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Title: Don Rodriguez; Chronicles of Shadow Valley
Author: Dunsany, Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Baron, 1878-1957
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.

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DON RODRIGUEZ

CHRONICLES OF SHADOW VALLEY


By

LORD DUNSANY



To WILLIAM BEEBE



CHRONOLOGY

After long and patient research I am still unable to give to the reader
of these Chronicles the exact date of the times that they tell of. Were
it merely a matter of history there could be no doubts about the
period; but where magic is concerned, to however slight an extent,
there must always be some element of mystery, arising partly out of
ignorance and partly from the compulsion of those oaths by which magic
protects its precincts from the tiptoe of curiosity.

Moreover, magic, even in small quantities, appears to affect time, much
as acids affect some metals, curiously changing its substance, until
dates seem to melt into a mercurial form that renders them elusive even
to the eye of the most watchful historian.

It is the magic appearing in Chronicles III and IV that has gravely
affected the date, so that all I can tell the reader with certainty of
the period is that it fell in the later years of the Golden Age in
Spain.



CONTENTS


THE FIRST CHRONICLE
  HOW HE MET AND SAID FAREWELL TO MINE HOST OF THE DRAGON AND KNIGHT

THE SECOND CHRONICLE
  HOW HE HIRED A MEMORABLE SERVANT

THE THIRD CHRONICLE
  HOW HE CAME TO THE HOUSE OF WONDER

THE FOURTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE CAME TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE SUN

THE FIFTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE RODE IN THE TWILIGHT AND SAW SERAFINA

THE SIXTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE SANG TO HIS MANDOLIN AND WHAT CAME OF HIS SINGING

THE SEVENTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE CAME TO SHADOW VALLEY

THE EIGHTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE TRAVELLED FAR

THE NINTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE WON A CASTLE IN SPAIN

THE TENTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE CAME BACK TO LOWLIGHT

THE ELEVENTH CHRONICLE
  HOW HE TURNED TO GARDENING AND HIS SWORD RESTED

THE TWELFTH CHRONICLE
  THE BUILDING OF CASTLE RODRIGUEZ AND THE ENDING OF THESE CHRONICLES



DON RODRIGUEZ



THE FIRST CHRONICLE

HOW HE MET AND SAID FAREWELL TO MINE HOST OF THE DRAGON AND KNIGHT


Being convinced that his end was nearly come, and having lived long on
earth (and all those years in Spain, in the golden time), the Lord of
the Valleys of Arguento Harez, whose heights see not Valladolid, called
for his eldest son. And so he addressed him when he was come to his
chamber, dim with its strange red hangings and august with the
splendour of Spain: "O eldest son of mine, your younger brother being
dull and clever, on whom those traits that women love have not been
bestowed by God; and know my eldest son that here on earth, and for
ought I know Hereafter, but certainly here on earth, these women be the
arbiters of all things; and how this be so God knoweth only, for they
are vain and variable, yet it is surely so: your younger brother then
not having been given those ways that women prize, and God knows why
they prize them for they are vain ways that I have in my mind and that
won me the Valleys of Arguento Harez, from whose heights Angelico swore
he saw Valladolid once, and that won me moreover also ... but that is
long ago and is all gone now ... ah well, well ... what was I saying?"
And being reminded of his discourse, the old lord continued, saying,
"For himself he will win nothing, and therefore I will leave him these
my valleys, for not unlikely it was for some sin of mine that his
spirit was visited with dullness, as Holy Writ sets forth, the sins of
the fathers being visited on the children; and thus I make him amends.
But to you I leave my long, most flexible, ancient Castilian blade,
which infidels dreaded if old songs be true. Merry and lithe it is, and
its true temper singeth when it meets another blade as two friends sing
when met after many years. It is most subtle, nimble and exultant; and
what it will not win for you in the wars, that shall be won for you by
your mandolin, for you have a way with it that goes well with the old
airs of Spain. And choose, my son, rather a moonlight night when you
sing under those curved balconies that I knew, ah me, so well; for
there is much advantage in the moon. In the first place maidens see in
the light of the moon, especially in the Spring, more romance than you
might credit, for it adds for them a mystery to the darkness which the
night has not when it is merely black. And if any statue should gleam
on the grass near by, or if the magnolia be in blossom, or even the
nightingale singing, or if anything be beautiful in the night, in any
of these things also there is advantage; for a maiden will attribute to
her lover all manner of things that are not his at all, but are only
outpourings from the hand of God. There is this advantage also in the
moon, that, if interrupters come, the moonlight is better suited to the
play of a blade than the mere darkness of night; indeed but the merry
play of my sword in the moonlight was often a joy to see, it so
flashed, so danced, so sparkled. In the moonlight also one makes no
unworthy stroke, but hath scope for those fair passes that Sevastiani
taught, which were long ago the wonder of Madrid."

The old lord paused, and breathed for a little space, as it were
gathering breath for his last words to his son. He breathed
deliberately, then spoke again. "I leave you," he said, "well content
that you have the two accomplishments, my son, that are most needful in
a Christian man, skill with the sword and a way with the mandolin.
There be other arts indeed among the heathen, for the world is wide and
hath full many customs, but these two alone are needful." And then with
that grand manner that they had at that time in Spain, although his
strength was failing, he gave to his eldest son his Castilian sword. He
lay back then in the huge, carved, canopied bed; his eyes closed, the
red silk curtains rustled, and there was no sound of his breathing. But
the old lord's spirit, whatever journey it purposed, lingered yet in
its ancient habitation, and his voice came again, but feebly now and
rambling; he muttered awhile of gardens, such gardens no doubt as the
hidalgos guarded in that fertile region of sunshine in the proudest
period of Spain; he would have known no others. So for awhile his
memory seemed to stray, half blind among those perfumed earthly
wonders; perhaps among these memories his spirit halted, and tarried
those last few moments, mistaking those Spanish gardens, remembered by
moonlight in Spring, for the other end of his journey, the glades of
Paradise. However it be, it tarried. These rambling memories ceased and
silence fell again, with scarcely the sound of breathing. Then
gathering up his strength for the last time and looking at his son,
"The sword to the wars," he said. "The mandolin to the balconies." With
that he fell back dead.

Now there were no wars at that time so far as was known in Spain, but
that old lord's eldest son, regarding those last words of his father as
a commandment, determined then and there in that dim, vast chamber to
gird his legacy to him and seek for the wars, wherever the wars might
be, so soon as the obsequies of the sepulture were ended. And of those
obsequies I tell not here, for they are fully told in the Black Books
of Spain, and the deeds of that old lord's youth are told in the Golden
Stories. The Book of Maidens mentions him, and again we read of him in
Gardens of Spain. I take my leave of him, happy, I trust, in Paradise,
for he had himself the accomplishments that he held needful in a
Christian, skill with the sword and a way with the mandolin; and if
there be some harder, better way to salvation than to follow that which
we believe to be good, then are we all damned. So he was buried, and
his eldest son fared forth with his legacy dangling from his girdle in
its long, straight, lovely scabbard, blue velvet, with emeralds on it,
fared forth on foot along a road of Spain. And though the road turned
left and right and sometimes nearly ceased, as though to let the small
wild flowers grow, out of sheer good will such as some roads never
have; though it ran west and east and sometimes south, yet in the main
it ran northward, though wandered is a better word than ran, and the
Lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez who owned no valleys, or anything
but a sword, kept company with it looking for the wars. Upon his back
he had slung his mandolin. Now the time of the year was Spring, not
Spring as we know it in England, for it was but early March, but it was
the time when Spring coming up out of Africa, or unknown lands to the
south, first touches Spain, and multitudes of anemones come forth at
her feet.

Thence she comes north to our islands, no less wonderful in our woods
than in Andalusian valleys, fresh as a new song, fabulous as a rune,
but a little pale through travel, so that our flowers do not quite
flare forth with all the myriad blaze of the flowers of Spain.

And all the way as he went the young man looked at the flame of those
southern flowers, flashing on either side of him all the way, as though
the rainbow had been broken in Heaven and its fragments fallen on
Spain. All the way as he went he gazed at those flowers, the first
anemones of the year; and long after, whenever he sang to old airs of
Spain, he thought of Spain as it appeared that day in all the wonder of
Spring; the memory lent a beauty to his voice and a wistfulness to his
eyes that accorded not ill with the theme of the songs he sang, and
were more than once to melt proud hearts deemed cold. And so gazing he
came to a town that stood on a hill, before he was yet tired, though he
had done nigh twenty of those flowery miles of Spain; and since it was
evening and the light was fading away, he went to an inn and drew his
sword in the twilight and knocked with the hilt of it on the oaken
door. The name of it was the Inn of the Dragon and Knight. A light was
lit in one of the upper windows, the darkness seemed to deepen at that
moment, a step was heard coming heavily down a stairway; and having
named the inn to you, gentle reader, it is time for me to name the
young man also, the landless lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez, as
the step comes slowly down the inner stairway, as the gloaming darkens
over the first house in which he has ever sought shelter so far from
his father's valleys, as he stands upon the threshold of romance. He
was named Rodriguez Trinidad Fernandez, Concepcion Henrique Maria; but
we shall briefly name him Rodriguez in this story; you and I, reader,
will know whom we mean; there is no need therefore to give him his full
names, unless I do it here and there to remind you.

The steps came thumping on down the inner stairway, different windows
took the light of the candle, and none other shone in the house; it was
clear that it was moving with the steps all down that echoing stairway.
The sound of the steps ceased to reverberate upon the wood, and now
they slowly moved over stone flags; Rodriguez now heard breathing, one
breath with every step, and at length the sound of bolts and chains
undone and the breathing now very close. The door was opened swiftly; a
man with mean eyes, and expression devoted to evil, stood watching him
for an instant; then the door slammed to again, the bolts were heard
going back again to their places, the steps and the breathing moved
away over the stone floor, and the inner stairway began again to echo.

"If the wars are here," said Rodriguez to himself and his sword, "good,
and I sleep under the stars." And he listened in the street for the
sound of war and, hearing none, continued his discourse. "But if I have
not come as yet to the wars I sleep beneath a roof."

For the second time therefore he drew his sword, and began to strike
methodically at the door, noting the grain in the wood and hitting
where it was softest. Scarcely had he got a good strip of the oak to
look like coming away, when the steps once more descended the wooden
stair and came lumbering over the stones; both the steps and the
breathing were quicker, for mine host of the Dragon and Knight was
hurrying to save his door.

When he heard the sound of the bolts and chains again Rodriguez ceased
to beat upon the door: once more it opened swiftly, and he saw mine
host before him, eyeing him with those bad eyes; of too much girth, you
might have said, to be nimble, yet somehow suggesting to the swift
intuition of youth, as Rodriguez looked at him standing upon his
door-step, the spirit and shape of a spider, who despite her ungainly
build is agile enough in her way.

Mine host said nothing; and Rodriguez, who seldom concerned himself
with the past, holding that the future is all we can order the scheme
of (and maybe even here he was wrong), made no mention of bolts or door
and merely demanded a bed for himself for the night.

Mine host rubbed his chin; he had neither beard nor moustache but wore
hideous whiskers; he rubbed it thoughtfully and looked at Rodriguez.
Yes, he said, he could have a bed for the night. No more words he said,
but turned and led the way; while Rodriguez, who could sing to the
mandolin, wasted none of his words on this discourteous object. They
ascended the short oak stairway down which mine host had come, the
great timbers of which were gnawed by a myriad rats, and they went by
passages with the light of one candle into the interior of the inn,
which went back farther from the street than the young man had
supposed; indeed he perceived when they came to the great corridor at
the end of which was his appointed chamber, that here was no ordinary
inn, as it had appeared from outside, but that it penetrated into the
fastness of some great family of former times which had fallen on evil
days. The vast size of it, the noble design where the rats had spared
the carving, what the moths had left of the tapestries, all testified
to that; and, as for the evil days, they hung about the place, evident
even by the light of one candle guttering with every draught that blew
from the haunts of the rats, an inseparable heirloom for all who
disturbed those corridors.

And so they came to the chamber.

Mine host entered, bowed without grace in the doorway, and extended his
left hand, pointing into the room. The draughts that blew from the
rat-holes in the wainscot, or the mere action of entering, beat down
the flame of the squat, guttering candle so that the chamber remained
dim for a moment, in spite of the candle, as would naturally be the
case. Yet the impression made upon Rodriguez was as of some old
darkness that had been long undisturbed and that yielded reluctantly to
that candle's intrusion, a darkness that properly became the place and
was a part of it and had long been so, in the face of which the candle
appeared an ephemeral thing devoid of grace or dignity or tradition.
And indeed there was room for darkness in that chamber, for the walls
went up and up into such an altitude that you could scarcely see the
ceiling, at which mine host's eyes glanced, and Rodriguez followed his
look.

He accepted his accommodation with a nod; as indeed he would have
accepted any room in that inn, for the young are swift judges of
character, and one who had accepted such a host was unlikely to find
fault with rats or the profusion of giant cobwebs, dark with the dust
of years, that added so much to the dimness of that sinister inn. They
turned now and went back, in the wake of that guttering candle, till
they came again to the humbler part of the building. Here mine host,
pushing open a door of blackened oak, indicated his dining-chamber.
There a long table stood, and on it parts of the head and hams of a
boar; and at the far end of the table a plump and sturdy man was seated
in shirt-sleeves feasting himself on the boar's meat. He leaped up at
once from his chair as soon as his master entered, for he was the
servant at the Dragon and Knight; mine host may have said much to him
with a flash of his eyes, but he said no more with his tongue than the
one word, "Dog": he then bowed himself out, leaving Rodriguez to take
the only chair and to be waited upon by its recent possessor. The
boar's meat was cold and gnarled, another piece of meat stood on a
plate on a shelf and a loaf of bread near by, but the rats had had most
of the bread: Rodriguez demanded what the meat was. "Unicorn's tongue,"
said the servant, and Rodriguez bade him set the dish before him, and
he set to well content, though I fear the unicorn's tongue was only
horse: it was a credulous age, as all ages are. At the same time he
pointed to a three-legged stool that he perceived in a corner of the
room, then to the table, then to the boar's meat, and lastly at the
servant, who perceived that he was permitted to return to his feast, to
which he ran with alacrity. "Your name?" said Rodriguez as soon as both
were eating. "Morano," replied the servant, though it must not be
supposed that when answering Rodriguez he spoke as curtly as this; I
merely give the reader the gist of his answer, for he added Spanish
words that correspond in our depraved and decadent language of to-day
to such words as "top dog," "nut" and "boss," so that his speech had a
certain grace about it in that far-away time in Spain.

I have said that Rodriguez seldom concerned himself with the past, but
considered chiefly the future: it was of the future that he was
thinking now as he asked Morano this question:

"Why did my worthy and entirely excellent host shut his door in my
face?"

"Did he so?" said Morano.

"He then bolted it and found it necessary to put the chains back,
doubtless for some good reason."

"Yes," said Morano thoughtfully, and looking at Rodriguez, "and so he
might. He must have liked you."

Verily Rodriguez was just the young man to send out with a sword and a
mandolin into the wide world, for he had much shrewd sense. He never
pressed a point, but when something had been said that might mean much
he preferred to store it, as it were, in his mind and pass on to other
things, somewhat as one might kill game and pass on and kill more and
bring it all home, while a savage would cook the first kill where it
fell and eat it on the spot. Pardon me, reader, but at Morano's remark
you may perhaps have exclaimed, "That is not the way to treat one you
like." Not so did Rodriguez. His attention passed on to notice Morano's
rings which he wore in great profusion upon his little fingers; they
were gold and of exquisite work and had once held precious stones, as
large gaps testified; in these days they would have been priceless, but
in an age when workers only worked at arts that they understood, and
then worked for the joy of it, before the word artistic became
ridiculous, exquisite work went without saying; and as the rings were
slender they were of little value. Rodriguez made no comment upon the
rings; it was enough for him to have noticed them. He merely noted that
they were not ladies' rings, for no lady's ring would have fitted on to
any one of those fingers: the rings therefore of gallants: and not
given to Morano by their owners, for whoever wore precious stone needed
a ring to wear it in, and rings did not wear out like hose, which a
gallant might give to a servant. Nor, thought he, had Morano stolen
them, for whoever stole them would keep them whole, or part with them
whole and get a better price. Besides Morano had an honest face, or a
face at least that seemed honest in such an inn: and while these
thoughts were passing through his mind Morano spoke again: "Good hams,"
said Morano. He had already eaten one and was starting upon the next.
Perhaps he spoke out of gratitude for the honour and physical advantage
of being permitted to sit there and eat those hams, perhaps
tentatively, to find out whether he might consume the second, perhaps
merely to start a conversation, being attracted by the honest looks of
Rodriguez.

"You are hungry," said Rodriguez.

"Praise God I am always hungry," answered Morano. "If I were not hungry
I should starve."

"Is it so?" said Rodriguez.

"You see," said Morano, "the manner of it is this: my master gives me
no food, and it is only when I am hungry that I dare to rob him by
breaking in, as you saw me, upon his viands; were I not hungry I should
not dare to do so, and so ..." He made a sad and expressive movement
with both his hands suggestive of autumn leaves blown hence to die.

"He gives you no food?" said Rodriguez.

"It is the way of many men with their dog," said Morano. "They give him
no food," and then he rubbed his hands cheerfully, "and yet the dog
does not die."

"And he gives you no wages?" said Rodriguez.

"Just these rings."

Now Rodriguez had himself a ring upon his finger (as a gallant should),
a slender piece of gold with four tiny angels holding a sapphire, and
for a moment he pictured the sapphire passing into the hands of mine
host and the ring of gold and the four small angels being flung to
Morano; the thought darkened his gaiety for no longer than one of those
fleecy clouds in Spring shadows the fields of Spain.

Morano was also looking at the ring; he had followed the young man's
glance.

"Master," he said, "do you draw your sword of a night?"

"And you?" said Rodriguez.

"I have no sword," said Morano. "I am but as dog's meat that needs no
guarding, but you whose meat is rare like the flesh of the unicorn need
a sword to guard your meat. The unicorn has his horn always, and even
then he sometimes sleeps."

"It is bad, you think, to sleep," Rodriguez said.

"For some it is very bad, master. They say they never take the unicorn
waking. For me I am but dog's meat: when I have eaten hams I curl up
and sleep; but then you see, master, I know I shall wake in the
morning."

"Ah," said Rodriguez, "the morning's a pleasant time," and he leaned
back comfortably in his chair. Morano took one shrewd look at him, and
was soon asleep upon his three-legged stool.

The door opened after a while and mine host appeared. "It is late," he
said. Rodriguez smiled acquiescently and mine host withdrew, and
presently leaving Morano whom his master's voice had waked, to curl up
on the floor in a corner, Rodriguez took the candle that lit the room
and passed once more through the passages of the inn and down the great
corridor of the fastness of the family that had fallen on evil days,
and so came to his chamber. I will not waste a multitude of words over
that chamber; if you have no picture of it in your mind already, my
reader, you are reading an unskilled writer, and if in that picture it
appear a wholesome room, tidy and well kept up, if it appear a place in
which a stranger might sleep without some faint foreboding of disaster,
then I am wasting your time, and will waste no more of it with bits of
"descriptive writing" about that dim, high room, whose blackness
towered before Rodriguez in the night. He entered and shut the door, as
many had done before him; but for all his youth he took some wiser
precautions than had they, perhaps, who closed that door before. For
first he drew his sword; then for some while he stood quite still near
the door and listened to the rats; then he looked round the chamber and
perceived only one door; then he looked at the heavy oak furniture,
carved by some artist, gnawed by rats, and all blackened by time; then
swiftly opened the door of the largest cupboard and thrust his sword in
to see who might be inside, but the carved satyr's heads at the top of
the cupboard eyed him silently and nothing moved. Then he noted that
though there was no bolt on the door the furniture might be placed
across to make what in the wars is called a barricado, but the wiser
thought came at once that this was too easily done, and that if the
danger that the dim room seemed gloomily to forebode were to come from
a door so readily barricadoed, then those must have been simple
gallants who parted so easily with the rings that adorned Morano's two
little fingers. No, it was something more subtle than any attack
through that door that brought his regular wages to Morano. Rodriguez
looked at the window, which let in the light of a moon that was getting
low, for the curtains had years ago been eaten up by the moths; but the
window was barred with iron bars that were not yet rusted away, and
looked out, thus guarded, over a sheer wall that even in the moonlight
fell into blackness. Rodriguez then looked round for some hidden door,
the sword all the while in his hand, and very soon he knew that room
fairly well, but not its secret, nor why those unknown gallants had
given up their rings.

It is much to know of an unknown danger that it really is unknown. Many
have met their deaths through looking for danger from one particular
direction, whereas had they perceived that they were ignorant of its
direction they would have been wise in their ignorance. Rodriguez had
the great discretion to understand clearly that he did not know the
direction from which danger would come. He accepted this as his only
discovery about that portentous room which seemed to beckon to him with
every shadow and to sigh over him with every mournful draught, and to
whisper to him unintelligible warnings with every rustle of tattered
silk that hung about his bed. And as soon as he discovered that this
was his only knowledge he began at once to make his preparations: he
was a right young man for the wars. He divested himself of his shoes
and doublet and the light cloak that hung from his shoulder and cast
the clothes on a chair. Over the back of the chair he slung his girdle
and the scabbard hanging therefrom and placed his plumed hat so that
none could see that his Castilian blade was not in its resting-place.
And when the sombre chamber had the appearance of one having undressed
in it before retiring Rodriguez turned his attention to the bed, which
he noticed to be of great depth and softness. That something not unlike
blood had been spilt on the floor excited no wonder in Rodriguez; that
vast chamber was evidently, as I have said, in the fortress of some
great family, against one of whose walls the humble inn had once leaned
for protection; the great family were gone: how they were gone
Rodriguez did not know, but it excited no wonder in him to see blood on
the boards: besides, two gallants may have disagreed; or one who loved
not dumb animals might have been killing rats. Blood did not disturb
him; but what amazed him, and would have surprised anyone who stood in
that ruinous room, was that there were clean new sheets on the bed. Had
you seen the state of the furniture and the floor, O my reader, and the
vastness of the old cobwebs and the black dust that they held, the dead
spiders and huge dead flies, and the living generation of spiders
descending and ascending through the gloom, I say that you also would
have been surprised at the sight of those nice clean sheets. Rodriguez
noted the fact and continued his preparations. He took the bolster from
underneath the pillow and laid it down the middle of the bed and put
the sheets back over it; then he stood back and looked at it, much as a
sculptor might stand back from his marble, then he returned to it and
bent it a little in the middle, and after that he placed his mandolin
on the pillow and nearly covered it with the sheet, but not quite, for
a little of the curved dark-brown wood remained still to be seen. It
looked wonderfully now like a sleeper in the bed, but Rodriguez was not
satisfied with his work until he had placed his kerchief and one of his
shoes where a shoulder ought to be; then he stood back once more and
eyed it with satisfaction. Next he considered the light. He looked at
the light of the moon and remembered his father's advice, as the young
often do, but considered that this was not the occasion for it, and
decided to leave the light of his candle instead, so that anyone who
might be familiar with the moonlight in that shadowy chamber should
find instead a less sinister light. He therefore dragged a table to the
bedside, placed the candle upon it, and opened a treasured book that he
bore in his doublet, and laid it on the bed near by, between the candle
and his mandolin-headed sleeper; the name of the book was Notes in a
Cathedral and dealt with the confessions of a young girl, which the
author claimed to have jotted down, while concealed behind a pillow
near the Confessional, every Sunday for the entire period of Lent.
Lastly he pulled a sheet a little loose from the bed, until a corner of
it lay on the floor; then he lay down on the boards, still keeping his
sword in his hand, and by means of the sheet and some silk that hung
from the bed, he concealed himself sufficient for his purpose, which
was to see before he should be seen by any intruder that might enter
that chamber.

And if Rodriguez appear to have been unduly suspicious, it should be
borne in mind not only that those empty rings needed much explanation,
but that every house suggests to the stranger something; and that
whereas one house seems to promise a welcome in front of cosy fires,
another good fare, another joyous wine, this inn seemed to promise
murder; or so the young man's intuition said, and the young are wise to
trust to their intuitions.

The reader will know, if he be one of us, who have been to the wars and
slept in curious ways, that it is hard to sleep when sober upon a
floor; it is not like the earth, or snow, or a feather bed; even rock
can be more accommodating; it is hard, unyielding and level, all night
unmistakable floor. Yet Rodriguez took no risk of falling asleep, so he
said over to himself in his mind as much as he remembered of his
treasured book, Notes in a Cathedral, which he always read to himself
before going to rest and now so sadly missed. It told how a lady who
had listened to a lover longer than her soul's safety could warrant, as
he played languorous music in the moonlight and sang soft by her low
balcony, and how she being truly penitent, had gathered many roses, the
emblems of love (as surely, she said at confession, all the world
knows), and when her lover came again by moonlight had cast them all
from her from the balcony, showing that she had renounced love; and her
lover had entirely misunderstood her. It told how she often tried to
show him this again, and all the misunderstandings are sweetly set
forth and with true Christian penitence. Sometimes some little matter
escaped Rodriguez's memory and then he longed to rise up and look at
his dear book, yet he lay still where he was: and all the while he
listened to the rats, and the rats went on gnawing and running
regularly, scared by nothing new; Rodriguez trusted as much to their
myriad ears as to his own two. The great spiders descended out of such
heights that you could not see whence they came, and ascended again
into blackness; it was a chamber of prodigious height. Sometimes the
shadow of a descending spider that had come close to the candle assumed
a frightening size, but Rodriguez gave little thought to it; it was of
murder he was thinking, not of shadows; still, in its way it was
ominous, and reminded Rodriguez horribly of his host; but what of an
omen, again, in a chamber full of omens. The place itself was ominous;
spiders could scarce make it more so. The spider itself was big enough,
he thought, to be impaled on his Castilian blade; indeed, he would have
done it but that he thought it wiser to stay where he was and watch.
And then the spider found the candle too hot and climbed in a hurry all
the way to the ceiling, and his horrible shadow grew less and dwindled
away.

It was not that the rats were frightened: whatever it was that happened
happened too quietly for that, but the volume of the sound of their
running had suddenly increased: it was not like fear among them, for
the running was no swifter, and it did not fade away; it was as though
the sound of rats running, which had not been heard before, was
suddenly heard now. Rodriguez looked at the door, the door was shut. A
young Englishman would long ago have been afraid that he was making a
fuss over nothing and would have gone to sleep in the bed, and not seen
what Rodriguez saw. He might have thought that hearing more rats all at
once was merely a fancy, and that everything was all right. Rodriguez
saw a rope coming slowly down from the ceiling, he quickly determined
whether it was a rope or only the shadow of some huge spider's thread,
and then he watched it and saw it come down right over his bed and stop
within a few feet of it. Rodriguez looked up cautiously to see who had
sent him that strange addition to the portents that troubled the
chamber, but the ceiling was too high and dim for him to perceive
anything but the rope coming down out of the darkness. Yet he surmised
that the ceiling must have softly opened, without any sound at all, at
the moment that he heard the greater number of rats. He waited then to
see what the rope would do; and at first it hung as still as the great
festoons dead spiders had made in the corners; then as he watched it it
began to sway. He looked up into the dimness then to see who was
swaying the rope; and for a long time, as it seemed to him lying
gripping his Castilian sword on the floor he saw nothing clearly. And
then he saw mine host coming down the rope, hand over hand quite
nimbly, as though he lived by this business. In his right hand he held
a poniard of exceptional length, yet he managed to clutch the rope and
hold the poniard all the time with the same hand.

If there had been something hideous about the shadow of the spider that
came down from that height the shadow of mine host was indeed demoniac.
He too was like a spider, with his body at no time slender all bunched
up on the rope, and his shadow was six times his size: you could turn
from the spider's shadow to the spider and see that it was for the most
part a fancy of the candle half crazed by the draughts, but to turn
from mine host's shadow to himself and to see his wicked eyes was to
say that the candle's wildest fears were true. So he climbed down his
rope holding his poniard upward. But when he came within perhaps ten
feet of the bed he pointed it downward and began to sway about. It will
be readily seen that by swaying his rope at a height mine host could
drop on any part of the bed. Rodriguez as he watched him saw him
scrutinise closely and continue to sway on his rope. He feared that
mine host was ill satisfied with the look of the mandolin and that he
would climb away again, well warned of his guest's astuteness, into the
heights of the ceiling to devise some fearfuller scheme; but he was
only looking for the shoulder. And then mine host dropped; poniard
first, he went down with all his weight behind it and drove it through
the bolster below where the shoulder should be, just where we slant our
arms across our bodies, when we lie asleep on our sides, leaving the
ribs exposed: and the soft bed received him. And the moment that mine
host let go of his rope Rodriguez leaped to his feet. He saw Rodriguez,
indeed their eyes met as he dropped through the air, but what could
mine host do? He was already committed to his stroke, and his poniard
was already deep in the mattress when the good Castilian blade passed
through his ribs.



THE SECOND CHRONICLE

HOW HE HIRED A MEMORABLE SERVANT


When Rodriguez woke, the birds were singing gloriously. The sun was up
and the air was sparkling over Spain. The gloom had left his high
chamber, and much of the menace had gone from it that overnight had
seemed to bode in the corners. It had not become suddenly tidy; it was
still more suitable for spiders than men, it still mourned and brooded
over the great family that it had nursed and that evil days had so
obviously overtaken; but it no longer had the air of finger to lips, no
longer seemed to share a secret with you, and that secret Murder. The
rats still ran round the wainscot, but the song of the birds and the
jolly, dazzling sunshine were so much larger than the sombre room that
the young man's thoughts escaped from it and ran free to the fields. It
may have been only his fancy but the world seemed somehow brighter for
the demise of mine host of the Dragon and Knight, whose body still lay
hunched up on the foot of his bed. Rodriguez jumped up and went to the
high, barred window and looked out of it at the morning: far below him
a little town with red roofs lay; the smoke came up from the chimneys
toward him slowly, and spread out flat and did not reach so high.
Between him and the roofs swallows were sailing.

He found water for washing in a cracked pitcher of earthenware and as
he dressed he looked up at the ceiling and admired mine host's device,
for there was an open hole that had come noiselessly, without any
sounds of bolts or lifting of trap-doors, but seemed to have opened out
all round on perfectly oiled grooves, to fit that well-to-do body, and
down from the middle of it from some higher beam hung the rope down
which mine host had made his last journey.

Before taking leave of his host Rodriguez looked at his poniard, which
was a good two feet in length, not counting the hilt, and was surprised
to find it an excellent blade. It bore a design on the steel
representing a town, which Rodriguez recognised for the towers of
Toledo; and had held moreover a jewel at the end of the hilt, but the
little gold socket was empty. Rodriguez therefore perceived that the
poniard was that of a gallant, and surmised that mine host had begun
his trade with a butcher's knife, but having come by the poniard had
found it to be handier for his business. Rodriguez being now fully
dressed, girt his own blade about him, and putting the poniard under
his cloak, for he thought to find a use for it at the wars, set his
plumed hat upon him and jauntily stepped from the chamber. By the light
of day he saw clearly at what point the passages of the inn had dared
to make their intrusion on the corridors of the fortress, for he walked
for four paces between walls of huge grey rocks which had never been
plastered and were clearly a breach in the fortress, though whether the
breach were made by one of the evil days that had come upon the family
in their fastness, and whether men had poured through it with torches
and swords, or whether the gap had been cut in later years for mine
host of the Dragon and Knight, and he had gone quietly through it
rubbing his hands, nothing remained to show Rodriguez now.

When he came to the dining-chamber he found Morano astir. Morano looked
up from his overwhelming task of tidying the Inn of the Dragon and
Knight and then went on with his pretended work, for he felt a little
ashamed of the knowledge he had concerning the ways of that inn, which
was more than an honest man should know about such a place.

"Good morning, Morano," said Rodriguez blithely.

"Good morning," answered the servant of the Dragon and Knight.

"I am looking for the wars. Would you like a new master, Morano?"

"Indeed," said Morano, "a good master is better to some men's minds
than a bad one. Yet, you see señor, my bad master has me bound never to
leave him, by oaths that I do not properly understand the meaning of,
and that might blast me in any world were I to forswear them. He hath
bound me by San Sathanas, with many others. I do not like the sound of
that San Sathanas. And so you see, señor, my bad master suits me better
than perhaps to be whithered in this world by a levin-stroke, and in
the next world who knows?"

"Morano," said Rodriguez, "there is a dead spider on my bed."

"A dead spider, master?" said Morano, with as much concern in his voice
as though no spider had ever sullied that chamber before.

"Yes," said Rodriguez, "I shall require you to keep my bed tidy on our
way to the wars."

"Master," said Morano, "no spider shall come near it, living or dead."

And so our company of one going northward through Spain looking for
romance became a company of two.

"Master," said Morano, "as I do not see him whom I serve, and his ways
are early ways, I fear some evil has overtaken him, whereby we shall be
suspect, for none other dwells here: and he is under special protection
of the Garda Civil; it would be well therefore to start for the wars
right early."

"The guard protect mine host then." Rodriguez said with as much
surprise in his tones as he ever permitted himself.

"Master," Morano said, "it could not be otherwise. For so many gallants
have entered the door of this inn and supped in this chamber and never
been seen again, and so many suspicious things have been found here,
such as blood, that it became necessary for him to pay the guard well,
and so they protect him." And Morano hastily slung over his shoulder by
leather straps an iron pot and a frying-pan and took his broad felt hat
from a peg on the wall.

Rodriguez' eyes looked so curiously at the great cooking utensils
dangling there from the straps that Morano perceived his young master
did not fully understand these preparations: he therefore instructed
him thus: "Master, there be two things necessary in the wars, strategy
and cooking. Now the first of these comes in use when the captains
speak of their achievements and the historians write of the wars.
Strategy is a learned thing, master, and the wars may not be told of
without it, but while the war rageth and men be camped upon the
foughten field then is the time for cooking; for many a man that fights
the wars, if he hath not his food, were well content to let the enemy
live, but feed him and at once he becometh proud at heart and cannot
a-bear the sight of the enemy walking among his tents but must needs
slay him outright. Aye, master, the cooking for the wars; and when the
wars are over you who are learned shall study strategy."

And Rodriguez perceived that there was wisdom in the world that was not
taught in the College of San Josephus, near to his father's valleys,
where he had learned in his youth the ways of books.

"Morano," he said, "let us now leave mine host to entertain la Garda."

And at the mention of the guard hurry came on Morano, he closed his
lips upon his store of wisdom, and together they left the Inn of the
Dragon and Knight. And when Rodriguez saw shut behind him that dark
door of oak that he had so persistently entered, and through which he
had come again to the light of the sun by many precautions and some
luck, he felt gratitude to Morano. For had it not been for Morano's
sinister hints, and above all his remark that mine host would have
driven him thence because he liked him, the evil look of the sombre
chamber alone might not have been enough to persuade him to the
precautions that cut short the dreadful business of that inn. And with
his gratitude was a feeling not unlike remorse, for he felt that he had
deprived this poor man of a part of his regular wages, which would have
been his own gold ring and the setting that held the sapphire, had all
gone well with the business. So he slipped the ring from his finger and
gave it to Morano, sapphire and all.

Morano's expressions of gratitude were in keeping with that flowery
period in Spain, and might appear ridiculous were I to expose them to
the eyes of an age in which one in Morano's place on such an occasion
would have merely said, "Damned good of you old nut, not half," and let
the matter drop.

I merely record therefore that Morano was grateful and so expressed
himself; while Rodriguez, in addition to the pleasant glow in the mind
that comes from a generous action, had another feeling that gives all
of us pleasure, or comfort at least (until it grows monotonous), a
feeling of increased safety; for while he had the ring upon his finger
and Morano went unpaid the thought could not help occurring, even to a
generous mind, that one of these windy nights Morano might come for his
wages.

"Master," said Morano looking at the sapphire now on his own little
finger near the top joint, the only stone amongst his row of rings,
"you must surely have great wealth."

"Yes," said Rodriguez slapping the scabbard that held his Castilian
blade. And when he saw that Morano's eyes were staring at the little
emeralds that were dotted along the velvet of the scabbard he explained
that it was the sword that was his wealth:

"For in the wars," he said, "are all things to be won, and nothing is
unobtainable to the sword. For parchment and custom govern all the
possessions of man, as they taught me in the College of San Josephus.
Yet the sword is at first the founder and discoverer of all
possessions; and this my father told me before he gave me this sword,
which hath already acquired in the old time fair castles with many a
tower."

"And those that dwelt in the castles, master, before the sword came?"
said Morano.

"They died and went dismally to Hell," said Rodriguez, "as the old
songs say."

They walked on then in silence. Morano, with his low forehead and
greater girth of body than of brain to the superficial observer, was
not incapable of thought. However slow his thoughts may have come,
Morano was pondering surely. Suddenly the puckers on his little
forehead cleared and he brightly looked at Rodriguez as they went on
side by side.

"Master," Morano said, "when you choose a castle in the wars, let it
above all things be one of those that is easy to be defended; for
castles are easily got, as the old songs tell, and in the heat of
combat positions are quickly stormed, and no more ado; but, when wars
are over, then is the time for ease and languorous days and the
imperilling of the soul, though not beyond the point where our good
fathers may save it."

"Nay, Morano," Rodriguez said, "no man, as they taught me well in the
College of San Josephus, should ever imperil his soul."

"But, master," Morano said, "a man imperils his body in the wars yet
hopes by dexterity and his sword to draw it safely thence: so a man of
courage and high heart may surely imperil his soul and still hope to
bring it at the last to salvation."

"Not so," said Rodriguez, and gave his mind to pondering upon the exact
teaching he had received on this very point, but could not clearly
remember.

So they walked in silence, Rodriguez thinking still of this spiritual
problem, Morano turning, though with infinite slowness, to another
thought upon a lower plane.

And after a while Rodriguez' eyes turned again to the flowers, and he
felt his meditation, as youth will, and looking abroad he saw the
wonder of Spring calling forth the beauty of Spain, and he lifted up
his head and his heart rejoiced with the anemones, as hearts at his age
do: but Morano clung to his thought.

It was long before Rodriguez' fanciful thoughts came back from among
the flowers, for among those delicate earliest blooms of Spring his
youthful visions felt they were with familiars; so they tarried,
neglecting the dusty road and poor gross Morano. But when his fancies
left the flowers at last and looked again at Morano, Rodriguez
perceived that his servant was all troubled with thought: so he left
Morano in silence for his thought to come to maturity, for he had
formed a liking already for the judgments of Morano's simple mind.

They walked in silence for the space of an hour, and at last Morano
spoke. It was then noon. "Master," he said, "at this hour it is the
custom of la Garda to enter the Inn of the Dragon and to dine at the
expense of mine host."

"A merry custom," said Rodriguez.

"Master," said Morano, "if they find him in less than his usual health
they will get their dinners for themselves in the larder and dine and
afterwards sleep. But after that; master, after that, should anything
inauspicious have befallen mine host, they will seek out and ask many
questions concerning all travellers, too many for our liking."

"We are many good miles from the Inn of the Dragon and Knight," said
Rodriguez.

"Master, when they have eaten and slept and asked questions they will
follow on horses," said Morano.

"We can hide," said Rodriguez, and he looked round over the plain, very
full of flowers, but empty and bare under the blue sky of any place in
which a man might hide to escape from pursuers on horse back. He
perceived then that he had no plan.

"Master," said Morano, "there is no hiding like disguises."

Once more Rodriguez looked round him over the plain, seeing no houses,
no men; and his opinion of Morano's judgment sank when he said
disguises. But then Morano unfolded to him that plan which up to that
day had never been tried before, so far as records tell, in all the
straits in which fugitive men have been; and which seems from my
researches in verse and prose never to have been attempted since.

The plan was this, astute as Morano, and simple as his naive mind. The
clothing for which Rodriguez searched the plain vainly was ready to
hand. No disguise was effective against la Garda, they had too many
suspicions, their skill was to discover disguises. But in the moment of
la Garda's triumph, when they had found out the disguise, when success
had lulled the suspicions for which they were infamous, then was the
time to trick la Garda. Rodriguez wondered; but the slow mind of Morano
was sure, and now he came to the point, the fruit of his hour's
thinking. Rodriguez should disguise himself as Morano. When la Garda
discovered that he was not the man he appeared to be, a study to which
they devoted their lives, their suspicions would rest and there would
be an end of it. And Morano should disguise himself as Rodriguez.

It was a new idea. Had Rodriguez been twice his age he would have
discarded it at once; for age is guided by precedent which, when
pursued, is a dangerous guide indeed. Even as it was he was critical,
for the novelty of the thing coming thus from his gross servant
surprised him as much as though Morano had uttered poetry of his own
when he sang, as he sometimes did, certain merry lascivious songs of
Spain that any one of the last few centuries knew as well as any of the
others.

And would not la Garda find out that he was himself, Rodriguez asked,
as quickly as they found out he was not Morano.

"That," said Morano, "is not the way of la Garda. For once let la Garda
come by a suspicion, such as that you, master, are but Morano, and they
will cling to it even to the last, and not abandon it until they needs
must, and then throw it away as it were in disgust and ride hence at
once, for they like not tarrying long near one who has seen them
mistaken."

"They will soon then come by another suspicion," said Rodriguez.

"Not so, master," answered Morano, "for those that are as suspicious as
la Garda change their suspicions but slowly. A suspicion is an old song
to them."

"Then," said Rodriguez, "I shall be hard set ever to show that I am not
you if they ever suspect I am."

"It will be hard, master," Morano answered; "but we shall do it, for we
shall have truth upon our side."

"How shall we disguise ourselves?" said Rodriguez.

"Master," said Morano, "when you came to our town none knew you and all
marked your clothes. As for me my fat body is better known than my
clothes, yet am I not too well known by la Garda, for, being an honest
man, whenever la Garda came I used to hide."

"You did well," said Rodriguez.

"Certainly I did well," said Morano, "for had they seen me they might,
on account of certain matters, have taken me to prison, and prison is
no place for an honest man."

"Let us disguise ourselves," said Rodriguez.

"Master," answered Morano, "the brain is greater than the stomach, and
now more than at any time we need the counsel of the brain; let us
therefore appease the clamours of the stomach that it be silent."

And he drew out from amongst his clothing a piece of sacking in which
was a mass of bacon and some lard, and unslung his huge frying-pan.
Rodriguez had entirely forgotten the need of food, but now the memory
of it had rushed upon him like a flood over a barrier, as soon as he
saw the bacon. And when they had collected enough of tiny inflammable
things, for it was a treeless plain, and Morano had made a fire, and
the odour of the bacon became perceptible, this memory was hugely
intensified.

"Let us eat while they eat, master," said Morano, "and plan while they
sleep, and disguise ourselves while they pursue."

And this they did: for after they had eaten they dug up earth and
gathered leaves with which to fill the gaps in Morano's garments when
they should hang on Rodriguez, they plucked a geranium with whose dye
they deepened Rodriguez' complexion, and with the sap from the stalk of
a weed Morano toned to a pallor the ruddy brown of his tough cheeks.
Then they changed clothes altogether, which made Morano gasp: and after
that nothing remained but to cut off the delicate black moustachios of
Rodriguez and to stick them to the face of Morano with the juice of
another flower that he knew where to find. Rodriguez sighed when he saw
them go. He had pictured ecstatic glances cast some day at those
moustachios, glances from under long eyelashes twinkling at evening
from balconies; and looking at them where they were now, he felt that
this was impossible.

For one moment Morano raised his head with an air, as it were preening
himself, when the new moustachios had stuck; but as soon as he saw, or
felt, his master's sorrow at their loss he immediately hung his head,
showing nothing but shame for the loss he had caused his master, or for
the impropriety of those delicate growths that so ill become his jowl.
And now they took the road again, Rodriguez with the great frying-pan
and cooking-pot; no longer together, but not too far apart for la Garda
to take them both at once, and to make the doubly false charge that
should so confound their errand. And Morano wore that old triumphant
sword, and carried the mandolin that was ever young.

They had not gone far when it was as Morano had said; for, looking
back, as they often did, to the spot where their road touched the
sky-line, they saw la Garda spurring, seven of them in their
unmistakable looped hats, very clear against the sky which a moment ago
seemed so fair.

When the seven saw the two they did not spare the dust; and first they
came to Morano.

"You," they said, "are Rodriguez Trinidad Fernandez, Concepcion
Henrique Maria, a Lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez."

"No, masters," said Morano.

Oh but denials were lost upon la Garda.

Denials inflamed their suspicions as no other evidence could. Many a
man had they seen with his throat in the hands of the public garrotter;
and all had begun with denials who ended thus. They looked at the
mandolin, at the gay cloak, at the emeralds in the scabbard, for
wherever emeralds go there is evidence to identify them, until the
nature of man changes or the price of emeralds. They spoke hastily
among themselves.

"Without doubt," said one of them, "you are whom we said." And they
arrested Morano.

Then they spurred on to Rodriguez. "You are," they said, "as no man
doubts, one Morano, servant at the Inn of the Dragon and Knight, whose
good master is, as we allege, dead."

"Masters," answered Rodriguez, "I am but a poor traveller, and no
servant at any inn."

Now la Garda, as I have indicated, will hear all things except denials;
and thus to receive two within the space of two moments infuriated them
so fiercely that they were incapable of forming any other theory that
day except the one they held.

There are many men like this; they can form a plausible theory and
grasp its logical points, but take it away from them and destroy it
utterly before their eyes, and they will not so easily lash their tired
brains at once to build another theory in place of the one that is
ruined.

"As the saints live," they said, "you are Morano." And they arrested
Rodriguez too.

Now when they began to turn back by the way they had come Rodriguez
began to fear overmuch identification, so he assured la Garda that in
the next village ahead of them were those who would answer all
questions concerning him, as well as being the possessors of the finest
vintage of wine in the kingdom of Spain.

Now it may be that the mention of this wine soothed the anger caused in
the men of la Garda by two denials, or it may be that curiosity guided
them, at any rate they took the road that led away from last night's
sinister shelter, Rodriguez and five of la Garda. Two of them stayed
behind with Morano, undecided as yet which way to take, though looking
wistfully the way that that wine was said to be; and Rodriguez left
Morano to his own devices, in which he trusted profoundly.

Now Rodriguez knew not the name of the next village that they would
come to nor the names of any of the dwellers in it.

Yet he had a plan. As he went by the side of one of the horses he
questioned the rider.

"Can Morano write?" he said. La Garda laughed.

"Can Morano talk Latin?" he said. La Garda crossed themselves, all five
men. And after some while of riding, and hard walking for Rodriguez, to
whom they allowed a hand on a stirrup leather, there came in sight the
tops of the brown roofs of a village over a fold of the plain. "Is this
your village?" said one of his captors.

"Surely," answered Rodriguez.

"What is its name?" said one.

"It has many names," said Rodriguez.

And then another one of them recognised it from the shape of its roofs.
"It is Saint Judas-not-Iscariot," he said.

"Aye, so strangers call it," said Rodriguez.

And where the road turned round that fold of the plain, lolling a
little to its left in the idle Spanish air, they came upon the village
all in view. I do not know how to describe this village to you, my
reader, for the words that mean to you what it was are all the wrong
words to use. "Antique," "old-world," "quaint," seem words with which
to tell of it. Yet it had no antiquity denied to the other villages; it
had been brought to birth like them by the passing of time, and was
nursed like them in the lap of plains or valleys of Spain. Nor was it
quainter than any of its neighbours, though it was like itself alone,
as they had their characters also; and, though no village in the world
was like it, it differed only from the next as sister differs from
sister. To those that dwelt in it, it was wholly apart from all the
world of man.

Most of its tall white houses with green doors were gathered about the
market-place, in which were pigeons and smells and declining sunlight,
as Rodriguez and his escort came towards it, and from round a corner at
the back of it the short, repeated song of one who would sell a
commodity went up piercingly.

This was all very long ago. Time has wrecked that village now.
Centuries have flowed over it, some stormily, some smoothly, but so
many that, of the village Rodriguez saw, there can be now no more than
wreckage. For all I know a village of that name may stand on that same
plain, but the Saint Judas-not-Iscariot that Rodriguez knew is gone
like youth.

Queerly tiled, sheltered by small dense trees, and standing a little
apart, Rodriguez recognised the house of the Priest. He recognised it
by a certain air it had. Thither he pointed and la Garda rode. Again he
spoke to them. "Can Morano speak Latin?" he said.

"God forbid!" said la Garda.

They dismounted and opened a gate that was gilded all over, in a low
wall of round boulders. They went up a narrow path between thick ilices
and came to the green door. They pulled a bell whose handle was a
symbol carved in copper, one of the Priest's mysteries. The bell boomed
through the house, a tiny musical boom, and the Priest opened the door;
and Rodriguez addressed him in Latin. And the Priest answered him.

At first la Garda had not realised what had happened. And then the
Priest beckoned and they all entered his house, for Rodriguez had asked
him for ink. Into a room they came where a silver ink-pot was, and the
grey plume of the goose. Picture no such ink-pot, my reader, as they
sell to-day in shops, the silver no thicker than paper, and perhaps a
pattern all over it guaranteed artistic. It was molten silver well
wrought, and hollowed for ink. And in the hollow there was the magical
fluid, the stuff that rules the world and hinders time; that in which
flows the will of a king, to establish his laws for ever; that which
gives valleys unto new possessors; that whereby towers are held by
their lawful owners; that which, used grimly by the King's judge, is
death; that which, when poets play, is mirth for ever and ever.

No wonder la Garda looked at it in awe, no wonder they crossed
themselves again: and then Rodriguez wrote. In the silence that
followed the jaws of la Garda dropped, while the old Priest slightly
smiled, for he somewhat divined the situation already; and, being the
people's friend, he loved not la Garda more than he was bound by the
rules of his duty to man.

Then one of la Garda spoke, bringing back his confidence with a
bluster. "Morano has sold his soul to Satan," he said, "in exchange for
Satan's aid, and Satan has taught his tongue Latin and guides his
fingers in the affairs of the pen." And so said all la Garda, rejoicing
at finding an explanation where a moment ago there was none, as all men
at such times do: little it matters what the explanation be: does a man
in Sahara, who finds water suddenly, inquire with precision what its
qualities are?

And then the Priest said a word and made a sign, against which Satan
himself can only prevail with difficulty, and in presence of which his
spells can never endure. And after this Rodriguez wrote again. Then
were la Garda silent.

And at length the leader said, and he called on them all to testify,
that he had made no charge whatever against this traveller; moreover,
they had escorted him on his way out of respect for him, because the
roads were dangerous, and must now depart because they had higher
duties. So la Garda departed, looking before them with stern,
preoccupied faces and urging their horses on, as men who go on an
errand of great urgency. And Rodriguez, having thanked them for their
protection upon the road, turned back into the house and the two sat
down together, and Rodriguez told his rescuer the story of the
hospitality of the Inn of the Dragon and Knight.

Not as confession he told it, but as a pleasant tale, for he looked on
the swift demise of la Garda's friend, in the night, in the spidery
room, as a fair blessing for Spain, a thing most suited to the sweet
days of Spring. The spiritual man rejoiced to hear such a tale, as do
all men of peace to hear talk of violent deeds in which they may not
share. And when the tale was ended he reproved Rodriguez exceedingly,
explaining to him the nature of the sin of blood, and telling him that
absolution could be come by now, though hardly, but how on some future
occasion there might be none to be had. And Rodriguez listened with all
the gravity of expression that youth knows well how to wear while its
thoughts are nimbly dancing far away in fair fields of adventure or
love.

And darkness came down and lamps were carried in: and the reverend
father asked Rodriguez in what other affairs of violence his sword had
unhappily been. And Rodriguez knew well the history of that sword,
having gathered all that concerned it out of spoken legend or song. And
although the reverend man frowned minatorily whenever he heard of its
passings through the ribs of the faithful, and nodded as though his
head gave benediction when he heard of the destruction of God's most
vile enemy the infidel, and though he gasped a little through his lips
when he heard of certain tarryings of that sword, in scented gardens,
while Christian knights should sleep and their swords hang on the wall,
though sometimes even a little he raised his hands, yet he leaned
forward always, listening well, and picturing clearly as though his
gleaming eyes could see them, each doleful tale of violence or sin. And
so night came, and began to wear away, and neither knew how late the
hour was. And then as Rodriguez spoke of an evening in a garden, of
which some old song told well, a night in early summer under the
evening star, and that sword there as always; as he told of his
grandfather as poets had loved to tell, going among the scents of the
huge flowers, familiar with the dark garden as the moths that drifted
by him; as he spoke of a sigh heard faintly, as he spoke of danger
near, whether to body or soul; as the reverend father was about to
raise both his hands; there came a thunder of knockings upon the locked
green door.



THE THIRD CHRONICLE

HOW HE CAME TO THE HOUSE OF WONDER


It was the gross Morano. Here he had tracked Rodriguez, for where la
Garda goes is always known, and rumour of it remains long behind them,
like the scent of a fox. He told no tale of his escape more than a dog
does who comes home some hours late; a dog comes back to his master,
that is all, panting a little perhaps; someone perhaps had caught him
and he escaped and came home, a thing too natural to attempt to speak
of by any of the signs that a dog knows.

Part of Morano's method seems to have resembled Rodriguez', for just as
Rodriguez spoke Latin, so Morano fell back upon his own natural speech,
that he as it were unbridled and allowed to run free, the coarseness of
which had at first astounded, and then delighted, la Garda.

"And did they not suspect that you were yourself?" said Rodriguez.

"No, master," Morano answered, "for I said that I was the brother of
the King of Aragon."

"The King of Aragon!" Rodriguez said, going to the length of showing
surprise. "Yes, indeed, master." said Morano, "and they recognised me."

"Recognised you!" exclaimed the Priest.

"Indeed so," said Morano, "for they said that they were themselves the
Kings of Aragon; and so, father, they recognised me for their brother."

"That you should not have said," the Priest told Morano.

"Reverend father," replied Morano, "as Heaven shines, I believed that
what I said was true." And Morano sighed deeply. "And now," he said, "I
know it is true no more."

Whether he sighed for the loss of his belief in that exalted
relationship, or whether for the loss of that state of mind in which
such beliefs come easily, there was nothing in his sigh to show. They
questioned him further, but he said no more: he was here, there was no
more to say: he was here and la Garda was gone.

And then the reverend man brought for them a great supper, even at that
late hour, for many an hour had slipped softly by as he heard the sins
of the sword; and wine he set out, too, of a certain golden vintage,
long lost--I fear--my reader: but this he gave not to Morano lest he
should be once more, what the reverend father feared to entertain, that
dread hidalgo, the King of Aragon's brother. And after that, the stars
having then gone far on their ways, the old Priest rose and offered a
bed to Rodriguez; and even as he eyed Morano, wondering where to put
him, and was about to speak, for he had no other bed, Morano went to a
corner of the room and curled up and lay down. And by the time his host
had walked over to him and spoken, asking anxiously if he needed
nothing more, he was almost already asleep, and muttered in answer,
after having been spoken to twice, no more than "Straw, reverend
father, straw."

An armful of this the good man brought him, and then showed Rodriguez
to his room; and they can scarcely have reached it before Morano was
back in Aragon again, walking on golden shoes (which were sometimes
wings), proud among lesser princes.

As precaution for the night Rodriguez took one more glance at his
host's kind face; and then, with sword out of reach and an unlocked
door, he slept till the songs of birds out of the deeps of the ilices
made sleep any longer impossible.

The third morning of Rodriguez' wandering blazed over Spain like brass;
flowers and grass and sky were twinkling all together.

When Rodriguez greeted his host Morano was long astir, having awakened
with dawn, for the simpler and humbler the creature the nearer it is
akin to the earth and the sun. The forces that woke the birds and
opened the flowers stirred the gross lump of Morano, ending his sleep
as they ended the nightingale's song.

They breakfasted hurriedly and Rodriguez rose to depart, feeling that
he had taken hospitality that had not been offered. But against his
departure was the barrier of all the politeness of Spain. The house was
his, said his host, and even the small grove of ilices.

If I told you half of the things that the reverend man said, you would
say: "This writer is affected. I do not like all this flowery mush." I
think it safer, my reader, not to tell you any of it. Let us suppose
that he merely said, "Quite all right," and that when Rodriguez thanked
him on one knee he answered, "Not at all;" and that so Rodriguez and
Morano left. If here it miss some flash of the fair form of Truth it is
the fault of the age I write for.

The road again, dust again, birds and the blaze of leaves, these were
the background of my wanderers, until the eye had gone as far as the
eye can roam, and there were the tips of some far pale-blue mountains
that now came into view.

They were still in each other's clothes; but the village was not behind
them very far when Morano explained, for he knew the ways of la Garda,
that having arrested two men upon this road, they would now arrest two
men each on all the other roads, in order to show the impartiality of
the Law, which constantly needs to be exhibited; and that therefore all
men were safe on the road they were on for a long while to come.

Now there seemed to Rodriguez to be much good sense in what Morano had
said; and so indeed there was for they had good laws in Spain, and they
differed little, though so long ago, from our own excellent system.
Therefore they changed once more, giving back to each other everything
but, alas, those delicate black moustachios; and these to Rodriguez
seemed gone for ever, for the growth of new ones seemed so far ahead to
the long days of youth that his hopes could scarce reach to them.

When Morano found himself once more in those clothes that had been with
him night and day for so many years he seemed to expand; I mean no
metaphor here; he grew visibly fatter.

"Ah," said Morano after a huge breath, "last night I dreamed, in your
illustrious clothes, that I was in lofty station. And now, master, I am
comfortable."

"Which were best, think you," said Rodriguez, "if you could have but
one, a lofty place or comfort?" Even in those days such a question was
trite, but Rodriguez uttered it only thinking to dip in the store of
Morano's simple wisdom, as one may throw a mere worm to catch a worthy
fish. But in this he was disappointed; for Morano made no neat
comparison nor even gave an opinion, saying only, "Master, while I have
comfort how shall I judge the case of any who have not?" And no more
would he say. His new found comfort, lost for a day and night, seemed
so to have soothed his body that it closed the gates of the mind, as
too much luxury may, even with poets.

And now Rodriguez thought of his quest again, and the two of them
pushed on briskly to find the wars.

For an hour they walked in silence an empty road. And then they came
upon a row of donkeys; piled high with the bark of the cork-tree, that
men were bringing slowly from far woods. Some of the men were singing
as they went. They passed slow in the sunshine.

"Oh, master," said Morano when they were gone, "I like not that
lascivious loitering."

"Why, Morano?" said Rodriguez. "It was not God that made hurry."

"Master," answered Morano, "I know well who made hurry. And may he not
overtake my soul at the last. Yet it is bad for our fortunes that these
men should loiter thus. You want your castle, master; and I, I want not
always to wander roads, with la Garda perhaps behind and no certain
place to curl up and sleep in front. I look for a heap of straw in the
cellar of your great castle."

"Yes, yes, you shall have it," his master said, "but how do these folks
hinder you?" For Morano was scowling at them over his shoulder in a way
that was somehow spoiling the gladness of Spring.

"The air is full of their singing," Morano said. "It is as though their
souls were already flying to Hell, and cawing hoarse with sin all the
way as they go. And they loiter, and they linger..." Oh, but Morano was
angry.

"But," said Rodriguez, "how does their lingering harm you?"

"Where are the wars, master? Where are the wars?" blurted Morano, his
round face turning redder. "The donkeys would be dead, the men would be
running, there would be shouts, cries, and confusion, if the wars were
anywhere near. There would be all things but this."

The men strolled on singing and so passed slow into distance. Morano
was right, though I know not how he knew.

And now the men and the donkeys were nearly out of sight, but had not
yet at all emerged from the wrath of Morano. "Lascivious knaves,"
muttered that disappointed man. And whenever he faintly heard dim
snatches of their far song that a breeze here, and another there,
brought over the plain as it ran on the errands of Spring, he cursed
their sins under his breath. Though it seemed not so much their sins
that moved his wrath as the leisure they had for committing them.

"Peace, peace, Morano," said Rodriguez.

"It is that," said Morano, "that is troubling me."

"What?"

"This same peace."

"Morano," said Rodriguez, "I had when young to study the affairs of
men; and this is put into books, and so they make history. Now I
learned that there is no thing in which men have taken delight, that is
ever put away from them; for it seems that time, which altereth every
custom, hath altered none of our likings: and in every chapter they
taught me there were these wars to be found."

"Master, the times are altered," said Morano sadly. "It is not now as
in old days."

And this was not the wisdom of Morano, for anger had clouded his
judgment. And a faint song came yet from the donkey-drivers, wavering
over the flowers.

"Master," Morano said, "there are men like those vile sin-mongers, who
have taken delight in peace. It may be that peace has been brought upon
the world by one of these lousy likings."

"The delight of peace," said Rodriguez, "is in its contrast to war. If
war were banished this delight were gone. And man lost none of his
delights in any chapter I read."

The word and the meaning of CONTRAST were such as is understood by
reflective minds, the product of education. Morano felt rather than
reflected; and the word CONTRAST meant nothing to him. This ended their
conversation. And the songs of the donkey-drivers, light though they
were, being too heavy to be carried farther by the idle air of Spring,
Morano ceased cursing their sins.

And now the mountains rose up taller, seeming to stretch themselves and
raise their heads. In a while they seemed to be peering over the plain.
They that were as pale ghosts, far off, dim like Fate, in the early
part of the morning, now appeared darker, more furrowed, more sinister,
more careworn; more immediately concerned with the affairs of Earth,
and so more menacing to earthly things.

Still they went on and still the mountains grew. And noon came, when
Spain sleeps.

And now the plain was altering, as though cool winds from the mountains
brought other growths to birth, so that they met with bushes straggling
wild; free, careless and mysterious, as they do, where there is none to
teach great Nature how to be tidy.

The wanderers chose a clump of these that were gathered near the way,
like gypsies camped awhile midway on a wonderful journey, who at dawn
will rise and go, leaving but a bare trace of their resting and no
guess of their destiny; so fairy-like, so free, so phantasmal those
dark shrubs seemed.

Morano lay down on the very edge of the shade of one, and Rodriguez lay
fair in the midst of the shade of another, whereby anyone passing that
way would have known which was the older traveller. Morano, according
to his custom, was asleep almost immediately; but Rodriguez, with
wonder and speculation each toying with novelty and pulling it
different ways between them, stayed awhile wakeful. Then he too slept,
and a bird thought it safe to return to an azalea of its own; which it
lately fled from troubled by the arrival of these two.

And Rodriguez the last to sleep was the first awake, for the shade of
the shrub left him, and he awoke in the blaze of the sun to see Morano
still sheltered, well in the middle now of the shadow he chose. The
gross sleep of Morano I will not describe to you, reader. I have chosen
a pleasant tale for you in a happy land, in the fairest time of year,
in a golden age: I have youth to show you and an ancient sword, birds,
flowers and sunlight, in a plain unharmed by any dream of commerce: why
should I show you the sleep of that inelegant man whose bulk lay
cumbering the earth like a low, unseemly mountain?

Rodriguez overtook the shade he had lost and lay there resting until
Morano awoke, driven all at once from sleep by a dream or by mere
choking. Then from the intricacies of his clothing, which to him after
those two days was what home is to some far wanderer, Morano drew out
once more a lump of bacon. Then came the fry-pan and then a fire: it
was the Wanderers' Mess. That mess-room has stood in many lands and has
only one roof. We are proud of that roof, all we who belong to that
Mess. We boast of it when we show it to our friends when it is all set
out at night. It has Aldebaran in it, the Bear and Orion, and at the
other end the Southern Cross. Yes we are proud of our roof when it is
at its best.

What am I saying? I should be talking of bacon. Yes, but there is a way
of cooking it in our Mess that I want to tell you and cannot. I've
tasted bacon there that isn't the same as what you get at the Ritz. And
I want to tell you how that bacon tastes; and I can't so I talk about
stars. But perhaps you are one of us, reader, and then you will
understand. Only why the hell don't we get back there again where the
Evening Star swings low on the wall of the Mess?

When they rose from table, when they got up from the earth, and the
frying-pan was slung on Morano's back, adding grease to the mere
surface of his coat whose texture could hold no more, they pushed on
briskly for they saw no sign of houses, unless what Rodriguez saw now
dimly above a ravine were indeed a house in the mountains.

They had walked from eight till noon without any loitering. They must
have done fifteen miles since the mountains were pale blue. And now,
every mile they went, on the most awful of the dark ridges the object
Rodriguez saw seemed more and more like a house. Yet neither then, nor
as they drew still nearer, nor when they saw it close, nor looking back
on it after years, did it somehow seem quite right. And Morano
sometimes crossed himself as he looked at it, and said nothing.

Rodriguez, as they walked ceaselessly through the afternoon, seeing his
servant show some sign of weariness, which comes not to youth, pointed
out the house looking nearer than it really was on the mountain, and
told him that he should find there straw, and they would sup and stay
the night. Afterwards, when the strange appearance of the house,
varying with different angles, filled him with curious forebodings,
Rodriguez would make no admission to his servant, but held to the plan
he had announced, and so approached the queer roofs, neglecting the
friendly stars.

Through the afternoon the two travellers pushed on mostly in silence,
for the glances that house seemed to give him from the edge of its
perilous ridge, had driven the mirth from Rodriguez and had even
checked the garrulity on the lips of the tougher Morano, if garrulity
can be ascribed to him whose words seldom welled up unless some simple
philosophy troubled his deeps. The house seemed indeed to glance at
him, for as their road wound on, the house showed different aspects,
different walls and edges of walls, and different curious roofs; all
these walls seemed to peer at him. One after another they peered, new
ones glided imperceptibly into sight as though to say, We see too.

The mountains were not before them but a little to the right of their
path, until new ones appeared ahead of them like giants arising from
sleep, and then their path seemed blocked as though by a mighty wall
against which its feeble wanderings went in vain. In the end it turned
a bit to its right and went straight for a dark mountain, where a wild
track seemed to come down out of the rocks to meet it, and upon this
track looked down that sinister house. Had you been there, my reader,
you would have said, any of us had said, Why not choose some other
house? There were no other houses. He who dwelt on the edge of the
ravine that ran into that dark mountain was wholly without neighbours.

And evening came, and still they were far from the mountain.

The sun set on their left. But it was in the eastern sky that the
greater splendour was; for the low rays streaming across lit up some
stormy clouds that were brooding behind the mountain and turned their
gloomy forms to an astounding purple.

And after this their road began to rise toward the ridges. The
mountains darkened and the sinister house was about to merge with
their shadows, when he who dwelt there lit candles.

The act astonished the wayfarers. All through half the day they had
seen the house, until it seemed part of the mountains; evil it seemed
like their ridges, that were black and bleak and forbidding, and
strange it seemed with a strangeness that moved no fears they could
name, yet it seemed inactive as night.

Now lights appeared showing that someone moved. Window after window
showed to the bare dark mountain its gleaming yellow glare; there in
the night the house forsook the dark rocks that seemed kin to it, by
glowing as they could never glow, by doing what the beasts that haunted
them could not do: this was the lair of man. Here was the light of
flame but the rocks remained dark and cold as the wind of night that
went over them, he who dwelt now with the lights had forsaken the
rocks, his neighbours.

And, when all were lit, one light high in a tower shone green. These
lights appearing out of the mountain thus seemed to speak to Rodriguez
and to tell him nothing. And Morano wondered, as he seldom troubled to
do.

They pushed on up the steepening path.

"Like you the looks of it?" said Rodriguez once.

"Aye, master," answered Morano, "so there be straw."

"You see nothing strange there, then?" Rodriguez said.

"Master," Morano said, "there be saints for all requirements."

Any fears he had felt about that house before, now as he neared it were
gone; it was time to put away fears and face the event; thus worked
Morano's philosophy. And he turned his thoughts to the achievements
upon earth of a certain Saint who met Satan, and showed to the
sovereign of Hell a discourtesy alien to the ways of the Church.

It was dark now, and the yellow lights got larger as they drew nearer
the windows, till they saw large shadows obscurely passing from room to
room. The ascent was steep now and the pathway stopped. No track of any
kind approached the house. It stood on a precipice-edge as though one
of the rocks of the mountain: they climbed over rocks to reach it. The
windows flickered and blinked at them.

Nothing invited them there in the look of that house, but they were now
in such a forbidding waste that shelter had to be found; they were all
among edges of rock as black as the night and hard as the material of
which Cosmos was formed, at first upon Chaos' brink. The sound of their
climbing ran noisily up the mountain but no sound came from the house:
only the shadows moved more swiftly across a room, passed into other
rooms and came hurrying back. Sometimes the shadows stayed and seemed
to peer; and when the travellers stood and watched to see what they
were they would disappear and there were no shadows at all, and the
rooms were filled instead with their wondering speculation. Then they
pushed on over rocks that seemed never trodden by man, so sharp were
they and slanting, all piled together: it seemed the last waste, to
which all shapeless rocks had been thrown.

Morano and these black rocks seemed shaped by a different scheme;
indeed the rocks had never been shaped at all, they were just raw
pieces of Chaos. Morano climbed over their edges with moans and
discomfort. Rodriguez heard him behind him and knew by his moans when
he came to the top of each sharp rock.

The rocks became savager, huger, even more sharp and more angular. They
were there in the dark in multitudes. Over these Rodriguez staggered,
and Morano clambered and tumbled; and so they came, breathing hard, to
the lonely house.

In the wall that their hands had reached there was no door, so they
felt along it till they came to the corner, and beyond the corner was
the front wall of the house. In it was the front door. But so nearly
did this door open upon the abyss that the bats that fled from their
coming, from where they hung above the door of oak, had little more to
do than fall from their crannies, slanting ever so slightly, to find
themselves safe from man in the velvet darkness, that lay between
cliffs so lonely they were almost strangers to Echo. And here they
floated upon errands far from our knowledge; while the travellers
coming along the rocky ledge between destruction and shelter, knocked
on the oaken door.

The sound of their knocking boomed huge and slow through the house as
though they had struck the door of the very mountain. And no one came.
And then Rodriguez saw dimly in the darkness the great handle of a
bell, carved like a dragon running down the wall: he pulled it and a
cry of pain arose from the basement of the house.

Even Morano wondered. It was like a terrible spirit in distress. It was
long before Rodriguez dare touch the handle again. Could it have been
the bell? He felt the iron handle and the iron chain that went up from
it. How could it have been the bell! The bell had not sounded: he had
not pulled hard enough: that scream was fortuitous. The night on that
rocky ledge had jangled his nerves. He pulled again and more firmly.
The answering scream was more terrible. Rodriguez could doubt no
longer, as he sprang back from the bell-handle, that with the chain he
had pulled he inflicted some unknown agony.

The scream had awakened slow steps that now came towards the
travellers, down corridors, as it sounded, of stone. And then chains
fell on stone and the door of oak was opened by some one older than
what man hopes to come to, with small, peaked lips as those of some
woodland thing.

"Señores," the old one said, "the Professor welcomes you."

They stood and stared at his age, and Morano blurted uncouthly what
both of them felt. "You are old, grandfather," he said.

"Ah, Señores," the old man sighed, "the Professor does not allow me to
be young. I have been here years and years but he never allowed it. I
have served him well but it is still the same. I say to him, 'Master, I
have served you long ...' but he interrupts me for he will have none of
youth. Young servants go among the villages, he says. And so, and so..."

"You do not think your master can give you youth!" said Rodriguez.

The old man knew that he had talked too much, voicing that grievance
again of which even the rocks were weary. "Yes," he said briefly, and
bowed and led the way into the house. In one of the corridors running
out of the hall down which he was leading silently, Rodriguez overtook
that old man and questioned him to his face.

"Who is this professor?" he said.

By the light of a torch that spluttered in an iron clamp on the wall
Rodriguez questioned him with these words, and Morano with his
wondering, wistful eyes. The old man halted and turned half round, and
lifted his head and answered. "In the University of Saragossa," he said
with pride, "he holds the Chair of Magic."

Even the names of Oxford or Cambridge, Harvard or Yale or Princeton,
move some respect, and even yet in these unlearned days. What wonder
then that the name of Saragossa heard on that lonely mountain awoke in
Rodriguez some emotion of reverence and even awed Morano. As for the
Chair of Magic, it was of all the royal endowments of that illustrious
University the most honoured and dreaded.

"At Saragossa!" Rodriguez muttered.

"At Saragossa," the old man affirmed.

Between that ancient citadel of learning and this most savage mountain
appeared a gulf scarce to be bridged by thought.

"The Professor rests in his mountain," the old man said, "because of a
conjunction of the stars unfavourable to study, and his class have gone
to their homes for many weeks." He bowed again and led on along that
corridor of dismal stone. The others followed, and still as Rodriguez
went that famous name Saragossa echoed within his mind.

And then they came to a door set deep in the stone, and their guide
opened it and they went in; and there was the Professor in a mystical
hat and a robe of dim purple, seated with his back to them at a table,
studying the ways of the stars. "Welcome, Don Rodriguez," said the
Professor before he turned round; and then he rose, and with small
steps backwards and sideways and many bows, he displayed all those
formulae of politeness that Saragossa knew in the golden age and which
her professors loved to execute. In later years they became more
elaborate still, and afterwards were lost.

Rodriguez replied rather by instinct than knowledge; he came of a house
whose bows had never missed graceful ease and which had in some
generations been a joy to the Court of Spain. Morano followed behind
him; but his servile presence intruded upon that elaborate ceremony,
and the Professor held up his hand, and Morano was held in mid stride
as though the air had gripped him. There he stood motionless, having
never felt magic before. And when the Professor had welcomed Rodriguez
in a manner worthy of the dignity of the Chair that he held at
Saragossa, he made an easy gesture and Morano was free again.

"Master," said Morano to the Professor, as soon as he found he could
move, "master, it looks like magic." Picture to yourself some yokel
shown into the library of a professor of Greek at Oxford, taking down
from a shelf one of the books of the Odyssey, and saying to the
Professor, "It looks like Greek"!

Rodriguez felt grieved by Morano's boorish ignorance. Neither he nor
his host answered him.

The Professor explained that he followed the mysteries dimly, owing to
a certain aspect of Orion, and that therefore his class were gone to
their homes and were hunting; and so he studied alone under
unfavourable auspices. And once more he welcomed Rodriguez to his roof,
and would command straw to be laid down for the man that Rodriguez had
brought from the Inn of the Dragon and Knight; for he, the Professor,
saw all things, though certain stars would hide everything.

And when Rodriguez had appropriately uttered his thanks, he added with
all humility and delicate choice of phrase a petition that he might be
shown some mere rudiment of the studies for which that illustrious
chair in Saragossa was famous. The Professor bowed again and, in
accepting the well-rounded compliments that Rodriguez paid to the
honoured post he occupied, he introduced himself by name. He had been
once, he said, the Count of the Mountain, but when his astral studies
had made him eminent and he had mastered the ways of the planet nearest
the sun he took the title Magister Mercurii, and by this had long been
known; but had now forsaken this title, great as it was, for a more
glorious nomenclature, and was called in the Arabic language the Slave
of Orion. When Rodriguez heard this he bowed very low.

And now the Professor asked Rodriguez in which of the activities of
life his interest lay; for the Chair of Magic at Saragossa, he said,
was concerned with them all.

"In war," said Rodriguez.

And Morano unostentatiously rubbed his hands; for here was one, he
thought, who would soon put his master on the right way, and matters
would come to a head and they would find the wars. But far from
concerning himself with the wars of that age, the Slave of Orion
explained that as events came nearer they became grosser or more
material, and that their grossness did not leave them until they were
some while passed away; so that to one whose studies were with
aetherial things, near events were opaque and dim. He had a window, he
explained, through which Rodriguez should see clearly the ancient wars,
while another window beside it looked on all wars of the future except
those which were planned already or were coming soon to earth, and
which were either invisible or seen dim as through mist.

Rodriguez said that to be privileged to see so classical an example of
magic would be to him both a delight and honour. Yet, as is the way of
youth, he more desired to have a sight of the wars than he cared for
all the learning of the Professor.

And to him who held the Chair of Magic at Saragossa it was a precious
thing that his windows could be made to show these marvels, while the
guest to whom he was about to display these two gems of his learning
was thinking of little but what he should see through the windows, and
not at all of what spells, what midnight oil, what incantations, what
witchcrafts, what lonely hours among bats, had gone to the
gratification of his young curiosity. It is usually thus.

The Professor rose: his cloak floated out from him as he left the
chamber, and Rodriguez following where he guided saw, by the torchlight
in the corridors, upon the dim purple border signs that, to his
untutored ignorance of magic, were no more than hints of the affairs of
the Zodiac. And if these signs were obscure it were better they were
obscurer, for they dealt with powers that man needs not to possess, who
has the whole earth to regulate and control; why then should he seek to
govern the course of any star?

And Morano followed behind them, hoping to be allowed to get a sight of
the wars.

They came to a room where two round windows were; each of them larger
than the very largest plate, and of very thick glass indeed, and of a
wonderful blue. The blue was like the blue of the Mediterranean at
evening, when lights are in it both of ships and of sunset, and lights
of harbours being lit one by one, and the light of Venus perhaps and
about two other stars, so deeply did it stare and so twinkled, near its
edges, with lights that were strange to that room, and so triumphed
with its clear beauty over the night outside. No, it was more magical
than the Mediterranean at evening, even though the peaks of the
Esterels be purple and their bases melting in gold and the blue sea
lying below them smiling at early stars: these windows were more
mysterious than that; it was a more triumphant blue; it was like the
Mediterranean seen with the eyes of Shelley, on a happy day in his
youth, or like the sea round Western islands of fable seen by the fancy
of Keats. They were no windows for any need of ours, unless our dreams
be needs, unless our cries for the moon be urged by the same Necessity
as makes us cry for bread. They were clearly concerned only with magic
or poetry; though the Professor claimed that poetry was but a branch of
his subject; and it was so regarded at Saragossa, where it was taught
by the name of theoretical magic, while by the name of practical magic
they taught dooms, brews, hauntings, and spells.

The Professor stood before the left-hand window and pointed to its
deep-blue centre. "Through this," he said, "we see the wars that were."

Rodriguez looked into the deep-blue centre where the great bulge of the
glass came out towards him; it was near to the edges where the glass
seemed thinner that the little strange lights were dancing; Morano
dared to tiptoe a little nearer. Rodriguez looked and saw no night
outside. Just below and near to the window was white mist, and the dim
lines and smoke of what may have been recent wars; but farther away on
a plain of strangely vast dimensions he saw old wars that were. War
after war he saw. Battles that long ago had passed into history and had
been for many ages skilled, glorious and pleasant encounters he saw
even now tumbling before him in their savage confusion and dirt. He saw
a leader, long glorious in histories he had read, looking round
puzzled, to see what was happening, and in a very famous fight that he
had planned very well. He saw retreats that History called routs, and
routs that he had seen History calling retreats. He saw men winning
victories without knowing they had won. Never had man pried before so
shamelessly upon History, or found her such a liar. With his eyes on
the great blue glass Rodriguez forgot the room, forgot time, forgot his
host and poor excited Morano, as he watched those famous fights.

And now my reader wishes to know what he saw and how it was that he was
able to see it.

As regards the second, my reader will readily understand that the
secrets of magic are very carefully guarded, and any smatterings of it
that I may ever have come by I possess, for what they are worth,
subjects to oaths and penalties at which even bad men shudder. My
reader will be satisfied that even those intimate bonds between reader
and writer are of no use to him here. I say him as though I had only
male readers, but if my reader be a lady I leave the situation
confidently to her intuition. As for the things he saw, of all of these
I am at full liberty to write, and yet, my reader, they would differ
from History's version: never a battle that Rodriguez saw on all the
plain that swept away from that circular window, but History wrote
differently. And now, my reader, the situation is this: who am I?
History was a goddess among the Greeks, or is at least a distinguished
personage, perhaps with a well-earned knighthood, and certainly with
widespread recognition amongst the Right Kind of People. I have none of
these things. Whom, then, would you believe?

Yet I would lay my story confidently before you, my reader, trusting in
the justice of my case and in your judicial discernment, but for one
other thing. What will the Goddess Clio say, or the well-deserving
knight, if I offend History? She has stated her case, Sir Bartimeus has
written it, and then so late in the day I come with a different story,
a truer but different story. What will they do? Reader, the future is
dark, uncertain and long; I dare not trust myself to it if I offend
History. Clio and Sir Bartimeus will make hay of my reputation; an
innuendo here, a foolish fact there, they know how to do it, and not a
soul will suspect the goddess of personal malice or the great historian
of pique. Rodriguez gazed then through the deep blue window, forgetful
of all around, on battles that had not all the elegance or neatness of
which our histories so tidily tell. And as he gazed upon a merry
encounter between two men on the fringe of an ancient fight he felt a
touch on his shoulder and then almost a tug, and turning round beheld
the room he was in. How long he had been absent from it in thought he
did not know, but the Professor was still standing with folded arms
where he had left him, probably well satisfied with the wonder that his
most secret art had awakened in his guest. It was Morano who touched
his shoulder, unable to hold back any longer his impatience to see the
wars; his eyes as Rodriguez turned round were gazing at his master with
dog-like wistfulness.

The absurd eagerness of Morano, his uncouth touch on his shoulder,
seemed only pathetic to Rodriguez. He looked at the Professor's face,
the nose like a hawk's beak, the small eyes deep down beside it, dark
of hue and dreadfully bright, the silent lips. He stood there uttering
no actual prohibition, concerning which Rodriguez's eyes had sought;
so, stepping aside from his window, Rodriguez beckoned Morano, who at
once ran forward delighted to see those ancient wars.

A slight look of scorn showed faint upon the Professor's face such as
you may see anywhere when a master-craftsman perceives the gaze of the
ignorant turned towards his particular subject. But he said no word,
and soon speech would have been difficult, for the loud clamour of
Morano filled the room: he had seen the wars and his ecstasies were
ungoverned. As soon as he saw those fights he looked for the Infidels,
for his religious mind most loved to see the Infidel slain. And if my
reader discern or suppose some gulf between religion and the recent
business of the Inn of the Dragon and Knight, Morano, if driven to
admit any connection between murder and his daily bread, would have
said, "All the more need then for God's mercy through the intercession
of His most blessed Saints." But these words had never passed Morano's
lips, for shrewd as he was in enquiry into any matter that he desired
to know, his shrewdness was no less in avoiding enquiry where there
might be something that he desired not to know, such as the origin of
his wages as servant of the Inn of the Dragon and Knight, those
delicate gold rings with settings empty of jewels.

Morano soon recognized the Infidel by his dress, and after that no
other wars concerned him. He slapped his thigh, he shouted
encouragement, he howled vile words of abuse, partly because he
believed that this foul abuse was rightly the due of the Infidel, and
partly because he believed it delighted God.

Rodriguez stood and watched, pleased at the huge joy of the simple man.
The Slave of Orion stood watching in silence too, but who knows if he
felt pleasure or any other emotion? Perhaps his mind was simply like
ours; perhaps, as has been claimed by learned men of the best-informed
period, that mind had some control upon the comet, even when farthest
out from the paths we know. Morano turned round for a moment to
Rodriguez:

"Good wars, master, good wars," he said with a vast zest, and at once
his head was back again at that calm blue window. In that flash of the
head Rodriguez had seen his eyes, blue, round and bulging; the round
man was like a boy who in some shop window has seen, unexpected, huge
forbidden sweets. Clearly, in the war he watched things were going well
for the Cross, for such cries came from Morano as "A pretty stroke,"
"There now, the dirty Infidel," "Now see God's power shown," "Spare him
not, good knight; spare him not," and many more, till, uttered faster
and faster, they merged into mere clamorous rejoicing.

But the battles beyond the blue window seemed to move fast, and now a
change was passing across Morano's rejoicings. It was not that he swore
more for the cause of the Cross, but brief, impatient, meaningless
oaths slipped from him now; he was becoming irritable; a puzzled look,
so far as Rodriguez could see, was settling down on his features. For a
while he was silent except for the little, meaningless oaths. Then he
turned round from the glass, his hands stretched out, his face full of
urgent appeal.

"Masters," he said, "God's enemy wins!"

In answer to Morano's pitiful look Rodriguez' hand went to his
sword-hilt; the Slave of Orion merely smiled with his lips; Morano
stood there with his hands still stretched out, his face still all
appeal, and something more for there was reproach in his eyes that men
could tarry while the Cross was in danger and the Infidel lived. He did
not know that it was all finished and over hundreds of years ago, a
page of history upon which many pages were turned, and which lay as
unalterable as the fate of some warm swift creature of early Eocene
days over whose fossil today the strata lie long and silent.

"But can nothing be done, master?" he said when Rodriguez told him
this. And when Rodriguez failed him here, he turned away from the
window. To him the Infidel were game, but to see them defeating
Christian knights violated the deeps of his feelings.

Morano sulky excited little more notice from his host and his master
who had watched his rejoicings, and they seem to have forgotten this
humble champion of Christendom. The Professor slightly bowed to
Rodriguez and extended a graceful hand. He pointed to the other window.

Reader, your friend shows you his collection of stamps, his fossils,
his poems, or his luggage labels. One of them interests you, you look
at it awhile, you are ready to go away: then your friend shows you
another. This also must be seen; for your friend's collection is a
precious thing; it is that point upon huge Earth on which his spirit
has lit, on which it rests, on which it shelters even (who knows from
what storms?). To slight it were to weaken such hold as his spirit has,
in its allotted time, upon this sphere. It were like breaking the twig
of a plant upon which a butterfly rests, and on some stormy day and
late in the year.

Rodriguez felt all this dimly, but no less surely; and went to the
other window.

Below the window were those wars that were soon coming to Spain, hooded
in mist and invisible. In the centre of the window swam as profound a
blue, dwindling to paler splendour at the edge, the wandering lights
were as lovely, as in the other window just to the left; but in the
view from the right-hand window how sombre a difference. A bare yard
separated the two. Through the window to the left was colour, courtesy,
splendour; there was Death at least disguising himself, well cloaked,
taking mincing steps, bowing, wearing a plume in his hat and a decent
mask. In the right-hand window all the colours were fading, war after
war they grew dimmer; and as the colours paled Death's sole purpose
showed clearer. Through the beautiful left-hand window were killings to
be seen, and less mercy than History supposes, yet some of the fighters
were merciful, and mercy was sometimes a part of Death's courtly pose,
which went with the cloak and the plume. But in the other window
through that deep, beautiful blue Rodriguez saw Man make a new ally, an
ally who was only cruel and strong and had no purpose but killing, who
had no pretences or pose, no mask and no manner, but was only the slave
of Death and had no care but for his business. He saw it grow bigger
and stronger. Heart it had none, but he saw its cold steel core
scheming methodical plans and dreaming always destruction. Before it
faded men and their fields and their houses. Rodriguez saw the machine.

Many a proud invention of ours that Rodriguez saw raging on that
ruinous plain he might have anticipated, but not for all Spain would he
have done so: it was for the sake of Spain that he was silent about
much that he saw through that window. As he looked from war to war he
saw almost the same men fighting, men with always the same attitude to
the moment and with similar dim conception of larger, vaguer things;
grandson differed imperceptibly from grandfather; he saw them fight
sometimes mercifully, sometimes murderously, but in all the wars beyond
that twinkling window he saw the machine spare nothing.

Then he looked farther, for the wars that were farthest from him in
time were farther away from the window. He looked farther and saw the
ruins of Peronne. He saw them all alone with their doom at night, all
drenched in white moonlight, sheltering huge darkness in their stricken
hollows. Down the white street, past darkness after darkness as he went
by the gaping rooms that the moon left mourning alone, Rodriguez saw a
captain going back to the wars in that far-future time, who turned his
head a moment as he passed, looking Rodriguez in the face, and so went
on through the ruins to find a floor on which to lie down for the
night. When he was gone the street was all alone with disaster, and
moonlight pouring down, and the black gloom in the houses.

Rodriguez lifted his eyes and glanced from city to city, to Albert,
Bapaume, and Arras, his gaze moved over a plain with its harvest of
desolation lying forlorn and ungathered, lit by the flashing clouds and
the moon and peering rockets. He turned from the window and wept.

The deep round window glowed with serene blue glory. It seemed a
foolish thing to weep by that beautiful glass. Morano tried to comfort
him. That calm, deep blue, he felt, and those little lights, surely,
could hurt no one.

What had Rodriguez seen? Morano asked. But that Rodriguez would not
answer, and told no man ever after what he had seen through that window.

The Professor stood silent still: he had no comfort to offer; indeed
his magical wisdom had found none for the world.

You wonder perhaps why the Professor did not give long ago to the world
some of these marvels that are the pride of our age. Reader, let us put
aside my tale for a moment to answer this. For all the darkness of his
sinister art there may well have been some good in the Slave of Orion;
and any good there was, and mere particle even, would surely have
spared the world many of those inventions that our age has not spared
it. Blame not the age, it is now too late to stop; it is in the grip of
inventions now, and has to go on; we cannot stop content with
mustard-gas; it is the age of Progress, and our motto is Onwards. And
if there was no good in this magical man, then may it not have been he
who in due course, long after he himself was safe from life, caused our
inventions to be so deadly divulged? Some evil spirit has done it, then
why not he?

He stood there silent: let us return to our story.

Perhaps the efforts of poor clumsy Morano to comfort him cheered
Rodriguez and sent him back to the window, perhaps he turned from them
to find comfort of his own; but, however he came by it, he had a hope
that this was a passing curse that had come on the world, whose welfare
he cared for whether he lived or died, and that looking a little
farther into the future he would see Mother Earth smiling and her
children happy again. So he looked through the deep-blue luminous
window once more, beyond the battles we know. From this he turned back
shuddering.

Again he saw the Professor smile with his lips, though whether at his
own weakness, or whether with cynical mirth at the fate of the world,
Rodriguez could not say.



THE FOURTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE CAME TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE SUN


The Professor said that in curiosity alone had been found the seeds of
all that is needful for our damnation. Nevertheless, he said, if
Rodriguez cared to see more of his mighty art the mysteries of
Saragossa were all at his guest's disposal.

Rodriguez, sad and horrified though he was, forgot none of his
courtesy. He thanked the Professor and praised the art of Saragossa,
but his faith in man and his hope for the world having been newly
disappointed, he cared little enough for the things we should care to
see or for any of the amusements that are usually dear to youth.

"I shall be happy to see anything, señor," he said to the Slave of
Orion, "that is further from our poor Earth, and to study therein and
admire your famous art."

The Professor bowed. He drew small curtains over the windows, matching
his cloak. Morano sought a glimpse through the right-hand window before
the curtains covered it. Rodriguez held him back. Enough had been seen
already, he thought, through that window for the peace of mind of the
world: but he said no word to Morano. He held him by the arm, and the
Professor covered the windows. When the little mauve curtains were
drawn it seemed to Rodriguez that the windows behind them disappeared
and were there no more; but this he only guessed from uncertain
indications.

Then the Professor drew forth his wand and went to his cupboard of
wonder. Thence he brought condiments, oils, and dews of amazement.
These he poured into a vessel that was in the midst of the room, a bowl
of agate standing alone on a table. He lit it and it all welled up in
flame, a low broad flame of the colour of pale emerald. Over this he
waved his wand, which was of exceeding blackness. Morano watched as
children watch the dancer, who goes from village to village when spring
is come, with some new dance out of Asia or some new song.[Footnote: He
doesn't, but why shouldn't he?] Rodriguez sat and waited. The Professor
explained that to leave this Earth alive, or even dead, was prohibited
to our bodies, unless to a very few, whose names were hidden. Yet the
spirits of men could by incantation be liberated, and being liberated,
could be directed on journeys by such minds as had that power passed
down to them from of old. Such journeys, he said, were by no means
confined by the hills of Earth. "The Saints," exclaimed Morano, "guard
us utterly!" But Rodriguez smiled a little. His faith was given to the
Saints of Heaven. He wondered at their wonders, he admired their
miracles, he had little faith to spare for other marvels; in fact he
did not believe the Slave of Orion.

"Do you desire such a journey?" said the Professor.

"It will delight me," answered Rodriguez, "to see this example of your
art."

"And you?" he said to Morano.

The question seemed to alarm the placid Morano, but "I follow my
master," he said.

At once the Professor stretched out his ebony wand, calling the green
flame higher. Then he put out his hands over the flame, without the
wand, moving them slowly with constantly tremulous fingers. And all at
once they heard him begin to speak. His deep voice flowed musically
while he scarcely seemed to be speaking but seemed only to be concerned
with moving his hands. It came soft, as though blown faint from
fabulous valleys, illimitably far from the land of Spain. It seemed
full not so much of magic as mere sleep, either sleep in an unknown
country of alien men, or sleep in a land dreamed sleeping a long while
since. As the travellers heard it they thought of things far away, of
mythical journeys and their own earliest years.

They did not know what he said or what language he used. At first
Rodriguez thought Moorish, then he deemed it some secret language come
down from magicians of old, while Morano merely wondered; and then they
were lulled by the rhythm of those strange words, and so enquired no
more. Rodriguez pictured some sad wandering angel, upon some
mountain-peak of African lands, resting a moment and talking to the
solitudes, telling the lonely valley the mysteries of his home. While
lulled though Morano was he gave up his alertness uneasily. All the
while the green flame flooded upwards: all the while the tremulous
fingers made curious shadows. The shadow seemed to run to Rodriguez and
beckon him thence: even Morano felt them calling. Rodriguez closed his
eyes. The voice and the Moorish spells made now a more haunting melody:
they were now like a golden organ on undiscoverable mountains. Fear
came on Morano at the thought: who had power to speak like this? He
grasped Rodriguez by the wrist. "Master!" he said, but at that moment
on one of those golden spells the spirit of Rodriguez drifted away from
his body, and out of the greenish light of the curious room; unhampered
by weight, or fatigue, or pain, or sleep; and it rose above the rocks
and over the mountain, an unencumbered spirit: and the spirit of Morano
followed.

The mountain dwindled at once; the Earth swept out all round them and
grew larger, and larger still, and then began to dwindle. They saw then
that they were launched upon some astounding journey. Does my reader
wonder they saw when they had no eyes? They saw as they had never seen
before, with sight beyond what they had ever thought to be possible.
Our eyes gather in light, and with the little rays of light that they
bring us we gather a few images of things as we suppose them to be.
Pardon me, reader, if I call them things as we suppose them to be; call
them by all means Things As They Really Are, if you wish. These images
then, this tiny little brainful that we gather from the immensities,
are all brought in by our eyesight upside-down, and the brain corrects
them again; and so, and so we know something. An oculist will tell you
how it all works. He may admit it is all a little clumsy, or for the
dignity of his profession he may say it is not at all. But be this as
it may, our eyes are but barriers between us and the immensities. All
our five senses that grope a little here and touch a little there, and
seize, and compare notes, and get a little knowledge sometimes, they
are only barriers between us and what there is to know. Rodriguez and
Morano were outside these barriers. They saw without the imperfections
of eyesight; they heard on that journey what would have deafened ears;
they went through our atmosphere unburned by speed, and were unchilled
in the bleak of the outer spaces. Thus freed of the imperfections of
the body they sped, no less upon a terrible journey, whose direction as
yet Rodriguez only began to fear.

They had seen the stars pale rapidly and then the flash of dawn. The
Sun rushed up and at once began to grow larger. Earth, with her curved
sides still diminishing violently, was soon a small round garden in
blue and filmy space, in which mountains were planted. And still the
Sun was growing wider and wider. And now Rodriguez, though he knew
nothing of Sun or planets, perceived the obvious truth of their
terrible journey: they were heading straight for the Sun. But the
spirit of Morano was merely astounded; yet, being free of the body he
suffered none of those inconveniences that perturbation may bring to
us: spirits do not gasp, or palpitate, or weaken, or sicken.

The dwindling Earth seemed now no more than the size of some unmapped
island seen from a mountain-top, an island a hundred yards or so
across, looking like a big table.

Speed is comparative: compared to sound, their pace was beyond
comparison; nor could any modern projectile attain any velocity
comparable to it; even the speed of explosion was slow to it. And yet
for spirits they were moving slowly, who being independent of all
material things, travel with such velocities as that, for instance, of
thought. But they were controlled by one still dwelling on Earth, who
used material things, and the material that the Professor was using to
hurl them upon their journey was light, the adaptation of which to this
purpose he had learned at Saragossa. At the pace of light they were
travelling towards the Sun.

They crossed the path of Venus, far from where Venus then was, so that
she scarcely seemed larger to them; Earth was but little bigger than
the Evening Star, looking dim in that monstrous daylight.

Crossing the path of Mercury, Mercury appeared huger than our Moon, an
object weirdly unnatural; and they saw ahead of them the terrific glare
in which Mercury basks, from a Sun whose withering orb had more than
doubled its width since they came from the hills of Earth. And after
this the Sun grew terribly larger, filling the centre of the sky, and
spreading and spreading and spreading. It was now that they saw what
would have dazzled eyes, would have burned up flesh and would have
shrivelled every protection that our scientists' ingenuity could have
devised even today. To speak of time there is meaningless. There is
nothing in the empty space between the Sun and Mercury with which time
is at all concerned. Far less is there meaning in time wherever the
spirits of men are under stress. A few minutes' bombardment in a
trench, a few hours in a battle, a few weeks' travelling in a trackless
country; these minutes, these hours, these weeks can never be few.

Rodriguez and Morano had been travelling about six or seven minutes,
but it seems idle to say so.

And then the Sun began to fill the whole sky in front of them. And in
another minute, if minutes had any meaning, they were heading for a
boundless region of flame that, left and right, was everywhere, and now
towered above them, and went below them into a flaming abyss.

And now Morano spoke to Rodriguez. He thought towards him, and
Rodriguez was aware of his thinking: it is thus that spirits
communicate.

"Master," he said, "when it was all spring in Spain, years ago when I
was thin and young, twenty years gone at least; and the butterflies
were come, and song was everywhere; there came a maid bare-footed over
a stream, walking through flowers, and all to pluck the anemones." How
fair she seemed even now, how bright that far spring day. Morano told
Rodriguez not with his blundering lips: they were closed and resting
deeply millions of miles away: he told him as spirits tell. And in that
clear communication Rodriguez saw all that shone in Morano's memory,
the grace of the young girl's ankles, the thrill of Spring, the
anemones larger and brighter than anemones ever were, the hawks still
in clear sky; earth happy and heaven blue, and the dreams of youth
between. You would not have said, had you seen Morano's coarse fat
body, asleep in a chair in the Professor's room, that his spirit
treasured such delicate, nymph-like, pastoral memories as now shone
clear to Rodriguez. No words the blunt man had ever been able to utter
had ever hinted that he sometimes thought like a dream of pictures by
Watteau. And now in that awful space before the power of the terrible
Sun, spirit communed with spirit, and Rodriguez saw the beauty of that
far day, framed all about the beauty of one young girl, just as it had
been for years in Morano's memory. How shall I tell with words what
spirit sang wordless to spirit? We poets may compete with each other in
words; but when spirits give up the purest gold of their store, that
has shone far down the road of their earthly journey, cheering tired
hearts and guiding mortal feet, our words shall barely interpret.

Love, coming long ago over flowers in Spain, found Morano; words did
not tell the story, words cannot tell it; as a lake reflects a cloud in
the blue of heaven, so Rodriguez understood and felt and knew this
memory out of the days of Morano's youth. "And so, master," said
Morano, "I sinned, and would indeed repent, and yet even now at this
last dread hour I cannot abjure that day; and this is indeed Hell, as
the good father said."

Rodriguez tried to comfort Morano with such knowledge as he had of
astronomy, if knowledge it could be called. Indeed, if he had known
anything he would have perplexed Morano more, and his little pieces of
ignorance were well adapted for comfort. But Morano had given up hope,
having long been taught to expect this very fire: his spirit was no
wiser than it had been on Earth, it was merely freed of the
imperfections of the five senses and so had observation and expression
beyond those of any artist the world has known. This was the natural
result of being freed of the body; but he was not suddenly wiser; and
so, as he moved towards this boundless flame, he expected every moment
to see Satan charge out to meet him: and having no hope for the future
he turned to the past and fondled the memory of that one spring day.
His was a backsliding, unrepentant spirit.

As that monstrous sea of flame grew ruthlessly larger Rodriguez felt no
fear, for spirits have no fear of material things: but Morano feared.
He feared as spirits fear spiritual things; he thought he neared the
home of vast spirits of evil and that the arena of conflict was
eternity. He feared with a fear too great to be borne by bodies.
Perhaps the fat body that slept on a chair on earth was troubled in
dreams by some echo of that fear that gripped the spirit so sorely. And
it may be from such far fears that all our nightmares come.

When they had travelled nearly ten minutes from Earth and were about to
pass into the midst of the flame, that magician who controlled their
journey halted them suddenly in Space, among the upper mountain-peaks
of the Sun. There they hovered as the clouds hover that leave their
companions and drift among crags of the Alps: below them those awful
mountains heaved and thundered. All Atlas, and Teneriffe, and lonely
Kenia might have lain amongst them unnoticed. As often as the
earthquake rocked their bases it loosened from near their summits wild
avalanches of gold that swept down their flaming slopes with
unthinkable tumult. As they watched, new mountains rode past them,
crowned with their frightful flames; for, whether man knew it or not,
the Sun was rotating, but the force of its gravity that swung the
planets had no grip upon spirits, who were held by the power of that
tremendous spell that the Professor had learned one midnight at
Saragossa from one of that dread line who have their secrets from a
source that we do not know in a distant age.

There is always something tremendous in the form of great mountains;
but these swept by, not only huger than anything Earth knows, but
troubled by horrible commotions, as though overtaken in flight by some
ceaseless calamity.

Rodriguez and Morano, as they looked at them, forgetting the gardens of
Earth, forgetting Spring and Summer and the sweet beneficence of
sunshine, felt that the purpose of Creation was evil! So shocking a
thought may well astound us here, where green hills slope to lawns or
peer at a peaceful sea; but there among the flames of those dreadful
peaks the Sun seemed not the giver of joy and colour and life, but only
a catastrophe huger than everlasting war, a centre of hideous violence
and ruin and anger and terror. There came by mountains of copper
burning everlasting, hurling up to unthinkable heights their mass of
emerald flame. And mountains of iron raged by and mountains of salt,
quaking and thundering and clothed with their colours, the iron always
scarlet and the salt blue. And sometimes there came by pinnacles a
thousand miles high that from base to summit were fire, mountains of
pure flame that had no other substance. And these explosive mountains,
born of thunder and earthquake, hurling down avalanches the size of our
continents, and drawing upward out of the deeps of the Sun new material
for splendour and horror, this roaring waste, this extravagant
destruction, were necessary for every tint that our butterflies wear on
their wings. Without those flaming ranges of mountains of iron they
would have no red to show; even the poppy could have no red for her
petals: without the flames that were blasting the mountains of salt
there could be no answering blue in any wing, or one blue flower for
all the bees of Earth: without the nightmare light of those frightful
canyons of copper that awed the two spirits watching their ceaseless
ruin, the very leaves of the woods we love would be without their green
with which to welcome Spring; for from the flames of the various metals
and wonders that for ever blaze in the Sun, our sunshine gets all its
colours that it conveys to us almost unseen, and thence the wise little
insects and patient flowers softly draw the gay tints that they glory
in; there is nowhere else to get them.

And yet to Rodriguez and Morano all that they saw seemed wholly and
hideously evil.

How long they may have watched there they tried to guess afterwards,
but as they looked on those terrific scenes they had no way to separate
days from minutes: nothing about them seemed to escape destruction, and
time itself seemed no calmer than were those shuddering mountains.

Then the thundering ranges passed; and afterwards there came a gleaming
mountain, one huge and lonely peak, seemingly all of gold. Had our
whole world been set beside it and shaped as it was shaped, that golden
mountain would yet have towered above it: it would have taken our moon
as well to reach that flashing peak. It rode on toward them in its
golden majesty, higher than all the flames, save now and then when some
wild gas seemed to flee from the dread earthquakes of the Sun, and was
overtaken in the height by fire, even above that mountain.

As that mass of gold that was higher than all the world drew near to
Rodriguez and Morano they felt its unearthly menace; and though it
could not overcome their spirits they knew there was a hideous terror
about it. It was in its awful scale that its terror lurked for any
creature of our planet. Though they could not quake or tremble they
felt that terror. The mountain dwarfed Earth.

Man knows his littleness, his own mountains remind him; many countries
are small, and some nations: but the dreams of Man make up for our
faults and failings, for the brevity of our lives, for the narrowness
of our scope; they leap over boundaries and are away and away. But this
great mountain belittled the world and all: who gazed on it knew all
his dreams to be puny. Before this mountain Man seemed a trivial thing,
and Earth, and all the dreams Man had of himself and his home.

The golden mass drew opposite those two watchers and seemed to
challenge with its towering head the pettiness of the tiny world they
knew. And then the whole gleaming mountain gave one shudder and fell
into the awful plains of the Sun. Straight down before Rodriguez and
Morano it slipped roaring, till the golden peak was gone, and the
molten plain closed over it; and only ripples remained, the size of
Europe, as when a tumbling river strikes the rocks of its bed and on
its surface heaving circles widen and disappear. And then, as though
this horror left nothing more to be shown, they felt the Professor
beckon to them from Earth.

Over the plains of the Sun a storm was sweeping in gusts of howling
flame as they felt the Professor's spell drawing them home. For the
magnitude of that storm there are no words in use among us; its
velocity, if expressed in figures, would have no meaning; its heat was
immeasurable. Suffice it to say that if such a tempest could have swept
over Earth for a second, both the poles would have boiled. The
travellers left it galloping over that plain, rippled from underneath
by the restless earthquake and whipped into flaming foam by the force
of the storm. The Sun already was receding from them, already growing
smaller. Soon the storm seemed but a cloud of light sweeping over the
empty plain, like a murderous mourner rushing swiftly away from the
grave of that mighty mountain.

And now the Professor's spell gripped them in earnest: rapidly the Sun
grew smaller. As swiftly as he had sent them upon that journey he was
now drawing them home. They overtook thunders that they had heard
already, and passed them, and came again to the silent spaces which the
thunders of the Sun are unable to cross, so that even Mercury is
undisturbed by them.

I have said that spirits neither fade nor weary. But a great sadness
was on them; they felt as men feel who come whole away from periods of
peril. They had seen cataclysms too vast for our imagination, and a
mournfulness and a satiety were upon them. They could have gazed at one
flower for days and needed no other experience, as a wounded man may be
happy staring at the flame of a candle.

Crossing the paths of Mercury and Venus, they saw that these planets
had not appreciably moved, and Rodriguez, who knew that planets wander
in the night, guessed thereby that they had not been absent from Earth
for many hours.

They rejoiced to see the Sun diminishing steadily. Only for a moment as
they started their journey had they seen that solar storm rushing over
the plains of the Sun; but now it appeared to hang halted in its mid
anger, as though blasting one region eternally.

Moving on with the pace of light, they saw Earth, soon after crossing
the path of Venus, beginning to grow larger than a star. Never had home
appeared more welcome to wanderers, who see their house far off,
returning home.

And as Earth grew larger, and they began to see forms that seemed like
seas and mountains, they looked for their own country, but could not
find it: for, travelling straight from the Sun, they approached that
part of the world that was then turned towards it, and were heading
straight for China, while Spain lay still in darkness.

But when they came near Earth and its mountains were clear, then the
Professor drew them across the world, into the darkness and over Spain;
so that those two spirits ended their marvellous journey much as the
snipe ends his, a drop out of heaven and a swoop low over marshes. So
they came home, while Earth seemed calling to them with all her voices;
with memories, sights and scents, and little sounds; calling anxiously,
as though they had been too long away and must be home soon. They heard
a cock crow on the edge of the night; they heard more little sounds
than words can say; only the organ can hint at them. It was Earth
calling. For, talk as we may of our dreams that transcend this sphere,
or our hopes that build beyond it, Mother Earth has yet a mighty hold
upon us; and her myriad sounds were blending in one cry now, knowing
that it was late and that these two children of hers were nearly lost.
For our spirits that sometimes cross the path of the angels, and on
rare evenings hear a word of their talk, and have brief equality with
the Powers of Light, have the duty also of moving fingers and toes,
which freeze if our proud spirits forget their task for too long.

And just as Earth was despairing they reached the Professor's mountain
and entered the room in which their bodies were.

Blue and cold and ugly looked the body of Morano, but for all its
pallor there was beauty in the young face of Rodriguez.

The Professor stood before them as he had stood when their spirits
left, with the table between him and the bodies, and the bowl on the
table which held the green flame, now low and flickering desperately,
which the Professor watched as it leaped and failed, with an air of
anxiety that seemed to pinch his thin features.

With an impatience strange to him he waved a swift hand towards each of
the two bodies where they sat stiff, illumined by the last of the green
light; and at those rapid gestures the travellers returned to their
habitations.

They seemed to be just awakening out of deep sleep. Again they saw the
Professor standing before them. But they saw him only with blinking
eyes, they saw him only as eyes can see, guessing at his mind from the
lines of his face, at his thoughts from the movements of his hands,
guessing as men guess, blindly: only a moment before they had known him
utterly. Now they were dazed and forgetting: slow blood began to creep
again to their toes and to come again to its place under fingernails:
it came with intense pain: they forgot their spirits. Then all the woes
of Earth crowded their minds at once, so that they wished to weep, as
infants weep.

The Professor gave this mood time to change, as change it presently
did. For the warm blood came back and lit their cheeks, and a tingling
succeeded the pain in their fingers and toes, and a mild warmth
succeeded the tingling: their thoughts came back to the things of every
day, to mundane things and the affairs of the body. Therein they
rejoiced, and Morano no less than Rodriguez; though it was a coarse and
common body that Morano's spirit inhabited. And when the Professor saw
that the first sorrow of Earth, which all spirits feel when they land
here, had passed away, and that they were feeling again the joy of
mundane things, only then did he speak.

"Señor," he said, "beyond the path of Mars run many worlds that I would
have you know. The greatest of these is Jupiter, towards whom all that
follow my most sacred art show reverent affection. The smallest are
those that sometimes strike our world, flaming all green upon November
nights, and are even as small as apples." He spoke of our world with a
certain air and a pride, as though, through virtue of his transcendent
art, the world were only his. "The world that we name Argola," he said,
"is far smaller than Spain and, being invisible from Earth, is only
known to the few who have spoken to spirits whose wanderings have
surpassed the path of Mars. Nearly half of Argola you shall find
covered with forests, which though very dense are no deeper than moss,
and the elephants in them are not larger than beetles. You shall see
many wonders of smallness in this world of Argola, which I desire in
especial to show you, since it is the orb with which we who study the
Art are most familiar, of all the worlds that the vulgar have not
known. It is indeed the prize of our traffic in those things that far
transcend the laws that have forbidden them."

And as he said this the green flame in the bowl before him died, and he
moved towards his cupboard of wonder. Rodriguez hastily thanked the
Professor for his great courtesy in laying bare before him secrets that
the centuries hid, and then he referred to his own great unworthiness,
to the lateness of the hour, to the fatigue of the Professor, and to
the importance to Learning of adequate rest to refresh his illustrious
mind. And all that he said the Professor parried with bows, and drew
enchantments from his cupboard of wonder to replenish the bowl on the
table. And Rodriguez saw that he was in the clutch of a collector, one
who having devoted all his days to a hobby will exhibit his treasures
to the uttermost, and that the stars that magic knows were no less to
the Professor than all the whatnots that a man collects and insists on
showing to whomsoever enters his house. He feared some terrible
journey, perhaps some bare escape; for though no material thing can
quite encompass a spirit, he knew not what wanderers he might not meet
in lonely spaces beyond the path of Mars. So when his last polite
remonstrance failed, being turned aside with a pleasant phrase and a
smile from the grim lips, and looking at Morano he saw that he shared
his fears, then he determined to show whatever resistance were needed
to keep himself and Morano in this old world that we know, or that
youth at least believes that it knows.

He watched the Professor return with his packets of wonder; dust from a
fallen star, phials of tears of lost lovers, poison and gold out of
elf-land, and all manner of things. But the moment that he put them
into the bowl Rodriguez' hand flew to his sword-hilt. He heaved up his
elbow, but no sword came forth, for it lay magnetised to its scabbard
by the grip of a current of magic. When Rodriguez saw this he knew not
what to do.

The Professor went on pouring into the bowl. He added an odour
distilled out of dream-roses, three drops from the gall-bladder of a
fabulous beast, and a little dust that had been man. More too he added,
so that my reader might wonder were I to tell him all; yet it is not so
easy to free our spirits from the gross grip of our bodies. Wonder not
then, my reader, if the Professor exerted strange powers. And all the
while Morano was picking at a nail that fastened on the handle to his
frying-pan.

And just as the last few mysteries were shaken into the bowl,--and
there were two among them of which even Asia is ignorant,--just as the
dews were blended with the powers in a grey-green sinister harmony,
Morano untwisted his nail and got the handle loose.

The Professor kindled the mixture in the bowl; again green flame arose,
again that voice of his began to call to their spirits, and its beauty
and the power of its spell were as of some fallen angel. The spirit of
Rodriguez was nearly passing helplessly forth again on some frightful
journey, when Morano losed his scabbard and sword from its girdle and
tied the handle of his frying-pan across it a little below the hilt
with a piece of string. Across the table the Professor intoned his
spell, across a narrow table, but it seemed to come from the far side
of the twilight, a twilight red and golden in long layers, of an
evening wonderfully long ago. It seemed to take its music out of the
lights that it flowed through and to call Rodriguez from immediately
far away, with a call which it were sacrilege to refuse, and anguish
even, and hard toil such as there was no strength to do. And then
Morano held up the sword in its scabbard with the handle of the
frying-pan tied across. Rodriguez, disturbed by a stammer in the spell,
looked up and saw the Professor staring at the sword where Morano held
it up before his face in the green light of the flame from the bowl. He
did not seem like a fallen angel now. His spell had stopped. He seemed
like a professor who had forgotten the theme of his lecture, while the
class waits. For Morano was holding up the sign of the cross.

"You have betrayed me!" shouted the Slave of Orion: the green flame
died, and he strode out of the room, his purple cloak floating behind
him.

"Master," Morano said, "it was always good against magic."

The sword was loose in the scabbard as Rodriguez took it back; there
was no longer a current of magic gripping the steel.

A little uneasily Rodriguez thanked Morano: he was not sure if Morano
had behaved as a guest's servant should. But when he thought of the
Professor's terrible spells, which had driven them to the awful crags
of the sun, and might send them who knows where to hob-nob with who
knows what, his second thoughts perceived that Morano was right to cut
short those arts that the Slave of Orion loved, even by so extreme a
step: and he praised Morano as his ready shrewdness deserved.

"We were very nearly too late back from that outing, master," remarked
Morano.

"How know you that?" said Rodriguez.

"This old body knew," said Morano. "Those heart-thumpings, this
warmness, and all the things that make a fat body comfortable, they
were stopping, master, they were spoiling, they were getting cold and
strange: I go no more errands for that señor."

A certain diffidence about criticising his host even now; and a very
practical vein that ran through his nature, now showing itself in
anxiety for a bed at so late an hour, led Rodriguez to change the
subject. He wanted that aged butler, yet dare not ring the bell; for he
feared lest with all the bells there might be in use that frightful
practice that he had met by the outer door, a chain connected with some
hideous hook that gave anguish to something in the basement whenever
one touched the handle, so that the menials of that grim Professor were
shrilly summoned by screams. And therefore Rodriguez sought counsel of
Morano, who straightway volunteered to find the butler's quarters, by a
certain sense that he had of the fitness of things: and forth he went,
but would not leave the room without the scabbard and the handle of the
frying-pan lashed to it, which he bore high before him in both his
hands as though he were leading some austere procession. And even so he
returned with that aged man the butler, who led them down dim corridors
of stone; but, though he showed the way, Morano would go in front,
still holding up that scabbard and handle before him, while Rodriguez
held the bare sword. And so they came to a room lit by the flare of one
candle, which their guide told them the Professor had prepared for his
guest. In the vastness of it was a great bed. Shadows and a whir as of
wings passed out of the door as they entered. "Bats," said the ancient
guide. But Morano believed he had routed powers of evil with the handle
of his frying-pan and his master's scabbard. Who could say what they
were in such a house, where bats and evil spirits sheltered perennially
from the brooms of the just? Then that ancient man with the lips of
some woodland thing departed, and Rodriguez went to the great bed. On a
pile of straw that had been cast into the room Morano lay down across
the door, setting the scabbard upright in a rat-hole near his head,
while Rodriguez lay down with the bare sword in his hand. There was
only one door in the room, and this Morano guarded. Windows there were,
but they were shuttered with raw oak of enormous thickness. He had
already enquired with his sword behind the velvet curtains. He felt
secure in the bulk of Morano across the only door, at least from
creatures of this world: and Morano feared no longer either spirit or
spell, believing that he had vanquished the Professor with his symbol,
and all such allies as he may have had here or elsewhere. But not thus
easily do we overcome the powers of evil.

A step was heard such as man walks with at the close of his later
years, coming along the corridor of stone; and they knew it for the
Professor's butler returning. The latch of the door trembled and
lifted, and the great oak door bumped slowly against Morano, who arose
grumbling, and the old man appeared.

"The Professor," he said, while Morano watched him grudgingly, "returns
with all his household to Saragossa at once, to resume those studies
for which his name resounds, a certain conjunction of the stars having
come favourably."

Even Morano doubted that so suddenly the courses of the stars, which he
deemed to be gradual, should have altered from antagonism towards the
Professor's art into a favourable aspect. Rodriguez sleepily
acknowledged the news and settled himself to sleep, still sword in
hand, when the servitor repeated with as much emphasis as his aged
voice could utter, "With all his household, señor."

"Yes," muttered Rodriguez. "Farewell."

And repeating again, "He takes his household with him," the old man
shuffled back from the room and hesitatingly closed the door. Before
the sound of his slow footsteps had failed to reach the room Morano was
asleep under his cross. Rodriguez still watched for a while the shadows
leaping and shuddering away from the candle, riding over the ceiling,
striding hugely along the walls, towards him and from him, as draughts
swayed the ruddy flame; then, gripping his sword still firmer in his
hand, as though that could avail against magic, he fell into the sleep
of tired men.

No sound disturbed Rodriguez or Morano till both awoke in late morning
upon the rocks of the mountain. The sun had climbed over the crags and
now shone on their faces. Rodriguez was still lying with his sword
gripped in his hand, but the cross had fallen by Morano and now lay on
the rocks beside him with the handle of the frying-pan still tied in
its place by string. A young, wild, woodland squirrel gambolled near,
though there were no woods for it anywhere within sight: it leaped and
played as though rejoicing in youth, with such merriment as though
youth had but come to it newly or been lost and restored again.

All over the mountain they looked but there was no house, nor any sign
of dwelling of man or spirit.



THE FIFTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE RODE IN THE TWILIGHT AND SAW SERAFINA


Rodriguez, who loved philosophy, turned his mind at once to the journey
that lay before him, deciding which was the north; for he knew that it
was by the north that he must leave Spain, which he still desired to
leave since there were no wars in that country.

Morano knew not clearly what philosophy was, yet he wasted no thoughts
upon the night that was gone; and, fitting up his frying-pan
immediately, he brought out what was left of his bacon and began to
look for material to make a fire. The bacon lay waiting in the
frying-pan for some while before this material was gathered, for
nothing grew on the mountain but a heath; and of that there were few
bushes, scattered here and there.

Rodriguez, far from ruminating upon the events of the previous night,
realised as he watched these preparations that he was enormously
hungry. And when Morano had kindled a fire and the smell of cooking
arose, he who had held the chair of magic at Saragossa was banished
from both their minds, although upon this very spot they had spent so
strange a night; but where bacon is, and there be hungry men, the
things of yesterday are often forgotten.

"Morano," said Rodriguez, "we must walk far to-day."

"Indeed, master," said Morano, "we must push on to these wars; for you
have no castle, master, no lands, no fortune ..."

"Come," said Rodriguez.

Morano slung his frying-pan behind him: they had eaten up the last of
his bacon: he stood up, and they were ready for the journey. The smoke
from their meagre fire went thinly into the air, the small grey clouds
of it went slowly up: nothing beside remained to bid them farewell, or
for them to thank for their strange night's hospitality. They climbed
till they reached the rugged crest of the mountain; thence they saw a
wide plain and the morning: the day was waiting for them.

The northern slope of the mountain was wholly different from that black
congregation of angry rocks through which they had climbed by night to
the House of Wonder.

The slope that now lay before them was smooth and grassy, flowing
before them far, a gentle slope that was soon to lend speed to
Rodriguez' feet, adding nimbleness even to youth. Soon, too, it was to
lift onward the dull weight of Morano as he followed his master towards
unknown wars, youth going before him like a spirit and the good slope
helping behind. But before they gave themselves to that waiting journey
they stood a moment and looked at the shining plain that lay before
them like an open page, on which was the whole chronicle of that day's
wayfaring. There was the road they should travel by, there were the
streams it crossed and narrow woods they might rest in, and dim on the
farthest edge was the place they must spend that night. It was all, as
it were written, upon the plain they watched, but in a writing not
intended for them, and, clear although it be, never to be interpreted
by one of our race. Thus they saw clear, from a height, the road they
would go by, but not one of all the events to which it would lead them.

"Master," said Morano, "shall we have more adventures to-day?"

"I trust so," said Rodriguez. "We have far to go, and it will be dull
journeying without them."

Morano turned his eyes from his master's face and looked back to the
plain. "There, master," he said, "where our road runs through a wood,
will our adventure be there, think you? Or there, perhaps," and he
waved his hand widely farther.

"No," said Rodriguez, "we pass that in bright daylight."

"Is that not good for adventure?" said Morano.

"The romances teach," said Rodriguez, "that twilight or night are
better. The shade of deep woods is favourable, but there are no such
woods on this plain. When we come to evening we shall doubtless meet
some adventure, far over there." And he pointed to the grey rim of the
plain where it started climbing towards hills.

"These are good days," said Morano. He forgot how short a time ago he
had said regretfully that these days were not as the old days. But our
race, speaking generally, is rarely satisfied with the present, and
Morano's cheerfulness had not come from his having risen suddenly
superior to this everyday trouble of ours; it came from his having
shifted his gaze to the future. Two things are highly tolerable to us,
and even alluring, the past and the future. It was only with the
present that Morano was ever dissatisfied.

When Morano said that the days were good Rodriguez set out to find
them, or at least that one that for some while now lay waiting for them
on the plain. He strode down the slope at once and, endowing nature
with his own impatience, he felt that he heard the morning call to him
wistfully. Morano followed.

For an hour these refugees escaping from peace went down the slope; and
in that hour they did five swift miles, miles that seemed to run by
them as they walked, and so they came lightly to the level plain. And
in the next hour they did four miles more. Words were few, either
because Morano brooded mainly upon one thought, the theme of which was
his lack of bacon, or because he kept his breath to follow his master
who, with youth and the morning, was coming out of the hills at a pace
not tuned to Morano's forty years or so. And at the end of these nine
miles Morano perceived a house, a little way from the road, on the
left, upon rising ground. A mile or so ahead they saw the narrow wood
that they had viewed in the morning from the mountain running across
the plain. They saw now by the lie of the ground that it probably
followed a stream, a pleasant place in which to take the rest demanded
by Spain at noon. It was just an hour to noon; so Rodriguez, keeping
the road, told Morano to join him where it entered the wood when he had
acquired his bacon. And then as they parted a thought occurred to
Rodriguez, which was that bacon cost money. It was purely an
afterthought, an accidental fancy, such as inspirations are, for he had
never had to buy bacon. So he gave Morano a fifth part of his money, a
large gold coin the size of one of our five-shilling pieces, engraved
of course upon one side with the glories and honours of that golden
period of Spain, and upon the other with the head of the lord the King.
It was only by chance he had brought any at all; he was not what our
newspapers will call, if they ever care to notice him, a level-headed
business man. At the sight of the gold piece Morano bowed, for he felt
this gift of gold to be an occasion; but he trusted more for the
purchase of the bacon to some few small silver coins of his own that he
kept among lumps of lard and pieces of string.

And so they parted for a while, Rodriguez looking for some great
shadowy oak with moss under it near a stream, Morano in quest of bacon.

When Rodriguez entered the wood he found his oak, but it was not such
an oak as he cared to rest beneath during the heat of the day, nor
would you have done so, my reader, even though you have been to the
wars and seen many a pretty mess; for four of la Garda were by it and
were arranging to hang a man from the best of the branches.

"La Garda again," said Rodriguez nearly aloud.

His eye drooped, his look was listless, he gazed at other things; while
a glance that you had not noticed, flashed slantingly at la Garda,
satisfied Rodriguez that all four were strangers: then he walked
straight towards them merrily. The man they proposed to hang was a
stranger too. He appeared at first to be as stout as Morano, and he was
nearly half a foot taller, but his stoutness turned out to be sheer
muscle. The broad man was clothed in old brown leather and had blue
eyes.

Now there was something about the poise of Rodriguez' young head which
gave him an air not unlike that which the King himself sometimes wore
when he went courting. It suited his noble sword and his merry plume.
When la Garda saw him they were all politeness at once, and invited him
to see the hanging, for which Rodriguez thanked them with amplest
courtesy.

"It is not a bull-fight," said the chief of la Garda almost
apologetically. But Rodriguez waved aside his deprecations and declared
himself charmed at the prospect of a hanging.

Bear with me, reader, while I champion a bad cause and seek to palliate
what is inexcusable. As we travel about the world on our way through
life we meet and pass here and there, in peace or in war, other men,
fellow-travellers: and sometimes there is no more than time for a
glance, eye to eye. And in that glance you see the sort of man: and
chiefly there are two sorts. The one sort always brooding, always
planning; mean, silent men, collecting properties and money; keeping
the law on their side, keeping everything on their side; except women
and heaven, and the late, leisurely judgment of simple people: and the
others merry folk, whose eyes twinkle, whose money flies, who will
sooner laugh than plan, who seem to inherit rightfully the happiness
that the others plot for, and fail to come by with all their schemes.
In the man who was to provide the entertainment Rodriguez recognised
the second kind.

Now even though the law had caught a saint that had strayed too far
outside the boundary of Heaven, and desired to hang him, Rodriguez knew
that it was his duty to help the law while help was needed, and to
applaud after the thing was done. The law to Rodriguez was the most
sacred thing man had made, if indeed it were not divine; but since the
privilege that two days ago had afforded him of studying it more
closely, it appeared to him the blindest, silliest thing with which he
had had to do since the kittens were drowned that his cat Tabitharina
had had at Arguento Harez.

It was in this deplorable state of mind that Rodriguez' glance fell on
the merry eyes and the solemn predicament of the man in the leather
coat, standing pinioned under a long branch of the oak-tree: and he
determined from that moment to disappoint la Garda and, I fear also, my
reader, perhaps to disappoint you, of the hanging that they at least
had promised themselves.

"Think you," said Rodriguez, "that for so stout a knave this branch of
yours suffices?"

Now it was an excellent branch. But it was not so much Rodriguez' words
as the anxious way in which he looked at the branch that aroused the
anxieties of la Garda: and soon they were looking about to find a
better tree; and when four men start doing this in a wood time quickly
passes. Meanwhile Morano drew near, and Rodriguez went to meet him.

"Master," said Morano, all out of breath, "they had no bacon. But I got
these two bottles of wine. It is strong wine, which is a rare deluder
of the senses, which will need to be deluded if we are to go hungry."

Rodriguez was about to cut short Morano's chatter when he thought of a
use for the wine, and was silent a moment. And as he pondered Morano
looked up and saw la Garda and at the same time perceived the
situation, for he had as quick an eye for a bad business as any man.

"No one with the horses," was his comment; for they were tethered a
little apart. But Rodriguez' mind had already explored a surer method
than the one that Morano seemed to be contemplating. This method he
told Morano. And now, from little tugs that they were giving to the
doubled rope that hung over the branch of the oak-tree, it was clear
enough that the men of the law were returning to their confidence in
that very sufficient branch.

They looked up with questions ripe to drop from their lips when they
saw Rodriguez returning with Morano. But before one of them spoke
Morano flung to them from far off a little piece of his wisdom: for
cast a truth into an occasion and it will always trouble the waters,
usually stirring up contradiction, but always bringing something to the
surface.

"Señores," he said, "no man can enjoy a hanging with a dry throat."

Thus he turned their attention a while from the business in hand,
changing their thoughts from the stout neck of the prisoner to their
own throats, wondering were they dry; and you do not wonder long about
this in the south without finding that what you feared is true. And
then he let them see the two great bottles, all full of wine, for the
invention of the false bottom that gives to our champagne-bottles the
place they rightly hold among famous deceptions had not as yet been
discovered.

"It is true," said la Garda. And Rodriguez made Morano put one of the
bottles away in a piece of a sack that he carried: and when la Garda
saw one of the two bottles disappear it somehow decided them to have
the other, though how this came to be so there is no saying; and thus
the hanging was postponed again.

Now the drink was a yellow wine, sweet and heavy and stronger than our
port; only our whisky could out-triumph it, but there in the warm south
it answered its purpose. Rodriguez beckoned Morano up and offered the
bottle to one of la Garda; but scarcely had he put it to his lips when
Rodriguez bade him stop, saying that he had had his share. And he did
the same with the next man.

Now there be few things indeed which la Garda resent more than meagre
hospitality in the matter of drink, and with all their wits striving to
cope with this vicious defect in Rodriguez, as they rightly or wrongly
regarded it, how should they have any to spare for obvious precautions?
As the third man drank, Rodriguez turned to speak to Morano; and the
representative of the law took such advantage of an opportunity that he
feared to be fleeting, that when Rodriguez turned round again the
bottle was just half empty. Rodriguez had timed it very nicely.

Next Rodriguez put the bottle to his lips and held it there a little
time, while the fourth man of the law, who was guarding the prisoner,
watched Rodriguez wistfully, and afterwards Morano, who took the bottle
next. Yet neither Rodriguez nor Morano drank.

"You can finish the bottle," said Rodriguez to this anxious watcher,
who came forward eagerly though full of doubts, which changed to warm
feelings of exuberant gratitude when he found how much remained. Thus
he obtained not much less than two tumblerfuls of wine that, as I have
said, was stronger than port; and noon was nearing and it was spring in
Spain. And then he returned to guard his prisoner under the oak-tree
and lay down there on the moss, remembering that it was his duty to
keep awake. And afterwards with one hand he took hold of a rope that
bound the prisoner's ankles, so that he might still guard his prisoner
even though he should fall asleep.

Now two of the men had had little more than the full of a sherry glass
each. To these Morano made signs that there was another bottle, and,
coming round behind his master, he covertly uncorked it and gave them
their heart's desire; and a little was left over for the man who drank
third on the first occasion. And presently the spirits of all four of
la Garda grew haughty and forgot their humble bodies, and would fain
have gone forth to dwell with the sons of light, while their bodies lay
on the moss and the sun grew warmer and warmer, shining dappled in
amongst the small green leaves. All seemed still but for the winged
insects flashing through shafts of the sunlight out of the gloom of the
trees and disappearing again like infinitesimal meteors. But our
concern is with the thoughts of man, of which deeds are but the
shadows: wherever these are active it is wrong to say all is still; for
whether they cast their shadows, which are actions, or whether they
remain a force not visibly stirring matter, they are the source of the
tales we write and the lives we lead; it is they that gave History her
material and they that bade her work it up into books.

And thoughts were very active about that oak-tree. For while the
thoughts of la Garda arose like dawn, and disappeared into mists, their
prisoner was silently living through the sunny days of his life, which
are at no time quite lost to us, and which flash vivid and bright and
near when memory touches them, herself awakened by the nearness of
death. He lived again days far from the day that had brought him where
he stood. He drew from those days (that is to say) that delight, that
essence of hours, that something which we call life. The sun, the wind,
the rough sand, the splash of the sea, on the star-fish, and all the
things that it feels during its span, are stored in something like its
memory, and are what we call its life: it is the same with all of us.
Life is feeling. The prisoner from the store of his memory was taking
all he had. His head was lifted, he was gazing northwards, far further
than his eyes could see, to shining spaces in great woods; and there
his threatened being walked in youth, with steps such as spirits take,
over immortal flowers, which were dim and faint but unfading because
they lived on in memory. In memory he walked with some who were now far
from his footsteps. And, seen through the gloaming of that perilous
day, how bright did those far days appear! Did they not seem sunnier
than they really were? No, reader; for all the radiance that glittered
so late in his mind was drawn from those very days; it was their own
brightness that was shining now: we are not done with the days that
were as soon as their sunsets have faded, but a light remains from them
and grows fairer and fairer, like an afterglow lingering among
tremendous peaks above immeasurable slopes of snow.

The prisoner had scarcely noticed Rodriguez or his servant, any more
than he noticed his captors; for there come an intensity to those who
walk near death that makes them a little alien from other men, life
flaring up in them at the last into so grand a flame that the lives of
the others seem a little cold and dim where they dwell remote from that
sunset that we call mortality. So he looked silently at the days that
were as they came dancing back again to him from where they had long
lain lost in chasms of time, to which they had slipped over dark edges
of years. Smiling they came, but all wistfully anxious, as though their
errand were paramount and their span short: he saw them cluster about
him, running now, bringing their tiny gifts, and scarcely heard the
heavy sigh of his guard as Rodriguez gagged him and Morano tied him up.

Had Rodriguez now released the prisoner they could have been three to
three, in the event of things going wrong with the sleep of la Garda;
but, since in the same time they could gag and bind another, the odds
would be the same at two to two, and Rodriguez preferred this to the
slight uncertainties that would be connected with the entry of another
partner. They accordingly gagged the next man and bound his wrists and
ankles. And that Spanish wine held good with the other two and bound
them far down among the deeps of dreams: and so it should, for it was
of a vine that grew in the vales of Spain and had ripened in one of the
years of the golden age.

They bound one as easily as they had bound the other two; and the last
Rodriguez watched while Morano cut the ropes off the prisoner, for he
had run out of bits of twine and all other improvisations. With these
ropes he ran back to his master, and they tied up the last prisoner but
did not gag him.

"Shall we gag him, master, like the rest?" said Morano.

"No," said Rodriguez. "He has nothing to say."

And though this remark turned out to be strictly untrue, it well enough
answered its purpose.

And then they saw standing before them the man they had freed. And he
bowed to Rodriguez like one that had never bowed before. I do not mean
that he bowed with awkwardness, like imitative men unused to
politeness, but he bowed as the oak bows to the woodman; he stood
straight, looking Rodriguez in the eyes, then he bowed as though he had
let his spirit break, which allowed him to bow to never a man before.
Thus, if my pen has been able dimly to tell of it, thus bowed the man
in the old leathern jacket. And Rodriguez bowed to him in answer with
the elegance that they that had dwelt at Arguento Harez had slowly
drawn from the ages.

"Señor, your name," said the stranger.

"Lord of Arguento Harez," said Rodriguez.

"Señor," he said, "being a busy man, I have seldom time to pray. And
the blessed Saints, being more busy than I, I think seldom hear my
prayers: yet your name shall go up to them. I will often tell it them
quietly in the forest, and not on their holy days when bells are
ringing and loud prayers fill Heaven. It may be ..."

"Señor," Rodriguez said, "I profoundly thank you."

Even in these days, when bullets are often thicker than prayers, we are
not quite thankless for the prayers of others: in those days they were
what "closing quotations" are on the Stock Exchange, ink in Fleet
Street, machinery in the Midlands; common but valued; and Rodriguez'
thanks were sincere.

And now that the curses of the ungagged one of la Garda were growing
monotonous, Rodriguez turned to Morano.

"Ungag the rest," he said, "and let them talk to each other."

"Master," Morano muttered, feeling that there was enough noise already
for a small wood, but he went and did as he was ordered. And Rodriguez
was justified of his humane decision, for the pent thoughts of all
three found expression together and, all four now talking at once,
mitigated any bitterness there may have been in those solitary curses.
And now Rodriguez could talk undisturbed.

"Whither?" said the stranger.

"To the wars," said Rodriguez, "if wars there be."

"Aye," said the stranger, "there be always wars somewhere. By which
road go you?"

"North," said Rodriguez, and he pointed. The stranger turned his eyes
to the way Rodriguez pointed.

"That brings you to the forest," he said, "unless you go far around, as
many do."

"What forest?" said Rodriguez.

"The great forest named Shadow Valley," said the stranger.

"How far?" said Rodriguez.

"Forty miles," said the stranger.

Rodriguez looked at la Garda and then at their horses, and thought. He
must be far from la Garda by nightfall.

"It is not easy to pass through Shadow Valley," said the stranger.

"Is it not?" said Rodriguez.

"Have you a gold great piece?" the stranger said.

Rodriguez held out one of his remaining four: the stranger took it. And
then he began to rub it on a stone, and continued to rub while
Rodriguez watched in silence, until the image of the lord the King was
gone and the face of the coin was scratchy and shiny and flat. And then
he produced from a pocket or pouch in his jacket a graving tool with a
round wooden handle, which he took in the palm of his hand, and the
edge of the steel came out between his forefinger and thumb: and with
this he cut at the coin. And Morano rejoined them from his merciful
mission and stood and wondered at the cutting. And while he cut they
talked.

They did not ask him how he came to be chosen for hanging, because in
every country there are about a hundred individualists, varying to
perhaps half a hundred in poor ages. They go their hundred ways, or
their half-dozen ways; and there is a hundred and first way, or a
seventh way, which is the way that is cut for the rest: and if some of
the rest catch one of the hundred, or one of the six, they naturally
hang him, if they have a rope, and if hanging is the custom of the
country, for different countries use different methods. And you saw by
this man's eyes that he was one of the hundred. Rodriguez therefore
only sought to know how he came to be caught.

"La Garda found you, señor?" he said.

"As you see," said the stranger. "I came too far from my home."

"You were travelling?" said Rodriguez.

"Shopping," he said.

At this word Morano's interest awakened wide. "Señor," he said, "what
is the right price for a bottle of this wine that la Garda drink?"

"I know not," said the man in the brown jacket; "they give me these
things."

"Where is your home, señor?" Rodriguez asked.

"It is Shadow Valley," he said.

One never saw Rodriguez fail to understand anything: if he could not
clear a situation up he did not struggle with it. Morano rubbed his
chin: he had heard of Shadow Valley only dimly, for all the travellers
he had known out of the north had gone round it. Rodriguez and Morano
bent their heads and watched a design that was growing out of the gold.
And as the design grew under the hand of the strange worker he began to
talk of the horses. He spoke as though his plans had been clearly
established by edict, and as though no others could be.

"When I have gone with two horses," he said, "ride hard with the other
two till you reach the village named Lowlight, and take them to the
forge of Fernandez the smith, where one will shoe them who is not
Fernandez."

And he waved his hand northwards. There was only one road. Then all his
attention fell back again to his work on the gold coin; and when those
blue eyes were turned away there seemed nothing left to question. And
now Rodriguez saw the design was a crown, a plain gold circlet with oak
leaves rising up from it. And this woodland emblem stood up out of the
gold, for the worker had hollowed the coin away all around it, and was
sloping it up to the edge. Little was said by the watchers in the
wonder of seeing the work, for no craft is very far from the line
beyond which is magic, and the man in the leather coat was clearly a
craftsman: and he said nothing for he worked at a craft. And when the
arboreal crown was finished, and its edges were straight and sharp, an
hour had passed since he began near noon. Then he drilled a hole near
the rim and, drawing a thin green ribbon from his pocket, he passed it
through the hole and, rising, he suddenly hung it round Rodriguez' neck.

"Wear it thus," he said, "while you go through Shadow Valley."

As he said this he stepped back among the trees, and Rodriguez followed
to thank him. Not finding him behind the tree where he thought to find
him, he walked round several others, and Morano joined his search; but
the stranger had vanished. When they returned again to the little
clearing they heard sounds of movement in the wood, and a little way
off where the four horses had grazed there were now only two, which
were standing there with their heads up.

"We must ride, Morano," said Rodriguez.

"Ride, master?" said Morano dolefully.

"If we walk away," said Rodriguez, "they will walk after us."

"They" meant la Garda. It was unnecessary for him to tell Morano what I
thus tell the reader, for in the wood it was hard to hear anyone else,
while to think of anyone else was out of the question.

"What shall I do to them, master?" said Morano.

They were now standing close to their captives and this simple question
calmed the four men's curses, all of a sudden, like shutting the door
on a storm.

"Leave them," Rodriguez said. And la Garda's spirits rose and they
cursed again.

"Ah. To die in the wood," said Morano. "No," said Rodriguez; and he
walked towards the horses. And something in that "No" sounding almost
contemptuous, Morano's feelings were hurt, and he blurted out to his
master "But how can they get away to get their food? It is good knots
that I tie, master."

"Morano," Rodriguez said, "I remember ten ways in the books of romance
whereby bound men untie themselves; and doubtless one or two more I
have read and forgot; and there may be other ways in the books that I
have not read, besides any way that there be of which no books tell.
And in addition to these ways, one of them may draw a comrade's sword
with his teeth and thus ..."

"Shall I pull out their teeth?" said Morano.

"Ride," said Rodriguez, for they were now come to the horses. And
sorrowfully Morano looked at the horse that was to be his, as a man
might look at a small, uncomfortable boat that is to carry him far upon
a stormy day. And then Rodriguez helped him into the saddle.

"Can you stay there?" Rodriguez said. "We have far to go."

"Master," Morano answered, "these hands can hold till evening."

And then Rodriguez mounted, leaving Morano gripping the high front of
the saddle with his large brown hands. But as soon as the horses
started he got a grip with his heels as well, and later on with his
knees. Rodriguez led the way on to the straggling road and was soon
galloping northwards, while Morano's heels kept his horse up close to
his master's. Morano rode as though trained in the same school that
some while later taught Macaulay's equestrian, who rode with "loose
rein and bloody spur." Yet the miles went swiftly by as they galloped
on soft white dust, which lifted and settled, some of it, back on the
lazy road, while some of it was breathed by Morano. The gold coin on
the green silk ribbon flapped up and down as Rodriguez rode, till he
stuffed it inside his clothing and remembered no more about it. Once
they saw before them the man they had snatched from the noose: he was
going hard and leading a loose horse. And then where the road bent
round a low hill he galloped out of sight and they saw him no more. He
had the loose horse to change on to as soon as the other was tired:
they had no prospect of overtaking him. And so he passed out of their
minds as their host had done who went away with his household to
Saragossa.

At first Rodriguez' mandolin, that was always slung on his back, bumped
up and down uncomfortably; but he eased it by altering the strap: small
things like this bring contentment. And then he settled down to ride.
But no contentment came near Morano nor did he look for it. On the
first day of his wanderings he had worn his master's clothes, which has
been an experience standing somewhat where toothache does, which is
somewhere about half-way between discomfort and agony. On the second
day he had climbed at the end of a weary journey over those sharp rocks
whose shape was adapted so ill to his body. On the third day he was
riding. He did not look for comfort. But he met discomfort with an easy
resignation that almost defeated the intention of Satan who sends it,
unless--as is very likely--it be from Heaven. And in spite of all
discomforts he gaily followed Rodriguez. In a thousand days at the Inn
of the Dragon and Knight no two were so different to Morano that one
stood out from the other, or any from the rest. It was all as though
one day were repeated again and again; and at some point in this
monotonous repetition, like a milestone shaped as the rest on a
perfectly featureless road, life would end and the meaningless
repetition stop: and looking back on it there would only be one day to
see, or, if he could not look back, it would be all gone for nothing.
And then, into that one day that he was living on in the gloaming of
that grim inn, Rodriguez had appeared, and Morano had known him for one
of those wandering lights that sometimes make sudden day among the
stars. He knew--no, he felt--that by following him, yesterday today and
tomorrow would be three separate possessions in memory. Morano gladly
gave up that one dull day he was living for the new strange days
through which Rodriguez was sure to lead him. Gladly he left it: if
this be not true how then has a man with a dream led thousands to
follow his fancy, from the Crusades to whatever gay madness be the
fashion when this is read? As they galloped the scent of the flowers
rushed into Rodriguez' nostrils, while Morano mainly breathed the dust
from the hooves of his master's horse. But the quest was favoured the
more by the scent of the flowers inspiring its leader's fancies. So
Morano gained even from this.

In the first hour they shortened by fifteen miles the length of their
rambling quest. In the next hour they did five miles; and in the third
hour ten. After this they rode slowly. The sun was setting. Morano
regarded the sunset with delight, for it seemed to promise jovially the
end of his sufferings, which except for brief periods when they went on
foot, to rest--as Rodriguez said--the horses, had been continuous and
even increasing since they started. Rodriguez, perhaps a little weary
too, drew from the sunset a more sombre feeling, as sensitive minds do:
he responded to its farewell, he felt its beauty, and as little winds
turned cool and the shine of blades of grass faded, making all the
plain dimmer, he heard, or believed he heard, further off than he could
see, sounds on the plain beyond ridges, in hollows, behind clumps of
bushes; as though small creatures all unknown to his learning played
instruments cut from reeds upon unmapped streams. In this hour, among
these fancies, Rodriguez saw clear on a hill the white walls of the
village of Lowlight. And now they began to notice that a great round
moon was shining. The sunset grew dimmer and the moonlight stole in
softly, as a cat might walk through great doors on her silent feet into
a throne-room just as the king had gone: and they entered the village
slowly in the perfect moment of twilight.

The round horizon was brimming with a pale but magical colour, welling
up to the tips of trees and the battlements of white towers. Earth
seemed a mysterious cup overfull of this pigment of wonder. Clouds
wandering low, straying far from their azure fields, were dipped in it.
The towers of Lowlight turned slowly rose in that light, and glowed
together with the infinite gloaming, so that for this brief hour the
things of man were wed with the things of eternity. It was into this
wide, pale flame of aetherial rose that the moon came stealing like a
magician on tip-toe, to enchant the tips of the trees, low clouds and
the towers of Lowlight. A blue light from beyond our world touched the
pink that is Earth's at evening: and what was strange and a matter for
hushed voices, marvellous but yet of our earth, became at that touch
unearthly. All in a moment it was, and Rodriguez gasped to see it. Even
Morano's eyes grew round with the coming of wonder, or with some dim
feeling that an unnoticed moment had made all things strange and new.

For some moments the spell of moonlight on sunlight hovered: the air
was brimming and quivering with it: magic touched earth. For some
moments, some thirty beats of a heron's wing, had the angels sung to
men, had their songs gone earthward into that rosy glow, gliding past
layers of faintly tinted cloud, like moths at dusk towards a
briar-rose; in those few moments men would have known their language.
Rodriguez reined in his horse in the heavy silence and waited. For what
he waited he knew not: some unearthly answer perhaps to his questioning
thoughts that had wandered far from earth, though no words came to him
with which to ask their question and he did not know what question they
would ask. He was all vibrating with the human longing: I know not what
it is, but perhaps philosophers know. He sat there waiting while a late
bird sailed homeward, sat while Morano wondered. And nothing spake from
anywhere.

And now a dog began to notice the moon: now a child cried suddenly that
had been dragged back from the street, where it had wandered at
bedtime: an old dog rose from where it had lain in the sun and feebly
yet confidently scratched at a door: a cat peered round a corner: a man
spoke: Rodriguez knew there would be no answer now.

Rodriguez hit his horse, the tired animal went forward, and he and
Morano rode slowly up the street.

Dona Serafina of the Valley of Dawnlight had left the heat of the room
that looked on the fields, and into which the sun had all day been
streaming, and had gone at sunset to sit in the balcony that looked
along the street. Often she would do this at sunset; but she rather
dreamed as she sat there than watched the street, for all that it had
to show she knew without glancing. Evening after evening as soon as
winter was over the neighbour would come from next door and stretch
himself and yawn and sit on a chair by his doorway, and the neighbour
from opposite would saunter across the way to him, and they would talk
with eagerness of the sale of cattle, and sometimes, but more coldly,
of the affairs of kings. She knew, but cared not to know, just when the
two old men would begin their talk. She knew who owned every dog that
stretched itself in the dust until chilly winds blew in the dusk and
they rose up dissatisfied. She knew the affairs of that street like an
old, old lesson taught drearily, and her thoughts went far away to
vales of an imagination where they met with many another maiden fancy,
and they all danced there together through the long twilight in Spring.
And then her mother would come and warn her that the evening grew cold,
and Serafina would turn from the mystery of evening into the house and
the candle-light. This was so evening after evening all through spring
and summer for two long years of her youth. And then, this evening,
just as the two old neighbours began to discuss whether or not the
subjugation of the entire world by Spain would be for its benefit, just
as one of the dogs in the road was rising slowly to shake itself,
neighbours and dogs all raised their heads to look, and there was
Rodriguez riding down the street and Morano coming behind him. When
Serafina saw this she brought her eyes back from dreams, for she
dreamed not so deeply but that the cloak and plume of Rodriguez found
some place upon the boundaries of her day-dream. When she saw the way
he sat his horse and how he carried his head she let her eyes flash for
a little moment along the street from her balcony. And if some critical
reader ask how she did it I answer, "My good sir, I can't tell you,
because I don't know," or "My dear lady, what a question to ask!" And
where she learned to do it I cannot think, but nothing was easier. And
then she smiled to think that she had done the very thing that her
mother had warned her there was danger in doing.

"Serafina," her mother said in that moment at the large window, "the
evening grows cold. It might be dangerous to stay there longer." And
Serafina entered the house, as she had done at the coming of dusk on
many an evening.

Rodriguez missed as much of that flash of her eyes, shot from below the
darkness of her hair, as youth in its first glory and freedom misses.
For at the point on the road called life at which Rodriguez was then,
one is high on a crag above the promontories of watchmen, lower only
than the peaks of the prophets, from which to see such things. Yet it
did not need youth to notice Serafina. Beggars had blessed her for the
poise of her head.

She turned that head a little as she went between the windows, till
Rodriguez gazing up to her saw the fair shape of her neck: and almost
in that moment the last of the daylight died. The windows shut; and
Rodriguez rode on with Morano to find the forge that was kept by
Fernandez the smith. And presently they came to the village forge, a
cottage with huge, high roof whose beams were safe from sparks; and its
fire was glowing redly into the moonlight through the wide door made
for horses, although there seemed no work to be done, and a man with a
swart moustache was piling more logs on. Over the door was burned on
oak in ungainly great letters--

"FERNANDEZ"

"For whom do you seek, señor?" he said to Rodriguez, who had halted
before him with his horse's nose inside the doorway sniffing.

"I look," he said, "for him who is not Fernandez."

"I am he," said the man by the fire.

Rodriguez questioned no further but dismounted, and bade Morano lead
the horses in. And then he saw in the dark at the back of the forge the
other two horses that he had seen in the wood. And they were shod as he
had never seen horses shod before. For the front pair of shoes were
joined by a chain riveted stoutly to each, and the hind pair also; and
both horses were shod alike. The method was equally new to Morano. And
now the man with the swart moustache picked up another bunch of
horseshoes hanging in pairs on chains. And Rodriguez was not far out
when he guessed that whenever la Garda overtook their horses they would
find that Fernandez was far away making holiday, while he who shod them
now would be gone upon other business. And all this work seemed to
Rodriguez not to be his affair.

"Farewell," he said to the smith that was not Fernandez; and with a pat
for his horse he left it, having obtained a promise of oats. And so
Rodriguez and Morano went on foot again, Morano elated in spite of
fatigue and pain, rejoicing to feel the earth once more, flat under the
soles of his feet; Rodriguez a little humbled.



THE SIXTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE SANG TO HIS MANDOLIN AND WHAT CAME OF HIS SINGING


They walked back slowly in silence up the street down which they had
ridden. Earth darkened, the moon grew brighter: and Rodriguez gazing at
the pale golden disk began to wonder who dwelt in the lunar valleys;
and what message, if folk were there, they had for our peoples; and in
what language such message could ever be, and how it could fare across
that limpid remoteness that wafted light on to the coasts of Earth and
lapped in silence on the lunar shores. And as he wondered he thought of
his mandolin.

"Morano," he said, "buy bacon."

Morano's eyes brightened: they were forty-five miles from the hills on
which he had last tasted bacon. He selected his house with a glance,
and then he was gone. And Rodriguez reflected too late that he had
forgotten to tell Morano where he should find him, and this with night
coming on in a strange village. Scarcely, Rodriguez reflected, he knew
where he was going himself. Yet if old tunes lurking in its hollows,
echoing though imperceptibly from long-faded evenings, gave the
mandolin any knowledge of human affairs that other inanimate things
cannot possess, the mandolin knew.

Let us in fancy call up the shade of Morano from that far generation.
Let us ask him where Rodriguez is going. Those blue eyes, dim with the
distance over which our fancy has called them, look in our eyes with
wonder.

"I do not know," he says, "where Don Rodriguez is going. My master did
not tell me."

Did he notice nothing as they rode by that balcony?

"Nothing," Morano answers, "except my master riding."

We may let Morano's shade drift hence again, for we shall discover
nothing: nor is this an age to which to call back spirits.

Rodriguez strolled slowly on the deep dust of that street as though
wondering all the while where he should go; and soon he and his
mandolin were below that very balcony whereon he had seen the white
neck of Serafina gleam with the last of the daylight. And now the
spells of the moon charmed Earth with their full power.

The balcony was empty. How should it have been otherwise? And yet
Rodriguez grieved. For between the vision that had drawn his footsteps
and that bare balcony below shuttered windows was the difference
between a haven, sought over leagues of sea, and sheer, uncharted
cliff. It brought a wistfulness into the music he played, and a
melancholy that was all new to Rodriguez, yet often and often before
had that mandolin sent up through evening against unheeding Space that
cry that man cannot utter; for the spirit of man needs a mandolin as a
comrade to face the verdict of the chilly stars as he needs a bulldog
for more mundane things.

Soon out of the depth of that stout old mandolin, in which so many
human sorrows had spun tunes out of themselves, as the spiders spin
misty grey webs, till it was all haunted with music, soon the old cry
went up to the stars again, a thread of supplication spun of the matter
which else were distilled in tears, beseeching it knew not what. And,
but that Fate is deaf, all that man asks in music had been granted then.

What sorrows had Rodriguez known in his life that he made so sad a
melody? I know not. It was the mandolin. When the mandolin was made it
knew at once all the sorrows of man, and all the old unnamed longings
that none defines. It knew them as the dog knows the alliance that its
forefathers made with man. A mandolin weeps the tears that its master
cannot shed, or utters the prayers that are deeper than its master's
lips can draw, as a dog will fight for his master with teeth that are
longer than man's. And if the moonlight streamed on untroubled, and
though Fate was deaf, yet beauty of those fresh strains going starward
from under his fingers touched at least the heart of Rodriguez and
gilded his dreams and gave to his thoughts a mournful autumnal glory,
until he sang all newly as he never had sung before, with limpid voice
along the edge of tears, a love-song old as the woods of his father's
valleys at whose edge he had heard it once drift through the evening.
And as he played and sang with his young soul in the music he fancied
(and why not, if they care aught for our souls in Heaven?) he fancied
the angles putting their hands each one on a star and leaning out of
Heaven through the constellations to listen.

"A vile song, señor, and a vile tune with it," said a voice quite close.

However much the words hurt his pride in his mandolin Rodriguez
recognised in the voice the hidalgo's accent and knew that it was an
equal that now approached him in the moonlight round a corner of the
house with the balcony; and he knew that the request he courteously
made would be as courteously granted.

"Señor," he said, "I pray you to permit me to lean my mandolin against
the wall securely before we speak of my song."

"Most surely, señor," the stranger replied, "for there is no fault with
the mandolin."

"Señor," Rodriguez said, "I thank you profoundly." And he bowed to the
gallant, whom he now perceived to be young, a youth tall and lithe like
himself, one whom we might have chosen for these chronicles had we not
found Rodriguez.

Then Rodriguez stepped back a short way and placed his kerchief on the
ground; and upon this he put his mandolin and leaned it against the
wall. When the mandolin was safe from dust or accident he approached
the stranger and drew his sword.

"Señor," he said, "we will now discuss music."

"Right gladly, señor," said the young man, who now drew his sword also.
There were no clouds; the moon was full; the evening promised well.

Scarcely had the flash of thin rapiers crossing each other by moonlight
begun to gleam in the street when Morano appeared beside them and stood
there watching. He had bought his bacon and gone straight to the house
with the balcony. For though he knew no Latin he had not missed the
silent greeting that had welcomed his master to that village, or failed
to interpret the gist of the words that Rodriguez' dumb glance would
have said. He stood there watching while each combatant stood his
ground.

And Rodriguez remembered all those passes and feints that he had had
from his father, and which Sevastiani, a master of arms in Madrid, had
taught in his father's youth: and some were famous and some were little
known. And all these passes, as he tried them one by one, his unknown
antagonist parried. And for a moment Rodriguez feared that Morano would
see those passes in which he trusted foiled by that unknown sword, and
then he reflected that Morano knew nothing of the craft of the rapier,
and with more content at that thought he parried thrusts that were
strange to him. But something told Morano that in this fight the
stranger was master and that along that pale-blue, moonlit, unknown
sword lurked a sure death for Rodriguez. He moved from his place of
vantage and was soon lost in large shadows; while the rapiers played
and blade rippled on blade with a sound as though Death were gently
sharpening his scythe in the dark. And now Rodriguez was giving ground,
now his antagonist pressed him; thrusts that he believed invincible had
failed; now he parried wearily and had at once to parry again; the
unknown pressed on, was upon him, was scattering his weakening parries;
drew back his rapier for a deadlier pass, learned in a secret school,
in a hut on mountains he knew, and practised surely; and fell in a heap
upon Rodriguez' feet, struck full on the back of the head by Morano's
frying-pan.

"Most vile knave," shouted Rodriguez as he saw Morano before him with
his frying-pan in his hand, and with something of the stupid expression
that you see on the face of a dog that has done some foolish thing
which it thinks will delight its master.

"Master! I am your servant," said Morano.

"Vile, miserable knave," replied Rodriguez.

"Master," Morano said plaintively, "shall I see to your comforts, your
food, and not to your life?"

"Silence," thundered Rodriguez as he stooped anxiously to his
antagonist, who was not unconscious but only very giddy and who now
rose to his feet with the help of Rodriguez.

"Alas, señor," said Rodriguez, "the foul knave is my servant. He shall
be flogged. He shall be flayed. His vile flesh shall be cut off him.
Does the hurt pain you, señor? Sit and rest while I beat the knave, and
then we will continue our meeting."

And he ran to his kerchief on which rested his mandolin and laid it
upon the dust for the stranger.

"No, no," said he. "My head clears again. It is nothing."

"But rest, señor, rest," said Rodriguez. "It is always well to rest
before an encounter. Rest while I punish the knave."

And he led him to where the kerchief lay on the ground. "Let me see the
hurt, señor," he continued. And the stranger removed his plumed hat as
Rodriguez compelled him to sit down. He straightened out the hat as he
sat, and the hurt was shown to be of no great consequence.

"The blessed Saints be praised," Rodriguez said. "It need not stop our
encounter. But rest awhile, señor."

"Indeed, it is nothing," he answered.

"But the indignity is immeasurable," sighed Rodriguez. "Would you care,
señor, when you are well rested to give the chastisement yourself?"

"As far as that goes," said the stranger, "I can chastise him now."

"If you are fully recovered, señor," Rodriguez said, "my own sword is
at your disposal to beat him sore with the flat of it, or how you will.
Thus no dishonour shall touch your sword from the skin of so vile a
knave."

The stranger smiled: the idea appealed to him.

"You make a noble amend, señor," he said as he bowed over Rodriguez'
proffered sword.

Morano had not moved far, but stood near, wondering. "What should a
servant do if not work for his master?" he wondered. And how work for
him when dead? And dead, as it seemed to Morano, through his own fault
if he allowed any man to kill him when he perceived him about to do so.
He stood there puzzled. And suddenly he saw the stranger coming angrily
towards him in the clear moonlight with a sword. Morano was frightened.

As the hidalgo came up to him he stretched out his left hand to seize
Morano by the shoulder. Up went the frying-pan, the stranger parried,
but against a stroke that no school taught or knew, and for the second
time he went down in the dust with a reeling head. Rodriguez turned
toward Morano and said to him ... No, realism is all very well, and I
know that my duty as author is to tell all that happened, and I could
win mighty praise as a bold, unconventional writer; at the same time,
some young lady will be reading all this next year in some far country,
or in twenty years in England, and I would sooner she should not read
what Rodriguez said. I do not, I trust, disappoint her. But the gist of
it was that he should leave that place now and depart from his service
for ever. And hearing those words Morano turned mournfully away and was
at once lost in the darkness. While Rodriguez ran once more to help his
fallen antagonist. "Señor, señor," he said with an emotion that some
wearing centuries and a cold climate have taught us not to show, and
beyond those words he could find no more to say.

"Giddy, only giddy," said the stranger.

A tear fell on his forehead as Rodriguez helped him to his feet.

"Señor," Rodriguez said fervently, "we will finish our encounter come
what may. The knave is gone and ..."

"But I am somewhat giddy," said the other.

"I will take off one of my shoes," said Rodriguez, "leaving the other
on. It will equalise our unsteadiness, and you shall not be
disappointed in our encounter. Come," he added kindly.

"I cannot see so clearly as before," the young hidalgo murmured.

"I will bandage my right eye also," said Rodriguez, "and if this cannot
equalise it ..."

"It is a most fair offer," said the young man.

"I could not bear that you should be disappointed of your encounter,"
Rodriguez said, "by this spirit of Hell that has got itself clothed in
fat and dares to usurp the dignity of man."

"It is a right fair offer," the young man said again.

"Rest yourself, señor," said Rodriguez, "while I take off my shoe," and
he indicated his kerchief which was still on the ground.

The stranger sat down a little wearily, and Rodriguez sitting upon the
dust took off his left shoe. And now he began to think a little
wistfully of the face that had shone from that balcony, where all was
dark now in black shadow unlit by the moon. The emptiness of the
balcony and its darkness oppressed him; for he could scarcely hope to
survive an encounter with that swordsman, whose skill he now recognised
as being of a different class from his own, a class of which he knew
nothing. All his own feints and passes were known, while those of his
antagonist had been strange and new, and he might well have even
others. The stranger's giddiness did not alter the situation, for
Rodriguez knew that his handicap was fair and even generous. He
believed he was near his grave, and could see no spark of light to
banish that dark belief; yet more chances than we can see often guard
us on such occasions. The absence of Serafina saddened him like a
sorrowful sunset.

Rodriguez rose and limped with his one shoe off to the stranger, who
was sitting upon his kerchief.

"I will bandage my right eye now, señor," he said.

The young man rose and shook the dust from the kerchief and gave it to
Rodriguez with a renewed expression of his gratitude at the fairness of
the strange handicap. When Rodriguez had bandaged his eye the stranger
returned his sword to him, which he had held in his hand since his
effort to beat Morano, and drawing his own stepped back a few paces
from him. Rodriguez took one hopeless look at the balcony, saw it as
empty and as black as ever, then he faced his antagonist, waiting.

"Bandage one eye, indeed!" muttered Morano as he stepped up behind the
stranger and knocked him down for the third time with a blow over the
head from his frying-pan.

The young hidalgo dropped silently.

Rodriguez uttered one scream of anger and rushed at Morano with his
sword. Morano had already started to run; and, knowing well that he was
running for his life, he kept for awhile the start that he had of the
rapier. Rodriguez knew that no plump man of over forty could last
against his lithe speed long. He saw Morano clearly before him, then
lost sight of him for a moment and ran confidently on pursuing. He ran
on and on. And at last he recognised that Morano had slipped into the
darkness, which lies always so near to the moonlight, and was not in
front of him at all. So he returned to his fallen antagonist and found
him breathing heavily where he fell, scarcely conscious. The third
stroke of the frying-pan had done its work surely. Rodriguez' fury died
down, only because it is difficult to feel two emotions at once: it
died down as pity took its place, though every now and then it would
suddenly flare and fall again. He returned his sword and lifted the
young hidalgo and carried him to the door of the house under which they
had fought.

With one fist he beat on the door without putting the hurt man down,
and continued to hit it until steps were heard, and bolts began to
grumble, as though disturbed too early from their rusty sleep in stone
sockets.

The door of the house with the balcony was opened by a servant who,
when he saw who it was that Rodriguez carried, fled into the house in
alarm, as one who runs with bad news. He carried one candle and, when
he had disappeared with the steaming flame, Rodriguez found himself in
a long hall lit by the moonlight only, which was looking in through the
small contorted panes of the upper part of a high window. Alone with
echoes and shadows Rodriguez carried the hurt man through the hall, who
was muttering now as he came back to consciousness. And, as he went,
there came to Rodriguez thoughts between wonder and hope, for he had
had no thought at all when he beat on the door except to get shelter
and help for the hurt man. At the end of the hall they came to an open
door that led into a chamber partly shining with moonlight.

"In there," said the man that he carried.

Rodriguez carried him in and laid him on a long couch at the end of the
room. Large pictures of men in the blackness, out of the moon's rays,
frowned at Rodriguez mysteriously. He could not see their faces in the
darkness, but he somehow knew they frowned. Two portraits that were
clear in the moonlight eyed him with absolute apathy. So cold a welcome
from that house's past generations boded no good to him from those that
dwelt there today. Rodriguez knew that in carrying the hurt man there
he helped at a Christian deed; and yet there was no putting the merits
of the case against the omens that crowded the chamber, lurking along
the edge of moonlight and darkness, disappearing and reappearing till
the gloom was heavy with portent. The omens knew. In a weak voice and
few words the hurt man thanked him, but the apathetic faces seemed to
say What of that? And the frowning faces that he could not see still
filled the darkness with anger.

And then from the end of the chamber, dressed in white, and all shining
with moonlight, came Serafina.

Rodriguez in awed silence watched her come. He saw her pass through the
moonlight and grow dimmer, and glide to the moonlight again that
streamed through another window. A great dim golden circle appeared at
the far end of the chamber whence she had come, as the servant returned
with his candle and held it high to give light for Dona Serafina. But
that one flame seemed to make the darkness only blacker; and for any
cheerfulness it brought to the gloom it had better never have
challenged those masses of darkness at all in that high chamber among
the brooding portraits it seemed trivial, ephemeral, modern, ill able
to cope with the power of ancient things, dead days and forgotten
voices, which make their home in the darkness because the days that
have usurped them have stolen the light of the sun.

And there the man stood holding his candle high, and the rays of the
moon became more magical still beside that little mundane, flickering
thing. And Serafina was moving through the moonlight as though its rays
were her sisters, which she met noiselessly and brightly upon some
island, as it seemed to Rodriguez, beyond the coasts of Earth, so
quietly and so brightly did her slender figure move and so aloof from
him appeared her eyes. And there came on Rodriguez that feeling that
some deride and that others explain away, the feeling of which romance
is mainly made and which is the aim and goal of all the earth. And his
love for Serafina seemed to him not only to be an event in his life but
to have some part in veiled and shadowy destinies and to have the
blessing of most distant days: grey beards seemed to look out of graves
in forgotten places to wag approval: hands seemed to beckon to him out
of far-future times, where faces were smiling quietly: and, dreaming on
further still, this vast approval that gave benediction to his heart's
youthful fancy seemed to widen and widen like the gold of a summer's
evening or, the humming of bees in summer in endless rows of limes,
until it became a part of the story of man. Spring days of his earliest
memory seemed to have their part in it, as well as wonderful evenings
of days that were yet to be, till his love for Serafina was one with
the fate of earth; and, wandering far on their courses, he knew that
the stars blessed it. But Serafina went up to the man on the couch with
no look for Rodriguez.

With no look for Rodriguez she bent over the stricken hidalgo. He
raised himself a little on one elbow. "It is nothing," he said,
"Serafina."

Still she bent over him. He laid his head down again, but now with open
and undimmed eyes. She put her hand to his forehead, she spoke in a low
voice to him; she lavished upon him sympathy for which Rodriguez would
have offered his head to swords; and all, thought Rodriguez for three
blows from a knave's frying-pan: and his anger against Morano flared up
again fiercely. Then there came another thought to him out of the
shadows, where Serafina was standing all white, a figure of solace. Who
was this man who so mysteriously blended with the other unknown things
that haunted the gloom of that chamber? Why had he fought him at night?
What was he to Serafina? Thoughts crowded up to him from the interior
of the darkness, sombre and foreboding as the shadows that nursed them.
He stood there never daring to speak to Serafina; looking for
permission to speak, such as a glance might give. And no glance came.

And now, as though soothed by her beauty, the hurt man closed his eyes.
Serafina stood beside him anxious and silent, gleaming in that dim
place. The servant at the far end of the chamber still held his one
candle high, as though some light of earth were needed against the
fantastic moon, which if unopposed would give everything over to magic.
Rodriguez stood there, scarcely breathing. All was silent. And then
through the door by which Serafina had come, past that lonely, golden,
moon-defying candle, all down the long room across moonlight and
blackness, came the lady of the house, Serafina's mother. She came, as
Serafina came, straight toward the man on the couch, giving no look to
Rodriguez, walking something as Serafina walked, with the same poise,
the same dignity, though the years had carried away from her the grace
Serafina had: so that, though you saw that they were mother and
daughter, the elder lady called to mind the lovely things of earth,
large gardens at evening, statues dim in the dusk, summer and
whatsoever binds us to earthly things; but Serafina turned Rodriguez'
thoughts to the twilight in which he first saw her, and he pictured her
native place as far from here, in mellow fields near the moon, wherein
she had walked on twilight outlasting any we know, with all delicate
things of our fancy, too fair for the rugged earth.

As the lady approached the couch upon which the young man was lying,
and still no look was turned towards Rodriguez, his young dreams fled
as butterflies sailing high in the heat of June that are suddenly
plunged in night by a total eclipse of the sun. He had never spoken to
Serafina, or seen before her mother, and they did not know his name; he
knew that he, Rodriguez, had no claim to a welcome. But his dreams had
flocked so much about Serafina's face, basking so much in her beauty,
that they now fell back dying; and when a man's dreams die what
remains, if he lingers awhile behind them?

Rodriguez suddenly felt that his left shoe was off and his right eye
still bandaged, things that he had not noticed while his only thought
was for the man he carried to shelter, but torturing his consciousness
now that he thought of himself. He opened his lips to explain; but
before words came to him, looking at the face of Serafina's mother,
standing now by the couch, he felt that, not knowing how, he had
somehow wronged the Penates of this house, or whatever was hid in the
dimness of that long chamber, by carrying in this young man there to
rest from his hurt.

Rodriguez' depression arose from these causes, but having arisen, it
grew of its own might: he had had nothing to eat since morning, and in
the favouring atmosphere of hunger his depression grew gigantic. He
opened his lips once more to say farewell, was oppressed by all manner
of thoughts that held him dumb, and turned away in silence and left the
house. Outside he recovered his mandolin and his shoe. He was tired
with the weariness of defeated dreams that slept in his spirit
exhausted, rather than with any fatigue his young muscles had from the
journey. He needed sleep; he looked at the shuttered houses; then at
the soft dust of the road in which dogs lay during the daylight. But
the dust was near to his mood, so he lay down where he had fought the
unknown hidalgo. A light wind wandered the street like a visitor come
to the village out of a friendly valley, but Rodriguez' four days on
the roads had made him familiar with all wandering things, and the
breeze on his forehead troubled him not at all: before it had wearied
of wandering in the night Rodriguez had fallen asleep. Just by the edge
of sleep, upon which side he knew not, he heard the window of the
balcony creak, and looked up wide awake all in a moment. But nothing
stirred in the darkness of the balcony and the window was fast shut. So
whatever sound came from the window came not from its opening but
shutting: for a while he wondered; and then his tired thoughts rested,
and that was sleep.

A light rain woke Rodriguez, drizzling upon his face; the first light
rain that had fallen in a romantic tale. Storms there had been, lashing
oaks to terrific shapes seen at night by flashes of lightning, through
which villains rode abroad or heroes sought shelter at midnight;
hurricanes there had been, flapping huge cloaks, fierce hail and
copious snow; but until now no drizzle. It was morning; dawn was old;
and pale and grey and unhappy.

The balcony above him, still empty, scarcely even held romance now.
Rain dripped from it sadly. Its cheerless bareness seemed worse than
the most sinister shadows of night.

And then Rodriguez saw a rose lying on the ground beside him. And for
all the dreams, fancies, and hopes that leaped up in Rodriguez' mind,
rising and falling and fading, one thing alone he knew and all the rest
was mystery: the rose had lain there before the rain had fallen.
Beneath the rose was white dust, while all around it the dust was
turning grey with rain.

Rodriguez tried to guess how long the rain had fallen. The rose may
have lain beside him all night long. But the shadows of mystery receded
no farther than this one fact that the rose was there before the rain
began. No sign of any kind came from the house.

Rodriguez put the rose safe under his coat, wrapped in the kerchief
that had guarded the mandolin, to carry it far from Lowlight, through
places familiar with roses and places strange to them; but it remained
for him a thing of mystery until a day far from then.

Sadly he left the house in the sad rain, marching away alone to look
for his wars.



THE SEVENTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE CAME TO SHADOW VALLEY


Rodriguez still believed it to be the duty of any Christian man to kill
Morano. Yet, more than comfort, more than dryness, he missed Morano's
cheerful chatter, and his philosophy into which all occasions so easily
slipped. Upon his first day's journey all was new; the very anemones
kept him company; but now he made the discovery that lonely roads are
long.

When he had suggested food or rest Morano had fallen in with his
wishes; when he had suggested winning a castle in vague wars Morano had
agreed with him. Now he had dismissed Morano and had driven him away at
the rapier's point. There was no one now either to cook his food or to
believe in the schemes his ambition made. There was no one now to speak
of the wars as the natural end of the journey. Alone in the rain the
wars seemed far away and castles hard to come by. The unromantic rain
in which no dreams thrive fell on and on.

The village of Lowlight was some way behind him, as he went with
mournful thoughts through the drizzling rain, when he caught the smell
of bacon. He looked for a house but the plain was bare except for small
bushes. He looked up wind, which was blowing from the west, whence came
the unmistakable smell of bacon: and there was a small fire smoking
greyly against a bush; and the fat figure crouching beside it, although
the face was averted, was clearly none but Morano. And when Rodriguez
saw that he was tenderly holding the infamous frying-pan, the very
weapon that had done the accursed deed, then he almost felt righteous
anger; but that frying-pan held other memories too, and Rodriguez felt
less fury than what he thought he felt. As for killing Morano,
Rodriguez believed, or thought he believed, that he was too far from
the road for it to be possible to overtake him to mete out his just
punishment. As for the bacon, Rodriguez scorned it and marched on down
the road. Now one side of the frying-pan was very hot, for it was
tilted a little and the lard had run sideways. By tilting it back again
slowly Morano could make the fat run back bit by bit over the heated
metal, and whenever it did so it sizzled. He now picked up the
frying-pan and one log that was burning well and walked parallel with
Rodriguez. He was up-wind of him, and whenever the bacon-fat sizzled
Rodriguez caught the smell of it. A small matter to inspire thoughts;
but Rodriguez had eaten nothing since the morning before, and ideas
surged through his head; and though they began with moral indignation
they adapted themselves more and more to hunger, until there came the
idea that since his money had bought the bacon the food was rightfully
his, and he had every right to eat it wherever he found it. So much can
slaves sometimes control the master, and the body rule the brain.

So Rodriguez suddenly turned and strode up to Morano. "My bacon," he
said.

"Master," Morano said, for it was beginning to cool, "let me make
another small fire."

"Knave, call me not master," said Rodriguez.

Morano, who knew when speech was good, was silent now, and blew on the
smouldering end of the log he carried and gathered a handful of twigs
and shook the rain off them; and soon had a small fire again, warming
the bacon. He had nothing to say which bacon could not say better. And
when Rodriguez had finished up the bacon he carefully reconsidered the
case of Morano, and there were points in it which he had not thought of
before. He reflected that for the execution of knaves a suitable person
was provided. He should perhaps give Morano up to la Garda. His next
thought was where to find la Garda. And easily enough another thought
followed that one, which was that although on foot and still some way
behind four of la Garda were trying to find him. Rodriguez' mind, which
was looking at life from the point of view of a judge, changed somewhat
at this thought. He reflected next that, for the prevention of crime,
to make Morano see the true nature of his enormity so that he should
never commit it again might after all be as good as killing him. So
what we call his better nature, his calmer judgment, decided him now to
talk to Morano and not to kill him: but Morano, looking back upon this
merciful change, always attributed it to fried bacon.

"Morano," said Rodriguez' better nature, "to offend the laws of
Chivalry is to have against you the swords of all true men."

"Master," Morano said, "that were dreadful odds."

"And rightly," said Rodriguez.

"Master," said Morano, "I will keep those laws henceforth. I may cook
bacon for you when you are hungry, I may brush the dust from your
cloak, I may see to your comforts. This Chivalry forbids none of that.
But when I see anyone trying to kill you, master; why, kill you he
must, and welcome."

"Not always," said Rodriguez somewhat curtly, for it struck him that
Morano spoke somehow too lightly of sacred things.

"Not always?" asked Morano.

"No," said Rodriguez.

"Master, I implore you tell me," said Morano, "when they may kill you
and when they may not, so that I may never offend again."

Rodriguez cast a swift glance at him but found his face so full of
puzzled anxiety that he condescended to do what Morano had asked, and
began to explain to him the rudiments of the laws of Chivalry.

"In the wars," he said, "you may defend me whoever assails me, or if
robbers or any common persons attack me, but if I arrange a meeting
with a gentleman, and any knave basely interferes, then is he damned
hereafter as well as accursed now; for, the laws of Chivalry being
founded on true religion, the penalty for their breach is by no means
confined to this world."

"Master," replied Morano thoughtfully, "if I be not damned already I
will avoid those fires of Hell; and none shall kill you that you have
not chosen to kill you, and those that you choose shall kill you
whenever you have a mind."

Rodriguez opened his lips to correct Morano but reflected that, though
in his crude and base-born way, he had correctly interpreted the law so
far as his mind was able.

So he briefly said "Yes," and rose and returned to the road, giving
Morano no order to follow him; and this was the last concession he made
to the needs of Chivalry on account of the sin of Morano. Morano
gathered up the frying-pan and followed Rodriguez, and when they came
to the road he walked behind him in silence.

For three or four miles they walked thus, Morano knowing that he
followed on sufferance and calling no attention to himself with his
garrulous tongue. But at the end of an hour the rain lifted; and with
the coming out of the sun Morano talked again.

"Master," he said, "the next man that you choose to kill you, let him
be one too base-born to know the tricks of the rapier, too ignorant to
do aught but wish you well, some poor fat fool over forty who shall be
too heavy to elude your rapier's point and too elderly for it to matter
when you kill him at your Chivalry, the best of life being gone already
at forty-five."

"There is timber here," said Rodriguez. "We will have some more bacon
while you dry my cloak over a fire."

Thus he acknowledged Morano again for his servant but never
acknowledged that in Morano's words he had understood any poor sketch
of Morano's self, or that the words went to his heart.

"Timber, Master?" said Morano, though it did not need Rodriguez to
point out the great oaks that now began to stand beside their journey,
but he saw that the other matter was well and thus he left well alone.

Rodriguez waved an arm towards the great trees. "Yes, indeed," said
Morano, and began to polish up the frying-pan as he walked.

Rodriguez, who missed little, caught a glimpse of tears in Morano's
eyes, for all that his head was turned downward over the frying-pan;
yet he said nothing, for he knew that forgiveness was all that Morano
needed, and that he had now given him: and it was much to give,
reflected Rodriguez, for so great a crime, and dismissed the matter
from his mind.

And now their road dipped downhill, and they passed a huge oak and then
another. More and more often now they met these solitary giants, till
their view began to be obscured by them. The road dwindled till it was
no better than a track, the earth beside it was wild and rocky;
Rodriguez wondered to what manner of land he was coming. But
continually the branches of some tree obscured his view and the only
indication he had of it was from the road he trod, which seemed to tell
him that men came here seldom. Beyond every huge tree that they passed
as they went downhill Rodriguez hoped to get a better view, but always
there stood another to close the vista. It was some while before he
realised that he had entered a forest. They were come to Shadow Valley.

The grandeur of this place, penetrated by shafts of sunlight, coloured
by flashes of floating butterflies, filled by the chaunt of birds
rising over the long hum of insects, lifted the fallen spirits of
Rodriguez as he walked on through the morning.

He still would not have exchanged his rose for the whole forest; but in
the mighty solemnity of the forest his mourning for the lady that he
feared he had lost no longer seemed the only solemn thing: indeed, the
sombre forest seemed well attuned to his mood; and what complaint have
we against Fate wherever this is so. His mood was one of tragic loss,
the defeat of an enterprise that his hopes had undertaken, to seize
victory on the apex of the world, to walk all his days only just
outside the edge of Paradise, for no less than that his hopes and his
first love promised each other; and then he walked despairing in small
rain. In this mood Fate had led him to solemn old oaks standing huge
among shadows; and the grandeur of their grey grip on the earth that
had been theirs for centuries was akin to the grandeur of the high
hopes he had had, and his despair was somehow soothed by the shadows.
And then the impudent birds seemed to say "Hope again."

They walked for miles into the forest and lit a fire before noon, for
Rodriguez had left Lowlight very early. And by it Morano cooked bacon
again and dried his master's cloak. They ate the bacon and sat by the
fire till all their clothes were dry, and when the flames from the
great logs fell and only embers glowed they sat there still, with hands
spread to the warmth of the embers; for to those who wander a fire is
food and rest and comfort. Only as the embers turned grey did they
throw earth over their fire and continue their journey. Their road grew
smaller and the forest denser.

They had walked some miles from the place where they lit their fire,
when a somewhat unmistakable sound made Rodriguez look ahead of him. An
arrow had struck a birch tree on the right side, ten or twelve paces in
front of him; and as he looked up another struck it from the opposite
side just level with the first; the two were sticking in it ten feet or
so from the ground. Rodriguez drew his sword. But when a third arrow
went over his head from behind and struck the birch tree, whut! just
between the other two, he perceived, as duller minds could have done,
that it was a hint, and he returned his sword and stood still. Morano
questioned his master with his eyes, which were asking what was to be
done next. But Rodriguez shrugged his shoulders: there was no fighting
with an invisible foe that could shoot like that. That much Morano
knew, but he did not know that there might not be some law of Chivalry
that would demand that Rodriguez should wave his sword in the air or
thrust at the birch tree until someone shot him. When there seemed to
be no such rule Morano was well content. And presently men came quietly
on to the road from different parts of the wood. They were dressed in
brown leather and wore leaf-green hats, and round each one's neck hung
a disk of engraved copper. They came up to the travellers carrying
bows, and the leader said to Rodriguez:

"Señor, all travellers here bring tribute to the King of Shadow
Valley," at the mention of whom all touched hats and bowed their heads.
"What do you bring us?"

Rodriguez thought of no answer; but after a moment he said, for the
sake of loyalty: "I know one king only."

"There is only one king in Shadow Valley," said the bowman.

"He brings a tribute of emeralds," said another, looking at Rodriguez'
scabbard. And then they searched him and others search Morano. There
were eight or nine of them, all in their leaf-green hats, with ribbons
round their necks of the same colour to hold the copper disks. They
took a gold coin from Morano and grey greasy pieces of silver. One of
them took his frying-pan; but he looked so pitifully at them as he said
simply, "I starve," that the frying-pan was restored to him.

They unbuckled Rodriguez' belt and took from him sword and scabbard and
three gold pieces from his purse. Next they found the gold piece that
was hanging round his neck, still stuffed inside his clothes where he
had put it when he was riding. Having examined it they put it back
inside his clothes, while the leader rebuckled his sword-belt about his
waist and returned him his three gold-pieces.

Others returned his money to Morano. "Master," said the leader, bowing
to Rodriguez, his green hat in hand, "under our King, the forest is
yours."

Morano was pleased to hear this respect paid to his master, but
Rodriguez was so surprised that he who was never curt without reason
found no more to say than "Why?"

"Because we are your servants," said the other.

"Who are you?" asked Rodriguez.

"We are the green bowmen, master," he said, "who hold this forest
against all men for our King."

"And who is he?" said Rodriguez.

And the bowman answered: "The King of Shadow Valley," at which the
others all touched hats and bowed heads again. And Rodriguez seeing
that the mystery would grow no clearer for any information to be had
from them said: "Conduct me to your king."

"That, master, we cannot do," said the chief of the bowmen. "There be
many trees in this forest, and behind any one of them he holds his
court. When he needs us there is his clear horn. But when men need him
who knows which shadow is his of all that lie in the forest?" Whether
or not there was anything interesting in the mystery, to Rodriguez it
was merely annoying; and finding it grew no clearer he turned his
attention to shelter for the night, to which all travellers give a
thought at least once, between noon and sunset.

"Is there any house on this road, señor," he said, "in which we could
rest the night?"

"Ten miles from here," said he, "and not far from the road you take is
the best house we have in the forest. It is yours, master, for as long
as you honour it."

"Come then," said Rodriguez, "and I thank you, señor."

So they all started together, Rodriguez with the leader going in front
and Morano following with all the bowmen. And soon the bowmen were
singing songs of the forest, hunting songs, songs of the winter; and
songs of the long summer evenings, songs of love. Cheered by this
merriment, the miles slipped by.

And Rodriguez gathered from the songs they sang something of what they
were and of how they lived in the forest, living amongst the woodland
creatures till these men's ways were almost as their ways; killing what
they needed for food but protecting the woodland things against all
others; straying out amongst the villages in summer evenings, and
always welcome; and owning no allegiance but to the King of the Shadow
Valley.

And the leader told Rodriguez that his name was Miguel Threegeese,
given him on account of an exploit in his youth when he lay one night
with his bow by one of the great pools in the forest, where the geese
come in winter. He said the forest was a hundred miles long, lying
mostly along a great valley, which they were crossing. And once they
had owned allegiance to kings of Spain, but now to none but the King of
the Shadow Valley, for the King of Spain's men had once tried to cut
some of the forest down, and the forest was sacred.

Behind him the men sang on of woodland things, and of cottage gardens
in the villages: with singing and laughter they came to their journey's
end. A cottage as though built by peasants with boundless material
stood in the forest. It was a thatched cottage built in the peasant's
way but of enormous size. The leader entered first and whispered to
those within, who rose and bowed to Rodriguez as he entered, twenty
more bowmen who had been sitting at a table. One does not speak of the
banqueting-hall of a cottage, but such it appeared, for it occupied
more than half of the cottage and was as large as the banqueting-hall
of any castle. It was made of great beams of oak, and high at either
end just under the thatch were windows with their little square panes
of bulging bluish glass, which at that time was rare in Spain. A table
of oak ran down the length of it, cut from a single tree, polished and
dark from the hands of many men that had sat at it. Boar spears hung on
the wall, great antlers and boar's tusks and, carved in the oak of the
wall and again on a high, dark chair that stood at the end of the long
table empty, a crown with oak leaves that Rodriguez recognised. It was
the same as the one that was cut on his gold coin, which he had given
no further thought to, riding to Lowlight, and which the face of
Serafina had driven from his mind altogether. "But," he said, and then
was silent, thinking to learn more by watching than by talking. And his
companions of the road came in and all sat down on the benches beside
the ample table, and a brew was brought, a kind of pale mead, that they
called forest water. And all drank; and, sitting at the table, watching
them more closely than he could as he walked in the forest, Rodriguez
saw by the sunlight that streamed in low through one window that on the
copper disks they wore round their necks on green ribbon the design was
again the same. It was much smaller than his on the gold coin but the
same strange leafy crown. "Wear it as you go through Shadow Valley," he
now seemed to remember the man saying to him who put it round his neck.
But why? Clearly because it was the badge of this band of men. And this
other man was one of them.

His eyes strayed back to the great design on the wall. "The crown of
the forest," said Miguel as he saw his eyes wondering at it, "as you
doubtless know, señor."

Why should he know? Of course because he bore the design himself. "Who
wears it?" said Rodriguez.

"The King of Shadow Valley."

Morano was without curiosity; he did not question good drink; he sat at
the table with a cup of horn in his hand, as happy as though he had
come to his master's castle, though that had not yet been won.

The sun sank under the oaks, filling the hall with a ruddy glow,
turning the boar spears scarlet and reddening the red faces of the
merry men of the bow.

A dozen of the men went out; to relieve the guard in the forest, Miguel
explained. And Rodriguez learned that he had come through a line of
sentries without ever seeing one. Presently a dozen others came in from
their posts and unslung their bows and laid them on pegs on the wall
and sat down at the table. Whereat there were whispered words and they
all rose and bowed to Rodriguez. And Rodriguez had caught the words "A
prince of the forest." What did it mean?

Soon the long hall grew dim, and his love for the light drew Rodriguez
out to watch the sunset. And there was the sun under indescribable
clouds, turning huge and yellow among the trunks of the trees and
casting glory munificently down glades. It set, and the western sky
became blood-red and lilac: from the other end of the sky the moon
peeped out of night. A hush came and a chill, and a glory of colour,
and a dying away of light; and in the hush the mystery of the great
oaks became magical. A blackbird blew a tune less of this earth than of
fairy-land.

Rodriguez wished that he could have had a less ambition than to win a
castle in the wars, for in those glades and among those oaks he felt
that happiness might be found under roofs of thatch. But having come by
his ambition he would not desert it.

Now rushlights were lit in the great cottage and the window of the long
room glowed yellow. A fountain fell in the stillness that he had not
heard before. An early nightingale tuned a tentative note. "The forest
is fair, is it not?" said Miguel.

Rodriguez had no words to say. To turn into words the beauty that was
now shining in his thoughts, reflected from the evening there, was no
easier than for wood to reflect all that is seen in the mirror.

"You love the forest," he said at last.

"Master," said Miguel, "it is the only land in which we should live our
days. There are cities and roads but man is not meant for them. I know
not, master, what God intends about us; but in cities we are against
the intention at every step, while here, why, we drift along with it."

"I, too, would live here always," said Rodriguez.

"The house is yours," said Miguel. And Rodriguez answered: "I go
tomorrow to the wars."

They turned round then and walked slowly back to the cottage, and
entered the candlelight and the loud talk of many men out of the hush
of the twilight. But they passed from the room at once by a door on the
left, and came thus to a large bedroom, the only other room in the
cottage.

"Your room, master," said Miguel Threegeese.

It was not so big as the hall where the bowmen sat, but it was a goodly
room. The bed was made of carved wood, for there were craftsmen in the
forest, and a hunt went all the way round it with dogs and deer. Four
great posts held a canopy over it: they were four young birch-trees
seemingly still wearing their bright bark, but this had been painted on
their bare timber by some woodland artist. The chairs had not the
beauty of the great ages of furniture, but they had a dignity that the
age of commerce has not dreamed of. Each one was carved out of a single
block of wood: there was no join in them anywhere. One of them lasts to
this day.

The skins of deer covered the long walls. There were great basins and
jugs of earthenware. All was forest-made. The very shadows whispering
among themselves in corners spoke of the forest. The room was rude; but
being without ornament, except for the work of simple craftsmen, it had
nothing there to offend the sense of right of anyone entering its door,
by any jarring conflict with the purposes and traditions of the land in
which it stood. All the woodland spirits might have entered there, and
slept--if spirits sleep--in the great bed, and left at dawn unoffended.
In fact that age had not yet learned vulgarity.

When Miguel Threegeese left Morano entered.

"Master," he said, "they are making a banquet for you."

"Good," said Rodriguez. "We will eat it." And he waited to hear what
Morano had come to say, for he could see that it was more than this.

"Master," said Morano, "I have been talking with the bowman. And they
will give you whatever you ask. They are good people, master, and they
will give you all things, whatever you asked of them."

Rodriguez would not show to his servant that it all still puzzled him.

"They are very amiable men," he said.

"Master," said Morano, coming to the point, "that Garda, they will have
walked after us. They must be now in Lowlight. They have all to-night
to get new shoes on their horses. And to-morrow, master, to-morrow, if
we be still on foot..."

Rodriguez was thinking. Morano seemed to him to be talking sense.

"You would like another ride?" he said to Morano.

"Master," he answered, "riding is horrible. But the public garrotter,
he is a bad thing too." And he meditatively stroked the bristles under
his chin.

"They would give us horses?" said Rodriguez.

"Anything, master, I am sure of it. They are good people."

"They'll have news of the road by which they left Lowlight," said
Rodriguez reflectively. "They say la Garda dare not enter the forest,"
Morano continued, "but thirty miles from here the forest ends. They
could ride round while we go through."

"They would give us horses?" said Rodriguez again.

"Surely," said Morano.

And then Rodriguez asked where they cooked the banquet, since he saw
that there were only two rooms in the great cottage and his inquiring
eye saw no preparations for cooking about the fireplace of either. And
Morano pointed through a window at the back of the room to another
cottage among the trees, fifty paces away. A red glow streamed from its
windows, growing strong in the darkening forest.

"That is their kitchen, master," he said. "The whole house is kitchen."
His eyes looked eagerly at it, for, though he loved bacon, he welcomed
the many signs of a dinner of boundless variety.

As he and his master returned to the long hall great plates of polished
wood were being laid on the table. They gave Rodriguez a place on the
right of the great chair that had the crown of the forest carved on the
back.

"Whose chair is that?" said Rodriguez.

"The King of Shadow Valley," they said.

"He is not here then," said Rodriguez.

"Who knows?" said a bowman.

"It is his chair," said another; "his place is ready. None knows the
ways of the King of Shadow Valley."

"He comes sometimes at this hour," said a third, "as the boar comes to
Heather Pool at sunset. But not always. None knows his ways."

"If they caught the King," said another, "the forest would perish. None
loves it as he, none knows its ways as he, no other could so defend it."

"Alas," said Miguel, "some day when he be not here they will enter the
forest." All knew whom he meant by they. "And the goodly trees will
go." He spoke as a man foretelling the end of the world; and, as men to
whom no less was announced, the others listened to him. They all loved
Shadow Valley.

In this man's time, so they told Rodriguez, none entered the forest to
hurt it, no tree was cut except by his command, and venturous men
claiming rights from others than him seldom laid axe long to tree
before he stood near, stepping noiselessly from among shadows of trees
as though he were one of their spirits coming for vengeance on man.

All this they told Rodriguez, but nothing definite they told of their
king, where he was yesterday, where he might be now; and any questions
he asked of such things seemed to offend a law of the forest.

And then the dishes were carried in, to Morano's great delight: with
wide blue eyes he watched the produce of that mighty estate coming in
through the doorway cooked. Boars' heads, woodcock, herons, plates full
of fishes, all manner of small eggs, a roe-deer and some rabbits, were
carried in by procession. And the men set to with their ivory-handled
knives, each handle being the whole tusk of a boar. And with their
eating came merriment and tales of past huntings and talk of the forest
and stories of the King of Shadow Valley.

And always they spoke of him not only with respect but also with the
discretion, Rodriguez thought, of men that spoke of one who might be
behind them at that moment, and one who tolerated no trifling with his
authority. Then they sang songs again, such as Rodriguez had heard on
the road, and their merry lives passed clearly before his mind again,
for we live in our songs as no men live in histories. And again
Rodriguez lamented his hard ambition and his long, vague journey,
turning away twice from happiness; once in the village of Lowlight
where happiness deserted him, and here in the goodly forest where he
jilted happiness. How well could he and Morano live as two of this
band, he thought; leaving all cares in cities: for there dwelt cares in
cities even then. Then he put the thought away. And as the evening wore
away with merry talk and with song, Rodriguez turned to Miguel and told
him how it was with la Garda and broached the matter of horses. And
while the others sang Miguel spoke sadly to him. "Master," he said, "la
Garda shall never take you in Shadow Valley, yet if you must leave us
to make your fortune in the wars, though your fortune waits you here,
there be many horses in the forest, and you and your servant shall have
the best."

"Tomorrow morning, señor?" said Rodriguez.

"Even so," said Miguel.

"And how shall I send them to you again?" said Rodriguez.

"Master, they are yours," said Miguel.

But this Rodriguez would not have, for as yet he only guessed what
claim at all he had upon Shadow Valley, his speculations being far more
concerned with the identity of the hidalgo that he had fought the night
before, how he concerned Serafina, who had owned the rose that he
carried: in fact his mind was busy with such studies as were proper to
his age. And at last they decided between them on the house of a
lowland smith, who was the furthest man that the bowmen knew who was
secretly true to their king. At his house Rodriguez and Morano should
leave the horses. He dwelt sixty miles from the northern edge of the
forest, and would surely give Rodriguez fresh horses if he possessed
them, for he was a true man to the bowman. His name was Gonzalez and he
dwelt in a queer green house.

They turned then to listen a moment to a hunting song that all the
bowmen were singing about the death of a boar. Its sheer merriment
constrained them. Then Miguel spoke again. "You should not leave the
forest," he said sadly.

Rodriguez sighed: it was decided. Then Miguel told him of his road,
which ran north-eastward and would one day bring him out of Spain. He
told him how towns on the way, and the river Ebro, and with awe and
reverence he spoke of the mighty Pyrenees. And then Rodriguez rose, for
the start was to be at dawn, and walked quietly through the singing out
of the hall to the room where the great bed was. And soon he slept, and
his dreams joined in the endless hunt through Shadow Valley that was
carved all round the timbers of his bed.

All too soon he heard voices, voices far off at first, to which he drew
nearer and nearer; thus he woke grudgingly out of the deeps of sleep.
It was Miguel and Morano calling him.

When at length he reached the hall all the merriment of the evening was
gone from it but the sober beauty of the forest flooded in through both
windows with early sunlight and bird-song; so that it had not the sad
appearance of places in which we have rejoiced, when we revisit them
next day or next generation and find them all deserted by dance and
song.

Rodriguez ate his breakfast while the bowmen waited with their bows all
strung by the door. When he was ready they all set off in the early
light through the forest.

Rodriguez did not criticise his ambition; it sailed too high above his
logic for that; but he regretted it, as he went through the beauty of
the forest among these happy men. But we must all have an ambition, and
Rodriguez stuck to the one he had. He had another, but it was an
ambition with weak wings that could not come to hope. It depended upon
the first. If he could win a castle in the wars he felt that he might
even yet hope towards Lowlight.

Little was said, and Rodriguez was all alone with his thoughts. In two
hours they met a bowman holding two horses. They had gone eight miles.

"Farewell to the forest," said Miguel to Rodriguez. There was almost a
query in his voice. Would Rodriguez really leave them? it seemed to say.

"Farewell," he answered.

Morano too had looked sideways towards his master, seeming almost to
wonder what his answer would be: when it came he accepted it and walked
to the horses. Rodriguez mounted: willing hands helped up Morano.
"Farewell," said Miguel once more. And all the bowmen shouted
"Farewell."

"Make my farewell," said Rodriguez, "to the King of Shadow Valley."

A twig cracked in the forest.

"Hark," said Miguel. "Maybe that was a boar."

"I cannot wait to hunt," said Rodriguez, "for I have far to go."

"Maybe," said Miguel, "it was the King's farewell to you."

Rodriguez looked into the forest and saw nothing.

"Farewell," he said again. The horses were fresh and he let his go.
Morano lumbered behind him. In two miles they came to the edge of the
forest and up a rocky hill, and so to the plains again, and one more
adventure lay behind them. Rodriguez turned round once on the high
ground and took a long look back on the green undulations of peace. The
forest slept there as though empty of men.

Then they rode. In the first hour, easily cantering, they did ten
miles. Then they settled down to what those of our age and country and
occupation know as a hound-jog, which is seven miles an hour. And after
two hours they let the horses rest. It was the hour of the frying-pan.
Morano, having dismounted, stretched himself dolefully; then he brought
out all manner of meats. Rodriguez looked wonderingly at them.

"For the wars, master," said Morano. To whatever wars they went, the
green bowmen seemed to have supplied an ample commissariat.

They ate. And Rodriguez thought of the wars, for the thought of
Serafina made him sad, and his rejection of the life of the forest
saddened him too; so he sought to draw from the future the comfort that
he could not get from the past.

They mounted again and rode again for three hours, till they saw very
far off on a hill a village that Miguel had told them was fifty miles
from the forest.

"We rest the night there," said Rodriguez pointing, though it was yet
seven or eight miles away.

"All the Saints be praised," said Morano.

They dismounted then and went on foot, for the horses were weary. At
evening they rode slowly into the village. At an inn whose hospitable
looks were as cheerfully unlike the Inn of the Dragon and Knight as
possible, they demanded lodging for all four. They went first to the
stable, and when the horses had been handed over to the care of a groom
they returned to the inn, and mine host and Rodriguez had to help
Morano up the three steps to the door, for he had walked nine miles
that day and ridden fifty and he was too weary to climb the steps.

And later Rodriguez sat down alone to his supper at a table well and
variously laden, for the doors of mine hosts' larder were opened wide
in his honour; but Rodriguez ate sparingly, as do weary men.

And soon he sought his bed. And on the old echoing stairs as he and
mine host ascended they met Morano leaning against the wall. What shall
I say of Morano? Reader, your sympathy is all ready to go out to the
poor, weary man. He does not entirely deserve it, and shall not cheat
you of it. Reader, Morano was drunk. I tell you this sorry truth rather
than that the knave should have falsely come by your pity. And yet he
is dead now over three hundred years, having had his good time to the
full. Does he deserve your pity on that account? Or your envy? And to
whom or what would you give it? Well, anyhow, he deserved no pity for
being drunk. And yet he was thirsty, and too tired to eat, and sore in
need of refreshment, and had had no more cause to learn to shun good
wine than he had had to shun the smiles of princesses; and there the
good wine had been, sparkling beside him merrily.

And now, why now, fatigued as he had been an hour or so ago (but time
had lost its tiresome, restless meaning), now he stood firm while all
things and all men staggered.

"Morano," said Rodriguez as he passed that foolish figure, "we go sixty
miles to-morrow."

"Sixty, master?" said Morano. "A hundred: two hundred."

"It is best to rest now," said his master.

"Two hundred, master, two hundred," Morano replied.

And then Rodriguez left him, and heard him muttering his challenge to
distance still, "Two hundred, two hundred," till the old stairway
echoed with it.

And so he came to his chamber, of which he remembered little, for sleep
lurked there and he was soon with dreams, faring further with them than
my pen can follow.



THE EIGHTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE TRAVELLED FAR


One blackbird on a twig near Rodriguez' window sang, then there were
fifty singing, and morning arose over Spain all golden and wonderful.

Rodriguez descended and found mine host rubbing his hands by his good
table, with a look on his face that seemed to welcome the day and to
find good auguries concerning it. But Morano looked as one that, having
fallen from some far better place, is ill-content with earth and the
mundane way.

He had scorned breakfast; but Rodriguez breakfasted. And soon the two
were bidding mine host farewell. They found their horses saddled, they
mounted at once, and rode off slowly in the early day. The horses were
tired and, slowly trotting and walking, and sometimes dismounting and
dragging the horses on, it was nearly two hours before they had done
ten miles and come to the house of the smith in a rocky village: the
street was cobbled and the houses were all of stone.

The early sparkle had gone from the dew, but it was still morning, and
many a man but now sat down to his breakfast, as they arrived and beat
on the door.

Gonzalez the smith opened it, a round and ruddy man past fifty, a
citizen following a reputable trade, but once, ah once, a bowman.

"Señor," said Rodriguez, "our horses are weary. We have been told you
will change them for us."

"Who told you that?" said Gonzalez.

"The green bowmen in Shadow Valley," the young man answered.

As a meteor at night lights up with its greenish glare flowers and
blades of grass, twisting long shadows behind them, lights up lawns and
bushes and the deep places of woods, scattering quiet night for a
moment, so the unexpected answer of Rodriguez lit memories in the mind
of the smith all down the long years; and a twinkle and a sparkle of
those memories dancing in woods long forsaken flashed from his eyes.

"The green bowmen, señor," said Gonzalez. "Ah, Shadow Valley!"

"We left it yesterday," said Rodriguez.

When Gonzalez heard this he poured forth questions. "The forest, señor;
how is it now with the forest? Do the boars still drink at Heather
Pool? Do the geese go still to Greatmarsh? They should have come early
this year. How is it with Larios, Raphael, Migada? Who shoots woodcock
now?"

The questions flowed on past answering, past remembering: he had not
spoken of the forest for years. And Rodriguez answered as such
questions are always answered, saying that all was well, and giving
Gonzalez some little detail of some trifling affair of the forest,
which he treasured as small shells are treasured in inland places when
travellers bring them from the sea; but all that he heard of the forest
seemed to the smith like something gathered on a far shore of time.
Yes, he had been a bowman once.

But he had no horses. One horse that drew a cart, but no horses for
riding at all. And Rodriguez thought of the immense miles lying between
him and the foreign land, keeping him back from his ambition; they all
pressed on his mind at once. The smith was sorry, but he could not make
horses.

"Show him your coin, master," said Morano.

"Ah, a small token," said Rodriguez, drawing it forth still on its
green ribbon under his clothing. "The bowman's badge, is it not?"

Gonzalez looked at it, then looked at Rodriguez.

"Master," he said, "you shall have your horses. Give me time: you shall
have them. Enter, master." And he bowed and widely opened the door. "If
you will breakfast in my house while I go to the neighbours you shall
have some horses, master."

So they entered the house, and the smith with many bows gave the
travellers over to the care of his wife, who saw from her husband's
manner that these were persons of importance and as such she treated
them both, and as such entertained them to their second breakfast. And
this meant they ate heartily, as travellers can, who can go without a
breakfast or eat two; and those who dwell in cities can do neither.

And while the plump dame did them honour they spoke no word of the
forest, for they knew not what place her husband's early years had in
her imagination.

They had barely finished their meal when the sound of hooves on cobbles
was heard and Gonzalez beat on the door. They all went to the door and
found him there with two horses. The horses were saddled and bridled.
They fixed the stirrups to please them, then the travellers mounted at
once. Rodriguez made his grateful farewell to the wife of the smith:
then, turning to Gonzalez, he pointed to the two tired horses which had
waited all the while with their reins thrown over a hook on the wall.

"Let the owner of these have them till his own come back," he said, and
added: "How far may I take these?"

"They are good horses," said the smith.

"Yes," said Rodriguez.

"They could do fifty miles to-day," Gonzalez continued, "and to-morrow,
why, forty, or a little more."

"And where will that bring me?" said Rodriguez, pointing to the
straight road which was going his way, north-eastward.

"That," said Gonzalez, "that should bring you some ten or twenty miles
short of Saspe."

"And where shall I leave the horses?" Rodriguez asked.

"Master," Gonzalez said, "in any village where there be a smith, if you
say 'these are the horses of the smith Gonzalez, who will come for them
one day from here,' they will take them in for you, master."

"But," and Gonzalez walked a little away from his wife, and the horses
walked and he went beside them, "north of here none knows the bowmen.
You will get no fresh horses, master. What will you do?"

"Walk," said Rodriguez.

Then they said farewell, and there was a look on the face of the smith
almost such as the sons of men might have worn in Genesis when angels
visited them briefly.

They settled down into a steady trot and trotted thus for three hours.
Noon came, and still there was no rest for Morano, but only dust and
the monotonous sight of the road, on which his eyes were fixed: nearly
an hour more passed, and at last he saw his master halt and turn round
in his saddle.

"Dinner," Rodriguez said.

All Morano's weariness vanished: it was the hour of the frying-pan once
more.

They had done more than twenty-one miles from the house of Gonzalez.
Nimbly enough, in his joy at feeling the ground again, Morano ran and
gathered sticks from the bushes. And soon he had a fire, and a thin
column of grey smoke going up from it that to him was always home.

When the frying-pan warmed and lard sizzled, when the smell of bacon
mingled with the smoke, then Morano was where all wise men and all
unwise try to be, and where some of one or the other some times come
for awhile, by unthought paths and are gone again; for that smoky,
mixed odour was happiness.

Not for long men and horses rested, for soon Rodriguez' ambition was
drawing him down the road again, of which he knew that there remained
to be travelled over two hundred miles in Spain, and how much beyond
that he knew not, nor greatly cared, for beyond the frontier of Spain
he believed there lay the dim, desired country of romance where roads
were long no more and no rain fell. They mounted again and pushed on
for this country. Not a village they saw but that Morano hoped that
here his affliction would end and that he would dismount and rest; and
always Rodriguez rode on and Morano followed, and with a barking of
dogs they were gone and the village rested behind them. For many an
hour their slow trot carried them on; and Morano, clutching the saddle
with worn arms, already was close to despair, when Rodriguez halted in
a little village at evening before an inn. They had done their fifty
miles from the house of Gonzalez, and even a little more.

Morano rolled from his horse and beat on the small green door. Mine
host came out and eyed them, preening the point of his beard; and
Rodriguez sat his horse and looked at him. They had not the welcome
here that Gonzalez gave them; but there was a room to spare for
Rodriguez, and Morano was promised what he asked for, straw; and there
was shelter to be had for the horses. It was all the travellers needed.

Children peered at the strangers, gossips peeped out of doors to gather
material concerning them, dogs noted their coming, the eyes of the
little village watched them curiously, but Rodriguez and Morano passed
into the house unheeding; and past those two tired men the mellow
evening glided by like a dream. Tired though Rodriguez was he noticed a
certain politeness in mine host while he waited at supper, which had
not been noticeable when he had first received him, and rightly put
this down to some talk of Morano's; but he did not guess that Morano
had opened wide blue eyes and, babbling to his host, had guilelessly
told him that his master a week ago had killed an uncivil inn-keeper.

Scarcely were late birds home before Rodriguez sought his bed, and not
all of them were sleeping before he slept.

Another morning shone, and appeared to Spain, and all at once Rodriguez
was wide awake. It was the eighth day of his wanderings.

When he had breakfasted and paid his due in silver he and Morano
departed, leaving mine host upon his doorstep bowing with an almost
perplexed look on his shrewd face as he took the points of moustachios
and beard lightly in turn between finger and thumb: for we of our day
enter vague details about ourselves in the book downstairs when we stay
at inns, but it was mine host's custom to gather all that with his
sharp eyes. Whatever he gathered, Rodriguez and Morano were gone.

But soon their pace dwindled, the trot slackening and falling to a
walk; soon Rodriguez learned what it is to travel with tired horses. To
Morano riding was merely riding, and the discomforts of that were so
great that he noticed no difference. But to Rodriguez, his continual
hitting and kicking his horse's sides, his dislike of doing it, the
uselessness of it when done, his ambition before and the tired beast
underneath, the body always some yards behind the beckoning spirit,
were as great vexation as a traveller knows. It came to dismounting and
walking miles on foot; even then the horses hung back. They halted an
hour over dinner while the horses grazed and rested, and they returned
to their road refreshed by the magic that was in the frying-pan, but
the horses were no fresher.

When our bodies are slothful and lie heavy, never responding to the
spirit's bright promptings, then we know dullness: and the burden of it
is the graver for hearing our spirits call faintly, as the chains of a
buccaneer in some deep prison, who hears a snatch of his comrades'
singing as they ride free by the coast, would grow more unbearable than
ever before. But the weight of his tired horse seemed to hang heavier
on the fanciful hopes that Rodriguez' dreams had made. Farther than
ever seemed the Pyrenees, huger than ever their barrier, dimmer and
dimmer grew the lands of romance.

If the hopes of Rodriguez were low, if his fancies were faint, what
material have I left with which to make a story with glitter enough to
hold my readers' eyes to the page: for know that mere dreams and idle
fancies, and all amorous, lyrical, unsubstantial things, are all that
we writers have of which to make a tale, as they are all that the Dim
Ones have to make the story of man.

Sometimes riding, sometimes going on foot, with the thought of the
long, long miles always crowding upon Rodriguez, overwhelming his
hopes; till even the castle he was to win in the wars grew too pale for
his fancy to see, tired and without illusions, they came at last by
starlight to the glow of a smith's forge. He must have done forty-five
miles and he knew they were near Caspe.

The smith was working late, and looked up when Rodriguez halted. Yes,
he knew Gonzalez, a master in the trade: there was a welcome for his
horses.

But for the two human travellers there were excuses, even apologies,
but no spare beds. It was the same in the next three or four houses
that stood together by the road. And the fever of Rodriguez' ambition
drove him on, though Morano would have lain down and slept where they
stood, though he himself was weary. The smith had received his horses;
after that he cared not whether they gave him shelter or not, the
alternative being the road, and that bringing nearer his wars and the
castle he was to win. And that fancy that led his master Morano allowed
always to lead him too, though a few more miles and he would have
fallen asleep as he walked and dropped by the roadside and slept on.
Luckily they had gone barely two miles from the forge where the horses
rested, when they saw a high, dark house by the road and knocked on the
door and found shelter. It was an old woman who let them in, a farmer's
wife, and she had room for them and one mattress, but no bed. They were
too tired to eat and did not ask for food, but at once followed her up
the booming stairs of her house, which were all dark but for her
candle, and so came among huge minuetting shadows to the long loft at
the top. There was a mattress there which the old woman laid out for
Rodriguez, and a heap of hay for Morano. Just for a moment, as
Rodriguez climbed the last step of the stair and entered the loft where
the huge shadows twirled between the one candle's light and the
unbeaten darkness in corners, just for a moment romance seemed to
beckon to him; for a moment, in spite of his fatigue and dejection, in
spite of the possibility of his quest being crazy, for a moment he felt
that great shadows and echoing boards, the very cobwebs even that hung
from the black rafters, were all romantic things; he felt that his was
a glorious adventure and that all these things that filled the loft in
the night were such as should fitly attend on youth and glory. In a
moment that feeling was gone he knew not why it had come. And though he
remembered it till grey old age, when he came to know the causes of
many things, he never knew what romance might have to do with shadows
or echoes at night in an empty room, and only knew of such fancies that
they came from beyond his understanding, whether from wisdom or folly.

Morano was first asleep, as enormous snores testified, almost before
the echoes had died away of the footsteps of the old woman descending
the stairs; but soon Rodriguez followed him into the region of dreams,
where fantastic ambitions can live with less of a struggle than in the
broad light of day: he dreamed he walked at night down a street of
castles strangely colossal in an awful starlight, with doors too vast
for any human need, whose battlements were far in the heights of night;
and chose, it being in time of war, the one that should be his; but the
gargoyles on it were angry and spoiled the dream.

Dream followed dream with furious rapidity, as the dreams of tired men
do, racing each other, jostling and mingling and dancing, an
ill-assorted company: myriads went by, a wild, grey, cloudy multitude;
and with the last walked dawn.

Rodriguez rose more relieved to quit so tumultuous a rest than
refreshed by having had it.

He descended, leaving Morano to sleep on, and not till the old dame had
made a breakfast ready did he return to interrupt his snores.

Even as he awoke upon his heap of hay Morano remained as true to his
master's fantastic quest as the camel is true to the pilgrimage to
Mecca. He awoke grumbling, as the camel grumbles at dawn when the packs
are put on him where he lies, but never did he doubt that they went to
victorious wars where his master would win a castle splendid with
towers.

Breakfast cheered both the travellers. And then the old lady told
Rodriguez that Caspe was but a three hours' walk, and that cheered them
even more, for Caspe is on the Ebro, which seemed to mark for Rodriguez
a stage in his journey, being carried easily in his imagination, like
the Pyrenees. What road he would take when he reached Caspe he had not
planned. And soon Rodriguez expressed his gratitude, full of fervour,
with many a flowery phrase which lived long in the old dame's mind; and
the visit of those two travellers became one of the strange events of
that house and was chief of the memories that faintly haunted the
rafters of the loft for years.

They did not reach Caspe in three hours, but went lazily, being weary;
for however long a man defies fatigue the hour comes when it claims
him. The knowledge that Caspe lay near with sure lodging for the night,
soothed Rodriguez' impatience. And as they loitered they talked, and
they decided that la Garda must now be too far behind to pursue any
longer. They came in four hours to the bank of the Ebro and there saw
Caspe near them; but they dined once more on the grass, sitting beside
the river, rather than enter the town at once, for there had grown in
both travellers a liking for the wanderers' green table of earth.

It was a time to make plans. The country of romance was far away and
they were without horses.

"Will you buy horses, master?" said Morano.

"We might not get them over the Pyrenees," said Rodriguez, though he
had a better reason, which was that three gold pieces did not buy two
saddled horses. There were no more friends to hire from. Morano grew
thoughtful. He sat with his feet dangling over the bank of the Ebro.

"Master," he said after a while, "this river goes our way. Let us come
by boat, master, and drift down to France at our ease."

To get a river over a range of mountains is harder than to get horses.
Some such difficulty Rodriguez implied to him; but Morano, having come
slowly by an idea, parted not so easily with it.

"It goes our way, master," he repeated, and pointed a finger at the
Ebro.

At this moment a certain song that boatmen sing on that river, when the
current is with them and they have nothing to do but be idle and their
lazy thoughts run to lascivious things, came to the ears of Rodriguez
and Morano; and a man with a bright blue sash steered down the Ebro. He
had been fishing and was returning home.

"Master," Morano said, "that knave shall row us there."

Rodriguez seeing that the idea was fixed in Morano's mind determined
that events would move it sooner than argument, and so made no reply.

"Shall I tell him, master?" asked Morano.

"Yes," said Rodriguez, "if he can row us over the Pyrenees."

This was the permission that Morano sought, and a hideous yell broke
from his throat hailing the boatman. The boatman looked up lazily, a
young man with strong brown arms, turning black moustaches towards
Morano. Again Morano hailed him and ran along the bank, while the boat
drifted down and the boatman steered in towards Morano. Somehow Morano
persuaded him to come in to see what he wanted; and in a creek he ran
his boat aground, and there he and Morano argued and bargained. But
Rodriguez remained where he was, wondering why it took so long to turn
his servant's mind from that curious fancy. At last Morano returned.

"Well?" said Rodriguez.

"Master," said Morano, "he will row us to the Pyrenees."

"The Pyrenees!" said Rodriguez. "The Ebro runs into the sea." For they
had taught him this at the college of San Josephus.

"He will row us there," said Morano, "for a gold piece a day, rowing
five hours each day."

Now between them they had but four gold pieces; but that did not make
the Ebro run northward. It seemed that the Ebro, after going their way,
as Morano had said, for twenty or thirty miles, was joined by the river
Segre, and that where the Ebro left them, turning eastwards, the course
of the Segre took them on their way: but it would be rowing against the
current.

"How far is it?" said Rodriguez.

"A hundred miles, he says," answered Morano. "He knows it well."

Rodriguez calculated swiftly. First he added thirty miles; for he knew
that his countrymen took a cheerful view of distance, seldom allowing
any distance to oppress them under its true name at the out set of a
journey; then he guessed that the boatman might row five miles an hour
for the first thirty miles with the stream of the Ebro, and he hoped
that he might row three against the Segre until they came near the
mountains, where the current might grow too strong.

"Morano," he said, "we shall have to row too."

"Row, master?" said Morano.

"We can pay him for four days," said Rodriguez. "If we all row we may
go far on our way."

"It is better than riding," replied Morano with entire resignation.

And so they walked to the creek and Rodriguez greeted the boatman,
whose name was Perez; and they entered the boat and he rowed them down
to Caspe. And, in the house of Perez, Rodriguez slept that night in a
large dim room, untidy with diverse wares: they slept on heaps of
things that pertained to the river and fishing. Yet it was late before
Rodriguez slept, for in sight of his mind came glimpses at last of the
end of his journey; and, when he slept at last, he saw the Pyrenees.
Through the long night their mighty heads rejected him, staring
immeasurably beyond him in silence, and then in happier dreams they
beckoned him for a moment. Till at last a bird that had entered the
city of Caspe sang clear and it was dawn. With that first light
Rodriguez arose and awoke Morano. Together they left that long haven of
lumber and found Perez already stirring. They ate hastily and all went
down to the boat, the unknown that waits at the end of all strange
journeys quickening their steps as they went through the early light.

Perez rowed first and the others took their turns and so they went all
the morning down the broad flood of the Ebro, and came in the afternoon
to its meeting place with the Segre. And there they landed and
stretched their limbs on shore and lit a fire and feasted, before they
faced the current that would be henceforth against them. Then they
rowed on.

When they landed by starlight and unrolled a sheet of canvas that Perez
had put in the boat, and found what a bad time starlight is for
pitching a tent, Rodriguez and Morano had rowed for four hours each and
Perez had rowed for five. They carried no timber in the boat but used
the oars for tent-poles and cut tent-pegs with a small hatchet that
Perez had brought.

They stumbled on rocks, tore the canvas on bushes, lost the same thing
over and over again; in fact they were learning the craft of wandering.
Yet at last their tent was up and a good fire comforting them outside,
and Morano had cooked the food and they had supped and talked, and
after that they slept. And over them sleeping the starlight faded away,
and in the greyness that none of them dreamed was dawn five clear notes
were heard so shrill in the night that Rodriguez half waking wondered
what bird of the darkness called, and learned from the answering chorus
that it was day.

He woke Morano who rose in that chilly hour and, striking sparks among
last night's embers, soon had a fire: they hastily made a meal and
wrapped up their tent and soon they were going onward against the tide
of the Segre. And that day Morano rowed more skilfully; and Rodriguez
unwrapped his mandolin and played, reclining in the boat while he
rested from rowing. And the mandolin told them all, what the words of
none could say, that they fared to adventure in the land of Romance, to
the overthrow of dullness and the sameness of all drear schemes and the
conquest of discontent in the spirit of man; and perhaps it sang of a
time that has not yet come, or the mandolin lied.

That evening three wiser men made their camp before starlight. They
were now far up the Segre.

For thirteen hours next day they toiled at the oars or lay languid. And
while Rodriguez rested he played on his mandolin. The Segre slipped by
them.

They seemed like no men on their way to war, but seemed to loiter as
the bright river loitered, which slid seaward in careless ease and was
wholly freed from time.

On this day they heard men speak of the Pyrenees, two men and a woman
walking by the river; their voices came to the boat across the water,
and they spoke of the Pyrenees. And on the next day they heard men
speak of war. War that some farmers had fled from on the other side of
the mountain. When Rodriguez heard these chance words his dreams came
nearer till they almost touched the edges of reality.

It was the last day of Perez' rowing. He rowed well although they
neared the cradle of the Segre and he struggled against them in his
youth. Grey peaks began to peer that had nursed that river. Grey faces
of stone began to look over green hills. They were the Pyrenees.

When Rodriguez saw at last the Pyrenees he drew a breath and was unable
to speak. Soon they were gone again below the hills: they had but
peered for a moment to see who troubled the Segre.

And the sun set and still they did not camp, but Perez rowed on into
the starlight. That day he rowed six hours.

They pitched their tent as well as they could in the darkness; and,
breathing a clear new air all crisp from the Pyrenees, they slept
outside the threshold of adventure.

Rodriguez awoke cold. Once more he heard the first blackbird who sings
clear at the edge of night all alone in the greyness, the nightingale's
only rival; a rival like some unknown in the midst of a crowd who for a
moment leads some well-loved song, in notes more liquid than a
master-singer's; and all the crowd joins in and his voice is lost, and
no one learns his name. At once a host of birds answered him out of dim
bushes, whose shapes had barely as yet emerged from night. And in this
chorus Perez awoke, and even Morano.

They all three breakfasted together, and then the wanderers said
good-bye to Perez. And soon he was gone with his bright blue sash,
drifting homewards with the Segre, well paid yet singing a little sadly
as he drifted; for he had been one of a quest, and now he left it at
the edge of adventure, near solemn mountains and, beyond them,
romantic, near-unknown lands. So Perez left and Rodriguez and Morano
turned again to the road, all the more lightly because they had not
done a full day's march for so long, and now a great one unrolled its
leagues before them.

The heads of the mountains showed themselves again. They tramped as in
the early days of their quest. And as they went the mountains,
unveiling themselves slowly, dropping film after film of distance that
hid their mighty forms, gradually revealed to the wanderers the
magnificence of their beauty. Till at evening Rodriguez and Morano
stood on a low hill, looking at that tremendous range, which lifted far
above the fields of Earth, as though its mountains were no earthly
things but sat with Fate and watched us and did not care.

Rodriguez and Morano stood and gazed in silence. They had come twenty
miles since morning, they were tired and hungry, but the mountains held
them: they stood there looking neither for rest nor food. Beyond them,
sheltering under the low hills, they saw a little village. Smoke
straggled up from it high into the evening: beyond the village woods
sloped away upwards. But far above smoke or woods the bare peaks
brooded. Rodriguez gazed on their austere solemnity, wondering what
secret they guarded there for so long, guessing what message they held
and hid from man; until he learned that the mystery they guarded among
them was of things that he knew not and could never know.

Tinkle-ting said the bells of a church, invisible among the houses of
that far village. Tinkle-ting said the crescent of hills that sheltered
it. And after a while, speaking out of their grim and enormous silences
with all the gravity of their hundred ages, Tinkle-ting said the
mountains. With this trivial message Echo returned from among the homes
of the mighty, where she had run with the small bell's tiny cry to
trouble their crowned aloofness.

Rodriguez and Morano pressed on, and the mountains cloaked themselves
as they went, in air of many colours; till the stars came out and the
lights of the village gleamed. In darkness, with surprise in the tones
of the barking dogs, the two wanderers came to the village where so few
ever came, for it lay at the end of Spain, cut off by those mighty
rocks, and they knew not much of what lands lay beyond.

They beat on a door below a hanging board, on which was written "The
Inn of the World's End": a wandering scholar had written it and had
been well paid for his work, for in those days writing was rare. The
door was opened for them by the host of the inn, and they entered a
room in which men who had supped were sitting at a table. They were all
of them men from the Spanish side of the mountains, farmers come into
the village on the affairs of Mother Earth; next day they would be back
at their farms again; and of the land the other side of the mountains
that was so near now they knew nothing, so that it still remained for
the wanderers a thing of mystery wherein romance could dwell: and
because they knew nothing of that land the men at the inn treasured all
the more the rumours that sometimes came from it, and of these they
talked, and mine host listened eagerly, to whom all tales were brought
soon or late; and most he loved to hear tales from beyond the mountains.

Rodriguez and Morano sat still and listened, and the talk was all of
war. It was faint and vague like fable, but rumour clearly said War,
and the other side of the mountains. It may be that no man has a crazy
ambition without at moments suspecting it; but prove it by the
touchstone of fact and he becomes at once as a woman whose invalid son,
after years of seclusion indoors, wins unexpectedly some athletic
prize. When Rodriguez heard all this talk of wars quite near he thought
of his castle as already won; his thoughts went further even, floating
through Lowlight in the glowing evening, and drifting up and down past
Serafina's house below the balcony where she sat for ever.

Some said the Duke would never attack the Prince because the Duke's
aunt was a princess from the Troubadour's country. Another said that
there would surely be war. Others said that there was war already, and
too late for man to stop it. All said it would soon be over.

And one man said that it was the last war that would come, because
gunpowder made fighting impossible. It could smite a man down, he said,
at two hundred paces, and a man be slain not knowing whom he fought.
Some loved fighting and some loved peace, he said, but gunpowder suited
none.

"I like not the sound of that gunpowder, master," said Morano to
Rodriguez.

"Nobody likes it," said the man at the table. "It is the end of war."
And some sighed and some were glad. But Rodriguez determined to push on
before the last war was over.

Next morning Rodriguez paid the last of his silver pieces and set off
with Morano before any but mine host were astir. There was nothing but
the mountains in front of them.

They climbed all the morning and they came to the fir woods. There they
lit a good fire and Morano brought out his frying-pan. Over the meal
they took stock of their provisions and found that, for all the store
Morano had brought from the forest, they had now only food for three
days; and they were quite without money. Money in those uplifted wastes
seemed trivial, but the dwindling food told Rodriguez that he must
press on; for man came among those rocky monsters supplied with all his
needs, or perished unnoticed before their stony faces. All the
afternoon they passed through the fir woods, and as shadows began to
grow long they passed the last tree. The village and all the fields
about it and the road by which they had come were all spread out below
them like little trivial things dimly remembered from very long ago by
one whose memory weakens. Distance had dwarfed them, and the cold
regard of those mighty peaks ignored them. And then a shadow fell on
the village, then tiny lights shone out. It was night down there. Still
the two wanderers climbed on in the daylight. With their faces to the
rocks they scarce saw night climb up behind them. But when Rodriguez
looked up at the sky to see how much light was left, and met the calm
gaze of the evening star, he saw that Night and the peaks were met
together, and understood all at once how puny an intruder is man.

"Morano," said Rodriguez, "we must rest here for the night."

Morano looked round him with an air of discontent, not with his
master's words but with the rocks' angular hardness. There was scarce a
plant of any kind near them now. They were near the snow, which had
flushed like a wild rose at sunset but was now all grey. Grey cliffs
seemed to be gazing sheer at eternity; and here was man, the creature
of a moment, who had strayed in the cold all homeless among his
betters. There was no welcome for them there: whatever feeling great
mountains evoke, THAT feeling was clear in Rodriguez and Morano. They
were all amongst those that have other aims, other ends, and know
naught of man. A bitter chill from the snow and from starry space drove
this thought home.

They walked on looking for a better place, as men will, but found none.
And at last they lay down on the cold earth under a rock that seemed to
give shelter from the wind, and there sought sleep; but cold came
instead, and sleep kept far from the tremendous presences of the peaks
of the Pyrenees that gazed on things far from here.

An ageing moon arose, and Rodriguez touched Morano and rose up; and the
two went slowly on, tired though they were. Picture the two tiny
figures, bent, shivering and weary, walking with clumsy sticks cut in
the wood, amongst the scorn of those tremendous peaks, which the moon
showed all too clearly.

They got little warmth from walking, they were too weary to run; and
after a while they halted and burned their sticks, and got a little
warmth for some moments from their fire, which burned feebly and
strangely in those inhuman solitudes.

Then they went on again and their track grew steeper. They rested again
for fatigue, and rose and climbed again because of the cold; and all
the while the peaks stared over them to spaces far beyond the thought
of man.

Long before Spain knew anything of dawn a monster high in heaven smiled
at the sun, a peak out-towering all its aged children. It greeted the
sun as though this lonely thing, that scorned the race of man since
ever it came, had met a mighty equal out in Space. The vast peak
glowed, and the rest of its grey race took up the greeting leisurely
one by one. Still it was night in all Spanish houses.

Rodriguez and Morano were warmed by that cold peak's glow, though no
warmth came from it at all; but the sight of it cheered them and their
pulses rallied, and so they grew warmer in that bitter hour.

And then dawn came, and showed them that they were near the top of the
pass. They had come to the snow that gleams there everlastingly.

There was no material for a fire but they ate cold meats, and went
wearily on. They passed through that awful assemblage of peaks. By noon
they were walking upon level ground.

In the afternoon Rodriguez, tired with the journey and with the heat of
the sun, decided that it was possible to sleep, and, wrapping his cloak
around him, he lay down, doing what Morano would have done, by
instinct. Morano was asleep at once and Rodriguez soon after. They
awoke with the cold at sunset.

Refreshed amazingly they ate some food and started their walk again to
keep themselves warm for the night. They were still on level ground and
set out with a good stride in their relief at being done with climbing.
Later they slowed down and wandered just to keep warm. And some time in
the starlight they felt their path dip, and knew that they were going
downward now to the land of Rodriguez' dreams.

When the peaks glowed again, first meeting day in her earliest
dancing-grounds of filmy air, they stood now behind the wanderers.
Below them still in darkness lay the land of their dream, but hitherto
it had always faded at dawn. Now hills put up their heads one by one
through films of mist; woods showed, then hedges, and afterwards
fields, greyly at first and then, in the cold hard light of morning,
becoming more and more real. The sight of the land so long sought, at
moments believed by Morano not to exist on earth, perhaps to have faded
away when fables died, swept their fatigue from the wanderers, and they
stepped out helped by the slope of the Pyrenees and cheered by the
rising sun. They came at last to things that welcome man, little shrubs
flowering, and--at noon--to the edge of a fir wood. They entered the
wood and lit a merry fire, and heard birds singing, at which they both
rejoiced, for the great peaks had said nothing.

They ate the food that Morano cooked, and drew warmth and cheer from
the fire, and then they slept a little: and, rising from sleep, they
pushed on through the wood, downward and downward toward the land of
their dreams, to see if it was true.

They passed the wood and came to curious paths, and little hills, and
heath, and rocky places, and wandering vales that twisted all awry.
They passed through them all with the slope of the mountain behind
them. When level rays from the sunset mellowed the fields of France the
wanderers were walking still, but the peaks were far behind them,
austerely gazing on the remotest things, forgetting the footsteps of
man. And walking on past soft fields in the evening, all tilted a
little about the mountain's feet, they had scarcely welcomed the sight
of the evening star, when they saw before them the mild glow of a
window and knew they were come again to the earth that is mother to
man. In their cold savagery the inhuman mountains decked themselves out
like gods with colours they took from the sunset; then darkened, all
those peaks, in brooding conclave and disappeared in the night. And the
hushed night heard the tiny rap of Morano's hands on the door of the
house that had the glowing window.



THE NINTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE WON A CASTLE IN SPAIN


The woman that came to the door had on her face a look that pleased
Morano.

"Are you soldiers?" she said. And her scared look portended war.

"My master is a traveller looking for the wars," said Morano. "Are the
wars near?"

"Oh, no, not near," said the woman; "not near."

And something in the anxious way she said "not near" pleased Morano
also.

"We shall find those wars, master," he said.

And then they both questioned her. It seemed the wars were but twenty
miles away. "But they will move northward," she said. "Surely they will
move farther off?"

Before the next night was passed Rodriguez' dream might come true!

And then the man came to the door anxious at hearing strange voices;
and Morano questioned him too, but he understood never a word. He was a
French farmer that had married a Spanish girl, out of the wonderful
land beyond the mountains: but whether he understood her or not he
never understood Spanish. But both Rodriguez and the farmer's wife knew
the two languages, and he had no difficulty in asking for lodging for
the night; and she looked wistfully at him going to the wars, for in
those days wars were small and not every man went. The night went by
with dreams that were all on the verge of waking, which passed like
ghosts along the edge of night almost touched by the light of day. It
was Rodriguez whom these dreams visited. The farmer and his wife
wondered awhile and then slept; Morano slept with all his wonted
lethargy; but Rodriguez with his long quest now on the eve of
fulfilment slept a tumultuous sleep. Sometimes his dreams raced over
the Pyrenees, running south as far as Lowlight; and sometimes they
rushed forward and clung like bats to the towers of the great castle
that he should win in the war. And always he lay so near the edge of
sleep that he never distinguished quite between thought and dream.

Dawn came and he put by all the dreams but the one that guided him
always, and went and woke Morano. They ate hurriedly and left the
house, and again the farmer's wife looked curiously at Rodriguez, as
though there were something strange in a man that went to wars: for
those days were not as these days. They followed the direction that had
been given them, and never had the two men walked so fast. By the end
of four hours they had done sixteen miles. They halted then, and Morano
drew out his frying-pan with a haughty flourish, and cooked in the
grand manner, every movement he made was a triumphant gesture; for they
had passed refugees! War was now obviously close: they had but to take
the way that the refugees were not taking. The dream was true: Morano
saw himself walking slowly in splendid dress along the tapestried
corridors of his master's castle. He would have slept after eating and
would have dreamed more of this, but Rodriguez commanded him to put the
things together: so what remained of the food disappeared again in a
sack, the frying-pan was slung over his shoulders, and Morano stood
ready again for the road.

They passed more refugees: their haste was unmistakable, and told more
than their lips could have told had they tarried to speak: the wars
were near now, and the wanderers went leisurely.

As they strolled through the twilight they came over the brow of a
hill, a little fold of the earth disturbed eras ago by the awful
rushing up of the Pyrenees; and they saw the evening darkening over the
fields below them and a white mist rising only just clear of the grass,
and two level rows of tents greyish-white like the mist, with a few
more tents scattered near them. The tents had come up that evening with
the mist, for there were men still hammering pegs. They were lighting
fires now as evening settled in. Two hundred paces or so separated each
row. It was two armies facing each other.

The gloaming faded: mist and the tents grew greyer: camp-fires blinked
out of the dimness and grew redder and redder, and candles began to be
lit beside the tents till all were glowing pale golden: Rodriguez and
Morano stood there wondering awhile as they looked on the beautiful
aura that surrounds the horrors of war.

They came by starlight to that tented field, by twinkling starlight to
the place of Rodriguez' dream.

"For which side will you fight, master?" said Morano in his ear.

"For the right," said Rodriguez and strode on towards the nearest
tents, never doubting that he would be guided, though not trying to
comprehend how this could be.

They met with an officer going among his tents. "Where do you go?" he
shouted.

"Señor," Rodriguez said, "I come with my mandolin to sing songs to you."

And at this the officer called out and others came from their tents;
and Rodriguez repeated his offer to them not without confidence, for he
knew that he had a way with the mandolin. And they said that they
fought a battle on the morrow and could not listen to song: they heaped
scorn on singing for they said they must needs prepare for the fight:
and all of them looked with scorn on the mandolin. So Rodriguez bowed
low to them with doffed hat and left them; and Morano bowed also,
seeing his master bow; and the men of that camp returned to their
preparations. A short walk brought Rodriguez and his servant to the
other camp, over a flat field convenient for battle. He went up to a
large tent well lit, the door being open towards him; and, having
explained his errand to a sentry that stood outside, he entered and saw
three persons of quality that were sitting at a table. To them he bowed
low in the tent door, saying: "Señors, I am come to sing songs to you,
playing the while upon my mandolin."

And they welcomed him gladly, saying: "We fight tomorrow and will
gladly cheer our hearts with the sound of song and strengthen our men
thereby."

And so Rodriguez sang among the tents, standing by a great fire to
which they led him; and men came from the tents and into the circle of
light, and in the darkness outside it were more than Rodriguez saw. And
he sang to the circle of men and the vague glimmer of faces. Songs of
their homes he sang them, not in their language, but songs that were
made by old poets about the homes of their infancy, in valleys under
far mountains remote from the Pyrenees. And in the song the yearnings
of dead poets lived again, all streaming homeward like swallows when
the last of the storms is gone: and those yearnings echoed in the
hearts that beat in the night around the campfire, and they saw their
own homes. And then he began to touch his mandolin; and he played them
the tunes that draw men from their homes and that march them away to
war. The tunes flowed up from the firelight: the mandolin knew. And the
men heard the mandolin saying what they would say.

In the late night he ended, and a hush came down on the camp while the
music floated away, going up from the dark ring of men and the fire-lit
faces, touching perhaps the knees of the Pyrenees and drifting thence
wherever echoes go. And the sparks of the camp-fire went straight
upwards as they had done for hours, and the men that sat around it saw
them go: for long they had not seen the sparks stream upwards, for
their thoughts were far away with the mandolin. And all at once they
cheered. And Rodriguez bowed to the one whose tent he had entered, and
sought permission to fight for them in the morning.

With good grace this was accorded him, and while he bowed and well
expressed his thanks he felt Morano touching his elbow. And as soon as
he had gone aside with Morano that fat man's words bubbled over and
were said.

"Master, fight not for these men," he exclaimed, "for they listen to
song till midnight while the others prepare for battle. The others will
win the fight, master, and where will your castle be?"

"Morano," said Rodriguez, "there seems to be truth in that. Yet must we
fight for the right. For how would it be if those that have denied song
should win and thrive? The arm of every good man must be against them.
They have denied song, Morano! We must fight against them, you and I,
while we can lay sword to head."

"Yes, indeed, master," said Morano. "But how shall you come by your
castle?"

"As for that," said Rodriguez, "it must some day be won, yet not by
denying song. These have given a welcome to song, and the others have
driven it forth. And what would life be if those that deny song are to
be permitted to thrive unmolested by all good men?"

"I know not, master," said Morano, "but I would have that castle."

"Enough," said Rodriguez. "We must fight for the right."

And so Rodriguez remained true to those that had heard him sing. And
they gave him a casque and breast-plate, proof, they said, against any
sword, and offered a sword that they said would surely cleave any
breast-plate. For they fought not in battle with the nimble rapier. But
Rodriguez did not forsake that famous exultant sword whose deeds he
knew from many an ancient song; which he had brought so far to give it
its old rich drink of blood. He believed it the bright key of the
castle he was to win.

And they gave Rodriguez a good bed on the ground in the tent of the
three leaders, the tent to which he first came; for they honoured him
for the gift of song that he had, and because he was a stranger, and
because he had asked permission to fight for them in their battle. And
Rodriguez took one look by the light of a lantern at the rose he had
carried from Lowlight, then slept a sleep through whose dreams loomed
up the towers of castles.

Dawn came and he slept on still; but by seven all the camp was loudly
astir, for they had promised the enemy to begin the battle at eight.
Rodriguez breakfasted lightly; for, now that the day of his dreams was
come at last and all his hopes depended on the day, an anxiety for many
things oppressed him. It was as though his castle, rosy and fair in
dreams, chilled with its huge cold rocks all the air near it: it was as
though Rodriguez touched it at last with his hands and felt a dankness
of which he had never dreamed.

Then it came to the hour of eight and his anxieties passed.

The army was now drawn up before its tents in line, but the enemy was
not yet ready and so they had to wait.

When the signal at length was given and the cannoniers fired their
pieces, and the musketoons were shot off, many men fell. Now Rodriguez,
with Morano, was placed on the right, and either through a slight
difference in numbers or because of an unevenness in the array of
battle they a little overlapped the enemy's left. When a few men fell
wounded there by the discharge of the musketoons this overlapping was
even more pronounced.

Now the leaders of that fair army scorned all unknightly devices, and
would never have descended to any vile ruse de guerre. The reproach can
therefore never be made against them that they ever intended to
outflank their enemy. Yet, when both armies advanced after the
discharge of the musketoons and the merry noise of the cannon, this
occurred as the result of chance, which no leader can be held
accountable for; so that those that speak of treachery in this battle,
and deliberate outflanking, lie.

Now Rodriguez as he advanced with his sword, when the musketoons were
empty, had already chosen his adversary. For he had carefully watched
those opposite to him, before any smoke should obscure them, and had
selected the one who from the splendour of his dress might be expected
to possess the finest castle. Certainly this adversary outshone those
amongst whom he stood, and gave fair promise of owning goodly
possessions, for he wore a fine green cloak over a dress of lilac, and
his helm and cuirass had a look of crafty workmanship. Towards him
Rodriguez marched.

Then began fighting foot to foot, and there was a pretty laying on of
swords. And had there been a poet there that day then the story of
their fight had come down to you, my reader, all that way from the
Pyrenees, down all those hundreds of years, and this tale of mine had
been useless, the lame repetition in prose of songs that your nurses
had sung to you. But they fought unseen by those that see for the Muses.

Rodriguez advanced upon his chosen adversary and, having briefly bowed,
they engaged at once. And Rodriguez belaboured his helm till dints
appeared, and beat it with swift strokes yet till the dints were
cracks, and beat the cracks till hair began to appear: and all the
while his adversary's strokes grew weaker and wilder, until he tottered
to earth and Rodriguez had won. Swift then as cats, while Morano kept
off others, Rodriguez leaped to his throat, and, holding up the
stiletto that he had long ago taken as his legacy from the host of the
Dragon and Knight, he demanded the fallen man's castle as ransom for
his life.

"My castle, señor?" said his prisoner weakly.

"Yes," said Rodriguez impatiently.

"Yes, señor," said his adversary and closed his eyes for awhile.

"Does he surrender his castle, master?" asked Morano.

"Yes, indeed," said Rodriguez. They looked at each other: all at last
was well.

The battle was rolling away from them and was now well within the
enemy's tents.

History says of that day that the good men won. And, sitting, a Muse
upon her mythical mountain, her decision must needs be one from which
we may not appeal: and yet I wonder if she is ever bribed. Certainly
the shrewd sense of Morano erred for once; for those for whom he had
predicted victory, because they prepared so ostentatiously upon the
field, were defeated; while the others, having made their preparations
long before, were able to cheer themselves with song before the battle
and to win it when it came.

And so Rodriguez was left undisturbed in possession of his prisoner and
with the promise of his castle as a ransom. The battle was swiftly
over, as must needs be where little armies meet so close. The enemy's
camp was occupied, his army routed, and within an hour of beginning the
battle the last of the fighting ceased.

The army returned to its tents to rejoice and to make a banquet,
bringing with them captives and horses and other spoils of war. And
Rodriguez had honour among them because he had fought on the right and
so was one of those that had broken the enemy's left, from which
direction victory had come. And they would have feasted him and done
him honour, both for his work with the sword and for his songs to the
mandolin; and they would have marched away soon to their own country
and would have taken him with them and advanced him to honour there.
But Rodriguez would not stay with them for he had his castle at last,
and must needs march off at once with his captive and Morano to see the
fulfilment of his dream. And therefore he thanked the leaders of that
host with many a courtesy and many a well-bent bow, and explained to
them how it was about his castle, and felicitated them on the victory
of their good cause, and so wished them farewell. And they said
farewell sorrowfully: but when they saw he would go, they gave him
horses for himself and Morano, and another for his captive; and they
heaped them with sacks of provender and blankets and all things that
could give him comfort upon a journey: all this they brought him out of
their spoils of war, and they would give him no less that the most that
the horses could carry. And then Rodriguez turned to his captive again,
who now stood on his feet.

"Señor," he said, "pray tell us all of your castle wherewith you ransom
your life."

"Señor," he answered, "I have a castle in Spain."

"Master," broke in Morano, his eyes lighting up with delight, "there
are no castles like the Spanish ones."

They got to horse then, all three; the captive on a horse of far poorer
build than the other two and well-laden with sacks, for Rodriguez took
no chance of his castle cantering, as it were, away from him on four
hooves through the dust.

And when they heard that his journey was by way of the Pyrenees four
knights of that army swore they would ride with him as far as the
frontier of Spain, to bear him company and bring him fuel in the lonely
cold of the mountains. They all set off and the merry army cheered. He
left them making ready for their banquet, and never knew the cause for
which he had fought.

They came by evening again to the house to which Rodriguez had come two
nights before, when he had slept there with his castle yet to win. They
all halted before it, and the man and the woman came to the door
terrified. "The wars!" they said.

"The wars," said one of the riders, "are over, and the just cause has
won."

"The Saints be praised!" said the woman. "But will there be no more
fighting?"

"Never again," said the horseman, "for men are sick of gunpowder."

"The Saints be thanked," she said.

"Say not that," said the horseman, "for Satan invented gunpowder."

And she was silent; but, had none been there, she had secretly thanked
Satan.

They demanded the food and shelter that armed men have the right to
demand.

In the morning they were gone. They became a memory, which lingered
like a vision, made partly of sunset and partly of the splendour of
their cloaks, and so went down the years that those two folk had, a
thing of romance, magnificence and fear. And now the slope of the
mountain began to lift against them, and they rode slowly towards those
unearthly peaks that had deserted the level fields before ever man came
to them, and that sat there now familiar with stars and dawn with the
air of never having known of man. And as they rode they talked. And
Rodriguez talked with the four knights that rode with him, and they
told tales of war and told of the ways of fighting of many men: and
Morano rode behind them beside the captive and questioned him all the
morning about his castle in Spain. And at first the captive answered
his questions slowly, as if he were weary, or as though he were long
from home and remembered its features dimly; but memory soon returned
and he answered clearly, telling of such a castle as Morano had not
dreamed; and the eyes of the fat man bulged as he rode beside him,
growing rounder and rounder as they rode.

They came by sunset to that wood of firs in which Rodriguez had rested.
In the midst of the wood they halted and tethered their horses to
trees; they tied blankets to branches and made an encampment; and in
the midst of it they made a fire, at first, with pine-needles and the
dead lower twigs and then with great logs. And there they feasted
together, all seven, around the fire. And when the feast was over and
the great logs burning well, and red sparks went up slowly towards the
silver stars, Morano turned to the prisoner seated beside him and "Tell
the señors," he said, "of my master's castle."

And in the silence, that was rather lulled than broken by the
whispering wind from the snow that sighed through the wood, the captive
slowly lifted up his head and spoke in his queer accent.

"Señors, in Aragon, across the Ebro, are many goodly towers." And as he
spoke they all leaned forward to listen, dark faces bright with
firelight. "On the Ebro's southern bank stands," he went on, "my home."

He told of strange rocks rising from the Ebro; of buttresses built
among them in unremembered times; of the great towers lifting up in
multitudes from the buttresses; and of the mighty wall, windowless
until it came to incredible heights, where the windows shone all safe
from any ladder of war.

At first they felt in his story his pride in his lost home, and
wondered, when he told of the height of his towers, how much he added
in pride. And then the force of that story gripped them all and they
doubted never a battlement, but each man's fancy saw between firelight
and starlight every tower clear in the air. And at great height upon
those marvellous towers the turrets of arches were; queer carvings
grinned down from above inaccessible windows; and the towers gathered
in light from the lonely air where nothing stood but they, and flashed
it far over Aragon; and the Ebro floated by them always new, always
amazed by their beauty.

He spoke to the six listeners on the lonely mountain, slowly,
remembering mournfully; and never a story that Romance has known and
told of castles in Spain has held men more than he held his listeners,
while the sparks flew up toward the peaks of the Pyrenees and did not
reach to them but failed in the night, giving place to the white stars.

And when he faltered through sorrow, or memory weakening, Morano
always, watching with glittering eyes, would touch his arm, sitting
beside him, and ask some question, and the captive would answer the
question and so talk sadly on.

He told of the upper terraces, where heliotrope and aloe and oleander
took sunlight far above their native earth: and though but rare winds
carried the butterflies there, such as came to those fragrant terraces
lingered for ever.

And after a while he spoke on carelessly, and Morano's questions ended,
and none of the men in the firelight said a word; but he spoke on
uninterrupted, holding them as by a spell, with his eyes fixed far away
on black crags of the Pyrenees, telling of his great towers: almost it
might have seemed he was speaking of mountains. And when the fire was
only a deep red glow and white ash showed all round it, and he ceased
speaking, having told of a castle marvellous even amongst the towers of
Spain: all sitting round the embers felt sad with his sadness, for his
sad voice drifted into their very spirits as white mists enter houses,
and all were glad when Rodriguez said to him that one of his ten tall
towers the captive should keep and should live in it for ever. And the
sad man thanked him sadly and showed no joy.

When the tale of the castle and those great towers was done, the wind
that blew from the snow touched all the hearers; they had seemed to be
away by the bank of the Ebro in the heat and light of Spain, and now
the vast night stripped them and the peaks seemed to close round on
them. They wrapped themselves in blankets and lay down in their
shelters. For a while they heard the wind waving branches and the thump
of a horse's hoof restless at night; then they all slept except one
that guarded the captive, and the captive himself who long lay thinking
and thinking.

Dawn stole through the wood and waked none of the sleepers; the birds
all shouted at them, still they slept on; and then the captive's guard
wakened Morano and he stirred up the sparks of the fire and cooked, and
they breakfasted late. And soon they left the wood and faced the bleak
slope, all of them going on foot and leading their horses.

And the track crawled on till it came to the scorn of the peaks,
winding over a shoulder of the Pyrenees, where the peaks gaze cold and
contemptuous away from the things of man.

In the presence of those that bore them company Rodriguez and Morano
felt none of the deadly majesty of those peaks that regard so awfully
over the solitudes. They passed through them telling cheerfully of wars
the four knights had known: and descended and came by sunset to the
lower edge of the snow. They pushed on a little farther and then
camped; and with branches from the last camp that they had heaped on
their horses they made another great fire and, huddling round it in the
blankets that they had brought, found warmth even there so far from the
hearths of men.

And dawn and the cold woke them all on that treeless slope by barely
warm embers. Morano cooked again and they ate in silence. And then the
four knights rose sadly and one bowed and told Rodriguez how they must
now go back to their own country. And grief seized on Rodriguez at his
words, seeing that he was to lose four old friends at once and perhaps
for ever, for when men have fought under the same banner in war they
become old friends on that morning.

"Señors," said Rodriguez, "we may never meet again!"

And the other looked back to the peaks beyond which the far lands lay,
and made a gesture with his hands.

"Señor, at least," said Rodriguez, "let us camp once more together."

And even Morano babbled a supplication.

"Methinks, señor," he answered, "we are already across the frontier,
and when we men of the sword cross frontiers misunderstandings arise,
so that it is our custom never to pass across them save when we push
the frontier with us, adding the lands over which we march to those of
our liege lord."

"Señors," said Rodriguez, "the whole mountain is the frontier. Come
with us one day further." But they would not stay.

All the good things that could be carried they loaded on to the three
horses whose heads were turned towards Spain; then turned, all four,
and said farewell to the three. And long looked each in the face of
Rodriguez as he took his hand in fare well, for they had fought under
the same banner and, as wayfaring was in those days, it was not likely
that they would ever meet again. They turned and went with their horses
back towards the land they had fought for.

Rodriguez and his captive and Morano went sadly down the mountain. They
came to the fir woods, and rested, and Morano cooked their dinner. And
after a while they were able to ride their horses.

They came to the foot of the mountains, and rode on past the Inn of the
World's End. They camped in the open; and all night long Rodriguez or
Morano guarded the captive.

For two days and part of the third they followed their old course,
catching sight again and again of the river Segre; and then they turned
further west ward to come to Aragon further up the Ebro. All the way
they avoided houses and camped in the open, for they kept their captive
to themselves: and they slept warm with their ample store of blankets.
And all the while the captive seemed morose or ill at ease, speaking
seldom and, when he did, in nervous jerks.

Morano, as they rode, or by the camp fire at evening, still questioned
him now and then about his castle; and sometimes he almost seemed to
contradict himself, but in so vast a castle may have been many styles
of architecture, and it was difficult to trace a contradiction among
all those towers and turrets. His name was Don
Alvidar-of-the-Rose-pink-Castle on-Ebro.

One night while all three sat and gazed at the camp-fire as men will,
when the chilly stars are still and the merry flames are leaping,
Rodriguez, seeking to cheer his captive's mood, told him some of his
strange adventures. The captive listened with his sombre air. But when
Rodriguez told how they woke on the mountain after their journey to the
sun; and the sun was shining on their faces in the open, but the
magician and his whole house were gone; then there came another look
into Alvidar's eyes. And Rodriguez ended his tale and silence fell,
broken only by Morano saying across the fire, "It is true," and the
captive's thoughtful eyes gazed into the darkness. And then he also
spoke.

"Señor," he said, "near to my rose-pink castle which looks into the
Ebro dwells a magician also."

"Is it so?" said Rodriguez.

"Indeed so, señor," said Don Alvidar. "He is my enemy but dwells in awe
of me, and so durst never molest me except by minor wonders."

"How know you that he is a magician?" said Rodriguez.

"By those wonders," answered his captive. "He afflicts small dogs and
my poultry. And he wears a thin, high hat: his beard is also
extraordinary."

"Long?" said Morano.

"Green," answered Don Alvidar.

"Is he very near the castle?" said Rodriguez and Morano together.

"Too near," said Don Alvidar.

"Is his house wonderful?" Rodriguez asked.

"It is a common house," was the answer. "A mean, long house of one
story. The walls are white and it is well thatched. The windows are
painted green; there are two doors in it and by one of them grows a
rose tree."

"A rose tree?" exclaimed Rodriguez.

"It seemed a rose tree," said Don Alvidar.

"A captive lady chained to the wall perhaps, changed by magic,"
suggested Morano.

"Perhaps," said Don Alvidar.

"A strange house for a magician," said Rodriguez, for it sounded like
any small farmhouse in Spain.

"He much affects mortal ways," replied Don Alvidar.

Little more was then said, the fire being low: and Rodriguez lay down
to sleep while Morano guarded the captive.

And the day after that they came to Aragon, and in one day more they
were across the Ebro; and then they rode west for a day along its
southern bank looking all the while as they rode for Rodriguez' castle.
And more and more silent and aloof, as they rode, grew Don
Alvidar-of-the-Rose-pink-Castle-on-Ebro.

And just before sunset a cry broke from the captive. "He has taken it!"
he said. And he pointed to just such a house as he had described, a
jolly Spanish farmhouse with white walls and thatch and green shutters,
and a rose tree by one of the doors just as he had told.

"The magician's house. But the castle is gone," he said.

Rodriguez looked at his face and saw real alarm in it. He said nothing
but rode on in haste, a dim hope in his mind that explanations at the
white cottage might do something for his lost castle.

And when the hooves were heard a woman came out of the cottage door by
the rose tree leading a small child by the hand. And the captive called
to the woman, "Maria, we are lost. And I gave my great castle with
rose-pink towers that stood just here as ransom to this señor for my
life. But now, alas, I see that that magician who dwelt in the house
where you are now has taken it whither we know not."

"Yes, Pedro," said the woman, "he took it yesterday." And she turned
blue eyes upon Rodriguez.

And then Morano would be silent no longer. He had thought vaguely for
some days and intensely for the last few hundreds yards, and now he
blurted out the thoughts that boiled in him.

"Master," he shouted, "he has sold his cattle and bought this raiment
of his, and that helmet that you opened up for him, and never had any
castle on the Ebro with any towers to it, and never knew any magician,
but lived in this house himself, and now your castle is gone, master,
and as for his life ..."

"Be silent a moment, Morano," said Rodriguez, and he turned to the
woman whose eyes were on him still.

"Was there a castle in this place?" he said.

"Yes, señor. I swear it," she said. "And my husband, though a poor man,
always spoke the truth."

"She lies," said Morano, and Rodriguez silenced him with a gesture.

"I will get neighbours who will swear it too," she said.

"A lousy neighbourhood," said Morano.

Again Rodriguez silenced him. And then the child spoke in a frightened
voice, holding up a small cross that it had been taught to revere. "I
swear it too," it said.

Rodriguez heaved a sigh and turned away. "Master," Morano cried in
pained astonishment, "you will not believe their swearings."

"The child swore by the cross," he answered.

"But, master!" Morano exclaimed.

But Rodriguez would say no more. And they rode away aimless in silence.

Galloping hooves were heard and Pedro was there. He had come to give up
his horse. He gave its reins to the scowling Morano but Rodriguez said
never a word. Then he ran round and kissed Rodriguez' hand, who still
was silent, for his hopes were lost with the castle; but he nodded his
head and so parted for ever from the man whom his wife called Pedro,
who called himself Don Alvidar-of-the-Rose-pink-Castle-on-Ebro.



THE TENTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE CAME BACK TO LOWLIGHT


"Master," Morano said. But Rodriguez rode ahead and would not speak.

They were riding vaguely southward. They had ample provisions on the
horse that Morano led, as well as blankets, which gave them comfort at
night. That night they both got the sleep they needed, now that there
was no captive to guard. All the next day they rode slowly in the April
weather by roads that wandered among tended fields; but a little way
off from the fields there shone low hills in the sunlight, so wild, so
free of man, that Rodriguez remembering them in later years, wondered
if their wild shrubs just hid the frontiers of fairyland.

For two days they rode by the edge of unguessable regions. Had Pan
piped there no one had marvelled, nor though fauns had scurried past
sheltering clumps of azaleas. In the twilight no tiny queens had court
within rings of toadstools: yet almost, almost they appeared.

And on the third day all at once they came to a road they knew. It was
the road by which they had ridden when Rodriguez still had his dream,
the way from Shadow Valley to the Ebro. And so they turned into the
road they knew, as wanderers always will; and, still without aim or
plan, they faced towards Shadow Valley. And in the evening of the day
that followed that, as they looked about for a camping-ground, there
came in sight the village on the hill which Rodriguez knew to be fifty
miles from the forest: it was the village in which they had rested the
first night after leaving Shadow Valley. They did not camp but went on
to the village and knocked at the door of the inn. Habit guides us all
at times, even kings are the slaves of it (though in their presence it
takes the prouder name of precedent); and here were two wanderers
without any plans at all; they were therefore defenceless in the grip
of habit and, seeing an inn they knew, they loitered up to it. Mine
host came again to the door. He cheerfully asked Rodriguez how he had
fared on his journey, but Rodriguez would say nothing. He asked for
lodging for himself and Morano and stabling for the horses: he ate and
slept and paid his due, and in the morning was gone.

Whatever impulses guided Rodriguez as he rode and Morano followed, he
knew not what they were or even that there could be any. He followed
the road without hope and only travelled to change his camping-grounds.
And that night he was half-way between the village and Shadow Valley.

Morano never spoke, for he saw that his master's disappointment was
still raw; but it pleased him to notice, as he had done all day, that
they were heading for the great forest. He cooked their evening meal in
their camp by the wayside and they both ate it in silence. For awhile
Rodriguez sat and gazed at the might-have-beens in the camp-fire: and
when these began to be hidden by white ash he went to his blankets and
slept. And Morano went quietly about the little camp, doing all that
needed to be done, with never a word. When the horses were seen to and
fed, when the knives were cleaned, when everything was ready for the
start next morning, Morano went to his blankets and slept too. And in
the morning again they wandered on.

That evening they saw the low gold rays of the sun enchanting the tops
of a forest. It almost surprised Rodriguez, travelling without an aim,
to recognise Shadow Valley. They quickened their slow pace and, before
twilight faded, they were under the great oaks; but the last of the
twilight could not pierce the dimness of Shadow Valley, and it seemed
as if night had entered the forest with them.

They chose a camping-ground as well as they could in the darkness and
Morano tied the horses to trees a little way off from the camp. Then he
returned to Rodriguez and tied a blanket to the windward side of two
trees to make a kind of bedroom for his master, for they had all the
blankets they needed. And when this was done he set the emblem and
banner of camps, anywhere all over the world in any time, for he
gathered sticks and branches and lit a camp-fire. The first red flames
went up and waved and proclaimed a camp: the light made a little
circle, shadows ran away to the forest, and the circle of light on the
ground and on the trees that stood round it became for that one night
home.

They heard the horses stamp as they always did in the early part of the
night; and then Morano went to give them their fodder. Rodriguez sat
and gazed into the fire, his mind as full of thoughts as the fire was
full of pictures: one by one the pictures in the fire fell in; and all
his thoughts led nowhere.

He heard Morano running back the thirty or forty yards he had gone from
the camp-fire "Master," Morano said, "the three horses are gone."

"Gone?" said Rodriguez. There was little more to say; it was too dark
to track them and he knew that to find three horses in Shadow Valley
was a task that might take years. And after more thought than might
seem to have been needed he said; "We must go on foot."

"Have we far to go, master?" said Morano, for the first time daring to
question him since they left the cottage in Spain.

"I have nowhere to go," said Rodriguez. His head was downcast as he sat
by the fire: Morano stood and looked at him unhappily, full of a
sympathy that he found no words to express. A light wind slipped
through the branches and everything else was still. It was some while
before he lifted his head; and then he saw before him on the other side
of the fire, standing with folded arms, the man in the brown leather
jacket.

"Nowhere to go!" said he. "Who needs go anywhere from Shadow Valley?"

Rodriguez stared at him. "But I can't stay here!" he said.

"There is no fairer forest known to man," said the other. "I know many
songs that prove it."

Rodriguez made no answer but dropped his eyes, gazing with listless
glance once more at the ground. "Come, señor," said the man in the
leather jacket. "None are unhappy in Shadow Valley."

"Who are you?" said Rodriguez. Both he and Morano were gazing curiously
at the man whom they had saved three weeks ago from the noose.

"Your friend," answered the stranger.

"No friend can help me," said Rodriguez.

"Señor," said the stranger across the fire, still standing with folded
arms, "I remain under an obligation to no man. If you have an enemy or
love a lady, and if they dwell within a hundred miles, either shall be
before you within a week."

Rodriguez shook his head, and silence fell by the camp-fire. And after
awhile Rodriguez, who was accustomed to dismiss a subject when it was
ended, saw the stranger's eyes on him yet, still waiting for him to say
more. And those clear blue eyes seemed to do more than wait, seemed
almost to command, till they overcame Rodriguez' will and he obeyed and
said, although he could feel each word struggling to stay unuttered,
"Señor, I went to the wars to win a castle and a piece of land thereby;
and might perchance have wed and ended my wanderings, with those of my
servant here; but the wars are over and no castle is won."

And the stranger saw by his face in the firelight, and knew from the
tones of his voice in the still night, the trouble that his words had
not expressed.

"I remain under an obligation to no man," said the stranger. "Be at
this place in four weeks' time, and you shall have a castle as large as
any that men win by war, and a goodly park thereby."

"Your castle, master!" said Morano delighted, whose only thought up to
then was as to who had got his horses. But Rodriguez only stared: and
the stranger said no more but turned on his heel. And then Rodriguez
awoke out of his silence and wonder. "But where?" he said. "What
castle?"

"That you will see," said the stranger.

"But, but how ..." said Rodriguez. What he meant was, "How can I
believe you?" but he did not put it in words.

"My word was never broken," said the other. And that is a good boast to
make, for those of us who can make it; if we need boast at all.

"Whose word?" said Rodriguez, looking him in the eyes.

The smoke from the fire between them was thickening greyly as though
something had been cast on it. "The word," he said, "of the King of
Shadow Valley."

Rodriguez gazing through the increasing smoke saw not to the other
side. He rose and walked round the fire, but the strange man was gone.

Rodriguez came back to his place by the fire and sat long there in
silence. Morano was bubbling over to speak, but respected his master's
silence: for Rodriguez was gazing into the deeps of the fire seeing
pictures there that were brighter than any that he had known. They were
so clear now that they seemed almost true. He saw Serafina's face there
looking full at him. He watched it long until other pictures hid it,
visions that had no meaning for Rodriguez. And not till then he spoke.
And when he spoke his face was almost smiling.

"Well, Morano," he said, "have we come by that castle at last?"

"That man does not lie, master," he answered: and his eyes were
glittering with shrewd conviction.

"What shall we do then?" said Rodriguez.

"Let us go to some village, master," said Morano, "until the time he
said."

"What village?" Rodriguez asked.

"I know not, master," answered Morano, his face a puzzle of innocence
and wonder; and Rodriguez fell back into thought again. And the dancing
flames calmed down to a deep, quiet glow; and soon Rodriguez stepped
back a yard or two from the fire to where Morano had prepared his bed;
and, watching the fire still, and turning over thoughts that flashed
and changed as fast as the embers, he went to wonderful dreams that
were no more strange or elusive than that valley's wonderful king.

When he spoke in the morning the camp-fire was newly lit and there was
a smell of bacon; and Morano, out of breath and puzzled, was calling to
him.

"Master," he said, "I was mistaken about those horses."

"Mistaken?" said Rodriguez.

"They were just as I left them, master, all tied to the tree with my
knots."

Rodriguez left it at that. Morano could make mistakes and the forest
was full of wonders: anything might happen. "We will ride," he said.

Morano's breakfast was as good as ever; and, when he had packed up
those few belongings that make a dwelling-place of any chance spot in
the wilderness, they mounted the horses, which were surely there, and
rode away through sunlight and green leaves. They rode slow, for the
branches were low over the path, and whoever canters in a forest and
closes his eyes against a branch has to consider whether he will open
them to be whipped by the next branch or close them till he bumps his
head into a tree. And it suited Rodriguez to loiter, for he thought
thus to meet the King of Shadow Valley again or his green bowmen and
learn the answers to innumerable questions about his castle which were
wandering through his mind.

They ate and slept at noon in the forest's glittering greenness.

They passed afterwards by the old house in the wood, in which the
bowmen feasted, for they followed the track that they had taken before.
They knocked loud on the door as they passed but the house was empty.
They heard the sound of a multitude felling trees, but whenever they
approached the sound of chopping ceased. Again and again they left the
track and rode towards the sound of chopping, and every time the
chopping died away just as they drew close. They saw many a tree half
felled, but never a green bowman. And at last they left it as one of
the wonders of the forest and returned to the track lest they lose it,
for the track was more important to them than curiosity, and evening
had come and was filling the forest with dimness, and shadows stealing
across the track were beginning to hide it away. In the distance they
heard the invisible woodmen chopping.

And then they camped again and lit their fire; and night came down and
the two wanderers slept.

The nightingale sang until he woke the cuckoo: and the cuckoo filled
the leafy air so full of his two limpid notes that the dreams of
Rodriguez heard them and went away, back over their border to
dreamland. Rodriguez awoke Morano, who lit his fire: and soon they had
struck their camp and were riding on.

By noon they saw that if they hurried on they could come to Lowlight by
nightfall. But this was not Rodriguez' plan, for he had planned to ride
into Lowlight, as he had done once before, at the hour when Serafina
sat in her balcony in the cool of the evening, as Spanish ladies in
those days sometimes did. So they tarried long by their resting-place
at noon and then rode slowly on. And when they camped that night they
were still in the forest.

"Morano," said Rodriguez over the camp-fire, "tomorrow brings me to
Lowlight."

"Aye, master," said Morano, "we shall be there tomorrow."

"That señor with whom I had a meeting there," said Rodriguez, "he ..."

"He loves me not," said Morano.

"He would surely kill you," replied Rodriguez.

Morano looked sideways at his frying-pan.

"It would therefore be better," continued Rodriguez, "that you should
stay in this camp while I give such greetings of ceremony in Lowlight
as courtesy demands."

"I will stay, master," said Morano.

Rodriguez was glad that this was settled, for he felt that to follow
his dreams of so many nights to that balconied house in Lowlight with
Morano would be no better than visiting a house accompanied by a dog
that had bitten one of the family.

"I will stay," repeated Morano. "But, master ..." The fat man's eyes
were all supplication.

"Yes?" said Rodriguez.

"Leave me your mandolin," implored Morano.

"My mandolin?" said Rodriguez.

"Master," said Morano, "that señor who likes my fat body so ill he
would kill me, he ..."

"Well?" said Rodriguez, for Morano was hesitating.

"He likes your mandolin no better, master."

Rodriguez resented a slight to his mandolin as much as a slight to his
sword, but he smiled as he looked at Morano's anxious face.

"He would kill you for your mandolin," Morano went on eagerly, "as he
would kill me for my frying-pan."

And at the mention of that frying-pan Rodriguez frowned, although it
had given him many a good meal since the night it offended in Lowlight.
And he would sooner have gone to the wars without a sword than under
the balcony of his heart's desire without a mandolin.

So Rodriguez would hear no more of Morano's request; and soon he left
the fire and went to lie down; but Morano sighed and sat gazing on into
the embers unhappily; while thoughts plodded slow through his mind,
leading to nothing. Late that night he threw fresh logs on the
camp-fire, so that when they awoke there was still fire in the embers
And when they had eaten their breakfast Rodriguez said farewell to
Morano, saying that he had business in Lowlight that might keep him a
few days. But Morano said not farewell then, for he would follow his
master as far as the midday halt to cook his next meal. And when noon
came they were beyond the forest.

Once more Morano cooked bacon. Then while Rodriguez slept Morano took
his cloak and did all that could be done by brushing and smoothing to
give back to it that air that it some time had, before it had flapped
upon so many winds and wrapped Rodriguez on such various beds, and met
the vicissitudes that make this story.

For the plume he could do little.

And his master awoke, late in the afternoon, and went to his horse and
gave Morano his orders. He was to go back with two of the horses to
their last camp in the forest and take with him all their kit except
one blanket and make himself comfortable there and wait till Rodriguez
came.

And then Rodriguez rode slowly away, and Morano stood gazing mournfully
and warningly at the mandolin; and the warnings were not lost upon
Rodriguez, though he would never admit that he saw in Morano's staring
eyes any wise hint that he heeded.

And Morano sighed, and went and untethered his horses; and soon he was
riding lonely back to the forest. And Rodriguez taking the other way
saw at once the towers of Lowlight.

Does my reader think that he then set spurs to his horse, galloping
towards that house about whose balcony his dreams flew every night? No,
it was far from evening; far yet from the colour and calm in which the
light with never a whisper says farewell to Earth, but with a gesture
that the horizon hides takes silent leave of the fields on which she
has danced with joy; far yet from the hour that shone for Serafina like
a great halo round her and round her mother's house.

We cannot believe that one hour more than another shone upon Serafina,
or that the dim end of the evening was only hers: but these are the
Chronicles of Rodriguez, who of all the things that befell him
treasured most his memory of Serafina in the twilight, and who held
that this hour was hers as much as her raiment and her balcony: such
therefore it is in these chronicles.

And so he loitered, waiting for the slow sun to set: and when at last a
tint on the walls of Lowlight came with the magic of Earth's most faery
hour he rode in slowly not perhaps wholly unwitting, for all his
anxious thoughts of Serafina, that a little air of romance from the
Spring and the evening followed this lonely rider.

From some way off he saw that balcony that had drawn him back from the
other side of the far Pyrenees. Sometimes he knew that it drew him and
mostly he knew it not; yet always that curved balcony brought him
nearer, ever since he turned from the field of the false Don Alvidar:
the balcony held him with invisible threads, such as those with which
Earth draws in the birds at evening. And there was Serafina in her
balcony.

When Rodriguez saw Serafina sitting there in the twilight, just as he
had often dreamed, he looked no more but lowered his head to the
withered rose that he carried now in his hand, the rose that he had
found by that very balcony under another moon. And, gazing still at the
rose, he rode on under the balcony, and passed it, until his hoof-beats
were heard no more in Lowlight and he and his horse were one dim shape
between the night and the twilight. And still he held on.

He knew not yet, but only guessed, who had thrown that rose from the
balcony on the night when he slept on the dust: he knew not who it was
that he fought on the same night, and dared not guess what that unknown
hidalgo might be to Serafina. He had no claim to more from that house,
which once gave him so cold a welcome, than thus to ride by it in
silence. And he knew as he rode that the cloak and the plume that he
wore scarce seemed the same as those that had floated by when more than
a month ago he had ridden past that balcony; and the withered rose that
he carried added one more note of autumn. And yet he hoped.

And so he rode into twilight and was hid from the sight of the village,
a worn, pathetic figure, trusting vaguely to vague powers of good
fortune that govern all men, but that favour youth.

And, sure enough, it was not yet wholly moonlight when cantering hooves
came down the road behind him. It was once more that young hidalgo. And
as soon as he drew rein beside Rodriguez both reached out merry hands
as though their former meeting had been some errand of joy. And as
Rodriguez looked him in the eyes, while the two men leaned over
clasping hands, in light still clear though faded, he could not doubt
Serafina was his sister.

"Señor," said his old enemy, "will you tarry with us, in our house a
few days, if your journey is not urgent?"

Rodriguez gasped for joy; for the messenger from Lowlight, the
certainty that here was no rival, the summons to the house of his
dreams' pilgrimage, came all together: his hand still clasped the
stranger's. Yet he answered with the due ceremony that that age and
land demanded: then they turned and rode together towards Lowlight. And
first the young men told each other their names; and the stranger told
how he dwelt with his mother and sister in the house that Rodriguez
knew, and his name was Don Alderon of the Valley of Dawnlight. His
house had dwelt in that valley since times out of knowledge; but then
the Moors had come and his forbears had fled to Lowlight: the Moors
were gone now, for which Saint Michael and all fighting Saints be
praised; but there were certain difficulties about his right to the
Valley of Dawnlight. So they dwelt in Lowlight still.

And Rodriguez told of the war that there was beyond the Pyrenees and
how the just cause had won, but little more than that he was able to
tell, for he knew scarce more of the cause for which he had fought than
History knows of it, who chooses her incidents and seems to forget so
much. And as they talked they came to the house with the balcony. A
waning moon cast light over it that was now no longer twilight; but was
the light of wild things of the woods, and birds of prey, and men in
mountains outlawed by the King, and magic, and mystery, and the quests
of love. Serafina had left her place: lights gleamed now in the
windows. And when the door was opened the hall seemed to Rodriguez so
much less hugely hollow, so much less full of ominous whispered echoes,
that his courage rose high as he went through it with Alderon, and they
entered the room together that they had entered together before. In the
long room beyond many candles he saw Dona Serafina and her mother
rising up to greet him. Neither the ceremonies of that age nor
Rodriguez' natural calm would have entirely concealed his emotion had
not his face been hidden as he bowed. They spoke to him; they asked him
of his travels; Rodriguez answered with effort. He saw by their manner
that Don Alderon must have explained much in his favour. He had this
time, to cheer him, a very different greeting; and yet he felt little
more at ease than when he had stood there late at night before, with
one eye bandaged and wearing only one shoe, suspected of he knew not
what brawling and violence.

It was not until Dona Mirana, the mother of Serafina, asked him to play
to them on his mandolin that Rodriguez' ease returned. He bowed then
and brought round his mandolin, which had been slung behind him; and
knew a triumphant champion was by him now, one old in the ways of love
and wise in the sorrows of man, a slender but potent voice,
well-skilled to tell what there were not words to say; a voice
unhindered by language, unlimited even by thought, whose universal
meaning was heard and understood, sometimes perhaps by wandering
spirits of light, beaten far by some evil thought for their heavenly
courses and passing close along the coasts of Earth.

And Rodriguez played no tune he had ever known, nor any airs that he
had heard men play in lanes in Andalusia; but he told of things that he
knew not, of sadnesses that he had scarcely felt and undreamed
exaltations. It was the hour of need, and the mandolin knew.

And when all was told that the mandolin can tell of whatever is
wistfulest in the spirit of man, a mood of merriment entered its old
curved sides and there came from its hollows a measure such as they
dance to when laughter goes over the greens in Spain. Never a song sang
Rodriguez; the mandolin said all.

And what message did Serafina receive from those notes that were
strange even to Rodriguez? Were they not stranger to her? I have said
that spirits blown far out of their course and nearing the mundane
coasts hear mortal music sometimes, and hearing understand. And if they
cannot understand those snatches of song, all about mortal things and
human needs, that are wafted rarely to them by chance passions, how
much more surely a young mortal heart, so near Rodriguez, heard what he
would say and understood the message however strange.

When Dona Mirana and her daughter rose, exchanging their little
curtsies for the low bows of Rodriguez, and so retired for the night,
the long room seemed to Rodriguez now empty of threatening omens. The
great portraits that the moon had lit, and that had frowned at him in
the moonlight when he came here before, frowned at him now no longer.
The anger that he had known to lurk in the darkness on pictured faces
of dead generations had gone with the gloom that it haunted: they were
all passionless now in the quiet light of the candles. He looked again
at the portraits eye to eye, remembering looks they had given him in
the moonlight, and all looked back at him with ages of apathy; and he
knew that whatever glimmer of former selves there lurks about portraits
of the dead and gone was thinking only of their own past days in years
remote from Rodriguez. Whether their anger had flashed for a moment
over the ages on that night a month from now, or whether it was only
the moonlight, he never knew. Their spirits were back now surely
amongst their own days, whence they deigned not to look on the days
that make these chronicles.

Not till then did Rodriguez admit, or even know, that he had not eaten
since his noonday meal. But now he admitted this to Don Alderon's
questions; and Don Alderon led him to another chamber and there regaled
him with all the hospitality for which that time was famous. And when
Rodriguez had eaten, Don Alderon sent for wine, and the butler brought
it in an olden flagon, dark wine of a precious vintage: and soon the
two young men were drinking together and talking of the wickedness of
the Moors. And while they talked the night grew late and chilly and
still, and the hour came when moths are fewer and young men think of
bed. Then Don Alderon showed his guest to an upper room, a long room
dim with red hangings, and carvings in walnut and oak, which the one
candle he carried barely lit but only set queer shadows scampering. And
here he left Rodriguez, who was soon in bed, with the great red
hangings round him. And awhile he wondered at the huge silence of the
house all round him, with never a murmur, never an echo, never a sigh;
for he missed the passing of winds, branches waving, the stirring of
small beasts, birds of prey calling, and the hundred sounds of the
night; but soon through the silence came sleep.

He did not need to dream, for here in the home of Serafina he had come
to his dreams' end.

Another day shone on another scene; for the sunlight that went in a
narrow stream of gold and silver between the huge red curtains had sent
away the shadows that had stalked overnight through the room, and had
scattered the eeriness that had lurked on the far side of furniture,
and all the dimness was gone that the long red room had harboured. And
for a while Rodriguez did not know where he was; and for a while, when
he remembered, he could not believe it true. He dressed with care,
almost with fear, and preened his small moustachios, which at last had
grown again just when he would have despaired. Then he descended, and
found that he had slept late, though the three of that ancient house
were seated yet at the table, and Serafina all dressed in white seemed
to Rodriguez to be shining in rivalry with the morning. Ah dreams and
fancies of youth!



THE ELEVENTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE TURNED TO GARDENING AND HIS SWORD RESTED


These were the days that Rodriguez always remembered; and, side by side
with them, there lodged in his memory, and went down with them into his
latter years, the days and nights when he went through the Pyrenees and
walked when he would have slept but had to walk or freeze: and by some
queer rule that guides us he treasured them both in his memory, these
happy days in this garden and the frozen nights on the peaks.

For Serafina showed Rodriguez the garden that behind the house ran
narrow and long to the wild. There were rocks with heliotrope pouring
over them and flowers peeping behind them, and great azaleas all in
triumphant bloom, and ropes of flowering creepers coming down from
trees, and oleanders, and a plant named popularly Joy of the South, and
small paths went along it edged with shells brought from the far sea.

There was only one street in the village, and you did not go far among
the great azaleas before you lost sight of the gables; and you did not
go far before the small paths ended with their shells from the distant
sea, and there was the mistress of all gardeners facing you, Mother
Nature nursing her children, the things of the wild. She too had
azaleas and oleanders, but they stood more solitary in their greater
garden than those that grew in the garden of Dona Mirana; and she too
had little paths, only they were without borders and without end. Yet
looking from the long and narrow garden at the back of that house in
Lowlight to the wider garden that sweeps round the world, and is fenced
by Space from the garden in Venus and by Space from the garden in Mars,
you scarce saw any difference or noticed where they met: the solitary
azaleas beyond were gathered together by distance, and from Lowlight to
the horizon seemed all one garden in bloom. And afterwards, all his
years, whenever Rodriguez heard the name of Spain, spoken by loyal men,
it was thus that he thought of it, as he saw it now.

And here he used to walk with Serafina when she tended flowers in the
cool of the morning or went at evening to water favourite blooms. And
Rodriguez would bring with him his mandolin, and sometimes he touched
it lightly or even sang, as they rested on some carved seat at the
garden's end, looking out towards shadowy shrubs on the shining hill,
but mostly he heard her speak of the things she loved, of what moths
flew to their garden, and which birds sang, and how the flowers grew.
Serafina sat no longer in her balcony but, disguising idleness by other
names, they loitered along those paths that the seashells narrowed; yet
there was a grace in their loitering such as we have not in our dances
now. And evening stealing in from the wild places, from darkening
azaleas upon distant hills, still found them in the garden, found
Rodriguez singing in idleness undisguised, or anxiously helping in some
trivial task, tying up some tendril that had gone awry, helping some
magnolia that the wind had wounded. Almost unnoticed by him the
sunlight would disappear, and the coloured blaze of the sunset, and
then the gloaming; till the colours of all the flowers queerly changed
and they shone with that curious glow which they wear in the dusk. They
returned then to the house, the garden behind them with its dim hushed
air of a secret, before them the candlelight like a different land. And
after the evening meal Alderon and Rodriguez would sit late together
discussing the future of the world, Rodriguez holding that it was
intended that the earth should be ruled by Spain, and Alderon fearing
it would all go to the Moors.

Days passed thus.

And then one evening Rodriguez was in the garden with Serafina; the
flowers, dim and pale and more mysterious than ever, poured out their
scent towards the coming night, luring huge hawk-moths from the far
dusk that was gathering about the garden, to hover before each bloom on
myriad wingbeats too rapid for human eye: another inch and the fairies
had peeped out from behind azaleas, yet both of these late loiterers
felt fairies were surely there: it seemed to be Nature's own most
secret hour, upon which man trespasses if he venture forth from his
house: an owl from his hidden haunt flew nearer the garden and uttered
a clear call once to remind Rodriguez of this: and Rodriguez did not
heed, but walked in silence.

He had played his mandolin. It had uttered to the solemn hush of the
understanding evening all it was able to tell; and after that cry,
grown piteous with so many human longings, for it was an old mandolin,
Rodriguez felt there was nothing left for his poor words to say. So he
went dumb and mournful.

Serafina would have heard him had he spoken, for her thoughts vibrated
yet with the voice of the mandolin, which had come to her hearing as an
ambassador from Rodriguez, but he found no words to match with the
mandolin's high mood. His eyes said, and his sighs told, what the
mandolin had uttered; but his tongue was silent.

And then Serafina said, as he walked all heavy with silence past a
curving slope of dimly glowing azaleas, "You like flowers, señor?"

"Señorita, I adore them," he replied.

"Indeed?" said Dona Serafina.

"Indeed I do," said Rodriguez.

"And yet," asked Dona Serafina, "was it not a somewhat withered or
altogether faded flower that you carried, unless I fancied wrong, when
you rode past our balcony?"

"It was indeed faded," said Rodriguez, "for the rose was some weeks
old."

"One who loved flowers, I thought," said Serafina, "would perhaps care
more for them fresh."

Half-dumb though Rodriguez was his shrewdness did not desert him. To
have said that he had the rose from Serafina would have been to claim
as though proven what was yet no more than a hope.

"Señorita," he said, "I found the flower on holy ground."

"I did not know," she said, "that you had travelled so far."

"I found it here," he said, "under your balcony."

"Perchance I let it fall," said she. "It was idle of me."

"I guard it still," he said, and drew forth that worn brown rose.

"It was idle of me," said Serafina.

But then in that scented garden among the dim lights of late evening
the ghost of that rose introduced their spirits one to the other, so
that the listening flowers heard Rodriguez telling the story of his
heart, and, bending over the shell-bordered path, heard Serafina's
answer; and all they seemed to do was but to watch the evening, with
leaves uplifted in the hope of rain.

Film after film of dusk dropped down from where twilight had been, like
an army of darkness slowly pitching their tents on ground that had been
lost to the children of light. Out of the wild lands all the owls flew
nearer: their long, clear cries and the huge hush between them warned
all those lands that this was not man's hour. And neither Rodriguez nor
Serafina heard them.

In pale blue sky where none had thought to see it one smiling star
appeared. It was Venus watching lovers, as men of the crumbled
centuries had besought her to do, when they named her so long ago,
kneeling upon their hills with bended heads, and arms stretched out to
her sweet eternal scrutiny. Beneath her wandering rays as they danced
down to bless them Rodriguez and Serafina talked low in the sight of
the goddess, and their voices swayed through the flowers with whispers
and winds, not troubling the little wild creatures that steal out shy
in the dusk, and Nature forgave them for being abroad in that hour;
although, so near that a single azalea seemed to hide it, so near
seemed to beckon and whisper old Nature's eldest secret.

When flowers glimmered and Venus smiled and all things else were dim,
they turned on one of those little paths hand in hand homeward.

Dona Mirana glanced once at her daughter's eyes and said nothing. Don
Alderon renewed his talk with Rodriguez, giving reasons for his
apprehension of the conquest of the world by the Moors, which he had
thought of since last night; and Rodriguez agreed with all that Don
Alderon said, but understood little, being full of dreams that seemed
to dance on the further, side of the candlelight to a strange, new,
unheard tune that his heart was aware of. He gazed much at Serafina and
said little.

He drank no wine that night with Don Alderon: what need had he of wine?
On wonderful journeys that my pen cannot follow, for all the swiftness
of the wing from which it came; on darting journeys outspeeding the
lithe swallow or that great wanderer the white-fronted goose, his young
thoughts raced by a myriad of golden evenings far down the future
years. And what of the days he saw? Did he see them truly? Enough that
he saw them in vision. Saw them as some lone shepherd on lifted downs
sees once go by with music a galleon out of the East, with windy sails,
and masts ablaze with pennants, and heroes in strange dress singing new
songs; and the galleon goes nameless by till the singing dies away.
What ship was it? Whither bound? Why there? Enough that he has seen it.
Thus do we glimpse the glory of rare days as we swing round the sun;
and youth is like some high headland from which to see.

On the next day he spoke with Dona Mirano. There was little to say but
to observe the courtesies appropriate to this occasion, for Dona Mirana
and her daughter had spoken long together already; and of one thing he
could say little, and indeed was dumb when asked of it, and that was
the question of his home. And then he said that he had a castle; and
when Dona Mirana asked him where it was he said vaguely it was to the
North. He trusted the word of the King of Shadow Valley and so he spoke
of his castle as a man speaks the truth. And when she asked him of his
castle again, whether on rock or river or in leafy lands, he began to
describe how its ten towers stood, being builded of a rock that was
slightly pink, and how they glowed across a hundred fields, especially
at evening; and suddenly he ceased, perceiving all in a moment he was
speaking unwittingly in the words of Don Alvidar and describing to Dona
Mirana that rose-pink castle on Ebro. And Dona Mirana knew then that
there was some mystery about Rodriguez' home.

She spoke kindly to Rodriguez, yet she neither gave her consent nor yet
withheld it, and he knew there was no immediate hope in her words.
Graceful as were his bows as he withdrew, he left with scarcely another
word to say. All day his castle hung over him like a cloud, not
nebulous and evanescent only, but brooding darkly, boding storms, such
as the orange blossoms dread.

He walked again in the garden with Serafina, but Dona Mirana was never
far, and the glamour of the former evening, lit by one star, was driven
from the garden by his anxieties about that castle of which he could
not speak. Serafina asked him of his home. He would not parry her
question, and yet he could not tell her that all their future hung on
the promise of a man in an old leathern jacket calling himself a king.
So the mystery of his habitation deepened, spoiling the glamour of the
evening. He spoke, instead, of the forest, hoping she might know
something of that strange monarch to whom they dwelt so near; but she
glanced uneasily towards Shadow Valley and told him that none in
Lowlight went that way. Sorrow grew heavier round Rodriguez' heart at
this: believing in the promise of a man whose eyes he trusted he had
asked Serafina to marry him, and Serafina had said Yes; and now he
found she knew nothing of such a man, which seemed somehow to Rodriguez
to weaken his promise, and, worst of all, she feared the place where he
lived. He welcomed the approach of Dona Mirana, and all three returned
to the house. For the rest of that evening he spoke little; but he had
formed his project.

When the two ladies retired Rodriguez, who had seemed tongue-tied for
many hours, turned to Don Alderon. His mother had told Don Alderon
nothing yet; for she was troubled by the mystery of Rodriguez' castle,
and would give him time to make it clear if he could; for there was
something about Rodriguez of which with many pages I have tried to
acquaint my reader but which was clear when first she saw him to Dona
Mirana. In fact she liked him at once, as I hope that perhaps by now my
reader may. He turned to Don Alderon, who was surprised to see the
vehemence with which his guest suddenly spoke after those hours of
silence, and Rodriguez told him the story of his love and the story of
both his castles, that which had vanished from the bank of the Ebro and
that which was promised him by the King of Shadow Valley. And often Don
Alderon interrupted.

"Oh, Rodriguez," he said, "you are welcome to our ancient, unfortunate
house": and later he said, "I have met no man that had a prettier way
with the sword."

But Rodriguez held on to the end, telling all he had to tell; and
especially that he was landless and penniless but for that one promise;
and as for the sword, he said, he was but as a child playing before the
sword of Don Alderon. And this Don Alderon said was in no wise so,
though there were a few cunning passes that he had learned, hoping that
the day might come for him to do God a service thereby by slaying some
of the Moors: and heartily he gave his consent and felicitation. But
this Rodriguez would not have: "Come with me," he said, "to the forest
to the place where I met this man, and if we find him not there we will
go to the house in which his bowmen feast and there have news of him,
and he shall show us the castle of his promise and, if it be such a
castle as you approve, then your consent shall be given, but if not ..."

"Gladly indeed," said Don Alderon. "We will start tomorrow."

And Rodriguez took his words literally, though his host had meant no
more than what we should call "one of these days," but Rodriguez was
being consumed with a great impatience. And so they arranged it, and
Don Alderon went to bed with a feeling, which is favourable to dreams,
that on the next day they went upon an adventure; for neither he nor
anyone in that village had entered Shadow Valley.

Once more next morning Rodriguez walked with Serafina, with something
of the romance of the garden gone, for Dona Mirana walked there too;
and romance is like one of those sudden, wonderful colours that flash
for a moment out of a drop of dew; a passing shadow obscures them; and
ask another to see it, and the colour is not the same: move but a yard
and the ray of enchantment is gone. Dona Mirana saw the romance of that
garden, but she saw it from thirty years away; it was all different
what she saw, all changed from a certain day (for love was love in the
old days): and to Rodriguez and Serafina it seemed that she could not
see romance at all, and somehow that dimmed it. Almost their eyes
seemed to search amongst the azaleas for the romance of that other
evening.

And then Rodriguez told Serafina that he was riding away with her
brother to see about the affairs of his castle, and that they would
return in a few days. Scarcely a hint he gave that those affairs might
not prosper, for he trusted the word of the King of Shadow Valley. His
confidence had returned: and soon, with swords at side and cloaks
floating brilliant on light winds of April, Rodriguez and Alderon rode
away together.

Soon in the distance they saw Shadow Valley. And then Rodriguez
bethought him of Morano and of the foul wrong he committed against Don
Alderon with his frying-pan, and how he was there in the camp to which
he was bringing his friend. And so he said: "That vile knave Morano
still lives and insists on serving me."

"If he be near," said Don Alderon, "I pray you to disarm him of his
frying-pan for the sake of my honour, which does not suffer me to be
stricken with culinary weapons, but only with the sword, the lance, or
even bolts of cannon or arquebuss ..." He was thinking of yet more
weapons when Rodriguez put spurs to his horse. "He is near," he said;
"I will ride on and disarm him."

So Rodriguez came cantering into the forest while Don Alderon ambled a
mile or so behind him.

And there he found his old camp and saw Morano, sitting upon the ground
by a small fire. Morano sprang up at once with joy in his eyes, his
face wreathed with questions, which he did not put into words for he
did not pry openly into his master's affairs.

"Morano," said Rodriguez, "give me your frying-pan."

"My frying-pan?" said Morano.

"Yes," said Rodriguez. And when he held in his hand that blackened,
greasy utensil he told Morano, "That señor you met in Lowlight rides
with me."

The cheerfulness faded out of Morano's face as light fades at sunset.
"Master," he said, "he will surely slay me now."

"He will not slay you," said Rodriguez.

"Master," Morano said, "he hopes for my fat carcase as much as men hope
for the unicorn, when they wear their bright green coats and hunt him
with dogs in Spring." I know not what legend Morano stored in his mind,
nor how much of it was true. "And when he finds me without my
frying-pan he will surely slay me."

"That señor," said Rodriguez emphatically, "must not be hit with the
frying-pan."

"That is a hard rule, master," said Morano.

And Rodriguez was indignant, when he heard that, that anyone should
thus blaspheme against an obvious law of chivalry: while Morano's only
thought was upon the injustice of giving up the sweets of life for the
sake of a frying-pan. Thus they were at cross-purposes. And for some
while they stood silent, while Rodriguez hung the reins of his horse
over the broken branch of a tree. And then Don Alderon rode into the
wood.

All then that was most pathetic in Morano's sense of injustice looked
out of his eyes as he turned them upon his master. But Don Alderon
scarcely glanced at all at Morano, even when he handed to him the reins
of his horse as he walked on towards Rodriguez.

And there in that leafy place they rested all through the evening, for
they had not started so early upon their journey as travellers should.
Eight days had gone since Rodriguez had left that small camp to ride to
Lowlight, and to the apex of his life towards which all his days had
ascended; and in that time Morano had collected good store of wood and,
in little ways unthought of by dwellers in cities, had made the place
like such homes as wanderers find. Don Alderon was charmed with their
roof of towering greenness, and with the choirs of those which
inhabited it and which were now all coming home to sing. And at some
moment in the twilight, neither Rodriguez nor Alderon noticed when,
Morano repossessed himself of his frying-pan, unbidden by Rodriguez,
but acting on a certain tacit permission that there seemed to be in the
twilight or in the mood of the two young men as they sat by the fire.
And soon he was cooking once more, at a fire of his own, with something
of the air that you see upon a Field Marshal's face who has lost his
baton and found it again. Have you ever noticed it, reader?

And when the meal was ready Morano served it in silence, moving
unobtrusively in the gloom of the wood; for he knew that he was
forgiven, yet not so openly that he wished to insist on his presence or
even to imply his possession of the weapon that fried the bacon. So,
like a dryad he moved from tree to tree, and like any fabulous creature
was gone again. And the two young men supped well, and sat on and on,
watching the sparks go up on innumerable journeys from the fire at
which they sat, to be lost to sight in huge wastes of blackness and
stars, lost to sight utterly, lost like the spirit of man to the gaze
of our wonder when we try to follow its journey beyond the hearths that
we know.

All the next day they rode on through the forest, till they came to the
black circle of the old fire of their next camp. And here Rodriguez
halted on account of the attraction that one of his old camps seems to
have for a wanderer. It drew his feet towards it, this blackened
circle, this hearth that for one night made one spot in the wilderness
home. Don Alderon did not care whether they tarried or hurried; he
loved his journey through this leafy land; the cool night-breeze
slipping round the tree-trunks was new to him, and new was the
comradeship of the abundant stars; the quest itself was a joy to him;
with his fancy he built Rodriguez' mysterious castle no less
magnificently than did Don Alvidar. Sometimes they talked of the
castle, each of the young men picturing it as he saw it; but in the
warmth of the camp-fire after Morano slept they talked of more than
these chronicles can tell.

In the morning they pressed on as fast as the forest's low boughs would
allow them. They passed somewhere near the great cottage in which the
bowmen feasted; but they held on, as they had decided after discussion
to do, for the last place in which Rodriguez had seen the King of
Shadow Valley, which was the place of his promise. And before any
dimness came even to the forest, or golden shafts down colonnades which
were before all cathedrals, they found the old camp that they sought,
which still had a clear flavour of magic for Morano on account of the
moth-like coming and going of his three horses after he had tied them
to that tree. And here they looked for the King of Shadow Valley; and
then Rodriguez called him; and then all three of them called him,
shouting "King of Shadow Valley" all together. No answer came: the
woods were without echo: nothing stirred but fallen leaves. But before
those miles of silence could depress them Rodriguez hit upon a simple
plan, which was that he and Alderon should search all round, far from
the track, while Morano stayed in the camp and shouted frequently, and
they would not go out of hearing of his voice: for Shadow Valley had a
reputation of being a bad forest for travellers to find their way
there; indeed, few ever attempted to. So they did as he said, he and
Alderon searching in different directions, while Morano remained in the
camp, lifting a large and melancholy voice. And though rumour said it
was hard to find the way when twenty yards from the track in Shadow
Valley, it did not say it was hard to find the green bowmen: and
Rodriguez, knowing that they guarded the forest as the shadows of trees
guard the coolness, was assured he would meet with some of them even
though he should miss their master. So he and Alderon searched till the
forest darkness came and only birds on high branches still had light;
and they never saw the King of Shadow Valley or any trace whatever of
any man. And Alderon first returned to the encampment; but Rodriguez
searched on into the night, searching and calling through the darkness,
and feeling, as every minute went by and every faint call of Morano,
that his castle was fading away, slipping past oak-tree and thorn-bush,
to take its place among the unpitying stars. And when he returned at
last from his useless search he found Morano standing by a good fire,
and the sight of it a little cheered Rodriguez, and the sight of the
firelight on Morano's face, and the homely comfort of the camp, for
everything is comparative.

And over their supper Rodriguez and Alderon agreed that they had come
to a part of the forest too remote from the home of the King of Shadow
Valley, and decided to go the next day to the house of the green
bowmen: and before he slept Rodriguez felt once more that all was well
with his castle.

Yet when the next day came they searched again, for Rodriguez
remembered how it was to this very place that the King of Shadow Valley
had bidden him come in four weeks, and though this period was not yet
accomplished, he felt, and Alderon fully agreed, they had waited long
enough: so they searched all the morning, and then fulfilled their
decision of overnight by riding for the great cottage Rodriguez knew.
All the way they met no one. And Rodriguez' gaiety came back as they
rode, for he and Don Alderon recognised more and more clearly that the
bowmen's great cottage was the place they should have gone at first.

In early evening they were just at their journey's end; but barely had
they left the track that they had ridden the day before, barely taken
the smaller path that led after a few hundred yards to the cottage when
they found themselves stopped by huge chains that hung from tree to
tree. High into the trees went the chains above their heads where they
sat their horses, and a chain ran every six inches down to the very
ground: the road was well blocked.

Rodriguez and Alderon hastily consulted; then, leaving the horses with
Morano, they followed the chains through dense forest to find a place
where they could get the horses through. Finding the chains go on and
on and on, and as evening was drawing in, the two friends divided,
Alderon going back and Rodriguez on, agreeing to meet again on the path
where Morano was.

It was darkening when they met there, Rodriguez having found nothing
but that iron barrier going on from trunk to trunk, and Alderon having
found a great gateway of iron; but it was shut. Through the silent
shadows stealing abroad at evening the three men crashed their way on
foot, leading their horses, towards this gate; but their way was slow
and difficult for no path at all led up to it. It was dark when they
reached it and they saw the high gate in the night, a black barrier
among the trees where no one would wish to come, and in forest that
seemed to these three to be nearly impenetrable. And what astonished
Rodriguez most of all was that the chains had not been across the path
when he had feasted with the green bowmen.

They stood there gazing, all three, at the dark locked gate, and then
they saw two shields that met in the midst of it, and Rodriguez mounted
his horse and stretched up to feel what device there was on the beaten
iron; and both the shields were blank.

There they camped as well as men can when darkness has fallen before
they reach their camping-ground; and Morano lit a great fire before the
gate, and the smooth blank shields touching shoulders there up above
them shone on Rodriguez and Alderon in the firelight. For a while they
wondered at that strange gate that stood there dividing the wilderness;
and then sleep came.

As soon as they woke they called loudly, but no one guarded that gate,
no step but theirs stirred in the forest. Then, leaving Morano in the
camp with its great gate that led nowhere, the two young men climbed up
by branches and chains, and were soon on the other side of the gate and
pressing on through the silence of the forest to find the cottage in
which Rodriguez had slept. And almost at once the green bowmen
appeared, ten of them with their bows, in front of Rodriguez and
Alderon. "Stop," said the ten green bowmen. When the bowmen said that,
there was nothing else to do.

"What do you seek?" said the bowmen.

"The King of Shadow Valley," answered Rodriguez.

"He is not here," they said.

"Where is he?" asked Rodriguez.

"He is nowhere," said one, "when he does not wish to be seen."

"Then show me the castle that he promised me," said Rodriguez.

"We know nothing of any castle," said one of the bowmen, and they all
shook their heads.

"No castle?" said Rodriguez.

"No," they said.

"Has the King of Shadow Valley no castle?" he asked, beginning now to
despair.

"We know of none," they said. "He lives in the forest."

Before Rodriguez quite despaired he asked each one if they knew not of
any castle of which their King was possessed; and each of them said
that there was no castle in all Shadow Valley. The ten still stood in
front of them with their bows: and Rodriguez turned away then indeed in
despair, and walked slowly back to the camp, and Alderon walked behind
him. In silence they reached their camp by the great gate that led
nowhere, and there Rodriguez sat down on a log beside the dwindling
fire, gazing at the grey ashes and thinking of his dead hopes. He had
not the heart to speak to Alderon, and the silence was unbroken by
Morano who, for all his loquacity, knew when his words were not
welcome. Don Alderon tried to break that melancholy silence, saying
that these ten bowmen did not know the whole world; but he could not
cheer Rodriguez. For, sitting there in dejection on his log, thinking
of all the assurance with which he had often spoken of his castle,
there was one more thing to trouble him than Don Alderon knew. And this
was that when the bowmen had appeared he had hung once more round his
neck that golden badge that was worked for him by the King of Shadow
Valley; and they must have seen it, and they had paid no heed to it
whatever: its magic was wholly departed. And one thing troubled him
that Rodriguez did not know, a very potent factor in human sorrow: he
had left in the morning so eagerly that he had had no breakfast, and
this he entirely forgot and knew not how much of his dejection came
from this cause, thinking that the loss of his castle was of itself
enough.

So with downcast head he sat empty and hopeless, and the little camp
was silent.

In this mournful atmosphere while no one spoke, and no one seemed to
watch, stood, when at last Rodriguez raised his head, with folded arms
before the gate to nowhere, the King of Shadow Valley. His face was
surly, as though the face of a ghost, called from important work among
asteroids needing his care, by the trivial legerdemain of some foolish
novice. Rodriguez, looking into those angry eyes, wholly forgot it was
he that had a grievance. The silence continued. And then the King of
Shadow Valley spoke.

"When have I broken my word?" he said.

Rodriguez did not know. The man was still looking at him, still
standing there with folded arms before the great gate, confronting him,
demanding some kind of answer: and Rodriguez had nothing to say.

"I came because you promised me the castle," he said at last.

"I did not bid you come here," the man with the folded arms answered.

"I went where you bade me," said Rodriguez, "and you were not there."

"In four weeks, I said," answered the King angrily.

And then Alderon spoke. "Have you any castle for my friend?" he said.

"No," said the King of Shadow Valley.

"You promised him one," said Don Alderon.

The King of Shadow Valley raised with his left hand a horn that hung
below his elbow by a green cord round his body. He made no answer to
Don Alderon, but put the horn against his lips and blew. They watched
him all three in silence, till the silence was broken by many men
moving swiftly through covert, and the green bowmen appeared.

When seven or eight were there he turned and looked at them. "When have
I broken my word?" he said to his men.

And they all answered him, "Never!"

More broke into sight through the bushes.

"Ask them" he said. And Rodriguez did not speak.

"Ask them," he said again, "when I have broken my word."

Still Rodriguez and Alderon said nothing. And the bowmen answered them.
"He has never broken his word," every bowman said.

"You promised me a castle," said Rodriguez, seeing that man's fierce
eyes upon him still.

"Then do as I bid you," answered the King of Shadow Valley; and he
turned round and touched the lock of the gates with some key that he
had. The gates moved open and the King went through.

Don Alderon ran forward after him, and caught up with him as he strode
away, and spoke to him, and the King answered. Rodriguez did not hear
what they said, and never afterwards knew. These words he heard only,
from the King of Shadow Valley as he and Don Alderon parted: ".... and
therefore, señor, it were better for some holy man to do his blessed
work before we come." And the King of Shadow Valley passed into the
deeps of the wood.

As the great gates were slowly swinging to, Don Alderon came back
thoughtfully. The gates clanged, clicked, and were shut again. The King
of Shadow Valley and all his bowmen were gone.

Don Alderon went to his horse, and Rodriguez and Morano did the same,
drawn by the act of the only man of the three that seemed to have made
up his mind. Don Alderon led his horse back toward the path, and
Rodriguez followed with his. When they came to the path they mounted in
silence; and presently Morano followed them, with his blankets rolled
up in front of him on his horse and his frying-pan slung behind him.

"Which way?" said Rodriguez.

"Home," said Don Alderon.

"But I cannot go to your home," said Rodriguez.

"Come," said Don Alderon, as one whose plans were made. Rodriguez
without a home, without plans, without hope, went with Don Alderon as
thistledown goes with the warm wind. They rode through the forest till
it grew all so dim that only a faint tinge of greenness lay on the dark
leaves: above were patches of bluish sky like broken pieces of steel.
And a star or two were out when they left the forest. And cantering on
they came to Lowlight when the Milky Way appeared.

And there were Dona Mirana and Serafina in the hall to greet them as
they entered the door.

"What news?" they asked.

But Rodriguez hung back; he had no news to give. It was Don Alderon
that went forward, speaking cheerily to Serafina, and afterwards to his
mother, with whom he spoke long and anxiously, pointing toward the
forest sometimes, almost, as Rodriguez thought, in fear.

And a little later, when the ladies had retired, Don Alderon told
Rodriguez over the wine, with which he had tried to cheer his forlorn
companion, that it was arranged that he should marry Serafina. And when
Rodriguez lamented that this was impossible he replied that the King of
Shadow Valley wished it. And when Rodriguez heard this his astonishment
equalled his happiness, for he marvelled that Don Alderon should not
only believe that strange man's unsupported promise, but that he should
even obey him as though he held him in awe.

And on the next day Rodriguez spoke with Dona Mirana as they walked in
the glory of the garden. And Dona Mirana gave him her consent as Don
Alderon had done: and when Rodriguez spoke humbly of postponement she
glanced uneasily towards Shadow Valley, as though she too feared the
strange man who ruled over the forest which she had never entered.

And so it was that Rodriguez walked with his lady, with the sweet
Serafina in that garden again. And walking there they forgot the need
of house or land, forgot Shadow Valley with its hopes and its doubts,
and all the anxieties of the thoughts that we take for the morrow: and
when evening came and the birds sang in azaleas, and the shadows grew
solemn and long, and winds blew cool from the blazing bed of the Sun,
into the garden now all strange and still, they forgot our Earth and,
beyond the mundane coasts, drifted on dreams of their own into aureate
regions of twilight, to wander in lands wherein lovers walk briefly and
only once.



THE TWELFTH CHRONICLE

THE BUILDING OF CASTLE RODRIGUEZ AND THE ENDING OF THESE CHRONICLES


When the King of Shadow Valley met Rodriguez, for the first time in the
forest, and gave him his promise and left him by his camp-fire, he went
back some way towards the bowmen's cottage and blew his horn; and his
hundred bowmen were about him almost at once. To these he gave their
orders and they went back, whence they had come, into the forest's
darkness. But he went to the bowmen's cottage and paced before it, a
dark and lonely figure of the night; and wherever he paced the ground
he marked it with small sticks. And next morning the hundred bowmen
came with axes as soon as the earliest light had entered the forest,
and each of them chose out one of the giant trees that stood before the
cottage, and attacked it. All day they swung their axes against the
forest's elders, of which nearly a hundred were fallen when evening
came. And the stoutest of these, great trunks that were four feet
through, were dragged by horses to the bowmen's cottage and laid by the
little sticks that the King of Shadow Valley had put overnight in the
ground. The bowmen's cottage and the kitchen that was in the wood
behind it, and a few trees that still stood, were now all enclosed by
four lines of fallen trees which made a large rectangle on the ground
with a small square at each of its corners. And craftsmen came, and
smoothed and hollowed the inner sides of the four rows of trees,
working far into the night. So was the first day's work accomplished
and so was built the first layer of the walls of Castle Rodriguez.

On the next day the bowmen again felled a hundred trees; the top of the
first layer was cut flat by carpenters; at evening the second layer was
hoisted up after their under sides had been flattened to fit the layer
below them; quantities more were cast in to make the floor when they
had been gradually smoothed and fitted: at the end of the second day a
man could not see over the walls of Castle Rodriguez. And on the third
day more craftsmen arrived, men from distant villages at the forest's
edge, whence the King of Shadow Valley had summoned them; and they
carved the walls as they grew. And a hundred trees fell that day, and
the castle was another layer higher. And all the while a park was
growing in the forest, as they felled the great trees; but the greatest
trees of all the bowmen spared, oaks that had stood there for ages and
ages of men; they left them to grip the earth for a while longer, for a
few more human generations.

On the fourth day the two windows at the back of the bowmen's cottage
began to darken, and that evening Castle Rodriguez was fifteen feet
high. And still the hundred bowmen hewed at the forest, bringing
sunlight bright on to grass that was shadowed by oaks for ages. And at
the end of the fifth day they began to roof the lower rooms and make
their second floor: and still the castle grew a layer a day, though the
second storey they built with thinner trees that were only three feet
through, which were more easily carried to their place by the pulleys.
And now they began to heap up rocks in a mass of mortar against the
wall on the outside, till a steep slope guarded the whole of the lower
part of the castle against fire from any attacker if war should come
that way, in any of the centuries that were yet to be: and the deep
windows they guarded with bars of iron.

The shape of the castle showed itself clearly now, rising on each side
of the bowmen's cottage and behind it, with a tower at each of its
corners. To the left of the old cottage the main doorway opened to the
great hall, in which a pile of a few huge oaks was being transformed
into a massive stair. Three figures of strange men held up this ceiling
with their heads and uplifted hands, when the castle was finished; but
as yet the carvers had only begun their work, so that only here and
there an eye peeped out, or a smile flickered, to give any expression
to the curious faces of these fabulous creatures of the wood, which
were slowly taking their shape out of three trees whose roots were
still in the earth below the floor. In an upper storey one of these
trees became a tall cupboard; and the shelves and the sides and the
back and the top of it were all one piece of oak.

All the interior of the castle was of wood, hollowed into alcoves and
polished, or carved into figures leaning out from the walls. So vast
were the timbers that the walls, at a glance, seemed almost one piece
of wood. And the centuries that were coming to Spain darkened the walls
as they came, through autumnal shades until they were all black, as
though they all mourned in secret for lost generations; but they have
not yet crumbled.

The fireplaces they made with great square red tiles, which they also
put in the chimneys amongst rude masses of mortar: and these great dark
holes remained always mysterious to those that looked for mystery in
the family that whiled away the ages in that castle. And by every
fireplace two queer carved creatures stood upholding the mantlepiece,
with mystery in their faces and curious limbs, uniting the hearth with
fable and with tales told in the wood. Years after the men that carved
them were all dust the shadows of these creatures would come out and
dance in the room, on wintry nights when all the lamps were gone and
flames stole out and flickered above the smouldering logs.

In the second storey one great saloon ran all the length of the castle.
In it was a long table with eight legs that had carvings of roses
rambling along its edges: the table and its legs were all of one piece
with the floor. They would never have hollowed the great trunk in time
had they not used fire. The second storey was barely complete on the
day that Rodriguez and Don Alderon and Morano came to the chains that
guarded the park. And the King of Shadow Valley would not permit his
gift to be seen in anything less than its full magnificence, and had
commanded that no man in the world might enter to see the work of his
bowmen and craftsmen until it should frown at all comers a castle
formidable as any in Spain.

And then they heaped up the mortar and rock to the top of the second
storey, but above that they let the timbers show, except where they
filled in plaster between the curving trunks: and the ages blackened
the timber in amongst the white plaster; but not a storm that blew in
all the years that came, nor the moss of so many Springs, ever rotted
away those beams that the forest had given and on which the bowmen had
laboured so long ago. But the castle weathered the ages and reached our
days, worn, battered even, by its journey through the long and
sometimes troubled years, but splendid with the traffic that it had
with history in many gorgeous periods. Here Valdar the Excellent came
once in his youth. And Charles the Magnificent stayed a night in this
castle when on a pilgrimage to a holy place of the South.

It was here that Peter the Arrogant in his cups gave Africa, one Spring
night, to his sister's son. What grandeurs this castle has seen! What
chronicles could be writ of it! But not these chronicles, for they draw
near their close, and they have yet to tell how the castle was built.
Others shall tell what banners flew from all four of its towers, adding
a splendour to the wind, and for what cause they flew. I have yet to
tell of their building.

The second storey was roofed, and Castle Rodriguez still rose one layer
day by day, with a hauling at pulleys and the work of a hundred men:
and all the while the park swept farther into the forest.

And the trees that grew up through the building were worked by the
craftsmen in every chamber into which they grew: and a great branch of
the hugest of them made a little crooked stair in an upper storey. On
the floors they laid down skins of beasts that the bowmen slew in the
forest; and on the walls there hung all manner of leather, tooled and
dyed as they had the art to do in that far-away period in Spain.

When the third storey was finished they roofed the castle over, laying
upon the huge rafters red tiles that they made of clay. But the towers
were not yet finished.

At this time the King of Shadow Valley sent a runner into Lowlight to
shoot a blunt arrow with a message tied to it into Don Alderon's
garden, near to the door, at evening.

And they went on building the towers above the height of the roof And
near the top of them they made homes for archers, little turrets that
leaned like swallows' nests out from each tower, high places where they
could see and shoot and not be seen from below. And little narrow
passages wound away behind perched battlements of stone, by which
archers could slip from place to place, and shoot from here or from
there and never be known. So were built in that distant age the towers
of Castle Rodriguez.

And one day four weeks from the felling of the first oak, the period of
his promise being accomplished, the King of Shadow Valley blew his
horn. And standing by what had been the bowmen's cottage, now all shut
in by sheer walls of Castle Rodriguez, he gathered his bowmen to him.
And when they were all about him he gave them their orders. They were
to go by stealth to the village of Lowlight, and were to be by daylight
before the house of Don Alderon; and, whether wed or unwed, whether she
fled or folk defended the house, to bring Dona Serafina of the Valley
of Dawnlight to be the chatelaine of Castle Rodriguez.

For this purpose he bade them take with them a chariot that he thought
magnificent, though the mighty timbers that gave grandeur to Castle
Rodriguez had a cumbrous look in the heavy vehicle that was to the
bowmen's eyes the triumphal car of the forest. So they took their bows
and obeyed, leaving the craftsmen at their work in the castle, which
was now quite roofed over, towers and all. They went through the forest
by little paths that they knew, going swiftly and warily in the
bowmen's way: and just before nightfall they were at the forest's edge,
though they went no farther from it than its shadows go in the evening.
And there they rested under the oak trees for the early part of the
night except those whose art it was to gather news for their king; and
three of those went into Lowlight and mixed with the villagers there.

When white mists moved over the fields near dawn and wavered ghostly
about Lowlight, the green bowman moved with them. And just out of
hearing of the village, behind wild shrubs that hid them, the bowmen
that were coming from the forest met the three that had spent the night
in taverns of Lowlight. And the three told the hundred of the great
wedding that there was to be in the Church of the Renunciation that
morning in Lowlight: and of the preparations that were made, and how
holy men had come from far on mules, and had slept the night in the
village, and the Bishop of Toledo himself would bless the bridegroom's
sword. The bowmen therefore retired a little way and, moving through
the mists, came forward to points whence they could watch the church,
well concealed on the wild plain, which here and there gave up a field
to man but was mostly the playground of wild creatures whose ways were
the bowmen's ways. And here they waited.

This was the wedding of Rodriguez and Serafina, of which gossips often
spoke at their doors in summer evenings, old women mumbling of fair
weddings that each had seen; and they had been children when they saw
this wedding; they were those that threw small handfuls of anemones on
the path before the porch. They told the tale of it till they could
tell no more. It is the account of the last two or three of them, old,
old women, that came at last to these chronicles, so that their tongues
may wag as it were a little longer through these pages although they
have been for so many centuries dead. And this is all that books are
able to do.

First there was bell-ringing and many voices, and then the voices
hushed, and there came the procession of eight divines of Murcia, whose
vestments were strange to Lowlight. Then there came a priest from the
South, near the border of Andalusia, who overnight had sanctified the
ring. (It was he who had entertained Rodriguez when he first escaped
from la Garda, and Rodriguez had sent for him now.) Each note of the
bells came clear through the hush as they entered the church. And then
with suitable attendants the bishop strode by and they saw quite close
the blessed cope of Toledo. And the bridegroom followed him in, wearing
his sword, and Don Alderon went with him. And then the voices rose
again in the street: the bells rang on: they all saw Dona Mirana. The
little bunches of bright anemones grew sticky in their hands: the bells
seemed louder: cheering rose in the street and came all down it nearer.
Then Dona Serafina walked past them with all her maids: and that is
what the gossips chiefly remembered, telling how she smiled at them,
and praising her dress, through those distant summer evenings. Then
there was music in the church. And afterwards the forest-people had
come. And the people screamed, for none knew what they would do. But
they bowed so low to the bride and bridegroom, and showed their great
hunting bows so willingly to all who wished to see, that the people
lost their alarm and only feared lest the Bishop of Toledo should blast
the merry bowmen with one of his curses.

And presently the bride and bridegroom entered the chariot, and the
people cheered; and there were farewells and the casting of flowers;
and the bishop blessed three of their bows; and a fat man sat beside
the driver with folded arms, wearing bright on his face a look of
foolish contentment; and the bowmen and bride and bridegroom all went
away to the forest.

Four huge white horses drew that bridal chariot, the bowmen ran beside
it, and soon it was lost to sight of the girls that watched it from
Lowlight; but their memories held it close till their eyes could no
longer see to knit and they could only sit by their porches in fine
weather and talk of the days that were.

So came Rodriguez and his bride to the forest; he silent, perplexed,
wondering always to what home and what future he brought her; she
knowing less than he and trusting more. And on the untended road that
the bowmen shared with stags and with rare, very venturous travellers,
the wheels of the woodland chariot sank so deep in the sandy earth that
the escort of bowmen needed seldom to run any more; and he who sat by
the driver climbed down and walked silent for once, perhaps awed by the
occasion, though he was none other than Morano. Serafina was delighted
with the forest, but between Rodriguez and its beautiful grandeur his
anxieties crowded thickly. He leaned over once from the chariot and
asked one of the bowmen again about that castle; but the bowman only
bowed and answered with a proverb of Spain, not easily carried so far
from its own soil to thrive in our language, but signifying that the
morrow showeth all things. He was silent then, for he knew that there
was no way to a direct answer through those proverbs, and after a while
perhaps there came to him some of Serafina's trustfulness. By evening
they came to a wide avenue leading to great gates.

Rodriguez did not know the avenue, he knew no paths so wide in Shadow
Valley; but he knew those gates. They were the gates of iron that led
nowhere. But now an avenue went from them upon the other side, and
opened widely into a park dotted with clumps of trees. And the two
great iron shields, they too had changed with the changes that had
bewitched the forest, for their surfaces that had glowed so
unmistakably blank, side by side in the firelight, not many nights
before, blazoned now the armorial bearings of Rodriguez upon the one
and those of the house of Dawnlight upon the other. Through the opened
gates they entered the young park that seemed to wonder at its own
ancient trees, where wild deer drifted away from them like shadows
through the evening: for the bowmen had driven in deer for miles
through the forest. They passed a pool where water-lilies lay in
languid beauty for hundreds of summers, but as yet no flower peeped
into the water, for the pond was all hallowed newly.

A clump of trees stood right ahead of their way; they passed round it;
and Castle Rodriguez came all at once into view. Serafina gasped
joyously. Rodriguez saw its towers, its turrets for archers, its
guarded windows deep in the mass of stone, its solemn row of
battlements, but he did not believe what he saw. He did not believe
that here at last was his castle, that here was his dream fulfilled and
his journey done. He expected to wake suddenly in the cold in some
lonely camp, he expected the Ebro to unfold its coils in the North and
to come and sweep it away. It was but another strayed hope, he thought,
taking the form of dream. But Castle Rodriguez still stood frowning
there, and none of its towers vanished, or changed as things change in
dreams; but the servants of the King of Shadow Valley opened the great
door, and Serafina and Rodriguez entered, and all the hundred bowmen
disappeared.

Here we will leave them, and let these Chronicles end. For whoever
would tell more of Castle Rodriguez must wield one of those ponderous
pens that hangs on the study wall in the house of historians. Great
days in the story of Spain shone on those iron-barred windows, and
things were said in its banqueting chamber and planned in its inner
rooms that sometimes turned that story this way or that, as rocks turn
a young river. And as a traveller meets a mighty river at one of its
bends, and passes on his path, while the river sweeps on to its estuary
and the sea, so I leave the triumphs and troubles of that story which I
touched for one moment by the door of Castle Rodriguez.

My concern is but with Rodriguez and Serafina and to tell that they
lived here in happiness; and to tell that the humble Morano found his
happiness too. For he became the magnificent steward of Castle
Rodriguez, the majordomo, and upon august occasions he wore as much red
plush as he had ever seen in his dreams, when he saw this very event,
sleeping by dying camp-fires. And he slept not upon straw but upon good
heaps of wolf-skins. But pining a little in the second year of his
somewhat lonely splendour, he married one of the maidens of the forest,
the child of a bowman that hunted boars with their king. And all the
green bowmen came and built him a house by the gates of the park,
whence he walked solemnly on proper occasions to wait upon his master.
Morano, good, faithful man, come forward for but a moment out of the
Golden Age and bow across all those centuries to the reader: say one
farewell to him in your Spanish tongue, though the sound of it be no
louder than the sound of shadows moving, and so back to the dim
splendour of the past, for the Señor or Señora shall hear your name no
more.

For years Rodriguez lived a chieftain of the forest, owning the
overlordship of the King of Shadow Valley, whom he and Serafina would
entertain with all the magnificence of which their castle was capable
on such occasions as he appeared before the iron gates. They seldom saw
him. Sometimes they heard his horn as he went by. They heard his bowmen
follow. And all would pass and perhaps they would see none. But upon
occasions he came. He came to the christening of the eldest son of
Rodriguez and Serafina, for whom he was godfather. He came again to see
the boy shoot for the first time with a bow. And later he came to give
little presents, small treasures of the forest, to Rodriguez'
daughters; who treated him always, not as sole lord of that forest that
travellers dreaded, but as a friend of their very own that they had
found for themselves. He had his favourites among them and none quite
knew which they were.

And one day he came in his old age to give Rodriguez a message. And he
spoke long and tenderly of the forest as though all its glades were
sacred.

And soon after that day he died, and was buried with the mourning of
all his men in the deeps of Shadow Valley, where only Rodriguez and the
bowmen knew. And Rodriguez became, as the old king had commanded, the
ruler of Shadow Valley and all its faithful men. With them he hunted
and defended the forest, holding all its ways to be sacred, as the old
king had taught. It is told how Rodriguez ruled the forest well.

And later he made a treaty with the Spanish King acknowledging him sole
Lord of Spain, including Shadow Valley, saving that certain right
should pertain to the foresters and should be theirs for ever. And
these rights are written on parchment and sealed with the seal of
Spain; and none may harm the forest without the bowmen's leave.

Rodriguez was made Duke of Shadow Valley and a Magnifico of the first
degree; though little he went with other hidalgos to Court, but lived
with his family in Shadow Valley, travelling seldom beyond the
splendour of the forest farther than Lowlight.

Thus he saw the glory of autumn turning the woods to fairyland: and
when the stags were roaring and winter coming on he would take a
boar-spear down from the wall and go hunting through the forest, whose
twigs were black and slender and still against the bright menace of
winter. Spring found him viewing the fields that his men had sown,
along the forest's edge, and finding in the chaunt of the myriad birds
a stirring of memories, a beckoning towards past days. In summer he
would see his boys and girls at play, running through shafts of
sunlight that made leaves and grass like pale emeralds. He gave his
days to the forest and the four seasons. Thus he dwelt amidst
splendours such as History has never seen in any visit of hers to the
courts of men.

Of him and Serafina it has been written and sung that they lived
happily ever after; and though they are now so many centuries dead, may
they have in the memories of such of my readers as will let them linger
there, that afterglow of life that remembrance gives, which is all that
there is on earth for those that walked it once and that walk the paths
of their old haunts no more.





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