched for. The one fact
that hung as a fruit upon her tree of Love, Lucy had given her; she would
not, in fealty to her lover, reveal its growth and history, however sadly
she yearned to pour out all to this dear old Mother Confessor.

Her conduct drove Mrs. Berry from the rosy to the autumnal view of
matrimony, generally heralded by the announcement that it is a lottery.

"And when you see your ticket," said Mrs. Berry, "you shan't know whether
it's a prize or a blank. And, Lord knows! some go on thinking it's a
prize when it turns on 'em and tears 'em. I'm one of the blanks, my dear!
I drew a blank in Berry. He was a black Berry to me, my dear! Smile away!
he truly was, and I a-prizin' him as proud as you can conceive! My dear!"
Mrs. Berry pressed her hands flat on her apron. "We hadn't been a three
months man and wife, when that man--it wasn't the honeymoon, which some
can't say--that man--Yes! he kicked me. His wedded wife he kicked! Ah!"
she sighed to Lucy's large eyes, "I could have borne that. A blow don't
touch the heart," the poor creature tapped her sensitive side. "I went on
loving of him, for I'm a soft one. Tall as a Grenadier he is, and when
out of service grows his moustache. I used to call him my body-guardsman
like a Queen! I flattered him like the fools we women are. For, take my
word for it, my dear, there's nothing here below so vain as a man! That I
know. But I didn't deserve it.... I'm a superior cook .... I did not
deserve that noways." Mrs. Berry thumped her knee, and accentuated up her
climax: "I mended his linen. I saw to his adornments--he called his
clothes, the bad man! I was a servant to him, my dear! and there--it was
nine months--nine months from the day he swear to protect and cherish and
that--nine calendar months, and my gentleman is off with another woman!
Bone of his bone!--pish!" exclaimed Mrs. Berry, reckoning her wrongs over
vividly. "Here's my ring. A pretty ornament! What do it mean? I'm for
tearin' it off my finger a dozen times in the day. It's a symbol? I call
it a tomfoolery for the dead-alive to wear it, that's a widow and not a
widow, and haven't got a name for what she is in any Dixonary, I've
looked, my dear, and"--she spread out her arms--"Johnson haven't got a
name for me!"

At this impressive woe Mrs. Berry's voice quavered into sobs. Lucy spoke
gentle words to the poor outcast from Johnson. The sorrows of Autumn have
no warning for April. The little bride, for all her tender pity, felt
happier when she had heard her landlady's moving tale of the wickedness
of man, which cast in bright relief the glory of that one hero who was
hers. Then from a short flight of inconceivable bliss, she fell, shot by
one of her hundred Argus-eyed fears.

"O Mrs. Berry! I'm so young! Think of me--only just seventeen!"

Mrs. Berry immediately dried her eyes to radiance. "Young, my dear!
Nonsense! There's no so much harm in being young, here and there. I knew
an Irish lady was married at fourteen. Her daughter married close over
fourteen. She was a grandmother by thirty! When any strange man began,
she used to ask him what pattern caps grandmothers wore. They'd stare!
Bless you! the grandmother could have married over and over again. It was
her daughter's fault, not hers, you know."

"She was three years younger," mused Lucy.

"She married beneath her, my dear. Ran off with her father's bailiff's
son. 'Ah, Berry!' she'd say, 'if I hadn't been foolish, I should be my
lady now--not Granny!' Her father never forgave her--left all his estates
out of the family."

"Did her husband always love her?" Lucy preferred to know.

"In his way, my dear, he did," said Mrs. Berry, coming upon her
matrimonial wisdom. "He couldn't help himself. If he left off, he began
again. She was so clever, and did make him so comfortable. Cook! there
wasn't such another cook out of a Alderman's kitchen; no, indeed! And she
a born lady! That tells ye it's the duty of all women! She had her saying
'When the parlour fire gets low, put coals on the ketchen fire!' and a
good saying it is to treasure. Such is man! no use in havin' their hearts
if ye don't have their stomachs."

Perceiving that she grew abstruse, Mrs. Berry added briskly: "You know
nothing about that yet, my dear. Only mind me and mark me: don't neglect
your cookery. Kissing don't last: cookery do!"

Here, with an aphorism worthy a place in The Pilgrim'S Scrip, she broke
off to go posseting for her dear invalid. Lucy was quite well; very eager
to be allowed to rise and be ready when the knock should come. Mrs.
Berry, in her loving considerateness for the little bride, positively
commanded her to lie down, and be quiet, and submit to be nursed and
cherished. For Mrs. Berry well knew that ten minutes alone with the hero
could only be had while the little bride was in that unattainable
position.

Thanks to her strategy, as she thought, her object was gained. The night
did not pass before she learnt, from the hero's own mouth, that Mr.
Richards, the father of the hero, and a stern lawyer, was adverse to his
union with this young lady he loved, because of a ward of his, heiress to
an immense property, whom he desired his son to espouse; and because his
darling Letitia was a Catholic--Letitia, the sole daughter of a brave
naval officer deceased, and in the hands of a savage uncle, who wanted to
sacrifice this beauty to a brute of a son. Mrs. Berry listened
credulously to the emphatic narrative, and spoke to the effect that the
wickedness of old people formed the excuse for the wildness of young
ones. The ceremonious administration of oaths of secrecy and devotion
over, she was enrolled in the hero's band, which now numbered three, and
entered upon the duties with feminine energy, for there are no
conspirators like women. Ripton's lieutenancy became a sinecure, his rank
merely titular. He had never been married--he knew nothing about
licences, except that they must be obtained, and were not difficult--he
had not an idea that so many days' warning must be given to the clergyman
of the parish where one of the parties was resident. How should he? All
his forethought was comprised in the ring, and whenever the discussion of
arrangements for the great event grew particularly hot and important, he
would say, with a shrewd nod: "We mustn't forget the ring, you know, Mrs.
Berry!" and the new member was only prevented by natural complacence from
shouting: "Oh, drat ye! and your ring too." Mrs. Berry had acted
conspicuously in fifteen marriages, by banns, and by licence, and to have
such an obvious requisite dinned in her ears was exasperating. They could
not have contracted alliance with an auxiliary more invaluable, an
authority so profound; and they acknowledged it to themselves. The hero
marched like an automaton at her bidding; Lieutenant Thompson was
rejoiced to perform services as errand-boy in the enterprise.

"It's in hopes you'll be happier than me, I do it," said the devout and
charitable Berry. "Marriages is made in heaven, they say; and if that's
the case, I say they don't take much account of us below!"

Her own woeful experiences had been given to the hero in exchange for his
story of cruel parents.

Richard vowed to her that he would henceforth hold it a duty to hunt out
the wanderer from wedded bonds, and bring him back bound and suppliant.

"Oh, he'll come!" said Mrs. Berry, pursing prophetic wrinkles: "he'll
come of his own accord. Never anywhere will he meet such a cook as Bessy
Berry! And he know her value in his heart of hearts. And I do believe,
when he do come, I shall be opening these arms to him again, and not
slapping his impidence in the face--I'm that soft! I always was--in
matrimony, Mr. Richards!"

As when nations are secretly preparing for war, the docks and arsenals
hammer night and day, and busy contractors measure time by inches, and
the air hums around: for leagues as it were myriads of bees, so the house
and neighbourhood of the matrimonial soft one resounded in the heroic
style, and knew little of the changes of light decreed by Creation. Mrs.
Berry was the general of the hour. Down to Doctors' Commons she expedited
the hero, instructing him how boldly to face the Law, and fib: for that
the Law never could mist a fib and a bold face. Down the hero went, and
proclaimed his presence. And lo! the Law danced to him its sedatest
lovely bear's-dance. Think ye the Lawless susceptible to him than flesh
and blood? With a beautiful confidence it put the few familiar questions
to him, and nodded to his replies: then stamped the bond, and took the
fee. It must be an old vagabond at heart that can permit the irrevocable
to go so cheap, even to a hero. For only mark him when he is petitioned
by heroes and heroines to undo what he does so easily! That small archway
of Doctors' Commons seems the eye of a needle, through which the lean
purse has a way, somehow, of slipping more readily than the portly; but
once through, all are camels alike, the lean purse an especially big
camel. Dispensing tremendous marriage as it does, the Law can have no
conscience.

"I hadn't the slightest difficulty," said the exulting hero.

"Of course not!" returns Mrs. Berry. "It's as easy, if ye're in earnest,
as buying a plum bun."

Likewise the ambassador of the hero went to claim the promise of the
Church to be in attendance on a certain spot, on a certain day, and there
hear oath of eternal fealty, and gird him about with all its forces:
which the Church, receiving a wink from the Law, obsequiously engaged to
do, for less than the price of a plum-cake.

Meantime, while craftsmen and skilled women, directed by Mrs. Berry, were
toiling to deck the day at hand, Raynham and Belthorpe slept,--the former
soundly; and one day was as another to them. Regularly every morning a
letter arrived from Richard to his father, containing observations on the
phenomena of London; remarks (mainly cynical) on the speeches and acts of
Parliament; and reasons for not having yet been able to call on the
Grandisons. They were certainly rather monotonous and spiritless. The
baronet did not complain. That cold dutiful tone assured him there was no
internal trouble or distraction. "The letters of a healthful physique!"
he said to Lady Blandish, with sure insight. Complacently he sat and
smiled, little witting that his son's ordeal was imminent, and that his
son's ordeal was to be his own. Hippias wrote that his nephew was killing
him by making appointments which he never kept, and altogether neglecting
him in the most shameless way, so that his ganglionic centre was in a ten
times worse state than when he left Raynham. He wrote very bitterly, but
it was hard to feel compassion for his offended stomach.

On the other hand, young Tom Blaize was not forthcoming, and had
despatched no tidings whatever. Farmer Blaize smoked his pipe evening
after evening, vastly disturbed. London was a large place--young Tom
might be lost in it, he thought; and young Tom had his weaknesses. A wolf
at Belthorpe, he was likely to be a sheep in London, as yokels have
proved. But what had become of Lucy? This consideration almost sent
Farmer Blaize off to London direct, and he would have gone had not his
pipe enlightened him. A young fellow might play truant and get into a
scrape, but a young man and a young woman were sure to be heard of,
unless they were acting in complicity. Why, of course, young Tom had
behaved like a man, the rascal! and married her outright there, while he
had the chance. It was a long guess. Still it was the only reasonable way
of accounting for his extraordinary silence, and therefore the farmer
held to it that he had done the deed. He argued as modern men do who
think the hero, the upsetter of ordinary calculations, is gone from us.
So, after despatching a letter to a friend in town to be on the outlook
for son Tom, he continued awhile to smoke his pipe, rather elated than
not, and mused on the shrewd manner he should adopt when Master Honeymoon
did appear.

Toward the middle of the second week of Richard's absence, Tom Bakewell
came to Raynham for Cassandra, and privately handed a letter to the
Eighteenth Century, containing a request for money, and a round sum. The
Eighteenth Century was as good as her word, and gave Tom a letter in
return, enclosing a cheque on her bankers, amply providing to keep the
heroic engine in motion at a moderate pace. Tom went back, and Raynham
and Lobourne slept and dreamed not of the morrow. The System, wedded to
Time, slept, and knew not how he had been outraged--anticipated by seven
pregnant seasons. For Time had heard the hero swear to that legalizing
instrument, and had also registered an oath. Ah me! venerable Hebrew
Time! he is unforgiving. Half the confusion and fever of the world comes
of this vendetta he declares against the hapless innocents who have once
done him a wrong. They cannot escape him. They will never outlive it. The
father of jokes, he is himself no joke; which it seems the business of
men to discover.

The days roll round. He is their servant now. Mrs. Berry has a new satin
gown, a beautiful bonnet, a gold brooch, and sweet gloves, presented to
her by the hero, wherein to stand by his bride at the altar to-morrow;
and, instead of being an old wary hen, she is as much a chicken as any of
the party, such has been the magic of these articles. Fathers she sees
accepting the facts produced for them by their children; a world content
to be carved out as it pleases the hero.

At last Time brings the bridal eve, and is blest as a benefactor. The
final arrangements are made; the bridegroom does depart; and Mrs. Berry
lights the little bride to her bed. Lucy stops on the landing where there
is an old clock eccentrically correct that night. 'Tis the palpitating
pause before the gates of her transfiguration. Mrs. Berry sees her put
her rosy finger on the One about to strike, and touch all the hours
successively till she comes to the Twelve that shall sound "Wife" in her
ears on the morrow, moving her lips the while, and looking round archly
solemn when she has done; and that sight so catches at Mrs. Berry's heart
that, not guessing Time to be the poor child's enemy, she endangers her
candle by folding Lucy warmly in her arms, whimpering; "Bless you for a
darling! you innocent lamb! You shall be happy! You shall!"

Old Time gazes grimly ahead.



CHAPTER XXIX

Although it blew hard when Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the passage of
that river is commonly calm; calm as Acheron. So long as he gets his
fare, the ferryman does not need to be told whom he carries: he pulls
with a will, and heroes may be over in half-an-hour. Only when they stand
on the opposite bank, do they see what a leap they have taken. The shores
they have relinquished shrink to an infinite remoteness. There they have
dreamed: here they must act. There lie youth and irresolution: here
manhood and purpose. They are veritably in another land: a moral Acheron
divides their life. Their memories scarce seem their own! The
Philosophical Geography (about to be published) observes that each man
has, one time or other, a little Rubicon--a clear or a foul water to
cross. It is asked him: "Wilt thou wed this Fate, and give up all behind
thee?" And "I will," firmly pronounced, speeds him over. The above-named
manuscript authority informs us, that by far the greater number of
caresses rolled by this heroic flood to its sister stream below, are
those of fellows who have repented their pledge, and have tried to swim
back to the bank they have blotted out. For though every man of us may be
a hero for one fatal minute, very few remain so after a day's march even:
and who wonders that Madam Fate is indignant, and wears the features of
the terrible Universal Fate to him? Fail before her, either in heart or
in act, and lo, how the alluring loves in her visage wither and sicken to
what it is modelled on! Be your Rubicon big or small, clear or foul, it
is the same: you shall not return. On--or to Acheron!--I subscribe to
that saying of The Pilgrim's Scrip:

"The danger of a little knowledge of things is disputable: but beware the
little knowledge of one's self!"

Richard Feverel was now crossing the River of his Ordeal. Already the
mists were stealing over the land he had left: his life was cut in two,
and he breathed but the air that met his nostrils. His father, his
father's love, his boyhood and ambition, were shadowy. His poetic dreams
had taken a living attainable shape. He had a distincter impression of
the Autumnal Berry and her household than of anything at Raynham. And yet
the young man loved his father, loved his home: and I daresay Caesar
loved Rome: but whether he did or no, Caesar when he killed the Republic
was quite bald, and the hero we are dealing with is scarce beginning to
feel his despotic moustache. Did he know what he was made of? Doubtless,
nothing at all. But honest passion has an instinct that can be safer than
conscious wisdom. He was an arrow drawn to the head, flying from the bow.
His audacious mendacities and subterfuges did not strike him as in any
way criminal; for he was perfectly sure that the winning and securing of
Lucy would in the end be boisterously approved of, and in that case, were
not the means justified? Not that he took trouble to argue thus, as older
heroes and self-convicting villains are in the habit of doing; to deduce
a clear conscience. Conscience and Lucy went together.

It was a soft fair day. The Rubicon sparkled in the morning sun. One of
those days when London embraces the prospect of summer, and troops forth
all its babies. The pavement, the squares, the parks, were early alive
with the cries of young Britain. Violet and primrose girls, and organ
boys with military monkeys, and systematic bands very determined in tone
if not in tune, filled the atmosphere, and crowned the blazing procession
of omnibuses, freighted with business men, Cityward, where a column of
reddish brown smoke,--blown aloft by the South-west, marked the scene of
conflict to which these persistent warriors repaired. Richard had seen
much of early London that morning. His plans were laid. He had taken care
to ensure his personal liberty against accidents, by leaving his hotel
and his injured uncle Hippias at sunrise. To-day or to-morrow his father
was to arrive. Farmer Blaize, Tom Bakewell reported to him, was raging in
town. Another day and she might be torn from him: but to-day this miracle
of creation would be his, and then from those glittering banks yonder,
let them summon him to surrender her who dared! The position of things
looked so propitious that he naturally thought the powers waiting on love
conspired in his behalf. And she, too--since she must cross this river,
she had sworn to him to be brave, and do him honour, and wear the true
gladness of her heart in her face. Without a suspicion of folly in his
acts, or fear of results, Richard strolled into Kensington Gardens,
breakfasting on the foreshadow of his great joy, now with a vision of his
bride, now of the new life opening to him. Mountain masses of clouds,
rounded in sunlight, swung up the blue. The flowering chestnut pavilions
overhead rustled and hummed. A sound in his ears as of a banner unfolding
in the joyful distance lulled him.

He was to meet his bride at the church at a quarter past eleven. His
watch said a quarter to ten. He strolled on beneath the long-stemmed
trees toward the well dedicated to a saint obscure. Some people were
drinking at the well. A florid lady stood by a younger one, who had a
little silver mug half-way to her mouth, and evinced undisguised dislike
to the liquor of the salutary saint.

"Drink, child!" said the maturer lady. "That is only your second mug. I
insist upon your drinking three full ones every morning we're in town.
Your constitution positively requires iron!"

"But, mama," the other expostulated, "it's so nasty. I shall be sick."

"Drink!" was the harsh injunction. "Nothing to the German waters, my
dear. Here, let me taste." She took the mug and gave it a flying kiss. "I
declare I think it almost nice--not at all objectionable. Pray, taste
it," she said to a gentleman standing below them to act as cup-bearer.

An unmistakable cis-Rubicon voice replied: "Certainly, if it's good
fellowship; though I confess I don't think mutual sickness a very
engaging ceremony."

Can one never escape from one's relatives? Richard ejaculated inwardly.

Without a doubt those people were Mrs. Doria, Clare, and Adrian. He had
them under his eyes.

Clare, peeping up from her constitutional dose to make sure no man was
near to see the possible consequence of it, was the first to perceive
him. Her hand dropped.

"Now, pray, drink, and do not fuss!" said Mrs. Doria.

"Mama!" Clare gasped.

Richard came forward and capitulated honourably, since retreat was out of
the question. Mrs. Doria swam to meet him: "My own boy! My dear Richard!"
profuse of exclamations. Clare shyly greeted him. Adrian kept in the
background.

"Why, we were coming for you to-day, Richard," said Mrs. Doria, smiling
effusion; and rattled on, "We want another cavalier. This is delightful!
My dear nephew! You have grown from a boy to a man. And there's down on
his lip! And what brings you here at such an hour in the morning? Poetry,
I suppose! Here, take my, arm, child.--Clare! finish that mug and thank
your cousin for sparing you the third. I always bring her, when we are by
a chalybeate, to take the waters before breakfast. We have to get up at
unearthly hours. Think, my dear boy! Mothers are sacrifices! And so
you've been alone a fortnight with your agreeable uncle! A charming time
of it you must have had! Poor Hippias! what may be his last nostrum?"

"Nephew!" Adrian stretched his head round to the couple. "Doses of nephew
taken morning and night fourteen days! And he guarantees that it shall
destroy an iron constitution in a month."

Richard mechanically shook Adrian's hand as he spoke.

"Quite well, Ricky?"

"Yes: well enough," Richard answered.

"Well?" resumed his vigorous aunt, walking on with him, while Clare and
Adrian followed. "I really never saw you looking so handsome. There's
something about your face--look at me--you needn't blush. You've grown to
an Apollo. That blue buttoned-up frock coat becomes you admirably--and
those gloves, and that easy neck-tie. Your style is irreproachable, quite
a style of your own! And nothing eccentric. You have the instinct of
dress. Dress shows blood, my dear boy, as much as anything else.
Boy!--you see, I can't forget old habits. You were a boy when I left, and
now!--Do you see any change in him, Clare?" she turned half round to her
daughter.

"Richard is looking very well, mama," said Clare, glancing at him under
her eyelids.

"I wish I could say the same of you, my dear.--Take my arm, Richard. Are
you afraid of your aunt? I want to get used to you. Won't it be pleasant,
our being all in town together in the season? How fresh the Opera will be
to you! Austin, I hear, takes stalls. You can come to the Forey's box
when you like. We are staying with the Foreys close by here. I think it's
a little too far out, you know; but they like the neighbourhood. This is
what I have always said: Give him more liberty! Austin has seen it at
last. How do you think Clare looking?"

The question had to be repeated. Richard surveyed his cousin hastily, and
praised her looks.

"Pale!" Mrs. Doria sighed.

"Rather pale, aunt."

"Grown very much--don't you think, Richard?"

"Very tall girl indeed, aunt."

"If she had but a little more colour, my dear Richard! I'm sure I give
her all the iron she can swallow, but that pallor still continues. I
think she does not prosper away from her old companion. She was
accustomed to look up to you, Richard"--

"Did you get Ralph's letter, aunt?" Richard interrupted her.

"Absurd!" Mrs. Doria pressed his arm. "The nonsense of a boy! Why did you
undertake to forward such stuff?"

"I'm certain he loves her," said Richard, in a serious way.

The maternal eyes narrowed on him. "Life, my dear Richard, is a game of
cross-purposes," she observed, dropping her fluency, and was rather
angered to hear him laugh. He excused himself by saying that she spoke so
like his father.

"You breakfast with us," she freshened off again. "The Foreys wish to see
you; the girls are dying to know you. Do you know, you have a reputation
on account of that"--she crushed an intruding adjective--"System you were
brought up on. You mustn't mind it. For my part, I think you look a
credit to it. Don't be bashful with young women, mind! As much as you
please with the old ones. You know how to behave among men. There you
have your Drawing-room Guide! I'm sure I shall be proud of you. Am I
not?"

Mrs. Doria addressed his eyes coaxingly.

A benevolent idea struck Richard, that he might employ the minutes to
spare, in pleading the case of poor Ralph; and, as he was drawn along, he
pulled out his watch to note the precise number of minutes he could
dedicate to this charitable office.

"Pardon me," said Mrs. Doria. "You want manners, my dear boy. I think it
never happened to me before that a man consulted his watch in my
presence."

Richard mildly replied that he had an engagement at a particular hour, up
to which he was her servant.

"Fiddlededee!" the vivacious lady sang. "Now I've got you, I mean to keep
you. Oh! I've heard all about you. This ridiculous indifference that your
father makes so much of! Why, of course, you wanted to see the world! A
strong healthy young man shut up all his life in a lonely house--no
friends, no society, no amusements but those of rustics! Of course you
were indifferent! Your intelligence and superior mind alone saved you
from becoming a dissipated country boor.--Where are the others?"

Clare and Adrian came up at a quick pace.

"My damozel dropped something," Adrian explained.

Her mother asked what it was.

"Nothing, mama," said Clare, demurely, and they proceeded as before.

Overborne by his aunt's fluency of tongue, and occupied in acute
calculation of the flying minutes, Richard let many pass before he edged
in a word for Ralph. When he did, Mrs. Doria stopped him immediately.

"I must tell you, child, that I refuse to listen to such rank idiotcy."

"It's nothing of the kind, aunt."

"The fancy of a boy."

"He's not a boy. He's half-a-year older than I am!"

"You silly child! The moment you fall in love, you all think yourselves
men."

"On my honour, aunt! I believe he loves her thoroughly."

"Did he tell you so, child?"

"Men don't speak openly of those things," said Richard.

"Boys do," said Mrs. Doria.

"But listen to me in earnest, aunt. I want you to be kind to Ralph. Don't
drive him to--You maybe sorry for it. Let him--do let him write to her,
and see her. I believe women are as cruel as men in these things."

"I never encourage absurdity, Richard."

"What objection have you to Ralph, aunt?"

"Oh, they're both good families. It's not that absurdity, Richard. It
will be to his credit to remember that his first fancy wasn't a
dairymaid." Mrs. Doria pitched her accent tellingly. It did not touch her
nephew.

"Don't you want Clare ever to marry?" He put the last point of reason to
her.

Mrs. Doria laughed. "I hope so, child. We must find some comfortable old
gentleman for her."

"What infamy!" mutters Richard.

"And I engage Ralph shall be ready to dance at her wedding, or eat a
hearty breakfast--We don't dance at weddings now, and very properly. It's
a horrid sad business, not to be treated with levity.--Is that his
regiment?" she said, as they passed out of the hussar-sentinelled
gardens. "Tush, tush, child! Master Ralph will recover, as--hem! others
have done. A little headache--you call it heartache--and up you rise
again, looking better than ever. No doubt, to have a grain of sense
forced into your brains, you poor dear children! must be painful.. Girls
suffer as much as boys, I assure you. More, for their heads are weaker,
and their appetites less constant. Do I talk like your father now?
Whatever makes the boy fidget at his watch so?"

Richard stopped short. Time spoke urgently.

"I must go," he said.

His face did not seem good for trifling. Mrs. Doria would trifle in
spite.

"Listen, Clare! Richard is going. He says he has an engagement. What
possible engagement can a young man have at eleven o'clock in the
morning?--unless it's to be married!" Mrs. Doria laughed at the ingenuity
of her suggestion.

"Is the church handy, Ricky?" said Adrian. "You can still give us
half-an-hour if it is. The celibate hours strike at Twelve." And he also
laughed in his fashion.

"Won't you stay with us, Richard?" Clare asked. She blushed timidly, and
her voice shook.

Something indefinite--a sharp-edged thrill in the tones made the burning
bridegroom speak gently to her.

"Indeed, I would, Clare; I should like to please you, but I have a most
imperative appointment--that is, I promised--I must go. I shall see you
again"--

Mrs. Doria, took forcible possession of him. "Now, do come, and don't
waste words. I insist upon your having some breakfast first, and then, if
you really must go, you shall. Look! there's the house. At least you will
accompany your aunt to the door."

Richard conceded this. She little imagined what she required of him. Two
of his golden minutes melted into nothingness. They were growing to be
jewels of price, one by one more and more precious as they ran, and now
so costly-rare--rich as his blood! not to kindest relations, dearest
friends, could he give another. The die is cast! Ferryman! push off.

"Good-bye!" he cried, nodding bluffly at the three as one, and fled.

They watched his abrupt muscular stride through the grounds of the house.
He looked like resolution on the march. Mrs. Doria, as usual with her out
of her brother's hearing, began rating the System.

"See what becomes of that nonsensical education! The boy really does not
know how to behave like a common mortal. He has some paltry appointment,
or is mad after some ridiculous idea of his own, and everything must be
sacrificed to it! That's what Austin calls concentration of the
faculties. I think it's more likely to lead to downright insanity than to
greatness of any kind. And so I shall tell Austin. It's time he should be
spoken to seriously about him."

"He's an engine, my dear aunt," said Adrian. "He isn't a boy, or a man,
but an engine. And he appears to have been at high pressure since he came
to town--out all day and half the night."

"He's mad!" Mrs. Doria interjected.

"Not at all. Extremely shrewd is Master Ricky, and carries as open an eye
ahead of him as the ships before Troy. He's more than a match for any of
us. He is for me, I confess."

"Then," said Mrs. Doria, "he does astonish me!"

Adrian begged her to retain her astonishment till the right season, which
would not be long arriving.

Their common wisdom counselled them not to tell the Foreys of their
hopeful relative's ungracious behaviour. Clare had left them. When Mrs.
Doria went to her room her daughter was there, gazing down at something
in her hand, which she guiltily closed.

In answer to an inquiry why she had not gone to take off her things,
Clare said she was not hungry. Mrs. Doria lamented the obstinacy of a
constitution that no quantity of iron could affect, and eclipsed the
looking-glass, saying: "Take them off here, child, and learn to assist
yourself."

She disentangled her bonnet from the array of her spreading hair, talking
of Richard, and his handsome appearance, and extraordinary conduct. Clare
kept opening and shutting her hand, in an attitude half-pensive,
half-listless. She did not stir to undress. A joyless dimple hung in one
pale cheek, and she drew long even breaths.

Mrs. Doria, assured by the glass that she was ready to show, came to her
daughter.

"Now, really," she said, "you are too helpless, my dear. You cannot do a
thing without a dozen women at your elbow. What will become of you? You
will have to marry a millionaire.--What's the matter with you, child?"

Clare undid her tight-shut fingers, as if to some attraction of her eyes,
and displayed a small gold hoop on the palm of a green glove.

"A wedding-ring!" exclaimed Mrs. Doria, inspecting the curiosity most
daintily.

There on Clare's pale green glove lay a wedding-ring!

Rapid questions as to where, when, how, it was found, beset Clare, who
replied: "In the Gardens, mama. This morning. When I was walking behind
Richard."

"Are you sure he did not give it you, Clare?"

"Oh no, mama! he did not give it me."

"Of course not! only he does such absurd things! I thought,
perhaps--these boys are so exceedingly ridiculous! Mrs. Doria had an
idea that it might have been concerted between the two young gentlemen,
Richard and Ralph, that the former should present this token of hymeneal
devotion from the latter to the young lady of his love; but a moment's
reflection exonerated boys even from such preposterous behaviour.

"Now, I wonder," she speculated on Clare's cold face, "I do wonder
whether it's lucky to find a wedding-ring. What very quick eyes you have,
my darling!" Mrs. Doria kissed her. She thought it must be lucky, and the
circumstance made her feel tender to her child. Her child did not move to
the kiss.

"Let's see whether it fits," said Mrs. Doria, almost infantine with
surprise and pleasure.

Clare suffered her glove to be drawn off. The ring slid down her long
thin finger, and settled comfortably.

"It does!" Mrs. Doria whispered. To find a wedding ring is open to any
woman; but to find a wedding-ring that fits may well cause a
superstitious emotion. Moreover, that it should be found while walking in
the neighbourhood of the identical youth whom a mother has destined for
her daughter, gives significance to the gentle perturbation of ideas
consequent on such a hint from Fortune.

"It really fits!" she pursued. "Now I never pay any attention to the
nonsense of omens and that kind of thing" (had the ring been a horseshoe
Mrs. Doria would have pinked it up and dragged it obediently home), "but
this, I must say, is odd--to find a ring that fits!--singular! It never
happened to me. Sixpence is the most I ever discovered, and I have it
now. Mind you keep it, Clare--this ring: And," she laughed, "offer it to
Richard when he comes; say, you think he must have dropped it."

The dimple in Clare's cheek quivered.

Mother and daughter had never spoken explicitly of Richard. Mrs. Doria,
by exquisite management, had contrived to be sure that on one side there
would be no obstacle to her project of general happiness, without, as she
thought, compromising her daughter's feelings unnecessarily. It could do
no harm to an obedient young girl to hear that there was no youth in the
world like a certain youth. He the prince of his generation, she might
softly consent, when requested, to be his princess; and if never
requested (for Mrs. Doria envisaged failure), she might easily transfer
her softness to squires of lower degree. Clare had always been blindly
obedient to her mother (Adrian called them Mrs. Doria Battledoria and the
fair Shuttlecockiana), and her mother accepted in this blind obedience
the text of her entire character. It is difficult for those who think
very earnestly for their children to know when their children are
thinking on their own account. The exercise of their volition we construe
as revolt. Our love does not like to be invalided and deposed from its
command, and here I think yonder old thrush on the lawn who has just
kicked the last of her lank offspring out of the nest to go shift for
itself, much the kinder of the two, though sentimental people do shrug
their shoulders at these unsentimental acts of the creatures who never
wander from nature. Now, excess of obedience is, to one who manages most
exquisitely, as bad as insurrection. Happily Mrs. Doria saw nothing in
her daughter's manner save a want of iron. Her pallor, her lassitude, the
tremulous nerves in her face, exhibited an imperious requirement of the
mineral.

"The reason why men and women are mysterious to us, and prove
disappointing," we learn from The Pilgrim's Scrip, "is, that we will read
them from our own book; just as we are perplexed by reading ourselves
from theirs."

Mrs. Doria read her daughter from her own book, and she was gay; she
laughed with Adrian at the breakfast-table, and mock-seriously joined in
his jocose assertion that Clare was positively and by all hymeneal
auspices betrothed to the owner of that ring, be he who he may, and must,
whenever he should choose to come and claim her, give her hand to him
(for everybody agreed the owner must be masculine, as no woman would drop
a wedding-ring), and follow him whither he listed all the world over.
Amiable giggling Forey girls called Clare, The Betrothed. Dark man, or
fair? was mooted. Adrian threw off the first strophe of Clare's fortune
in burlesque rhymes, with an insinuating gipsy twang. Her aunt Forey
warned her to have her dresses in readiness. Her grandpapa Forey
pretended to grumble at bridal presents being expected from grandpapas.

This one smelt orange-flower, another spoke solemnly of an old shoe. The
finding of a wedding-ring was celebrated through all the palpitating
accessories and rosy ceremonies involved by that famous instrument. In
the midst of the general hilarity, Clare showed her deplorable want of
iron by bursting into tears.

Did the poor mocked-at heart divine what might be then enacting? Perhaps,
dimly, as we say: that is, without eyes.

At an altar stand two fair young creatures, ready with their oaths. They
are asked to fix all time to the moment, and they do so. If there is
hesitation at the immense undertaking, it is but maidenly. She conceives
as little mental doubt of the sanity of the act as he. Over them hangs a
cool young curate in his raiment of office. Behind are two apparently
lucid people, distinguished from each other by sex and age: the foremost
a bunch of simmering black satin; under her shadow a cock-robin in the
dress of a gentleman, big joy swelling out his chest, and pert
satisfaction cocking his head. These be they who stand here in place of
parents to the young couple. All is well. The service proceeds.

Firmly the bridegroom tells forth his words. This hour of the complacent
giant at least is his, and that he means to hold him bound through the
eternities, men may hear. Clearly, and with brave modesty, speaks she: no
less firmly, though her body trembles: her voice just vibrating while the
tone travels on, like a smitten vase.

Time hears sentence pronounced on him: the frail hands bind his huge
limbs and lock the chains. He is used to it: he lets them do as they
will.

Then comes that period when they are to give their troth to each other.
The Man with his right hand takes the Woman by her right hand: the Woman
with her right hand takes the Man by his right hand.--Devils dare not
laugh at whom Angels crowd to contemplate.

Their hands are joined; their blood flows as one stream. Adam and fair
Eve front the generations. Are they not lovely? Purer fountains of life
were never in two bosoms.

And then they loose their hands, and the cool curate doth bid the Man to
put a ring on the Woman's fourth finger, counting thumb. And the Man
thrusts his hand into one pocket, and into another, forward and back many
times into all his pockets. He remembers that he felt for it, and felt it
in his waistcoat pocket, when in the Gardens. And his hand comes forth
empty. And the Man is ghastly to look at!

Yet, though Angels smile, shall not Devils laugh! The curate deliberates.
The black satin bunch ceases to simmer. He in her shadow changes from a
beaming cock-robin to an inquisitive sparrow. Eyes multiply questions:
lips have no reply. Time ominously shakes his chain, and in the pause a
sound of mockery stings their ears.

Think ye a hero is one to be defeated in his first battle? Look at the
clock! there are but seven minutes to the stroke of the celibate hours:
the veteran is surely lifting his two hands to deliver fire, and his shot
will sunder them in twain so nearly united. All the jewellers of London
speeding down with sacks full of the nuptial circlet cannot save them!

The battle must be won on the field, and what does the hero now? It is an
inspiration! For who else would dream of such a reserve in the rear? None
see what he does; only that the black-satin bunch is remonstratingly
agitated, stormily shaken, and subdued: and as though the menacing cloud
had opened, and dropped the dear token from the skies at his demand, he
produces the symbol of their consent, and the service proceeds: "With
this ring I thee wed."

They are prayed over and blest. For good, or for ill, this deed is done.
The names are registered; fees fly right and left: they thank, and
salute, the curate, whose official coolness melts into a smile of
monastic gallantry: the beadle on the steps waves off a gaping world as
they issue forth bridegroom and bridesman recklessly scatter gold on him:
carriage doors are banged to: the coachmen drive off, and the scene
closes, everybody happy.



CHAPTER XXX

And the next moment the bride is weeping as if she would dissolve to one
of Dian's Virgin Fountains from the clasp of the Sun-God. She has nobly
preserved the mask imposed by comedies, till the curtain has fallen, and
now she weeps, streams with tears. Have patience, O impetuous young man!
It is your profession to be a hero. This poor heart is new to it, and her
duties involve such wild acts, such brigandage, such terrors and tasks,
she is quite unnerved. She did you honour till now. Bear with her now.
She does not cry the cry of ordinary maidens in like cases. While the
struggle went on her tender face was brave; but, alas! Omens are against
her: she holds an ever-present dreadful one on that fatal fourth finger
of hers, which has coiled itself round her dream of delight, and takes
her in its clutch like a horrid serpent. And yet she must love it. She
dares not part from it. She must love and hug it, and feed on its strange
honey, and all the bliss it gives her casts all the deeper shadow on what
is to come.

Say: Is it not enough to cause feminine apprehension, for a woman to be
married in another woman's ring?

You are amazons, ladies, at Saragossa, and a thousand citadels--wherever
there is strife, and Time is to be taken by the throat. Then shall few
men match your sublime fury. But what if you see a vulture, visible only
to yourselves, hovering over the house you are gaily led by the torch to
inhabit? Will you not crouch and be cowards?

As for the hero, in the hour of victory he pays no heed to omens. He does
his best to win his darling to confidence by caresses. Is she not his? Is
he not hers? And why, when the battle is won, does she weep? Does she
regret what she has done?

Oh, never! never! her soft blue eyes assure him, steadfast love seen
swimming on clear depths of faith in them, through the shower.

He is silenced by her exceeding beauty, and sits perplexed waiting for
the shower to pass.

Alone with Mrs. Berry, in her bedroom, Lucy gave tongue to her distress,
and a second character in the comedy changed her face.

"O Mrs. Berry! Mrs. Berry! what has happened! what has happened!"

"My darlin' child!" The bridal Berry gazed at the finger of doleful joy.
"I'd forgot all about it! And that's what've made me feel so queer ever
since, then! I've been seemin' as if I wasn't myself somehow, without my
ring. Dear! dear! what a wilful young gentleman! We ain't a match for men
in that state--Lord help us!"

Mrs. Berry sat on the edge of a chair: Lucy on the edge of the bed.

"What do you think of it, Mrs. Berry? Is it not terrible?"

"I can't say I should 'a liked it myself, my dear," Mrs. Berry candidly
responded.

"Oh! why, why, why did it happen!" the young bride bent to a flood of
fresh tears, murmuring that she felt already old--forsaken.

"Haven't you got a comfort in your religion for all accidents?" Mrs.
Berry inquired.

"None for this. I know it's wrong to cry when I am so happy. I hope he
will forgive me."

Mrs. Berry vowed her bride was the sweetest, softest, beautifulest thing
in life.

"I'll cry no more," said Lucy. "Leave me, Mrs. Berry, and come back when
I ring."

She drew forth a little silver cross, and fell upon her knees to the bed.
Mrs. Berry left the room tiptoe.

When she was called to return, Lucy was calm and tearless, and smiled
kindly to her.

"It's over now," she said.

Mrs. Berry sedately looked for her ring to follow.

"He does not wish me to go in to the breakfast you have prepared, Mrs.
Berry. I begged to be excused. I cannot eat."

Mrs. Berry very much deplored it, as she had laid out a superior nuptial
breakfast, but with her mind on her ring she nodded assentingly.

"We shall not have much packing to do, Mrs. Berry."

"No, my dear. It's pretty well all done."

"We are going to the Isle of Wight, Mrs. Berry."

"And a very suitable spot ye've chose, my dear!"

"He loves the sea. He wishes to be near it."

"Don't ye cross to-night, if it's anyways rough, my dear. It isn't
advisable." Mrs. Berry sank her voice to say, "Don't ye be soft and give
way to him there, or you'll both be repenting it."

Lucy had only been staving off the unpleasantness she had to speak. She
saw Mrs. Berry's eyes pursuing her ring, and screwed up her courage at
last.

"Mrs. Berry."

"Yes, my dear."

"Mrs. Berry, you shall have another ring."

"Another, my dear?" Berry did not comprehend. "One's quite enough for the
objeck," she remarked.

"I mean," Lucy touched her fourth finger, "I cannot part with this." She
looked straight at Mrs. Berry.

That bewildered creature gazed at her, and at the ring, till she had
thoroughly exhausted the meaning of the words, and then exclaimed,
horror-struck: "Deary me, now! you don't say that? You're to be married
again in your own religion."

The young wife repeated: "I can never part with it."

"But, my dear!" the wretched Berry wrung her hands, divided between
compassion and a sense of injury. "My dear!" she kept expostulating like
a mute.

"I know all that you would say, Mrs. Berry. I am very grieved to pain
you. It is mine now, and must be mine. I cannot give it back."

There she sat, suddenly developed to the most inflexible little heroine
in the three Kingdoms.

From her first perception of the meaning of the young bride's words, Mrs.
Berry, a shrewd physiognomist, knew that her case was hopeless, unless
she treated her as she herself had been treated, and seized the ring by
force of arms; and that she had not heart for.

"What!" she gasped faintly, "one's own lawful wedding-ring you wouldn't
give back to a body?"

"Because it is mine, Mrs. Berry. It was yours, but it is mine now. You
shall have whatever you ask for but that. Pray, forgive me! It must be
so."

Mrs. Berry rocked on her chair, and sounded her hands together. It amazed
her that this soft little creature could be thus firm. She tried
argument.

"Don't ye know, my dear, it's the fatalest thing you're inflictin' upon
me, reelly! Don't ye know that bein' bereft of one's own lawful
wedding-ring's the fatalest thing in life, and there's no prosperity
after it! For what stands in place o' that, when that's gone, my dear?
And what could ye give me to compensate a body for the loss o' that?
Don't ye know--Oh, deary me!" The little bride's face was so set that
poor Berry wailed off in despair.

"I know it," said Lucy. "I know it all. I know what I do to you. Dear,
dear Mrs. Berry! forgive me! If I parted with my ring I know it would be
fatal."

So this fair young freebooter took possession of her argument as well as
her ring.

Berry racked her distracted wits for a further appeal.

"But, my child," she counter-argued, "you don't understand. It ain't as
you think. It ain't a hurt to you now. Not a bit, it ain't. It makes no
difference now! Any ring does while the wearer's a maid. And your Mr.
Richard will find the very ring he intended for ye. And, of course,
that's the one you'll wear as his wife. It's all the same now, my dear.
It's no shame to a maid. Now do--now do--there's a darlin'!"

Wheedling availed as little as argument.

"Mrs. Berry," said Lucy, "you know what my--he spoke: 'With this ring I
thee wed.' It was with this ring. Then how could it be with another?"

Berry was constrained despondently to acknowledge that was logic.

She hit upon an artful conjecture:

"Won't it be unlucky your wearin' of the ring which served me so? Think
o' that!"

"It may! it may! it may!" cried Lucy.

"And arn't you rushin' into it, my dear?"

"Mrs. Berry," Lucy said again, "it was this ring. It cannot--it never can
be another. It was this. What it brings me I must bear. I shall wear it
till I die!"

"Then what am I to do?" the ill-used woman groaned. "What shall I tell my
husband when he come back to me, and see I've got a new ring waitin' for
him? Won't that be a welcome?"

Quoth Lucy: "How can he know it is not the same; in a plain gold ring?"

"You never see so keen a eyed man in joolry as my Berry!" returned his
solitary spouse. "Not know, my dear? Why, any one would know that've got
eyes in his head. There's as much difference in wedding-rings as there's
in wedding people! Now, do pray be reasonable, my own sweet!"

"Pray, do not ask me," pleads Lucy.

"Pray, do think better of it," urges Berry.

"Pray, pray, Mrs. Berry!" pleads Lucy.

"--And not leave your old Berry all forlorn just when you're so happy!"

"Indeed I would not, you dear, kind old creature!" Lucy faltered.

Mrs. Berry thought she had her.

"Just when you're going to be the happiest wife on earth--all you want
yours!" she pursued the tender strain. "A handsome young gentleman! Love
and Fortune smilin' on ye!"--

Lucy rose up.

"Mrs. Berry," she said, "I think we must not lose time in getting ready,
or he will be impatient."

Poor Berry surveyed her in abject wonder from the edge of her chair.
Dignity and resolve were in the ductile form she had hitherto folded
under her wing. In an hour the heroine had risen to the measure of the
hero. Without being exactly aware what creature she was dealing with,
Berry acknowledged to herself it was not one of the common run, and
sighed, and submitted.

"It's like a divorce, that it is!" she sobbed.

After putting the corners of her apron to her eyes, Berry bustled humbly
about the packing. Then Lucy, whose heart was full to her, came and
kissed her, and Berry bumped down and regularly cried. This over, she had
recourse to fatalism.

"I suppose it was to be, my dear! It's my punishment for meddlin' wi'
such matters. No, I'm not sorry. Bless ye both. Who'd 'a thought you was
so wilful?--you that any one might have taken for one of the silly-softs!
You're a pair, my dear! indeed you are! You was made to meet! But we
mustn't show him we've been crying.--Men don't like it when they're
happy. Let's wash our faces and try