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´╗┐Title: The Blue Flower
Author: Van Dyke, Henry, 1852-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Blue Flower" ***

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THE BLUE FLOWER

By Henry Van Dyke



     The desire of the moth for the star,
     Of the night for the morrow,
     The devotion for something afar
     From the sphere of our sorrow.
     --SHELLEY.



             To
      THE DEAR MEMORY OF
      BERNARD VAN DYKE
          1887-1897
      AND THE LOVE THAT LIVES
       BEYOND THE YEARS



PREFACE

Sometimes short stories are brought together like parcels in a basket.
Sometimes they grow together like blossoms on a bush. Then, of course,
they really belong to one another, because they have the same life in
them.

The stories in this book have been growing together for a long time. It
is at least ten years since the first of them, the story of The Other
Wise Man, came to me; and all the others I knew quite well by heart a
good while before I could find the time, in a hard-worked life, to write
them down and try to make them clear and true to others. It has been a
slow task, because the right word has not always been easy to find, and
I wanted to keep free from conventionality in the thought and close to
nature in the picture. It is enough to cause a man no little shame to
see how small is the fruit of so long labour.

And yet, after all, when one wishes to write about life, especially
about that part of it which is inward, the inwrought experience of
living may be of value. And that is a thing which one cannot get in
haste, neither can it be made to order. Patient waiting belongs to it;
and rainy days belong to it; and the best of it sometimes comes in the
doing of tasks that seem not to amount to much. So in the long run, I
suppose, while delay and failure and interruption may keep a piece of
work very small, yet in the end they enter into the quality of it and
bring it a little nearer to the real thing, which is always more or less
of a secret.

But the strangest part of it all is the way in which a single thought,
an idea, will live with a man while he works, and take new forms from
year to year, and light up the things that he sees and hears, and lead
his imagination by the hand into many wonderful and diverse regions. It
seems to me that there am two ways in which you may give unity to a book
of stories. You may stay in one place and write about different themes,
preserving always the colour of the same locality. Or you may go into
different places and use as many of the colours and shapes of life as
you can really see in the light of the same thought.

There is such a thought in this book. It is the idea of the search for
inward happiness, which all men who are really alive are following,
along what various paths, and with what different fortunes! Glimpses of
this idea, traces of this search, I thought that I could see in certain
tales that were in my mind,--tales of times old and new, of lands near
and far away. So I tried to tell them, as best as I could, hoping that
other men, being also seekers, might find some meaning in them.

There are only little, broken chapters from the long story of life.
None of them is taken from other books. Only one of them--the story of
Winifried and the Thunder-Oak--has the slightest wisp of a foundation in
fact or legend. Yet I think they are all true.

But how to find a name for such a book,--a name that will tell enough to
show the thought and yet not too much to leave it free? I have borrowed
a symbol from the old German poet and philosopher, Novalis, to stand
instead of a name. The Blue Flower which he used in his romance of
Heinrich von Ofterdingen to symbolise Poetry, the object of his young
hero's quest, I have used here to signify happiness, the satisfaction of
the heart.

Reader, will you take the book and see if it belongs to you? Whether
it does or not, my wish is that the Blue Flower may grow in the garden
where you work.

AVALON, December 1, 1902.



CONTENTS

     I.     The Blue Flower
     II.    The Source
     III.   The Mill
     IV.    Spy Rock
     V.     Wood-Magic
     VI.    The Other Wise Man
     VII.   I Handful of Clay
     VIII.  The Lost Word
     IX.    The First Christmas-Tree



THE BLUE FLOWER

The parents were abed and sleeping. The clock on the wall ticked loudly
and lazily, as if it had time to spare. Outside the rattling windows
there was a restless, whispering wind. The room grew light, and dark,
and wondrous light again, as the moon played hide-and-seek through the
clouds. The boy, wide-awake and quiet in his bed, was thinking of the
Stranger and his stories.

"It was not what he told me about the treasures," he said to himself,
"that was not the thing which filled me with so strange a longing. I
am not greedy for riches. But the Blue Flower is what I long for. I can
think of nothing else. Never have I felt so before. It seems as if I
had been dreaming until now--or as if I had just slept over into a new
world.

"Who cared for flowers in the old world where I used to live? I never
heard of anyone whose whole heart was set upon finding a flower. But
now I cannot even tell all that I feel--sometimes as happy as if I were
enchanted. But when the flower fades from me, when I cannot see it in my
mind, then it is like being very thirsty and all alone. That is what the
other people could not understand.

"Once upon a time, they say, the animals and the trees and the flowers
used to talk to people. It seems to me, every minute, as if they were
just going to begin again. When I look at them I can see what they want
to say. There must be a great many words that I do not know; if I knew
more of them perhaps I could understand things better. I used to love to
dance, but now I like better to think after the music."

Gradually the boy lost himself in sweet fancies, and suddenly he
found himself again, in the charmed land of sleep. He wandered in far
countries, rich and strange; he traversed wild waters with incredible
swiftness; marvellous creatures appeared and vanished; he lived with
all sorts of men, in battles, in whirling crowds, in lonely huts. He was
cast into prison. He fell into dire distress and want. All experiences
seemed to be sharpened to an edge. He felt them keenly, yet they did
not harm him. He died and came alive again; he loved to the height of
passion, and then was parted forever from his beloved. At last, toward
morning, as the dawn was stealing near, his soul grew calm, and the
pictures showed more clear and firm.

It seemed as if he were walking alone through the deep woods. Seldom the
daylight shimmered through the green veil. Soon he came to a rocky gorge
in the mountains. Under the mossy stones in the bed of the stream, he
heard the water secretly tinkling downward, ever downward, as he climbed
upward.

The forest grew thinner and lighter. He came to a fair meadow on the
slope of the mountain. Beyond the meadow was a high cliff, and in the
face of the cliff an opening like the entrance to a path. Dark was the
way, but smooth, and he followed easily on till he came near to a vast
cavern from which a flood of radiance streamed to meet him.

As he entered he beheld a mighty beam of light which sprang from the
ground, shattering itself against the roof in countless sparks, falling
and flowing all together into a great pool in the rock. Brighter was the
light-beam than molten gold, but silent in its rise, and silent in its
fall. The sacred stillness of a shrine, a never-broken hush of joy and
wonder, filled the cavern. Cool was the dripping radiance that softly
trickled down the walls, and the light that rippled from them was pale
blue.

But the pool, as the boy drew near and watched it, quivered and glanced
with the ever-changing colours of a liquid opal. He dipped his hands in
it and wet his lips. It seemed as if a lively breeze passed through his
heart.

He felt an irresistible desire to bathe in the pool. Slipping off his
clothes he plunged in. It was as if he bathed in a cloud of sunset. A
celestial rapture flowed through him. The waves of the stream were like
a bevy of nymphs taking shape around him, clinging to him with tender
breasts, as he floated onward, lost in delight, yet keenly sensitive to
every impression. Swiftly the current bore him out of the pool, into a
hollow in the cliff. Here a dimness of slumber shadowed his eyes, while
he felt the pressure of the loveliest dreams.

When he awoke again, he was aware of a new fulness of light, purer and
steadier than the first radiance. He found himself lying on the green
turf, in the open air, beside a little fountain, which sparkled up and
melted away in silver spray. Dark-blue were the rocks that rose at a
little distance, veined with white as if strange words were written upon
them. Dark-blue was the sky, and cloudless.

All passion had dissolved away from him; every sound was music; every
breath was peace; the rocks were like sentinels protecting him; the sky
was like a cup of blessing full of tranquil light.

But what charmed him most, and drew him with resistless power, was a
tall, clear-blue flower, growing beside the spring, and almost touching
him with its broad, glistening leaves. Round about were many other
flowers, of all hues. Their odours mingled in a perfect chord of
fragrance. He saw nothing but the Blue Flower.

Long and tenderly he gazed at it, with unspeakable love. At last he felt
that he must go a little nearer to it, when suddenly it began to move
and change. The leaves glistened more brightly, and drew themselves up
closely around the swiftly growing stalk. The flower bent itself toward
him, and the petals showed a blue, spreading necklace of sapphires,
out of which the lovely face of a girl smiled softly into his eyes. His
sweet astonishment grew with the wondrous transformation.

All at once he heard his mother's voice calling him, and awoke in his
parents' room, already flooded with the gold of the morning sun.

From the German of Novalis.



THE SOURCE

I

In the middle of the land that is called by its inhabitants Koorma, and
by strangers the Land of the Half-forgotten, I was toiling all day long
through heavy sand and grass as hard as wire. Suddenly, toward evening,
I came upon a place where a gate opened in the wall of mountains, and
the plain ran in through the gate, making a little bay of level country
among the hills.

Now this bay was not brown and hard and dry, like the mountains above
me, neither was it covered with tawny billows of sand like the desert
along the edge of which I had wearily coasted. But the surface of it was
smooth and green; and as the winds of twilight breathed across it they
were followed by soft waves of verdure, with silvery turnings of the
under sides of many leaves, like ripples on a quiet harbour. There were
fields of corn, filled with silken rustling, and vineyards with long
rows of trimmed maple-trees standing each one like an emerald goblet
wreathed with vines, and flower-gardens as bright as if the earth
had been embroidered with threads of blue and scarlet and gold, and
olive-orchards frosted over with delicate and fragrant blossoms.
Red-roofed cottages were scattered everywhere through the sea of
greenery, and in the centre, like a white ship surrounded by a flock of
little boats, rested a small, fair, shining city.

I wondered greatly how this beauty had come into being on the border of
the desert. Passing through the fields and gardens and orchards, I found
that they were all encircled and lined with channels full of running
water. I followed up one of the smaller channels until it came to a
larger stream, and as I walked on beside it, still going upward, it
guided me into the midst of the city, where I saw a sweet, merry river
flowing through the main street, with abundance of water and a very
pleasant sound.

There were houses and shops and lofty palaces and all that makes a city,
but the life and joy of all, and the one thing that I remember best,
was the river. For in the open square at the edge of the city there were
marble pools where the children might bathe and play; at the corners of
the streets and on the sides of the houses there were fountains for the
drawing of water; at every crossing a stream was turned aside to run out
to the vineyards; and the river was the mother of them all.

There were but few people in the streets, and none of the older folk
from whom I might ask counsel or a lodging; so I stood and knocked at
the door of a house. It was opened by an old man, who greeted me
with kindness and bade me enter as his guest. After much courteous
entertainment, and when supper was ended, his friendly manner and
something of singular attractiveness in his countenance led me to tell
him of my strange journeyings in the land of Koorma and in other lands
where I had been seeking the Blue Flower, and to inquire of him the name
and the story of his city and the cause of the river which made it glad.

"My son," he answered, "this is the city which was called Ablis, that is
to say, Forsaken. For long ago men lived here, and the river made their
fields fertile, and their dwellings were full of plenty and peace. But
because of many evil things which have been half-forgotten, the river
was turned aside, or else it was dried up at its source in the high
place among the mountains, so that the water flowed down no more. The
channels and the trenches and the marble pools and the basins beside
the houses remained, but they were empty. So the gardens withered; the
fields were barren; the city was desolate; and in the broken cisterns
there was scanty water.

"Then there came one from a distant country who was very sorrowful
to see the desolation. He told the people that it was vain to dig new
cisterns and to keep the channels and trenches clean; for the water had
come only from above. The Source must be found again and reopened.
The river would not flow unless they traced it back to the spring,
and visited it continually, and offered prayers and praises beside it
without ceasing. Then the spring would rise to an outpouring, and the
water would run down plentifully to make the gardens blossom and the
city rejoice.

"So he went forth to open the fountain; but there were few that went
with him, for he was a poor man of lowly aspect, and the path upward
was steep and rough. But his companions saw that as he climbed among the
rocks, little streams of water gushed from the places where he trod, and
pools began to gather in the dry river-bed. He went more swiftly than
they could follow him, and at length he passed out of their sight. A
little farther on they came to the rising of the river and there, beside
the overflowing Source, they found their leader lying dead."

"That was a strange thing," I cried, "and very pitiful. Tell me how it
came to pass, and what was the meaning of it."

"I cannot tell the whole of the meaning," replied the old man, after
a little pause, "for it was many years ago. But this poor man had many
enemies in the city, chiefly among the makers of cisterns, who hated him
for his words. I believe that they went out after him secretly and slew
him. But his followers came back to the city; and as they came the river
began to run down very gently after them. They returned to the Source
day by day, bringing others with them; for they said that their leader
was really alive, though the form of his life had changed, and that he
met them in that high place while they remembered him and prayed and
sang songs of praise. More and more the people learned to go with them,
and the path grew plainer and easier to find. The more the Source was
revisited, the more abundant it became, and the more it filled the
river. All the channels and the basins were supplied with water, and men
made new channels which were also filled. Some of those who were diggers
of trenches and hewers of cisterns said that it was their work which had
wrought the change. But the wisest and best among the people knew that
it all came from the Source, and they taught that if it should ever
again be forgotten and left unvisited the river would fail again and
desolation return. So every day, from the gardens and orchards and
the streets of the city, men and women and children have gone up the
mountain-path with singing, to rejoice beside the spring from which the
river flows and to remember the one who opened it. We call it the River
Carita. And the name of the city is no more Ablis, but Saloma, which is
Peace. And the name of him who died to find the Source for us is so dear
that we speak it only when we pray.

"But there are many things yet to learn about our city, and some that
seem dark and cast a shadow on my thoughts. Therefore, my son, I bid you
to be my guest, for there is a room in my house for the stranger; and
to-morrow and on the following days you shall see how life goes with us,
and read, if you can, the secret of the city."

That night I slept well, as one who has heard a pleasant tale, with the
murmur of running water woven through my dreams; and the next day I went
out early into the streets, for I was curious to see the manner of the
visitation of the Source.

Already the people were coming forth and turning their steps upward in
the mountain-path beside the river. Some of them went alone, swiftly and
in silence; others were in groups of two or three, talking as they went;
others were in larger companies, and they sang together very gladly and
sweetly. But there were many people who remained working in their fields
or in their houses, or stayed talking on the corners of the streets.
Therefore I joined myself to one of the men who walked alone and asked
him why all the people did not go to the spring, since the life of the
city depended upon it, and whether, perhaps, the way was so long and so
hard that none but the strongest could undertake it.

"Sir," said he, "I perceive that you are a stranger, for the way is both
short and easy, so that the children are those who most delight in
it; and if a man were in great haste he could go there and return in a
little while. But of those who remain behind, some are the busy ones who
must visit the fountain at another hour; and some are the careless ones
who take life as it comes and never think where it comes from; and some
are those who do not believe in the Source and will hear nothing about
it."

"How can that be?" I said; "do they not drink of the water, and does it
not make their fields green?"

"It is true," he said; "but these men have made wells close by the
river, and they say that these wells fill themselves; and they have
digged channels through their gardens, and they say that these channels
would always have water in them even though the spring should cease to
flow. Some of them say also that it is an unworthy thing to drink from
a source that another has opened, and that every man ought to find a new
spring for himself; so they spend the hour of the visitation, and many
more, in searching among the mountains where there is no path."

While I wondered over this, we kept on in the way. There was already
quite a throng of people all going in the same direction. And when we
came to the Source, which flowed from an opening in a cliff, almost like
a chamber hewn in the rock, and made a little garden of wild-flowers
around it as it fell, I heard the music of many voices and the beautiful
name of him who had given his life to find the forgotten spring.

Then we came down again, singly and in groups, following the river. It
seemed already more bright and full and joyous. As we passed through
the gardens I saw men turning aside to make new channels through fields
which were not yet cultivated. And as we entered the city I saw the
wheels of the mills that ground the corn whirling more swiftly, and the
maidens coming with their pitchers to draw from the brimming basins at
the street corners, and the children laughing because the marble pools
were so full that they could swim in them. There was plenty of water
everywhere.

For many weeks I stayed in the city of Saloma, going up the
mountain-path in the morning, and returning to the day of work and the
evening of play. I found friends among the people of the city, not only
among those who walked together in the visitation of the Source, but
also among those who remained behind, for many of them were kind
and generous, faithful in their work, and very pleasant in their
conversation.

Yet there was something lacking between me and them. I came not onto
firm ground with them, for all their warmth of welcome and their
pleasant ways. They were by nature of the race of those who dwell ever
in one place; even in their thoughts they went not far abroad. But I
have been ever a seeker, and the world seems to me made to wander in,
rather than to abide in one corner of it and never see what the rest has
in store. Now this was what the people of Saloma could not understand,
and for this reason I seemed to them always a stranger, an alien, a
guest. The fixed circle of their life was like an invisible wall, and
with the best will in the world they knew not how to draw me within it.
And I, for my part, while I understood well their wish to rest and be at
peace, could not quite understand the way in which it found fulfilment,
nor share the repose which seemed to them all-sufficient and lasting.
In their gardens I saw ever the same flowers, and none perfect. At their
feasts I tasted ever the same food, and none that made an end of hunger.
In their talk I heard ever the same words, and none that went to the
depth of thought. The very quietude and fixity of their being perplexed
and estranged me. What to them was permanent, to me was transient. They
were inhabitants: I was a visitor.

The one in all the city of Saloma with whom was most at home was Ruamie,
the little granddaughter of the old man with whom I lodged. To her, a
girl of thirteen, fair-eyed and full of joy, the wonted round of life
had not yet grown to be a matter of course. She was quick to feel and
answer the newness of every day that dawned. When a strange bird flew
down from the mountains into the gardens, it was she that saw it and
wondered at it. It was she that walked with me most often in the path to
the Source. She went out with me to the fields in the morning and almost
every day found wild-flowers that were new to me. At sunset she drew me
to happy games of youths and children, where her fancy was never tired
of weaving new turns to the familiar pastimes. In the dusk she would sit
beside me in an arbour of honeysuckle and question me about the flower
that I was seeking,--for to her I had often spoken of my quest.

"Is it blue," she asked, "as blue as the speedwell that grows beside the
brook?"

"Yes, it is as much bluer than the speedwell, as the river is deeper
than the brook."

"And is it," she asked, "as bright as the drops of dew in the moonlight?"

"Yes, it is brighter than the drops of dew as the sun is clearer than
the moon."

"And is it sweet," she asked, "as sweet as the honeysuckle when the day
is warm and still?"

"Yes, it is as much sweeter than the honeysuckle as the night is stiller
and more sweet than the day."

"Tell me again," she asked, "when you saw it, and why do you seek it?"

"Once I saw it when I was a boy, no older than you. Our house looked out
toward the hills, far away and at sunset softly blue against the
eastern sky. It was the day that we laid my father to rest in the little
burying-ground among the cedar-trees. There was his father's grave, and
his father's father's grave, and there were the places for my mother and
for my two brothers and for my sister and for me. I counted them all,
when the others had gone back to the house. I paced up and down alone,
measuring the ground; there was room enough for us all; and in the
western corner where a young elm-tree was growing,--that would be my
place, for I was the youngest. How tall would the elm-tree be then?
I had never thought of it before. It seemed to make me sad and
restless,--wishing for something, I knew not what,--longing to see the
world and to taste happiness before I must sleep beneath the elm-tree.
Then I looked off to the blue hills, shadowy and dream-like, the
boundary of the little world that I knew. And there, in a cleft between
the highest peaks I saw a wondrous thing: for the place at which I was
looking seemed to come nearer and nearer to me; I saw the trees, the
rocks, the ferns, the white road winding before me; the enfolding hills
unclosed like leaves, and in the heart of them I saw a Blue Flower, so
bright, so beautiful that my eyes filled with tears as I looked. It was
like a face that smiled at me and promised something. Then I heard a
call, like the note of a trumpet very far away, calling me to come. And
as I listened the flower faded into the dimness of the hills."

"Did you follow it," asked Ruamie, "and did you go away from your home?
How could you do that?"

"Yes, Ruamie, when the time came, as soon as I was free, I set out on
my journey, and my home is at the end of the journey, wherever that may
be."

"And the flower," she asked, "you have seen it again?"

"Once again, when I was a youth, I saw it. After a long voyage upon
stormy seas, we came into a quiet haven, and there the friend who was
dearest to me, said good-by, for he was going back to his own country
and his father's house, but I was still journeying onward. So as I stood
at the bow of the ship, sailing out into the wide blue water, far away
among the sparkling waves I saw a little island, with shores of silver
sand and slopes of fairest green, and in the middle of the island the
Blue Flower was growing, wondrous tall and dazzling, brighter than the
sapphire of the sea. Then the call of the distant trumpet came floating
across the water, and while it was sounding a shimmer of fog swept over
the island and I could see it no more."

"Was it a real island," asked Ruamie. "Did you ever find it?"

"Never; for the ship sailed another way. But once again I saw the
flower; three days before I came to Saloma. It was on the edge of the
desert, close under the shadow of the great mountains. A vast loneliness
was round about me; it seemed as if I was the only soul living upon
earth; and I longed for the dwellings of men. Then as I woke in the
morning I looked up at the dark ridge of the mountains, and there
against the brightening blue of the sky I saw the Blue Flower standing
up clear and brave. It shone so deep and pure that the sky grew pale
around it. Then the echo of the far-off trumpet drifted down the
hillsides, and the sun rose, and the flower was melted away in light. So
I rose and travelled on till I came to Saloma."

"And now," said the child, "you are at home with us. Will you not stay
for a long, long while? You may find the Blue Flower here. There are
many kinds in the fields. I find new ones every day."

"I will stay while I can, Ruamie," I answered, taking her hand in mine
as we walked back to the house at nightfall, "but how long that may be I
cannot tell. For with you I am at home, yet the place where I must abide
is the place where the flower grows, and when the call comes I must
follow it."

"Yes," said she, looking at me half in doubt, "I think I understand. But
wherever you go I hope you will find the flower at last."

In truth there were many things in the city that troubled me and made me
restless, in spite of the sweet comfort of Ruamie's friendship and the
tranquillity of the life in Saloma. I came to see the meaning of what
the old man had said about the shadow that rested upon his thoughts. For
there were some in the city who said that the hours of visitation were
wasted, and that it would be better to employ the time in gathering
water from the pools that formed among the mountains in the rainy
season, or in sinking wells along the edge of the desert. Others had
newly come to the city and were teaching that there was no Source, and
that the story of the poor man who reopened it was a fable, and that
the hours of visitation were only hours of dreaming. There were many
who believed them, and many more who said that it did not matter whether
their words were true or false, and that it was of small moment whether
men went to visit the fountain or not, provided only that they worked
in the gardens and kept the marble pools and basins in repair and opened
new canals through the fields, since there always had been and always
would be plenty of water.

As I listened to these sayings it seemed to me doubtful what the end of
the city would be. And while this doubt was yet heavy upon me, I heard
at midnight the faint calling of the trumpet, sounding along the crest
of the mountains: and as I went out to look where it came from, I saw,
through the glimmering veil of the milky way, the shape of a blossom of
celestial blue, whose petals seemed to fall and fade as I looked. So I
bade farewell to the old man in whose house I had learned to love the
hour of visitation and the Source and the name of him who opened it; and
I kissed the hands and the brow of the little Ruamie who had entered my
heart, and went forth sadly from the land of Koorma into other lands, to
look for the Blue Flower.



II

In the Book of the Voyage without a Harbour is written the record of the
ten years which passed before I came back again to the city of Saloma.

It was not easy to find, for I came down through the mountains, and as
I looked from a distant shoulder of the hills for the little bay full of
greenery, it was not to be seen. There was only a white town shining
far off against the brown cliffs, like a flake of mica in a cleft of
the rocks. Then I slept that night, full of care, on the hillside, and
rising before dawn, came down in the early morning toward the city.

The fields were lying parched and yellow under the sunrise, and great
cracks gaped in the earth as if it were thirsty. The trenches and
channels were still there, but there was little water in them; and
through the ragged fringes of the rusty vineyards I heard, instead of
the cheerful songs of the vintagers, the creaking of dry windlasses and
the hoarse throb of the pumps in sunken wells. The girdle of gardens had
shrunk like a wreath of withered flowers, and all the bright embroidery,
of earth was faded to a sullen gray.

At the foot of an ancient, leafless olive-tree I saw a group of people
kneeling around a newly opened well. I asked a man who was digging
beside the dusty path what this might mean. He straightened himself for
a moment, wiping the sweat from his brow, and answered, sullenly, "They
are worshipping the windlass: how else should they bring water into
their fields?" Then he fell furiously to digging again, and I passed on
into the city.

There was no sound of murmuring streams in the streets, and down the
main bed of the river I saw only a few shallow puddles, joined together
by a slowly trickling thread. Even these were fenced and guarded so that
no one might come near to them, and there were men going among to the
houses with water-skins on their shoulders, crying "Water! Water to
sell!"

The marble pools in the open square were empty; and at one of them there
was a crowd looking at a man who was being beaten with rods. A bystander
told me that the officers of the city had ordered him to be punished
because he had said that the pools and the basins and the channels were
not all of pure marble, without a flaw. "For this," said he, "is the
evil doctrine that has come in to take away the glory of our city, and
because of this the water has failed."

"It is a sad change," I answered, "and doubtless they who have caused it
should suffer more than others. But can you tell me at what hour and in
what manner the people now observe the visitation of the Source?"

He looked curiously at me and replied: "I do not understand you. There
is no visitation save the inspection of the cisterns and the wells which
the syndics of the city, whom we call the Princes of Water, carry on
daily at every hour. What source is this of which you speak?"

So I went on through the street, where all the passers-by seemed in
haste and wore weary countenances, until I came to the house where I had
lodged. There was a little basin here against the wall, with a slender
stream of water still flowing into it, and a group of children standing
near with their pitchers, waiting to fill them.

The door of the house was closed; but when I knocked, it opened and a
maiden came forth. She was pale and sad in aspect, but a light of joy
dawned over the snow of her face, and I knew by the youth in her eyes
that it was Ruamie, who had walked with me through the vineyards long
ago.

With both hands she welcomed me, saying: "You are expected. Have you
found the Blue Flower?"

"Not yet," I answered, "but something drew me back to you. I would
know how it fares with you, and I would go again with you to visit the
Source."

At this her face grew bright, but with a tender, half-sad brightness.

"The Source!" she said. "Ah, yes, I was sure that you would remember it.
And this is the hour of the visitation. Come, let us go up together."

Then we went alone through the busy and weary multitudes of the city
toward the mountain-path. So forsaken was it and so covered with stones
and overgrown with wire-grass that I could not have found it but for her
guidance. But as we climbed upward the air grew clearer, and more sweet,
and I questioned her of the things that had come to pass in my absence.
I asked her of the kind old man who had taken me into his house when I
came as a stranger. She said, softly, "He is dead."

"And where are the men and women, his friends, who once thronged this
pathway? Are they also dead?"

"They also are dead."

"But where are the younger ones who sang here so gladly as they marched
upward? Surely they, are living?"

"They have forgotten."

"Where then are the young children whose fathers taught them this way
and bade them remember it. Have they forgotten?"

"They have forgotten."

"But why have you alone kept the hour of visitation? Why have you not
turned back with your companions? How have you walked here solitary day
after day?"

She turned to me with a divine regard, and laying her hand gently over
mine, she said, "I remember always."

Then I saw a few wild-flowers blossoming beside the path.

We drew near to the Source, and entered into the chamber hewn in the
rock. She kneeled and bent over the sleeping spring. She murmured again
and again the beautiful name of him who had died to find it. Her voice
repeated the song that had once been sung by many voices. Her tears fell
softly on the spring, and as they fell it seemed as if the water stirred
and rose to meet her bending face, and when she looked up it was as if
the dew had fallen on a flower.

We came very slowly down the path along the river Carita, and rested
often beside it, for surely, I thought, the rising of the spring had
sent a little more water down its dry bed, and some of it must flow on
to the city. So it was almost evening when we came back to the streets.
The people were hurrying to and fro, for it was the day before the
choosing of new Princes of Water; and there was much dispute about them,
and strife over the building of new cisterns to hold the stores of rain
which might fall in the next year. But none cared for us, as we passed
by like strangers, and we came unnoticed to the door of the house.

Then a great desire of love and sorrow moved within my breast, and I
said to Ruamie, "You are the life of the city, for you alone remember.
Its secret is in your heart, and your faithful keeping of the hours of
visitation is the only cause why the river has not failed altogether and
the curse of desolation returned. Let me stay with you, sweet soul of
all the flowers that are dead, and I will cherish you forever. Together
we will visit the Source every day; and we shall turn the people, by our
lives and by our words, back to that which they have forgotten."

There was a smile in her eyes so deep that its meaning cannot be spoken,
as she lifted my hand to her lips, and answered,

"Not so, dear friend, for who can tell whether life or death will come
to the city, whether its people will remember at last, or whether they
will forget forever. Its lot is mine, for I was born here, and here my
life is rooted. But you are of the Children of the Unquiet Heart, whose
feet can never rest until their task of errors is completed and their
lesson of wandering is learned to the end. Until then go forth, and do
not forget that I shall remember always."

Behind her quiet voice I heard the silent call that compels us, and
passed down the street as one walking in a dream. At the place where the
path turned aside to the ruined vineyards I looked back. The low sunset
made a circle of golden rays about her head and a strange twin blossom
of celestial blue seemed to shine in her tranquil eyes.

Since then I know not what has befallen the city, nor whether it is
still called Saloma, or once more Ablis, which is Forsaken. But if
it lives at all, I know that it is because there is one there who
remembers, and keeps the hour of visitation, and treads the steep way,
and breathes the beautiful name over the spring, and sometimes I think
that long before my seeking and journeying brings me to the Blue Flower,
it will bloom for Ruamie beside the still waters of the Source.



THE MILL

I

How the Young Martimor would Become a Knight and Assay Great Adventure

When Sir Lancelot was come out of the Red Launds where he did many deeds
of arms, he rested him long with play and game in a land that is, called
Beausejour. For in that land there are neither castles nor enchantments,
but many fair manors, with orchards and fields lying about them; and the
people that dwell therein have good cheer continually.

Of the wars and of the strange quests that are ever afoot in Northgalis
and Lionesse and the Out Isles, they hear nothing; but are well content
to till the earth in summer when the world is green; and when the autumn
changes green to gold they pitch pavilions among the fruit-trees and the
vineyards, making merry with song and dance while they gather harvest of
corn and apples and grapes; and in the white days of winter for pastime
they have music of divers instruments and the playing of pleasant games.

But of the telling of tales in that land there is little skill, neither
do men rightly understand the singing of ballads and romaunts. For one
year there is like another, and so their life runs away, and they leave
the world to God.

Then Sir Lancelot had great ease for a time in this quiet land, and
often he lay under the apple-trees sleeping, and again he taught the
people new games and feats of skill. For into what place soever he
came he was welcome, though the inhabitants knew not his name and great
renown, nor the famous deeds that he had done in tournament and battle.
Yet for his own sake, because he was a very gentle knight, fair-spoken
and full of courtesy and a good man of his hands withal, they doted upon
him.

So he began to tell them tales of many things that have been done in
the world by clean knights and faithful squires. Of the wars against the
Saracens and misbelieving men; of the discomfiture of the Romans when
they came to take truage of King Arthur; of the strife with the eleven
kings and the battle that was ended but never finished; of the Questing
Beast and how King Pellinore and then Sir Palamides followed it; of
Balin that gave the dolourous stroke unto King Pellam; of Sir Tor that
sought the lady's brachet and by the way overcame two knights and smote
off the head of the outrageous caitiff Abelleus,--of these and many like
matters of pith and moment, full of blood and honour, told Sir Lancelot,
and the people had marvel of his words.

Now, among them that listened to him gladly, was a youth of good blood
and breeding, very fair in the face and of great stature. His name was
Martimor. Strong of arm was he, and his neck was like a pillar. His legs
were as tough as beams of ash-wood, and in his heart was the hunger
of noble tatches and deeds. So when he heard of Sir Lancelot these
redoubtable histories he was taken with desire to assay his strength.
And he besought the knight that they might joust together.

But in the land of Beausejour there were no arms of war save such as Sir
Lancelot had brought with him. Wherefore they made shift to fashion a
harness out of kitchen gear, with a brazen platter for a breast-plate,
and the cover of the greatest of all kettles for a shield, and for a
helmet a round pot of iron, whereof the handle stuck down at Martimor's
back like a tail. And for spear he got him a stout young fir-tree, the
point hardened in the fire, and Sir Lancelot lent to him the sword that
he had taken from the false knight that distressed all ladies.

Thus was Martimor accoutred for the jousting, and when he had climbed
upon his horse, there arose much laughter and mockage. Sir Lancelot
laughed a little, though he was ever a grave man, and said, "Now must we
call this knight, La Queue de Fer, by reason of the tail at his back."

But Martimor was half merry and half wroth, and crying "'Ware!" he
dressed his spear beneath his arm. Right so he rushed upon Sir Lancelot,
and so marvellously did his harness jangle and smite together as he
came, that the horse of Sir Lancelot was frighted and turned aside. Thus
the point of the fir-tree caught him upon the shoulder and came near to
unhorse him. Then Martimor drew rein and shouted: "Ha! ha! has Iron-Tail
done well?"

"Nobly hast thou done," said Lancelot, laughing, the while he amended
his horse, "but let not the first stroke turn thy head, else will the
tail of thy helmet hang down afore thee and mar the second stroke!"

So he kept his horse in hand and guided him warily, making feint now on
this side and now on that, until he was aware that the youth grew hot
with the joy of fighting and sought to deal with him roughly and bigly.
Then he cast aside his spear and drew sword, and as Martimor walloped
toward him, he lightly swerved, and with one stroke cut in twain the
young fir-tree, so that not above an ell was left in the youth's hand.

Then was the youth full of fire, and he also drew sword and made at Sir
Lancelot, lashing heavily as, he would hew down a tree. But the knight
guarded and warded without distress, until the other breathed hard and
was blind with sweat. Then Lancelot smote him with a mighty stroke upon
the head, but with the flat of his sword, so that Martimor's breath went
clean out of him, and the blood gushed from his mouth, and he fell over
the croup of his horse as he were a man slain.

Then Sir Lancelot laughed no more, but grieved, for he weened that he
had harmed the youth, and he liked him passing well. So he ran to him
and held him in his arms fast and tended him. And when the breath came
again into his body, Lancelot was glad, and desired the youth that he
would pardon him of that unequal joust and of the stroke too heavy.

At this Martimor sat up and took him by the hand. "Pardon?" he cried.
"No talk of pardon between thee and me, my Lord Lancelot! Thou hast
given me such joy of my life as never I had before. It made me glad to
feel thy might. And now am I delibred and fully concluded that I also
will become a knight, and thou shalt instruct me how and in what land I
shall seek great adventure."



II

How Martimor was Instructed of Sir Lancelot to Set Forth Upon His Quest

So right gladly did Sir Lancelot advise the young Martimor of all the
customs and vows of the noble order of knighthood, and shew how he might
become a well-ruled and a hardy knight to win good fame and renown.
For between these two from the first there was close brotherhood and
affiance, though in years and in breeding they were so far apart, and
this brotherhood endured until the last, as ye shall see, nor was the
affiance broken.

Thus willingly learned the youth of his master; being instructed first
in the art and craft to manage and guide a horse; then to handle the
shield and the spear, and both to cut and to foin with the sword; and
last of all in the laws of honour and courtesy, whereby a man may rule
his own spirit and so obtain grace of God, praise of princes, and favour
of fair ladies.

"For this I tell thee," said Sir Lancelot, as they sat together under
an apple-tree, "there be many good fighters that are false knights,
breaking faith with man and woman, envious, lustful and orgulous. In
them courage is cruel, and love is lecherous. And in the end they shall
come to shame and shall be overcome by a simpler knight than themselves;
or else they shall win sorrow and despite by the slaying of better men
than they be; and with their paramours they shall have weary dole and
distress of soul and body; for he that is false, to him shall none be
true, but all things shall be unhappy about him."

"But how and if a man be true in heart," said Martimor, "yet by some
enchantment, or evil fortune, he may do an ill deed and one that is
harmful to his lord or to his friend, even as Balin and his brother
Balan slew each the other unknown?"

"That is in God's hand," said Lancelot. "Doubtless he may pardon and
assoil all such in their unhappiness, forasmuch as the secret of it is
with him."

"And how if a man be entangled in love," said Martimor, "Yet his love be
set upon one that is not lawful for him to have? For either he must deny
his love, which is great shame, or else he must do dishonour to the law.
What shall he then do?"

At this Sir Lancelot was silent, and heaved a great sigh. Then said he:
"Rest assured that this man shall have sorrow enough. For out of
this net he may not escape, save by falsehood on the one side, or by
treachery on the other. Therefore say I that he shall not assay to
escape, but rather right manfully to bear the bonds with which he is
bound, and to do honour to them."'

"How may this be?" said Martimor.

"By clean living," said Lancelot, "and by keeping himself from wine
which heats the blood, and by quests and labours and combats wherein the
fierceness of the heart is spent and overcome, and by inward joy in the
pure worship of his lady, whereat none may take offence."

"How then shall a man bear himself in the following of a quest?" said
Martimor. "Shall he set his face ever forward, and turn not to right,
or left, whatever meet him by the way? Or shall he hold himself ready to
answer them that call to him, and to succour them that ask help of him,
and to turn aside from his path for rescue and good service?"

"Enough of questions!" said Lancelot. "These are things whereto each man
must answer for himself, and not for other. True knight taketh counsel
of the time. Every day his own deed. And the winning of a quest is not
by haste, nor by hap, but what needs to be done, that must ye do while
ye are in the way."

Then because of the love that Sir Lancelot bore to Martimor he gave
him his own armour, and the good spear wherewith he had unhorsed many
knights, and the sword that he took from Sir Peris de Forest Savage that
distressed all ladies, but his shield he gave not, for therein his own
remembrance was blazoned. So he let make a new shield, and in the
corner was painted a Blue Flower that was nameless, and this he gave to
Martimor, saying: "Thou shalt name it when thou hast found it, and so
shalt thou have both crest and motto."

"Now am I well beseen," cried Martimor, "and my adventures are before
me. Which way shall I ride, and where shall I find them?"

"Ride into the wind," said Lancelot, "and what chance soever it blows
thee, thereby do thy best, as it were the first and the last. Take not
thy hand from it until it be fulfilled. So shalt thou most quickly and
worthily achieve knighthood."

Then they embraced like brothers; and each bade other keep him well; and
Sir Lancelot in leather jerkin, with naked head, but with his shield
and sword, rode to the south toward Camelot; and Martimor rode into the
wind, westward, over the hill.



III

How Martimor Came to the Mill a Stayed in a Delay

So by wildsome ways in strange countries and through many waters and
valleys rode Martimor forty days, but adventure met him none, blow the
wind never so fierce or fickle. Neither dragons, nor giants, nor false
knights, nor distressed ladies, nor fays, nor kings imprisoned could he
find.

"These are ill times for adventure," said he, "the world is full of meat
and sleepy. Now must I ride farther afield and undertake some ancient,
famous quest wherein other knights have failed and fallen. Either I
shall follow the Questing Beast with Sir Palamides, or I shall find
Merlin at the great stone whereunder the Lady of the Lake enchanted him
and deliver him from that enchantment, or I shall assay the cleansing
of the Forest Perilous, or I shall win the favour of La Belle Dame Sans
Merci, or mayhap I shall adventure the quest of the Sangreal. One or
other of these will I achieve, or bleed the best blood of my body." Thus
pondering and dreaming he came by the road down a gentle hill with close
woods on either hand; and so into a valley with a swift river flowing
through it; and on the river a Mill.

So white it stood among the trees, and so merrily whirred the wheel as
the water turned it, and so bright blossomed the flowers in the garden,
that Martimor had joy of the sight, for it minded him of his own
country. "But here is no adventure," thought he, and made to ride by.

Even then came a young maid suddenly through the garden crying and
wringing her hands. And when she saw him she cried him help. At this
Martimor alighted quickly and ran into the garden, where the young maid
soon led him to the millpond, which was great and deep, and made him
understand that her little hound was swept away by the water and was
near to perishing.

There saw he a red and white brachet, caught by the swift stream that
ran into the race, fast swimming as ever he could swim, yet by no means
able to escape. Then Martimor stripped off his harness and leaped into
the water and did marvellously to rescue the little hound. But the
fierce river dragged his legs, and buffeted him, and hurtled at him, and
drew him down, as it were an enemy wrestling with him, so that he had
much ado to come where the brachet was, and more to win back again, with
the brachet in his arm, to the dry land.

Which when he had done he was clean for-spent and fell upon the ground
as a dead man. At this the young maid wept yet more bitterly than she
had wept for her hound, and cried aloud, "Alas, if so goodly a man
should spend his life for my little brachet!" So she took his head upon
her knee and cherished him and beat the palms of his hands, and the
hound licked his face. And when Martimor opened his eyes he saw the face
of the maid that it was fair as any flower.

Then was she shamed, and put him gently from her knee, and began to
thank him and to ask with what she might reward him for the saving of
the brachet.

"A night's lodging and a day's cheer," quoth Martimor.

"As long as thee liketh," said she, "for my father, the miller, will
return ere sundown, and right gladly will he have a guest so brave."

"Longer might I like," said he, "but longer may I not stay, for I ride
in a quest and seek great adventures to become a knight."

So they bestowed the horse in the stable, and went into the Mill; and
when the miller was come home they had such good cheer with eating of
venison and pan-cakes, and drinking of hydromel, and singing of pleasant
ballads, that Martimor clean forgot he was in a delay. And going to his
bed in a fair garret he dreamed of the Maid of the Mill, whose name was
Lirette.



IV

How the Mill was in Danger and the Delay Endured


In the morning Martimor lay late and thought large thoughts of his
quest, and whither it might lead him, and to what honour it should bring
him. As he dreamed thus, suddenly he heard in the hall below a trampling
of feet and a shouting, with the voice of Lirette crying and shrieking.
With that he sprang out of his bed, and caught up his sword and dagger,
leaping lightly and fiercely down the stair.

There he saw three foul churls, whereof two strove with the miller,
beating him with great clubs, while the third would master the Maid and
drag her away to do her shame, but she fought shrewdly. Then Martimor
rushed upon the churls, shouting for joy, and there was a great medley
of breaking chairs and tables and cursing and smiting, and with his
sword he gave horrible strokes.

One of the knaves that fought with the miller, he smote upon the
shoulder and clave him to the navel. And at the other he foined fiercely
so that the point of the sword went through his back and stuck fast in
the wall. But the third knave, that was the biggest and the blackest,
and strove to bear away the Maid, left bold of her, and leaped upon
Martimor and caught him by the middle and crushed him so that his ribs
cracked.

Thus they weltered and wrung together, and now one of them was above
and now the other; and ever as they wallowed Martimor smote him with his
dagger, but there came forth no blood, only water.

Then the black churl broke away from him and ran out at the door of the
mill, and Martimor after. So they ran through the garden to the river,
and there the churl sprang into the water, and swept away raging and
foaming. And as he went he shouted, "Yet will I put thee to the worse,
and mar the Mill, and have the Maid!"'

Then Martimor cried, "Never while I live shalt thou mar the Mill or have
the Maid, thou foul, black, misbegotten churl!" So he returned to the
Mill, and there the damsel Lirette made him to understand that these
three churls were long time enemies of the Mill, and sought ever to
destroy it and to do despite to her and her father. One of them was
Ignis, and another was Ventus, and these were the twain that he had
smitten. But the third, that fled down the river (and he was ever the
fiercest and the most outrageous), his name was Flumen, for he dwelt in
the caves of the stream, and was the master of it before the Mill was
built.

"And now," wept the Maid, "he must have had his will with me and with
the Mill, but for God's mercy, thanked be our Lord Jesus!"

"Thank me too," said Mlartimor.

"So I do," said Lirette, and she kissed him. "Yet am I heavy at heart
and fearful, for my father is sorely mishandled and his arm is broken,
so that he cannot tend the Mill nor guard it. And Flumen is escaped;
surely he will harm us again. Now I know not, where I shall look for
help."

"Why not here?" said Martimor.

Then Lirette looked him in the face, smiling a little sorrily. "But thou
ridest in a quest," quoth she, "thou mayst not stay from thy adventures."

"A month," said he.

"Till my father be well?" said she.

"A month," said he.

"Till thou hast put Flumen to the worse?" said she.

"Right willingly would I have to do with that base, slippery knave
again," said he, "but more than a month I may not stay, for my quest
calls me and I must win worship of men or ever I become a knight."

So they bound up the miller's wounds and set the Mill in order. But
Martimor had much to do to learn the working of the Mill; and they were
busied with the grinding of wheat and rye and barley and divers kinds of
grain; and the millers hurts were mended every day; and at night there
was merry rest and good cheer; and Martimor talked with the Maid of
the great adventure that he must find; and thus the delay endured in
pleasant wise.



THE MILL

V

Yet More of the Mill, and of the Same Delay, also of the Maid

Now at the end of the third month, which was November, Martimor made
Lirette to understand that it was high time he should ride farther to
follow his quest. For the miller was now recovered, and it was long that
they had heard and seen naught of Flumen, and doubtless that black
knave was well routed and dismayed that he would not come again.
Lirette prayed him and desired him that he would tarry yet one week. But
Martimor said, No! for his adventures were before him, and that he
could not be happy save in the doing of great deeds and the winning of
knightly fame. Then he showed her the Blue Flower in his shield that was
nameless, and told her how Sir Lancelot had said that he must find it,
then should he name it and have both crest and motto.

"Does it grow in my garden?" said Lirette.

"I have not seen it," said he, "and now the flowers are all faded."

"Perhaps in the month of May?" said she.

"In that month I will come again," said he, "for by that time it may
fortune that I shall achieve my quest, but now forth must I fare."

So there was sad cheer in the Mill that day, and at night there came
a fierce storm with howling wind and plumping rain, and Martimor slept
ill. About the break of day he was wakened by a great roaring and
pounding; then he looked out of window, and saw the river in flood, with
black waves spuming and raving, like wood beasts, and driving before
them great logs and broken trees. Thus the river hurled and hammered
at the mill-dam so that it trembled, and the logs leaped as they would
spring over it, and the voice of Flumen shouted hoarsely and hungrily,
"Yet will I mar the Mill and have the Maid!"

Then Martimor ran with the miller out upon the dam, and they laboured at
the gates that held the river back, and thrust away the logs that were
heaped over them, and cut with axes, and fought with the river. So at
last two of the gates were lifted and one was broken, and the flood ran
down ramping and roaring in great raundon, and as it ran the black face
of Flumen sprang above it, crying, "Yet will I mar both Mill and Maid."

"That shalt thou never do," cried Martimor, "by foul or fair, while the
life beats in my body."

So he came back with the miller into the Mill, and there was meat ready
for them and they ate strongly and with good heart. "Now," said the
miller, "must I mend the gate. But how it may be done, I know not, for
surely this will be great travail for a man alone."

"Why alone?" said Martimor.

"Thou wilt stay, then?" said Lirette.

"Yea," said he.

"For another month?" said she.

"Till the gate be mended," said he.

But when the gate was mended there came another flood and brake the
second gate. And when that was mended there came another flood and brake
the third gate. So when all three were mended firm and fast, being bound
with iron, still the grimly river hurled over the dam, and the voice
of Flumen muttered in the dark of winter nights, "Yet will I
mar--mar--mar--yet will I mar Mill and Maid."

"Oho!" said Martimor, "this is a durable and dogged knave. Art thou
feared of him Lirette?"

"Not so," said she, "for thou art stronger. But fear have I of the day
when thou ridest forth in thy quest."

"Well, as to that," said he, "when I have overcome this false devil
Flumen, then will we consider and appoint that day."

So the delay continued, and Martimor was both busy and happy at the
Mill, for he liked and loved this damsel well, and was fain of her
company. Moreover the strife with Flumen was great joy to him.



VI

How the Month of May came to the Mill, and the Delay was Made Longer

Now when the month of May came to the Mill it brought a plenty of sweet
flowers, and Lirette wrought in the garden. With her, when the day was
spent and the sun rested upon the edge of the hill, went Martimor, and
she showed him all her flowers that were blue. But none of them was like
the flower on his shield.

"Is it this?" she cried, giving him a violet. "Too dark," said he.

"Then here it is," she said, plucking a posy of forget-me-not.

"Too light," said he.

"Surely this is it," and she brought him a spray of blue-bells.

"Too slender," said he, "and well I ween that I may not find that
flower, till I ride farther in my quest and achieve great adventure."

Then was the Maid cast down, and Martimor was fain to comfort her.

So while they walked thus in the garden, the days were fair and still,
and the river ran lowly and slowly, as it were full of gentleness, and
Flumen had amended him of his evil ways. But full of craft and guile was
that false foe. For now that the gates were firm and strong, he found a
way down through the corner of the dam, where a water-rat had burrowed,
and there the water went seeping and creeping, gnawing ever at the
hidden breach. Presently in the night came a mizzling rain, and far
among the hills a cloud brake open, and the mill-pond flowed over and
under, and the dam crumbled away, and the Mill shook, and the whole
river ran roaring through the garden.

Then was Martimor wonderly wroth, because the river had blotted out
the Maid's flowers. "And one day," she cried, holding fast to him and
trembling, "one day Flumen will have me, when thou art gone."

"Not so," said he, "by the faith of my body that foul fiend shall never
have thee. I will bind him, I will compel him, or die in the deed."

So he went forth, upward along the river, till he came to a strait Place
among the hills. There was a great rock full of caves and hollows, and
there the water whirled and burbled in furious wise. "Here," thought he,
"is the hold of the knave Flumen, and if I may cut through above this
rock and make a dyke with a gate in it, to let down the water another
way when the floods come, so shall I spoil him of his craft and put him
to the worse."

Then he toiled day and night to make the dyke, and ever by night
Flumen came and strove with him, and did his power to cast him down and
strangle him. But Martimor stood fast and drave him back.

And at last, as they wrestled and whapped together, they fell headlong
in the stream.

"Ho-o!" shouted Flumen, "now will I drown thee, and mar the Mill and the
Maid."

But Martimor gripped him by the neck and thrust his head betwixt the
leaves of the gate and shut them fast, so that his eyes stood out
like gobbets of foam, and his black tongue hung from his mouth like a
water-weed.

"Now shalt thou swear never to mar Mill nor Maid, but meekly to serve
them," cried Martimor. Then Flumen sware by wind and wave, by storm and
stream, by rain and river, by pond and pool, by flood and fountain, by
dyke and dam.

"These be changeable things," said Martimor, "swear by the Name of God."

So he sware, and even as the Name passed his teeth, the gobbets of foam
floated forth from the gate, and the water-weed writhed away with the
stream, and the river flowed fair and softly, with a sound like singing.

Then Martimor came back to the Mill, and told how Flumen was overcome
and made to swear a pact. Thus their hearts waxed light and jolly, and
they kept that day as it were a love-day.



VII

How Martimor Bled for a Lady and Lived for a Maid, and how His Great
Adventure Ended and Began at the Mill

Now leave we of the Mill and Martimor and the Maid, and let us speak
of a certain Lady, passing tall and fair and young. This was the Lady
Beauvivante, that was daughter to King Pellinore. And three false
knights took her by craft from her father's court and led her away to
work their will on her. But she escaped from them as they slept by a
well, and came riding on a white palfrey, over hill and dale, as fast as
ever she could drive.

Thus she came to the Mill, and her palfrey was spent, and there she took
refuge, beseeching Martimor that he would hide her, and defend her from
those caitiff knights that must soon follow.

"Of hiding," said he, "will I hear naught, but of defending am I full
fain. For this have I waited."

Then he made ready his horse and his armour, and took both spear and
sword, and stood forth in the bridge. Now this bridge was strait,
so that none could pass there but singly, and that not till Martimor
yielded or was beaten down.

Then came the three knights that followed the Lady, riding fiercely down
the hill. And when they came about ten spear-lengths from the bridge,
they halted, and stood still as it had been a plump of wood. One rode in
black, and one rode in yellow, and the third rode in black and yellow.
So they cried Martimor that he should give them passage, for they
followed a quest.

"Passage takes, who passage makes!" cried Martimor. "Right well I know
your quest, and it is a foul one."

Then the knight in black rode at him lightly, but Martimor encountered
him with the spear and smote him backward from his horse, that his head
struck the coping of the bridge and brake his neck. Then came the knight
in yellow, walloping heavily, and him the spear pierced through the
midst of the body and burst in three pieces: so he fell on his back and
the life went out of him, but the spear stuck fast and stood up from his
breast as a stake.

Then the knight in black and yellow, that was as big as both his
brethren, gave a terrible shout, and rode at Martimor like a wood
lion. But he fended with his shield that the spear went aside, and they
clapped together like thunder, and both horses were overthrown. And
lightly they avoided their horses and rushed together, tracing, rasing,
and foining. Such strokes they gave that great pieces were clipped away
from their hauberks, and their helms, and they staggered to and fro
like drunken men. Then they hurtled together like rams and each battered
other the wind out of his body. So they sat either on one side of the
bridge, to take their breath, glaring the one at the other as two owls.
Then they stepped together and fought freshly, smiting and thrusting,
ramping and reeling, panting, snorting, and scattering blood, for the
space of two hours. So the knight in black and yellow, because he was
heavier, drave Martimor backward step by step till he came to the crown
of the bridge, and there fell grovelling. At this the Lady Beauvivante
shrieked and wailed, but the damsel Lirette cried loudly, "Up! Martimor,
strike again!"

Then the courage came into his body, and with a great might he abraid
upon his feet, and smote the black and yellow knight upon the helm by an
overstroke so fierce that the sword sheared away the third part of his
head, as it had been a rotten cheese. So he lay upon the bridge, and the
blood ran out of him. And Martimor smote off the rest of his head quite,
and cast it into the river. Likewise did he with the other twain that
lay dead beyond the bridge. And he cried to Flumen, "Hide me these black
eggs that hatched evil thoughts." So the river bore them away.

Then Martimor came into the Mill, all for-bled; "Now are ye free, lady,"
he cried, and fell down in a swoon. Then the Lady and the Maid wept full
sore and made great dole and unlaced his helm; and Lirette cherished him
tenderly to recover his life.

So while they were thus busied and distressed, came Sir Lancelot with a
great company of knights and squires riding for to rescue the princess.
When he came to the bridge all bedashed with blood, and the bodies of
the knights headless, "Now, by my lady's name," said he, "here has
been good fighting, and those three caitiffs are slain! By whose hand I
wonder?"

So he came into the Mill, and there he found Martimor recovered of his
swoon, and had marvellous joy of him, when he heard how he had wrought.

"Now are thou proven worthy of the noble order of knighthood," said
Lancelot, and forthwith he dubbed him knight.

Then he said that Sir Martimor should ride with him to the court of King
Pellinore, to receive a castle and a fair lady to wife, for doubtless
the King would deny him nothing to reward the rescue of his daughter.

But Martimor stood in a muse; then said he, "May a knight have his free
will and choice of castles, where he will abide?"

"Within the law," said Lancelot, "and by the King's word he may."

"Then choose I the Mill," said Martimor, "for here will I dwell."

"Freely spoken," said Lancelot, laughing, "so art thou Sir Martimor of
the Mill; no doubt the King will confirm it. And now what sayest thou of
ladies?"

"May a knight have his free will and choice here also?" said he.

"According to his fortune," said Lancelot, "and by the lady's favour, he
may."

"Well, then," said Sir Martimor, taking Lirette by the hand, "this
Maid is to me liefer to have and to wield as my wife than any dame or
princess that is christened."

"What, brother," said Sir Lancelot, "is the wind in that quarter? And
will the Maid have thee?"

"I will well," said Lirette.

"Now are you well provided," said Sir Lancelot, "with knighthood, and a
castle, and a lady. Lacks but a motto and a name for the Blue Flower in
thy shield."

"He that names it shall never find it," said Sir Martimor, "and he that
finds it needs no name."

So Lirette rejoiced Sir Martimor and loved together during their
life-days; and this is the end and the beginning of the Story of the
Mill.



SPY ROCK

I

It must have been near Sutherland's Pond that I lost the way. For there
the deserted road which I had been following through the Highlands
ran out upon a meadow all abloom with purple loose-strife and golden
Saint-John's wort. The declining sun cast a glory over the lonely field,
and far in the corner, nigh to the woods, there was a touch of the
celestial colour: blue of the sky seen between white clouds: blue of the
sea shimmering through faint drifts of silver mist. The hope of finding
that hue of distance and mystery embodied in a living form, the old hope
of discovering the Blue Flower rose again in my heart. But it was only
for a moment, for when I came nearer I saw that the colour which had
caught my eye came from a multitude of closed gentians--the blossoms
which never open into perfection--growing so closely together that their
blended promise had seemed like a single flower.

So I harked back again, slanting across the meadow, to find the road.
But it had vanished. Wandering among the alders and clumps of gray
birches, here and there I found a track that looked like it; but as I
tried each one, it grew more faint and uncertain and at last came to
nothing in a thicket or a marsh. While I was thus beating about the bush
the sun dropped below the western rim of hills. It was necessary to make
the most of the lingering light, if I did not wish to be benighted in
the woods. The little village of Canterbury, which was the goal of my
day's march, must lie about to the north just beyond the edge of the
mountain, and in that direction I turned, pushing forward as rapidly as
possible through the undergrowth.

Presently I came into a region where the trees were larger and the
travelling was easier. It was not a primeval forest, but a second growth
of chestnuts and poplars and maples. Through the woods there ran at
intervals long lines of broken rock, covered with moss--the ruins,
evidently, of ancient stone fences. The land must have been, in former
days, a farm, inhabited, cultivated, the home of human hopes and desires
and labours, but now relapsed into solitude and wilderness. What could
the life have been among these rugged and inhospitable Highlands, on
this niggard and reluctant soil? Where was the house that once sheltered
the tillers of this rude corner of the earth?

Here, perhaps, in the little clearing into which I now emerged. A couple
of decrepit apple-trees grew on the edge of it, and dropped their
scanty and gnarled fruit to feast the squirrels. A little farther on, a
straggling clump of ancient lilacs, a bewildered old bush of sweetbrier,
the dark-green leaves of a cluster of tiger-lilies, long past blooming,
marked the grave of the garden. And here, above this square hollow in
the earth, with the remains of a crumbling chimney standing sentinel
beside it, here the house must have stood. What joys, what sorrows once
centred around this cold and desolate hearth-stone? What children went
forth like birds from this dismantled nest into the wide world? What
guests found refuge----

"Take care! stand back! There is a rattlesnake in the old cellar."

The voice, even more than the words, startled me. I drew away suddenly,
and saw, behind the ruins of the chimney, a man of an aspect so striking
that to this day his face and figure are as vivid in my memory as if it
were but yesterday that I had met him.

He was dressed in black, the coat of a somewhat formal cut, a long
cravat loosely knotted in his rolling collar. His head was bare, and
the coal-black hair, thick and waving, was in some disorder. His face,
smooth and pale, with high forehead, straight nose, and thin, sensitive
lips--was it old or young? Handsome it certainly was, the face of a man
of mark, a man of power. Yet there was something strange and wild about
it. His dark eyes, with the fine wrinkles about them, had a look of
unspeakable remoteness, and at the same time an intensity that seemed
to pierce me through and through. It was as if he saw me in a dream,
yet measured me, weighed me with a scrutiny as exact as it was at bottom
indifferent.

But his lips were smiling, and there was no fault to be found, at
least, with his manner. He had risen from the broad stone where he
had evidently been sitting with his back against the chimney, and came
forward to greet me.

"You will pardon the abruptness of my greeting? I thought you might not
care to make acquaintance with the present tenant of this old house--at
least not without an introduction."

"Certainly not," I answered, "you have done me a real kindness, which is
better than the outward form of courtesy. But how is it that you stay
at such close quarters with this unpleasant tenant? Have you no fear of
him?"

"Not the least in the world," he answered, laughing. "I know the snakes
too well, better than they know themselves. It is not likely that even
an old serpent with thirteen rattles, like this one, could harm me. I
know his ways. Before he could strike I should be out of reach."

"Well," said I, "it is a grim thought, at all events, that this house,
once a cheerful home, no doubt, should have fallen at last to be the
dwelling of such a vile creature."

"Fallen!" he exclaimed. Then he repeated the word with a questioning
accent--"fallen? Are you sure of that? The snake, in his way, may be
quite as honest as the people who lived here before him, and not much
more harmful. The farmer was a miser who robbed his mother, quarrelled
with his brother, and starved his wife. What she lacked in food, she
made up in drink, when she could. One of the children, a girl, was
a cripple, lamed by her mother in a fit of rage. The two boys were
ne'er-do-weels who ran away from home as soon as they were old
enough. One of them is serving a life-sentence in the State prison for
manslaughter. When the house burned down some thirty years ago,
the woman escaped. The man's body was found with the head crushed
in--perhaps by a falling timber. The family of our friend the
rattlesnake could hardly surpass that record, I think.

"But why should we blame them--any of them? They were only acting out
their natures. To one who can see and understand, it is all perfectly
simple, and interesting--immensely interesting."

It is impossible to describe the quiet eagerness, the cool glow of
fervour with which he narrated this little history. It was the manner of
the triumphant pathologist who lays bare some hidden seat of disease.
It surprised and repelled me a little; yet it attracted me, too, for I
could see how evidently he counted on my comprehension and sympathy.

"Well," said I, "it is a pitiful history. Rural life is not all peace
and innocence. But how came you to know the story?"

"I? Oh, I make it my business to know a little of everything, and as
much as possible of human life, not excepting the petty chronicles of
the rustics around me. It is my chief pleasure. I earn my living by
teaching boys. I find my satisfaction in studying men. But you are on
a journey, sir, and night is falling. I must not detain you. Or perhaps
you will allow me to forward you a little by serving as a guide. Which
way were you going when you turned aside to look at this dismantled
shrine?"

"To Canterbury," I answered, "to find a night's, or a month's, lodging
at the inn. My journey is a ramble, it has neither terminus nor
time-table."

"Then let me commend to you something vastly better than the tender
mercies of the Canterbury Inn. Come with me to the school on Hilltop,
where I am a teacher. It is a thousand feet above the village--purer
air, finer view, and pleasanter company. There is plenty of room in
the house, for it is vacation-time. Master Isaac Ward is always glad to
entertain guests."

There was something so sudden and unconventional about the invitation
that I was reluctant to accept it; but he gave it naturally and pressed
it with earnest courtesy, assuring me that it was in accordance with
Master Ward's custom, that he would be much disappointed to lose the
chance of talking with an interesting traveller, that he would far
rather let me pay him for my lodging than have me go by, and so on--so
that at last I consented.

Three minutes' walking from the deserted clearing brought us into a
travelled road. It circled the breast of the mountain, and as we stepped
along it in the dusk I learned something of my companion. His name was
Edward Keene; he taught Latin and Greek in the Hilltop School; he had
studied for the ministry, but had given it up, I gathered, on account of
a certain loss of interest, or rather a diversion of interest in another
direction. He spoke of himself with an impersonal candour.

"Preachers must be always trying to persuade men," he said. "But what I
care about is to know men. I don't care what they do. Certainly I have
no wish to interfere with them in their doings, for I doubt whether
anyone can really change them. Each tree bears its own fruit, you see,
and by their fruits you know them."

"What do you say to grafting? That changes the fruit, surely?"

"Yes, but a grafted tree is not really one tree. It is two trees growing
together. There is a double life in it, and the second life, the added
life, dominates the other. The stock becomes a kind of animate soil for
the graft to grow in."

Presently the road dipped into a little valley and rose again, breasting
the slope of a wooded hill which thrust itself out from the steeper
flank of the mountain-range. Down the hill-side a song floated to meet
us--that most noble lyric of old Robert Herrick:

  Bid me to live, and I will live
     Thy Protestant to be;
  Or bid me love, and I will give
     A loving heart to thee.


It was a girl's voice, fresh and clear, with a note of tenderness in it
that thrilled me. Keene's pace quickened. And soon the singer came in
sight, stepping lightly down the road, a shape of slender whiteness on
the background of gathering night. She was beautiful even in that dim
light, with brown eyes and hair, and a face that seemed to breathe
purity and trust. Yet there was a trace of anxiety in it, or so I
fancied, that gave it an appealing charm.

"You have come at last, Edward," she cried, running forward and putting
her hand in his. "It is late. You have been out all day; I began to be
afraid."

"Not too late," he answered; "there was no need for fear, Dorothy. I
am not alone, you see." And keeping her hand, he introduced me to the
daughter of Master Ward.

It was easy to guess the relation between these two young people who
walked beside me in the dusk. It needed no words to say that they were
lovers. Yet it would have needed many words to define the sense, that
came to me gradually, of something singular in the tie that bound
them together. On his part there was a certain tone of half-playful
condescension toward her such as one might use to a lovely child, which
seemed to match but ill with her unconscious attitude of watchful care,
of tender solicitude for him--almost like the manner of an elder sister.
Lovers they surely were, and acknowledged lovers, for their frankness of
demeanour sought no concealment; but I felt that there must be

      A little rift within the lute,

though neither of them might know it. Each one's thought of the other
was different from the other's thought of self. There could not be a
complete understanding, a perfect accord. What was the secret, of which
each knew half, but not the other half?

Thus, with steps that kept time, but with thoughts how wide apart, we
came to the door of the school. A warm flood of light poured out to
greet us. The Master, an elderly, placid, comfortable man, gave me just
the welcome that had been promised in his name. The supper was waiting,
and the evening passed in such happy cheer that the bewilderments and
misgivings of the twilight melted away, and at bedtime I dropped into
the nest of sleep as one who has found a shelter among friends.



II


The Hilltop School stood on a blessed site. Lifted high above the
village, it held the crest of the last gentle wave of the mountains
that filled the south with crowding billows, ragged and tumultuous.
Northward, the great plain lay at our feet, smiling in the sun; meadows
and groves, yellow fields of harvest and green orchards, white roads and
clustering towns, with here and there a little city on the bank of
the mighty river which curved in a vast line of beauty toward the blue
Catskill Range, fifty miles away. Lines of filmy smoke, like vanishing
footprints in the air, marked the passage of railway trains across
the landscape--their swift flight reduced by distance to a leisurely
transition. The bright surface of the stream was furrowed by a hundred
vessels; tiny rowboats creeping from shore to shore; knots of black
barges following the lead of puffing tugs; sloops with languid motion
tacking against the tide; white steamboats, like huge toy-houses,
crowded with pygmy inhabitants, moving smoothly on their way to the
great city, and disappearing suddenly as they turned into the narrows
between Storm-King and the Fishkill Mountains. Down there was life,
incessant, varied, restless, intricate, many-coloured--down there was
history, the highway of ancient voyagers since the days of Hendrik
Hudson, the hunting-ground of Indian tribes, the scenes of massacre and
battle, the last camp of the Army of the Revolution, the Head-quarters
of Washington--down there were the homes of legend and poetry, the
dreamlike hills of Rip van Winkle's sleep, the cliffs and caves haunted
by the Culprit Fay, the solitudes traversed by the Spy--all outspread
before us, and visible as in a Claude Lorraine glass, in the tranquil
lucidity of distance. And here, on the hilltop, was our own life;
secluded, yet never separated from the other life; looking down upon
it, yet woven of the same stuff; peaceful in circumstance, yet ever busy
with its own tasks, and holding in its quiet heart all the elements of
joy and sorrow and tragic consequence.

The Master was a man of most unworldly wisdom. In his youth a great
traveller, he had brought home many observations, a few views, and at
least one theory. To him the school was the most important of human
institutions--more vital even than the home, because it held the first
real experience of social contact, of free intercourse with other minds
and lives coming from different households and embodying different
strains of blood. "My school," said he, "is the world in miniature. If I
can teach these boys to study and play together freely and with fairness
to one another, I shall make men fit to live and work together in
society. What they learn matters less than how they learn it. The great
thing is the bringing out of individual character so that it will find
its place in social harmony."

Yet never man knew less of character in the concrete than Master Ward.
To him each person represented a type--the scientific, the practical,
the poetic. From each one he expected, and in each one he found, to
a certain degree, the fruit of the marked quality, the obvious, the
characteristic. But of the deeper character, made up of a hundred
traits, coloured and conditioned most vitally by something secret and
in itself apparently of slight importance, he was placidly unconscious.
Classes he knew. Individuals escaped him. Yet he was a most
companionable man, a social solitary, a friendly hermit.

His daughter Dorothy seemed to me even more fair and appealing by
daylight than when I first saw her in the dusk. There was a pure
brightness in her brown eyes, a gentle dignity in her look and bearing,
a soft cadence of expectant joy in her voice. She was womanly in every
tone and motion, yet by no means weak or uncertain. Mistress of herself
and of the house, she ruled her kingdom without an effort. Busied with
many little cares, she bore them lightly. Her spirit overflowed into the
lives around her with delicate sympathy and merry cheer. But it was
in music that her nature found its widest outlet. In the lengthening
evenings of late August she would play from Schumann, or Chopin, or
Grieg, interpreting the vague feelings of gladness or grief which lie
too deep for words. Ballads she loved, quaint old English and Scotch
airs, folk-songs of Germany, "Come-all-ye's" of Ireland, Canadian
chansons. She sang--not like an angel, but like a woman.

Of the two under-masters in the school, Edward Keene was the elder.
The younger, John Graham, was his opposite in every respect. Sturdy,
fair-haired, plain in the face, he was essentially an every-day man,
devoted to out-of-door sports, a hard worker, a good player, and a sound
sleeper. He came back to the school, from a fishing-excursion, a
few days after my arrival. I liked the way in which he told of his
adventures, with a little frank boasting, enough to season but not to
spoil the story. I liked the way in which he took hold of his work,
helping to get the school in readiness for the return of the boys in
the middle of September. I liked, more than all, his attitude to Dorothy
Ward. He loved her, clearly enough. When she was in the room the
other people were only accidents to him. Yet there was nothing of the
disappointed suitor in his bearing. He was cheerful, natural, accepting
the situation, giving her the best he had to give, and gladly taking
from her the frank reliance, the ready comradeship which she bestowed
upon him. If he envied Keene--and how could he help it--at least he
never showed a touch of jealousy or rivalry. The engagement was a fact
which he took into account as something not to be changed or questioned.
Keene was so much more brilliant, interesting, attractive. He answered
so much more fully to the poetic side of Dorothy's nature. How could she
help preferring him?

Thus the three actors in the drama stood, when I became an inmate of
Hilltop, and accepted the master's invitation to undertake some of the
minor classes in English, and stay on at the school indefinitely. It was
my wish to see the little play--a pleasant comedy, I hoped--move forward
to a happy ending. And yet--what was it that disturbed me now and then
with forebodings? Something, doubtless, in the character of Keene, for
he was the dominant personality. The key of the situation lay with
him. He was the centre of interest. Yet he was the one who seemed not
perfectly in harmony, not quite at home, as if something beckoned and
urged him away.

"I am glad you are to stay," said he, "yet I wonder at it. You will find
the life narrow, after all your travels. Ulysses at Ithaca--you will
surely be restless to see the world again."

"If you find the life broad enough, I ought not to be cramped in it."

"Ah, but I have compensations."

"One you certainly have," said I, thinking of Dorothy, "and that one is
enough to make a man happy anywhere."

"Yes, yes," he answered, quickly, "but that is not what I mean. It is
not there that I look for a wider life. Love--do you think that love
broadens a man's outlook? To me it seems to make him narrower--happier,
perhaps, within his own little circle--but distinctly narrower.
Knowledge is the only thing that broadens life, sets it free from the
tyranny of the parish, fills it with the sense of power. And love is the
opposite of knowledge. Love is a kind of an illusion--a happy illusion,
that is what love is. Don't you see that?"

"See it?" I cried. "I don't know what you mean. Do you mean that you
don't really care for Dorothy Ward? Do you mean that what you have won
in her is an illusion? If so, you are as wrong as a man can be."

"No, no," he answered, eagerly, "you know I don't mean that. I could not
live without her. But love is not the only reality. There is something
else, something broader, something----"

"Come away," I said, "come away, man! You are talking nonsense, treason.
You are not true to yourself. You've been working too hard at your
books. There's a maggot in your brain. Come out for a long walk."

That indeed was what he liked best. He was a magnificent walker, easy,
steady, unwearying. He knew every road and lane in the valleys, every
footpath and trail among the mountains. But he cared little for walking
in company; one companion was the most that he could abide. And, strange
to say, it was not Dorothy whom he chose for his most frequent comrade.
With her he would saunter down the Black Brook path, or climb slowly to
the first ridge of Storm-King. But with me he pushed out to the farthest
pinnacle that overhangs the river, and down through the Lonely Heart
gorge, and over the pass of the White Horse, and up to the peak of Cro'
Nest, and across the rugged summit of Black Rock. At every wider outlook
a strange exhilaration seemed to come upon him. His spirit glowed like
a live coal in the wind. He overflowed with brilliant talk and curious
stories of the villages and scattered houses that we could see from our
eyries.

But it was not with me that he made his longest expeditions. They were
solitary. Early on Saturday he would leave the rest of us, with some
slight excuse, and start away on the mountain-road, to be gone all day.
Sometimes he would not return till long after dark. Then I could see the
anxious look deepen on Dorothy's face, and she would slip away down the
road to meet him. But he always came back in good spirits, talkable and
charming. It was the next day that the reaction came. The black fit
took him. He was silent, moody, bitter. Holding himself aloof, yet never
giving utterance to any irritation, he seemed half-unconsciously to
resent the claims of love and friendship, as if they irked him. There
was a look in his eyes as if he measured us, weighed us, analysed us all
as strangers.

Yes, even Dorothy. I have seen her go to meet him with a flower in
her hand that she had plucked for him, and turn away with her lips
trembling, too proud to say a word, dropping the flower on the grass.
John Graham saw it, too. He waited till she was gone; then he picked up
the flower and kept it.

There was nothing to take offence at, nothing on which one could lay a
finger; only these singular alternations of mood which made Keene now
the most delightful of friends, now an intimate stranger in the circle.
The change was inexplicable. But certainly it seemed to have some
connection, as cause or consequence, with his long, lonely walks.

Once, when he was absent, we spoke of his remarkable fluctuations of
spirit.

The master labelled him. "He is an idealist, a dreamer. They are always
uncertain."

I blamed him. "He gives way too much to his moods. He lacks
self-control. He is in danger of spoiling a fine nature."

I looked at Dorothy. She defended him. "Why should he be always the
same? He is too great for that. His thoughts make him restless, and
sometimes he is tired. Surely you wouldn't have him act what he don't
feel. Why do you want him to do that?"

"I don't know," said Graham, with a short laugh. "None of us know. But
what we all want just now is music. Dorothy, will you sing a little for
us?"

So she sang "The Coulin," and "The Days o' the Kerry Dancin'," and "The
Hawthorn Tree," and "The Green Woods of Truigha," and "Flowers o' the
Forest," and "A la claire Fontaine," until the twilight was filled with
peace.

The boys came back to the school. The wheels of routine began to turn
again, slowly and with a little friction at first, then smoothly and
swiftly as if they had never stopped. Summer reddened into autumn;
autumn bronzed into fall. The maples and poplars were bare. The oaks
alone kept their rusted crimson glory, and the cloaks of spruce and
hemlock on the shoulders of the hills grew dark with wintry foliage.
Keene's transitions of mood became more frequent and more extreme. The
gulf of isolation that divided him from us when the black days came
seemed wider and more unfathomable. Dorothy and John Graham were
thrown more constantly together. Keene appeared to encourage their
companionship. He watched them curiously, sometimes, not as if he
were jealous, but rather as if he were interested in some delicate
experiment. At other times he would be singularly indifferent to
everything, remote, abstracted, forgetful.

Dorothy's birthday, which fell in mid-October, was kept as a holiday.
In the morning everyone had some little birthday gift for her,
except Keene. He had forgotten the birthday entirely. The shadow of
disappointment that quenched the brightness of her face was pitiful.
Even he could not be blind to it. He flushed as if surprised, and
hesitated a moment, evidently in conflict with himself. Then a look of
shame and regret came into his eyes. He made some excuse for not going
with us to the picnic, at the Black Brook Falls, with which the day was
celebrated. In the afternoon, as we all sat around the camp-fire, he
came swinging through the woods with his long, swift stride, and going
at once to Dorothy laid a little brooch of pearl and opal in her hand.

"Will you forgive me?" he said. "I hope this is not too late. But I lost
the train back from Newburg and walked home. I pray that you may never
know any tears but pearls, and that there may be nothing changeable
about you but the opal."

"Oh, Edward!" she cried, "how beautiful! Thank you a thousand times. But
I wish you had been with us all day. We have missed you so much!"

For the rest of that day simplicity and clearness and joy came back to
us. Keene was at his best, a leader of friendly merriment, a master of
good-fellowship, a prince of delicate chivalry. Dorothy's loveliness
unfolded like a flower in the sun.

But the Indian summer of peace was brief. It was hardly a week before
Keene's old moods returned, darker and stranger than ever. The girl's
unconcealable bewilderment, her sense of wounded loyalty and baffled
anxiety, her still look of hurt and wondering tenderness, increased
from day to day. John Graham's temper seemed to change, suddenly and
completely. From the best-humoured and most careless fellow in the
world, he became silent, thoughtful, irritable toward everyone except
Dorothy. With Keene he was curt and impatient, avoiding him as much as
possible, and when they were together, evidently struggling to keep down
a deep dislike and rising anger. They had had sharp words when they were
alone, I was sure, but Keene's coolness seemed to grow with Graham's
heat. There was no open quarrel.

One Saturday evening, Graham came to me. "You have seen what is going on
here?" he said.

"Something, at least," I answered, "and I am very sorry for it. But I
don't quite understand it."

"Well, I do; and I'm going to put an end to it. I'm going to have it out
with Ned Keene. He is breaking her heart."

"But are you the right one to take the matter up?"

"Who else is there to do it?"

"Her father."

"He sees nothing, comprehends nothing. 'Practical type--poetic
type--misunderstandings sure to arise--come together after a while each
supply the other's deficiencies.' Cursed folly! And the girl so unhappy
that she can't tell anyone. It shall not go on, I say. Keene is out on
the road now, taking one of his infernal walks. I'm going to meet him."

"I'm afraid it will make trouble. Let me go with you."

"The trouble is made. Come if you like. I'm going now."

The night lay heavy upon the forest. Where the road dipped through the
valley we could hardly see a rod ahead of us. But higher up where the
way curved around the breast of the mountain, the woods were thin on the
left, and on the right a sheer precipice fell away to the gorge of the
brook. In the dim starlight we saw Keene striding toward us. Graham
stepped out to meet him.

"Where have you been, Ned Keene?" he cried. The cry was a challenge.
Keene lifted his head and stood still. Then he laughed and took a step
forward.

"Taking a long walk, Jack Graham," he answered. "It was glorious. You
should have been with me. But why this sudden question?"

"Because your long walk is a pretence. You are playing false. There
is some woman that you go to see at West Point, at Highland Falls, who
knows where?"

Keene laughed again.

"Certainly you don't know, my dear fellow; and neither do I. Since when
has walking become a vice in your estimation? You seem to be in a fierce
mood. What's the matter?"

"I will tell you what's the matter. You have been acting like a brute to
the girl you profess to love."

"Plain words! But between friends frankness is best. Did she ask you to
tell me?"

"No! You know too well she would die before she would speak. You are
killing her, that is what you are doing with your devilish moods and
mysteries. You must stop. Do you hear? You must give her up."

"I hear well enough, and it sounds like a word for her and two for
yourself. Is that it?"

"Damn you," cried the younger man, "let the words go! we'll settle it
this way"----and he sprang at the other's throat.

Keene, cool and well-braced, met him with a heavy blow in the chest. He
recoiled, and I rushed between them, holding Graham back, and pleading
for self-control. As we stood thus, panting and confused, on the edge of
the cliff, a singing voice floated up to us from the shadows across the
valley. It was Herrick's song again:

  A heart as soft, a heart as kind,
     A heart as sound and free
  Is in the whole world thou canst find,
     That heart I'll give to thee.


"Come, gentlemen," I cried, "this is folly, sheer madness. You can never
deal with the matter in this way. Think of the girl who is singing down
yonder. What would happen to her, what would she suffer, from scandal,
from her own feelings, if either of you should be killed, or even
seriously hurt by the other? There must be no quarrel between you."

"Certainly," said Keene, whose poise, if shaken at all, had returned,
"certainly, you are right. It is not of my seeking, nor shall I be the
one to keep it up. I am willing to let it pass. It is but a small matter
at most."

I turned to Graham--"And you?"

He hesitated a little, and then said, doggedly "On one condition."

"And that is?"

"Keene must explain. He must answer my question."

"Do you accept?" I asked Keene.

"Yes and no!" he replied. "No! to answering Graham's question. He is not
the person to ask it. I wonder that he does not see the impropriety, the
absurdity of his meddling at all in this affair. Besides, he could not
understand my answer even if he believed it. But to the explanation,
I say, Yes! I will give it, not to Graham, but to you. I make you this
proposition. To-morrow is Sunday. We shall be excused from service if we
tell the master that we have important business to settle together. You
shall come with me on one of my long walks. I will tell you all about
them. Then you can be the judge whether there is any harm in them."

"Does that satisfy you?" I said to Graham.

"Yes," he answered, "that seems fair enough. I am content to leave it in
that way for the present. And to make it still more fair, I want to take
back what I said awhile ago, and to ask Keene's pardon for it."

"Not at all," said Keene, quickly, "it was said in haste, I bear no
grudge. You simply did not understand, that is all."

So we turned to go down the hill, and as we turned, Dorothy met us,
coming out of the shadows.

"What are you men doing here?" she asked. "I heard your voices from
below. What were you talking about?"

"We were talking," said Keene, "my dear Dorothy, we were talking--about
walking--yes, that was it--about walking, and about views. The
conversation was quite warm, almost a debate. Now, you know all the
view-points in this region. Which do you call the best, the most
satisfying, the finest prospect? But I know what you will say: the view
from the little knoll in front of Hilltop. For there, when you are tired
of looking far away, you can turn around and see the old school, and the
linden-trees, and the garden."

"Yes," she answered gravely, "that is really the view that I love best.
I would give up all the others rather than lose that."



III


There was a softness in the November air that brought back memories of
summer, and a few belated daisies were blooming in the old clearing, as
Keene and I passed by the ruins of the farm-house again, early on Sunday
morning. He had been talking ever since we started, pouring out his
praise of knowledge, wide, clear, universal knowledge, as the best of
life's joys, the greatest of life's achievements. The practical life was
a blind, dull routine. Most men were toiling at tasks which they did not
like, by rules which they did not understand. They never looked beyond
the edge of their work. The philosophical life was a spider's web--filmy
threads of theory spun out of the inner consciousness--it touched the
world only at certain chosen points of attachment. There was nothing
firm, nothing substantial in it. You could look through it like a veil
and see the real world lying beyond. But the theorist could see only the
web which he had spun. Knowing did not come by speculating, theorising.
Knowing came by seeing. Vision was the only real knowledge. To see the
world, the whole world, as it is, to look behind the scenes, to read
human life like a book, that was the glorious thing--most satisfying,
divine.

Thus he had talked as we climbed the hill. Now, as we came by the place
where we had first met, a new eagerness sounded in his voice.

"Ever since that day I have inclined to tell you something more about
myself. I felt sure you would understand. I am planning to write a
book--a book of knowledge, in the true sense--a great book about human
life. Not a history, not a theory, but a real view of life, its hidden
motives, its secret relations. How different they are from what men
dream and imagine and play that they are! How much darker, how much
smaller, and therefore how much more interesting and wonderful. No one
has yet written--perhaps because no one has yet conceived--such a book
as I have in mind. I might call it a 'Bionopsis.'"

"But surely," said I, "you have chosen a strange place to write it--the
Hilltop School--this quiet and secluded region! The stream of humanity
is very slow and slender here--it trickles. You must get out into the
busy world. You must be in the full current and feel its force. You must
take part in the active life of mankind in order really to know it."

"A mistake!" he cried. "Action is the thing that blinds men. You
remember Matthew Arnold's line:

  In action's dizzying eddy whurled.

To know the world you must stand apart from it and above it; you must
look down on it."

"Well, then," said I, "you will have to find some secret spring of
inspiration, some point of vantage from which you can get your outlook
and your insight."

He stopped short and looked me full in the face.

"And that," cried he, "is precisely what I have found!"

Then he turned and pushed along the narrow trail so swiftly that I had
hard work to follow him. After a few minutes we came to a little stream,
flowing through a grove of hemlocks. Keene seated himself on the fallen
log that served for a bridge and beckoned me to a place beside him.

"I promised to give you an explanation to-day--to take you on one of my
long walks. Well, there is only one of them. It is always the same. You
shall see where it leads, what it means. You shall share my secret--all
the wonder and glory of it! Of course I know my conduct, has seemed
strange to you. Sometimes it has seemed strange even to me. I have been
doubtful, troubled, almost distracted. I have been risking a great deal,
in danger of losing what I value, what most men count the best thing in
the world. But it could not be helped. The risk was worth while. A great
discovery, the opportunity of a lifetime, yes, of an age, perhaps of
many ages, came to me. I simply could not throw it away. I must use it,
make the best of it, at any danger, at any cost. You shall judge for
yourself whether I was right or wrong. But you must judge fairly,
without haste, without prejudice. I ask you to make me one promise. You
will suspend judgment, you will say nothing, you will keep my secret,
until you have been with me three times at the place where I am now
taking you."

By this time it was clear to me that I had to do with a case lying far
outside of the common routine of life; something subtle, abnormal, hard
to measure, in which a clear and careful estimate would be necessary. If
Keene was labouring under some strange delusion, some disorder of mind,
how could I estimate its nature or extent, without time and study,
perhaps without expert advice? To wait a little would be prudent,
for his sake as well as for the sake of others. If there was some
extraordinary, reality behind his mysterious hints, it would need
patience and skill to test it. I gave him the promise for which he
asked.

At once, as if relieved, he sprang up, and crying, "Come on, follow me!"
began to make his way up the bed of the brook. It was one of the wildest
walks that I have ever taken. He turned aside for no obstacles; swamps,
masses of interlacing alders, close-woven thickets of stiff young
spruces, chevaux-de-frise of dead trees where wind-falls had mowed down
the forest, walls of lichen-crusted rock, landslides where heaps of
broken stone were tumbled in ruinous confusion--through everything he
pushed forward. I could see, here and there, the track of his former
journeys: broken branches of witch-hazel and moose-wood, ferns trampled
down, a faint trail across some deeper bed of moss. At mid-day we rested
for a half-hour to eat lunch. But Keene would eat nothing, except a
little pellet of some dark green substance that he took from a flat
silver box in his pocket. He swallowed it hastily, and stooping his face
to the spring by which he had halted, drank long and eagerly.

"An Indian trick," said he, shaking the drops of water from his face.
"On a walk, food is a hindrance, a delay. But this tiny taste of bitter
gum is a tonic; it spurs the courage and doubles the strength--if you
are used to it. Otherwise I should not recommend you to try it. Faugh!
the flavour is vile."

He rinsed his mouth again with water, and stood up, calling me to come
on. The way, now tangled among the nameless peaks and ranges, bore
steadily southward, rising all the time, in spite of many brief downward
curves where a steep gorge must be crossed. Presently we came into a
hard-wood forest, open and easy to travel. Breasting a long slope, we
reached the summit of a broad, smoothly rounding ridge covered with a
dense growth of stunted spruce. The trees rose above our heads, about
twice the height of a man, and so thick that we could not see beyond
them. But, from glimpses here and there, and from the purity and
lightness of the air, I judged that we were on far higher ground
than any we had yet traversed, the central comb, perhaps, of the
mountain-system.

A few yards ahead of us, through the crowded trunks of the dwarf forest,
I saw a gray mass, like the wall of a fortress, across our path. It was
a vast rock, rising from the crest of the ridge, lifting its top above
the sea of foliage. At its base there were heaps of shattered stones,
and deep crevices almost like caves. One side of the rock was broken by
a slanting gully.

"Be careful," cried my companion, "there is a rattlers' den somewhere
about here. The snakes are in their winter quarters now, almost dormant,
but they can still strike if you tread on them. Step here! Give me
your hand--use that point of rock--hold fast by this bush; it is firmly
rooted--so! Here we are on Spy Rock! You have heard of it? I thought so.
Other people have heard of it, and imagine that they have found it--five
miles east of us--on a lower ridge. Others think it is a peak just back
of Cro' Nest. All wrong! There is but one real Spy Rock--here! This
earth holds no more perfect view-point. It is one of the rare places
from which a man may see the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of
them. Look!"

The prospect was indeed magnificent; it was strange what a vast
enlargement of vision resulted from the slight elevation above the
surrounding peaks. It was like being lifted up so that we could
look over the walls. The horizon expanded as if by magic. The vast
circumference of vision swept around us with a radius of a hundred
miles. Mountain and meadow, forest and field, river and lake, hill and
dale, village and farmland, far-off city and shimmering water--all lay
open to our sight, and over all the westering sun wove a transparent
robe of gem-like hues. Every feature of the landscape seemed alive,
quivering, pulsating with conscious beauty. You could almost see the
world breathe.

"Wonderful!" I cried. "Most wonderful! You have found a mount of
vision."

"Ah," he answered, "you don't half see the wonder yet, you don't begin
to appreciate it. Your eyes are new to it. You have not learned the
power of far sight, the secret of Spy Rock. You are still shut in by the
horizon."

"Do you mean to say that you can look beyond it?"

"Beyond yours--yes. And beyond any that you would dream possible--See!
Your sight reaches to that dim cloud of smoke in the south? And beneath
it you can make out, perhaps, a vague blotch of shadow, or a tiny flash
of brightness where the sun strikes it? New York! But I can see the
great buildings, the domes, the spires, the crowded wharves, the tides
of people whirling through the streets--and beyond that, the sea, with
the ships coming and going! I can follow them on their courses--and
beyond that--Oh! when I am on Spy Rock I can see more than other men can
imagine."

For a moment, strange to say, I almost fancied could follow him. The
magnetism of his spirit imposed upon me, carried me away with him. Then
sober reason told me that he was talking of impossibilities.

"Keene," said I, "you are dreaming. The view and the air have
intoxicated you. This is a phantasy, a delusion!"

"It pleases you to call it so," he said, "but I only tell you my real
experience. Why it should be impossible I do not understand. There is
no reason why the power of sight should not be cultivated, enlarged,
expanded indefinitely."

"And the straight rays of light?" I asked. "And the curvature of the
earth which makes a horizon inevitable?"

"Who knows what a ray of light is?" said he. "Who can prove that it may
not be curved, under certain conditions, or refracted in some places
in a way that is not possible elsewhere? I tell you there is something
extraordinary about this Spy Rock. It is a seat of power--Nature's
observatory. More things are visible here than anywhere else--more than
I have told you yet. But come, we have little time left. For half an
hour, each of us shall enjoy what he can see. Then home again to the
narrower outlook, the restricted life."

The downward journey was swifter than the ascent, but no less fatiguing.
By the time we reached the school, an hour after dark, I was very tired.
But Keene was in one of his moods of exhilaration. He glowed like a
piece of phosphorus that has been drenched with light.

Graham took the first opportunity of speaking with me alone.

"Well?" said he.

"Well!" I answered. "You were wrong. There is no treason in Keene's
walks, no guilt in his moods. But there is something very strange. I
cannot form a judgment yet as to what we should do. We must wait a few
days. It will do no harm to be patient. Indeed, I have promised not to
judge, not to speak of it, until a certain time. Are you satisfied?"

"This is a curious story," said he, "and I am puzzled by it. But I trust
you, I agree to wait, though I am far from satisfied."

Our second expedition was appointed for the following Saturday. Keene
was hungry for it, and I was almost as eager, desiring to penetrate as
quickly as possible into the heart of the affair. Already a conviction
in regard to it was pressing upon me, and I resolved to let him talk,
this time, as freely as he would, without interruption or denial.

When we clambered up on Spy Rock, he was more subdued and reserved than
he had been the first time. For a while he talked little, but scanned
view with wide, shining eyes. Then he began to tell me stories of the
places that we could see--strange stories of domestic calamity, and
social conflict, and eccentric passion, and hidden crime.

"Do you remember Hawthorne's story of 'The Minister's Black Veil?' It
is the best comment on human life that ever was written. Everyone has
something to hide. The surface of life is a mask. The substance of
life is a secret. All humanity wears the black veil. But it is not
impenetrable. No, it is transparent, if you find the right point of
view. Here, on Spy Rock, I have found it. I have learned how to look
through the veil. I can see, not by the light-rays only, but by the
rays which are colourless, imperceptible, irresistible the rays of the
unknown quantity, which penetrate everywhere. I can see how men down in
the great city are weaving their nets of selfishness and falsehood, and
calling them industrial enterprises or political combinations. I can see
how the wheels of society are moved by the hidden springs of avarice
and greed and rivalry. I can see how children drink in the fables of
religion, without understanding them, and how prudent men repeat them
without believing them. I can see how the illusions of love appear and
vanish, and how men and women swear that their dreams are eternal, even
while they fade. I can see how poor people blind themselves and deceive
each other, calling selfishness devotion, and bondage contentment. Down
at Hilltop yonder I can see how Dorothy Ward and John Graham, without
knowing it, without meaning it--"

"Stop, man!" I cried. "Stop, before you say what can never be unsaid.
You know it is not true. These are nightmare visions that ride you. Not
from Spy Rock nor from anywhere else can you see anything at Hilltop
that is not honest and pure and loyal. Come down, now, and let us go
home. You will see better there than here."

"I think not," said he, "but I will come. Yes, of course, I am bound to
come. But let me have a few minutes here alone. Go you down along the
path a little way slowly. I will follow you in a quarter of an hour. And
remember we are to be here together once more!"

  Once more!  Yes, and then what must be done?


How was this strange case to be dealt with so as to save all the actors,
as far as possible, from needless suffering? That Keene's mind was
disordered at least three of us suspected already. But to me alone
was the nature and seat of the disorder known. How make the others
understand it? They might easily conceive it to be something different
from the fact, some actual lesion of the brain, an incurable insanity.
But this it was not. As yet, at least, he was no patient for a
mad-house: it would be unjust, probably it would be impossible to have
him committed. But on the other hand they might take it too lightly, as
the result of overwork, or perhaps of the use of some narcotic. To me
it was certain that the trouble went far deeper than this. It lay in the
man's moral nature, in the error of his central will. It was the working
out, in abnormal form, but with essential truth, of his chosen and
cherished ideal of life. Spy Rock was something more than the seat of
his delusion, it was the expression of his temperament. The
solitary trail that led thither was the symbol of his search for
happiness--alone, forgetful of life's lowlier ties, looking down upon
the world in the cold abstraction of scornful knowledge. How was such
a man to be brought back to the real life whose first condition is the
acceptance of a limited outlook, the willingness to live by trust as
much as by sight, the power of finding joy and peace in the things that
we feel are the best, even though we cannot prove them nor explain them?
How could he ever bring anything but discord and sorrow to those who
were bound to him?

This was what perplexed and oppressed me. I needed all the time until
the next Saturday to think the question through, to decide what should
be done. But the matter was taken out of my hands. After our latest
expedition Keene's dark mood returned upon him with sombre intensity.
Dull, restless, indifferent, half-contemptuous, he seemed to withdraw
into himself, observing those around him with half-veiled glances, as if
he had nothing better to do and yet found it a tiresome pastime. He was
like a man waiting wearily at a railway station for his train. Nothing
pleased him. He responded to nothing.

Graham controlled his indignation by a constant effort. A dozen times he
was on the point of speaking out. But he restrained himself and played
fair. Dorothy's suffering could not be hidden. Her loyalty was strained
to the breaking point. She was too tender and true for anger, but she
was wounded almost beyond endurance.

Keene's restlessness increased. The intervening Thursday was
Thanksgiving Day; most of the boys had gone home; the school had
holiday. Early in the morning he came to me.

"Let us take our walk to-day. We have no work to do. Come! In this
clear, frosty air, Spy Rock will be glorious!"

"No," I answered, "this is no day for such an expedition. This is the
home day. Stay here and be happy with us all. You owe this to love and
friendship. You owe it to Dorothy Ward."

"Owe it?" said he. "Speaking of debts, I think each man is his own
preferred creditor. But of course you can do as you like about to-day.
Tomorrow or Saturday will answer just as well for our third walk
together."

About noon he came down from his room and went to the piano, where
Dorothy was sitting. They talked together in low tones. Then she stood
up, with pale face and wide-open eyes. She laid her hand on his arm.

"Do not go, Edward. For the last time I beg you to stay with us to-day."

He lifted her hand and held it for an instant. Then he bowed, and let it
fall.

"You will excuse me, Dorothy, I am sure. I feel the need of exercise.
Absolutely I must go; good-by--until the evening."

The hours of that day passed heavily for all of us. There was a sense of
disaster in the air. Something irretrievable had fallen from our circle.
But no one dared to name it. Night closed in upon the house with a
changing sky. All the stars were hidden. The wind whimpered and then
shouted. The rain swept down in spiteful volleys, deepening at last into
a fierce, steady discharge. Nine o'clock, ten o'clock passed, and Keene
did not return. By midnight we were certain that some accident had
befallen him.

It was impossible to go up into the mountains in that pitch-darkness
of furious tempest. But we could send down to the village for men to
organise a search-party and to bring the doctor. At daybreak we set
out--some of the men going with the Master along Black Brook, others in
different directions to make sure of a complete search--Graham and
the doctor and I following the secret trail that I knew only too well.
Dorothy insisted that she must go. She would bear no denial, declaring
that it would be worse for her alone at home, than if we took her with
us.

It was incredible how the path seemed to lengthen. Graham watched the
girl's every step, helping her over the difficult places, pushing aside
the tangled branches, his eyes resting upon her as frankly, as tenderly
as a mother looks at her child. In single file we marched through the
gray morning, clearing cold after the storm, and the silence was seldom
broken, for we had little heart to talk.

At last we came to the high, lonely ridge, the dwarf forest, the huge,
couchant bulk of Spy Rock. There, on the back of it, with his right arm
hanging over the edge, was the outline of Edward Keene's form. It was as
if some monster had seized him and flung him over its shoulder to carry
away.

We called to him but there was no answer. The doctor climbed up with me,
and we hurried to the spot where he was lying. His face was turned to
the sky, his eyes blindly staring; there was no pulse, no breath; he was
already cold in death. His right hand and arm, the side of his neck
and face were horribly swollen and livid. The doctor stooped down and
examined the hand carefully. "See!" he cried, pointing to a great bruise
on his wrist, with two tiny punctures in the middle of it from which
a few drops of blood had oozed, "a rattlesnake has struck him. He must
have fairly put his hand upon it, perhaps in the dark, when he was
climbing. And, look, what is this?"

He picked up a flat silver box, that lay open on the rock. There were
two olive-green pellets of a resinous paste in it. He lifted it to his
face, and drew a long breath.

"Yes," he said, "it is Gunjab, the most powerful form of Hashish, the
narcotic hemp of India. Poor fellow, it saved him from frightful agony.
He died in a dream."

"You are right," I said, "in a dream, and for a dream."

We covered his face and climbed down the rock. Dorothy and Graham were
waiting below. He had put his coat around her. She was shivering a
little. There were tear-marks on her face.

"Well," I said, "you must know it. We have lost him."

"Ah!" said the girl, "I lost him long ago."



WOOD-MAGIC

There are three vines that belong to the ancient forest. Elsewhere they
will not grow, though the soil prepared for them be never so rich, the
shade of the arbour built for them never so closely and cunningly woven.
Their delicate, thread-like roots take no hold upon the earth tilled and
troubled by the fingers of man. The fine sap that steals through their
long, slender limbs pauses and fails when they are watered by human
hands. Silently the secret of their life retreats and shrinks away and
hides itself.

But in the woods, where falling leaves and crumbling tree-trunks and
wilting ferns have been moulded by Nature into a deep, brown humus,
clean and fragrant--in the woods, where the sunlight filters green
and golden through interlacing branches, and where pure moisture of
distilling rains and melting snows is held in treasury by never-failing
banks of moss--under the verdurous flood of the forest, like sea-weeds
under the ocean waves, these three little creeping vines put forth their
hands with joy, and spread over rock and hillock and twisted tree-root
and mouldering log, in cloaks and scarves and wreaths of tiny evergreen,
glossy leaves.

One of them is adorned with white pearls sprinkled lightly over its robe
of green. This is Snowberry, and if you eat of it, you will grow wise
in the wisdom of flowers. You will know where to find the yellow violet,
and the wake-robin, and the pink lady-slipper, and the scarlet sage, and
the fringed gentian. You will understand how the buds trust themselves
to the spring in their unfolding, and how the blossoms trust themselves
to the winter in their withering, and how the busy bands of Nature are
ever weaving the beautiful garment of life out of the strands of death,
and nothing is lost that yields itself to her quiet handling.

Another of the vines of the forest is called Partridge-berry. Rubies are
hidden among its foliage, and if you eat of this fruit, you will grow
wise in the wisdom of birds. You will know where the oven-bird secretes
her nest, and where the wood-cock dances in the air at night; the
drumming-log of the ruffed grouse will be easy to find, and you will
see the dark lodges of the evergreen thickets inhabited by hundreds
of warblers. There will be no dead silence for you in the forest, any
longer, but you will hear sweet and delicate voices on every side,
voices that you know and love; you will catch the key-note of the silver
flute of the woodthrush, and the silver harp of the veery, and the
silver bells of the hermit; and something in your heart will answer to
them all. In the frosty stillness of October nights you will see the
airy tribes flitting across the moon, following the secret call that
guides them southward. In the calm brightness of winter sunshine,
filling sheltered copses with warmth and cheer, you will watch the
lingering blue-birds and robins and song-sparrows playing at summer,
while the chickadees and the juncos and the cross-bills make merry in
the windswept fields. In the lucent mornings of April you will hear your
old friends coming home to you, Phoebe, and Oriole, and Yellow-Throat,
and Red-Wing, and Tanager, and Cat-Bird. When they call to you and greet
you, you will understand that Nature knows a secret for which man has
never found a word--the secret that tells itself in song.

The third of the forest-vines is Wood-Magic. It bears neither flower nor
fruit. Its leaves are hardly to be distinguished from the leaves of the
other vines. Perhaps they are a little rounder than the Snowberry's,
a little more pointed than the Partridge-berry's; sometimes you might
mistake them for the one, sometimes for the other. No marks of warning
have been written upon them. If you find them it is your fortune; if you
taste them it is your fate.

For as you browse your way through the forest, nipping here and there a
rosy leaf of young winter-green, a fragrant emerald tip of balsam-fir, a
twig of spicy birch, if by chance you pluck the leaves of Wood-Magic and
eat them, you will not know what you have done, but the enchantment of
the tree-land will enter your heart and the charm of the wildwood will
flow through your veins.

You will never get away from it. The sighing of the wind through the
pine-trees and the laughter of the stream in its rapids will sound
through all your dreams. On beds of silken softness you will long for
the sleep-song of whispering leaves above your head, and the smell of
a couch of balsam-boughs. At tables spread with dainty fare you will be
hungry for the joy of the hunt, and for the angler's sylvan feast. In
proud cities you will weary for the sight of a mountain trail; in great
cathedrals you will think of the long, arching aisles of the woodland;
and in the noisy solitude of crowded streets you will hone after the
friendly forest.

This is what will happen to you if you eat the leaves of that little
vine, Wood-Magic. And this is what happened to Luke Dubois.



I

The Cabin by the Rivers

Two highways meet before the door, and a third reaches away to the
southward, broad and smooth and white. But there are no travellers
passing by. The snow that has fallen during the night is unbroken. The
pale February sunrise makes blue shadows on it, sharp and jagged, an
outline of the fir-trees on the mountain-crest quarter of, a mile away.

In summer the highways are dissolved into three wild rivers--the River
of Rocks, which issues from the hills; the River of Meadows, which flows
from the great lake; and the River of the Way Out, which runs down from
their meeting-place to the settlements and the little world. But in
winter, when the ice is firm under the snow, and the going is fine,
there are no tracks upon the three broad roads except the paths of the
caribou, and the footprints of the marten and the mink and the fox, and
the narrow trails made by Luke Dubois on his way to and from his cabin
by the rivers.

He leaned in the door-way, looking out. Behind him in the shadow, the
fire was still snapping in the little stove where he had cooked his
breakfast. There was a comforting smell of bacon and venison in the
room; the tea-pot stood on the table half-empty. Here in the corner were
his rifle and some of his traps. On the wall hung his snowshoes. Under
the bunk was a pile of skins. Half-open on the bench lay the book that
he had been reading the evening before, while the snow was falling. It
was a book of veritable fairy-tales, which told how men had made their
way in the world, and achieved great fortunes, and won success, by
toiling hard at first, and then by trading and bargaining and getting
ahead of other men.

"Well," said Luke, to himself, as he stood at the door, "I could do that
too. Without doubt I also am one of the men who can do things. They
did not work any harder than I do. But they got better pay. I am
twenty-five. For ten years I have worked hard, and what have I got for
it? This!"

He stepped out into the morning, alert and vigorous, deep-chested and
straight-hipped. The strength of the hills had gone into him, and his
eyes were bright with health. His kingdom was spread before him. There
along the River of Meadows were the haunts of the moose and the caribou
where he hunted in the fall; and yonder on the burnt hills around the
great lake were the places where he watched for the bears; and up beside
the River of Rocks ran his line of traps, swinging back by secret ways
to many a nameless pond and hidden beaver-meadow; and all along the
streams, when the ice went out in the spring, the great trout would
be leaping in rapid and pool. Among the peaks and valleys of that
forest-clad kingdom he could find his way as easily as a merchant walks
from his house to his office. The secrets of bird and beast were known
to him; every season of the year brought him its own tribute; the woods
were his domain, vast, inexhaustible, free.

Here was his home, his cabin that he had built with his own hands. The
roof was tight, the walls were well chinked with moss. It was snug and
warm. But small--how pitifully small it looked to-day--and how lonely!

His hand-sledge stood beside the door, and against it leaned the axe.
He caught it up and began to split wood for the stove. "No!" he cried,
throwing down the axe, "I'm tired of this. It has lasted long enough.
I'm going out to make my way in the world."

A couple of hours later, the sledge was packed with camp-gear and
bundles of skins. The door of the cabin was shut; a ghostlike wreath of
blue smoke curled from the chimney. Luke stood, in his snowshoes, on the
white surface of the River of the Way Out. He turned to look back for a
moment, and waved his hand.

"Good-bye, old cabin! Good-bye, the rivers! Good-bye, the woods!"



II

The House on the Main Street

All the good houses in Scroll-Saw City were different, in the number
and shape of the curious pinnacles that rose from their roofs and in
the trimmings of their verandas. Yet they were all alike, too, in their
general expression of putting their best foot foremost and feeling quite
sure that they made a brave show. They had lace curtains in their front
parlour windows, and outside of the curtains were large red and yellow
pots of artificial flowers and indestructible palms and vulcanised
rubber-plants. It was a gay sight.

But by far the bravest of these houses was the residence of Mr. Matthew
Wilson, the principal merchant of Scroll-Saw City. It stood on a corner
of Main Street, glancing slyly out of the tail of one eye, side-ways
down the street, toward the shop and the business, but keeping a bold,
complacent front toward the street-cars and the smaller houses across
the way. It might well be satisfied with itself, for it had three more
pinnacles than any of its neighbours, and the work of the scroll-saw was
looped and festooned all around the eaves and porticoes and bay-windows
in amazing richness. Moreover, in the front yard were cast-iron images
painted white: a stag reposing on a door-mat; Diana properly dressed
and returning from the chase; a small iron boy holding over his head a
parasol from the ferrule of which a fountain squirted. The paths were of
asphalt, gray and gritty in winter, but now, in the summer heat, black
and pulpy to the tread.

There were many feet passing over them this afternoon, for Mr. and
Mrs. Matthew Wilson were giving a reception to celebrate the official
entrance of their daughter Amanda into a social life which she had
permeated unofficially for several years. The house was sizzling full
of people. Those who were jammed in the parlour tried to get into the
dining-room, and those who were packed in the dining-room struggled to
escape, holding plates of stratified cake and liquefied ice-cream high
above their neighbours' heads like signals of danger and distress.
Everybody was talking at the same time, in a loud, shrill voice, and
nobody listened to what anybody else was saying. But it did not matter,
for they all said the same things.

"Elegant house for a party, so full of--" "How perfectly lovely Amanda
Wilson looks in that--" "Awfully warm day! Were you at the Tompkins'
last--" "Wilson's Emporium must be doing good business to keep up all
this--" "Hear he's going to enlarge the store and take Luke Woods into
the--"

"Shouldn't wonder if there might be a wedding here before next--"

The tide of chatter rose and swelled and ebbed and suddenly sank away.
At six o'clock, the minister and two maiden ladies in black silk with
lilac ribbons, laid down their last plates of ice-cream and said they
thought they must be going. Amanda and her mother preened their dresses
and patted their hair. "Come into the study," said Mr. Wilson to Luke. "I
want to have a talk with you."

The little bookless room, called the study, was the one that kept its
eye on the shop and the business, away down the street. You could see
the brick front, and the plate-glass windows, and part of the gilt sign.

"Pretty good store," said Mr. Wilson, jingling the keys in his pocket,
"does the biggest trade in the county, biggest but one in the whole
state, I guess. And I must say, Luke Woods, you've done your share,
these last five years, in building it up. Never had a clerk work so hard
and so steady. You've got good business sense, I guess."

"I'm glad you think so," said Luke. "I did as well as I could."

"Yes," said the elder man, "and now I'm about ready to take you in with
me, give you a share in the business. I want some one to help me run
it, make it larger. We can double it, easy, if we stick to it and spread
out. No reason why you shouldn't make a fortune out of it, and have a
house just like this on the other corner, when you're my age."

Luke's thoughts were wandering a little. They went out from the stuffy
room, beyond the dusty street, and the jangling cars, and the gilt sign,
and the shop full of dry-goods and notions, and the high desks in the
office--out to the dim, cool forest, where Snowberry and Partridge-berry
and Wood-Magic grow. He heard the free winds rushing over the tree-tops,
and saw the trail winding away before him in the green shade.

"You are very kind," said he, "I hope you will not be disappointed in
me. Sometimes I think, perhaps--"

"Not at all, not at all," said the other. "It's all right. You're well
fitted for it. And then, there's another thing. I guess you like my
daughter Amanda pretty well. Eh? I've watched you, young man. I've had
my eye on you! Now, of course, I can't say much about it--never can be
sure of these kind of things, you know--but if you and she--"

The voice went on rolling out words complacently. But something strange
was working in Luke's blood, and other voices were sounding faintly in
his ears. He heard the lisping of the leaves on the little poplar-trees,
the whistle of the black duck's wings as he circled in the air, the
distant drumming of the grouse on his log, the rumble of the water-fall
in the River of Rocks. The spray cooled his face. He saw the fish rising
along the pool, and a stag feeding among the lily-pads.

"I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Wilson," said he at last, when
the elder man stopped talking. "You have certainly treated me most
generously. The only question is, whether--But to-morrow night, I think,
with your consent, I will speak to your daughter. To-night I am going
down to the store; there is a good deal of work to do on the books."

But when Luke came to the store, he did not go in. He walked along the
street till he came to the river.

The water-side was strangely deserted. Everybody was at supper. A couple
of schooners were moored at the wharf. The Portland steamer had gone
out. The row-boats hung idle at their little dock. Down the river,
drifting and dancing lightly over the opalescent ripples, following the
gentle turns of the current which flowed past the end of the dock where
Luke was standing, came a white canoe, empty and astray.



III

The White Canoe

"That looks just like my old canoe," said he. "Somebody must have left
it adrift up the river. I wonder how it floated down here without being
picked up." He put out his hand and caught it, as it touched the dock.

In the stern a good paddle of maple-wood was lying; in the middle there
was a roll of blankets and a pack of camp-stuff; in the bow a rifle.

"All ready for a trip," he laughed. "Nobody going but me? Well, then, au
large!" And stepping into the canoe he pushed out on the river.

The saffron and golden lights in the sky diffused themselves over the
surface of the water, and spread from the bow of the canoe in deeper
waves of purple and orange, as he paddled swiftly up stream. The pale
yellow gas-lamps of the town faded behind him. The lumber-yards and
factories and disconsolate little houses of the outskirts seemed to melt
away. In a little while he was floating between dark walls of forest,
through the heart of the wilderness.

The night deepened around him and the sky hung out its thousand lamps.
Odours of the woods floated on the air: the spicy fragrance of the firs;
the breath of hidden banks of twin-flower. Muskrats swam noiselessly in
the shadows, diving with a great commotion as the canoe ran upon them
suddenly. A horned owl hooted from the branch of a dead pine-tree; far
back in the forest a fox barked twice. The moon crept up behind the wall
of trees and touched the stream with silver.

Presently the forest receded: the banks of the river grew broad and
open; the dew glistened on the tall grass; it was surely the River of
Meadows. Far ahead of him in a bend of the stream, Luke's ear caught a
new sound: SLOSH, SLOSH, SLOSH, as if some heavy animal were crossing
the wet meadow. Then a great splash! Luke swung the canoe into the
shadow of the bank and paddled fast. As he turned the point a black bear
came out of the river, and stood on the shore, shaking the water around
him in glittering spray. Ping! said the rifle, and the bear fell. "Good
luck!" said Luke. "I haven't forgotten how, after all. I'll take him
into the canoe, and dress him up at the camp."

Yes, there was the little cabin at the meeting of the rivers. The
door was padlocked, but Luke knew how to pry off one of the staples.
Squirrels had made a litter on the floor, but that was soon swept out,
and a fire crackled in the stove. There was tea and ham and bread in the
pack in the canoe. Supper never tasted better. "One more night in the
old camp," said Luke as he rolled himself in the blanket and dropped
asleep in a moment.

The sun shone in at the door and woke him. "I must have a trout for
breakfast," he cried, "there's one waiting for me at the mouth of Alder
Brook, I suppose." So he caught up his rod from behind the door, and got
into the canoe and paddled up the River of Rocks. There was the broad,
dark pool, like a little lake, with a rapid running in at the head, and
close beside the rapid, the mouth of the brook. He sent his fly out by
the edge of the alders. There was a huge swirl on the water, and the
great-grandfather of all the trout in the river was hooked. Up and down
the pool he played for half an hour, until at last the fight was over,
and for want of a net Luke beached him on the gravel bank at the foot of
the pool.

"Seven pounds if it's an ounce," said he. "This is my lucky day. Now all
I need is some good meat to provision the camp."

He glanced down the river, and on the second point below the pool he saw
a great black bullmoose with horns five feet wide.

Quietly, swiftly, the canoe went gliding down the stream; and ever as it
crept along, the moose loped easily before it, from point to point, from
bay to bay, past the little cabin, down the River of the Way Out, now
rustling unseen through a bank of tall alders, now standing out for
a moment bold and black on a beach of white sand--so all day long the
moose loped down the stream and the white canoe followed. Just as the
setting sun was poised above the trees, the great bull stopped and stood
with head lifted. Luke pushed the canoe as near as he dared, and looked
down for the rifle. He had left it at the cabin! The moose tossed his
huge antlers, grunted, and stepped quietly over the bushes into the
forest.

Luke paddled on down the stream. It occurred to him, suddenly, that it
was near evening. He wondered a little how he should reach home in time
for his engagement. But it did not seem strange, as he went swiftly
on with the river, to see the first houses of the town, and the
lumber-yards, and the schooners at the wharf.

He made the canoe fast at the dock, and went up the Main Street. There
was the old shop, but the sign over it read, "Wilson and Woods Company,
The Big Store." He went on to the house with the white iron images in
the front yard. Diana was still returning from the chase. The fountain
still squirted from the point of the little boy's parasol.

On the veranda sat a stout man in a rocking chair, reading the
newspaper. At the side of the house two little girls with pig-tails were
playing croquet. Some one in the parlour was executing "After the Ball
is Over" on a mechanical piano.

Luke accosted a stranger who passed him. "Excuse me, but can you tell me
whether this is Mr. Matthew Wilson's house?"

"It used to be," said the stranger, "but old man Wilson has been dead
these ten years."

"And who lives here now?" asked Luke.

"Mr. Woods: he married Wilson's daughter," said the stranger, and went
on his way.

"Well," said Luke to himself, "this is just a little queer. Woods was my
name for a while, when I lived here, but now, I suppose, I'm Luke Dubois
again. Dashed if I can understand it. Somebody must have been dreaming."

So he went back to the white canoe, and paddled away up the river, and
nobody in Scroll-Saw City ever set eyes on him again.



THE OTHER WISE MAN

You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they
travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in
Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who
also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not
arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of
the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet
accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations
of his soul; of the long way of his seeking and the strange way of his
finding the One whom he sought--I would tell the tale as I have heard
fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of
Man.


I

In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and Herod
reigned in Jerusalem, there lived in the city of Ecbatana, among the
mountains of Persia, a certain man named Artaban. His house stood close
to the outermost of the walls which encircled the royal treasury. From
his roof he could look over the seven-fold battlements of black and
white and crimson and blue and red and silver and gold, to the hill
where the summer palace of the Parthian emperors glittered like a jewel
in a crown.

Around the dwelling of Artaban spread a fair garden, a tangle of flowers
and fruit-trees, watered by a score of streams descending from the
slopes of Mount Orontes, and made musical by innumerable birds. But all
colour was lost in the soft and odorous darkness of the late September
night, and all sounds were hushed in the deep charm of its silence, save
the plashing of the water, like a voice half-sobbing and half-laughing
under the shadows. High above the trees a dim glow of light shone
through the curtained arches of the upper chamber, where the master of
the house was holding council with his friends.

He stood by the doorway to greet his guests--a tall, dark man of about
forty years, with brilliant eyes set near together under his broad brow,
and firm lines graven around his fine, thin lips; the brow of a dreamer
and the mouth of a soldier, a man of sensitive feeling but inflexible
will--one of those who, in whatever age they may live, are born for
inward conflict and a life of quest.

His robe was of pure white wool, thrown over a tunic of silk; and a
white, pointed cap, with long lapels at the sides, rested on his flowing
black hair. It was the dress of the ancient priesthood of the Magi,
called the fire-worshippers.

"Welcome!" he said, in his low, pleasant voice, as one after another
entered the room--"welcome, Abdus; peace be with you, Rhodaspes and
Tigranes, and with you my father, Abgarus. You are all welcome. This
house grows bright with the joy of your presence."

There were nine of the men, differing widely in age, but alike in the
richness of their dress of many-coloured silks, and in the massive
golden collars around their necks, marking them as Parthian nobles, and
in the winged circles of gold resting upon their breasts, the sign of
the followers of Zoroaster.

They took their places around a small black altar at the end of the
room, where a tiny flame was burning. Artaban, standing beside it, and
waving a barsom of thin tamarisk branches above the fire, fed it with
dry sticks of pine and fragrant oils. Then he began the ancient chant
of the Yasna, and the voices of his companions joined in the hymn to
Ahura-Mazda:


  We worship the Spirit Divine,
         all wisdom and goodness possessing,
  Surrounded by Holy Immortals,
         the givers of bounty and blessing;
  We joy in the work of His hands,
         His truth and His power confessing.

  We praise all the things that are pure,
         for these are His only Creation
  The thoughts that are true, and the words
         and the deeds that have won approbation;
  These are supported by Him,
         and for these we make adoration.
  Hear us, O Mazda!  Thou livest
         in truth and in heavenly gladness;
  Cleanse us from falsehood, and keep us
         from evil and bondage to badness,
  Pour out the light and the joy of Thy life
             on our darkness and sadness.

  Shine on our gardens and fields,
         shine on our working and waving;
  Shine on the whole race of man,
             believing and  unbelieving;
  Shine on us now through the night,
  Shine on us now in Thy might,
  The flame of our holy love
      and the song of our worship receiving.



The fire rose with the chant, throbbing as if the flame responded to the
music, until it cast a bright illumination through the whole apartment,
revealing its simplicity and splendour.

The floor was laid with tiles of dark blue veined with white; pilasters
of twisted silver stood out against the blue walls; the clear-story of
round-arched windows above them was hung with azure silk; the vaulted
ceiling was a pavement of blue stones, like the body of heaven in its
clearness, sown with silver stars. From the four corners of the roof
hung four golden magic-wheels, called the tongues of the gods. At
the eastern end, behind the altar, there were two dark-red pillars of
porphyry; above them a lintel of the same stone, on which was carved the
figure of a winged archer, with his arrow set to the string and his bow
drawn.

The doorway between the pillars, which opened upon the terrace of
the roof, was covered with a heavy curtain of the colour of a ripe
pomegranate, embroidered with innumerable golden rays shooting upward
from the floor. In effect the room was like a quiet, starry night, all
azure and silver, flushed in the cast with rosy promise of the dawn. It
was, as the house of a man should be, an expression of the character and
spirit of the master.

He turned to his friends when the song was ended, and invited them to be
seated on the divan at the western end of the room.

"You have come to-night," said he, looking around the circle, "at my
call, as the faithful scholars of Zoroaster, to renew your worship and
rekindle your faith in the God of Purity, even as this fire has been
rekindled on the altar. We worship not the fire, but Him of whom it is
the chosen symbol, because it is the purest of all created things. It
speaks to us of one who is Light and Truth. Is it not so, my father?"

"It is well said, my son," answered the venerable Abgarus. "The
enlightened are never idolaters. They lift the veil of form and go in
to the shrine of reality, and new light and truth are coming to them
continually through the old symbols."  "Hear me, then, my father an
while I tell you of the new light and truth that have come to me
through the most ancient of all signs. We have searched the secrets of
Nature together, and studied the healing virtues of water and fire and
the plants. We have read also the books of prophecy in which the future
is dimly foretold in words that are hard to understand. But the highest
of all learning is the knowledge of the stars. To trace their course is
to untangle the threads of the mystery of life from the beginning to the
end. If we could follow them perfectly, nothing would be hidden from us.
But is not our knowledge of them still incomplete? Are there not many
stars still beyond our horizon--lights that are known only to the
dwellers in the far south-land, among the spice-trees of Punt and the
gold mines of Ophir?"

There was a murmur of assent among the listeners.

"The stars," said Tigranes, "are the thoughts of the Eternal. They are
numberless. But the thoughts of man can be counted, like the years
of his life. The wisdom of the Magi is the greatest of all wisdoms on
earth, because it knows its own ignorance. And that is the secret of
power. We keep men always looking and waiting for a new sunrise. But we
ourselves understand that the darkness is equal to the light, and that
the conflict between them will never be ended."

"That does not satisfy me," answered Artaban, "for, if the waiting must
be endless, if there could be no fulfilment of it, then it would not be
wisdom to look and wait. We should become like those new teachers of the
Greeks, who say that there is no truth, and that the only wise men are
those who spend their lives in discovering and exposing the lies that
have been believed in the world. But the new sunrise will certainly
appear in the appointed time. Do not our own books tell us that this
will come to pass, and that men will see the brightness of a great
light?"

"That is true," said the voice of Abgarus; "every faithful disciple of
Zoroaster knows the prophecy of the Avesta, and carries the word in his
heart. 'In that day Sosiosh the Victorious shall arise out of the number
of the prophets in the east country. Around him shall shine a mighty
brightness, and he shall make life everlasting, incorruptible, and
immortal, and the dead shall rise again.'"

"This is a dark saying," said Tigranes, "and it may be that we shall
never understand it. It is better to consider the things that are near
at hand, and to increase the influence of the Magi in their own country,
rather than to look for one who may be a stranger, and to whom we must
resign our power."

The others seemed to approve these words. There was a silent feeling
of agreement manifest among them; their looks responded with that
indefinable expression which always follows when a speaker has uttered
the thought that has been slumbering in the hearts of his listeners. But
Artaban turned to Abgarus with a glow on his face, and said:

"My father, I have kept this prophecy in the secret place of my soul.
Religion without a great hope would be like an altar without a living
fire. And now the flame has burned more brightly, and by the light of it
I have read other words which also have come from the fountain of Truth,
and speak yet more clearly of the rising of the Victorious One in his
brightness."

He drew from the breast of his tunic two small rolls of fine parchment,
with writing upon them, and unfolded them carefully upon his knee.

"In the years that are lost in the past, long before our fathers came
into the land of Babylon, there were wise men in Chaldea, from whom the
first of the Magi learned the secret of the heavens. And of these
Balaam the son of Beor was one of the mightiest. Hear the words of his
prophecy: 'There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall
arise out of Israel.'"

The lips of Tigranes drew downward with contempt, as he said:

"Judah was a captive by the waters of Babylon, and the sons of Jacob
were in bondage to our kings. The tribes of Israel are scattered through
the mountains like lost sheep, and from the remnant that dwells in Judea
under the yoke of Rome neither star nor sceptre shall arise."

 "And yet," answered Artaban, "it was the Hebrew Daniel,
the mighty searcher of dreams, the counsellor of kings, the wise
Belteshazzar, who was most honoured and beloved of our great King Cyrus.
A prophet of sure things and a reader of the thoughts of the Eternal,
Daniel proved himself to our people. And these are the words that he
wrote." (Artaban read from the second roll:) "'Know, therefore, and
understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore
Jerusalem, unto the Anointed One, the Prince, the time shall be seven
and threescore and two weeks."'

"But, my son," said Abgarus, doubtfully, "these are mystical numbers.
Who can interpret them, or who can find the key that shall unlock their
meaning?"

Artaban answered: "It has been shown to me and to my three companions
among the Magi--Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. We have searched the
ancient tablets of Chaldea and computed the time. It falls in this year.
We have studied the sky, and in the spring of the year we saw two of the
greatest planets draw near together in the sign of the Fish, which is
the house of the Hebrews. We also saw a new star there, which shone
for one night and then vanished. Now again the two great planets are
meeting. This night is their conjunction. My three brothers are watching
by the ancient Temple of the Seven Spheres, at Borsippa, in Babylonia,
and I am watching here. If the star shines again, they will wait
ten days for me at the temple, and then we will set out together for
Jerusalem, to see and worship the promised one who shall be born King of
Israel. I believe the sign will come. I have made ready for the journey.
I have sold my possessions, and bought these three jewels--a sapphire,
a ruby, and a pearl--to carry them as tribute to the King. And I ask
you to go with me on the pilgrimage, that we may have joy together in
finding the Prince who is worthy to be served."

While he was speaking he thrust his hand into the inmost fold of his,
girdle and drew out three great gems--one blue as a fragment of the
night sky, one redder than a ray of sunrise, and one as pure as the peak
of a snow-mountain at twilight--and laid them on the outspread scrolls
before him.

But his friends looked on with strange and alien eyes. A veil of doubt
and mistrust came over their faces, like a fog creeping up from the
marshes to hide the hills. They glanced at each other with looks of
wonder and pity, as those who have listened to incredible sayings, the
story of a wild vision, or the proposal of an impossible enterprise.

At last Tigranes said: "Artaban, this is a vain dream. It comes from
too much looking upon the stars and the cherishing of lofty thoughts.
It would be wiser to spend the time in gathering money for the new
fire-temple at Chala. No king will ever rise from the broken race of
Israel, and no end will ever come to the eternal strife of light and
darkness. He who looks for it is a chaser of shadows. Farewell."

And another said: "Artaban, I have no knowledge of these things, and my
office as guardian of the royal treasure binds me here. The quest is not
for me. But if thou must follow it, fare thee well."

And another said: "In my house there sleeps a new bride, and I cannot
leave her nor take her with me on this strange journey. This quest is
not for me. But may thy steps be prospered wherever thou goest. So,
farewell."

And another said: "I am ill and unfit for hardship, but there is a man
among my servants whom I will send with thee when thou goest, to bring
me word how thou farest."

So, one by one, they left the house of Artaban. But Abgarus, the oldest
and the one who loved him the best, lingered after the others had gone,
and said, gravely: "My son, it may be that the light of truth is in this
sign that has appeared in the skies, and then it will surely lead to the
Prince and the mighty brightness. Or it may be that it is only a shadow
of the light, as Tigranes has said, and then he who follows it will have
a long pilgrimage and a fruitless search. But it is better to follow
even the shadow of the best than to remain content with the worst.
And those who would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel
alone. I am too old for this journey, but my heart shall be a companion
of thy pilgrimage day and night, and I shall know the end of thy quest.
Go in peace."

Then Abgarus went out of the azure chamber with its silver stars, and
Artaban was left in solitude.

He gathered up the jewels and replaced them in his girdle. For a long
time he stood and watched the flame that flickered and sank upon the
altar. Then he crossed the hall, lifted the heavy curtain, and passed
out between the pillars of porphyry to the terrace on the roof.

The shiver that runs through the earth ere she rouses from her
night-sleep had already begun, and the cool wind that heralds the
daybreak was drawing downward from the lofty snow-traced ravines
of Mount Orontes. Birds, half-awakened, crept and chirped among the
rustling leaves, and the smell of ripened grapes came in brief wafts
from the arbours.

Far over the eastern plain a white mist stretched like a lake. But where
the distant peaks of Zagros serrated the western horizon the sky was
clear. Jupiter and Saturn rolled together like drops of lambent flame
about to blend in one.

As Artaban watched them, a steel-blue spark was born out of the darkness
beneath, rounding itself with purple splendours to a crimson sphere, and
spiring upward through rays of saffron and orange into a point of white
radiance. Tiny and infinitely remote, yet perfect in every part, it
pulsated in the enormous vault as if the three jewels in the Magian's
girdle had mingled and been transformed into a living heart of light.

He bowed his head. He covered his brow with his hands.

"It is the sign," he said. "The King is coming, and I will go to meet
him."



II

All night long, Vasda, the swiftest of Artaban's horses, had been
waiting, saddled and bridled, in her stall, pawing the ground
impatiently, and shaking her bit as if she shared the eagerness of her
master's purpose, though she knew not its meaning.

Before the birds had fully roused to their strong, high, joyful chant
of morning song, before the white mist had begun to lift lazily from the
plain, the Other Wise Man was in the saddle, riding swiftly along the
high-road, which skirted the base of Mount Orontes, westward.

How close, how intimate is the comradeship between a man and his
favourite horse on a long journey. It is a silent, comprehensive
friendship, an intercourse beyond the need of words.

They drink at the same way-side springs, and sleep under the same
guardian stars. They are conscious together of the subduing spell of
nightfall and the quickening joy of daybreak. The master shares his
evening meal with his hungry companion, and feels the soft, moist lips
caressing the palm of his hand as they close over the morsel of bread.
In the gray dawn he is roused from his bivouac by the gentle stir of a
warm, sweet breath over his sleeping face, and looks up into the eyes
of his faithful fellow-traveller, ready and waiting for the toil of the
day. Surely, unless he is a pagan and an unbeliever, by whatever name he
calls upon his God, he will thank Him for this voiceless sympathy,
this dumb affection, and his morning prayer will embrace a double
blessing--God bless us both, the horse and the rider, and keep our feet
from falling and our souls from death!

Then, through the keen morning air, the swift hoofs beat their tattoo
along the road, keeping time to the pulsing of two hearts that are moved
with the same eager desire--to conquer space, to devour the distance, to
attain the goal of the journey.

Artaban must indeed ride wisely and well if he would keep the appointed
hour with the other Magi; for the route was a hundred and fifty
parasangs, and fifteen was the utmost that he could travel in a day. But
he knew Vasda's strength, and pushed forward without anxiety, making the
fixed distance every day, though he must travel late into the night, and
in the morning long before sunrise.

He passed along the brown slopes of Mount Orontes, furrowed by the rocky
courses of a hundred torrents.

He crossed the level plains of the Nisaeans, where the famous herds
of horses, feeding in the wide pastures, tossed their heads at Vasda's
approach, and galloped away with a thunder of many hoofs, and flocks
of wild birds rose suddenly from the swampy meadows, wheeling in great
circles with a shining flutter of innumerable wings and shrill cries of
surprise.

He traversed the fertile fields of Concabar, where the dust from the
threshing-floors filled the air with a golden mist, half hiding the huge
temple of Astarte with its four hundred pillars.

At Baghistan, among the rich gardens watered by fountains from the rock,
he looked up at the mountain thrusting its immense rugged brow out over
the road, and saw the figure of King Darius trampling upon his fallen
foes, and the proud list of his wars and conquests graven high upon the
face of the eternal cliff.

Over many a cold and desolate pass, crawling painfully across the
wind-swept shoulders of the hills; down many a black mountain-gorge,
where the river roared and raced before him like a savage guide; across
many a smiling vale, with terraces of yellow limestone full of vines
and fruit-trees; through the oak-groves of Carine and the dark Gates of
Zagros, walled in by precipices; into the ancient city of Chala, where
the people of Samaria had been kept in captivity long ago; and out again
by the mighty portal, riven through the encircling hills, where he saw
the image of the High Priest of the Magi sculptured on the wall of rock,
with hand uplifted as if to bless the centuries of pilgrims; past the
entrance of the narrow defile, filled from end to end with orchards of
peaches and figs, through which the river Gyndes foamed down to meet
him; over the broad rice-fields, where the autumnal vapours spread their
deathly mists; following along the course of the river, under tremulous
shadows of poplar and tamarind, among the lower hills; and out upon
the flat plain, where the road ran straight as an arrow through the
stubble-fields and parched meadows; past the city of Ctesiphon, where
the Parthian emperors reigned, and the vast metropolis of Seleucia
which Alexander built; across the swirling floods of Tigris and the many
channels of Euphrates, flowing yellow through the corn-lands--Artaban
pressed onward until he arrived, at nightfall on the tenth day, beneath
the shattered walls of populous Babylon.

Vasda was almost spent, and Artaban would gladly have turned into the
city to find rest and refreshment for himself and for her. But he knew
that it was three hours' journey yet to the Temple of the Seven Spheres,
and he must reach the place by midnight if he would find his
comrades waiting. So he did not halt, but rode steadily across the
stubble-fields.

A grove of date-palms made an island of gloom in the pale yellow sea. As
she passed into the shadow Vasda slackened her pace, and began to pick
her way more carefully.

Near the farther end of the darkness an access of caution seemed to fall
upon her. She scented some danger or difficulty; it was not in her heart
to fly from it--only to be prepared for it, and to meet it wisely, as a
good horse should do. The grove was close and silent as the tomb; not a
leaf rustled, not a bird sang.

She felt her steps before her delicately, carrying her head low, and
sighing now and then with apprehension. At last she gave a quick breath
of anxiety and dismay, and stood stock-still, quivering in every muscle,
before a dark object in the shadow of the last palm-tree.

Artaban dismounted. The dim starlight revealed the form of a man lying
across the road. His humble dress and the outline of his haggard face
showed that he was probably one of the Hebrews who still dwelt in great
numbers around the city. His pallid skin, dry and yellow as parchment,
bore the mark of the deadly fever which ravaged the marsh-lands in
autumn. The chill of death was in his lean hand, and, as Artaban
released it, the arm fell back inertly upon the motionless breast.

He turned away with a thought of pity, leaving the body to that strange
burial which the Magians deemed most fitting--the funeral of the desert,
from which the kites and vultures rise on dark wings, and the beasts of
prey slink furtively away. When they are gone there is only a heap of
white bones on the sand.

But, as he turned, a long, faint, ghostly sigh came from the man's lips.
The bony fingers gripped the hem of the Magian's robe and held him fast.

Artaban's heart leaped to his throat, not with fear, but with a dumb
resentment at the importunity of this blind delay.

How could he stay here in the darkness to minister to a dying stranger?
What claim had this unknown fragment of human life upon his compassion
or his service? If he lingered but for an hour he could hardly reach
Borsippa at the appointed time. His companions would think he had given
up the journey. They would go without him. He would lose his quest.

But if he went on now, the man would surely die. If Artaban stayed, life
might be restored. His spirit throbbed and fluttered with the urgency of
the crisis. Should he risk the great reward of his faith for the sake
of a single deed of charity? Should he turn aside, if only for a moment,
from the following of the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor,
perishing Hebrew?

"God of truth and purity," he prayed, "direct me in the holy path, the
way of wisdom which Thou only knowest."

Then he turned back to the sick man. Loosening the grasp of his hand, he
carried him to a little mound at the foot of the palm-tree.

He unbound the thick folds of the turban and opened the garment above
the sunken breast. He brought water from one of the small canals near
by, and moistened the sufferer's brow and mouth. He mingled a draught of
one of those simple but potent remedies which he carried always in his
girdle--for the Magians were physicians as well as astrologers--and
poured it slowly between the colourless lips. Hour after hour he
laboured as only a skilful healer of disease can do. At last the man's
strength returned; he sat up and looked about him.

 "Who art thou?" he said, in the rude dialect of the
country, "and why hast thou sought me here to bring back my life?"

"I am Artaban the Magian, of the city of Ecbatana, and I am going to
Jerusalem in search of one who is to be born King of the Jews, a great
Prince and Deliverer of all men. I dare not delay any longer upon my
journey, for the caravan that has waited for me may depart without me.
But see, here is all that I have left of bread and wine, and here is a
potion of healing herbs. When thy strength is restored thou canst find
the dwellings of the Hebrews among the houses of Babylon."

The Jew raised his trembling hand solemnly to heaven.

"Now may the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob bless and prosper the
journey of the merciful, and bring him in peace to his desired haven.
Stay! I have nothing to give thee in return--only this: that I can tell
thee where the Messiah must be sought. For our prophets have said that
he should be born not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem of Judah. May the
Lord bring thee in safety to that place, because thou hast had pity upon
the sick."

It was already long past midnight. Artaban rode in haste, and Vasda,
restored by the brief rest, ran eagerly through the silent plain
and swam the channels of the river. She put forth the remnant of her
strength, and fled over the ground like a gazelle.

But the first beam of the rising sun sent a long shadow before her
as she entered upon the final stadium of the journey, and the eyes of
Artaban, anxiously scanning the great mound of Nimrod and the Temple of
the Seven Spheres, could discern no trace of his friends.

The many-coloured terraces of black and orange and red and yellow and
green and blue and white, shattered by the convulsions of nature, and
crumbling under the repeated blows of human violence, still glittered
like a ruined rainbow in the morning light.

Artaban rode swiftly around the hill. He dismounted and climbed to the
highest terrace, looking out toward the west.

The huge desolation of the marshes stretched away to the horizon and the
border of the desert. Bitterns stood by the stagnant pools and jackals
skulked through the low bushes; but there was no sign of the caravan of
the Wise Men, far or near.

At the edge of the terrace he saw a little cairn of broken bricks, and
under them a piece of papyrus. He caught it up and read: "We have waited
past the midnight, and can delay no longer. We go to find the King.
Follow us across the desert."

Artaban sat down upon the ground and covered his head in despair.

"How can I cross the desert," said he, "with no food and with a spent
horse? I must return to Babylon, sell my sapphire, and buy a train of
camels, and provision for the journey. I may never overtake my friends.
Only God the merciful knows whether I shall not lose the sight of the
King because I tarried to show mercy."



III

There was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, where I was listening to the
story of the Other Wise Man. Through this silence I saw, but very dimly,
his figure passing over the dreary undulations of the desert, high upon
the back of his camel, rocking steadily onward like a ship over the
waves.

The land of death spread its cruel net around him. The stony waste
bore no fruit but briers and thorns. The dark ledges of rock thrust
themselves above the surface here and there, like the bones of perished
monsters. Arid and inhospitable mountain-ranges rose before him,
furrowed with dry channels of ancient torrents, white and ghastly as
scars on the face of nature. Shifting hills of treacherous sand were
heaped like tombs along the horizon. By day, the fierce heat pressed its
intolerable burden on the quivering air. No living creature moved on
the dumb, swooning earth, but tiny jerboas scuttling through the parched
bushes, or lizards vanishing in the clefts of the rock. By night the
jackals prowled and barked in the distance, and the lion made the black
ravines echo with his hollow roaring, while a bitter, blighting chill
followed the fever of the day. Through heat and cold, the Magian moved
steadily onward.

Then I saw the gardens and orchards of Damascus, watered by the streams
of Abana and Pharpar, with their sloping swards inlaid with bloom,
and their thickets of myrrh and roses. I saw the long, snowy ridge of
Hermon, and the dark groves of cedars, and the valley of the Jordan,
and the blue waters of the Lake of Galilee, and the fertile plain of
Esdraelon, and the hills of Ephraim, and the highlands of Judah. Through
all these I followed the figure of Artaban moving steadily onward, until
he arrived at Bethlehem. And it was the third day after the three Wise
Men had come to that place and had found Mary and Joseph, with the young
child, Jesus, and had laid their gifts of gold and frankincense and
myrrh at his feet.

Then the Other Wise Man drew near, weary, but full of hope, bearing his
ruby and his pearl to offer to the King. "For now at last," he said, "I
shall surely find him, though I be alone, and later than my brethren.
This is the place of which the Hebrew exile told me that the prophets
had spoken, and here I shall behold the rising of the great light. But I
must inquire about the visit of my brethren, and to what house the star
directed them, and to whom they presented their tribute."

The streets of the village seemed to be deserted, and Artaban wondered
whether the men had all gone up to the hill-pastures to bring down their
sheep. From the open door of a cottage he heard the sound of a woman's
voice singing softly. He entered and found a young mother hushing her
baby to rest. She told him of the strangers from the far East who had
appeared in the village three days ago, and how they said that a star
had guided them to the place where Joseph of Nazareth was lodging with
his wife and her new-born child, and how they had paid reverence to the
child and given him many rich gifts.

"But the travellers disappeared again," she continued, "as suddenly
as they had come. We were afraid at the strangeness of their visit.
We could not understand it. The man of Nazareth took the child and his
mother, and fled away that same night secretly, and it was whispered
that they were going to Egypt. Ever since, there has been a spell upon
the village; something evil hangs over it. They say that the Roman
soldiers are coming from Jerusalem to force a new tax from us, and
the men have driven the flocks and herds far back among the hills, and
hidden themselves to escape it."

Artaban listened to her gentle, timid speech, and the child in her arms
looked up in his face and smiled, stretching out its rosy hands to grasp
at the winged circle of gold on his breast. His heart warmed to the
touch. It seemed like a greeting of love and trust to one who had
journeyed long in loneliness and perplexity, fighting with his own
doubts and fears, and following a light that was veiled in clouds.

"Why might not this child have been the promised Prince?" he asked
within himself, as he touched its soft cheek. "Kings have been born ere
now in lowlier houses than this, and the favourite of the stars may rise
even from a cottage. But it has not seemed good to the God of wisdom
to reward my search so soon and so easily. The one whom I seek has gone
before me; and now I must follow the King to Egypt."

The young mother laid the baby in its cradle, and rose to minister to
the wants of the strange guest that fate had brought into her house. She
set food before him, the plain fare of peasants, but willingly offered,
and therefore full of refreshment for the soul as well as for the body.
Artaban accepted it gratefully; and, as he ate, the child fell into a
happy slumber, and murmured sweetly in its dreams, and a great peace
filled the room.

But suddenly there came the noise of a wild confusion in the streets of
the village, a shrieking and wailing of women's voices, a clangour of
brazen trumpets and a clashing of swords, and a desperate cry: "The
soldiers! the soldiers of Herod! They are killing our children."  The
young mother's face grew white with terror.  She clasped her child to
her bosom, and crouched motionless in the darkest corner of the room,
covering him with the folds of her robe, lest he should wake and cry.

But Artaban went quickly and stood in the doorway of the house. His
broad shoulders filled the portal from side to side, and the peak of his
white cap all but touched the lintel.

The soldiers came hurrying down the street with bloody hands and
dripping swords. At the sight of the stranger in his imposing dress
they hesitated with surprise. The captain of the band approached the
threshold to thrust him aside. But Artaban did not stir. His face was as
calm as though he were watching the stars, and in his eyes there burned
that steady radiance before which even the half-tamed hunting leopard
shrinks, and the bloodhound pauses in his leap. He held the soldier
silently for an instant, and then said in a low voice:  "I am all alone
in this place, and I am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent
captain who will leave me in peace."

He showed the ruby, glistening in the hollow of his hand like a great
drop of blood.

The captain was amazed at the splendour of the gem. The pupils of his
eyes expanded with desire, and the hard lines of greed wrinkled around
his lips. He stretched out his hand and took the ruby.

"March on!" he cried to his men, "there is no child here. The house is
empty."

The clamor and the clang of arms passed down the street as the headlong
fury of the chase sweeps by the secret covert where the trembling deer
is hidden. Artaban re-entered the cottage. He turned his face to the
east and prayed:

 "God of truth, forgive my sin!  I have said the thing that
is not, to save the life of a child. And two of my gifts are gone. I
have spent for man that which was meant for God. Shall I ever be worthy
to see the face of the King?"

But the voice of the woman, weeping for joy in the shadow behind him,
said very gently:

"Because thou hast saved the life of my little one, may the Lord bless
thee and keep thee; the Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be
gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give
thee peace."



IV

Again there was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, deeper and more
mysterious than the first interval, and I understood that the years of
Artaban were flowing very swiftly under the stillness, and I caught only
a glimpse, here and there, of the river of his life shining through the
mist that concealed its course.

I saw him moving among the throngs of men in populous Egypt, seeking
everywhere for traces of the household that had come down from
Bethlehem, and finding them under the spreading sycamore-trees of
Heliopolis, and beneath the walls of the Roman fortress of New Babylon
beside the Nile--traces so faint and dim that they vanished before him
continually, as footprints on the wet river-sand glisten for a moment
with moisture and then disappear.

I saw him again at the foot of the pyramids, which lifted their sharp
points into the intense saffron glow of the sunset sky, changeless
monuments of the perishable glory and the imperishable hope of man. He
looked up into the face of the crouching Sphinx and vainly tried to
read the meaning of the calm eyes and smiling mouth. Was it, indeed,
the mockery of all effort and all aspiration, as Tigranes had said--the
cruel jest of a riddle that has no answer, a search that never can
succeed? Or was there a touch of pity and encouragement in that
inscrutable smile--a promise that even the defeated should attain a
victory, and the disappointed should discover a prize, and the ignorant
should be made wise, and the blind should see, and the wandering should
come into the haven at last?

I saw him again in an obscure house of Alexandria, taking counsel with a
Hebrew rabbi. The venerable man, bending over the rolls of parchment
on which the prophecies of Israel were written, read aloud the pathetic
words which foretold the sufferings of the promised Messiah--the
despised and rejected of men, the man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief.

"And remember, my son," said he, fixing his eyes upon the face of
Artaban, "the King whom thou seekest is not to be found in a palace, nor
among the rich and powerful. If the light of the world and the glory
of Israel had been appointed to come with the greatness of earthly
splendour, it must have appeared long ago. For no son of Abraham will
ever again rival the power which Joseph had in the palaces of Egypt, or
the magnificence of Solomon throned between the lions in Jerusalem. But
the light for which the world is waiting is a new light, the glory that
shall rise out of patient and triumphant suffering. And the kingdom
which is to be established forever is a new kingdom, the royalty of
unconquerable love.

"I do not know how this shall come to pass, nor how the turbulent kings
and peoples of earth shall be brought to acknowledge the Messiah and pay
homage to him. But this I know. Those who seek him will do well to look
among the poor and the lowly, the sorrowful and the oppressed."

So I saw the Other Wise Man again and again, travelling from place to
place, and searching among the people of the dispersion, with whom the
little family from Bethlehem might, perhaps, have found a refuge. He
passed through countries where famine lay heavy upon the land, and the
poor were crying for bread. He made his dwelling in plague-stricken
cities where the sick were languishing in the bitter companionship of
helpless misery. He visited the oppressed and the afflicted in the gloom
of subterranean prisons, and the crowded wretchedness of slave-markets,
and the weary toil of galley-ships. In all this populous and intricate
world of anguish, though he found none to worship, he found many to
help. He fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and healed the sick,
and comforted the captive; and his years passed more swiftly than the
weaver's shuttle that flashes back and forth through the loom while the
web grows and the pattern is completed.

It seemed almost as if he had forgotten his quest. But once I saw him
for a moment as he stood alone at sunrise, waiting at the gate of a
Roman prison. He had taken from a secret resting-place in his bosom the
pearl, the last of his jewels. As he looked at it, a mellower lustre,
a soft and iridescent light, full of shifting gleams of azure and rose,
trembled upon its surface. It seemed to have absorbed some reflection of
the lost sapphire and ruby. So the secret purpose of a noble life draws
into itself the memories of past joy and past sorrow. All that has
helped it, all that has hindered it, is transfused by a subtle magic
into its very essence. It becomes more luminous and precious the longer
it is carried close to the warmth of the beating heart.

Then, at last, while I was thinking of this pearl, and of its meaning, I
heard the end of the story of the Other Wise Man.



V

Three-and-thirty years of the life of Artaban had passed away, and he
was still a pilgrim and a seeker after light. His hair, once darker
than the cliffs of Zagros, was now white as the wintry snow that covered
them. His eyes, that once flashed like flames of fire, were dull as
embers smouldering among the ashes.

Worn and weary and ready to die, but still looking for the King, he had
come for the last time to Jerusalem. He had often visited the holy city
before, and had searched all its lanes and crowded bevels and black
prisons without finding any trace of the family of Nazarenes who had
fled from Bethlehem long ago. But now it seemed as if he must make one
more effort, and something whispered in his heart that, at last, he
might succeed.

It was the season of the Passover. The city was thronged with strangers.
The children of Israel, scattered in far lands, had returned to the
Temple for the great feast, and there had been a confusion of tongues in
the narrow streets for many days.

But on this day a singular agitation was visible in the multitude. The
sky was veiled with a portentous gloom. Currents of excitement seemed
to flash through the crowd. A secret tide was sweeping them all one way.
The clatter of sandals and the soft, thick sound of thousands of bare
feet shuffling over the stones, flowed unceasingly along the street that
leads to the Damascus gate.

Artaban joined a group of people from his own country, Parthian Jews who
had come up to keep the Passover, and inquired of them the cause of the
tumult, and where they were going.

"We are going," they answered, "to the place called Golgotha, outside
the city walls, where there is to be an execution. Have you not heard
what has happened? Two famous robbers are to be crucified, and with them
another, called Jesus of Nazareth, a man who has done many wonderful
works among the people, so that they love him greatly. But the priests
and elders have said that he must die, because he gave himself out to
be the Son of God. And Pilate has sent him to the cross because he said
that he was the 'King of the Jews.'"

How strangely these familiar words fell upon the tired heart of Artaban!
They had led him for a lifetime over land and sea. And now they came to
him mysteriously, like a message of despair. The King had arisen, but
he had been denied and cast out. He was about to perish. Perhaps he
was already dying. Could it be the same who had been born in Bethlehem
thirty-three years ago, at whose birth the star had appeared in heaven,
and of whose coming the prophets had spoken?

Artaban's heart beat unsteadily with that troubled, doubtful
apprehension which is the excitement of old age. But he said within
himself: "The ways of God are stranger than the thoughts of men, and it
may be that I shall find the King, at last, in the hands of his enemies,
and shall come in time to offer my pearl for his ransom before he dies."

So the old man followed the multitude with slow and painful steps
toward the Damascus gate of the city. Just beyond the entrance of the
guardhouse a troop of Macedonian soldiers came down the street, dragging
a young girl with torn dress and dishevelled hair. As the Magian paused
to look at her with compassion, she broke suddenly from the hands of
her tormentors, and threw herself at his feet, clasping him around the
knees. She had seen his white cap and the winged circle on his breast.

"Have pity on me," she cried, "and save me, for the sake of the God of
Purity! I also am a daughter of the true religion which is taught by
the Magi. My father was a merchant of Parthia, but he is dead, and I
am seized for his debts to be sold as a slave. Save me from worse than
death!"

Artaban trembled.

It was the old conflict in his soul, which had come to him in the
palm-grove of Babylon and in the cottage at Bethlehem--the conflict
between the expectation of faith and the impulse of love. Twice the gift
which he had consecrated to the worship of religion had been drawn
to the service of humanity. This was the third trial, the ultimate
probation, the final and irrevocable choice.

Was it his great opportunity, or his last temptation? He could not tell.
One thing only was clear in the darkness of his mind--it was inevitable.
And does not the inevitable come from God?

One thing only was sure to his divided heart--to rescue this helpless
girl would be a true deed of love. And is not love the light of the
soul?

He took the pearl from his bosom. Never had it seemed so luminous, so
radiant, so full of tender, living lustre. He laid it in the hand of the
slave.

"This is thy ransom, daughter! It is the last of my treasures which I
kept for the King."

While he spoke, the darkness of the sky deepened, and shuddering tremors
ran through the earth heaving convulsively like the breast of one who
struggles with mighty grief.

The walls of the houses rocked to and fro. Stones were loosened and
crashed into the street. Dust clouds filled the air. The soldiers fled
in terror, reeling like drunken men. But Artaban and the girl whom he
had ransomed crouched helpless beneath the wall of the Praetorium.

What had he to fear? What had he to hope? He had given away the last
remnant of his tribute for the King. He had parted with the last hope
of finding him. The quest was over, and it had failed. But, even in that
thought, accepted and embraced, there was peace. It was not resignation.
It was not submission. It was something more profound and searching. He
knew that all was well, because he had done the best that he could from
day to day. He had been true to the light that had been given to him.
He had looked for more. And if he had not found it, if a failure was
all that came out of his life, doubtless that was the best that
was possible. He had not seen the revelation of "life everlasting,
incorruptible and immortal." But he knew that even if he could live his
earthly life over again, it could not be otherwise than it had been.

One more lingering pulsation of the earthquake quivered through the
ground. A heavy tile, shaken from the roof, fell and struck the old man
on the temple. He lay breathless and pale, with his gray head resting
on the young girl's shoulder, and the blood trickling from the wound. As
she bent over him, fearing that he was dead, there came a voice through
the twilight, very small and still, like music sounding from a distance,
in which the notes are clear but the words are lost. The girl turned to
see if some one had spoken from the window above them, but she saw no
one.

Then the old man's lips began to move, as if in answer, and she heard
him say in the Parthian tongue:

"Not so, my Lord! For when saw I thee an hungered and fed thee? Or
thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a stranger, and took thee
in? Or naked, and clothed thee? When saw I thee sick or in prison, and
came unto thee? Three-and--thirty years have I looked for thee; but I
have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King."

He ceased, and the sweet voice came again. And again the maid heard it,
very faint and far away. But now it seemed as though she understood the
words:

"Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me."

A calm radiance of wonder and joy lighted the pale face of Artaban like
the first ray of dawn, on a snowy mountain-peak. A long breath of relief
exhaled gently from his lips.

His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man
had found the King.



A HANDFUL OF CLAY

There was a handful of clay in the bank of a river. It was only common
clay, coarse and heavy; but it had high thoughts of its own value, and
wonderful dreams of the great place which it was to fill in the world
when the time came for its virtues to be discovered.

Overhead, in the spring sunshine, the trees whispered together of the
glory which descended upon them when the delicate blossoms and leaves
began to expand, and the forest glowed with fair, clear colours, as
if the dust of thousands of rubies and emeralds were hanging, in soft
clouds, above the earth.

The flowers, surprised with the joy of beauty, bent their heads to one
another, as the wind caressed them, and said: "Sisters, how lovely you
have become. You make the day bright."

The river, glad of new strength and rejoicing in the unison of all its
waters, murmured to the shores in music, telling of its release from icy
fetters, its swift flight from the snow-clad mountains, and the mighty
work to which it was hurrying--the wheels of many mills to be turned,
and great ships to be floated to the sea.

Waiting blindly in its bed, the clay comforted itself with lofty hopes.
"My time will come," it said. "I was not made to be hidden forever.
Glory and beauty and honour are coming to me in due season."

One day the clay felt itself taken from the place where it had waited so
long. A flat blade of iron passed beneath it, and lifted it, and tossed
it into a cart with other lumps of clay, and it was carried far away,
as it seemed, over a rough and stony road. But it was not afraid, nor
discouraged, for it said to itself: "This is necessary. The path to
glory is always rugged. Now I am on my way to play a great part in the
world."

But the hard journey was nothing compared with the tribulation and
distress that came after it. The clay was put into a trough and mixed
and beaten and stirred and trampled. It seemed almost unbearable. But
there was consolation in the thought that something very fine and noble
was certainly coming out of all this trouble. The clay felt sure that,
if it could only wait long enough, a wonderful reward was in store for
it.

Then it was put upon a swiftly turning wheel, and whirled around until
it seemed as if it must fly into a thousand pieces. A strange power
pressed it and moulded it, as it revolved, and through all the dizziness
and pain it felt that it was taking a new form.

Then an unknown hand put it into an oven, and fires were kindled about
it--fierce and penetrating--hotter than all the heats of summer that had
ever brooded upon the bank of the river. But through all, the clay held
itself together and endured its trials, in the confidence of a great
future. "Surely," it thought, "I am intended for something very
splendid, since such pains are taken with me. Perhaps I am fashioned for
the ornament of a temple, or a precious vase for the table of a king."

At last the baking was finished. The clay was taken from the furnace
and set down upon a board, in the cool air, under the blue sky. The
tribulation was passed. The reward was at hand.

Close beside the board there was a pool of water, not very deep, nor
very clear, but calm enough to reflect, with impartial truth, every
image that fell upon it. There, for the first time, as it was lifted
from the board, the clay saw its new shape, the reward of all its
patience and pain, the consummation of its hopes--a common flower-pot,
straight and stiff, red and ugly. And then it felt that it was not
destined for a king's house, nor for a palace of art, because it was
made without glory or beauty or honour; and it murmured against the
unknown maker, saying, "Why hast thou made me thus?"

Many days it passed in sullen discontent. Then it was filled with earth,
and something--it knew not what--but something rough and brown and
dead-looking, was thrust into the middle of the earth and covered over.
The clay rebelled at this new disgrace. "This is the worst of all that
has happened to me, to be filled with dirt and rubbish. Surely I am a
failure."

But presently it was set in a greenhouse, where the sunlight fell warm
upon it, and water was sprinkled over it, and day by day as it waited,
a change began to come to it. Something was stirring within it--a new
hope. Still it was ignorant, and knew not what the new hope meant.

One day the clay was lifted again from its place, and carried into a
great church. Its dream was coming true after all. It had a fine part to
play in the world. Glorious music flowed over it. It was surrounded
with flowers. Still it could not understand. So it whispered to another
vessel of clay, like itself, close beside it, "Why have they set me
here? Why do all the people look toward us?" And the other vessel
answered, "Do you not know? You are carrying a royal sceptre of lilies.
Their petals are white as snow, and the heart of them is like pure gold.
The people look this way because the flower is the most wonderful in the
world. And the root of it is in your heart."

Then the clay was content, and silently thanked its maker, because,
though an earthen vessel, it held so great a treasure.



THE LOST WORD


"Come down, Hermas, come down! The night is past. It is time to be
stirring. Christ is born today. Peace be with you in His name. Make
haste and come down!"

 A little group of young men were standing in a street of
Antioch, in the dusk of early morning, fifteen hundred years ago--a
class of candidates who had nearly finished their years of training for
the Christian church. They had come to call their fellow-student Hermas
from his lodging.

Their voices rang out cheerily through the cool air. They were full of
that glad sense of life which the young feel when they have risen
early and come to rouse one who is still sleeping. There was a note of
friendly triumph in their call, as if they were exulting unconsciously
in having begun the adventure of the new day before their comrade.

But Hermas was not asleep. He had been waking for hours, and the walls
of his narrow lodging had been a prison to his heart. A nameless sorrow
and discontent had fallen upon him, and he could find no escape from the
heaviness of his own thoughts.

There is a sadness of youth into which the old cannot enter. It seems
unreal and causeless. But it is even more bitter and burdensome than the
sadness of age. There is a sting of resentment in it, a fever of angry
surprise that the world should so soon be a disappointment, and life
so early take on the look of a failure. It has little reason in it,
perhaps, but it has all the more weariness and gloom, because the man
who is oppressed by it feels dimly that it is an unnatural thing that he
should be tired of living before he has fairly begun to live.

Hermas had fallen into the very depths of this strange self-pity. He was
out of tune with everything around him. He had been thinking, through
the dead night, of all that he had given up when he left the house of
his father, the wealthy pagan Demetrius, to join the company of the
Christians. Only two years ago he had been one of the richest young men
in Antioch. Now he was one of the poorest. The worst of it was that,
though he had made the choice willingly and with a kind of enthusiasm,
he was already dissatisfied with it.

The new life was no happier than the old. He was weary of vigils and
fasts, weary of studies and penances, weary of prayers and sermons.
He felt like a slave in a treadmill. He knew that he must go on. His
honour, his conscience, his sense of duty, bound him. He could not go
back to the old careless pagan life again; for something had happened
within him which made a return impossible. Doubtless he had found the
true religion, but he had found it only as a task and a burden; its joy
and peace had slipped away from him.

He felt disillusioned and robbed. He sat beside his hard couch, waiting
without expectancy for the gray dawn of another empty day, and hardly
lifting his head at the shouts of his friends.

"Come down, Hermas, you sluggard! Come down! It is Christmas morn.
Awake, and be glad with us!"

"I am coming," he answered listlessly; "only have patience a moment. I
have been awake since midnight, and waiting for the day."

"You hear him!" said his friends one to another. "How he puts us all to
shame! He is more watchful, more eager, than any of us. Our master, John
the Presbyter, does well to be proud of him. He is the best man in our
class."

While they were talking the door opened and Hermas stepped out. He was
a figure to be remarked in any company--tall, broad-shouldered,
straight-hipped, with a head proudly poised on the firm column of the
neck, and short brown curls clustering over the square forehead. It was
the perpetual type of vigorous and intelligent young manhood, such as
may be found in every century among the throngs of ordinary men, as if
to show what the flower of the race should be. But the light in his
eyes was clouded and uncertain; his smooth cheeks were leaner than they
should have been at twenty; and there were downward lines about his
mouth which spoke of desires unsatisfied and ambitions repressed. He
joined his companions with brief greetings,--a nod to one, a word to
another,--and they passed together down the steep street.

Overhead the mystery of daybreak was silently transfiguring the sky. The
curtain of darkness had lifted along the edge of the horizon. The ragged
crests of Mount Silpius were outlined with pale saffron light. In the
central vault of heaven a few large stars twinkled drowsily. The great
city, still chiefly pagan, lay more than half-asleep. But multitudes of
the Christians, dressed in white and carrying lighted torches in their
hands, were hurrying toward the Basilica of Constantine to keep the new
holy-day of the church, the festival of the birthday of their Master.

The vast, bare building was soon crowded, and the younger converts, who
were not yet permitted to stand among the baptised, found it difficult
to come to their appointed place between the first two pillars of the
house, just within the threshold. There was some good-humoured pressing
and jostling about the door; but the candidates pushed steadily forward.

"By your leave, friends, our station is beyond you. Will you let us
pass? Many thanks."

A touch here, a courteous nod there, a little patience, a little
persistence, and at last they stood in their place. Hermas was taller
than his companions; he could look easily over their heads and survey
the sea of people stretching away through the columns, under the shadows
of the high roof, as the tide spreads on a calm day into the pillared
cavern of Staffa, quiet as if the ocean hardly dared to breathe. The
light of many flambeaux fell, in flickering, uncertain rays, over
the assembly. At the end of the vista there was a circle of clearer,
steadier radiance. Hermas could see the bishop in his great chair,
surrounded by the presbyters, the lofty desks on either side for the
readers of the Scripture, the communion-table and the table of offerings
in the middle of the church.

The call to prayer sounded down the long aisle. Thousands of hands were
joyously lifted in the air, as if the sea had blossomed into waving
lilies, and the "Amen" was like the murmur of countless ripples in an
echoing place.

Then the singing began, led by the choir of a hundred trained voices
which the Bishop Paul had founded in Antioch. Timidly, at first, the
music felt its way, as the people joined with a broken and uncertain
cadence: the mingling of many little waves not yet gathered into rhythm
and harmony. Soon the longer, stronger billows of song rolled in,
sweeping from side to side as the men and the women answered in the
clear antiphony.

Hermas had often been carried on those

      Tides of music's golden sea
      Selling toward eternity.

But to-day his heart was a rock that stood motionless. The flood passed
by and left him unmoved.

Looking out from his place at the foot of the pillar, he saw a man
standing far off in the lofty bema. Short and slender, wasted by
sickness, gray before his time, with pale cheeks and wrinkled brow, he
seemed at first like a person of no significance--a reed shaken in
the wind. But there was a look in his deep-set, poignant eyes, as he
gathered all the glances of the multitude to himself, that belied his
mean appearance and prophesied power. Hermas knew very well who it was:
the man who had drawn him from his father's house, the teacher who was
instructing him as a son in the Christian faith, the guide and trainer
of his soul--John of Antioch, whose fame filled the city and began to
overflow Asia, and who was called already Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed
preacher.

Hermas had felt the magic of his eloquence many a time; and to-day, as
the tense voice vibrated through the stillness, and the sentences moved
onward, growing fuller and stronger, bearing argosies of costly rhetoric
and treasures of homely speech in their bosom, and drawing the hearts
of men with a resistless magic, Hermas knew that the preacher had never
been more potent, more inspired.

He played on that immense congregation as a master on an instrument.
He rebuked their sins, and they trembled. He touched their sorrows, and
they wept. He spoke of the conflicts, the triumphs, the glories of their
faith, and they broke out in thunders of applause. He hushed them into
reverent silence, and led them tenderly, with the wise men of the East,
to the lowly birthplace of Jesus.

"Do thou, therefore, likewise leave the Jewish people, the troubled
city, the bloodthirsty tyrant, the pomp of the world, and hasten to
Bethlehem, the sweet house of spiritual bread. For though thou be but a
shepherd, and come hither, thou shalt behold the young Child in an inn.
Though thou be a king, and come not hither, thy purple robe shall profit
thee nothing. Though thou be one of the wise men, this shall be no
hindrance to thee. Only let thy coming be to honour and adore, with
trembling joy, the Son of God, to whose name be glory, on this His
birthday, and forever and forever."

The soul of Hermas did not answer to the musician's touch. The strings
of his heart were slack and soundless; there was no response within
him. He was neither shepherd, nor king, nor wise man; only an unhappy,
dissatisfied, questioning youth. He was out of sympathy with the eager
preacher, the joyous hearers. In their harmony he had no part. Was it
for this that he had forsaken his inheritance and narrowed his life to
poverty and hardship? What was it all worth?

The gracious prayers with which the young converts were blessed and
dismissed before the sacrament sounded hollow in his ears. Never had he
felt so utterly lonely as in that praying throng. He went out with his
companions like a man departing from a banquet where all but he had been
fed.

"Farewell, Hermas," they cried, as he turned from them at the door. But
he did not look back, nor wave his hand. He was already alone in his
heart.


When he entered the broad Avenue of the Colonnades, the sun had already
topped the eastern hills, and the ruddy light was streaming through the
long double row of archways and over the pavements of crimson marble.
But Hermas turned his back to the morning, and walked with his shadow
before him.

The street began to swarm and whirl and quiver with the motley life of a
huge city: beggars and jugglers, dancers and musicians, gilded youths in
their chariots, and daughters of joy looking out from their windows, all
intoxicated with the mere delight of living and the gladness of a
new day. The pagan populace of Antioch--reckless, pleasure-loving,
spendthrift--were preparing for the Saturnalia. But all this Hermas had
renounced. He cleft his way through the crowd slowly, like a reluctant
swimmer weary of breasting the tide.

At the corner of the street where the narrow, populous Lane of the
Camel-drivers crossed the Colonnades, a storyteller had bewitched
a circle of people around him. It was the same old tale of love and
adventure that many generations have listened to; but the lively fancy
of the hearers rent it new interest, and the wit of the improviser drew
forth sighs of interest and shouts of laughter.

A yellow-haired girl on the edge of the throng turned, as Hermas passed,
and smiled in his face. She put out her hand and caught him by the
sleeve.

"Stay," she said, "and laugh a bit with us. I know who you are--the son
of Demetrius. You must have bags of gold. Why do you look so black? Love
is alive yet."

Hermas shook off her hand, but not ungently.

"I don't know what you mean," he said. "You are mistaken in me. I am
poorer than you are."

But as he passed on, he felt the warm touch of her fingers through the
cloth on his arm. It seemed as if she had plucked him by the heart.

He went out by the Western Gate, under the golden cherubim that the
Emperor Titus had stolen from the ruined Temple of Jerusalem and fixed
upon the arch of triumph. He turned to the left, and climbed the hill to
the road that led to the Grove of Daphne.

In all the world there was no other highway as beautiful. It wound for
five miles along the foot of the mountains, among gardens and villas,
plantations of myrtles and mulberries, with wide outlooks over the
valley of Orontes and the distant, shimmering sea.

The richest of all the dwellings was the House of the Golden Pillars,
the mansion of Demetrius. He had won the favor of the apostate Emperor
Julian, whose vain efforts to restore the worship of the heathen gods,
some twenty years ago, had opened an easy way to wealth and power for
all who would mock and oppose Christianity. Demetrius was not a sincere
fanatic like his royal master; but he was bitter enough in his professed
scorn of the new religion, to make him a favourite at the court where
the old religion was in fashion. He had reaped a rich reward of his
policy, and a strange sense of consistency made him more fiercely loyal
to it than if it had been a real faith. He was proud of being called
"the friend of Julian"; and when his son joined himself to the
Christians, and acknowledged the unseen God, it seemed like an insult
to his father's success. He drove the boy from his door and disinherited
him.

The glittering portico of the serene, haughty house, the repose of the
well-ordered garden, still blooming with belated flowers, seemed at once
to deride and to invite the young outcast plodding along the dusty road.
"This is your birthright," whispered the clambering rose-trees by the
gate; and the closed portals of carven bronze said: "You have sold it
for a thought--a dream."'



II

Hermas found the Grove of Daphne quite deserted. There was no sound
in the enchanted vale but the rustling of the light winds chasing
each other through the laurel thickets, and the babble of innumerable
streams. Memories of the days and nights of delicate pleasure that
the grove had often seen still haunted the bewildered paths and broken
fountains. At the foot of a rocky eminence, crowned with the ruins of
Apollo's temple, which had been mysteriously destroyed by fire just
after Julian had restored and reconsecrated it, Hermas sat down beside a
gushing spring, and gave himself up to sadness.

"How beautiful the world would be, how joyful, how easy to live in,
without religion! These questions about unseen things, perhaps about
unreal things, these restraints and duties and sacrifices-if I were only
free from them all, and could only forget them all, then I could live my
life as I pleased, and be happy."

"Why not?" said a quiet voice at his back.

He turned, and saw an old man with a long beard and a threadbare cloak
(the garb affected by the pagan philosophers) standing behind him and
smiling curiously.

"How is it that you answer that which has not been spoken?" said Hermas;
"and who are you that honour me with your company?"

"Forgive the intrusion," answered the stranger; "it is not ill meant. A
friendly interest is as good as an introduction."

"But to what singular circumstance do I owe this interest?"

"To your face," said the old man, with a courteous inclination. "Perhaps
also a little to the fact that I am the oldest inhabitant here, and feel
as if all visitors were my guests, in a way."

"Are you, then, one of the keepers of the grove? And have you given up
your work with the trees to take a holiday as a philosopher?

"Not at all. The robe of philosophy is a mere affectation, I must
confess. I think little of it. My profession is the care of altars. In
fact, I am the solitary priest of Apollo whom the Emperor Julian found
here when he came to revive the worship of the grove, some twenty years
ago. You have heard of the incident?"

"Yes," said Hermas, beginning to be interested; "the whole city must
have heard of it, for it is still talked of. But surely it was a strange
sacrifice that you brought to celebrate the restoration of Apollo's
temple?"

"You mean the ancient goose?" said the old man laughing. "Well, perhaps
it was not precisely what the emperor expected. But it was all that I
had, and it seemed to me not inappropriate. You will agree to that if
you are a Christian, as I guess from your dress."

"You speak lightly for a priest of Apollo."

"Oh, as for that, I am no bigot. The priesthood is a professional
matter, and the name of Apollo is as good as any other. How many altars
do you think there have been in this grove?"

"I do not know."

"Just four-and-twenty, including that of the martyr Babylas, whose
ruined chapel you see just beyond us. I have had something to do with
most of them in my time. They are transitory. They give employment to
care-takers for a while. But the thing that lasts, and the thing that
interests me, is the human life that plays around them. The game has
been going on for centuries. It still disports itself very pleasantly
on summer evenings through these shady walks. Believe me, for I know.
Daphne and Apollo are shadows. But the flying maidens and the pursuing
lovers, the music and the dances, these are realities. Life is a game,
and the world keeps it up merrily. But you? You are of a sad countenance
for one so young and so fair. Are you a loser in the game?"  The words
 a key fits the lock. He opened his heart to the old man, and told him
the story of his life: his luxurious boyhood in his father's house;
the irresistible spell which compelled him to forsake it when he
heard John's preaching of the new religion; his lonely year with the
anchorites among the mountains; the strict discipline in his teacher's
house at Antioch; his weariness of duty, his distaste for poverty, his
discontent with worship.

"And to-day," said he, "I have been thinking that I am a fool. My life
is swept as bare as a hermit's cell. There is nothing in it but a dream,
a thought of God, which does not satisfy me."

The singular smile deepened on his companion's face. "You are ready,
then," he suggested, "to renounce your new religion and go back to that
of your father?"

"No; I renounce nothing, I accept nothing. I do not wish to think about
it. I only wish to live."

"A very reasonable wish, and I think you are about to see its
accomplishment. Indeed, I may even say that I can put you in the way of
securing it. Do you believe in magic?"

"I do not know whether I believe in anything. This is not a day on which
I care to make professions of faith. I believe in what I see. I want
what will give me pleasure."

"Well," said the old man, soothingly, as he plucked a leaf from the
laurel-tree above them and dipped it in the spring, "let us dismiss the
riddles of belief. I like them as little as you do. You know this is a
Castalian fountain. The Emperor Hadrian once read his fortune here from
a leaf dipped in the water. Let us see what this leaf tells us. It is
already turning yellow. How do you read that?"

"Wealth," said Hermas, laughing, as he looked at his mean garments.

"And here is a bud on the stem that seems to be swelling. What is that?"

"Pleasure," answered Hermas, bitterly.

"And here is a tracing of wreaths upon the surface. What do you make of
that?"

"What you will," said Hermas, not even taking the trouble to look.
"Suppose we say success and fame?"

"Yes," said the stranger; "it is all written here. I promise that you
shall enjoy it all. But you do not need to believe in my promise. I am
not in the habit of requiring faith of those whom I would serve. No such
hard conditions for me! There is only one thing that I ask. This is the
season that you Christians call the Christmas, and you have taken up the
pagan custom of exchanging gifts. Well, if I give to you, you must give
to me. It is a small thing, and really the thing you can best afford to
part with: a single word--the name of Him you profess to worship. Let me
take that word and all that belongs to it entirely out of your life,
so that you shall never hear it or speak it again. You will be richer
without it. I promise you everything, and this is all I ask in return.
Do you consent?"

"Yes. I consent," said Hermas, mocking. "If you can take your price, a
word, you can keep your promise, a dream."

The stranger laid the long, cool, wet leaf softly across the young man's
eyes. An icicle of pain darted through them; every nerve in his body was
drawn together there in a knot of agony.

Then all the tangle of pain seemed to be lifted out of him. A cool
languor of delight flowed back through every vein, and he sank into a
profound sleep.


III

There is a slumber so deep that it annihilates time. It is like a
fragment of eternity. Beneath its enchantment of vacancy, a day seems
like a thousand years, and a thousand years might well pass as one day.

It was such a sleep that fell upon Hermas in the Grove of Daphne. An
immeasurable period, an interval of life so blank and empty that he
could not tell whether it was long or short, had passed over him when
his senses began to stir again. The setting sun was shooting arrows of
gold under the glossy laurel-leaves. He rose and stretched his arms,
grasping a smooth branch above him and shaking it, to make sure that he
was alive. Then he hurried back toward Antioch, treading lightly as if
on air.

The ground seemed to spring beneath his feet. Already his life had
changed, he knew not how. Something that did not belong to him had
dropped away; he had returned to a former state of being. He felt as if
anything might happen to him, and he was ready for anything. He was
a new man, yet curiously familiar to himself--as if he had done with
playing a tiresome part and returned to his natural state. He was
buoyant and free, without a care, a doubt, a fear.

As he drew near to his father's house he saw a confusion of servants in
the porch, and the old steward ran down to meet him at the gate.

"Lord, we have been seeking you everywhere. The master is at the point
of death, and has sent for you. Since the sixth hour he calls your name
continually. Come to him quickly, lord, for I fear the time is short."

Hermas entered the house at once; nothing could amaze him to-day. His
father lay on an ivory couch in the inmost chamber, with shrunken face
and restless eyes, his lean fingers picking incessantly at the silken
coverlet.

"My son!" he murmured; "Hermas, my son! It is good that you have come
back to me. I have missed you. I was wrong to send you away. You
shall never leave me again. You are my son, my heir. I have changed
everything. Hermas, my son, come nearer--close beside me. Take my hand,
my son!"

The young man obeyed, and, kneeling by the couch, gathered his father's
cold, twitching fingers in his firm, warm grasp.

"Hermas, life is passing--long, rich, prosperous; the last sands, I
cannot stay them. My religion, a good policy--Julian was my friend. But
now he is gone--where? My soul is empty--nothing beyond--very dark--I am
afraid. But you know something better. You found something that made
you willing to give up your life for it--it, must have been almost like
dying--yet you were happy. What was it you found? See, I am giving you
everything. I have forgiven you. Now forgive me. Tell me, what is it?
Your secret, your faith--give it to me before I go."

At the sound of this broken pleading a strange passion of pity and
love took the young man by the throat. His voice shook a little as he
answered eagerly:

"Father, there is nothing to forgive. I am your son; I will gladly
tell you all that I know. I will give you the secret. Father, you must
believe with all your heart, and soul, and strength in--"

Where was the word--the word that he had been used to utter night and
morning, the word that had meant to him more than he had ever known?
What had become of it?

He groped for it in the dark room of his mind. He had thought he could
lay his hand upon it in a moment, but it was gone. Some one had taken
it away. Everything else was most clear to him: the terror of death;
the lonely soul appealing from his father's eyes; the instant need of
comfort and help. But at the one point where he looked for help he could
find nothing; only an empty space. The word of hope had vanished. He
felt for it blindly and in desperate haste.

"Father, wait! I have forgotten something--it has slipped away from
me. I shall find it in a moment. There is hope--I will tell you
presently--oh, wait!"

The bony hand gripped his like a vice; the glazed eyes opened wider.
"Tell me," whispered the old man; "tell me quickly, for I must go."

The voice sank into a dull rattle. The fingers closed once more, and
relaxed. The light behind the eyes went out.

Hermas, the master of the House of the Golden Pillars, was keeping watch
by the dead.



IV

The break with the old life was as clean as if it had been cut with a
knife. Some faint image of a hermit's cell, a bare lodging in a back
street of Antioch, a class-room full of earnest students, remained in
Hermas' memory. Some dull echo of the voice of John the Presbyter, and
the measured sound of chanting, and the murmur of great congregations,
still lingered in his ears; but it was like something that had happened
to another person, something that he had read long ago, but of which he
had lost the meaning.

His new life was full and smooth and rich--too rich for any sense of
loss to make itself felt. There were a hundred affairs to busy him, and
the days ran swiftly by as if they were shod with winged sandals.

Nothing needed to be considered, prepared for, begun. Everything was
ready and waiting for him. All that he had to do was to go on.

The estate of Demetrius was even greater than the world had supposed.
There were fertile lands in Syria which the emperor had given him,
marble-quarries in Phrygia, and forests of valuable timber in Cilicia;
the vaults of the villa contained chests of gold and silver; the secret
cabinets in the master's room were full of precious stones. The stewards
were diligent and faithful. The servants of the household rejoiced at
the young master's return. His table was spread; the rose-garland of
pleasure was woven for his head; his cup was overflowing with the spicy
wine of power.

The period of mourning for his father came at a fortunate moment to
seclude and safeguard him from the storm of political troubles and
persecutions that fell upon Antioch after the insults offered by
the people to the imperial statues in the year 387. The friends of
Demetrius, prudent and conservative persons, gathered around Hermas and
made him welcome to their circle. Chief among them was Libanius, the
sophist, his nearest neighbour, whose daughter Athenais had been the
playmate of Hermas in the old days.

He had left her a child. He found her a beautiful woman. What
transformation is so magical, so charming, as this? To see the uncertain
lines of youth rounded into firmness and symmetry, to discover the
half-ripe, merry, changing face of the girl matured into perfect
loveliness, and looking at you with calm, clear, serious eyes, not
forgetting the past, but fully conscious of the changed present--this is
to behold a miracle in the flesh.

"Where have you been, these two years?" said Athenais, as they walked
together through the garden of lilies where they had so often played.

"In a land of tiresome dreams," answered Hermas; "but you have wakened
me, and I am never going back again."

It was not to be supposed that the sudden disappearance of Hermas from
among his former associates could long remain unnoticed. At first it
was a mystery. There was a fear, for two or three days, that he might be
lost. Some of his more intimate companions maintained that his devotion
had led him out into the desert to join the anchorites. But the news of
his return to the House of the Golden Pillars, and of his new life as
its master, filtered quickly through the gossip of the city.

Then the church was filled with dismay and grief and reproach.
Messengers and letters were sent to Hermas. They disturbed him a little,
but they took no hold upon him. It seemed to him as if the messengers
spoke in a strange language. As he read the letters there were words
blotted out of the writing which made the full sense unintelligible.

His old companions came to reprove him for leaving them, to warn him of
the peril of apostasy, to entreat him to return. It all sounded vague
and futile. They spoke as if he had betrayed or offended some one;
but when they came to name the object of his fear--the one whom he had
displeased, and to whom he should return--he heard nothing; there was a
blur of silence in their speech. The clock pointed to the hour, but the
bell did not strike. At last Hermas refused to see them any more.

One day John the Presbyter stood in the atrium. Hermas was entertaining
Libanius and Athenais in the banquet-hall. When the visit of the
Presbyter was announced, the young master loosed a collar of gold and
jewels from his neck, and gave it to his scribe.

"Take this to John of Antioch, and tell him it is a gift from his former
pupil--as a token of remembrance, or to spend for the poor of the city.
I will always send him what he wants, but it is idle for us to talk
together any more. I do not understand what he says. I have not gone
to the temple, nor offered sacrifice, nor denied his teaching. I have
simply forgotten. I do not think about those things any longer. I am
only living. A happy man wishes him all happiness and farewell."

But John let the golden collar fall on the marble floor. "Tell your
master that we shall talk together again, in due time," said he, as he
passed sadly out of the hall.

The love of Athenais and Hermas was like a tiny rivulet that sinks out
of sight in a cavern, but emerges again a bright and brimming stream.
The careless comradery of childhood was mysteriously changed into a
complete companionship.

When Athenais entered the House of the Golden Pillars as a bride, all
the music of life came with her. Hermas called the feast of her welcome
"the banquet of the full chord." Day after day, night after night, week
after week, month after month, the bliss of the home unfolded like
a rose of a thousand leaves. When a child came to them, a strong,
beautiful boy, worthy to be the heir of such a house, the heart of the
rose was filled with overflowing fragrance. Happiness was heaped upon
happiness. Every wish brought its own accomplishment. Wealth, honour,
beauty, peace, love--it was an abundance of felicity so great that the
soul of Hermas could hardly contain it.

Strangely enough, it began to press upon him, to trouble him with the
very excess of joy. He felt as if there were something yet needed to
complete and secure it all. There was an urgency within him, a longing
to find some outlet for his feelings, he knew not how--some expression
and culmination of his happiness, he knew not what.

Under his joyous demeanour a secret fire of restlessness began to
burn--an expectancy of something yet to come which should put the touch
of perfection on his life. He spoke of it to Athenais, as they sat
together, one summer evening, in a bower of jasmine, with their boy
playing at their feet. There had been music in the garden; but now the
singers and lute-players had withdrawn, leaving the master and mistress
alone in the lingering twilight, tremulous with inarticulate melody of
unseen birds. There was a secret voice in the hour seeking vainly for
utterance a word waiting to be spoken.

"How deep is our happiness, my beloved!" said Hermas; "deeper than the
sea that slumbers yonder, below the city. And yet it is not quite full
and perfect. There is a depth of joy that we have not yet known--a
repose of happiness that is still beyond us. What is it? I have no
superstitions, like the king who cast his signet-ring into the sea
because he dreaded that some secret vengeance would fall on his unbroken
good fortune. That was an idle terror. But there is something that
oppresses me like an invisible burden. There is something still undone,
unspoken, unfelt--something that we need to complete everything. Have
you not felt it, too? Can you not lead me to it?"

"Yes," she answered, lifting her eyes to his face; "I, too, have felt
it, Hermas, this burden, this need, this unsatisfied longing. I think
I know what it means. It is gratitude--the language of the heart, the
music of happiness. There is no perfect joy without gratitude. But we
have never learned it, and the want of it troubles us. It is like being
dumb with a heart full of love. We must find the word for it, and say
it together. Then we shall be perfectly joined in perfect joy. Come, my
dear lord, let us take the boy with us, and give thanks."

Hermas lifted the child in his arms, and turned with Athenais into the
depth of the garden. There was a dismantled shrine of some forgotten
fashion of worship half-hidden among the luxuriant flowers. A fallen
image lay beside it, face downward in the grass. They stood there, hand
in hand, the boy drowsily resting on his father's shoulder.

Silently the roseate light caressed the tall spires of the
cypress-trees; silently the shadows gathered at their feet; silently the
tranquil stars looked out from the deepening arch of heaven. The very
breath of being paused. It was the hour of culmination, the supreme
moment of felicity waiting for its crown. The tones of Hermas were clear
and low as he began, half-speaking and half-chanting, in the rhythm of
an ancient song:

"Fair is the world, the sea, the sky, the double kingdom of day and
night, in the glow of morning, in the shadow of evening, and under the
dripping light of stars.

"Fairer still is life in our breasts, with its manifold music and
meaning, with its wonder of seeing and hearing and feeling and knowing
and being.

"Fairer and still more fair is love, that draws us together, mingles our
lives in its flow, and bears them along like a river, strong and clear
and swift, reflecting the stars in its bosom.

"Wide is our world; we are rich; we have all things. Life is abundant
within us--a measureless deep. Deepest of all is our love, and it longs
to speak.

"Come, thou final word; Come, thou crown of speech! Come, thou charm of
peace! Open the gates of our hearts. Lift the weight of our joy and bear
it upward.

"For all good gifts, for all perfect gifts, for love, for life, for the
world, we praise, we bless, we thank--"


As a soaring bird, struck by an arrow, falls headlong from the sky, so
the song of Hermas fell. At the end of his flight of gratitude there was
nothing--a blank, a hollow space.


He looked for a face, and saw a void. He sought for a hand, and clasped
vacancy. His heart was throbbing and swelling with passion; the bell
swung to and fro within him, beating from side to side as if it would
burst; but not a single note came from it. All the fulness of his
feeling, that had risen upward like a fountain, fell back from the empty
sky, as cold as snow, as hard as hail, frozen and dead. There was no
meaning in his happiness. No one had sent it to him. There was no one to
thank for it. His felicity was a closed circle, a wall of ice.

"Let us go back," he said sadly to Athenais; "the child is heavy upon
my shoulder. We will lay him to sleep, and go into the library. The air
grows chilly. We were mistaken. The gratitude of life is only a dream.
There is no one to thank."

And in the garden it was already night.



V

No outward change came to the House of the Golden Pillars. Everything
moved as smoothly, as delicately, as prosperously, as before. But
inwardly there was a subtle, inexplicable transformation. A vague
discontent, a final and inevitable sense of incompleteness, overshadowed
existence from that night when Hermas realised that his joy could never
go beyond itself.

The next morning the old man whom he had seen in the Grove of Daphne,
but never since, appeared mysteriously at the door of the house, as if
he had been sent for, and entered like an invited guest.

Hermas could not but make him welcome, and at first he tried to regard
him with reverence and affection as the one through whom fortune had
come. But it was impossible. There was a chill in the inscrutable smile
of Marcion, as he called himself, that seemed to mock at reverence.
He was in the house as one watching a strange experiment--tranquil,
interested, ready to supply anything that might be needed for its
completion, but thoroughly indifferent to the feelings of the subject;
an anatomist of life, looking curiously to see how long it would
continue, and how it would act, after the heart had been removed.

In his presence Hermas was conscious of a certain irritation, a
resentful anger against the calm, frigid scrutiny of the eyes that
followed him everywhere, like a pair of spies, peering out over the
smiling mouth and the long white beard.

"Why do you look at me so curiously?" asked Hermas, one morning, as they
sat together in the library. "Do you see anything strange in me?"

"No," answered Marcion; "something familiar."

"And what is that?"

"A singular likeness to a discontented young man that I met some years
ago in the Grove of Daphne."

"But why should that interest you? Surely it was to be expected."

"A thing that we expect often surprises us when we see it. Besides, my
curiosity is piqued. I suspect you of keeping a secret from me."

"You are jesting with me. There is nothing in my life that you do not
know. What is the secret?"

"Nothing more than the wish to have one. You are growing tired of your
bargain. The play wearies you. That is foolish. Do you want to try a new
part?"

The question was like a mirror upon which one comes suddenly in a
half-lighted room. A quick illumination falls on it, and the passer-by
is startled by the look of his own face.

"You are right," said Hermas. "I am tired. We have been going on
stupidly in this house, as if nothing were possible but what my father
had done before me. There is nothing original in being rich, and
well-fed, and well-dressed. Thousands of men have tried it, and have
not been satisfied. Let us do something new. Let us make a mark in the
world."

"It is well said," nodded the old man; "you are speaking again like a
man after my own heart. There is no folly but the loss of an opportunity
to enjoy a new sensation."

From that day Hermas seemed to be possessed with a perpetual haste,
an uneasiness that left him no repose. The summit of life had been
attained, the highest possible point of felicity. Henceforward the
course could only be at a level--perhaps downward. It might be brief;
at the best it could not be very long. It was madness to lose a day, an
hour. That would be the only fatal mistake: to forfeit anything of the
bargain that he had made. He would have it, and hold it, and enjoy it
all to the full. The world might have nothing better to give than it had
already given; but surely it had many things that were new, and Marcion
should help him to find them.

Under his learned counsel the House of the Golden Pillars took on a new
magnificence. Artists were brought from Corinth and Rome and Alexandria
to adorn it with splendour. Its fame glittered around the world.
Banquets of incredible luxury drew the most celebrated guests into its
triclinium, and filled them with envious admiration. The bees swarmed
and buzzed about the golden hive. The human insects, gorgeous moths
of pleasure and greedy flies of appetite, parasites and flatterers and
crowds of inquisitive idlers, danced and fluttered in the dazzling light
that surrounded Hermas.

Everything that he touched prospered. He bought a tract of land in the
Caucasus, and emeralds were discovered among the mountains. He sent a
fleet of wheat-ships to Italy, and the price of grain doubled while it
was on the way. He sought political favour with the emperor, and was
rewarded with the governorship of the city. His name was a word to
conjure with.

The beauty of Athenais lost nothing with the passing seasons, but grew
more perfect, even under the inexplicable shade of dissatisfaction
that sometimes veiled it. "Fair as the wife of Hermas" was a proverb
in Antioch; and soon men began to add to it, "Beautiful as the son of
Hermas"; for the child developed swiftly in that favouring clime. At
nine years of age he was straight and strong, firm of limb and clear of
eye. His brown head was on a level with his father's heart. He was the
jewel of the House of the Golden Pillars; the pride of Hermas, the new
Fortunatus.

That year another drop of success fell into his brimming cup. His black
Numidian horses, which he had been training for the world-renowned
chariot-races of Antioch, won the victory over a score of rivals. Hermas
received the prize carelessly from the judge's hands, and turned to
drive once more around the circus, to show himself to the people. He
lifted the eager boy into the chariot beside him to share his triumph.

Here, indeed, was the glory of his life--this matchless son, his
brighter counterpart carved in breathing ivory, touching his arm, and
balancing himself proudly on the swaying floor of the chariot. As the
horses pranced around the ring, a great shout of applause filled the
amphitheatre, and thousands of spectators waved their salutations of
praise: "Hail, fortunate Hermas, master of success! Hail, little Hermas,
prince of good luck!"

The sudden tempest of acclamation, the swift fluttering of innumerable
garments in the air, startled the horses. They dashed violently forward,
and plunged upon the bits. The left rein broke. They swerved to the
right, swinging the chariot sideways with a grating noise, and dashing
it against the stone parapet of the arena. In an instant the wheel
was shattered. The axle struck the ground, and the chariot was dragged
onward, rocking and staggering.

By a strenuous effort Hermas kept his place on the frail platform,
clinging to the unbroken rein. But the boy was tossed lightly from
his side at the first shock. His head struck the wall. And when Hermas
turned to look for him, he was lying like a broken flower on the sand.



VI

They carried the boy in a litter to the House of the Golden Pillars,
summoning the most skilful physician of Antioch to attend him. For
hours the child was as quiet as death. Hermas watched the white eyelids,
folded close like lily-buds at night, even as one watches for the
morning. At last they opened; but the fire of fever was burning in the
eyes, and the lips were moving in a wild delirium.

Hour after hour that sweet childish voice rang through the halls and
chambers of the splendid, helpless house, now rising in shrill calls
of distress and senseless laughter, now sinking in weariness and dull
moaning. The stars shone and faded; the sun rose and set; the roses
bloomed and fell in the garden; the birds sang and slept among the
jasmine-bowers. But in the heart of Hermas there was no song, no bloom,
no light--only speechless anguish, and a certain fearful looking-for of
desolation.

He was like a man in a nightmare. He saw the shapeless terror that was
moving toward him, but he was impotent to stay or to escape it. He had
done all that he could. There was nothing left but to wait.

He paced to and fro, now hurrying to the boy's bed as if he could not
bear to be away from it, now turning back as if he could not endure to
be near it. The people of the house, even Athenais, feared to speak to
him, there was something so vacant and desperate in his face.

At nightfall on the second of those eternal days he shut himself in the
library. The unfilled lamp had gone out, leaving a trail of smoke in
the air. The sprigs of mignonette and rosemary, with which the room was
sprinkled every day, were unrenewed, and scented the gloom with close
odours of decay. A costly manuscript of Theocritus was tumbled in
disorder on the floor. Hermas sank into a chair like a man in whom the
very spring of being is broken. Through the darkness some one drew near.
He did not even lift his head. A hand touched him; a soft arm was laid
over his shoulders. It was Athenais, kneeling beside him and speaking
very low:

"Hermas--it is almost over--the child! His voice grows weaker hour by
hour. He moans and calls for some one to help him; then he laughs. It
breaks my heart. He has just fallen asleep. The moon is rising now.
Unless a change comes he cannot last till sunrise. Is there nothing we
can do? Is there no power that can save him? Is there no one to pity us
and spare us? Let us call, let us beg for compassion and help; let us
pray for his life!"

Yes; this was what he wanted--this was the only thing that could bring
relief: to pray; to pour out his sorrow somewhere; to find a greater
strength than his own and cling to it and plead for mercy and help. To
leave this undone was to be false to his manhood; it was to be no better
than the dumb beasts when their young perish. How could he let his boy
suffer and die, without an effort, a cry, a prayer?

He sank on his knees beside Athenais.

"Out of the depths--out of the depths we call for pity. The light of
our eyes is fading--the child is dying. Oh, the child, the child! Spare
the child's life, thou merciful--"

Not a word; only that deathly blank. The hands of Hermas, stretched out
in supplication, touched the marble table. He felt the cool hardness of
the polished stone beneath his fingers. A roll of papyrus, dislodged by
his touch, fell rustling to the floor. Through the open door, faint
and far off, came the footsteps of the servants, moving cautiously. The
heart of Hermas was like a lump of ice in his bosom. He rose slowly to
his feet, lifting Athenais with him.

"It is in vain," he said; "there is nothing for us to do. Long ago I
knew something. I think it would have helped us. But I have forgotten
it. It is all gone. But I would give all that I have, if I could bring
it back again now, at this hour, in this time of our bitter trouble."

A slave entered the room while he was speaking, and approached
hesitatingly.

"Master," he said, "John of Antioch, whom we were forbidden to admit to
the house, has come again. He would take no denial. Even now he waits in
the peristyle; and the old man Marcion is with him, seeking to turn him
away."

"Come," said Hermas to his wife, "let us go to him."

In the central hall the two men were standing; Marcion, with disdainful
eyes and sneering lips, taunting the unbidden guest; John, silent,
quiet, patient, while the wondering slaves looked on in dismay. He
lifted his searching gaze to the haggard face of Hermas.

"My son, I knew that I should see you again, even though you did not
send for me. I have come to you because I have heard that you are in
trouble."

"It is true," answered Hermas, passionately; "we are in trouble,
desperate trouble, trouble accursed. Our child is dying. We are poor,
we are destitute, we are afflicted. In all this house, in all the world,
there is no one that can help us. I knew something long ago, when I was
with you,--a word, a name,--in which we might have found hope. But
I have lost it. I gave it to this man. He has taken it away from me
forever."

He pointed to Marcion. The old man's lips curled scornfully. "A word, a
name!" he sneered. "What is that, O most wise man and holy Presbyter?
A thing of air, a thing that men make to describe their own dreams and
fancies. Who would go about to rob any one of such a thing as that? It
is a prize that only a fool would think of taking. Besides, the young
man parted with it of his own free will. He bargained with me cleverly.
I promised him wealth and pleasure and fame. What did he give in return?
An empty name, which was a burden--"

"Servant of demons, be still!" The voice of John rang clear, like a
trumpet, through the hall. "There is a name which none shall dare to
take in vain. There is a name which none can lose without being lost.
There is a name at which the devils tremble. Go quickly, before I speak
it!"

Marcion shrank into the shadow of one of the pillars. A lamp near him
tottered on its pedestal and fell with a crash. In the confusion he
vanished, as noiselessly as a shade.

John turned to Hermas, and his tone softened as he said: "My son, you
have sinned deeper than you know. The word with which you parted so
lightly is the keyword of all life. Without it the world has no meaning,
existence no peace, death no refuge. It is the word that purifies
love, and comforts grief, and keeps hope alive forever. It is the most
precious word that ever ear has heard, or mind has known, or heart has
conceived. It is the name of Him who has given us life and breath and
all things richly to enjoy; the name of Him who, though we may forget
Him, never forgets us; the name of Him who pities us as you pity your
suffering child; the name of Him who, though we wander far from Him,
seeks us in the wilderness, and sent His Son, even as His Son has sent
me this night, to breathe again that forgotten name in the heart that is
perishing without it. Listen, my son, listen with all your soul to the
blessed name of God our Father."

The cold agony in the breast of Hermas dissolved like a fragment of ice
that melts in the summer sea. A sense of sweet release spread through
him from head to foot. The lost was found. The dew of peace fell on his
parched soul, and the withering flower of human love raised its head
again. He stood upright, and lifted his hands high toward heaven.

"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord! O my God, be merciful
to me, for my soul trusteth in Thee. My God, Thou hast given; take not
Thy gift away from me, O my God! Spare the life of this my child, O Thou
God, my Father, my Father!"

A deep hush followed the cry. "Listen!" whispered Athenais,
breathlessly.

Was it an echo? It could not be, for it came again--the voice of the
child, clear and low, waking from sleep, and calling: "Father!"



THE FIRST CHRISTMAS-TREE

I

The day before Christmas, in the year of our Lord 722.

Broad snow-meadows glistening white along the banks of the river
Moselle; steep hill-sides blooming with mystic forget-me-not where the
glow of the setting sun cast long shadows down their eastern slope; an
arch of clearest, deepest gentian bending overhead; in the centre of the
aerial garden the walls of the cloister of Pfalzel, steel-blue to the
east, violet to the west; silence over all,--a gentle, eager, conscious
stillness, diffused through the air, as if earth and sky were hushing
themselves to hear the voice of the river faintly murmuring down the
valley.

In the cloister, too, there was silence at the sunset hour. All day long
there had been a strange and joyful stir among the nuns. A breeze of
curiosity and excitement had swept along the corridors and through every
quiet cell. A famous visitor had come to the convent.

It was Winfried of England, whose name in the Roman tongue was Boniface,
and whom men called the Apostle of Germany. A great preacher; a
wonderful scholar; but, more than all, a daring traveller, a venturesome
pilgrim, a priest of romance.

He had left his home and his fair estate in Wessex; he would not stay in
the rich monastery of Nutescelle, even though they had chosen him as
the abbot; he had refused a bishopric at the court of King Karl. Nothing
would content him but to go out into the wild woods and preach to the
heathen.

Through the forests of Hesse and Thuringia, and along the borders
of Saxony, he had wandered for years, with a handful of companions,
sleeping under the trees, crossing mountains and marshes, now here,
now there, never satisfied with ease and comfort, always in love with
hardship and danger.

What a man he was! Fair and slight, but straight as a spear and strong
as an oaken staff. His face was still young; the smooth skin was bronzed
by wind and sun. His gray eyes, clean and kind, flashed like fire when
he spoke of his adventures, and of the evil deeds of the false priests
with whom he contended.

What tales he had told that day! Not of miracles wrought by sacred
relics; not of courts and councils and splendid cathedrals; though he
knew much of these things. But to-day he had spoken of long journeyings
by sea and land; of perils by fire and flood; of wolves and bears, and
fierce snowstorms, and black nights in the lonely forest; of dark altars
of heathen gods, and weird, bloody sacrifices, and narrow escapes from
murderous bands of wandering savages.

The little novices had gathered around him, and their faces had grown
pale and their eyes bright as they listened with parted lips, entranced
in admiration, twining their arms about one another's shoulders and
holding closely together, half in fear, half in delight. The older
nuns had turned from their tasks and paused, in passing by, to bear the
pilgrim's story. Too well they knew the truth of what he spoke. Many a
one among them had seen the smoke rising from the ruins of her father's
roof. Many a one had a brother far away in the wild country to whom
her heart went out night and day, wondering if he were still among the
living.

But now the excitements of that wonderful day were over; the hour of the
evening meal had come; the inmates of the cloister were assembled in the
refectory.

On the dais sat the stately Abbess Addula, daughter of King Dagobert,
looking a princess indeed, in her purple tunic, with the hood and cuffs
of her long white robe trimmed with ermine, and a snowy veil resting
like a crown on her silver hair. At her right hand was the honoured
guest, and at her left hand her grandson, the young Prince Gregor, a
big, manly boy, just returned from school.

The long, shadowy hall, with its dark-brown rafters and beams; the
double row of nuns, with their pure veils and fair faces; the ruddy glow
of the slanting sunbeams striking upward through the tops of the windows
and painting a pink glow high up on the walls,--it was all as beautiful
as a picture, and as silent. For this was the rule of the cloister, that
at the table all should sit in stillness for a little while, and then
one should read aloud, while the rest listened.

"It is the turn of my grandson to read to-day," said the abbess to
Winfried; "we shall see how much he has learned in the school. Read,
Gregor; the place in the book is marked."

The lad rose from his seat and turned the pages of the manuscript.
It was a copy of Jerome's version of the Scriptures in Latin, and
the marked place was in the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians,--the
passage where he describes the preparation of the Christian as a
warrior arming for battle. The young voice rang out clearly, rolling the
sonorous words, without slip or stumbling, to the end of the chapter.

Winfried listened smiling. "That was bravely read, my son," said he, as
the reader paused. "Understandest thou what thou readest?"

"Surely, father," answered the boy; "it was taught me by the masters at
Treves; and we have read this epistle from beginning to end, so that I
almost know it by heart."

Then he began to repeat the passage, turning away from the page as if to
show his skill.

But Winfried stopped him with a friendly lifting of the hand.

"Not so, my son; that was not my meaning. When we pray, we speak to God.
When we read, God speaks to us. I ask whether thou hast heard what He
has said to thee in the common speech. Come, give us again the message
of the warrior and his armour and his battle, in the mother-tongue, so
that all can understand it."

The boy hesitated, blushed, stammered; then he came around to Winfried's
seat, bringing the book. "Take the book, my father," he cried, "and read
it for me. I cannot see the meaning plain, though I love the sound of
the words. Religion I know, and the doctrines of our faith, and the life
of priests and nuns in the cloister, for which my grandmother designs
me, though it likes me little. And fighting I know, and the life of
warriors and heroes, for I have read of it in Virgil and the ancients,
and heard a bit from the soldiers at Treves; and I would fain taste more
of it, for it likes me much. But how the two lives fit together, or what
need there is of armour for a clerk in holy orders, I can never see.
Tell me the meaning, for if there is a man in all the world that knows
it, I am sure it is thou."

So Winfried took the book and closed it, clasping the boy's hand with
his own.

"Let us first dismiss the others to their vespers," said he, "lest they
should be weary."

A sign from the abbess; a chanted benediction; a murmuring of sweet
voices and a soft rustling of many feet over the rushes on the floor;
the gentle tide of noise flowed out through the doors and ebbed away
down the corridors; the three at the head of the table were left alone
in the darkening room.

Then Winfried began to translate the parable of the soldier into the
realities of life.

At every turn he knew how to flash a new light into the picture out
of his own experience. He spoke of the combat with self, and of the
wrestling with dark spirits in solitude. He spoke of the demons that men
had worshipped for centuries in the wilderness, and whose malice they
invoked against the stranger who ventured into the gloomy forest. Gods,
they called them, and told weird tales of their dwelling among the
impenetrable branches of the oldest trees and in the caverns of the
shaggy hills; of their riding on the wind-horses and hurling spears of
lightning against their foes. Gods they were not, but foul spirits
of the air, rulers of the darkness. Was there not glory and honour
in fighting them, in daring their anger under the shield of faith, in
putting them to flight with the sword of truth? What better adventure
could a brave man ask than to go forth against them, and wrestle with
them, and conquer them?

"Look you, my friends," said Winfried, "how sweet and peaceful is this
convent to-night! It is a garden full of flowers in the heart of winter;
a nest among the branches of a great tree shaken by the winds; a still
haven on the edge of a tempestuous sea. And this is what religion
means for those who are chosen and called to quietude and prayer and
meditation.

"But out yonder in the wide forest, who knows what storms are raving
to-night in the hearts of men, though all the woods are still? who knows
what haunts of wrath and cruelty are closed tonight against the advent
of the Prince of Peace? And shall I tell you what religion means to
those who are called and chosen to dare, and to fight, and to conquer
the world for Christ? It means to go against the strongholds of the
adversary. It means to struggle to win an entrance for the Master
everywhere. What helmet is strong enough for this strife save the helmet
of salvation? What breastplate can guard a man against these fiery darts
but the breastplate of righteousness? What shoes can stand the wear of
these journeys but the preparation of the gospel of peace?"

"Shoes?" he cried again, and laughed as if a sudden thought had struck
him. He thrust out his foot, covered with a heavy cowhide boot, laced
high about his leg with thongs of skin.

"Look here,--how a fighting man of the cross is shod! I have seen the
boots of the Bishop of Tours,--white kid, broidered with silk; a day
in the bogs would tear them to shreds. I have seen the sandals that the
monks use on the highroads,--yes, and worn them; ten pair of them have
I worn out and thrown away in a single journey. Now I shoe my feet with
the toughest hides, hard as iron; no rock can cut them, no branches can
tear them. Yet more than one pair of these have I outworn, and many
more shall I outwear ere my journeys are ended. And I think, if God is
gracious to me, that I shall die wearing them. Better so than in a
soft bed with silken coverings. The boots of a warrior, a hunter, a
woodsman,--these are my preparation of the gospel of peace.

"Come, Gregor," he said, laying his brown hand on the youth's shoulder,
"come, wear the forester's boots with me. This is the life to which we
are called. Be strong in the Lord, a hunter of the demons, a subduer of
the wilderness, a woodsman of the faith. Come."

The boy's eyes sparkled. He turned to his grandmother. She shook her
head vigorously.

"Nay, father," she said, "draw not the lad away from my side with these
wild words. I need him to help me with my labours, to cheer my old age."

"Do you need him more than the Master does?" asked Winfried; "and will
you take the wood that is fit for a bow to make a distaff?"

"But I fear for the child. Thy life is too hard for him. He will perish
with hunger in the woods."

"Once," said Winfried, smiling, "we were camped on the bank of the river
Ohru. The table was set for the morning meal, but my comrades cried
that it was empty; the provisions were exhausted; we must go without
breakfast, and perhaps starve before we could escape from the
wilderness. While they complained, a fish-hawk flew up from the river
with flapping wings, and let fall a great pike in the midst of the camp.
There was food enough and to spare! Never have I seen the righteous
forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

"But the fierce pagans of the forest," cried the abbess,--"they may
pierce the boy with their arrows, or dash out his brains with their
axes. He is but a child, too young for the danger and the strife."

"A child in years," replied Winfried, "but a man in spirit. And if the
hero fall early in the battle, he wears the brighter crown, not a leaf
withered, not a flower fallen."

The aged princess trembled a little. She drew Gregor close to her side,
and laid her hand gently on his brown hair.  "I am not sure that he wa
 there is no horse in the stable to give him, now, and he cannot go as
befits the grandson of a king."

Gregor looked straight into her eyes.

"Grandmother," said he, "dear grandmother, if thou wilt not give me a
horse to ride with this man of God, I will go with him afoot."



II

Two years had passed since that Christmas-eve in the cloister of
Pfalzel. A little company of pilgrims, less than a score of men, were
travelling slowly northward through the wide forest that rolled over the
hills of central Germany.

At the head of the band marched Winfried, clad in a tunic of fur, with
his long black robe girt high above his waist, so that it might not
hinder his stride. His hunter's boots were crusted with snow. Drops of
ice sparkled like jewels along the thongs that bound his legs. There
were no other ornaments of his dress except the bishop's cross hanging
on his breast, and the silver clasp that fastened his cloak about his
neck. He carried a strong, tall staff in his hand, fashioned at the top
into the form of a cross.

Close beside him, keeping step like a familiar comrade, was the young
Prince Gregor. Long marches through the wilderness had stretched his
legs and broadened his back, and made a man of him in stature as well as
in spirit. His jacket and cap were of wolf-skin, and on his shoulder he
carried an axe, with broad, shining blade. He was a mighty woodsman
now, and could make a spray of chips fly around him as he hewed his way
through the trunk of a pine-tree.

Behind these leaders followed a pair of teamsters, guiding a rude
sledge, loaded with food and the equipage of the camp, and drawn by
two big, shaggy horses, blowing thick clouds of steam from their frosty
nostrils. Tiny icicles hung from the hairs on their lips. Their flanks
were smoking. They sank above the fetlocks at every step in the soft
snow.

Last of all came the rear guard, armed with bows and javelins. It was no
child's play, in those days, to cross Europe afoot.

The weird woodland, sombre and illimitable, covered hill and vale,
table-land and mountain-peak. There were wide moors where the wolves
hunted in packs as if the devil drove them, and tangled thickets where
the lynx and the boar made their lairs. Fierce bears lurked among the
rocky passes, and had not yet learned to fear the face of man. The
gloomy recesses of the forest gave shelter to inhabitants who were
still more cruel and dangerous than beasts of prey,--outlaws and sturdy
robbers and mad were-wolves and bands of wandering pillagers.

The pilgrim who would pass from the mouth of the Tiber to the mouth of
the Rhine must trust in God and keep his arrows loose in the quiver.

The travellers were surrounded by an ocean of trees, so vast, so full
of endless billows, that it seemed to be pressing on every side to
overwhelm them. Gnarled oaks, with branches twisted and knotted as if
in rage, rose in groves like tidal waves. Smooth forests of beech-trees,
round and gray, swept over the knolls and slopes of land in a mighty
ground-swell. But most of all, the multitude of pines and firs,
innumerable and monotonous, with straight, stark trunks, and branches
woven together in an unbroken flood of darkest green, crowded through
the valleys and over the hills, rising on the highest ridges into ragged
crests, like the foaming edge of breakers.

Through this sea of shadows ran a narrow stream of shining
whiteness,--an ancient Roman road, covered with snow. It was as if
some great ship had ploughed through the green ocean long ago, and
left behind it a thick, smooth wake of foam. Along this open track the
travellers held their way,--heavily, for the drifts were deep; warily,
for the hard winter had driven many packs of wolves down from the moors.

The steps of the pilgrims were noiseless; but the sledges creaked over
the dry snow, and the panting of the horses throbbed through the still
air. The pale-blue shadows on the western side of the road grew
longer. The sun, declining through its shallow arch, dropped behind the
tree-tops. Darkness followed swiftly, as if it had been a bird of prey
waiting for this sign to swoop down upon the world.

"Father," said Gregor to the leader, "surely this day's march is done.
It is time to rest, and eat, and sleep. If we press onward now, we
cannot see our steps; and will not that be against the word of the
psalmist David, who bids us not to put confidence in the legs of a man?"

Winfried laughed. "Nay, my son Gregor," said he, "thou hast tripped,
even now, upon thy text. For David said only, 'I take no pleasure in the
legs of a man.' And so say I, for I am not minded to spare thy legs or
mine, until we come farther on our way, and do what must be done this
night. Draw thy belt tighter, my son, and hew me out this tree that is
fallen across the road, for our campground is not here."

The youth obeyed; two of the foresters sprang to help him; and while the
soft fir-wood yielded to the stroke of the axes, and the snow flew from
the bending branches, Winfried turned and spoke to his followers in a
cheerful voice, that refreshed them like wine.

"Courage, brothers, and forward yet a little! The moon will light us
presently, and the path is plain. Well know I that the journey is weary;
and my own heart wearies also for the home in England, where those I
love are keeping feast this Christmas-eve. But we have work to do before
we feast to-night. For this is the Yuletide, and the heathen people of
the forest are gathered at the thunder-oak of Geismar to worship their
god, Thor. Strange things will be seen there, and deeds which make the
soul black. But we are sent to lighten their darkness; and we will teach
our kinsmen to keep a Christmas with us such as the woodland has never
known. Forward, then, and stiffen up the feeble knees!"

A murmur of assent came from the men. Even the horses seemed to take
fresh heart. They flattened their backs to draw the heavy loads, and
blew the frost from their nostrils as they pushed ahead.

The night grew broader and less oppressive. A gate of brightness was
opened secretly somewhere in the sky. Higher and higher swelled the
clear moon-flood, until it poured over the eastern wall of forest into
the road. A drove of wolves howled faintly in the distance, but they
were receding, and the sound soon died away. The stars sparkled merrily
through the stringent air; the small, round moon shone like silver;
little breaths of dreaming wind wandered across the pointed fir-tops,
as the pilgrims toiled bravely onward, following their clew of light
through a labyrinth of darkness.

After a while the road began to open out a little. There were spaces of
meadow-land, fringed with alders, behind which a boisterous river ran
clashing through spears of ice.

Rude houses of hewn logs appeared in the openings, each one casting a
patch of inky shadow upon the snow. Then the travellers passed a larger
group of dwellings, all silent and unlighted; and beyond, they saw a
great house, with many outbuildings and inclosed courtyards, from which
the hounds bayed furiously, and a noise of stamping horses came from
the stalls. But there was no other sound of life. The fields around lay
naked to the moon. They saw no man, except that once, on a path that
skirted the farther edge of a meadow, three dark figures passed them,
running very swiftly.

Then the road plunged again into a dense thicket, traversed it, and
climbing to the left, emerged suddenly upon a glade, round and level
except at the northern side, where a hillock was crowned with a huge
oak-tree. It towered above the heath, a giant with contorted arms,
beckoning to the host of lesser trees. "Here," cried Winfried, as
his eyes flashed and his hand lifted his heavy staff, "here is the
Thunder-oak; and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the
false god Thor."

Withered leaves still clung to the branches of the oak: torn and faded
banners of the departed summer. The bright crimson of autumn had
long since disappeared, bleached away by the storms and the cold.
But to-night these tattered remnants of glory were red again: ancient
bloodstains against the dark-blue sky. For an immense fire had been
kindled in front of the tree. Tongues of ruddy flame, fountains of
ruby sparks, ascended through the spreading limbs and flung a fierce
illumination upward and around. The pale, pure moonlight that bathed
the surrounding forests was quenched and eclipsed here. Not a beam of it
sifted through the branches of the oak. It stood like a pillar of cloud
between the still light of heaven and the crackling, flashing fire of
earth.

But the fire itself was invisible to Winfried and his companions. A
great throng of people were gathered around it in a half-circle, their
backs to the open glade, their faces toward the oak. Seen against that
glowing background, it was but the silhouette of a crowd, vague, black,
formless, mysterious.

The travellers paused for a moment at the edge of the thicket, and took
counsel together.

"It is the assembly of the tribe," said one of the foresters, "the great
night of the council. I heard of it three days ago, as we passed through
one of the villages. All who swear by the old gods have been summoned.
They will sacrifice a steed to the god of war, and drink blood, and eat
horse-flesh to make them strong. It will be at the peril of our lives
if we approach them. At least we must hide the cross, if we would escape
death."

"Hide me no cross," cried Winfried, lifting his staff, "for I have come
to show it, and to make these blind folk see its power. There is more to
be done here to-night than the slaying of a steed, and a greater evil to
be stayed than the shameful eating of meat sacrificed to idols. I have
seen it in a dream. Here the cross must stand and be our rede."

At his command the sledge was left in the border of the wood, with two
of the men to guard it, and the rest of the company moved forward across
the open ground. They approached unnoticed, for all the multitude were
looking intently toward the fire at the foot of the oak.

Then Winfried's voice rang out, "Hail, ye sons of the forest! A stranger
claims the warmth of your fire in the winter night."

Swiftly, and as with a single motion, a thousand eyes were bent upon the
speaker. The semicircle opened silently in the middle; Winfried entered
with his followers; it closed again behind them.

Then, as they looked round the curving ranks, they saw that the hue of
the assemblage was not black, but white,--dazzling, radiant, solemn.
White, the robes of the women clustered together at the points of the
wide crescent; white, the glittering byrnies of the warriors standing in
close ranks; white, the fur mantles of the aged men who held the central
palace in the circle; white, with the shimmer of silver ornaments and
the purity of lamb's-wool, the raiment of a little group of children who
stood close by the fire; white, with awe and fear, the faces of all who
looked at them; and over all the flickering, dancing radiance of the
flames played and glimmered like a faint, vanishing tinge of blood on
snow.

The only figure untouched by the glow was the old priest, Hunrad, with
his long, spectral robe, flowing hair and beard, and dead-pale face,
who stood with his back to the fire and advanced slowly to meet the
strangers.

"Who are you? Whence come you, and what seek you here?"

"Your kinsman am I, of the German brotherhood," answered Winfried, "and
from England, beyond the sea, have I come to bring you a greeting from
that land, and a message from the All-Father, whose servant I am."

"Welcome, then," said Hunrad, "welcome, kinsman, and be silent; for
what passes here is too high to wait, and must be done before the moon
crosses the middle heaven, unless, indeed, thou hast some sign or token
from the gods. Canst thou work miracles?"

The question came sharply, as if a sudden gleam of hope had flashed
through the tangle of the old priest's mind. But Winfried's voice sank
lower and a cloud of disappointment passed over his face as he replied:
"Nay, miracles have I never wrought, though I have heard of many; but
the All-Father has given no power to my hands save such as belongs to
common man."

"Stand still, then, thou common man," said Hunrad, scornfully, "and
behold what the gods have called us hither to do. This night is the
death-night of the sun-god, Baldur the Beautiful, beloved of gods and
men. This night is the hour of darkness and the power of winter, of
sacrifice and mighty fear. This night the great Thor, the god of thunder
and war, to whom this oak is sacred, is grieved for the death of Baldur,
and angry with this people because they have forsaken his worship. Long
is it since an offering has been laid upon his altar, long since the
roots of his holy tree have been fed with blood. Therefore its leaves
have withered before the time, and its boughs are heavy with death.
Therefore the Slavs and the Wends have beaten us in battle. Therefore
the harvests have failed, and the wolf-hordes have ravaged the folds,
and the strength has departed from the bow, and the wood of the spear
has broken, and the wild boar has slain the huntsman. Therefore the
plague has fallen on our dwellings, and the dead are more than the
living in all our villages. Answer me, ye people, are not these things
true?"

 A hoarse sound of approval ran through the circle.  A
chant, in which the voices of the men and women blended, like the shrill
wind in the pinetrees above the rumbling thunder of a waterfall, rose
and fell in rude cadences.

      O Thor, the Thunderer
      Mighty and merciless,
      Spare us from smiting!
      Heave not thy hammer,
      Angry, aginst us;
      Plague not thy people.
      Take from our treasure
      Richest Of ransom.
      Silver we send thee,
      Jewels and javelins,
      Goodliest garments,
      All our possessions,
      Priceless, we proffer.
      Sheep will we slaughter,
      Steeds will we sacrifice;
      Bright blood shall bathe
      O tree of Thunder,
      Life-floods shall lave thee,
      Strong wood of wonder.
      Mighty, have mercy,
      Smile as no more,
      Spare us and save us,
      Spare us, Thor!  Thor!



With two great shouts the song ended, and stillness followed so intense
that the crackling of the fire was heard distinctly. The old priest
stood silent for a moment. His shaggy brows swept down ever his eyes
like ashes quenching flame. Then he lifted his face and spoke.

"None of these things will please the god. More costly is the offering
that shall cleanse your sin, more precious the crimson dew that shall
send new life into this holy tree of blood. Thor claims your dearest and
your noblest gift."

Hunrad moved nearer to the group of children who stood watching the fire
and the swarms of spark-serpents darting upward. They had heeded none of
the priest's words, and did not notice now that he approached them, so
eager were they to see which fiery snake would go highest among the oak
branches. Foremost among them, and most intent on the pretty game, was
a boy like a sunbeam, slender and quick, with blithe brown eyes and
laughing lips. The priest's hand was laid upon his shoulder. The boy
turned and looked up in his face.

"Here," said the old man, with his voice vibrating as when a thick rope
is strained by a ship swinging from her moorings, "here is the chosen
one, the eldest son of the Chief, the darling of the people. Hearken,
Bernhard, wilt thou go to Valhalla, where the heroes dwell with the
gods, to bear a message to Thor?"

The boy answered, swift and clear:

"Yes, priest, I will go if my father bids me. Is it far away? Shall I
run quickly? Must I take my bow and arrows for the wolves?"

The boy's father, the Chieftain Gundhar, standing among his bearded
warriors, drew his breath deep, and leaned so heavily on the handle of
his spear that the wood cracked. And his wife, Irma, bending forward
from the ranks of women, pushed the golden hair from her forehead with
one hand. The other dragged at the silver chain about her neck until the
rough links pierced her flesh, and the red drops fell unheeded on her
breast.

A sigh passed through the crowd, like the murmur of the forest before
the storm breaks. Yet no one spoke save Hunrad:

"Yes, my Prince, both bow and spear shalt thou have, for the way is
long, and thou art a brave huntsman. But in darkness thou must journey
for a little space, and with eyes blindfolded. Fearest thou?"

"Naught fear I," said the boy, "neither darkness, nor the great bear,
nor the were-wolf. For I am Gundhar's son, and the defender of my folk."

Then the priest led the child in his raiment of lamb's-wool to a broad
stone in front of the fire. He gave him his little bow tipped with
silver, and his spear with shining head of steel. He bound the child's
eyes with a white cloth, and bade him kneel beside the stone with his
face to the cast. Unconsciously the wide arc of spectators drew inward
toward the centre, as the ends of the bow draw together when the cord
is stretched. Winfried moved noiselessly until he stood close behind the
priest.

The old man stooped to lift a black hammer of stone from the
ground,--the sacred hammer of the god Thor. Summoning all the strength
of his withered arms, he swung it high in the air. It poised for an
instant above the child's fair head--then turned to fall.

One keen cry shrilled out from where the women stood: "Me! take me! not
Bernhard!"

The flight of the mother toward her child was swift as the falcon's
swoop. But swifter still was the hand of the deliverer.

Winfried's heavy staff thrust mightily against the hammer's handle as it
fell. Sideways it glanced from the old man's grasp, and the black stone,
striking on the altar's edge, split in twain. A shout of awe and joy
rolled along the living circle. The branches of the oak shivered. The
flames leaped higher. As the shout died away the people saw the lady
Irma, with her arms clasped round her child, and above them, on the
altar-stone, Winfried, his face shining like the face of an angel.



IV

A swift mountain-flood rolling down its channel; a huge rock tumbling
from the hill-side and falling in mid-stream: the baffled waters broken
and confused, pausing in their flow, dash high against the rock, foaming
and murmuring, with divided impulse, uncertain whether to turn to the
right or the left.

Even so Winfried's bold deed fell into the midst of the thoughts and
passions of the council. They were at a standstill. Anger and wonder,
reverence and joy and confusion surged through the crowd. They knew not
which way to move: to resent the intrusion of the stranger as an insult
to their gods, or to welcome him as the rescuer of their prince.

The old priest crouched by the altar, silent. Conflicting counsels
troubled the air. Let the sacrifice go forward; the gods must be
appeased. Nay, the boy must not die; bring the chieftain's best horse
and slay it in his stead; it will be enough; the holy tree loves the
blood of horses. Not so, there is a better counsel yet; seize the
stranger whom the gods have led hither as a victim and make his life pay
the forfeit of his daring.

The withered leaves on the oak rustled and whispered overhead. The fire
flared and sank again. The angry voices clashed against each other and
fell like opposing waves. Then the chieftain Gundhar struck the earth
with his spear and gave his decision.

"All have spoken, but none are agreed. There is no voice of the council.
Keep silence now, and let the stranger speak. His words shall give us
judgment, whether he is to live or to die."

Winfried lifted himself high upon the altar, drew a roll of parchment
from his bosom, and began to read.

"A letter from the great Bishop of Rome, who sits on a golden throne, to
the people of the forest, Hessians and Thuringians, Franks and Saxons.
In nomin Domini, sanctae et individuae Trinitatis, amen!"

A murmur of awe ran through the crowd. "It is the sacred tongue of the
Romans; the tongue that is heard and understood by the wise men of every
land. There is magic in it. Listen!"

Winfried went on to read the letter, translating it into the speech of
the people.

"We have sent unto you our Brother Boniface, and appointed him your
bishop, that he may teach you the only true faith, and baptise you, and
lead you back from the ways of error to the path of salvation. Hearken
to him in all things like a father. Bow your hearts to his teaching. He
comes not for earthly gain, but for the gain of your souls. Depart from
evil works. Worship not the false gods, for they are devils. Offer
no more bloody sacrifices, nor eat the flesh of horses, but do as our
Brother Boniface commands you. Build a house for him that he may dwell
among you, and a church where you may offer your prayers to the only
living God, the Almighty King of Heaven."

It was a splendid message: proud, strong, peaceful, loving. The dignity
of the words imposed mightily upon the hearts of the people. They were
quieted as men who have listened to a lofty strain of music.

"Tell us, then," said Gundhar, "what is the word that thou bringest to
us from the Almighty? What is thy counsel for the tribes of the woodland
on this night of sacrifice?"

"This is the word, and this is the counsel," answered Winfried. "Not a
drop of blood shall fall to-night, save that which pity has drawn from
the breast of your princess, in love for her child. Not a life shall be
blotted out in the darkness to-night; but the great shadow of the tree
which hides you from the light of heaven shall be swept away. For this
is the birth-night of the white Christ, son of the All-Father, and
Saviour of mankind. Fairer is He than Baldur the Beautiful, greater than
Odin the Wise, kinder than Freya the Good. Since He has come to earth
the bloody sacrifice must cease. The dark Thor, on whom you vainly call,
is dead. Deep in the shades of Niffelheim he is lost forever. His power
in the world is broken. Will you serve a helpless god? See, my brothers,
you call this tree his oak. Does he dwell here? Does he protect it?"

A troubled voice of assent rose from the throng. The people stirred
uneasily. Women covered their eyes. Hunrad lifted his head and muttered
hoarsely, "Thor! take vengeance! Thor!"

Winfried beckoned to Gregor. "Bring the axes, thine and one for me. Now,
young woodsman, show thy craft! The king-tree of the forest must fall,
and swiftly, or all is lost!"

The two men took their places facing each other, one on each side of
the oak. Their cloaks were flung aside, their heads bare. Carefully
they felt the ground with their feet, seeking a firm grip of the earth.
Firmly they grasped the axe-helves and swung the shining blades.

"Tree-god!" cried Winfried, "art thou angry? Thus we smite thee!"

"Tree-god!" answered Gregor, "art thou mighty? Thus we fight thee!"

Clang! clang! the alternate strokes beat time upon the hard, ringing
wood. The axe-heads glittered in their rhythmic flight, like fierce
eagles circling about their quarry.

The broad flakes of wood flew from the deepening gashes in the sides
of the oak. The huge trunk quivered. There was a shuddering in the
branches. Then the great wonder of Winfried's life came to pass.

Out of the stillness of the winter night, a mighty rushing noise sounded
overhead.

Was it the ancient gods on their white battlesteeds, with their black
hounds of wrath and their arrows of lightning, sweeping through the air
to destroy their foes?

A strong, whirling wind passed over the treetops. It gripped the oak by
its branches and tore it from the roots. Backward it fell, like a ruined
tower, groaning and crashing as it split asunder in four great pieces.

Winfried let his axe drop, and bowed his head for a moment in the
presence of almighty power.

Then he turned to the people, "Here is the timber," he cried, "already
felled and split for your new building. On this spot shall rise a chapel
to the true God and his servant St. Peter.

"And here," said he, as his eyes fell on a young fir-tree, standing
straight and green, with its top pointing toward the stars, amid the
divided ruins of the fallen oak, "here is the living tree, with no stain
of blood upon it, that shall be the sign of your new worship. See how it
points to the sky. Call it the tree of the Christ-child. Take it up and
carry it to the chieftain's hall. You shall go no more into the shadows
of the forest to keep your feasts with secret rites of shame. You
shall keep them at home, with laughter and songs and rites of love. The
thunder-oak has fallen, and I think the day is coming when there shall
not be a home in all Germany where the children are not gathered around
the green fir-tree to rejoice in the birth-night of Christ."

So they took the little fir from its place, and carried it in joyous
procession to the edge of the glade, and laid it on the sledge. The
horses tossed their heads and drew their load bravely, as if the new
burden had made it lighter.

When they came to the house of Gundhar, he bade them throw open the
doors of the hall and set the tree in the midst of it. They kindled
lights among the branches until it seemed to be tangled full of
fire-flies. The children encircled it, wondering, and the sweet odour of
the balsam filled the house.

Then Winfried stood beside the chair of Gundhar, on the dais at the end
of the hall, and told the story of Bethlehem; of the babe in the manger,
of the shepherds on the hills, of the host of angels and their midnight
song. All the people listened, charmed into stillness.

But the boy Bernhard, on Irma's knee, folded in her soft arms, grew
restless as the story lengthened, and began to prattle softly at his
mother's ear.

"Mother," whispered the child, "why did you cry out so loud, when the
priest was going to send me to Valhalla?"

"Oh, hush, my child," answered the mother, and pressed him closer to her
side.

"Mother," whispered the boy again, laying his finger on the stains upon
her breast, "see, your dress is red! What are these stains? Did some one
hurt you?"

The mother closed his mouth with a kiss. "Dear, be still, and listen!"

The boy obeyed. His eyes were heavy with sleep. But he heard the last
words of Winfried as he spoke of the angelic messengers, flying over the
hills of Judea and singing as they flew. The child wondered and dreamed
and listened. Suddenly his face grew bright. He put his lips close to
Irma's cheek again.

"Oh, mother!" he whispered very low, "do not speak. Do you hear them?
Those angels have come back again. They are singing now behind the
tree."


And some say that it was true; but others say that it was only Gregor
and his companions at the lower end of the hall, chanting their
Christmas hymn:


      All glory be to God on high,
      And on the earth be peace!
      Good-will, henceforth, from heaven to man,
      Begin and never cease.





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