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Title: A House of Pomegranates
Author: Wilde, Oscar
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A House of Pomegranates" ***

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Transcribed from the 1915 Methuen and Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                                * * * * *

                                    TO
                           CONSTANCE MARY WILDE

                                * * * * *



                                 A HOUSE
                             OF POMEGRANATES


                                    BY
                               OSCAR WILDE

                                * * * * *

                            METHUEN & CO. LTD.
                           36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
                                  LONDON

                            _Seventh Edition_

_First Published_                                                 1891
_First Issued by Methuen and Co._ (_Limited Editions on           1908
Handmade Paper and Japanese Vellum_)
_Third Edition_ (_F’cap._ 8_vo_)                                  1909
_Fourth Edition_ ( ,, )                                           1911
_Fifth Edition_ ( ,, )                                            1913
_Sixth Edition_ (_Crown_ 4_to_, _Illustrated by Jessie            1915
King_)
_Seventh Edition_ (_F’cap._ 8_vo_)                                1915

CONTENTS

                                 PAGE
THE YOUNG KING                          1
THE BIRTHDAY OF THE INFANTA            31
THE FISHERMAN AND HIS SOUL             73
THE STAR-CHILD                        147



THE YOUNG KING


                                    TO
                           MARGARET LADY BROOKE
                          [THE RANEE OF SARAWAK]

IT was the night before the day fixed for his coronation, and the young
King was sitting alone in his beautiful chamber.  His courtiers had all
taken their leave of him, bowing their heads to the ground, according to
the ceremonious usage of the day, and had retired to the Great Hall of
the Palace, to receive a few last lessons from the Professor of
Etiquette; there being some of them who had still quite natural manners,
which in a courtier is, I need hardly say, a very grave offence.

The lad—for he was only a lad, being but sixteen years of age—was not
sorry at their departure, and had flung himself back with a deep sigh of
relief on the soft cushions of his embroidered couch, lying there,
wild-eyed and open-mouthed, like a brown woodland Faun, or some young
animal of the forest newly snared by the hunters.

And, indeed, it was the hunters who had found him, coming upon him almost
by chance as, bare-limbed and pipe in hand, he was following the flock of
the poor goatherd who had brought him up, and whose son he had always
fancied himself to be.  The child of the old King’s only daughter by a
secret marriage with one much beneath her in station—a stranger, some
said, who, by the wonderful magic of his lute-playing, had made the young
Princess love him; while others spoke of an artist from Rimini, to whom
the Princess had shown much, perhaps too much honour, and who had
suddenly disappeared from the city, leaving his work in the Cathedral
unfinished—he had been, when but a week old, stolen away from his
mother’s side, as she slept, and given into the charge of a common
peasant and his wife, who were without children of their own, and lived
in a remote part of the forest, more than a day’s ride from the town.
Grief, or the plague, as the court physician stated, or, as some
suggested, a swift Italian poison administered in a cup of spiced wine,
slew, within an hour of her wakening, the white girl who had given him
birth, and as the trusty messenger who bare the child across his
saddle-bow stooped from his weary horse and knocked at the rude door of
the goatherd’s hut, the body of the Princess was being lowered into an
open grave that had been dug in a deserted churchyard, beyond the city
gates, a grave where it was said that another body was also lying, that
of a young man of marvellous and foreign beauty, whose hands were tied
behind him with a knotted cord, and whose breast was stabbed with many
red wounds.

Such, at least, was the story that men whispered to each other.  Certain
it was that the old King, when on his deathbed, whether moved by remorse
for his great sin, or merely desiring that the kingdom should not pass
away from his line, had had the lad sent for, and, in the presence of the
Council, had acknowledged him as his heir.

And it seems that from the very first moment of his recognition he had
shown signs of that strange passion for beauty that was destined to have
so great an influence over his life.  Those who accompanied him to the
suite of rooms set apart for his service, often spoke of the cry of
pleasure that broke from his lips when he saw the delicate raiment and
rich jewels that had been prepared for him, and of the almost fierce joy
with which he flung aside his rough leathern tunic and coarse sheepskin
cloak.  He missed, indeed, at times the fine freedom of his forest life,
and was always apt to chafe at the tedious Court ceremonies that occupied
so much of each day, but the wonderful palace—_Joyeuse_, as they called
it—of which he now found himself lord, seemed to him to be a new world
fresh-fashioned for his delight; and as soon as he could escape from the
council-board or audience-chamber, he would run down the great staircase,
with its lions of gilt bronze and its steps of bright porphyry, and
wander from room to room, and from corridor to corridor, like one who was
seeking to find in beauty an anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration
from sickness.

Upon these journeys of discovery, as he would call them—and, indeed, they
were to him real voyages through a marvellous land, he would sometimes be
accompanied by the slim, fair-haired Court pages, with their floating
mantles, and gay fluttering ribands; but more often he would be alone,
feeling through a certain quick instinct, which was almost a divination,
that the secrets of art are best learned in secret, and that Beauty, like
Wisdom, loves the lonely worshipper.

                                * * * * *

Many curious stories were related about him at this period.  It was said
that a stout Burgo-master, who had come to deliver a florid oratorical
address on behalf of the citizens of the town, had caught sight of him
kneeling in real adoration before a great picture that had just been
brought from Venice, and that seemed to herald the worship of some new
gods.  On another occasion he had been missed for several hours, and
after a lengthened search had been discovered in a little chamber in one
of the northern turrets of the palace gazing, as one in a trance, at a
Greek gem carved with the figure of Adonis.  He had been seen, so the
tale ran, pressing his warm lips to the marble brow of an antique statue
that had been discovered in the bed of the river on the occasion of the
building of the stone bridge, and was inscribed with the name of the
Bithynian slave of Hadrian.  He had passed a whole night in noting the
effect of the moonlight on a silver image of Endymion.

All rare and costly materials had certainly a great fascination for him,
and in his eagerness to procure them he had sent away many merchants,
some to traffic for amber with the rough fisher-folk of the north seas,
some to Egypt to look for that curious green turquoise which is found
only in the tombs of kings, and is said to possess magical properties,
some to Persia for silken carpets and painted pottery, and others to
India to buy gauze and stained ivory, moonstones and bracelets of jade,
sandal-wood and blue enamel and shawls of fine wool.

But what had occupied him most was the robe he was to wear at his
coronation, the robe of tissued gold, and the ruby-studded crown, and the
sceptre with its rows and rings of pearls.  Indeed, it was of this that
he was thinking to-night, as he lay back on his luxurious couch, watching
the great pinewood log that was burning itself out on the open hearth.
The designs, which were from the hands of the most famous artists of the
time, had been submitted to him many months before, and he had given
orders that the artificers were to toil night and day to carry them out,
and that the whole world was to be searched for jewels that would be
worthy of their work.  He saw himself in fancy standing at the high altar
of the cathedral in the fair raiment of a King, and a smile played and
lingered about his boyish lips, and lit up with a bright lustre his dark
woodland eyes.

After some time he rose from his seat, and leaning against the carved
penthouse of the chimney, looked round at the dimly-lit room.  The walls
were hung with rich tapestries representing the Triumph of Beauty.  A
large press, inlaid with agate and lapis-lazuli, filled one corner, and
facing the window stood a curiously wrought cabinet with lacquer panels
of powdered and mosaiced gold, on which were placed some delicate goblets
of Venetian glass, and a cup of dark-veined onyx.  Pale poppies were
broidered on the silk coverlet of the bed, as though they had fallen from
the tired hands of sleep, and tall reeds of fluted ivory bare up the
velvet canopy, from which great tufts of ostrich plumes sprang, like
white foam, to the pallid silver of the fretted ceiling.  A laughing
Narcissus in green bronze held a polished mirror above its head.  On the
table stood a flat bowl of amethyst.

Outside he could see the huge dome of the cathedral, looming like a
bubble over the shadowy houses, and the weary sentinels pacing up and
down on the misty terrace by the river.  Far away, in an orchard, a
nightingale was singing.  A faint perfume of jasmine came through the
open window.  He brushed his brown curls back from his forehead, and
taking up a lute, let his fingers stray across the cords.  His heavy
eyelids drooped, and a strange languor came over him.  Never before had
he felt so keenly, or with such exquisite joy, the magic and the mystery
of beautiful things.

When midnight sounded from the clock-tower he touched a bell, and his
pages entered and disrobed him with much ceremony, pouring rose-water
over his hands, and strewing flowers on his pillow.  A few moments after
that they had left the room, he fell asleep.

                                * * * * *

And as he slept he dreamed a dream, and this was his dream.

He thought that he was standing in a long, low attic, amidst the whir and
clatter of many looms.  The meagre daylight peered in through the grated
windows, and showed him the gaunt figures of the weavers bending over
their cases.  Pale, sickly-looking children were crouched on the huge
crossbeams.  As the shuttles dashed through the warp they lifted up the
heavy battens, and when the shuttles stopped they let the battens fall
and pressed the threads together.  Their faces were pinched with famine,
and their thin hands shook and trembled.  Some haggard women were seated
at a table sewing.  A horrible odour filled the place.  The air was foul
and heavy, and the walls dripped and streamed with damp.

The young King went over to one of the weavers, and stood by him and
watched him.

And the weaver looked at him angrily, and said, ‘Why art thou watching
me?  Art thou a spy set on us by our master?’

‘Who is thy master?’ asked the young King.

‘Our master!’ cried the weaver, bitterly.  ‘He is a man like myself.
Indeed, there is but this difference between us—that he wears fine
clothes while I go in rags, and that while I am weak from hunger he
suffers not a little from overfeeding.’

‘The land is free,’ said the young King, ‘and thou art no man’s slave.’

‘In war,’ answered the weaver, ‘the strong make slaves of the weak, and
in peace the rich make slaves of the poor.  We must work to live, and
they give us such mean wages that we die.  We toil for them all day long,
and they heap up gold in their coffers, and our children fade away before
their time, and the faces of those we love become hard and evil.  We
tread out the grapes, and another drinks the wine.  We sow the corn, and
our own board is empty.  We have chains, though no eye beholds them; and
are slaves, though men call us free.’

‘Is it so with all?’ he asked,

‘It is so with all,’ answered the weaver, ‘with the young as well as with
the old, with the women as well as with the men, with the little children
as well as with those who are stricken in years.  The merchants grind us
down, and we must needs do their bidding.  The priest rides by and tells
his beads, and no man has care of us.  Through our sunless lanes creeps
Poverty with her hungry eyes, and Sin with his sodden face follows close
behind her.  Misery wakes us in the morning, and Shame sits with us at
night.  But what are these things to thee?  Thou art not one of us.  Thy
face is too happy.’  And he turned away scowling, and threw the shuttle
across the loom, and the young King saw that it was threaded with a
thread of gold.

And a great terror seized upon him, and he said to the weaver, ‘What robe
is this that thou art weaving?’

‘It is the robe for the coronation of the young King,’ he answered; ‘what
is that to thee?’

And the young King gave a loud cry and woke, and lo! he was in his own
chamber, and through the window he saw the great honey-coloured moon
hanging in the dusky air.

                                * * * * *

And he fell asleep again and dreamed, and this was his dream.

He thought that he was lying on the deck of a huge galley that was being
rowed by a hundred slaves.  On a carpet by his side the master of the
galley was seated.  He was black as ebony, and his turban was of crimson
silk.  Great earrings of silver dragged down the thick lobes of his ears,
and in his hands he had a pair of ivory scales.

The slaves were naked, but for a ragged loin-cloth, and each man was
chained to his neighbour.  The hot sun beat brightly upon them, and the
negroes ran up and down the gangway and lashed them with whips of hide.
They stretched out their lean arms and pulled the heavy oars through the
water.  The salt spray flew from the blades.

At last they reached a little bay, and began to take soundings.  A light
wind blew from the shore, and covered the deck and the great lateen sail
with a fine red dust.  Three Arabs mounted on wild asses rode out and
threw spears at them.  The master of the galley took a painted bow in his
hand and shot one of them in the throat.  He fell heavily into the surf,
and his companions galloped away.  A woman wrapped in a yellow veil
followed slowly on a camel, looking back now and then at the dead body.

As soon as they had cast anchor and hauled down the sail, the negroes
went into the hold and brought up a long rope-ladder, heavily weighted
with lead.  The master of the galley threw it over the side, making the
ends fast to two iron stanchions.  Then the negroes seized the youngest
of the slaves and knocked his gyves off, and filled his nostrils and his
ears with wax, and tied a big stone round his waist.  He crept wearily
down the ladder, and disappeared into the sea.  A few bubbles rose where
he sank.  Some of the other slaves peered curiously over the side.  At
the prow of the galley sat a shark-charmer, beating monotonously upon a
drum.

After some time the diver rose up out of the water, and clung panting to
the ladder with a pearl in his right hand.  The negroes seized it from
him, and thrust him back.  The slaves fell asleep over their oars.

Again and again he came up, and each time that he did so he brought with
him a beautiful pearl.  The master of the galley weighed them, and put
them into a little bag of green leather.

The young King tried to speak, but his tongue seemed to cleave to the
roof of his mouth, and his lips refused to move.  The negroes chattered
to each other, and began to quarrel over a string of bright beads.  Two
cranes flew round and round the vessel.

Then the diver came up for the last time, and the pearl that he brought
with him was fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz, for it was shaped like
the full moon, and whiter than the morning star.  But his face was
strangely pale, and as he fell upon the deck the blood gushed from his
ears and nostrils.  He quivered for a little, and then he was still.  The
negroes shrugged their shoulders, and threw the body overboard.

And the master of the galley laughed, and, reaching out, he took the
pearl, and when he saw it he pressed it to his forehead and bowed.  ‘It
shall be,’ he said, ‘for the sceptre of the young King,’ and he made a
sign to the negroes to draw up the anchor.

And when the young King heard this he gave a great cry, and woke, and
through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn clutching at
the fading stars.

                                * * * * *

And he fell asleep again, and dreamed, and this was his dream.

He thought that he was wandering through a dim wood, hung with strange
fruits and with beautiful poisonous flowers.  The adders hissed at him as
he went by, and the bright parrots flew screaming from branch to branch.
Huge tortoises lay asleep upon the hot mud.  The trees were full of apes
and peacocks.

On and on he went, till he reached the outskirts of the wood, and there
he saw an immense multitude of men toiling in the bed of a dried-up
river.  They swarmed up the crag like ants.  They dug deep pits in the
ground and went down into them.  Some of them cleft the rocks with great
axes; others grabbled in the sand.

They tore up the cactus by its roots, and trampled on the scarlet
blossoms.  They hurried about, calling to each other, and no man was
idle.

From the darkness of a cavern Death and Avarice watched them, and Death
said, ‘I am weary; give me a third of them and let me go.’  But Avarice
shook her head.  ‘They are my servants,’ she answered.

And Death said to her, ‘What hast thou in thy hand?’

‘I have three grains of corn,’ she answered; ‘what is that to thee?’

‘Give me one of them,’ cried Death, ‘to plant in my garden; only one of
them, and I will go away.’

‘I will not give thee anything,’ said Avarice, and she hid her hand in
the fold of her raiment.

And Death laughed, and took a cup, and dipped it into a pool of water,
and out of the cup rose Ague.  She passed through the great multitude,
and a third of them lay dead.  A cold mist followed her, and the
water-snakes ran by her side.

And when Avarice saw that a third of the multitude was dead she beat her
breast and wept.  She beat her barren bosom, and cried aloud.  ‘Thou hast
slain a third of my servants,’ she cried, ‘get thee gone.  There is war
in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings of each side are calling to
thee.  The Afghans have slain the black ox, and are marching to battle.
They have beaten upon their shields with their spears, and have put on
their helmets of iron.  What is my valley to thee, that thou shouldst
tarry in it?  Get thee gone, and come here no more.’

‘Nay,’ answered Death, ‘but till thou hast given me a grain of corn I
will not go.’

But Avarice shut her hand, and clenched her teeth.  ‘I will not give thee
anything,’ she muttered.

And Death laughed, and took up a black stone, and threw it into the
forest, and out of a thicket of wild hemlock came Fever in a robe of
flame.  She passed through the multitude, and touched them, and each man
that she touched died.  The grass withered beneath her feet as she
walked.

And Avarice shuddered, and put ashes on her head.  ‘Thou art cruel,’ she
cried; ‘thou art cruel.  There is famine in the walled cities of India,
and the cisterns of Samarcand have run dry.  There is famine in the
walled cities of Egypt, and the locusts have come up from the desert.
The Nile has not overflowed its banks, and the priests have cursed Isis
and Osiris.  Get thee gone to those who need thee, and leave me my
servants.’

‘Nay,’ answered Death, ‘but till thou hast given me a grain of corn I
will not go.’

‘I will not give thee anything,’ said Avarice.

And Death laughed again, and he whistled through his fingers, and a woman
came flying through the air.  Plague was written upon her forehead, and a
crowd of lean vultures wheeled round her.  She covered the valley with
her wings, and no man was left alive.

And Avarice fled shrieking through the forest, and Death leaped upon his
red horse and galloped away, and his galloping was faster than the wind.

And out of the slime at the bottom of the valley crept dragons and
horrible things with scales, and the jackals came trotting along the
sand, sniffing up the air with their nostrils.

And the young King wept, and said: ‘Who were these men, and for what were
they seeking?’

‘For rubies for a king’s crown,’ answered one who stood behind him.

And the young King started, and, turning round, he saw a man habited as a
pilgrim and holding in his hand a mirror of silver.

And he grew pale, and said: ‘For what king?’

And the pilgrim answered: ‘Look in this mirror, and thou shalt see him.’

And he looked in the mirror, and, seeing his own face, he gave a great
cry and woke, and the bright sunlight was streaming into the room, and
from the trees of the garden and pleasaunce the birds were singing.

                                * * * * *

And the Chamberlain and the high officers of State came in and made
obeisance to him, and the pages brought him the robe of tissued gold, and
set the crown and the sceptre before him.

And the young King looked at them, and they were beautiful.  More
beautiful were they than aught that he had ever seen.  But he remembered
his dreams, and he said to his lords: ‘Take these things away, for I will
not wear them.’

And the courtiers were amazed, and some of them laughed, for they thought
that he was jesting.

But he spake sternly to them again, and said: ‘Take these things away,
and hide them from me.  Though it be the day of my coronation, I will not
wear them.  For on the loom of Sorrow, and by the white hands of Pain,
has this my robe been woven.  There is Blood in the heart of the ruby,
and Death in the heart of the pearl.’  And he told them his three dreams.

And when the courtiers heard them they looked at each other and
whispered, saying: ‘Surely he is mad; for what is a dream but a dream,
and a vision but a vision?  They are not real things that one should heed
them.  And what have we to do with the lives of those who toil for us?
Shall a man not eat bread till he has seen the sower, nor drink wine till
he has talked with the vinedresser?’

And the Chamberlain spake to the young King, and said, ‘My lord, I pray
thee set aside these black thoughts of thine, and put on this fair robe,
and set this crown upon thy head.  For how shall the people know that
thou art a king, if thou hast not a king’s raiment?’

And the young King looked at him.  ‘Is it so, indeed?’ he questioned.
‘Will they not know me for a king if I have not a king’s raiment?’

‘They will not know thee, my lord,’ cried the Chamberlain.

‘I had thought that there had been men who were kinglike,’ he answered,
‘but it may be as thou sayest.  And yet I will not wear this robe, nor
will I be crowned with this crown, but even as I came to the palace so
will I go forth from it.’

And he bade them all leave him, save one page whom he kept as his
companion, a lad a year younger than himself.  Him he kept for his
service, and when he had bathed himself in clear water, he opened a great
painted chest, and from it he took the leathern tunic and rough sheepskin
cloak that he had worn when he had watched on the hillside the shaggy
goats of the goatherd.  These he put on, and in his hand he took his rude
shepherd’s staff.

And the little page opened his big blue eyes in wonder, and said smiling
to him, ‘My lord, I see thy robe and thy sceptre, but where is thy
crown?’

And the young King plucked a spray of wild briar that was climbing over
the balcony, and bent it, and made a circlet of it, and set it on his own
head.

‘This shall he my crown,’ he answered.

And thus attired he passed out of his chamber into the Great Hall, where
the nobles were waiting for him.

And the nobles made merry, and some of them cried out to him, ‘My lord,
the people wait for their king, and thou showest them a beggar,’ and
others were wroth and said, ‘He brings shame upon our state, and is
unworthy to be our master.’  But he answered them not a word, but passed
on, and went down the bright porphyry staircase, and out through the
gates of bronze, and mounted upon his horse, and rode towards the
cathedral, the little page running beside him.

And the people laughed and said, ‘It is the King’s fool who is riding
by,’ and they mocked him.

And he drew rein and said, ‘Nay, but I am the King.’  And he told them
his three dreams.

And a man came out of the crowd and spake bitterly to him, and said,
‘Sir, knowest thou not that out of the luxury of the rich cometh the life
of the poor?  By your pomp we are nurtured, and your vices give us bread.
To toil for a hard master is bitter, but to have no master to toil for is
more bitter still.  Thinkest thou that the ravens will feed us?  And what
cure hast thou for these things?  Wilt thou say to the buyer, “Thou shalt
buy for so much,” and to the seller, “Thou shalt sell at this price”?  I
trow not.  Therefore go back to thy Palace and put on thy purple and fine
linen.  What hast thou to do with us, and what we suffer?’

‘Are not the rich and the poor brothers?’ asked the young King.

‘Ay,’ answered the man, ‘and the name of the rich brother is Cain.’

And the young King’s eyes filled with tears, and he rode on through the
murmurs of the people, and the little page grew afraid and left him.

And when he reached the great portal of the cathedral, the soldiers
thrust their halberts out and said, ‘What dost thou seek here?  None
enters by this door but the King.’

And his face flushed with anger, and he said to them, ‘I am the King,’
and waved their halberts aside and passed in.

And when the old Bishop saw him coming in his goatherd’s dress, he rose
up in wonder from his throne, and went to meet him, and said to him, ‘My
son, is this a king’s apparel?  And with what crown shall I crown thee,
and what sceptre shall I place in thy hand?  Surely this should be to
thee a day of joy, and not a day of abasement.’

‘Shall Joy wear what Grief has fashioned?’ said the young King.  And he
told him his three dreams.

And when the Bishop had heard them he knit his brows, and said, ‘My son,
I am an old man, and in the winter of my days, and I know that many evil
things are done in the wide world.  The fierce robbers come down from the
mountains, and carry off the little children, and sell them to the Moors.
The lions lie in wait for the caravans, and leap upon the camels.  The
wild boar roots up the corn in the valley, and the foxes gnaw the vines
upon the hill.  The pirates lay waste the sea-coast and burn the ships of
the fishermen, and take their nets from them.  In the salt-marshes live
the lepers; they have houses of wattled reeds, and none may come nigh
them.  The beggars wander through the cities, and eat their food with the
dogs.  Canst thou make these things not to be?  Wilt thou take the leper
for thy bedfellow, and set the beggar at thy board?  Shall the lion do
thy bidding, and the wild boar obey thee?  Is not He who made misery
wiser than thou art?  Wherefore I praise thee not for this that thou hast
done, but I bid thee ride back to the Palace and make thy face glad, and
put on the raiment that beseemeth a king, and with the crown of gold I
will crown thee, and the sceptre of pearl will I place in thy hand.  And
as for thy dreams, think no more of them.  The burden of this world is
too great for one man to bear, and the world’s sorrow too heavy for one
heart to suffer.’

‘Sayest thou that in this house?’ said the young King, and he strode past
the Bishop, and climbed up the steps of the altar, and stood before the
image of Christ.

He stood before the image of Christ, and on his right hand and on his
left were the marvellous vessels of gold, the chalice with the yellow
wine, and the vial with the holy oil.  He knelt before the image of
Christ, and the great candles burned brightly by the jewelled shrine, and
the smoke of the incense curled in thin blue wreaths through the dome.
He bowed his head in prayer, and the priests in their stiff copes crept
away from the altar.

And suddenly a wild tumult came from the street outside, and in entered
the nobles with drawn swords and nodding plumes, and shields of polished
steel.  ‘Where is this dreamer of dreams?’ they cried.  ‘Where is this
King who is apparelled like a beggar—this boy who brings shame upon our
state?  Surely we will slay him, for he is unworthy to rule over us.’

And the young King bowed his head again, and prayed, and when he had
finished his prayer he rose up, and turning round he looked at them
sadly.

And lo! through the painted windows came the sunlight streaming upon him,
and the sun-beams wove round him a tissued robe that was fairer than the
robe that had been fashioned for his pleasure.  The dead staff blossomed,
and bare lilies that were whiter than pearls.  The dry thorn blossomed,
and bare roses that were redder than rubies.  Whiter than fine pearls
were the lilies, and their stems were of bright silver.  Redder than male
rubies were the roses, and their leaves were of beaten gold.

He stood there in the raiment of a king, and the gates of the jewelled
shrine flew open, and from the crystal of the many-rayed monstrance shone
a marvellous and mystical light.  He stood there in a king’s raiment, and
the Glory of God filled the place, and the saints in their carven niches
seemed to move.  In the fair raiment of a king he stood before them, and
the organ pealed out its music, and the trumpeters blew upon their
trumpets, and the singing boys sang.

And the people fell upon their knees in awe, and the nobles sheathed
their swords and did homage, and the Bishop’s face grew pale, and his
hands trembled.  ‘A greater than I hath crowned thee,’ he cried, and he
knelt before him.

And the young King came down from the high altar, and passed home through
the midst of the people.  But no man dared look upon his face, for it was
like the face of an angel.



THE BIRTHDAY OF THE INFANTA


                                    TO
                         MRS. WILLIAM H. GRENFELL
                             OF TAPLOW COURT
                            [LADY DESBOROUGH]

IT was the birthday of the Infanta.  She was just twelve years of age,
and the sun was shining brightly in the gardens of the palace.

Although she was a real Princess and the Infanta of Spain, she had only
one birthday every year, just like the children of quite poor people, so
it was naturally a matter of great importance to the whole country that
she should have a really fine day for the occasion.  And a really fine
day it certainly was.  The tall striped tulips stood straight up upon
their stalks, like long rows of soldiers, and looked defiantly across the
grass at the roses, and said: ‘We are quite as splendid as you are now.’
The purple butterflies fluttered about with gold dust on their wings,
visiting each flower in turn; the little lizards crept out of the
crevices of the wall, and lay basking in the white glare; and the
pomegranates split and cracked with the heat, and showed their bleeding
red hearts.  Even the pale yellow lemons, that hung in such profusion
from the mouldering trellis and along the dim arcades, seemed to have
caught a richer colour from the wonderful sunlight, and the magnolia
trees opened their great globe-like blossoms of folded ivory, and filled
the air with a sweet heavy perfume.

The little Princess herself walked up and down the terrace with her
companions, and played at hide and seek round the stone vases and the old
moss-grown statues.  On ordinary days she was only allowed to play with
children of her own rank, so she had always to play alone, but her
birthday was an exception, and the King had given orders that she was to
invite any of her young friends whom she liked to come and amuse
themselves with her.  There was a stately grace about these slim Spanish
children as they glided about, the boys with their large-plumed hats and
short fluttering cloaks, the girls holding up the trains of their long
brocaded gowns, and shielding the sun from their eyes with huge fans of
black and silver.  But the Infanta was the most graceful of all, and the
most tastefully attired, after the somewhat cumbrous fashion of the day.
Her robe was of grey satin, the skirt and the wide puffed sleeves heavily
embroidered with silver, and the stiff corset studded with rows of fine
pearls.  Two tiny slippers with big pink rosettes peeped out beneath her
dress as she walked.  Pink and pearl was her great gauze fan, and in her
hair, which like an aureole of faded gold stood out stiffly round her
pale little face, she had a beautiful white rose.

From a window in the palace the sad melancholy King watched them.  Behind
him stood his brother, Don Pedro of Aragon, whom he hated, and his
confessor, the Grand Inquisitor of Granada, sat by his side.  Sadder even
than usual was the King, for as he looked at the Infanta bowing with
childish gravity to the assembling counters, or laughing behind her fan
at the grim Duchess of Albuquerque who always accompanied her, he thought
of the young Queen, her mother, who but a short time before—so it seemed
to him—had come from the gay country of France, and had withered away in
the sombre splendour of the Spanish court, dying just six months after
the birth of her child, and before she had seen the almonds blossom twice
in the orchard, or plucked the second year’s fruit from the old gnarled
fig-tree that stood in the centre of the now grass-grown courtyard.  So
great had been his love for her that he had not suffered even the grave
to hide her from him.  She had been embalmed by a Moorish physician, who
in return for this service had been granted his life, which for heresy
and suspicion of magical practices had been already forfeited, men said,
to the Holy Office, and her body was still lying on its tapestried bier
in the black marble chapel of the Palace, just as the monks had borne her
in on that windy March day nearly twelve years before.  Once every month
the King, wrapped in a dark cloak and with a muffled lantern in his hand,
went in and knelt by her side calling out, ‘_Mi reina_!  _Mi reina_!’ and
sometimes breaking through the formal etiquette that in Spain governs
every separate action of life, and sets limits even to the sorrow of a
King, he would clutch at the pale jewelled hands in a wild agony of
grief, and try to wake by his mad kisses the cold painted face.

To-day he seemed to see her again, as he had seen her first at the Castle
of Fontainebleau, when he was but fifteen years of age, and she still
younger.  They had been formally betrothed on that occasion by the Papal
Nuncio in the presence of the French King and all the Court, and he had
returned to the Escurial bearing with him a little ringlet of yellow
hair, and the memory of two childish lips bending down to kiss his hand
as he stepped into his carriage.  Later on had followed the marriage,
hastily performed at Burgos, a small town on the frontier between the two
countries, and the grand public entry into Madrid with the customary
celebration of high mass at the Church of La Atocha, and a more than
usually solemn _auto-da-fé_, in which nearly three hundred heretics,
amongst whom were many Englishmen, had been delivered over to the secular
arm to be burned.

Certainly he had loved her madly, and to the ruin, many thought, of his
country, then at war with England for the possession of the empire of the
New World.  He had hardly ever permitted her to be out of his sight; for
her, he had forgotten, or seemed to have forgotten, all grave affairs of
State; and, with that terrible blindness that passion brings upon its
servants, he had failed to notice that the elaborate ceremonies by which
he sought to please her did but aggravate the strange malady from which
she suffered.  When she died he was, for a time, like one bereft of
reason.  Indeed, there is no doubt but that he would have formally
abdicated and retired to the great Trappist monastery at Granada, of
which he was already titular Prior, had he not been afraid to leave the
little Infanta at the mercy of his brother, whose cruelty, even in Spain,
was notorious, and who was suspected by many of having caused the Queen’s
death by means of a pair of poisoned gloves that he had presented to her
on the occasion of her visiting his castle in Aragon.  Even after the
expiration of the three years of public mourning that he had ordained
throughout his whole dominions by royal edict, he would never suffer his
ministers to speak about any new alliance, and when the Emperor himself
sent to him, and offered him the hand of the lovely Archduchess of
Bohemia, his niece, in marriage, he bade the ambassadors tell their
master that the King of Spain was already wedded to Sorrow, and that
though she was but a barren bride he loved her better than Beauty; an
answer that cost his crown the rich provinces of the Netherlands, which
soon after, at the Emperor’s instigation, revolted against him under the
leadership of some fanatics of the Reformed Church.

His whole married life, with its fierce, fiery-coloured joys and the
terrible agony of its sudden ending, seemed to come back to him to-day as
he watched the Infanta playing on the terrace.  She had all the Queen’s
pretty petulance of manner, the same wilful way of tossing her head, the
same proud curved beautiful mouth, the same wonderful smile—_vrai sourire
de France_ indeed—as she glanced up now and then at the window, or
stretched out her little hand for the stately Spanish gentlemen to kiss.
But the shrill laughter of the children grated on his ears, and the
bright pitiless sunlight mocked his sorrow, and a dull odour of strange
spices, spices such as embalmers use, seemed to taint—or was it
fancy?—the clear morning air.  He buried his face in his hands, and when
the Infanta looked up again the curtains had been drawn, and the King had
retired.

She made a little _moue_ of disappointment, and shrugged her shoulders.
Surely he might have stayed with her on her birthday.  What did the
stupid State-affairs matter?  Or had he gone to that gloomy chapel, where
the candles were always burning, and where she was never allowed to
enter?  How silly of him, when the sun was shining so brightly, and
everybody was so happy!  Besides, he would miss the sham bull-fight for
which the trumpet was already sounding, to say nothing of the puppet-show
and the other wonderful things.  Her uncle and the Grand Inquisitor were
much more sensible.  They had come out on the terrace, and paid her nice
compliments.  So she tossed her pretty head, and taking Don Pedro by the
hand, she walked slowly down the steps towards a long pavilion of purple
silk that had been erected at the end of the garden, the other children
following in strict order of precedence, those who had the longest names
going first.

                                * * * * *

A procession of noble boys, fantastically dressed as _toreadors_, came
out to meet her, and the young Count of Tierra-Nueva, a wonderfully
handsome lad of about fourteen years of age, uncovering his head with all
the grace of a born hidalgo and grandee of Spain, led her solemnly in to
a little gilt and ivory chair that was placed on a raised dais above the
arena.  The children grouped themselves all round, fluttering their big
fans and whispering to each other, and Don Pedro and the Grand Inquisitor
stood laughing at the entrance.  Even the Duchess—the Camerera-Mayor as
she was called—a thin, hard-featured woman with a yellow ruff, did not
look quite so bad-tempered as usual, and something like a chill smile
flitted across her wrinkled face and twitched her thin bloodless lips.

It certainly was a marvellous bull-fight, and much nicer, the Infanta
thought, than the real bull-fight that she had been brought to see at
Seville, on the occasion of the visit of the Duke of Parma to her father.
Some of the boys pranced about on richly-caparisoned hobby-horses
brandishing long javelins with gay streamers of bright ribands attached
to them; others went on foot waving their scarlet cloaks before the bull,
and vaulting lightly over the barrier when he charged them; and as for
the bull himself, he was just like a live bull, though he was only made
of wicker-work and stretched hide, and sometimes insisted on running
round the arena on his hind legs, which no live bull ever dreams of
doing.  He made a splendid fight of it too, and the children got so
excited that they stood up upon the benches, and waved their lace
handkerchiefs and cried out: _Bravo toro_!  _Bravo toro_! just as
sensibly as if they had been grown-up people.  At last, however, after a
prolonged combat, during which several of the hobby-horses were gored
through and through, and, their riders dismounted, the young Count of
Tierra-Nueva brought the bull to his knees, and having obtained
permission from the Infanta to give the _coup de grâce_, he plunged his
wooden sword into the neck of the animal with such violence that the head
came right off, and disclosed the laughing face of little Monsieur de
Lorraine, the son of the French Ambassador at Madrid.

The arena was then cleared amidst much applause, and the dead
hobby-horses dragged solemnly away by two Moorish pages in yellow and
black liveries, and after a short interlude, during which a French
posture-master performed upon the tightrope, some Italian puppets
appeared in the semi-classical tragedy of _Sophonisba_ on the stage of a
small theatre that had been built up for the purpose.  They acted so
well, and their gestures were so extremely natural, that at the close of
the play the eyes of the Infanta were quite dim with tears.  Indeed some
of the children really cried, and had to be comforted with sweetmeats,
and the Grand Inquisitor himself was so affected that he could not help
saying to Don Pedro that it seemed to him intolerable that things made
simply out of wood and coloured wax, and worked mechanically by wires,
should be so unhappy and meet with such terrible misfortunes.

An African juggler followed, who brought in a large flat basket covered
with a red cloth, and having placed it in the centre of the arena, he
took from his turban a curious reed pipe, and blew through it.  In a few
moments the cloth began to move, and as the pipe grew shriller and
shriller two green and gold snakes put out their strange wedge-shaped
heads and rose slowly up, swaying to and fro with the music as a plant
sways in the water.  The children, however, were rather frightened at
their spotted hoods and quick darting tongues, and were much more pleased
when the juggler made a tiny orange-tree grow out of the sand and bear
pretty white blossoms and clusters of real fruit; and when he took the
fan of the little daughter of the Marquess de Las-Torres, and changed it
into a blue bird that flew all round the pavilion and sang, their delight
and amazement knew no bounds.  The solemn minuet, too, performed by the
dancing boys from the church of Nuestra Senora Del Pilar, was charming.
The Infanta had never before seen this wonderful ceremony which takes
place every year at Maytime in front of the high altar of the Virgin, and
in her honour; and indeed none of the royal family of Spain had entered
the great cathedral of Saragossa since a mad priest, supposed by many to
have been in the pay of Elizabeth of England, had tried to administer a
poisoned wafer to the Prince of the Asturias.  So she had known only by
hearsay of ‘Our Lady’s Dance,’ as it was called, and it certainly was a
beautiful sight.  The boys wore old-fashioned court dresses of white
velvet, and their curious three-cornered hats were fringed with silver
and surmounted with huge plumes of ostrich feathers, the dazzling
whiteness of their costumes, as they moved about in the sunlight, being
still more accentuated by their swarthy faces and long black hair.
Everybody was fascinated by the grave dignity with which they moved
through the intricate figures of the dance, and by the elaborate grace of
their slow gestures, and stately bows, and when they had finished their
performance and doffed their great plumed hats to the Infanta, she
acknowledged their reverence with much courtesy, and made a vow that she
would send a large wax candle to the shrine of Our Lady of Pilar in
return for the pleasure that she had given her.

A troop of handsome Egyptians—as the gipsies were termed in those
days—then advanced into the arena, and sitting down cross-legs, in a
circle, began to play softly upon their zithers, moving their bodies to
the tune, and humming, almost below their breath, a low dreamy air.  When
they caught sight of Don Pedro they scowled at him, and some of them
looked terrified, for only a few weeks before he had had two of their
tribe hanged for sorcery in the market-place at Seville, but the pretty
Infanta charmed them as she leaned back peeping over her fan with her
great blue eyes, and they felt sure that one so lovely as she was could
never be cruel to anybody.  So they played on very gently and just
touching the cords of the zithers with their long pointed nails, and
their heads began to nod as though they were falling asleep.  Suddenly,
with a cry so shrill that all the children were startled and Don Pedro’s
hand clutched at the agate pommel of his dagger, they leapt to their feet
and whirled madly round the enclosure beating their tambourines, and
chaunting some wild love-song in their strange guttural language.  Then
at another signal they all flung themselves again to the ground and lay
there quite still, the dull strumming of the zithers being the only sound
that broke the silence.  After that they had done this several times,
they disappeared for a moment and came back leading a brown shaggy bear
by a chain, and carrying on their shoulders some little Barbary apes.
The bear stood upon his head with the utmost gravity, and the wizened
apes played all kinds of amusing tricks with two gipsy boys who seemed to
be their masters, and fought with tiny swords, and fired off guns, and
went through a regular soldier’s drill just like the King’s own
bodyguard.  In fact the gipsies were a great success.

But the funniest part of the whole morning’s entertainment, was
undoubtedly the dancing of the little Dwarf.  When he stumbled into the
arena, waddling on his crooked legs and wagging his huge misshapen head
from side to side, the children went off into a loud shout of delight,
and the Infanta herself laughed so much that the Camerera was obliged to
remind her that although there were many precedents in Spain for a King’s
daughter weeping before her equals, there were none for a Princess of the
blood royal making so merry before those who were her inferiors in birth.
The Dwarf, however, was really quite irresistible, and even at the
Spanish Court, always noted for its cultivated passion for the horrible,
so fantastic a little monster had never been seen.  It was his first
appearance, too.  He had been discovered only the day before, running
wild through the forest, by two of the nobles who happened to have been
hunting in a remote part of the great cork-wood that surrounded the town,
and had been carried off by them to the Palace as a surprise for the
Infanta; his father, who was a poor charcoal-burner, being but too well
pleased to get rid of so ugly and useless a child.  Perhaps the most
amusing thing about him was his complete unconsciousness of his own
grotesque appearance.  Indeed he seemed quite happy and full of the
highest spirits.  When the children laughed, he laughed as freely and as
joyously as any of them, and at the close of each dance he made them each
the funniest of bows, smiling and nodding at them just as if he was
really one of themselves, and not a little misshapen thing that Nature,
in some humourous mood, had fashioned for others to mock at.  As for the
Infanta, she absolutely fascinated him.  He could not keep his eyes off
her, and seemed to dance for her alone, and when at the close of the
performance, remembering how she had seen the great ladies of the Court
throw bouquets to Caffarelli, the famous Italian treble, whom the Pope
had sent from his own chapel to Madrid that he might cure the King’s
melancholy by the sweetness of his voice, she took out of her hair the
beautiful white rose, and partly for a jest and partly to tease the
Camerera, threw it to him across the arena with her sweetest smile, he
took the whole matter quite seriously, and pressing the flower to his
rough coarse lips he put his hand upon his heart, and sank on one knee
before her, grinning from ear to ear, and with his little bright eyes
sparkling with pleasure.

This so upset the gravity of the Infanta that she kept on laughing long
after the little Dwarf had ran out of the arena, and expressed a desire
to her uncle that the dance should be immediately repeated.  The
Camerera, however, on the plea that the sun was too hot, decided that it
would be better that her Highness should return without delay to the
Palace, where a wonderful feast had been already prepared for her,
including a real birthday cake with her own initials worked all over it
in painted sugar and a lovely silver flag waving from the top.  The
Infanta accordingly rose up with much dignity, and having given orders
that the little dwarf was to dance again for her after the hour of
siesta, and conveyed her thanks to the young Count of Tierra-Nueva for
his charming reception, she went back to her apartments, the children
following in the same order in which they had entered.

                                * * * * *

Now when the little Dwarf heard that he was to dance a second time before
the Infanta, and by her own express command, he was so proud that he ran
out into the garden, kissing the white rose in an absurd ecstasy of
pleasure, and making the most uncouth and clumsy gestures of delight.

The Flowers were quite indignant at his daring to intrude into their
beautiful home, and when they saw him capering up and down the walks, and
waving his arms above his head in such a ridiculous manner, they could
not restrain their feelings any longer.

‘He is really far too ugly to be allowed to play in any place where we
are,’ cried the Tulips.

‘He should drink poppy-juice, and go to sleep for a thousand years,’ said
the great scarlet Lilies, and they grew quite hot and angry.

‘He is a perfect horror!’ screamed the Cactus.  ‘Why, he is twisted and
stumpy, and his head is completely out of proportion with his legs.
Really he makes me feel prickly all over, and if he comes near me I will
sting him with my thorns.’

‘And he has actually got one of my best blooms,’ exclaimed the White
Rose-Tree.  ‘I gave it to the Infanta this morning myself, as a birthday
present, and he has stolen it from her.’  And she called out: ‘Thief,
thief, thief!’ at the top of her voice.

Even the red Geraniums, who did not usually give themselves airs, and
were known to have a great many poor relations themselves, curled up in
disgust when they saw him, and when the Violets meekly remarked that
though he was certainly extremely plain, still he could not help it, they
retorted with a good deal of justice that that was his chief defect, and
that there was no reason why one should admire a person because he was
incurable; and, indeed, some of the Violets themselves felt that the
ugliness of the little Dwarf was almost ostentatious, and that he would
have shown much better taste if he had looked sad, or at least pensive,
instead of jumping about merrily, and throwing himself into such
grotesque and silly attitudes.

As for the old Sundial, who was an extremely remarkable individual, and
had once told the time of day to no less a person than the Emperor
Charles V. himself, he was so taken aback by the little Dwarf’s
appearance, that he almost forgot to mark two whole minutes with his long
shadowy finger, and could not help saying to the great milk-white
Peacock, who was sunning herself on the balustrade, that every one knew
that the children of Kings were Kings, and that the children of
charcoal-burners were charcoal-burners, and that it was absurd to pretend
that it wasn’t so; a statement with which the Peacock entirely agreed,
and indeed screamed out, ‘Certainly, certainly,’ in such a loud, harsh
voice, that the gold-fish who lived in the basin of the cool splashing
fountain put their heads out of the water, and asked the huge stone
Tritons what on earth was the matter.

But somehow the Birds liked him.  They had seen him often in the forest,
dancing about like an elf after the eddying leaves, or crouched up in the
hollow of some old oak-tree, sharing his nuts with the squirrels.  They
did not mind his being ugly, a bit.  Why, even the nightingale herself,
who sang so sweetly in the orange groves at night that sometimes the Moon
leaned down to listen, was not much to look at after all; and, besides,
he had been kind to them, and during that terribly bitter winter, when
there were no berries on the trees, and the ground was as hard as iron,
and the wolves had come down to the very gates of the city to look for
food, he had never once forgotten them, but had always given them crumbs
out of his little hunch of black bread, and divided with them whatever
poor breakfast he had.

So they flew round and round him, just touching his cheek with their
wings as they passed, and chattered to each other, and the little Dwarf
was so pleased that he could not help showing them the beautiful white
rose, and telling them that the Infanta herself had given it to him
because she loved him.

They did not understand a single word of what he was saying, but that
made no matter, for they put their heads on one side, and looked wise,
which is quite as good as understanding a thing, and very much easier.

The Lizards also took an immense fancy to him, and when he grew tired of
running about and flung himself down on the grass to rest, they played
and romped all over him, and tried to amuse him in the best way they
could.  ‘Every one cannot be as beautiful as a lizard,’ they cried; ‘that
would be too much to expect.  And, though it sounds absurd to say so, he
is really not so ugly after all, provided, of course, that one shuts
one’s eyes, and does not look at him.’  The Lizards were extremely
philosophical by nature, and often sat thinking for hours and hours
together, when there was nothing else to do, or when the weather was too
rainy for them to go out.

The Flowers, however, were excessively annoyed at their behaviour, and at
the behaviour of the birds.  ‘It only shows,’ they said, ‘what a
vulgarising effect this incessant rushing and flying about has.
Well-bred people always stay exactly in the same place, as we do.  No one
ever saw us hopping up and down the walks, or galloping madly through the
grass after dragon-flies.  When we do want change of air, we send for the
gardener, and he carries us to another bed.  This is dignified, and as it
should be.  But birds and lizards have no sense of repose, and indeed
birds have not even a permanent address.  They are mere vagrants like the
gipsies, and should be treated in exactly the same manner.’  So they put
their noses in the air, and looked very haughty, and were quite delighted
when after some time they saw the little Dwarf scramble up from the
grass, and make his way across the terrace to the palace.

‘He should certainly be kept indoors for the rest of his natural life,’
they said.  ‘Look at his hunched back, and his crooked legs,’ and they
began to titter.

But the little Dwarf knew nothing of all this.  He liked the birds and
the lizards immensely, and thought that the flowers were the most
marvellous things in the whole world, except of course the Infanta, but
then she had given him the beautiful white rose, and she loved him, and
that made a great difference.  How he wished that he had gone back with
her!  She would have put him on her right hand, and smiled at him, and he
would have never left her side, but would have made her his playmate, and
taught her all kinds of delightful tricks.  For though he had never been
in a palace before, he knew a great many wonderful things.  He could make
little cages out of rushes for the grasshoppers to sing in, and fashion
the long jointed bamboo into the pipe that Pan loves to hear.  He knew
the cry of every bird, and could call the starlings from the tree-top, or
the heron from the mere.  He knew the trail of every animal, and could
track the hare by its delicate footprints, and the boar by the trampled
leaves.  All the wild-dances he knew, the mad dance in red raiment with
the autumn, the light dance in blue sandals over the corn, the dance with
white snow-wreaths in winter, and the blossom-dance through the orchards
in spring.  He knew where the wood-pigeons built their nests, and once
when a fowler had snared the parent birds, he had brought up the young
ones himself, and had built a little dovecot for them in the cleft of a
pollard elm.  They were quite tame, and used to feed out of his hands
every morning.  She would like them, and the rabbits that scurried about
in the long fern, and the jays with their steely feathers and black
bills, and the hedgehogs that could curl themselves up into prickly
balls, and the great wise tortoises that crawled slowly about, shaking
their heads and nibbling at the young leaves.  Yes, she must certainly
come to the forest and play with him.  He would give her his own little
bed, and would watch outside the window till dawn, to see that the wild
horned cattle did not harm her, nor the gaunt wolves creep too near the
hut.  And at dawn he would tap at the shutters and wake her, and they
would go out and dance together all the day long.  It was really not a
bit lonely in the forest.  Sometimes a Bishop rode through on his white
mule, reading out of a painted book.  Sometimes in their green velvet
caps, and their jerkins of tanned deerskin, the falconers passed by, with
hooded hawks on their wrists.  At vintage-time came the grape-treaders,
with purple hands and feet, wreathed with glossy ivy and carrying
dripping skins of wine; and the charcoal-burners sat round their huge
braziers at night, watching the dry logs charring slowly in the fire, and
roasting chestnuts in the ashes, and the robbers came out of their caves
and made merry with them.  Once, too, he had seen a beautiful procession
winding up the long dusty road to Toledo.  The monks went in front
singing sweetly, and carrying bright banners and crosses of gold, and
then, in silver armour, with matchlocks and pikes, came the soldiers, and
in their midst walked three barefooted men, in strange yellow dresses
painted all over with wonderful figures, and carrying lighted candles in
their hands.  Certainly there was a great deal to look at in the forest,
and when she was tired he would find a soft bank of moss for her, or
carry her in his arms, for he was very strong, though he knew that he was
not tall.  He would make her a necklace of red bryony berries, that would
be quite as pretty as the white berries that she wore on her dress, and
when she was tired of them, she could throw them away, and he would find
her others.  He would bring her acorn-cups and dew-drenched anemones, and
tiny glow-worms to be stars in the pale gold of her hair.

But where was she?  He asked the white rose, and it made him no answer.
The whole palace seemed asleep, and even where the shutters had not been
closed, heavy curtains had been drawn across the windows to keep out the
glare.  He wandered all round looking for some place through which he
might gain an entrance, and at last he caught sight of a little private
door that was lying open.  He slipped through, and found himself in a
splendid hall, far more splendid, he feared, than the forest, there was
so much more gilding everywhere, and even the floor was made of great
coloured stones, fitted together into a sort of geometrical pattern.  But
the little Infanta was not there, only some wonderful white statues that
looked down on him from their jasper pedestals, with sad blank eyes and
strangely smiling lips.

At the end of the hall hung a richly embroidered curtain of black velvet,
powdered with suns and stars, the King’s favourite devices, and broidered
on the colour he loved best.  Perhaps she was hiding behind that?  He
would try at any rate.

So he stole quietly across, and drew it aside.  No; there was only
another room, though a prettier room, he thought, than the one he had
just left.  The walls were hung with a many-figured green arras of
needle-wrought tapestry representing a hunt, the work of some Flemish
artists who had spent more than seven years in its composition.  It had
once been the chamber of _Jean le Fou_, as he was called, that mad King
who was so enamoured of the chase, that he had often tried in his
delirium to mount the huge rearing horses, and to drag down the stag on
which the great hounds were leaping, sounding his hunting horn, and
stabbing with his dagger at the pale flying deer.  It was now used as the
council-room, and on the centre table were lying the red portfolios of
the ministers, stamped with the gold tulips of Spain, and with the arms
and emblems of the house of Hapsburg.

The little Dwarf looked in wonder all round him, and was half-afraid to
go on.  The strange silent horsemen that galloped so swiftly through the
long glades without making any noise, seemed to him like those terrible
phantoms of whom he had heard the charcoal-burners speaking—the
Comprachos, who hunt only at night, and if they meet a man, turn him into
a hind, and chase him.  But he thought of the pretty Infanta, and took
courage.  He wanted to find her alone, and to tell her that he too loved
her.  Perhaps she was in the room beyond.

He ran across the soft Moorish carpets, and opened the door.  No!  She
was not here either.  The room was quite empty.

It was a throne-room, used for the reception of foreign ambassadors, when
the King, which of late had not been often, consented to give them a
personal audience; the same room in which, many years before, envoys had
appeared from England to make arrangements for the marriage of their
Queen, then one of the Catholic sovereigns of Europe, with the Emperor’s
eldest son.  The hangings were of gilt Cordovan leather, and a heavy gilt
chandelier with branches for three hundred wax lights hung down from the
black and white ceiling.  Underneath a great canopy of gold cloth, on
which the lions and towers of Castile were broidered in seed pearls,
stood the throne itself, covered with a rich pall of black velvet studded
with silver tulips and elaborately fringed with silver and pearls.  On
the second step of the throne was placed the kneeling-stool of the
Infanta, with its cushion of cloth of silver tissue, and below that
again, and beyond the limit of the canopy, stood the chair for the Papal
Nuncio, who alone had the right to be seated in the King’s presence on
the occasion of any public ceremonial, and whose Cardinal’s hat, with its
tangled scarlet tassels, lay on a purple _tabouret_ in front.  On the
wall, facing the throne, hung a life-sized portrait of Charles V. in
hunting dress, with a great mastiff by his side, and a picture of Philip
II. receiving the homage of the Netherlands occupied the centre of the
other wall.  Between the windows stood a black ebony cabinet, inlaid with
plates of ivory, on which the figures from Holbein’s Dance of Death had
been graved—by the hand, some said, of that famous master himself.

But the little Dwarf cared nothing for all this magnificence.  He would
not have given his rose for all the pearls on the canopy, nor one white
petal of his rose for the throne itself.  What he wanted was to see the
Infanta before she went down to the pavilion, and to ask her to come away
with him when he had finished his dance.  Here, in the Palace, the air
was close and heavy, but in the forest the wind blew free, and the
sunlight with wandering hands of gold moved the tremulous leaves aside.
There were flowers, too, in the forest, not so splendid, perhaps, as the
flowers in the garden, but more sweetly scented for all that; hyacinths
in early spring that flooded with waving purple the cool glens, and
grassy knolls; yellow primroses that nestled in little clumps round the
gnarled roots of the oak-trees; bright celandine, and blue speedwell, and
irises lilac and gold.  There were grey catkins on the hazels, and the
foxgloves drooped with the weight of their dappled bee-haunted cells.
The chestnut had its spires of white stars, and the hawthorn its pallid
moons of beauty.  Yes: surely she would come if he could only find her!
She would come with him to the fair forest, and all day long he would
dance for her delight.  A smile lit up his eyes at the thought, and he
passed into the next room.

Of all the rooms this was the brightest and the most beautiful.  The
walls were covered with a pink-flowered Lucca damask, patterned with
birds and dotted with dainty blossoms of silver; the furniture was of
massive silver, festooned with florid wreaths, and swinging Cupids; in
front of the two large fire-places stood great screens broidered with
parrots and peacocks, and the floor, which was of sea-green onyx, seemed
to stretch far away into the distance.  Nor was he alone.  Standing under
the shadow of the doorway, at the extreme end of the room, he saw a
little figure watching him.  His heart trembled, a cry of joy broke from
his lips, and he moved out into the sunlight.  As he did so, the figure
moved out also, and he saw it plainly.

The Infanta!  It was a monster, the most grotesque monster he had ever
beheld.  Not properly shaped, as all other people were, but hunchbacked,
and crooked-limbed, with huge lolling head and mane of black hair.  The
little Dwarf frowned, and the monster frowned also.  He laughed, and it
laughed with him, and held its hands to its sides, just as he himself was
doing.  He made it a mocking bow, and it returned him a low reverence.
He went towards it, and it came to meet him, copying each step that he
made, and stopping when he stopped himself.  He shouted with amusement,
and ran forward, and reached out his hand, and the hand of the monster
touched his, and it was as cold as ice.  He grew afraid, and moved his
hand across, and the monster’s hand followed it quickly.  He tried to
press on, but something smooth and hard stopped him.  The face of the
monster was now close to his own, and seemed full of terror.  He brushed
his hair off his eyes.  It imitated him.  He struck at it, and it
returned blow for blow.  He loathed it, and it made hideous faces at him.
He drew back, and it retreated.

What is it?  He thought for a moment, and looked round at the rest of the
room.  It was strange, but everything seemed to have its double in this
invisible wall of clear water.  Yes, picture for picture was repeated,
and couch for couch.  The sleeping Faun that lay in the alcove by the
doorway had its twin brother that slumbered, and the silver Venus that
stood in the sunlight held out her arms to a Venus as lovely as herself.

Was it Echo?  He had called to her once in the valley, and she had
answered him word for word.  Could she mock the eye, as she mocked the
voice?  Could she make a mimic world just like the real world?  Could the
shadows of things have colour and life and movement?  Could it be that—?

He started, and taking from his breast the beautiful white rose, he
turned round, and kissed it.  The monster had a rose of its own, petal
for petal the same!  It kissed it with like kisses, and pressed it to its
heart with horrible gestures.

When the truth dawned upon him, he gave a wild cry of despair, and fell
sobbing to the ground.  So it was he who was misshapen and hunchbacked,
foul to look at and grotesque.  He himself was the monster, and it was at
him that all the children had been laughing, and the little Princess who
he had thought loved him—she too had been merely mocking at his ugliness,
and making merry over his twisted limbs.  Why had they not left him in
the forest, where there was no mirror to tell him how loathsome he was?
Why had his father not killed him, rather than sell him to his shame?
The hot tears poured down his cheeks, and he tore the white rose to
pieces.  The sprawling monster did the same, and scattered the faint
petals in the air.  It grovelled on the ground, and, when he looked at
it, it watched him with a face drawn with pain.  He crept away, lest he
should see it, and covered his eyes with his hands.  He crawled, like
some wounded thing, into the shadow, and lay there moaning.

And at that moment the Infanta herself came in with her companions
through the open window, and when they saw the ugly little dwarf lying on
the ground and beating the floor with his clenched hands, in the most
fantastic and exaggerated manner, they went off into shouts of happy
laughter, and stood all round him and watched him.

‘His dancing was funny,’ said the Infanta; ‘but his acting is funnier
still.  Indeed he is almost as good as the puppets, only of course not
quite so natural.’  And she fluttered her big fan, and applauded.

But the little Dwarf never looked up, and his sobs grew fainter and
fainter, and suddenly he gave a curious gasp, and clutched his side.  And
then he fell back again, and lay quite still.

‘That is capital,’ said the Infanta, after a pause; ‘but now you must
dance for me.’

‘Yes,’ cried all the children, ‘you must get up and dance, for you are as
clever as the Barbary apes, and much more ridiculous.’  But the little
Dwarf made no answer.

And the Infanta stamped her foot, and called out to her uncle, who was
walking on the terrace with the Chamberlain, reading some despatches that
had just arrived from Mexico, where the Holy Office had recently been
established.  ‘My funny little dwarf is sulking,’ she cried, ‘you must
wake him up, and tell him to dance for me.’

They smiled at each other, and sauntered in, and Don Pedro stooped down,
and slapped the Dwarf on the cheek with his embroidered glove.  ‘You must
dance,’ he said, ‘_petit monsire_.  You must dance.  The Infanta of Spain
and the Indies wishes to be amused.’

But the little Dwarf never moved.

‘A whipping master should be sent for,’ said Don Pedro wearily, and he
went back to the terrace.  But the Chamberlain looked grave, and he knelt
beside the little dwarf, and put his hand upon his heart.  And after a
few moments he shrugged his shoulders, and rose up, and having made a low
bow to the Infanta, he said—

‘_Mi bella Princesa_, your funny little dwarf will never dance again.  It
is a pity, for he is so ugly that he might have made the King smile.’

‘But why will he not dance again?’ asked the Infanta, laughing.

‘Because his heart is broken,’ answered the Chamberlain.

And the Infanta frowned, and her dainty rose-leaf lips curled in pretty
disdain.  ‘For the future let those who come to play with me have no
hearts,’ she cried, and she ran out into the garden.



THE FISHERMAN AND HIS SOUL


                                TO H.S.H.
                             ALICE, PRINCESS
                                OF MONACO

EVERY evening the young Fisherman went out upon the sea, and threw his
nets into the water.

When the wind blew from the land he caught nothing, or but little at
best, for it was a bitter and black-winged wind, and rough waves rose up
to meet it.  But when the wind blew to the shore, the fish came in from
the deep, and swam into the meshes of his nets, and he took them to the
market-place and sold them.

Every evening he went out upon the sea, and one evening the net was so
heavy that hardly could he draw it into the boat.  And he laughed, and
said to himself, ‘Surely I have caught all the fish that swim, or snared
some dull monster that will be a marvel to men, or some thing of horror
that the great Queen will desire,’ and putting forth all his strength, he
tugged at the coarse ropes till, like lines of blue enamel round a vase
of bronze, the long veins rose up on his arms.  He tugged at the thin
ropes, and nearer and nearer came the circle of flat corks, and the net
rose at last to the top of the water.

But no fish at all was in it, nor any monster or thing of horror, but
only a little Mermaid lying fast asleep.

Her hair was as a wet fleece of gold, and each separate hair as a thread
of fine gold in a cup of glass.  Her body was as white ivory, and her
tail was of silver and pearl.  Silver and pearl was her tail, and the
green weeds of the sea coiled round it; and like sea-shells were her
ears, and her lips were like sea-coral.  The cold waves dashed over her
cold breasts, and the salt glistened upon her eyelids.

So beautiful was she that when the young Fisherman saw her he was filled
with wonder, and he put out his hand and drew the net close to him, and
leaning over the side he clasped her in his arms.  And when he touched
her, she gave a cry like a startled sea-gull, and woke, and looked at him
in terror with her mauve-amethyst eyes, and struggled that she might
escape.  But he held her tightly to him, and would not suffer her to
depart.

And when she saw that she could in no way escape from him, she began to
weep, and said, ‘I pray thee let me go, for I am the only daughter of a
King, and my father is aged and alone.’

But the young Fisherman answered, ‘I will not let thee go save thou
makest me a promise that whenever I call thee, thou wilt come and sing to
me, for the fish delight to listen to the song of the Sea-folk, and so
shall my nets be full.’

‘Wilt thou in very truth let me go, if I promise thee this?’ cried the
Mermaid.

‘In very truth I will let thee go,’ said the young Fisherman.

So she made him the promise he desired, and sware it by the oath of the
Sea-folk.  And he loosened his arms from about her, and she sank down
into the water, trembling with a strange fear.

                                * * * * *

Every evening the young Fisherman went out upon the sea, and called to
the Mermaid, and she rose out of the water and sang to him.  Round and
round her swam the dolphins, and the wild gulls wheeled above her head.

And she sang a marvellous song.  For she sang of the Sea-folk who drive
their flocks from cave to cave, and carry the little calves on their
shoulders; of the Tritons who have long green beards, and hairy breasts,
and blow through twisted conchs when the King passes by; of the palace of
the King which is all of amber, with a roof of clear emerald, and a
pavement of bright pearl; and of the gardens of the sea where the great
filigrane fans of coral wave all day long, and the fish dart about like
silver birds, and the anemones cling to the rocks, and the pinks bourgeon
in the ribbed yellow sand.  She sang of the big whales that come down
from the north seas and have sharp icicles hanging to their fins; of the
Sirens who tell of such wonderful things that the merchants have to stop
their ears with wax lest they should hear them, and leap into the water
and be drowned; of the sunken galleys with their tall masts, and the
frozen sailors clinging to the rigging, and the mackerel swimming in and
out of the open portholes; of the little barnacles who are great
travellers, and cling to the keels of the ships and go round and round
the world; and of the cuttlefish who live in the sides of the cliffs and
stretch out their long black arms, and can make night come when they will
it.  She sang of the nautilus who has a boat of her own that is carved
out of an opal and steered with a silken sail; of the happy Mermen who
play upon harps and can charm the great Kraken to sleep; of the little
children who catch hold of the slippery porpoises and ride laughing upon
their backs; of the Mermaids who lie in the white foam and hold out their
arms to the mariners; and of the sea-lions with their curved tusks, and
the sea-horses with their floating manes.

And as she sang, all the tunny-fish came in from the deep to listen to
her, and the young Fisherman threw his nets round them and caught them,
and others he took with a spear.  And when his boat was well-laden, the
Mermaid would sink down into the sea, smiling at him.

Yet would she never come near him that he might touch her.  Oftentimes he
called to her and prayed of her, but she would not; and when he sought to
seize her she dived into the water as a seal might dive, nor did he see
her again that day.  And each day the sound of her voice became sweeter
to his ears.  So sweet was her voice that he forgot his nets and his
cunning, and had no care of his craft.  Vermilion-finned and with eyes of
bossy gold, the tunnies went by in shoals, but he heeded them not.  His
spear lay by his side unused, and his baskets of plaited osier were
empty.  With lips parted, and eyes dim with wonder, he sat idle in his
boat and listened, listening till the sea-mists crept round him, and the
wandering moon stained his brown limbs with silver.

And one evening he called to her, and said: ‘Little Mermaid, little
Mermaid, I love thee.  Take me for thy bridegroom, for I love thee.’

But the Mermaid shook her head.  ‘Thou hast a human soul,’ she answered.
‘If only thou wouldst send away thy soul, then could I love thee.’

And the young Fisherman said to himself, ‘Of what use is my soul to me?
I cannot see it.  I may not touch it.  I do not know it.  Surely I will
send it away from me, and much gladness shall be mine.’  And a cry of joy
broke from his lips, and standing up in the painted boat, he held out his
arms to the Mermaid.  ‘I will send my soul away,’ he cried, ‘and you
shall be my bride, and I will be thy bridegroom, and in the depth of the
sea we will dwell together, and all that thou hast sung of thou shalt
show me, and all that thou desirest I will do, nor shall our lives be
divided.’

And the little Mermaid laughed for pleasure and hid her face in her
hands.

‘But how shall I send my soul from me?’ cried the young Fisherman.  ‘Tell
me how I may do it, and lo! it shall be done.’

‘Alas!  I know not,’ said the little Mermaid: ‘the Sea-folk have no
souls.’  And she sank down into the deep, looking wistfully at him.

                                * * * * *

Now early on the next morning, before the sun was the span of a man’s
hand above the hill, the young Fisherman went to the house of the Priest
and knocked three times at the door.

The novice looked out through the wicket, and when he saw who it was, he
drew back the latch and said to him, ‘Enter.’

And the young Fisherman passed in, and knelt down on the sweet-smelling
rushes of the floor, and cried to the Priest who was reading out of the
Holy Book and said to him, ‘Father, I am in love with one of the
Sea-folk, and my soul hindereth me from having my desire.  Tell me how I
can send my soul away from me, for in truth I have no need of it.  Of
what value is my soul to me?  I cannot see it.  I may not touch it.  I do
not know it.’

And the Priest beat his breast, and answered, ‘Alack, alack, thou art
mad, or hast eaten of some poisonous herb, for the soul is the noblest
part of man, and was given to us by God that we should nobly use it.
There is no thing more precious than a human soul, nor any earthly thing
that can be weighed with it.  It is worth all the gold that is in the
world, and is more precious than the rubies of the kings.  Therefore, my
son, think not any more of this matter, for it is a sin that may not be
forgiven.  And as for the Sea-folk, they are lost, and they who would
traffic with them are lost also.  They are as the beasts of the field
that know not good from evil, and for them the Lord has not died.’

The young Fisherman’s eyes filled with tears when he heard the bitter
words of the Priest, and he rose up from his knees and said to him,
‘Father, the Fauns live in the forest and are glad, and on the rocks sit
the Mermen with their harps of red gold.  Let me be as they are, I
beseech thee, for their days are as the days of flowers.  And as for my
soul, what doth my soul profit me, if it stand between me and the thing
that I love?’

‘The love of the body is vile,’ cried the Priest, knitting his brows,
‘and vile and evil are the pagan things God suffers to wander through His
world.  Accursed be the Fauns of the woodland, and accursed be the
singers of the sea!  I have heard them at night-time, and they have
sought to lure me from my beads.  They tap at the window, and laugh.
They whisper into my ears the tale of their perilous joys.  They tempt me
with temptations, and when I would pray they make mouths at me.  They are
lost, I tell thee, they are lost.  For them there is no heaven nor hell,
and in neither shall they praise God’s name.’

‘Father,’ cried the young Fisherman, ‘thou knowest not what thou sayest.
Once in my net I snared the daughter of a King.  She is fairer than the
morning star, and whiter than the moon.  For her body I would give my
soul, and for her love I would surrender heaven.  Tell me what I ask of
thee, and let me go in peace.’

‘Away!  Away!’ cried the Priest: ‘thy leman is lost, and thou shalt be
lost with her.’

And he gave him no blessing, but drove him from his door.

And the young Fisherman went down into the market-place, and he walked
slowly, and with bowed head, as one who is in sorrow.

And when the merchants saw him coming, they began to whisper to each
other, and one of them came forth to meet him, and called him by name,
and said to him, ‘What hast thou to sell?’

‘I will sell thee my soul,’ he answered.  ‘I pray thee buy it of me, for
I am weary of it.  Of what use is my soul to me?  I cannot see it.  I may
not touch it.  I do not know it.’

But the merchants mocked at him, and said, ‘Of what use is a man’s soul
to us?  It is not worth a clipped piece of silver.  Sell us thy body for
a slave, and we will clothe thee in sea-purple, and put a ring upon thy
finger, and make thee the minion of the great Queen.  But talk not of the
soul, for to us it is nought, nor has it any value for our service.’

And the young Fisherman said to himself: ‘How strange a thing this is!
The Priest telleth me that the soul is worth all the gold in the world,
and the merchants say that it is not worth a clipped piece of silver.’
And he passed out of the market-place, and went down to the shore of the
sea, and began to ponder on what he should do.

                                * * * * *

And at noon he remembered how one of his companions, who was a gatherer
of samphire, had told him of a certain young Witch who dwelt in a cave at
the head of the bay and was very cunning in her witcheries.  And he set
to and ran, so eager was he to get rid of his soul, and a cloud of dust
followed him as he sped round the sand of the shore.  By the itching of
her palm the young Witch knew his coming, and she laughed and let down
her red hair.  With her red hair falling around her, she stood at the
opening of the cave, and in her hand she had a spray of wild hemlock that
was blossoming.

‘What d’ye lack?  What d’ye lack?’ she cried, as he came panting up the
steep, and bent down before her.  ‘Fish for thy net, when the wind is
foul?  I have a little reed-pipe, and when I blow on it the mullet come
sailing into the bay.  But it has a price, pretty boy, it has a price.
What d’ye lack?  What d’ye lack?  A storm to wreck the ships, and wash
the chests of rich treasure ashore?  I have more storms than the wind
has, for I serve one who is stronger than the wind, and with a sieve and
a pail of water I can send the great galleys to the bottom of the sea.
But I have a price, pretty boy, I have a price.  What d’ye lack?  What
d’ye lack?  I know a flower that grows in the valley, none knows it but
I.  It has purple leaves, and a star in its heart, and its juice is as
white as milk.  Shouldst thou touch with this flower the hard lips of the
Queen, she would follow thee all over the world.  Out of the bed of the
King she would rise, and over the whole world she would follow thee.  And
it has a price, pretty boy, it has a price.  What d’ye lack?  What d’ye
lack?  I can pound a toad in a mortar, and make broth of it, and stir the
broth with a dead man’s hand.  Sprinkle it on thine enemy while he
sleeps, and he will turn into a black viper, and his own mother will slay
him.  With a wheel I can draw the Moon from heaven, and in a crystal I
can show thee Death.  What d’ye lack?  What d’ye lack?  Tell me thy
desire, and I will give it thee, and thou shalt pay me a price, pretty
boy, thou shalt pay me a price.’

‘My desire is but for a little thing,’ said the young Fisherman, ‘yet
hath the Priest been wroth with me, and driven me forth.  It is but for a
little thing, and the merchants have mocked at me, and denied me.
Therefore am I come to thee, though men call thee evil, and whatever be
thy price I shall pay it.’

‘What wouldst thou?’ asked the Witch, coming near to him.

‘I would send my soul away from me,’ answered the young Fisherman.

The Witch grew pale, and shuddered, and hid her face in her blue mantle.
‘Pretty boy, pretty boy,’ she muttered, ‘that is a terrible thing to do.’

He tossed his brown curls and laughed.  ‘My soul is nought to me,’ he
answered.  ‘I cannot see it.  I may not touch it.  I do not know it.’

‘What wilt thou give me if I tell thee?’ asked the Witch, looking down at
him with her beautiful eyes.

‘Five pieces of gold,’ he said, ‘and my nets, and the wattled house where
I live, and the painted boat in which I sail.  Only tell me how to get
rid of my soul, and I will give thee all that I possess.’

She laughed mockingly at him, and struck him with the spray of hemlock.
‘I can turn the autumn leaves into gold,’ she answered, ‘and I can weave
the pale moonbeams into silver if I will it.  He whom I serve is richer
than all the kings of this world, and has their dominions.’

‘What then shall I give thee,’ he cried, ‘if thy price be neither gold
nor silver?’

The Witch stroked his hair with her thin white hand.  ‘Thou must dance
with me, pretty boy,’ she murmured, and she smiled at him as she spoke.

‘Nought but that?’ cried the young Fisherman in wonder and he rose to his
feet.

‘Nought but that,’ she answered, and she smiled at him again.

‘Then at sunset in some secret place we shall dance together,’ he said,
‘and after that we have danced thou shalt tell me the thing which I
desire to know.’

She shook her head.  ‘When the moon is full, when the moon is full,’ she
muttered.  Then she peered all round, and listened.  A blue bird rose
screaming from its nest and circled over the dunes, and three spotted
birds rustled through the coarse grey grass and whistled to each other.
There was no other sound save the sound of a wave fretting the smooth
pebbles below.  So she reached out her hand, and drew him near to her and
put her dry lips close to his ear.

‘To-night thou must come to the top of the mountain,’ she whispered.  ‘It
is a Sabbath, and He will be there.’

The young Fisherman started and looked at her, and she showed her white
teeth and laughed.  ‘Who is He of whom thou speakest?’ he asked.

‘It matters not,’ she answered.  ‘Go thou to-night, and stand under the
branches of the hornbeam, and wait for my coming.  If a black dog run
towards thee, strike it with a rod of willow, and it will go away.  If an
owl speak to thee, make it no answer.  When the moon is full I shall be
with thee, and we will dance together on the grass.’

‘But wilt thou swear to me to tell me how I may send my soul from me?’ he
made question.

She moved out into the sunlight, and through her red hair rippled the
wind.  ‘By the hoofs of the goat I swear it,’ she made answer.

‘Thou art the best of the witches,’ cried the young Fisherman, ‘and I
will surely dance with thee to-night on the top of the mountain.  I would
indeed that thou hadst asked of me either gold or silver.  But such as
thy price is thou shalt have it, for it is but a little thing.’  And he
doffed his cap to her, and bent his head low, and ran back to the town
filled with a great joy.

And the Witch watched him as he went, and when he had passed from her
sight she entered her cave, and having taken a mirror from a box of
carved cedarwood, she set it up on a frame, and burned vervain on lighted
charcoal before it, and peered through the coils of the smoke.  And after
a time she clenched her hands in anger.  ‘He should have been mine,’ she
muttered, ‘I am as fair as she is.’

                                * * * * *

And that evening, when the moon had risen, the young Fisherman climbed up
to the top of the mountain, and stood under the branches of the hornbeam.
Like a targe of polished metal the round sea lay at his feet, and the
shadows of the fishing-boats moved in the little bay.  A great owl, with
yellow sulphurous eyes, called to him by his name, but he made it no
answer.  A black dog ran towards him and snarled.  He struck it with a
rod of willow, and it went away whining.

At midnight the witches came flying through the air like bats.  ‘Phew!’
they cried, as they lit upon the ground, ‘there is some one here we know
not!’ and they sniffed about, and chattered to each other, and made
signs.  Last of all came the young Witch, with her red hair streaming in
the wind.  She wore a dress of gold tissue embroidered with peacocks’
eyes, and a little cap of green velvet was on her head.

‘Where is he, where is he?’ shrieked the witches when they saw her, but
she only laughed, and ran to the hornbeam, and taking the Fisherman by
the hand she led him out into the moonlight and began to dance.

Round and round they whirled, and the young Witch jumped so high that he
could see the scarlet heels of her shoes.  Then right across the dancers
came the sound of the galloping of a horse, but no horse was to be seen,
and he felt afraid.

‘Faster,’ cried the Witch, and she threw her arms about his neck, and her
breath was hot upon his face.  ‘Faster, faster!’ she cried, and the earth
seemed to spin beneath his feet, and his brain grew troubled, and a great
terror fell on him, as of some evil thing that was watching him, and at
last he became aware that under the shadow of a rock there was a figure
that had not been there before.

It was a man dressed in a suit of black velvet, cut in the Spanish
fashion.  His face was strangely pale, but his lips were like a proud red
flower.  He seemed weary, and was leaning back toying in a listless
manner with the pommel of his dagger.  On the grass beside him lay a
plumed hat, and a pair of riding-gloves gauntleted with gilt lace, and
sewn with seed-pearls wrought into a curious device.  A short cloak lined
with sables hang from his shoulder, and his delicate white hands were
gemmed with rings.  Heavy eyelids drooped over his eyes.

The young Fisherman watched him, as one snared in a spell.  At last their
eyes met, and wherever he danced it seemed to him that the eyes of the
man were upon him.  He heard the Witch laugh, and caught her by the
waist, and whirled her madly round and round.

Suddenly a dog bayed in the wood, and the dancers stopped, and going up
two by two, knelt down, and kissed the man’s hands.  As they did so, a
little smile touched his proud lips, as a bird’s wing touches the water
and makes it laugh.  But there was disdain in it.  He kept looking at the
young Fisherman.

‘Come! let us worship,’ whispered the Witch, and she led him up, and a
great desire to do as she besought him seized on him, and he followed
her.  But when he came close, and without knowing why he did it, he made
on his breast the sign of the Cross, and called upon the holy name.

No sooner had he done so than the witches screamed like hawks and flew
away, and the pallid face that had been watching him twitched with a
spasm of pain.  The man went over to a little wood, and whistled.  A
jennet with silver trappings came running to meet him.  As he leapt upon
the saddle he turned round, and looked at the young Fisherman sadly.

And the Witch with the red hair tried to fly away also, but the Fisherman
caught her by her wrists, and held her fast.

‘Loose me,’ she cried, ‘and let me go.  For thou hast named what should
not be named, and shown the sign that may not be looked at.’

‘Nay,’ he answered, ‘but I will not let thee go till thou hast told me
the secret.’

‘What secret?’ said the Witch, wrestling with him like a wild cat, and
biting her foam-flecked lips.

‘Thou knowest,’ he made answer.

Her grass-green eyes grew dim with tears, and she said to the Fisherman,
‘Ask me anything but that!’

He laughed, and held her all the more tightly.

And when she saw that she could not free herself, she whispered to him,
‘Surely I am as fair as the daughters of the sea, and as comely as those
that dwell in the blue waters,’ and she fawned on him and put her face
close to his.

But he thrust her back frowning, and said to her, ‘If thou keepest not
the promise that thou madest to me I will slay thee for a false witch.’

She grew grey as a blossom of the Judas tree, and shuddered.  ‘Be it so,’
she muttered.  ‘It is thy soul and not mine.  Do with it as thou wilt.’
And she took from her girdle a little knife that had a handle of green
viper’s skin, and gave it to him.

‘What shall this serve me?’ he asked of her, wondering.

She was silent for a few moments, and a look of terror came over her
face.  Then she brushed her hair back from her forehead, and smiling
strangely she said to him, ‘What men call the shadow of the body is not
the shadow of the body, but is the body of the soul.  Stand on the
sea-shore with thy back to the moon, and cut away from around thy feet
thy shadow, which is thy soul’s body, and bid thy soul leave thee, and it
will do so.’

The young Fisherman trembled.  ‘Is this true?’ he murmured.

‘It is true, and I would that I had not told thee of it,’ she cried, and
she clung to his knees weeping.

He put her from him and left her in the rank grass, and going to the edge
of the mountain he placed the knife in his belt and began to climb down.

And his Soul that was within him called out to him and said, ‘Lo!  I have
dwelt with thee for all these years, and have been thy servant.  Send me
not away from thee now, for what evil have I done thee?’

And the young Fisherman laughed.  ‘Thou hast done me no evil, but I have
no need of thee,’ he answered.  ‘The world is wide, and there is Heaven
also, and Hell, and that dim twilight house that lies between.  Go
wherever thou wilt, but trouble me not, for my love is calling to me.’

And his Soul besought him piteously, but he heeded it not, but leapt from
crag to crag, being sure-footed as a wild goat, and at last he reached
the level ground and the yellow shore of the sea.

Bronze-limbed and well-knit, like a statue wrought by a Grecian, he stood
on the sand with his back to the moon, and out of the foam came white
arms that beckoned to him, and out of the waves rose dim forms that did
him homage.  Before him lay his shadow, which was the body of his soul,
and behind him hung the moon in the honey-coloured air.

And his Soul said to him, ‘If indeed thou must drive me from thee, send
me not forth without a heart.  The world is cruel, give me thy heart to
take with me.’

He tossed his head and smiled.  ‘With what should I love my love if I
gave thee my heart?’ he cried.

‘Nay, but be merciful,’ said his Soul: ‘give me thy heart, for the world
is very cruel, and I am afraid.’

‘My heart is my love’s,’ he answered, ‘therefore tarry not, but get thee
gone.’

‘Should I not love also?’ asked his Soul.

‘Get thee gone, for I have no need of thee,’ cried the young Fisherman,
and he took the little knife with its handle of green viper’s skin, and
cut away his shadow from around his feet, and it rose up and stood before
him, and looked at him, and it was even as himself.

He crept back, and thrust the knife into his belt, and a feeling of awe
came over him.  ‘Get thee gone,’ he murmured, ‘and let me see thy face no
more.’

‘Nay, but we must meet again,’ said the Soul.  Its voice was low and
flute-like, and its lips hardly moved while it spake.

‘How shall we meet?’ cried the young Fisherman.  ‘Thou wilt not follow me
into the depths of the sea?’

‘Once every year I will come to this place, and call to thee,’ said the
Soul.  ‘It may be that thou wilt have need of me.’

‘What need should I have of thee?’ cried the young Fisherman, ‘but be it
as thou wilt,’ and he plunged into the waters and the Tritons blew their
horns and the little Mermaid rose up to meet him, and put her arms around
his neck and kissed him on the mouth.

And the Soul stood on the lonely beach and watched them.  And when they
had sunk down into the sea, it went weeping away over the marshes.

                                * * * * *

And after a year was over the Soul came down to the shore of the sea and
called to the young Fisherman, and he rose out of the deep, and said,
‘Why dost thou call to me?’

And the Soul answered, ‘Come nearer, that I may speak with thee, for I
have seen marvellous things.’

So he came nearer, and couched in the shallow water, and leaned his head
upon his hand and listened.

                                * * * * *

And the Soul said to him, ‘When I left thee I turned my face to the East
and journeyed.  From the East cometh everything that is wise.  Six days I
journeyed, and on the morning of the seventh day I came to a hill that is
in the country of the Tartars.  I sat down under the shade of a tamarisk
tree to shelter myself from the sun.  The land was dry and burnt up with
the heat.  The people went to and fro over the plain like flies crawling
upon a disk of polished copper.

‘When it was noon a cloud of red dust rose up from the flat rim of the
land.  When the Tartars saw it, they strung their painted bows, and
having leapt upon their little horses they galloped to meet it.  The
women fled screaming to the waggons, and hid themselves behind the felt
curtains.

‘At twilight the Tartars returned, but five of them were missing, and of
those that came back not a few had been wounded.  They harnessed their
horses to the waggons and drove hastily away.  Three jackals came out of
a cave and peered after them.  Then they sniffed up the air with their
nostrils, and trotted off in the opposite direction.

‘When the moon rose I saw a camp-fire burning on the plain, and went
towards it.  A company of merchants were seated round it on carpets.
Their camels were picketed behind them, and the negroes who were their
servants were pitching tents of tanned skin upon the sand, and making a
high wall of the prickly pear.

‘As I came near them, the chief of the merchants rose up and drew his
sword, and asked me my business.

‘I answered that I was a Prince in my own land, and that I had escaped
from the Tartars, who had sought to make me their slave.  The chief
smiled, and showed me five heads fixed upon long reeds of bamboo.

‘Then he asked me who was the prophet of God, and I answered him
Mohammed.

‘When he heard the name of the false prophet, he bowed and took me by the
hand, and placed me by his side.  A negro brought me some mare’s milk in
a wooden dish, and a piece of lamb’s flesh roasted.

‘At daybreak we started on our journey.  I rode on a red-haired camel by
the side of the chief, and a runner ran before us carrying a spear.  The
men of war were on either hand, and the mules followed with the
merchandise.  There were forty camels in the caravan, and the mules were
twice forty in number.

‘We went from the country of the Tartars into the country of those who
curse the Moon.  We saw the Gryphons guarding their gold on the white
rocks, and the scaled Dragons sleeping in their caves.  As we passed over
the mountains we held our breath lest the snows might fall on us, and
each man tied a veil of gauze before his eyes.  As we passed through the
valleys the Pygmies shot arrows at us from the hollows of the trees, and
at night-time we heard the wild men beating on their drums.  When we came
to the Tower of Apes we set fruits before them, and they did not harm us.
When we came to the Tower of Serpents we gave them warm milk in howls of
brass, and they let us go by.  Three times in our journey we came to the
banks of the Oxus.  We crossed it on rafts of wood with great bladders of
blown hide.  The river-horses raged against us and sought to slay us.
When the camels saw them they trembled.

‘The kings of each city levied tolls on us, but would not suffer us to
enter their gates.  They threw us bread over the walls, little
maize-cakes baked in honey and cakes of fine flour filled with dates.
For every hundred baskets we gave them a bead of amber.

‘When the dwellers in the villages saw us coming, they poisoned the wells
and fled to the hill-summits.  We fought with the Magadae who are born
old, and grow younger and younger every year, and die when they are
little children; and with the Laktroi who say that they are the sons of
tigers, and paint themselves yellow and black; and with the Aurantes who
bury their dead on the tops of trees, and themselves live in dark caverns
lest the Sun, who is their god, should slay them; and with the Krimnians
who worship a crocodile, and give it earrings of green glass, and feed it
with butter and fresh fowls; and with the Agazonbae, who are dog-faced;
and with the Sibans, who have horses’ feet, and run more swiftly than
horses.  A third of our company died in battle, and a third died of want.
The rest murmured against me, and said that I had brought them an evil
fortune.  I took a horned adder from beneath a stone and let it sting me.
When they saw that I did not sicken they grew afraid.

‘In the fourth month we reached the city of Illel.  It was night-time
when we came to the grove that is outside the walls, and the air was
sultry, for the Moon was travelling in Scorpion.  We took the ripe
pomegranates from the trees, and brake them, and drank their sweet
juices.  Then we lay down on our carpets, and waited for the dawn.

‘And at dawn we rose and knocked at the gate of the city.  It was wrought
out of red bronze, and carved with sea-dragons and dragons that have
wings.  The guards looked down from the battlements and asked us our
business.  The interpreter of the caravan answered that we had come from
the island of Syria with much merchandise.  They took hostages, and told
us that they would open the gate to us at noon, and bade us tarry till
then.

‘When it was noon they opened the gate, and as we entered in the people
came crowding out of the houses to look at us, and a crier went round the
city crying through a shell.  We stood in the market-place, and the
negroes uncorded the bales of figured cloths and opened the carved chests
of sycamore.  And when they had ended their task, the merchants set forth
their strange wares, the waxed linen from Egypt and the painted linen
from the country of the Ethiops, the purple sponges from Tyre and the
blue hangings from Sidon, the cups of cold amber and the fine vessels of
glass and the curious vessels of burnt clay.  From the roof of a house a
company of women watched us.  One of them wore a mask of gilded leather.

‘And on the first day the priests came and bartered with us, and on the
second day came the nobles, and on the third day came the craftsmen and
the slaves.  And this is their custom with all merchants as long as they
tarry in the city.

‘And we tarried for a moon, and when the moon was waning, I wearied and
wandered away through the streets of the city and came to the garden of
its god.  The priests in their yellow robes moved silently through the
green trees, and on a pavement of black marble stood the rose-red house
in which the god had his dwelling.  Its doors were of powdered lacquer,
and bulls and peacocks were wrought on them in raised and polished gold.
The tilted roof was of sea-green porcelain, and the jutting eaves were
festooned with little bells.  When the white doves flew past, they struck
the bells with their wings and made them tinkle.

‘In front of the temple was a pool of clear water paved with veined onyx.
I lay down beside it, and with my pale fingers I touched the broad
leaves.  One of the priests came towards me and stood behind me.  He had
sandals on his feet, one of soft serpent-skin and the other of birds’
plumage.  On his head was a mitre of black felt decorated with silver
crescents.  Seven yellows were woven into his robe, and his frizzed hair
was stained with antimony.

‘After a little while he spake to me, and asked me my desire.

‘I told him that my desire was to see the god.

‘“The god is hunting,” said the priest, looking strangely at me with his
small slanting eyes.

‘“Tell me in what forest, and I will ride with him,” I answered.

‘He combed out the soft fringes of his tunic with his long pointed nails.
“The god is asleep,” he murmured.

‘“Tell me on what couch, and I will watch by him,” I answered.

‘“The god is at the feast,” he cried.

‘“If the wine be sweet I will drink it with him, and if it be bitter I
will drink it with him also,” was my answer.

‘He bowed his head in wonder, and, taking me by the hand, he raised me
up, and led me into the temple.

‘And in the first chamber I saw an idol seated on a throne of jasper
bordered with great orient pearls.  It was carved out of ebony, and in
stature was of the stature of a man.  On its forehead was a ruby, and
thick oil dripped from its hair on to its thighs.  Its feet were red with
the blood of a newly-slain kid, and its loins girt with a copper belt
that was studded with seven beryls.

‘And I said to the priest, “Is this the god?”  And he answered me, “This
is the god.”

‘“Show me the god,” I cried, “or I will surely slay thee.”  And I touched
his hand, and it became withered.

‘And the priest besought me, saying, “Let my lord heal his servant, and I
will show him the god.”

‘So I breathed with my breath upon his hand, and it became whole again,
and he trembled and led me into the second chamber, and I saw an idol
standing on a lotus of jade hung with great emeralds.  It was carved out
of ivory, and in stature was twice the stature of a man.  On its forehead
was a chrysolite, and its breasts were smeared with myrrh and cinnamon.
In one hand it held a crooked sceptre of jade, and in the other a round
crystal.  It ware buskins of brass, and its thick neck was circled with a
circle of selenites.

‘And I said to the priest, “Is this the god?”

‘And he answered me, “This is the god.”

‘“Show me the god,” I cried, “or I will surely slay thee.”  And I touched
his eyes, and they became blind.

‘And the priest besought me, saying, “Let my lord heal his servant, and I
will show him the god.”

‘So I breathed with my breath upon his eyes, and the sight came back to
them, and he trembled again, and led me into the third chamber, and lo!
there was no idol in it, nor image of any kind, but only a mirror of
round metal set on an altar of stone.

‘And I said to the priest, “Where is the god?”

‘And he answered me: “There is no god but this mirror that thou seest,
for this is the Mirror of Wisdom.  And it reflecteth all things that are
in heaven and on earth, save only the face of him who looketh into it.
This it reflecteth not, so that he who looketh into it may be wise.  Many
other mirrors are there, but they are mirrors of Opinion.  This only is
the Mirror of Wisdom.  And they who possess this mirror know everything,
nor is there anything hidden from them.  And they who possess it not have
not Wisdom.  Therefore is it the god, and we worship it.”  And I looked
into the mirror, and it was even as he had said to me.

‘And I did a strange thing, but what I did matters not, for in a valley
that is but a day’s journey from this place have I hidden the Mirror of
Wisdom.  Do but suffer me to enter into thee again and be thy servant,
and thou shalt be wiser than all the wise men, and Wisdom shall be thine.
Suffer me to enter into thee, and none will be as wise as thou.’

But the young Fisherman laughed.  ‘Love is better than Wisdom,’ he cried,
‘and the little Mermaid loves me.’

‘Nay, but there is nothing better than Wisdom,’ said the Soul.

‘Love is better,’ answered the young Fisherman, and he plunged into the
deep, and the Soul went weeping away over the marshes.

                                * * * * *

And after the second year was over, the Soul came down to the shore of
the sea, and called to the young Fisherman, and he rose out of the deep
and said, ‘Why dost thou call to me?’

And the Soul answered, ‘Come nearer, that I may speak with thee, for I
have seen marvellous things.’

So he came nearer, and couched in the shallow water, and leaned his head
upon his hand and listened.

And the Soul said to him, ‘When I left thee, I turned my face to the
South and journeyed.  From the South cometh everything that is precious.
Six days I journeyed along the highways that lead to the city of Ashter,
along the dusty red-dyed highways by which the pilgrims are wont to go
did I journey, and on the morning of the seventh day I lifted up my eyes,
and lo! the city lay at my feet, for it is in a valley.

‘There are nine gates to this city, and in front of each gate stands a
bronze horse that neighs when the Bedouins come down from the mountains.
The walls are cased with copper, and the watch-towers on the walls are
roofed with brass.  In every tower stands an archer with a bow in his
hand.  At sunrise he strikes with an arrow on a gong, and at sunset he
blows through a horn of horn.

‘When I sought to enter, the guards stopped me and asked of me who I was.
I made answer that I was a Dervish and on my way to the city of Mecca,
where there was a green veil on which the Koran was embroidered in silver
letters by the hands of the angels.  They were filled with wonder, and
entreated me to pass in.

‘Inside it is even as a bazaar.  Surely thou shouldst have been with me.
Across the narrow streets the gay lanterns of paper flutter like large
butterflies.  When the wind blows over the roofs they rise and fall as
painted bubbles do.  In front of their booths sit the merchants on silken
carpets.  They have straight black beards, and their turbans are covered
with golden sequins, and long strings of amber and carved peach-stones
glide through their cool fingers.  Some of them sell galbanum and nard,
and curious perfumes from the islands of the Indian Sea, and the thick
oil of red roses, and myrrh and little nail-shaped cloves.  When one
stops to speak to them, they throw pinches of frankincense upon a
charcoal brazier and make the air sweet.  I saw a Syrian who held in his
hands a thin rod like a reed.  Grey threads of smoke came from it, and
its odour as it burned was as the odour of the pink almond in spring.
Others sell silver bracelets embossed all over with creamy blue turquoise
stones, and anklets of brass wire fringed with little pearls, and tigers’
claws set in gold, and the claws of that gilt cat, the leopard, set in
gold also, and earrings of pierced emerald, and finger-rings of hollowed
jade.  From the tea-houses comes the sound of the guitar, and the
opium-smokers with their white smiling faces look out at the passers-by.

‘Of a truth thou shouldst have been with me.  The wine-sellers elbow
their way through the crowd with great black skins on their shoulders.
Most of them sell the wine of Schiraz, which is as sweet as honey.  They
serve it in little metal cups and strew rose leaves upon it.  In the
market-place stand the fruitsellers, who sell all kinds of fruit: ripe
figs, with their bruised purple flesh, melons, smelling of musk and
yellow as topazes, citrons and rose-apples and clusters of white grapes,
round red-gold oranges, and oval lemons of green gold.  Once I saw an
elephant go by.  Its trunk was painted with vermilion and turmeric, and
over its ears it had a net of crimson silk cord.  It stopped opposite one
of the booths and began eating the oranges, and the man only laughed.
Thou canst not think how strange a people they are.  When they are glad
they go to the bird-sellers and buy of them a caged bird, and set it free
that their joy may be greater, and when they are sad they scourge
themselves with thorns that their sorrow may not grow less.

‘One evening I met some negroes carrying a heavy palanquin through the
bazaar.  It was made of gilded bamboo, and the poles were of vermilion
lacquer studded with brass peacocks.  Across the windows hung thin
curtains of muslin embroidered with beetles’ wings and with tiny
seed-pearls, and as it passed by a pale-faced Circassian looked out and
smiled at me.  I followed behind, and the negroes hurried their steps and
scowled.  But I did not care.  I felt a great curiosity come over me.

‘At last they stopped at a square white house.  There were no windows to
it, only a little door like the door of a tomb.  They set down the
palanquin and knocked three times with a copper hammer.  An Armenian in a
caftan of green leather peered through the wicket, and when he saw them
he opened, and spread a carpet on the ground, and the woman stepped out.
As she went in, she turned round and smiled at me again.  I had never
seen any one so pale.

‘When the moon rose I returned to the same place and sought for the
house, but it was no longer there.  When I saw that, I knew who the woman
was, and wherefore she had smiled at me.

‘Certainly thou shouldst have been with me.  On the feast of the New Moon
the young Emperor came forth from his palace and went into the mosque to
pray.  His hair and beard were dyed with rose-leaves, and his cheeks were
powdered with a fine gold dust.  The palms of his feet and hands were
yellow with saffron.

‘At sunrise he went forth from his palace in a robe of silver, and at
sunset he returned to it again in a robe of gold.  The people flung
themselves on the ground and hid their faces, but I would not do so.  I
stood by the stall of a seller of dates and waited.  When the Emperor saw
me, he raised his painted eyebrows and stopped.  I stood quite still, and
made him no obeisance.  The people marvelled at my boldness, and
counselled me to flee from the city.  I paid no heed to them, but went
and sat with the sellers of strange gods, who by reason of their craft
are abominated.  When I told them what I had done, each of them gave me a
god and prayed me to leave them.

‘That night, as I lay on a cushion in the tea-house that is in the Street
of Pomegranates, the guards of the Emperor entered and led me to the
palace.  As I went in they closed each door behind me, and put a chain
across it.  Inside was a great court with an arcade running all round.
The walls were of white alabaster, set here and there with blue and green
tiles.  The pillars were of green marble, and the pavement of a kind of
peach-blossom marble.  I had never seen anything like it before.

‘As I passed across the court two veiled women looked down from a balcony
and cursed me.  The guards hastened on, and the butts of the lances rang
upon the polished floor.  They opened a gate of wrought ivory, and I
found myself in a watered garden of seven terraces.  It was planted with
tulip-cups and moonflowers, and silver-studded aloes.  Like a slim reed
of crystal a fountain hung in the dusky air.  The cypress-trees were like
burnt-out torches.  From one of them a nightingale was singing.

‘At the end of the garden stood a little pavilion.  As we approached it
two eunuchs came out to meet us.  Their fat bodies swayed as they walked,
and they glanced curiously at me with their yellow-lidded eyes.  One of
them drew aside the captain of the guard, and in a low voice whispered to
him.  The other kept munching scented pastilles, which he took with an
affected gesture out of an oval box of lilac enamel.

‘After a few moments the captain of the guard dismissed the soldiers.
They went back to the palace, the eunuchs following slowly behind and
plucking the sweet mulberries from the trees as they passed.  Once the
elder of the two turned round, and smiled at me with an evil smile.

‘Then the captain of the guard motioned me towards the entrance of the
pavilion.  I walked on without trembling, and drawing the heavy curtain
aside I entered in.

‘The young Emperor was stretched on a couch of dyed lion skins, and a
gerfalcon perched upon his wrist.  Behind him stood a brass-turbaned
Nubian, naked down to the waist, and with heavy earrings in his split
ears.  On a table by the side of the couch lay a mighty scimitar of
steel.

‘When the Emperor saw me he frowned, and said to me, “What is thy name?
Knowest thou not that I am Emperor of this city?”  But I made him no
answer.

‘He pointed with his finger at the scimitar, and the Nubian seized it,
and rushing forward struck at me with great violence.  The blade whizzed
through me, and did me no hurt.  The man fell sprawling on the floor, and
when he rose up his teeth chattered with terror and he hid himself behind
the couch.

‘The Emperor leapt to his feet, and taking a lance from a stand of arms,
he threw it at me.  I caught it in its flight, and brake the shaft into
two pieces.  He shot at me with an arrow, but I held up my hands and it
stopped in mid-air.  Then he drew a dagger from a belt of white leather,
and stabbed the Nubian in the throat lest the slave should tell of his
dishonour.  The man writhed like a trampled snake, and a red foam bubbled
from his lips.

‘As soon as he was dead the Emperor turned to me, and when he had wiped
away the bright sweat from his brow with a little napkin of purfled and
purple silk, he said to me, “Art thou a prophet, that I may not harm
thee, or the son of a prophet, that I can do thee no hurt?  I pray thee
leave my city to-night, for while thou art in it I am no longer its
lord.”

‘And I answered him, “I will go for half of thy treasure.  Give me half
of thy treasure, and I will go away.”

‘He took me by the hand, and led me out into the garden.  When the
captain of the guard saw me, he wondered.  When the eunuchs saw me, their
knees shook and they fell upon the ground in fear.

‘There is a chamber in the palace that has eight walls of red porphyry,
and a brass-sealed ceiling hung with lamps.  The Emperor touched one of
the walls and it opened, and we passed down a corridor that was lit with
many torches.  In niches upon each side stood great wine-jars filled to
the brim with silver pieces.  When we reached the centre of the corridor
the Emperor spake the word that may not be spoken, and a granite door
swung back on a secret spring, and he put his hands before his face lest
his eyes should be dazzled.

‘Thou couldst not believe how marvellous a place it was.  There were huge
tortoise-shells full of pearls, and hollowed moonstones of great size
piled up with red rubies.  The gold was stored in coffers of
elephant-hide, and the gold-dust in leather bottles.  There were opals
and sapphires, the former in cups of crystal, and the latter in cups of
jade.  Round green emeralds were ranged in order upon thin plates of
ivory, and in one corner were silk bags filled, some with
turquoise-stones, and others with beryls.  The ivory horns were heaped
with purple amethysts, and the horns of brass with chalcedonies and
sards.  The pillars, which were of cedar, were hung with strings of
yellow lynx-stones.  In the flat oval shields there were carbuncles, both
wine-coloured and coloured like grass.  And yet I have told thee but a
tithe of what was there.

‘And when the Emperor had taken away his hands from before his face he
said to me: “This is my house of treasure, and half that is in it is
thine, even as I promised to thee.  And I will give thee camels and camel
drivers, and they shall do thy bidding and take thy share of the treasure
to whatever part of the world thou desirest to go.  And the thing shall
be done to-night, for I would not that the Sun, who is my father, should
see that there is in my city a man whom I cannot slay.”

‘But I answered him, “The gold that is here is thine, and the silver also
is thine, and thine are the precious jewels and the things of price.  As
for me, I have no need of these.  Nor shall I take aught from thee but
that little ring that thou wearest on the finger of thy hand.”

‘And the Emperor frowned.  “It is but a ring of lead,” he cried, “nor has
it any value.  Therefore take thy half of the treasure and go from my
city.”

‘“Nay,” I answered, “but I will take nought but that leaden ring, for I
know what is written within it, and for what purpose.”

‘And the Emperor trembled, and besought me and said, “Take all the
treasure and go from my city.  The half that is mine shall be thine
also.”

‘And I did a strange thing, but what I did matters not, for in a cave
that is but a day’s journey from this place have, I hidden the Ring of
Riches.  It is but a day’s journey from this place, and it waits for thy
coming.  He who has this Ring is richer than all the kings of the world.
Come therefore and take it, and the world’s riches shall be thine.’

But the young Fisherman laughed.  ‘Love is better than Riches,’ he cried,
‘and the little Mermaid loves me.’

‘Nay, but there is nothing better than Riches,’ said the Soul.

‘Love is better,’ answered the young Fisherman, and he plunged into the
deep, and the Soul went weeping away over the marshes.

                                * * * * *

And after the third year was over, the Soul came down to the shore of the
sea, and called to the young Fisherman, and he rose out of the deep and
said, ‘Why dost thou call to me?’

And the Soul answered, ‘Come nearer, that I may speak with thee, for I
have seen marvellous things.’

So he came nearer, and couched in the shallow water, and leaned his head
upon his hand and listened.

And the Soul said to him, ‘In a city that I know of there is an inn that
standeth by a river.  I sat there with sailors who drank of two
different-coloured wines, and ate bread made of barley, and little salt
fish served in bay leaves with vinegar.  And as we sat and made merry,
there entered to us an old man bearing a leathern carpet and a lute that
had two horns of amber.  And when he had laid out the carpet on the
floor, he struck with a quill on the wire strings of his lute, and a girl
whose face was veiled ran in and began to dance before us.  Her face was
veiled with a veil of gauze, but her feet were naked.  Naked were her
feet, and they moved over the carpet like little white pigeons.  Never
have I seen anything so marvellous; and the city in which she dances is
but a day’s journey from this place.’

Now when the young Fisherman heard the words of his Soul, he remembered
that the little Mermaid had no feet and could not dance.  And a great
desire came over him, and he said to himself, ‘It is but a day’s journey,
and I can return to my love,’ and he laughed, and stood up in the shallow
water, and strode towards the shore.

And when he had reached the dry shore he laughed again, and held out his
arms to his Soul.  And his Soul gave a great cry of joy and ran to meet
him, and entered into him, and the young Fisherman saw stretched before
him upon the sand that shadow of the body that is the body of the Soul.

And his Soul said to him, ‘Let us not tarry, but get hence at once, for
the Sea-gods are jealous, and have monsters that do their bidding.’

                                * * * * *

So they made haste, and all that night they journeyed beneath the moon,
and all the next day they journeyed beneath the sun, and on the evening
of the day they came to a city.

And the young Fisherman said to his Soul, ‘Is this the city in which she
dances of whom thou didst speak to me?’

And his Soul answered him, ‘It is not this city, but another.
Nevertheless let us enter in.’  So they entered in and passed through the
streets, and as they passed through the Street of the Jewellers the young
Fisherman saw a fair silver cup set forth in a booth.  And his Soul said
to him, ‘Take that silver cup and hide it.’

So he took the cup and hid it in the fold of his tunic, and they went
hurriedly out of the city.

And after that they had gone a league from the city, the young Fisherman
frowned, and flung the cup away, and said to his Soul, ‘Why didst thou
tell me to take this cup and hide it, for it was an evil thing to do?’

But his Soul answered him, ‘Be at peace, be at peace.’

And on the evening of the second day they came to a city, and the young
Fisherman said to his Soul, ‘Is this the city in which she dances of whom
thou didst speak to me?’

And his Soul answered him, ‘It is not this city, but another.
Nevertheless let us enter in.’  So they entered in and passed through the
streets, and as they passed through the Street of the Sellers of Sandals,
the young Fisherman saw a child standing by a jar of water.  And his Soul
said to him, ‘Smite that child.’  So he smote the child till it wept, and
when he had done this they went hurriedly out of the city.

And after that they had gone a league from the city the young Fisherman
grew wroth, and said to his Soul, ‘Why didst thou tell me to smite the
child, for it was an evil thing to do?’

But his Soul answered him, ‘Be at peace, be at peace.’

And on the evening of the third day they came to a city, and the young
Fisherman said to his Soul, ‘Is this the city in which she dances of whom
thou didst speak to me?’

And his Soul answered him, ‘It may be that it is in this city, therefore
let us enter in.’

So they entered in and passed through the streets, but nowhere could the
young Fisherman find the river or the inn that stood by its side.  And
the people of the city looked curiously at him, and he grew afraid and
said to his Soul, ‘Let us go hence, for she who dances with white feet is
not here.’

But his Soul answered, ‘Nay, but let us tarry, for the night is dark and
there will be robbers on the way.’

So he sat him down in the market-place and rested, and after a time there
went by a hooded merchant who had a cloak of cloth of Tartary, and bare a
lantern of pierced horn at the end of a jointed reed.  And the merchant
said to him, ‘Why dost thou sit in the market-place, seeing that the
booths are closed and the bales corded?’

And the young Fisherman answered him, ‘I can find no inn in this city,
nor have I any kinsman who might give me shelter.’

‘Are we not all kinsmen?’ said the merchant.  ‘And did not one God make
us?  Therefore come with me, for I have a guest-chamber.’

So the young Fisherman rose up and followed the merchant to his house.
And when he had passed through a garden of pomegranates and entered into
the house, the merchant brought him rose-water in a copper dish that he
might wash his hands, and ripe melons that he might quench his thirst,
and set a bowl of rice and a piece of roasted kid before him.

And after that he had finished, the merchant led him to the
guest-chamber, and bade him sleep and be at rest.  And the young
Fisherman gave him thanks, and kissed the ring that was on his hand, and
flung himself down on the carpets of dyed goat’s-hair.  And when he had
covered himself with a covering of black lamb’s-wool he fell asleep.

And three hours before dawn, and while it was still night, his Soul waked
him and said to him, ‘Rise up and go to the room of the merchant, even to
the room in which he sleepeth, and slay him, and take from him his gold,
for we have need of it.’

And the young Fisherman rose up and crept towards the room of the
merchant, and over the feet of the merchant there was lying a curved
sword, and the tray by the side of the merchant held nine purses of gold.
And he reached out his hand and touched the sword, and when he touched it
the merchant started and awoke, and leaping up seized himself the sword
and cried to the young Fisherman, ‘Dost thou return evil for good, and
pay with the shedding of blood for the kindness that I have shown thee?’

And his Soul said to the young Fisherman, ‘Strike him,’ and he struck him
so that he swooned and he seized then the nine purses of gold, and fled
hastily through the garden of pomegranates, and set his face to the star
that is the star of morning.

And when they had gone a league from the city, the young Fisherman beat
his breast, and said to his Soul, ‘Why didst thou bid me slay the
merchant and take his gold?  Surely thou art evil.’

But his Soul answered him, ‘Be at peace, be at peace.’

‘Nay,’ cried the young Fisherman, ‘I may not be at peace, for all that
thou hast made me to do I hate.  Thee also I hate, and I bid thee tell me
wherefore thou hast wrought with me in this wise.’

And his Soul answered him, ‘When thou didst send me forth into the world
thou gavest me no heart, so I learned to do all these things and love
them.’

‘What sayest thou?’ murmured the young Fisherman.

‘Thou knowest,’ answered his Soul, ‘thou knowest it well.  Hast thou
forgotten that thou gavest me no heart?  I trow not.  And so trouble not
thyself nor me, but be at peace, for there is no pain that thou shalt not
give away, nor any pleasure that thou shalt not receive.’

And when the young Fisherman heard these words he trembled and said to
his Soul, ‘Nay, but thou art evil, and hast made me forget my love, and
hast tempted me with temptations, and hast set my feet in the ways of
sin.’

And his Soul answered him, ‘Thou hast not forgotten that when thou didst
send me forth into the world thou gavest me no heart.  Come, let us go to
another city, and make merry, for we have nine purses of gold.’

But the young Fisherman took the nine purses of gold, and flung them
down, and trampled on them.

‘Nay,’ he cried, ‘but I will have nought to do with thee, nor will I
journey with thee anywhere, but even as I sent thee away before, so will
I send thee away now, for thou hast wrought me no good.’  And he turned
his back to the moon, and with the little knife that had the handle of
green viper’s skin he strove to cut from his feet that shadow of the body
which is the body of the Soul.

Yet his Soul stirred not from him, nor paid heed to his command, but said
to him, ‘The spell that the Witch told thee avails thee no more, for I
may not leave thee, nor mayest thou drive me forth.  Once in his life may
a man send his Soul away, but he who receiveth back his Soul must keep it
with him for ever, and this is his punishment and his reward.’

And the young Fisherman grew pale and clenched his hands and cried, ‘She
was a false Witch in that she told me not that.’

‘Nay,’ answered his Soul, ‘but she was true to Him she worships, and
whose servant she will be ever.’

And when the young Fisherman knew that he could no longer get rid of his
Soul, and that it was an evil Soul and would abide with him always, he
fell upon the ground weeping bitterly.

                                * * * * *

And when it was day the young Fisherman rose up and said to his Soul, ‘I
will bind my hands that I may not do thy bidding, and close my lips that
I may not speak thy words, and I will return to the place where she whom
I love has her dwelling.  Even to the sea will I return, and to the
little bay where she is wont to sing, and I will call to her and tell her
the evil I have done and the evil thou hast wrought on me.’

And his Soul tempted him and said, ‘Who is thy love, that thou shouldst
return to her?  The world has many fairer than she is.  There are the
dancing-girls of Samaris who dance in the manner of all kinds of birds
and beasts.  Their feet are painted with henna, and in their hands they
have little copper bells.  They laugh while they dance, and their
laughter is as clear as the laughter of water.  Come with me and I will
show them to thee.  For what is this trouble of thine about the things of
sin?  Is that which is pleasant to eat not made for the eater?  Is there
poison in that which is sweet to drink?  Trouble not thyself, but come
with me to another city.  There is a little city hard by in which there
is a garden of tulip-trees.  And there dwell in this comely garden white
peacocks and peacocks that have blue breasts.  Their tails when they
spread them to the sun are like disks of ivory and like gilt disks.  And
she who feeds them dances for their pleasure, and sometimes she dances on
her hands and at other times she dances with her feet.  Her eyes are
coloured with stibium, and her nostrils are shaped like the wings of a
swallow.  From a hook in one of her nostrils hangs a flower that is
carved out of a pearl.  She laughs while she dances, and the silver rings
that are about her ankles tinkle like bells of silver.  And so trouble
not thyself any more, but come with me to this city.’

But the young Fisherman answered not his Soul, but closed his lips with
the seal of silence and with a tight cord bound his hands, and journeyed
back to the place from which he had come, even to the little bay where
his love had been wont to sing.  And ever did his Soul tempt him by the
way, but he made it no answer, nor would he do any of the wickedness that
it sought to make him to do, so great was the power of the love that was
within him.

And when he had reached the shore of the sea, he loosed the cord from his
hands, and took the seal of silence from his lips, and called to the
little Mermaid.  But she came not to his call, though he called to her
all day long and besought her.

And his Soul mocked him and said, ‘Surely thou hast but little joy out of
thy love.  Thou art as one who in time of death pours water into a broken
vessel.  Thou givest away what thou hast, and nought is given to thee in
return.  It were better for thee to come with me, for I know where the
Valley of Pleasure lies, and what things are wrought there.’

But the young Fisherman answered not his Soul, but in a cleft of the rock
he built himself a house of wattles, and abode there for the space of a
year.  And every morning he called to the Mermaid, and every noon he
called to her again, and at night-time he spake her name.  Yet never did
she rise out of the sea to meet him, nor in any place of the sea could he
find her though he sought for her in the caves and in the green water, in
the pools of the tide and in the wells that are at the bottom of the
deep.

And ever did his Soul tempt him with evil, and whisper of terrible
things.  Yet did it not prevail against him, so great was the power of
his love.

And after the year was over, the Soul thought within himself, ‘I have
tempted my master with evil, and his love is stronger than I am.  I will
tempt him now with good, and it may be that he will come with me.’

So he spake to the young Fisherman and said, ‘I have told thee of the joy
of the world, and thou hast turned a deaf ear to me.  Suffer me now to
tell thee of the world’s pain, and it may be that thou wilt hearken.  For
of a truth pain is the Lord of this world, nor is there any one who
escapes from its net.  There be some who lack raiment, and others who
lack bread.  There be widows who sit in purple, and widows who sit in
rags.  To and fro over the fens go the lepers, and they are cruel to each
other.  The beggars go up and down on the highways, and their wallets are
empty.  Through the streets of the cities walks Famine, and the Plague
sits at their gates.  Come, let us go forth and mend these things, and
make them not to be.  Wherefore shouldst thou tarry here calling to thy
love, seeing she comes not to thy call?  And what is love, that thou
shouldst set this high store upon it?’

But the young Fisherman answered it nought, so great was the power of his
love.  And every morning he called to the Mermaid, and every noon he
called to her again, and at night-time he spake her name.  Yet never did
she rise out of the sea to meet him, nor in any place of the sea could he
find her, though he sought for her in the rivers of the sea, and in the
valleys that are under the waves, in the sea that the night makes purple,
and in the sea that the dawn leaves grey.

And after the second year was over, the Soul said to the young Fisherman
at night-time, and as he sat in the wattled house alone, ‘Lo! now I have
tempted thee with evil, and I have tempted thee with good, and thy love
is stronger than I am.  Wherefore will I tempt thee no longer, but I pray
thee to suffer me to enter thy heart, that I may be one with thee even as
before.’

‘Surely thou mayest enter,’ said the young Fisherman, ‘for in the days
when with no heart thou didst go through the world thou must have much
suffered.’

‘Alas!’ cried his Soul, ‘I can find no place of entrance, so compassed
about with love is this heart of thine.’

‘Yet I would that I could help thee,’ said the young Fisherman.

And as he spake there came a great cry of mourning from the sea, even the
cry that men hear when one of the Sea-folk is dead.  And the young
Fisherman leapt up, and left his wattled house, and ran down to the
shore.  And the black waves came hurrying to the shore, bearing with them
a burden that was whiter than silver.  White as the surf it was, and like
a flower it tossed on the waves.  And the surf took it from the waves,
and the foam took it from the surf, and the shore received it, and lying
at his feet the young Fisherman saw the body of the little Mermaid.  Dead
at his feet it was lying.

Weeping as one smitten with pain he flung himself down beside it, and he
kissed the cold red of the mouth, and toyed with the wet amber of the
hair.  He flung himself down beside it on the sand, weeping as one
trembling with joy, and in his brown arms he held it to his breast.  Cold
were the lips, yet he kissed them.  Salt was the honey of the hair, yet
he tasted it with a bitter joy.  He kissed the closed eyelids, and the
wild spray that lay upon their cups was less salt than his tears.

And to the dead thing he made confession.  Into the shells of its ears he
poured the harsh wine of his tale.  He put the little hands round his
neck, and with his fingers he touched the thin reed of the throat.
Bitter, bitter was his joy, and full of strange gladness was his pain.

The black sea came nearer, and the white foam moaned like a leper.  With
white claws of foam the sea grabbled at the shore.  From the palace of
the Sea-King came the cry of mourning again, and far out upon the sea the
great Tritons blew hoarsely upon their horns.

‘Flee away,’ said his Soul, ‘for ever doth the sea come nigher, and if
thou tarriest it will slay thee.  Flee away, for I am afraid, seeing that
thy heart is closed against me by reason of the greatness of thy love.
Flee away to a place of safety.  Surely thou wilt not send me without a
heart into another world?’

But the young Fisherman listened not to his Soul, but called on the
little Mermaid and said, ‘Love is better than wisdom, and more precious
than riches, and fairer than the feet of the daughters of men.  The fires
cannot destroy it, nor can the waters quench it.  I called on thee at
dawn, and thou didst not come to my call.  The moon heard thy name, yet
hadst thou no heed of me.  For evilly had I left thee, and to my own hurt
had I wandered away.  Yet ever did thy love abide with me, and ever was
it strong, nor did aught prevail against it, though I have looked upon
evil and looked upon good.  And now that thou art dead, surely I will die
with thee also.’

And his Soul besought him to depart, but he would not, so great was his
love.  And the sea came nearer, and sought to cover him with its waves,
and when he knew that the end was at hand he kissed with mad lips the
cold lips of the Mermaid, and the heart that was within him brake.  And
as through the fulness of his love his heart did break, the Soul found an
entrance and entered in, and was one with him even as before.  And the
sea covered the young Fisherman with its waves.

                                * * * * *

And in the morning the Priest went forth to bless the sea, for it had
been troubled.  And with him went the monks and the musicians, and the
candle-bearers, and the swingers of censers, and a great company.

And when the Priest reached the shore he saw the young Fisherman lying
drowned in the surf, and clasped in his arms was the body of the little
Mermaid.  And he drew back frowning, and having made the sign of the
cross, he cried aloud and said, ‘I will not bless the sea nor anything
that is in it.  Accursed be the Sea-folk, and accursed be all they who
traffic with them.  And as for him who for love’s sake forsook God, and
so lieth here with his leman slain by God’s judgment, take up his body
and the body of his leman, and bury them in the corner of the Field of
the Fullers, and set no mark above them, nor sign of any kind, that none
may know the place of their resting.  For accursed were they in their
lives, and accursed shall they be in their deaths also.’

And the people did as he commanded them, and in the corner of the Field
of the Fullers, where no sweet herbs grew, they dug a deep pit, and laid
the dead things within it.

And when the third year was over, and on a day that was a holy day, the
Priest went up to the chapel, that he might show to the people the wounds
of the Lord, and speak to them about the wrath of God.

And when he had robed himself with his robes, and entered in and bowed
himself before the altar, he saw that the altar was covered with strange
flowers that never had been seen before.  Strange were they to look at,
and of curious beauty, and their beauty troubled him, and their odour was
sweet in his nostrils.  And he felt glad, and understood not why he was
glad.

And after that he had opened the tabernacle, and incensed the monstrance
that was in it, and shown the fair wafer to the people, and hid it again
behind the veil of veils, he began to speak to the people, desiring to
speak to them of the wrath of God.  But the beauty of the white flowers
troubled him, and their odour was sweet in his nostrils, and there came
another word into his lips, and he spake not of the wrath of God, but of
the God whose name is Love.  And why he so spake, he knew not.

And when he had finished his word the people wept, and the Priest went
back to the sacristy, and his eyes were full of tears.  And the deacons
came in and began to unrobe him, and took from him the alb and the
girdle, the maniple and the stole.  And he stood as one in a dream.

And after that they had unrobed him, he looked at them and said, ‘What
are the flowers that stand on the altar, and whence do they come?’

And they answered him, ‘What flowers they are we cannot tell, but they
come from the corner of the Fullers’ Field.’  And the Priest trembled,
and returned to his own house and prayed.

And in the morning, while it was still dawn, he went forth with the monks
and the musicians, and the candle-bearers and the swingers of censers,
and a great company, and came to the shore of the sea, and blessed the
sea, and all the wild things that are in it.  The Fauns also he blessed,
and the little things that dance in the woodland, and the bright-eyed
things that peer through the leaves.  All the things in God’s world he
blessed, and the people were filled with joy and wonder.  Yet never again
in the corner of the Fullers’ Field grew flowers of any kind, but the
field remained barren even as before.  Nor came the Sea-folk into the bay
as they had been wont to do, for they went to another part of the sea.



THE STAR-CHILD


                                    TO
                           MISS MARGOT TENNANT
                              [MRS. ASQUITH]

ONCE upon a time two poor Woodcutters were making their way home through
a great pine-forest.  It was winter, and a night of bitter cold.  The
snow lay thick upon the ground, and upon the branches of the trees: the
frost kept snapping the little twigs on either side of them, as they
passed: and when they came to the Mountain-Torrent she was hanging
motionless in air, for the Ice-King had kissed her.

So cold was it that even the animals and the birds did not know what to
make of it.

‘Ugh!’ snarled the Wolf, as he limped through the brushwood with his tail
between his legs, ‘this is perfectly monstrous weather.  Why doesn’t the
Government look to it?’

‘Weet! weet! weet!’ twittered the green Linnets, ‘the old Earth is dead
and they have laid her out in her white shroud.’

‘The Earth is going to be married, and this is her bridal dress,’
whispered the Turtle-doves to each other.  Their little pink feet were
quite frost-bitten, but they felt that it was their duty to take a
romantic view of the situation.

‘Nonsense!’ growled the Wolf.  ‘I tell you that it is all the fault of
the Government, and if you don’t believe me I shall eat you.’  The Wolf
had a thoroughly practical mind, and was never at a loss for a good
argument.

‘Well, for my own part,’ said the Woodpecker, who was a born philosopher,
‘I don’t care an atomic theory for explanations.  If a thing is so, it is
so, and at present it is terribly cold.’

Terribly cold it certainly was.  The little Squirrels, who lived inside
the tall fir-tree, kept rubbing each other’s noses to keep themselves
warm, and the Rabbits curled themselves up in their holes, and did not
venture even to look out of doors.  The only people who seemed to enjoy
it were the great horned Owls.  Their feathers were quite stiff with
rime, but they did not mind, and they rolled their large yellow eyes, and
called out to each other across the forest, ‘Tu-whit!  Tu-whoo!  Tu-whit!
Tu-whoo! what delightful weather we are having!’

On and on went the two Woodcutters, blowing lustily upon their fingers,
and stamping with their huge iron-shod boots upon the caked snow.  Once
they sank into a deep drift, and came out as white as millers are, when
the stones are grinding; and once they slipped on the hard smooth ice
where the marsh-water was frozen, and their faggots fell out of their
bundles, and they had to pick them up and bind them together again; and
once they thought that they had lost their way, and a great terror seized
on them, for they knew that the Snow is cruel to those who sleep in her
arms.  But they put their trust in the good Saint Martin, who watches
over all travellers, and retraced their steps, and went warily, and at
last they reached the outskirts of the forest, and saw, far down in the
valley beneath them, the lights of the village in which they dwelt.

So overjoyed were they at their deliverance that they laughed aloud, and
the Earth seemed to them like a flower of silver, and the Moon like a
flower of gold.

Yet, after that they had laughed they became sad, for they remembered
their poverty, and one of them said to the other, ‘Why did we make merry,
seeing that life is for the rich, and not for such as we are?  Better
that we had died of cold in the forest, or that some wild beast had
fallen upon us and slain us.’

‘Truly,’ answered his companion, ‘much is given to some, and little is
given to others.  Injustice has parcelled out the world, nor is there
equal division of aught save of sorrow.’

But as they were bewailing their misery to each other this strange thing
happened.  There fell from heaven a very bright and beautiful star.  It
slipped down the side of the sky, passing by the other stars in its
course, and, as they watched it wondering, it seemed to them to sink
behind a clump of willow-trees that stood hard by a little sheepfold no
more than a stone’s-throw away.

‘Why! there is a crook of gold for whoever finds it,’ they cried, and
they set to and ran, so eager were they for the gold.

And one of them ran faster than his mate, and outstripped him, and forced
his way through the willows, and came out on the other side, and lo!
there was indeed a thing of gold lying on the white snow.  So he hastened
towards it, and stooping down placed his hands upon it, and it was a
cloak of golden tissue, curiously wrought with stars, and wrapped in many
folds.  And he cried out to his comrade that he had found the treasure
that had fallen from the sky, and when his comrade had come up, they sat
them down in the snow, and loosened the folds of the cloak that they
might divide the pieces of gold.  But, alas! no gold was in it, nor
silver, nor, indeed, treasure of any kind, but only a little child who
was asleep.

And one of them said to the other: ‘This is a bitter ending to our hope,
nor have we any good fortune, for what doth a child profit to a man?  Let
us leave it here, and go our way, seeing that we are poor men, and have
children of our own whose bread we may not give to another.’

But his companion answered him: ‘Nay, but it were an evil thing to leave
the child to perish here in the snow, and though I am as poor as thou
art, and have many mouths to feed, and but little in the pot, yet will I
bring it home with me, and my wife shall have care of it.’

So very tenderly he took up the child, and wrapped the cloak around it to
shield it from the harsh cold, and made his way down the hill to the
village, his comrade marvelling much at his foolishness and softness of
heart.

And when they came to the village, his comrade said to him, ‘Thou hast
the child, therefore give me the cloak, for it is meet that we should
share.’

But he answered him: ‘Nay, for the cloak is neither mine nor thine, but
the child’s only,’ and he bade him Godspeed, and went to his own house
and knocked.

And when his wife opened the door and saw that her husband had returned
safe to her, she put her arms round his neck and kissed him, and took
from his back the bundle of faggots, and brushed the snow off his boots,
and bade him come in.

But he said to her, ‘I have found something in the forest, and I have
brought it to thee to have care of it,’ and he stirred not from the
threshold.

‘What is it?’ she cried.  ‘Show it to me, for the house is bare, and we
have need of many things.’  And he drew the cloak back, and showed her
the sleeping child.

‘Alack, goodman!’ she murmured, ‘have we not children of our own, that
thou must needs bring a changeling to sit by the hearth?  And who knows
if it will not bring us bad fortune?  And how shall we tend it?’  And she
was wroth against him.

‘Nay, but it is a Star-Child,’ he answered; and he told her the strange
manner of the finding of it.

But she would not be appeased, but mocked at him, and spoke angrily, and
cried: ‘Our children lack bread, and shall we feed the child of another?
Who is there who careth for us?  And who giveth us food?’

‘Nay, but God careth for the sparrows even, and feedeth them,’ he
answered.

‘Do not the sparrows die of hunger in the winter?’ she asked.  ‘And is it
not winter now?’

And the man answered nothing, but stirred not from the threshold.

And a bitter wind from the forest came in through the open door, and made
her tremble, and she shivered, and said to him: ‘Wilt thou not close the
door?  There cometh a bitter wind into the house, and I am cold.’

‘Into a house where a heart is hard cometh there not always a bitter
wind?’ he asked.  And the woman answered him nothing, but crept closer to
the fire.

And after a time she turned round and looked at him, and her eyes were
full of tears.  And he came in swiftly, and placed the child in her arms,
and she kissed it, and laid it in a little bed where the youngest of
their own children was lying.  And on the morrow the Woodcutter took the
curious cloak of gold and placed it in a great chest, and a chain of
amber that was round the child’s neck his wife took and set it in the
chest also.

                                * * * * *

So the Star-Child was brought up with the children of the Woodcutter, and
sat at the same board with them, and was their playmate.  And every year
he became more beautiful to look at, so that all those who dwelt in the
village were filled with wonder, for, while they were swarthy and
black-haired, he was white and delicate as sawn ivory, and his curls were
like the rings of the daffodil.  His lips, also, were like the petals of
a red flower, and his eyes were like violets by a river of pure water,
and his body like the narcissus of a field where the mower comes not.

Yet did his beauty work him evil.  For he grew proud, and cruel, and
selfish.  The children of the Woodcutter, and the other children of the
village, he despised, saying that they were of mean parentage, while he
was noble, being sprang from a Star, and he made himself master over
them, and called them his servants.  No pity had he for the poor, or for
those who were blind or maimed or in any way afflicted, but would cast
stones at them and drive them forth on to the highway, and bid them beg
their bread elsewhere, so that none save the outlaws came twice to that
village to ask for alms.  Indeed, he was as one enamoured of beauty, and
would mock at the weakly and ill-favoured, and make jest of them; and
himself he loved, and in summer, when the winds were still, he would lie
by the well in the priest’s orchard and look down at the marvel of his
own face, and laugh for the pleasure he had in his fairness.

Often did the Woodcutter and his wife chide him, and say: ‘We did not
deal with thee as thou dealest with those who are left desolate, and have
none to succour them.  Wherefore art thou so cruel to all who need pity?’

Often did the old priest send for him, and seek to teach him the love of
living things, saying to him: ‘The fly is thy brother.  Do it no harm.
The wild birds that roam through the forest have their freedom.  Snare
them not for thy pleasure.  God made the blind-worm and the mole, and
each has its place.  Who art thou to bring pain into God’s world?  Even
the cattle of the field praise Him.’

But the Star-Child heeded not their words, but would frown and flout, and
go back to his companions, and lead them.  And his companions followed
him, for he was fair, and fleet of foot, and could dance, and pipe, and
make music.  And wherever the Star-Child led them they followed, and
whatever the Star-Child bade them do, that did they.  And when he pierced
with a sharp reed the dim eyes of the mole, they laughed, and when he
cast stones at the leper they laughed also.  And in all things he ruled
them, and they became hard of heart even as he was.

                                * * * * *

Now there passed one day through the village a poor beggar-woman.  Her
garments were torn and ragged, and her feet were bleeding from the rough
road on which she had travelled, and she was in very evil plight.  And
being weary she sat her down under a chestnut-tree to rest.

But when the Star-Child saw her, he said to his companions, ‘See!  There
sitteth a foul beggar-woman under that fair and green-leaved tree.  Come,
let us drive her hence, for she is ugly and ill-favoured.’

So he came near and threw stones at her, and mocked her, and she looked
at him with terror in her eyes, nor did she move her gaze from him.  And
when the Woodcutter, who was cleaving logs in a haggard hard by, saw what
the Star-Child was doing, he ran up and rebuked him, and said to him:
‘Surely thou art hard of heart and knowest not mercy, for what evil has
this poor woman done to thee that thou shouldst treat her in this wise?’

And the Star-Child grew red with anger, and stamped his foot upon the
ground, and said, ‘Who art thou to question me what I do?  I am no son of
thine to do thy bidding.’

‘Thou speakest truly,’ answered the Woodcutter, ‘yet did I show thee pity
when I found thee in the forest.’

And when the woman heard these words she gave a loud cry, and fell into a
swoon.  And the Woodcutter carried her to his own house, and his wife had
care of her, and when she rose up from the swoon into which she had
fallen, they set meat and drink before her, and bade her have comfort.

But she would neither eat nor drink, but said to the Woodcutter, ‘Didst
thou not say that the child was found in the forest?  And was it not ten
years from this day?’

And the Woodcutter answered, ‘Yea, it was in the forest that I found him,
and it is ten years from this day.’

‘And what signs didst thou find with him?’ she cried.  ‘Bare he not upon
his neck a chain of amber?  Was not round him a cloak of gold tissue
broidered with stars?’

‘Truly,’ answered the Woodcutter, ‘it was even as thou sayest.’  And he
took the cloak and the amber chain from the chest where they lay, and
showed them to her.

And when she saw them she wept for joy, and said, ‘He is my little son
whom I lost in the forest.  I pray thee send for him quickly, for in
search of him have I wandered over the whole world.’

So the Woodcutter and his wife went out and called to the Star-Child, and
said to him, ‘Go into the house, and there shalt thou find thy mother,
who is waiting for thee.’

So he ran in, filled with wonder and great gladness.  But when he saw her
who was waiting there, he laughed scornfully and said, ‘Why, where is my
mother?  For I see none here but this vile beggar-woman.’

And the woman answered him, ‘I am thy mother.’

‘Thou art mad to say so,’ cried the Star-Child angrily.  ‘I am no son of
thine, for thou art a beggar, and ugly, and in rags.  Therefore get thee
hence, and let me see thy foul face no more.’

‘Nay, but thou art indeed my little son, whom I bare in the forest,’ she
cried, and she fell on her knees, and held out her arms to him.  ‘The
robbers stole thee from me, and left thee to die,’ she murmured, ‘but I
recognised thee when I saw thee, and the signs also have I recognised,
the cloak of golden tissue and the amber chain.  Therefore I pray thee
come with me, for over the whole world have I wandered in search of thee.
Come with me, my son, for I have need of thy love.’

But the Star-Child stirred not from his place, but shut the doors of his
heart against her, nor was there any sound heard save the sound of the
woman weeping for pain.

And at last he spoke to her, and his voice was hard and bitter.  ‘If in
very truth thou art my mother,’ he said, ‘it had been better hadst thou
stayed away, and not come here to bring me to shame, seeing that I
thought I was the child of some Star, and not a beggar’s child, as thou
tellest me that I am.  Therefore get thee hence, and let me see thee no
more.’

‘Alas! my son,’ she cried, ‘wilt thou not kiss me before I go?  For I
have suffered much to find thee.’

‘Nay,’ said the Star-Child, ‘but thou art too foul to look at, and rather
would I kiss the adder or the toad than thee.’

So the woman rose up, and went away into the forest weeping bitterly, and
when the Star-Child saw that she had gone, he was glad, and ran back to
his playmates that he might play with them.

But when they beheld him coming, they mocked him and said, ‘Why, thou art
as foul as the toad, and as loathsome as the adder.  Get thee hence, for
we will not suffer thee to play with us,’ and they drave him out of the
garden.

And the Star-Child frowned and said to himself, ‘What is this that they
say to me?  I will go to the well of water and look into it, and it shall
tell me of my beauty.’

So he went to the well of water and looked into it, and lo! his face was
as the face of a toad, and his body was sealed like an adder.  And he
flung himself down on the grass and wept, and said to himself, ‘Surely
this has come upon me by reason of my sin.  For I have denied my mother,
and driven her away, and been proud, and cruel to her.  Wherefore I will
go and seek her through the whole world, nor will I rest till I have
found her.’

And there came to him the little daughter of the Woodcutter, and she put
her hand upon his shoulder and said, ‘What doth it matter if thou hast
lost thy comeliness?  Stay with us, and I will not mock at thee.’

And he said to her, ‘Nay, but I have been cruel to my mother, and as a
punishment has this evil been sent to me.  Wherefore I must go hence, and
wander through the world till I find her, and she give me her
forgiveness.’

So he ran away into the forest and called out to his mother to come to
him, but there was no answer.  All day long he called to her, and, when
the sun set he lay down to sleep on a bed of leaves, and the birds and
the animals fled from him, for they remembered his cruelty, and he was
alone save for the toad that watched him, and the slow adder that crawled
past.

And in the morning he rose up, and plucked some bitter berries from the
trees and ate them, and took his way through the great wood, weeping
sorely.  And of everything that he met he made inquiry if perchance they
had seen his mother.

He said to the Mole, ‘Thou canst go beneath the earth.  Tell me, is my
mother there?’

And the Mole answered, ‘Thou hast blinded mine eyes.  How should I know?’

He said to the Linnet, ‘Thou canst fly over the tops of the tall trees,
and canst see the whole world.  Tell me, canst thou see my mother?’

And the Linnet answered, ‘Thou hast clipt my wings for thy pleasure.  How
should I fly?’

And to the little Squirrel who lived in the fir-tree, and was lonely, he
said, ‘Where is my mother?’

And the Squirrel answered, ‘Thou hast slain mine.  Dost thou seek to slay
thine also?’

And the Star-Child wept and bowed his head, and prayed forgiveness of
God’s things, and went on through the forest, seeking for the
beggar-woman.  And on the third day he came to the other side of the
forest and went down into the plain.

And when he passed through the villages the children mocked him, and
threw stones at him, and the carlots would not suffer him even to sleep
in the byres lest he might bring mildew on the stored corn, so foul was
he to look at, and their hired men drave him away, and there was none who
had pity on him.  Nor could he hear anywhere of the beggar-woman who was
his mother, though for the space of three years he wandered over the
world, and often seemed to see her on the road in front of him, and would
call to her, and run after her till the sharp flints made his feet to
bleed.  But overtake her he could not, and those who dwelt by the way did
ever deny that they had seen her, or any like to her, and they made sport
of his sorrow.

For the space of three years he wandered over the world, and in the world
there was neither love nor loving-kindness nor charity for him, but it
was even such a world as he had made for himself in the days of his great
pride.

                                * * * * *

And one evening he came to the gate of a strong-walled city that stood by
a river, and, weary and footsore though he was, he made to enter in.  But
the soldiers who stood on guard dropped their halberts across the
entrance, and said roughly to him, ‘What is thy business in the city?’

‘I am seeking for my mother,’ he answered, ‘and I pray ye to suffer me to
pass, for it may be that she is in this city.’

But they mocked at him, and one of them wagged a black beard, and set
down his shield and cried, ‘Of a truth, thy mother will not be merry when
she sees thee, for thou art more ill-favoured than the toad of the marsh,
or the adder that crawls in the fen.  Get thee gone.  Get thee gone.  Thy
mother dwells not in this city.’

And another, who held a yellow banner in his hand, said to him, ‘Who is
thy mother, and wherefore art thou seeking for her?’

And he answered, ‘My mother is a beggar even as I am, and I have treated
her evilly, and I pray ye to suffer me to pass that she may give me her
forgiveness, if it be that she tarrieth in this city.’  But they would
not, and pricked him with their spears.

And, as he turned away weeping, one whose armour was inlaid with gilt
flowers, and on whose helmet couched a lion that had wings, came up and
made inquiry of the soldiers who it was who had sought entrance.  And
they said to him, ‘It is a beggar and the child of a beggar, and we have
driven him away.’

‘Nay,’ he cried, laughing, ‘but we will sell the foul thing for a slave,
and his price shall be the price of a bowl of sweet wine.’

And an old and evil-visaged man who was passing by called out, and said,
‘I will buy him for that price,’ and, when he had paid the price, he took
the Star-Child by the hand and led him into the city.

And after that they had gone through many streets they came to a little
door that was set in a wall that was covered with a pomegranate tree.
And the old man touched the door with a ring of graved jasper and it
opened, and they went down five steps of brass into a garden filled with
black poppies and green jars of burnt clay.  And the old man took then
from his turban a scarf of figured silk, and bound with it the eyes of
the Star-Child, and drave him in front of him.  And when the scarf was
taken off his eyes, the Star-Child found himself in a dungeon, that was
lit by a lantern of horn.

And the old man set before him some mouldy bread on a trencher and said,
‘Eat,’ and some brackish water in a cup and said, ‘Drink,’ and when he
had eaten and drunk, the old man went out, locking the door behind him
and fastening it with an iron chain.

                                * * * * *

And on the morrow the old man, who was indeed the subtlest of the
magicians of Libya and had learned his art from one who dwelt in the
tombs of the Nile, came in to him and frowned at him, and said, ‘In a
wood that is nigh to the gate of this city of Giaours there are three
pieces of gold.  One is of white gold, and another is of yellow gold, and
the gold of the third one is red.  To-day thou shalt bring me the piece
of white gold, and if thou bringest it not back, I will beat thee with a
hundred stripes.  Get thee away quickly, and at sunset I will be waiting
for thee at the door of the garden.  See that thou bringest the white
gold, or it shall go ill with thee, for thou art my slave, and I have
bought thee for the price of a bowl of sweet wine.’  And he bound the
eyes of the Star-Child with the scarf of figured silk, and led him
through the house, and through the garden of poppies, and up the five
steps of brass.  And having opened the little door with his ring he set
him in the street.

                                * * * * *

And the Star-Child went out of the gate of the city, and came to the wood
of which the Magician had spoken to him.

Now this wood was very fair to look at from without, and seemed full of
singing birds and of sweet-scented flowers, and the Star-Child entered it
gladly.  Yet did its beauty profit him little, for wherever he went harsh
briars and thorns shot up from the ground and encompassed him, and evil
nettles stung him, and the thistle pierced him with her daggers, so that
he was in sore distress.  Nor could he anywhere find the piece of white
gold of which the Magician had spoken, though he sought for it from morn
to noon, and from noon to sunset.  And at sunset he set his face towards
home, weeping bitterly, for he knew what fate was in store for him.

But when he had reached the outskirts of the wood, he heard from a
thicket a cry as of some one in pain.  And forgetting his own sorrow he
ran back to the place, and saw there a little Hare caught in a trap that
some hunter had set for it.

And the Star-Child had pity on it, and released it, and said to it, ‘I am
myself but a slave, yet may I give thee thy freedom.’

And the Hare answered him, and said: ‘Surely thou hast given me freedom,
and what shall I give thee in return?’

And the Star-Child said to it, ‘I am seeking for a piece of white gold,
nor can I anywhere find it, and if I bring it not to my master he will
beat me.’

‘Come thou with me,’ said the Hare, ‘and I will lead thee to it, for I
know where it is hidden, and for what purpose.’

So the Star-Child went with the Hare, and lo! in the cleft of a great
oak-tree he saw the piece of white gold that he was seeking.  And he was
filled with joy, and seized it, and said to the Hare, ‘The service that I
did to thee thou hast rendered back again many times over, and the
kindness that I showed thee thou hast repaid a hundred-fold.’

‘Nay,’ answered the Hare, ‘but as thou dealt with me, so I did deal with
thee,’ and it ran away swiftly, and the Star-Child went towards the city.

Now at the gate of the city there was seated one who was a leper.  Over
his face hung a cowl of grey linen, and through the eyelets his eyes
gleamed like red coals.  And when he saw the Star-Child coming, he struck
upon a wooden bowl, and clattered his bell, and called out to him, and
said, ‘Give me a piece of money, or I must die of hunger.  For they have
thrust me out of the city, and there is no one who has pity on me.’

‘Alas!’ cried the Star-Child, ‘I have but one piece of money in my
wallet, and if I bring it not to my master he will beat me, for I am his
slave.’

But the leper entreated him, and prayed of him, till the Star-Child had
pity, and gave him the piece of white gold.

                                * * * * *

And when he came to the Magician’s house, the Magician opened to him, and
brought him in, and said to him, ‘Hast thou the piece of white gold?’
And the Star-Child answered, ‘I have it not.’  So the Magician fell upon
him, and beat him, and set before him an empty trencher, and said, ‘Eat,’
and an empty cup, and said, ‘Drink,’ and flung him again into the
dungeon.

And on the morrow the Magician came to him, and said, ‘If to-day thou
bringest me not the piece of yellow gold, I will surely keep thee as my
slave, and give thee three hundred stripes.’

So the Star-Child went to the wood, and all day long he searched for the
piece of yellow gold, but nowhere could he find it.  And at sunset he sat
him down and began to weep, and as he was weeping there came to him the
little Hare that he had rescued from the trap.

And the Hare said to him, ‘Why art thou weeping?  And what dost thou seek
in the wood?’

And the Star-Child answered, ‘I am seeking for a piece of yellow gold
that is hidden here, and if I find it not my master will beat me, and
keep me as a slave.’

‘Follow me,’ cried the Hare, and it ran through the wood till it came to
a pool of water.  And at the bottom of the pool the piece of yellow gold
was lying.

‘How shall I thank thee?’ said the Star-Child, ‘for lo! this is the
second time that you have succoured me.’

‘Nay, but thou hadst pity on me first,’ said the Hare, and it ran away
swiftly.

And the Star-Child took the piece of yellow gold, and put it in his
wallet, and hurried to the city.  But the leper saw him coming, and ran
to meet him, and knelt down and cried, ‘Give me a piece of money or I
shall die of hunger.’

And the Star-Child said to him, ‘I have in my wallet but one piece of
yellow gold, and if I bring it not to my master he will beat me and keep
me as his slave.’

But the leper entreated him sore, so that the Star-Child had pity on him,
and gave him the piece of yellow gold.

And when he came to the Magician’s house, the Magician opened to him, and
brought him in, and said to him, ‘Hast thou the piece of yellow gold?’
And the Star-Child said to him, ‘I have it not.’  So the Magician fell
upon him, and beat him, and loaded him with chains, and cast him again
into the dungeon.

And on the morrow the Magician came to him, and said, ‘If to-day thou
bringest me the piece of red gold I will set thee free, but if thou
bringest it not I will surely slay thee.’

So the Star-Child went to the wood, and all day long he searched for the
piece of red gold, but nowhere could he find it.  And at evening he sat
him down and wept, and as he was weeping there came to him the little
Hare.

And the Hare said to him, ‘The piece of red gold that thou seekest is in
the cavern that is behind thee.  Therefore weep no more but be glad.’

‘How shall I reward thee?’ cried the Star-Child, ‘for lo! this is the
third time thou hast succoured me.’

‘Nay, but thou hadst pity on me first,’ said the Hare, and it ran away
swiftly.

And the Star-Child entered the cavern, and in its farthest corner he
found the piece of red gold.  So he put it in his wallet, and hurried to
the city.  And the leper seeing him coming, stood in the centre of the
road, and cried out, and said to him, ‘Give me the piece of red money, or
I must die,’ and the Star-Child had pity on him again, and gave him the
piece of red gold, saying, ‘Thy need is greater than mine.’  Yet was his
heart heavy, for he knew what evil fate awaited him.

                                * * * * *

But lo! as he passed through the gate of the city, the guards bowed down
and made obeisance to him, saying, ‘How beautiful is our lord!’ and a
crowd of citizens followed him, and cried out, ‘Surely there is none so
beautiful in the whole world!’ so that the Star-Child wept, and said to
himself, ‘They are mocking me, and making light of my misery.’  And so
large was the concourse of the people, that he lost the threads of his
way, and found himself at last in a great square, in which there was a
palace of a King.

And the gate of the palace opened, and the priests and the high officers
of the city ran forth to meet him, and they abased themselves before him,
and said, ‘Thou art our lord for whom we have been waiting, and the son
of our King.’

And the Star-Child answered them and said, ‘I am no king’s son, but the
child of a poor beggar-woman.  And how say ye that I am beautiful, for I
know that I am evil to look at?’

Then he, whose armour was inlaid with gilt flowers, and on whose helmet
crouched a lion that had wings, held up a shield, and cried, ‘How saith
my lord that he is not beautiful?’

And the Star-Child looked, and lo! his face was even as it had been, and
his comeliness had come back to him, and he saw that in his eyes which he
had not seen there before.

And the priests and the high officers knelt down and said to him, ‘It was
prophesied of old that on this day should come he who was to rule over
us.  Therefore, let our lord take this crown and this sceptre, and be in
his justice and mercy our King over us.’

But he said to them, ‘I am not worthy, for I have denied the mother who
bare me, nor may I rest till I have found her, and known her forgiveness.
Therefore, let me go, for I must wander again over the world, and may not
tarry here, though ye bring me the crown and the sceptre.’  And as he
spake he turned his face from them towards the street that led to the
gate of the city, and lo! amongst the crowd that pressed round the
soldiers, he saw the beggar-woman who was his mother, and at her side
stood the leper, who had sat by the road.

And a cry of joy broke from his lips, and he ran over, and kneeling down
he kissed the wounds on his mother’s feet, and wet them with his tears.
He bowed his head in the dust, and sobbing, as one whose heart might
break, he said to her: ‘Mother, I denied thee in the hour of my pride.
Accept me in the hour of my humility.  Mother, I gave thee hatred.  Do
thou give me love.  Mother, I rejected thee.  Receive thy child now.’
But the beggar-woman answered him not a word.

And he reached out his hands, and clasped the white feet of the leper,
and said to him: ‘Thrice did I give thee of my mercy.  Bid my mother
speak to me once.’  But the leper answered him not a word.

And he sobbed again and said: ‘Mother, my suffering is greater than I can
bear.  Give me thy forgiveness, and let me go back to the forest.’  And
the beggar-woman put her hand on his head, and said to him, ‘Rise,’ and
the leper put his hand on his head, and said to him, ‘Rise,’ also.

And he rose up from his feet, and looked at them, and lo! they were a
King and a Queen.

And the Queen said to him, ‘This is thy father whom thou hast succoured.’

And the King said, ‘This is thy mother whose feet thou hast washed with
thy tears.’  And they fell on his neck and kissed him, and brought him
into the palace and clothed him in fair raiment, and set the crown upon
his head, and the sceptre in his hand, and over the city that stood by
the river he ruled, and was its lord.  Much justice and mercy did he show
to all, and the evil Magician he banished, and to the Woodcutter and his
wife he sent many rich gifts, and to their children he gave high honour.
Nor would he suffer any to be cruel to bird or beast, but taught love and
loving-kindness and charity, and to the poor he gave bread, and to the
naked he gave raiment, and there was peace and plenty in the land.

Yet ruled he not long, so great had been his suffering, and so bitter the
fire of his testing, for after the space of three years he died.  And he
who came after him ruled evilly.





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