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Title: Edmund Dulac's Picture-Book for the French Red Cross
Author: Dulac, Edmund
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Edmund Dulac's Picture-Book for the French Red Cross" ***

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)



[Transcriber's Note: Bold text is surrounded by =equal signs= and
italic text is surrounded by _underscores_.]


[Illustration: ASENATH]



EDMUND DULAC'S PICTURE-BOOK FOR THE FRENCH RED CROSS

[Illustration]

    PUBLISHED FOR THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
    BY HODDER AND STOUGHTON
    LONDON · NEW YORK · TORONTO



CONTENTS


                                                                 PAGE

  THE STORY OF THE BIRD FENG A FAIRY TALE FROM CHINA                1

  YOUNG ROUSSELLE: A FRENCH SONG OF THE OLDEN TIME                  5

  LAYLÁ AND MAJNÚN: A PERSIAN LOVE STORY                            9

  THE NIGHTINGALE: AFTER A FAIRY TALE BY HANS ANDERSEN             29

  THREE KINGS OF ORIENT: A CAROL                                   41

  SINDBAD THE SAILOR: A TALE FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS      43

  THE LITTLE SEAMSTRESS: A FRENCH SONG OF THE OLDEN TIME           55

  THE REAL PRINCESS: AFTER A FAIRY TALE BY HANS ANDERSEN           57

  MY LISETTE: AN OLD FRENCH SONG                                   61

  CINDERELLA: A FAIRY TALE FROM THE FRENCH                         65

  THE CHILLY LOVER: A SONG FROM THE FRENCH                         79

  THE STORY OF AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE: AN OLD WORLD IDYLL          81

  BLUE BEARD: AN OLD TALE FROM THE FRENCH                          85

  CERBERUS, THE BLACK DOG OF HADES                                 99

  THE LADY BADOURA: A TALE FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS        102

  THE SLEEPER AWAKENED: A TALE FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS    110

  JUSEF AND ASENATH: A LOVE STORY OF EGYPT                         124



ILLUSTRATIONS


  JUSEF AND ASENATH

  Asenath                                                _Frontispiece_

                                                                  PAGE

  THE STORY OF THE BIRD FENG

    The wonderful bird, like a fire of many colours come down
      from heaven, alighted before the princess, dropping at
      her feet the portrait                                          1

  YOUNG ROUSSELLE
    What do you think of Young Rousselle?                            8

  LAYLÁ AND MAJNÚN
    In a high chamber of the palace--it was as wondrous as that
      of a Sultan                                                   16

    If the desert were my home--then would I let the world go by    18

    She would sit for hours, with the bird perched on the back of
      her hand, listening to its soft intonation of that one word
      'Majnún'                                                      22

  THE NIGHTINGALE
    Even the poor fisherman would pause in his work to listen       32

  THREE KINGS OF ORIENT
    O Star of Wonder, Star of Night                                 41

  SINDBAD THE SAILOR
    Knowest thou that my name is also Sindbad?                      50

  THE LITTLE SEAMSTRESS
    I never at all
    Saw sewing so small!                                            55

  THE REAL PRINCESS
    Not a wink the whole night long                                 58

  MY LISETTE
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!                                 62

  CINDERELLA

    'There,' said her godmother, pointing with her wand, ...
      'pick it and bring it along'                                  72

  THE CHILLY LOVER
    O Ursula, for thee
    My heart is burning,--
          But I'm so cold!                                          80

  THE STORY OF AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE
    But Nicolette one night escaped                                 82

  BLUE BEARD
    Seven and one are _eight_, madam!                               86

  CERBERUS
    Cerberus, the black dog of Hades                                99

  THE LADY BADOURA
    Nay, nay; I will not marry him                                 102

  THE SLEEPER AWAKENED
    Behold the reward of those who meddle in other people's
      affairs                                                      120

  EDMUND DULAC                                                     128



EDMUND DULAC'S PICTURE BOOK

PUBLISHED ON BEHALF OF THE

CROIX ROUGE FRANÇAISE

                           _COMITÉ DE LONDRES_
                       9 KNIGHTSBRIDGE, LONDON, S.W.

     =_Président d'honneur_=            =_Présidente_=
    S. E. MONSIEUR PAUL CAMBON           VICOMTESSE DE LA PANOUSE

                       =Under the Patronage of=
                         H.M. QUEEN ALEXANDRA


The work of the FRENCH RED CROSS is done almost entirely by the willing
sacrifice of patriotic people who give little or much out of their
means. The Comité is pleased to give the fullest possible particulars
of its methods and needs. It is sufficient here to say that every one
who gives even a shilling gives a wounded French soldier more than a
shilling's worth of ease or pleasure.

The actual work is enormous. The number of men doctored, nursed,
housed, fed, kept from the worries of illness, is great, increasing,
and will increase.

You must remember that everything to do with sick and wounded has to be
kept up to a daily standard. It is you who give who provide the drugs,
medicines, bandages, ambulances, coal, comfort for those who fight, get
wounded, or die to keep you safe. Remember that besides fighting for
France, they are fighting for the civilised world, and that you owe
your security and civilisation to them as much as to your own men and
the men of other Allied Countries.

There is not one penny that goes out of your pockets in this cause that
does not bind France and Britain closer together. From the millionaire
we need his thousands; from the poor man his store of pence. We do not
beg, we insist, that these brave wounded men shall lack for nothing. We
do not ask of you, we demand of you, the help that must be given.

There is nothing too small and nothing too large but we need it.

Day after day we send out great bales of goods to these our devoted
soldiers, and we must go on.

Imagine yourself ill, wounded, sick, in an hospital, with the smash and
shriek of the guns still dinning in your ears, and imagine the man or
woman who would hold back their purse from helping you.

Times are not easy, we know, but being wounded is less easy, and being
left alone because nothing is forthcoming is terrible. You have calls
upon you everywhere, you say; well, these men have answered their call,
and in the length and breadth of France they wait your reply.

What is it to be?

     =Will you please send anything you can afford to
    EDMUND DULAC, c/o "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH," LONDON, E.C.=

[Illustration: THE WONDERFUL BIRD, LIKE A FIRE OF MANY COLOURS COME
DOWN FROM HEAVEN, ALIGHTED BEFORE THE PRINCESS, DROPPING AT HER FEET
THE PORTRAIT p. 3]



THE STORY OF THE BIRD FENG

A FAIRY TALE FROM CHINA


IN the Book of the Ten Thousand Wonders there are three hundred and
thirty-three stories about the bird called _Feng_, and this is one of
them.

Ta-Khai, Prince of Tartary, dreamt one night that he saw in a place
where he had never been before an enchantingly beautiful young maiden
who could only be a princess. He fell desperately in love with her,
but before he could either move or speak, she had vanished. When he
awoke he called for his ink and brushes, and, in the most accomplished
willow-leaf style, he drew her image on a piece of precious silk, and
in one corner he wrote these lines:

    The flowers of the pæony
      Will they ever bloom?
    A day without her
      Is like a hundred years.

He then summoned his ministers, and, showing them the portrait, asked
if any one could tell him the name of the beautiful maiden; but they
all shook their heads and stroked their beards. They knew not who she
was.

So displeased was the prince that he sent them away in disgrace to the
most remote provinces of his kingdom. All the courtiers, the generals,
the officers, and every man and woman, high and low, who lived in the
palace came in turn to look at the picture. But they all had to confess
their ignorance. Ta-Khai then called upon the magicians of the kingdom
to find out by their art the name of the princess of his dreams, but
their answers were so widely different that the prince, suspecting
their ability, condemned them all to have their noses cut off. The
portrait was shown in the outer court of the palace from sunrise till
sunset, and exalted travellers came in every day, gazed upon the
beautiful face, and came out again. None could tell who she was.

Meanwhile the days were weighing heavily upon the shoulders of Ta-Khai,
and his sufferings cannot be described; he ate no more, he drank no
more, and ended by forgetting which was day and which was night, what
was in and what was out, what was left and what was right. He spent his
time roaming over the mountains and through the woods crying aloud to
the gods to end his life and his sorrow.

It was thus, one day, that he came to the edge of a precipice. The
valley below was strewn with rocks, and the thought came to his mind
that he had been led to this place to put a term to his misery. He was
about to throw himself into the depths below when suddenly the bird
_Feng_ flew across the valley and appeared before him, saying:

'Why is Ta-Khai, the mighty Prince of Tartary, standing in this place
of desolation with a shadow on his brow?'

Ta-Khai replied: 'The pine tree finds its nourishment where it stands,
the tiger can run after the deer in the forests, the eagle can fly over
the mountains and the plains, but how can I find the one for whom my
heart is thirsting?'

And he told the bird his story.

The _Feng_, which in reality was a _Feng-Hwang_, that is, a female
_Feng_, rejoined:

'Without the help of Supreme Heaven it is not easy to acquire wisdom,
but it is a sign of the benevolence of the spiritual beings that I
should have come between you and destruction. I can make myself large
enough to carry the largest town upon my back, or small enough to pass
through the smallest keyhole, and I know all the princesses in all
the palaces of the earth. I have taught them the six intonations of my
voice, and I am their friend. Therefore show me the picture, O Ta-Khai,
and I will tell you the name of her whom you saw in your dream.'

They went to the palace, and, when the portrait was shown, the bird
became as large as an elephant, and exclaimed, 'Sit on my back, O
Ta-Khai, and I will carry you to the place of your dream. There you
will find her of the transparent face with the drooping eyelids under
the crown of dark hair such as you have depicted, for these are the
features of Sai-Jen, the daughter of the King of China, and alone can
be likened to the full moon rising under a black cloud.'

At nightfall they were flying over the palace of the king just above a
magnificent garden. And in the garden sat Sai-Jen, singing and playing
upon the lute. The _Feng-Hwang_ deposited the prince outside the wall
near a place where bamboos were growing and showed him how to cut
twelve bamboos between the knots to make the flute which is called
Pai-Siao and has a sound sweeter than the evening breeze on the forest
stream.

And as he blew gently across the pipes, they echoed the sound of the
princess's voice so harmoniously that she cried:

'I hear the distant notes of the song that comes from my own lips, and
I can see nothing but the flowers and the trees; it is the melody the
heart alone can sing that has suffered sorrow on sorrow, and to which
alone the heart can listen that is full of longing.'

At that moment the wonderful bird, like a fire of many colours come
down from heaven, alighted before the princess, dropping at her feet
the portrait. She opened her eyes in utter astonishment at the sight of
her own image. And when she had read the lines inscribed in the corner,
she asked, trembling:

'Tell me, O _Feng-Hwang_, who is he, so near, but whom I cannot see,
that knows the sound of my voice and has never heard me, and can
remember my face and has never seen me?'

Then the bird spoke and told her the story of Ta-Khai's dream, adding:

'I come from him with this message; I brought him here on my wings. For
many days he has longed for this hour, let him now behold the image of
his dream and heal the wound in his heart.'

Swift and overpowering is the rush of the waves on the pebbles of the
shore, and like a little pebble felt Sai-Jen when Ta-Khai stood before
her....

The _Feng-Hwang_ illuminated the garden sumptuously, and a breath of
love was stirring the flowers under the stars.

It was in the palace of the King of China that were celebrated in the
most ancient and magnificent style the nuptials of Sai-Jen and Ta-Khai,
Prince of Tartary.

And this is one of the three hundred and thirty-three stories about the
bird _Feng_ as it is told in the Book of the Ten Thousand Wonders.



YOUNG ROUSSELLE

A FRENCH SONG OF THE OLDEN TIME


    YOUNG Rousselle has three houses got,
    Never a roof to all the lot,--
    For swallows' nests they will serve quite well--
    What do you think of Young Rousselle?
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has three top-coats;
    Two are of cloth as yellow as oats;
    The third, which is made of paper brown,
    He wears if it freezes or rain comes down.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has three old hats;
    Two are as round as butter-pats;
    The third has two little horns, 'tis said,
    Because it has taken the shape of his head.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has three fine eyes;
    Each is quite of a different size;
    One looks east and one looks west,
    The third, his eye-glass, is much the best.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has three black shoes
    Two on his feet he likes to use;
    The third has neither sole nor side:
    That will do when he weds his bride.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle three hairs can find:
    Two in front and one behind;
    And, when he goes to see his girl,
    He puts all three of them in curl.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, three boys he has got:
    Two are nothing but trick and plot;
    The third can cheat and swindle well,--
    He greatly resembles Young Rousselle.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has three good tykes;
    One hunts rabbits just as he likes,
    One chivies hares,--and, as for the third,
    He bolts whenever his name is heard.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has three big cats,
    Who never attempt to catch the rats;
    The third is blind, and without a light
    He goes to the granary every night.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has daughters three,
    Married as well as you'd wish to see;
    Two, one could scarcely beauties call,
    And the third, she has just no brains at all.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he has farthings three,--
    To pay his creditors these must be;
    And, when he has shown these riches vast,
    He puts them back in his purse at last.
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

    Young Rousselle, he will run his rig
    A long while yet ere he hops the twig,
    For, so they say, he must learn to spell
    To write his own epitaph,--Young Rousselle!
        Ah! ah! ah! truth to tell,
        A jolly good chap is Young Rousselle.

[Illustration: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUNG ROUSSELLE? p. 5]



LAYLA AND MAJNÚN

A PERSIAN LOVE STORY


_Laylá_, Pearl of the Night!

She was beautiful as the moon on the horizon, graceful as the cypress
that sways in the night wind and glistens in the sheen of a myriad
stars. Her hair was bright with depths of darkness; her eyes were dark
with excess of light; her glance was shadowed by excess of light. Her
smile and the parting of her lips were like the coming of the rosy
dawn, and, when love came to her--as he did with a load of sorrow
hidden in his sack--she was as a rose plucked from Paradise to be
crushed against her lover's breast; a rose to wither, droop, and die as
Ormazd snatched it from the hand of Ahriman.

Out of the night came _Laylá_, clothed with all its wondrous beauties:
into the night she returned, and, while the wind told the tale of her
love to the cypress above her grave, the stars, with an added lustre,
looked down as if to say, '_Laylá_ is not lost: she was born of us; she
hath returned to us. Look up! look up! there is brightness in the night
where _Laylá_ sits; there is splendour in the sphere where _Laylá_ sits.

As the moon looks down on all rivers, though they reflect but one
moon,--so the beauty of _Laylá_, which smote all hearts to love. Her
father was a great chief, and even the wealthiest princes of other
lands visited him, attracted by the fame of _Laylá's_ loveliness. But
none could win her heart. Wealth and royal splendour could not claim
it, yet it was given to the young Qays, son of the mighty chief of
Yemen. Freely was it given to Qays, son of the chief of Yemen.

Now _Laylá's_ father was not friendly to the chief of Yemen. Indeed,
the only path that led from the one to the other was a well-worn
warpath; for long, long ago their ancestors had quarrelled, and, though
there were rare occasions when the two peoples met at great festivals
and waived their differences for a time, it may truly be said that
there was always hate in their eyes when they saluted. Always? Not
always: there was one exception. It was at one of these festivals that
Qays first saw _Laylá_. Their eyes met, and, though no word was spoken,
love thrilled along a single glance.

From that moment Qays was a changed youth. He avoided the delights of
the chase; his tongue was silent at feast and in council; he sat apart
with a strange light in his eyes; no youth of his tribe could entice
him to sport, no maiden could comfort him. His heart was in another
house, and that was not the house of his fathers.

And _Laylá_--she sat silent among her maidens with eyes downcast. Once,
when a damsel, divining rightly, took her lute and sang a song of the
fountain in the forest, where lovers met beneath the silver moon, she
raised her head at the close of the song and bade the girl sing it
again--and again. And, after this, in the evenings when the sun was
setting, she would wander unattended in the gardens about her father's
palace, roaming night by night in ever widening circles, until, on a
night when the moon was brightest, she came to the confines of the
gardens where they adjoined the deep forest beyond;--but ever and ever
the moonlight beyond. And here, as she gazed adown the spaces between
the tree trunks, she saw, in an open space where the moonbeams fell, a
sparkling fountain, and knew it for that which had been immortalised
in the sweet song sung by her damsel with the lute. There, from time
immemorial, lovers had met and plighted their vows. A thrill shot
through her at the thought that she had wandered hither in search of
it. Her cheeks grew hot, and, with a wildly beating heart, she turned
and ran back to her father's palace. Ran back, ashamed.

Now, in a high chamber of the palace,--it was as wondrous as that of
a Sultan,--where _Laylá_ was wont to recline at the window looking
out above the tree-tops, there were two beautiful white doves; these
had long been her companions, perching on her shoulder and pecking
gently at her cheek with 'Coo, coo, coo';--preeking and preening on her
shoulder with 'Coo, coo, coo.' They would come at her call and feed
from her hand; and, when she threw one from the window, retaining the
other against her breast, the liberated one seemed to understand that
it might fly to yonder tree; and there it would sit cooing for its mate
until _Laylá_, having held her fluttering bird close for a time, would
set it free. 'Ah!' she would sigh to herself, as the bird flew swiftly
to its mate, 'when love hath wings it flies to the loved one, but alas!
I have no wings.' And yet it was by the wings of a dove that her lover
sent her a passionate message, which threw her into joy and fear, and
finally led her footsteps to the place of lovers' meeting.

Qays, in the lonely musings which had beset him of late, recalled the
story--well known among the people--of _Laylá's_ two white doves. As
he recalled it he raised himself upon his elbow on his couch and said
to himself, 'If I went to her father, saying, "Give me thy daughter to
wife!" how should I be met? If I sent a messenger, how would _he_ be
met? But the doves--if all tales be true, they fly in at her window and
nestle to her bosom.'

With his thought suddenly intent upon the doves, he called his servant
Zeyd, who came quickly, for he loved his master.

'Thou knowest, Zeyd,' said Qays, 'that in the palace of the chief of
Basráh there are two white doves, one of which flies forth at its
mistress's bidding, and cooes and cooes and cooes until its mate is
permitted to fly to it.'

'I know it well, my master. They are tame birds, and they come to their
mistress's hand.'

'Would they come, thinkest thou, to _thy_ hand?'

Zeyd, who was in his master's confidence, and knew what troubled him,
answered the question with another.

'Dost thou desire these doves, O my master? My father was a woodman
and I was brought up in the forests. Many a wilder bird than a dove
have I snared in the trees. I even know the secret art of taking a bird
with my hand.'

'Then bring me one of these doves, but be careful not to injure it--not
even one feather of its plumage.'

Zeyd was as clever as his word. On the third evening thereafter he
brought one of _Laylá's_ white doves to Qays and placed it in his hand.
Then Qays stroked the bird and calmed its fears, and, bidding Zeyd hold
it, he carefully wrapt and tied round its leg a small soft parchment on
which were written the following verses:--

    Thy heart is as a pure white dove,
        And it hath come to me;
    And it hath brought me all thy love,
        Flying from yonder tree.

    Thou shalt not have thy heart again,
        For it shall stay with me;
    Yet thou shalt hear my own heart's pain
        Sobbing in yonder tree.

    There is a fount where lovers meet:
        To-night I wait for thee.
    Fly to me, love, as flies the dove
        To dove in yonder tree.

Now _Laylá_, who had sent her dove into the warm night, sat listening
at her window to hear it coo to its mate held close in her bosom. But
it cooed not from its accustomed bough on yonder tree. Holding the
fluttering mate to her she leaned forth from the window, straining her
ears to catch the well-known note, but, hearing nothing, she said to
herself, 'What can have happened? Whither has it flown? Never was such
a thing before. Perchance the bird is sleeping on the bough.'

Then, as the moon rose higher and higher above the tree-tops, shedding
a glistening radiance over everything, she waited and waited, but there
came no doling of the dove, no coo from yonder tree. At last, unable
to account for it, she took the bird from her bosom and stroked it and
spoke to it; then she threw it gently in the air as if to send it in
search of its lost mate to bring it back.

The bird flew straight to the tree, and, perching there, cooed again
and again, but there was no answering coo of its mate. Finally _Laylá_
saw it rise from the tree and circle round the palace. Many times she
saw it flash by and heard the beating of its wings, until at last it
flew in at the window; and, when she took it and pressed it to her, she
felt that it was trembling. For sure, it was distressed and trembling.

'Alas! poor bird!' she said, stroking it gently. 'It is hard to lose
one's lover, but it is harder still never to have found him.'

But lo, as she was comforting the bird, the other dove suddenly
fluttered in and perched upon her shoulder. She gave a cry of delight,
and, taking it, held them both together in her arms. In fondling them
her fingers felt something rough on the leg of the one that had just
returned. Quickly she untied the fastenings, and, with beating heart,
unfolded the parchment and read the writing thereon. It was the message
from her lover. She knew not what to do. Should she go to the fountain
where lovers meet beneath the moon? In her doubt she snatched first
one dove and then the other, kissing each in turn. Then, setting them
down, she rose and swiftly clothed herself in a long cloak, and stole
quietly down the stairs and out of the palace by a side door. Love
found the way to the path through the forest that led to the fountain
where lovers meet. Like a shadow flitting across the bars of moonlight
that fell among the trees she sped on, and at last arrived at the edge
of the open space where the fountain played, its silvery, high-flung
column sparkling like jewelled silver ere it fell in tinkling spray
upon the shining moss.

_Laylá_ paused irresolute in the shadows, telling herself that if her
heart was beating so hard it was because she had been running. Where
was he who had stolen her dove and returned it with a message?

Wherever he was he had quick eyes, for he had discovered her in the
shadows, and now came past the fountain, hastening towards her.

She darted into the light of the moon.

'Who art thou?'

Their eyes met. The moonlight fell on their faces. No other word was
spoken, for they recognised each other in one glance.

'_Laylá!_ thou hast come to me. I love thee.'

'And I thee!'

And none but the old moon, who has looked down on many such things
before, saw their sudden embrace; and none but the spirit of the
fountain, who had recorded the words of lovers ever since the first
gush of the waters, heard what they said to one another.

And so _Laylá_ and Qays met many times by the fountain and plighted
their vows there in the depths of the forest. And once, as they
lingered over their farewells, Qays said to _Laylá_, 'And oh! my
beloved, if the desert were my home, and thou and I were free, even in
the wilderness, eating the herbs that grow in the waste, or a loaf of
thine own baking from the wild corn; drinking the water of the brook,
and reposing beneath the bough,--then would I let the world go by, and,
with no hate of thy people, live with thee and love thee for ever.'

'And I thee, beloved.'

'Then let us leave all, and fly to the wilderness--'

'Now?'

'No, not now. Thou must prepare. To-morrow, beloved, I will await thee
here at this hour with two fleet steeds; and then, as they spurn the
dust from their feet, so will we spurn the world--you and I.'

That night _Laylá_ dreamed that she was in the wilderness with her
lover, sitting beneath the bough, drinking from the waters of the
brook, eating a loaf of her own making from the wild corn, and, in her
lover's presence, happy to lose the luxury of palaces.

But alas! the dream was never to be realised. Some one at the
palace--some one with more than two ears, and with eyes both back and
front--some one, moreover, in the pay of Ibn Salám, a handsome young
chief who greatly desired _Laylá_ in marriage, breathed a word into the
ear of _Laylá's_ father. The following day the palace was deserted.
The old chief, with _Laylá_ and the whole of his retinue, had departed
to his estate in the mountains, where it was hoped that the keen, pure
air would be better for _Laylá's_ health;--at least so her father said,
though none could understand why, seeing that she had never looked
better in her life.

Qays, knowing nothing of this sudden departure for several days,
waited at the fountain at the appointed hour. At last one day, being
already sad at heart, he learned--for Ibn Salám had not been idle in
the matter--that _Laylá_ had gone to the mountains of her own accord
with her father's household, and that Ibn Salám, the favoured one, had
gone with her also. Believing this to be true--for lovers are prone
to credit what they fear--Qays ran forth from his abode like a man
distraught. In the agony of his despair he thought of nothing but to
search for, and find, _Laylá_. Setting his face towards the distant
mountains, he plunged into the desert, calling _'Laylá! Laylá!'_ Every
rock of the wilderness, every tree and thorny waste soon knew her name,
for it echoed thereamong all that day and the following night, until at
dawn he sank exhausted on a barren stretch of sand.

And here it was that his servant Zeyd and a party of his master's
friends found him as the sun was rising. He was distracted. Worn out
with fatigue and hunger and thirst, he wandered in his mind as he had
wandered in the desert. They took him back to his father's abode and
sought to restore him, but, when at last he was well, he still called
continually for his lost love _Laylá_, so that they thought his reason
was unhinged, and spoke of him as '_Majnún_'--that is to say, 'mad with
love'; and by this name he was called ever afterward.

His father came and pleaded with him to put away his infatuation for
the daughter of a chief no friend of his; but, finding him reasonable
in all things save his mad love, the chief said within himself: 'If
he can be healed of this one thing he will be whole.' Then, being
willing further to cement enmity or establish a bond with the chief of
Basráh, he decided to set the matter to the test. Collecting a splendid
retinue, he journeyed to the mountains on a mission to the chief, his
enemy, leaving _Majnún_ in the care of the faithful Zeyd.

[Illustration: IN A HIGH CHAMBER OF THE PALACE--IT WAS AS WONDROUS AS
THAT OF A SULTAN p. 12]

When, after many days' journey, he at last arrived at the estate of
_Laylá's_ father, he stood before that chief and haughtily demanded
the hand of his daughter in marriage with his son, setting forth the
clear meaning of consent on the one hand and refusal on the other. His
proposal was rejected as haughtily as it had been made. 'News travels
far,' said the chief of Basráh. 'Thy son is mad: cure him of his
madness first, and then seek my consent.'

Cyd, the chief of Yemen, was a proud man and fierce. He could not brook
this answer. He had proposed a bond of friendship, and it had been
turned into a barbed shaft of war. He withdrew from Basráh's presence
with the cloud of battle lowering on his brows. He returned to his own
place to come again in war, vowing vengeance on Basráh.

But Yemen's chief delayed his plans, for, on his return, he discovered
that his son, accompanied by the faithful Zeyd, had set out on the
yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, there to kneel before the holy shrine and
drink of the sacred well in the Kaába.

'Surely,' said he, 'that sacred well of water which sprang from the
parched desert to save Hagar and her son will restore my own son to his
health of mind. I will follow him and pray with him at the holy shrine;
I will drink also at the sacred well, and so, perchance, he will be
restored to me.'

But it so chanced that, when the chief, followed by a splendid retinue,
was but two days on his journey towards Mecca, he was met by a lordly
chief of the desert named Noufal, who, with a small band of warriors,
rode in advance of a cloud of dust to greet him in friendly fashion.

'I know thee,' said Noufal, reining in his magnificent horse so
suddenly that the sand and gravel scattered wide; 'thou art the chief
of Yemen and the father of _Majnún_, whom I have met in the desert.
Greetings to thee! I have succoured thy son, whom I found in sore
straits and nigh unto death. I have heard his story, and I will aid him
and thee against the chief of Basráh, if it be thy will, O chief of
Yemen.'

'Greetings to thee, O Noufal! I know thy name; thou art a wanderer of
the desert, but I have heard many brave tales of thy prowess and thy
generosity. Thou hast my son in thy keeping? But how comes it that he
failed of his pilgrimage to Mecca, whither I was following to join him
at the holy shrine?'

'Alas! he fell by the wayside in sight of my warriors; and, when they
came to him, his only cry was, "_Laylá! Laylá!_" They brought him to
me, and from his broken story and this oft-repeated cry of "_Laylá_"
I knew him for _Majnún_, thy son; for the tale of beauty and love, O
chief of Yemen, travels far in the silent desert.'

'What wouldst thou, then, Noufal?'

'I would that thou and I, for the sake of thy son, go up against the
chief of Basráh and demand his daughter. If he consent not, and we
conquer, I will extend thine interests and protect them through the
desert and beyond. If he consent, thou and I and he will be for ever
at peace, and will combine our territories on just terms of thine own
choosing.'

'Thou hast spoken well, O Noufal, and I trust thee. Go thou up against
the chief of Basráh and demand _Laylá_ in my name. I will follow thy
path, and, if thou returnest to meet me with _Laylá_ in thy protection,
all is well; but, if not, then we will proceed against Basráh together,
and thy terms shall be my terms. For the rest, thou hast swift
messengers, as have I.'

At the word Noufal wheeled his horse and gave commands to some of his
warriors, and presently six fleet-footed chargers were speeding towards
the horizon in six different directions to call the warriors of the
desert to converge on a point at the foot of the mountains. Meanwhile
similar messengers were hastening back to Yemen with orders from their
chief. Noufal and his band of warriors set out for the rendezvous, but
the chief of Yemen waited for the return of his messengers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile _Laylá_, on her father's estate among the mountains, lived
in the depths of misery. The young chief Ibn Salám, well favoured of
her father, was continually pleading for her hand in marriage, but
_Laylá's_ protestations and tears so moved her father that he was fain
to say to the handsome and wealthy suitor, 'She is not yet of age;
wait a little while and all will be well.' For Basráh looked with a
calculating eye on this young chief, who had splendid possessions and
many thousands of warriors. As for _Laylá_, she immured herself from
the light of day, communing only with the stars by night, and saying
within her heart, 'I will die a maiden rather than marry any but
_Majnún_, who is now, alas! distracted, even as I.'

[Illustration: IF THE DESERT WERE MY HOME--THEN WOULD I LET THE WORLD
GO BY p. 14]

Now _Laylá_, well knowing that her doves were nesting in 'yonder tree,'
had left them to the care of the attendants at the palace. They had
always been a solace to her, especially since one had been Love's
messenger, and she missed that solace now. A young tiger, obedient only
to an Ethiopian slave, could not speak to her of love as the doves had
done! But one day a slave-girl brought her a bird of paradise, saying,
'My boy lover caught this in the forests of the hills and bade me offer
it to thee for thy kindness to me.'

_Laylá_ treasured the bird in her solitude, and soon discovered that it
could imitate the sounds of her voice. On this she straightway taught
it one word, and one word only. Then she would sit for hours, with the
bird perched on the back of her hand, listening to its soft intonation
of that one word: '_Majnún_.' Again and again and again the bird would
speak softly in her ear that sweetest name in all the world: '_Majnún,
Majnún, Majnún_,' and her heart would leave her bosom and range through
the desolation of the desert, seeking always _Majnún_.

The affair of her heart stood in such case when, one day at dawn,
Noufal, with a large band of warriors, smote with his sword upon the
gates and demanded to see the chief of Basráh.

It was a short and pointed exchange of few words between Noufal and
Basráh as the broadening band of sunlight crept slowly down the
background of mountains; and, when it smote upon the gates as the sun
burst up, the talk was finished and Noufal and his band were galloping
towards the desert to meet the oncoming hosts of Yemen. The chief of
Basráh gazed upon the cloud of dust that rose between him and the sun,
and in it read the signs of sudden war.

Now Basráh's mountain estate adjoined the territory of Ibn Salám,
and, as soon as the latter learned that the chief had flouted Noufal
in favour of his own suit, and that the thunder-cloud of battle was
arising against the wind, he offered the aid of a thousand of his
warriors--an offer which was eagerly accepted. But the thousand he
offered were not a third part of the warriors at his call.

The way of war was paved. Before noon a host of Ibn Salám's warriors
came riding in. _Laylá_, from her window, noted their brave array.
Then, looking far out on to the desert, she saw the dust-cloud rising
from the hoofs of an advancing host. 'Alas!' she cried, 'the heart
that beats in my bosom is the cause of this. I love my father; I love
_Majnún_: Destiny must choose between them.'

Destiny hath strange reversals. The shock and clash of battle dinned
on her ears till near nightfall, when, with a heart divided between
hope and fear, she saw clearly that Ibn's hosts could not hold their
ground. The onslaughts of her father's foe were forcing them back.
They scattered, and rallied, and scattered again. Those that were left
retreated within the gates. The gates were battered down, and all was
lost--or won. A herald advanced, offering terms of surrender. _Laylá_
leaned from her window, listening. No word could she hear until her
father, still defiant in the face of defeat, spoke in ringing tones.

'And, if I deliver not up my daughter, you will take her. Yea, but you
will not take her alive. I have but to raise my hand and she will be
slain. I have lost all, but my servants will still obey me: if I give
the word, her dead body is yours for the asking.'

At this the chief of Yemen bade him hold his hand from committing this
terrible deed.

'O chief of Basráh,' he said, 'I give thee one day to think about this
matter. There are two sides to it: the one is that thou deliver up thy
daughter to be given to my son to wife, so that there may be a bond of
friendship between us; the other is that thou keep thy daughter and
surrender thy sovereignty, retaining thy territories only in vassalage
to me.'

With that the chief of Yemen and his ally, Noufal, withdrew, leaving
Basráh to decide before dawn the following day.

Now, among Ibn Salám's messengers that he had sent out was one whose
orders were to ride back, as if from Yemen, bringing word that he had
discovered _Majnún_, who, having fled from his attendants in the night,
was lying dead in the desert. This was not truth, but Ibn had reason to
believe that it soon would be, for he had sent out others to find him
and kill him. It was to his purpose that the false news should arrive
quickly, for, on that, and the offer of a further host of warriors at
his command, he hoped to gain _Laylá's_ promise and strengthen her
father's hand in the matter.

The victors had scarcely withdrawn when the messenger rode in, shouting
the news to victors and vanquished alike. The chief of Yemen heard it
and wept for his son. Noufal heard it and said, '_Laylá_ is nothing
to us now; at dawn we shall dictate our own terms.' Ibn Salám and
_Laylá's_ father heard the news without grief, and Ibn said, 'Now there
can be no obstacle to thy daughter's consent, for she is a woman, and
must know that the living is more desirable than the dead. I have
already helped thee, O Chief, and we have failed. But thy daughter has
only to speak the word and a further host of my warriors--more than
treble the number that fought to-day--will come out of the desert at my
call. Half will come to aid our defence, and half will attack the hosts
of Yemen from the desert. Thus your foes will be scattered like chaff
in the wind. Go to thy daughter and show her now how a word from her
will save thee from destruction and make thee great.'

The chief of Basráh went to his daughter, and, when Ibn heard sounds
of a woman wailing, he knew that the false news of _Majnún's_ death
was believed. Long time the chief pleaded with _Laylá_, urging the
uselessness of weeping for _Majnún_ when, by accepting Ibn in marriage,
she could save Basráh and make it a great kingdom. Then he spoke of her
duty to him, her father, in this terrible plight, from which her word
alone could save him; and _Laylá_ saw, through her tears, that for her
father's sake the sacrifice must be made; and through duty, not love,
she mournfully pledged herself to Ibn Salám.

As soon as Ibn knew this he called some of his warriors and questioned
them on the matter of his hosts in reserve.

'Four thousand,' he said, when he had heard their replies. 'The foe is
but three thousand, and we are little more than one thousand.'

Then he gave orders to some chosen messengers and bade them steal forth
secretly and deliver them to his generals. Half the four thousand was
to arrive by night under cover of the mountains and be ready for battle
at sunrise. The other half was to make a circuit of the desert and fall
upon the foe from behind when the battle was at its hottest. On this
sudden stroke he relied for complete victory.

And he was not wrong. When dawn broke over the desert, and the mountain
peaks were flushed with sunrise fire, the dark shadows at the base were
two thousand strong. There they waited hidden from the foe, while, as
the sun rose, a herald came to the gates. In the name of Yemen, he
dictated the terms of surrender without any condition in regard to
_Laylá_.

The chief of Basráh laughed him to scorn. 'Go tell the chief of Yemen
and his robber friend of the desert,' he said, 'that if they desire my
domains they must take them by force of arms. Tell them that Basráh
never surrenders: he prefers to live free, or to die fighting.'

[Illustration: SHE WOULD SIT FOR HOURS, WITH THE BIRD PERCHED ON THE
BACK OF HER HAND, LISTENING TO ITS SOFT INTONATION OF THAT ONE WORD
"MAJNÚN" p. 18]

The herald took back this proud answer of defiance. On hearing it Yemen
wondered and questioned, but Noufal, who was a man of the desert,
sudden in temper and quick to act, counselled an immediate attack.

The battle was joined. At the first shock came Ibn's two thousand
warriors from their concealment, and the invaders fell back in
astonishment. Yet they rallied again, and fiercely raged the fight
between the opposing hosts, now equally matched in numbers. _Laylá_
looked from her window in horror. She noted how the battle swayed this
way, then that. And now it seemed that the foe was steadily gaining
the mastery. But what was that in the distance of the desert? What was
that, thrust forward from the desert? A great cloud of dust, quickly
approaching. It drew near, its cause quickly outstripping it. A mighty
host of warriors now shook the earth with the thunder of their horses'
feet. They drew nearer. Now like a whirlwind they hurled themselves
upon the invaders and bore them down like trodden wheat--sweeping the
flying remainder of them like chaff to the four winds.

Yemen was slain. Noufal, flying from numbers on swifter steeds than
his, laughed back at his pursuers, then slew himself, dying, as he had
lived, at full gallop.

Basráh was victorious. That night _Laylá_ was given by her father to
Ibn Salám. That night, too, the chief of Basráh, having been previously
wounded in the battle, died. Ibn ruled now over three vast territories
welded into one. And, where he was king, _Laylá_ was queen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Years passed by, and Ibn and _Laylá_ reigned in peace. The palace of
her fathers was their abode, and the bird of paradise and the two white
doves were often her companions, recalling to her heart a lost, but
never-to-be-forgotten, love. The faithful Zeyd, who had wandered long
in the desert searching in vain for his master, was now her servant.

One day news came secretly to Zeyd that _Majnún_, long mourned as
dead, had returned disguised as a merchant from distant parts, and
would be waiting for him at a certain spot on the outskirts of the
desert at sunset. Zeyd said nothing of this to his mistress, but,
unknown to her, he caught one of the doves and took it away with him to
the meeting-place, for he reasoned that what had happened once would
happen again with like result. Full of joy was the meeting between
_Majnún_ and Zeyd on the edge of the desert as the sun went down.

Now _Laylá_, when she repaired to her high chamber that evening,
was astonished to find one of her doves missing. She sent the other
forth to the great tree, thinking the two might return together, but
presently it returned alone. Then, wondering greatly, she sat by the
window, musing on the past: how, three years ago, the dove had returned
after an absence, bearing a love-message from _Majnún_, and how she had
met him again and again at the lovers' fountain in the forest. Alas!
all was changed: _Majnún_ was dead, and she was the wife of another.
Her eyes filled with tears, and, bowing her head on her arms upon the
window-sill, she wept silently.

For a long time she remained like this. Then, suddenly, she was aroused
from her weeping by a sound. It was the 'coo, coo, coo' of the missing
dove, and it came from the great tree. Immediately the other dove
fanned her hair as it sped past her to its mate. It made her long for
wings that she too might fly away and away to her lover.

Presently the two birds fluttered in at the window and came to her.
What strange thing was this? There, wrapped round the leg of one was a
small strip of soft parchment as on that night long ago. With trembling
fingers she unfastened and read what was written thereon. It was from
_Majnún_! He was alive and well! As before, the writing begged her to
come that very night to the lovers' fountain at moonrise.

In her sudden joy at learning that her lover was alive and near
at hand, _Laylá_ forgot all, and, as the gibbous moon was already
brightening the horizon, she arose and cloaked herself and stole down
the stairway of the palace. She reached the side door unobserved.
She passed out and closed it behind her. Her heart flew before her
to _Majnún_, but suddenly, as she hastened, it rebounded swiftly and
almost stopped beating. Her footsteps faltered and she clutched at a
bough of a tree for support. Her husband! Her duty! Once she had given
all for duty's sake: should she take it back now, and in this way?
What would it mean? With _Majnún's_ arms around her she would forget
all--husband, duty, her people: all, all would be forgotten, and the
step once taken could not be retraced. Alas! this was not the act of
a wife! It was not the act of a queen! She groaned as she grasped the
bough, and her body swayed with her spirit's woe as she then and there
rejected her purpose and accepted her sorrow.

Slowly _Laylá_ strengthened herself; then, like one in a dream, she
turned and retraced her steps to the palace, no sigh, no sob escaping
her. All that night she refused sleep or comfort, dry-eyed; and it was
only when the dawn came that tears came too, to save her reason on its
throne.

_Majnún_ waited long by the lovers' fountain, and, at last, learning
from Zeyd that his mistress had ventured forth and had returned, he
went away, treasuring to his heart a love that could not give one
glance without giving all; for, from Zeyd's story he knew this to be
so. As _Laylá_ had gone back to the palace, silent and strong, so
_Majnún_ set his face towards distant cities, praying ever that the
years might bring surcease of woe, if not the rapture of the love of
_Laylá_.

Two years passed by, and Fate stepped in. Ibn Salám fell stricken with
a fever and died. The news spread far, and one day _Majnún_, in a
distant city, looked up and heard that _Laylá_, the queen of Yemen and
Basráh, was free. Swift, then, were the steeds that bore him to Yemen.
But, remembering how she had twice sacrificed herself for duty, he
forbore to approach her until the expiration of the prescribed term of
widowhood--four moons and half a moon. This period he spent, alone and
unknown, in an abode from which he could see the lights of _Laylá's_
palace. His longing ate into his heart, and it was harder to bear than
his former distraction, by which he had earned his name of _Majnún_
('mad with love'). But as, in the first instance, his reason had borne
the strain, so now it bore the stress of all this weary waiting at the
gates of Paradise.

Zeyd bore tidings of _Laylá_ to _Majnún_, but from _Majnún_ to _Laylá_
no message passed until, on a day when the prescribed term had passed,
Zeyd took word to her that _Majnún_ would come to her at the palace at
noon, or, according to her choice, wait for her at the lovers' fountain
at two hours after sunset.

Zeyd brought back the delayed message: 'Noon has passed, but noon will
come again--after this eventide.' Which was not unlike the answer
_Majnún_ had expected.

The saddest part of the history of these ill-destined lovers is yet
to be told. Two hours after sunset _Majnún_ kept the tryst. Two
hours after sunset _Laylá_, her eyes smouldering with a pent-up
fire, cloaked herself as of old and went out by the side door of the
palace. There was no moon, but the stars shed a soft light upon the
gardens. She passed among the trees; her heart beat fast and her
breath came quick. The whole of her life seemed wrapped up in her two
feet, which ran a hot race with each other. She reached the edge of
the forest and paused, clasping her hands over her bosom. She must
regain her breath to show _Majnún_ how little she had hastened. Then,
before she had regained it, she ran on, losing it the more. There was
the fountain--the fountain where lovers had always met--she saw it
sparkling in the starlight through the trees. Now she stood on the edge
of the open space, the folds of her cloak parted, her masses of raven
hair fallen loose, her breast heaving.

A figure darted from the fountain's side. She faltered forward,
swaying. A moaning cry escaped her as _Majnún_ caught her in a wild
embrace.

Who knows if it was but a moment or a thousand years? Love has no dial.
But that time-moment two hours after sunset was their swift undoing. At
the touch of her lips upon his, _Majnún's_ reason was wrenched away.
At the touch of his lips upon hers, she swooned in his arms. He let
her fall, and ran, shrieking, out of the forest and into the desert;
shrieking her name, far into the desert.

'_Laylá! Laylá! Laylá!_'--his maniac cries echoed on and on until, in
the hopeless waste of wilderness, he fell exhausted. But Zeyd, who had
followed his voice, at last found him. Many a day and night he tended
his master, but to no purpose. Joy had done what grief had failed to
do: _he was mad!_

_Laylá_ awoke from her swoon, and, hearing her own name repeated again
and again,--that wild cry coming from farther and farther in the
desert,--divined the truth and returned, slowly and wringing her hands,
to the palace.

From time to time Zeyd sent news of _Majnún_ and his undying love,
which even his madness had failed to touch.

Day by day, and week by week, _Laylá's_ eyes grew brighter and her
cheeks paler. Slowly she pined away, and then she died of a broken
heart. Her last words were a message to _Majnún_--a message of love
that could not die, though it must quit the beautiful, unhappy house of
clay in which it had suffered so much.

'And tell him,' she said, 'that my body shall be buried by the side
of the fountain where he first clasped me in his arms. And tell him,
too, these very words: '_Majnún_, lift thine eyes! See, yonder are the
Fields of Light, and a fountain springing in the sunshine--yonder--a
fountain of eternal waters, where lovers meet, never to part
again;--_thou shalt find me there_!' And with that she died, and
her spirit sped on her parting thought to that place of lovers'
meeting;--the immortal font of lovers' meeting.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dawn was breaking on the desert when two figures came running. Each
held the other by the hand, and on the face of one was that look which
told how he had been driven mad by love. _Majnún_, outstripping Zeyd,
left him to follow, and plunged into the forest. Soon he came to the
open space in which the fountain played. Well he knew the spot where
he had first clasped _Laylá_ in his arms. There was now a newly made
grave. Exhausted, not with running, but with love, madness, and grief,
he flung himself upon it.

'_Laylá! Laylá!_' he moaned, with a heart-bursting pang. 'I will come
soon--ah, soon! Hold thy shroud of night about thee! Hide thy beauty in
the Fields of Light--_until I find thee there_!'

And, as the sun rose, Zeyd came and stood by the grave, gazing down
upon his master through tears of grief;--gazing down upon the dead
through bitter tears of grief.



THE NIGHTINGALE

AFTER A FAIRY TALE BY HANS ANDERSEN


THERE was no more beautiful thing in the world than the palace of the
emperor of China. It was built of the very finest porcelain, delicate
and fragile as an egg-shell. The people, high and low, who dwelt in
that palace moved with the utmost grace and care lest they should break
anything, and in this they had more admiration for the extreme beauty
of the place than fear of being trampled upon by the emperor for any
damage caused by clumsiness. The palace garden was so big that not even
the head gardener could tell you where it ended. It contained the most
wonderful flowers; every here and there among the glorious blooms was
one more rare than its neighbours; and, as if to attract your attention
to its splendour, each had attached to it a little silver bell which
tinkled melodiously in the hands of every passing zephyr. Miles and
miles and miles of beautiful trees and flowers, with smooth lawns and
sparkling fountains; and always, if you wished, you could turn off into
a delightful wood which skirted the garden and led down a gentle slope
to the sea, where, on the brink, the trees were so high and spreading,
and the blue water beneath so suddenly deep and still, that great ships
could shelter there in the shade. And in this wonderful wood lived a
_Nightingale_ which sang so deliciously that all who heard it stood
rooted to the spot. Never had such music been heard before in any wood
in the world. Even the poor fisherman, busy with his nets in the bay,
would pause in his work to listen. 'Heavens, how beautiful that song
is!' he would say; and, night after night, when the bird sang he would
forget his toil to murmur, 'How beautiful! how beautiful!'

From every land travellers came to see the emperor's palace and walk in
the wonderful garden, but those who heard the _Nightingale_ sing said,
'There is nothing here so entrancing as that song.' And these went away
carrying the music in their hearts and the tale of it on their lips to
tell in their own lands. Thus the wonder of the _Nightingale_ was known
afar, and learned men wrote books about it, describing at length the
beauty of the emperor's palace and garden only as a fit setting for the
crowning wonder of all--the bird whose entrancing song lifted all this
earthly splendour to heaven. Many were the poems written and sung about
the far-off _Nightingale_ which filled and thrilled the woods with
music by the deep-blue sea. The books and the poems went through the
whole world, and of course many of them reached the emperor.

Sitting in his golden chair reading, he nodded his head with a smile
of pleasure at the splendid descriptions of palace and garden and all
they contained; but, when he read that all this splendour was of minor
account compared to the glorious singing of a _Nightingale_ in the
woods by the sea, he sat up straight and said, 'A _Nightingale_? What
is this? A wonder in my own home, my own garden--a wonder that travels
afar and yet I have never heard of it till now! What strange things we
read about in books, to be sure. But I'll soon settle the matter.'

With this he summoned his gentleman-in-waiting--a very important
personage; so important, indeed, that when one of less importance dared
to address him on even a matter more important than either of them, he
would simply answer, 'Ph!'--which, as you know, means nothing at all.

'They say,' said the emperor, 'ahem! they say there is a wonderful bird
here called a _Nightingale_, compared with whose delicious song my
palace and garden are of small account. Why have I not been informed of
this marvel?'

The gentleman-in-waiting protested that he knew nothing whatever of
such a thing as a _Nightingale_--at least, he was certain it had never
been presented at court.

'These books cannot all be wrong,' said the emperor; 'especially as
they all agree in their accounts of it. It appears that the whole world
knows what I am possessed of, and yet I have never known it myself till
now. I command you to bring this rare bird here this evening to sing to
me.'

The gentleman-in-waiting went off, well knowing what would happen if he
failed to produce the bird in the time appointed. But how was it to be
found? He ran up and down stairs and through all the corridors asking
rapid questions of every one he could find, but not one knew anything
about the _Nightingale_. 'Ha!' thought he, 'this thing is a myth,
invented by writers to make their books more interesting.' And he ran
back and told the emperor so.

'Nonsense!' cried the emperor. 'This book here was sent me by his
powerful majesty the emperor of Japan, so it must be true--every word
of it. I will give this bird my most gracious protection, but, as for
those who fail to find it and bring it here to-night--well, if it
is not forthcoming, I will have the whole court trampled upon after
supper!'

'Tsing-pe!' said the gentleman-in-waiting, and hurried off. Up and down
all the stairs, in and out all the corridors he ran again, and this
time half the court ran with him, for the thought of being trampled
upon got into their heels and there was no time to be wasted. Still, no
one in court knew anything about the _Nightingale_ with which all the
outside world was so familiar. But at last they came to a poor little
maid in the scullery. She knew all about it. 'Oh yes; the delightful
_Nightingale_!' she cried. 'Of course I know it. Every evening I hear
it sing in the wood by the seashore on my way home. Ah me! its music
brings tears into my eyes and makes me feel as if my mother is kissing
me.'

'Listen, little kitchen-maid!' said the gentleman-in-waiting, 'if you
will lead us to the _Nightingale_ I will give you permission to see the
emperor dining to-night.'

She clapped her hands with glee at this, and very soon they were all
following her on the way to the wood. As they ran a cow began to
bellow loudly, and they stopped. 'That's it!' cried a young courtier.
'What a magnificent voice for so small a creature!'

[Illustration: EVEN THE POOR FISHERMAN WOULD PAUSE IN HIS WORK TO
LISTEN p. 29]

'Nay, nay; that's a cow. We have not reached the place yet.' And the
little maid hurried them on.

Presently the frogs of a neighbouring marsh raised a chorus of 'Koax!
koax!'

'How beautiful!' cried the palace chaplain; 'more beautiful than the
sound of church bells. This bird----'

'Nay, nay; those are frogs; but we are coming to the _Nightingale_
soon.' And the little maid ran on. Then, suddenly, they all paused,
breathless, beneath the trees, for the _Nightingale_ had begun to sing.

'There it is! there it is!' cried the little kitchen-maid, pointing to
the little gray bird among the branches. 'Listen!'

'Ph!' said the gentleman-in-waiting; 'what a common little object! I
suppose meeting so many grand people from other lands has driven all
its colours away. But it can----'

'_Nightingale!_' called the little kitchen-maid; 'our most gracious
emperor wants you to sing to him to-night!'

'With all the pleasure in the world,' replied the bird, trilling out
the most delightful notes.

'Extraordinary!' said the gentleman-in-waiting, who had perceived
that the _Nightingale_ was thinking, very naturally, that he _was_
the emperor; and all the courtiers took up the word; for if _he_ said
'Extraordinary!' instead of 'Ph!' surely the whole world had a perfect
right to go into hysterics over such singing.

'My dear little _Nightingale_,' he said at last, 'I have the honour to
command your attendance at court to-night to sing before the emperor.'

'I think it sounds best among the trees,' replied the _Nightingale_,
'but I will do my best to please the emperor.' And it fluttered down
and perched on the little kitchen-maid's shoulder. Then away they went
to the palace.

That evening the splendid abode of the emperor was a sight to see. The
china walls and floors shone with the radiance of a thousand golden
lamps; the corridors were decked with the rarest flowers from the
garden, each with its little silver bell attached, so that when the
breeze swept their subtle perfumes along the ways of the palace they
rang a peal of joy.

In the great reception-room sat the emperor, and near by his side was
a golden rod on which was perched the _Nightingale_. Every one was
there, and all were dressed in their very best, for it was a time of
rejoicing; the wonderful bird had been found, and the whole court had
escaped being trampled upon. Even the little kitchen-maid, who had now
been raised to the position of cook, was allowed to stand behind the
door, where she could feast her wide eyes on the mighty emperor.

There was silence. Then the little gray bird began to sing. The emperor
nodded approvingly; then, as a burst of glorious song came in liquid
notes from the _Nightingale_ and welled out into the palace, the
emperor's eyes slowly filled with tears, which soon rolled down over
his cheeks. Seeing this the bird sang more divinely still, so that
all hearts were touched. The emperor wrung his hands with delight;
he was so charmed that he said he would decorate the _Nightingale_:
it should have his gold slipper to wear round its neck. But this the
_Nightingale_ declined gracefully, with thanks.

'I have seen tears in the eyes of the emperor,' it said, 'and that is
sufficient reward.' Then it burst again into its sweet, melodious song.

The _Nightingale_ soon became the one absorbing fashion. The ladies,
when any one spoke to them, took water in their mouths, raised their
heads and gurgled, thinking to imitate its song. The lackeys and
chamber-maids, who are always the most difficult people to please,
freely admitted they had nothing whatever against the bird; while the
people of the town could think of nothing else but this new wonder of
the palace. So great was their feeling on the matter that when two met
in the street one would say, 'Night,' to which the other replied,
'Gale'; then they would sigh and pass on, perfectly understanding each
other. Eleven different cheesemongers' children, who had the good luck
to be born during this time, were named after the bird, but not one of
these cheese-mites ever developed the semblance of a voice.

As for the _Nightingale_ itself, it had indeed made a great sensation,
and was accorded every honour. Living at court, it was assigned a
special cage, with full liberty to walk out twice a day and once in the
night. On these outings it was attended by twelve footmen, each holding
a separate ribbon attached to its leg. You can imagine how the poor
bird sang for joy when it got back to its cage again.

One day the emperor was sitting in his golden chair when a large parcel
was brought to him bearing on the outside the word '_Nightingale_.'
Thinking it was another book on the subject he put it aside, but, when
he came to open it later, he was astonished to find that it was no
book, but an exquisite little work of art--an artificial _Nightingale_,
just like the real one, but in place of gray feathers there were
wonderful diamonds, and rubies, and sapphires. Round its neck was a
ribbon on which was written, 'The emperor of Japan's _Nightingale_ is a
poor bird compared with the emperor of China's.'

On examination it was found that this splendid toy was meant to go. So
it was wound up, and immediately it sang that extremely lovely thing
which the real _Nightingale_ had first sung to the emperor.

'How delightful!' cried everybody, and immediately the emperor summoned
the messenger who had delivered the parcel, and there and then created
him Imperial Nightingale-Carrier in Chief.

'Now,' said the emperor, as the I.N.-C.C. withdrew, 'the two birds must
sing together. What a duet we shall have!'

But the duet was not a great success, for the real _Nightingale_
sang with its soul in its throat, while the other merely sang with
the machinery it was stuffed with. They did not get on at all well
together. But the music master explained all this quite easily, saying
that their voices, though of equal merit, were of widely different
quality, and each could be heard to best advantage alone. As to time
and tune and dramatic attack, he said, there was nothing to choose
between them.

So the toy bird had to sing alone, and everybody said the music master
was right; there was nothing to choose between the two, unless it was
that the toy bird's coat was a blaze of dazzling jewels, while that of
the other was a gray drab--common in the extreme. The toy bird sang
just as well, and, besides, it was much prettier to look at.

When the new _Nightingale_ had sung the same tune thirty-three times
and the courtiers wanted still to hear the tune again, the emperor
said, 'No; the real bird must have its turn now.' But the real bird was
nowhere to be found: it had flown out at the open window, back to its
own woods by the side of the deep-blue sea.

'What does this mean?' cried the emperor.

The gentleman-in-waiting stepped forward.

'It means, your Majesty,' he said, 'it means, I'm afraid, that it
was an ungrateful bird, but still clever enough to give place to its
betters.'

And then, when all were agreed that they had got the better bird, the
toy _Nightingale_ sang the same tune again, for the thirty-fourth
time, because, though they had heard it so often, they did not know it
thoroughly even yet: it was so very difficult.

The music master was loud in his praises of the bird. He extolled
it inside as well as out, saying that it was not only beautiful and
valuable, but that its works were perfect. The real bird sang what it
liked, but here one could choose a given tune and hear it sung. The
whole thing was far more perfect than the real. The court agreed with
him, and the emperor was prevailed upon to let the people hear the toy
bird sing on the following Sunday.

When Sunday came the whole town assembled before the palace, and, when
they heard the bird sing, they were as excited as if they had drunk
themselves merry on tea, which is a way they have in China. All except
the poor fisherman, who had so often paused from his toil to listen to
the real _Nightingale_. 'It is a very good imitation,' said he; 'but it
lacks something, I can't say what.' And the little kitchen-maid, who
was now a real cook, said nothing, but stole away in sadness to the
wood, where she knew that she would hear the real music that she loved.

Following the opinion of the people the emperor banished the real
_Nightingale_ from the kingdom, and placed the toy bird on a silken
cushion close to his bed, with the gifts of gold and jewels it had
received arranged around it. And he promoted it to the rank of 'Chief
Imperial Singer of the Bed-Chamber,' class one, on the left side; that
is to say, nearest the heart, for even an emperor's heart is on the
left side. And he gave the music master royal permission to write a
work of five-and-twenty volumes about the bird, which no one has ever
read to this day, because it is so tremendously difficult; but you
would not find any one in China who would not claim to have mastered it
thoroughly, since they one and all object to be thought stupid and to
have their bodies trampled upon.

For a whole year the artificial bird ground out its mechanical tunes.
They were even set to music by the skilled men of the time, and the
people sang them in their homes. On great public festivals, when the
bird sang before delighted multitudes, they would raise their voices
and join in the chorus. It was a great success. But one night, when the
bird was singing its best by the emperor's bedside, something inside
the toy went 'whizz.' Then, with a grating catch and a snap, the main
crank broke: 'whirr' went all the wheels, and the music stopped.

The emperor immediately summoned the Chief Winder of the Imperial
Singer of the Bed-Chamber, and he, with the assistance of the skilled
workmen of his department, managed, in less than seven days and nights
of talk and toil, to put the works right again; but, he said, the
inside of the bird was not what it used to be, and, unless it was used
very sparingly, say once a year, he hesitated to say what might happen
in the end.

This was a terrible blow to China! The bird could only sing once a
year, but, on that great annual occasion, it was listened to with
long-pent-up enthusiasm; and, at the end of the concert, the music
master made a speech, in which he used none but the most difficult
words, to prove that the bird was still as good as ever, in fact even
better, and that his saying so made it so.

Five years passed away, during which time the bird sang five times; and
then a great grief fell upon the nation. The emperor lay dying. The
physicians came and went, shaking their heads: they gave no hope. The
gentleman-in-waiting, when questioned by the people as to the state
of their emperor, merely answered 'Ph!' So bad was the outlook that
already a new emperor had been chosen, and the whole court hurried to
congratulate him.

The old emperor lay pale and still in his gorgeous bed, but he was not
dead. While the courtiers were jostling each other in their efforts
to catch the eye of the emperor-elect; while the lackeys were running
hither and thither exchanging the news, and the chamber-maids giving
a grand coffee-party, the old emperor's spark of life flickered and
flickered. Through a high open window the moon shone in upon the bed
with its velvet hangings and heavy golden tassels; upon the pale face
of the emperor; upon the jewelled bird by his side. Now he gasped for
breath: there was something heavy on his chest. With a great effort he
opened his eyes, and there, sitting upon him, he saw Death, wearing
his own golden crown, with his own golden sword in one hand, and in
the other his own imperial banner. Death grinned as he settled himself
more heavily. Then, as the emperor still struggled for breath, he saw,
peering at him round the folds of the bed-hangings, the faces of all
the deeds he had ever committed. Some were hideous as they hissed, 'Do
you remember?' Others were sweet and loving as they murmured, 'Do you
remember?' And then, while they told him in one breath all that he
had ever done, good and bad, Death sat heavier and heavier upon him,
nodding his head at all they had to say.

The perspiration streamed down the emperor's face. At last he shrieked
aloud, 'This is unbearable! Sound the drums! Give me music to drown
their voices!' Then he said to the bird by his side, 'You precious
little bird--golden bird with your coat of jewels--sing, sing! I have
given you everything; I have even hung my golden slipper round your
neck,--now sing, I command you, sing!'

But there was no response. The bird stood there, a dumb thing: you see,
it could not sing because there was nobody there to wind it up. Then,
as Death fastened his empty sockets upon him, a terrible silence fell.
Deeper and deeper it grew, and the emperor could hear nothing but the
beating of Death's heart--his own would soon be silent.

Suddenly through the open window came a lovely burst of song. Radiant,
sparkling as a shower of pearls, the living notes of rarest melody
fell within the silent chamber. It was the _Nightingale_, perched on a
branch outside--the _Nightingale_ as God had made it, singing the song
that God had taught it. It had heard the emperor's call, and had come
to bring him comfort.

Slowly, slowly, as it sang divinely, the faces that peered round the
velvet folds grew wan. Pale Death himself started, and turned still
paler with wonder and amazement. 'How beautiful!' he said; 'sing on,
little bird, thrilling with life!'

'Lay down the imperial banner,' answered the _Nightingale_; 'lay down
the golden sword; lay down the emperor's crown.'

'Agreed!' And the mighty snatcher, Death, laid down these treasures for
the price of a song. The _Nightingale_ went on singing. And it sang as
it flitted from bough to bough, until it reached the quiet churchyard
where the grass grows green upon the graves, where the roses bloom
living on the breast of death, and the cypress points to the immortal
skies. There on the cypress' topmost twig it perched and sang a song
so rich and rare, so far-reaching, that it touched the heart of Death
sitting on the chest of the emperor,--for, after all, Death has a
tender heart. Filled with a longing for his own garden, melted by the
_Nightingale's_ song, he vanished in a cold, grey mist,--out at the
window.

Soon came the _Nightingale_ fluttering with delight above the emperor's
bed. Then it perched by the side of the toy bird, and the emperor
looked, and knew at last the difference between the natural and the
artificial. He knew, too, that he ought to have known it before.

'You heavenly little bird!' he said. 'Welcome back to my heart! I
banished you from my kingdom, but you heard my call and returned to
charm away those evil visions, and even Death himself. Thanks! A world
of thanks! How can I ever repay you?' Tears shone in the emperor's eyes.

'I am already repaid,' said the _Nightingale_. 'When first I sang to
you I saw tears in your eyes, and now I see them again. Those are the
jewels that I wear in my heart, not upon my coat. But sleep now; you
must get well. Sleep--I will sing you to sleep!'

So the little bird sang, and the emperor fell into a healing sleep. In
the morning, when the sun shone in at the window, he awoke refreshed
and well. Where were his attendants? None was there: they were all
busy running after the emperor-elect. But the _Nightingale_ was there,
perched on the window-sill, singing divinely.

'Little _Nightingale_,' said the emperor tenderly, 'you must come and
stay with me always. You shall sing only when you like; and, as to this
toy bird here, I will smash it in a thousand bits.'

'Oh! you mustn't do that,' replied the real bird, 'it did its best,
and, after all, it is a pretty thing. Keep it always by you. I can't
come to live in the palace, but let me come whenever I like and sit
in the tree outside your window and sing to you in the evening. I
will sing you songs to make you happy, to cheer and comfort you. And
sometimes I will sing of those who suffer, to make you sad, and then
you will long to help them. I will sing of many things unknown to you
in your great wide kingdom, for the little gray bird flies far and
wide, from the roof-tree of the humblest peasant to the bed of the
mighty emperor. Yes, I will come very often--but--but will you promise
me one thing?'

'I will promise you anything, little bird.' The emperor had risen from
his bed; he now stood by the window in his imperial robes, and the
jewels in the golden crown upon his head flashed and sparkled in the
moonlight. Taking his heavy sword he pressed the golden hilt against
his heart as he repeated, 'anything--anything!'

'It is just one little thing,' said the _Nightingale_. 'Never let any
one know that you have a little gray bird who tells you everything. It
is far better.'

With that the _Nightingale_ skipped to a branch of the tree, trilled a
long trill, and then, in the grey light of dawn, flew off to her nest.

When the courtiers and attendants came in to view the body of their
late master, he was still standing by the window in his imperial robes.
They gasped in horror at missing their grief.

'Good morning!' said the emperor.


[Illustration: O STAR OF WONDER, STAR OF NIGHT p. 41]



THREE KINGS OF ORIENT

A CAROL


GASPAR, MELCHIOR, BALTHAZAR:

    WE three Kings of Orient are,
    Bearing gifts we traverse afar
        Field and fountain,
        Moor and mountain,
    Following yonder star.
            O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
            Star with Royal Beauty bright,
                Westward leading,
                Still proceeding,
            Guide us to Thy perfect Light.


GASPAR.

    Born a King on Bethlehem plain,
    Gold I bring to crown Him again,
        King for ever,
        Ceasing never
    Over us all to reign.
            O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
            Star with Royal Beauty bright,
                Westward leading,
                Still proceeding,
            Guide us to Thy perfect Light.


MELCHIOR:

    Frankincense to offer have I--
    Incense owns a Deity nigh.
        All men, raising
        Prayer and praising,
    Worship Him, God on High.
            O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
            Star with Royal Beauty bright,
                Westward leading,
                Still proceeding,
            Guide us to Thy perfect Light.


BALTHAZAR:

    Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
    Breathes a life of gathering gloom;--
        Sorrowing, sighing,
        Bleeding, dying,
    Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
            O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
            Star with Royal Beauty bright,
                Westward leading,
                Still proceeding,
            Guide us to Thy perfect Light.


GASPAR, MELCHIOR, BALTHAZAR:

    Glorious now behold Him arise,
    King and God and Sacrifice;
        Heav'n sings Hallelujah,
        Hallelujah the earth replies.
            O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
            Star with Royal Beauty bright,
                Westward leading,
                Still proceeding,
            Guide us to Thy perfect Light.



SINDBAD THE SAILOR

A TALE FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS


O KING of the Age, as thou biddest me re-tell the strangest adventure
of _Sindbad the Sailor_ in all his marvellous voyages, I will name it
without hesitation: it is that of _Sindbad's_ fifth voyage, wherein he
was in fearful peril from that great bird, the rukh, and afterwards was
ridden almost to the point of death by the Old Man of the Sea.

But first let me call to thy recollection how _Sindbad the Sailor_
came to tell his story to Sindbad the Landsman, for herein lies much
meaning, O King.

In the time of the Caliph Harun-er-Rashid, in the palmy days of
Baghdad, there lived and slaved a poor, discontented porter, whose
moments of rest and leisure were most pleasantly occupied in grumbling
at his hard lot. Others lived in luxury and splendour while he bore
heavy burdens for a pittance. There was no justice in the world, said
he, when some were born in the lap of wealth, and others toiled a
lifetime for the price of a decent burial.

This discontented porter would run apace with his burden to gain time
for a rest upon the doorstep of some mansion of the rich, where, a
master in contrasts, he would draw comparisons between his own lot and
that of the rich man dwelling within. Loudly would he call on Destiny
to mark the disparity, the incongruity, the injustice of the thing; and
not until he had drunk deep at the fountain of discontent would he take
up his burden and trudge on, greatly refreshed.

One day, in pursuance of this strange mode of recreation, he chanced to
select the doorstep of a wealthy merchant named _Sindbad the Sailor_,
and there, through the open window, he heard as it were the chink
of endless gold. The song, the music, the dance, the laughter of the
guests--all seemed to shine with the light of jewels and the lustre of
golden bars. Immediately he began to revel in his favourite woe. He
wrung his hands and cried aloud: 'Allah! Can such things be? Look on
me, toiling all day for a piece of barley bread; and then look on him
who knows no toil, yet eateth peacocks' tongues from golden dishes, and
drinketh the wine of Paradise from a jewelled cup. What hath he done to
obtain from thee a lot so agreeable? And what have I done to deserve a
life so wretched?'

As one who flings back a difficult question, and then bangs the door
behind him, so the porter rose and shouldered his burden to continue
his way, when a servant came running from within, saying that his
master had sharp ears and had invited the porter into his presence for
a fuller hearing of his woes.

As soon as the porter came before the wealthy owner of the house,
seated among his guests and surrounded by the utmost luxury and
magnificence, he was greeted with the question: 'What is thy name?' 'My
name is Sindbad,' replied the porter, greatly abashed. At this the host
clapped his hands and laughed loudly. 'Knowest thou that my name is
also _Sindbad_?' he cried. 'But I am _Sindbad the Sailor_, and I have a
mind to call thee Sindbad the Landsman, for, as thou lovest a contrast,
so do I.'

'True,' said the porter, 'I have never been upon the sea.'

'Then, Sindbad the Landsman,' was the quick rejoinder, 'thou hast no
right to complain of thy hard lot. Come, be seated, and, when thou hast
refreshed thyself with food and wine, I will relate to thee what at
present I have told no man--the tale of my perils and hardships on the
seas and in other lands--in order to show you that the great wealth I
possess was not acquired without excessive toil and terrible danger. I
have made seven voyages: the first thou shalt hear presently--nay, if
thou wilt accept my hospitality for seven days, I will tell thee the
history of one each day.'

Thus it was, O King, that _Sindbad the Sailor_, surrounded by a
multitude of listeners, came to tell the story of his voyages to
Sindbad the Landsman. Now on the fifth day he spoke as follows:

Having sworn that my fourth voyage should be my last, I dwelt in the
bosom of my family for many months in the utmost joy and happiness.
But soon my heart grew restless in my bosom, and I longed again for
the perils of the sea, and the adventures found only in other lands.
Moreover, I had become inspired of a new ambition to possess a ship of
my own in which to sail afar, and even to greater profit than on my
former voyages.

I arose, therefore, and gathered together in Baghdad many bales of rich
merchandise, and departed for the city of El-Basrah, where, in the
river's mouth, I soon selected a splendid vessel. I purchased this and
secured a master and a crew, over whom I set my own trusty servants.
Then, together with a goodly company of merchants as passengers, their
bales and mine being placed in the hold, I set sail.

Fair weather favoured us as we passed from island to island, bartering
everywhere for gain, as merchants do, until at length we came to an
island which seemed never to have known the fretful heel of man. Here
we landed, and, almost immediately, on sweeping our gaze over the
interior, we espied a strange thing, on which all our attention and
wonder soon became centred.

There in the distance shone beneath the sun a great white dome. Loud
was the talk among us as to the meaning of this. Some said the island
could not be uninhabited since a mosque was built upon it; others
contended that, as the island was uninhabited, the structure could
not be a mosque. A third party, cooling their minds in the shade of
the trees, preferred idly that it was probably some huge white rock
smoothed and rounded by wind and weather; yet even these, when the
discussion became heated, were constrained by curiosity to follow as we
bent our steps inland to discover what this strange object really was.

As we drew nearer and nearer the wind-and-weather merchants lost in
countenance what they gained in speed, for the mystery deepened: it
was very clear that no mere wind and weather could have fashioned such
a perfect, glistening dome. Nearer still, and then we all ran our
utmost, and arrived breathless at the base of the marvellous structure.
Gigantic and perfect in form, this must be some wonderful dome built
to the glory of Allah, and fashioned in such a way that, with its
lower half imbedded in earth and its upper half rising in the air,
it typified at once the division and the union of heaven and earth.
A learned merchant of our company--one who had travelled greatly in
the further realms of Ind--raised his voice and assured us that the
object represented the mysterious Hiranyagarbha--the Egg of All Things;
whereupon another, to test this theory in derision, struck violently
with his hatchet upon the shell of this supposed egg. 'If this be the
egg of Hiranya--something,' he shouted, 'let us get to the yolk!'

Following his words, and his blow, the strangest thing happened.
The great dome seemed to shake itself as if something within it had
awakened to life. We stood in awe and waited. Then, as a chicken comes
forth out of its shell, there came forth, with a terrific rending of
the dome, a mighty fledgling having the aspect of that monstrous bird,
the rukh, which, when grown, darkens the sky with its wings.

'It is indeed the young of the rukh,' I cried, for well I knew the
bird. 'Beware!'

At first we were terrified beyond measure, but soon some among us,
seeing the helplessness of the creature, set upon it with their
hatchets, and, though I pleaded with them to forbear, it was quickly
slain and dismembered.

'Woe!' I cried. 'Ye have slain the offspring of the rukh, and, as the
time of hatching was near, the parents will come, and there will be
trouble.'

But they heeded my words so little that they roasted and ate the
choicest parts of the young rukh, and left the remains as a sign of
contempt. I, who live to tell the tale, O Landsman, did not eat. In
vain I entreated them to conceal all traces of their foul crime,
even as they had concealed the choicest portions in their capacious
stomachs. In vain I told them what I had learnt by costly peril at the
hands of the giant rukh, foretelling the dire vengeance of those fierce
monsters of the sky. Indeed, from the experiences of a former voyage,
as you know, I had every reason to fear them. But the merchants,
smacking their lips at the memory of their repast, laughed in my face.
'We have dined,' said they, 'and your fearsome rukhs cannot touch us.'
To this I returned no word, but a stern face; for I knew the power of
the rukh.

We returned towards the ship, but we had no sooner reached the seashore
when we saw the master making signs of wild alarm. Shouting loudly to
us to make all haste he pointed towards the horizon. He had sailed
those seas before, and he knew, as did I, the sign of a terrible
danger. There in the distance were two black clouds, growing rapidly
larger.

'A storm!' cried some among us.

'Nay, nay,' I answered. 'I would it were, even a twofold storm. Storms
come not so. Yonder come the rukh and his mate to attend the hatching
of their young. Aboard! aboard! We may yet escape.'

As soon as I had given this warning there were hurry and scurry among
the merchants. The flesh of the young rukh seemed to have turned within
them, and it now cried out for vengeance. With all haste we made our
way on board the ship.

'What have ye done?' cried the master in alarm.

They were silent.

'They have roasted and eaten the young of the rukh,' I said. The master
wrung his hands and his face blanched. Then he sprang to action.

'All sail! all sail!' he cried out. 'Woe be on us if we escape not
quickly. They know not yet, but when they learn they will rest not
until----'

Instantly the crew leapt to the ropes, while the merchants stood around
in terror, regarding the two black clouds as they drew rapidly towards
us, side by side. Now they loomed nearer as monstrous birds, and
presently they passed overhead, darkening the sky as they craned their
gigantic necks and looked down upon us with suspicion.

With the utmost speed the ship was put upon her way, the while we
watched the rukhs hover and settle inland. We were already speeding
fast for the open sea when we saw them rise and circle in the air,
heard their hoarse complaint and clamour for vengeance, and noted their
swift swoop towards the rocky heights of the interior. We gave a sigh
of relief. We thought we had escaped, so well did the breeze serve us;
but we had forgotten, or did not yet know, the power of wings.

Soon there arose from the far heights of the island two gigantic
shapes. As they moved towards us they grew bigger and bigger, and now
we heard the oarage of their wings, ever louder and louder on our
ears. They were coming, the rukhs, to wreak vengeance; and, now we saw
it with fear, in the talons of each was a granite crag torn from the
bedrock of the island. Their purpose was as plain as it was terrible.

We cowered as they drew overhead. They circled round the ship, each
clutching its mighty rock and giving forth cries of rage and fury. Now
they hovered above us, and one let go his missile of destruction. Our
steersman, bent on taking the vessel this way and then that, evaded the
falling crag, which fell a caster's throw astern. The ship danced high
on the mountain waves raised by the falling mass, and then fell as deep
into the watery valleys between them. We thought our time had come, but
it was not yet, though it was soon to be. No sooner had we come to rest
on a level tide than the other rukh hovered above us and dropped its
crag. It struck the ship in the middle and split it to pieces.

In that moment all was a swirl of confusion. The crash of the rock, the
cries of the giant birds, the wash of the waves on my ears--these were
the last things I knew. It seems to me that I gripped some wreckage,
and, lying thereupon in a swoon, was borne onwards by the tide to the
shores of an island; for, when I awoke to life, I found myself on a
sandy slope, with my head on the high-water mark and my feet against
the stranded wreckage that had supported me.

As if from death's door I crawled up and away, gaining strength as
I went, until I reached a point from which I could view the nature
of the island. Allah! What a paradise it was! Streams of fresh, pure
water wimpled down between banks where grew the lordliest trees laden
with the rarest fruits. The sight gave me fresh strength. I rose and
wandered from stream to stream, drinking the cool water and plucking
and eating the delicious fruit. But, O Sindbad the Landsman, though I
knew it not, there was a vile snake in this paradise, as I was soon to
discover to my cost.

Coming at length to a stream of some width, I sat down upon a mossy
bank with my back against a tree to watch the rippling current purling
by. Lulled by this and the songs of the birds, I became drowsy and
turned to find a soft bed on the moss, when I caught sight of an object
which arrested my attention. There, sitting against the tree next to
mine, was an aged man of comely and benevolent aspect.

I regarded him intently. What a kindly old man he looked, with his
flowing silver locks and his ample white beard! The more did I consider
him one of nature's innocent children from the fact that his body was
clothed from the waist downwards with the green leaves of trees--a
raiment neatly threaded together on the fibres of some plant. As I
scrutinised his appearance intently for some moments I felt that here
was one of the simplest and kindliest disposition, who knew not the
meaning of wrong. I arose and advanced towards him, but, when I spoke,
he shook his head sadly and sighed. Alas! Was he deprived of the power
of speech? To make certain, I saluted him, saying, 'Allah be with
thee!' But he merely bowed his head, making no other reply. All my
questions brought never a word: he was, indeed, dumb. But he could make
intelligent signs, and I perceived by these that it was his greatest
wish to be carried across the stream. Seeing that he was old and infirm
as well as dumb, I readily consented. My heart was sorry for him, and I
stooped down and told him to climb upon my shoulders. This he did with
alacrity, and so I carried him over the stream.

[Illustration: KNOWEST THOU MY NAME IS ALSO SINDBAD? p. 44]

But, when I stooped for him to dismount on the further bank, he showed
no manner of inclination to do so. On the contrary, he gripped me with
both hands round my throat, and beat me violently in the ribs with his
heels. What with the throttling, and the hard blows with his heels, I
swooned away; but, notwithstanding, when I regained my senses I found
the old fellow still clinging like a leech to my neck. And now he
belaboured me so unmercifully that I was forced to rise against my will.

Once on my feet I determined to shake him off, but he rode me well,
and even my efforts to crush him against the trunks of trees were
of no avail. I ran hither and thither wildly, employing every trick
against him, but all in vain: he kept his seat, and with hand and heel
punished me severely. In less than an hour I was broken to the will
of this truculent fellow, and he guided me hither and thither among
the fruit-trees, pulling me up when he would gather fruit and eat, and
urging me on again when he so desired.

In this fashion he stuck to me all that day, and such was his behaviour
that I forswore my first opinion of him. He was by no means the gentle
being I had thought him. Though he clung so close we were not friends,
nor likely to become such. I was his bond-slave, and he ceased not
to remind me of it by his utterly vile behaviour. When I dallied he
thrashed me unmercifully with his feet; when I thought to brush him off
against the overhanging branch of a tree he would duck his head and
throttle me with his long bony hands. At night, when I slept exhausted,
I woke to find him digging his heels into me in his sleep; indeed, once
it seemed that I had thwarted him in a dream, for he thrashed me up and
treated me abominably. I thought my end had come.

Thus for many days and nights was I beridden by this abandoned fellow,
forced hither and thither at his will, with never a word from him,
though he had many from me. So great was my agony that I turned upon
myself, crying, 'By the living Allah! never again will I do a kindness
to any; never again will I show mercy!'

Long I pondered by what subtle trick I might unseat him. I thought of
many things, but dared not try one of them, lest it should fail and I
be punished unmercifully. But at last Allah took pity on me and threw a
strange opportunity in my way.

It chanced that, one day, while I was being goaded about the island,
we came upon a place where pumpkins grew. They were ripe and luscious,
and, while the old fellow was eating greedily, I bethought me of a
fashion of our own country. I gathered some of the largest, and, having
scooped them out, I filled them with the juice squeezed from grapes
which I found growing in abundance near by. Then I sealed them up
and set them in the sun. In this way I obtained in a few days a good
quantity of pure wine.

The old man did not notice my curious behaviour--he was always engaged
in eating pumpkins--until one day I drank so deep of my new-made wine
that I became exalted, and danced and rollicked about with him among
the trees. With fist and heel he sought to sober me, requiring to know
the reason of my merriment. At length I took him to the spot where I
had laid my pumpkins in the sun, and then, laughing and dancing again,
signed to him that they contained pure wine.

The idea was new to him, but, when he understood that I had drunk with
such pleasant results, he insisted on drinking also. So I unsealed one
of the pumpkins and handed it to him, whereupon he drank and smacked
his lips. Then he drank again and again and again, with evident
satisfaction, until the wine taking effect, and the pumpkin being
empty, he broke it over my head and bade me hand him another. This also
he emptied and broke in the same manner. Being by this time in a state
of vile intoxication, he thrashed me thrice round the open space, and
then in among the trees, behaving in the wildest manner possible,
rocking and rolling from side to side with laughter.

Now I had not drunk so much of the wine that I could not see my chance.
I adopted the utmost docility, and, never letting him suspect my
purpose, contrived to regain the place where I had laid the pumpkins
in the sun. As I had expected, he demanded another, and I gave it him.
This time he drank half the wine and emptied the remainder over my
face,--so vile was this creature of sin. Then I perceived with joy that
he was losing control of his limbs. He swayed from side to side, and
his head lolled. Slowly I unwound his legs from my neck, and then, with
a vicious twist, I flung him on the ground.

As I looked upon him lying there, my joy turned for the moment to
uncontrollable fury. I thought of what I had endured at the hands of
this aged villain. Should I allow him to live he would surely serve
some other poor shipwrecked traveller in the same abominable fashion.
The island would be well rid of such an inhuman monster. Without
another thought I slew him then and there. May his accurséd spirit be
ridden for ever by a worse than himself!

I went forth upon the island like one walking on air. Never was mortal
man rid of so heavy a burden as I had just flung from me. Even the
very atmosphere of the place seemed light and joyous with relief. The
streams rippled more merrily, the birds sang more sweetly, the dreamy
trees sighed with content as if at a great and long-desired riddance.
They all seemed to feel that this terrible old man no longer oppressed
them: his legs were no longer round their necks, his masterful feet
and hands no longer gripped them in a vice. Rid--all was rid of an
intolerable burden. Having found a shady spot, I sank down on the bank
of a stream and wiped my brow, thanking Allah devoutly for this sweet
deliverance.

For long days thereafter I sat by the seashore scanning the ocean for
the speck of a sail. But none came in sight, and I was abandoning
myself to the thought that Allah had rescued me from one peril
only to consign me into the hands of another--that of death by
desolation--when one morning I descried a large ship standing in
towards the shore. She cast her anchor, and many passengers landed on
the island. With a great shout of joy I ran down to greet them. Many
voices answered mine, and all plied me with questions respecting my
condition. Presently, perceiving that my case was extraordinary, they
ceased questioning while I told them my story. They listened with
amazement. Then some one said:

'In my travels in these seas I have heard many tales of such an old man
of whom thou speakest, dwelling alone upon an island, and lying in wait
for shipwrecked sailors. I know not how these tales were spread abroad,
for it is said that of those he has ridden none has survived. Thou art
the only survivor. His name is called the Old Man of the Sea. But now
he is no more: Allah be praised for that! and thou hast escaped: Allah
be praised for that also!' And all extolled the greatness of Allah.

I returned with them to the ship, and they clothed me in rich apparel
and set food and wine before me; and, when I had refreshed myself, we
made merry as the ship set sail.

We were bound for El-Basrah, and my thoughts flew further,--to Baghdad,
the Abode of Peace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Great as had been the sufferings I endured, I soon forgot the perils
which had threatened me by sea and in unknown lands. Lapped in luxury
in the bosom of my family, I lived in Baghdad, the Abode of Peace, in
the utmost joy and happiness.

And now, O Sindbad the Landsman, thou shalt dwell here with me for ever
in content, and be my well-beloved boon companion. Thou hast suffered
much on land, but thou hast never been in far-off lands and seas where
I, as you shall further hear, have suffered enough for the two of
us. Wherefore, remain thou beneath my roof, for I have conceived an
affection for thee; and together we shall live in happiness, praising
Allah (whose name be exalted!) the Omnipotent Creator of Land and Sea
and all the wealth which cometh therefrom.


[Illustration:

    I NEVER AT ALL
    SAW SEWING SO SMALL

    p. 55]



THE LITTLE SEAMSTRESS

A FRENCH SONG OF THE OLDEN TIME


    A DEAR little seamstress in Paris I knew;
    The tiniest possible stitches she drew.
                  I never at all
                  Saw sewing so small!

    She made the Notary neckties new;
    The Apothecary, he had some too.
                  I never at all
                  Saw sewing so small!

    The Apothecary, he had some too,--
    Seamstress, what do I owe to you?
                  I never at all
                  Saw sewing so small!

    Seamstress, what do I owe to you?
    Just six nothings, no more is due.
                  I never at all
                  Saw sewing so small!

    Just six nothings, no more is due.
    Give me a kiss, then,--or give me two!
                  I never at all
                  Saw sewing so small!



THE REAL PRINCESS

AFTER A FAIRY TALE BY HANS ANDERSEN


ONCE upon a time there was a prince, and, as he knew very well that he
was a _real_ prince and could never forget it for a single moment, he
very naturally wanted to marry a _real_ princess. He sought one after
another, and, after talking about the weather and the health of the
emperor, he found in each case that there was something about them he
didn't like--something artificial and unprincess-like. When he spoke
gently they smiled; when he spoke roughly to hurt them, they still
smiled--the same smile. They were not a success. None of them was what
he wanted. His princess must be so sensitive that she would wither at a
reproachful glance; so delicately dainty that a spot of dust would make
her scream, and the draught of a fly's wings cause her a severe cold.
He would have the real thing, or nothing.

When this exacting prince had duly considered all the princesses in his
own country, and found them wanting, he set out to travel all over the
world, forever saying to himself, 'I am a real prince: there _must_ be
a real princess somewhere.'

He found plenty of princesses on his travels, but when he spoke to
them about the weather he soon found that they were not what he called
_real_ princesses. They were the daughters of kings and queens, yes,
but----

Sad and weary he returned home with an empty heart. He had not found
what he set out to seek, yet he was firmly convinced that the world did
contain such a thing as a real princess. He wanted her so badly, and
that was how he knew that she must be there--somewhere.

[Illustration: NOT A WINK THE WHOLE NIGHT LONG p. 59]

And he was right.

One evening as he was sitting in his father's palace, studying books
of far-off lands where princesses might be found, there came a fearful
thunderstorm. The lightning grasped at the earth, spreading its roots
down the walls of heaven; the thunder split and roared and rattled as
if the ceiling was coming down; and, when the cloud-man unsealed his
can and tipped it up, swish came the rain in torrents. Indeed, it was a
fearful night.

When the storm had risen to the height of its fury a messenger came
running to the king crying, 'Your Majesty gave orders that all gates be
locked and barred, and opened to none; but some one without knocks and
knocks and knocks, and will not go away.'

'I will go myself,' said the king, 'and see who it is that craves
admittance in this fearful storm.'

So the king went down and opened the palace gates. What was his
astonishment to see standing there a lovely maiden all forlorn, her
long hair drenched with the rain, her beautiful clothes saturated and
clinging to her form, while the water, trickling from them, ran out at
her heels. She was in a terrible plight, but she was beautiful, and she
said she was a princess--a real princess. Her mind was distracted: she
could not remember how or whence she came, but, being a princess, and
seeing the palace gates, she had run through the storm and knocked hard.

'A real princess,' said the king, looking her up and down 'Hm! I
believe you, though the queen mightn't. Come in!'

The old queen received the visitor coldly and with a critical eye. 'We
shall soon see if she is what she says she is,' thought she, but she
said nothing. Then she went into the spare bedroom, and took off all
the bed-clothes, and laid a pea on the bedstead. On top of this she
piled mattress after mattress to the number of twenty, and then twenty
feather beds on top of that. 'Now,' she said to herself, 'here she
shall sleep, and we shall soon see in the morning whether she is a real
princess or not.'

So they put the princess to bed on the top of the twenty feather beds
and as many mattresses, and said good-night.

In the morning they asked her how she had slept.

'Not at all,' replied she wearily; 'not a wink the whole night long.
Heaven knows what there was in the bed. Whichever way I turned I still
seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and, I assure you, this
morning my whole body's black and blue. It's terrible!'

Then the old queen told what she had done, and they all saw plainly
that this was indeed a real princess when she could feel the pea
through twenty feather beds and twenty mattresses. None but a real
princess could possibly have such a delicate skin.

So the prince married her, quite satisfied that he had now found his
real princess.

Now this is a true story, and if you don't believe it you have only to
go and look at the pea itself, which is still carefully preserved in
the museum--unless some one has stolen it.



MY LISETTE

AN OLD FRENCH SONG


    OF all the pretty maidens
        There ne'er was lassie yet
    That looked so sweet and sprightly,
    That moved so gay and lightly,
        As my darling, my Lisette,--
          Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    Her face it is her fortune,--
        But who will smiling let
    Me kiss it at my pleasure,
    Nor ever stint the measure?--
        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
          Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    Along the pavement tripping,
        Through sunshine and through wet,
    To all, as she advances,
    Who casts her winning glances?--
        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
          Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    To blind, and poor, and crippled,
        Who gives, without regret,
    Her bread, and does not sorrow
    That she must starve to-morrow?--
        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
            Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    Who oftentimes deceives me,
        Though truly no coquette,--
    And then, for me, who hoaxes,
    Cajoles, and dupes, and coaxes?--
        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
            Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    Who, by her tender teaching,
        Has aided me to get
    The impudence and passion
    Of which my songs I fashion?--
        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
            Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    On week-days and on Sundays,
        Who, in my hovel set,
    Can turn its corners gloomy
    To a palace rich and roomy?--

[Illustration:

    'TIS LISETTE WHOM I ADORE
    AND WITH REASON MORE AND MORE

p. 61]

        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
            Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!

    When Prudence o'er our playtime
        Would hold a distant threat,--
    'Twixt now and what comes after,
    Who throws her merry laughter?--
        'Tis my darling, my Lisette,--
            Little pet!--
    'Tis Lisette whom I adore,
    And with reason, more and more!



CINDERELLA

A FAIRY TALE FROM THE FRENCH


ONCE upon a time there lived a gentleman who married twice. He had one
fair daughter by his first wife. Ella was sweet and gentle, taking
after her dear dead mother, who had been the most lovable of women. His
second wife, a widow with two hard-featured daughters, was very proud
and overbearing; and, if her two daughters had only never been born,
or, being born, had died, she would then have possessed the vilest
temper in all the world. As it was, the three were all equally gifted
in that respect.

From the very day of the wedding the step-mother and her daughters took
a violent dislike to the young girl, for they could see how beautiful
she was, both outwardly and inwardly; and green envy soon turns to
hate. They dared not show it openly, for fear of the father's anger;
but he, poor man, finding he had taken too heavy a burden upon his
shoulders, fell ill and died,--simply worried into his grave. Then his
young daughter reaped the full measure of jealousy and spite and malice
which her step-mother and sisters could now openly bestow upon her. She
was put to do the drudgery of the household at no wages at all, and
what was saved in this way was spent on the finery so sorely needed to
make the two hard-featured ones at all passable. The poor girl scrubbed
the floors, polished the brights, swept the rooms and stairs, cleaned
the windows, turned the mangle, and made the beds; and in the evening,
when all the work was done, she would sit by the kitchen fire darning
the stockings for recreation. When bedtime came she would gaze awhile
into the fire, answer the door to her step-sisters coming home from
the theatre in all their finery; and then, with their stinging words
still in her ears, she would creep up to bed in the garret, there, on a
wretched straw mattress, to sleep fast for very weariness and dream of
princes and palaces till at morning light she had to begin her dreary
round again.

And it was indeed a dreary round. No sooner had she begun to sift the
cinders when the bell would ring, and ring again. One of the sisters
wanted her,--sometimes both wanted her at once. It was merely a matter
of a pin to be fixed, or a ribbon to be tied, but when she came to
do it she met with a shower of abuse. 'Look at your hands, you dirty
little kitchen slut! How dare you answer the bell with such hands? And
your face!--go and look in the glass, Ella: no, go straight to the
kitchen pump,--you filthy little slut!'

The 'glass' was corrected to the 'kitchen pump' because they knew very
well that if she stood before the glass she would see the reflection of
a very beautiful girl--a reflection which they themselves spent hours
looking for but could never find.

Yet the child endured it all patiently, and, when her work was done,
which happened sometimes, she would sit in the chimney corner among the
cinders, dreaming of things which no one knows. And it was from this
habit of musing among the cinders that she got her name of Cinder-slut,
which was afterwards softened, for some unknown reason, to _Cinderella_.

Now the day of a great festival drew near. It was the occasion of the
king's son's coming of age, and it was spread abroad that he would
select his bride from among the most beautiful attending the state
ball. As soon as the elder sisters got breath of this they preeked and
preened and powdered and anointed, and even ran to the door themselves
at every knock, for they expected invitations; and they were not
disappointed, for you will easily see that at a ball even beauty must
have its plain background to set it off. Very proud they were of their
gold-lettered invitation cards bearing the royal seal, and, when they
rang for _Cinderella_, they held them in their hands to emphasise their
orders. This must be ironed, just so; this must be pressed and set
aside in tissue paper; this must be tucked and frilled and goffered in
just such a fashion, and so on with crimping and pleating and tabbing
and piping and boxing, until poor _Cinderella_ began to wonder why the
lot of some was so easy and the lot of others so hard. Nevertheless,
she worked and worked and worked; and always in her drudgery came
day-dreams of what _she_ would wear if she were invited to the ball.
She had it all planned out to the smallest frill,--but how absurd! She
must toil at her sisters' bidding and, on the great night when they
were there in their finery, she must sit among the cinders dreaming--in
a faery world of her own--of the prince who came to claim her as his
bride. Fool! what a wild fancy! What an unattainable dream!--and there
was the bell ringing again: her sisters wanted something, and woe
betide her if she dallied.

At last the night of the ball arrived. Early towards the evening there
was no peace in the household. When the elder sister had fully decided,
in spite of her complexion, to wear her velvet cramoisie trimmed _à
l'anglaise_, and the younger had thought out her gold-flowered robe
in conjunction with a jewelled stomacher, to say nothing of an old
silk underskirt, which, after all, would be hidden; when they had
squabbled over the different jewels they possessed, each complimenting
the other on the set she desired least herself; when the milliner and
the hairdresser had called and gone away exhausted; when the beauty
specialist had reached the limit of his art and departed sighing
heavily; then and not till then was _Cinderella_ called up and allowed
the great privilege of admiring the result.

Now _Cinderella_ had, by nature, what one might call 'absolute taste.'
She knew instinctively how one should look at a state ball, and she
gave them her simple, but perfect, advice, with a deft touch to this
and that, which made all the difference. She got no thanks, of course;
but one of the sisters did unbend a little.

'_Cinderella_,' said she, 'wouldn't you like to be going to the ball?'

'Heigho!' sighed _Cinderella_. 'Such delights are not for me. I dream
of them, but that is all.'

'Quite enough, too,' said the other sister. 'Fancy the Cinder-slut at a
ball! How the whole Court would laugh!'

_Cinderella_ made no reply, though the words hurt her. Pin after pin
she took from her mouth and fixed it dexterously, where you or I
might have done some accidental damage with it, and drawn blood. But
not so _Cinderella_. She had no venom in her nature. When she had
arrayed them perfectly she expected no thanks, but just listened to
their fault-finding with a hidden smile. It was only when they had
left the house, and she was going downstairs to the kitchen, that one
word escaped her: 'Cats!' And if she had not said that she would not
have been a girl at all, but only an angel. Then she sat down in her
favourite place in the chimney corner to look into the fire and imagine
things quite different from what they were.

The house was very still--so still that you could have heard a pin
fall in the top room. The step-mother was on a visit to a maiden aunt,
who was not only dying, but very rich, so the best thing to do was to
show the dying aunt her invitation card to the ball and play another
card--the ace of self-sacrifice. Yes, the house was _very_ still.
_Cinderella_, watching the pictures in the glowing embers, could almost
hear what the prince of her dreams was saying.

All of a sudden a storm of feeling seemed to burst in her bosom.
She--_Cinderella_--was sitting there alone in the chimney corner
dreaming dreams of princes and palaces: what a contrast between what
_was_ and what _was not_, nor ever could be! It was too much for the
child; she broke down, and, taking her head in her hands, she sobbed as
if her heart would break.

While she was still crying bitterly, a gust of cold air swept through
the kitchen. She looked up, thinking that the door had blown open.
But no, it was shut. Then she gradually became aware of a blue mist
gathering and revolving upon itself on the other side of the fireplace.
It grew bluer still, and began to shine from within. It spun itself to
a standstill, and there, all radiant, stood the queerest little lady
you could ever imagine. Her dress was like that of the fairy mother of
a prince, with billowy lace flounces and a delicate waist. There was
not an inch of it that did not sparkle with a jewel. And as this little
lady stood, fingering her wand and looking lovingly and laughingly
at _Cinderella_, the girl knew not what to do. She could only smile
back to those kindly eyes, while, half-dazed, she fell to counting the
powdered ringlets of her hair, which was so very beautiful that surely
it must have been grown in Fairyland! Then, when she looked again at
the wand and saw a bright blue flame issue shimmering from the tip of
it, she was certain that the door of Fairyland had opened and some one
had stepped out.

'Good evening, my dear,' said the visitant, in the voice and manner of
one who could do things. 'Dry your tears and tell me all about it.'

_Cinderella_ was gazing up at her with wonder in her beautiful eyes,
though they still brimmed with misery.

'Oh!' she said, choking down her sobs, 'I want--I want to go----,' and
then she broke down again and could say no more.

'Ah! you got that want from me, I'll warrant; for I have come on
purpose to supply it. You want to go to the ball, my dear; that's what
you want, though you didn't know it before. And you shall. Come, come,
dry your eyes, and we'll see about it. I'm your fairy godmother, you
know; and your dear mother, whom I knew very well, has sent me to you.
That's better, you've got your mother's smile. Ah! how beautiful she
was, to be sure, and you--you're her living image. Now to work! Have
you any pumpkins in the garden?'

'What an odd question!' thought _Cinderella_. 'Why pumpkins? But still,
why not?' Then she hastened to assure her fairy godmother that there
were plenty of them, big and ripe.

Together they went out into the dark garden, and _Cinderella_ led the
way to the pumpkin bed.

'There,' said her godmother, pointing with her wand at the finest and
largest, 'pick it and bring it along.'

_Cinderella_, wondering greatly, obeyed, and her godmother led her to
the front doorstep, where, bidding the child sit beside her, she took
from the bosom of her dress a silver fruit-knife, and with this she
scooped out the fruit of the pumpkin, leaving only the rind. This she
set down in the street before them, and then touched it with her wand,
when, lo and behold! the pumpkin was immediately transformed into a
magnificent coach, all wrought with pure gold.

_Cinderella_ was so amazed that she could not speak. She caught a quick
breath of delight, and waited.

'That's that!' said her godmother; 'now for the horses. Let me see: I
suppose you haven't a mouse trap anywhere in the house.'

'Yes, yes, I have,' cried _Cinderella_; 'I set one early this evening,
and I always catch such a lot--sometimes a whole family at once.'

'Then go find it, child; we shall want at least six.'

So _Cinderella_ ran in and found the mouse trap she had set; and, sure
enough, there was a whole family of six--father and mother, a maiden
aunt, and three naughty children who had led them into the trap. In
high glee _Cinderella_ ran back to her godmother and showed her.

'Yes, yes; that is quite good, but we're going a bit too fast. Here are
six horses--though they don't look it at present--but we must first
have a coachman to manage them. Now I don't suppose, by any chance,
you've got a----'

'A rat?' cried _Cinderella_, her eyes sparkling with excitement. 'Well,
now, I _did_ set a rat trap in the scullery--not a guillotine, you
know, but just a thing to catch them alive: I always think they much
prefer to be caught alive and then drowned.'

'Run, then, and see, child. We can do nothing without a
coachman,--nothing at all.'

So _Cinderella_ ran and fetched the rat trap. In it were three large
rats, and the two inspected them closely.

'I think that's the best one,' said _Cinderella_; 'look at his enormous
whiskers! He'd make a lovely coachman.'

'You're right, child; I was just thinking that myself: he's got a good
eye for horse-flesh too.'

With this the fairy godmother touched him with the tip of her wand,
and instantly he stood before them--a fat coachman with tremendous
whiskers, saluting and waiting for orders.

'Now,' said the fairy godmother to _Cinderella_, 'open the door of the
mouse trap and let one out at a time.'

_Cinderella_ did so, and, as each mouse came out, the godmother tapped
it with her wand, and it was immediately changed into a magnificent
horse, richly harnessed and equipped. The coachman took charge of them
and harnessed them to the coach as a six-in-hand.

'That's that!' said the fairy. 'Now for the footmen. Run, child, down
to the farther end of the garden. There, in the corner, behind the old
broken water-pot, something tells me you will find six lizards in a
nest. Bring them here to me.'

_Cinderella_ ran off, and soon returned with the identical six lizards.
A tap of the wand on each and there stood six imposing footmen, such
as are only seen in kings' palaces. Their liveries were dazzling with
purple and gold. To the manner born they took their places on the coach
and waited.

'But--but,' cried _Cinderella_, who saw by now that she was bound for
the ball, 'how can I go like this? They would all jeer at me.'

Her godmother laughed and chided her on having so little faith. 'Tut,
tut,' she said, and tapped her on the shoulder with her wand.

What a transformation! The girl, lovely indeed in herself, that stood
a moment ago in rags, now stood there a splendid woman--for there is
always a moment when a child becomes a woman--and a woman clothed in
cloth of gold and silver, all bespangled with jewels. The tiring-maids
of Fairyland had done her hair up to show its beauty, and in it was
fastened a diamond clasp that challenged the sparkling stars. An
osprey, too, quivered and danced to the beating of her heart. 'But,'
said _Cinderella_, when she had recovered from her amazement, 'I see
that I have lovely silk stockings, yet, O my godmother, where are my
shoes?'

[Illustration: THERE, SAID HER GODMOTHER, POINTING WITH HER WAND ...
PICK IT AND BRING IT ALONG p. 69]

'Ah! that is just the point.' And her godmother drew from the folds of
her dress a pair of glass slippers. 'Glass is glass, I know, my dear;
and it is not one in a hundred thousand that could wear such things;
but perfect fit is everything, and, as for these, I doubt if there is
any in the world but yourself who could fit them exactly.'

_Cinderella_ took the slippers and poked her toes into them very
carefully, for, as her godmother had said, glass is glass, and you have
to be measured very carefully for it. But what was her delight to find
that they were, indeed, an absolute fit. Either her feet had been made
for the slippers or the slippers had been made for her feet, it did not
matter: it was the same thing, and not a little surprising.

Now _Cinderella_ stood up, a perfect picture, and kissed her godmother
and thanked her. The carriage was waiting, the horses were restive, the
coachman sat on the box, and the footmen were in their places.

'Now, there's just one thing which is rather important,' said the fairy
godmother, as _Cinderella_ entered the coach, 'and you must not forget
it. I can do this, that, and the other, but at midnight there's an end
to it all. You must leave the ball before the clock strikes twelve,
for, if you don't, you'll be in a pretty pickle. Your coach will turn
into a pumpkin again, your coachman into a rat, your horses into mice,
and your footmen into lizards; and there you will be in the ballroom in
nothing but your dirty rags for all to laugh at. Now, remember; it all
ends at the stroke of twelve.'

'Never fear,' said _Cinderella_. 'I shall not forget. Good-bye!'

'Good-bye, child!'

Then the coachman cracked his whip and the prancing horses sprang
forward. _Cinderella_ was off to the ball.

'That's that!' said the fairy godmother, as she looked after the
coach for a moment. Then the blue flame at the tip of her wand went
out, and so did she--flick!

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a glorious night. The same moon that had looked down on
_Cinderella's_ pumpkins now shone upon the king's palace and the royal
gardens. Within, the ball was at its height. The movement of the dance
was a fascinating spectacle. In the great hall the light of a thousand
candles was reflected from the polished floor; from the recesses came
the soft plash of cool fountains and the fragrance of the rarest
flowers; while, to the sweet strains of the violins, many pairs of feet
glided as if on air. Without, among the trees, where hanging lanterns
shed a dim light and the music throbbed faintly on the warm night air,
couples strayed and lingered, speaking in voices sweet and low, while
from cloud to cloud wandered the moon, withdrawing to hide a maiden's
blushes, shining forth again to light her smiles.

Suddenly a note of something unusual seemed to run through the whole
scene. The chamberlain was seen to speed hither and thither on some
quest that left his dignity to see after itself. Breathless he sought
the _Prince_, and at last he found him.

'Your Serene Highness,' he gasped, 'a princess of high degree has
just arrived in state and desires admission. She will not give her
name, but--if you will permit me to be skilled in these matters--she
is a lady that cannot be denied. Beautiful as a goddess and proud as
a queen; why, the very jewels in her hair are worth a thousand square
miles of territory. Believe me, your Serene Highness, she is a princess
of exalted dignity.'

The _Prince_ followed the chamberlain to the gate, where they found
the fair unknown waiting in her coach. The _Prince_, silent for want
of words--she was so very beautiful--handed her down and escorted
her through the palace gardens, where, as they passed, the guests
started and sighed at sight of one so rare. So they reached the
ballroom, and immediately the dance ceased. Even the music fainted
away as this vision of beauty came upon the scene. All was at a
silent standstill as the _Prince_ led the unknown down the hall, and
nothing could be heard but whispers of 'Ah! how beautiful she is!'
and 'Never, never have I seen such loveliness!' Even the old king was
altogether fascinated. 'My dear!' he said to the queen in a whisper,
'what an adorable woman! Ah! she and those very words remind me of you
yourself.' From which the queen, by a rapid retrospect, inferred that
the stranger was indeed a very beautiful woman, and did not hesitate to
admit it.

The _Prince_ presented the stranger with few words--for beauty speaks
for itself--and then led her out to dance. _Tara tara tara ra ra
ra!_--the fiddles struck up a sprightly measure, and all the couples
footed it with glee; but one after another they wilted away to watch
the graceful pair, so exquisitely did they dance. And then, as if by
common consent, the music fell to a dreamy waltz; the _Prince_ and the
fair unknown passed into the rhythm, and all were spellbound as this
perfect couple danced before them. Even the hard-featured step-sisters
were lost in admiration, for little they guessed who the beautiful
stranger really was.

The night wore on, and _Cinderella_ danced with the stateliest of the
land, and again and again with the _Prince_. And when supper was over,
and the _Prince_ had claimed her for yet another dance, she almost
fainted in his arms when she happened to glance at the clock and saw
that it was just two minutes to twelve. Alas! her godmother's warning!
She had fallen madly in love with the _Prince_, as he with her, and she
had forgotten everything beside. But now it was a case of quick action
or she would soon be in rags and coachless; how they would all laugh at
her then!

With a wrench she tore herself away, and, concealing her haste till
she got clear of the ballroom, sped like a deer through the ways of
the palace till she reached the marble steps leading down to the gate,
when she heard with dismay the ominous sound of a great clock striking
twelve.

Down she went three steps at a time, a flying figure of haste in the
moonlight. One of her glass slippers came off, but she had to leave
it. There--there was the coach waiting for her. She rushed towards it,
when, lo and behold, as the last stroke of twelve died away, there was
no coach at all; nothing but a hollow pumpkin by the kerb, and six
mice and a heavily whiskered rat nibbling at it, to say nothing of six
lizards wriggling away. And that was not all. She looked at herself in
horror. She was in rags!

With the one thought to hide herself, she ran as fast as her legs would
carry her in the direction of her home. She had scarcely covered half
the distance when it came on to rain hard, and, before she reached her
doorstep, she was drenched to the skin. Then, when she had crept to her
chimney corner in the kitchen, she made a strange discovery. As you
know, the coach and all that appertained to it had disappeared; her
splendid attire had gone; but--how was this?--one real glass slipper
still remained. The other, she remembered, she had dropped on the steps
of the palace.

'Well, child?' said a clear voice from the other side of the fireplace;
and _Cinderella_, looking up, saw her godmother standing there gazing
down at her with a quizzical smile.

'The slippers!' she went on. 'Oh no; however forgetful you might have
been, they could never have vanished like the other things. Don't you
remember, I brought them with me? They were _real_. But where is the
other one?'

'In my haste to get away I dropped it on the palace steps.' And
_Cinderella_ began to cry.

'There, there; never mind. Perhaps somebody with a capital S has picked
it up. You were certainly very careless, but you are not unlucky--at
least, not if I can help it.' And when _Cinderella_ looked up through
her tears her godmother had gone.

'Somebody with a capital S,' mused _Cinderella_, as she gazed into the
dying fire. 'I wonder!' But just then the bell rang announcing the
return of her step-sisters. Oh! they were full of it! A most beautiful
princess had been to the ball, they said, and they had actually spoken
with her. She was most gentle and condescending. Their faces shone
with reflected glory. And she had left suddenly at midnight, and the
_Prince_ was beside himself; and there was nothing to show for it all
but a glass slipper which he had picked up on the steps of the palace.
What a night! And so they rambled on, little thinking that _Cinderella_
had the other glass slipper hidden in her bosom along with other state
secrets.

The next day events followed one another with great rapidity. First,
came a royal proclamation. Whereas a lady had cast a slipper at
the ball it must be returned to the rightful owner, and so forth.
Secondly, came news that the slipper had been tried on the princesses,
duchesses, marchionesses, countesses, and viscountesses, and finally
on the baronesses of the Court, but all in vain. It fitted none of
them. Thirdly, it gradually became known that any lady with a foot that
betokened good breeding was invited to call at the palace and try on
the slipper. This went on for weeks, and finally the prime minister,
who carried the glass slipper on a velvet cushion, went out himself to
search for the fitting foot, for the _Prince_ was leading him a dog's
life, and threatening all kinds of things unless that foot and all that
was joined to it were found.

At last, going from house to house, he came to _Cinderella's_ sisters,
who, of course, tried all they could to squeeze a foot into the
slipper, but without success. _Cinderella_ looked on and laughed to
herself to see how hard they tried, and, when they had given it up, she
said gaily, 'Let me try and see if I can get it on.'

Her sisters laughed loudly at the idea of a little kitchen slut trying
her luck, and began to mock and abuse her; but the chamberlain, seeing
what a beautiful girl she was, maintained that his orders were to try
it upon every one.

So _Cinderella_ held out her little foot, and the chamberlain put the
slipper on quite easily. It fitted like wax. This was an astonishing
thing, but it was more astonishing still when _Cinderella_ produced the
other slipper and put it on the other foot. Then, to show that wonders
could never cease, the door flew open, and in came the fairy godmother.
One touch of her wand on _Cinderella's_ clothes, and there she stood
again dressed as on the night of the ball, only this time there were
not only jewels in her hair but orange blossoms as well.

There was a breathless silence for a while. Then, when _Cinderella's_
step-sisters realised that she was the same beautiful unknown that they
had seen at the ball, they prostrated themselves before her, begging
her to forgive all. _Cinderella_ took them by the hand and raised them
up and kissed them. And it melted their hard natures to hear her say
that she would love them always.

When the fairy godmother had witnessed all this she said to herself,
'That's that!' and vanished. But she never lost sight of _Cinderella_.
She guided and guarded her in all her ways, and, when the _Prince_
claimed his willing bride, their way of happiness was strewn with
roses.



THE CHILLY LOVER

A SONG FROM THE FRENCH


    BEHOLD me here, my dear to meet!
        Alas, I must have come too soon!
        The wind that blows beneath the moon
    In winter is not over-sweet.
        Ah! never think my love is backward turning,
            It still increases by a thousand-fold;
            O Ursula, for thee
            My heart is burning,--
                But I'm so cold!

    I would I had thy hand to kiss,
        That pledge of faith so white and small,
        Instead of these great flakes that fall
    And chill me to the bone like this!
        Upon my back they tumble helter-skelter,
            And yet, beyond whatever could be told,
            O Ursula, for thee
            I simply swelter,--
                But I'm so cold!

    While thus my deathless love I trill,
        My soft guitar for thee I play;
        Alas, the north wind fierce and grey
    Plays upon me a measure shrill!
        On me his miserable music making,
            Seizing each finger in his icy hold.--
            O Ursula, for thee
            My heart is baking,--
                But I'm so cold!

    Within thy room with friendly glow
        I see the hearthfire shining clear;
        The crackling faggots I can hear,--
    And I am numb from top to toe!
        Oh, must I freeze while thou art toasting?
            Shall not my suffering be consoled?
            Sweet Ursula, for thee
            I am just roasting,--
                But I'm so cold!


[Illustration:

    O URSULA, FOR THEE
    MY HEART IS BURNING,--
              BUT I'M SO COLD!

p. 79]



THE STORY OF AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE

AN OLD WORLD IDYLL


COUNT GARIN DE BIAUCAIRE, being attacked and besieged by his mortal
enemy, Count Bougars de Valence, was hard beset and in evil plight. He
therefore besought his only son, _Aucassin_, a stalwart and handsome
young man of excellent virtue, to take arms against the foe. _Aucassin_
refused to enter to battle unless he were given to wife his true love
_Nicolette_; but his father answered that _Nicolette_ was a slave-girl
and a stranger, bought long ago from the Saracens, and no fit mate for
his son. _Aucassin_ declared that _Nicolette_ was fit to occupy any
queen's throne, and he would not be dissuaded from his love. So the
Count Garin de Biaucaire spoke privily with his vassal, the captain
of the city, that he should send away _Nicolette_ forthwith, 'for, if
I could do my will upon her,' said the Count, 'I would burn her in
a fire.' The captain of the city, _Nicolette's_ foster-father, who
had bought her, had her baptized, and brought her up, was distressed
at this; but, having knowledge that _Aucassin_ was enamoured of the
maiden, he shut her up in a richly painted chamber in his palace, which
looked through one small window into the garden. There _Nicolette_ was
kept in durance, with one old woman to attend her; and she saw the
roses, and heard the birds in the garden, and resolved that she would
escape to her own true love.

_Nicolette_ being thus shut away, it was rumoured through all the land
how she was lost; and some said that Count Garin de Biaucaire had slain
her. Thereupon _Aucassin_, in great sorrow and anger, went and demanded
her of the captain. But he got no satisfaction from the captain, who
advised him, even as his father had done, to take a maiden of high
degree to wife, and think no more of _Nicolette_. So _Aucassin_ went
home to his chamber and lamented for his love. And at this hour the
castle was suddenly assaulted by the army of Count Bougars de Valence.
Count Garin de Biaucaire, again seeking that _Aucassin_ should take
arms to the defence of his heritage, came in and found him making
moan for _Nicolette_. Hot words passed between them; but presently
_Aucassin_ covenanted with his father that, if he overcame the foe, he
should be allowed to see _Nicolette_, if only for a moment.

[Illustration: BUT NICOLETTE ONE NIGHT ESCAPED p. 82]

So he rode forth into the fray. But so full was his mind of his love,
that he dreamed instead of doing, and was taken prisoner and about to
be slain. Then he aroused himself and struck down all around, and rode
back home with Count Bougars de Valence as his captive. And when he
claimed his father's promise, the Count Garin de Biaucaire not only
forbade him any sight of _Nicolette_, but flung him into a dungeon till
he should forgo the love of her.

So _Aucassin_ lay bewailing in his dungeon; but _Nicolette_ one night
escaped, letting herself down by the window, wrapped in a silken cloak,
and crept along through the streets of Biaucaire until she came to the
tower where her lover was. And they had speech of each other; and she
cut off her golden curls and cast them to _Aucassin_ through a crevice.
But when she told him that she must leave that land, he was greatly
angered and forbade her. Then the sentinel on the tower, who was aware
of _Nicolette_, took pity on her, warning her that the town-guard were
even now seeking her with swords to slay her.

_Nicolette_ sank into the shadow till the guard passed by; then she
made her farewell to _Aucassin_, and with hardship let herself down
the castle wall into the fosse, being assured that she would be burned
by Count Garin if she still abode in Biaucaire. And she hid herself in
the outskirts of the forest until next day at noon. There came some
shepherd lads then, and ate bread on the fringe of the forest. By these
_Nicolette_ sent a secret message to _Aucassin_, which none but he
might understand, and she built herself a little lodge of oak-leaf
boughs and lily flowers--and hither, after much quest, came _Aucassin_,
searching vainly for his love. Then the lovers had much joy of this
meeting; and they rode away together on one horse until they reached
the seashore and took ship. But a storm arose and drove their vessel
upon the coast of the country of Torelore. In this land men did battle
with eggs, baked apples, and fresh cheeses; and _Aucassin_ with his
sword put the foes of the king to flight.

When _Aucassin_ and _Nicolette_ had dwelt here for three years in great
delight, a company of Saracens stormed the castle of Torelore, and
carried them off separately captive; and the ship which held _Aucassin_
was drifted by a tempest back home to Biaucaire, where his father and
mother were dead. So now he was lord of that land; but he cared for
nothing in the world but to regain his love _Nicolette_. As for her,
she was also at home; for the ship which carried her pertained to
the king of Carthage, her father, from whom she had been stolen as a
little child. And when her father and brothers knew her, they made much
of her, and would have wedded her to a Paynim king. But _Nicolette_
obtained a viol, and learned to play it; then she dyed herself all
brown with a certain herb, and attired herself as a harper-boy. She
persuaded a shipmaster to carry her to the land of Provence, and there
she came to the castle of Biaucaire, and sang to her viol what had
befallen _Nicolette_. _Aucassin_ was overjoyed to know that _Nicolette_
was living, and he bade the harper-boy to go fetch _Nicolette_
from Carthage that he might wed her. _Nicolette_ then went to her
foster-mother, the captain's wife, and rested there eight days, till
she was washed and anointed and richly clothed, and fairer than ever.
And she sent that lady to bring _Aucassin_ her love, who was weeping
in the palace for lack of her. So were these true lovers reunited and
wedded, and for all their sorrows they had a double happiness, their
whole lives long.



BLUE BEARD

AN OLD TALE FROM THE FRENCH


THINK of it! A man rich as a prince, of fine upstanding presence and
commanding manner; a man of great moment in Baghdad!

Think of it again! A man cursed by nature with a beard that was quite
blue, from the roots of the hairs to their very tips!

To be sure, he had three alternatives in the matter. First, he might
shave it off, thus avoiding earthly ugliness while renouncing all hope
of a place in Paradise; secondly, he might marry a scold, and so become
prematurely grey; and last, he might keep his blue beard and remain the
ugliest man in all the world. There was no other alternative, for the
beard was so deadly blue that no dye could touch it.

He had staked his chances on the second point: he _had_ married, and
more than once; but, although his wives had disappeared mysteriously,
his blue beard still remained, as blue as ever. How it was that he
had ever found any woman blind enough to marry him it is difficult to
imagine, for he was so frightfully ugly that most women at sight of him
ran away screaming, and hid in the cellar. But it is only fair to say
that _Blue Beard_ had such a way with him that, given two hours' start,
he could snap his fingers at any rival.

Now it so happened that in his neighbourhood there lived a lady of
quality, who had two sons and two daughters; and, in his walks abroad,
_Blue Beard_ often met the two girls, and soon fell into the lowest
depths of love. Both were adorable, and he really could not decide
which one he preferred. Always in exquisite doubt on the point, he
finally approached the mother and asked her for the hand of one of her
daughters, leaving the choice to her. And she, like a wise woman, said
nothing, but simply introduced _Blue Beard_ to _Anne_ and _Fatima_, and
left the rest to nature and their own fancies.

[Illustration: SEVEN AND ONE ARE _EIGHT_, MADAM! p. 94]

But neither _Anne_ nor _Fatima_ fell in love with their admirer at
first sight. His beard was so blue that they could not endure it, and,
between them, they led him a dance. Neither was inclined to marry a man
with a beard like that, and, what made matters worse, they soon learned
that he had already been married several times, and that his wives had
disappeared mysteriously. This was rather disconcerting, and each was
angling for a brother-in-law rather than a husband.

But, as already stated, _Blue Beard_ had a way with him. He did not
expect to be accepted at first asking. Indeed, when he proposed, first
to one and then to the other, they both said, 'Oh! you must see father
about it.' Now _Blue Beard_ knew very well that their father, having
led a very wicked life, was dead and gone; and, as he pondered over it,
stroking his beard the while, he began to realise what they meant when
they said, 'You must see father about it.'

But _Blue Beard_ did not despair, he merely altered his plan. He
invited the whole family, with some of their chosen friends, to one
of his country houses, where he gave them the time of their lives.
Hunting, hawking, shooting with the bow, or fishing for goldfish in the
ponds, they enjoyed themselves to the full, especially in the evenings,
when they were rowed upon the lake to the sound of beautiful music, and
made moonlight excursions to some of _Blue Beard's_ ruined castles, of
which he possessed quite a number. Whatever the nature of the day's
pleasure-party, the night hours were taken up with banqueting, dancing,
or some other form of revelry, until such a late hour that _Blue
Beard_ said to himself, 'Only wait till I marry one of them, then we
shall see who is master.' For the present he was content to take their
pranks in good part. When he found himself trying in vain to get into
an apple-pie bed he merely laughed; when he found his pillow stuffed
with prickly cactus, or the sleeves and legs of his garments stitched
up so that he could not put them on, he swore merrily and fell more
deeply in love than ever. One day they cut down the stem of an aloe
that was about to flower--a thing which happened only once in every
hundred years. The head gardener, who had been listening every day for
the loud report with which the aloe blossoms burst their sheath, was
heart-broken when he saw what had been done; but _Blue Beard_ consoled
him by raising his wages, saying that in a hundred years' time, when
every one was bald, the plant might blossom again,--what did it matter?
In fact, things went so smoothly, and everything in the garden was
so very lovely, that the younger daughter, _Fatima_, being the more
poetical and impressionable of the two, began quietly to think what
a splendid beard their host's would be if it were not so blue. From
this--for you know that love is colour-blind--she began to see the
beard in a different light. Like a dutiful and affectionate daughter
she spoke to her mother upon the point.

'Mother,' she said, 'it may be only my fancy, but I really think his
beard _has_ changed a little in colour during the last few days.
Perhaps it's the country air, I don't know; but it doesn't seem to me
_quite_ so blue, after all.'

'My darling child,' replied the mother, 'it is strange that you should
have mentioned that. I had also noticed it, but, thinking my sight
was failing me, I feared that old age was creeping on, and so held my
tongue on the matter.'

'That settles it, dear mother. Sooner than believe that you are growing
old and your sight is failing I prefer to believe that what we have
both noticed is an actual fact. But mind you, though there is a slight
change, it is still horribly blue, mother.'

'Yes, dear; but blue's a very nice colour. It's lucky to some people.
The eyes of the Goddess of Love were blue; the sky above is blue; the
bird of paradise is blue; the deep sea is blue. Press your thumbs on
your eyes and what do you see? Blue--the deepest blue imaginable: it is
the light of the mind and soul burning in your head, dear; and that is
why poets and singers are so fond of blue.'

'Then you think----'

'Think? I _know_, child. Besides, a man with a blue beard is different
from all other men; and besides, again, in the dark all beards are
black.'

'But even in the light, dear mother, you think it is changing--just a
little?'

'Yes, my darling, I do. And the reason I know full well. He has fallen
in love, dear; and I think I know with whom. And love can work wonders.
Just as grief can turn black hair grey, so can love turn a blue
beard----'

'Not grey, mother. Say a greyish blue.'

'I was going to say a bluish grey. But there;--if this worthy
gentleman suffers from an affliction,--which, mind you, I am far from
allowing,--what could be sweeter in a woman than to pity him? And pity,
my darling, sometimes leads to love.'

_Fatima_ then sought her sister _Anne_, and told her what was on
her mind. 'Oh, well,' said _Anne_ when she had heard all about the
wonderful change, 'your having discovered it now saves me the trouble
of finding it out later on. Not only do I thank you, _Fatima_, I
congratulate you.'

Greatly relieved by her mother's and her sister's attitude, _Fatima_
decked herself out in her best, and waited for _Blue Beard_ to come and
find her, which she felt sure he would do. And she was right. That very
evening _Blue Beard_ led her aside from the others into the garden,
where the moon was shining and the nightingales singing. And there he
spoke soft words to her, and wooed and won her for his wife. As soon as
they returned to town the wedding was celebrated, and there were great
rejoicings over the happy event.

Now, shortly after the honeymoon was over, _Blue Beard_ was called away
into the country on matters of urgent importance, which would occupy
his attention for at least six weeks. And when _Fatima_, on hearing
this, pouted and began to cry, he sought to console her by suggesting
that she should amuse herself among her friends during his absence.

'See now, my dear,' he said, 'these keys will unlock all the doors for
you so that you shall want for nothing. These two are the keys of the
store-chambers, and these others open the strong-rooms where the gold
and silver plate is kept. These here are the keys to my money chests,
and these smaller ones fit the locks of my jewel coffers. But this
little one here'--he separated a curious little key from the others and
showed it her--'is the key of the little room with the iron door at the
end of the great corridor. Do what you will with all the rest, but, I
warn you, open not that door. Now, I have trusted you with everything:
if you disobey me in this one little matter you will incur my gravest
displeasure.'

'That will I never do,' said _Fatima_ as she took the keys from his
hand. And she meant it at the time. _Blue Beard_ kissed her, embracing
her fondly. Then he entered his coach and was driven away.

_Fatima_, in her grand home, eagerly welcomed the chance of holding
high revelry and playing hostess to her friends. They all came
running at her invitation, and were immediately shown over the great
house. Rooms, cupboards, wardrobes, closets, cabinets and presses
were opened by the aid of keys on the bunch, and they went into
ecstasies over the wonderful treasures the house contained. There were
magnificent pictures, tapestries, costly silk hangings, gold and silver
ornaments, the loveliest soft carpets, and, best of all, gold-framed
looking-glasses reaching from floor to ceiling. These last, which cast
one's reflection taller and fairer than the original inlooker, were the
subject of long and careful admiration. All spoke with rapture of the
splendid luxury of the place, and congratulated _Fatima_ on her great
good fortune.

'For my part,' said one, 'if my husband could give me such a
magnificent house as this, I would not trouble about the colour of his
beard.'

'You're right,' said another. 'Why, for half this grandeur I would
marry a man even if his beard were all the colours of the rainbow,
especially if he went away and left me the keys of the whole house.'

'The _whole_ house,' thought _Fatima_; 'nay, this little key here he
has forbidden me to use. I wonder why!'

But he had been so stern about it--and his beard got very blue when
he was angry--that _Fatima_ put her curiosity away, and continued to
entertain her guests. Still, the temptation to slip away and open
that forbidden door returned again and again; but always she said to
herself, 'Nay; I have the run of the whole house beside: is it a great
matter that I am forbidden one pokey little room at the end of a dark
corridor?' Then, having triumphed for the twentieth time, she fell
at last the more easily;--at least she fell to this extent, that she
slipped away from her guests and ran along the corridor, just to go and
take a peep at the door.

There was nothing unusual about the door. It was of plain, solid
iron, and the key-hole was very small. She wondered if the little key
would fit it. She tried, and found that it went in quite easily; yet,
remembering her promise, she would not turn it, but pulled it out
again and tore herself away. But, after all, she could not see what
possible harm there could be in opening a small room like that and just
having one look inside. Besides, if her husband had been really serious
he would have kept the key himself and not given it to her with the
others. To be sure, he was a kind, indulgent husband, and would not
be so very angry; and then, again, he need never know that she _had_
opened the door.

With thoughts like these passing quickly in her mind she hesitated,
paused, and finally turned again to the door. Her disobedient hands
trembled as she selected the key a second time, detached it from the
bunch, and inserted it in the lock. In another moment she had turned it
and pushed the heavy door open.

At first, as the shutters were closed, she could see nothing; but
gradually her eyes became accustomed to the dim light and she saw
that the floor was of porphyry,--at all events, it was red. Then, as
she shaded her eyes from the light creeping through the chinks of
the shutters, and peered more closely, she discovered to her horror
that what she had taken for porphyry was nothing of the kind--_it
was blood!_--Here it had clotted in dark crimson pools, and there it
had run in little streams along the irregular stone floor. Quickly
she traced those streams to their source by the opposite wall, where,
as she raised her eyes, she discerned seven dark forms hanging feet
downwards from seven spikes driven through their necks into the masonry.

Her first impulse was to flee from the spot;--then there came a
dreadful thought, and she stayed. Whose bodies were those hanging
in the forbidden cupboard? She took a step forward and inspected
them more closely. Yes, they were women, and they had been young and
beautiful. O horror of horrors! Could it be true? Were those the bodies
of _Blue Beard's_ wives, who had disappeared, one after another, so
mysteriously? There they hung, spiked through the neck, their feet
dangling above pools of their life's blood,--mute evidence of foul
murder.

As _Fatima_ stood gazing at the scene before her, her eyes dilated
with fear, and, her breath coming in gasps, the little key fell from
her fingers and clinked upon the floor. The sound recalled her to her
senses, and she picked the key up hastily. Then she turned and rushed
out; and, having locked the door,--no easy feat with such trembling
hands,--she ran upstairs, her face as pale as death. She thought to
escape and regain her composure in her own room, but, when she arrived
there, she found it full of her guests, who were so busy admiring its
luxurious appointments that her pallor went unnoticed. One by one,
however, perceiving that she was tired, they melted away, promising to
come again on the morrow,--unless her husband was expected to return.
It was evident they feared him; so did she, now.

At last they were all gone, and, as soon as she was left alone, she
bethought her of the key and drew it from her pocket. What was her
horror to observe the dull red stain of blood upon it, which she had
not noticed when she picked it up from the blood-smeared floor of the
dreadful chamber. Quickly she seized the nearest rag, thinking to wipe
off the stain; but, rub as she might, it would not come off. As she
scoured and polished without result, terror slowly grew on her face.
'Alas!' she cried, 'there is Blue Magic in this. Now I know my husband
has consorted with fiends: his beard for one thing, this bewitched key
for another. If I am not mistaken, nothing will remove the stain of
foul murder from this key.'

Nevertheless, she bethought herself of many things: of sand, and
pumice, and strong acid, and she tried them all upon the key; but
though she wore the metal away by hard rubbing, the bloodstain still
remained, for, being a magic key, it had absorbed the blood of _Blue
Beard's_ victims, and was saturated through and through with it.

She was just beginning to realise that the task was hopeless when she
heard the rumble of wheels, but she still went on polishing the key,
for, whatever coach was approaching, she assured herself it could not
be her husband's--thank Heaven, _he_ was not due to return yet for six
weeks, and by that time she might contrive to have a new key made,
exactly like the old one. But presently, when the coach drew up at the
gate, and the horns sounded in her husband's style and manner, she
started up with a cry of dismay, and her knees trembled with sudden
fright.

Her first care was to hide the key in her bosom; then she ran out, but,
for very fear, could get no farther than the head of the main stairway,
where she stood clutching the stair-rail, and quaking in every limb.
There, in the hall below, stood _Blue Beard_ giving some final orders
to the coachman. With a quick movement he turned, and, looking up,
perceived her standing irresolute.

'Yes, it is I, my darling,' he called up gaily as he advanced to the
foot of the stairs. 'Some letters reached me on the road, showing me
that my long journey was unnecessary. So, you see, I have returned to
your arms.'

By this time _Fatima_ was tottering down the stairs, bent on giving him
a fitting welcome; for, though she feared him more than aught else, she
must try not to show it. 'Seven of them!' she kept saying to herself,
as she gripped the balustrade, 'and seven and one are _eight_! And I
have a throat as well as they, as sure as iron spikes have points.'

There was only a dim light in the hall, so that _Blue Beard_ could not
see her trembling condition; and if, when she greeted him, he felt
that her body was quaking, he was fond enough to put it down to joy
at his unexpected return. And _Fatima_, taking cover in this, behaved
in an excited manner, like one so delighted to see her husband back
again that she did not know what she was doing. She ran hither and
thither, ordering this and that to be done, and then countermanding
the orders, doing this or that herself, and then immediately undoing
it again,--behaving, in short, like one demented with excitement,
until _Blue Beard_ smiled and stroked his beard, and thought she was a
wonderful little bundle of delight.

And so, through such artfulness long sustained, it transpired that the
question of the keys did not arise all that night, nor, indeed, until
late the following day, when, as ominous as a thunder-clap, came a
summons from _Blue Beard_ that _Fatima_ should attend him immediately
on the terrace. With a wildly beating heart she hastened to answer the
summons.

'I want my keys,' he said in the usual manner of a man. 'Where are
they?'

'The keys?--Oh yes; the keys. I--I will go and fetch them immediately.'

_Fatima_ ran off, and you can imagine her thoughts and feelings as she
went. _Blue Beard_ remained--he was always a grim figure--standing as
she had left him,--just waiting: his thoughts and feelings were in his
beard.

Presently _Fatima_ returned, purposely out of breath in order to hide
whatever confusion she might feel, and handed the bunch of keys to her
husband. He took them without a word, looked at them carefully, and
then slowly turned his eyes upon her.

'The key of the room at the end of the corridor,' he said grimly, 'it
is not here: where is it?'

'The key of the---- Oh; you mean the key of the----'

'I mean the key of the----; yes, that's what I mean. Where is it?'

'Oh! I remember now. You said I was not to use it; so, to make sure, I
took it off the bunch and put it away in a drawer of my dressing-table.
I will run and fetch it.'

'Do,' said _Blue Beard_, and, while she ran off, he stood there looking
for all the world like a blue thunder-cloud before the lightning comes.

Once out of sight _Fatima_ paused to collect her wits. Then, having
made up her mind, she ran twice up and down stairs, and finally
rejoined her husband, panting heavily.

'It is not there,' she cried in dismay. 'I put it in my jewel case,--of
that I'm sure,--but now it's gone. Who can have taken it?'

'Go look again,' replied _Blue Beard_, dangerously calm.

She ran away again, and again came running back. 'No,' she said, 'it is
not there. Who can have----?'

'Silence, madam!' broke in _Blue Beard_. 'That was no ordinary key;
and something tells me it is in your bosom now.' And, with this, he
gathered her shrinking form in his rough arm, and with a rougher hand
searched for, and found--the key!

'So!' he said. 'You lied to me. And--what is this? How came this blood
upon the key?'

Fatima was very pale, and trembling like an aspen leaf. 'I do not
know,' she replied. 'Perhaps----'

'Perhaps nothing!' roared _Blue Beard_ in a terrible voice. 'Madam!
your face tells me you are guilty. You have presumed to disobey me; to
enter that room at the end of the corridor. Yes, madam; and, since you
would sooner indulge your fancy for that room than obey my commands,
you shall go there and stay as long as you like. Seven and one are
_eight_, madam!'

'Mercy! Mercy!' cried _Fatima_, flinging herself at _Blue Beard's_
feet. 'Do what you will with me, but do not put me in that room.'

She looked up sobbing, imploring his forgiveness; and, if a woman's
beauty in despair could have melted a heart of stone, the sight of her
would have melted his. But it will not astonish you to know that his
heart was as flinty as his beard was blue, and _Fatima_ realised this
as she looked again at his terrible face.

'I have said it, madam,' he replied to her pleadings. 'None can disobey
me and live. Prepare, then, for death.'

'Then,' said she, her imploring eyes brimming with tears, 'you will
give me a little time to prepare? If I must die, I must say my prayers.'

'Ten minutes will suffice for that. Not a second more.'

_Fatima_ hurried away towards her own room, but on the way she met her
sister _Anne_, who was looking for her.

'Oh! dear _Anne_,' sobbed _Fatima_, as she embraced her sister; 'ask me
no questions; there is no time. My husband has returned, and, because I
disobeyed him, he has threatened to kill me. Oh! where are my brothers?
If they were only here!'

'They are on the way hither,' said _Anne_ quickly. 'They were delayed,
but promised to follow me very soon.'

'Then run, dear sister, if you love me; run to the top of the tower,
and, if you can see them coming, make a sign to them to hasten; for in
ten minutes I must die.'

Quickly _Anne_ ran up and up until she reached the roof of the tower;
and _Fatima_, standing at the foot, called up to her:

'Sister _Anne_! Dear sister _Anne_! Do you see any one coming?'

And _Anne_ answered her:

'_I see naught but dust a-blowing, naught but the green grass growing._'

Presently _Fatima_ called up again:

'Sister _Anne_, can you see no one coming?'

'_Nay, I see naught but dust a-blowing, naught but the green grass
growing._'

_Fatima_, in despair, continued to call again and again, but always
the same answer came down from the roof of the tower. And so the ten
minutes ran out, and _Fatima_ wrung her hands and groaned.

Meanwhile _Blue Beard_, having sharpened his sword, was trying its
edge on the greensward of the terrace below. Fully satisfied with it,
he strode into the house, and, standing at the foot of the stairs,
shouted, 'Madam, your time is up. Come down at once!'

'One moment,--just one moment,' she replied, then called softly to her
sister: '_Anne, sister Anne, do you see any one coming?_'

'_Nay, naught but dust a-blowing, naught but the green grass growing._'

'Madam,' roared _Blue Beard_, 'if you do not come down quickly, I will
come up and drag you down.'

'I am coming,' she replied; and again she called softly to _Anne_:
'_Sister Anne, do you see any one coming?_'

'Sister, I see a great cloud of dust.'

'Raised by galloping horses?'

'Alas! Nay, it is but a flock of sheep.'

'_Will_ you come down?' bellowed _Blue Beard_, 'or by----'

'I am coming in another moment.' Then to _Anne_: 'Sister _Anne_, can
you see anybody coming?'

'Yonder I see--God be praised--I see two knights in armour, riding
fast.... Yes, they are my brothers.... I am waving my kerchief to
them.... They see me.... They spur and hasten.... Sister, they will
soon be here.'

Then _Blue Beard_ stamped his foot and roared out so terribly that he
made the whole house tremble. At this his poor wife, wholly fascinated
by terror, crept down to her doom. Her face was stained with tears, her
long hair was dishevelled; she flung herself at his feet and besought
him to take pity on her.

'Pity!' he thundered; 'I have no pity. You must die!' He seized her
by the hair and twisted her head back to expose her beautiful throat;
then, flourishing his sword, he went on: 'This is my last word on
the abominable crime of curiosity as practised by women. By that
detestable vice misfortune and grief came into the world, and we
owe our present state of evil to the first woman, whose daughters
greatly resemble her in that peculiar gift of prying into matters
forbidden....' And so he continued to harangue his poor wife, grasping
her hair with one hand while he flourished his great sword with the
other.

When at length he paused for want of words to describe the horrible
crime he was about to meet with punishment, _Fatima_ wailed, 'O sir!
wilt thou punish me before I have recommended myself to Heaven? One
moment, I implore thee, while I turn my soul to God.'

'Nay, thy prayers are said.' And he raised his sword to strike. But the
sword remained in air, as _Blue Beard_, startled by a loud battering
at the gate, turned his head. Then, as the gate was burst in, and
two knights came running with drawn swords, he loosed his hold upon
_Fatima_, who sank in a huddled heap like one already dead. Turning
quickly, _Blue Beard_ fled, but the two brothers were hot upon his
heels; and, after a rapid chase through the house and garden, they came
up with him just as he reached the steps of the main porch. There they
ran their swords through and through his body, and left him dead in a
pool of blood.

When _Fatima_ opened her eyes and saw her two brothers and her sister
_Anne_ bending over her, she thanked Heaven for her deliverance. With
a sword all dripping red one brother pointed towards the porch, and
_Fatima_ gave a deep sigh of relief. She knew, and was satisfied to
know, she was a widow.

Now, as _Blue Beard_ had no children by any of his wives, his sole
surviving wife became mistress of all that had been his. All his vast
estates and treasures came into her possession, and she was young and
beautiful into the bargain. The first thing she did was to purchase
commissions for her two brothers in the army; next, she bestowed a
splendid estate and a large sum of money upon her sister _Anne_ as
a wedding present on the occasion of her marrying the young man of
her choice. Then _Fatima_ fell in love with, and married, a worthy
gentleman who adored her, and these two lived out their lives in one
continuous hour of happiness.

_His_ beard was black, and, when at length it grew grey, and then
silvery white, she only loved him all the more. Even in the first year
of her marriage she had quite forgotten the dark cloud cast upon her
early life by that terrible man, _Blue Beard_; and ever afterwards she
never had the slightest cause or reason to remember him.


[Illustration: CERBERUS. THE BLACK DOG OF HADES p. 99]



CERBERUS


CERBERUS, the triple-headed, snake-haired, black dog guarding the
gates of Hades, was a mythological monster of fierce and terrible
aspect. When the shades of the departed from the upper world were
ferried across the River Styx by old Charon the boatman, _Cerberus_
lay quiet and let them pass unchallenged. He knew them: they were
shades brought in regular order, by Charon, and, as such, they were
allowed to enter Hades. But, if they wished to retrace their steps, and
gain the upper world again--this was a labour, this was a task not so
easily accomplished, for _Cerberus_ would bar their way; his mane would
rise and his jaws would gape, and there was no passing this terrible
gatekeeper.

Yet, in the stories of antiquity, there are at least three instances
of mortals, or gods in the form of mortals, passing the grim tiler on
entering Hades, and repassing him on coming out again. These three were
Persephone, Orpheus, and Æneas.

Persephone was the daughter of Ceres (Demeter), and was carried off by
Pluto, the ruler of Hades. It was into Hades he carried her and made
her his queen. _Cerberus_ knew his master, so, although Pluto bore in
his arms a woman in mortal form, they passed in unchallenged by the
janitor. But, when Persephone's mother, Ceres, having searched with
lighted torches through all the world for her daughter, came at last
to the gates of Hades, she evaded _Cerberus_ in some way that is not
clearly recorded. And, when she found her daughter, and discovered that
Zeus and Pluto had conspired over her abduction, she was angry and
said that she would deprive the earth of cereals (a word derived from
her name _Ceres_, the goddess of corn) until a satisfactory agreement
was arrived at. Zeus and Pluto again conspired, and it was arranged
that Persephone should spend four months of the year in Hades and the
other eight with the gods. This meant that she had to pass and repass
_Cerberus_ constantly.

The second case is that of Orpheus. His wife Eurydice died of a
serpent's bite, and her shade was ferried across the Styx by Charon
and passed into Hades without challenge from _Cerberus_. But Orpheus
bewailed her loss, saying, as in Glück's wonderful opera, 'Eurydice':

    'She is gone, and gone for ever';

and finally resolved to journey to Hades and bring his wife back. With
the lute to which he had sung the praises of the gods, and so passed
the Sirens in safety,--whereas Ulysses had to order his sailors to bind
him to the mast,--he charmed the fierce dog into a deep slumber, and so
entered Hades.

He found Eurydice, and Pluto agreed to let her go, provided that
Orpheus did not look back before he passed _Cerberus_. But, when he
came to the monster, Eurydice following, he looked back to reassure
her, when lo, she vanished again to her place among the shades.
Orpheus, in despair, sang again to his lute:

    'She is gone, and gone for ever!'

and so, having charmed _Cerberus_ to sleep, passed to the middle world
where, like Bacchus, he was torn to pieces by his fellow-mortals.

The third case is that of Æneas, the Trojan prince, who made the
journey to Hades to find his lost love, Dido, and to consult his
father, Anchises. He repaired to a sibyl dwelling among the mountains,
and she conducted him to the gates of the lower regions.

There, over a crag that marked his den, rose the monstrous three-headed
dog, his crested snakes bristling, his eyes shooting fire, his jaws
greedy for prey. But the sibyl had provided herself with a cake steeped
in honey and tinctured with an opiate drug derived from India and now
called _Cerbera_. This she flung to the monster, who greedily devoured
it and immediately sank into a deep sleep, leaving the way to Hades
unguarded. And, ever since, the phrase 'a sop to _Cerberus_' has been
used to signify a sweet morsel flung to pave the way to some concession.

This dog of Hades was not immortal. It remained for Hercules--the type
of the perfect man--to vanquish him in the last of his twelve labours.
And by this act Hercules was said to have abolished the tyranny of
evil in the realm of Pluto, which extended from the utmost star of the
galaxy to the lowest depth of Hades.



THE LADY BADOURA

A TALE FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS


_The Lady Badoura_, Princess of China, the daughter of King Gaiour,
Lord of all the Seas and of the Seven Palaces! O King! There was
none like her in all the world! Her hair was as dark as the night of
separation and exile; her face was like the dawn when lovers meet to
embrace; her cheeks were like petals of the anemone filled with wine.
When she spoke music was born again on earth; when she moved her feet
seemed to faint with delight under the burden of grace and loveliness
laid upon them. The seven palaces of the king, with gardens like the
inmost courts of Paradise, were splendid and wonderful beyond the
poet's art to describe, but, without the dazzling beauty of _Badoura's_
presence, they were as a houri's eyes without their lovelight--an empty
and lifeless shade. And this all who beheld her in that sphere were
destined to discover.

[Illustration: NAY, NAY; I WILL NOT MARRY HIM p. 103]

For, O King of the Age, it was as it were but yesterday that the _Lady
Badoura_ reclined in a palace of gold, jewel-encrusted; her couch was
of ivory, gold-inwrought; and on the air, fragrant with a thousand
perfumes, floated the silvery voice of the slave-girl, singing of love.
But to-day, O King, the _Lady Badoura_ was a prisoner in a lonely
tower, attended by ten old women long deaf to songs of love. And the
cause of this I will relate to you.

For several years the king, through his tender regard for her slightest
wish, had left her to bestow her heart and hand of her own free accord
upon some worthy suitor; but she had clung tenaciously to her freedom,
rejecting all suitors--even the most powerful princes in the land. The
king was sorely troubled at this, for _Badoura_ was his first and
only child, and it was his greatest wish that she should marry, and
raise up children for the continuance of his line. But greater trouble
was yet in store. Came one day a monarch mightier than all others who
had sought her hand in marriage. So powerful and dreaded was this
potentate that the king dared not refuse him. He came with a splendid
cortège bearing costly gifts such as are seldom found in the treasuries
of kings, and he demanded of Gaiour his one and peerless daughter.

As soon as the ceremony of welcome was over, and the king had heard
his guest's petition, he sought the _Lady Badoura_ and made the matter
known to her. But she, knowing what was toward, rose not to greet him,
as was her wont, but remained reclining, answering every stronger and
stronger persuasion of her parent with shakes of her head and 'Nay,
nay; I will not marry him.' At length, finding her will obdurate, the
king gave way to anger, and, finally taking refuge in the opinion that
she had gone from her mind, lapsed into grief, wringing his hands and
crying, 'Alas! alas! that thou, my only child, shouldst be in this
plight. I see now by thy look and manner that thy mind is affected.'
With this he ordered his eunuchs and slaves to take her and place her,
carefully guarded, where she could do no injury either to herself or
others.

'Since none can rouse her heart to love,' said he, 'she must needs be
insane.' And, had the first part of his words been true, thou wouldst
know, O King, that the second would be true also. But she was not in
this case; and now, having shown how and why she, who but yesterday
was sitting free in a golden palace, was to-day imprisoned in a lonely
tower, I will relate the causes of that love for an unknown one, which
now afflicted her.

_Badoura_ had treasured to her heart a talisman,--a gem of wondrous
beauty given to her by Dahnash the Efreet. Now, as you know, the
Efreets are a powerful order of spirits, sometimes benign and friendly
to mortals, sometimes malign and inimical. Dahnash, and another, of
whom I shall presently speak, were of evil origin, but possessed enough
of good in their nature to make them long for an immortal soul, and
this they sought to obtain by labours of love for mankind. The talisman
given to _Badoura_ had the peculiar virtue of uniting lovers destined
for each other. She had, by this virtue, dreamed of one far away; and
all her heart longed for him unutterably, while she still knew that a
golden hour of the future would bring him to her side.

Know, O King, that the potency in a talisman is linked with its origin
in the world of Efreets. Now in the far country of Khaledan, ruled by
King Shazaman, dwelt Meymooneh, a female Efreet of great wisdom. It
was she who had endowed this talisman with its virtues and sent it by
Dahnash, an Efreet of lower degree, to the _Lady Badoura_. After this
she had, by magic spells, led Prince Camaralzaman, the king's only
son, to defy his father's command to marry; and, by her subtle arts,
his heart and mind were so entranced by dreams of one as lovely as she
was far away, that his ever-growing resistance to his father's will
was at last met by the sternest anger. So it happened that just as
_Badoura_ was imprisoned in the tower,--and for the same reason,--so
was Camaralzaman cast into the dungeon beneath his father's palace.
There in that self-same spot, in the depth of a well in a recess of the
dungeon, dwelt Meymooneh the Efreet.

Towards midnight, when the Efreet goes forth, Meymooneh rose like a
bubble from the bottom of the well and found the prince, beautiful in
sleep, lying on a rough couch against the wall of his prison. Lost in
wonder at his perfect loveliness, she gazed down upon him. For a while
she stood thrilled with the thrill of the Efreet's love for a mortal,
her outspread wings quivering above him; then at the call of her
lifelong purpose she slowly folded her wings and drew back with a sigh.
'By Allah!' she murmured, 'I know now that He is good, or He could not
have created a mortal so perfectly beautiful. I will fulfil my task and
win my soul.' So saying she bent down and pressed a kiss between his
eyes. He turned, dreaming that a rose-petal had fallen on his brow, but
did not wake.

With glad heart and heel Meymooneh spurned the earth and soared aloft
through the dungeon's roof, crying 'Dahnash! Dahnash!' Her summons was
answered by a peal of thunder and a whirr of wings, as Dahnash appeared
through a murky cloud. Torn from his demon abode he must needs come,
for Meymooneh had power over him. By muttered spells she held him in
mid-air, his eyes blazing, his tail lashing, and his wings vibrating
feather against feather.

'Dahnash! sayest thou that she to whom I sent thee with the talisman is
more perfect than any among mortals?'

'O Meymooneh!' replied he, fearing her glance, 'torture me as thou wilt
if I have not told thee truly that there is none her equal: the _Lady
Badoura_ is fair above all beauty among mortals.'

'Thou liest! He for whose sake I wrought the talisman is fairer.'

Word gave word in heated dissension, and Dahnash only escaped
Meymooneh's wrath by pleading for a fair comparison of the two seen
side by side.

'Go, then!' cried Meymooneh, buffeting him with her wing. 'Off with you
to China and bring hither your bird of beauty. We will compare them
side by side, as thou sayest; and then we will further prove the matter
by waking first one and then the other to see which accords the other
the more fervent protestations of love. Go! Bring her to my abode!'

On this Dahnash sped with incredible swiftness to China, while
Meymooneh repaired to the dungeon where the prince was still in slumber.

In a brief space Dahnash reappeared at her side bearing the _Lady
Badoura_ sleeping in his arms. He laid his lovely burden on the
couch beside Camaralzaman, and the two Efreets, dumbfounded by the
incomparable beauty of the pair, gazed upon them in speechless wonder.

'It is well we agreed that they themselves should decide,' said
Meymooneh at length, 'for where both are perfect the decision is beyond
our power.'

Then, transforming herself into a flea, she sprang forthwith upon
the neck of the prince and bit him. Camaralzaman awoke, and, raising
himself on one elbow, beheld the face and form of _Badoura_ by his
side. Giving himself up to a sudden ecstasy of love, and crying that
all his life had been a dream of which this was the waking fulfilment,
he strove to arouse her; but in vain: she was bound by the spell
of the Efreets, who, having rendered themselves invisible, were
watching intently. At last, his words of love falling exhausted on
her unconscious spirit, he placed his arm beneath her raven tresses,
and, raising her head, kissed her on the brow with the purest love of
youth. Then, by a sudden inspiration, on seeing a ring upon her finger,
he exchanged it for his own; and, having done this, sank to sleep in
obedience to the Efreets' spell.

Meymooneh, now anxious to show the other aspect of the case, again
assumed the form of a flea, and, springing upon _Badoura_, soon found
a way to bite her hard in a soft place. _Badoura_ sprang up wide awake
and immediately beheld Camaralzaman sleeping by her side.

'Oh me!' she cried, 'what shame has come upon me? Yet, by Allah! he is
so beautiful that I love him to distraction.' Then, after crying out
the utmost words of love to his unheeding spirit, she fell to kissing
his hands, whereupon she found to her amazement that her ring was upon
his finger and a strange one upon her own. 'I know not,' cried she at
last, 'but it seemeth we are married.' And with that she sighed with
content, and, nestling to his side, fell under the Efreets' spell of
sleep.

At a loss, even now, to decide which was the more beautiful, the
Efreets agreed to waive their difference, and Dahnash, at the bidding
of Meymooneh, raised _Badoura_ in his arms and sped through space to
China.

When waking came with morning light the case with _Badoura_ was like
that with Camaralzaman, save that the former, having quitted her
couch, forgot it, whereas the latter was clearly certain he had not
quitted his. Each discovered the other's ring bestowed in exchange.
Each thrilled at the meaning of this pledge, which proved their meeting
to have been no baseless dream. Each swore by Allah that a fiendish
trick had been played at dead of night,--not in the wedding of them
in their sleep, but in the snatching of them asunder before waking.
_Badoura_ wailed for her husband; Camaralzaman rose in wrath and
demanded his stolen wife. There was trouble in China and in Khaledan
that day, and in each kingdom a sorrowful king wept for the madness of
his first-born.

For three long years the pair nursed their love in separation and
confinement. Camaralzaman was sent in splendid exile to a palace by the
sea, but the wide expanse of waters only afforded him the greater space
for the longing which consumed him. He could not know that, far across
the ocean, the one he longed for was sitting, chained by the neck with
a golden chain, there at the window of her palace tower--chained and
guarded lest in her supposed madness she should hurl her body in the
wake of her soul which rushed to meet him from afar. He could not know
that her father, the king, had invited the astrologers and wise men to
cure his daughter of her malady, the reward of success being her hand
and half his kingdom, the punishment of failure the forfeiture of life;
nay, he might even have rejoiced to know that already forty heads,
relieved of wisdom, decked the walls of Gaiour's palace. Yet, O King of
the Age, through the virtues of the talisman he was led thither to see
and know.

One day _Badoura's_ old nurse arose from sleep bewildered, and,
summoning her son Marzavan, she dispatched him on the track of the
footprints of a dream. One in the wide world afar seemed to have come
and gone, leaving nothing but a trail of the perfume of Paradise--a
trail which Marzavan must follow. He set forth, and over land and sea
he travelled on his quest. Now upon some fragrant gale he fancied he
heard the voice of the one he sought; now in the sunset glow of the
western hills he caught the echo of his horse's hoofs. Many he met who
had heard of a prince afar who was mad for the love of one unknown, but
none could pilot him to that prince's dwelling-place. At last it was
the wing of chance--the certainty of talismans--that brought him to the
feet of Camaralzaman. Through perilous adventure, ending in shipwreck,
he found him and told him all. How they contrived their sudden flight
and passage across land and sea I leave to your own thoughts, O King
of the Age, for thou knowest in thy wisdom that, where none can find a
way, Love will find a way.

So it transpired one day that the forty heads relieved of wisdom looked
down approvingly upon a youthful astrologer beating with his staff upon
the palace gates.

'By Allah!' cried the janitor on opening to him. 'Thou art in a mighty
hurry to quit this life so soon.'

'Nay, I come to heal the _Lady Badoura_ of her malady. Let me in, and
that quickly!'

He had his will. Then, step by step, each step an age, he followed up
and up to the lonely tower. His hair seemed turning grey before he was
admitted; but no sooner had he crossed the threshold than _Badoura_,
with a cry of joy, rose and broke her golden chain, and sped to his
arms, where she lay in bliss, pouring out her soul in sobs and kisses.

The cure was immediate. The king came in haste and saw in a moment that
she was healed beyond the wildest hope of the forty bleached heads.

'Allah be praised!' he cried on seeing her face aglow and her eyes
a-dancing with delight. 'There is indeed no god but Allah! For I
perceive that He hath restored my daughter's reason.'

'Nay, my father,' returned she, 'Allah hath restored thy daughter's
husband: her reason was never lacking.' And when, in proof of her
words, she had shown the astonished king her own ring upon the finger
of Camaralzaman, and his upon hers, she clung to her husband in an
ecstasy of joy, returning his ardent kisses again and again and again.

When the whole story of Camaralzaman's perils and adventures by land
and sea was told, the king marvelled greatly at the power of love that
had drawn two sundered hearts together in so wonderful a fashion.

'Of a surety,' he said, 'the souls of these two have stood together
in the Magic Isle of Love, where the woven moonbeams trap the hearts
of lovers in one net. And, by Allah! though those silvery threads may
stretch to the brink of the earth and the opposite sides of heaven,
they must, at Allah's will, tighten again, drawing heart close to
heart. Great is the will of Allah!'

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Lady Badoura_, with her husband, Prince Camaralzaman, dwelt in
the land of China in a state of the utmost delight and happiness for
many, many days, beloved of the king and all the people. And _Badoura_
treasured the talisman that had brought such great joy: she wore it
always,--sewn in her robe against the beating of her heart.



THE SLEEPER AWAKENED

A TALE FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS


ABU HASAN THE WAG!

O my Lord the King, strange as was the story of Sindbad the Sailor,
that of Abu Hasan the Wag is even stranger--indeed, there is no true
story so strange in all the world. Abu Hasan--a mere merchant--awoke
one morning to find himself caliph of Baghdad; and, as thou bidst me
recall a tale of past telling, I will relate exactly how it happened.

Know, then, O King, that Abu Hasan the Wag, living in the reign of
Harun-er-Rashid, inherited a large fortune from his father. As his
wealth was no longer his father's but his own, he took thought as to
how he might save at least some of it. Accordingly, without telling any
one, he divided it into two equal parts, setting one part aside in a
safe place and keeping the other at his disposal to lavish among his
boon companions. 'In this way,' said he, 'I shall at once be risking
only half my fortune and learning the way of the world; for I doubt not
that when I have spent the one-half on my friends they will in their
turn treat me in like fashion.' By which you will perceive, O King,
that Abu Hasan, whose exact age I have not stated, was at least young.

A great man then was Abu Hasan. He had gold, and he summoned his boon
companions to every delight his heart could devise. Long and loud was
the revelry by night. Equally long were the bills by day. But Abu
Hasan knew his friends: they were good fellows all, and he felt quite
sure that when the half of his fortune was spent and they thought him
penniless, they would turn to him and say, 'Thou didst treat us right
royally while thou wast rich: now that thou art poor, come and partake,
in your turn, of our _largesse_.' By which you will perceive, O King,
that he was not growing any older.

A whole year passed in riotous living and extravagant generosity. Then,
finding the money exhausted, he called his boon companions and laid his
case before them, expecting what he did not receive. Every one of them
turned his back and left him with the utmost unconcern. Some called him
a fool; others could not imagine what he had done with all his money:
all took their leave and went their ways.

A sad man then was Abu Hasan and, like all sad men, he sought his
mother.

'O my son,' said she, stroking his hair, 'was it not always so? Thou
wast rich: they were thy friends. Thou art poor: where is their
friendship? My son, thou hast sold it and paid for it thyself. Alas!
learn from this never to put thy trust in the friends of thy purse.'
And, with his head upon her lap, she wept over him bitterly.

A changed man then was Abu Hasan. He arose and went forth, no longer
young, and withdrew from its safe keeping the remaining half of his
fortune. With a part of this--being still a man of wealth--he purchased
a mansion and filled it with all manner of delights till it was fit to
charm the heart of the caliph himself; and there he dwelt in luxury,
as befitted a man of his station. But, having purchased a fragment
of wisdom at the price of half his original fortune, he resolved to
make use of it. He would have done with friends and have to do only
with strangers, and these, moreover, should remain strangers, for his
associationship with any one of them should be for one night only;--at
dawn 'Farewell! Henceforth I know you not; for I have been sorely bit
by friends; by strangers never.'

In the evenings, when the purple twilight fell upon Baghdad, Abu Hasan
would take up a position at the end of the great bridge, and there,
sooner or later, he would accost a stranger, pressing upon him a warm
invitation to spend the night under his roof, and promising him the
best of entertainment. Indeed, being of a gay and merry disposition,
he sought even to choose one of a melancholy cast, so that he might
exercise his wit upon him and cause his face to shine with mirth. In
the morning he would send his guest away with his blessing, having
explained to him the nature of his oath and exacted his promise to
regard him henceforth as a perfect stranger. 'And so, farewell! May God
conduct you in safe and pleasant ways!'

For a long time he behaved in this manner, providing the best of
entertainment and adhering closely to his oath. At length there came
an evening when he was waiting as usual on the bridge, and it chanced
that the caliph of Baghdad himself came by, disguised as a merchant--a
favourite amusement of his when he wished to traverse the ways of
the city and see how his people fared. Abu Hasan looked at him as he
passed, and taking him, by his dress and the stout slave following him,
for a merchant from Moussul, and therefore a stranger in the city, he
accosted him.

'Sir,' he said, saluting gracefully, 'permit me to compliment you on
your happy arrival in Baghdad. Not, indeed, to show you that this is a
hospitable city, but rather that I may have the honour of your company
at my house, I beg that you will accept my invitation to come and sup
with me and rest yourself after the fatigue of your journey.'

The caliph, always in the mood for an adventure, accepted gladly, and
together they repaired to Hasan's abode, the slave following after.
When they arrived they found supper laid for two, and in the most
sumptuous style. Hasan, treating his guest with every courtesy, seated
him in the place of honour.

The apartment was most luxurious. On one side trickled streams of water
through silver channels half hidden among rare ferns. On another side
golden fountains played in cool grottoes, and, over all, a soft light
falling from a wonderful lamp overhead wrapped the richness of the
place in a dreamy glamour.

Towards the end of the repast a beautiful slave-girl floated in with
her lute and sang a song of love, inspired by the soft languor of the
night. And the caliph wondered concerning his host: what manner of man
was he to entertain so royally?

When supper was over, and everything cleared away, Hasan arose, and,
having lighted a number of candles to throw a brighter light on the
scene, spread a rich wine-cloth and brought out his rarest wines. He
did these things himself, because it was always his whim after supper
to play the servant to his guest as if he were a royal personage.

'My master,' he said, filling a golden goblet with wine and raising
it to the caliph, 'I make you free of all ceremony. I am thy faithful
servitor, and may I never have to grieve thy loss.' With this he drank
the wine and then filled another goblet for his guest. 'I warrant you
will find it good,' he said, handing it to him on bended knee.

'I am satisfied of that,' replied the caliph; 'I can see you have
nothing but the best of everything.' And he drank to Abu Hasan.

Far into the night they sat and talked of many things. The caliph was
pleased at his host's waggish whim of playing the rôle of servant to
a royal master, and Hasan, for his part, was delighted at his guest's
refined manners and his great knowledge on many subjects. 'I am,
indeed, a proud man to be honoured by the company of so accomplished
and polite a personage,' he said, and, even if he had known that he was
entertaining the caliph of Baghdad, he could not have treated his guest
in better fashion.

At length, when they had pledged each other in many glasses of wine,
and the hours were growing small, the caliph remarked, 'Mine host,
thou hast seen for thyself how greatly I have enjoyed this pleasant
intercourse; and, as I would not seem ungrateful, pray tell me in what
way I may serve thee. I am but a merchant of Moussul, but if there be
any request dear to thy heart, I beg thee to mention it, for, though a
stranger in this city, I have some friends who sit in high places.'

'Nay, my master,' replied Abu Hasan; 'my entertainment has been more
than rewarded by the gracious presence of a charming guest. Any other
recompense would spoil my memory of this night and thee.'

'As you will. But let us suppose now--both of us being greatly tickled
by this most fragrant wine--if I had the power to grant the dearest
wish of thy heart, what would that wish be?'

Abu Hasan laughed and took up the quaint conceit. 'The dearest wish of
my heart?' said he; 'I will tell it thee in a trice. Yonder, at the
cast of a stone, stands a mosque, and the imam of that mosque is a
hypocrite of an exalted degree. Indeed, among hypocrites he stands at
the head of his profession. He lords it over the whole neighbourhood,
and especially over me, for, when he hears music and revelry during
the hours that every self-respecting imam should be asleep, he ceases
not to persecute me on the matter until I have no stomach for anything
that is his. Ah! if I were caliph, even for a single day, then would
I punish this wicked man in a fitting fashion. A hundred strokes on
the soles of his feet--not less! Then a parade through the city--a
triumphal procession headed by that sycophant impaled on a camel, with
his face to the tail to signify that he is on his way to Paradise in
the wrong direction. And, not to pay too poor a tribute to his skilled
hypocrisy, I would give him a cortège: four of his sheiks who aid and
abet him in his kill-joy persecutions should follow him at an admiring
and respectful distance, each impaled upon a camel, and each bound for
Paradise with his face pointing the other way. Then, by Allah! the
people would follow this great procession, crying, "Behold, such is the
reward of fools and interferers!" This would I do if I were caliph for
a single day, but----' And Hasan the Wag broke off, laughing. His guest
laughed with him, for he was mightily amused. Suddenly his face became
as the face of one who hath a purpose; then, to conceal that purpose,
he laughed again, louder than before.

'Mine host,' he cried, as soon as he could contain himself, 'verily
thou art a wag!' Then he took a bottle and filled a goblet with
sparkling wine. 'May thy wish be granted,' he said, and drained the
goblet. 'Pray, friend,' he went on, 'while I fill a cup for thee, wilt
thou be so good as to ascertain the condition of my slave beneath thy
roof. I doubt not that he is comfortably situated, but he is a faithful
servant, and well deserveth the solicitude of his master.'

Abu Hasan admired his guest the more for his thought for his slave. He
arose quickly and went to see into the matter himself, for by this time
his whole household had retired to rest. While he was gone the caliph
drew a lozenge of benj--a powerful opiate--from the inner recesses of
his dress and dropped it into the goblet, which he quickly filled with
wine. When Hasan returned, saying that the slave had been well cared
for, the caliph handed him the wine. 'You have filled for me many
times,' he said; 'now I have filled for you. Drink, I pray thee, for my
sake.'

Abu Hasan took the goblet, and, eager to fulfil the slightest wish of
his guest, drank deep. Then, scarcely had he set down the goblet, when
his senses reeled. He threw up his arms and was falling prone when
the caliph sprang to his aid and gently laid him down upon the soft
cushions. The benj had done its work: Abu Hasan was in a deep sleep.

The caliph now summoned his slave, and directed him to take up the
unconscious body of his host and carry it to the palace. So they
set out, unobserved at that late hour; and, when they reached their
destination, the caliph gave orders that Abu Hasan be undressed,
clothed in the royal robes, and put to bed upon the royal couch. This
was soon done.

Then the caliph summoned his grand vizier.

'Giafer,' said he, 'you see this man upon my state bed: now mark my
words. In the morning, when he awakes, see to it that you treat him in
every respect as you would myself. Accost him with the same reverence,
and observe and do whatever he bids you, for I have put him in my
place. Convince him by thy subtlety, Giafer, that he is indeed the
caliph of Baghdad, and that his lightest word must be obeyed. His
generosity is such that he may wish to empty the coffers of my treasury
on the heads of the poor: even so, carry out his commands. And see to
it, Giafer, that all, from the emirs to the lowest slaves, pay him the
same honour and obedience as they would myself, always exercising the
greatest care lest he discover that he is not what he seems. Moreover,
as this is a rare diversion after my own heart, be sure to wake me
before the drug releases him; and, as thou knowest, the power of the
benj lasts little more than three hours, and, after that, natural
sleep, from which he can be awakened. But, Giafer, wake me first, for I
would see what I would see.'

The vizier failed not to understand. He quickly conducted the caliph
to a couch behind some heavy velvet hangings, whence, by parting the
folds, he would be able to see all he desired. Then the vizier went to
prepare the whole Court for the part they were to play.

In the morning, as the three hours' thrall of the benj drew to a
close, the royal apartment was as it had always been at the hour of
sunrise. The officers and the ladies of the Court were there, placed
according to their rank. The other attendants--the eunuchs and the
slave-girls--took their positions as usual, for the caliph was due to
arise and prepare for morning prayer.

A slave-girl struck some joyous chords upon her lute, and Abu Hasan
awoke with a start. He sat up and looked about him. The royal couch,
the resplendent apartment lit by the morning sun, the courtiers bowing
before him--surely this was all a dream! With a sigh at the seeming
reality of it all he sank back and went to sleep again.

Presently, however, he awoke a second time to the continued music of
the lute. Again he sat up and stared in blank astonishment at the
richly apparelled attendants of the Court making obeisance to him.
Then a lovely slave-girl ran forward and bowed low. 'O Prince of the
Faithful,' she said, 'it is the hour of morning prayer. It is thy daily
wish that I remind thee of this.'

Abu Hasan remained speechless. He knew not what to make of it. He
looked again at the sumptuous magnificence of the apartment and rubbed
his eyes. 'Am I awake?' he cried. 'Is this real? Nay, nay; it cannot
be: I dream.'

'O Prince of the Faithful,' said the slave-girl, 'hast thou indeed
dreamed that thou wert other than the Lord of all Creatures? It was an
evil dream, my lord! and now that thou art awake, I pray thee remember
thy usual custom.'

'Alas!' exclaimed Abu Hasan, beating his breast, 'what affair is this?
Am I Abu Hasan dreaming I am the caliph, or am I in truth the caliph
who heretofore dreamed he was Abu Hasan?'

Meanwhile the caliph himself, peering between the velvet hangings,
revelled in the exquisite perplexity of his guest. And when, after Abu
Hasan had given the lie to one and another who sought to convince him,
and, being fairly beaten, had to admit that he was indeed the caliph of
Baghdad, Rashid himself nearly split his sides with merriment. Finally,
when Hasan, believing himself the Lord of all Creatures, commanded all
present to withdraw and let him sleep on, the caliph rocked and rolled
upon his hidden couch as if in a fit.

As for Abu Hasan, he fell asleep again and dreamed he was naught but
Abu Hasan, the merchant. But later he awoke to find it was only a
dream. Of a verity he was the caliph of Baghdad, for there by his side
stood Mesrur, the High Executioner.

'Commander of the Faithful,' said Mesrur, prostrating himself, 'your
Majesty will forgive me for reminding you that it is unusual to rise so
late. The time of prayers is over and the business of the day waits.
The chief officers of state dwell upon your pleasure in the Council
Hall.'

Abu Hasan looked at him keenly. 'Am I awake?' he asked. 'Or do I dream
that I am awake?' Then, holding out his little finger to Mesrur, he
added, 'Bite that!'

Now Mesrur, who knew that the real caliph's eyes were upon him, was
anxious to please him, so he advanced, and, taking Hasan's little
finger, bit it hard--so hard that the owner of it cried out with pain.
'Ha!' he cried, 'I do not sleep: I feel, I see, I hear, I speak.
Enough!'

'Enough, Monarch of the World!' replied Mesrur. 'Wilt thou deign to
rise?'

Then Abu Hasan arose, and was dressed by the officers of the
bedchamber. Arrayed in magnificent robes of state he followed Mesrur to
the Council Hall, where he ascended the throne amid the acclamations of
the Court.

Er-Rashid himself found a niche high in the side of the hall, a point
from which he could see all that took place within. It pleased him
greatly to notice with what a solemn dignity Abu Hasan occupied the
throne. He evidently believed firmly and truly that he was indeed
the caliph. How gracious and condescending he was as the principal
officers of the Court approached, and, having made obeisance, preferred
petitions which were granted or refused wisely and without the least
embarrassment.

The business of the day was nearly over when Abu Hasan caught sight of
the cadi, whose face he knew very well. 'Stop!' he said to the grand
vizier, who was making a long speech 'I have an order of great moment
to give to the cadi.'

The cadi immediately arose on hearing his name and prostrated himself
before the throne. In his excitement at a sudden thought Abu Hasan
had risen to his feet. The vizier stepped forward. 'O Prince of the
Faithful!' he said, 'forget not that all men are thy humble slaves, and
that it is not fitting for the Lord of all Creatures to rise to any.'

But Hasan waved him aside. 'Peace!' he said sternly. 'I have a command
of the greatest importance for the cadi, and I cannot deliver it
sitting.' Then, turning to the cadi, he continued, 'Proceed immediately
to the house of Abu Hasan and give into the hand of his mother a
thousand pieces of gold with my blessing. Then repair to the mosque
near by and take the imam and his four chief sheiks and bestow upon
them a hundred strokes each. After that impale them each upon a camel,
with their faces towards the tails of the beasts, and drive them
through all the ways of the city, with a crier in advance proclaiming,
"Behold the reward of those who meddle in other people's affairs!" When
this is done, see to it that they are expelled from their mosque for
ever.'

Having said this Abu Hasan sat down upon the throne with a gasp. He
had achieved the dearest wish of his heart. Then he declared the Court
closed, and, one by one, all present passed before him and made the
same obeisance as when they entered.

Abu Hasan descended the throne and was conducted into a great hall of
stately magnificence, where a sumptuous feast was spread. The plates
and dishes were of solid gold, and from the rare viands upon them were
spread abroad the odours of spices and ambergris. Ten of the most
beautiful ladies of the Court stood about the seat set for him with
fans to fan him while he dined.

Now Abu Hasan the Wag had a merry wit. Contending that one fan was
quite enough, he bade the remaining nine ladies sit at the table with
him and eat; and when for very shyness they did not eat, he helped them
to the choicest morsels until they could not refrain. Even the lady
with the fan he fed with tit-bits from his own dish. The way he engaged
them with his sparkling wit was a delight to the caliph, who was still
watching the progress of his joke from a concealed place. 'Verily,'
said he, 'thou art a wag, Abu Hasan.'

When Hasan was fully refreshed with food there was still another
delight before him. The chief officer led him into another hall as
elegant as the former, and there, when his ladies-in-waiting had bathed
his hands in a golden bowl with great ceremony, Abu Hasan seated
himself on luxurious cushions and partook of the choicest sweetmeats
and fruits, while the Court musicians played a serenade and the Court
ladies stood around him fanning him, and responding to his sprightly
sallies. Never had he experienced such pleasure; but even greater
awaited him.

When dessert was finished he was conducted into yet another hall,
where, in the midst of everything the heart of luxury could desire,
were set silver flagons filled with sparkling wine, and near them were
placed seven golden goblets.

[Illustration: BEHOLD THE REWARD OF THOSE WHO MEDDLE IN OTHER PEOPLE'S
AFFAIRS p. 120]

Here also, reposing on soft cushions, were six beautiful damsels, each
one of whom could vie with the fairest flower or sit in the place of
the moon. Easily enticed to a luxurious divan prepared for him, Abu
Hasan seated himself, and, clapping his hands, bade the musicians
cease. There was silence. Then, turning to the damsel nearest him,
Hasan asked her name.

'Cluster of Pearls,' replied she.

'Then, Cluster of Pearls, fill a goblet with wine and I will drink your
health, and may you always shine as now.'

The girl, vastly pleased, handed him the wine, and he drank. And, as
the music played, and they whirled about him in the dance, he called
one after another at intervals, asked her name, and received wine at
her hands.

An hour of delight sped by in this fashion, until at last he came to
the sixth and last. 'What is your name?' asked he. 'Coralie,' said she.
'Then, Coralie, give me wine as red as your lips, and with a sparkle
like that in your eyes.'

Now the caliph had ordered that a lozenge of benj should be placed in
one of the goblets, and this reserved till the last. Accordingly, this
was the goblet that Coralie filled; and she handed it to Abu Hasan with
sweet words, bidding him forget his exalted degree and drink to the
eyes and lips of his humblest slave-girl.

Abu Hasan drank, and, in truth, he forgot everything--even the eyes and
lips of the slave-girl--for his head fell forward on his breast and the
goblet rolled from his hand. The benj had done its work: he was in a
profound slumber.

The caliph, who had enjoyed the whole scene immensely, quickly came out
of his hiding-place and ordered Abu Hasan to be dressed again in his
own clothes and carried back to his own house and put to bed.

Next morning----

O King, next morning, when Abu Hasan awoke, he sat up and looked about
him in the utmost astonishment. What prank was this that he should
dream he was awake and in his own home? Faugh! He clapped his hands
and called loudly, 'Coralie! Cluster of Pearls! Morning Star! Heart's
Delight! Where are you all?'

He called so loudly that his mother came running to him.

'What ails thee, my son?' cried she.

Abu Hasan sat up and looked at her haughtily. 'My good woman,' he said,
'I advise thee to moderate thy tone somewhat if thou wish to have a
head left upon thy body. Thy son, indeed! Knowest thou not that I am
the Commander of the Faithful. Bow down, woman, or it will go hardly
with thee.'

His mother knew not what to say, but it was clear he had lost his
reason. Thinking to divert his mind, she told him about the thousand
pieces of gold and the punishment of the imam.

'Ha! that is so,' cried he. 'It was by my order these things were done.
I tell you I am the caliph of Baghdad, and I will soon teach you how to
behave towards the Prince of the Faithful.'

With this he arose in wrath, and, seizing a cane, thrashed his mother
severely--whack! whack! whack! until her screams brought the neighbours
running in. And as soon as they learnt how matters were they said among
themselves, 'He is mad!' So they fell upon him and bound him, and took
him off to the mad-house.

A mad man then was Abu Hasan. Every day he received fifty strokes to
remind him that he was not the Lord of all Creatures, until at last
he was fain to admit that since these things must be done by order of
the caliph, it was not within reason that the caliph should punish the
Prince of the Faithful, or that the Lord of all Creatures should fall
upon himself in so grievous a fashion. At last, one day he confessed
his error to his mother, and it gave her as much joy as if she had
brought him into the world for the second time. 'I have had an evil
dream,' he said, 'a dream so real that verily it must have been the
work of wizardry. Ha! I see it now--that accurséd merchant that supped
with me. It was he and none other. But the thousand pieces of gold! The
imam! Nay, it was no dream, but the most devilish enchantment.'

But as he now confessed that he was not the caliph, his mother easily
procured his release and took him home. Under her tender care he soon
regained his strength, and at length began to resume his former habits.
Again he repaired in the evenings to the end of the bridge and waylaid
some stranger whom he invited to sup with him. Some weeks had elapsed
when one evening, while he was waiting in his usual place, he saw the
merchant from Moussul approaching, attended by his slave. 'By Allah!'
said he in great agitation, 'here comes that vile magician!'

The caliph walked straight up to him and cried, 'Ho, brother! Is it
thou? I am delighted! Permit me to embrace thee.'

'Not so fast,' returned Abu Hasan coldly. 'I care not for thee nor thy
embraces. Be off about thy business, accurséd of God!'

'What hast thou then suffered at my hands?' asked the caliph. 'Is it
that I forgot your oath through pleasure at seeing you once more? I am
deeply sorry.'

'Nay, nay; it is not that, O master of fiends! Thou didst enchant me
and hand me over to fiends, and now thou comest to make sport of my
sufferings. Begone! I like thee not.'

'Brother!' replied the caliph with extreme courtesy, 'thou art surely
in error. Yet perchance it was my fault, for now I do remember that
when I left you that night I neglected to close the door, and methinks
the evil one entered to thee after I had gone.' And, by cunning
arguments and the most courteous protestations of affection, the caliph
succeeded in convincing Hasan that he had no hand in such devilries,
and in the end Hasan realised that he had done the stranger so great an
injustice that he set aside his oath for once and invited him again to
his house.

And as it fell out before, so it befell again. A second time the caliph
employed the benj, and a second time Hasan awoke in the morning to
find himself upon the royal couch surrounded by the attendants of the
Court. His first call was for his mother, but a slave-girl struck a
lute near by and answered, 'O Prince of the Faithful! we are here to do
thy bidding.'

Abu Hasan looked about him completely dazed. If he was one day Abu
Hasan and another day the caliph, who was he when he was at home? The
problem was insoluble. He tried to solve it by commanding the chief
memluk to bite his ear to see if he was really awake. Then, as the
memluk's teeth met through the flesh of the lobe, Abu Hasan shrieked
aloud, and the caliph, hidden in a recess near by, fell to his knees
with suppressed laughter.

'Verily, I am awake,' cried Abu Hasan, rising in fury, 'but this is
the work of the evil one. O Abandoned of God! Back to your infernal
abodes! I will have none of you.' And he hurled at them the most holy
passages of the Koran ordained for the casting out of devils. At this
the caliph, unable to endure it further, came forth, laughing as he had
never laughed before. He cried, holding his sides, 'Stop! for Allah's
sake, stop! or it will be the death of me!'

Then Abu Hasan stood aghast. He recognised the merchant of Moussul, and
also, for the first time, he recognised Harun-er-Rashid, the caliph of
Baghdad, the mighty descendant of the House of Abbas. He saw it all
now, and humbly made obeisance, praying that the Lord of all Creatures
might live for ever.

'Rise, Abu Hasan the Wag!' said the caliph, 'and the peace of Allah be
with thee.'

Abu Hasan the Wag! What a history was his! He rose in favour with the
caliph, who ceased not to shower gifts upon him. And a time came when
the caliph and the Queen Zobeide conspired together to marry him to
one of the loveliest women of the Court. These two thereafter lived in
the palace, under the caliph's smile, in perfect happiness, tasting
every delight until, in the end, when the last cup of joy was quaffed,
the Great Gleaner, who gleans alike in palaces and in the humblest
dwellings, came to gather them home.



JUSEF AND ASENATH

A LOVE STORY OF EGYPT


THE loves of _Jusef_ and _Asenath_ which ran not smooth! Deep is the
poet's singing thereon, and sweet is the song that is sung.

In the days of old, even on a day when _Jusef_, having interpreted
the dream of Egypt's king, set forth through the whole land to gather
the plenteous harvest against the seven years of famine to come, a
beautiful maiden named _Asenath_ sat in the tower of her father's
palace surrounded by seven damsels whose beauty was rare, though it
paled before that of _Asenath_ herself. She had chosen these damsels
from the multitudes of Syria and Egypt and Arabia--a choice beset with
difficulty, for each one of them was neither older nor younger than
_Asenath_, having been born in the selfsame midnight hour, though in
places far distant beneath the moon.

'Think not,' she was saying to them, 'that my father Putiphra, priest
of Heliopolis and satrap of Pharaoh though he be, can say to me, "This
man shalt thou love," or, "That man shall take thee to wife." Nay, the
heart of _Asenath_ is her own, and it goes not out to any man, be he
the greatest in the land or so beautiful that the stars bow down before
him. True, my father is a good man and just, yet would not I obey him
in such a matter, for, in the first place, my dead mother's words are
locked in my bosom. "My daughter," she said, "although thy father is of
Egypt, thou art not, as I am not. I, a Hebrew of Syria, descended from
Zedekiah, in the region beyond the Euphrates, did spoil the Egyptians
of thee, by thy very birth from me. See to it, therefore, that thou
take no prince of the land of Pharaoh to thy bosom, but rather one of
my own Hebrew blood, which has flowed through Syria to the east, and,
having at length sat on the throne of Egypt, will rise from the ends
of the earth to vanquish Syria in the west." Do ye comprehend this?'

'O _Asenath_, we bow before thee. Thy beauty would burn the heart of
the mightiest in the land.'

'Nay, I shall ever shun such fires. In that respect my mother's words
take no hold upon me. For that was in the first place; in the second
place, my mother's words counselling me to shun the Egyptian and wed
one of her own blood mean naught to me, since I would of my own accord
shun all men, both Hebrew and Egyptian.'

The seven damsels looked at one another in silence. At last one, a
dark-eyed Syrian, leaned forward and spoke:

'O _Asenath_, hear me! Hast thou never felt a strange voice in thy
heart calling for eyes like thine, and lips like wine, and strong arms
to gather thee close and crush thee like a flower?'

'Never have I. Hast thou, Ashtar?'

'Never. Yet I have heard it sung in songs, when I doubt not it is the
sweet music only that holds one in a close embrace till the heart beats
wildly and----'

'Stay thy tongue, Ashtar,' broke in _Asenath_ with scorn. 'Thy words
strike upon the back of my head, and fall at my heels. I see the light
of madness in thine eyes.'

And Ashtar, withered by her glance, hid her face in her hands and
drowned that light of madness in a storm of tears.

'Tush, girl!' said _Asenath_, 'surely thou hast gone from thy mind to
speak such words.' The others sat mute and still, fearing to sympathise
with Ashtar lest they should arouse their mistress's anger still
further. And yet each maiden leaned her body and turned her eyes a
little--a very little--towards the culprit, for she had spoken bold
words which they had never dared to frame.

'Look you,' cried _Asenath_, raising herself and speaking high, 'this
day I learn that the first-born of Pharaoh hath desired me as wife. But
I will none of him. I told his messenger that the king of Egypt would
desire a greater personage than I as his son's wife, and therefore
he had best look to the king of Moab, whose daughter is not only
beautiful, but a queen. Faugh! I will none of them. I am a maiden, and
a maiden I will remain.'

Now, although _Asenath_ treasured her mother's memory, and for Hebrew
loveliness was as beautiful as Rachel; although she liked not the
Egyptians and their rule, yet, perforce, she knew no other religion
than theirs. Her father had brought her up in the worship and fear of
the Egyptian gods. Every day she repaired to the highest story of the
tower, where, in the central chamber of twelve--a chamber splendidly
adorned with rare stones of many colours and workmanship--those gods,
who were many, were wrought in silver and gold, even upon the purple
ceiling. There, day by day, she worshipped and feared and paid them
sacrifice. This done, she would retire into a luxurious chamber which
had a great window looking towards the east, and there she would sit
and muse and ponder, gazing out beyond the palace courtyard and away
to the lonely waters of the Nile, now plying her needle on delicate
embroideries which she loved, and now playing sweet music on her lute
and singing to the silver moon. Always her damsels were about her; and
always the feet of men, for whom she had neither love nor fear, trod
far below in the ways of the city, no foot among those thousands ever
destined to tread the marble stairway leading to her palace tower.

Rich and rare were the priceless things the twelve chambers contained.
Apart from treasure-rooms stocked with precious stones and rare
ornaments and linen and silk of striking splendour there were broad
balconies and pillared alcoves where the soft breezes rustled in the
branches of great palms and the spray of clear fountains sparkled in
the sunlight ere it fell to rest on a bed of moss or strayed further to
caress the foliage of rare ferns nodding dreamily in deep grot or cool
recess. No flower that ever delighted the eyes of king or peasant was
absent from _Asenath's_ abode, and such a fragrance hung upon the air
that one had but to close one's eyes and yield to the sweet influences
of Paradise.

On the day when _Asenath_ was speaking to her maidens, as has been
told already, she was reclining on a golden couch decked with purple,
woven with threads of gold, while all about it and upon were set jewels
that sparkled like stars in the midnight sky. She was gazing out at
the great window towards the east, when suddenly she was startled by a
great commotion in the courtyard below. Slaves ran hither and thither
at the word of the steward of the palace. All seemed in preparation for
some great event.

'It can be naught but this,' said _Asenath_, 'my father hath sent a
messenger saying that he is returning from his country estate, having
taken tale of the harvest, for the king hath decreed that _Jusef_, the
first ruler, shall require a toll of all in this the first year of
plenty.'

'_Jusef_, the prime ruler,' said Ashtar, 'he will come here? Then we
shall see him. They say he is as beautiful as a god.'

'_They_ say, girl? Who say?'

'The songs,' stammered Ashtar, crestfallen, 'the--the songs of love.'

'Silence, wayward one! Thou art bemused by the poets. This _Jusef_ is a
mere man like other men; was he not the son of a shepherd? Was he not a
runaway? Was he not sold as a slave? Was he not cast by his master, and
for some good reason, into a dungeon?'

'Yea, O my adored mistress, but was he not liberated by Pharaoh?'

'Yes, because he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, just as any old Egyptian
woman might do. Pouf! Thou art bemused!'

Then Ashtar sat in silence, gazing out at the deep blue sky. Why had
this _Jusef's_ interpretation of dreams raised him to the king's favour
while that of the old Egyptian women had been unheeded? Was it because
he was, as the singers sang, as beautiful as a god and possessed the
spirit of a god? Ashtar could not tell. Beneath the haughty frown of
_Asenath_ she sat dumb. Then, with a sigh, she sank upon her cushions,
her lips trembling.

'Ashtar is bemused,' whispered the other damsels one to another.
'Could the like happen to us?' And _Asenath_, catching their words,
cried, 'Ashtar is a fool! Who but a fool would ever think such
thoughts or speak such words?' Then, as a great sound of voices
struck upon her ear, she turned again to the window. 'See! See!' she
exclaimed, 'a great cavalcade is approaching the gates. There at the
head is my father, and--who is that beside him? What are the people
crying?--"_Jusef_, the Prince of God!" Ah! How proudly he sits his
white charger, and how brave his equipments--how splendid his retinue!
say you, Ashtar, that this is the second to Pharaoh?'

[Illustration: Handwritten: If any reader of my Picture Book would like
to make a direct contribution to the French Red Cross, I should be
very proud to receive and acknowledge it. France, bled of treasure and
supplies is giving all she can.

Can you not spare something towards this work of mercy and healing
among our most gallant Allies?

                                                 Edmund Dulac

_Contributions may be addressed to_

    EDMUND DULAC,
    C/O THE DAILY TELEGRAPH,
    FLEET STREET, E.C.]

'Yes, mistress, yes; this is the man _Jusef_, like all other men. They
say he is searching for corn, not for the love of woman.'

'Then let him deal with corn,' flashed _Asenath_, rising. 'Leave me,
all of you! I would be alone.'

The damsels fled, and _Asenath_ turned again to the window. The gates
were now opened, and her father and _Jusef_, followed by a great
retinue, rode into the courtyard. Ah! What perfect grace of form and
feature! _Asenath's_ heart almost burst for frantic beating as she
looked at him. Then, in spite of herself, she drew nearer the window,
and, as she gazed down, _Jusef_ chanced to glance up. Their eyes met,
and _Asenath_, with a pang at her heart, reeled and fell clutching
at the cushions. There she lay sobbing in sudden sorrow. She had
spoken bitter words against him, and now the sweet tears of repentance
refreshed her anguished soul. Soon she sat up, a picture of misery, but
with a glorious light in her eyes.

'Ashtar is no fool,' she murmured, clenching her hands; 'and I do
not believe the tales told by the people against him. Oh! Unhappy
_Asenath_! What is life to thee now? He comes for toll of corn, and
with toll of corn he will depart, and then----'

She swung herself prone upon the cushions and wept again most bitterly.

And _Jusef_ entered into the palace of Putiphra, and all fell down
and made obeisance before him,--all except _Asenath_, who remained
hidden in her tower. When the slave-girls had washed _Jusef's_ feet
they set food and wine before him, but on a table apart, for it was
known in the land that _Jusef_ the son of Jakub would not eat with the
Egyptians, this being an abomination to him.

'My lord Putiphra,' he said, when he had refreshed himself, 'pray tell
me, who is that woman I saw looking from the window of the tower? I
desire not her presence here.'

Now Putiphra knew it was his daughter _Asenath_ that _Jusef_ had seen.
He knew, also, that there was no wife nor daughter of any great man
of Egypt who at sight of _Jusef's_ beauty did not fall in evil case.
Nay, further, many were the gifts of gold and silver and precious
stones sent him by those who languished and were undone in heart by a
single glance at him afar. Wherefore these things were a sore vexation
to _Jusef_, who was as pure as he was beautiful. Remembering ever his
father's exhortation to avoid the strange woman with a gentle and
courteous denial, and to have no other communication with her, he had
preserved the sweetness of his soul to God. 'I pray,' he said, seeing
his host was slow to answer, 'let the woman go hence, for so thou shalt
earn my thanks.'

'My lord,' replied Putiphra, 'the woman thou sawest was none but mine
own daughter, a pure virgin, whom no man save myself hath seen unto
this day. Indeed, she hath no heart for aught but her present state, my
lord. Wert thou to speak with her, thou wouldst regard her from that
moment henceforth as thy sister, for in any other respect she hateth
every man.'

These words pleased _Jusef_ exceedingly.

'Then the case is different,' said he. 'If she be your daughter and a
maiden, hating all men save father and brother, let her come to me and
she will be to me as a sister, and I will love her henceforth, even as
my own sister.'

Then Putiphra went up to the tower and soon returned, leading _Asenath_
by the hand. And when she saw _Jusef_ her eyes were as the eyes of one
that looketh into Paradise.

'Go to thy brother,' said Putiphra, 'and salute him with a kiss, for he
is like thee, pure and virgin.'

_Asenath_ advanced to _Jusef_, saying, 'Hail, lord, great and blessed
of the Most High!' And _Jusef_ replied, 'Hail to thee, maiden! May the
Lord God, who giveth all grace and beauty, so continue to bless thee.'

But when _Asenath_ timidly advanced still further to fulfil her
father's command, and showed a sweet intent to kiss her new-found
brother, _Jusef_ saw the love-light in her eyes, though she, poor
child, knew naught of it but that her heart had left her bosom and
flown to his. He rose quickly from his seat, and, raising his right
arm, said, 'It is not fitting that a man whose lips extol the living
God should kiss a strange woman whose mouth prayeth to blocks of wood
and stone, and eateth the bread of strangling, and drinketh the cup of
treachery.'

When _Asenath_ heard these words her knees trembled. Her heart returned
to her own bosom and sank within it. She groaned aloud, and, as she
gazed sorrowfully at _Jusef_, her eyes brimmed with tears. Seeing this,
_Jusef_ felt pity for her, for he was gentle and merciful. Placing his
hand upon her head, he spoke: 'God of my fathers, who hast given life
and light to all things, do Thou bless this maiden, and count her as
one of Thy people chosen from the foundations of the world; and may she
come to Thine eternal peace, pure and holy in Thy sight.'

Then the tears withdrew from _Asenath's_ eyes as the blessing of
_Jusef_ shone upon her face. She thanked him joyfully, and, having
saluted him, returned to her tower, where she threw herself upon her
couch by the window, weak and trembling with joy and grief and fear and
remorse.

Alas! how she had spoken of _Jusef_! How she had besmirched his
name--called him a runaway, a guilty man who should still be in prison
for his sin, a mere interpreter of dreams. Alas! and he had spurned her
as a worshipper of idols and then had forgiven and blessed her, the
last on earth to deserve it.

For a time she wept with a great and bitter weeping; then she rose
with teeth clenched and dry eyes aflame. Rushing to the wall of the
chamber she snatched a stone idol from its place and hurled it from the
window into the courtyard below. She saw it fall, and heard the crash
as it splintered upon the stones. 'His faith was my mothers faith,' she
cried, 'and henceforth my mother's faith is mine.'

When _Jusef_ had gathered the toll of wheat and was about to depart
Putiphra besought him to tarry and abide at his palace the night and
continue his journey on the following day. But _Jusef_ replied, 'Nay,
I have seven days in which I must make a circuit of the whole country,
but on the eighth day I will return and take up my abode with you.'

And _Jusef_ departed with his retinue through the palace gates; and as
he went he looked not up at the window of the palace tower, nor did
_Asenath_ look down therefrom.

For seven days thereafter the sun rose and set on _Asenath_ weeping.
She neither ate nor drank, nor could her damsels console her in any
way. Sleep fled from her eyes. 'Woe is me,' she would cry, smiting
her breast. 'Woe to me that I have spoken evil words concerning him;
whither shall I go to escape from my sorrow? Woe to me, wretched one,
who hath defamed with my tongue the most beautiful son of Heaven.
Oh that my father could now give me to _Jusef_ as a slave-girl or a
handmaiden, that I might serve him for ever.'

On the night of the seventh day she arose from her couch, and, passing
among her damsels, who were all asleep, stole down the stairway of the
tower, through the ways of the palace, and out to the great gateway.
Here she found the janitor fast asleep. Without waking him, she ran to
the gate and tore down the skin of the screen belonging to it. Then
she sought an ash heap in a remote part of the courtyard, and, having
filled the skin with ashes, returned with it to the tower. She entered
her own chamber and bolted the door; then she spread the skin of ashes
on the pavement by the window and fell upon it, weeping violently, and
crying in broken words: 'By this do I renounce the gods of Egypt. By
this do I change my heart and cleanse my lips, which, as he said, have
offered prayers to idols.' And so she repented with groans and tears
until the dawn was near, when she looked up towards the east and saw
the morning star depending from the side of heaven, like a great lamp
burning clear and sheltered from the wind, lighting her soul to the
gate of forgiveness. She sat up and raised her hands towards it, when
suddenly the sky opened and a wondrous light appeared. When _Asenath_
saw it she fell on her face upon the ashes, and lo, a man strode out
of heaven and stood above her, calling her by name; but she answered
not, so great was her terror. Then he called her again: '_Asenath!
Asenath!_' and his voice was like the murmur of the four streams of
Paradise.

'O my lord, who art thou?' she answered from the dust.

'I am the prince and commander of the hosts of the Lord. Arise and
stand before me, for I would speak with thee.'

When _Asenath_ raised her head and looked at the bright visitant she
saw before her an angel in the form and features of _Jusef_, clad in
a robe of dazzling purple, with a crown of gold encircling his brows,
and bearing a royal staff in his hand. Then she was taken with a sudden
fear, and fell again upon her face. But the Bright One of God raised
her up and comforted her.

'Lift up thy heart, O Virgin _Asenath_,' he said, 'for thy name is
written in the Book of Life and shall never be blotted out for ever and
for ever. For know that thy repentance hath pleaded with the Most High
as a daughter pleads with a loving father, and it is this day decreed
that thou shalt be given unto _Jusef_ as his bride. Therefore arise and
change thy garments. Remove that goat's-hair girdle of sorrow from thy
loins, shake the ashes from thine head, and array thyself in fine linen
with ornaments fitting for the bride of a king to be. Go now, and on
thy return thou wilt find me here, provided thou return alone.'

So _Asenath_ went and woke her damsels, and bade them select the finest
raiment and the brightest jewels fitting for the bride of the second to
Pharaoh. No word did she say of the angel, and they wondered greatly.
Ashtar alone, on looking into her mistress's eyes, saw there the light
that she almost understood.

'Nay, Ashtar,' said _Asenath_, as the damsel's deft fingers plied their
task, 'thou art not bemused. It has come to me, Ashtar; canst thou not
see it?'

'Yea, beloved mistress; that can I, right well.' And as their eyes met,
Ashtar's filled with tears of joy.

At last _Asenath_ stood apparelled and adorned as befitted the bride
of the second to Pharaoh. Her braided hair, a plait of which hung over
her shoulder, was bound about her brows with a tiara of gold set with
sparkling jewels. Gold bracelets were on her arms; a crimson sash
encircled her waist; flounces of her skirts shone with a thousand
diamonds and rubies; but most wonderful of all was the long, gossamer
veil which fell from her shoulders and trailed on the ground: it was
like the milky way of heaven, all stars, with diamond suns blazing here
and there. Beauty beyond words was _Asenath_ as she returned to the
angel bearing a white flower of purity in her hand.

He was standing by the window as she entered the chamber alone and
barred the door behind her.

'My lord,' she said, humbly kneeling before him, 'if now I have won
favour in thine eyes, I pray thee take this flower, for thou knowest
the meaning of it. It is spotless white, even as I; with a centre of
gold, even as I. I pray thee take it and set it in Paradise that it may
never wither.'

The angel smiled and took the flower, which he placed in his girdle.
'It will never wither,' he said. 'It is the flower that endures when
all created things have passed away. When thou comest to the tree of
life thou shalt find it there. _Perchance thou mayst find it even
here._'

Then _Asenath_, pondering his words in her heart, beseeched him to sit
upon the couch whereon man had never sat. And she said, 'I will bring
thee a meal. What wouldst thou?'

'A honeycomb,' said he.

'Alas! I have no honeycomb.' And she was sorrowful.

'Go thou into thy cellar,' said the angel, 'and thou wilt find a
honeycomb.'

Wondering, she went to the cellar, and found a honeycomb there upon the
table. It was as white as snow and had the combined fragrance of all
the flowers that bloom on hillside and plain. And she returned to him
with the honeycomb, saying, 'My lord, as thou spakest, so it was, and
the fragrance of it is as the breath of thy presence.'

'Blessed art thou,' said the angel, laying his hand tenderly upon her
hair; 'thou hast cast away thine idols and hast turned to the living
God. Thou hast come to me in penitence, and shalt now eat of this
honeycomb which was gathered and made by the bees of God from the red
roses of Eden. It is the food of angels, and those who eat it can never
die.'

With this he brake a portion from the honeycomb and set it to her lips,
saying, 'Eat, and thy youth shall not fail, thy beauty shall not fall
away, thy breasts shall not wither, and thou shalt come at last, in
eternal youth, before the throne of God.'

_Asenath_ ate the morsel of honeycomb, and immediately her face was
radiant with the glory of heaven.

'See,' said the angel, touching the broken honeycomb, 'it is now whole
as before.' Then he rose up, and with his finger traced a line upon
the honeycomb from east to west, and another from north to south; and
the lines stood out as red as the blood shed on the cross erected upon
the foundations of the world. And, as _Asenath_ looked upon it, there
came forth from the comb a multitude of bees with purple wings; and
they swarmed around her with incessant life, and, swiftly speeding to
and from the gardens of Paradise, deposited in the bosom of her dress a
honeycomb as white as snow.

'This,' said the angel, 'shall be a sign to thee of sweetness for
ever.' And, as at his command, the bees flew eastward to Eden; then
he touched the honeycomb, and it was immediately consumed by flames;
but the fragrance of that burning was like the marriage of honey with
fire. It rose into the nostrils of _Asenath_ and overcame her senses.
Relinquishing all hold on earthly life, she threw up her arms and sank
back upon the couch, where she lay like a beautiful soul fallen dead at
the very gates of Paradise.

On the slanting rays of dawn the angel took his way eastwards. Then up
rose the sun of the eighth day since _Jusef's_ departure. A cavalcade
approached the gates of the palace.

'Ho, within!'

The gates open and there is rushing to and fro. A man, as lordly as
the sun, a white flower with a heart of gold in his girdle, rides in,
followed by a retinue found only in the wake of kings. It is _Jusef_.
Maddened by a dream, he looks up at the window of the palace tower, but
the beautiful face that has showed before shows there no more. Love
speeds his footsteps. He has right to command. Where--where is she?

_Asenath_ upon her couch wakes from oblivion at a touch. Who is this
standing over her? The angel, yea, the angel, for there is her flower
still in his girdle. But how?--and why?--it seems not right; his lips
pressed close to hers, his arms around her in a wild embrace----

'_Asenath!_ my bride!'


    Printed in Great Britain
    By T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty, Edinburgh



EDMUND DULAC'S PICTURE BOOK

PUBLISHED ON BEHALF OF THE

CROIX ROUGE FRANÇAISE

COMITÉ DE LONDRES

9 KNIGHTSBRIDGE, LONDON, S.W.

                           _COMITÉ DE LONDRES_
                       9 KNIGHTSBRIDGE, LONDON, S.W.

     =_Président d'honneur_=            =_Présidente_=
    S. E. MONSIEUR PAUL CAMBON           VICOMTESSE DE LA PANOUSE

                       =Under the Patronage of=
                         H.M. QUEEN ALEXANDRA

The work of the FRENCH RED CROSS is done almost entirely by the willing
sacrifice of patriotic people who give little or much out of their
means. The Comité is pleased to give the fullest possible particulars
of its methods and needs. It is sufficient here to say that every one
who gives even a shilling gives a wounded French soldier more than a
shilling's worth of ease or pleasure.

The actual work is enormous. The number of men doctored, nursed,
housed, fed, kept from the worries of illness, is great, increasing,
and will increase.

You must remember that everything to do with sick and wounded has to be
kept up to a daily standard. It is you who give who provide the drugs,
medicines, bandages, ambulances, coal, comfort for those who fight, get
wounded, or die to keep you safe. Remember that besides fighting for
France, they are fighting for the civilised world, and that you owe
your security and civilisation to them as much as to your own men and
the men of other Allied Countries.

There is not one penny that goes out of your pockets in this cause that
does not bind France and Britain closer together. From the millionaire
we need his thousands; from the poor man his store of pence. We do not
beg, we insist, that these brave wounded men shall lack for nothing. We
do not ask of you, we demand of you, the help that must be given.

There is nothing too small and nothing too large but we need it.

Day after day we send out great bales of goods to these our devoted
soldiers, and we must go on.

Imagine yourself ill, wounded, sick, in an hospital, with the smash and
shriek of the guns still dinning in your ears, and imagine the man or
woman who would hold back their purse from helping you.

Times are not easy, we know, but being wounded is less easy, and being
left alone because nothing is forthcoming is terrible. You have calls
upon you everywhere, you say; well, these men have answered their call,
and in the length and breadth of France they wait your reply.

What is it to be?


    Will you please send anything you can afford to
    EDMUND DULAC, c/o "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH," LONDON, E.C.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation errors repaired. The note on the publishing of this book
appeared at the front and back of this book. That repetition was
retained. Also, the note from Edmund Dulac is really loacted in the
last story as shown.

Page 7, "ROUSELLE" changed to "ROUSSELLE" on the illustration (OF YOUNG
ROUSSELLE?)

Page 9, "LAYLA AND MANJUN" changed to "LAYLÁ AND MAJNÚN" in chapter
title (LAYLÁ AND MAJNÚN)

Page 22, "MAJNUN" changed to "MAJNÚN" on the illustration (THAT ONE
WORD "MAJNÚN")

Page 102, "104" changed to "103" on illustration reference (HIM p. 103)





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