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Title: Stray Leaves from Strange Literature - Fantastics and other Fancies
Author: Hearn, Lafcadio
Language: English
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STRAY LEAVES FROM

STRANGE LITERATURE

AND

FANTASTICS

AND OTHER FANCIES

BY

LAFCADIO HEARN



BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

MDCCCCXXII


[Illustration: A Dock Scene in New Orleans.]



NOTE

The thanks of the Publishers are due to Dr. A. K. Coomaraswamy, of the
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, for corrections in the spelling of proper
names in the Tales from India and Buddhist Literature included in this
volume.


    CONTENTS

    STRAY LEAVES FROM STRANGE LITERATURE

    Explanatory xvii

    STRAY LEAVES

    THE BOOK OF THOTH. _From an Egyptian Papyrus_
    THE FOUNTAIN MAIDEN. _A Legend of the South Pacific_
    THE BIRD WIFE. _An Esquimau Tradition_


    TALES FROM INDIAN AND BUDDHIST LITERATURE

    THE MAKING OF TILOTTAMA
    THE BRAHMAN AND HIS BRAHMANI
    BAKAWALI
    NATALIKA
    THE CORPSE-DEMON
    THE LION
    THE LEGEND OF THE MONSTER MISFORTUNE
    A PARABLE BUDDHISTIC
    PUNDARI
    YAMARAJA
    THE LOTUS OF FAITH


    RUNES FROM THE KALEWALA

    THE MAGICAL WORDS
    THE FIRST MUSICIAN
    THE HEALING OF WAINAMOINEN


    STORIES OF MOSLEM LANDS

    BOUTIMAR, THE DOVE
    THE SON OF A ROBBER
    A LEGEND OF LOVE
    THE KING'S JUSTICE


    TRADITIONS RETOLD FROM THE TALMUD

    A LEGEND OF RABBA
    THE MOCKERS
    ESTHER'S CHOICE
    THE DISPUTE IN THE HALACHA
    RABBI YOCHANAN BEN ZACHAI
    A TRADITION OF TITUS
    BIBLIOGRAPHY


    FANTASTICS AND OTHER FANCIES

    INTRODUCTION, BY CHARLES WOODWARD HUTSON

    IN THE "ITEM"

    ALL IN WHITE
    September 14, 1879

    THE LITTLE RED KITTEN
    September 24, 1879

    THE NIGHT OF ALL SAINTS
    November 1, 1879

    THE DEVIL'S CARBUNCLE
    November 2, 1879

    LES COULISSES
    December 6, 1879

    THE STRANGER
    April 17, 1880

    Y PORQUE?
    April 17, 1880

    A DREAM OF KITES
    June 18, 1880

    HEREDITARY MEMORIES
    July 22, 1880

    THE GHOSTLY KISS
    July 24, 1880

    THE BLACK CUPID
    July 29, 1880

    WHEN I WAS A FLOWER
    August 13, 1880

    METEMPSYCHOSIS
    September 7, 1880

    THE UNDYING ONE
    September 18, 1880

    THE VISION OF THE DEAD CREOLE
    September 25, 1880

    THE NAME ON THE STONE
    October 9, 1880

    APHRODITE AND THE KING'S PRISONER
    October 12, 1880

    THE FOUNTAIN OF GOLD
    October 15, 1880

    A DEAD LOVE
    October 21, 1880

    AT THE CEMETERY
    November 1, 1880

    "AÏDA"
    January 17, 1881

    EL VÓMITO
    March 21, 1881

    THE IDYL OF A FRENCH SNUFF-BOX
    April 5, 1881

    SPRING PHANTOMS
    April 21, 1881

    A KISS FANTASTICAL
    June 8, 1881

    THE BIRD AND THE GIRL
    June 14, 1881

    THE TALE OF A FAN
    July 1, 1881

    A LEGEND
    July 21, 1881

    THE GYPSY'S STORY
    August 18, 1881

    THE ONE PILL-BOX
    October 12, 1881


    IN THE "TIMES-DEMOCRAT"

    A RIVER REVERIE
    May 2, 1882

    "HIS HEART IS OLD"
    May 7, 1882

    MDCCCLIII
    May 21, 1882

    HIOUEN-THSANG
    June 25, 1882

    L'AMOUR APRÈS LA MORT
    April 6, 1884

    THE POST-OFFICE
    October 19, 1884



ILLUSTRATIONS

A DOCK SCENE IN NEW ORLEANS _Frontispiece_ From a
painting, by Robert W. Grafton, in the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans.
By the courtesy of Alfred S. Amer.

INDRA IN HIS COURT From a Fifteenth Century Jain manuscript.

THE OLD CREOLE OPERA HOUSE, NEW ORLEANS

JUTTING BALCONIES IN THE CREOLE CITY

Except as otherwise stated, the illustrations are from photographs by
CHARLES S. OLCOTT



STRAY LEAVES FROM STRANGE LITERATURE

STORIES

RECONSTRUCTED FROM THE ANVARI-SOHEÏLI, BAITÁL PACHÍSÍ, MAHABHARATA,
PANTCHA-TANTRA, GULISTAN, TALMUD, KALEWALA, ETC.


TO MY FRIEND

PAGE M. BAKER

EDITOR OF THE NEW ORLEANS TIMES-DEMOCRAT



EXPLANATORY


While engaged upon this little mosaic work of legend and fable, I felt
much like one of those merchants told of in Sindbad's Second Voyage,
who were obliged to content themselves with gathering the small jewels
adhering to certain meat which eagles brought up from the Valley of
Diamonds. I have had to depend altogether upon the labor of translators
for my acquisitions; and these seemed too small to deserve separate
literary setting. By cutting my little gems according to one pattern,
I have doubtless reduced the beauty of some; yet it seemed to me their
colors were so weird, their luminosity so elfish, that their intrinsic
value could not be wholly destroyed even by so clumsy an artificer as I.

In short, these fables, legends, parables, etc., are simply
reconstructions of what impressed me as most fantastically beautiful
in the most exotic literature which I was able to obtain. With few
exceptions, the plans of the original narratives have been preserved.
Sometimes I have added a little, sometimes curtailed; but the
augmentations were generally made with material drawn from the same
source as the legend, while the abbreviations were effected either with
a view to avoid repetition, or through the necessity of suppressing
incidents unsuited to the general reading. I must call special
attention to certain romantic liberties or poetic licenses which I have
taken.

In the Polynesian story ("The Fountain Maiden") I have considerably
enlarged upon the legend, which I found in Gill's _Myths and Songs
of the South Pacific_--a curious but inartistic book, in which much
admirable material has been very dryly handled. In another portion of
Mr. Gill's book I found the text and translation of the weird "Thieves'
Song"; and conceived the idea of utilizing it in the story, with some
fanciful changes. The Arabic "Legend of Love" is still more apocryphal,
as it consists of fragmentary Arabian stories, borrowed from De
Stendhal's _L'Amour_, and welded into one narrative.

In the Rabbinical legends I have often united several incidents related
about one personage in various of the Talmudic treatises; but this
system is sufficiently specified by references to the _Gemara_ in the
text. By consulting the indices attached to Hershon's _Miscellany_, and
Schwab's translations of the Jerusalem Talmud, it was easy to collect a
number of singular traditions attaching to one distinguished Rabbi, and
to unite these into a narrative. Finally, I must confess that the story
of "Natalika" was not drawn directly from Ferista, or Fihristah, but
from Jacolliot, a clever writer, but untrustworthy Orientalist, whose
books have little serious value. Whether true or false, however, the
legend of the statue seemed to me too pretty to overlook.

In one case only have I made a veritable translation from the French.
Léouzon Le Duc's literal version of the "Kalewala" seemed to me
the most charming specimen of poetical prose I had met with among
translations. I selected three incidents, and translated them almost
word for word.

Nearly all of the Italic texts, although fancifully arranged, have
been drawn from the literatures of those peoples whose legends they
introduce. Many phrases were obtained from that inexhaustible treasury
of Indian wisdom, the _Pantchatantra_; others from various Buddhist
works. The introductory text of the piece, entitled "The King's
Justice," was borrowed from the Persian _Mantic Uttaïr_, of Farid Uddin
Attar; and the text at the commencement of the Buddhist Parable (which
was refashioned after a narrative in Stanislas Julien's _Avadanas_)
was taken from the _Dhammapada._ The briefer stories, I think, have
generally suffered less at my hands than the lengthier ones. That
wonderful Egyptian romance about the Book of Thoth is far more striking
in Maspéro's French translations from the original papyrus; but the
Egyptian phrases are often characterized by a nakedness rather more
startling than that of the dancing girls in the mural paintings....

Upon another page will be found a little bibliography of nearly all the
sources whence I have drawn my material. Some volumes are mentioned
only because they gave me one or two phrases. Thus, I borrowed
expressions or ideas from "Amarou," from Fauche's translation of the
_Ritou Sanhara_, and especially from the wealth of notes to Chézy's
superb translation of _Sacountala._

This little collection has no claim upon the consideration of scholars.
It is simply an attempt to share with the public some of those novel
delights I experienced while trying to familiarize myself with some
very strange and beautiful literatures.

During its preparation two notable works have appeared with a partly
similar purpose: Helen Zimmern's _Epic of Kings_, and Edwin Arnold's
_Rosary of Islam._ In the former we have a charming popular version of
Firdusi, and upon the latter are exquisitely strung some of the fairest
pearls of the "Mesnewi." I hope my far less artistic contribution to
the popularization of unfamiliar literature may stimulate others to
produce something worthier than I can hope to do. My gems were few
and small: the monstrous and splendid await the coming of Sindbad, or
some mighty lapidary by whom they may be wrought into jewel bouquets
exquisite as those bunches of topaz blossoms and ruby buds laid upon
the tomb of Nourmahal.

NEW ORLEANS, 1884



STRAY LEAVES

THE BOOK OF THOTH

    An Egyptian tale of weirdness, as told in a demotic papyrus
    found in the necropolis of Deir-el-Medineh among the ruins
    of hundred-gated Thebes.... Written in the thirty-fifth year
    of the reign of some forgotten Ptolomæus, and in the month
    of Tybi completed by a scribe famous among magicians....
    Dedicated, doubtless, to Thoth, Lord of all Scribes, Grand
    Master of all Sorcerers; whose grace had been reverently
    invoked upon whomsoever might speak well concerning the same
    papyrus....

...Thoth, the divine, lord of scribes, most excellent of workers,
prince of wizards, once, it is said, wrote with his own hand a book
surpassing all other books, and containing two magical formulas only.
Whosoever could recite the first of these formulas would become
forthwith second only to the gods--for by its simple utterance the
mountains and the valleys, the ocean and the clouds, the heights of
heaven and the deeps of hell, would be made subject unto his will;
while the birds of air, the reptiles of darkness, and the fishes of the
waters, would be thereby compelled to appear, and to make manifest the
thoughts secreted within their hearts. But whosoever could recite the
second formula might never know death--for even though buried within
the entrails of the earth, he would still behold heaven through the
darkness and hear the voices of earth athwart the silence; even in the
necropolis he would still see the rising and setting of the sun, and
the Cycle of the Gods, and the waxing and waning of the moon, and the
eternal lights of the firmament.

And the god Thoth deposited his book within a casket of gold, and the
casket of gold within a casket of silver, and the casket of silver
within a casket of ivory and ebony, and the casket of ivory and ebony
within a casket of palm-wood, and the casket of palm-wood within a
casket of bronze, and the casket of bronze within a casket of iron.
And he buried the same in the bed of the great river of Egypt where it
flows through the Nome of Coptos; and immortal river monsters coiled
about the casket to guard it from all magicians.


Now, of all magicians, Noferkephtah, the son of King Minibphtah (to
whom be life, health, and strength forevermore!), first by cunning
discovered the place where the wondrous book was hidden, and found
courage to possess himself thereof. For after he had well paid the
wisest of the ancient priests to direct his way, Noferkephtah obtained
from his father Pharaoh a royal cangia, well supplied and stoutly
manned, wherein he journeyed to Coptos in search of the hidden
treasure. Coming to Coptos after many days, he created him a magical
boat and a magical crew by reciting mystic words; and he and the
shadowy crew with him toiled to find the casket; and by the building
of dams they were enabled to find it. Then Noferkephtah prevailed also
against the immortal serpent by dint of sorcery; and he obtained the
book, and read the mystic formulas, and made himself second only to the
gods.

But the divinities, being wroth with him, caused his sister and wife
Ahouri to fall into the Nile, and his son also. Noferkephtah indeed
compelled the river to restore them; but although the power of the
book maintained their life after a strange fashion, they lived not as
before, so that he had to bury them in the necropolis at Coptos. Seeing
these things and fearing to return to the king alone, he tied the book
above his heart, and also allowed himself to drown. The power of the
book, indeed, maintained his life after a strange fashion; but he lived
not as before, so that they took him back to Thebes as one who had
passed over to Amenthi, and there laid him with his fathers, and the
book also.

Yet, by the power of the book, he lived within the darkness of the
tomb, and beheld the sun rising, and the Cycle of the Gods, and the
phases of the moon, and the stars of the night. By the power of the
book, also, he summoned to him the shadow of his sister Ahouri,
buried at Coptos--whom he had made his wife according to the custom
of the Egyptians; and there was light within their dwelling-place.
Thus Noferkephtah knew ghostly happiness in the company of the Ka, or
shadow, of his wife Ahouri, and the Ka of his son Mikhonsou.


Now, four generations had passed since the time of King Minibphtah;
and the Pharaoh of Egypt was Ousirmari. Ousirmari had two sons who
were learned among the Egyptians--Satni was the name of the elder;
Anhathorerôou that of the younger. There was not in all Egypt so wise
a scribe as Satni. He knew how to read the sacred writings, and the
inscriptions upon the amulets, and the sentences within the tombs,
and the words graven upon the stelæ, and the books of that sacerdotal
library called the "Double House of Life." Also he knew the composition
of all formulas of sorcery and of all sentences which spirits obey,
so that there was no enchanter like him in all Egypt. And Satni heard
of Noferkephtah and the book of Thoth from a certain aged priest, and
resolved that he would obtain it. But the aged priest warned him,
saying, "Beware thou dost not wrest the book from Noferkephtah, else
thou wilt be enchanted by him, and compelled to bear it back to him
within the tomb, and do great penance."

Nevertheless Satni sought and obtained permission of the king to
descend into the necropolis of Thebes, and to take away, if he might,
the book from thence. So he went thither with his brother.

Three days and three nights the brothers sought for the tomb of
Noferkephtah in the immeasurable city of the dead; and after they
had threaded many miles of black corridors, and descended into many
hundred burial pits, and were weary with the deciphering of innumerable
inscriptions by quivering light of lamps, they found his resting-place
at last. Now, when they entered the tomb their eyes were dazzled; for
Noferkephtah was lying there with his wife Ahouri beside him; and the
book of Thoth, placed between them, shed such a light around, that it
seemed like the brightness of the sun. And when Satni entered, the
Shadow of Ahouri rose against the light; and she asked him, "Who art
thou?"

Then Satni answered: "I am Satni, son of King Ousirmari; and I come for
the book of Thoth which is between thee and Noferkephtah; and if thou
wilt not give it me, I shall wrest it away by force."

But the Shadow of the woman replied to him: "Nay, be not unreasoning
in thy words! Do not ask for this book. For we, in obtaining it, were
deprived of the pleasure of living upon earth for the term naturally
allotted us; neither is this enchanted life within the tomb like unto
the life of Egypt. Nowise can the book serve thee; therefore listen
rather to the recital of all those sorrows which befell us by reason of
this book...."

But after hearing the story of Ahouri, the heart of Satni remained as
bronze; and he only repeated: "If thou wilt not give me the book which
is between thee and Noferkephtah, I shall wrest it away by-force."

Then Noferkephtah rose up within the tomb, and laughed, saying: "O
Satni, if thou art indeed a true scribe, win this book from me by
thy skill! If thou art not afraid, play against me a game for the
possession of this book--a game of _fifty-two!_" Now there was a
chess-board within the tomb.

Then Satni played a game of chess with Noferkephtah, while the Kas, the
Shadows, the Doubles of Ahouri, and the large-eyed boy looked on. But
the eyes with which they gazed upon him, and the eyes of Noferkephtah
also, strangely disturbed him, so that Satni's brain whirled, and the
web of his thought became entangled, and he lost! Noferkephtah laughed,
and uttered a magical word, and placed the chess-board upon Satni's
head; and Satni sank to his knees into the floor of the tomb.

Again they played, and the result was the same. Then Noferkephtah
uttered another magical word, and again placed the chess-board upon
Satni's head; and Satni sank to his hips into the floor of the tomb.

Once more they played, and the result was the same. Then Noferkephtah
uttered a third magical word, and laid the chess-board on Satni's head,
and Satni sank up to his ears into the floor of the tomb!

Then Satni shrieked to his brother to bring him certain talismans
quickly; and the brother fetched the talismans, and placed them upon
Satni's head, and by magical amulets saved him from the power of
Noferkephtah. But having done this, Anhathorerôou fell dead within the
tomb.

And Satni put forth his hand and took the book from Noferkephtah,
and went out of the tomb into the corridors; while the book lighted
the way for him, so that a great brightness traveled before him, and
deep blackness went after him. Into the darkness Ahouri followed him,
lamenting, and crying out: "Woe! woe upon us! The light that gave life
is taken from us; the hideous Nothingness will come upon us! Now,
indeed, will annihilation enter into the tomb!" But Noferkephtah called
Ahouri to him, and bade her cease to weep, saying to her: "Grieve not
after the book; for I shall make him bring it back to me, with a fork
and stick in his hand and a lighted brazier upon his head."


But when the king Ousirmari heard of all that had taken place, he
became very much alarmed for his son, and said to him: "Behold! thy
folly has already caused the death of thy brother Anhathorerôou; take
heed, therefore, lest it bring about thine own destruction likewise.
Noferkephtah dead is even a mightier magician than thou. Take back the
book forthwith, lest he destroy thee."

And Satni replied: "Lo! never have I owned a sensual wish, nor done
evil to _living_ creature; how, then, can the dead prevail against me?
It is only the foolish scribe--the scribe who hath not learned the
mastery of passions--that may be overcome by enchantment."

And he kept the book.


Now it came to pass that a few days after, while Satni stood upon
the parvise of the temple of Pthah, he beheld a woman so beautiful
that from the moment his eyes fell upon her he ceased to act like one
living, and all the world grew like a dream about him. And while the
young woman was praying in the temple, Satni heard that her name was
Thoutboui, daughter of a prophet. Whereupon he sent a messenger to her,
saying: "Thus declares my master: I, the Prince Satni, son of King
Ousirmari, do so love thee that I feel as one about to die.... If thou
wilt love me as I desire, thou shalt have kingliest gifts; otherwise,
know that I have the power to bury thee alive among the dead, so that
none may ever see thee again."

And Thoutboui on hearing these words appeared not at all astonished,
nor angered, nor terrified; but her great black eyes laughed, and
she answered, saying: "Tell thy master, Prince Satni, son of King
Ousirmari, to visit me within my house at Bubastes, whither I am even
now going,"... Thereupon she went away with her retinue of maidens.


So Satni hastened forthwith to Bubastes by the river, and to the house
of Thoutboui, the prophet's daughter. In all the place there was no
house like unto her house; it was lofty and long, and surrounded by a
garden all encircled with a white wall. And Satni followed Thoutboui's
serving-maid into the house, and by a coiling stairway to an upper
chamber wherein were broad beds of ebony and ivory, and rich furniture
curiously carved, and tripods with burning perfumes, and tables of
cedar with cups of gold. And the walls were coated with lapis-lazuli
inlaid with emerald, making a strange and pleasant light.... Thoutboui
appeared upon the threshold, robed in textures of white, transparent
as the dresses of those dancing women limned upon the walls of the
Pharaohs' palace; and as she stood against the light, Satni, beholding
the litheness of her limbs, the flexibility of her body, felt his
heart cease to beat within him, so that he could not speak. But she
served him with wine, and took from his hands the gifts which he had
brought--and she suffered him to kiss her.

Then said Thoutboui: "Not lightly is my love to be bought with gifts.
Yet will I test thee, since thou dost so desire. If thou wilt be loved
by me, therefore, make over to me by deed all thou hast--thy gold and
thy silver, thy lands and houses, thy goods and all that belongs to
thee. So that the house wherein I dwell may become thy house!"

And Satni, looking into the long black jewels of her eyes, forgot the
worth of all that he possessed; and a scribe was summoned, and the
scribe drew up the deed giving to Thoutboui all the goods of Satni.

Then said Thoutboui: "Still will I test thee, since thou dost so
desire. If thou wilt have my love, make over to me thy children, also,
as my slaves, lest they should seek dispute with my children concerning
that which was thine. So that the house in which I dwell may become thy
house!"

And Satni, gazing upon the witchery of her bosom, curved like ivory
carving, rounded like the eggs of the ostrich, forgot his loving
children; and the deed was written.... Even at that moment a messenger
came, saying: "O Satni, thy children are below, and await thee." And he
said: "Bid them ascend hither."

Then said Thoutboui: "Still will I test thee, since thou dost so
desire. If thou wilt have my love, let thy children be put to death,
lest at some future time they seek to claim that which thou hast given.
So that the house in which I dwell may be thy house!"

And Satni, enchanted with the enchantment of her pliant stature, of her
palmy grace, of her ivorine beauty, forgot even his fatherhood, and
answered: "Be it so; were I ruler of heaven, even heaven would I give
thee for a kiss."

Then Thoutboui had the children of Satni slain before his eyes; yet he
sought not to save them! She bade her servant cast their bodies from
the windows to the cats and to the dogs below; yet Satni lifted not
his hand to prevent it! And while he drank wine with Thoutboui, he
could hear the growling of the animals that were eating the flesh of
his children. But he only moaned to her: "Give me thy love! I am as one
in hell for thy sake!" And she arose, and, entering another chamber,
turned and held out her wonderful arms to him, and drew him to her with
the sorcery of her unutterable eyes....

But as Satni sought to clasp her and to kiss her, lo! her ruddy
mouth opened and extended and broadened and deepened--yawning wider,
darker, quickly, vastly--a blackness as of necropoles, a vastness as
of Amenthi! And Satni beheld only a gulf before him, deepening and
shadowing like night; and from out the gulf a burst of tempest roared
up, and bore him with it, and whirled him abroad as a leaf. And his
senses left him....


... When he came again to himself, he was lying naked at the entrance
of the subterranean sepulchres; and a great horror and despair came
upon him, so that he purposed ending his life. But the servants of the
king found him, and bore him safely to his father. And Ousirmari heard
the ghostly tale.

Then said Ousirmari: "O Satni, Noferkephtah dead is a mightier magician
than even thou living. Know, my son, first of all that thy children are
alive and well in my own care; know, also, that the woman by whose
beauty thou wert bewitched, and for whom thou hast in thought committed
all heinous crimes, was a phantom wrought by Noferkephtah's magic.
Thus, by exciting thee to passion, did he bring thy magical power to
nought. And now, my dear son, haste with the book to Noferkephtah, lest
thou perish utterly, with all thy kindred."

So Satni took the book of Thoth, and, carrying a fork and stick in his
hands and a lighted brazier upon his head, carried it to the Theban
necropolis and into the tomb of Noferkephtah. And Ahouri clapped her
hands, and smiled to see the light again return. And Noferkephtah
laughed, saying: "Did I not tell thee beforehand?" "Aye!" said Ahouri,
"thou wert enchanted, O Satni!" But Satni, prostrating himself before
Noferkephtah, asked how he might make atonement.

"O Satni," answered Noferkephtah, "my wife and my son are indeed buried
at Coptos; these whom thou seest here are their Doubles only--their
Shadows, their Kas--maintained with me by enchantment. Seek out their
resting-place at Coptos, therefore, and bury their bodies with me, that
we may all be thus reunited, and that thou mayst do penance."...

So Satni went to Coptos, and there found an ancient priest, who told
him the place of Ahouri's sepulture, saying: "The father of the
father of my father told it to my father's father, who told it to my
father."... Then Satni found the bodies, and restored to Noferkephtah
his wife and his son; and thus did penance. After which the tomb of
Noferkephtah was sealed up forever by Pharaoh's order; and no man
knoweth more the place of Noferkephtah's sepulture.



THE FOUNTAIN MAIDEN

    A legend of that pacific land where garments are worn by
    none save the dead; where the beauty of youth is as the
    beauty of statues of amber; where through eternal summer
    even the mountains refuse to don a girdle of cloud....

   MIGHTY OMATAIANUKU!
     Dark Avaava the Tall!
     Tall Outuutu!
     Shadow the way for us!
     Tower as the cocoa-palms before us!
     Bend ye as dreams above the slumberers!
     Make deeper the sleep of the sleepers!

Sleep, ye crickets of the threshold! Sleep, ye never
reposing ants! Sleep, ye shining beetles of the night!

Winds, cease ye from whispering! Restless grass,
pause in thy rustling! Leaves of the palms, be still!
Reeds of the water-ways, sway not! Blue river, cease thy
lipping of the banks!

Slumber, ye beams of the house, ye posts, great and
small, ye rafters and ridge-poles, thatchings of grass,
woven work of reeds, windows bamboo-latticed, doors
that squeak like ghosts, low-glimmering fires of sandal-wood--slumber
ye all!

     O Omataianuku!
     Tall Outuutu!
     Dark Avaava!
     Make shadowy the way for us!
     Tower as the cocoa-palms before us!
     Bend ye as dreams above the slumberers!
     Make deeper the sleep of the sleepers--
     Deeper the sleep of the winds--
     Deeper the sleep of the waters--
     Dimmer the dimness of night!
     Veil ye the moon with your breathings!
     Make fainter the fires of the stars!
     In the name of the weird ones:
     Omataianuku!
     Outuuturoraa!
     Ovaavaroroa!
     Sleep!
     Sleep!

So, with the rising of each new moon, was heard the magical song of
the thieves--the first night, low as the humming of the wind among
the cocoa-palms; louder and louder each succeeding night, and clearer
and sweeter, until the great white face of the full moon flooded the
woods with light, and made silver pools about the columns of the palms.
For the magic of the full moon was mightier than the witchcraft of
the song; and the people of Rarotonga slept not. But of other nights
the invisible thieves did carry away many cocoanuts and taros, and
plantains and bananas, despite the snares set for them by the people of
Rarotonga. And it was observed with terror that cocoanuts were removed
from the crests of trees so lofty that no human hand might have reached
them.


But the chief Aki, being one night by the fountain Vaipiki, which
gushes out from the place of waters that flow below the world, beheld
rising up from the water, just as the thin moon looked into it,
a youth and a girl whiter than the moon herself, naked as fishes,
beautiful as dreams. And they began to sing a song, at whose sound Aki,
hidden among the pandanus leaves, stopped his ears--the wizard-song, E
tira Omataianuku, E tira Outuuturoroa! And the winds were stilled, and
the waves sank to sleep, and the palm-leaves ceased to nod, and the
song of the crickets was hushed.


Then Aki, devising to capture them, set a great fish-net deep within
the fountain, and waited for their return. The vast silence of the
night deepened; the smoke of the mountain of fire, blood-tinted from
below, hung motionless in the sky, like a giant's plume of feathers.
At last the winds of the sea began their ghost whisperings among the
palm-groves; a cricket chirped, and a million insect-chants responded;
the new moon plunged one of her pale horns into the ocean; the east
whitened and changed hue like the belly of a shark. The spell was
broken, the day was dawning.

And Aki beheld the White Ones returning, bearing with them fruits and
nuts and fragrant herbs. Rising suddenly from his hiding-place among
the leaves, he rushed upon them; and they leaped into the fountain,
like fishes, leaving their fruits scattered upon the brink. But, lo!
they were caught in the net!

Then Aki strove to pull the net on shore; and, being a strong man, he
easily moved it. But, in turning, the male leaped through the opening
of the net, and flashed like a salmon through the deeps down to the
unknown abyss of waters below, so that Aki caught the girl only. Vainly
she struggled in the net; and her moon-white body took opalescent
gleams, like the body of a beautiful fish in the hands of the captor.
Vainly she wept and pleaded; and Aki blocked up the bottom of the
fountain with huge blocks of coral, lest, slipping away from him, she
might disappear again. But, looking upon the strangeness of her beauty,
he kissed her and comforted her; and she ceased at last to weep. Her
eyes were large and dark, like a tropical heaven flashed with stars.


So it came to pass that Aki loved her; more than his own life he loved
her. And the people wondered at her beauty; for light came from her as
she moved, and when she swam in the river her passage was like the path
of the moon on waters--a quivering column of brightness. Only, it was
noticed that this luminous beauty waxed and waned contrariwise to the
waxing and waning of the moon: her whiteness was whitest at the time of
the new moon; it almost ceased to glow when the face of the moon was
full. And whensoever the new moon rose, she wept silently, so that Aki
could not comfort her, even after having taught her the words of love
in the tongue of his own people--the tongue, many-voweled, that wooes
the listener like the mockery of a night-bird's song.


Thus many years passed away, and Aki became old; but she seemed ever
the same, for the strange race to which she belonged never grow old.
Then it was noticed that her eyes became deeper and sweeter--weirdly
sweet; and Aki knew that he would become a father in his age. Yet she
wept and pleaded with him, saying:

"Lo! I am not of thy race, and at last I must leave thee. If thou
lovest me, sever this white body of mine, and save our child; for if
it suckle me, I must dwell ten years longer in this world to which I
do not belong. Thou canst not hurt me thus; for though I seem to die,
yet my body will live on--thou mayst not wound me more than water
is wounded by axe or spear! For I am of the water and the light, of
moonshine and of wind! And I may not suckle thy child."...

But Aki, fearing that he might lose both her and the child, pleaded
with her successfully. And the child was beautiful as a white star, and
she nursed it for ten happy years.

But, the ten years having passed, she kissed Aki, and said to him,
"Alas! I must now leave thee, lest I die utterly; take thou away,
therefore, the coral rocks from the fountain." And kissing him once
more, she vowed to come back again, so that he complied at last with
her request. She would have had him go with her; but he could not,
being only mortal man. Then she passed away in the fountain deeps, like
a gleam of light.


The child grew up very tall and beautiful, but not like his
mother--white only like strangers from beyond the sea. In his eyes
there was, nevertheless, a strange light, brightest at the time of
the new moon, waning with its waxing.... One night there came a great
storm: the cocoa-palms bent like reeds, and a strange voice came with
the wind, crying, calling! At dawn the white youth was gone, nor did
human eyes ever behold him again.

But Aki lived beyond a hundred years, waiting for the return by the
Vaipiki fountain, until his hair was whiter than the summer clouds. At
last the people carried him away, and laid him in his house on a bed of
pandanus leaves; and all the women watched over him, lest he should die.

... It was the night of a new month, and the rising of the new moon.
Suddenly a low sweet voice was heard, singing the old song that some
remembered after the passing of half a hundred years. Sweeter and
sweeter it grew; higher rose the moon! The crickets ceased to sing;
the cocoa-palms refused obeisance to the wind. And a heaviness fell
upon the watchers, who, with open eyes, could move no limb, utter no
voice. Then all were aware of a White Woman, whiter than moonlight,
lithe-fashioned as a lake-fish, gliding between the ranks of the
watchers; and, taking Aki's gray head upon her bright breast, she sang
to him, and kissed him, and stroked his aged face....

The sun arose; the watchers awakened. They bent over Aki, and it seemed
that Aki slept lightly. But when they called him, he answered not; when
they touched him, he stirred not. He slept forever!...



THE BIRD WIFE


    There the Moon becometh old and again young many times,
    as one that dieth often and is reanimated as often by
    enchantment; while the Sun moveth in a circle of pallid
    mists, and setteth not. But when he setteth at last, it is
    still light; for the dead make red fires in the sky above
    the icebergs until after many, many dim months he riseth
    again.


All things there are white, save the black sea and the wan fogs; and
yet it is hard to discover where the water ends and the land begins,
for that part of the world the gods forgot to finish. The ice-peaks
grow and diminish, and shift their range north-ward and southward,
and change their aspects grotesquely. There are Faces in the ice that
lengthen and broaden; and Forms as of vanished creatures. When it is
full moon the innumerable multitude of dogs, that live upon dead fish,
howl all together at the roaring sea; and the great bears hearing
huddle themselves together on the highest heights of the glaciers, and
thence hurl down sharp white crags upon the dogs. Above all, rising
into the Red Lights, there is a mountain which has been a fountain of
living fire ever since the being of the world; and all the surface of
the land about is heaped with monstrous bones. But this is summer in
that place; in winter there is no sound but the groaning of the ice,
the shrieking of the winds, the gnashing of the teeth of the floes.

Now there are men in those parts, whose houses are huts of snow,
lighted by lamps fed with the oil of sea-creatures; and the wild dogs
obey them. But they live in fear of the Havstramb, that monster which
has the form of an armless man and the green color of ancient ice; they
fear the Margige, shaped like a woman, which cries under the ice on
which their huts repose; and the goblin Bear whose fangs are icicles;
and the Kajarissat, which are the spirits of the icebergs, drawing the
kayaks under the black water; and the ghostly ivory-hunter who drives
his vapory and voiceless team over ice thinner than the scales of fish;
and the white Spectre that lies in wait for those who lose their way by
night, having power to destroy all whom he can excite to laughter by
weird devices; and the white-eyed deer which must not be pursued. There
also is the home of the warlocks, the wizards, the Iliseetsut--creators
of the Tupilek.

Now the Tupilek is of all awful things the most awful, of all
unutterable things the most unutterable.

For that land is full of bones--the bones of sea monsters and of earth
monsters, the skulls and ribs of creatures that perished in eons ere
man was born; and there are mountains, there are islands, of these
bones. Sometimes great merchants from far southern countries send
thither ivory-hunters with sledges and innumerable dogs to risk their
lives for those white teeth, those terrific tusks, which protrude from
the ice and from the sand, that is not deep enough to cover them. And
the Iliseetsut seek out the hugest of these bones, and wrap them in
a great whale skin, together with the hearts and the brains of many
sea creatures and earth animals; and they utter strange words over
them. Then the vast mass quivers and groans and shapes itself into a
form more hideous, more enormous, than any form created by the gods;
it moves upon many feet; it sees with many eyes; it devours with
innumerable teeth; it obeys the will of its creator; it is a Tupilek!


And all things change form in that place--even as the ice shifts its
shapes fantastically, as the boundaries of the sand eternally vary,
as bone becomes earth and earth seems to become bone. So animals also
take human likeness, birds assume human bodies; for there is sorcery
in all things there. Thus it came to pass, one day, that a certain
ivory-hunter beheld a flock of sea-birds change themselves into women;
and creeping cautiously over the white snow--himself being clad in
white skins--he came suddenly upon them, and caught hold of the nearest
one with a strong hand, while the rest, turning again to birds, flew
southward with long weird screams.

Slender was the girl, like a young moon, and as white; and her eyes
black and soft, like those of the wild gulls. So the hunter--finding
that she struggled not, but only wept--felt pity for her, and, taking
her into his warm hut of snow, clothed her in soft skins and fed her
with the heart of a great fish. Then, his pity turning to love, she
became his wife.

Two years they lived thus together, and he fed her with both fish and
flesh, being skillful in the use of the net and the bow; but always
while absent he blocked up the door of the hut, lest she might change
into a bird again, and so take wing. After she had borne him two
children, nevertheless, his fear passed from him, like the memory of
a dream; and she followed him to the chase, managing the bow with
wonderful skill. But she prevailed upon him that he should not smite
the wild gulls.

So they lived and so loved until the children became strong and swift.

Then it came to pass one day, while they were hunting all together,
that many birds had been killed; and she called to the children,
"Little ones, bring me quickly some feathers!" And they came to her
with their hands full; and she laid the feathers upon their arms and
upon her own shoulders, and shrieked to them, "Fly! ye are of the race
of birds, ye are the Wind's children!"

Forthwith their garments fell from them; and, being changed into wild
gulls, mother and children rose in the bright icy air, circling and
circling, higher and higher, against the sky. Thrice above the weeping
father they turned in spiral flight, thrice screamed above the peaks of
glimmering ice, and, sweeping suddenly toward the far south, whirred
away forever.



TALES FROM INDIAN AND BUDDHIST BUDDHIST LITERATURE



THE MAKING OF TILOTTAMA


    Which is told of in the holy "Mahabharata," written by
    the blessed Rishi Krishna-Dvaipayana, who composed it
    in twenty-four thousand slokas[1], and who composed six
    millions of slokas likewise. Of the latter are three
    millions in the keeping of the gods; and one million five
    hundred thousand in the keeping of the Gandharvas, who
    are the musicians of Indra's Heaven; and one million four
    hundred thousand in the keeping of the Pitris, who are the
    ghosts of the blessed dead; and one hundred thousand in the
    keeping of men.... And the guiltiest of men who shall hear
    the recital of the "Mahabharata" shall be delivered from all
    his sins; neither sickness nor misfortune shall come nigh
    him.


Now I shall tell you how it happened that the great gods once became
multiple-faced and myriad-eyed by reason of a woman's beauty, as the
same is recounted in the Book of Great Weight--in the Mahabharata.


In ancient years there were two Daityas, twin brothers sprung from the
race of the Asouras, the race of evil genii; and their names were
Sounda and Oupasounda. Princes they were born; cruel and terrible they
grew up, yet were ever one in purpose, in thought, in the pursuit of
pleasure, or in the perpetration of crime.

And in the course of time it came to pass that the brothers resolved
to obtain domination over the Three Worlds, and to practice all those
austerities and sacrifices by which the holiest ascetics elevate
themselves to divinity. So they departed to the solitude of the
mountain Vindhya, and there devoted themselves to contemplations and
to prayer, until their mighty limbs became slender as jungle-canes,
and their joints like knots of bone. And they ceased all the actions
of life, and fore bore all contact with things earthly--knowing that
contact with earthly things begetteth sensation, and sensation desire,
and desire corruption, and corruption existence. Thus by dint of
meditation and austerity the world became for them as non-existent.
By one effort of will they might have shaken the universe; the world
trembled under the weight of their thoughts as though laboring in
earthquake. Air was their only nourishment; they offered up their own
flesh in sacrifice; and the Vindhya, heated by the force of their
austerities, smoked to heaven like a mountain of fire.

Therefore the divinities, being terrified, sought to divert them from
their austerities, and to trouble their senses by apparitions of women
and of demons and of gods. But the Asouras ceased not a moment to
practice their mortifications, standing upon their great toes only, and
keeping their eyes fixed upon the sun.


Now, after many years, it came to pass that Brahma, Ancient of Days,
Father of the Creator of Worlds, appeared before them as a Shape of
light, and bade them ask for whatsoever they desired. And they made
answer, with hands joined before their foreheads: "If the Father of the
Father of Worlds be gratified by our penances, we desire to acquire
knowledge of all arts of magic and arts of war, to possess the gifts of
beauty and of strength, and the promise of immortality."

But the Shape of Brahma answered unto them: "Immortality will not
be given unto you, O Princes of Daityas, inasmuch as ye practiced
austerities only that ye might obtain dominion over the Three Worlds.
Yet will I grant ye the knowledge and power and the bodily gifts ye
desire. Also it shall be vouchsafed you that none shall be able to
destroy you; neither among creatures of earth nor spirits nor gods
shall any have power to do you hurt, save ye hurt one another."

Thus the two Daityas obtained the favor of Brahma, and became
unconquerable by gods or men. And they returned to their habitation,
and departed utterly from the path of righteousness, eating and
drinking and sinning exceedingly, more than any of their evil race
had done before them; so that their existence might be likened to one
never-ending feast of unholy pleasures. But no pleasures could satiate
these Asouras, though all mortals dwelling with them suffered by reason
of monstrous excesses.

By the two Daityas, indeed, repose and sleep were never desired nor
even needed--night and day were as one for them; but those mortals
about them speedily died of pleasure, and the Daityas were angry with
them because they died.


Now, at last, the two Asouras resolved to forego pleasure awhile, that
they might make the conquest of the Three Worlds by force of that
magical knowledge imparted to them by will of Brahma. And they warred
against Indra's Heaven; for it had been given them to move through air
more swiftly than demons. The Souras, indeed, and the gods knowing of
their coming and the nature of the powers that had been given them,
passed away to the Brahmaloka, where dwell the spirits of the holiest
dead. But the Daityas, taking possession with their army of evil genii,
slew many of the Yakshas, who are the guardians of treasures, and the
Rakshasas, which are demons, and multitudes of all the beings which
fly through the airs. After these things they slew all the Nagas, the
human-visaged serpents living in the entrails of the world; and they
overcame all the creatures of the sea.

Then they made resolve to extend their evil power over the whole
earth, and to destroy all worshipers of the gods. For the prayers
and the sacrifices offered up by the Rajarshis and the Brahmans
continually augmented the power of the gods; and these Daityas
therefore hated exceedingly all holy men. Because of the power given
the wicked princes, none could oppose their will, nor did the mighty
imprecations of the hermits and the Brahmans avail. All worshipers of
the gods were destroyed; the eternal altar-fires were scattered and
extinguished; the holy offerings were cast into the waters; the sacred
vessels were broken; the awful temples were cast down; and the face
of the earth made vast with desolation, as though ravaged by the god
of death. And the Asouras, changing themselves by magical art into
the form of tigers, of lions, of furious elephants, sought out all
those ascetics who lived in the secret hollows of the mountains or the
unknown recesses of the forest or the deep silence of the jungles, and
destroyed them. So that the world became a waste strewn with human
bones; and there were no cities, no populations, no smoke of sacrifice,
no murmur of prayer, no human utterance--vast horror only, and hideous
death.


Then all the holy people of air--the Siddhas and the Devarshis and the
Paramarshis--aghast at the desolation of the world, and filled with
divinest compassion for the universe, flocked to the dwelling-place
of Brahma, and made plaint to him of these things which had been
done, and besought him that he would destroy the power of Sounda and
Oupasounda. Now Brahma was seated among the gods, surrounded by the
circles of the Siddhas and the Bramarshis; Mahadeva was there, and
Indra, and Agni, Prince of Fire, and Vayou, Lord of Winds, and Aditya,
the Sun-god, who drives the seven-headed steeds, and Chandra, the
lotus-loving god of the Moon. And all the elders of heaven stood about
them--the holy Marichipas and Ajas and Avimoudhas and Tejogharbas;
the Vanaprasthas of the forest, and the Siddhas of the airs, and
the Vaikhanas who live upon roots, and the sixty thousand luminous
Balakhilyas--not bigger than the thumb of a man--who sprang from the
hairs of Brahma.

Then from the violet deeps of the eternities Brahma summoned unto
him Viswakarman, the Fashioner of the Universe, the Creator of
Worlds--Viswakarman, Kindler of all the lights of Heaven. And
Viswakarman arose from the eternities as a star-cloud, and stood in
light before the All-Father.

And Brahma spake unto him, saying: "O my golden son, O Viswakarman,
create me a woman fairer than the fairest, sweeter than the
sweetest--whose beauty might even draw the hearts of all divinities, as
the moon draweth all the waters in her train.... I wait!"

So Viswakarman, veiling himself in mists, wrought in obedience to
the Father of Gods, invisibly, awfully, with all manner of precious
gems, with all colors of heaven, with all perfume of flowers, with all
rays of light, with all tones of music, with all things beautiful and
precious to the sight, to the touch, to the hearing, to the taste, to
the sense of odors. And as vapors are wrought into leafiest lacework of
frosts, as sunbeams are transmuted into gems of a hundred colors, so,
all mysteriously, were ten thousand priceless things blended into one
new substance of life; and the substance found shape, and was resolved
into the body of a woman. All blossom-beauty tempted in her bosom;
all perfume lingered in her breath; all jewel-fires made splendor for
her eyes; her locks were wrought of sunlight and of gold; the flowers
of heaven rebudded in her lips; the pearl and the fairy opal blended
in her smile; the tones of her voice were made with the love-songs
of a thousand birds. And a name was given unto her, Tilottama, which
signifies in that ancient Indian tongue, spoken of gods and men,
"Fair-wrought of daintiest atoms."... Then Viswakarman passed away as
the glory of evening fades out, and sank into the Immensities, and
mingled with the Eternities where no time or space is.


And Tilottama, clothed only with light as with a garment, joining her
hands before her luminous brows in adoration, bowed down to the Father
of Gods, and spake with the sweetest voice ever heard even within the
heaven of heavens, saying: "O thou universal Father, let me know thy
will, and the divine purpose for which I have been created."

And the deep tones of gold made answer, gently: "Descend, good
Tilottama, into the world of men, and display the witchcraft of thy
beauty in the sight of Sounda and Oupasounda, so that the Daityas may
be filled with hatred, each against the other, because of thee."

"It shall be according to thy desire, O Master of Creatures," answered
Tilottama; and, having prostrated her beautiful body thrice before
Brahma, she glided about the circle of the gods, saluting all as she
passed.

Now the great god Siva, the blessed Maheswara, was seated in the
south, with face turned toward the east; the other gods were looking
toward the north; and the seven orders of the rishis--the Devarshis,
Bramarshis, Maharshis, Paramarshis, Rajarshis, Kandarshis, and
Sroutarshis--sat upon every side. And while Tilottama passed around
the circle, the gods strove not to gaze upon her, lest their hearts
should be drawn irresistibly toward that magical beauty, created not
for joy, indeed, but verily for destruction. So for a moment Indra and
the blessed Sthanou made their hearts strong against her. But as she
drew near to Maheswara, who kept his face to the east, there came to
Maheswara another face, a face upon the south side, with eyes more
beautiful than lotus-flowers. And when she turned behind him, there
came to him yet another face upon the west side; and even as she turned
to the north, there came to him a face upon the north side, so that
he could not choose but gaze upon her. And even great Indra's body,
as she turned around him, blossomed with eyes, before, behind, on
every side, even to the number of a thousand eyes, large and deep and
ruddy-lidded. Thus it was that Mahadeva became the Four-Faced God,
and Balasoudana the God with a Thousand Eyes. And new faces grew upon
all the divinities and all habitants of heaven as Tilottama passed
around them; all became double-faced, triple-faced, or myriad-faced,
in despite of their purpose not to look upon her, so mighty was the
magic of her loveliness! Only Brahma, Father of all the Gods, remained
impassive as eternity; for unto him beauty and hideousness, light and
darkness, night and day, death and life, the finite and the infinite,
are ever one and the same....


Now Sounda and Oupasounda were diverting themselves with their wicked
women among the mountains, when they first perceived Tilottama
gathering flowers; and at the sight of her their hearts ceased to
pulsate. And they forgot not only all that they had done, and their
riches and their power and their pleasures, but also the divine
provision that they could die only by each other's hands. Each drew
near unto Tilottama; each sought to kiss her mouth; each repulsed his
brother; each claimed her for himself. And the first hatred of each
other made flame in their eyes. "Mine she shall be!" cried Oupasounda.
"Wrest her from me if thou canst!" roared Sounda in mad defiance. And
passing from words to reproaches, and from reproaches to mighty blows,
they fell upon each other with their weapons, and strove together until
both were slain.

Then a great fear came upon all the evil company, and the women fled
shrieking away; and the Asouras, beholding the hand of Brahma in these
things, trembled, and took flight, returning unto their abode of fire
and darkness, even unto the Patala, which is the habitation of the
damned.


But Tilottama, returning to the Brahmaloka, received the commendation
of the gods, and kindly praise from Brahma, Father of Worlds and Men,
who bade her ask for whatsoever grace she most desired. But she asked
him only that she might dwell forever in that world of splendors and
of light, which the blessed inhabit. And the Universal Father made
answer, saying: "Granted is thy prayer, O most seductive among created
beings! thou shalt dwell in the neighborhood of the sun, yet not among
the gods, lest mischief be wrought. And the dazzle of thy beauty shall
hinder the eyes of mortals from beholding thee, that their hearts be
not consumed because of thee. Dwell therefore within the heaven of the
sun forevermore."

And Brahma, having restored to Indra the dominion of the Three Worlds,
withdrew into the infinite light of the Brahmaloka.


[Footnote 1: According to the exordium in the _Adi-Parva_ of the
_Mahabharata_, this now most gigantic of epics at first consisted of
24,000 slokas only. Subsequent additions swelled the number of its
distiches to the prodigious figure of 107, 389.--L. H.]



THE BRAHMAN AND HIS BRAHMANI


    The wise will not attach themselves unto women; for women
    sport with the hearts of those who love them, even as with
    ravens whose wing-feathers have been plucked out.... There
    is honey in the tongues of women; there is nought in their
    heart save the venom halahala.... Their nature is mobile as
    the eddies of the sea; their affection endures no longer
    than the glow of gold above the place of sunset: all venom
    within, all fair without, women are like unto the fruit of
    the goundja.... Therefore the experienced and wise do avoid
    women, even as they shun the water-vessels that are placed
    within the cemeteries....


In the "Panchopakhyana," and also in that "Ocean of the Rivers
of Legend," which is called in the ancient Indian tongue
"Kathasaritsagara," may be found this story of a Brahman and his
Brahmani:

...Never did the light that is in the eyes of lovers shine more
tenderly than in the eyes of the Brahman who gave his life for the
life of the woman under whose lotus-feet he laid his heart. Yet what
man lives that hath not once in his time been a prey to the madness
inspired by woman? ...

He alone loved her; his family being loath to endure her presence--for
in her tongue was the subtle poison that excites sister against
brother, friend against friend. But so much did he love her that
for her sake he abandoned father and mother, brother and sister, and
departed with his Brahmani to seek fortune in other parts. Happily his
guardian Deva accompanied him--for he was indeed a holy man, having
no fault but the folly of loving too much; and the Deva, by reason of
spiritual sight, foresaw all that would come to pass.

As they were journeying together through the elephant-haunted forest,
the young woman said to her husband: "O thou son of a venerable man,
thy Brahmani dies of thirst; fetch her, she humbly prays thee, a little
water from the nearest spring." And the Brahman forthwith hastened to
the running brook, with the gourd in his hand; but when he had returned
with the water, he found his beloved lying dead upon a heap of leaves.
Now this death was indeed the unseen work of the good Deva.

So, casting the gourd from him, the Brahman burst into tears, and
sobbed as though his soul would pass from him, and kissed the beautiful
dead face and the slender dead feet and the golden throat of his
Brahmani, shrieking betimes in his misery, and daring to question the
gods as to why they had so afflicted him. But even as he lamented,
a voice answered him in syllables clear as the notes of a singing
bird: "Foolish man! wilt thou give half of thy life in order that thy
Brahmani shall live again?"

And he, in whom love had slain all fear, answered untremblingly to
the Invisible: "Yea, O Narayana, half of my life will I give unto her
gladly." Then spake the Invisible: "Foolish man! pronounce the three
mystic syllables." And he pronounced them; and the Brahmani, as if
awaking from a dream, unclosed her jewel-eyes, and wound her round arms
about her husband's neck, and with her fresh lips drank the rain of his
tears as the lips of a blossom drink in the dews of the night.


So, having eaten of fruits and refreshed themselves, both proceeded
upon their way; and at last, leaving the forest, they came to a great
stretch of gardens lying without a white city--gardens rainbow-colored
with flowers of marvelous perfume, and made cool by fountains flowing
from the lips of gods in stone and from the trunks of elephants of
rock. Then said the loving husband to his Brahmani: "Remain here a
little while, thou too sweet one, that I may hasten on to return to
thee sooner with fruits and refreshing drink."...

Now in that place of gardens dwelt a youth, employed to draw up water
by the turning of a great wheel, and to cleanse the mouths of the
fountains; and although a youth, he had been long consumed by one of
those maladies that make men tremble with cold beneath a sky of fire,
so that there was little of his youthfulness left to him excepting
his voice. But with that voice he charmed the hearts of women, as the
juggler charms the hooded serpent; and, seeing the wife of the Brahman,
he sang that she might hear.

He sang as the birds sing in the woods in pairing time, as the waters
sing that lip the curves of summered banks, as the Apsarases sang in
other kalpas; and he sang the songs of Amarou--Amarou, sweetest of all
singers, whose soul had passed through a century of transmigrations
in the bodies of a hundred fairest women, until he became the world's
master in all mysteries of love. And as the Brahmani listened, Kama
transpierced her heart with his flower-pointed arrows, so that,
approaching the youth, she pressed her lips upon his lips, and
murmured, "If thou lovest me not, I die."


Therefore, when the Brahman returned with fruits and drink, she coaxed
him that he should share these with the youth, and even prayed him
that he should bring the youth along as a traveling companion or as a
domestic.

"Behold!" answered the Brahman, "this young man is too feeble to bear
hardship; and if he fall by the wayside, I shall not be strong enough
to carry him." But the Brahmani answered, "Nay! should he fall, then
will I myself carry him in my basket, upon my head"; and the Brahman
yielded to her request, although marveling exceedingly. So they all
traveled on together.

Now one day, as they were reposing by a deep well, the Brahmani,
beholding her husband asleep, pushed him so that he fell into the
well; and she departed, taking the youth with her. Soon after this
had happened, they came to a great city where a famous and holy king
lived, who loved all Brahmans and had built them a temple surrounded
by rich lands, paying for the land by laying golden elephant-feet in
lines round about it. And the cunning Brahmani, when arrested by the
toll-collectors and taken before this king--still bearing the sick
youth upon her head in a basket--boldly spake to the king, saying:
"This, most holy of kings, is my dearest husband, a righteous Brahman,
who has met with affliction while performing the good works ordained
for such as he; and inasmuch as heirs sought his life, I have concealed
him in this basket and brought him hither." Then the king, being filled
with compassion, bestowed upon the Brahmani and her pretended husband
the revenues of two villages and the freedom thereof, saying: "Thou
shalt be henceforth as my sister thou comeliest and truest of women."


But the poor Brahman was not dead; for his good Deva had preserved his
life within the well-pit, and certain travelers passing by drew him up
and gave him to eat. Thus it happened that he presently came to the
same village in which the wicked Brahmani dwelt; and, fearing with an
exceeding great fear, she hastened to the king, and said, "Lo! the
enemy who seeketh to kill my husband pursueth after us."

Then said the king, "Let him be trampled under foot by the elephants!"

But the Brahman, struggling in the grasp of the king's men, cried out,
with a bitter cry: "O king! art thou indeed called just, who will not
hearken to the voice of the accused? This fair but wicked woman is
indeed my own wife; ere I be condemned, let her first give back to me
that which I gave her!"

And the king bade his men stay their hands. "Give him back," he
commanded, in a voice of tempest, "that which belongs to him!"

But the Brahmani protested, saying, "My lord, I have nought which
belongs to him." So the king's brow darkened with the frown of a
maharajah.

"Give me back," cried the Brahman, "the life which I gave thee,
my own life given to thee with the utterance of the three mystic
syllables--the half of my own years."

Then, through exceeding fear of the king, she murmured, "Yea, I render
it up to thee, the life thou gavest me with the utterance of the three
mystic syllables." And fell dead at the king's feet.

Thus the truth was made manifest; and hence the proverb arose:

    She for whom I gave up family, home, and even the half of my
    life, hath abandoned me, the heartless one! What man may put
    faith in women?



BAKAWALI


    There is in the Hindustani language a marvelous tale written
    by a Moslem, but treating nevertheless of the ancient gods
    of India, and of the Apsarases and of the Rakshasas. "The
    Rose of Bakawali" it is called. Therein also may be found
    many strange histories of fountains filled with magical
    waters, changing the sex of those who bathe therein;
    and histories of flowers created by witchcraft--never
    fading--whose perfumes give sight to the blind; and, above
    all, this history of love human and superhuman, for which a
    parallel may not be found....


...In days when the great Rajah Zainu'l-Mulk reigned over the eastern
kingdoms of Hindostan, it came to pass that Bakawali, the Apsaras,
fell in love with a mortal youth who was none other than the son of
the Rajah. For the lad was beautiful as a girl, beautiful even as the
god Kama, and seemingly created for love. Now in that land all living
things are sensitive to loveliness, even the plants themselves--like
the Asoka that bursts into odorous blossom when touched even by the
foot of a comely maiden. Yet was Bakawali fairer than any earthly
creature, being a daughter of the immortals; and those who had seen
her, believing her born of mortal woman, would answer when interrogated
concerning her, "Ask not us! Rather ask thou the nightingale to sing of
her beauty."

Never had the youth Taju'l-Mulk guessed that his beloved was not of
mortal race, having encountered her as by hazard, and being secretly
united to her after the Gandharva fashion. But he knew that her eyes
were preternaturally large and dark, and the odor of her hair like
Tartary musk; and there seemed to transpire from her when she moved
such a light and such a perfume that he remained bereft of utterance,
while watching her, and immobile as a figure painted upon a wall. And
the lamp of love being enkindled in the heart of Bakawali, her wisdom,
like a golden moth, consumed itself in the name thereof, so that she
forgot her people utterly, and her immortality, and even the courts of
heaven wherein she was wont to dwell.


In the sacred books of the Hindus there is much written concerning
the eternal city Amaranagar, whose inhabitants are immortal. There
Indra, azure-bearded, dwells in sleepless pleasure, surrounded by his
never-slumbering court of celestial bayaderes, circling about him as
the constellations of heaven circle in their golden dance about Surya,
the sun. And this was Bakawali's home, that she had abandoned for the
love of a man.

So it came to pass one night, a night of perfume and of pleasure, that
Indra started up from his couch like one suddenly remembering a thing
long forgotten, and asked of those about him: "How happens it that
Bakawali, daughter of Firoz, no more appears before us?" And one of
them made answer, saying: "O great Indra, that pretty fish hath been
caught in the net of human love! Like the nightingale, never does she
cease to complain because it is not possible for her to love even more;
intoxicated is she with the perishable youth and beauty of her mortal
lover; and she lives only for him and in him, so that even her own
kindred are now forgotten or have become to her objects of aversion.
And it is because of him, O Lord of Suras and Devas, that the rosy one
no longer presents herself before thy court."

Then was Indra wroth; and he commanded that Bakawali be perforce
brought before him, that she might render account of her amorous
folly. And the Devas, awaking her, placed her in their cloud-chariot,
and brought her into the presence of Indra, her lips still humid with
mortal kisses, and on her throat red-blossom marks left by human lips.
And she knelt before him, with fingers joined as in prayer; while
the Lord of the firmament gazed at her in silent anger, with such a
frown as he was wont to wear when riding to battle upon his elephant
triple-trunked. Then said he to the Devas about him: "Let her be
purified by fire, inasmuch as I discern about her an odor of mortality
offensive to immortal sense. And even so often as she returns to her
folly, so often let her be consumed in my sight."...

[Illustration: _Indra in his Court_ _From a Fifteenth-Century fain
manuscript_] Accordingly they bound the fairest of Apsarases, and cast
her into a furnace furious as the fires of the sun, so that within
a moment her body was changed to a white heap of ashes. But over the
ashes was magical water sprinkled; and out of the furnace Bakawali
arose, nude as one newly born, but more perfect in rosy beauty even
than before. And Indra commanded her to dance before him, as she was
wont to do in other days.

So she danced all those dances known in the courts of heaven, curving
herself as flowers curve under a perfumed breeze, as water serpentines
under the light; and she circled before them rapidly as a leaf-whirling
wind, lightly as a bee, with myriad variations of delirious grace,
with ever-shifting enchantment of motion, until the hearts of all who
looked upon her were beneath those shining feet, and all cried aloud:
"O flower-body! O rose-body! O marvel of the Garden of Grace! Blossom
of daintiness! O flower-body!"


Thus was she each night obliged to appear before Indra at Amaranagar,
and each night to suffer the fiercest purification of fire, forasmuch
as she would not forsake her folly; and each night also did she return
to her mortal lover, and take her wonted place beside him without
awaking him, having first bathed her in the great fountain of rosewater
within the court.

But once it happened that Taju'l-Mulk awoke in the night, and reaching
out his arms found she was not there. Only the perfume of her head upon
the pillow, and odorous garments flung in charming formlessness upon
every divan....

When she returned, seemingly fairer than before, the youth uttered no
reproach, but on the night following he slit up the tip of his finger
with a sharp knife, and filled the wound with salt that he might
not sleep. Then, when the aerial chariot descended all noiselessly,
like some long cloud moon-silvered, he arose and followed Bakawali
unperceived. Clinging underneath the chariot, he was borne above winds
even to Amaranagar, and into the jeweled courts and into the presence
of Indra. But Indra knew not, for his senses were dizzy with sights of
beauty and the fumes of soma-wine.

Then did Taju'l-Mulk, standing in the shadow of a pillar, behold beauty
such as he had never before seen--save in Bakawali--and hear music
sweeter than mortal musician may ever learn. Splendors bewildered his
eyes; and the crossing of the fretted and jeweled archwork above him
seemed an inter-crossing and interblending of innumerable rainbows.
But when it was given to him, all unexpectedly, to view the awful
purification of Bakawali, his heart felt like ice within him, and he
shrieked. Nor could he have refrained from casting himself also into
that burst of white fire, had not the magical words been pronounced and
the wizard-water sprinkled before he was able to move a limb. Then did
he behold Bakawali rising from her snowy cinders--shining like an image
of the goddess Lakshmi in the fairest of her thousand forms--more
radiant than before, like some comet returning from the embraces of the
sun with brighter curves of form and longer glories of luminous hair....

And Bakawali danced and departed, Taju'l-Mulk likewise returning even
as he had come....


But when he told her, in the dawn of the morning, that he had
accompanied her in her voyage and had surprised her secret, Bakawali
wept and trembled for fear. "Alas! alas! what hast thou done?" she
sobbed; "thou hast become thine own greatest enemy. Never canst thou
know all that I have suffered for thy sake--the maledictions of my
kindred, the insults of all belonging to my race. Yet rather than turn
away my face from thy love, I suffered nightly the agonies of burning;
I have died a myriad deaths rather than lose thee. Thou hast seen it
with thine own eyes!... But none of mankind may visit unbidden the
dwelling of the gods and return with impunity. Now, alas! the evil hath
been done; nor can I devise any plan by which to avert thy danger, save
that of bringing thee again secretly to Amaranagar and charming Indra
in such wise that he may pardon all."...


So Bakawali the Apsaras suffered once more the agony of fire, and
danced before the gods, not only as she had danced before, but
so that the eyes of all beholding her became dim in watching the
varying curves of her limbs, the dizzy speed of her white feet, the
tossing light of her hair. And the charm of her beauty bewitched the
tongues of all there, so that the cry, "O flower-body!" fainted into
indistinguishable whispers, and the fingers of the musicians were
numbed with languor, and the music weakened tremblingly, quiveringly,
dying down into an amorous swoon.

And out of the great silence broke the soft thunder of Indra's pleased
voice: "O Bakawali! ask me for whatever thou wilt, and it shall be
accorded thee. By the Trimurti, I swear!"... But she, kneeling before
him, with bosom still fluttering from the dance, murmured: "I pray
thee, divine One, only that thou wilt allow me to depart hence, and
dwell with this mortal whom I love during all the years of life
allotted unto him." And she gazed upon the youth Taju'l-Mulk.

But Indra, hearing these words, and looking also at Taju'l-Mulk,
frowned so darkly that gloom filled all the courts of heaven. And he
said: "Thou, also, son of man, wouldst doubtless make the same prayer;
yet think not thou mayst take hence an Apsaras like Bakawali to make
her thy wife without grief to thyself! And as for thee, O shameless
Bakawali, thou mayst depart with him, indeed, since I have sworn; but I
swear also to thee that from thy waist unto thy feet thou shalt remain
a woman of marble for the space of twelve years.... Now let thy lover
rejoice in thee!"...

...And Bakawali was placed in the chamber of a mined pagoda,
deep-buried within the forests of Ceylon; and there did she pass the
years, sitting upon a seat of stone, herself stone from feet to waist.
But Taju'l-Mulk found her and ministered unto her as to the statue of a
goddess; and he waited for her through the long years.

The ruined pavement, grass-disjointed, trembled to the passing tread of
wild elephants; often did tigers peer through the pillared entrance,
with eyes flaming like emeralds; but Taju'l-Mulk was never weary nor
afraid, and he waited by her through all the weary and fearful years.

Gem-eyed lizards clung and wondered; serpents watched with marvelous
chrysolite gaze; vast spiders wove their silvered lace above the
head of the human statue; sunset-feathered birds, with huge and
flesh-colored beaks, hatched their young in peace under the eyes
of Bakawali.... Until it came to pass at the close of the eleventh
year--Taju'l-Mulk being in search of food--that the great ruin
fell, burying the helpless Apsaras under a ponderous and monstrous
destruction beyond the power of any single arm to remove.... Then
Taju'l-Mulk wept; but he still waited, knowing that the immortals could
not die.

And out of the shapeless mass of ruins there soon grew a marvelous
tree, graceful, dainty, round-limbed like a woman; and Taju'l-Mulk
watched it waxing tall under the mighty heat of the summer, bearing
flowers lovelier than that narcissus whose blossoms have been compared
to the eyes of Oriental girls, and rosy fruit as smooth-skinned as
maiden flesh.

So the twelfth year passed. And with the passing of its last moon, a
great fruit parted itself, and therefrom issued the body of a woman,
slender and exquisite, whose supple limbs had been folded up within
the fruit as a butterfly is folded up within its chrysalis, comely as
an Indian dawn, deeper-eyed than ever woman of earth--being indeed an
immortal, being an Apsaras--Bakawali reincarnated for her lover, and
relieved from the malediction of the gods.



NATALIKA


    The story of a statue of sable stone among the ruins of
    Tirouvicaray, which are in the Land of Golconda that was....
    When the body shall have mouldered even as the trunk of a
    dead tree, shall have crumbled to dust even as a clod of
    earth, the lovers of the dead will turn away their faces and
    depart; but Virtue, remaining faithful, will lead the soul
    beyond the darknesses....


The yellow jungle-grasses are in the streets of the city; the hooded
serpents are coiled about the marble legs of the gods. Bats suckle
their young within the ears of the granite elephants; and the hairy
spider spins her web for ruby-throated humming-birds within the
chambers of longs. The pythons breed within the sanctuaries, once
ornate as the love-songs of Indian poets; the diamond eyes of the
gods have been plucked out; lizards nestle in the lips of Siva; the
centipedes writhe among the friezes; the droppings of birds whiten the
altars.... But the sacred gateway of a temple still stands, as though
preserved by the holiness of its inscriptions:

    The Self-existent is not of the universe.... Man may not
    take with him aught of his possessions beyond the grave;
    let him increase the greatness of his good deeds, even as
    the white ants do increase the height of their habitation.
    For neither father nor mother, neither sister nor brother,
    neither son nor wife, may accompany him to the other world;
    but Virtue only may be his comrade...

And these words, graven upon the stone, have survived the wreck of a
thousand years.


Now, among the broken limbs of the gods, and the jungle grasses, and
the monstrous creeping plants that seem striving to strangle the
elephants of stone, a learned traveler wandering in recent years came
upon the statue of a maiden, in black granite, marvelously wrought. Her
figure was nude and supple as those of the women of Krishna; on her
head was the tiara of a princess, and from her joined hands escaped a
cascade of flowers to fall upon the tablet supporting her exquisite
feet. And on the tablet was the name NATALIKA; and above it a verse
from the holy Ramayana, which signifies, in our tongue, these words:

    ...For I have been witness of this marvel, that by crushing
    the flowers in her hands, she made them to exhale a sweeter
    perfume.


And this is the story of Natalika, as it is told in the chronicle of
the Moslem historian Ferista:

More than a thousand years ago there was war between the Khalif Oualed
and Dir-Rajah, of the Kingdom of Sindh. The Arab horsemen swept over
the land like a typhoon; and their eagle-visaged hordes reddened the
rivers with blood, and made the nights crimson with the burning of
cities. Brahman ab ad they consumed with fire, and Alan and Dinal,
making captives of the women, and putting all males to the edge of the
scimitar. The Rajah fought stoutly for his people and for his gods;
but the Arabs prevailed, fearing nothing, remembering the words of the
Prophet, that "Paradise may be found in the shadow of the crossing of
swords." And at Brahmanabad, Kassim, the zealous lieutenant of the
Khalif, captured the daughter of the Rajah, and slew the Rajah and all
his people.


Her name was Natalika. When Kassim saw her, fairer than that
Love-goddess born from a lotus-flower, her eyes softer than dew, her
figure lithe as reeds, her blue-black tresses rippling to the gold
rings upon her ankles---he swore by the Prophet's beard that she was
the comeliest ever born of woman, and that none should have her save
the Khalif Oualed. So he commanded that a troop of picked horsemen
should take her to Bagdad, with much costly booty--jewelry, delicate
and light as feathers, ivory carving miraculously wrought (sculptured
balls within sculptured balls), emeralds and turquoises, diamonds
and rubies, woofs of cashmere, and elephants, and dromedaries. And
whosoever might do hurt to Natalika by the way, would have to pay for
it with his head, as surely as the words of the Koran were the words of
God's Prophet.


When Natalika came into the presence of the Khalif of Bagdad, the
Commander of the Faithful could at first scarcely believe his eyes,
seeing so beautiful a maiden; and starting from his throne without so
much as looking at the elephants and the jewels and the slaves and the
other gifts of Kassim, he raised the girl from her knees and kissed her
in the presence of all the people, vowing that it rather behooved him
to kneel before her than her to kneel before him. But she only wept,
and answered not....

And before many days the Khalif bade her know that he desired to make
her his favorite wife; for since his eyes had first beheld her he could
neither eat nor sleep for thinking of her. Therefore he prayed that she
would cease her weeping, inasmuch as he would do more to make her happy
than any other might do, save only the Prophet in his paradise.

Then Natalika wept more bitterly than before, and vowed herself
unworthy to be the bride of the Khalif, although herself a king's
daughter; for Kassim had done her a grievous wrong ere sending her to
Bagdad....


Oualed heard the tale, and his mustaches curled with wrath. He sent
his swiftest messengers to India with a sealed parchment containing
orders that Kassim should leave the land of Sindh forthwith and hasten
to Bassora, there to await further commands. Natalika shut herself up
alone in her chamber to weep; and the Khalif wondered that he could not
comfort her. But Kassim, leaving Sindh, wondered much more why the
Commander of the Faithful should have recalled him, notwithstanding the
beauty of the gifts, the loveliness of the captives, the splendor of
the elephants. Still marveling, he rode into Bassora, and sought the
governor of that place. Even while he was complaining there came forth
mutes with bow-strings, and they strangled Kassim at the governor's
feet.


Days went and came; and at last there rode into Bagdad a troop of
fierce horsemen, to the Khalif s palace. Their leader, advancing into
Oualed's presence, saluted him, and laid at his feet a ghastly head
with blood-bedabbled beard, the head of the great captain, Kassim.


"Lo!" cried Oualed to Natalika, "I have avenged thy wrong; and now, I
trust, thou wilt believe that I love thee, and truly desire to set thee
over my household as my wife, my queen, my sweetly beloved!"

But Natalika commenced to laugh with a wild and terrible laugh. "Know,
O deluded one," she cried, "that Kassim was wholly innocent in that
whereof I accused him, and that I sought only to avenge the death of
my people, the murder of my brothers and sisters, the pillage of our
homes, the sacrilegious destruction of the holy city Brahmanabad.
Never shall I, the daughter of a Kshatrya king, ally myself with one
of thy blood and creed. I have lived so long only that I might be
avenged; and now that I am doubly avenged, by the death of our enemy,
by thy hopeless dream of love for me, I die!" Piercing her bosom with a
poniard, she fell at the Khalif s feet.


But Natalika's betrothed lover, Udayah-Rajah, avenged her even more,
driving the circumcised conquerors from the land, and slaughtering all
who fell into his hands. And the cruelties they had wrought he repaid
them a hundred-fold.

Yet, growing weary of life by reason of Natalika's death, he would not
reign upon the throne to which he had hoped to lift her in the embrace
of love; but, retiring from the world, he became a holy mendicant of
the temple of Tirouvicaray....

And at last, feeling his end near, he dug himself a little grave under
the walls of the temple; and ordered the most skilful sculptors to make
the marble statue of his beloved, and that the statue should be placed
upon his grave. Thus they wrought Natalika's statue as the statues of
goddesses are wrought, but always according to his command, so that
she seemeth to be crushing roses in her fingers. And when Udayah-Rajah
passed away, they placed the statue of Natalika above him, so that her
feet rest upon his heart.

    I have been witness of this marvel, that by crushing the
    flowers within her hands she made them to exhale a sweeter
    perfume!

Were not those flowers the blossoming of her beautiful youth, made
lovelier by its own sacrifice?

The temple and its ten thousand priests are gone. But even after the
lapse of a thousand years a perfume still exhales from those roses of
stone!



THE CORPSE-DEMON


    There is a book written in the ancient tongue of India, and
    called "Vetálapanchavinsati," signifying "The Twenty-Five
    Tales of a Demon."... And these tales are marvelous above
    all stories told by men; for wondrous are the words of
    Demons, and everlasting.... Now this Demon dwelt within a
    corpse, and spake with the tongue of the corpse, and gazed
    with the eyes of the corpse. And the corpse was suspended by
    its feet from a tree overshadowing tombs....

    Now on the fourteenth of the moonless half of the month
    Bhadon, the Kshatrya king Vikramaditya was commanded by a
    designing Yogi that he should cut down the corpse and bring
    the same to him. For the Yogi thus designed to destroy the
    king in the night....

    And when the king cut down the corpse, the Demon which was
    in the corpse laughed and said: "If thou shouldst speak once
    upon the way, I go not with thee, but return unto my tree."
    Then the Demon began to tell to the king stories so strange
    that he could not but listen. And at the end of each story
    the Demon would ask hard questions, threatening to devour
    Vikramaditya should he not answer; and the king, rightly
    answering, indeed avoided destruction, yet, by speaking,
    perforce enabled the Demon to return to the tree.... Now
    listen to one of those tales which the Demon told:


O King, there once was a city called Dharmpur, whose rajah Dharmshil
built a glorious temple to Devi, the goddess with a thousand shapes
and a thousand names. In marble was the statue of the goddess wrought,
so that she appeared seated cross-legged upon the cup of a monstrous
lotus, two of her four hands being joined in prayer, and the other two
uplifting on either side of her fountain basins, in each of which stood
an elephant spouting perfumed spray. And there was exceeding great
devotion at this temple; and the people never wearied of presenting to
the goddess sandal-wood, unbroken rice, consecrated food, flowers, and
lamps burning odorous oil.

Now from a certain city there came one day in pilgrimage to Devi's
temple, a washerman and a friend with him. Even as he was ascending the
steps of the temple, he beheld a damsel descending toward him, unrobed
above the hips, after the fashion of her people. Sweet as the moon
was her face; her hair was like a beautiful dark cloud; her eyes were
liquid and large as a wild deer's; her brows were arched like bows well
bent; her delicate nose was curved like a falcon's beak; her neck was
comely as a dove's; her teeth were like pomegranate seeds; her lips
ruddy as the crimson gourd; her hands and feet soft as lotus-leaves.
Golden-yellow was her skin, like the petals of the champa-flowers; and
the pilgrim saw that she was graceful-waisted as a leopard. And while
the tinkling of the gold rings about her round ankles receded beyond
his hearing, his sight became dim for love, and he prayed his friend to
discover for him who the maiden might be.... Now she was the daughter
of a washerman.

Then did the pilgrim enter into the presence of the goddess, having
his mind filled wholly by the vision of that girl; and prostrating
himself he vowed a strange vow, saying: "O Devi, Mahadevi--Mother of
Gods and Monster-slayer--before whom all the divinities bow down, thou
hast delivered the earth from its burdens! thou hast delivered those
that worshiped thee from a thousand misfortunes! Now I pray thee, O
Mother Devi, that thou wilt be my helper also, and fulfill the desire
of my heart. And if by thy favor I be enabled to marry that loveliest
of women, O Devi, verily I will make a sacrifice of my own head to
thee." Such was the vow which he vowed.

But having returned unto his city and to his home, the torment of
being separated from his beloved so wrought upon him that he became
grievously sick, knowing neither sleep nor hunger nor thirst, inasmuch
as love causes men to forget all these things. And it seemed that he
might shortly die. Then, indeed, his friend, being alarmed, went to the
father of the youth, and told him all, so that the father also became
fearful for his son. Therefore, accompanied by his son's friend, he
went to that city, and sought out the father of the girl, and said
to him: "Lo! I am of thy caste and calling, and I have a favor to
ask of thee. It has come to pass that my son is so enamoured of thy
daughter that unless she be wedded to him he will surely die. Give me,
therefore, the hand of thy daughter for my dear son." And the other
was not at all displeased at these words; but, sending for a Brahman,
he decided upon a day of good omen for the marriage to be celebrated.
And he said: "Friend, bring thy son hither. I shall rub her hands with
turmeric, that all men may know she is betrothed."

Thus was the marriage arranged; and in due time the father of the
youth came with his son to the city; and after the ceremony had
been fulfilled, he returned to his own people with his son and his
daughter-in-law. Now the love these young people held each for the
other waxed greater day by day; and there was no shadow on the young
man's happiness saving the memory of his vow. But his wife so caressed
and fondled him that at last the recollection of the oath faded utterly
away.

After many days it happened that the husband and wife were both invited
to a feast at Dharmpur; and they went thither with the friend who had
before accompanied the youth upon his pilgrimage. Even as they neared
the city, they saw from afar off the peaked and gilded summits of
Devi's temple. Then the remembrance of his oath came back with great
anguish to that young husband. "Verily," he thought within his heart,
"I am most shameless and wicked among all perjurers, having been false
in my vow even to Devi, Mother of Gods!"

And he said to his friend: "I pray thee, remain thou here with my wife
while I go to prostrate myself before Devi."

So he departed to the temple, and bathed himself in the sacred pool,
and bowed himself before the statue with joined hands. And having
performed the rites ordained, he struck himself with a sword a mighty
blow upon his neck, so that his head, being separated from his body,
rolled even to the pillared stem of the marble lotus upon which Devi
sat.

Now after the wife and the dead man's friend had long waited vainly,
the friend said: "Surely he hath been gone a great time; remain thou
here while I go to bring him back!" So he went to the temple, and
entering it beheld his friend's body lying in blood, and the severed
head beneath the feet of Devi. And he said to his own heart: "Verily
this world is hard to live in!... Should I now return, the people would
say that I had murdered this man for the sake of his wife's exceeding
beauty." Therefore he likewise bathed in the sacred pool, and performed
the rites prescribed, and smote himself upon the neck so that his head
also was severed from his body and rolled in like manner unto Devi's
feet.

Now, after the young wife had waited in vain alone for a long while,
she became much tormented by fear for her husband's sake, and went
also to the temple. And when she beheld the corpses and the reeking
swords, she wept with unspeakable anguish, and said to her own heart:
"Surely this world is hard to live in at best; and what is life now
worth to me without my husband? Moreover, people will say that I, being
a wicked woman, murdered them both, in order to live wickedly without
restraint. Let me therefore also make a sacrifice!"...

Saying these words, she departed to the sacred pool and bathed therein,
and, having performed the holy rites, lifted a sword to her own smooth
throat that she might slay herself. But even as she lifted the sword a
mighty hand of marble stayed her arm; while the deep pavement quivered
to the tread of Devi's feet. For the Mother of Gods had arisen, and
descended from her lotus seat, and stood beside her. And a divine voice
issued from the grim lips of stone, saying, "O daughter! Dear hast
thou made thyself to me! Ask now a boon of Devi!" But she answered,
all-tremblingly, "Divinest Mother, I pray only that these men may be
restored to life." Then said the goddess, "Put their heads upon their
bodies."

And the beautiful wife sought to do according to the divine command;
but love and hope and the fear of Devi made dizzy her brain, so that
she placed her husband's head upon the friend's neck, and the head of
the friend upon the neck of her husband. And the goddess sprinkled the
bodies with the nectar of immortality, and they stood up, alive and
well, indeed, yet with heads wonderfully exchanged.

    Then said the Demon: "O King Vikramaditya! to which of these
    two was she wife? Verily, if thou dost not rightly answer,
    I shall devour thee." And Vikramaditya answered: "Listen!
    in the holy Shastra it is said that as the Ganges is chief
    among rivers, and Sumeru chief among mountains, and the
    Tree of Paradise chief among trees, so is the head chief
    among the parts of the body. Therefore she was the wife of
    that one to whose body her husband's head was joined."...
    Having answered rightly, the king suffered no hurt; but
    inasmuch as he had spoken, it was permitted the corpse-demon
    to return to the tree, and hang suspended therefrom above
    the tombs.

    ...And many times, in like manner, was the Demon enabled to
    return to the tree; and even so many times did Vikramaditya
    take down and bind and bear away the Demon; and each time
    the Demon would relate to the king a story so wild, so
    wonderful, that he could not choose but hear.... Now this is
    another of those tales which the Demon told:

O King, in the city of Dharmasthal there lived a Brahman, called Kesav;
and his daughter, who was beautiful as an Apsaras, had rightly been
named Sweet Jasmine-Flower, Madhumalati. And so soon as she was nubile,
her father and her mother and her brothers were all greatly anxious to
find her a worthy husband.

Now one day the father and the brother and the mother of the girl each
promised her hand to a different suitor. For the good Kesav, while
absent upon a holy visit, met a certain Brahman youth, who so pleased
him that Kesav promised him Madhumalati; and even the same day, the
brother, who was a student of the Shastras, met at the house of his
spiritual teacher another student who so pleased him that he promised
him Madhumalati; and in the meantime there visited Kesav's home another
young Brahman, who so delighted the mother that she promised him
Madhumakti. And the three youths thus betrothed to the girl were all
equal in beauty, in strength, in accomplishments, and even in years, so
that it would not have been possible to have preferred any one of them
above the rest. Thus, when the father returned home, he found the three
youths there before him; and he was greatly troubled upon learning
all that had taken place. "Verily," he exclaimed, "there is but one
girl and three bridegrooms, and to all of the three has our word been
pledged; to whom shall I give Madhumalati?" And he knew not what to do.

But even as he was thinking, and gazing from one to the other of the
three youths, a hooded serpent bit the girl, so that she died.

Forthwith the father sent out for magicians and holy men, that they
might give back life to his daughter; and the holy men came together
with the magicians. But the enchanters said that, by reason of the
period of the moon, it was not possible for them to do aught; and the
holy men avowed that even Brahma himself could not restore life to one
bitten by a serpent. With sore lamentation, accordingly, the Brahman
performed the funeral rites; and a pyre was built, and the body of
Madhumalati consumed thereupon.

Now those three youths had beheld the girl in her living beauty, and
all of them had been madly enamoured of her; and each one, because he
had loved and lost her, resolved thenceforth to abandon the world and
forego all pleasure in this life. All visited the funeral pyre; and
one of them gathered up all the girl's bones while they were yet warm
from the flame, and tied them within a bag, and then went his way to
become a fakir. Another collected the ashes of her body, and took them
with him into the recesses of a forest, where he built a hut and began
to live alone with the memory of her. The last indeed took no relic
of Madhumalati, but, having prayed a prayer, assumed the garb of a
Yogi, and departed to beg his way through the world. Now his name was
Madhusudam.

Long after these things had happened, Madhusudam one day entered the
house of a Brahman, to beg for alms; and the Brahman invited him
to partake of the family repast. So Madhusudam, having washed his
hands and his feet, sate him down to eat beside the Brahman; and the
Brahman's wife waited upon them. Now it came to pass, when the meal was
still but half served, that the Brahman's little boy asked for food;
and being bidden to wait, he clung to the skirt of his mother's dress,
so that she was hindered in her duties of hospitality. Becoming angry,
therefore, she seized her boy, and threw him into the fireplace where
a great fire was; and the boy was burned to ashes in a moment. But
the Brahman continued to eat as if nothing had happened; and his wife
continued to serve the repast with a kindly smile upon her countenance.

And being horror-stricken at these sights, Madhusudam arose from his
sitting-place, leaving his meal unfinished, and directed his way toward
the door. Then the Brahman kindly questioned him, saying: "O friend,
how comes it that thou dost not eat? Surely both I and my wife have
done what we could to please thee!"

And Madhusudam, astonished and wroth, answered: "How dost thou dare ask
me why I do not eat? How might any being, excepting a Rakshasa, eat in
the house of one by whom such a demon-deed hath been committed?"

But the Brahman smiled, and rose up and went to another part of the
house, and returned speedily with a book of incantations--a book of the
science of resurrection. And he read but one incantation therefrom,
when, lo! the boy that had been burned came alive and unscorched from
the fire, and ran to his mother, crying and clinging to her dress as
before.

Then Madhusudam thought within himself: "Had I that wondrous book, how
readily might I restore my beloved to life!" And he sat down again,
and, having finished his repast, remained in that house as a guest.
But in the middle of the night he arose stealthily, and purloined the
magical book, and fled away to his own city.

And after many days he went upon a pilgrimage of love to the place
where the body of Madhumalati had been burned (for it was the
anniversary of her death), and arriving he found that the other two who
had been betrothed to her were also there before him. And lifting up
their voices, they cried out: "O Madhusudam! thou hast been gone many
years and hast seen much. What hast thou learned of science?"

But he answered: "I have learned the science that restores the dead to
life." Then they prayed him, saying, "Revive thou Madhumalati!" And he
told them: "Gather ye her bones together, and her ashes, and I will
give her life."

And they having so done, Madhusudam produced the book and read a charm
therefrom; and the heap of ashes and cindered bones shaped itself to
the command, and changed color, and lived, and became a beautiful
woman, sweet as a jasmine-flower--Madhumalati even as she was before
the snake had bitten her!

But the three youths, beholding her smile, were blinded by love, so
that they began to wrangle fiercely together for the sake of her....

    Then the Demon said: "O Vikramaditya! to which of these was
    she wife? Answer rightly, lest I devour thee."

    And the king answered: "Truly she was the wife of him who
    had collected her ashes, and taken them with him into the
    recesses of the forest, where he built a hut and dwelt alone
    with the memory of her."

    "Nay!" said the Demon; "how could she have been restored to
    life had not the other also preserved her bones? and despite
    the piety of those two, how could she have been resurrected
    but for the third?"

    But the king replied: "Even as the son's duty is to preserve
    the bones of his parents, so did he who preserved the
    bones of Madhumalati stand to her only in the place of a
    son. Even as a father giveth life, so did he who reanimated
    Madhumalati stand to her only in the place of a father. But
    he who collected her ashes and took them with him into the
    recesses of the forest, where he built a hut and dwelt alone
    with the memory of her, he was truly her lover and rightful
    husband."


    ...Many other hard questions the Demon also asked,
    concerning men who by magic turned themselves into women,
    and concerning corpses animated by evil spirits; but the
    king answered all of them save one, which indeed admitted of
    no answer:

O Vikramaditya, when Mahabal was rajah of Dharmpur, another monarch
strove against him, and destroyed his army in a great battle, and slew
him. And the wife and daughter of the dead king fled to the forest for
safety, and wandered there alone. At that time the rajah Chandrasen was
hunting in the forest, and his son with him; and they beheld the prints
of women's feet upon the ground. Then said Chandrasen: "Surely the feet
of those who have passed here are delicate and beautiful, like those
of women; yet I marvel exceedingly that there should be women in this
desolate place. Let us pursue after them; and if they be beautiful,
I shall take to wife her whose feet have made the smallest of these
tracks, and thou shalt wed the other."

So they came up with the women, and were much charmed with their
beauty; and the rajah Chandrasen married the daughter of the dead
Mahabal, and Chandrasen's son took Mahabat's widow to wife. So that the
father married the daughter of the mother, and the son the mother of
the daughter...

    And the Demon asked: "O Vikramaditya, in what manner were
    the children of Chandrasen and his son related by these
    marriages?" But the king could not answer. And because he
    remained silent the Demon was pleased, and befriended him
    in a strange and unexpected manner, as it is written in the
    "Vetálapanchavinsati."



THE LION


    Intelligence is better than much learning; intelligence is
    better than science; the man that hath not intelligence
    shall perish like those who made unto themselves a lion.
    ...And this is the story of the lion, as related by the holy
    Brahman Vishnousarman in the "Panchopakhyana."


In days of old there were four youths of the Brahman caste--brothers,
who loved each other with strong affection, and had resolved to travel
all together into a neighboring empire to seek fortune and fame.

Of these four brothers three had deeply studied all sciences, knowing
magic, astronomy, alchemy, and occult arts most difficult to learn;
while the fourth had no knowledge whatever of science, possessing
intelligence only.

Now, as they were traveling together, one of the learned brothers
observed: "Why should a brother without knowledge obtain profit by our
wisdom? Traveling with us he can be only a burden upon us. Never will
he be able to obtain the respect of kings, and therefore must he remain
a disgrace to us. Rather let him return home."

But the eldest of all answered: "Nay! let him share our good luck; for
he is our loving brother, and we may perhaps find some position for him
which he can fill without being a disgrace to us."

So they journeyed along; and after a time, while passing through a
forest, they beheld the bones of a lion scattered on the path. These
bones were white as milk and hard as flint, so dry and so bleached they
were.

Then said he who had first condemned the ignorance of his brother: "Let
us now show our brother what science may accomplish; let us put his
ignorance to shame by giving life to these lion-bones, and creating
another lion from them! By a few magical words I can summon the dry
bones together, making each fit into its place." Therewith he spake
the words, so that the dry bones came together with a clattering
sound--each fitting to its socket--and the skeleton rejointed itself
together.

"I," quoth the second brother, "can by a few words spread tendons over
the bones--each in its first place--and thicken them with muscle, and
redden them with blood, and create the humors, the veins, the glands,
the marrow, the internal organs, and the exterior skin." Therewith he
spake the words; and the body of the lion appeared upon the ground at
their feet, perfect, shaggy, huge.

"And I," said the third brother, "can by one word give warmth to the
blood and motion to the heart, so that the animal shall live and
breathe and devour beasts. And ye shall hear him roar."

But ere he could utter the word, the fourth brother, who knew nothing
about science, placed his hand over his mouth. "Nay!" he cried, "do
not utter the word. That is a lion! If thou givest him life, he will
devour us."

But the others laughed him to scorn, saying: "Go home, thou fool! What
dost thou know of science?"

Then he answered them: "At least, delay the making of the lion until
thy brother can climb up this tree." Which they did.

But hardly had he ascended the tree when the word was spoken, and the
lion moved and opened his great yellow eyes. Then he stretched himself,
and arose, and roared. Then he turned upon the three wise men, and slew
them, and devoured them.

But after the lion had departed, the youth who knew nothing of science
descended from the tree unharmed, and returned to his home.



THE LEGEND OF THE MONSTER MISFORTUNE


    He that hath a hundred desireth a thousand; he that hath
    a thousand would have a hundred thousand; he that hath a
    hundred thousand longeth for the kingdom; he that hath a
    kingdom doth wish to possess the heavens. And being led
    astray by cupidity, even the owners of riches and wisdom
    do those things which should never be done, and seek after
    that which ought never to be sought after.... Wherefore
    there hath been written, for the benefit of those who do
    nourish their own evil passions, this legend taken from the
    forty-sixth book of the "Fa-youen-tchou-lin":


In those ages when the sun shone brighter than in these years, when the
perfumes of flowers were sweeter, when the colors of the world were
fairer to behold, and gods were wont to walk upon earth, there was a
certain happy kingdom wherein no misery was. Of gems and of gold there
was super-abundance; the harvests were inexhaustible as ocean; the
cities more populous than ant-hills. So many years had passed without
war that plants grew upon the walls of the great towns, disjointing
the rampart-stones by the snaky strength of their roots. And through
all that land there was a murmur of music constant as the flow of the
Yellow River; sleep alone interrupted the pursuit of pleasure, and even
the dreams of sleepers were never darkened by imaginary woe. For there
was no sickness and no want of any sort, so that each man lived his
century of years, and dying laid him down painlessly, as one seeking
repose after pleasure--the calm of slumber after the intoxication of
joy.

One day the king of that country called all his counselors and
ministers and chief mandarins together, and questioned them, saying:
"Behold! I have read in certain ancient annals which are kept within
our chief temple, these words: '_In days of old Misfortune visited the
land._' Is there among you one who can tell me what manner of creature
Misfortune is? Unto what may Misfortune be likened?"

But all the counselors and the ministers and the mandarins answered: "O
king, we have never beheld it, nor can we say what manner of creature
it may be."

Thereupon the king ordered one of his ministers to visit all the lesser
kingdoms, and to inquire what manner of creature Misfortune might be,
and to purchase it at any price--if indeed it could be bought--though
the price should be the value of a province.

Now there was a certain god, who, seeing and hearing these things,
forthwith assumed the figure of a man, and went to the greatest market
of a neighboring kingdom, taking with him Misfortune, chained with a
chain of iron. And the form of Misfortune was the form of a gigantic
sow. So the minister, visiting that foreign market, observed the
creature, which was made fast to a pillar there, and asked the god what
animal it was.

"It is called the female of Misfortune," quoth the god.

"Is it for sale?" questioned the minister.

"Assuredly," answered the god.

"And the price?"

"A million pieces of gold."

"What is its daily food?"

"One bushel measure of needles."


Having paid for the beast a million pieces of good yellow gold, the
minister was perforce compelled to procure food for it. So he sent out
runners to all the markets, and to the shops of tailors and of weavers,
and to all the mandarins of all districts within the kingdom, to
procure needles. This caused much tribulation in the land, not only by
reason of the scarcity of needles, but also because of the affliction
to which the people were subjected. For those who had not needles were
beaten with bamboos; and the mandarins, desiring to obey the behest
of the king's minister, exercised much severity. The tailors and
others who lived by their needles soon found themselves in a miserable
plight; and the needlemakers, toil as they would, could never make
enough to satisfy the hunger of the beast, although many died because
of overwork. And the price of a needle became as the price of emeralds
and diamonds, and the rich gave all their substance to procure food
for this beast, whose mouth, like the mouth of hell, could not be
satisfied. Then the people in many parts, made desperate by hunger and
the severity of the mandarins, rose in revolt, provoking a war which
caused the destruction of many tens of thousands. The rivers ran with
blood, yet the minister could not bring the beast to the palace for
lack of needles wherewith to feed it.

Therefore he wrote at last to the king, saying: "I have indeed been
able to find and to buy the female of Misfortune; but the male I have
not been able to obtain, nor, with Your Majesty's permission, will I
seek for it. Lo! the female hath already devoured the substance of this
land; and I dare not attempt to bring such a monster to the palace.
I pray Your Majesty therefore that Your Majesty graciously accord me
leave to destroy this hideous beast; and I trust that Your Majesty will
bear in mind the saying of the wise men of India: 'Even a King who will
not hearken to advice should be advised by faithful counselors.'"

Then the king, being already alarmed by noise of the famine and of the
revolution, ordered that the beast should be destroyed.


Accordingly, the female of Misfortune was led to a desolate place
without the village, and chained fast with chains of iron; and the
minister commanded the butchers to kill it. But so impenetrable was
its skin that neither axe nor knife could wound it. Wherefore the
soldiers were commanded to destroy it. But the arrows of the archers
flattened their steel points upon Misfortune, even when directed
against its eyes, which were bright and hard as diamonds; while swords
and spears innumerable were shattered and broken in foolish efforts to
kill it.

Then the minister commanded a great fire to be built; and the monster
was bound within the fire, while quantities of pitch and of oil and
of resinous woods were poured and piled upon the flame, until the
fire became too hot for men to approach it within the distance of
ten li. But the beast, instead of burning, first became red-hot and
then white-hot, shining like the moon. Its chains melted like wax, so
that it escaped at last and ran out among the people like a dragon of
fire. Many were thus consumed; and the beast entered the villages and
destroyed them; and still running so swiftly that its heat increased
with its course, it entered the capital city, and ran through it and
over it upon the roofs, burning up even the king in his palace.

Thus, by the folly of that king, was the kingdom utterly wasted and
destroyed, so that it became a desert, inhabited only by lizards and
serpents, and demons....


NOTE. This and the following fable belong to the curious collection
translated by M. Stanislas Julien from a Chinese encyclopædia, and
published at Paris in 1860, under the title, "Les Avadânas"--or "The
Similitudes"--a Sanscrit term corresponding to the Chinese Pi-yu, and
justified by the origin of the stories, translated by the Chinese
themselves, or at least reconstructed, from old Sanscrit texts. I have
ventured, however, to accentuate the slightly Chinese coloring of the
above grotesque parable. L. H.



A PARABLE BUDDHISTIC


    ...Like to earthen vessels wrought in a potter's mill, so
    are the lives of men; howsoever carefully formed, all are
    doomed to destruction. Nought that exists shall endure;
    life is as the waters of a river that flow away, but
    never return. Therefore may happiness only be obtained by
    concealing the Six Appetites, as the tortoise withdraws its
    six extremities into its shell; by guarding the thoughts
    from desire and from grief, even as the city is guarded by
    its ditches and its walls....


So spoke in gathas Sakya-Mouni. And this parable, doubtless by him
narrated of old, and translated from a lost Indian manuscript into
the Chinese tongue, may be found in the fifty-first book of the
"Fa-youen-tchou-lin ":


...A father and his son were laboring together in the field during the
season of serpents, and a hooded serpent bit the young man, so that he
presently died. For there is no remedy known to man which may annul
the venom of the hooded snake, filling the eyes with sudden darkness
and stilling the motion of the heart. But the father, seeing his son
lying dead, and the ants commencing to gather, returned to his work and
ceased not placidly to labor as before.

Then a Brahman passing that way, seeing what had happened, wondered
that the father continued to toil, and yet more at observing that his
eyes were tearless. Therefore he questioned him, asking: "Whose son was
that youth who is dead?"

"He was mine own son," returned the laborer, ceasing not to labor.

"Yet, being thy son, how do I find thee tearless and impassive?"

"Folly!" answered the laborer; "even the instant that a man is born
into the world, so soon doth he make his first step in the direction
of death; and the ripeness of his strength is also the beginning of
its decline. For the well-doing there is indeed a recompense; for the
wicked there is likewise punishment. What avail, therefore, tears and
grief? In no wise can they serve the dead.... Perchance, good Brahman,
thou art on thy way to the city. If so, I pray thee to pass by my
house, and to tell my wife that my son is dead, so that she may send
hither my noonday repast."

"Ah! what manner of man is this?" thought the Brahman to himself. "His
son is dead, yet he does not weep; the corpse lies under the sun, yet
he ceases not to labor; the ants gather about it, yet he coldly demands
his noonday meal! Surely there is no compassion, no human feeling,
within his entrails!" These things the Brahman thought to himself; yet,
being stirred by curiosity, he proceeded none the less to the house of
the laborer, and beholding the mother said unto her: "Woman, thy son is
dead, having been stricken by a hooded snake; and thy tearless husband
bade me tell thee to send him his noonday repast.... And now I perceive
thou art also insensible to the death of thy son, for thou dost not
weep!"

But the mother of the dead answered him with comparisons, saying: "Sir,
that son had indeed received only a passing life from his parents;
therefore I called him not my son. Now he hath passed away from me,
nor was it in my feeble power to retain him. He was only as a traveler
halting at a tavern; the traveler rests and passes on; shall the tavern
keeper restrain him? Such is indeed the relation of mother and son.
Whether the son go or come, whether he remain or pass on, I have no
power over his being; my son has fulfilled the destiny appointed, and
from that destiny none could save him. Why, therefore, lament that
which is inevitable?"

And wondering still more, the Brahman turned unto the eldest sister
of the dead youth, a maiden in the lotus bloom of her maidenhood, and
asked her, saying: "Thy brother is dead, and wilt thou not weep?"

But the maiden also answered him with comparisons, saying: "Sometimes
a strong woodman enters the forest of trees, and hews them down with
mighty axe-strokes, and binds them together into a great raft, and
launches the raft into the vast river. But a furious wind arises and
excites the waves to dash the raft hither and thither, so that it
breaks asunder, and the currents separate the foremost logs from
those behind, and all are whirled away never again to be united. Even
such has been the fate of my young brother. We were bound together by
destiny in the one family; we have been separated forever. There is no
fixed time of life or death; whether our existence be long or short, we
are united only for a period, to be separated forevermore. My brother
has ended his allotted career; each of us is following a destiny that
may not be changed. To me it was not given to protect and to save him.
Wherefore should I weep for that which could not be prevented?"

Then wondering still more, the Brahman addressed himself to the
beautiful wife of the dead youth, saying: "And thou, on whose bosom he
slept, dost thou not weep for him, thy comely husband, cut off in the
summer of his manhood?"

But she answered him also with comparisons, saying: "Even as two birds,
flying one from the east and one from the south, meet and look into
each other's eyes, and circle about each other, and seek the same
summit of tree or temple, and sleep together until the dawn, so was
our own fate. When the golden light breaks in the east, the two birds,
leaving their temple perch or their tree, fly in opposite ways each to
seek its food. They meet again if destiny wills; if not, they never
behold each other more. Such was the fate of my husband and myself;
when death sought him his destiny was accomplished, and it was not in
my power to save him. Therefore, why should I weep?"

Then wondering more than ever, the Brahman questioned the slave of the
dead man, asking him: "Thy master is dead; why dost thou not weep?"

But the slave also answered him with comparisons, saying: "My master
and I were united by the will of destiny; I was only as the little calf
which follows the great bull. The great bull is slain: the little calf
could not save him from the axe of the butcher; its cries and bleatings
could avail nothing. Wherefore should I weep, not knowing how soon
indeed my own hour may come?"

And the Brahman, silent with wonder, watched the slender figures of the
women moving swiftly to and fro athwart the glow of golden light from
without, preparing the noonday repast for the tearless laborer in the
field.



PUNDARI


    A story of the Buddha, who filled with light the world, the
    soles of whose feet were like unto the faces of two blazing
    suns, for that he trod in the Perfect Paths.


...In those days Buddha was residing upon the summit of the mountain
Gridhrakuta, overlooking that ancient and vanished city called
Rajagriha--then a glorious vision of white streets and fretted arcades,
and milky palaces so mightily carven that they seemed light as woofs
of Cashmere, delicate as frost! There was the cry of elephants heard;
there the air quivered with amorous music; there the flowers of a
thousand gardens exhaled incense to heaven, and there women sweeter
than the flowers moved their braceleted ankles to the notes of harps
and flutes.... But, above all, the summit of the mountain glowed with
a glory greater than day--with a vast and rosy light signaling the
presence of the Buddha.

Now in that city dwelt a bayadere, most lovely among women, with whom
in grace no other being could compare; and she had become weary of the
dance and the jewels and the flowers--weary of her corselets of crimson
and golden silk, and her robes light as air, diaphanous as mist--weary,
also, of the princes who rode to her dwelling upon elephants, bearing
her gifts of jewels and perfumes and vessels strangely wrought in
countries distant ten years' journey. And her heart whispered her to
seek out Buddha, that she might obtain knowledge and rest, becoming
even as a Bhikshuni.

Therefore, bidding farewell to the beautiful city, she began to ascend
the hilly paths to where the great and rosy glory beamed above. Fierce
was the heat of the sun, and rough the dizzy paths; and the thirst and
weariness of deserts came upon her. So that, having but half ascended
the mountain, she paused to drink and rest at a spring clear and bright
like diamond, that had wrought a wondrous basin for itself in the heart
of the rock.

But as the bayadere bent above the fountain to drink, she beheld in
its silver-bright mirror the black glory of her hair, and the lotus
softness of her silky-shadowed eyes, and the rose-budding of her
honey-sweet mouth, and her complexion golden as sunlight, and the
polished suppleness of her waist, and her slender limbs rounder than
an elephant's trunk, and the gold-engirdled grace of her ankles. And a
mist of tears gathered before her sight. "Shall I, indeed, cast away
this beauty?" she murmured. "Shall I mask this loveliness, that hath
allured rajahs and maharajahs, beneath the coarse garb of a recluse?
Shall I behold my youth and grace fade away in solitude as dreams of
the past? Wherefore, then, should I have been born so beautiful? Nay!
let those without grace and without youth abandon all to seek the Five
Paths!" And she turned her face again toward the white-glimmering
Rajagriha, whence ascended the breath of flowers, and the liquid melody
of flutes, and the wanton laughter of dancing girls....

But far above, in the rosiness, omniscient Buddha looked into her
heart, and, pitying her weakness, changed himself by utterance of the
Word into a girl far comelier and yet more lissome than even Pundari
the bayadere. So that Pundari, descending, suddenly and in much
astonishment became aware of the loveliest of companions at her side,
and asked: "O thou fairest one! whence comest thou? Who may the kindred
be of one so lovely?"

And the sweet stranger answered, in tones softer than of flutes of
gold: "I also, lovely one, am returning to the white city Rajagriha;
let us journey together, that we may comfort each other by the way."

And Pundari answered: "Yea, O fairest maiden! thy beauty draws me to
thee as the flower the bee, and thy heart must surely be precious as is
thy incomparable face!"

So they journeyed on; but the lovely stranger became weary at last,
and Pundari, sitting down, made a pillow of her round knees for the
dainty head, and kissed her comrade to sleep, and stroked the silky
magnificence of her hair, and fondled the ripe beauty of the golden
face slumbering, and a great love for the stranger swelled ripening in
her heart.

Yet while she gazed the face upon her smooth knees changed, even as
a golden fruit withers and wrinkles, so wizened became the curved
cheeks: strange hollows darkened and deepened about the eyes; the silky
lashes vanished with their shadows; the splendid hair whitened like the
ashes of altar fires; shrunken and shriveled grew the lips; tooth-less
yawned the once rosy mouth; and the bones of the face, made salient,
fore-shaped the gibbering outlines of a skull. The perfume of youth was
gone; but there arose odors insufferable of death, and with them came
the ghastly creeping things that death fattens, and the livid colors
and blotches that his shadowy fingers leave. And Pundari, shrieking,
fled to the presence of Buddha, and related unto him the things which
she had seen.

And the World-Honored comforted her, and spake:

"O Pundari, life is but as the fruit; loveliness but as the flower! Of
what use is the fairest body that lieth rotting beside the flowings
of the Ganges? Old age and death none of us may escape; yet there are
worse than these--the new births which are to this life as the echo to
the voice in the cavern, as the great footprints to the steps of the
elephant.

"From desire cometh woe; by desire is begotten all evil. The body
itself is a creation of the mind only, of the foolish thirst of the
heart for pleasure. As the shadows of dreams are dissipated with the
awakening of the sleeper, even so shall sorrow vanish and evil pass
away from the heart of whosoever shall learn to conquer desire and
quench the heart's thirst; even so shall the body itself vanish for
those who tread well in the Five Paths.

"O Pundari, there is no burning greater than desire; no joy like unto
the destruction of the body! Even as the white stork standing alone
beside the dried-up lily-pool, so shall those be whose youth passes
from them in the fierce heat of foolish passion; and when the great
change shall come, they will surely be born again unto foolishness and
tears.

"Those only who have found delight in the wilderness where others
behold horror; those who have extinguished all longings; those
self-made passionless by meditation on life and death--only such do
attain to happiness, and, preventing the second birth, enter into the
blessedness of Nirvana."...

And the bayadere, cutting off her hair, and casting from her all
gifts of trinkets and jewels, abandoned everything to enter the Five
Paths. And the Devas, rejoicing, made radiant the mountains above the
white city, and filled the air with a rain of strange flowers. And
whosoever would know more of Buddha, let him read the marvelous book
"Fah-Kheu-King,"--the Book "Dhammapada."



YAMARAJA


    The Legend Maggavago; or, "The Way"--which is in the
    marvelous book of the "Dhammapada."... A story of the Buddha
    at whose birth the stars stopped in their courses....


The Brahman's son was dead--dead in the blossoming of his beautiful
youth, as the rose in whose heart a worm is born, as the lotus bud when
the waters of the pool are cut off. For comeliness there was none like
him, even among the children of the holiest caste; nor were there any
so deeply learned in the books of religion, in just reasoning regarding
the Scriptures, in the recitation of the slokas of singers divinely
inspired. Thrice the aged priest fainted away upon the body of his
son; and as often as they would have led him to his home, he shrieked
and fainted again, so that, at last, even while he lay as dead, they
took the body from his arms, and, having washed it with the waters of
purification, wrapped it in perfumed linen, and laid it upon a bier
decked with Indian flowers, and bore it away to the place of interment.
Thus, when the unhappy father came to himself, all was accomplished;
and the stern elders of his caste, gathering about him, so harshly
reproved him for his grief that he was perforce compelled to reason
with himself regarding the vanity of lamentation and the folly of human
tears.

But not ceasing to meditate upon his great loss, a wild hope at last
shaped itself within his heart. "Lo!" he thought, "I have heard it said
that certain mighty Brahmans, having acquired the Five Virtues, the
Five Faculties, the Ten Forces, were enabled to converse face to face
with Yamaraja, the Lord of Death! To me it hath not indeed been given,
by reason perchance of my feeble will, to obtain the supreme wisdom;
yet my love and faith are of the heart, and I will seek out Yamaraja,
King of Death, and pray him to give me back my son." Therefore the
Brahman, investing himself with sacerdotal vestments, performed the
holy ceremonies ordained in the law; and having offered the sacrifice
of flowers and of incense, he departed to seek the Lord of Death, the
Maharajah of vanished kingdoms, Yama. And he questioned all whom he met
as to where Yama might be found.


Some, opening astounded eyes, answered him not at all, deeming him to
be mad; some there were that mocked him; some counseled that he should
return home, lest he find Yama too speedily! Kshattrya princes with
jewel-hilted sabres answered him as they rode by in glittering steel
and glimmering gold: "Yama may be found in the tempest of battles,
beneath the bursting of arrow-clouds, amidst the lightning of swords,
before the armored ranks of the fighting elephants." Swarthy mariners
replied, with rough laughter as of sea winds: "Thou mayst seek Yama
in the roaring of waters and raving of typhoons; let the spirit of
storms answer thee!" ...And dancing girls, singing the burning hymn of
Ourvasi, paused to answer with their witchery: "Seek Yama rather in
our arms, upon our lips, upon our hearts; exhale thy soul in a kiss."
...And they laughed shrilly as the bells of the temple eaves laugh when
the wind lips their silver tongues.


So he wandered on, by the banks of many rivers, under the shadowing of
many city walls, still seeking, until he came to the great wilderness
below the mountains of the east, where dwelt the most holy, who had
obtained supreme wisdom. Serpents hooded like mendicants protruded
their forked tongues; the leopard thrust aside the jungle grasses to
gaze at him with eyes of green flame; the boa moved before him, making
a waving in the deep weeds as the wake of a boat upon water. But
inasmuch as he sought Yama, he could not fear.

Thus he came at last to where the most holy of Brahmans dwelt, who
had obtained supreme wisdom, nourishing themselves upon the perfumes
of flowers only. The shadow of the rocks, the shadows of the primeval
trees, lengthened and shortened and circled with the circling of the
sun; but the shadows of the trees beneath which they sat circled not,
nor did they change with the changing of the universal light. The eyes
of the hermits gazed unwinking upon the face of the sun; the birds of
heaven nestled in the immobility of their vast beards. All tremblingly
he asked of them where Yamaraja might be found.


Long he awaited in silence their answer, hearing only the waters
chanting their eternal slokas, the trees whispering with all their
flickering leaf-tongues, the humming of innumerable golden flies, the
heavy movement of great beasts in the jungle. At last the Brahmans
moved their lips, and answered, "Wherefore seekest thou Yama?" And at
their utterance the voices of the waters and the woods were hushed; the
golden flies ceased the music of their wings.

Then answered the pilgrim, tremblingly: "Lo! I also am a Brahman, ye
holy ones; but to me it hath not been given to obtain the supreme
wisdom, seeing that I am unworthy to know the Absolute. Yet I sought
diligently for the space of sixty years to obtain holiness; and our law
teaches that if one have not reached wisdom at sixty, it is his duty,
returning home, to take a wife, that he may have holy children. This
I did; and one son was born unto me, beautiful as the Vasika flower,
learned even in his childhood. And I did all I could to instill into
him the love of uttermost wisdom, teaching him myself until it came to
pass that he knew more than I, wherefore I sought him teachers from
Elephanta. And in the beauty of his youth he was taken from me--borne
away with the silk of manhood already shadowing his lip. Wherefore I
pray ye, holy men, tell me in what place Yamaraja dwells, that I may
pray him to give me back my boy!"


Then all the holy voices answered together as one voice, as the tone of
many waters flowing in one cadence: "Verily thou hast not been fitted
to seek the supreme wisdom, seeing that in the winter of thine age thou
dost still mourn by reason of a delusion. For the stars die in their
courses, the heavens wither as leaves, the worlds vanish as the smoke
of incense. Lives are as flower-petals opening to fade; the works of
man as verses written upon water. He who hath reached supreme wisdom
mourneth existence only.... Yet, that thou mayst be enlightened, we
will even advise thee. The kingdom of Yama thou mayst not visit, for
no man may tread the way with mortal feet. But many hundred leagues
toward the setting of the sun, there is a valley, with a city shining
in the midst thereof. There no man dwells, but the gods only, when
they incarnate themselves to live upon earth. And upon the eighth day
of each month Yamaraja visits them, and thou mayst see him. Yet beware
of failing a moment to practice the ceremonies, to recite the Mantras,
lest a strange evil befall thee! ...Depart now from us, that we may
reenter into contemplation!"


So, after journeying many moons, the good Brahman stood at last upon
the height above the valley, and saw the ivory-white city--a vision of
light, like the heaven Trayastrinshas. Not Hanoumat, the messenger
of Rama, beheld such splendor, when he haunted the courts of Lanka by
night, and beheld in Ravana's palace the loveliest of women interlaced
in the embrace of sleep, "the garland of women's bodies interwoven."
Terraces fretted by magical chisels rose heavenward, tier upon tier,
until their summit seemed but the fleeciness of summer clouds; arches
towered upon arches; pink marble gates yawned like the mouths of
slumbering bayaderes; crenellated walls edged with embroidery of
inlaid gold surrounded gardens deep as forests; domes white-rounded,
like breasts, made pearly curves against the blue; fountains,
silver-nippled, showered perfumed spray; and above the great gate of
the palace of the gods, where Devas folded their wings on guard, flamed
a vast carbuncle, upon whose face was graven the Word comprehended only
by those who have attained supreme wisdom. And standing before the
gate, the Brahman burnt the holy incense and recited the holy Mantras,
...until the Devas, pitying him, rolled back the doors of gold, and
bade him enter.


Lofty as heaven seemed that palace hall, whose vault of cerulean blue
hung, self-sustained, above the assembly of the gods; and the pavement
of sable marble glimmered like a fathomless lake. Yet, as the Brahman
prostrated himself, not daring to lift his eyes, he felt that it
quavered under the tread of mortal feet even as when earth trembles.
In its reflection he beheld the gods seated in assembly, not awful of
image as in earthly temples, but as beings of light, star-diademed,
rosy with immortality.... Only Yamaraja's brow bore no starry flame;
and there was in his gaze a profundity as of deep answering unto deep.
To the ears of the worshiper his voice came like the voice of waters
pouring over the verge of an echoless abyss, ...and in obedience to
that voice the Brahman uttered his prayer.

And the Lord of Death, replying in strange tones, said: "Pious and just
is this prayer, O child of Brahma! Thy son is now in the Garden of the
East. Take him by the hand and go thy way." ...


Joyfully the Brahman entered that garden of fountains that flow
forever; of fruits, eternally ripe, that never fall; of flowers
immortal, that never fade. And he discerned, among children innumerable
disporting, his own beloved son playing beside the fountains; so that
he cried out with a great cry, and ran to him and clasped him and wept
over him, exclaiming: "O sweet son! O my beloved first-born! dost thou
not know me, thy father who mourned thee so long--who hath even entered
the presence of Yamaraja, the Lord of Death, to seek thee?"...

But like a mist the child passed from his embrace, and answered, with a
wonder in his eyes: "_I know thee not!_"...

Then, kneeling in tears before the boy, the Brahman cried: "O sweetest
son, hast thou indeed forgotten the father who loved thee more than his
own life--who taught thy infant lips to utter the holy prayers--who
denied thee no wish of thy heart, bringing thee up as the son of
a rajah, teaching thee all the wisdom of the Brahmans? Hast thou
forgotten thy mother, also, who weeps for thee now all alone, seeing
that I have journeyed so long to find thee? Nay! Look at me with thy
eyes! Look at me again, that thou mayst know me! Or is it because my
grief hath so changed me that I am no longer the same in thy sight?"...

But the child ever replied: "I know thee not!"

Then, casting himself upon the ground, the Brahman wept as one smitten
by infinite despair, and so sobbed, until the child, touching him,
spoke again: "I know thee not! Thou art to me a stranger! I know,
indeed, that thou art foolish--uttering the terms _father_ and
_mother_, signifying conditions that pass away like the grass of the
earth. I perceive, also, that thou art sorrowful, and therefore a
victim of delusion; for sorrow springeth from ignorance and desire,
as the fungus from corruption. Here we know not desire, we know not
sorrow, neither do we harbor illusion. Thou art no more to me than
the wind to the moon, than the flame blown out is to the object once
illuminated. Get thee from hence, therefore, as it will profit thee
nothing to bring thy sorrow and thy folly into this place."...

So the Brahman departed, speechless for grief.

Only then did he seek the Buddha, the Shaman Gautama, that he might
obtain advice and consolation. And the Buddha, pitying him, laid his
hand upon his heart, and gave him rest, saying:

"O Brahman, thou hast only been punished for thy self-delusion and
folly.

"Know that the spirit of the dead receiveth a new bodily form after its
departure, so that former relationship utterly ceaseth, even as one
visiting a tavern by the wayside is no longer a guest, having departed
therefrom.

"Much thou art to be pitied for thy weakness and this delusion of thy
love, nor canst thou find consolation but in supreme wisdom only.

"Vainly do men concern themselves regarding wife and child; for the end
cometh to all as a roaring torrent, sweeping away whatsoever earthly
affection clings to.

"Then neither father nor mother can save; then neither love nor
strength may succor; parent and kinsman become as blind men set to
guard a burning lamp.

"Therefore the truly wise considereth not such things, seeking only
to save the world, to enlighten men, to destroy sorrow by destroying
desire, to redeem himself.

"Even as the wind driveth away clouds, so should the wise seek to
banish thought, to banish worldly consciousness, and thus escape
forever the future birth and death, attaining the eightfold
Wisdom--finding at last the eternal peace, the eternal rest.

"Whatsoever is high shall be brought low; wheresoever is agreement will
surely come division; where there is birth there shall surely be death
also.

"Therefore cast off, O Brahman, all passion, all affection, all regret,
as the Vasika plant sheds its withered flowers; therefore flee the
ignorant, and seek in solitude the true wisdom, needing no companion,
rejoicing as the elephant escaped from the herd...."


And, perceiving the vanity of life, the evanescence of joy, the folly
of grief, that Brahman ceased to mourn, and besought permission to
follow the footsteps of the Teacher....



THE LOTUS OF FAITH; OR, THE FURNACE OF FIRE


    Which is in the "Jatakas" of Buddha.... At his birth the
    waters of the Sea became fresh, and the deeps of the Seven
    Hells were illuminated. The blind received their sight,
    that they might behold the bliss of the world; the deaf
    their hearing, that they might know the tidings of joy; by
    sevenfold lotus-flowers the rocks were riven asunder; the
    light of glory immeasurable filled the world systems of ten
    thousand suns....


In the years when Brahmadatta reigned over Benares--the holy city--the
city of apes and peacocks--the city possessing the seven precious
things, and resounding with the ten cries, with the trumpeting of
elephants, the neighing of horses, the melody of instruments and voices
of singing girls--then the future Buddha-elect was born as a son in the
family of the royal treasurer, after having passed through kotis of
births innumerable.

Now the duration of one koti is ten millions of years.

And the Buddha-elect, the Bodhisattva, was brought up in splendid
luxury as a prince of the holy city, and while yet a boy mastered all
branches of human knowledge, and becoming a man succeeded his father
as keeper of the treasury. But even while exercising the duties of his
office, he gave rich gifts to holy men, and allowed none to excel him
in almsgiving.

At that time there also lived a holy Buddha, who, striving to fulfill
each and all of the Ten Perfections had passed seven days and seven
nights without eating so much as one grain of rice. Arousing himself
at last from his holy trance, he cleansed and robed his person,
and purified himself, and passing through the air by virtue of his
perfection, alighted before the door of the treasurer's house, with his
begging-bowl in his hand.

Then the Bodhisattva, beholding the sacred mendicant awaiting in
silence, bade a servant fetch to him the Buddha's bowl, that he might
fill it with such food as those who seek supreme wisdom may permit
themselves to eat. So the servant proceeded to fetch the bowl.

But even as he advanced, and before he might reach out his hand, the
ground rocked and heaved like the sea beneath him; and the earth opened
itself, and yawned to its entrails, making an abyss between the holy
mendicant and the servant of the Bodhisattva. And the gulf became a
hell of seething flame, like the hell of Avici, like the heart of a
volcano in which even the crags of granite melt as wax, pass away as
clouds. Also a great and fantastic darkness grew before the sun, and
blackened all his face.

Wherefore the servant and his fellows fled shrieking, leaving only the
Bodhisattva standing upon one verge of the abyss, and the Buddha,
calmly waiting, upon the other. Where the feet of the perfect mendicant
stood, the abyss widened not; but it widened swiftly, devouring the
ground before the feet of the Bodhisattva, as though seeking to engulf
him. For Mara, Lord of Rakshasas and of evil ones, desiring that
the Buddha might die, sought thus to prevent the almsgiving of the
Bodhisattva. And the darkness before the sun was the darkness of Mara's
awful face.

And as a muttering of mountain thunder came a voice, saying: "The
Buddha shall not live by thine alms-gift; his hour hath come.... Mine
is the fire between thee and him."

And the Bodhisattva looked at the Buddha across the abyss of fire; and
the Buddha's face changed not, neither did he utter a word to dissuade
nor give one sign to encourage.

But the Bodhisattva cried aloud, even while the abyss, widening, grew
vaster to devour him: "Mara, thou shalt not prevail! To thee power is
not given against duty!... My lord Buddha, I come to thee, fearing not;
take thou this food from the hands of thy servant."

And with the dish of rice in his hands, the Bodhisattva strode into the
roaring waste of fire, uttering these jewel-words: "Better to enter
willingly into hell than neglect a duty or knowingly commit a wrong!"...

Even then the Buddha smiled on the other verge. And ere the
Bodhisattva could fall, there suddenly arose from the depths of the
pit of fire a vast and beautiful lotus-flower, like unto that from
whose womb of gold was Brahma born; and it received the feet of the
Bodhisattva, and bore him beyond the pit, upcasting over him a spray of
golden dust like a shower of stars. So he poured into the Buddha's bowl
the holy gift of alms.

The darkness vanished; the abyss was not; the Buddha, rising in air,
passed over a bridge of rosy cloud to the mountain regions of Himalaya.
But the Bodhisattva, still standing upon the lotus of gold, long
discoursed unto the people concerning holy things.



RUNES FROM THE KALEWALA



THE MAGICAL WORDS


    There is in the ancient Finnish tongue a strange book
    written, called "Kalewala," a book of runes, treating about
    the beginning of the world, and about the god-smiths who
    first wrought the foundations of the sky, and about the
    witches and the enchanters of the farthest North. Of witches
    Louhi was among the greatest; and her daughter was wooed
    by gods and heroes--even by Wainamoinen the mightiest....
    So fair was the virgin that her beauty gave light like the
    moon; so white were her bones that their whiteness glimmered
    through the transparency of her flesh; so clear was the
    ivory of her bones that the marrow could be seen within
    them.... And the story of how Wainamoinen built a boat that
    he might sail to woo the virgin, is thus told in the runes
    of the "Kalewala":


...The aged and valiant Wainamoinen resolved to build himself a boat,
a swift war-boat. He hewed the trees, he hewed the trunks of the
pines and the firs, singing songs the while, chanting the runes that
banish evil. And as he sang the smitten trees answered him, the fibres
of the oak and of the fir and of the mountain pine yielded up their
secrets in sounds that to other men seemed echoes only, but which to
Wainamoinen's ears were syllables and words--words wrung from the wood
by enchantment.

Now only the keel remained to be wrought; the strong keel of the
war-ship had yet to be fashioned. And Wainamoinen smote down a great
oak, that he might carve and curve its body as keels are curved and
carven. But the dying oak uttered its words of wood, its magical voice
of warning, saying: "Never may I serve for the keel of thy boat, for
the bottom of thy war-ship. Lo! the worms have made their crooked
dwellings within my roots: yesterday the raven alighted upon my head;
bloody was his back, bloody his crest, and blood lay clotting upon the
blackness of his neck."

Therefore the ancient Wainamoinen left the oak, and sought among the
mountain firs and the mountain pines for flawless keel-wood; and he
found wood worthy of his war-boat, and he wrought the same into shape
by the singing of magical songs.

For the words of enchantment by which shapes are shaped were known to
him; by magical words he had wrought the hull, with magical words had
formed the oars; and ribs and keel were by wizard song interlocked
together. But to perfect the prow three words must be sung, three
warlock words; and those three words Wainamoinen did not know, and his
heart was troubled because he did not know them.

There was a shepherd dwelling among the hills--an ancient shepherd who
had beheld ten times a hundred moons; and him Wainamoinen questioned
concerning the three magical words.

But the ancient shepherd answered him dreamily: "Surely thou mayst find
a hundred words, a thousand syllables of magical song, upon the heads
of the swallows, upon the shoulders of the wild geese, upon the necks
of the swans!"

Then the aged and valiant Wainamoinen went forth in search of the
magical words. He slew the flying swallows by thousands; thousands of
white geese he slew; thousands of snowy swans were stricken by his
arrows. Yet he found no word written upon their heads, their shoulders,
their necks, nor even so much as the beginning of a word. Then he
thought unto himself: "Surely I may find a hundred words, a thousand
syllables of song, under the tongues of the summer reindeer, within the
ruddy mouth of the white squirrel."

And he went his way to seek the magical words. He strewed the vast
plains with the bodies of slaughtered reindeer; he slew the white
squirrels by thousands and tens of thousands. But he found no word
beneath the tongue of the reindeer, no magical word in the mouth of the
white squirrel, not even so much as the beginning of a word.


Yet again Wainamoinen thought to himself, saying: "Surely I may find a
hundred magical words, a thousand syllables of song, in the dwelling
of the Queen of Death, in the land of Tuonela, in the underground
plains of Manala."

And he took his way unto the dwelling-place of Tuonela, to the moonless
land of the dead, to the underground plains of Manala. Three days he
journeyed thither with steps lighter than air; three days he journeyed
as a shadow walking upon shadow.

And he came at last unto the banks of the sacred river, the sable shore
of the black river, over which the spirits of the dead must pass; and
he cried out to the children of Death: "O daughters of Tuoni, bring
hither your bark! O children of Manala, bring hither your bark, that I
may cross over the black river!"

But the daughters of Death, the children of Hell, cried out, saying:
"The bark shall be taken over to thee only when thou shalt have told us
how thou hast come to Manala, how thou hast reached Tuonela--the abode
of Death, the domain of ghosts."

And Wainamoinen called out to them across the waters, saying: "Surely
Tuoni himself hath conducted me hither; surely the Queen of Death hath
driven me to Tuonela."

But the daughters of Tuonela waxed wroth; the virgins of Kalma were
angry. And they answered: "We know the artifice of men; we perceive
the lie within thy mouth. For surely thou livest! No wound hath slain
thee; no woe hath consumed thee; no disaster hath destroyed thee; no
grave hath been dug for thee. Who, therefore, hath brought thee alive
to Manala?"

And Wainamoinen, answering, called out to them across the waters:
"Iron surely hath brought me to the land of death; steel surely hath
accompanied me unto Manala."

The daughters of Tuonela waxed wroth; the virgins of Kalma were angry.
And they answered: "We know all artifices of men; we perceive the
lie within thy mouth. Had iron brought thee to Tuonela, had steel
accompanied thee unto Manala, thy garments would drip with blood....
Who brought thee to Manala?"

And Wainamoinen called out again to them across the waters: "Fire hath
brought me unto Manala; flame hath accompanied me to Tuonela."

The daughters of Tuonela waxed wroth; the virgins of Kalma were angry.
And they cried out: "We know all artifices of men; we perceive the
lie within thy mouth. Had fire brought thee to Manala, had flame
accompanied thee to Tuonela, thy garments would be consumed by the
fire, the glow of the flame would be upon thee. Who brought thee to
Manala?"

And Wainamoinen yet again called out to them across the black river,
saying: "Water hath brought me to Manala; water hath accompanied me to
Tuonela."

The daughters of Tuonela waxed wroth; the virgins of Kalma were angry.
And they answered, saying: "We know all the artifices of men; we
perceive the lie within thy mouth. For there is no dripping of water
from thy garments. Cease, therefore, to lie to us; for we know thou
livest; we perceive that no wound hath slain thee, no woe consumed
thee, no disaster hath crushed thy bones. Who brought thee to Manala?
who guided thee to Tuonela?"

Then Wainamoinen called out to them across the river: "Surely I will
now utter the truth. I have made me a boat by my art; I have wrought
me a war-boat by magical song. With a song I shaped the hull; with a
song I formed the keel; with a song I fashioned the oars. Yet three
words are wanting to me--three magical words by which I may perfect
the carven prow in its place; and I have come to Tuonela to find
these three words; I have come to Manala to seek these three words
of enchantment. Bring hither your bark, O children of Tuonela! bring
hither your boat, O virgins of Kalma!"

So the daughters of Death came over the dark river in their black
boat, and they rowed Wainamoinen to the further shore, to the waste of
wandering ghosts; and they gave him to drink of what the dead drink,
and to eat of what the dead devour. And Wainamoinen laid him down and
slept, being weary with his mighty journey.

He slept and dreamed; but his garments slept not--his enchanted
garments kept watch for him.


Now the daughter of Tuoni, the iron-fingered daughter of Death, seated
herself in the darkness upon a great stone in the midst of the waters;
and with iron fingers wove a net of iron thread, one thousand ells in
length.

The sons of Tuoni, the sons of the Queen of Death, also seated
themselves in the same darkness upon the same great stone in the midst
of the same waters, and with their hooked fingers, with their iron
finger-nails, also wove a net of iron thread, a thousand ells in length.

And they cast their net into the river, across the river, that they
might ensnare Wainamoinen, that they might entangle the magician, that
they might prevent him from ever leaving the abyss of Manala, ever
leaving the domain of Tuonela, so long as the golden moon should circle
in heaven, even so long as the silver sun should light the world of men.

But the garments of Wainamoinen kept watch, the enchanted garments of
the magician slept not. And Wainamoinen uttered a magical word, and
changed himself into a stone; and the stone rolled into the black river.

And the stone became a viper of iron, and passed sinuously through the
meshes of the nets, and through the river currents, and into the black
reeds upon the black river's further bank.

So Wainamoinen passed from the kingdom of Tuoni, from the children of
Death; but he had not found the magical words, nor so much as the part
of a word.


Then thought Wainamoinen unto himself: "Surely I may find a hundred
words, a thousand syllables of song, in the mouth of the earth-giant,
in the entrails of the ancient Kalewa! Long is the way to his
resting-place; one must travel awhile over the points of women's
needles, and awhile upon the sharp edges of warriors' swords, and yet
again awhile upon the sharp steel of the battle-axes of heroes."

And Wainamoinen went to the forge of his brother
Ilmarinnen--Ilmarinnen, the Eternal Smith, who forged the vault of
heaven, leaving no mark of the teeth of the pincers, no dent of the
blows of the hammer--Ilmarinnen, who forged for men during the age
of darkness a sun of silver and a moon of gold. And he cried out: "O
Ilmarinnen, mighty brother, forge me shoes of iron, gloves of iron, a
coat of iron! forge me a staff of iron with a pith of steel, that I
may wrest the magic words from the stomach of Kalewa, from the dead
entrails of the earth-giant."

And Ilmarinnen forged them. Yet he said: "O brother Wainamoinen, the
ancient Kalewa is dead; the grave of the earth-giant is deep. Thou
mayst obtain no word from him--not even the beginning of a word."

But Wainamoinen departed; Wainamoinen hastened over the way strewn with
the points of needles and the edges of swords and axe-heads of sharpest
steel. He ran swiftly over them with shoes of iron; he tore them from
his path with gloves of iron, until he reached the resting-place of
Kalewa, the vast grave of the earth-giant.

For a thousand moons and more Kalewa had slept beneath the earth.
The poplar-tree, the haapa, had taken root upon his shoulders; the
white birch, the koivu, was growing from his temples; the elder tree,
the leppa, was springing from his cheeks; and his beard had become
overgrown with pahju-bark, with the bark of the drooping willow.
The shadowy fir, the oravikuusi, was rooted in his forehead; the
mountain-pine, the havukonka, was sprouting from his teeth; the dark
spruce, the petaja, was springing from his feet.

But Wainamoinen tore the haapa from his shoulders, and the koivu from
his temples, and the leppa from his cheeks, and the pahju-bark from his
beard, and the oravikuusi from his forehead, and the havukonka from his
teeth, and the petaja from his feet.

Then into the mouth of the Mountain-Breaker, into the mouth of the
buried giant, Wainamoinen mightily thrust his staff of smithied iron.

And Kalewa awoke from his slumber of ages--awoke with groans of
pain--and he closed his jaws upon the staff; but his teeth could not
crush the core of steel, could not shatter the staff of iron. And as
Kalewa opened wider his mouth to devour the tormentor, lo! Wainamoinen
leaped into the yawning throat and descended into the monstrous
entrails. And Wainamoinen kindled a flame in the giant's belly--built
him a forge in his entrails.

Then Kalewa, in his great agony, called on that god who leans upon
the axis of the world, and upon the blue goddesses of the waters, and
upon the deities of the icy wildernesses, and upon the spirits of the
forest, and even upon the great Jumala, at whose birth the brazen
mountains trembled and lakes were changed into hills. But the gods came
not to aid him.

Then Kalewa cursed his tormentor with a thousand magical curses--with
curses of wind and storm and fire--with curses that change men's faces
into stone--with curses that transport the accursed to the vast deserts
of Laponia, where the hoof of the horse is never heard, where the
children of the mare can find no pasturage. But the curses harmed not
Wainamoinen; the curses only called forth the laughter of scorn from
the lips of Wainamoinen.

And Wainamoinen cried out unto Kalewa: "Never shall I depart from
hence, O thou mightiest singer of runes, until I have learned from thee
the three magical words which I desire--the three words of enchantment
that I have sought throughout the world in vain. Sing to me, O
Kalewa, thy songs, thy most wondrous songs, thy marvelous songs of
enchantment."

So the giant Kalewa, the possessor of sublimest wisdom, the singer
of marvelous runes, opened his mouth and sang his songs for
Wainamoinen--his most wondrous songs, his wizard songs.

Words succeeded to words, verses to verses, wizard runes to wizard
runes. Ere Kalewa could sing all that he knew, could utter all that he
had learned, the mountains would cease to be, the waters of the rivers
would dry up, the great lakes be depopulated of their finny people, the
sea have forgotten its power to make waves.

Unceasingly he sang for many days, unceasingly for many sleepless
nights; he sang the songs of wizards, the songs of enchantment, the
songs that create or destroy.

He sang the songs of wisdom, the runes sung by the gods before the
beginning of the world, the verses by whose utterance nothingness
became substance and darkness became light.

And as he sang the fair Sun paused in her course to hear him; the
golden Moon stopped in her path to listen; the awful billows of the sea
stood still; the icy rivers that devour the pines, that swallow up the
firs, ceased to rage; the mighty cataracts hung motionless above their
abysses; the waves of Juortana lifted high their heads to hear.

And Wainamoinen heard at last the three words, the three magical words,
he sought for; and he ceased tormenting Kalewa, and departed from him.
So Kalewa sank again into his eternal slumber, and the earth that loved
him recovered him, and the forests rewove their network of knotted
roots above his place of sleep....



THE FIRST MUSICIAN


    In the ancient runes of the Finns, the runes of the
    "Kalewala," is related the creation of the world from the
    yolk of an egg, and of the heavens from the shell of the
    egg; also the origin of Iron and the birth of Steel and the
    beginning of Music.... Now the first musician was no other
    than Wainamoinen; and the first kantele, triple-stringed,
    was made by him from the resonant wood of the fir, and from
    the bones of a giant pike, as is told in the Twenty-Second
    Rune. Out of the fir-tree was formed the body of the
    kantele; out of the teeth of the pike-fish were the screws
    wrought; and the strings were made of hairs from the black
    mane of the steed of Hiisi the magician--from the shining
    mane of the stallion of Hiisi, the herder of wolves and
    bears....


... So the instrument was completed, the kantele was prepared; and the
aged and valiant Wainamoinen bade the old men to play upon it, and to
sing the runes of old.

And they sang, but wearily, as winds in mountain wastes; and their
voices trembled frostily, and the instrument rebelled against the touch
of their feeble fingers.

Then the ancient and valiant Wainamoinen commanded the young men to
sing. But their fingers became cramped upon the strings, and the sounds
called forth were sorrowful, and the instrument rebelled against their
touch. Joy answered not unto joy, song responded not unto song.

Then the ancient and valiant Wainamoinen sent the kantele to the wizard
people who dwelt in the wastes of ice, to the people of Pohjola, to the
Witch of Pohjola.

And the Witch sang, and the witch-virgins with her; the wizards also,
and the children of the wizards. But joy answered not unto joy; song
responded not unto song. And the kantele shrieked beneath the touch of
their fingers, shrieked like one who, fearing greatly in the blackness
of the night, feeleth invisible hands upon him.

Then spake an aged man who had seen more than two hundred winters--an
ancient man aroused by the shrieking of the kantele from his slumber
within the recess of the hearth: "Cease! cease! for the sounds which ye
utter make anguish in my brain, the noises which ye make do chill the
marrow within my bones. Let the instrument be cast into the waters, or
returned forthwith unto him who wrought it."

Then from the strings of the kantele issued sweet sounds, and the
sounds shaped themselves into words, and the kantele answered with its
voice, praying: "Cast me not into the deep, but return me rather unto
him who wrought me; for in the hands of my creator I will give forth
sounds of joy, I will utter sounds of harmonious sweetness."

So they took back the kantele unto Wainamoinen, who had wrought it.

And the ancient and valiant Wainamoinen washed his thumbs; he purified
his fingers; he seated himself by the sea upon the Stone of Joy, upon
the Hillock of Silver, even at the summit of the Hill of Gold; and he
took the instrument within his hands, and lifted up his voice, saying:
"Let him that hath never heard the strong joy of runes, the sweet sound
of instruments, the sound of music, come hither and hear!"

And the ancient Wainamoinen began to sing. Limpid his voice as the
voice of running water, deep and clear, mighty and beautiful.

Lightly his fingers ran over the strings of the kantele; and
the kantele sang in answer--sang weirdly, sang wondrously, sang
throbbingly, like the throats of a thousand birds. And its joy answered
unto the joy of the singer; its song responded unto Wainamoinen's song.

All the living creatures of the forest, all the living creatures of
air, drew nigh unto the rune-singer, gathered themselves about the
mighty chanter, that they might hear the suavity of his voice, that
they might taste the sweetness of his song.

The gray wolves came from their lurking-places in the vast marshes; the
bears deserted their dwellings under the roots of the firs, within the
hollows of the giant pines; and they clambered over the hedges in their
way, they broke down the obstacles before them. And the wolves mounted
upon the heights, the bears upon the trees, while Wainamoinen called
Joy into the world, while Wainamoinen sang his wondrous song.

The lord of the forest, also, the old man of the black beard--Knippana,
king of the joyous woods; and all the followers of Tapio, god of wild
creatures, came forth to hear, and were visible. Even the wife of the
forest king, the goddess of savage beasts, the mistress of Tapiola,
donned her raiment of red, and put on her azure stockings, and ascended
a hollow birch that she might lend ear to the songs of the god.

All animals of the woods, all birds of the air, hurried to hear the
marvelous art of the musician, hastened to taste the sweetness of his
song.

The eagle descended from the clouds; the falcon clave the airs; the
white gulls rose from the far sea-marshes, the swans from the clear
deeps of running water; the swift lark, the quick finch, the comely
linnet, came to perch upon the shoulders of the god.

The Sun, bright virgin of the sky--the Sun, rich in her splendors--and
the fair-shining Moon, had paused in their paths; the first upon the
luminous vault of heaven, the other upon the end of a long cloud. There
were they weaving their subtle tissues of light--weaving with shuttle
of gold, carding with carding-comb of silver. Suddenly they heard the
unknown voice of song--the voice, mighty and sweet, of the rune-singer.
And the shuttle of gold escaped from their hands, and the carding-comb
of silver slipped from their fingers, and the threads of their tissue
were broken.

All animals living in the waters, all the thousand-finned fishes of
the deep, came to hear the voice of Wainamoinen, came to taste the
sweetness of his song.

Swiftly came the salmon and the trout, the pikes also and the sea-dogs;
all the great fishes and all the little fishes swam toward the shore,
and remained as nigh as they might remain, and lifted their heads to
listen.

And Ahto, monarch of waters--Ahto, ancient as the ocean, and bearded
with water-weeds--arose upon his great water-lily above the waves.

The fertile wife of the sea-god was combing her hair with a comb of
gold, and she heard the voice of the singer. And the comb fell from her
hands; trembling of pleasure seized her, torture of desire came upon
her to hear, so that she arose from the green abyss and approached the
shore. There, leaning with her bosom upon the rock, she listened to
the sounds of the kantele, mingling with the voice of Wainamoinen--so
tender the sounds, so sweet the song!

All the heroes wept; the hardest of hearts were softened; there were
none of all having never wept before who did not weep then.

The youths wept; the old men wept; the strong men wept; the virgins
wept; the little infants wept; even Wainamoinen also felt the source of
his own tears rising to overflow.

And soon his tears began to fall, outnumbering the wild berries of the
hills, the heads of the swallows, the eggs of the fowls.

They streamed upon his cheeks; and from his cheeks they fell upon his
knees, and from his knees they dropped upon his feet, and from his feet
they rolled into the dust.

And his tear-drops passed through his six garments of wool, his six
girdles of gold, his seven robes of blue, his eight tunics all thickly
woven.

And the tears of Wainamoinen flowed as a river, and became a river, and
poured themselves to the shores of the sea, and precipitated themselves
from the shores into the deeps of the abyss, into the region of black
sands.

There did they blossom; there were they transformed into
pearls,--pearls destined for the crowns of kings, for the eternal joy
of noblest heroes.


And the aged Wainamoinen cried out: "O youths, O daughters of
illustrious race! is there none among ye who will go to gather up my
tears from the deeps of the ocean, from the region of black sand?"

But the youths and the elders answered, saying: "There is none among us
willing to go to gather up thy tears from the deeps of the ocean, from
the region of black sand."

Then a seamew, a seamew with plumage of blue, dipped her beak into the
cold waves; and she gathered the pearls, and she gathered the tears, of
Wainamoinen from the deeps of the ocean, from the region of black sand.



THE HEALING OF WAINAMOINEN


    ...She is all fair, the Goddess of Veins--the Goddess
    Suonetar, the beneficent Goddess of Veins. Marvelously doth
    she spin the veins of men with her wondrous spindle, with
    her distaff of brass, with her spinning-wheel of iron....


Like the leaping of the mountain stream, like the rushing of a torrent,
the blood issued from the knee of Wainamoinen, wounded by his own axe
through the craft of Hiisi the Evil, through the malice of Lempo, the
herder of wolves and bears.

The ancient and valiant Wainamoinen had knowledge of all wisdom, all
speech that is eternal, all magical words save only the word by which
wizard wounds are healed. He invoked the magical art, he uttered the
awful imprecation; carefully he read the Original Words, pronounced the
runes of science.

But he had forgotten the mightiest words--the Words of Blood, the
charmed words by which the palpitant torrent is checked, by which the
gory stream is held back, by which invincible dikes are cast athwart
the places broken by iron, athwart the bites made by the blue teeth of
steel.

And the blood ceased not to gush bubbling from the wound of the hero,
from the knee of Wainamoinen.

The aged and valiant Wainamoinen harnessed his steed to his brown
sledge; he mounted upon the seat, smote the swift horse, and cracked
his great whip adorned with pearls.

The steed flew over the long course, drawing the brown sledge,
devouring distance. Swift as wind was the driving of Wainamoinen, until
he neared the dwelling of the sorcerers, the first of the habitations
of the wizards. And he halted at the threshold, and cried: "Is there in
this habitation any man learned in the knowledge of iron--any man who
can oppose a dike to this river, who can check this torrent of blood?"

A child, a little child, was seated in the middle of the floor; and the
child answered, saying: "There is no man here learned in the knowledge
of iron--no man able to assuage with his breath even the bruises of
wood, nor to ease the pain of heroes.... Go thou to another habitation."

The ancient and valiant Wainamoinen made his great whip, adorned
with pearls, whistle upon the flanks of his rapid courser. Swift as
lightning his course, until they came to the middle dwelling; and
Wainamoinen halted at the threshold, and cried aloud: "Is there in this
habitation any man learned in the knowledge of iron--any man able to
oppose a dike to this river, to check this torrent of blood?"

An aged woman was there, lying under her blankets, chattering,
babbling, within the furthest end of the recess of the hearth--an aged
woman with three teeth only--the wisest woman in all that country. And
she arose and drew nigh unto the door, and made reply, saying: "There
is no man here learned enough to comprehend the misfortune of the hero,
to ease his pain, to stop the river of the veins, the rainfall of
blood, the torrent of blood out-rolling. Go, seek thou such a man in
some other habitation."

The aged and valiant Wainamoinen made his great whip, adorned with
pearls, whistle upon the flanks of his swift steed. Lightning-wise
he followed the long way leading to the highest habitation. And he
descended at the threshold, and leaning against a pillar, cried
aloud: "Is there in this habitation any man learned in the knowledge
of iron--any man able to oppose a dike to this river, to check this
torrent of blood?"

An aged man dwelt within the great fireplace. His voice roared from
the recess of the glowing hollow: "We have checked mightier ones, we
have enchained swifter ones, we have overcome greater dangers, we have
broken down loftier obstacles--even by the Three Words of the Creator,
by the utterance of the Original Words, the holy words. By them the
mouths of rivers, the courses of lakes, the fury of cataracts, have
been overcome. We have separated straits from promontories; we have
conjoined isthmuses with isthmuses."

The aged Wainamoinen descended from his sledge, and entered beneath the
old man's roof. A cup of silver was brought to him, and a cup of gold;
but these could not contain the least part of the blood of Wainamoinen,
the blood of the noble god.

The old man roared from the recess of the hearth--the long-beard cried
out: "What manner of man art thou? What hero? Already have seven cups,
eight great vessels, been filled with the blood flowing from thy knee!
Ah! would I could utter other magical words--even the great Words of
Blood! But, alas! I have forgotten the origin of Iron."

Then said the aged Wainamoinen: "I know the origin of Iron; I know
the birth of Steel. There were three children whose origin was the
same: Water, which is the eldest; Iron, which is the youngest; Fire,
to which the middle rank belongs. And Fire soon displayed its rage;
flames lifted themselves insolently, and waxed vast with pride. The
fields were consumed, the marshes were scorched in that great year of
sterility, in that fatal summer which devoured with inextinguishable
fire all creatures of nature. Then did Iron seek a refuge, a place
wherein to hide."...

The old man roared from the recess of the hearth: "Where did Iron hide
itself? Where did it find refuge in that great year of barrenness, in
that fatal summer which devoured all creatures of nature?"

The aged Wainamoinen, the valiant Wainamoinen, made answer: "Then Iron
hid itself; Iron found a refuge in the extremity of a long cloud, in
the summit of an oak stripped of its branches, in the budding bosom of
a young girl.... There were three virgins, three affianced maidens, who
poured forth upon the ground the milk of their breasts. The milk of the
first was black; the milk of the second, white; the milk of the third
was ruddy. Of the virgin whose milk was black, Flexible Iron was born;
of her whose milk was white, Fragile Iron was born; of her with the
ruddy milk was born Steel.... Then for two years Iron hid itself in the
midst of a vast marsh, upon the summit of a rock where the white swans
laid their eggs, where the wild duck hatched out her little ones. And
the wolf rushed through the marsh; and the bear rushed into the sterile
plain; and they tore up the earth that concealed the Iron. But a god,
passing through that barren place, saw the black sand that the wolf had
torn up, that the bear had trampled beneath his feet.... And that day
the Iron was taken out of the marsh, and purged from the slime of the
earth, and purified by drying from the humidity of the waters."

The old man roared from the recess of the hearth: "So that was the
origin of Iron? that was the birth of Steel?"

But the valiant Wainamoinen made answer: "Nay! not yet has the origin
of Iron been told. For, without devouring Fire, Iron may not be
born; without Water, it may not be hardened. Into the workshop of
the great smith it was borne, into the forge of Ilmarinnen; and the
mighty craftsman, the Eternal Smith, said unto it: 'If I place thee
within my fire, if I put thee into the flame of my forge-fire, thou
wilt become arrogant, thou wilt wax strong, thou wilt spread terror
about thee, thou wilt slay thy brother, thou wilt kill the son of thy
mother.'... Then the Iron within the forge fires, under the blows of
the hammer, sware this oath: 'I have trees to rend, hearts of stone to
gnaw; no! never will I slay my brother, never will I kill the son of
my mother.'... Then did Ilmarinnen soften the Iron within the heart
of the furnace, and shape it upon the anvil. But ere dipping it into
the water, he tested with his tongue, he tasted with his palate, the
creative juices of Steel, the water that gives hardness unto Iron. And
he cried: 'This water is powerless to create Steel, to harden Iron. O
Mehilainen, bird of Hiisi! O Herlihainen, my bird-friend! fly hither
upon thine agile wings; fly over the marshes, over the lands, over the
straits of the ocean! bring me honey upon thy feathers; bear to me upon
thy tongue the honey of seven meadow-stalks, of six flower-pistils,
for the Steel I am going to make, for the Iron I wish to harden.'...
But Herlihainen, the evil bird of Hiisi the Evil, brought the venom
of blood, the black juices of a worm that his lizard-eyes had seen,
the hidden poison of the toad; and he gave these to Ilmarinnen for the
Steel which was being prepared, the Iron that was to be tempered. And
suddenly the Iron quivered with rage; it growled; it moved; its oath
was forgotten; like a dog it swallowed its own oath, and it slew its
brother, it murdered the son of its mother. Even now it plunges into
flesh, bites the knees of men, rages so that blood flows and flows and
overflows in vast torrents."

The old man roared from the recess of the hearth: "Now I know the
origin of Iron, the fatal destiny of Steel!" And to his memory came
back the Original Words, the great Words of Blood; and he cursed the
Iron with magical curses, and quelled with caressing speech the panic
of the fleeing blood. And the hurt of the Iron ceased, and the red
torrent stayed its flowing.

Then the old man took within his fingers the extremities of the veins,
and counted them, and uttered the magical prayer:


    All fair is she, the Goddess of Veins--Suonetar, the
    beneficent Goddess of Veins. Marvelously doth she spin the
    veins of men with her beautiful spindle, with her distaff of
    brass, with her spinning-wheel of iron.... Come, O Goddess
    of Veins! Come unto me! I invoke thy succor, I call thy
    name!... Bring hither in thy bosom a roll of ruddy flesh, a
    blue skein of veins, that the wound may be filled, that the
    ends of the veins may be tied!...


And suddenly the hurt of Wainamoinen was healed: the flesh became
firmer than before; the severed veins were retied, the severed muscles
rejoined, the broken bones reknit.


And many other wonderful things said and done by the old man within
the recess of the hearth are told of in the Fourth Rune of the ancient
Kalewala.



STORIES OF MOSLEM LANDS



BOUTIMAR, THE DOVE


    ...Beyond the seas which are known roar the waters of that
    Tenebrous Ocean that is unknown to mortals. There the long
    breakers chant an eternal hymn, in tones unlike to the
    voices of other seas. And in that ocean there is an island,
    and in that island the Fountain of Youth unceasingly bubbles
    up from the mystic caverns; and it was that fountain which
    King Alexander, the Two-Horned, vainly sought. Only his
    general, the Prophet Khader, found it, whereby he became
    immortal. And of other mortals Solomon only beheld the
    waters of that fountain, according to the Persian legend
    written in the nine hundredth year of the Hejira, by the
    goldsmith of language, Hossein ben Ali, also called El Vaëz
    u'l Kashifi. And it may be found in the "Anvari Soheili,"
    which are "The Lights of Canopus."...


In the Name of the Most Merciful God!... I have heard this tradition of
Solomon, the unparalleled among kings, for whom all Genii, and Peris,
and men, and beasts of earth, and birds of air, and creatures of the
deep begirt the loins of their souls with the girdle of obedience,
and whose power was measurable only by the hoofs of the horse of the
Zephyr, "whose morning course is a month's journey, and whose evening
course is also equal to a month's journey, upon the swiftest of
earthly steeds."

...Now, Solomon being once enthroned upon the summit of the
mightiest of mountains, which yet bears his name--the mountain at
once overlooking the plains of Iran and the kingdoms of India--all
the creatures of the universe gathered to do him honor. The birds
of heaven formed a living canopy above him, and the spirits of air
ministered unto him. And, as a mist rising from the earth, a perfumed
cloud shaped itself before him; and from out the cloud reached a hand,
fairer than moonlight, holding a diamond cup in which a strange water
made jewel-glimmerings, while a voice sweeter than music spake to him
from out the cloud, saying: "The Creator of all--be His nature forever
glorified and His power forever honored!--hath sent me to thee, O
Solomon, with this cup containing the waters of youth and of life
without end. And He hath desired thee to choose freely whether thou
wilt or wilt not drink of this draught from the Fountain of Youth.
Therefore consider well, O Solomon! Wilt thou drink hereof, and live
divinely immortal through ages everlasting, or wilt thou rather remain
within the prison of humanity?... I wait."

Then a deep silence brooded above the place; for Solomon dreamed upon
these words, while the perfumed cloud stirred not, and the white hand
motionlessly offered the jewel-cup. And so dreaming, he said unto his
own heart: "Surely the gold of life is good wherewith to purchase many
things at the great market of the Resurrection; the plain of life is
a rich soil wherein to plant the spice-trees of eternal felicity; and
joyless is the black repose of death.... Yet must I ask counsel of the
Genii, and the Peris, and the wisest of men, and the beasts of earth,
and the birds of air, before I may resolve to drink."

Still the moon-white hand offered the scintillating cup, and the
perfumed cloud changed not. Then the Genii, and the Peris, and the
wisest of men, and the beasts of earth, and the birds of heaven, all
speaking with one voice of agreement, prayed him that he should drink,
inasmuch as the well-being of the world reposed upon his living wisdom,
and the happiness of all creatures was sustained by the circle of his
life as a jewel held within the setting of a ring of gold.

So that Solomon indeed put out his hand, and took the cup from the
luminous fingers; and the fingers withdrew again into the odorous
cloud. Wondrous were the lights within the water; and there was a glow
of rosiness unbroken all about the cup, as of the sempiternal dawn in
those islands beyond the Ocean of Shadows, where the sun rises never
above the east and there is neither night nor day. But hesitating yet
once more before he drank, he questioned again the creatures of the
universe, asking: "O ye administering Genii and Peri beings, ye wisest
among wise men, ye creatures also of air and of earth, say if there be
absent from this assembly even one representative of all over whom I
hold dominion!"

And they replied: "Master, only Boutimar is not here--Boutimar the wild
dove, most loving of all living creatures."

Then Solomon sent Hudh-hudh to seek the wild dove--Hudh-hudh, the bird
of gold, created by the witchcraft of Balkis, Queen of Sheba, the
sorceress of sorceresses; and the golden bird brought back with him
Boutimar, the wild dove, most loving of all living creatures. Then it
was that Solomon repeated the words of the song which he had written:
"O my dove that dwellest in the clifts of the rock, in the secret
hiding-places of the stairs, let me see thy face, let me hear thy
voice!... Is it meet that thy lord, Solomon, shall drink of the waters
of youth and know the bliss of earthly immortality?"

Then the wild dove, speaking in the tongue of birds known to Solomon
only among mortals, asked the prophet-king, saying: "How shall a
creature of air answer the source of wisdom? how may so feeble a mind
advise thy supernal intelligence? Yet, if I must counsel, let me ask
thee, O Solomon, whether the Water of Life brought hither by this
perfumed spirit be for thee alone, or for all with whom thy heart might
incline thee to share it?"

But Solomon answered: "It hath been sent to only me, nor is there
enough within the cup for any other."

"O prophet of God!" answered Boutimar, in the tongue of birds, "how
couldst thou desire to be living alone, when each of thy friends and
of thy counselors and of thy children and of thy servants and of all
who loved thee were counted with the dead? For all of these must surely
drink the bitter waters of death, though thou shouldst drink the Water
of Life. Wherefore desire everlasting youth, when the face of the world
itself shall be wrinkled with age, and the eyes of the stars shall be
closed by the black fingers of Azrael? When the love thou hast sung of
shall have passed away like a smoke of frankincense, when the dust of
the heart that beat against thine own shall have long been scattered
by the four winds of heaven, when the eyes that looked for thy coming
shall have become a memory, when the voices grateful to thine ear shall
have been eternally stilled, when thy life shall be one oasis in a
universal waste of death, and thine eternal existence but a recognition
of eternal absence--wilt thou indeed care to live, though the wild dove
perish when its mate cometh not?"

And Solomon, without reply, silently put out his arm and gave back the
cup, so that the white hand came forth and took it, and withdrew into
the odorous cloud, and the cloud dissolved and passed away forever. But
upon the prophet-king's rich beard, besprinkled with powder of gold,
there appeared another glitter as of clear dew--the diamond dew of the
heart, which is tears.



THE SON OF A ROBBER


    ... A bud from the Rose-Garden of the Gulistan, planted in
    the six hundred and fifty-sixth year of the Hejira by the
    Magician of Speech, the Sheikh Moslih-Eddin Sadi of Shiraz,
    and arranged after eight divisions corresponding with the
    Eight Gates of Paradise.... In the reign of the King of
    Kings, Abou-Bequer ben Sad, the Most Magnificent, Viceregent
    of Solomon, Shadow of the Most High God upon Earth.... In
    the Name of God the Most Merciful.


... In those days there were robbers who dwelt in the mountain regions
of the land, having fortresses above the eagles' nests, so that no
army might successfully assail them. Their name weighed as a terror
upon the land, and they closed up the ways of the caravans, and wasted
the valleys, and overcame even the king's troops by their strength and
their fierceness--all being mountain-born and worshipers of devouring
fire. So the governors of the mountain provinces held council together,
and devised cunning plans by which to allure the robbers from their
inaccessible mountain dwelling, so as to destroy them utterly.

Therefore it came to pass that while the robbers were pursuing after
a caravan, the bravest troops of the king concealed themselves in the
defiles of the mountain, and there in silence awaited the return of the
band with many rich spoils and captives of price for ransom. And when
the robbers returned at night, hard pressed by that greatest enemy of
the wary, whose name is Sleep, the Persian soldiers set upon them, and
smote them, and bound their arms behind their backs, and drove them
as a herd of wild sheep into the city. So they were brought into the
presence of the king.

And the king commended the wisdom of the governors of the provinces,
saying: "Had ye not thus prevailed against them by craft, the strength
of the robbers might have waxed with each day of immunity, until it
would have been beyond our power to destroy them. The spring may be
closed at its mouth with a small covering; but when it shall have been
swollen to a river by long flowing, a man may not cross its current
even upon the back of an elephant.... Let each and all of these
prisoners be forthwith put to death as robbers are put to death under
our law."

But among these robbers there was a youth slender and shapely as a
young palm; and the fruit of his adolescence was yet unripe, the
verdure of the rose-garden of his cheeks had scarcely begun to bud. And
by reason of the beauty of the boy, a kindly vizier bowed his white
beard before the steps of the throne, and kissed the footstool of the
king, and prayed him with words of intercession: "Hear the prayer of a
slave, O Master of the World, Axis of the Circle of Time, Shadow upon
Earth of the Most High God!... This child hath never eaten of the
fruit of life, never hath he enjoyed the loveliness of the flower of
youth.... O Master of Kings, thy slave hopes that in thy universal
generosity and boundless bounty, thou wilt impose upon thy slave a
fresh obligation of gratitude, by sparing the life of this child."...

Kindly was the king's heart, but his mind was keen also and clear as
edge of diamond; and he knitted his brows because the discourse seemed
to him unwise, and therefore pleased him not: "O vizier, dost thou not
know that the influence of the good can make no impression upon the
hearts of those whose origin is evil? Hast thou not heard it said that
the willow giveth no fruit, however fertilizing the rain of heaven?
Shall we extinguish a fire, and leave charcoal embers alight? Shall we
destroy only the adult viper, and spare her young? It is better that
these people be utterly destroyed, root and branch, race and name."...

But the aged vizier, bowing respectfully, again prayed the king, justly
commending the wisdom of his words, but seeking exceptions and parables
from the sayings of the wise and the traditions of the prophets: "The
words of the Successor of Solomon are wisdom supreme to thy slave; and
were this boy indeed raised up by the wicked, he would surely become
as they. Yet thy slave believes that were he educated only by the best
of men, he might become most virtuous. Nor would thy slave spare aught
requisite to adorn the boy's heart and to make blossom the garden of
his mind.... The prophetical tradition saith: 'There is no child born
of woman that is not naturally born into Islam, though his father and
mother might afterward make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Gheber.... And
even the dog Kitmir, that followed and guarded the Seven Holy Sleepers
of Mecca, was able to enter Paradise by seizing with his teeth the hem
of their blessed robes."...

Then many other ministers and rulers of provinces, unwisely bewitched
by the beauty of the boy, united themselves with the vizier in potent
intercession. The king's face moved not, and the shadow remained upon
it; but he answered: "I pardon the boy by reason of the weakness of
your hearts, yet I perceive no advantage therein. O vizier, bear in
mind that the beneficent rains of heaven give radiance to the splendors
of the tulip and strength to the venom of serpent-plants. Remember well
that the vilest enemy may not be despised, and that the stream now too
shallow for the fish may so swell as to carry away the camel with his
burthen."...

But the vizier, weeping with joy, took the boy home, and clothed
him and fed him, and brought him up as his own sons and as the sons
of princes. Masters he procured for him, to make him learned in the
knowledge of tongues and of graces and of military accomplishments--in
the arts of archery and sword-play and horsemanship, in singing and
in the musical measurement of speech, in courtesy and truth, above all
things, and those high qualities desirable in the service of the King
of Kings upon earth. So strong and beautiful he grew up that the gaze
of all eyes followed whithersoever he moved, even as the waves all
turn their heads to look upon the moon; and all, save only the king,
smiled upon him. But the king only frowned when he stood before him,
and paid no heed to the compliments uttered concerning the young man.
One day, the vizier, in the pride of his happiness, said to the king:
"Behold! by the work of thy slave, the boy hath been reclaimed from
the ways of his fathers; the fountain of his mind hath been opened by
wise teachers, and the garden of his heart blossoms with the flowers of
virtuous desire."

But the king only laughed in his beard, and said: "O vizier, the young
of the wolf will always be a wolf, even though he be brought up with
the children of a man."

...And when the time of two winters had dimmed the recollection of
the king's words, it came to pass at last that the young man, riding
out alone, met with a band of mountain robbers, and felt his heart
moved toward them. They, also, knowing his race by the largeness and
fierceness of his eyes, and the eagle-curve of his nostrils, and
the signs of the wild blood that made lightnings in his veins, were
attracted to him, and spake to him in the mountain-tongue of his
fathers. And all the fierceness of his fathers returned upon him, with
longings for the wind-voices of the peaks, and the madness of leaping
water, and the sleeping-places above the clouds where the eagles
hatched their young, and the secrets of the unknown caverns, and the
altar of flickering fire.... So that he made compact with them; and,
treacherously returning, slew the aged vizier together with his sons,
and robbed the palace, and fled to the mountains, where he took refuge
in his father's ancient fortress, and became a leader of outlaws. And
they told the tale to the king.

Then the king, wondering not at all, laughed bitterly and said: "O ye
wise fools! how can a good sword be wrought from bad iron? how may
education change the hearts of the wicked? Doth not the same rain which
nourisheth the rose also nourish the worthless shrubs that grow in
salty marshes? How shall a salty waste produce nard? Verily, to do good
unto the evil is not less blameworthy than to do evil unto the good."



A LEGEND OF LOVE


    Djemil the "Azra" said: "While I live, my heart will love
    thee; and when I shall be no more, still will my Shadow
    follow thy Shadow athwart the tombs."...


Thou hast perchance beheld it--the strong white city climbing by
terraces far up the mountain-side, with palms swaying in the blue
above its citadel towers, and the lake-waters damascened by winds,
reflecting, all-quiveringly, its Arabian gates and the golden words of
the Prophet shining upon entablatures, and the mosque-domes rounded
like eggs of the Rok, and the minarets from which the voice of the
muezzin comes to the faithful with dying redness of sunset: "O ye who
are about to sleep, commend your souls to Him who never sleeps!"

... Therein also dwelt many Christians--may their bones be ground and
the names of them forever blotted out! Yea; all save one, whose name
I have indeed forgotten. (But our master the Prophet hath written the
name; and it hath not been forgotten by Him who never forgets--though
it be the name of a woman!) Now, hard by the walls of the city there
is a place of sepulchre for good Moslems, in which thou mayst see two
graves, the foot of one being set against the foot of the other; and
upon one of these is a monument bearing a turban, while the form of the
tumulary stone upon the other hath only flowers in relief, and some
letters of an obliterated name, wherefore thou mightst know it to be
the grave of a woman. And there are cypress-trees more ancient than
Islam, making darkness like a summer's night about the place.


... Slender she was as the tulip upon its stalk, and in walking her
feet seemed kisses pressed upon the ground. But hadst thou beheld her
face unveiled, and the whiteness of her teeth between her brown lips
when she smiled!... He was likewise in the summer of his youth; and
his love was like the love of the Beni-Azra told of by Sahid Ben-Agba.
But she being a Christian maiden and he being a good Mussulman, they
could not converse together save by stealth; nor could either dare
to let the matter become known unto the parents of the other. For he
could not indeed make himself one of the infidel--whose posterity may
God blot out!--neither could she, through fear of her people, avow the
faith of the Prophet!... Only through the lattice of her window could
she betimes converse with him; and with the love of each other it came
to pass that both fell grievously ill. As to the youth, indeed, his
sickness so wrought upon him that his reason departed, and he long
remained as one mad. Then at last, recovering, he departed to another
place, even to the city of Damascus--not that he might so forget what
he could not wish to forget, but that his strength might return to him.

Now the parents of the maiden were rich, while the youth was poor.
And when the lovers had contrived to send letters one unto the other,
she sent to him a hundred dinars, begging him, as he loved her, that
he should seek out an artist in that city, and have a likeness of
himself painted for her that she might kiss it. "But knowest thou not,
beloved," he wrote, "that it is contrary unto our creed; and in the
Last Day what wilt thou say unto God when He shall demand of thee to
give life unto the image thou hast had wrought?" But she replied: "In
the Last Day, O my beloved, I shall answer, Thou knowest, O Most Holy,
that Thy creature may not create; yet if it be Thy will to animate this
image, I will forever bless Thy name, though Thou condemn me for having
loved more than mine own soul the fairest of living images Thou hast
made."...


But it came to pass in time that, returning, he fell sick again in the
city which I speak of; and lying down to die, he whispered into the
ear of his friend: "Never again in this world shall I behold her whom
my soul loveth; and I much fear, if I die a Mussulman, lest I should
not meet her in the other. Therefore I desire to abjure my faith, and
to become a Christian." And so he died. But we buried him among the
faithful, forasmuch as his mind must have been much disturbed when he
uttered those words.

And the friend of the youth hastened with all speed to the place where
the young girl dwelt, she being also at the point of death, so grievous
was the pain of her heart. Then said she to him: "Never again in this
world shall I behold him that my soul loveth; and I much fear if I die
a Christian, lest I should not meet him in the other. Therefore I give
testimony that there is no other God but God, and that Mahomet is the
prophet of God!"

Then the friend whispered unto her what had happened, to her great
astonishment. But she only answered: "Bear me to where he rests; and
bury me with my feet toward his, feet, that I may rise face to face
with him at the Day of Judgment!"



THE KING'S JUSTICE


    ... Praise to the Creator of all, the secret of whose
    existence is unknown; who hath marked all His creatures with
    an imprint, though there be no visible imprint of Himself;
    who is the Soul of the soul; who is hidden in that which
    is hidden!... Though the firmament open its myriad million
    eyes in the darkness, it may not behold Him. Yet does
    the Sun nightly bow his face of flame below the west, in
    worship; monthly the Moon faints away in astonishment at His
    greatness.... Eternally the Ocean lifts its thousand waves
    to proclaim His glory; Fire seeks to rise to Him; Winds
    whisper of His mystery.... And in the balance of His justice
    even a sigh hath weight....


In the first recital of the First Book of the Gulistan, treating of the
Conduct of Kings, it is said that a Persian monarch condemned with his
own lips a prisoner of war, and commanded that he be put to death.

And the prisoner, being still in the force of youth and the fullness of
strength, thought within his heart of all the days he might otherwise
have lived, of all the beauty he might have caressed, of all the
happiness he might have known, of all the hopes unbudded that might
have ripened into blossom for him. Thus regretting, and seeing before
him only the blind and moonless night of death, and considering that
the fair sun would never rise for him again, he cursed the king in
the language of malediction of his own country, loudly and with mad
passion. For it is a proverb: "Whosoever washeth his hands of life,
truly saith all that is within his heart."

Now the king, hearing the vehemence of the man, but nowise
understanding the barbaric tongue which he spoke, questioned his first
vizier, asking, "What saith the dog?"

But the vizier, being a kindly-hearted man, answered thus: "O Master,
he repeateth the words of the Holy Book, the words of the Prophet of
God concerning those who repress their anger and pardon injury, the
beloved of Allah."

And the king, hearing and believing these words, felt his heart moved
within him; the fire of his anger died out, and the spirit of pity
entered into him, so that he revoked his own command and forgave the
man, and ordered that he should be set free.

But there was another vizier also with the king, a malevolent and
cunning-eyed man, knowing all languages, and ever seeking to obtain
elevation by provoking the misfortune of others. This vizier, assuming
therefore an austere face like to that of a praying dervish, loudly
exclaimed: "Ill doth it become trusted ministers of a king, men of
honorable place, such as we are, to utter in the presence of our master
even so much as one syllable of untruth. Know, therefore, O Master,
that the first vizier hath untruthfully interpreted the prisoner's
words; for that wretch uttered no single pious word, but evil and
blasphemous language concerning thee, cursing his king in the impotency
of his rage."

But the king's brows darkened when he heard the words; and turning
terrible eyes upon the second vizier, he said unto him: "More pleasant
to my ears was the lie uttered by my first vizier, than the truth
spoken by thy lips; for he indeed uttered a lie with a good and
merciful purpose, whereas thou didst speak the truth for a wicked and
malignant purpose. Better the lie told for righteous ends than the
truth which provoketh evil! Neither shall my pardon be revoked; but as
for thee, let me see thy face no more!"



TRADITIONS RETOLD FROM THE TALMUD



A LEGEND OF RABBA


    Which is in the Gemara of the Berachoth of Babylon....
    Concerning the interpretation of dreams, it hath been
    said by Rabbi Benaa: "There were in Jerusalem twenty-four
    interpreters of dreams; and I, having dreamed a dream, did
    ask the explanation thereof from each of the twenty-four;
    and, notwithstanding that each gave me a different
    interpretation, the words of all were fulfilled, even in
    conformity with the saying: 'All dreams are accomplished
    according to the interpretation thereof.'"... We are Thine,
    O King of all; Thine also are our dreams....


Mighty was the knowledge of the great Rabba, to whom the mysteries of
the Book Yetzirah were known in such wise, that, being desirous once to
try his brother, Rabbi Zira, he did create out of dust a living man,
and sent the man to Zira with a message in writing. But inasmuch as the
man had not been born of woman, nor had had breathed into him God's
holy spirit of life, he could not speak. Therefore, when Rabbi Zira had
spoken to him and observed that he did not reply, the Rabbi whispered
into his ear: "Thou wert begotten by witchcraft; return to thy form
of dust!" And the man crumbled before his sight into shapelessness;
and the wind bore the shapelessness away, as smoke is dissipated by a
breath of storm. But Rabbi Zira marveled greatly at the power of the
great Rabba.

Not so wise, nevertheless, was Rabba as was Bar-Hedia in the
interpretation of dreams; and Bar-Hedia was consulted by the multitudes
in those parts. But he interpreted unto them good or evil only as
they paid him or did not pay him. According to many Rabbonim, to
dream of a well signifieth peace; to dream of a camel, the pardon of
iniquities; to dream of goats, a year of fertility; to dream of any
living creature, save only the monkey and the elephant, is good; and
these also are good if they appear harnessed or bound. But Bar-Hedia
interpreted such good omens in the contrary way, unless well paid by
the dreamer; and it was thought passing strange that the evils which he
predicted never failed of accomplishment.


Now one day the Rabbonim Abayi and Rabba went to consult Bar-Hedia the
interpreter, seeing that they had both dreamed the same dream. Abayi
paid him one zouz, but Rabba paid him nothing.

And they asked Bar-Hedia, both together saying: "Interpret unto us this
dream which we have dreamed. Sleeping, it seemed to us that we beheld a
scroll unrolled under a great light, and we did both read therein these
words, which are in the fifth book of Moses":

    Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt
    not eat thereof.... Thy sons and thy daughters shall be
    given unto another people. Thou shalt carry much seed out
    into the field, and shalt gather but little in....

Then Bar-Hedia, the interpreter, said to Abayi who had paid him one
zouz: "For thee this dream bodeth good. The verse concerning the ox
signifies thou wilt prosper so wondrously that for very joy thou shalt
be unable to eat. Thy sons and daughters shall be married in other
lands, so that thou wilt be separated from them without grief, knowing
them to be virtuous and content.

"But for thee, Rabba, who didst pay me nothing, this dream portendeth
evil. Thou shalt be afflicted in such wise that for grief thou canst
not eat; thy daughters and sons shall be led into captivity. Abayi
shall 'carry out much seed into the field'; but the second part of the
verse, 'Thou shalt gather but little,' refers to thee."

Then they asked him again, saying: "But in our dream we also read these
verses, thus disposed":

    Thou shalt have olive trees, and thou shalt not anoint
    thyself with oil.... All the people of the earth shall see
    that thou art called by the name of the Lord, and they shall
    be afraid of thee.

Then said Bar-Hedia: "For thee, Rabbi Abayi, the words signify that
thou shalt be prosperous and much honored; but for thee, Rabba, who
didst pay me nothing, they portend evil only. Thou shalt have no
profit in thy labor; thou shalt be falsely accused, and by reason of
the accusation, avoided as one guilty of crime."

Still Rabba, speaking now for himself alone, continued: "But I dreamed
also that I beheld the exterior door of my dwelling fall down, and that
my teeth fell out of my mouth. And I dreamed that I saw two doves fly
away, and two radishes growing at my feet."

Again Bar-Hedia answered, saying: "For thee, Rabba, who didst pay me
nothing, these things signify evil. The falling of thine outer door
augurs the death of thy wife; the loss of thy teeth signifies that thy
sons and daughters shall likewise die in their youth. The flight of the
doves means that thou shalt be divorced from two other wives, and the
two radishes of thy dream foretell that thou wilt receive two blows
which thou mayest not return."

And all things thus foretold by Bar-Hedia came to pass. So that Rabba's
wife died, and that he was arrested upon suspicion of having robbed the
treasury of the king, and that the people shunned him as one guilty.
Also while seeking to separate two men fighting, who were blind, they
struck him twice unknowingly, so that he could not resent it. And
misfortunes came to Rabba even as to Job; yet he could resign himself
to all save only the death of his young wife, the daughter of Rabbi
Hisda.

At last Rabba paid a great sum to Bar-Hedia, and told him of divers
awful dreams which he had had. This time Bar-Hedia predicted happiness
for him, and riches, and honors, all of which came to pass according to
the words of the interpreter, whereat Rabba marveled exceedingly.

Now it happened while Rabba and Bar-Hedia were voyaging one day
together, that Bar-Hedia let fall his magical book, by whose aid he
uttered all his interpretations of dreams; and Rabba, hastily picking
it up, perceived these words in the beginning: "All dreams shall be
fulfilled according to the interpretation of the interpreter." So
that Rabba, discovering the wicked witchcraft of the man, cursed him,
saying: "Raca! For all else could I forgive thee, save for the death of
my beloved wife, the daughter of Rabbi Hisda! O thou impious magician!
take thou my malediction!"...

Thereupon Bar-Hedia, terrified, went into voluntary exile among the
Romans, vainly hoping thus to expiate his sin, and flee from the
consuming power of Rabba's malediction.


Thus coming to Rome, he interpreted dreams daily before the gate of the
king's treasury; and he did much evil, as he was wont to do before. One
day the king's treasurer came to him, saying: "I dreamed a dream in
which it seemed to me that a needle had entered my finger. Interpret me
this dream."

But Bar-Hedia said only, "Give me a zouz!" And because he would not
give it, Bar-Hedia told him nothing.

And another day the treasurer came, saying: "I dreamed a dream in which
it seemed that worms devoured two of my fingers. Interpret me this
dream."

But Bar-Hedia said only, "Give me a zouz!" And because he would not
give it, Bar-Hedia told him nothing.

Yet the third time the treasurer came, saying: "I dreamed a dream
in which it seemed to me that worms devoured my whole right hand.
Interpret me this dream."

Then Bar-Hedia mocked him, saying: "Go, look thou at the king's stores
of silk entrusted to thy keeping; for worms have by this time destroyed
them utterly."... And it was even as Bar-Hedia said.

Thereupon the king waxed wroth, and ordered the decapitation of the
treasurer. But he, protesting, said: "Wherefore slay only me, since the
Jew that was first aware of the presence of the worms, said nothing
concerning it?"

So they brought in Bar-Hedia, and questioned him. But he mocked the
treasurer, and said: "It was because thou wast too avaricious to pay me
one zouz that the king's silk hath been destroyed."

Whereupon the Romans, being filled with fury, bent down the tops of two
young cedar trees, one toward the other, and fastened them so with a
rope. And they bound Bar-Hedia's right leg to one tree-top, and his
left leg to the other; and thereafter severed the rope suddenly with a
sword. And the two cedars, as suddenly leaping back to their natural
positions, tore asunder the body of Bar-Hedia into equal parts, so
that his entrails were spilled out, and even his skull, splitting into
halves, emptied of its brain.

For the malediction of the great Rabba was upon him.



THE MOCKERS


    ...A tradition of Rabbi Simon ben Yochai, which is preserved
    within the Treatise Sheviith of the "Talmud Yerushalmi."...
    Is it not said in the Sanhedrin that there are four classes
    who do not enter into the presence of the Holy One?--blessed
    be He!--and among these four are scorners reckoned....


Concerning Rabbi Simon ben Yochai many marvelous things are narrated,
both in that Talmud which is of Babylon and in that which is of
Jerusalem. And of these things none are more wonderful than the
tradition regarding the fashion after which he was wont to rebuke the
impudence of mockers.

It was this same Rabbi Simon ben Yochai, who was persecuted by the
Romans, because he had made little of their mighty works, saying that
they had constructed roads only to move their wicked armies more
rapidly, that they had builded bridges only to collect tolls, that
they had erected aqueducts and baths for their own pleasure only,
and had established markets for no other end than the sustenance of
iniquity. For these words Rabbi Simon was condemned to die; wherefore
he, together with his holy son, fled away, and they hid themselves in a
cave. Therein they dwelt for twelve long years, so that their garments
would have crumbled into dust had they not laid them aside saving
only at the time of prayer; and they buried themselves up to their
necks in the sand during their hours of slumber and of meditation. But
within the cave the Lord created for them a heavenly carob-tree, which
daily bore fruit for their nourishment; and the Holy One--blessed be
He!--also created unending summer within the cave, lest they should be
afflicted by cold. So they remained until the Prophet Elijah descended
from heaven to tell them that the Emperor of the Romans had died the
death of the idolatrous, and that there remained for them no peril in
the world. But during those many years of meditation, the holiness
of the Rabbi and of his son had become as the holiness of those who
stand with faces wing-veiled about the throne of God; and the world
had become unfitted for their sojourn. Coming forth from the cave,
therefore, a fierce anger filled them at the sight of men ploughing and
reaping in the fields; and they cried out against them, saying: "Lo!
these people think only of the things of earth, and neglect the things
of eternity."

Then were the lands and the people toiling thereupon utterly consumed
by the fire of their eyes, even as Sodom and Gomorrah were blasted
from the face of the earth. But the Bath-Kol--the Voice of the Holy
One--rebuked them from heaven, saying: "What! have ye come forth
only to destroy this world which I have made? Get ye back within
the cavern!" And they returned into the cave for another twelve
months--making in all thirteen years of sojourn therein--until the
Bath-Kol spake again, and uttered their pardon, and bade them return
into the world. All of which is written in the Treatise Shabbath of
Seder Moed of the Talmud Babli.


Now in the Talmud Yerushalmi we are told that after Rabbi Simon ben
Yochai had departed from the cave, he resolved to purify all the land
of Tiberias. For while within the cave, his body had become sore
smitten with ulcers, and the waters of Tiberias had healed them. Even
as he had found purification in Tiberias, so also, he declared, should
Tiberias find in him purification. And these things he said within
the hearing of mockers, who feared his eyes, yet who among themselves
laughed him to scorn.

But Rabbi Simon sat down before the city of Tiberias, and he took
lupines, and cut up the lupines into atoms, and uttered over them words
whereof no living man save himself knew the interpretation. (For the
meaning of such words is seldom known by men, seeing that but few are
known even by the Angels and the Demons.) Having done these things,
the Rabbi arose and walked over the land, scattering the lupines about
him as a sower scatters seed. And wherever the lupines fell, the bones
of the dead arose from below and came to the surface of the ground, so
that the people could take them away and bury them in a proper place.
Thus was the ground purified, not only of the bones of the idolaters
and the giants who erst dwelt in the place of promise, but likewise of
the bones of all animals and living beings which had there died since
the coming of Israel.

Now there was a certain wicked doubter, a Samaritan, who, desiring to
bring confusion to Rabbi Simon ben Yochai, secretly buried an unclean
corpse in a place already purified. And the Samaritan came cunningly
to Rabbi Simon, saying "Me-thought thou didst purify such a spot in my
field; yet is there an unclean body there--the body of a man. Surely
thy wisdom hath failed thee, or may-hap thy magic hath some defect in
it? Come thou with me!" So he took with him Rabbi Simon, and dug up the
ground, and showed to him the unclean corpse, and laughed in his beard.

But Rabbi Simon, knowing by divine inspiration what had been done,
fixed his eyes upon the wicked face of the man, and said: "Verily,
such a one as thou deserveth not to dwell among the living, but rather
to exchange places with the dead!" And no sooner had the words been
uttered than the body of the dead man arose, and his flesh became pure,
and the life returned to his eyes and his heart; while the wicked
Samaritan became a filthy corpse, so that the worms came from his
nostrils and his ears.

Yet, as he went upon his way, Rabbi Simon passed an inhabited tower
without the city; and a voice from the upper chamber of the tower
mocked him, crying aloud: "Hither cometh that Bar-Yochai, who thinketh
himself able to purify Tiberias!" Now the mocker was himself a most
learned man.

"I swear unto thee," answered Rabbi Simon--"I swear unto thee that
Tiberias shall be made pure in spite of such as thou, and their
mockings."

And even as the holy Rabbi spoke, the mocker who stood within the
chamber of the tower utterly crumbled into a heap of bones; and from
the bones a writhing smoke ascended--the smoke of the wrath of the
Lord, as it is written: "The anger of the Lord shall smoke!"...



ESTHER'S CHOICE


    A story of Rabbi Simon ben Yochai, which is related in the
    holy Midrash Shir-Hasirim of the holy Midrashim.... Hear, O
    Israel, the Lord our God is ONE!...


In those days there lived in Sidon, the mighty city, a certain holy
Israelite possessing much wealth, and having the esteem of all who knew
him, even among the Gentiles. In all Sidon there was no man who had so
beautiful a wife; for the comeliness of her seemed like that of Sarah,
whose loveliness illumined all the land of Egypt.

Yet for this rich one there was no happiness: the cry of the nursling
had never been heard in his home, the sound of a child's voice had
never made sunshine within his heart. And he heard voices of reproach
betimes, saying: "Do not the Rabbis teach that if a man have lived ten
years with his wife and have no issue, then he should divorce her,
giving her the marriage portion prescribed by law; for he may not have
been found worthy to have his race perpetuated by her?"... But there
were others who spake reproach of the wife, believing that her beauty
had made her proud, and that her reproach was but the punishment of
vainglory.

And at last, one morning, Rabbi Simon ben Yochai was aware of two
visitors within the ante-chamber of his dwelling, the richest merchant
of Sidon and his wife, greeting the holy man with "Salem aleikoum!"
The Rabbi looked not upon the woman's face, for to gaze even upon the
heel of a woman is forbidden to holy men; yet he felt the sweetness of
her presence pervading all the house like the incense of the flowers
woven by the hands of the Angel of Prayer. And the Rabbi knew that she
was weeping.

Then the husband arose and spake:

"Lo! is now more than a time of ten years since I was wedded to Esther,
I being then twenty years of age, and desirous to obey the teaching
that he who remaineth unmarried after twenty transgresseth daily
against God. Esther, thou knowest, O Rabbi, was the sweetest maiden in
Sidon; and to me she hath ever been a most loving and sweet wife, so
that I could find no fault with her; neither is there any guile in her
heart.

"I have since then become a rich Israelite; the men of Tyre know me,
and the merchants of Carthage swear by my name. I have many ships,
bearing me ivory and gold of Ophir and jewels of great worth from the
East; I have vases of onyx and cups of emeralds curiously wrought, and
chariots and horses--even so that no prince hath more than I. And this
I owe to the blessing of the Holy One--blessed be He!--and to Esther,
my wife, also, who is a wise and valiant woman, and cunning in advising.

"Yet, O Rabbi, gladly would I have given all my riches that I might
obtain one son! that I might be known as a father in Israel. The Holy
One--blessed be He!--hath not vouchsafed me this thing; so that I
have thought me found unworthy to have children by so fair and good
a woman. I pray thee, therefore, that thou wilt give legal enactment
to a bill of separation; for I have resolved to give Esther a bill of
divorcement, and a goodly marriage portion also, that the reproach may
so depart from us in the sight of Israel."


And Rabbi Simon ben Yochai stroked thoughtfully the dim silver of his
beard. A silence as of the Shechinah fell upon the three. Faintly, from
afar, came floating to their ears the sea-like murmuring of Sidon's
commerce.... Then spake the Rabbi; and Esther, looking at him, thought
that his eyes smiled, although this holy man was never seen to smile
with his lips. Yet it may be that his eyes smiled, seeing into their
hearts: "My son, it would be a scandal in Israel to do as thou dost
purpose, hastily and without becoming announcement; for men might
imagine that Esther had not been a good wife, or thou a too exacting
husband! It is not lawful to give cause for scorn. Therefore go to thy
home, make ready a goodly feast, and invite thither all thy friends and
the friends of thy wife, and those who were present at thy wedding,
and speak to them as a good man to good men, and let them understand
wherefore thou dost this thing, and that in Esther there is no fault.
Then return to me on the morrow, and I will grant thee the bill."


So a great feast was given, and many guests came; among them, all who
had attended the wedding of Esther, save, indeed, such as Azrael had
led away by the hand. There was much good wine; the meats smoked upon
platters of gold, and cups of onyx were placed at the elbow of each
guest. And the husband spake lovingly to his wife in the presence of
all, saying: "Esther, we have lived together lovingly many years; and
if we must now separate, thou knowest it is not because I do not love
thee, but only because it hath not pleased the Most Holy to bless us
with children. And in token that I love thee and wish thee all good,
know that I desire thee to take away from my house whatever thou
desirest, whether it be gold or jewels beyond price."

So the wine went round, and the night passed in mirth and song, until
the heads of the guests grew strangely heavy, and there came a buzzing
in their ears as of innumerable bees, and their beards ceased to wag
with laughter, and a deep sleep fell upon them.

Then Esther summoned her handmaids, and said to them: "Behold my
husband sleeps heavily! I go to the house of my father; bear him
thither also as he sleepeth."

And awaking in the morning the husband found himself in a strange
chamber and in a strange house. But the sweetness of a woman's
presence, and the ivory fingers that caressed his beard, and the
softness of the knees that pillowed his head, and the glory of the dark
eyes that looked into his own awakening,--these were not strange; for
he knew that his head was resting in the lap of Esther. And bewildered
with the grief-born dreams of the night, he cried out, "Woman, what
hast thou done?"

Then, sweeter than the voice of doves among the fig-trees, came the
voice of Esther: "Didst thou not bid me, husband, that I should choose
and take away from thy house whatsoever I most desired? And I have
chosen thee, and have brought thee hither, to my father's home,...
loving thee more than all else in the world. Wilt thou drive me from
thee now?" And he could not see her face for tears of love; yet he
heard her voice speaking on--speaking the golden words of Ruth, which
are so old yet so young to the hearts of all that love: "Whithersoever
thou shalt go, I will also go; and whithersoever thou shalt dwell, I
also will dwell. And the Angel of Death only may part us; for thou art
all in all to me."...

And in the golden sunlight at the doorway suddenly stood, like a statue
of Babylonian silver, the grand gray figure of Rabbi Simon ben Yochai,
lifting his hands in benediction.

"Schmah Israel!--the Lord our God, who is One, bless ye with
everlasting benediction! May your hearts be welded by love, as gold
with gold by the cunning of goldsmiths! May the Lord, who coupleth
and setteth the single in families, watch over ye! The Lord make this
valiant woman even as Rachel and as Lia, who built up the house of
Israel! And ye shall behold your children and your children's children
in the House of the Lord!"

Even so the Lord blessed them; and Esther became as the fruitful vine,
and they saw their children's children in Israel. Forasmuch as it is
written: "He will regard the prayer of the destitute."



THE DISPUTE IN THE HALACHA


    ..Told of in the Book "Bava-Metzia; or, The Middle Gate" of
    the Holy Shas.... The Lord loveth the gates that are marked
    with the Halacha more than the synagogues and the schools.


Now, in those days there was a dispute between the Mishnic Doctors
and Rabbi Eliezer concerning the legal cleanliness of a certain
bake-oven, as is written in the Bava-Metzia of the Talmud. For while
all the others held the oven to be unclean according to the Halacha,
Rabbi Eliezer declared that it was clean; and all their arguments he
overthrew, and all their objections he confuted, although they would
not suffer themselves to be convinced. Then did Rabbi Eliezer at last
summon a carob-tree to bear witness to his interpretation of the law;
and the carob-tree uprooted itself, and rose in air with the clay
trickling from its roots, and moved through air to the distance of four
hundred yards, and replanted itself, trembling, in the soil.

But the Doctors of the Mishna, being used to marvelous things, were
little moved; and they said: "We may not admit the testimony of a
carob-tree. Shall a carob-tree discourse to us regarding the Halacha?
Will a carob-tree teach us the law?"

Then said Rabbi Eliezer to the brook that muttered its unceasing prayer
without: "Bear me witness, O thou running water!" And the rivulet
changed the course of its current; its waters receded, and, flowing
back to their fountain-head, left naked the pebbles of their bed to dry
under the sun.

But the Disciples of the Sages still held to their first opinion,
saying: "Shall a brook prattle to us of law? Shall we hearken to
the voice of running water rather than to the voice of the Holy
One--blessed be He!--and of His servant Moses?"

Then Rabbi Eliezer, lifting his eyes toward the walls above, bearing
holy words written upon them, cried out: "Yet bear me witness also,
ye consecrated walls, that I have decided aright in this matter!" And
the walls quivered, bent inward, curved like a bellying sail in the
moment of a changing wind, impended above the hands of the Rabbis, and
would have fallen had not Rabbi Joshuah rebuked them, saying: "What
is it to you if the Rabbis do wrangle in the Halacha? Would ye crush
us? Be ye still!" So the walls, obeying Rabbi Joshuah, would not fall;
but neither would they return to their former place, forasmuch as they
obeyed Rabbi Eliezer also--so that they remain toppling even unto this
day.

Then, seeing that their hearts were hardened against him even more than
the stones of the building, Rabbi Eliezer cried out: "Let the Bath-Kol
decide between us!" Whereupon the college shook to its foundation;
and a Voice from heaven answered, saying: "What have ye to do with
Rabbi Eliezer? for in all things the Halacha is even according to his
decision!"

But Rabbi Joshuah stood upon his feet fearlessly in the midst, and
said: "It is not lawful that even a Voice from heaven should be
regarded by us. For Thou, O God, didst long ago write down in the
law which Thou gavest upon Sinai, saying, 'Thou shalt follow the
multitude.'" And they would not hearken unto Rabbi Eliezer; but they
did excommunicate him, and did commit all his decisions regarding the
law to be consumed with fire.

    [Now some have it that Rabbi Nathan testified that the
    Prophet Elijah declared unto him that God Himself was
    deceived in this matter, and acknowledged error in His
    decision, saying: "My children have vanquished me! my
    children have prevailed against me!" But as we also know
    that in punishment for the excommunication of Rabbi Eliezer
    a third portion of all the barley and of the olives and of
    the wheat in the whole world was smitten with blight, we may
    well believe that Rabbi Eliezer was not in error.]

Now, while yet under sentence of excommunication, Rabbi Eliezer fell
grievously ill; and the Rabbonim knew nothing of it. Yet such was his
learning, that Rabbi Akiva and all the disciples of the latter came
unto him to seek instruction.... Then Rabbi Eliezer, rising upon his
elbow, asked them, "Wherefore came ye hither?"

"We came that we might learn the Halacha," answered Akiva.

"But wherefore came ye not sooner?"

And they answered, "Because we had not time."

Then Rabbi Eliezer, feeling wroth at the reply, said to them also:
"Verily, if ye die a natural death, I shall marvel greatly. And as for
thee, Akiva, thy death shall be the worst of all! It is well for thee
that I do not give thee my malediction, seeing thou hast dared to say
that one may not have time to learn the law!"

And Rabbi Eliezer, folding his arms upon his breast to die, continued:
"Woe, woe is me! Woe unto these two arms of mine, that they are now
even as two scrolls of the law rolled up, whereof the contents are
hidden! Had ye waited upon me before, ye might have learned many
strange things; and now my knowledge must perish with me! Much have I
learned, and much have I taught, yet always without diminishing the
knowledge of my Rabbis by even so much as the waters of the ocean might
be diminished by the lapping of a dog!"...

And he continued to speak to them: "Now, over and above all those
things, I did expound three thousand Halachoth in regard to the growing
of Egyptian cucumbers; and yet none save only Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph
ever asked me so much as one question regarding them!... We were
walking on the road between the fields, when he asked me to instruct
him regarding Egyptian cucumbers. Then I uttered but one word; and,
behold! the fields forthwith became full of Egyptian cucumbers. He
asked me concerning the gathering of them. I uttered but one word;
and, lo! all the cucumbers did gather themselves into one place before
me."...

And even as Rabbi Eliezer was thus speaking, his soul departed from
him; and Rabbi Akiva with all his disciples mourned bitterly for him
and for themselves, seeing they had indeed come too late to learn the
law.


But the prediction of Rabbi Eliezer was fulfilled. ...For it came to
pass, when Rabbi Akiva had become a most holy man, and marvelously
learned, that the Romans forbade the teaching of the law in Israel;
and Rabbi Akiva persisted in teaching it publicly to the people,
saying: "If we suffer so much by the will of the Holy One--blessed be
He!--while studying the law, how much indeed shall we suffer while
neglecting it!"

So they led him out to execution, and tortured him with tortures
unspeakable. Now it was just at that hour when the prayer must be said:
"Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is One."

And even while they were tearing his flesh with combs of iron, Rabbi
Akiva uttered the holy words and died. And there came a mighty Voice
from heaven, crying: "Blessed art thou, O Rabbi Akiva, for thy soul and
the word ONE left thy body together!"



RABBI YOCHANAN BEN ZACHAI


    There is in Heaven a certain living creature which hath
    letters upon its forehead. And by day these letters, which
    are brighter than the sun, form the word TRUTH, whereby the
    angels know that it is day. But when evening cometh, the
    letters, self-changing, do shape themselves into the word
    FAITH, whereby the angels know that the night cometh....


Now Hillel the Great, who gathered together the Sedarim of the Talmud,
and who was also the teacher of that Jesus the Gentiles worship, had
eighty other disciples who became holy men. Of these, thirty were
indeed so holy that the Shechinah rested upon them even as upon Moses,
so that their faces gave out light; and rays like beams of the sun
streamed from their temples.

And of thirty others it is said their holiness was as the holiness of
Joshua, the son of Nun, being worthy that the sun should stand still at
their behest. And the remaining twenty, of whom the greatest was Rabbi
Jonathan ben Uzziel, and the least of all Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai,
were held to be only of middling worth. Yet there is now not one worthy
to compare with the least of them, seeing that Rabbi Yochanan was
holier than living man to-day.

For, humble as he was, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai was deeply learned in
the Scriptures--in the Mishna and the Gemara and the Midrashim--in the
Kabbalah, the rules of Gematria, of Notricon, and of Temurah--in the
five mystic alphabets, Atbash, Atbach, Albam, Aiakbechar, Tashrak--in
legends and the lesser laws and the niceties--in the theories of the
moon, in the language of angels and the whispering of palm-trees and
the speech of demons. And if all the seas were ink, and all the reeds
that shake by rivers were pens, and all the men of the earth were
scribes, never could they write down all that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai
had learned, nor even so much of it as he taught in his lifetime, which
endured for the period of one hundred and twenty years. Yet he was the
least of all the disciples of Hillel.

Of the years of his life the first forty he devoted to worldly things,
especially to commerce, that he might earn enough to enable him to
devote unto good works the remainder of the time allotted him. And the
next forty years he devoted to study, becoming so learned that he was
indeed accused of being a magician, as were also those Rabbis who, by
combination of the letters of the Name Ineffable, did create living
animals and fruits--as were also Rav Oshayah and Rav Chaneanah, who by
study of the Book Yetzirah (which is the Book of Creation) did create
for themselves a calf, and did eat thereof.

And the last forty years of his most holy life Rabbi Yochanan gave to
teaching the people.

Now, as it is related in the Book Bava Bathra, in Seder Nezikin of the
Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai did upon one occasion explain before
a vain disciple the words of the Prophet Isaiah. And so explaining he
said: "The Most Holy--blessed be His name forever!--shall take precious
stones and pearls, each measuring thirty cubits by thirty cubits, and
shall cut and polish them till they measure twenty cubits by ten cubits
each, and shall set them in the gates of Jerusalem."

Then the vain and foolish disciple, the son of Impudence, laughed
loudly, and with mockery in his voice said: "What man hath ever seen an
emerald or a diamond, a ruby or a pearl, even so large as the egg of a
small bird? and wilt thou indeed tell us that there be jewels thirty
cubits by thirty?" But Rabbi Yochanan returned no answer; and the
disciple, mocking, departed.

Now, some days after these things happened, that wicked disciple went
upon a voyage; for he was in commerce and a great driver of bargains,
and known in many countries for his skill in bartering and his ability
in finding objects of price. Now, while in his vessel, when the sailors
slumbered, waiting to raise the anchor at dawn, it was given to that
wicked disciple to see a great light below the waters. And looking down
he saw mighty angels in the depths of the sea, quarrying monstrous
diamonds and emeralds, and opening prodigious shells to obtain enormous
pearls. And the eyes of the angels were fixed upon him, even as they
worked below the water in that awful light. Then a dreadful fear came
upon him, so that his knees smote one against another, and his teeth
fell out; and in obedience to a power that moved his tongue against his
will, he cried aloud: "For what are those diamonds and those mighty
emeralds? For what are those monstrous pearls?" And a Voice answered
him from the deep, "For the gates of Jerusalem!"

And having returned from his voyage, the disciple hastened with all
speed to the place where Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai was teaching, and
told him that which he had seen, and vowed that the words of Rabbi
Yochanan should nevermore be doubted by him.

But the Rabbi, seeing into his heart, and beholding the blackness of
the wickedness within it, answered in a voice of thunder: "Raca! hadst
thou not seen them, thou wouldst even now mock the words of the sages!"
And with a single glance of his eye he consumed that wicked disciple as
a dry leaf is consumed by flame, reducing the carcass of his body to a
heap of smoking ashes as though it had been smitten by the lightning of
the Lord.

And the people marveled exceedingly. But Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai,
paying no heed to the white ashes smoking at his feet, continued to
explain unto his disciples the language of palm-trees and of demons.



A TRADITION OF TITUS


    ...Which is in the Book "Gittin" of the Talmud.... Before
    Titus the world was like unto the eyeball of man; the ocean
    being as the white, the world as the black, the pupil
    thereof Jerusalem, and the image within the pupil the Temple
    of the Lord....


Verily hath it been said, in Chullin of the Holy Shas, that "sixty iron
mines are suspended in the sting of a gnat."

For in those days Titus--may his ears be made into sockets for the
hinges of Gehenna to turn upon!--came from Rome with his idolaters,
and laid siege to the Holy City, and destroyed it, and bore away the
virgins into captivity. He who had not beheld Jerusalem before that day
had not seen the glory of Israel.

There were three hundred and ninety-four synagogues, and three hundred
and ninety-four courts of law, and the same number of academies for
the youth.... When the gates of the temple were opened, the roar of
their golden hinges was heard at the distance of eight Sabbath days'
journey.... The Veil of the Holy of Holies was woven by eighty-two
myriads of virgins; three hundred priests were needed to draw it, and
three hundred to lave it when soiled. But Titus--be his name accursed
forever!--wrapped up the sacred vessels in it, and, putting them in a
ship, set sail for the city of Rome....

Scarcely had he departed beyond sight of the land when a great storm
arose--the deeps made visible their darkness, the waves showed their
teeth! And an exceeding great fear came upon the mariners, and they
cried out, "It is the Elohim!"

But Titus, mocking, lifted his voice against Heaven, and the thunders,
and the lightnings, and the mutterings of the sea, exclaiming: "Lo!
this God of Jews hath no power save on water! Pharaoh He drowned;
Sisera He drowned also; even now He seeketh to drown me with my
legions! If He be mighty, and not afraid to strive with me on land, let
Him rather await me on solid earth, and there see whether He be strong
enough to prevail against me." (Now Sisera, indeed, was not drowned;
but Titus, being ignorant and an idolater, spake falsely.)

Then burst forth a splendor of white fire from the darkness of the
clouds; and deeper than the thunder a Voice answered unto him: "O thou
wicked one, son of a wicked man and grandson of Esau the wicked, go
thou ashore! Lo! I have a creature awaiting thee, which is but little
and insignificant in my world; go thou and fight with it!"

And the tempest ceased.

So Titus and his legions landed after many days upon the shore of the
land called Italy--the shore that vibrated forever to the sound of the
mighty city of Rome, whereof the Voice was heard unto the four ends
of the earth, and the din whereof deafened Rabbi Yehoshuah even at the
distance of a hundred and twenty miles. For in Rome there were three
hundred and sixty-five streets, and in each street three hundred and
sixty-five palaces, and leading up to the pillared portico of each
palace a marble flight of three hundred and sixty-five steps.

But no sooner had the Emperor Titus placed his foot upon the shore
than there attacked him a gnat! And the gnat flew up his nostrils, and
entered into his wicked brain, and gnawed it, and tortured him with
unspeakable torture. And he could obtain no cessation of his anguish;
neither was there any physician in Rome who could do aught to relieve
him. So the gnat abode in his brain for seven years, and the face of
Titus became, for everlasting pain, as the face of a man in hell.


Now, after Titus had vainly sacrificed unto all the obscene gods of the
Romans, it came to pass that he heard one day, within a blacksmith's
shop, the sound of the hammer descending upon the anvil; and the sound
was grateful to his ears as the harping of David unto the hearing of
Saul, and the anguish presently departed from him. Then, thinking unto
himself, he exclaimed, "Lo! I have found relief"; and having offered
sacrifices unto the Smith-god, he ordered the smith to be brought to
his palace, together with anvils and hammers. And he paid the smith
four zouzim a day--as money is reckoned in Israel--to hammer for him.

But the smith could not hammer unceasingly; and whenever he stopped the
pain returned, and the gnat tormented exceedingly. So other smiths were
sent for; and at last a Jewish smith, who was a slave. To him Titus
would pay nothing, notwithstanding he had paid the Gentiles; for he
said, "It is enough payment for thee to behold thy enemy suffer!"

Yet thirty days more; and no sound of hammers could lessen the agony of
the gnawing of the gnat, and Titus knew that he must die.

Then he bade his family that they should burn his body after he was
dead, and collect the ashes, and send out seven ships to scatter the
ashes upon the waves of the Seven Seas, lest the God of Israel should
resurrect his body at the Day of Judgment.

    [But it is written in Midrash Kohelet, of the holy
    Midrashim, that Hadrian--may his name be blotted out!--once
    asked Rabbi Joshua ben Chanania, "From what shall the body
    be reconstructed at the Last Day?" And the Rabbi answered,
    "From Luz in the backbone." When Hadrian demanded proof, the
    Rabbi took Luz, the little bone of the spine, and immersed
    it in water, and it was not softened. He put it into the
    fire, and it was not consumed. He put it into a mill, and it
    could not be ground. He hammered it upon an anvil; but the
    hammer was broken, and the anvil split asunder.

    Therefore the desire of Titus shall not prevail; and the
    Lord will surely reconstruct his body for punishment out of
    Luz in the backbone!]

But before they burned the corpse of Titus they opened his skull and
looked into his brain, that they might find the gnat.

Now the gnat was as big as a swallow, and weighed two selas, as weight
is reckoned in Israel. And they found that its claws were of brass, and
the jaws of its mouth were of iron!



BIBLIOGRAPHY


(There are very fine English translations of the works marked with an
asterisk.)

ALLEGORIES, RÉCITS, CONTES, etc, traduits de l'Arabe, du Persan,
de l'Hindustani, et du Turc. Par M. Garcin de Tassy. Paris, 1876.
(Includes "Bakawali.")

AMAROU. _Anthologie Érotique._ Texte sanscrit, traduction, notes, etc.,
par A. L. Apudy (Chézy). Paris, 1831.

AVADANAS (Les). _Contes et Apologues Indiens._ Traduits par M.
Stanislas Julien. Paris, 1859.

BUDDHA (ROMANTIC LEGEND OF). Translated by Rev. Samuel Beal. London,
1875.

CONTES ÉGYPTIENS. Par G. Maspéro. Paris, 1882.

DHAMMAPADA (The). Translated from the Chinese by Rev. Samuel Beal, B.A.
Boston, 1878.

*GITA-GOVINDA (Le), ET LE RITOU-SAKHARA. Traduits par Hippolyte Fauche.
Paris, 1850.

*GULISTAN (Le), DE SADI. Traduit littéralement, par N. Semelet. Paris,
1834.

HINDOO PANTHEON (The). By Major Edward Moor. London, 1861.

*HITOPADÉSA (L'). Traduit par E. Lancereau. Paris, 1882.

JACOLLIOT. _Voyage aux Ruines de Golconde._ Paris, 1878.

JATAKA-TALES. Translated by T. W. Rhuys Davids. Vol. I. Boston, 1881.

KALEWALA. Traduction de Léouzon Le Duc. Paris, 1845.

MAHABHARATA (ONZE ÉPISODES DU). Traduit par Foucaux. Paris, 1862.

*MANTIC UTTAÏR. Traduit du Persan par M. Garcin de Tassy. Paris, 1863.

MYTHOLOGIE DES ESQUIMAUX. Par l'Abbé Morillot. Paris, 1874.

MYTHS AND SONGS or THE SOUTH PACIFIC. By Rev. W. W. Gill London, 1877.

PANCHATANTRA; OU, LES CINQ LIVRES. Traduit par E. Lancereau. Paris,
1871.

STENDAHL (De). _L'Amour._

*SACOUNTALA. Texte sanscrit, notes et traduction par Chézy. Paris, 1830.

TALMUD. _Le Talmud de Jerusalem._ Traduit par Moïse Schwab. Vols. I-VI.
Paris, 1878-83.

TALMUDIC MISCELLANY (A). By Rev. L. P. Hers hon. Boston, 1882.

VETÁLAPANCHAVINSATÍ (HINDI VERSION OF THE). _Baitál Pachisi; or, The
Twenty-five Tales of a Demon._ Translated by W. B. Barker. London,
1855.



FANTASTICS AND OTHER FANCIES

EDITED BY CHARLES WOODWARD HUTSON


    There are tropical lilies which are venomous, but they are
    more beautiful than the frail and icy-white lilies of the
    North.
                                               LAFCADIO HEARN



INTRODUCTION

"I am conscious they are only trivial," wrote Lafcadio Hearn from New
Orleans in 1880 to his friend H. E. Krehbiel, speaking of the weird
little sketches he was publishing from time to time in the columns
of the _Daily Item_, the New Orleans newspaper which first gave him
employment in the city where he spent the ten years from 1877 to 1887.

"But I fancy," he goes on, "that the idea of the fantastics is
artistic. They are my impressions of the strange life of New Orleans.
They are dreams of a tropical city. There is one twin-idea running
through them all--Love and Death. And these figures embody the story
of life here, as it impresses me. I hope to be able to take a trip
to Mexico in the summer just to obtain literary material, sun-paint,
tropical color, etc. There are tropical lilies which are venomous, but
they are more beautiful than the frail and icy-white lilies of the
North. Tell me if you received a fantastic founded upon the story of
Ponce de Leon. I think I sent it in my last letter. I have not written
any fantastics since except one--inspired by Tennyson's fancy fancy--

    "My heart would hear her and beat,
      Had it lain for a century dead--
     Would start and tremble under her feet--
      And blossom in purple and red."

It was this "Fantastic," published first in the _Item_ on October 21,
1880, and later re-written in more ornate style and published in the
_Times-Democrat_ on April 6, 1884, under the title of "L'Amour après
la Mort," which is the only one of the weird little sketches that has
appeared in book form, outside of those which he himself republished in
_Stray Leaves from Strange Literature_, and _Some Chinese Ghosts._

For it was this one which he sent to a friend with the deprecatory
criticism that it "belonged to the Period of Gush" and the request "to
burn or tear it up after reading." He had merely enclosed it to show
how and when he had first used the phrase "lentor inexpressible" to
which his friend had objected.

"Fortunately his correspondent--as did most of those to whom he
wrote--treasured everything in his handwriting," says his biographer,
Mrs. Elizabeth Bisland Wetmore, "and the fragment which bore--my
impression is--the title of 'A Dead Love' (the clipping lacks the
caption) remains to give an example of some of the work that bears the
flaws of his 'prentice hand, before he used his tools with the assured
skill of a master." And she quotes the strange, fanciful little sketch
in full, with the comment: "To his own, and perhaps other middle-aged
taste, 'A Dead Love' may seem negligible, but to those still young
enough, as he himself then was, to credit passion with a potency
not only to survive 'the gradual furnace of the world,' but even to
blossom in the dust of graves, this stigmatization as 'Gush' will seem
as unfeeling as always does to the young the dry and sapless wisdom
of granddams. To them any version of the Orphic myth is tinglingly
credible. Yearningly desirous that the brief flower of life may never
fade, such a cry finds an echo in the very roots of their inexperienced
hearts. The smouldering ardor of its style, which a chastened judgment
rejected, was perhaps less faulty than its author believed it to be in
later years."

"It was to my juvenile admiration for this particular bit of work,"
she goes on, "that I owed the privilege of meeting Lafcadio Hearn in
the winter of 1882, and of laying the foundation of a close friendship
which lasted without a break until the day of his death."

His linking of love with death in this and the other "Fantastics"
was in full accord with the sombre atmosphere of the trebly stricken
city to which he had come--a city with a glorious and a joyous past,
but just then ruined by three horrors:--recent war, misrule under the
carpet-baggers, and oft-recurring pestilence. He had come expecting
much from a semi-tropical environment. He found sorrow and trouble and
a wasted land; and his mood was soon in unison with the disastrous
elements around him. His letter to his friend Watkin when he first came
to this smitten Paradise shows how strong the impression was: "When
I saw it first--sunrise over Louisiana--the tears sprang to my eyes.
It was like young death--a dead bride crowned with orange flowers--a
dead face that asked for a kiss. I cannot say how fair and rich and
beautiful this dead South is. It has fascinated me. I have resolved to
live in it; I could not leave it for that chill and damp Northern life
again."

From the files of the _Item_ and the _Times-Democrat_ over a score of
these "Fantastics" have been gathered, and with them certain other
fanciful little sketches that seem worth preserving, though they do not
deal so directly with the mystic "twin-idea of Love and Death."

In his sympathetic Introduction to Hearn's _Leaves from the Diary of
an Impressionist_, Mr. Ferris Greenslet deplores the loss of that
collection of these "Fantastics" made by Hearn himself as one section
of the book he evidently planned to publish under the title _Ephemeræ,
or Leaves from the Diary of an Impressionist._ Says Mr. Greenslet:

    Apparently it was Hearn's intention to add to the "Floridian
    Reveries" a little collection of "Fantastics," with such
    savory titles as "Aïda," "The Devil's Carbuncle," "A
    Hemisphere in a Woman's Hair," "The Fool and Venus," etc[1].

This group, however, is, unfortunately, lost. From the notebook labeled
upon its cover "Fantastics" many leaves have been cut, and there
remains only the paper on "Arabian Women."


But for the solitary copy of the files of the _Item_, preserved in the
office of that paper, most of these earliest bits of original fantasy
wrought by the shabby, eccentric young journalist, whose passion for
exquisite words was so incomprehensible to the other "newspaper boys,"
would have been wholly lost.

"The modest _Item_ goes no farther than St. Louis," wrote Hearn to
Krehbiel; and it was for this little two-page paper, too insignificant
at that time to be preserved even in the city archives or in the
public libraries, that he wrote most of the "tales of Love and Death"
reproduced in this volume. Twenty-nine out of the thirty-odd are to be
found only, so far as we know, in the brittle yellow pages of bound
volumes of the _City Item_, from June, 1878, to December, 1881, to
which we have been given access through the courtesy of the present
owners of the _New Orleans Item._ The other six, some of which were
rearrangements and paraphrases of earlier "Fantastics," appeared in
the _Times-Democrat_, of which several nearly complete files exist in
libraries.

Among these thirty-five brief but vitally imaginative sketches several
are far superior to "L'Amour après la Mort."

The "Fantastics" proper and the "Other Fancies" have been grouped
indiscriminately in chronological order, though differing greatly in
spirit and in excellence of style. "The Little Red Kitten" and "At the
Cemetery" are less labored in point of diction; but they are charming
in their simplicity and unaffected tenderness. In the earlier of these
little pictures his sympathy with our "poor brothers"--in this case
"sisters"--of the animal world, from first to last a striking trait in
his character, is beautifully expressed. There is delicate humor, too,
as well as pathos, in the sketch. In the latter we have the glow of
his feeling for the sorrow of a child, and the spring of his wonderful
imagination which a few handfuls of sand not native to the spot evoke.
In neither is there the least trace of the weird which is in so large
a degree characteristic of most of the others. Slight as they are in
texture, they seem to me to rise far above the more subtle and fanciful
tales in the strength and beauty of simple truth to nature--to the best
that was in his own nature.

But the others, notably "The Black Cupid," "The Undying One,"
"Aphrodite and the King's Prisoner," "The Fountain of Gold," "The
Gypsy's Story," are not to be undervalued. There is a power of vision,
an imaginative magnificence, a weird melody of word-music in them that
grips the mind of the reader as in a vise.

"The Fountain of Gold" was later reproduced in the form of "A Tropical
Intermezzo," recently given to a wider public in the pages of _Leaves
from the Diary of an Impressionist._ It is interesting to compare
the first sketch with the finished picture. The earlier work is less
dramatic, less convincing, less artistic, though full of a charm of its
own. The whole design is transmuted into something immensely effective
by the simple device of an equating the language of him who tells the
tale.

In a less degree the same thing may be remarked in the comparison of
"A Dead Love," written for the _Item_, and "L'Amour après la Mort,"
contributed to the _Times-Democrat._

In "The Tale of a Fan" may be traced, it seems to me, the germ of what
he later expanded or meant to expand into "A Hemisphere in a Woman's
Hair," which has not been found.

But it is not alone the charm that clings about all that is weird and
fanciful that gives value to this early work of Hearn's. It sheds rich
light upon one phase of his development and forms an essential part of
his biography; and it helps to furnish proof, along with much else of
varying form and excellence, that he put forth a vast deal of literary
effort in the years of his stay in New Orleans before his engagement
with the _Times-Democrat._

The extent and value of his work as literary editor of the _Item_ has
been wholly ignored by his biographers and critics. This is due largely
to the fact that the matter he selected for publication in his earlier
literary career was drawn from the _Times-Democrat._ But to those who
have gone carefully over the files of the _Item_ it is evident that he
did far more original work for that paper than for the other. His forte
was supposed by the editors of the _Times-Democrat_ to be translation,
and, with the exception of some striking editorials, his work for that
paper was mostly translation. Even the _Stray Leaves from Strange
Literatures_ and _Some Chinese Ghosts_ belong to that category.

Besides the "Fantastics," he wrote for the _Item_ many editorials on
a variety of subjects and many book reviews, dramatic criticisms, and
translations both from the French and the Spanish, as well as Creole
sketches and certain fanciful squibs illustrated with quaint original
designs distinctly akin to those that appear in _Letters from the
Raven._

But unquestionably his most remarkable contributions to the _Item_ were
the "Fantastics."

From a hint given him by a traveler's tale, by a trivial street
incident, by a couplet of verse, or a carven cameo in an antique shop,
by an old legend, or a few grains of sand, his genius was able to
create a series of vivid and mystical visions, more real to him and to
his readers than the political contests or the personal gossip which
fill the surrounding columns of print.

To discover these vibrant bits of poesy in their commonplace setting is
like finding rare and glorious orchids in the midst of the crowfoots
and black-eyed Susans that crowd the banquettes and gutters' edges of
our New Orleans streets.

"He hated the routine work, and was really quite lazy about it,"
testifies Colonel John W. Fairfax, former owner of the _Item_,
and Hearn's first New Orleans employer and friend. At the age of
seventy-two this genial old gentleman recalls many incidents of his
association with the eccentric young literary editor who for three
years and a half aided him and Mark F. Bigney in the task of filling
the columns of the unpretentious little paper which he had purchased
from the printers and tramp journalists who were its original
owners--for the _Item_ was started on a cooperative, profit-sharing
basis.

"Hearn was really quite lazy about his regular work," Colonel Fairfax
insists. "We had to prod him up all the time--stick pins in him, so to
speak. But when he would write one of his own little fanciful things,
out of his own head--dreams--he was always dreaming--why, then he would
work like mad. And people always noticed those little things of his,
somehow, for they were truly lovely, wonderful. 'Fantastics' he called
them."

It was Colonel Fairfax who deserves the credit of "discovering" Hearn
in New Orleans, when he applied, shabby and half-starved, at the _Item_
office for a job, just after he had written to his friend Watkin, June
14, 1878: "Have been here seven months and never made one cent in the
city. No possible prospect of doing anything in this town now or within
twenty-five years."

But his next letter (undated) says--and it is evident that the
impression he had made had secured him more than he had asked for:

"The day after I wrote you, I got a position (without asking for it) as
assistant editor on the _Item_, at a salary considerably smaller than
that I received on the _Commercial_, but large enough to enable me to
save half of it."

And the old gentleman appears still to regard the Hearn he recalls
with the sort of half-admiring, half-contemptuous, wholly marveling
affection which a fine healthy turkey-cock would feel for the "ugly
duckling" just beginning to reveal himself of the breed of swans.

Apparently he and Bigney allowed Hearn considerable latitude in his
choice and treatment of subject. The three years of his work in their
employ show bolder and more varied editorial comment, as well as five
or six times as many "Fantastics" as are to be found in the six years
of his work under the Bakers, and prove that the quality of his work
was already fine enough to justify Page Baker's choice of him for a
place on the staff of "the new literary venture."

How these strange little blossoms of Hearn's genius attracted the
admiration of lovers of beauty and won him fame and friends among
professional men and scholars is told most vividly in the words of
Dr. Rodolph Matas, now a surgeon of international reputation, who was
Hearn's friend and early foresaw his fame.

    In those days [says he] I was not so busy as I am now, and
    had more time to read the books I enjoyed, and to spend long
    hours in talk with Hearn.

    It was in the early eighties, I remember, that I knew him
    first. Whitney, of the _Times-Democrat_, was a friend of
    mine, and I asked him one day: "Who writes those wonderful
    things--translations, weird sketches, and remarkable
    editorials--in your paper?" And he told me, "A queer little
    chap, very shy--but I'll manage for you to meet him."

    I became editor of the _New Orleans Medical and Surgical
    Journal_ in 1883, and it must have been shortly before this
    that I first met Hearn. He was astonished to find that I
    knew him so well--but then, you see, I had been reading
    these "Fantastics" and his wonderful book-reviews and
    translations, and his editorials on all sorts of unusual
    subjects, for a long time.

    He often came to me to get information about medical
    points which he needed in some of his work. He was deeply
    interested in Arabian studies at that time, and I was
    able to give him some curious facts about the practice of
    medicine among the Arabs, which happened to be exactly what
    he was seeking. Not only did he read every book on Arabia
    which he could find, but he actually practiced the Arabic
    script, and he used to write me fantastic notes, addressing
    me as if I had been an Arab chief.

    His capacity for reading swiftly--for getting the heart
    out of a book--was amazing. While others read sentences,
    he read paragraphs, chapters--in the time it would take an
    ordinary reader to finish a chapter, he would have read
    the whole book. And this in spite of his defective vision.
    With his one great near-sighted eye roving over the page,
    he seemed to absorb the meaning of the author--to reach his
    thought and divine his message with incredible rapidity.
    He knew books so well--knew the habits of thought of their
    writers, the mechanics of literature. His power of analysis
    was intuitive. Swiftly as he read, it would be found on
    questioning him afterward that nothing worth while had been
    over-looked, and he could refer back and find any passage
    unerringly.

    Both in taste and temperament he was morbid, and in many
    respects abnormal--in the great development of his genius
    in certain directions, and also in his limitations and
    deficiencies in other lines. His nature towered like a
    cloud-topping mountain on one side, while on others it
    was not only undeveloped--it was a cavity! I understood
    this better, perhaps, than others of his friends, knowing
    as I did the pathology of such natures, and for that
    reason our intercourse was singularly free and candid,
    for Hearn revealed himself to me with a frankness and
    unconventionality which would have startled another. I
    never judged him by conventional standards. I listened
    to the brilliant, erratic, intemperate outpourings of
    his mind, aware of his eccentricities without allowing
    them to blind me to the beauty and value of his really
    marvelous nature. For example, he would bitterly denounce
    his enemies--or fancied enemies--for he had an obsession
    of persecution--in language that was frightful to listen
    to--inventing unheard-of tortures for those whom he deemed
    plotters against him. Yet in reality he was as gentle and as
    tender-hearted as a woman--and as passionately affectionate.
    But there was an almost feminine jealousy in his nature,
    too, and a sensitiveness that was exaggerated to a degree
    that caused him untold suffering. He was singularly and
    unaffectedly modest about his work--curiously anxious to
    know the real opinion of those whose judgment he valued,
    on any work which he had done, while impatient of flattery
    or "lionizing." Yet with all his modesty he had, even
    in those days of his first successes, a high and proud
    respect for his work. He was too good a critic not to know
    his value; and he consistently refused to cheapen it by
    allowing it to appear in any second-rate medium--I mean,
    any of his literary work, as distinct from the journalistic
    matter he did for his daily bread. Nor would he lower
    himself by criticizing any book or poem which he did not
    consider worthy of his opinion. Thus he was obliged, in
    spite of his kind nature, which impelled him to do anything
    which a friend might ask, to refuse to criticize books of
    inferior worth, and he was very firm and dignified about
    such refusals. He would not debase his pen by using it on
    inferior subjects.

    At the time when I knew him best, he was already highly
    esteemed by many who appreciated his great gifts, while
    others regarded him with some jealousy and would gladly have
    seen him put down. From the first I recognized his genius
    so clearly that he used to laugh at me for my faith in his
    future fame. For I would often predict that he would be
    known to future generations as one of the great writers of
    the century, though it was easy to foresee that he would not
    receive full recognition in his lifetime.

    And though he used to smile at my enthusiasm, he himself
    felt, I am convinced, the same certainty as to the quality
    of his gift, the ultimate fame that Fate held for him. It
    was this that made him regard his work with a reverent
    humility, and it was this that accounted in some degree for
    his extraordinary shyness, which made him shrink from being
    lionized or exploited by those who, at that time, would have
    been glad enough to entertain him and make much of him,
    for he had already begun to be quite an important literary
    person in the circles here which cared for such matters.

    But Hearn fled from social attentions as from the plague.
    He was by nature suspicious and he loathed flattery and
    pretense.

    His sense of literary and artistic values was singularly
    sure, and it has always seemed to me that it was
    intuitive--a sort of instinctive feeling for beauty and
    truth.

    When he became acquainted with the work of Herbert
    Spencer--through the enthusiasm of his friend Ernest Crosby
    for that philosopher and for the Darwinian theory of
    evolution, which we were all discussing with deep interest
    at that time--he used that thinker's philosophy as a
    foundation upon which to base his marvelous speculations as
    to the ultimate development of the race and the infinite
    truths of the universe. I used to listen in wonder while
    he talked by the hour along these lines, weaving the most
    beautiful and imaginative visions of what might be. For his
    theory of the universe was essentially literary rather than
    philosophical.

It was to Dr. Matas that "Chita" was dedicated, not only as a token of
the warm admiration and affection which the sensitive soul of Hearn
felt for the broad-minded young physician, but as an acknowledgment
of the help Dr. Matas had given him in gathering the material for the
setting of the story. The physician's cosmopolitan rearing and his
scattered practice among French, Spanish, and even Filipino settlers in
the region about Grand' Isle enabled him to give Hearn in each instance
the appropriate phraseology in the dialect of the people he was writing
about.

Some of the "Other Fancies" are noteworthy for special reasons. In
"A River Reverie" one gets an odd glimpse of Mark Twain reflected in
the personality of the dream-haunted Irish-Greek, who handles the
visit of the humorist in so unjournalistic a way. How ruthlessly
his recollections of the old river-captain would be excised by the
copy-reader of the modern newspaper!

In several of these sketches Hearn gives a picture of the horrors of
yellow fever which shows even more clearly than his letters how vivid
was the impression made on him by that summer of 1878, when he passed
through the epidemic with only an attack of the dengue, a mild form of
the tropical plague.

Others of these sketches show the influence of contact with Spanish
friends and acquaintances, and the strong longing for the tropics,
which seems to have lasted all his life.

"Aïda" is, of course, merely the story of the well-known opera by
Verdi. Hearn wrote for the _Item_, during the opera season of 1880,
brief outlines like this of the stories of several of the operas played
at the French Opera House that winter: this one is included in this
volume only because it is mentioned among the "Fantastics" in the
list given in Dr. George Gould's book, _Concerning Lafcadio Hearn._
"Hiouen-Thsang" is included for the same reason, as it is not strictly
a "Fantastic."

"The Devil's Carbuncle," besides being a translation, is not a
"Fantastic," according to Hearn's definition of the term: it is not a
story of love and death; it is a story of greed and death.

"The Post-Office" is much more breezy and out-of-doors than any of the
"Fantastics," and does not properly belong with them; but it is so
charming a sketch of his visit to Grand' Isle, the place which gave him
the material for his first successful original story, "Chita," that it
seems worth while to reproduce it.

It has been almost a commonplace, with writers treating of Hearn's
development, to date from this visit the beginnings of his interest
in far-away lands. But they mistake in assigning a late date for his
delight in the tropics and his longing for Japan. His articles in the
_Item_ years before go to show that from the first it was almost an
instinct with him to yearn for glimpses of the Orient and the Spanish
Main. Throughout the volume of the _Item_ for 1879 the column headed
"Odds and Ends" reveals his interest in Spanish-American countries. It
is generally shown in translated citations or quotations from _La Raza
Latina._

In finding these cameo-like studies buried in the pages of the
newspapers of a generation ago, and in identifying them beyond
question as Hearn's, I have been aided by Mr. John S. Kendall and by my
daughter, Ethel Hutson, who have been for some years gathering traces
of Hearn's journalistic activities in New Orleans. To Mr. C. G. Stith,
of the _New Orleans Item_, we are indebted for the finding of the first
two or three of the "Fantastics" in that paper, after we had located
Hearn's work in the _Times-Democrat._

To one who has studied his way of expressing himself in his imaginative
writings the internal evidence would be quite enough to prove that
these "Fantastics" were woven in the brain-cells of Lafcadio Hearn. But
in addition to this we have the avowal of the editor-in-chief of the
_Item_, elicited by the praise of the _Claiborne Guardian._[2]

The author named them only "Fantastics." We have given to each its
separate title, as indicated by the most striking feature in the story.
To the "Other Fancies," which we have included in the collection, he
gave the titles under which they now appear, and some of them he signed.

CHARLES WOODWARD HUTSON


[Footnote 1: Among the papers held by Dr. Gould is a memorandum of some
of the "Fantastics," thus numbered:

    1. Aïda.
    2. Hiouen-Thsang.
    3. El Vómito.
    4. The Devil's Carbuncle.
    5. A Hemisphere in a Woman's Hair.
    6. The Clock.
    7. The Fool and Venus.
    8. The Stranger.

Two of these--"Aïda" and "Hiouen-Thsang"--were published under those
titles. Some of the others we think we have identified among the pieces
entitled simply "Fantastics" at the time of their publication. "The
Fool and Venus" may have been meant for what we ave called "Aphrodite
and the King's Prisoner." "The Clock" we have not found.]

[Footnote 2: In the issue of Sunday evening, September 19, 1880,
appears this excerpt, with the editor's comment:

    FANTASTICS

    _Claiborne Guardian_

    We do not remember to have ever read a series of more
    brilliant articles than those which occasionally appear
    under the above heading in that bright little paper THE CITY
    ITEM. The writer, with a perfect command of the language,
    unites a vivid imagination. His fancy is as exuberant as the
    growth of tropical flowers, and is as pleasing as glowing
    and fascinating. We always turn to the editorial page for
    'Fantastics' when we receive the ITEM. Would it be out of
    place to inquire who this rare genius is? It can't be that
    grave and dignified gentleman, M. F. Bigney. We have read
    many excellent sketches from his pen, but never anything
    like these pieces. Who is the writer that adds another to
    the many attractions of our prosperous and worthy exchange?

    "We gladly comply," replies the ITEM editorially, "with
    the request of our appreciative Claiborne contemporary.
    The writer of 'Fantastics' is Mr. Lafcadio Hearne [_sic_],
    who has been our assistant co-laborer for nearly three
    years.--ED. ITEM."
]



FANTASTICS AND OTHER FANCIES



ALL IN WHITE[1]


"No," he said, "I did not stay long in Havana. I should think it would
be a terrible place to live in. Somehow, in spite of all the tropical
brightness, the city gave me the idea of a huge sepulchre at times.
One feels in those narrow streets as though entombed. Pretty women?--I
suppose so, yes; but I saw only one. It was in one of the quaint
streets which make you think that the Spaniards learned to build their
cities from the Moors--a chasm between lofty buildings, and balconies
jutting out above to break the view of the narrow strip of blue sky.
Nobody was in the street except myself; and the murmur of the city's
life seemed to come from afar, like a ghostly whisper. The silence was
so strange that I felt as if walking on the pavement of a church, and
disturbing the religious quiet with my footsteps. I stopped before a
great window--no glass, but iron bars only;--and behind the iron bars
lay the only beautiful woman I saw in Havana by daylight. She could not
have been more than eighteen--a real Spanish beauty--dark, bewitching,
an oval face with noble features, and long eyelashes resting on the
cheek. She was dead! All in white--like the phantom bride of the German
tradition--white robes, white satin shoes, and one white tropical
flower in her black hair, shining like a star. I do not know what it
was; but its perfume came to me through the window, sweet and strange.
The young woman, sleeping there all in white, against the darkness of
the silent chamber within, fascinated me. I felt as if it was not right
to look at her so long; yet I could not help it. Candles were burning
at her head and feet; and in the stillness of the hot air their yellow
flames did not even tremble. Suddenly I heard a heavy tramping at the
end of the street. A battalion of Spanish soldiers were coming towards
me. There was no means of proceeding; and I had no time to retreat. The
street was so narrow that I was obliged to put my back to the wall in
order to let them pass. They passed in dead silence--I only heard the
tread of the men, mechanically regular and heavily echoing. They were
all in white. Every man looked at me as he passed by; and every look
was dark, sinister, suspicious. I was anxious to escape those thousands
of Spanish eyes; but I could not have done it without turning my face
to the wall. I do not think one of them looked at the dead girl at
all; but each one looked at me, and forced me to look at him. I dared
not smile,--not one of the swarthy faces smiled. The situation became
really unpleasant. It was like one of those nightmares in which you
are obliged to witness an endless procession of phantoms, each one of
whom compels you to look at it. If I had even heard a single "Carajo
Americano," I should have felt relieved; but all passed me in dead
silence. I was transpierced by the black steel of at least two thousand
Spanish eyes, and every eye looked at me as if I had been detected in
some awful crime. Yet why they did not look at that window instead
of looking at me, I cannot tell. After they had passed, I looked an
instant at the dead girl again; and it seemed to me that I saw the
ghost of a smile--a cynical, mocking smile about her lips. She was
well avenged--if her consecrated rest had been disturbed by my heretic
eyes. I can still smell the white flower; and I can see even the silk
stitches in the white satin shoes--the motionless yellow tongues of
the candles--the thin dead face that seemed to smile, and the thousand
sinister faces that smiled not, and dared me to smile."



THE LITTLE RED KITTEN[2]


The kitten would have looked like a small red lion, but that its ears
were positively enormous--making the head like one of those little
demons sculptured in mediæval stonework which have wings instead of
ears. It ate beefsteak and cockroaches, caterpillars and fish, chicken
and butterflies, mosquito-hawks and roast mutton, hash and tumble-bugs,
beetles and pigs' feet, crabs and spiders, moths and poached eggs,
oysters and earthworms, ham and mice, rats and rice pudding--until
its belly became a realization of Noah's Ark. On this diet it soon
acquired strength to whip all the ancient cats in the neighborhood,
and also to take under its protection a pretty little salmon-colored
cat of the same sex, which was too weak to defend itself and had been
unmercifully mauled every night before the tawny sister enforced reform
in the shady yard of the old Creole house. The red kitten was not very
big, but was very solid and more agile than a monkey. Its flaming
emerald eyes were always watching, and its enormous ears always on the
alert; and woe to the cat who dared approach the weak little sister
with hostile intentions. The two always slept together--the little
speckled one resting its head upon the body of its protector; and
the red kitten licked its companion every day like a mother washing
her baby. Wherever the red kitten went the speckled kitten followed;
they hunted all kinds of creeping things together, and even formed a
criminal partnership in kitten stealing. One day they were forcibly
separated; the red kitten being locked up in the closet under the
stairs to keep it out of mischief during dinner hours, as it had
evinced an insolent determination to steal a stuffed crab from the
plate of Madame R. Thus temporarily deprived of its guide, philosopher,
and friend, the speckled kitten unfortunately wandered under a
rocking-chair violently agitated by a heavy gentleman who was reading
the "Bee"; and with a sharp little cry of agony it gave up its gentle
ghost. Everybody stopped eating; and there was a general outburst of
indignation and sorrow. The heavy gentleman got very red in the face,
and said he had not intended to do it. "Tonnerre d'une pipe;--nom d'un
petit bonhomme!"--he might have been a little more careful!... An hour
later the red kitten was vainly seeking its speckled companion--all
ears and eyes. It uttered strange little cries, and vainly waited for
the customary reply. Then it commenced to look everywhere--upstairs,
downstairs, on the galleries, in the corners, among the shrubbery,
never supposing in its innocent mind that a little speckled body was
lying far away upon a heap of garbage and ashes. Then it became very
silent; purring when offered food, but eating nothing.... At last a
sudden thought seemed to strike it. It had never seen the great world
which rumbled beyond the archway of the old courtyard; perhaps its
little sister had wandered out there. So it would go and seek her.
For the first time it wandered beyond the archway and saw the big
world it had never seen before--miles of houses and myriads of people
and great cotton-floats thundering by, and great wicked dogs which
murder kittens. But the little red one crept along beside the houses
in the narrow strip of shadow, sometimes trembling when the big wagons
rolled past, and sometimes hiding in doorways when it saw a dog, but
still bravely seeking the lost sister.... It came to a great wide
street--five times wider than the narrow street before the old Creole
house; and the sun was so hot, so hot. The little creature was so tired
and hungry, too. Perhaps somebody would help it to find the way. But
nobody seemed to notice the red kitten, with its funny ears and great
bright eyes. It opened its little pink mouth and cried; but nobody
stopped. It could not understand that. Whenever it had cried that way
at home, somebody had come to pet it. Suddenly a fire-engine came
roaring up the street, and a great crowd of people were running after
it. Then the kitten got very, very frightened; and tried to run out of
the way, but its poor little brain was so confused and there was so
much noise and shouting.... Next morning two little bodies lay side
by side on the ashes--miles away from the old Creole house. The little
tawny kitten had found its speckled sister.



THE NIGHT OF ALL SAINTS[3]


The Night of All Saints--a night clear and deep and filled with a glory
of white moonlight.

And a low sweet Wind came up from the West, and wandered among the
tombs, whispering to the Shadows.

And there were flowers among the tombs.

They looked into the face of the moon, and from them a thousand
invisible perfumes arose into the night.

And the Wind blew upon the flowers until their soft eyelids began to
close and their perfume grew fainter in the moonlight. And the Wind
sought in vain to arouse them from the dreamless sleep into which they
were sinking.

For the perfume of a flower is but the presence of its invisible soul;
and the flowers drooped in the moonlight, and at the twelfth hour they
closed their eyes forever and the incense of their lives passed away
from them.

Then the Wind mourned awhile among the old white tombs; and whispered
to the cypress trees and to the Shadows, "Were not these offerings?"

And the Shadows and the cypresses bowed weirdly in mysterious reply.
But the Wind asked, "To Whom?" And the Shadows kept silence with the
cypresses.

Then the Wind entered like a ghost into the crannies of the white
sepulchres, and whispered in the darkness, and coming forth shuddered
and mourned.

And the Shadows shuddered also; and the cypresses sighed in the night.

"It is a mystery," sobbed the Wind, "and passeth my understanding.
Wherefore these offerings to those who dwell in the darkness where even
dreams are dead?"

But the trees and the Shadows answered not and the hollow tombs uttered
no voice.

Then came a Wind out of the South, murmuring to the orange groves, and
lifting the long tresses of the palms with the breath of his wings,
and bearing back to the ancient place of tombs the souls of a thousand
flowers. And the Wind of the South whispered to the souls of the
flowers, "Answer, little spirits, answer my mourning brother."

And the flower-souls answered, making fragrant all the white streets of
the white city of the dead:

"We are the offerings of love bereaved to the All-loving--the
sacrifices of the fatherless to the All-father. We know not of the
dead--the Infinite secret hath not been revealed to us; we know only
that they sleep under the eye of Him who never sleeps. Thou hast seen
the flowers die; but their perfumes live in the wings of the winds and
sweeten all God's world. Is it not so with that fragrance of good
deeds, which liveth after the deed hath been done--or the memories of
dead loves which soften the hearts of the living?"

And the cypresses together with the Shadows bowed answeringly; and the
West Wind, ceasing to mourn, spread his gauzy wings in flight toward
the rising of the sun.

The moon, sinking, made longer the long shadows; the South Wind
caressed the cypresses, and, bearing with him ghosts of the flowers,
rose in flight toward the dying fires of the stars.



THE DEVIL'S CARBUNCLE[4]


    Ricardo Palma, the Lima correspondent of _La Raza Latina_,
    has been collecting some curious South American traditions
    which date back to the Spanish Conquest. The following
    legend, entitled "El Carbunclo del Diablo," is one of these:

When Juan de la Torre, one of the celebrated Conquistadores, discovered
and seized an immense treasure in one of the huacas near the city of
Lima, the Spanish soldiers became seized with a veritable mania for
treasure-seeking among the old forts and cemeteries of the Indians.
Now there were three ballesteros belonging to the company of Captain
Diego Gumiel, who had formed a partnership for the purpose of seeking
fortunes among the huacas of Miraflores, and who had already spent
weeks upon weeks in digging for treasure without finding the smallest
article of value.

On Good Friday, in the year 1547, without any respect for the sanctity
of the day--for to human covetousness nothing is sacred--the three
ballesteros, after vainly sweating and panting all morning and
afternoon, had not found anything except a mummy--not even a trinket
or bit of pottery worth three pesetas. Thereupon they gave themselves
over to the Father of Evil--cursing all the Powers of Heaven, and
blaspheming so horribly that the Devil himself was obliged to stop his
ears with cotton.

By this time the sun had set; and the adventurers were preparing to
return to Lima, cursing the niggardly Indians for the unpardonable
stupidity of not having been entombed in state upon beds of solid gold
or silver, when one of the Spaniards gave the mummy so ferocious a kick
that it rolled a considerable distance. A glimmering jewel dropped from
the skeleton, and rolled slowly after the mummy.

"Canario!" cried one of the soldiers, "what kind of a taper is that?
Santa Maria! what a glorious carbuncle!"

And he was about to walk toward the jewel, when the one who had kicked
the corpse, and who was a great bully, held him back with the words:

"Halt, comrade! May I never be sad if that carbuncle does not belong to
me; for it was I who found the mummy!"

"May the Devil carry thee away! I first saw it shine, and may I die
before any other shall possess it!"

"Cepos quedos!" thundered the third, unsheathing his sword, and making
it whistle round his head. "Sol am nobody?"

"Caracolines! Not even the Devil's wife shall wring it from me," cried
the bully, unsheathing his dagger.

And a tremendous fight began among the three comrades.

The following day some Mitayos found the dead body of one of the
combatants, and the other two riddled with wounds, begging for a
confessor. Before they died they related the story of the carbuncle,
and told how it illumined the combat with a sinister and lurid light.
But the carbuncle was never found after. Tradition ascribes its origin
to the Devil; and it is said that each Good Friday night travelers may
perceive its baleful rays twinkling from the huaca Juliana, rendered
famous by this legend.



LES COULISSES[5]


SOUVENIRS OF A STRAKOSCH OPERA NIGHT


Surely it cannot have been a poet who first inspired the popular mind
with that widely spread and deeply erroneous belief that "behind the
scenes" all is hollow mockery and emptiness and unsightliness;--that
the comeliness of the pliant limbs which move to music before the
starry row of shielded lights is due to a judicious distribution of
sawdust; and that our visions of fair faces are created by the magic
contained in pots of ointment and boxes of pearl powder of which the
hiding-places are known only to those duly initiated into the awful
mysteries of the Green Room.

[Illustration: _The Old Creole Opera House, New Orleans_]

No; the Curtain is assuredly the Veil which hides from unromantic
eyes the mysteries of a veritable Fairy-World--not a fairyland so
clearly and sharply outlined as the artistic fantasies of Christmas
picture-books, but a fairyland of misty landscapes and dim shadows and
bright shapes moving through the vagueness of mystery. There is really
a world of stronger enchantment behind than before the scenes; all
that movement of white limbs and fair faces--that shifting of shadowy
fields and plains, those changing visions of mountain and wold, of
towers that disappear as in tales of knight-errantry, and cottages
transformed into palaces as in the "Arabian Nights"--is but a small
part of the great wizard-work nightly wrought by invisible hands behind
the Curtain. And when, through devious corridors and dimly-lighted
ways--between rows of chambers through whose doors one catches sudden
glimpses of the elves attiring in purple and silver, in scarlet and
gold, for the gaslit holiday among canvas woods and flowing brooks
of muslin, mystic, wonderful--thou shalt arrive within the jagged
borders of the Unknown World itself to behold the Circles of bright
seats curving afar off in atmospheres of artificial light, and the
Inhabitants of those Circles become themselves involuntary Actors for
the amusement of the lesser audience, then verily doth the charm begin.
There is no disillusion as yet. The Isis of the drama has lifted her
outer veil; but a veil yet more impenetrable remains to conceal the
mystery of her face. The Heart of all that Mimic Life--mimic yet warm
and real--throbs about thee, but dost thou understand its pulsations?
Thou art in the midst of a secret, in the innermost chamber of the
witch-workers--yet the witchcraft remains. Thou hast approached too
near the Fata Morgana of theatrical enchantment--all has vanished
or tumbled into spectral ruin. Fragments of castles and antiquated
cities--torn and uneven remnants of pictures of various centuries
huddled together in mystic anachronism--surround and overshadow thee;
but to comprehend that harmonious whole, thou must retire to the outer
circles of the shining temple, before the tall Veil. About thee it is a
world wrought of many broken worlds;--a world of picturesque ruin like
the moon in heaven--a world of broken lights and shadows and haunted
glooms--a wild dream--a work of goblinry. Content thyself, seek not
disillusion; for to the gods of this mysterious sphere human curiosity
is the greatest of abominations. Satisfy thyself with the knowledge
that thou art in Fairyland; and that it is not given to mortals to
learn all the ways of elves. What though the woods be mockeries, and
the castles be thinner than Castles of Spain, and the white statues
fair Emptinesses like the elf women of Northern dreams?--the elves and
gnomes and fairies themselves are real and palpable and palpitant with
the ruddy warmth of life.

Perhaps thou thinkest of those antique theatres--marble cups set
between the breasts of sweetly-curving hills, with the cloud-frescoed
dome of the Infinite for a ceiling, and for scenery nature's richest
charms of purple mountain and azure sea and emerald groves of olive.
But that beautiful materialism of the ancient theatre charmed not
as the mystery of ours--a mystery too delicate to suffer the eye of
Day;--a mystery wrought by fairies who dare only toil by night. One
sunbeam would destroy the charm of this dusky twilight world. Strange!
how the mind wanders in this strange place! Yet it is easier to dream
of two thousand years ago than to recollect that thou livest in the
material present--that only a painted ceiling lies between thy vision
and the amethystine heaven of stars above, and that only a wall of
plastered brick separates thee from the streets of New Orleans or the
gardens westward where the bananas are nodding their heads under the
moon. For the genii of this inner world are weaving their spells about
thee. Figures of other centuries pass before thy eyes, as in the steel
mirror of a wizard: lords of Italian cities gorgeous as Emperor-moths,
captains of free companies booted and spurred, phantoms, one may fancy,
of fair women whose portraits hang in the Uffizi Gallery, and prelates
of the sixteenth century. Did Macbeth's witches ever perform greater
magic than this?--a series of tableaux after Racinet animated by some
elfish art? If the human character of the witchery does not betray
itself by a pretty anachronism!--some intermingling of the costumes of
the sixteenth century with those of the seventeenth, a sacrifice of
history to the beauty of woman--the illusion remains unbroken. Thou art
living, by magic, in the age of Lorenzo di Medici; and is it strange
that they should address thee in the Italian tongue?

There is an earthquake of applauding, the Circles of seats are again
hidden, and this world of canvas and paint is tumbling about thy ears.
The spell is broken for a moment by Beings garbed in the everyday
attire of the nineteenth century, who have devoted themselves to
the work of destruction and reconstruction--to whom dreamers are an
abomination and idlers behind the scenes a vexation of spirit. Va t'en,
inseq' de bois de lit!

Aye, thou mayst well start!--thou hast seen her before. Where?--when?
In a little French store, not very, very far from the old Creole Opera
House. This enchantment of the place has transformed her into a fairy.
Ah, thou marvelest that she can be so pretty; nor Shakespeare's Viola
nor Gautier's Graciosa were fairer to look upon than this dream of
white grace and pliant comeliness in the garb of dead centuries. And
yet another and another Creole girl--familiar faces to the dwellers
in the Quaint Places of New Orleans. What is the secret of that
strange enchantment which teaches us that the modest everyday robe of
black merino may be but the chrysalis-shell within which God's own
butterflies are hidden?

Suddenly through the motley rout of princes and princesses, of captains
and conspirators, of soldiers and priests, of courtiers and dukes,
there comes a vision of white fairies; these be the Damosels of the
Pirouette. Thou mayest watch them unobserved; for the other beings heed
them not; Cophetua-like, the King in his coronation robes is waltzing
with a pretty Peasant Girl; and like Christina of Spain, the Queen
is tête-à-tête with a soldier. The dancers give the impression of
something aerial, ethereal, volatile--something which rests and flies
but walks not--some species of splendid fly with wings half-open. The
vulgar Idea of Sawdust vanishes before the reality of those slender and
pliant limbs. They are preparing for the dance with a series of little
exercises which provoke a number of charming images and call out all
the supple graces of the figure; it is Atalanta preparing to pursue
Hippomenes; it is a butterfly shaking its wings; it is a white bird
pluming itself with noiseless skill. But when the Terpsichorean flight
is over, and the theatre shakes with applause; while the dancers shrink
panting and exhausted into some shadowy hiding-place, breathing more
hurriedly than a wrestler after a long bout--thou wilt feel grateful
to the humane spirits who break the applause with kindly hisses, and
rebuke the ignorance which seeks only its own pleasure in cries of
encore.

And the Asmodean Prompter who moves the dramatic strings that agitate
all these Puppets of mimic passion, whose sonorous tones penetrate
all the recesses of the mysterious scenery without being heard before
the footlights, resumes his faithful task; the story of harmony and
tragedy is continued by the orchestra and the singers, while a Babel
of many tongues is heard among the wooden rocks and the canvas trees
and the silent rivers of muslin. But little canst thou reck of the
mimic opera. That is for those who sit in the outer circles. The music
of the many-toned Opera of Life envelops and absorbs the soul of the
stranger--teaching him that the acting behind the Curtain is not all
a mimicry of the Real, but in truth a melodrama of visible, tangible,
sentient life, which must endure through many thousand scenes until
that Shadow, who is stronger than Love, shall put out the lights, and
ring down the vast and sable Curtain. And thus dreaming, thou findest
thyself again in the streets, whitened by the moon! Lights, fairies,
kings, and captains are gone. Ah! thou hast not been dreaming, friend;
but the hearts of those who have beheld Fairyland are heavy.



THE STRANGER[6]


The Italian had kept us all spellbound for hours, while a great yellow
moon was climbing higher and higher above the leaves of the bananas
that nodded weirdly at the windows. Within the great hall a circle of
attentive listeners--composed of that motley mixture of the wanderers
of all nations, such as can be found only in New Orleans, and perhaps
Marseilles--sat in silence about the lamplit table, riveted by the
speaker's dark eyes and rich voice. There was a natural music in those
tones; the stranger chanted as he spoke like a wizard weaving a spell.
And speaking to each one in the tongue of his own land, he told them
of the Orient. For he had been a wanderer in many lands; and afar off,
touching the farther horn of the moonlight crescent, lay awaiting him a
long, graceful vessel with a Greek name, which would unfurl her white
wings for flight with the first ruddiness of morning.

"I see that you are a smoker," observed the stranger to his host as he
rose to go. "May I have the pleasure of presenting you with a Turkish
pipe? I brought it from Constantinople."

It was moulded of blood-red clay after a fashion of Moresque art,
and fretted about its edges with gilded work like the ornamentation
girdling the minarets of a mosque. And a faint perfume, as of the
gardens of Damascus, clung to its gaudy bowl, whereon were deeply
stamped mysterious words in the Arabian tongue.


The voice had long ceased to utter its musical syllables. The guests
had departed; the lamps were extinguished within. A single ray of
moonlight breaking through the shrubbery without fell upon a bouquet
of flowers, breathing out their perfumed souls into the night. Only
the host remained--dreaming of moons larger than ours, and fiercer
summers; minarets white and keen, piercing a cloudless sky, and the
many-fountained pleasure-places of the East. And the pipe exhaled its
strange and mystical perfume, like the scented breath of a summer's
night in the rose-gardens of a Sultan. Above, in deeps of amethyst,
glimmered the everlasting lamps of heaven; and from afar, the voice of
a muezzin seemed to cry, in tones liquidly sweet as the voice of the
stranger--"All ye who are about to sleep, commend your souls to Him who
never sleeps."



Y PORQUE[7]?


"Ah, caballero," said the Spanish lady, with a pretty play of fan and
eye as she spoke, "you will not return to Mexico, the beautiful city?"

"No, señorita," replied the young man addressed, a handsome boy, about
twenty-two years old, olive-skinned and graceful, with black curly
hair, that had those bluish lights one sees in the plumage of a raven.

"Y porque?" asked the girl, laying aside her fan for a moment, and
concentrating all the deep fire of her eyes upon his face.

The boy did not answer. He made an effort to speak, and turned his head
aside. There was a momentary lull in the conversation. Suddenly he
burst into tears, and left the room.


The beautiful city! Ah! how well he remembered it! The mighty hills
sleeping in their eternal winding-sheets of snow, the azure heaven and
the bright lake rippled by mountain winds, the plaza and its familiar
sights and sounds. Y porque? The question brought up all the old bright
memories, and the present for the moment melted away, and the dream of
a Mexican night rose in ghostliness before him.

He stood again within an ancient street, quaint with the quaintness of
another century, and saw the great windows of the hospitable Spanish
residence at which he had been so often received as a son. Again he
heard the long chant of the sereno in the melancholy silence; again
he saw the white stars glimmering like lamps above the towers of the
cathedral. The windows were tall and large, and barred with bars of
iron; and there were lights in one of them--flickering taper-lights
that made moving shadows on the wall. And within the circle of the
tapers, a young girl lay all in white with hands crossed upon her
breast, and flowers in the dark hair. He remembered all with that
terrible minuteness agony lends to observation--even how the flickering
of the tapers played with the shadows of the silky eyelashes, making
the lids seem to quiver, as though that heart, to which all his hopes
and aims and love had been trusted, had not forever ceased to beat.
Again the watchman solemnly chanted the hour of the night, with words
of Spanish piety; and far in the distance that weird mountain which
ancient Mexican fancy called "The White Lady," and modern popular
imagination, "The Dead One," lay as a corpse with white arms crossed
upon its bosom, in awful mockery of the eternal sleep.



A DREAM OF KITES[8]


Looking out into the clear blue of the night from one of those jutting
balconies which constitute a summer luxury in the Creole city, the
eye sometimes marks the thin black threads which the telegraph wires
draw sharply against the sky. We observed last evening the infinitely
extending lines of the vast web which the Electric Spider has spun
about the world; and the innumerable wrecks of kites fluttering
thereupon, like the bodies of gaudy flies--strange lines of tattered
objects extending far into the horizon and tracking out the course of
the electric messengers beyond the point at which the slender threads
cease to remain visible.

How fantastic the forms of these poor tattered wrecks, when the
uniform tint of night robs them of their color, and only defines
their silhouettes against the sky!--some swinging to and fro
wearily, like thin bodies of malefactors mummified by sunheat upon
their gibbets--some wildly fluttering as in the agony of despair
and death--some dancing grotesquely upon their perches like flying
goblins--some like impaled birds, with death-stiffened wings,
motionlessly attached to their wire snare, and glaring with painted
eyes upon the scene below as in a stupor of astonishment at their
untimely fate.

All these represented the destruction of childish ambitions--each
the wreck of some boyish pleasure. Many were doubtless wept for, and
dreamed of afterward regretfully on wet pillows. And stretching away
into the paler blue of the horizon we looked upon the interminable hues
of irregular dots they made against it and remembered that each little
dot represented some little pang.

Then it was natural that we should meditate a little upon the vanity
of the ways in which these childish losses had been borne. The little
owners of the poor kites had hearts whose fibre differed more than that
of the kites themselves. Some might weep, but some doubtless laughed
with childish heroism, and soon forgot their loss; some doubtless
thought the world was all askew, and that telegraph wires ought never
to have been invented; some, considering critically the question of
cause and effect, resolved as young philosophers to profit by their
experience, and seek similar pleasures thereafter where telegraph
wires ensnared not; while some, perhaps, profited not at all, but only
made new kites and abandoned them to the roguish wind, which again
traitorously delivered them up to the insatiable enemies of kites and
birds.

Is it not said that the child is the father of the man?

And as we sat there in the silence with the stars burning in the
purple deeps of the summer night above us, we dreamed of the kites
which children of a larger growth fly in the face of heaven--toys
of love and faith--toys of ambition and of folly--toys of grotesque
resolve and flattering ideals--toys of vain dreams and vain
expectation--the kites of human Hope, gaudy-colored or gray, richly
tinseled or humbly simple--rising and soaring and tossing on the fickle
winds of the world, only to become entangled at last in that mighty web
of indissoluble and everlasting threads which the Weird Sisters spin
for all of us.



HEREDITARY MEMORIES[9]


"I was observing," continued the Doctor, "that it very frequently
happens that upon seeing or hearing something new for the first
time--that is, something entirely new to us--we feel a surprise, not
caused by the novelty of that which we see or hear, but by a very
curious echo in the mind. I say echo. I would do better to use the word
memory-echo. It seems to us, although we know positively we have never
seen or heard of this new thing in our mortal lives, that we heard or
saw it in some infinitely remote period. An old Latin writer considered
this phenomenon to be a proof of the theory of Preexistence. A Buddhist
would tell you that the soul, through all its wanderings of a million
years, retains faint memories of all it has seen or heard in each
transmigration and that each of us now living in the flesh possesses
dim and ghostly recollections of things heard and seen æons before our
birth. That the phenomenon exists there can be no doubt. I am not a
believer in Buddhism nor in the soul; but I attribute the existence of
these vague memories to hereditary brain impressions."

"How do you mean, Doctor?" asked one of the boarders.

"Why, sir, I mean that a memory may be inherited just like a mole,
a birthmark, a physical or a moral characteristic. Our brains, as a
clever writer has expressed it, are like the rocks of the Sinaitic
valley, all covered over with inscriptions written there by the long
caravans of Thought. Each impression received upon the brain through
the medium of the senses leaves there a hieroglyphic inscription,
which, although invisible under the microscope, is nevertheless
material and real. Why should not these hieroglyphs of the parent brain
reappear in the brain of the child?--fainter and less decipherable to
the eyes of the memory, yet not so faint as to be wholly lost."

There was a long silence. The moon rose higher; the bananas did not
wave their leaves; the air still glowed with the heat of the dead day;
and the stars in the blue above sparkled with that luminosity only
known to Southern nights. Everything seemed to dream except the lights
of heaven, and we dreamed also of the Infinite.

"Doctor," said a bearded stranger, who had remained silent all the
evening, "I want to ask you a question. I have lived in the West
Indies, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico; and I am something of a traveler.
I have a good memory, too. I seldom forget the sight of a city I have
visited. I remember every street and nook I have ever seen. How is it,
then, that I dream continually of places which I am positive I have
never seen, and hear in my sleep a tongue spoken that I have never
heard while awake in any part of the world?"

The Doctor smiled. "Can you describe," he asked, "the places you see in
your dreams?"

"I can, because I have dreamed of them more than a hundred times.
Sometimes I do not dream of them for a year at a time; and then again
I will dream of them every night for a week. And I always hear that
strange tongue spoken.

"I sail to these places from a vast port, surrounded by huge wharves of
cut stone--white and even-worn by the friction of a mighty traffic. It
is all sun there and light and air. There are tropical fruits heaped
up, and wines and oils and spices; and many people in brightly colored
dresses, blue and yellow. I have a queer idea that it might be some
port in the Mediterranean.

"Then I arrive after a long voyage in a strange country. I do not
remember the disembarking. I only remember a great city. It is not
built like any American or European city. Its houses are high; its
streets narrow and fantastic. I have seen in Spain a few buildings
which reminded me of those I dream about; but they were old Moorish
buildings.

"There is an immense edifice in one part of the city, with two graceful
domes, rising like white breasts against a sky most intensely blue.
There are tall and very slender white towers near the domes. There are
enormous stairways of white stone leading down into an expanse of still
water, reflecting the shadows of the palace, or whatever it may be. I
see birds there with immense beaks and flaming plumage, walking about
near the water. I have seen such birds stuffed, but never alive, except
in dreams. But I do not remember where the stuffed birds came from.

"I feel that the city is as large as one of our great Western cities
here. I do not see it, but I feel it. There is a mighty current of
human life flowing through its streets. The people are swarthy and
graceful. They look like statues of bronze. Their features are delicate
and their hair black and straight. Some of the women are naked to
the waist, and exceedingly beautiful. They wear immense earrings and
curious ornaments of bright metal. The men wear turbans and brightly
colored dresses. Some are very lightly clad. There are so many dressed
in white! All speak the same strange language I have told you of, and
there are camels and apes and elephants and cattle that are not like
our cattle; they have a hump between the head and shoulders."

"Is that all?" asked the Doctor.

"All I can remember."

"Were you ever in India?"

"No, sir."

"Have you never visited India even through the medium of art--books,
engravings, photographs?"

"I do not believe I have ever read a single illustrated book
upon India. I have seen articles brought from India, and some
pictures--drawings on rice paper; but this of very late years. I have
never seen anything in pictures like the place I have described to you."

"How long have you been dreaming of these places?"

"Well, since I was a boy."

"Was your father ever in India, or your mother?"

"My father was, sir; not my mother. But he died there when I was a
child. I was born in Europe."

"Hereditary impressions!" cried the Doctor. "That explains all your
stories of metempsychosis. The memories of the father descending to the
children, perhaps even to the third and fourth generation. You dream
of Indian cities you have never seen and probably never will see. Why?
Because the delicate and invisible impressions made upon the brain of
an English traveler in India, through the mediums of sight and sound,
are inherited by his children born in a colder climate who have never
seen the Orient, and will nevertheless be forever haunted by visions of
the Far East."



THE GHOSTLY KISS[10]


The theatre was full. I cannot remember what they were playing. I did
not have time to observe the actors. I only remember how vast the
building seemed. Looking back, I saw an ocean of faces stretching away
almost beyond the eye's power of definition to the far circles where
the seats rose tier above tier in lines of illumination. The ceiling
was blue, and in the midst a great mellow lamp hung suspended like a
moon, at a height so lofty that I could not see the suspending chain.
All the seats were black. I fancied that the theatre was hung with
hangings of black velvet, bordered with a silver fringe that glimmered
like tears. The audience were all in white.

All in white!--I asked myself whether I was not in some theatre of
some tropical city--why all in white? I could not guess. I fancied at
moments that I could perceive a moonlit landscape through far distant
oriel windows, and the crests of palms casting moving shadows like
gigantic spiders. The air was sweet with a strange and a new perfume;
it was a drowsy air--a poppied air, in which the waving of innumerable
white fans made no rustle, no sound.

There was a strange stillness and a strange silence. All eyes were
turned toward the stage, except my own. I gazed in every direction but
that of the stage! I cannot imagine why it was that I rarely looked
toward the stage. No one noticed me; no one appeared to perceive that
I was the only person in all that vast assembly clad in black--a tiny
dark speck in a sea of white light.

Gradually the voices of the actors seemed to me to become fainter and
fainter--thin sounds like whispers from another world--a world of
ghosts!--and the music seemed not music, but only an echo in the mind
of the hearer, like a memory of songs heard and forgotten in forgotten
years.

There were faces that I thought strangely familiar--faces I fancied I
had seen somewhere else in some other time. But none recognized me.


A woman sat before me--a fair woman with hair as brightly golden as the
locks of Aphrodite. I asked my heart why it beat so strangely when I
turned my eyes upon her. I felt as if it sought to leap from my breast
and fling itself all palpitating under her feet. I watched the delicate
movements of her neck, where a few loose bright curls were straying,
like strands of gold clinging to a column of ivory;--the soft curve of
the cheek flushed by a faint ruddiness like the velvet surface of a
half-ripe peach;--the grace of the curving lips--lips sweet as those
of the Cnidian Venus, which even after two thousand years still seem
humid, as with the kisses of the last lover. But the eyes I could not
see.

And a strange desire rose within me--an intense wish to kiss those
lips. My heart said, Yes;--my reason whispered, No. I thought of the
ten thousand thousand eyes that might suddenly be turned upon me. I
looked back; and it seemed to me as if the whole theatre had grown
vaster! The circles of seats had receded;--the great centre lamp seemed
to have mounted higher;--the audience seemed vast as that we dream of
in visions of the Last Judgment. And my heart beat so violently that I
heard its passionate pulsation, louder than the voices of the actors,
and I feared lest it should betray me to all the host of white-clad men
and women above me. But none seemed to hear or to see me. I trembled as
I thought of the consequences of obeying the mad impulse that became
every moment more overpowering and uncontrollable.

And my heart answered, "One kiss of those lips were worth the pain of
ten thousand deaths."


I do not remember that I arose. I only remember finding myself beside
her, close to her, breathing her perfumed breath, and gazing into eyes
deep as the amethystine heaven of a tropical night. I pressed my lips
passionately to hers; I felt a thrill of inexpressible delight and
triumph; I felt the warm soft lips curl back to meet mine, and give me
back my kiss!

And a great fear suddenly came upon me. And all the multitude of
white-clad men and women arose in silence; and ten thousand thousand
eyes looked upon me.


I heard a voice, faint, sweet--such a voice as we hear when dead loves
visit us in dreams:

"Thou hast kissed me: the compact is sealed forever."

And raising my eyes once more I saw that all the seats were graves and
all the white dresses shrouds. Above me a light still shone in the
blue roof, but only the light of a white moon in the eternal azure of
heaven. White tombs stretched away in weird file to the verge of the
horizon; where it had seemed to me that I beheld a play, I saw only a
lofty mausoleum; and I knew that the perfume of the night was but the
breath of flowers dying upon the tombs!



THE BLACK CUPID[11]


There was a small picture hanging in the room; and I took the light to
examine it. I do not know why I could not sleep. Perhaps it was the
excitement of travel.

The gilded frame, massive and richly moulded, inclosed one of the
strangest paintings I had ever seen, a woman's head lying on a velvet
pillow, one arm raised and one bare shoulder with part of a beautiful
bosom relieved against a dark background. As I said, the painting was
small. The young woman was evidently reclining upon her right side; but
only her head, elevated upon the velvet pillow, her white throat, one
beautiful arm and part of the bosom was visible.

With consummate art the painter had contrived that the spectator should
feel as though leaning over the edge of the couch--not visible in
the picture--so as to bring his face close to the beautiful face on
the pillow. It was one of the most charming heads a human being ever
dreamed of; such a delicate bloom on the cheeks;--such a soft, humid
light in the half-closed eyes;--such sun-bright hair;--such carnation
lips;--such an oval outline! And all this relieved against a deep black
background. In the lobe of the left ear I noticed a curious earring--a
tiny Cupid wrought in black jet, suspending himself by his bow, which
he held by each end, as if trying to pull it away from the tiny gold
chain which fettered it to the beautiful ear, delicate and faintly rosy
as a seashell. What a strange earring it was! I wondered if the black
Cupid presided over unlawful loves, unblest amours!

But the most curious thing about the picture was the attitude and
aspect of the beautiful woman. Her head, partly thrown back, with
half-closed eyes and tender smile, seemed to be asking a kiss. The
lips pouted expectantly. I almost fancied I could feel her perfumed
breath. Under the rounded arm I noticed a silky floss of bright hair in
tiny curls. The arm was raised as if to be flung about the neck of the
person from whom the kiss was expected. I was astonished by the art of
the painter. No photograph could have rendered such effects, however
delicately colored; no photograph could have reproduced the gloss of
the smooth shoulder, the veins, the smallest details! But the picture
had a curious fascination. It produced an effect upon me as if I were
looking at living beauty, a rosy and palpitating reality. Under the
unsteady light of the lamp I once fancied that I saw the lips move, the
eyes glisten! The head seemed to advance itself out of the canvas as
though to be kissed. Perhaps it was very foolish; but I could not help
kissing it--not once but a hundred times; and then I suddenly became
frightened. Stories of bleeding statues and mysterious pictures and
haunted tapestry came to my mind; and alone in a strange house and a
strange city I felt oddly nervous. I placed the light on the table and
went to bed.

But it was impossible to sleep. Whenever I began to doze a little, I
saw the beautiful head on the pillow close beside me--the same smile,
the same lips, the golden hair, the silky floss under the caressing
arm. I rose, dressed myself, lit a pipe, blew out the light, and smoked
in the dark, until the faint blue tints of day stole in through the
windows. Afar off I saw the white teeth of the Sierra flush rosily, and
heard the rumbling of awakening traffic.

"Las cinco menos quarto, señor," cried the servant as he knocked upon
my door--"tiempo para levantarse."


Before leaving I asked the landlord about the picture.

He answered with a smile, "It was painted by a madman, señor."

"But who?" I asked. "Mad or not, he was a master genius."

"I do not even remember his name. He is dead. They allowed him to paint
in the madhouse. It kept his mind tranquil. I obtained the painting
from his family after his death. They refused to accept money for it,
saying they were glad to give it away."

I had forgotten all about the painting when some five years after I
happened to be passing through a little street in Mexico City. My
attention was suddenly attracted by some articles I saw in the window
of a dingy shop, kept by a Spanish Jew. A pair of earrings--two little
Cupids wrought in black jet, holding their bows above their heads, the
bows being attached by slender gold chains to the hooks of the earrings!

I remembered the picture in a moment! And that night!


"I do not really care to sell them, señor," said the swarthy jeweler,
"unless I get my price. You cannot get another pair like them. I know
who made them! They were made for an artist who came here expressly
with the design. He wished to make a present to a certain woman."

"Una Méjicana?"

"No, Americana."

"Fair, with dark eyes--about twenty, perhaps, at that time--a little
rosy?"

"Why, did you know her? They used to call her Josefita. You know he
killed her? Jealousy. They found her still smiling, as if she had been
struck while asleep. A 'punal.' I got the earrings back at a sale."

"And the artist?"

"Died at P--, mad! Some say he was mad when he killed her. If you
really want the earrings, I will let you have them for sixty pesos.
They cost a hundred and fifty."



WHEN I WAS A FLOWER[12]


I was once a flower--fair and large. My snowy chalice, filled with
a perfume so rich as to intoxicate the rainbow-winged insects that
perched upon it, recalled to those who beheld me the beauty of those
myrrhine cups used at the banquets of the old Cæsars.

The bees sang to me all through the bright summer; the winds caressed
me in the hours of sultriness; the Spirit of the Dew filled my white
cup by night. Great plants, with leaves broader than the ears of
elephants, overshadowed me as with a canopy of living emerald.

Far off I heard the river singing its mystic and everlasting hymn and
the songs of a thousand birds. By night I peeped up through my satiny
petals at the infinite procession of the stars; and by day I turned
forever to the eye of the sun my heart of yellow gold.

Hummingbirds with jeweled breasts, flying from the Rising of the Sun,
nestled near me and drank the perfumed dews left lingering in my
chalice, and sang to me of the wonders of unknown lands--of black roses
that grew only in the gardens of magicians and spectral lilies whose
perfume is death which open their hearts only to tropical moons.

They severed the emerald thread of my life, and placed me in her hair.
I did not feel the slow agony of death, like the fettered fireflies
that glimmered as stars in the night-darkness of those splendid
tresses. I felt the perfume of my life mingling in her blood and
entering the secret chambers of her heart; and I mourned that I was but
a flower.


That night we passed away together. I know not how she died. I had
hoped to share her eternal sleep; but a weird wind entering through the
casement rent my dead leaves asunder and scattered them in white ruin
upon the pillow. Yet my ghost like a faint perfume still haunted the
silent chamber and hovered about the flames of the waxen tapers.


Other flowers, not of my race, are blooming above her place of rest.
It is her blood that lives in the rosiness of their petals; her breath
that lends perfume to their leaves; her life that vitalizes their veins
of diaphanous green. But in the wizard hours of the night, the merciful
Spirit of the Dew, who mourns the death of summer day, bears me aloft
and permits me to mingle with the crystal tears which fall upon her
grave.



METEMPSYCHOSIS[13]


"Those theories which you call wild dreams," cried the Doctor, rising
to his feet as he spoke, his features glowing with enthusiasm under
the moon, "are but the mystic veils with which the eternal Isis veils
her awful face. Your deep German philosophy is shallow--your modern
pantheism vaguer than smoke--compared with the mighty knowledge of the
East. The theories of the greatest modern thinkers were taught in India
before the name of Rome was heard in the world; and our scientific
researches of to-day simply confirm most ancient Oriental beliefs,
which we, in our ignorance, have spoken of as dreams of madmen."

"Yes, but surely, you cannot otherwise characterize the idea of the
transmigration of souls?"

"Ah! souls, souls," replied the stranger, drawing at his cigar
until it glowed like a carbuncle in the night--"we have nothing
to do with souls, but with facts. The metempsychosis is only the
philosophic symbol of a vast natural fact, grotesque only to those who
understand it not,--just as the most hideous Indian idol, diamond-eyed
and skull-chapleted, represents to the Brahmin a hidden truth
incomprehensible to the people. Conscious of the eternity of Matter
and Force;--knowing that the substance of whirling universes, like clay
in the hands of the potter, has been and is being and will be forever
fashioned into myriad shifting forms;--knowing that shapes alone are
evanescent, and that each atom of our living bodies has been from the
beginning and will always be, even after the mountains have melted like
wax in the heat of a world's dissolution--it is impossible to regard
the theory of transmigration as a mere fantasy. Each particle of our
flesh has lived before our birth through millions of transmigrations
more wonderful than any poet has dared to dream of; and the life-force
that throbs in the heart of each one of us has throbbed for all time
in the eternal metempsychosis of the universe. Each atom of our blood
has doubtless circulated, before our very civilization commenced,
through the veins of millions of living creatures--soaring, crawling,
or dwelling in the depths of the sea; and each molecule that floats in
a sunbeam has, perhaps, vibrated to the thrill of human passion. The
soil under my foot has lived and loved; and Nature, refashioning the
paste in her awful laboratory into new forms of being, shall make this
clay to live and hope and suffer again. Dare I even whisper to you of
the past transformations of the substance of the rosiest lips you have
kissed, or the brightest eyes which have mirrored your look? We have
lived innumerable lives in the past; we have lived in the flowers, in
the birds, in the emerald abysses of the ocean;--we have slept in the
silence of solid rocks, and moved in the swells of the thunder-chanting
sea;--we have been women as well as men;--we have changed our sex a
thousand times like the angels of the Talmud; and we shall continue the
everlasting transmigration long after the present universe has passed
away and the fires of the stars have burned themselves out. Can one
know these things and laugh at the theories of the East?"

"But the theory of Cycles--"

"It is not less of a solemn truth. Knowing that Force and Matter are
eternal, we know also that the kaleidoscope of changing shapes must
whirl forever. But as the colored particles within a kaleidoscope are
limited, only a certain number of combinations may be produced. Are
not the elements of eternal matter limited? If so, their combinations
must also be; and as the everlasting force must forever continue to
create forms, it can only repeat its work. Then, we must believe that
all which has already happened must have happened before throughout all
time, and will happen again at vast intervals through all eternity. It
is not the first time we have sat together on the night of September
6;--we have done so in other Septembers, yet the same; and in other New
Orleanses, the same yet not the same. We must have done it centrillions
of times before, and will do it centrillions of times again through the
æons of the future. I shall be again as I am, yet different; I shall
smoke the same cigar, yet a different one. The same chair with the same
scratches on its polished back will be there for you to sit in; and we
shall hold the same conversation. The same good-natured lady will bring
us a bottle of wine of the same quality; and the same persons will
be reunited in this quaint Creole house. Trees like these will fling
their shadows on the pavement; and above us shall we again behold as
now the golden swarm of worlds sparkling in the abysses of the infinite
night. There will be new stars and a new universe, yet we shall know
it only as we know it at this moment that centrillions of years ago we
must have suffered and hoped and loved as we do in these weary years.
Good-bye, friends!"

He flung the stump of his cigar among the vines, where it expired in
a shower of rosy sparks; and his footsteps died away forever. NAY,
not forever; for though we should see him no more in this life, shall
we not see him again throughout the Cycles and the Æons? YEA, alas,
forever; for even though we should see him again throughout the Cycles
and the Æons, will it not be so that he always departeth under the same
circumstances and at the same moment, in sæcula sæculorum?



THE UNDYING ONE[14]


I have lived for three thousand years; I am weary of men and of the
world: this earth has become too small for such as I; this sky seems a
gray vault of lead about to sink down and crush me.

There is not a silver hair in my head; the dust of thirty centuries has
not dimmed my eyes. Yet I am weary of the earth.

I speak a thousand tongues; and the faces of the continents are
familiar to me as the characters of a book; the heavens have unrolled
themselves before mine eyes as a scroll; and the entrails of the earth
have no secrets for me.

I have sought knowledge in the deepest deeps of ocean gulfs;--in
the waste places where sands shift their yellow waves, with a dry
and bony sound;--in the corruption of charnel houses and the hidden
horrors of the catacombs;--amid the virgin snows of Dwalagiri;--in
the awful labyrinths of forests untrodden by man;--in the wombs of
dead volcanoes;--in lands where the surface of lake or stream is
studded with the backs of hippopotami or enameled with the mail of
crocodiles;--at the extremities of the world where spectral glaciers
float over inky seas;--in those strange parts where no life is, where
the mountains are rent asunder by throes of primeval earthquake, and
where the eyes behold only a world of parched and jagged ruin, like the
Moon--of dried-up seas and river channels worn out by torrents that
ceased to roll long ere the birth of man.

All the knowledge of all the centuries, all the craft and skill and
cunning of man in all things--are mine, and yet more!

For Life and Death have whispered me their most ancient secrets; and
all that men have vainly sought to learn has for me no mystery.

Have I not tasted all the pleasures of this petty world--pleasures that
would have consumed to ashes a frame less mighty than my own?

I have built temples with the Egyptians, the princes of India, and the
Cæsars; I have aided conquerors to vanquish a world; I have reveled
through nights of orgiastic fury with rulers of Thebes and Babylon; I
have been drunk with wine and blood!

The kingdoms of the earth and all their riches and glory have been mine.

With that lever which Archimedes desired I have uplifted empires and
overthrown dynasties. Nay! like a god, I have held the world in the
hollow of my hand.

All that the beauty of youth and the love of woman can give to make
joyful the hearts of men, have I possessed; no Assyrian king, no
Solomon, no ruler of Samarcand, no Caliph of Bagdad, no Rajah of the
most eastern East, has ever loved as I; and in my myriad loves I have
beheld the realization of all that human thought had conceived or human
heart desired or human hand crystallized into that marble of Pentelicus
called imperishable--yet less enduring than these iron limbs of mine.

And ruddy I remain like that rosy granite of Egypt on which kings
carved their dreams of eternity.

But I am weary of this world!

I have attained all that I sought; I have desired nothing that I have
not obtained--save that I now vainly desire and yet shall never obtain.

There is no comrade for me in all this earth; no mind that can
comprehend me; no heart that can love me for what I am.

Should I utter what I know, no living creature could understand;
should I write my knowledge no human brain could grasp my thought.
Wearing the shape of a man, capable of doing all that man can do--yet
more perfectly than man can ever do--I must live as these my frail
companions, and descend to the level of their feeble minds, and imitate
their puny works, though owning the wisdom of a god! How mad were those
Greek dreamers who sang of gods descending to the level of humanity
that they might love a woman!

In other centuries I feared to beget a son--a son to whom I might have
bequeathed my own immortal youth; jealous that I was of sharing my
secret with any terrestrial creature! Now the time has past. No son
of mine born in this age, of this degenerate race, could ever become
a worthy companion for me. Oceans would change their beds, and new
continents arise from the emerald gulfs, and new races appear upon the
earth ere he could comprehend the least of my thoughts!

The future holds no pleasure in reserve for me:--I have foreseen the
phases of a myriad million years. All that has been will be again:--all
that will be has been before. I am solitary as one in a desert; for men
have become as puppets in my eyes, and the voice of living woman hath
no sweetness for my ears.

Only to the voices of the winds and of the sea do I hearken;--yet do
even these weary me, for they murmured me the same music and chanted me
the same hymns, among aged woods or ancient rocks, three thousand years
ago!

To-night I shall have seen the moon wax and wane thirty-six thousand
nine hundred times! And my eyes are weary of gazing upon its white face.

Ah! I might be willing to live on through endless years, could I
but transport myself to other glittering worlds, illuminated by
double suns and encircled by galaxies of huge moons!--other worlds
in which I might find knowledge equal to my own, and minds worthy of
my companionship--and--perhaps--women that I might love--not hollow
Emptinesses, not El-women like the spectres of Scandinavian fable, and
like the frail mothers of this puny terrestrial race, but creatures of
immortal beauty worthy to create immortal children!

Alas!--there is a power mightier than my will, deeper than my
knowledge--a Force "deaf as fire, blind as the night," which binds me
forever to this world of men.

Must I remain like Prometheus chained to his rock in never-ceasing
pain, with vitals eternally gnawed by the sharp beak of the vulture of
Despair, or dissolve this glorious body of mine forever?

I might live till the sun grows dim and cold; yet am I too weary to
live longer.

I shall die utterly--even as the beast dieth, even as the poorest being
dieth that bears the shape of man; and leave no written thought behind
that human thought can ever grasp. I shall pass away as a flying smoke,
as a shadow, as a bubble in the crest of a wave in mid-ocean, as the
flame of a taper blown out; and none shall ever know that which I was.
This heart that has beaten unceasingly for three thousand years; these
feet that have trod the soil of all parts of the earth; these hands
that have moulded the destinies of nations; this brain that contains a
thousandfold more wisdom than all the children of the earth ever knew,
shall soon cease to be. And yet to shatter and destroy the wondrous
mechanism of this brain--a brain worthy of the gods men dream of--a
temple in which all the archives of terrestrial knowledge are stored!

. . . . . . . . .

The moon is up! O death-white dead world!--couldst thou too feel, how
gladly wouldst thou cease thy corpselike circlings in the Night of
Immensity and follow me to that darker immensity where even dreams are
dead!



THE VISION OF THE DEAD CREOLE[15]


The waters of the Gulf were tepid in the warmth of the tropical night.
A huge moon looked down upon me as I swam toward the palm-fringed
beach; and looking back I saw the rigging of the vessel sharply cut
against its bright face. There was no sound! The sea-ripples kissed
the brown sands silently, as if afraid; faint breezes laden with odors
of saffron and cinnamon and drowsy flowers came over the water;--the
stars seemed vaster than in other nights;--the fires of the Southern
Cross burned steadily without one diamond-twinkle;--I paused a moment
in terror;--for it seemed I could hear the night breathe--in long,
weird sighs. The fancy passed as quickly as it came. The ship's bells
struck the first hour of the morning. I stood again on the shore where
I had played as a child, and saw through the palms the pale houses of
the quaint city beyond, whence I had fled with blood upon my hands
twenty-seven long years before.


Was it a witch-night, that the city slumbered so deep a sleep and the
sereno slept at his post as I passed? I know not, but it was well
for him that he slept! I passed noiselessly as the Shadow of Death
through the ancient gates, and through the shadows flung down by the
projecting balconies, and along the side of the plaza unilluminated by
the gaze of the tropical moon, and where the towers of the cathedral
made goblin shapes of darkness on the pavement; and along narrow ways
where the star-sprinkled blue of heaven above seemed but a ribbon
of azure, jagged and gashed along its edges by sharp projections of
balconies; and beyond again into the white moonshine, where orange
trees filled the warm air with a perfume as that of a nuptial chamber;
and beyond, yet farther, where ancient cypresses with roots and
branches gnarled and twisted as by the tortures of a thousand years of
agony, bowed weirdly over the Place of Tombs.


Gigantic spiders spun their webs under the moon between the walls of
the tombs;--vipers glided over my feet;--the vampire hovered above
under the stars; and fireflies like corpse-lights circled about the
resting-places of the dead. Great vines embraced the marbles green with
fungus-growths;--the ivy buried its lizard feet in the stones;--lianas
had woven a veil, thick as that of Isis, across the epitaphs carven
above the graves. But I found HER tomb! I would have reached it, as I
had sworn, even in the teeth of Death and Hell!

I tore asunder the venomous plants which clung to the marble like
reptiles;--but the blood poured from my hands upon her name;--and I
could not find one unreddened spot to kiss. And I heard the blood from
my fingers dripping with a thick, dead sound, as of molten lead, upon
the leaves of the uptorn plants at my feet.


And the dead years rose from their graves of mist and stood around
me! I saw the moss-green terrace where I received her first kiss that
filled my veins with madness;--the marble urns with their carved
bas-reliefs of naked dancing boys;--the dead fountain choked with
water-lilies;--the monstrous flowers that opened their hearts to
the moon. And SHE!--the sinuous outlines of that body of Corinthian
bronze unconcealed by the feathery lightness of the white robe she
wore;--the Creole eyes;--the pouting and passionate mouth;--and that
cruel, sphinx-smile, that smile of Egypt, eternally pitiless, eternally
mystical--the smile she wore when I flung myself like a worm before
her to kiss her feet, and vainly shrieked to her to trample upon me,
to spit upon me! And after my fierce moment of vengeance, the smile
of Egypt still remained upon her dark face, as though moulded in
everlasting bronze.


There was no rustle among the lianas, no stir among the dead
leaves; yet SHE stood again before me! My heart seemed to cease its
beatings;--a chill as of those nights in which I had sailed Antarctic
seas passed over me! Robed in white as in the buried years, with lights
like fireflies in her hair, and the same dark, elfish smile! And
suddenly the chill passed away with a fierce cataclysm of the blood, as
though each of its cells were heated by volcanic fire;--for the strange
words of the Hebrew canticle came to me like a far echo--

LOVE IS STRONG AS DEATH!

I burst the fetters with which horror had chained my voice;--I spake to
her; I wept--I wept tears of blood!

And the old voice came to me, argentine and low and mockingly sweet as
the voices of birds that call to each other through the fervid West
Indian night--

"I knew thou wouldst come back to me--howsoever long thou mightst
wander under other skies and over other seas.

"Didst thou dream that I was dead? Nay, I die not so quickly! I have
lived through all these years. I shall live on; and thou must return
hither again to visit me like a thief in the night.

"Knowest thou how I have lived? I have lived in the bitter tears thou
hast wept through all these long years;--the agony of the remorse that
seized thee in silent nights and lonesome wastes;--in the breath of thy
youth and life exhaled in passionate agony when no human eyes beheld
thee;--in the images that haunt thy dreams and make it a horror for
thee to find thyself alone! Yet wouldst thou kiss me--"

I looked upon her again in the white light;--I saw the same weirdly
beautiful face, the same smile of the sphinx;--I saw the vacant tomb
yawning to its entrails;--I saw its shadow--my shadow--lying sharply
upon the graves;--and I saw that the tall white figure before me _cast
no shadow before the moon!_

And suddenly under the stars, sonorous and vibrant as far cathedral
bells, the voices of the awakening watchmen chanted--Ave Maria
Purísima!--las tres de la mañana, y tiempo sereno!



THE NAME ON THE STONE[16]


"As surely as the wild bird seeks the summer, you will come back,"
she whispered. "Is there a drop of blood in your veins that does not
grow ruddier and warmer at the thought of me? Does not your heart beat
quicker at this moment because I am here? It belongs to me;--it obeys
me in spite of your feeble will;--it will remain my slave when you are
gone. You have bewitched yourself at my lips; I hold you as a bird is
held by an invisible thread; and my thread, invisible and intangible,
is stronger than your will. Fly: but you can no longer fly beyond the
circle in which my wish confines you. Go: but I shall come to you in
dreams of the night; and you will be awakened by the beating of your
own heart to find yourself alone with darkness and memory. Sleep in
whose arms you will, I shall come like a ghost between you; kiss a
thousand lips, but it will be I that shall receive them. Though you
circle the earth in your wanderings, you will never be able to leave my
memory behind you; and your pulse will quicken at recollections of me
whether you find yourself under Indian suns or Northern lights. You lie
when you say you do not love me!--your heart would fling itself under
my feet could it escape from its living prison! You will come back."

And having vainly sought rest through many vainly spent years, I
returned to her. It was a night of wild winds and fleeting shadows and
strange clouds that fled like phantoms before the storm and across the
face of the moon. "You are a cursed witch," I shrieked, "but I have
come back!"

And she, placing a finger--white as the waxen tapers that are burned at
the feet of the dead--upon my lips, only smiled and whispered, "Come
with me."

And I followed her.

The thunder muttered in the east; the horizon pulsated with lightnings;
the night-birds screamed as we reached the iron gates of the
burial-ground, which swung open with a groan at her touch.

Noiselessly she passed through the ranges of the graves; and I saw the
mounds flame when her feet touched them--flame with a cold white dead
flame like the fire of the glow-worm.

Was it an illusion of broken moonlight and flying clouds, or did the
dead rise and follow us like a bridal train?

And was it only the vibration of the thunder, or did the earth quake
when I stood upon _that_ grave?

"Look not behind you even for an instant," she muttered, "or you are
lost."


But there came to me a strange desire to read the name graven upon the
moss-darkened stone; and even as it came the storm unveiled the face of
the moon. And the dark shadow at my side whispered, "Read it not!"

And the moon veiled herself again. "I cannot go! I cannot go!" I
whispered passionately, "until I have read the name upon this stone."

Then a flash of lightning in the east revealed to me the name; and an
agony of memory came upon me; and I shrieked it to the flying clouds
and the wan lights of heaven!

Again the earth quaked under my feet; and a white Shape rose from the
bosom of the grave like an exhalation and stood before me: I felt the
caress of lips shadowy as those of the fair phantom women who haunt the
dreams of youth; and the echo of a dead voice, faint as the whisper of
a summer wind, murmured: "Love, love is stronger than Death!--I come
back from the eternal night to save thee!"



APHRODITE AND THE KING'S PRISONER[17]


Columns of Corinthian marble stretching away in mighty perspective
and rearing their acanthus capitals a hundred feet above the
polished marble from which they rose;--antique mosaics from
the years of Hadrian;--Pompeiian frescoes limning all the
sacrifices made to Aphrodite;--naked bronzes uplifting marvelous
candelabra;--fantastically beautiful oddities in terra cotta;--miracles
of art in Pentelic marble;--tripods supporting vessels of burning
spices which filled the palace with perfumes as intoxicating as
the Song of Solomon;--and in the midst of all a range of melodious
fountains amid whose waters white nymphs showed their smooth thighs
of stone and curved their marble figures into all the postures that
harmonize with beauty. Vast gardens of myrtle and groves of laurel,
mystic and shadowy as those of Daphne, surrounded the palace with a
world of deep green, broken only at intervals by the whiteness of
Parian dryads;--flowers formed a living carpet upon the breadth of the
terraces, and a river washed the eastern walls and marble stairways of
the edifice. It was a world of wonders and of marvels, of riches and
rarities, though created by the vengeance of a king. There was but one
human life amid all that enchantment of Greek marble, of petrified
loveliness and beauty made motionless in bronze. No servants were ever
seen;--no voice was ever heard;--there was no exit from that strange
paradise. It was said that the king's prisoner was served by invisible
hands;--that tables covered with luxurious viands rose up through the
marble pavements at regular hours;--and the fumes of the richest wines
of the Levant, sweetened with honey, perfumed the chamber chosen for
his repasts. All that art could inspire, all that gold might obtain,
all that the wealth of a world could create were for him--save only
the sound of a human voice and the sight of a human face. To madden in
the presence of unattainable loveliness, to consume his heart in wild
longings to realize the ravishing myth of Pygmalion, to die of a dream
of beauty--such was the sentence of the king!


Lovelier than all other lovelinesses created in stone or gem or eternal
bronze by the hands of men whose lives were burnt out in longings
for a living idol worthy of their dreams of perfect beauty--a figure
of Aphrodite displayed the infinite harmony of her naked loveliness
upon a pedestal of black marble, so broad and so highly polished that
it reflected the divine poem of her body like a mirror of ebony--the
Foam-born rising from the silent deeps of a black Ægean. The delicate
mellowness of the antique marble admirably mocked the tint of human
flesh;--a tropical glow, a golden warmth seemed to fill the motionless
miracle--this dream of love frozen into marble by a genius greater than
Praxiteles; no modern restorer had given to the attitude of this bright
divinity the Christian anachronism of shame. With arms extended as if
to welcome a lover, all the exquisite curves of her bosom faced the
eyes of the beholder; and with one foot slightly advanced she seemed in
the act of stepping forward to bestow a kiss. And a brazen tablet let
into the black marble of the pedestal bore, in five learned tongues,
the strange inscription:

    Created by the hand of one maddened by love, I madden all
    who gaze upon me. Mortal, condemned to live in solitude with
    me, prepare thyself to die of love at my feet. The old gods,
    worshiped by youth and beauty, are dead; and no immortal
    power can place a living heart in this stony bosom or lend
    to these matchless limbs the warm flexibility and rosiness
    of life.

Around the chamber of the statue ran a marble wainscoting chiseled
with Bacchanal bas-reliefs--a revel of rude dryads and fauns linking
themselves in amorous interlacings;--upon an altar of porphyry
flickered the low flame of the holy fire fed with leaves of the myrtle
sacred to love;--doves for the sacrifice were cooing and wooing in
the marble court without;--a sound of crystal water came from a
fountain near the threshold, where beautiful feminine monsters, whose
lithe flanks blended into serpent coils, upheld in their arms of
bronze the fantastic cup from which the living waters leapt; a balmy,
sensuous air, bearing on its wings the ghosts of perfumes known to the
voluptuaries of Corinth, filled the softly lighted sanctuary;--and on
either side of the threshold stood two statues, respectively in white
and black marble--Love, the blond brother of Death; Death, the dark
brother of Love, with torch forever extinguished.

And the King knew that the Prisoner kept alive the sacred fire,
and poured out the blood of the doves at the feet of the goddess,
who smiled with the eternal smile of immortal youth and changeless
loveliness and the consciousness of the mighty witchery of her
enchanting body. For secret watchers came to the palace and said:

"When he first beheld the awful holiness of her beauty, he fell
prostrate as one bereft of life, and long so remained."

And the King musingly made answer:

"Aphrodite is no longer to be appeased with the blood of doves, but
only with the blood of men--men of mighty hearts and volcanic passion.
He is youthful and strong and an artist!--and he must soon die. Let the
weapons of death be mercifully placed at the feet of Aphrodite, that
her victim may be able to offer himself up in sacrifice."


Now the secret messengers were eunuchs. And they came again to the
palace, and whispered in the ears of the silver-bearded King:

"He has again poured out the blood of the doves, and he sings the
sacred Hymn of Homer, and kisses her marble body until his lips
bleed;--and the goddess still smiles the smile of perfect loveliness
that is pitiless."

And the King answered:

"It is even as I desire."

A second time the messengers came to the palace, and whispered in the
ears of the iron-eyed King:

"He bathes her feet with his tears: his heart is tortured as though
crushed by fingers of marble; he no longer eats or slumbers, neither
drinks he the waters of the Fountain of Bronze;--and the goddess still
smiles the mocking smile of eternal and perfect loveliness that is
without pity and without mercy."

And the King answered:

"It is even as I had wished."


So one morning, in the first rosy flush of sunrise, they found the
Prisoner dead, his arms madly flung about the limbs of the goddess in
a last embrace, and his cheek resting upon her marble foot. All the
blood of his heart, gushing from a wound in his breast, had been poured
out upon the pedestal of black marble; and it trickled down over the
brazen tablet inscribed with five ancient tongues, and over the mosaic
pavement, and over the marble threshold past the statue of Love who is
the brother of Death, and the statue of Death who is the brother of
Love, until it mingled with the waters of the Fountain of Bronze from
which the sacrificial doves did drink.

And around the bodies of the serpent-women the waters blushed rosily;
and above the dead, the goddess still smiled the sweet and mocking
smile of eternal and perfect loveliness that hath no pity.

"Thrice seven days he has lived at her feet," muttered the King; "yet
even I, hoary with years, dare not trust myself to look upon her for
an hour!" And a phantom of remorse, like a shadow from Erebus, passed
across his face of granite. "Let her be broken in pieces," he said,
"even as a vessel of glass is broken."

But the King's servants, beholding the white witchery of her rhythmic
limbs, fell upon their faces; and there was no man found to raise his
hand against the Medusa of beauty whose loveliness withered men's
hearts as leaves are crisped by fire. And Aphrodite smiled down upon
them with the smile of everlasting youth and immortal beauty and
eternal mockery of human passion.



THE FOUNTAIN OF GOLD[18]


    This is the tale told in the last hours of a summer night
    to the old Spanish priest in the Hôtel Dieu, by an aged
    wanderer from the Spanish Americas; and I write it almost as
    I heard it from the priest's lips:


I could not sleep. The strange odors of the flowers; the sense of
romantic excitement which fills a vivid imagination in a new land;
the sight of a new heaven illuminated by unfamiliar constellations,
and a new world which seemed to me a very garden of Eden--perhaps all
of these added to beget the spirit of unrest which consumed me as
with a fever. I rose and went out under the stars. I heard the heavy
breathing of the soldiers, whose steel corselets glimmered in the
ghostly light; the occasional snorting of the horses; the regular tread
of the sentries guarding the sleep of their comrades. An inexplicable
longing came upon me to wander alone into the deep forest beyond, such
a longing as in summer days in Seville had seized me when I heard the
bearded soldiers tell of the enchantment of the New World. I did not
dream of danger; for in those days I feared neither God nor devil, and
the Commander held me the most desperate of that desperate band of men.
I strode out beyond the lines;--the grizzled sentry growled out a rough
protest as I received his greeting in sullen silence;--I cursed him
and passed on.

. . . . . . . . .

The deep sapphire of that marvelous Southern night paled to pale
amethyst; then the horizon brightened into yellow behind the crests of
the palm trees; and at last the diamond-fires of the Southern Cross
faded out. Far behind me I heard the Spanish bugles, ringing their call
through the odorous air of that tropical morning, quaveringly sweet in
the distance, faint as music from another world. Yet I did not dream of
retracing my steps. As in a dream I wandered on under the same strange
impulse, and the bugle-call again rang out, but fainter than before. I
do not know if it was the strange perfume of the strange flowers, or
the odors of the spice-bearing trees, or the caressing warmth of the
tropical air, or witchcraft; but a new sense of feeling came to me.
I would have given worlds to have been able to weep: I felt the old
fierceness die out of my heart;--wild doves flew down from the trees
and perched upon my shoulders, and I laughed to find myself caressing
them--I whose hands were red with blood, and whose heart was black with
crime.

. . . . . . . . .

And the day broadened and brightened into a paradise of emerald
and gold; birds no larger than bees, but painted with strange
metallic fires of color, hummed about me;--parrots chattered in the
trees;--apes swung themselves with fantastic agility from branch to
branch;--a million million blossoms of inexpressible beauty opened
their silky hearts to the sun;--and the drowsy perfume of the dreamy
woods became more intoxicating. It seemed to me a land of witchcraft,
such as the Moors told us of in Spain, when they spoke of countries
lying near the rising of the sun. And it came to pass that I found
myself dreaming of the Fountain of Gold which Ponce de Leon sought.

. . . . . . . . .

Then it seemed to me that the trees became loftier. The palms looked
older than the deluge, and their cacique-plumes seemed to touch the
azure of heaven. And suddenly I found myself within a great clear
space, ringed in by the primeval trees so lofty that all within their
circle was bathed in verdant shadow. The ground was carpeted with moss
and odorous herbs and flowers, so thickly growing that the foot made no
sound upon their elastic leaves and petals; and from the circle of the
trees on every side the land sloped down to a vast basin filled with
sparkling water, and there was a lofty jet in the midst of the basin,
such as I had seen in the Moorish courts of Granada. The water was
deep and clear as the eyes of a woman in her first hours of love;--I
saw gold-sprinkled sands far below, and rainbow lights where the rain
of the fountain made ripples. It seemed strange to me that the jet
leaped from nothing formed by the hand of man; it was as though a
mighty underflow forced it upward in a gush above the bright level of
the basin. I unbuckled my armor and doffed my clothing, and plunged
into the fountain with delight. It was far deeper than I expected;
the crystalline purity of the water had deceived me--I could not even
dive to the bottom. I swam over to the fountain jet and found to my
astonishment that while the waters of the basin were cool as the flow
of a mountain spring, the leaping column of living crystal in its
centre was warm as blood!

. . . . . . . . .

I felt an inexpressible exhilaration from my strange bath; I gamboled
in the water like a boy; I even cried aloud to the woods and the birds;
and the parrots shouted back my cries from the heights of the palms.
And, leaving the fountain, I felt no fatigue or hunger; but when I lay
down a deep and leaden sleep came upon me,--such a sleep as a child
sleeps in the arms of its mother.

. . . . . . . . .

When I awoke a woman was bending over me. She was wholly unclad, and
with her perfect beauty and the tropical tint of her skin, she looked
like a statue of amber. Her flowing black hair was interwoven with
white flowers; her eyes were very large, and dark and deep, and fringed
with silky lashes. She wore no ornaments of gold, like the Indian
girls I had seen--only the white flowers in her hair. I looked at her
wonderingly as upon an angel; and with her tall and slender grace she
seemed to me, indeed, of another world. For the first time in all that
dark life of mine, I felt fear in the presence of a woman; but a fear
not unmixed with pleasure. I spoke to her in Spanish; but she only
opened her dark eyes more widely, and smiled. I made signs; she brought
me fruits and clear water in a gourd; and as she bent over me again, I
kissed her.

. . . . . . . . .

Why should I tell of our love, Padre?--let me only say that those were
the happiest years of my life. Earth and heaven seemed to have embraced
in that strange land; it was Eden; it was paradise; never-wearying
love, eternal youth! No other mortal ever knew such happiness as
I;--yet none ever suffered so agonizing a loss. We lived upon fruits
and the water of the Fountain;--our bed was the moss and the flowers;
the doves were our playmates;--the stars our lamps. Never storm or
cloud;--never rain or heat;--only the tepid summer drowsy with sweet
odors, the songs of birds and murmuring water; the waving palms, the
jewel-breasted minstrels of the woods who chanted to us through the
night. And we never left the little valley. My armor and my good rapier
rusted away; my garments were soon worn out; but there we needed no
raiment, it was all warmth and light and repose. "We shall never grow
old here," she whispered. But when I asked her if that was, indeed,
the Fountain of Youth, she only smiled and placed her finger upon her
lips. Neither could I ever learn her name. I could not acquire her
tongue; yet she had learned mine with marvelous quickness. We never had
a quarrel;--I could never find heart to even frown upon her. She was
all gentleness, playfulness, loveliness--but what do you care, Padre,
to hear all these things?

. . . . . . . . .

Did I say our happiness was perfect? No: there was one strange cause
of anxiety which regularly troubled me. Each night, while lying in her
arms, I heard the Spanish bugle-call--far and faint and ghostly as a
voice from the dead. It seemed like a melancholy voice calling to me.
And whenever the sound floated to us, I felt that she trembled, and
wound her arms faster about me, and she would weep until I kissed away
her tears. And through all those years I heard the bugle-call. Did I
say years?--nay, _centuries!_--for in that land one never grows old; I
heard it through centuries after all my companions were dead.

    The priest crossed himself under the lamplight, and murmured
    a prayer. "Continue, hijo mio," he said at last; "tell me
    all."

It was anger, Padre; I wished to see for myself where the sounds came
from that tortured my life. And I know not why she slept so deeply that
night. As I bent over to kiss her, she moaned in her dreams, and I saw
a crystal tear glimmer on the dark fringe of her eyes--and then that
cursed bugle-call--

    The old man's voice failed a moment. He gave a feeble cough,
    spat blood, and went on:

I have little time to tell you more, Padre. I never could find my way
back again to the valley. I lost her forever. When I wandered out among
men, they spoke another language that I could not speak; and the world
was changed. When I met Spaniards at last, they spoke a tongue unlike
what I heard in my youth. I did not dare to tell my story. They would
have confined me with madmen. I speak the Spanish of other centuries;
and the men of my own nation mock my quaint ways. Had I lived much in
this new world of yours, I should have been regarded as mad, for my
thoughts and ways are not of to-day; but I have spent my life among the
swamps of the tropics, with the python and the cayman, in the heart of
untrodden forests and by the shores of rivers that have no names, and
the ruins of dead Indian cities,--until my strength died and my hair
became white in looking for her.

    "My son," cried the old priest, "banish these evil thoughts.
    I have heard your story; and any, save a priest, would
    believe you mad. I believe all you have told me;--the
    legends of the Church contain much that is equally strange.
    You have been a great sinner in your youth; and God has
    punished you by making your sins the very instrument of
    your punishment. Yet has He not preserved you through the
    centuries that you might repent? Banish all thoughts of the
    demon who still tempts you in the shape of a woman; repent
    and commend your soul to God, that I may absolve you."

    "Repent!" said the dying man, fixing upon the priest's face
    his great black eyes, which flamed up again as with the
    fierce fires of his youth; "repent, father? I cannot repent!
    I love her!--I love her! And if there be a life beyond
    death, I shall love her through all time and eternity:
    more than my own soul I love her!--more than my hope of
    heaven!--more than my fear of death and hell!"


    The priest fell on his knees, and, covering his face,
    prayed fervently. When he lifted his eyes again, the soul
    had passed away unabsolved; but there was such a smile upon
    the dead face that the priest wondered, and, forgetting the
    Miserere upon his lips, involuntarily muttered: "He hath
    found Her at last." And the east brightened; and touched
    by the magic of the rising sun, the mists above his rising
    formed themselves into a Fountain of Gold.



A DEAD LOVE[19]


He knew no rest; for all his dreams were haunted by her; and when he
sought love, she came as the dead come between the living. So that,
weary of his life, he passed away at last in the fevered summer of a
tropical city; dying with her name upon his lips. And his face was no
more seen in the palm-shadowed streets; but the sun rose and sank as
before.

And that vague phantom life, which sometimes lives and thinks in the
tomb where the body moulders, lingered and thought within the narrow
marble bed where they laid him with the pious hope--que en paz descanse!

Yet so weary of his life had the wanderer been that he could not even
find the repose of the dead. And while the body sank into dust the
phantom man found no rest in the darkness, and thought to himself, "I
am even too weary to rest!"

There was a fissure in the wall of the tomb. And through it, and
through the meshes of the web that a spider had spun across it, the
dead looked, and saw the summer sky blazing like amethyst; the palms
swaying in the breezes from the sea; the flowers in the shadows of the
sepulchres; the opal fires of the horizon; the birds that sang, and
the river that rolled its whispering waves between tall palms and
vast-leaved plants to the heaving emerald of the Spanish Main. The
voices of women and sounds of argentine laughter and of footsteps and
of music, and of merriment, also came through the fissure in the wall
of the tomb; sometimes also the noise of the swift feet of horses, and
afar off the drowsy murmur made by the toiling heart of the city. So
that the dead wished to live again; seeing that there was no rest in
the tomb.

And the gold-born days died in golden fire;--and the moon whitened
nightly the face of the earth; and the perfume of the summer passed
away like a breath of incense;--but the dead in the sepulchre could not
wholly die.

The voices of life entered his resting-place; the murmur of the world
spoke to him in the darkness; the winds of the sea called to him
through the crannies of the tomb. So that he could not rest. And yet
for the dead there is no consolation of tears!


The stars in their silent courses looked down through the crannies of
the tomb and passed on; the birds sang above him and flew to other
lands; the lizards ran noiselessly above his bed of stone and as
noiselessly departed; the spider at last ceased to renew her web of
magical silk; the years came and went as before, but for the dead there
was no rest!

And it came to pass that after many tropical moons had waxed and
waned, and the summer was come, with a presence sweet as a fair
woman's--making the drowsy air odorous about her--that she whose name
was uttered by his lips when the Shadow of Death fell upon him, came to
that city of palms, and to the ancient place of burial, and even to the
tomb that was nameless.

And he knew the whisper of her robes; and from the heart of the dead
man a flower sprang and passed through the fissure in the wall of the
tomb and blossomed before her and breathed out its soul in passionate
sweetness.

But she, knowing it not, passed by; and the sound of her footsteps died
away forever!



AT THE CEMETERY[20]


"Come with me," he said, "that you may see the contrast between poverty
and riches, between the great and the humble, even among the ranks
of the dead;--for verily it hath been said that there are sermons in
stones."

And I passed with him through the Egyptian gates, and beyond the pylons
into the Alley of Cypresses; and he showed me the dwelling-place of
the rich in the City of Eternal Sleep--the ponderous tombs of carven
marble, the white angels that mourned in stone, the pale symbols of the
urns, and the names inscribed upon tablets of granite in letters of
gold. But I said to him: "These things interest me not;--these tombs
are but traditions of the wealth once owned by men who dwell now where
riches avail nothing and all rest together in the dust."

Then my friend laughed softly to himself, and taking my hand led me to
a shadowy place where the trees bent under their drooping burdens of
gray moss, and made waving silhouettes against the catacombed walls
which girdle the cemetery. There the dead were numbered and piled away
thickly upon the marble shelves, like those documents which none may
destroy but which few care to read--the Archives of our Necropolis.
And he pointed to a marble tablet closing the aperture of one of the
little compartments in the lowest range of the catacombs, almost level
with the grass at our feet.

There was no inscription, no name, no wreath, no vase. But some hand
had fashioned a tiny flower-bed in front of the tablet--a little garden
about twelve inches in width and depth--and had hemmed it about with a
border of pink-tinted seashells, and had covered the black mould over
with white sand, through which the green leaves and buds of the baby
plants sprouted up.

"Nothing but love could have created that," said my companion, as a
shadow of tenderness passed over his face;--"and that sand has been
brought here from a long distance, and from the shores of the sea."

Then I looked and remembered wastes that I had seen, where sand-waves
shifted with a dry and rustling sound, where no life was and no leaf
grew, where all was death and barrenness. And here were flowers
blooming in the midst of sand!--the desert blossoming!--love living in
the midst of death! And I saw the print of a hand, a child's hand--the
tiny Angers that had made this poor little garden and smoothed the sand
over the roots of the flowers.

"There is no name upon the tomb," said the voice of the friend who
stood beside me; "yet why should there be?"

Why, indeed? I answered. Why should the world know the sweet secret of
that child's love? Why should unsympathetic eyes read the legend of
that grief? Is it not enough that those who loved the dead man know his
place of rest, and come hither to whisper to him in his dreamless sleep?

I said _he_; for somehow or other the sight of that little garden
created a strange fancy in my mind, a fancy concerning the dead. The
shells and the sand were not the same as those usually used in the
cemeteries. They had been brought from a great distance--from the
moaning shores of the Mexican Gulf.

So that visions of a phantom sea arose before me; and mystic ships
rocking in their agony upon shadowy waves;--and dreams of wild coasts
where the weed-grown skeletons of wrecks lie buried in the ribbed sand.

And I thought--Perhaps this was a sailor and perhaps the loving ones
who come at intervals to visit his place of rest waited and watched and
wept for a ship that never came back.

But when the sea gave up its dead, they bore him to his native city,
and laid him in this humble grave, and brought hither the sand that the
waves had kissed, and the pink-eared shells within whose secret spirals
the moan of ocean lingers forever.

And from time to time his child comes to plant a frail blossom,
and smooth the sand with her tiny fingers, talking softly the
while--perhaps only to herself--perhaps to that dead father who comes
to her in dreams.



"AÏDA"[21]


To Thebes, the giant city of a hundred gates, the city walled up to
heaven, come the tidings of war from the south. Dark Ethiopia has risen
against Egypt, the power "shadowing with wings" has invaded the kingdom
of the Pharaohs, to rescue from captivity the beautiful Aïda, daughter
of Amonasro, monarch of Ethiopia. Aïda is the slave of the enchanting
Amneris, daughter of Pharaoh. Radames, chief among the great captains
of Egypt, is beloved by Amneris; but he has looked upon the beauty of
the slave-maiden, and told her in secret the story of his love.


And Radames, wandering through the vastness of Pharoah's palace, dreams
of Aïda, and longs for power. Visions of grandeur tower before him like
the colossi of Osiris in the temple courts; hopes and fears agitate
his soul, as varying winds from desert or sea bend the crests of the
dhoums to the four points of heaven. In fancy he finds himself seated
at the king's right hand, clad with the robes of honor, and wearing
the ring of might; second only to the most powerful of the Pharaohs.
He lifts Aïda to share his greatness; he binds her brows with gold,
and restores her to the land of her people. And even as he dreams,
Ramphis, the deep-voiced priest, draws nigh, bearing the tidings of war
and of battle-thunder rolling up from the land "shadowing with wings,"
which is beyond the river of Ethiopia. The priest has consulted with
the Veiled Goddess--Isis, whose awful face no man may see and live. And
the Veiled One has chosen the great captain who shall lead the hosts
of Egypt. "O happy man!--would that it were I!" cries Radames. But
the priest utters not the name, and passes down the avenue of mighty
pillars, and out into the day beyond.


Amneris, the daughter of Pharaoh, speaks words of love to Radames. His
lips answer, but his heart is cold. And the subtle mind of the Egyptian
maiden divines the fatal secret. Shall she hate her slave?


The priests summon the people of Egypt together; the will of the
goddess is made manifest by the lips of Pharaoh himself. Radames shall
lead the hosts of Egypt against the dark armies of Ethiopia. A roar
of acclamation goes up to heaven. Aïda fears and weeps; it is against
her beloved father, Amonasro, that her lover must lead the armies of
the Nile. Radames is summoned to the mysterious halls of the Temple
of Phthah: through infinitely extending rows of columns illumined by
holy flames he is led to the inner sanctuary itself. The linen-mantled
priest performs the measure of their ancient and symbolic dance; the
warriors clad in consecrated armor; about his loins is girt a sacred
sword; and the vast temple reëchoes through all its deeps of dimness
the harmonies of the awful hymn to the Eternal Spirit of Fire.

The ceremony is consummated.

The monarch proclaims tremendous war. Thebes opens her hundred mouths
of brass and vomits forth her nations of armies. The land shakes to
the earthquake of the chariot-roll; numberless as ears of corn are the
spear-blades of bronze;--the jaws of Egypt have opened to devour her
enemies!


Aïda has confessed her love in agony; Amneris has falsely told her that
her lover has fallen in battle. And the daughter of Pharaoh is strong
and jealous.


As the white moon moves around the earth, as the stars circle in
Egypt's rainless heaven, so circle the dancing-girls in voluptuous joy
before the king--gauze-robed or clad only with jeweled girdles;--their
limbs, supple as the serpents charmed by the serpent charmer, curve
to the music of harpers harping upon fantastic harps. The earth
quakes again; there is a sound in the distance as when a mighty tide
approaches the land--a sound as of the thunder-chanting sea. The hosts
of Egypt return. The chariots roar through the hundred gates of Thebes.
Innumerable armies defile before the granite terraces of the Palace.
Radames comes in the glory of his victory. Pharaoh descends from his
throne to embrace him. "Ask what thou wilt, O Radames, even though it
be the half of my kingdom!"

And Radames asks for the life of his captives. Amonasro is among them;
and Aïda, beholding him, fears with an exceeding great fear. Yet none
but she knows Amonasro; for he wears the garb of a soldier--none but
she, and Radames. The priests cry for blood. But the king must keep
his vow. The prisoners are set free. And Radames must wed the tall and
comely Amneris, Pharaoh's only daughter.


It is night over Egypt. To Ramphis, the deep-voiced priest, tall
Amneris must go. It is the eve of her nuptials. She must pray to the
Veiled One, the mystic mother of love, to bless her happy union. Within
the temple burn the holy lights; incense smoulders in the tripods
of brass; solemn hymns resound through the vast-pillared sanctuary.
Without, under the stars, Aïda glides like a shadow to meet her lover.


It is not her lover who comes. It is her father! "Aïda," mutters the
deep but tender voice of Amonasro, "thou hast the daughter of Pharaoh
in thy power! Radames loves thee! Wilt thou see again the blessed
land of thy birth?--Wit thou inhale the balm of our forests?--Wilt
thou gaze upon our valleys and behold our temples of gold, and pray
to the gods of thy fathers? Then it will only be needful for thee to
learn what path the Egyptians will follow! Our people have risen in
arms again! Radames loves thee!--he will tell thee all! What! dost
thou hesitate? Refuse!--and they who died to free thee from captivity
shall arise from the black gulf to curse thee! Refuse!--and the shade
of thy mother will return from the tomb to curse thee! Refuse!--and I,
thy father, shall disown thee and invoke upon thy head my everlasting
curse!"


Radames comes! Amonasro, hiding in the shadow of the palms, hears all.
Radames betrays his country to Aïda. "Save thyself!--fly with me!" she
whispers to her lover. "Leave thy gods; we shall worship together in
the temples of my country. The desert shall be our nuptial couch!--the
silent stars the witness of our love. Let my black hair cover thee as a
tent; my eyes sustain thee; my kisses console thee." And as she twines
about him and he inhales the perfume of her lips and feels the beating
of her heart, Radames forgets country and honor and faith and fame;
and the fatal word is spoken. Napata!--Amonasro, from the shadows of
the palm-trees, shouts the word in triumph! There is a clash of brazen
blades; Radames is seized by priests and soldiers: Amonasro and his
daughter fly under cover of the night.

Vainly tall Amneris intercedes with the deep-voiced priest. Ramphis
has spoken the word: "He shall die!" Vainly do the priests call upon
Radames to defend himself against their terrible accusations. His lips
are silent. He must die the death of traitors. They sentence him to
living burial under the foundations of the temple, under the feet of
the granite gods.


Under the feet of the deities they have made the tomb of Radames--a
chasm wrought in a mountain of hewn granite. Above it the weird-faced
gods with beards of basalt have sat for a thousand years. Their eyes
of stone have beheld the courses of the stars change in heaven;
generations have worshiped at their feet of granite. Rivers have
changed their courses; dynasties have passed away since first they took
their seats upon their thrones of mountain rock, and placed their giant
hands upon their knees. Changeless as the granite hill from whose womb
they were delivered by hieratic art, they watch over the face of Egypt,
far-gazing through the pillars of the temple into the palm-shadowed
valley beyond. Their will is inexorable as the hard rock of which their
forms are wrought; their faces have neither pity nor mercy, because
they are the faces of gods!


The priests close up the tomb; they chant their holy and awful hymn.
Radames finds his Aïda beside him. She had concealed herself in the
darkness that she might die in his arms.

The footsteps of the priests, the sacred hymn, die away. Alone in the
darkness above, at the feet of the silent gods, there is a sound as of
a woman's weeping. It is Amneris, the daughter of the king. Below in
everlasting gloom the lovers are united at once in love and death. And
Osiris, forever impassible, gazes into the infinite night with tearless
eyes of stone.



EL VÓMITO[22]


The mother was a small and almost grotesque personage, with a somewhat
mediæval face, oaken colored and long and full of Gothic angularity;
only her eyes were young, full of vivacity and keen comprehension. The
daughter was tall and slight and dark; a skin with the tint of Mexican
gold; hair dead black and heavy with snaky ripples in it that made one
think of Medusa; eyes large and of almost sinister brilliancy, heavily
shadowed and steady as a falcon's; she had that lengthened grace of
dancing figures on Greek vases, but on her face reigned the motionless
beauty of bronze--never a smile or frown. The mother, a professed
sorceress, who told the fortunes of veiled women by the light of a lamp
burning before a skull, did not seem to me half so weird a creature as
the daughter. The girl always made me think of Sou they's witch, kept
young by enchantment to charm Thalaba.


The house was a mysterious ruin: walls green with morbid vegetation of
some fungous kind; humid rooms with rotting furniture of a luxurious
and antiquated pattern; shrieking stairways; yielding and groaning
floors; corridors forever dripping with a cold sweat; bats under the
roof and rats under the floor; snails moving up and down by night
in wakes of phosphorescent slime; broken shutters, shattered glass,
lockless doors, mysterious icy draughts, and elfish noises. Outside
there was a kind of savage garden--torchon trees, vines bearing spotted
and suspicious flowers, Spanish bayonets growing in broken urns,
agaves, palmettoes, something that looked like green elephant's ears, a
monstrous and ill-smelling species of lily with a phallic pistil, and
many vegetable eccentricities I have never seen before. In a little
stable-yard at the farther end were dyspeptic chickens, nostalgic
ducks, and a most ancient and rheumatic horse, whose feet were always
in water, and who made nightmare moanings through all the hours of
darkness. There were also dogs that never barked and spectral cats that
never had a kittenhood. Still the very ghastliness of the place had its
fantastic charm for me. I remained; the drowsy Southern spring came to
vitalize vines and lend a Japanese monstrosity to the tropical jungle
under my balconied window. Unfamiliar and extraordinary odors floated
up from the spotted flowers; and the snails crawled upstairs less
frequently than before. Then a fierce and fevered summer!


It was late in the night when I was summoned to the Cuban's bedside: a
night of such stifling and motionless heat as precedes a Gulf storm:
the moon, magnified by the vapors, wore a spectral nimbus; the horizon
pulsed with feverish lightnings. Its white flicker made shadowy the
lamp-flame in the sick-room at intervals. I bade them close the
windows. "El Vómito?"--already delirious; strange ravings; the fine
dark face phantom-shadowed by death; singular and unfamiliar symptoms
of pulsation and temperature; extraordinary mental disturbance. Could
this be Vómito? There was an odd odor in the room--ghostly, faint, but
sufficiently perceptible to affect the memory:--I suddenly remembered
the balcony overhanging the African wildness of the garden, the strange
vines that clung with webbed feet to the ruined wall, and the peculiar,
heavy, sickly, somnolent smell of the spotted blossoms! And as I leaned
over the patient, I became aware of another perfume in the room, a
perfume that impregnated the pillow--the odor of a woman's hair, the
incense of a woman's youth mingling with the phantoms of the flowers,
as ambrosia with venom, life with death, a breath from paradise with an
exhalation from hell. From the bloodless lips of the sufferer, as from
the mouth of one oppressed by some hideous dream, escaped the name of
the witch's daughter. And suddenly the house shuddered through all its
framework, as if under the weight of invisible blows: a mighty shaking
of walls and windows--the storm knocking at the door.


I found myself alone with her; the moans of the dying could not be shut
out; and the storm knocked louder and more loudly, demanding entrance.
"_It is not the fever_," I said. "I have lived in lands of tropical
fever; your lips are even now humid with his kisses, and you have
condemned him. My knowledge avails nothing against this infernal craft;
but I know also that you must know the antidote which will baffle
death;--this man shall not die!--I do not fear you!--I will denounce
you!--He shall not die!"

For the first time I beheld her smile--the smile of secret strength
that scorns opposition. Gleaming through the diaphanous whiteness of
her loose robe, the lamplight wrought in silhouette the serpentine
grace of her body like the figure of an Egyptian dancer in a mist of
veils, and her splendid hair coiled about her like the vipérine locks
of a gorgon.

"La voluntad de mi madre!" she answered calmly. "You are too late! You
shall not denounce us! Even could you do so, you could prove nothing.
Your science, as you have said, is worth nothing here. Do you pity the
fly that nourishes the spider? You shall do nothing so foolish, señor
doctor, but you will certify that the stranger has died of the vómito.
You do not know anything; you shall not know anything. You will be
recompensed. We are rich." Without, the knocking increased, as if the
thunder sought to enter: I, within, looked upon her face, and the face
was passionless and motionless as the face of a woman of bronze.

She had not spoken, but I felt her serpent litheness wound about
me, her heart beating against my breast, her arms tightening about
my neck, the perfume of her hair and of her youth and of her breath
intoxicating me as an exhalation of enchantment. I could not speak; I
could not resist; spellbound by a mingling of fascination and pleasure,
witchcraft and passion, weakness and fear--and the storm awfully
knocked without, as if summoning the stranger; and his moaning ceased.


Whence she came, the mother, I know not. She seemed to have risen from
beneath:

"The doctor is conscientious!--he cares for his patient well. The
stranger will need his excellent attention no more. The conscientious
doctor has accepted his recompense; he will certify what we
desire--will he not, hija mia?"

And the girl mocked me with her eyes, and laughed fiercely.



THE IDYL OF A FRENCH SNUFF-BOX[23]


The old Creole gentleman had forgotten his snuff-box--the snuff-box
he had carried constantly with him for thirty years, and which he had
purchased in Paris in days when Louisiana planters traveled through
Europe leaving a wake of gold behind them, the trail of a tropical
sunset of wealth. It was lying upon my table. Decidedly the old
gentleman's memory was failing!

There was a dream of Theocritus wrought upon the ivory lid of the
snuff-box, created by a hand so cunning that its work had withstood
unscathed all the accidents of thirty odd years of careless usage--a
slumbering dryad; an amorous faun!

The dryad was sleeping like a bacchante weary of love and wine,
half-lying upon her side; half upon her bosom, pillowing her charming
head upon one arm. Her bed was a mossy knoll; its front transformed by
artistic magic into one of those Renaissance scroll-reliefs which are
dreams of seashells; her ivory body moulded its nudity upon the curve
of the knoll with antique grace.

Above her crouched the faun--a beautiful and mischievous faun. Lightly
as a summer breeze, he lifted the robe she had flung over herself, and
gazed upon her beauty. But around her polished thigh clung a loving
snake, the guardian of her sleep; and the snake raised its jeweled head
and fixed upon the faun its glittering topaz eyes.

There the graven narrative closed its chapter of ivory: forever
provokingly motionless the lithe limbs of the dryad and the serpent
thigh-bracelet and the unhappily amorous faun holding the drapery rigid
in his outstretched hand.


I fell asleep, still haunted by the unfinished idyl. The night filled
the darkness with whispers and with dreams; and in a luminous cloud I
beheld again the faun and the sleeping nymph and the serpent with topaz
eyes coiled about her thigh.

Then the scene grew clear and large and warm; the figures moved and
lived. It was an Arcadian vale, myrtle-shadowed, and sweet with the
breath of summer winds. The brooks purled in the distance; bird voices
twittered in the rustling laurels; the sun's liquid gold filtered
through the leafy network above; the flowers swung their fragile
censers and sweetened all the place. I saw the smooth breast of the
faun rise and fall with his passionate panting; I fancied I could see
his heart beat. And the serpent stirred its jeweled head with the topaz
eyes.

Then the faun moved his lips in sound--a sound like the cooing of a
dove in the coming of summer, and an answering coo rippled out from
the myrtle trees. And softly as a flake of snow, a white-bosomed thing
with bright, gentle eyes alighted beside the faun, and cooed and cooed
again, and drew yet a little farther off and cooed once more.

Then the serpent looked upon the dove--which is sacred to
Aphrodite--and glided from its smooth resting-place, as water glides
between the fingers of a hunter who drinks from the hollow of his hand
in hours of torrid heat and weariness. And the dove, still retreating,
drew after her the guardian snake with topaz eyes.

Then with all her body kissed by the summer breeze, the nymph awoke,
and her opening eyes looked into the eager eyes of the faun; and she
started not, neither did she seem afraid. And stretching herself upon
the soft moss after the refreshment of slumber, she flung her rounded
arms back, and linked them about the neck of the faun; and they kissed
each other, and the doves cooed in the myrtles.

And from afar off came yet a sweeter sound than the caressing voices
of the doves--a long ripple of gentle melody, rising and falling like
the sighing of an amorous zephyr, melancholy yet pleasing like the
melancholy of love--Pan playing upon his pipe!--

There was a sudden knocking at the door:

"Pardon, mon jeune ami; j'oubliais ma tabatière! Ah! la voici! Je vous
remercie!"

Alas! the vision never returned! The idyl remains a fragment! I cannot
tell you what became of the dove and the serpent with topaz eyes.



SPRING PHANTOMS[24]


The moon, descending her staircase of clouds in one of the "Petits
Poèmes en Prose," enters the chamber of a newborn child, and whispers
into his dreams: "Thou shalt love all that loves me--the water that is
formless and multiform, the vast green sea, the place where thou shalt
never be, the woman thou shalt never know."

For those of us thus blessed or cursed at our birth, this is perhaps
the special season of such dreams--of nostalgia, vague as the
world-sickness, for the places where we shall never be; and fancies as
delicate as arabesques of smoke concerning the woman we shall never
know. There is a languor in the air; the winds sleep; the flowers
exhale their souls in incense; near sounds seem distant, as if the
sense of time and space were affected by hashish; the sunsets paint
in the west pictures of phantom-gold, as of those islands at the mere
aspect of whose beauty crews mutinied and burned their ships; plants
that droop and cling assume a more feminine grace; and the minstrel of
Southern woods mingles the sweet rippling of his mocking music with the
moonlight.

There have been sailors who, flung by some kind storm-wave on the
shore of a Pacific Eden, to be beloved for years by some woman dark
but beautiful, subsequently returned by stealth to the turmoil of
civilization and labor, and vainly regretted, in the dust and roar and
sunlessness of daily toil, the abandoned paradise they could never
see again. Is it not such a feeling as this that haunts the mind in
springtime;--a faint nostalgic longing for the place where we shall
never be;--a vision made even more fairylike by such a vague dream of
glory as enchanted those Spanish souls who sought, and never found El
Dorado?

Each time the vision returns, is it not more enchanting than before,
as a recurring dream of the night in which we behold places we can
never see except through dream-haze, gilded by a phantom sun? It is
sadder each time, this fancy; for it brings with it the memory of older
apparitions, as of places visited in childhood, in that sweet dim time
so long ago that its dreams and realities are mingled together in
strange confusion, as clouds with waters.

Each year it comes to haunt us, like the vision of the Adelantado of
the Seven Cities--the place where we shall never be--and each year
there will be a weirder sweetness and a more fantastic glory about
the vision. And perhaps in the hours of the last beating of the
heart, before sinking into that abyss of changeless deeps above whose
shadowless sleep no dreams move their impalpable wings, we shall see
it once more, wrapped in strange luminosity, submerged in the orange
radiance of a Pacific sunset--the place where we shall never be!

And the Woman that we shall never know!

She is the daughter of mist and light--a phantom bride who becomes
visible to us only during those magic hours when the moon enchants the
world; she is the most feminine of all sweetly feminine things, the
most complaisant, the least capricious. Hers is the fascination of the
succubus without the red thirst of the vampire. She always wears the
garb that most pleases us--when she wears any; always adopts the aspect
of beauty most charming to us--blonde or swarthy, Greek or Egyptian,
Nubian or Circassian. She fills the place of a thousand odalisques,
owns all the arts of the harem of Solomon: all the loveliness we love
retrospectively, all the charms we worship in the present, are combined
in her. She comes as the dead come, who never speak; yet without speech
she gratifies our voiceless caprice. Sometimes we foolishly fancy that
we discover in some real, warm womanly personality, a trait or feature
like unto hers; but time soon unmasks our error. We shall never see her
in the harsh world of realities; for she is the creation of our own
hearts, wrought Pygmalion-wise, but of material too unsubstantial for
even the power of a god to animate. Only the dreams of Brahma himself
take substantial form: these are worlds and men and all their works,
which shall pass away like smoke when the preserver ceases his slumber
of a myriad million years.

She becomes more beautiful as we grow older--this phantom love,
born of the mist of poor human dreams--so fair and faultless that
her invisible presence makes us less reconciled to the frailties and
foibles of real life. Perhaps she too has faults; but she has no faults
for us except that of unsubstantially. Involuntarily we acquire the
unjust habit of judging real women by her spectral standard; and the
real always suffer for the ideal. So that when the fancy of a home
and children--smiling faces, comfort, and a woman's friendship, the
idea of something real to love and be loved by--comes to the haunted
man in hours of disgust with the world and weariness of its hollow
mockeries--the Woman that he shall never know stands before him like a
ghost with sweet sad eyes of warning--and he dare not!



A KISS FANTASTICAL[25]


Curves of cheek and throat, and shadow of loose hair--the dark flash
of dark eyes under the silk of black lashes--a passing vision light
as a dream of summer--the sweet temptations of seventeen years'
grace--womanhood at its springtime, when the bud is bursting through
the blossom--the patter of feet that hardly touch ground in their
elastic movement--the light loose dress, moulding its softness upon the
limbs beneath it, betraying much, suggesting the rest; an apparition
seen only for a moment passing through the subdued light of a
vine-shaded window, briefly as an object illuminated by lightning--yet
such a moment may well be recorded by the guardian angels of men's
lives.


"Croyez-vous ça?" suddenly demands a metallically sonorous voice at the
other side of the table.

"Pardon!--qu'est ce que c'est?" asks the stranger, in the tone of one
suddenly awakened, internally annoyed at being disturbed, yet anxious
to appear deeply interested. They had been talking of Japan--and the
traveler, suddenly regaining the clue of the conversation, spoke of
a bath-house at Yokohama, and of strange things he had seen there,
until the memory of the recent vision mingled fantastically with
recollections of the Japanese bathing-house, and he sank into another
reverie, leaving the untasted cup of black coffee before him to mingle
its dying aroma with the odor of the cigarettes.


For there are living apparitions that affect men more deeply than
fancied visits from the world of ghosts;--numbing respiration
momentarily, making the blood to gather about the heart like a great
weight, hushing the voice to a murmur, creating an indescribable
oppression in the throat--until nature seeks relief in a strong sigh
that fills the lungs with air again and cools for a brief moment the
sudden fever of the veins. The vision may endure but an instant--seen
under a gleam of sunshine, or through the antiquated gateway one passes
from time to time on his way to the serious part of the city; yet that
instant is enough to change the currents of the blood, and slacken
the reins of the will, and make us deaf and blind and dumb for a time
to the world of SOLID FACT. The whole being is momentarily absorbed,
enslaved by a vague and voiceless desire to touch her, to kiss her, to
bite her.


The lemon-gold blaze in the west faded out; the blue became purple;
and in the purple the mighty arch of stars burst into illumination,
with its myriad blossoms of fire white as a woman's milk. A Spanish
officer improved a momentary lull in the conversation by touching a
guitar, and all eyes turned toward the musician, who suddenly wrung
from his instrument the nervous, passionate, semi-barbaric melody of
a Spanish dance. For a moment he played to an absolutely motionless
audience; the very waving of the fans ceased, the listeners held their
breath. Then two figures glided through the vine-framed doorway, and
took their seats. One was the Vision of a few hours before--a type of
semi-tropical grace, with the bloom of Southern youth upon her dark
skin. The other immediately impressed the stranger as the ugliest
little Mexican woman he had ever seen in the course of a long and
experienced life.

She was grotesque as a Chinese image of Buddha, no taller than a child
of ten, but very broadly built. Her skin had the ochre tint of new
copper; her forehead was large and disagreeably high; her nose flat;
her cheek-bones very broad and prominent; her eyes small, deeply set,
and gray as pearls; her mouth alone small, passionate, and pouting,
with rather thick lips, relieved the coarseness of her face. Although
so compactly built, she had no aspect of plumpness or fleshiness:--she
had the physical air of one of those little Mexican fillies which
are all nerve and sinew. Both women were in white; and the dress of
the little Mexican was short enough to expose a very pretty foot and
well-turned ankle.

Another beautiful woman would scarcely have diverted the stranger's
attention from the belle of the party that night; but that Mexican
was so infernally ugly, and so devilishly comical, that he could not
remove his eyes from her grotesque little face. He could not help
remarking that her smile was pleasing if not pretty, and her teeth
white as porcelain; that there was a strong, good-natured originality
about her face, and that her uncouthness was only apparent, as she was
the most accomplished dancer in the room. Even the belle's movements
seemed heavy compared with hers; she appeared to dance as lightly as
the hummingbird moves from blossom to blossom. By and by he found to
his astonishment that this strange creature could fascinate without
beauty and grace, and play coquette without art; also that her voice
had pretty bird tones in it; likewise that the Spanish captain was
very much interested in her, and determined to monopolize her as much
as possible for the rest of the evening. And the stranger felt oddly
annoyed thereat; and sought to console himself by the reflection that
she was the most fantastically ugly little creature he had seen in his
whole life. But for some mysterious reason consolation refused to come.
"Well, I am going back to Honduras to-morrow," he thought--"and there
thoughts of women will give me very little concern."


"I protest against this kissing," cried the roguish host in a loud
voice, evidently referring to something that had just taken place in
the embrasure of the farther window. "On fait venir l'eau dans la
bouche! Monopoly is strictly prohibited. _Our_ rights and feelings must
be taken into just consideration." Frenzied applause followed. What
difference did it make?--they were the world's Bohemians--here to-day,
there to-morrow!--before another moonrise they would be scattered west
and south;--the ladies ought to kiss them all for good luck.


So the kiss of farewell was given under the great gate, overhung by
vine-tendrils drooping like a woman's hair love-loosened.


The beauty's lips shrank from the pressure of the stranger's;--it was
a fruitless phantom sort of kiss. "Y yo, señor," cried the little
Mexican, standing on tiptoe as she threw her arms about his neck.
Everybody laughed except the recipient of the embrace. He had received
an electric shock of passion which left him voiceless and speechless,
and--it seemed to him that his heart had ceased to beat.

Those carmine-edged lips seemed to have a special life of their own as
of the gymnotus--as if crimsoned by something more lava-warm than young
veins: they pressed upon his mouth with the motion of something that
at once bites and sucks blood irresistibly but softly, like the great
bats which absorb the life of sleepers in tropical forests;--there was
something moist and cool and supple indescribable in their clinging
touch, as of beautiful snaky things which, however firmly clasped, slip
through the hand with boneless strength;--they could not themselves
be kissed because they mesmerized and mastered the mouth presented to
them;--their touch for the instant paralyzed the blood, but only to
fill its motionless currents with unquenchable fires as strange as of
a tropical volcano, so that the heart strove to rise from its bed to
meet them, and all the life of the man seemed to have risen to his
throat only to strangle there in its effort at self-release. A feeble
description, indeed; but how can such a kiss be described?

. . . . . . . . .

Six months later the stranger came back from Honduras, and deposited
some small but heavy bags in the care of his old host. Then he called
the old man aside, and talked long and earnestly and passionately, like
one who makes a confession.

The landlord burst into a good-natured laugh, "Ah la drôle!--la vilaine
petite drôle! So she made you crazy also. Mon cher, you are not the
only one, pardieu! But the idea of returning here on account of one
kiss, and then to be too late, after all! She is gone, my friend, gone.
God knows where. Such women are birds of passage. You might seek the
whole world and never find her; again, you might meet her when least
expected. But you are too late. She married the guitarrista."



THE BIRD AND THE GIRL[26]


Suddenly, from the heart of the magnolia, came a ripple of liquid
notes, a delirium of melody, wilder than the passion of the
nightingale, more intoxicating than the sweetness of the night--the
mocking-bird calling to its mate.

"Ah, comme c'est coquet!--comme c'est doux!"--murmured the girl who
stood by the gateway of the perfumed garden, holding up her mouth to be
kissed with the simple confidence of a child.

"Not so sweet to me as your voice," he murmured, with lips close to her
lips, and eyes looking into the liquid jet that shone through the silk
of her black lashes.

The little Creole laughed a gentle little laugh of pleasure. "Have you
birds like that in the West?" she asked.

"In cages," he said. "But very few. I have seen five hundred dollars
paid for a fine singer. I wish you were a little mocking-bird!"

"Why?"

"Because I could take you along with me to-morrow."

"And sell me for five hundred dol--?" (A kiss smothered the mischievous
question.)

"For shame!"


[Illustration: _Jutting Balconies in the Creole City_]


"Won't you remember this night when you hear them sing in the
cages?--poor little prisoners!"

"But we have none where I am now going. It is all wild out there; rough
wooden houses and rough men!--no pets--not even a cat!"

"Then what would you do with a little bird in such a place? They would
all laugh at you--would n't they?"

"No; I don't think so. Rough men love little pets."

"Little pets!"

"Like you, yes--too well!"

"Too well?"

"I did not mean to say that."

"But you did say it."

"I do not know what I say when I am looking into your eyes."

"Flatterer!"


The music and perfume of those hours came back to him in fragments
of dreams all through the long voyage;--in slumber broken by the
intervals of rapid travel on river and rail; the crash of loading under
the nickering yellow of pine-fires; the steam song of boats chanting
welcome or warning; voices of mate and roustabout; the roar of railroad
depots; the rumble of baggage in air heavy with the oily breath of
perspiring locomotives; the demands of conductors; the announcement of
stations;--and at last the heavy jolting of the Western stage over
rugged roads where the soil had a faint pink flush, and great coarse
yellow flowers were growing.


So the days and weeks and months passed on; and the far Western
village, with its single glaring street of white sand, blazed under the
summer sun. At intervals came the United States mail-courier, booted
and spurred and armed to the teeth, bearing with him always one small
satiny note, stamped with the postmark of New Orleans, and faintly
perfumed as by the ghost of a magnolia.

"Smells like a woman--that," the bronzed rider sometimes growled out as
he delivered the delicate missive with an unusually pleasant flash in
his great falcon eyes--eyes made fiercely keen by watching the horizon
cut by the fantastic outline of Indian graves, the spiral flight of
savage smoke far off which signals danger, and the spiral flight of
vultures which signals death.

One day he came without a letter for the engineer--"She's forgotten you
this week, Cap," he said in answer to the interrogating look, and rode
away through the belt of woods, redolent of resinous gums and down the
winding ways to the plain, where the eyeless buffalo skulls glimmered
under the sun. Thus he came and thus departed through the rosiness of
many a Western sunset, and brought no smile to the expectant face:
"She's forgotten you again, Cap."

And one tepid night (the 24th of August, 18--), from the spicy shadows
of the woods there rang out a bird-voice with strange exotic tones:
"Sweet, sweet, sweet!"--then cascades of dashing silver melody!--then
long, liquid, passionate calls!--then a deep, rich ripple of caressing
mellow notes, as of love languor oppressed that seeks to laugh. Men
rose and went out under the moon to listen. There was something at once
terribly and tenderly familiar to at least One in those sounds.

"What in Christ's name is that?" whispered a miner, as the melody
quivered far up the white street.

"It is a mocking-bird," answered another who had lived in lands of
palmetto and palm.

And as the engineer listened, there seemed to float to him the
flower-odors of a sunnier land;--the Western hills faded as clouds fade
out of the sky; and before him lay once more the fair streets of a far
city, glimmering with the Mexican silver of Southern moonlight;--again
he saw the rigging of masts making cobweb lines across the faces
of stars and white steamers sleeping in ranks along the river's
crescent-curve, and cottages vine-garlanded or banana-shadowed, and
woods in their dreamy drapery of Spanish moss.


"Got something for you this time," said the United States mail-carrier,
riding in weeks later with his bronzed face made lurid by the sanguine
glow of sunset. He did not say "Cap" this time; neither did he smile.
The envelope was larger than usual. The handwriting was the handwriting
of a man. It contained only these words:

    DEAR--, Hortense is dead. It happened very suddenly on the
    night of the 24th. Come home at once.

    S--



THE TALE OF A FAN[27]


Pah! it is too devilishly hot to write anything about anything
practical and serious--let us dream dreams.

. . . . . . . . .

We picked up a little fan in a street-car the other day--a Japanese
fabric, with bursts of blue sky upon it, and grotesque foliage sharply
cut against a horizon of white paper, and wonderful clouds as pink
as Love, and birds of form as unfamiliar as the extinct wonders of
ornithology resurrected by Cuvieresque art. Where did those Japanese
get their exquisite taste for color and tint-contrasts?--Is their sky
so divinely blue?--Are their sunsets so virginally carnation?--Are the
breasts of their maidens and the milky peaks of their mountains so
white?

But the fairy colors were less strongly suggestive than something
impalpable, invisible, indescribable, yet voluptuously enchanting which
clung to the fan spirit-wise--a tender little scent--a mischievous
perfume--a titillating, tantalizing aroma--an odor inspirational as of
the sacred gums whose incense intoxicates the priests of oracles. Did
you ever lay your hand upon a pillow covered with the living supple
silk of a woman's hair? Well, the intoxicating odor of that hair is
something not to be forgotten: if we might try to imagine what the
ambrosial odors of paradise are, we dare not compare them to anything
else;--the odor of youth in its pliancy, flexibility, rounded softness,
delicious coolness, dove-daintiness, delightful plasticity--all that
suggests slenderness graceful as a Venetian wineglass, and suppleness
as downy-soft as the necks of swans.

. . . . . . . .

Naturally that little aroma itself provoked fancies;--as we looked at
the fan we could almost evoke the spirit of a hand and arm, of phantom
ivory, the glimmer of a ghostly ring, the shimmer of spectral lace
about the wrist;--but nothing more. Yet it seemed to us that even odors
might be analyzed; that perhaps in some future age men might describe
persons they had never seen by such individual aromas, just as in the
Arabian tale one describes minutely a maimed camel and its burthen
which he has never beheld.

There are blond and brunette odors;--the white rose is sweet, but the
ruddy is sweeter; the perfume of pallid flowers may be potent, as that
of the tuberose whose intensity sickens with surfeit of pleasures, but
the odors of deeply tinted flowers are passionate and satiate not,
quenching desire only to rekindle it.

There are human blossoms more delicious than any rose's heart nestling
in pink. There is a sharp, tart, invigorating, penetrating, tropical
sweetness in brunette perfumes; blond odors are either faint as those
of a Chinese yellow rose, or fiercely ravishing as that of the white
jessamine--so bewitching for the moment, but which few can endure all
night in the sleeping-room, making the heart of the sleeper faint.


Now the odor of the fan was not a blond odor:--it was sharply sweet
as new-mown hay in autumn, keenly pleasant as a clear breeze blowing
over sea foam:--what were frankincense and spikenard and cinnamon and
all the odors of the merchant compared with it?--What could have been
compared with it, indeed, save the smell of the garments of the young
Shulamitess or the whispering robes of the Queen of Sheba? And these
were brunettes.

The strength of living perfumes evidences the comparative intensity of
the life exhaling them. Strong sweet odors bespeak the vigor of youth
in blossom. Intensity of life in the brunette is usually coincident
with nervous activity and slender elegance.--Young, slenderly graceful,
with dark eyes and hair, skin probably a Spanish olive!--did such an
one lose a little Japanese fan in car No.-- of the C. C. R. R. during
the slumberous heat of Wednesday morning?



A LEGEND[28]


And it came to pass in those days that a plague fell upon mankind,
slaying only the males and sparing the females for some mysterious
reason.

So that there was only one man left alive upon the face of the earth.

And he was remarkably fair to behold and comely and vigorous as an
elephant.

And feeling the difficulties of his position, the man fled away to the
mountains, armed with a Winchester rifle, and lived among the wild
beasts of the forest....

And the women pursued after him and surrounded the mountain; and
prevailed upon the man, with subtle arguments and pleasant words, that
he should deliver himself up into their hands.

And they made a treaty with him, that he should be defended from
ill-usage and protected from fury and guarded about night and day with
a guard.

And the guard was officered by women who were philosophers, and
who cared for nothing in this world beyond that which is strictly
scientific and matter of fact, so that they were above all the
temptations of this world.

And the man was lodged in a palace, and nourished with all the dainties
of the world, but was not suffered to go forth, or to show himself in
the streets; forasmuch as he was guarded even as a queen bee is guarded
in the hive.

Neither was he suffered to occupy his mind with grave questions or to
read serious books or discourse of serious things or to peruse aught
that had not been previously approved by the committee of scientific
women.

For that which wearieth the brain affecteth the well-being of the body.

And all the day long he heard the pleasant plash of fountain waters and
inhaled delicious perfumes, and the fairest women in the world stood
before him under the supervision of the philosophers.

And a great army was organized to guard him; and great wars were fought
with the women of other nations on his account, so that nine millions
and more of strong young women were killed.

But he was not permitted to know any of these things, lest it might
trouble his mind; nor was he suffered to hear or behold aught that can
be unpleasant to mortal ears.

He was permitted only to gaze upon beautiful things--beautiful flowers
and fair women, and matchless statues and marvelous pictures, and
graven gems and magical vases, and cunningly devised work of goldsmiths
and silversmiths. He was only suffered the music created by the fingers
of the greatest musicians and by the throats of the most bewitching of
singers.


And once a year out of every ten thousand women in the world the
fairest one and the most complete in all things was chosen; and of
those chosen ones the fairest and most perfect were again chosen; and
out of these again the committee of philosophers selected one thousand;
and out of these thousand the man chose three hundred.

For he was the only man in the whole world; and the committee of
philosophers ordained that he should be permitted to remain entirely
alone for sixty-five days in the year, lest he might be, as it were,
talked to death.

At first the man fell occasionally in love and felt unhappy; but as the
committee of philosophers always sent unto him women more beautiful and
more adorable than any he had seen before, he soon became reconciled to
his lot.

And instead of committing the folly of loving one woman in particular,
he learned to love all women in general.

And during fifty years he lived such a life as even the angels might
envy.

And before he died he had 15,273 children, and 91,638 grandchildren.

And the children were brought up by the nation, and permitted to do
nothing except to perfect their minds and bodies.

And in the third generation the descendants of the man had increased
even to two millions of males, not including females, who were indeed
few, so great was the universal desire for males.

And in the tenth generation there were even as many males as females.

And the world was regenerated.



THE GYPSY'S STORY[29]


The summer's day had been buried in Charlemagne splendors of purple and
gold; the Spanish sable of the night glittered with its jewel-belt of
stars. The young moon had not yet lifted the silver horns of her Moslem
standard in the far east. We were sailing over lukewarm waves, rising
and falling softly as the breast of a sleeper; winds from the south
bore to us a drowsy perfume of lemon-blossoms; and the yellow lights
among the citron trees seemed, as we rocked upon the long swell, like
the stars of Joseph's dream doing obeisance. Far beyond them a giant
pharos glared at us with its single Cyclopean eye of bloodshot fire,
dyeing the face of the pilot crimson as a pomegranate. At intervals
the sea amorously lipped the smooth flanks of the vessel with a sharp
sound; and ghostly fires played about our prow. Seated upon a coil of
rope a guitarrista sang, improvising as he sang, one of those sweetly
monotonous ballads which the Andalusian gypsies term soleariyas. Even
now the rich tones of that solitary voice vibrate in our memory, almost
as on that perfumed sea, under the light of summer stars:

                     Sera,
     Para mi er mayo delirio
     Berte y no poerte habla.
                   Gacho.
     Gacho que no hab ya motas
     Es un barco sin timon.
                   Por ti,
     Las horitas e la noche
     Me las paso sin dormi.
                   Sereno,
     No de oste la boz tan arta
     Que quieo dormi y no pueo.
                   Marina,
     Con que te lavas la cara
     Que la tienes tan dibina?

Why he told me his story I know not: I know only that our hearts
understood each other.


"Of my mother," he said, "I knew little when a child; I only remember
her in memories vague as dreams, and perhaps in dreams also. For
there are years of our childhood so mingled with dreams that we
cannot discern through memory the shadow from the substance. But in
those times I was forever haunted by a voice that spoke a tongue only
familiar to me in after years, and by a face I do not ever remember to
have kissed.

"A clear, dark face, strong and delicate, with sharp crescent brows and
singularly large eyes, liquidly black, bending over me in my sleep--the
face of a tall woman. There was something savage even in the tenderness
of the great luminous eyes--such a look as the hunter finds in the eyes
of fierce birds when he climbs to their nests above the clouds; and
this dark dream-face filled me with strange love and fear. The hair,
flowing back from her temples in long ripples of jet, was confined by a
broad silver comb curved and gleaming like a new moon.

"And at last when these dreams came upon me, and the half-fierce,
loving eyes looked upon me in the night, I would awake and go out under
the stars and sob.

"A vast unrest possessed me; a new heat throbbed in my veins, and I
heard forever flute-tones of a strange voice, speaking in an unknown
tongue; but far, far off, like the sounds of words broken and borne
away in fragments by some wandering wind.

"Ocean breezes sang in my ears the song of waves--of waves chanting the
deep hymn that no musician can learn--the mystic hymn whereof no human
ear may ever discern the words--the magical hymn that is older than the
world, and weirder than the moon.

"The winds of the woods bore me odors of tears of spicy gums and the
sounds of bird-voices sweeter than the plaint of running water, and
whispers of shaking shadows, and the refrain of that mighty harp-song
which the pines sing, and the vaporous souls of flowers, and the
mysteries of succubus-vines that strangle the oaks with love.

"Winds also, piercing and cold as Northern eyes, came to me from the
abysses of the rocks, and from peaks whose ermine of snow has never
since the being of the world felt the pressure of a bird's foot; and
they sang Runic chants of mountain freedom, where the lightnings cross
their flickerings. And with these winds came also shadows of birds, far
circling above me, with eyes fierce and beautiful as the eyes of my
dream.


"So that a great envy came upon me of the winds and waves and birds
that circle forever with the eternal circling of the world. Nightly
the large eyes, half fierce, half tender, glimmered through my sleep:
phantom winds called to me, and shadowy seas chanted through their
foam-flecked lips runes weird as the Runes of Odin.


"And I hated cities with the hatred of the camel--the camel that sobs
and moans on beholding afar, on the yellow rim of the desert, the
corpse-white finger of a minaret pointing to the dome of Mahomet's
heaven.

"Also I hated the rumble of traffic and the roar of the race for gold;
the shadows of palaces on burning streets; the sound of toiling feet;
the black breath of towered chimneys; and the vast machines, forever
laboring with sinews of brass, and panting with heart of steam and
steel.

"Only loved I the eyes of night and the women eyes that haunted me--the
silence of rolling plains, the whispers of untrodden woods, the shadows
of flying birds and fleeting clouds, the heaving emerald of waves, the
silver lamentation of brooks, the thunder roll of that mighty hymn of
hexameters which the ocean must eternally sing to the stars.


"Once, and once only, did I speak to my father of the dark and
beautiful dream that floated to me on the misty waves of sleep. Once,
and once only; for I beheld his face grow whiter than the face of Death.


"Encompassed about by wealth and pleasure, I still felt like a bird in
a cage of gold. Books I loved only because they taught me mysteries of
sky and sea--the alchemy of suns, the magic of seasons, the marvels of
lands to which we long forever to sail, yet may never see. But I loved
wild rides by night, and long wrestling with waves silver-kissed by the
moon, and the musky breath of woods, where wild doves wandered from
shadow to shadow, cooing love. And the strange beauty of the falcon
face, that haunted me forever, chilled my heart to the sun-haired
maidens who sought our home, fair like tall idols of ivory and gold.

"Often, in the first pinkness of dawn, I rose from a restless sleep to
look upon a mirror; thirsting to find in my own eyes some dark kindred
with the eyes of my dreams; and often I felt in my veins the blood of a
strange race, not my father's.

"I saw birds flying to the perfumed South; I watched the sea gulls
seeking warmer coasts; I cursed the hawks for their freedom--I cursed
the riches that were the price of my bondage to civilization, the
pleasures that were the guerdon of my isolation among a people not my
own.

--"'O that I were a cloud,' I cried, 'to drift forever with the hollow
wind!--O that I were a wave to pass from ocean to ocean, and chant my
freedom in foam upon the rocks of a thousand coasts!--O that I might
live even as the eagle, who may look into the face of the everlasting
sun!'

"So the summer of my life came upon me, with a madness of longing for
freedom--a freedom as of winds and waves and birds--and a vague love
for that unknown people whose wild blood made fever in my veins,--until
one starless night I fled my home forever.


"I slumbered in the woods at last; the birds were singing in the
emerald shadows above when I awoke. A tall girl, lithe as a palm,
swarthy as Egypt, was gazing upon me. My heart almost ceased to beat.
I beheld in the wild beauty of her dark face as it were the shadow
of the face that had haunted me; and in the midnight of her eyes the
eyes of my dream. Circles of thin gold were in her ears;--her brown
arms and feet were bare. She smiled not; but, keeping her great wild
eyes fixed upon mine, addressed me in a strange tongue. Strange as
India--yet not all strange to me; for at the sound of its savage
syllables dusky chambers of memory long un visited reopened their
doors and revealed forgotten things. The tongue was the tongue spoken
to me in dreams through all those restless years. And she, perceiving
that I understood, although I spoke not, pointed to far tents beyond
the trees, and ascending spirals of lazy smoke.

"'Whithersoever we go, thou shalt also go,' she murmured. 'Thou art of
our people; the blood that flows in thy veins is also mine. We have
long waited and watched for thee, summer by summer, in those months
when the great longing comes upon us all. For thy mother was of my
people; and thou who hast sucked her breasts mayst not live with the
pale children of another race. The heaven is our tent; the birds guide
our footsteps south and north; the stars lead us to the east and west.
My people have sought word of thee even while wandering in lands of
sunrise. Our blood is stronger than wine; our kindred dearer than gold.
Thou wilt leave riches, pleasures, honors, and the life of cities for
thy heart's sake; and I will be thy sister.'

"And I, having kissed her, followed her to the tents of her people--my
people--the world wanderers of the most ancient East."



THE ONE PILL-BOX[30]


Like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, the sun seemed to blaze with sevenfold
heat; the sky glowed like steel in the process of blistering; a haze
yellow as the radiance above a crucible gilded the streets; the great
plants swooned in the garden--fainting flowers laid their heads on the
dry clay; the winds were dead; the Yellow Plague filled the city with
invisible exhalations of death. A silence as of cemeteries weighed down
upon the place; commerce slept a wasting slumber; the iron muscles and
brazen bones of wealth machinery relaxed, and lungs of steel ceased
their panting; the ships had spread their white wings and flown;
the wharves were desolate; the cotton-presses ceased their mighty
mastication, and no longer uttered their titanic sighs.


The English mill-master had remained at his post, with the obstinate
courage of his race, until stricken down. There was a sound in his
ears as of rushing waters; darkness before his eyes: the whispering of
the nurses, the orders of the physicians, the tinkling of glasses and
spoons, the bubbling of medicine poured out, the sound of doors softly
opened and closed, and of visits made on tiptoe, he no longer heard
or remembered. The last object his eyes had rested upon was a tiny
white-and-red pill-box, lying on the little table beside the bed.

The past came to him in shadowy pictures between dark intervals of
half-conscious suffering--of such violent pain in thighs and loins
as he remembered to have felt long years before after some frightful
fall from a broken scaffolding. The sound in his ears of rushing water
gradually sharpened into a keener sound--like the hum of machinery,
like the purring of revolving saws, gnawing their meal of odorous wood
with invisibly rapid teeth. Odors of cypress and pine, walnut and oak,
seemed to float to his nostrils--with sounds of planing and beveling,
hammering and polishing, subdued laughter of workmen, loud orders,
hurrying feet, and above all the sharp, trilling purr of the hungry
saws, and the shaking rumble of the hundred-handed engines.


He was again in the little office, fresh with odors of resinous
woods--seated at the tall desk whose thin legs trembled with the
palpitation of the engine's heart. It seemed to him there was a vast
press of work to be done--enormous efforts to be made--intricate
contracts to be unknotted--huge estimates to be made out--agonizing
errors to be remedied--frightful miscalculations to be corrected--a
world of anxious faces impatiently watching him. Figures and diagrams
swam before his eyes--plans of façades--mathematical calculations
for stairways--difficult angles of roofs--puzzling arrangements of
corridors. The drawings seemed to vary their shape with fantastic
spitefulness; squares lengthened into parallelograms and distorted
themselves into rhomboids--circles mockingly formed themselves
into ciphers--triangles became superimposed, like the necromantic
six-pointed star. Then numerals mingled with the drawings--columns
of magical figures which could never be added up, because they
seemed to lengthen themselves at will with serpent elasticity--a mad
procession of confused notes in addition and subtraction, in division
and multiplication, danced before him. And the world of anxious faces
watched yet more impatiently.


All was dark again; the merciless pain in loins and thighs had
returned with sharp consciousness of the fever, and the insufferable
heat and skull-splitting headache--heavy blankets and miserable
helplessness--and the recollection of the very, very small pill-box on
the table. Then it seemed to him there were other pill-boxes--three!
nine! twenty-seven! eight-one! one hundred and sixty-two! one hundred
and sixty-two very small pill-boxes.


He seemed to be wandering in a cemetery, under blazing sunlight and
in a blinding glare of white-washed washed tombs, whose skeletons of
brick were left bare in leprous patches by the falling away of the
plastering. And, wandering, he came to a deep wall, catacombed from
base to summit with the resting-places of ten thousand dead; and there
was one empty place--one black void--inscribed with a name strangely
like his own. And a great weariness and faintness came upon him; and
the pains, returning, carried back his thoughts to the warmth and
dimness of the sick-room.


It seemed to him that this could not be death--he was too weary even
to die! But they would put him into the hollow void in the wall!--they
might: he would not resist, he felt no fear. He could rest there very
well even for a hundred years. He had a gimlet somewhere!--they would
let him take it with him;--he could bore a tiny little hole in the wall
so that a thread of sunlight would creep into his resting-place every
day, and he could hear the voices of the world about him. Yet perhaps
he should never be able to leave that dark damp place again!--It was
very possible; seeing that he was so tired. And there was so much to
be arranged first: there were estimates and plans and contracts; and
nobody else could make them out; and everything would be left in such
confusion! And perhaps he might not even be able to think in a little
while; all the knowledge he had stored up would be lost; nobody could
think much or say much after having been buried. And he thought again
of the pill-boxes--one hundred and sixty-two very small pill-boxes.
No; there were exactly three hundred and sixty-six! Perhaps that was
because it was leap year.


Everything must be arranged at once!--at once! The pill-boxes
would do; he could breathe his thoughts into them and close them
tightly--recollections of estimates, corrections of plans, directions
to the stair-builders, understanding with contractors, orders to the
lumber dealers, instructions to Texan and Mississippi agents, answers
to anxious architects, messages to the senior partner, explanations
to the firm of X and W. Then it seemed to him that each little box
received its deposit of memories, and became light as flame, buoyant
as a bubble;--rising in the air to float halfway between floor and
ceiling. A great anxiety suddenly came upon him;--the windows were all
open, and the opening of the door might cause a current. All these
little thoughts would float away!--yet he could not rise to lock the
door! The boxes were all there, floating above him light as motes in a
sunbeam:--there were so many now that he could not count them! If the
nurse would only stay away!... Then all became dark again--a darkness
as of solid ebony, heavy, crushing, black, blank, universal...

All lost! Brutally the door opened and closed again with a cruel clap
of thunder.... Yellow lightnings played circling before his eyes....
The pill-boxes were gone! But was not that the face of the doctor,
anxious and kindly? The burning day was dead; the sick man turned his
eyes to the open windows, and beheld the fathomless purple of the
night, and the milky blossoms of the stars. And he strove to speak,
but could not! The light of a shaded lamp falling upon the table
illuminated a tiny object, blood-scarlet by day, carmine under the
saffron artificial light. _There was only one pill-box._



A RIVER REVERIE[31]


An old Western river port, lying in a wrinkle of the hills--a
sharp slope down to the yellow water, glowing under the sun like
molten bronze--a broken hollow square of buildings framing it in,
whose basements had been made green by the lipping of water during
inundations periodical as the rising of the Nile--a cannonade-rumble
of drays over the boulders, and muffled-drum thumping of cotton
bales--white signs black-lettered with names of steamboat companies,
and the green lattice-work of saloon doors flanked by empty
kegs--above, church spires cutting the blue--below, on the slope,
hogsheads, bales, drays, cases, boxes, barrels, kegs, mules,
wagons, policemen, loungers, and roustabouts, whose apparel is at
once as picturesque, as ragged, and as colorless as the fronts of
their favorite haunts on the water-front. Westward the purple of
softly-rolling hills beyond the flood, through a diaphanous veil of
golden haze--a marshaled array of white boats with arabesque lightness
of painted woodwork, and a long and irregular line of smoking chimneys.
The scene never varied save with the varying tints of weather and
season. Sometimes the hills were gray through an atmosphere of
rain--sometimes they vanished altogether in an autumn fog; but the
port never changed. And in summer or spring, at the foot of the iron
stairway leading up to a steamboat agency in the great middle building
facing the river, there was a folding stool--which no one ever tried
to steal--which even the most hardened wharf thieves respected--and
on that stool, at the same hour every day, a pleasant-faced old man
with a very long white beard used to sit. If you asked anybody who
it was, the invariable reply was: "Oh! that's old Captain-; used to
be in the New Orleans trade;--had to give up the river on account of
rheumatism;--comes down every day to look at things."

Wonder whether the old captain still sits there of bright afternoons,
to watch the returning steamers panting with their mighty run from the
Far South--or whether he has sailed away upon that other river, silent
and colorless as winter's fog, to that vast and shadowy port where much
ghostly freight is discharged from vessels that never return? He haunts
us sometimes--even as he must have been haunted by the ghosts of dead
years.

When some great white boat came in, uttering its long, wild cry of
joy after its giant race of eighteen hundred miles, to be reëchoed
by the hundred voices of the rolling hills--surely the old man must
have dreamed upon his folding stool of marvelous nights upon the
Mississippi--nights filled with the perfume of orange blossoms under
a milky palpitation of stars in amethystine sky, and witchery of
tropical moonlight.

The romance of river-life is not like the romance of the sea--that
romance memory evokes for us in the midst of the city by the simple
exhalations of an asphalt pavement under the sun--divine saltiness,
celestial freshness, the wild joy of wind-kissed waves, the hum of
rigging and crackling of cordage, the rocking as of a mighty cradle.
But it is perhaps sweeter. There is no perceptible motion of the river
vessel; it is like the movement of a balloon, so steady that not we but
the world only seems to move. Under the stars there seems to unroll
its endlessness like an immeasurable ribbon of silver-purple. There
is a noiseless ripple in it, as of watered silk. There is a heavy,
sweet smell of nature, of luxuriant verdure; the feminine outlines
of the hills, dotted with the chrome-yellow of window-lights, are
blue-black; the vast arch of stars blossoms overhead; there is no
sound but the colossal breathing of the laboring engines; the stream
widens; the banks lessen; the heavens seem to grow deeper, the stars
whiter, the blue bluer. Under the night it is all a blue world, as in
a planet illuminated by a colored sun. The calls of the passing boats,
sonorous as the music of vast silver trumpets, ring out clear but
echoless;--there are no hills to give ghostly answer. Days are born in
gold and die in rose-color; and the stream widens, widens, broadens
toward the eternity of the sea under the eternity of the sky. We sail
out of Northern frosts into Southern lukewarmness, into the luxuriant
and somnolent smell of magnolias and lemon-blossoms--the sugar-country
exhales its incense of welcome. And the giant crescent of lights, the
stream-song of joyous boats, the world of chimneys, the forests of
spars, the burst of morning glory over New Orleans viewed from the deck
of a pilot-house....

These may never be wholly forgotten; after the lapse of fifty years in
some dusty and dreary inland city, an odor, an echo, a printed name may
resurrect their recollection, fresh as one of those Gulf winds that
leave sweet odors after them, like coquettish women, like Talmudic
angels.

So that we beheld all these things yesterday and heard all these dead
voices once more; saw the old Western port with its water-be-slimed
warehouses, and the Kentucky hills beyond the river, and the old
captain on his folding stool, gazing wistfully at the boats; so that
we heard once more the steam whistles of vessels that have long ceased
to be, or that, changed into floating wharves, rise and fall with the
flood, like corpses.

And all because there came an illustrious visitor to us, who reminded
us of all these things; having once himself turned the pilot's wheel,
through weird star-light or magical moonshine, gray rain or ghostly
fog, golden sun or purple light--down the great river from Northern
frosts to tepid Southern winds--and up the mighty stream into the misty
North again.

To-day his name is a household word in the English-speaking world;
his thoughts have been translated into other tongues; his written wit
creates mirth at once in Paris salons and in New Zealand homes. Fortune
has also extended to him her stairway of gold; and he has hobnobbed
much with the great ones of the world. But there is still something
of the pilot's cheery manner in his greeting, and the keenness of the
pilot's glance in his eyes, and a looking out and afar off, as of the
man who of old was wont to peer into the darkness of starless nights,
with the care of a hundred lives on his hands.

He has seen many strange cities since that day--sailed upon many
seas--studied many peoples--written many wonderful books.

Yet, now that he is in New Orleans again, one cannot help wondering
whether his heart does not sometimes prompt him to go to the river,
like that old captain of the far Northwestern port, to watch the white
boats panting at the wharves, and listen to their cries of welcome or
farewell, and dream of nights beautiful, silver-blue, and silent--and
the great Southern moon peering into a pilot-house.



"HIS HEART IS OLD"[32]


Chrystoblepharos--Elikoblepharos--eyelids grace-kissed--the eyes of
Leucothea--the dreaming marble head of the Capitoline Museum--the
face of the girl-nurse of the wine-god, with a spray of wine-leaves
filleting her sweet hair--that inexpressible, inexplicable, petrified
dream of loveliness, which well enables us to comprehend old monkish
tales regarding the infernal powers of enchantment possessed by the
antique statues of those gods who Tertullian affirmed were demons.
For in howsoever thoughtless a mood one may be when he first visits
the archæological shrine in which the holiness of antique beauty
reposes, the first glorious view of such a marble miracle compels the
heart to slacken its motion in the awful wonder of that moment. One
breathes low, as in sacred fear lest the vision might dissolve into
nothingness--as though the witchery might be broken were living breath
to touch with its warm moisture that wonderful marble cheek. Vainly
may you strive to solve the secret of this magical art; the exquisite
mystery is divine--human eye may never pierce it; one dare not laugh,
dare not speak in its presence--that beauty imposes silence by its very
sweetness; one may pray voicelessly, one does not smile in presence
of the Superhuman. And when hours of mute marveling have passed,
the wonder seems even newer than before. Shall we wonder that early
Christian zealots should have dashed these miracles to pieces, maddened
by the silent glamour of beauty that defied analysis and seemed,
indeed, a creation of the Master-Magician himself?

And the Centauress, in cameo, kneeling to suckle her little one;--the
supple nudity of exquisite ephebi turning in eternal dance about the
circumference of wondrous vases;--gentle Psyche, butterfly-winged,
weeping on a graven carnelian;--river-deities in relief eternally
watching the noiseless flow of marble waves from urns that gurgle
not;--joyous Tritons with knotty backs and seaweed twined among
their locks;--luxurious symposia in sculpture, such as might have
well suggested the Oriental fancy of petrified cities, with their
innumerable pleasure-seekers suddenly turned to stone;--splendid
processions of maidens to the shrine of the Maiden-Goddess, and
Bacchantes leading tame panthers in the escort of the Rosy God: all
these and countless other visions of the dead Greek world still haunted
me, as I laid aside the beautiful and quaint volume of archæological
learning that inspired them--bound in old fashion, and bearing the
imprint of a firm that had ceased to exist ere the close of the French
Revolution--a Rococo Winkelmann. And still they circled about me, with
the last smoke-wreaths of the last evening pipe, on the moonlight
balcony, among the shadows.


Then as I dreamed the beautiful dead world seemed to live again, in
a luminous haze, in an Elysian glow. The processions of stone awoke
from their sleep of two thousand years, and moved and chanted;--marble
dreams became lithe flesh;--the phantom Arcadia was peopled with
shapes of unclad beauty;--I saw eyelids as of Leucothea palpitating
under the kisses of the Charities--the incarnate loveliness superhuman
of a thousand god-like beings, known to us only by their shadows in
stone;--and the efflorescent youth of that vanished nation, whose idols
were Beauty and Joy--who laughed much and never wept--whose perfect
faces were never clouded by the shadow of a grief, nor furrowed by the
agony of thought, nor wrinkled by the bitterness of tears.

I found myself in the honeyed heart of that world, where all was youth
and joy--where the very air seemed to thrill with new happiness in a
paradise newly created--where innumerable flowers, of genera unknown
in these later years, filled the valley with amorous odor of spring.
But I sat among them with the thoughts of the Nineteenth Century, and
the heart of the Nineteenth Century, and the garb of the Nineteenth
Century, which is black as a garb of mourning for the dead. And they
drew about me, seeing that I laughed not at all, nor smiled, nor
spoke; and low-whispering to one another, they murmured with a silky
murmur as of summer winds:

"His heart is old!"


And I pondered the words of the Ecclesiast: "Sorrow is better than
laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made
better.... It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the
house of feasting; and the day of one's death is better than the day of
one's birth." But I answered nothing; and they spake again, whispering,
_"His heart is old!_" And one with sweet and silky-lidded eyes, lifted
her voice and spake:

"O thou dreamer, wherefore evoke us, wherefore mourn us--seeing that
there is no more joy in the world?

"Ours was a world of light and of laughter and of flowers, of
loveliness and of love. Thine is smoke-darkened and sombre; there is no
beauty unveiled; and men have forgotten how to laugh.

"Ye have increased wisdom unto sorrow, and sorrow unto infinite
despair;--for there is now no Elysium--the vault of heaven has sunk
back into immensity, and dissolved itself into nothingness; the
boundaries of earth are set, and the earth itself resolved into a
grain of dust, whirling in the vast white ring of innumerable suns
and countless revolving worlds. Yet we were happier, believing the
blossoming of stars to be only drops of milk from the perfect breast of
a goddess.

"Nymphs haunted our springs; dryads slumbered in the waving shadows of
our trees; zephyrs ethereal rode upon our summer winds; and great Pan
played upon his pipe in the emerald gloom of our summer woods. Ye men
of to-day have analyzed all substances, decomposed all elements, to
discover the Undiscoverable, and ye have found it not. But in searching
for the unsearchable, ye have lost joy.

"We loved the beauty of youth--the litheness of young limbs--the rosy
dawn of maturity--the bloom of downy cheeks--the sweetness of eyes
sweetened by vague desires of life's spring--the marvelous thrill of a
first kiss--the hunger of love which had only to announce itself to be
appeased--and the glory of strength. But ye have sought the secret of
the Universal life in charnel-houses--dismembering rottenness itself
and prying open the jaws of Death to view the awful emptiness therein.
Learning only enough to appall you, ye have found that science can
teach you less of beauty than our forgotten gymnasiums; but in the mean
time, ye have forgotten how to love.

"We gave to the bodies of our well-beloved the holy purification of
fire; ye confide them to the flesh-eating earth, filling your cities
with skeletons. For us Death was bodiless and terrible; for you she is
visible and yet welcome;--for so weary have men become of life that
her blackness seems to them beauty,--the beauty of a mistress, the
universal Pasiphila, who alone can give consolation to hearts weary of
life. So that ye have even forgotten how to die!

"And thou, O dreamer, thou knowest that there was no beginning and that
there shall be no end; but thou dost also know that the dust beneath
thy feet has lived and loved, that all which now lives once lived not,
and that what is now lifeless will live again;--thou knowest that
the substance of the sweetest lips has passed through myriad million
transformations, that the light of the sweetest eyes will still pass
through innumerable changes after the fires of the stars have burnt
themselves out. In seeking the All-Soul, thou hast found it in thyself,
and hast elevated thyself to deity, yet for thee are vows vain and
oracles dumb. Hope is extinguished in everlasting night; thou mayst
not claim even the consolation of prayer, for thou canst not pray
to thyself. Like the Mephistopheles of thy poet, O dreamer of the
Nineteenth Century, thou mayst sit between the Sphinx of the Past and
the Sphinx of the Future, and question them, and open their lips of
granite, and answer their mocking riddles. But thou mayst not forget
how to weep, even though thy heart grow old."...

But I could not weep!--And the phantoms, marveling, murmured with a
strange murmur--"The heart of Medusa!"



MDCCCLIII[33]


Somebody I knew was there--a woman....

Heat, motionless and ponderous, as in some feverish colonial city
rising from the venomous swamps of the Ivory Coast. The sky-blue seemed
to bleach from the horizon's furnace edges--even sounds were muffled
and blunted by the heaviness of that air--vaguely, as to a dozing
brain, came the passing reverberation of footsteps;--the river-current
was noiseless and thick and lazy, like wax-made fluid.... Such were the
days--and each day offered up a triple hecatomb to death--and the faces
of all the dead were yellow as flame....

Never a drop of rain:--the thin clouds which made themselves visible of
evenings only, flocking about the dying fires of the west, seemed to
dwellers in the city troops of ghosts departing with the day, as in the
fantastic myths of the South Pacific.

...I passed the outer iron gate--the warm seashells strewing the way
broke under my feet with faint saline odors in the hot air:--I heard
the iron tongue of a bell utter ONE, with the sinister vibration of a
knell--signaling the eternal extinction of a life. Seven and seventy
times that iron tongue had uttered its grim monosyllable since the last
setting of the sun. The grizzled watcher of the inner gate extended
his pallid palm for that eleemosynary contribution exacted from all
visitors;--and it seemed to me that I beheld the gray Ferryman of
Shadows himself, silently awaiting his obolus from me, also a Shadow.
And as I glided into the world of agony beyond, the dead-bell moved its
iron tongue again--once....

Vast bare gleaming corridors into which many doors exhaled odors of
medicines and moans and sound of light footsteps hurrying--then I
stood a moment all alone--a long moment that I repass sometimes in
dreams. (Only that in dreams of the past there are no sounds--the dead
are dumb; and the fondest may not retain the evanescent memory of a
voice.) Then suddenly approached a swift step--so light, so light that
it seemed the coming of a ghost; and I saw a slight figure black-robed
from neck to feet, the fantastically winged cap of a Sister, and
beneath the white cap a dark and beautiful face with very black
eyes. Even then the iron bell spake again--once! I muttered--nay, I
whispered, all fearful with the fearfulness of that place, the name of
a ward and--the name of a Woman.

"Friend, friend! what do you want here?" murmured the Sister, who saw
that the visitor was a stranger. Hers was the first voice I had heard
in that place of death, and it seemed so sweet and clear--a musical
vibration of youth and hope! And I answered, this time audibly. "You
are not afraid?" she asked. "Come!"

Taking my hand, she led me thither--through spaces of sunlight and
shadow, through broad and narrow ways, and between rows of beds white
like rows of tombs. Her hand was cool and light as mist--as frost--as
the guiding touch of that spirit might be whom the faithful of many
creeds believe to lead their dead out of the darkness, into some vast
new dawning beyond.... "You are not afraid?--not afraid?" the sweet
voice asked again. And I suddenly became aware of the dead, lying
between us, and the death-color in her face, like a flare of sunset....

Then for an instant everything became dark between me and the Sister
standing upon the other side of the dead--and I was groping in that
darkness blindly, until I felt a cool hand grasp mine, leading me
silently somewhere--somewhere into the light. "Come! you have no claim
here, friend! you cannot take her back from God!--let us leave her with
Him!" And I obeyed all voicelessly. I felt her light, cool hand leading
me again between the long ranks of white beds, and through the vast,
bare corridors, and the shining lobbies, and by the doors of a hundred
chambers of death.

Then at the summit of the great stairway, she turned her rich gaze
into my eyes with a strange, sweet, silent sympathy, pressed my hand
an instant, and was gone. I heard the whisper of her departing robe;
I saw the noiseless fluttering of her white cap;--a great door opened
very silently, closed inaudibly; and I was all alone.--(Some one told
me, only a few days later, that the iron bell had also spoken for her,
the little Sister of Charity--in the middle of the night--once!)

And I, standing alone upon the stairs, felt something unutterably
strange within me--the influence of that last look, perhaps still
vibrating, like an expiring sunbeam, a dying tone. Something in her
eyes had rekindled into life something long burned out within my
heart--the ashes of a Faith entombed as in a sepulchral urn.... Yet
only a moment; and the phantom flame sank back into its ashes; and I
was in the sunlight again, iron of purpose as Pharaoh after the death
of his first-born. It was only a dead emotion, warmed to resurrection
by the sunshine of a woman's eyes.

...Nevertheless, I fancy that when the Ringer is preparing to ring for
me--and the great darkness deepens all about me--when sounds sink to
their whispers and questions must remain eternally unanswered--when
memory is fading out into the infinite blackness, and those strange
dreams that precurse the final dissolution marshal their illusions
before me--I fancy that I might hear again the whisper of a black
robe, and feel a hand, light as frost, held out to me with the sweet
questioning--"_Come! You are not afraid?_"



HIOUEN-THSANG[34]


    The story of him who gave the Lotus of the good Law unto
    four hundred millions of his people in the Middle Kingdom,
    and remained insensible unto honors even as the rose-leaf to
    the dewdrop....


Twelve hundred years ago, in a town of China, situated in the inmost
recesses of the kingdom called Celestial, was born a boy, at whose
advent in this world of illusions the spirits of good rejoiced, and
marvelous things also happened--according to the legends of those
years. For before his birth, the mother dreaming beheld the Shadow of
Buddha above her, radiant as the face of the Mountain of Light; and
after the Shadow had passed, she was aware of the figure of her son,
that was to be, following after It over vast distances to cities of an
architecture unknown, and through forests of strange growth that seemed
not of this world. And a Voice gave her to know that her boy would
yet travel in search of the Word through unknown lands, and be guided
by Lord Buddha in his wanderings, and find in the end that which he
sought....

So the boy grew up in wisdom; and his face became as the white face
of the God in the Temple beyond Tientsin, where the mirage shifts its
spectral beauties forever above the sands, typifying to the faithful
that the world and all within it are but a phantasmagoria of illusion.
And the boy was instructed by the priests of Buddha, and became wiser
than they.

For the Law of Buddha had blossomed in the land unnumbered years, and
the Son of Heaven had bowed down before it, and there were in the
Empire many thousand convents of holy monks, and countless teachers
of truth. But in the lapse of a thousand years and more the Lotus
Flower of the Good Law had lost its perfume; much of the wisdom of the
World-honored had been forgotten; fire and the fury of persecution had
made small the number of holy books. When Hiouen-thsang sought for the
deeper wisdom of the Law he found it not; nor was there in all China
one who could inform him. Then a great longing came upon him to go to
India, the land of the Savior of Man, and there seek the wondrous words
that had been lost, and the marvelous books unread by Chinese eyes.


Before the time of Hiouen-thsang other Chinese pilgrims had visited
the Indian Palestine;--Fabian had been sent thither upon a pilgrimage
by a holy Empress. But these others had received aid of money and of
servants--letters to governors and gifts to kings. Hiouen-thsang had
neither money nor servants, nor any knowledge of the way. Therefore he
could only seek aid from the Emperor, and permission. But the Son of
Heaven rejected the petition written upon yellow silk, and signed with
two thousand devout names. Moreover, he forbade Hiouen-thsang to leave
the kingdom under penalty of death.

But the heart of Hiouen-thsang told him that he must go. And he
remembered that the caravans from India used to bring their strange
wares to a city on the Hoang-ho--on the Yellow River. Secretly
departing in the night, he traveled for many days, succored upon his
way by the brethren, until he came to the caravansary, and saw the
Indian merchants with their multitude of horses and of camels, resting
beside the Hoang-ho.

And presently when they departed for the frontier, he followed secretly
after them, with two Buddhist friends.


So they came to the frontier, where the line of the fortifications
stretched away lessening into the desert, with their watch-towers
fantastically capped, like Mandarins. But here only the caravan could
pass; for the guards had orders from the Son of Heaven to seize upon
Hiouen-thsang;--and the Indian merchants rode away far beyond the line
of the watch-towers; and the caravan became only a moving speck against
the disk of the sun, to disappear with his setting. Yet in the night
Hiouen-thsang passed with his friends, like shadows, through the line
of guards, and followed the trail.

Happily the captain in charge of the next watch-tower was a holy man,
and moved by the supplications of the Buddhist priests, he permitted
Hiouen-thsang to pass on. But the other brethren trembled and returned,
leaving Hiouen-thsang alone. Yet India was still more than a thousand
miles distant, by the way of the caravans.

Only the men of the last watch-tower would not allow Hiouen-thsang
to pass; but he escaped by them into the desert. Then he followed
the line of the caravan, the prints of the feet of camels and horses
leading toward India. Skeletons were whitening in the sands; the
eyeless sockets of innumerable skulls looked at him. The sun set and
rose again many times; the sand-sea moved its waves continually with
a rustling sound; the multitude of white bones waxed vaster. And as
Hiouen-thsang proceeded phantom cities mocked him on the right hand and
upon the left, and the spectral caravans wrought by the mirage rode by
him shadowlessly. Then his water-skin burst, and the desert drank up
its contents; the hoof-prints disappeared. Hiouen-thsang had lost his
way....


From the past of twelve hundred years ago, we can hear the breaking of
that water-skin;--we can feel the voiceless despair that for a moment
chilled the heart and faith of Hiouen-thsang--alone in the desert of
skeletons--alone in the infinite platitude of sand broken only by the
mockeries of the mirage. But the might of faith helped him on; prayers
were his food, Buddha the star-compass that illuminated the path to
India. For five days and five nights he traveled without meat or drink
under blistering suns, under the vast throbbing of stars--and at last
the sharp yellow line of the horizon became green!

It was not the mirage--it was a land of steel-bright lakes and long
grass--the land of the men who live upon horseback--the country of the
Oigour Tartars.


The Khan received the pilgrim as a son; honors were showered upon
him--for the fame of Hiouen-thsang as a teacher of the Law had reached
into the heart of Asia. And they desired that he should remain with
them, to instruct them in the knowledge of Buddha. When he would
not--only after having vainly essayed upon him such temptation and
coercion by turns that he was driven to despair, the Khan at last
permitted him to depart under oath that he would return. But India was
still far away. Hiouen-thsang had to pass through the territories of
twenty-four great kings ere reaching the Himalayas. The Khan gave him
an escort and letters to the rulers of all kingdoms, for his memory is
yet blessed in the Empire Celestial.

It was in the seventh century. Rivers have changed their courses since
then. Hiouen-thsang visited the rulers of kingdoms that have utterly
disappeared; he beheld civilizations where are now wastes of sand; he
conversed with masters of a learning that has vanished without leaving
a trace behind. The face of the world is changed; but the words of
Hiouen-thsang change not;--lakes have dried up, yet we even now in
this Western republic drink betimes from that Fountain of Gold which
Hiouen-thsang set flowing--to flow forever!

So they beheld at last, afar off, the awful Himalayas, whose white
turbans touch the heaven of India, vested with thunder-clouds, belted
with lightnings! And Hiouen-thsang passed through gorges overhung by
the drooping fangs of monsters of ice--through ravines so dark that
the traveler beholds the stars above him at noonday, and eagles like
dots against the sky--and hard by the icy cavern whence the sacred
river leaps in roaring birth--and by winding ways to valleys eternally
green--and ever thus into the glowing paradise of Hindustan. But of
those that followed Hiouen-thsang, thirteen were buried in the eternal
snow.

He saw the wondrous cities of India; he saw the sanctuaries of Benares;
saw the great temples since destroyed for modern eyes by Moslem
conquerors; saw the idols that had diamond eyes and bellies filled with
food of emeralds and carbuncles; he trod where Buddha had walked; he
came to Maghada, which is the Holy Land of India. Alone and on foot
he traversed the jungles; the cobra hissed under his feet, the tiger
glared at him with eyes that flamed like emeralds, the wild elephant's
mountain-shadow fell across his path. Yet he feared nothing, for he
sought Buddha. The Phansigars flung about his neck the noose of the
strangler, and yet loosened him on beholding the holiness of his face;
swarthy robbers, whose mustaches were curved like scimitars, lifted
their blades to smite, and beholding his eyes turned away. So he came
to the Dragon-Cavern of Purushapura to seek Buddha. For Buddha, though
having entered Nirvana a thousand years, sometimes there made himself
visible as a luminous Shadow to those who loved him.


But in the cavern was a darkness as of the grave, a silence as of
death; Hiouen-thsang prayed in vain, and vainly wept for many hours in
the darkness. At last there came a faint glow upon the wall, like a
beam of the moon--and passed away. Then Hiouen-thsang prayed yet more
fervently than before; and again in the darkness came a light--but a
fierce brightness as of lightning, as quickly passing away. Yet a third
time Hiouen-thsang wept and prayed; and a white glory filled all the
black cavern--and brighter than the sun against that glory appeared
the figure and face of Buddha, holier of beauty than all conceptions
of man. So that Hiouen-thsang worshiped with his face to the earth.
And Buddha smiled upon him, making the heart of the pilgrim full of
sunshine--but the Divine spoke not, inasmuch as he had entered into
Nirvana a thousand years.

After this Hiouen-thsang passed sixteen years in the holy places,
copying the Law, and seeking the words of Buddha in books that had
been written in languages no longer spoken. Of these he obtained one
thousand three hundred and thirty-five volumes. Other volumes there
were in the Island of Elephants far to the South--in sultry Ceylon; but
thither it was not permitted him to go.

He was a youth when he fled from China into the desert; he was a
gray man when he returned. The Emperor that had forbade his going
now welcomed his return, with processions of tremendous splendor, in
which were borne the Golden Dragon and numberless statues in gold.
But Hiouen-thsang withdrew from all honors into a monastery in the
mountains, desiring to spend the rest of his life only in translating
the word of Buddha contained in those many hundred books which he had
found. And of these before his death he translated seven hundred and
forty into one thousand three hundred and thirty-five volumes, as the
books of the Chinese are made. Having completed his task, he passed
away in the midst of great sorrow;--the Empire wept for him--four
hundred millions mourned for him.


Did he see the Shadow of Buddha smile upon him before he passed away,
as he saw it in the Dragon-Cavern at Purushapura?... It is said that
five others with him also beheld that luminous presence in the cave.
Yet we may well believe that he only saw it--faith-created; for Buddha
having passed into Nirvana may be sought only in the hearts of men, and
seen only by the eyes of faith!

Twelve hundred years ago Hiouen-thsang devoted his life to the pursuit
of that he believed to be Truth--abandoned all things for what he held
to be Duty--encountered such hardships as perhaps no other man ever
encountered in the search for Wisdom. To-day nations that were unborn
in his years are reaping the fruits of his grand sacrifice of self. His
travels have been recently translated into the French tongue; his own
translations are aiding the philologists of the nineteenth century to
solve historical and ethnical problems; Max Müller lectures[35] upon
his wonderful mission to India in the seventh century; and stories from
the books he brought back from Maghada are in the hands of American
readers. Who shall say that there is no goodness without the circle of
Christianity!--who declare that heroism and unselfishness, and truth,
and purest faith may not exist save within the small sphere of what
we fancy the highest ethical civilization! The pilgrims to the Indian
Palestine, the martyrs of the Indian Christ, are surely the brethren of
all whom we honor in the history of self-abnegation and the good fight
for truth.



L'AMOUR APRÈS LA MORT[36]


No rest he knew because of her. Even in the night his heart was ever
startled from slumber as by the echo of her footfall; and dreams mocked
him with tepid fancies of her lips; and when he sought forgetfulness
in strange kisses her memory ever came shadowing between.... So that,
weary of his life, he yielded it up at last in the fevered summer of a
tropical city,--dying with her name upon his lips. And his face was no
more seen in the palm-shadowed streets;--but the sun rose and sank even
as before.


And that vague Something which lingers a little while within the tomb
where the body moulders, lingered and dreamed within the long dark
resting-place where they had laid him with the pious hope--Que en paz
descanse!

Yet so weary of his life had the Wanderer been that the repose of the
dead was not for him. And while the body shrank and sank into dust,
the phantom man found no rest in the darkness, and thought dimly to
himself: _"I am even too weary to find peace!_"

There was a thin crevice in the ancient wall of the tomb. And through
it, and through the meshes of a web that a spider had woven athwart
it, the dead looked and beheld the amethystine blaze of the summer
sky--and pliant palms bending in the warm wind--and the opaline glow of
the horizon, and fair pools bearing images of cypresses inverted--and
the birds that flitted from tomb to tomb and sang--and flowers in the
shadow of the sepulchres ...And the vast bright world seemed to him not
so hateful as before.

Likewise the sounds of life assailed the faint senses of the dead
through the thin crevice in the wall of the tomb:--always the far-off,
drowsy murmur made by the toiling of the city's heart; sometimes
sounds of passing converse and of steps--echoes of music and of
laughter--chanting and chattering of children at play--and the liquid
babble of beautiful brown women.

...So that the dead man dreamed of life and strength and joy, and the
litheness of limbs to be loved: also of that which had been, and of
that which might have been, and of that which now could never be. And
he longed at last to live again--seeing that there was no rest in the
tomb.

But the gold-born days died in golden fire; and blue nights unnumbered
filled the land with indigo-shadows; and the perfume of the summer
passed like a breath of incense--and the dead within the sepulchre
could not wholly die.

Stars in their courses peered down through the crevices of the tomb,
and twinkled, and passed on; winds of the sea shrieked to him through
the widening crannies of the tomb; birds sang above him and flew to
other lands; the bright lizards that ran noiselessly over his bed of
stone, as noiselessly departed; the spider at last ceased to repair her
web of elfin silk; years came and went with lentor inexpressible; but
for the dead there was no rest!

And after many tropical moons had waxed and waned, and the summer was
deepening in the land, filling the golden air with tender drowsiness
and passional perfume, it strangely came to pass that _She_, whose
name had been murmured by his lips when the Shadow of Death fell upon
him, came to that city of palms, and even unto the ancient place of
sepulture, and unto the tomb that was nameless.

And he knew the whisper of her raiment--knew the sweetness of her
presence--and the pallid hearts of the blossoms of a plant whose blind
roots had found food within the crevice of the tomb, changed and
flushed, and flamed incarnadine....

But She--perceiving it not--passed by; and the sound of her footstep
died away forever.



THE POST-OFFICE[37]


I

The little steamer will bear you thither in one summer day--starting
at early morning, arriving just as the sun begins to rest his red chin
upon the edge of the west. It is a somewhat wearisome and a wonderfully
tortuous journey, through that same marshy labyrinth by which the
slavers in other days used to smuggle their African freight up to
the old Creole city from the Gulf.... Leaving the Mississippi by a
lock-guarded opening in its western levee, the miniature packet first
enters a long and narrow canal--cutting straight across plantations
considerably below the level of its raised banks--and through this
artificial waterway she struggles on, panting desperately under the
scorching heat, until after long hours she almost leaps, with a
great steam-sigh of relief, into the deeper and broader bayou that
serpentines through the swamp-forest. Then there is at least ample
shadow; the moss-hung trees fling their silhouettes right across the
water and into the woods on the other side, morning and evening.
Grotesque roots--black, geniculated, gnarly--project from the crumbling
banks like bones from an ancient grave;--dead, shrunken limbs and
fallen trunks lie macerating in the slime. Grim shapes of cypress
stoop above us, and seem to point the way with anchylosed knobby
finger--their squalid tatters of moss grazing our smoke-stack. The
banks swarm with crustaceans, gnawing, burrowing, undermining; gray
saurians slumber among the gray floating logs at the edge; gorged
carrion-birds doze upon the paralytic shoulders of cypresses, about
whose roots are coiled more serpents than ever gnawed Yggdrasil.
The silence is only broken by the loud breathing of the little
steamer;--odors of vegetable death--smells of drowned grasses and
decomposing trunks and of eternal mould-formation--make the air weighty
to breathe; and the green obscurities on either hand deepen behind the
crests of the water-oaks and the bright masses of willow frondescense.
The parasitic life of the swamp, pendent and enormous, gives the scene
a drenched, half-drowned look, as of a land long-immersed, and pushed
up again from profundities of stagnant water--and still dripping with
moisture and monstrous algæ....

The ranks of the water-oaks become less serried--the semi-tropical
vegetation less puissant--the willows and palmettoes and cypresses
no longer bar out the horizon-light; and the bayou broadens into a
shining, green-rimmed sheet of water, over which our little boat puffs
a zigzag course--feeling her way cautiously--to enter a long chain
of lakelets and lakes, all bayou-linked together. Sparser and lower
becomes the foliage-line, lower also the banks; the water-tints
brighten bluely; the heavy and almost acrid odors of the swamp pass
away. So thin the land is that from the little steamer's deck, as from
a great altitude, the eye can range over immense distances. These
are the skirts of the continent, trending in multitudinous tatters
southward to the sea;--and the practiced gaze of the geologist can
discern the history of prodigious alluvial formation, the slow creation
of future prairie lands, in those long grassy tongues--those desolate
islands, shaped like the letters of an Oriental alphabet--those reaches
of flesh-colored sand, that shift their shape with the years, but never
cease to grow.

Miles of sluggish, laboring travel--sometimes over shallows of less
than half a fathom--through archipelagoes whose islets become more
and more widely separated as we proceed. Then the water deepens
steadily--and the sky also seems to deepen--and there is something in
the bright air that makes electrical commotion in the blood and fills
the lungs with richer life. Gulls with white breasts and dark, broad
wings sweep past with sharp, plaintive cries; brown clouds of pelicans
hover above tiny islands within rifle-shot--alternately rising and
descending all together. Through luminous distances the eye can just
distinguish masses of foliage, madder-colored by remoteness, that seem
to float in suspension between the brightness of the horizon and the
brightness of water, like shapes of the Fata Morgana. And in those
far, dim, island groves prevails, perhaps, the strange belief that
the Universe itself is but a mirage; for the gods of the most eastern
East have been transported thither, and the incense of Oriental prayer
mounts thence into the azure of a Christian heaven. Those are Chinese
fishing-stations--miniature villages of palmetto huts, whose yellow
populations still cling to the creed of Fo--unless, indeed, they
follow the more practical teachings of the Ancient Infant, born with
snow-white hair--the doctrine of the good Thai-chang-lao-kinn, the
sublime Loo-tseu...



II

Glassy-smooth the water sleeps along the northern coast of our island
summer resort, as the boat slowly skirts the low beach, passing bright
shallows where seines of stupendous extent are hung upon rows of high
stakes to dry;--but already the ear is filled with a ponderous and
powerful sound, rolling up from the south through groves of orange
and lemon--the sound of that "great voice that shakes the world." For
less than half a mile away--across the narrow island--immense surges
are whitening all the long slant of sand.... Divinely caressing the
first far-off tones of that eternal voice to one revisiting ocean
after absence of many weary and dusty summers--tones filling the mind
with even such vague blending of tenderness and of awe as the pious
traveler might feel when, returning after long sojourn in a land of
strange, grim gods, whose temple pavements may never be trodden by
Occidental feet, he hears again the pacific harmonies of some cathedral
organ, breaking all about him in waves of golden thunder.

...Then with a joyous shock we bump the ancient wooden wharf--where
groups of the brown island people are already waiting to scrutinize
each new face with kindliest curiosity; for the advent of the
mail-packet is ever a great and gladsome event. Even the dogs bark
merry welcome, and run to be caressed. A tramway car receives the
visitors--baggage is piled on--the driver clacks his tongue--the mule
starts--the dogs rush on in advance to announce our coming.



III

In the autumn of the old feudal years, all this sea-girdled land was
one quivering splendor of sugar-cane, walled in from besieging tides
with impregnable miles of levee. But when the great decadence came,
the rude sea gathered up its barbarian might, and beat down the strong
dikes, and made waste the opulent soil, and, in Abimelech-fury, sowed
the site of its conquests with salt. Some of the old buildings are
left;--the sugar-house has been converted into an ample dining-hall;
the former slave-quarters have been remodeled and fitted up for
guests--a charming village of white cottages, shadowed by aged trees;
the sugar-pans have been turned into water-vessels for the live-stock;
and the old plantation-bell, of honest metal and pure tone, now summons
the visitor to each repast.

And all this little world, though sown with sand and salt, teems with
extraordinary exuberance of life. Night and day the foliage of the
long groves vibrates to chant of insect and feathered songster; and
beyond reckoning are the varieties of nest-builders--among whom very
often may be perceived rose-colored or flame-colored strangers of the
tropics--flown hither over the Caribbean Sea. The waters are choked
with fish; the horizon ever darkened with flights of birds; the very
soil seems to stir, to creep, to breathe. Every little bank, ditch,
creek, swarms with "fiddlers," each holding high its single huge white
claw in readiness for battle; and the dryer lands are haunted by
myriads of ghostly crustacea--phantom crabs--semi-diaphanous creatures
that flit over the land with the speed and lightness of tarantulas,
and are so pale of shell that their moving shadows first betray their
presence. There are immense choruses of tree-frogs by day, bamboulas
of water-frogs after sundown. The vast vitality of the ocean seems
to interpenetrate all that sprouts, breathes, flies. Cattle fatten
wonderfully upon the tough wire-grass; sheep multiply exceedingly. In
every chink something is trying to grow, in every orifice some tiny
life seeks to hide itself (even beneath the edge of the table on which
I wrote some queer little creatures had built three marvelous nests of
dry mud);--every substance here appears not only to maintain life but
to create it; and ideas of spontaneous generation present themselves
with irresistible force.



IV

...And children in multitude!--children of many races, and of many
tints--ranging from ivorine to glossy bronze, through half the shades
of Broca's pattern-colors;--for there is a strange blending of tribes
and peoples here. By and by, when the youths and maidens of these
patriarchal families shall mate, they will build for themselves funny
little timber-homes--like those you see dotting the furzy-green
plain about the log-dwelling of the oldest settler--even as so many
dove-cots. Existence here is so facile, happy, primitively simple,
that trifles give joy unspeakable;--in that bright air whose purity
defies the test of even the terrible solar microscope, neither misery
nor malady may live. To such contented minds surely the Past must
ever appear in a sunset-glow of gold; the Future in eternal dawn of
rose;--until, perchance, the huge dim city summon some of them to her
dusty servitude, when the gray elders shall have passed away, and the
little patches of yellow-flowered meadow-land shall have changed hands,
and the island hath no more place for all its children.... So they
live and love, and marry and give in marriage, and build their little
dove-cots, and pass away forever--either to smoky cities of the South
and West, or, indeed, to that vaster and more ancient city, whose
streets are shadowless and voiceless, and whose gates are guarded by
God.

But the mighty blind sea will ever chant the same mysterious hymn,
under the same infinite light of blue, for those who shall come after
them....



V

...No electric nerves have yet penetrated this little world, to connect
its humble life with the industrial and commercial activities of the
continent: here the feverish speculator feels no security:--it is a fit
sojourn for those only who wish to forget the harsh realities of city
existence, the burning excitement of loss and gain, the stern anxieties
of duty--who care only to enjoy the rejuvenating sea, to drink the
elixir of the perfect air, to dream away the long and luminous hours,
perfumed with sweet, faint odors of summer. The little mail-boat,
indeed, comes at regular intervals of days, and the majesty of the
United States is represented by a post-office--but the existence of
that office could never be divined by the naked eye.

A negro, who seemed to understand Spanish only, responded to my
inquiries by removing a pipe from his lips, and pointing the cane-stem
thereof toward a building that made a dark red stain against the green
distance--with the words: "Casa de correo?--si, señor! directamente
detras del campo, señor;--sigue el camino carretero à la casa colorada."

So I crossed plains thickly grown with a sturdy green weed bearing
small yellow flowers, and traversed plank-bridges laid over creeks in
which I saw cats fishing and swimming--actually swimming, for even the
feline race loses its dread of water here;--and I followed a curving
roadway half obliterated by wire-grass--until I found myself at last
within a small farmyard, where cords of wood were piled up about an
antique, gabled, chocolate-colored building that stood in the midst.
I walked half around it, seeking for the entrance--hearing only the
sound of children's voices, and a baby's laughter; and finally came in
front of an open gallery on the southern side, where a group of Creole
children were--two pretty blond infants, with an elder and darker
sister. Seated in a rocking-chair, her infant brother sprawling at her
feet, she was dancing a baby sister on her knee, chanting the while
this extraordinary refrain:

    "Zanimaux caquéne so manié galoupé;--bourique--tiquiti,
    tiquiti, tiquiti; milet--tocoto, tocoto, tocoto;
    çouval--tacata, tacata, tacata."


And with the regular crescendo of the three onomatopes, the baby went
higher and higher.... My steps had made no sound upon the soft grass;
the singer's back, inundated with chestnut hair, was turned toward
me; but the baby had observed my approach, and its blue stare of
wonder caused the girl to look round. At once she laid the child upon
the floor, arose, and descended the wooden step to meet me with the
question--"Want to see papa?"

She might perhaps have been twelve, not older--slight, with one of
those sensitive, oval faces that reveal a Latin origin, and the
pinkness of rich health bursting through its olive skin;--the eyes that
questioned my face were brown and beautiful as a wild deer's.

"I want to get some stamped envelopes," I responded;--"is this the
post-office?"

"Yes, sir; I can give them to you," she answered, turning back toward
the gallery steps;--"come this way!"

I followed her as far as the doorway of the tiniest room I had ever
seen--just large enough to contain a safe, an office desk, and a chair.
It was cozy, carpeted, and well lighted by a little window fronting the
sea. I saw a portrait hanging above the desk--a singularly fine gray
head, with prophetic features and Mosaic beard--the portrait of the
island's patriarch....

"You see," she observed, in response to my amused gaze, while she
carefully unlocked the safe--"when papa and mamma are at work in the
field, I have to take charge. Papa tells me what to do.--How many did
you say?--four!--that will be ten cents.--Now, if you have a letter to
post, you can leave it here--if you like."

I handed her my letter--a thick one--in a two-cent envelope. She
weighed it in her slender brown hand;--I suspected the postage was
insufficient.

"It is too heavy," she said;--"you will have to put another stamp on
it, I think."

"In that case," I replied, "take back one of the stamped envelopes, and
give me instead a two-cent stamp for my letter."

She hesitated a moment, with a pretty look of seriousness--and then
answered:

"Why, yes, I could do that; but--but that would n't be doing fair
by you"--passing her fine thin fingers through the brown curls in a
puzzled way;--"no, that would n't be fair to you."

"Of course it's fair," I averred encouragingly--"we can't bother with
fractions, and I have no more small change. That is all right."

"No, it is n't all right," she returned--making the exchange with some
reluctance;--"it isn't right to take more than the worth of our money;
but I don't really know how to fix it. I'll ask papa when he comes
home, and we'll send you the difference--if there is any.--Oh! yes, I
will!--I'll send it to the hotel.--It would n't be right to keep it."

All vain my protests.

"No, no! I'm sure we owe you something. Valentine! Léonie!--say
good-bye--nicely!"

So the golden-haired babies cooed their "goo'-bye," as I turned the
corner, and waved them kisses;--and as I reached the wagon-road by the
open gate, I heard again the bird-voice of the little post-mistress
singing her onomatopoetic baby-song:

    "Bourique--tiquiti, tiquiti, tiquiti; milet--tocoto, tocoto,
    tocoto; çouval--tacata, tacata, tacata."



VI

... O little brown-eyed lamb, the wolfish world waits hungrily to
devour such as thou!--O dainty sea-land flower, that pinkness of thine
will not fade out more speedily than shall evaporate thy perfume of
sweet illusions in the stagnant air of cities! Many tears will dim
those dark eyes, nevertheless, ere thou shalt learn that wealth--even
the wealth of nations--is accumulated, without sense of altruism,
in eternal violation of those exquisite ethics which seem to thee
of God's own teaching. When thou shalt have learned this, and other
and sadder things, perhaps, memory may crown thee with her crown of
sorrows--may bear thee back, back, in wonderful haze of blue and gold,
to that island home of thine--even into that tiny office-room, with
its smiling gray portrait of thy dead father's father. And fancy may
often re-create for thee the welcome sound of hoofs returning home:
"çouval--tacata, tacata, tacata."...

And dreaming of the funny little refrain, the stranger fancied he could
look into the future of many years.... And in the public car of a
city railroad, he saw a brown-eyed, sweet-faced woman, whom it seemed
he had known a child, but now with a child of her own--asleep there in
her arms--and so pale! It was sundown; and her face was turned to the
west, where lingered splendid mockeries of summer seas--golden Pacifics
speckled with archipelagoes of rose and fairy-green. But he knew in
some mysterious way that she was thinking of seas not of mist,--of
islands not of cloud, while the heavy vehicle rumbled on its dusty
way, and the hoofs of the mule seemed to beat time to an old Creole
refrain--Milet--tocoto, tocoto, tocoto.


[Footnote 1: _Item_, September 14, 1879.]

[Footnote 2: _Item_, September 24, 1879. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 3: _Item_, November 1, 1879. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 4: _Item_, November 2, 1879. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 5: _Item_, December 6, 1879. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 6: _Item_, April 17, 1880.]

[Footnote 7: _Item_, April 17, 1880.]

[Footnote 8: _Item_, June 18, 1880.]

[Footnote 9: _Item_, July 31, 1880.]

[Footnote 10: _Item_, July 24, 1880.]

[Footnote 11: _Item_, July 29, 1880.]

[Footnote 12: _Item_, August 13, 1880.]

[Footnote 13: _Item_, September 7, 1880.]

[Footnote 14: _Item_, September 18, 1880.]

[Footnote 15: _Item_, September 25, 1880.]

[Footnote 16: _Item_, October 9, 1880.]

[Footnote 17: _Item_ October 12, 1880.]

[Footnote 18: _Item_, October 15, 1880.]

[Footnote 19: _Item_, October 21, 1880.]

[Footnote 20: _Item_, November 1, 1880. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 21: _Item_, January 17, 1881. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 22: _Item_ March 21. 1881.]

[Footnote 23: _Item_, April 5, 1881. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 24: _Item_, April 21, 1881. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 25: _Item_, June 8, 1881. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 26: _Item_, June 14, 1881.]

[Footnote 27: _Item_ July 1, 1881. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 28: _Item_, July 21, 1881. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 29: _Item_, August 18, 1881.]

[Footnote 30: _Item_ October 12, 1881.]

[Footnote 31: _Times-Democrat_, May 2, 1882.]

[Footnote 32: _Times-Democrat_, May 7, 1882.]

[Footnote 33: _Times-Democrat_, May 21, 1882. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 34: _Times-Democrat_, June 25, 1882. Hearn's own title.]

[Footnote 35: _Vide Chips from a German Workshop._]

[Footnote 36: _Times-Democrat_, April 6, 1884. Hearn's own title.
Signed. Almost identical with the _Item_ "Fantastic" of October 21,
1879.]

[Footnote 37: _Times-Democrat_, October 19, 1884. Hearn's own tide.
Signed.]


END OF VOLUME II





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