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Title: A Dreamer's Tales
Author: Dunsany, Lord
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Dreamer's Tales" ***

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                          _A Dreamer’s Tales_


                          _A Dreamer’s Tales_

                             _Lord Dunsany_

                        _With Illustrations by_
                               S. H. SIME

                         JOHN W. LUCE & COMPANY



I hope for this book that it may come into the hands of those that were
kind to my others and that it may not disappoint them.

To the Editor of the _Saturday Review_ my thanks are due for permission
to republish here those of the following tales which have appeared in
his columns, and, more than that, for the opportunity afforded me by his
review of reaching a wider public than my books have attained to yet.



 POLTARNEES, BEHOLDER OF OCEAN                                         1

 BLAGDAROSS                                                           23

 THE MADNESS OF ANDELSPRUTZ                                           32

 WHERE THE TIDES EBB AND FLOW                                         40

 BETHMOORA                                                            50

 IDLE DAYS ON THE YANN                                                59

 THE SWORD AND THE IDOL                                               93

 THE IDLE CITY                                                       105

 THE HASHISH MAN                                                     116

 POOR OLD BILL                                                       127

 THE BEGGARS                                                         138

 CARCASSONNE                                                         144

 IN ZACCARATH                                                        168

 THE FIELD                                                           175

 THE DAY OF THE POLL                                                 182

 THE UNHAPPY BODY                                                    188

                        _List of Illustrations_

 WE WOULD GALLOP THROUGH AFRICA                           _Frontispiece_

 ROMANCE COMES DOWN OUT OF HILLY WOODLANDS            _To face page_   4

 THE SOUL OF ANDELSPRUTZ                                   “ “        34

 THE TERRIBLE MUD                                          “ “        42

 BIRD OF THE RIVER                                         “ “        60

 THE GATE OF YANN                                          “ “        90

 THE SILENCE OF GED                                        “ “       108

 THUBA MLEEN                                               “ “       122

 LITTLE COTTAGES ... WHOSE LOOKS WE DID NOT LIKE           “ “       128

          Beholder of Ocean_

Toldees, Mondath, Arizim, these are the Inner Lands, the lands whose
sentinels upon their borders do not behold the sea. Beyond them to the
east there lies a desert, for ever untroubled by man: all yellow it is,
and spotted with shadows of stones, and Death is in it, like a leopard
lying in the sun. To the south they are bounded by magic, to the west by
a mountain, and to the north by the voice and anger of the Polar wind.
Like a great wall is the mountain to the west. It comes up out of the
distance and goes down into the distance again, and it is named
Poltarnees, Beholder of Ocean. To the northward red rocks, smooth and
bare of soil, and without any speck of moss or herbage, slope up to the
very lips of the Polar wind, and there is nothing else there but the
noise of his anger. Very peaceful are the Inner Lands, and very fair are
their cities, and there is no war among them, but quiet and ease. And
they have no enemy but age, for thirst and fever lie sunning themselves
out in the mid-desert, and never prowl into the Inner Lands. And the
ghouls and ghosts, whose highway is the night, are kept in the south by
the boundary of magic. And very small are all their pleasant cities, and
all men are known to one another therein, and bless one another by name
as they meet in the streets. And they have a broad, green way in every
city that comes in out of some vale or wood or downland, and wanders in
and out about the city between the houses and across the streets; and
the people walk along it never at all, but every year at her appointed
time Spring walks along it from the flowery lands, causing the anemone
to bloom on the green way and all the early joys of hidden woods, or
deep, secluded vales, or triumphant downlands, whose heads lift up so
proudly, far up aloof from cities.

Sometimes waggoners or shepherds walk along this way, they that have
come into the city from over cloudy ridges, and the townsmen hinder them
not, for there is a tread that troubleth the grass and a tread that
troubleth it not, and each man in his own heart knoweth which tread he
hath. And in the sunlit spaces of the weald and in the wold’s dark
places, afar from the music of cities and from the dance of the cities
afar, they make there the music of the country places and dance the
country dance. Amiable, near and friendly appears to these men the sun,
and as he is genial to them and tends their younger vines, so they are
kind to the little woodland things and any rumour of the fairies or old
legend. And when the light of some little distant city makes a slight
flush upon the edge of the sky, and the happy golden windows of the
homesteads stare gleaming into the dark, then the old and holy figure of
Romance, cloaked even to the face, comes down out of hilly woodlands and
bids dark shadows to rise and dance, and sends the forest creatures
forth to prowl, and lights in a moment in her bower of grass the little
glowworm’s lamp, and brings a hush down over the grey lands, and out of
it rises faintly on far-off hills the voice of a lute. There are not in
the world lands more prosperous and happy than Toldees, Mondath, Arizim.

From these three little kingdoms that are named the Inner Lands the
young men stole constantly away. One by one they went, and no one knew
why they went save that they had a longing to behold the Sea. Of this
longing they spoke little, but a young man would become silent for a few
days, and then, one morning very early, he would slip away and slowly
climb Poltarnees’s difficult slope, and having attained the top pass
over and never return. A few stayed behind in the Inner Lands and became
old men, but none that had ever climbed Poltarnees from the very
earliest times had ever come back again. Many had gone up Poltarnees
sworn to return. Once a king sent all his courtiers, one by one, to
report the mystery to him, and then went himself; none ever returned.


Now, it was the wont of the folk of the Inner Lands to worship rumours
and legends of the Sea, and all that their prophets discovered of the
Sea was writ in a sacred book, and with deep devotion on days of
festival or mourning read in the temples by the priests. Now, all their
temples lay open to the west, resting upon pillars, that the breeze from
the Sea might enter them, and they lay open on pillars to the east that
the breezes of the Sea might not be hindered but pass onward wherever
the Sea list. And this is the legend that they had of the Sea, whom none
in the Inner Lands had ever beholden. They say that the Sea is a river
heading towards Hercules, and they say that he touches against the edge
of the world, and that Poltarnees looks upon him. They say that all the
worlds of heaven go bobbing on this river and are swept down with the
stream, and that Infinity is thick and furry with forests through which
the river in his course sweeps on with all the worlds of heaven. Among
the colossal trunks of those dark trees, the smallest fronds of whose
branches are many nights, there walk the gods. And whenever its thirst,
glowing in space like a great sun, comes upon the beast, the tiger of
the gods creeps down to the river to drink. And the tiger of the gods
drinks his fill loudly, whelming worlds the while, and the level of the
river sinks between its banks ere the beast’s thirst is quenched and
ceases to glow like a sun. And many worlds thereby are heaped up dry and
stranded, and the gods walk not among them evermore, because they are
hard to their feet. These are the worlds that have no destiny, whose
people know no god. And the river sweeps onwards ever. And the name of
the river is Oriathon, but men call it Ocean. This is the Lower Faith of
the Inner Lands. And there is a Higher Faith which is not told to all.
According to the Higher Faith of the Inner Lands the river Oriathon
sweeps on through the forests of Infinity and all at once falls roaring
over an Edge, whence Time has long ago recalled his hours to fight in
his war with the gods; and falls unlit by the flash of nights and days,
with his flood unmeasured by miles, into the deeps of nothing.

Now as the centuries went by and the one way by which a man could climb
Poltarnees became worn with feet, more and more men surmounted it, not
to return. And still they knew not in the Inner Lands upon what mystery
Poltarnees looked. For on a still day and windless, while men walked
happily about their beautiful streets or tended flocks in the country,
suddenly the west wind would bestir himself and come in from the Sea.
And he would come cloaked and grey and mournful and carry to someone the
hungry cry of the Sea calling out for bones of men. And he that heard it
would move restlessly for some hours, and at last would rise suddenly,
irresistibly up, setting his face to Poltarnees, and would say, as is
the custom of those lands when men part briefly, “Till a man’s heart
remembereth,” which means “Farewell for a while;” but those that loved
him, seeing his eyes on Poltarnees, would answer sadly, “Till the gods
forget,” which means “Farewell.”

Now the King of Arizim had a daughter who played with the wild wood
flowers, and with the fountains in her father’s court, and with the
little blue heaven-birds that came to her doorway in the winter to
shelter from the snow. And she was more beautiful than the wild wood
flowers, or than all the fountains in her father’s court, or than the
blue heaven-birds in their full winter plumage when they shelter from
the snow. The old wise kings of Mondath and of Toldees saw her once as
she went lightly down the little paths of her garden, and, turning their
gaze into the mists of thought, pondered the destiny of their Inner
Lands. And they watched her closely by the stately flowers, and standing
alone in the sunlight, and passing and repassing the strutting purple
birds that the king’s fowlers had brought from Asagéhon. When she was of
the age of fifteen years the King of Mondath called a council of kings.
And there met with him the kings of Toldees and Arizim. And the King of
Mondath in his Council said:

“The call of the unappeased and hungry Sea (and at the word ‘Sea’ the
three kings bowed their heads) lures every year out of our happy
kingdoms more and more of our men, and still we know not the mystery of
the Sea, and no devised oath has brought one man back. Now thy daughter,
Arizim, is lovelier than the sunlight, and lovelier than those stately
flowers of thine that stand so tall in her garden, and hath more grace
and beauty than those strange birds that the venturous fowlers bring in
creaking waggons out of Asagéhon, whose feathers are alternate purple
and white. Now, he that shall love thy daughter, Hilnaric, whoever he
shall be, is the man to climb Poltarnees and return, as none hath ever
before, and tell us upon what Poltarnees looks; for it may be that thy
daughter is more beautiful than the Sea.”

Then from his Seat of Council arose the King of Arizim. He said: “I fear
that thou hast spoken blasphemy against the Sea, and I have a dread that
ill will come of it. Indeed I had not thought she was so fair. It is
such a short while ago that she was quite a small child with her hair
still unkempt and not yet attired in the manner of princesses, and she
would go up into the wild woods unattended and come back with her robes
unseemly and all torn, and would not take reproof with humble spirit,
but made grimaces even in my marble court all set about with fountains.”

Then said the King of Toldees:

“Let us watch more closely and let us see the Princess Hilnaric in the
season of the orchard-bloom when the great birds go by that know the
Sea, to rest in our inland places; and if she be more beautiful than the
sunrise over our folded kingdoms when all the orchards bloom, it may be
that she is more beautiful than the Sea.”

And the King of Arizim said:

“I fear this is terrible blasphemy, yet will I do as you have decided in

And the season of the orchard-bloom appeared. One night the King of
Arizim called his daughter forth on to his outer balcony of marble. And
the moon was rising huge and round and holy over dark woods, and all the
fountains were singing to the night. And the moon touched the marble
palace gables, and they glowed in the land. And the moon touched the
heads of all the fountains, and the grey columns broke into fairy
lights. And the moon left the dark ways of the forest and lit the whole
white palace and its fountains and shone on the forehead of the
Princess, and the palace of Arizim glowed afar, and the fountains became
columns of gleaming jewels and song. And the moon made a music at his
rising, but it fell a little short of mortal ears. And Hilnaric stood
there wondering, clad in white, with the moonlight shining on her
forehead; and watching her from the shadows on the terrace stood the
kings of Mondath and Toldees. They said:

“She is more beautiful than the moonrise.”

And on another day the King of Arizim bade his daughter forth at dawn,
and they stood again upon the balcony. And the sun came up over a world
of orchards, and the sea-mists went back over Poltarnees to the Sea;
little wild voices arose in all the thickets, the voices of the
fountains began to die, and the song arose, in all the marble temples,
of the birds that are sacred to the Sea. And Hilnaric stood there, still
glowing with dreams of heaven.

“She is more beautiful,” said the kings, “than morning.”

Yet one more trial they made of Hilnaric’s beauty, for they watched her
on the terraces at sunset ere yet the petals of the orchards had fallen,
and all along the edge of neighbouring woods the rhododendron was
blooming with the azalea. And the sun went down under craggy Poltarnees,
and the sea-mist poured over his summit inland. And the marble temples
stood up clear in the evening, but films of twilight were drawn between
the mountain and the city. Then from the Temple ledges and eaves of
palaces the bats fell headlong downwards, then spread their wings and
floated up and down through darkening ways; lights came blinking out in
golden windows, men cloaked themselves against the grey sea-mist, the
sound of small songs arose, and the face of Hilnaric became a
resting-place for mysteries and dreams.

“Than all these things,” said the kings, “she is more lovely: but who
can say whether she is lovelier than the Sea?”

Prone in a rhododendron thicket at the edge of the palace lawns a hunter
had waited since the sun went down. Near to him was a deep pool where
the hyacinths grew and strange flowers floated upon it with broad
leaves, and there the great bull gariachs came down to drink by
starlight, and, waiting there for the gariachs to come, he saw the white
form of the Princess leaning on her balcony. Before the stars shone out
or the bulls came down to drink he left his lurking place and moved
closer to the palace to see more nearly the Princess. The palace lawns
were full of untrodden dew, and everything was still when he came across
them, holding his great spear. In the farthest corner of the terraces
the three old kings were discussing the beauty of Hilnaric and the
destiny of the Inner Lands. Moving lightly, with a hunter’s tread, the
watcher by the pool came very near, even in the still evening, before
the Princess saw him. When he saw her closely he exclaimed suddenly:

“She must be more beautiful than the Sea.”

When the Princess turned and saw his garb and his great spear she knew
that he was a hunter of gariachs.

When the three kings heard the young man exclaim they said softly to one

“This must be the man.”

Then they revealed themselves to him, and spoke to him to try him. They

“Sir, you have spoken blasphemy against the Sea.”

And the young man muttered:

“She is more beautiful than the Sea.”

And the kings said:

“We are older than you and wiser, and know that nothing is more
beautiful than the Sea.”

And the young man took off the gear of his head, and became downcast,
and knew that he spake with kings, yet he answered:

“By this spear, she is more beautiful than the Sea.”

And all the while the Princess stared at him, knowing him to be a hunter
of gariachs.

Then the King of Arizim said to the watcher by the pool:

“If thou wilt go up Poltarnees and come back, as none have come, and
report to us what lure or magic is in the Sea, we will pardon thy
blasphemy, and thou shalt have the Princess to wife and sit among the
Council of the Kings.”

And gladly thereunto the young man consented. And the Princess spoke to
him, and asked him his name. And he told her that his name was Athelvok,
and great joy arose in him at the sound of her voice. And to the three
kings he promised to set out on the third day to scale the slope of
Poltarnees and to return again, and this was the oath by which they
bound him to return:

“I swear by the Sea that bears the worlds away, by the river of
Oriathon, which men call Ocean, and by the gods and their tiger, and by
the doom of the worlds, that I will return again to the Inner Lands,
having beheld the Sea.”

And that oath he swore with solemnity that very night in one of the
temples of the Sea, but the three kings trusted more to the beauty of
Hilnaric even than to the power of the oath.

The next day Athelvok came to the palace of Arizim with the morning,
over the fields to the East and out of the country of Toldees, and
Hilnaric came out along her balcony and met him on the terraces. And she
asked him if he had ever slain a gariach, and he said that he had slain
three, and then he told her how he had killed his first down by the pool
in the wood. For he had taken his father’s spear and gone down to the
edge of the pool, and had lain under the azaleas there waiting for the
stars to shine, by whose first light the gariachs go to the pools to
drink; and he had gone too early and had had long to wait, and the
passing hours seemed longer than they were. And all the birds came in
that home at night, and the bat was abroad, and the hour of the duck
went by, and still no gariach came down to the pool; and Athelvok felt
sure that none would come. And just as this grew to a certainty in his
mind the thicket parted noiselessly and a huge bull gariach stood facing
him on the edge of the water, and his great horns swept out sideways
from his head, and at the ends curved upwards, and were four strides in
width from tip to tip. And he had not seen Athelvok, for the great bull
was on the far side of the little pool, and Athelvok could not creep
round to him for fear of meeting the wind (for the gariachs, who can see
little in the dark forests, rely on hearing and smell). But he devised
swiftly in his mind while the bull stood there with head erect just
twenty strides from him across the water. And the bull sniffed the wind
cautiously and listened, then lowered its great head down to the pool
and drank. At that instant Athelvok leapt into the water and shot
forward through its weedy depths among the stems of the strange flowers
that floated upon broad leaves on the surface. And Athelvok kept his
spear out straight before him, and the fingers of his left hand he held
rigid and straight, not pointing upwards, and so did not come to the
surface, but was carried onward by the strength of his spring and passed
unentangled through the stems of the flowers. When Athelvok jumped into
the water the bull must have thrown his head up, startled at the splash,
then he would have listened and have sniffed the air, and neither
hearing nor scenting any danger he must have remained rigid for some
moments, for it was in that attitude that Athelvok found him as he
emerged breathless at his feet. And, striking at once, Athelvok drove
the spear into his throat before the head and the terrible horns came
down. But Athelvok had clung to one of the great horns, and had been
carried at terrible speed through the rhododendron bushes until the
gariach fell, but rose at once again, and died standing up, still
struggling, drowned in its own blood.

But to Hilnaric listening it was as though one of the heroes of old time
had come back again in the full glory of his legendary youth.

And long time they went up and down the terraces, saying those things
which were said before and since, and which lips shall yet be made to
say again. And above them stood Poltarnees beholding the Sea.

And the day came when Athelvok should go. And Hilnaric said to him:

“Will you not indeed most surely come back again, having just looked
over the summit of Poltarnees?”

Athelvok answered: “I will indeed come back, for thy voice is more
beautiful than the hymn of the priests when they chant and praise the
Sea, and though many tributary seas ran down into Oriathon and he and
all the others poured their beauty into one pool below me, yet would I
return swearing that thou wert fairer than they.”

And Hilnaric answered:

“The wisdom of my heart tells me, or old knowledge or prophecy, or some
strange lore, that I shall never hear thy voice again. And for this I
give thee my forgiveness.”

But he, repeating the oath that he had sworn, set out, looking often
backwards until the slope became too steep and his face was set to the
rock. It was in the morning that he started, and he climbed all the day
with little rest, where every foot-hole was smooth with many feet.
Before he reached the top the sun disappeared from him, and darker and
darker grew the Inner Lands. Then he pushed on so as to see before dark
whatever thing Poltarnees had to show. The dusk was deep over the Inner
Lands, and the lights of cities twinkled through the sea-mist when he
came to Poltarnees’s summit, and the sun before him was not yet gone
from the sky.

And there below him was the old wrinkled Sea, smiling and murmuring
song. And he nursed little ships with gleaming sails, and in his hands
were old regretted wrecks, and masts all studded over with golden nails
that he had rent in anger out of beautiful galleons. And the glory of
the sun was among the surges as they brought driftwood out of isles of
spice, tossing their golden heads. And the grey currents crept away to
the south like companionless serpents that love something afar with a
restless, deadly love. And the whole plain of water glittering with late
sunlight, and the surges and the currents and the white sails of ships
were all together like the face of a strange new god that has looked a
man for the first time in the eyes at the moment of his death; and
Athelvok, looking on the wonderful Sea, knew why it was that the dead
never return, for there is something that the dead feel and know, and
the living would never understand even though the dead should come and
speak to them about it. And there was the Sea smiling at him, glad with
the glory of the sun. And there was a haven there for homing ships, and
a sunlit city stood upon its marge, and people walked about the streets
of it clad in the unimagined merchandise of far sea-bordering lands.

An easy slope of loose crumbled rock went from the top of Poltarnees to
the shore of the Sea.

For a long while Athelvok stood there regretfully, knowing that there
had come something into his soul that no one in the Inner Lands could
understand, where the thoughts of their minds had gone no farther than
the three little kingdoms. Then, looking long upon the wandering ships,
and the marvellous merchandise from alien lands, and the unknown colour
that wreathed the brows of the Sea, he turned his face to the darkness
and the Inner Lands.

At that moment the Sea sang a dirge at sunset for all the harm that he
had done in anger and all the ruin wrought on adventurous ships; and
there were tears in the voice of the tyrannous Sea, for he had loved the
galleons that he had overwhelmed, and he called all men to him and all
living things that he might make amends, because he had loved the bones
that he had strewn afar. And Athelvok turned and set one foot upon the
crumbled slope, and then another, and walked a little way to be nearer
to the Sea, and then a dream came upon him and he felt that men had
wronged the lovely Sea because he had been angry a little, because he
had been sometimes cruel; he felt that there was trouble among the tides
of the Sea because he had loved the galleons who were dead. Still he
walked on and the crumbled stones rolled with him, and just as the
twilight faded and a star appeared he came to the golden shore, and
walked on till the surges were about his knees, and he heard the
prayer-like blessings of the Sea. Long he stood thus, while the stars
came out above him and shone again in the surges; more stars came
wheeling in their courses up from the Sea, lights twinkled out through
all the haven city, lanterns were slung from the ships, the purple night
burned on; and Earth, to the eyes of the gods as they sat afar, glowed
as with one flame. Then Athelvok went into the haven city; there he met
many who had left the Inner Lands before him; none of them wished to
return to the people who had not seen the Sea; many of them had
forgotten the three little kingdoms, and it was rumoured that one man,
who had once tried to return, had found the shifting, crumbled slope
impossible to climb.

Hilnaric never married. But her dowry was set aside to build a temple
wherein men curse the ocean.

Once every year, with solemn rite and ceremony, they curse the tides of
the Sea; and the moon looks in and hates them.


On a waste place strewn with bricks in the outskirts of a town twilight
was falling. A star or two appeared over the smoke, and distant windows
lit mysterious lights. The stillness deepened and the loneliness. Then
all the outcast things that are silent by day found voices.

An old cork spoke first. He said: “I grew in Andalusian woods, but never
listened to the idle songs of Spain. I only grew strong in the sunlight
waiting for my destiny. One day the merchants came and took us all away
and carried us all along the shore of the sea, piled high on the backs
of donkeys, and in a town by the sea they made me into the shape that I
am now. One day they sent me northward to Provence, and there I
fulfilled my destiny. For they set me as a guard over the bubbling wine,
and I faithfully stood sentinel for twenty years. For the first few
years in the bottle that I guarded the wine slept, dreaming of Provence;
but as the years went on he grew stronger and stronger, until at last
whenever a man went by the wine would put out all his might against me,
saying: ‘Let me go free; let me go free!’ And every year his strength
increased, and he grew more clamorous when men went by, but never
availed to hurl me from my post. But when I had powerfully held him for
twenty years they brought him to the banquet and took me from my post,
and the wine arose rejoicing and leapt through the veins of men and
exalted their souls within them till they stood up in their places and
sang Provençal songs. But me they cast away—me that had been sentinel
for twenty years, and was still as strong and staunch as when first I
went on guard. Now I am an outcast in a cold northern city, who once
have known the Andalusian skies and guarded long ago Provençal suns that
swam in the heart of the rejoicing wine.”

An unstruck match that somebody had dropped spoke next. “I am a child of
the sun,” he said, “and an enemy of cities; there is more in my heart
than you know of. I am a brother of Etna and Stromboli; I have fires
lurking in me that will one day rise up beautiful and strong. We will
not go into servitude on any hearth nor work machines for our food, but
we will take our own food where we find it on that day when we are
strong. There are wonderful children in my heart whose faces shall be
more lively than the rainbow; they shall make a compact with the North
wind, and he shall lead them forth; all shall be black behind them and
black above them, and there shall be nothing beautiful in the world but
them; they shall seize upon the earth and it shall be theirs, and
nothing shall stop them but our old enemy the sea.”

Then an old broken kettle spoke, and said: “I am the friend of cities. I
sit among the slaves upon the hearth, the little flames that have been
fed with coal. When the slaves dance behind the iron bars I sit in the
middle of the dance and sing and make our masters glad. And I make songs
about the comfort of the cat, and about the malice that is towards her
in the heart of the dog, and about the crawling of the baby, and about
the ease that is in the lord of the house when we brew the good brown
tea; and sometimes when the house is very warm and slaves and masters
are glad, I rebuke the hostile winds that prowl about the world.”

And then there spoke the piece of an old cord. “I was made in a place of
doom, and doomed men made my fibres, working without hope. Therefore
there came a grimness into my heart, so that I never let anything go
free when once I was set to bind it. Many a thing have I bound
relentlessly for months and for years; for I used to come coiling into
warehouses where the great boxes lay all open to the air, and one of
them would be suddenly closed up, and my fearful strength would be set
on him like a curse, and if his timbers groaned when first I seized
them, or if they creaked aloud in the lonely night, thinking of
woodlands out of which they came, then I only gripped them tighter
still, for the poor useless hate is in my soul of those that made me in
the place of doom. Yet, for all the things that my prison-clutch has
held, the last work that I did was to set something free. I lay idle one
night in the gloom on the warehouse floor. Nothing stirred there, and
even the spider slept. Towards midnight a great flock of echoes suddenly
leapt up from the wooden planks and circled round the roof. A man was
coming towards me all alone. And as he came his soul was reproaching
him, and I saw that there was a great trouble between the man and his
soul, for his soul would not let him be, but went on reproaching him.

“Then the man saw me and said, ‘This at least will not fail me.’ When I
heard him say this about me, I determined that whatever he might require
of me it should be done to the uttermost. And as I made this
determination in my unaltering heart, he picked me up and stood on an
empty box that I should have bound on the morrow, and tied one end of me
to a dark rafter; and the knot was carelessly tied, because his soul was
reproaching him all the while continually and giving him no ease. Then
he made the other end of me into a noose, but when the man’s soul saw
this it stopped reproaching the man, and cried out to him hurriedly, and
besought him to be at peace with it and to do nothing sudden; but the
man went on with his work, and put the noose down over his face and
underneath his chin, and the soul screamed horribly.

“Then the man kicked the box away with his foot, and the moment he did
this I knew that my strength was not great enough to hold him; but I
remembered that he had said I would not fail him, and I put all my grim
vigour into my fibres and held him by sheer will. Then the soul shouted
to me to give way, but I said:

“‘No; you vexed the man.’

“Then it screamed to me to leave go of the rafter, and already I was
slipping, for I only held on to it by a careless knot, but I gripped
with my prison grip and said:

“‘You vexed the man.’

“And very swiftly it said other things to me, but I answered not; and at
last the soul that vexed the man that had trusted me flew away and left
him at peace. I was never able to bind things any more, for every one of
my fibres was worn and wrenched, and even my relentless heart was
weakened by the struggle. Very soon afterwards I was thrown out here. I
have done my work.”

So they spoke among themselves, but all the while there loomed above
them the form of an old rocking-horse complaining bitterly. He said: “I
am Blagdaross. Woe is me that I should lie now an outcast among these
worthy but little people. Alas! for the days that are gathered, and alas
for the Great One that was a master and a soul to me, whose spirit is
now shrunken and can never know me again, and no more ride abroad on
knightly quests. I was Bucephalus when he was Alexander, and carried him
victorious as far as Ind. I encountered dragons with him when he was St.
George, I was the horse of Roland fighting for Christendom, and was
often Rosinante. I fought in tourneys and went errant upon quests, and
met Ulysses and the heroes and the fairies. Or late in the evening, just
before the lamps in the nursery were put out, he would suddenly mount
me, and we would gallop through Africa. There we would pass by night
through tropic forests, and come upon dark rivers sweeping by, all
gleaming with the eyes of crocodiles, where the hippopotamus floated
down with the stream, and mysterious craft loomed suddenly out of the
dark and furtively passed away. And when we had passed through the
forest lit by the fireflies we would come to the open plains, and gallop
onwards with scarlet flamingoes flying along beside us through the lands
of dusky kings, with golden crowns upon their heads and sceptres in
their hands, who came running out of their palaces to see us pass. Then
I would wheel suddenly, and the dust flew up from my four hoofs as I
turned and we galloped home again, and my master was put to bed. And
again he would ride abroad on another day till we came to magical
fortresses guarded by wizardry and overthrew the dragons at the gate,
and ever came back with a princess fairer than the sea.

“But my master began to grow larger in his body and smaller in his soul,
and then he rode more seldom upon quests. At last he saw gold and never
came again, and I was cast out here among these little people.”

But while the rocking-horse was speaking two boys stole away, unnoticed
by their parents, from a house on the edge of the waste place, and were
coming across it looking for adventures. One of them carried a broom,
and when he saw the rocking-horse he said nothing, but broke off the
handle from the broom and thrust it between his braces and his shirt on
the left side. Then he mounted the rocking-horse, and drawing forth the
broomstick, which was sharp and spiky at the end, said, “Saladin is in
this desert with all his paynims, and I am Cœur de Lion.” After a while
the other boy said: “Now let me kill Saladin too.” But Blagdaross in his
wooden heart, that exulted with thoughts of battle, said: “I am
Blagdaross yet!”

                      _The Madness of Andelsprutz_

I first saw the city of Andelsprutz on an afternoon in spring. The day
was full of sunshine as I came by the way of the fields, and all that
morning I had said, “There will be sunlight on it when I see for the
first time the beautiful conquered city whose fame has so often made for
me lovely dreams.” Suddenly I saw its fortifications lifting out of the
fields, and behind them stood its belfries. I went in by a gate and saw
its houses and streets, and a great disappointment came upon me. For
there is an air about a city, and it has a way with it, whereby a man
may recognize one from another at once. There are cities full of
happiness and cities full of pleasure, and cities full of gloom. There
are cities with their faces to heaven, and some with their faces to
earth; some have a way of looking at the past and others look at the
future; some notice you if you come among them, others glance at you,
others let you go by. Some love the cities that are their neighbours,
others are dear to the plains and to the heath; some cities are bare to
the wind, others have purple cloaks and others brown cloaks, and some
are clad in white. Some tell the old tale of their infancy, with others
it is secret; some cities sing and some mutter, some are angry, and some
have broken hearts, and each city has her way of greeting Time.

I had said: “I will see Andelsprutz arrogant with her beauty,” and I had
said: “I will see her weeping over her conquest.”

I had said: “She will sing songs to me,” and “she will be reticent,”
“she will be all robed,” and “she will be bare but splendid.”

But the windows of Andelsprutz in her houses looked vacantly over the
plains like the eyes of a dead madman. At the hour her chimes sounded
unlovely and discordant, some of them were out of tune, and the bells of
some were cracked, her roofs were bald and without moss. At evening no
pleasant rumour arose in her streets. When the lamps were lit in the
houses no mystical flood of light stole out into the dusk, you merely
saw that there were lighted lamps; Andelsprutz had no way with her and
no air about her. When the night fell and the blinds were all drawn
down, then I perceived what I had not thought in the daylight. I knew
then that Andelsprutz was dead.

I saw a fair-haired man who drank beer in a cafe, and I said to him:

“Why is the city of Andelsprutz quite dead, and her soul gone hence?”

He answered: “Cities do not have souls and there is never any life in

And I said to him: “Sir, you have spoken truly.”

And I asked the same question of another man, and he gave me the same
answer, and I thanked him for his courtesy. And I saw a man of a more
slender build, who had black hair, and channels in his cheeks for tears
to run in, and I said to him:

“Why is Andelsprutz quite dead, and when did her soul go hence?”


And he answered: “Andelsprutz hoped too much. For thirty years would she
stretch out her arms toward the land of Akla every night, to Mother Akla
from whom she had been stolen. Every night she would be hoping and
sighing, and stretching out her arms to Mother Akla. At midnight, once a
year, on the anniversary of the terrible day, Akla would send spies to
lay a wreath against the walls of Andelsprutz. She could do no more. And
on this night, once in every year, I used to weep, for weeping was the
mood of the city that nursed me. Every night while other cities slept
did Andelsprutz sit brooding here and hoping, till thirty wreaths lay
mouldering by her walls, and still the armies of Akla could not come.

“But after she had hoped so long, and on the night that faithful spies
had brought the thirtieth wreath, Andelsprutz went suddenly mad. All the
bells clanged hideously in the belfries, horses bolted in the streets,
the dogs all howled, the stolid conquerors awoke and turned in their
beds and slept again; and I saw the grey shadowy form of Andelsprutz
rise up, decking her hair with the phantasms of cathedrals, and stride
away from her city. And the great shadowy form that was the soul of
Andelsprutz went away muttering to the mountains, and there I followed
her—for had she not been my nurse? Yes, I went away alone into the
mountains, and for three days, wrapped in a cloak, I slept in their
misty solitudes. I had no food to eat, and to drink I had only the water
of the mountain streams. By day no living thing was near to me, and I
heard nothing but the noise of the wind, and the mountain streams
roaring. But for three nights I heard all round me on the mountain the
sounds of a great city: I saw the lights of tall cathedral windows flash
momently on the peaks, and at times the glimmering lantern of some
fortress patrol. And I saw the huge misty outline of the soul of
Andelsprutz sitting decked with her ghostly cathedrals, speaking to
herself, with her eyes fixed before her in a mad stare, telling of
ancient wars. And her confused speech for all those nights upon the
mountain was sometimes the voice of traffic, and then of church bells,
and then of the bugles, but oftenest it was the voice of red war; and it
was all incoherent, and she was quite mad.

“The third night it rained heavily all night long, but I stayed up there
to watch the soul of my native city. And she still sat staring straight
before her, raving; but her voice was gentler now, there were more
chimes in it, and occasional song. Midnight passed, and the rain still
swept down on me, and still the solitudes of the mountain were full of
the mutterings of the poor mad city. And the hours after midnight came,
the cold hours wherein sick men die.

“Suddenly I was aware of great shapes moving in the rain, and heard the
sound of voices that were not of my city nor yet of any that I ever
knew. And presently I discerned, though faintly, the souls of a great
concourse of cities, all bending over Andelsprutz and comforting her,
and the ravines of the mountains roared that night with the voices of
cities that had lain still for centuries. For there came the soul of
Camelot that had so long ago forsaken Usk; and there was Ilion, all girt
with towers, still cursing the sweet face of ruinous Helen; I saw there
Babylon and Persepolis, and the bearded face of bull-like Nineveh, and
Athens mourning her immortal gods.

“All these souls of cities that were dead spoke that night on the
mountain to my city and soothed her, until at last she muttered of war
no longer, and her eyes stared wildly no more, but she hid her face in
her hands and for some while wept softly. At last she arose, and,
walking slowly and with bended head, and leaning upon Ilion and
Carthage, went mournfully eastwards; and the dust of her highways
swirled behind her as she went, a ghostly dust that never turned to mud
in all that drenching rain. And so the souls of the cities led her away,
and gradually they disappeared from the mountain, and the ancient voices
died away in the distance.

“Never since then have I seen my city alive; but once I met with a
traveller who said that somewhere in the midst of a great desert are
gathered together the souls of all dead cities. He said that he was lost
once in a place where there was no water, and he heard their voices
speaking all the night.”

But I said: “I was once without water in a desert and heard a city
speaking to me, but knew not whether it really spoke or not, for on that
day I heard so many terrible things, and only some of them were true.”

And the man with the black hair said: “I believe it to be true, though
whither she went I know not. I only know that a shepherd found me in the
morning faint with hunger and cold, and carried me down here; and when I
came to Andelsprutz it was, as you have perceived it, dead.”

                     _Where the Tides Ebb and Flow_

I dreamt that I had done a horrible thing, so that burial was to be
denied me either in soil or sea, neither could there be any hell for me.

I waited for some hours, knowing this. Then my friends came for me, and
slew me secretly and with ancient rite, and lit great tapers, and
carried me away.

It was all in London that the thing was done, and they went furtively at
dead of night along grey streets and among mean houses until they came
to the river. And the river and the tide of the sea were grappling with
one another between the mud-banks, and both of them were black and full
of lights. A sudden wonder came into the eyes of each, as my friends
came near to them with their glaring tapers. All these things I saw as
they carried me dead and stiffening, for my soul was still among my
bones, because there was no hell for it, and because Christian burial
was denied me.

They took me down a stairway that was green with slimy things, and so
came slowly to the terrible mud. There, in the territory of forsaken
things, they dug a shallow grave. When they had finished they laid me in
the grave, and suddenly they cast their tapers to the river. And when
the water had quenched the flaring lights the tapers looked pale and
small as they bobbed upon the tide, and at once the glamour of the
calamity was gone, and I noticed then the approach of the huge dawn; and
my friends cast their cloaks over their faces, and the solemn procession
was turned into many fugitives that furtively stole away.

Then the mud came back wearily and covered all but my face. There I lay
alone with quite forgotten things, with drifting things that the tides
will take no farther, with useless things and lost things, and with the
horrible unnatural bricks that are neither stone nor soil. I was rid of
feeling, because I had been killed, but perception and thought were in
my unhappy soul. The dawn widened, and I saw the desolate houses that
crowded the marge of the river, and their dead windows peered into my
dead eyes, windows with bales behind them instead of human souls. I grew
so weary looking at these forlorn things that I wanted to cry out, but
could not, because I was dead. Then I knew, as I had never known before,
that for all the years that herd of desolate houses had wanted to cry
out too, but, being dead, were dumb. And I knew then that it had yet
been well with the forgotten drifting things if they had wept, but they
were eyeless and without life. And I, too, tried to weep, but there were
no tears in my dead eyes. And I knew then that the river might have
cared for us, might have caressed us, might have sung to us, but he
swept broadly onwards, thinking of nothing but the princely ships.

[Illustration: THE TERRIBLE MUD]

At last the tide did what the river would not, and came and covered me
over, and my soul had rest in the green water, and rejoiced and believed
that it had the Burial of the Sea. But with the ebb the water fell
again, and left me alone again with the callous mud among the forgotten
things that drift no more, and with the sight of all those desolate
houses, and with the knowledge among all of us that each was dead.

In the mournful wall behind me, hung with green weeds, forsaken of the
sea, dark tunnels appeared, and secret narrow passages that were clamped
and barred. From these at last the stealthy rats came down to nibble me
away, and my soul rejoiced thereat and believed that he would be free
perforce from the accursed bones to which burial was refused. Very soon
the rats ran away a little space and whispered among themselves. They
never came any more. When I found that I was accursed even among the
rats I tried to weep again.

Then the tide came swinging back and covered the dreadful mud, and hid
the desolate houses, and soothed the forgotten things, and my soul had
ease for a while in the sepulture of the sea. And then the tide forsook
me again.

To and fro it came about me for many years. Then the County Council
found me, and gave me decent burial. It was the first grave that I had
ever slept in. That very night my friends came for me. They dug me up
and put me back again in the shallow hole in the mud.

Again and again through the years my bones found burial, but always
behind the funeral lurked one of those terrible men who, as soon as
night fell, came and dug them up and carried them back again to the hole
in the mud.

And then one day the last of those men died who once had done to me this
terrible thing. I heard his soul go over the river at sunset.

And again I hoped.

A few weeks afterwards I was found once more, and once more taken out of
that restless place and given deep burial in sacred ground, where my
soul hoped that it should rest.

Almost at once men came with cloaks and tapers to give me back to the
mud, for the thing had become a tradition and a rite. And all the
forsaken things mocked me in their dumb hearts when they saw me carried
back, for they were jealous of me because I had left the mud. It must be
remembered that I could not weep.

And the years went by seawards where the black barges go, and the great
derelict centuries became lost at sea, and still I lay there without any
cause to hope, and daring not to hope without a cause, because of the
terrible envy and the anger of the things that could drift no more.

Once a great storm rode up, even as far as London, out of the sea from
the South; and he came curving into the river with the fierce East wind.
And he was mightier than the dreary tides, and went with great leaps
over the listless mud. And all the sad forgotten things rejoiced, and
mingled with things that were haughtier than they, and rode once more
amongst the lordly shipping that was driven up and down. And out of
their hideous home he took my bones, never again, I hoped, to be vexed
with the ebb and flow. And with the fall of the tide he went riding down
the river and turned to the southwards, and so went to his home. And my
bones he scattered among many isles and along the shores of happy alien
mainlands. And for a moment, while they were far asunder, my soul was
almost free.

Then there arose, at the will of the moon, the assiduous flow of the
tide, and it undid at once the work of the ebb, and gathered my bones
from the marge of sunny isles, and gleaned them all along the mainland’s
shores, and went rocking northwards till it came to the mouth of the
Thames, and there turned westwards its relentless face, and so went up
the river and came to the hole in the mud, and into it dropped my bones;
and partly the mud covered them and partly it left them white, for the
mud cares not for its forsaken things.

Then the ebb came, and I saw the dead eyes of the houses and the
jealousy of the other forgotten things that the storm had not carried

And some more centuries passed over the ebb and flow and over the
loneliness of things forgotten. And I lay there all the while in the
careless grip of the mud, never wholly covered, yet never able to go
free, and I longed for the great caress of the warm Earth or the
comfortable lap of the Sea.

Sometimes men found my bones and buried them, but the tradition never
died, and my friends’ successors always brought them back. At last the
barges went no more, and there were fewer lights; shaped timbers no
longer floated down the fair-way, and there came instead old
wind-uprooted trees in all their natural simplicity.

At last I was aware that somewhere near me a blade of grass was growing,
and the moss began to appear all over the dead houses. One day some
thistledown went drifting over the river.

For some years I watched these signs attentively, until I became certain
that London was passing away. Then I hoped once more, and all along both
banks of the river there was anger among the lost things that anything
should dare to hope upon the forsaken mud. Gradually the horrible houses
crumbled, until the poor dead things that never had had life got decent
burial among the weeds and moss. At last the may appeared and the
convolvulus. Finally, the wild rose stood up over mounds that had been
wharves and warehouses. Then I knew that the cause of Nature had
triumphed, and London had passed away.

The last man in London came to the wall by the river, in an ancient
cloak that was one of those that once my friends had worn, and peered
over the edge to see that I still was there. Then he went, and I never
saw men again: they had passed away with London.

A few days after the last man had gone the birds came into London, all
the birds that sing. When they first saw me they all looked sideways at
me, then they went away a little and spoke among themselves.

“He only sinned against Man,” they said; “it is not our quarrel.”

“Let us be kind to him,” they said.

Then they hopped nearer me and began to sing. It was the time of the
rising of the dawn, and from both banks of the river, and from the sky,
and from the thickets that were once the streets, hundreds of birds were
singing. As the light increased the birds sang more and more; they grew
thicker and thicker in the air above my head, till there were thousands
of them singing there, and then millions, and at last I could see
nothing but a host of flickering wings with the sunlight on them, and
little gaps of sky. Then when there was nothing to be heard in London
but the myriad notes of that exultant song, my soul rose up from the
bones in the hole in the mud and began to climb up the song heavenwards.
And it seemed that a laneway opened amongst the wings of the birds, and
it went up and up, and one of the smaller gates of Paradise stood ajar
at the end of it. And then I knew by a sign that the mud should receive
me no more, for suddenly I found that I could weep.

At this moment I opened my eyes in bed in a house in London, and outside
some sparrows were twittering in a tree in the light of the radiant
morning; and there were tears still wet upon my face, for one’s
restraint is feeble while one sleeps. But I arose and opened the window
wide, and, stretching my hands out over the little garden, I blessed the
birds whose song had woken me up from the troubled and terrible
centuries of my dream.


There is a faint freshness in the London night as though some strayed
reveller of a breeze had left his comrades in the Kentish uplands and
had entered the town by stealth. The pavements are a little damp and
shiny. Upon one’s ears that at this late hour have become very acute
there hits the tap of a remote footfall. Louder and louder grow the
taps, filling the whole night. And a black cloaked figure passes by, and
goes tapping into the dark. One who has danced goes homewards. Somewhere
a ball has closed its doors and ended. Its yellow lights are out, its
musicians are silent, its dancers have all gone into the night air, and
Time has said of it, “Let it be past and over, and among the things that
I have put away.”

Shadows begin to detach themselves from their great gathering places. No
less silently than those shadows that are thin and dead move homewards
the stealthy cats. Thus have we even in London our faint forebodings of
the dawn’s approach, which the birds and the beasts and the stars are
crying aloud to the untrammelled fields.

At what moment I know not I perceive that the night itself is
irrecoverably overthrown. It is suddenly revealed to me by the weary
pallor of the street lamps that the streets are silent and nocturnal
still, not because there is any strength in night, but because men have
not yet arisen from sleep to defy him. So have I seen dejected and
untidy guards still bearing antique muskets in palatial gateways,
although the realms of the monarch that they guard have shrunk to a
single province which no enemy yet has troubled to overrun.

And it is now manifest from the aspect of the street lamps, those
abashed dependants of night, that already English mountain peaks have
seen the dawn, that the cliffs of Dover are standing white to the
morning, that the sea-mist has lifted and is pouring inland.

And now men with a hose have come and are sluicing out the streets.

Behold now night is dead.

What memories, what fancies throng one’s mind! A night but just now
gathered out of London by the hostile hand of Time. A million common
artificial things all cloaked for a while in mystery, like beggars robed
in purple, and seated on dread thrones. Four million people asleep,
dreaming perhaps. What worlds have they gone into? Whom have they met?
But my thoughts are far off with Bethmoora in her loneliness, whose
gates swing to and fro. To and fro they swing, and creak and creak in
the wind, but no one hears them. They are of green copper, very lovely,
but no one sees them now. The desert wind pours sand into their hinges,
no watchman comes to ease them. No guard goes round Bethmoora’s
battlements, no enemy assails them. There are no lights in her houses,
no footfall in her streets; she stands there dead and lonely beyond the
Hills of Hap, and I would see Bethmoora once again, but dare not.

It is many a year, as they tell me, since Bethmoora became desolate.

Her desolation is spoken of in taverns where sailors meet, and certain
travellers have told me of it.

I had hoped to see Bethmoora once again. It is many a year ago, they
say, when the vintage was last gathered in from the vineyards that I
knew, where it is all desert now. It was a radiant day, and the people
of the city were dancing by the vineyards, while here and there one
played upon the kalipac. The purple flowering shrubs were all in bloom,
and the snow shone upon the Hills of Hap.

Outside the copper gates they crushed the grapes in vats to make the
syrabub. It had been a goodly vintage.

In little gardens at the desert’s edge men beat the tambang and the
tittibuk, and blew melodiously the zootibar.

All there was mirth and song and dance, because the vintage had been
gathered in, and there would be ample syrabub for the winter months, and
much left over to exchange for turquoises and emeralds with the
merchants who come down from Oxuhahn. Thus they rejoiced all day over
their vintage on the narrow strip of cultivated ground that lay between
Bethmoora and the desert which meets the sky to the South. And when the
heat of the day began to abate, and the sun drew near to the snows on
the Hills of Hap, the note of the zootibar still rose clear from the
gardens, and the brilliant dresses of the dancers still wound among the
flowers. All that day three men on mules had been noticed crossing the
face of the Hills of Hap. Backwards and forwards they moved as the track
wound lower and lower, three little specks of black against the snow.
They were seen first in the very early morning up near the shoulder of
Peol Jagganoth, and seemed to be coming out of Utnar Véhi. All day they
came. And in the evening, just before lights come out and colours
change, they appeared before Bethmoora’s copper gates. They carried
staves, such as messengers bear in those lands, and seemed sombrely clad
when the dancers all came round them with their green and lilac dresses.
Those Europeans who were present and heard the message given were
ignorant of the language, and only caught the name of Utnar Véhi. But it
was brief, and passed rapidly from mouth to mouth, and almost at once
the people burnt their vineyards and began to flee away from Bethmoora,
going for the most part northwards, though some went to the East. They
ran down out of their fair white houses, and streamed through the copper
gate; the throbbing of the tambang and the tittibuk suddenly ceased with
the note of the zootibar, and the clinking kalipac stopped a moment
after. The three strange travellers went back the way they came the
instant their message was given. It was the hour when a light would have
appeared in some high tower, and window after window would have poured
into the dusk its lion-frightening light, and the copper gates would
have been fastened up. But no lights came out in windows there that
night and have not ever since, and those copper gates were left wide and
have never shut, and the sound arose of the red fire crackling in the
vineyards, and the pattering of feet fleeing softly. There were no
cries, no other sounds at all, only the rapid and determined flight.
They fled as swiftly and quietly as a herd of wild cattle flee when they
suddenly see a man. It was as though something had befallen which had
been feared for generations, which could only be escaped by instant
flight, which left no time for indecision.

Then fear took the Europeans also, and they too fled. And what the
message was I have never heard.

Many believe that it was a message from Thuba Mleen, the mysterious
emperor of those lands, who is never seen by man, advising that
Bethmoora should be left desolate. Others say that the message was one
of warning from the gods, whether from friendly gods or from adverse
ones they know not.

And others hold that the Plague was ravaging a line of cities over in
Utnar Véhi, following the South-west wind which for many weeks had been
blowing across them towards Bethmoora.

Some say that the terrible gnousar sickness was upon the three
travellers, and that their very mules were dripping with it, and suppose
that they were driven to the city by hunger, but suggest no better
reason for so terrible a crime.

But most believe that it was a message from the desert himself, who owns
all the Earth to the southwards, spoken with his peculiar cry to those
three who knew his voice—men who had been out on the sand-wastes without
tents by night, who had been by day without water, men who had been out
there where the desert mutters, and had grown to know his needs and his
malevolence. They say that the desert had a need for Bethmoora, that he
wished to come into her lovely streets, and to send into her temples and
her houses his storm-winds draped with sand. For he hates the sound and
the sight of men in his old evil heart, and he would have Bethmoora
silent and undisturbed, save for the weird love he whispers at her

If I knew what that message was that the three men brought on mules, and
told in the copper gate, I think that I should go and see Bethmoora once
again. For a great longing comes on me here in London to see once more
that white and beautiful city; and yet I dare not, for I know not the
danger I should have to face, whether I should risk the fury of unknown
dreadful gods, or some disease unspeakable and slow, or the desert’s
curse, or torture in some little private room of the Emperor Thuba
Mleen, or something that the travellers have not told—perhaps more
fearful still.

                        _Idle Days on the Yann_

So I came down through the wood to the bank of Yann and found, as had
been prophesied, the ship _Bird of the River_ about to loose her cable.

The captain sate cross-legged upon the white deck with his scimitar
lying beside him in its jewelled scabbard, and the sailors toiled to
spread the nimble sails to bring the ship into the central stream of
Yann, and all the while sang ancient soothing songs. And the wind of the
evening descending cool from the snowfields of some mountainous abode of
distant gods came suddenly, like glad tidings to an anxious city, into
the wing-like sails.

And so we came into the central stream, whereat the sailors lowered the
greater sails. But I had gone to bow before the captain, and to inquire
concerning the miracles, and appearances among men, of the most holy
gods of whatever land he had come from. And the captain answered that he
came from fair Belzoond, and worshipped gods that were the least and
humblest, who seldom sent the famine or the thunder, and were easily
appeased with little battles. And I told how I came from Ireland, which
is of Europe, whereat the captain and all the sailors laughed, for they
said, “There are no such places in all the land of dreams.” When they
had ceased to mock me, I explained that my fancy mostly dwelt in the
desert of Cuppar-Nombo, about a beautiful blue city called Golthoth the
Damned, which was sentinelled all round by wolves and their shadows, and
had been utterly desolate for years and years, because of a curse which
the gods once spoke in anger and could never since recall. And sometimes
my dreams took me as far as Pungar Vees, the red walled city where the
fountains are, which trades with the Isles and Thul. When I said this
they complimented me upon the abode of my fancy, saying that, though
they had never seen these cities, such places might well be imagined.
For the rest of that evening I bargained with the captain over the sum
that I should pay him for my fare if God and the tide of Yann should
bring us safely as far as the cliffs by the sea, which are named
Bar-Wul-Yann, the Gate of Yann.

[Illustration: BIRD OF THE RIVER]

And now the sun had set, and all the colors of the world and heaven had
held a festival with him, and slipped one by one away before the
imminent approach of night. The parrots had all flown home to the jungle
on either bank, the monkeys in rows in safety on high branches of the
trees were silent and asleep, the fireflies in the deeps of the forest
were going up and down, and the great stars came gleaming out to look on
the face of Yann. Then the sailors lighted lanterns and hung them round
the ship, and the light flashed out on a sudden and dazzled Yann, and
the ducks that fed along his marshy banks all suddenly arose, and made
wide circles in the upper air, and saw the distant reaches of the Yann
and the white mist that softly cloaked the jungle, before they returned
again into their marshes.

And then the sailors knelt on the decks and prayed, not all together,
but five or six at a time. Side by side there kneeled down together five
or six, for there only prayed at the same time men of different faiths,
so that no god should hear two men praying to him at once. As soon as
any one had finished his prayer, another of the same faith would take
his place. Thus knelt the row of five or six with bended heads under the
fluttering sail, while the central stream of the River Yann took them on
towards the sea, and their prayers rose up from among the lanterns and
went towards the stars. And behind them in the after end of the ship the
helmsman prayed aloud the helmsman’s prayer, which is prayed by all who
follow his trade upon the River Yann, of whatever faith they be. And the
captain prayed to his little lesser gods, to the gods that bless

And I too felt that I would pray. Yet I liked not to pray to a jealous
God there where the frail affectionate gods whom the heathen love were
being humbly invoked; so I bethought me, instead, of Sheol Nugganoth,
whom the men of the jungle have long since deserted, who is now
unworshipped and alone; and to him I prayed.

And upon us praying the night came suddenly down, as it comes upon all
men who pray at evening and upon all men who do not; yet our prayers
comforted our own souls when we thought of the Great Night to come.

And so Yann bore us magnificently onwards, for he was elate with molten
snow that the Poltiades had brought him from the Hills of Hap, and the
Marn and Migris were swollen full with floods; and he bore us in his
might past Kyph and Pir, and we saw the lights of Goolunza.

Soon we all slept except the helmsman, who kept the ship in the
mid-stream of Yann.

When the sun rose the helmsman ceased to sing, for by song he cheered
himself in the lonely night. When the song ceased we suddenly all awoke,
and another took the helm, and the helmsman slept.

We knew that soon we should come to Mandaroon. We made a meal, and
Mandaroon appeared. Then the captain commanded, and the sailors loosed
again the greater sails, and the ship turned and left the stream of Yann
and came into a harbour beneath the ruddy walls of Mandaroon. Then while
the sailors went and gathered fruits I came alone to the gate of
Mandaroon. A few huts were outside it, in which lived the guard. A
sentinel with a long white beard was standing in the gate, armed with a
rusty pike. He wore large spectacles, which were covered with dust.
Through the gate I saw the city. A deathly stillness was over all of it.
The ways seemed untrodden, and moss was thick on doorsteps; in the
market-place huddled figures lay asleep. A scent of incense came wafted
through the gateway, of incense and burned poppies, and there was a hum
of the echoes of distant bells. I said to the sentinel in the tongue of
the region of Yann, “Why are they all asleep in this still city?”

He answered: “None may ask questions in this gate for fear they wake the
people of the city. For when the people of this city wake the gods will
die. And when the gods die men may dream no more.” And I began to ask
him what gods that city worshipped, but he lifted his pike because none
might ask questions there. So I left him and went back to the _Bird of
the River_.

Certainly Mandaroon was beautiful with her white pinnacles peering over
her ruddy walls and the green of her copper roofs.

When I came back again to the _Bird of the River_, I found the sailors
were returned to the ship. Soon we weighed anchor, and sailed out again,
and so came once more to the middle of the river. And now the sun was
moving toward his heights, and there had reached us on the River Yann
the song of those countless myriads of choirs that attend him in his
progress round the world. For the little creatures that have many legs
had spread their gauze wings easily on the air, as a man rests his
elbows on a balcony and gave jubilant, ceremonial praises to the sun, or
else they moved together on the air in wavering dances intricate and
swift, or turned aside to avoid the onrush of some drop of water that a
breeze had shaken from a jungle orchid, chilling the air and driving it
before it, as it fell whirring in its rush to the earth; but all the
while they sang triumphantly. “For the day is for us,” they said,
“whether our great and sacred father the Sun shall bring up more life
like us from the marshes, or whether all the world shall end to-night.”
And there sang all those whose notes are known to human ears, as well as
those whose far more numerous notes have been never heard by man.

To these a rainy day had been as an era of war that should desolate
continents during all the lifetime of a man.

And there came out also from the dark and steaming jungle to behold and
rejoice in the Sun the huge and lazy butterflies. And they danced, but
danced idly, on the ways of the air, as some haughty queen of distant
conquered lands might in her poverty and exile dance, in some encampment
of the gipsies, for the mere bread to live by, but beyond that would
never abate her pride to dance for a fragment more.

And the butterflies sung of strange and painted things, of purple
orchids and of lost pink cities and the monstrous colours of the
jungle’s decay. And they, too, were among those whose voices are not
discernible by human ears. And as they floated above the river, going
from forest to forest, their splendour was matched by the inimical
beauty of the birds who darted out to pursue them. Or sometimes they
settled on the white and wax-like blooms of the plant that creeps and
clambers about the trees of the forest; and their purple wings flashed
out on the great blossoms as, when the caravans go from Nurl to Thace,
the gleaming silks flash out upon the snow, where the crafty merchants
spread them one by one to astonish the mountaineers of the Hills of

But upon men and beasts the sun sent a drowsiness. The river monsters
along the river’s marge lay dormant in the slime. The sailors pitched a
pavilion, with golden tassels, for the captain upon the deck, and then
went, all but the helmsman, under a sail that they had hung as an awning
between two masts. Then they told tales to one another, each of his own
city or of the miracles of his god, until all were fallen asleep. The
captain offered me the shade of his pavilion with the gold tassels, and
there we talked for awhile, he telling me that he was taking merchandise
to Perdóndaris, and that he would take back to fair Belzoond things
appertaining to the affairs of the sea. Then, as I watched through the
pavilion’s opening the brilliant birds and butterflies that crossed and
recrossed over the river, I fell asleep, and dreamed that I was a
monarch entering his capital underneath arches of flags, and all the
musicians of the world were there, playing melodiously their
instruments; but no one cheered.

In the afternoon, as the day grew cooler again, I awoke and found the
captain buckling on his scimitar, which he had taken off him while he

And now we were approaching the wide court of Astahahn, which opens upon
the river. Strange boats of antique design were chained there to the
steps. As we neared it we saw the open marble court, on three sides of
which stood the city fronting on colonnades. And in the court and along
the colonnades the people of that city walked with solemnity and care
according to the rites of ancient ceremony. All in that city was of
ancient device; the carving on the houses, which, when age had broken
it, remained unrepaired, was of the remotest times, and everywhere were
represented in stone beasts that have long since passed away from
Earth—the dragon, the griffin, and the hippogriffin, and the different
species of gargoyle. Nothing was to be found, whether material or
custom, that was new in Astahahn. Now they took no notice at all of us
as we went by, but continued their processions and ceremonies in the
ancient city, and the sailors, knowing their custom, took no notice of
them. But I called, as we came near, to one who stood beside the water’s
edge, asking him what men did in Astahahn and what their merchandise
was, and with whom they traded. He said, “Here we have fettered and
manacled Time, who would otherwise slay the gods.”

I asked him what gods they worshipped in that city, and he said, “All
those gods whom Time has not yet slain.” Then he turned from me and
would say no more, but busied himself in behaving in accordance with
ancient custom. And so, according to the will of Yann, we drifted
onwards and left Astahahn. The river widened below Astahahn, and we
found in greater quantities such birds as prey on fishes. And they were
very wonderful in their plumage, and they came not out of the jungle,
but flew, with their long necks stretched out before them, and their
legs lying on the wind behind, straight up the river over the

And now the evening began to gather in. A thick white mist had appeared
over the river, and was softly rising higher. It clutched at the trees
with long impalpable arms, it rose higher and higher, chilling the air;
and white shapes moved away into the jungle as though the ghosts of
shipwrecked mariners were searching stealthily in the darkness for the
spirits of evil that long ago had wrecked them on the Yann.

As the sun sank behind the field of orchids that grew on the matted
summit of the jungle, the river monsters came wallowing out of the slime
in which they had reclined during the heat of the day, and the great
beasts of the jungle came down to drink. The butterflies a while since
were gone to rest. In little narrow tributaries that we passed night
seemed already to have fallen, though the sun which had disappeared from
us had not yet set.

And now the birds of the jungle came flying home far over us, with the
sunlight glistening pink upon their breasts, and lowered their pinions
as soon as they saw the Yann, and dropped into the trees. And the
widgeon began to go up the river in great companies, all whistling, and
then would suddenly wheel and all go down again. And there shot by us
the small and arrow-like teal; and we heard the manifold cries of flocks
of geese, which the sailors told me had recently come in from crossing
over the Lispasian ranges; every year they come by the same way, close
by the peak of Mluna, leaving it to the left, and the mountain eagles
know the way they come and—men say—the very hour, and every year they
expect them by the same way as soon as the snows have fallen upon the
Northern Plains. But soon it grew so dark that we saw these birds no
more, and only heard the whirring of their wings, and of countless
others besides, until they all settled down along the banks of the
river, and it was the hour when the birds of the night went forth. Then
the sailors lit the lanterns for the night, and huge moths appeared,
flapping about the ship, and at moments their gorgeous colours would be
revealed by the lanterns, then they would pass into the night again,
where all was black. And again the sailors prayed, and thereafter we
supped and slept, and the helmsman took our lives into his care.

When I awoke I found that we had indeed come to Perdóndaris, that famous
city. For there it stood upon the left of us, a city fair and notable,
and all the more pleasant for our eyes to see after the jungle that was
so long with us. And we were anchored by the market-place, and the
captain’s merchandise was all displayed, and a merchant of Perdóndaris
stood looking at it. And the captain had his scimitar in his hand, and
was beating with it in anger upon the deck, and the splinters were
flying up from the white planks; for the merchant had offered him a
price for his merchandise that the captain declared to be an insult to
himself and his country’s gods, whom he now said to be great and
terrible gods, whose curses were to be dreaded. But the merchant waved
his hands, which were of great fatness, showing the pink palms, and
swore that of himself he thought not at all, but only of the poor folk
in the huts beyond the city to whom he wished to sell the merchandise
for as low a price as possible, leaving no remuneration for himself. For
the merchandise was mostly the thick toomarund carpets that in the
winter keep the wind from the floor, and tollub which the people smoke
in pipes. Therefore the merchant said if he offered a piffek more the
poor folk must go without their toomarunds when the winter came, and
without their tollub in the evenings, or else he and his aged father
must starve together. Thereat the captain lifted his scimitar to his own
throat, saying that he was now a ruined man, and that nothing remained
to him but death. And while he was carefully lifting his beard with his
left hand, the merchant eyed the merchandise again, and said that rather
than see so worthy a captain die, a man for whom he had conceived an
especial love when first he saw the manner in which he handled his ship,
he and his aged father should starve together and therefore he offered
fifteen piffeks more.

When he said this the captain prostrated himself and prayed to his gods
that they might yet sweeten this merchant’s bitter heart—to his little
lesser gods, to the gods that bless Belzoond.

At last the merchant offered yet five piffeks more. Then the captain
wept, for he said that he was deserted of his gods; and the merchant
also wept, for he said that he was thinking of his aged father, and of
how he soon would starve, and he hid his weeping face with both his
hands, and eyed the tollub again between his fingers. And so the bargain
was concluded, and the merchant took the toomarund and tollub, paying
for them out of a great clinking purse. And these were packed up into
bales again, and three of the merchant’s slaves carried them upon their
heads into the city. And all the while the sailors had sat silent,
cross-legged in a crescent upon the deck, eagerly watching the bargain,
and now a murmur of satisfaction arose among them, and they began to
compare it among themselves with other bargains that they had known. And
I found out from them that there are seven merchants in Perdóndaris, and
that they had all come to the captain one by one before the bargaining
began, and each had warned him privately against the others. And to all
the merchants the captain had offered the wine of his own country, that
they make in fair Belzoond, but could in no wise persuade them to it.
But now that the bargain was over, and the sailors were seated at the
first meal of the day, the captain appeared among them with a cask of
that wine, and we broached it with care and all made merry together. And
the captain was glad in his heart because he knew that he had much
honour in the eyes of his men because of the bargain that he had made.
So the sailors drank the wine of their native land, and soon their
thoughts were back in fair Belzoond and the little neighbouring cities
of Durl and Duz.

But for me the captain poured into a little glass some heavy yellow wine
from a small jar which he kept apart among his sacred things. Thick and
sweet it was, even like honey, yet there was in its heart a mighty,
ardent fire which had authority over souls of men. It was made, the
captain told me, with great subtlety by the secret craft of a family of
six who lived in a hut on the mountains of Hian Min. Once in these
mountains, he said, he followed the spoor of a bear, and he came
suddenly on a man of that family who had hunted the same bear, and he
was at the end of a narrow way with precipice all about him, and his
spear was sticking in the bear, and the wound not fatal, and he had no
other weapon. And the bear was walking towards the man, very slowly
because his wound irked him—yet he was now very close. And what the
captain did he would not say, but every year as soon as the snows are
hard, and travelling is easy on the Hian Min, that man comes down to the
market in the plains, and always leaves for the captain in the gate of
fair Belzoond a vessel of that priceless secret wine.

And as I sipped the wine and the captain talked, I remembered me of
stalwart noble things that I had long since resolutely planned, and my
soul seemed to grow mightier within me and to dominate the whole tide of
the Yann. It may be that I then slept. Or, if I did not, I do not now
minutely recollect every detail of that morning’s occupations. Towards
evening, I awoke and wishing to see Perdóndaris before we left in the
morning, and being unable to wake the captain, I went ashore alone.
Certainly Perdóndaris was a powerful city; it was encompassed by a wall
of great strength and altitude, having in it hollow ways for troops to
walk in, and battlements along it all the way, and fifteen strong towers
on it in every mile, and copper plaques low down where men could read
them, telling in all the languages of those parts of the Earth—one
language on each plaque—the tale of how an army once attacked
Perdóndaris and what befel that army. Then I entered Perdóndaris and
found all the people dancing, clad in brilliant silks, and playing on
the tambang as they danced. For a fearful thunder-storm had terrified
them while I slept, and the fires of death, they said, had danced over
Perdóndaris, and now the thunder had gone leaping away large and black
and hideous, they said, over the distant hills, and had turned round
snarling at them, showing his gleaming teeth, and had stamped, as he
went, upon the hilltops until they rang as though they had been bronze.
And often and again they stopped in their merry dances and prayed to the
God they knew not, saying, “O, God that we know not, we thank Thee for
sending the thunder back to his hills.” And I went on and came to the
market-place, and lying there upon the marble pavement I saw the
merchant fast asleep and breathing heavily, with his face and the palms
of his hands towards the sky, and slaves were fanning him to keep away
the flies. And from the market-place I came to a silver temple and then
to a palace of onyx, and there were many wonders in Perdóndaris, and I
would have stayed and seen them all, but as I came to the outer wall of
the city I suddenly saw in it a huge ivory gate. For a while I paused
and admired it, then I came nearer and perceived the dreadful truth. The
gate was carved out of one solid piece!

I fled at once through the gateway and down to the ship, and even as I
ran I thought that I heard far off on the hills behind me the tramp of
the fearful beast by whom that mass of ivory was shed, who was perhaps
even then looking for his other tusk. When I was on the ship again I
felt safer, and I said nothing to the sailors of what I had seen.

And now the captain was gradually awakening. Now night was rolling up
from the East and North, and only the pinnacles of the towers of
Perdóndaris still took the fallen sunlight. Then I went to the captain
and told him quietly of the thing I had seen. And he questioned me at
once about the gate, in a low voice, that the sailors might not know;
and I told him how the weight of the thing was such that it could not
have been brought from afar, and the captain knew that it had not been
there a year ago. We agreed that such a beast could never have been
killed by any assault of man, and that the gate must have been a fallen
tusk, and one fallen near and recently. Therefore he decided that it
were better to flee at once; so he commanded, and the sailors went to
the sails, and others raised the anchor to the deck, and just as the
highest pinnacle of marble lost the last rays of the sun we left
Perdóndaris, that famous city. And night came down and cloaked
Perdóndaris and hid it from our eyes, which as things have happened will
never see it again; for I have heard since that something swift and
wonderful has suddenly wrecked Perdóndaris in a day—towers, and walls,
and people.

And the night deepened over the River Yann, a night all white with
stars. And with the night there rose the helmsman’s song. As soon as he
had prayed he began to sing to cheer himself all through the lonely
night. But first he prayed, praying the helmsman’s prayer. And this is
what I remember of it, rendered into English with a very feeble
equivalent of the rhythm that seemed so resonant in those tropic nights.

To whatever god may hear.

Wherever there be sailors whether of river or sea: whether their way be
dark or whether through storm: whether their peril be of beast or of
rock: or from enemy lurking on land or pursuing on sea: wherever the
tiller is cold or the helmsman stiff: wherever sailors sleep or helmsmen
watch: guard, guide, and return us to the old land, that has known us:
to the far homes that we know.

                       To all the gods that are.
                       To whatever god may hear.

So he prayed, and there was silence. And the sailors laid them down to
rest for the night. The silence deepened, and was only broken by the
ripples of Yann that lightly touched our prow. Sometimes some monster of
the river coughed.

Silence and ripples, ripples and silence again.

And then his loneliness came upon the helmsman, and he began to sing.
And he sang the market songs of Durl and Duz, and the old dragon-legends
of Belzoond.

Many a song he sang, telling to spacious and exotic Yann the little
tales and trifles of his city of Durl. And the songs welled up over the
black jungle and came into the clear cold air above, and the great bands
of stars that look on Yann began to know the affairs of Durl and Duz,
and of the shepherds that dwelt in the fields between, and the flocks
that they had, and the loves that they had loved, and all the little
things that they hoped to do. And as I lay wrapped up in skins and
blankets, listening to those songs, and watching the fantastic shapes of
the great trees like to black giants stalking through the night, I
suddenly fell asleep.

When I awoke great mists were trailing away from the Yann. And the flow
of the river was tumbling now tumultuously, and little waves appeared;
for Yann had scented from afar the ancient crags of Glorm, and knew that
their ravines lay cool before him wherein he should meet the merry wild
Irillion rejoicing from fields of snow. So he shook off from him the
torpid sleep that had come upon him in the hot and scented jungle, and
forgot its orchids and its butterflies, and swept on turbulent,
expectant, strong; and soon the snowy peaks of the Hills of Glorm came
glittering into view. And now the sailors were waking up from sleep.
Soon we all eat, and then the helmsman laid him down to sleep while a
comrade took his place, and they all spread over him their choicest

And in a while we heard the sound that the Irillion made as she came
down dancing from the fields of snow.

And then we saw the ravine in the Hills of Glorm lying precipitous and
smooth before us, into which we were carried by the leaps of Yann. And
now we left the steamy jungle and breathed the mountain air; the sailors
stood up and took deep breaths of it, and thought of their own far-off
Acroctian hills on which were Durl and Duz—below them in the plains
stands fair Belzoond.

A great shadow brooded between the cliffs of Glorm, but the crags were
shining above us like gnarled moons, and almost lit the gloom. Louder
and louder came the Irillion’s song, and the sound of her dancing down
from the fields of snow. And soon we saw her white and full of mists,
and wreathed with rainbows delicate and small that she had plucked up
near the mountain’s summit from some celestial garden of the Sun. Then
she went away seawards with the huge grey Yann and the ravine widened,
and opened upon the world, and our rocking ship came through to the
light of the day.

And all that morning and all the afternoon we passed through the marshes
of Pondoovery; and Yann widened there, and flowed solemnly and slowly,
and the captain bade the sailors beat on bells to overcome the
dreariness of the marshes.

At last the Irusian mountains came in sight, nursing the villages of
Pen-Kai and Blut, and the wandering streets of Mlo, where priests
propitiate the avalanche with wine and maize. Then night came down over
the plains of Tlun, and we saw the lights of Cappadarnia. We heard the
Pathnites beating upon drums as we passed Imaut and Golzunda, then all
but the helmsman slept. And villages scattered along the banks of the
Yann heard all that night in the helmsman’s unknown tongue the little
songs of cities that they knew not.

I awoke before dawn with a feeling that I was unhappy before I
remembered why. Then I recalled that by the evening of the approaching
day, according to all foreseen probabilities, we should come to
Bar-Wul-Yann, and I should part from the captain and his sailors. And I
had liked the man because he had given me of his yellow wine that was
set apart among his sacred things, and many a story he had told me about
his fair Belzoond between the Acroctian hills and the Hian Min. And I
had liked the ways that his sailors had, and the prayers that they
prayed at evening side by side, grudging not one another their alien
gods. And I had a liking too for the tender way in which they often
spoke of Durl and Duz, for it is good that men should love their native
cities and the little hills that hold those cities up.

And I had come to know who would meet them when they returned to their
homes, and where they thought the meetings would take place, some in a
valley of the Acroctian hills where the road comes up from Yann, others
in the gateway of one or another of the three cities, and others by the
fireside in the home. And I thought of the danger that had menaced us
all alike outside Perdóndaris, a danger that, as things have happened,
was very real.

And I thought too of the helmsman’s cheery song in the cold and lonely
night, and how he had held our lives in his careful hands. And as I
thought of this the helmsman ceased to sing, and I looked up and saw a
pale light had appeared in the sky, and the lonely night had passed; and
the dawn widened, and the sailors awoke.

And soon we saw the tide of the Sea himself advancing resolute between
Yann’s borders, and Yann sprang lithely at him and they struggled
awhile; then Yann and all that was his were pushed back northward, so
that the sailors had to hoist the sails and, the wind being favorable,
we still held onwards.

And we passed Góndara and Narl and Haz. And we saw memorable, holy
Golnuz, and heard the pilgrims praying.

When we awoke after the midday rest we were coming near to Nen, the last
of the cities on the River Yann. And the jungle was all about us once
again, and about Nen; but the great Mloon ranges stood up over all
things, and watched the city from beyond the jungle.

Here we anchored, and the captain and I went up into the city and found
that the Wanderers had come into Nen.

And the Wanderers were a weird, dark tribe, that once in every seven
years came down from the peaks of Mloon, having crossed by a pass that
is known to them from some fantastic land that lies beyond. And the
people of Nen were all outside their houses, and all stood wondering at
their own streets. For the men and women of the Wanderers had crowded
all the ways, and every one was doing some strange thing. Some danced
astounding dances that they had learned from the desert wind, rapidly
curving and swirling till the eye could follow no longer. Others played
upon instruments beautiful wailing tunes that were full of horror, which
souls had taught them lost by night in the desert, that strange far
desert from which the Wanderers came.

None of their instruments were such as were known in Nen nor in any part
of the region of the Yann; even the horns out of which some were made
were of beasts that none had seen along the river, for they were barbed
at the tips. And they sang, in the language of none, songs that seemed
to be akin to the mysteries of night and to the unreasoned fear that
haunts dark places.

Bitterly all the dogs of Nen distrusted them. And the Wanderers told one
another fearful tales, for though no one in Nen knew ought of their
language yet they could see the fear on the listeners’ faces, and as the
tale wound on the whites of their eyes showed vividly in terror as the
eyes of some little beast whom the hawk has seized. Then the teller of
the tale would smile and stop, and another would tell his story, and the
teller of the first tale’s lips would chatter with fear. And if some
deadly snake chanced to appear the Wanderers would greet him as a
brother, and the snake would seem to give his greetings to them before
he passed on again. Once that most fierce and lethal of tropic snakes,
the giant lythra, came out of the jungle and all down the street, the
central street of Nen, and none of the Wanderers moved away from him,
but they all played sonorously on drums, as though he had been a person
of much honour; and the snake moved through the midst of them and smote

Even the Wanderers’ children could do strange things, for if any one of
them met with a child of Nen the two would stare at each other in
silence with large grave eyes; then the Wanderers’ child would slowly
draw from his turban a live fish or snake. And the children of Nen could
do nothing of that kind at all.

Much I should have wished to stay and hear the hymn with which they
greet the night, that is answered by the wolves on the heights of Mloon,
but it was now time to raise the anchor again that the captain might
return from Bar-Wul-Yann upon the landward tide. So we went on board and
continued down the Yann. And the captain and I spoke little, for we were
thinking of our parting, which should be for long, and we watched
instead the splendour of the westering sun. For the sun was a ruddy
gold, but a faint mist cloaked the jungle, lying low, and into it poured
the smoke of the little jungle cities, and the smoke of them met
together in the mist and joined into one haze, which became purple, and
was lit by the sun, as the thoughts of men become hallowed by some great
and sacred thing. Some times one column from a lonely house would rise
up higher than the cities’ smoke, and gleam by itself in the sun.

And now as the sun’s last rays were nearly level, we saw the sight that
I had come to see, for from two mountains that stood on either shore two
cliffs of pink marble came out into the river, all glowing in the light
of the low sun, and they were quite smooth and of mountainous altitude,
and they nearly met, and Yann went tumbling between them and found the

And this was Bar-Wul-Yann, the Gate of Yann, and in the distance through
that barrier’s gap I saw the azure indescribable sea, where little
fishing-boats went gleaming by.

And the sun set, and the brief twilight came, and the exultation of the
glory of Bar-Wul-Yann was gone, yet still the pink cliffs glowed, the
fairest marvel that the eye beheld—and this in a land of wonders. And
soon the twilight gave place to the coming out of stars, and the colours
of Bar-Wul-Yann went dwindling away. And the sight of those cliffs was
to me as some chord of music that a master’s hand had launched from the
violin, and which carries to Heaven or Faëry the tremulous spirits of

[Illustration: THE GATE OF YANN]

And now by the shore they anchored and went no further, for they were
sailors of the river and not of the sea, and knew the Yann but not the
tides beyond.

And the time was come when the captain and I must part, he to go back
again to his fair Belzoond in sight of the distant peaks of the Hian
Min, and I to find my way by strange means back to those hazy fields
that all poets know, wherein stand small mysterious cottages through
whose windows, looking westwards, you may see the fields of men, and
looking eastwards see glittering elfin mountains, tipped with snow,
going range on range into the region of Myth, and beyond it into the
kingdom of Fantasy, which pertain to the Lands of Dream. Long we
regarded one another, knowing that we should meet no more, for my fancy
is weakening as the years slip by, and I go ever more seldom into the
Lands of Dream. Then we clasped hands, uncouthly on his part, for it is
not the method of greeting in his country, and he commended my soul to
the care of his own gods, to his little lesser gods, the humble ones, to
the gods that bless Belzoond.

                        _The Sword and the Idol_

It was a cold winter’s evening late in the Stone Age; the sun had gone
down blazing over the plains of Thold; there were no clouds, only the
chill blue sky and the imminence of stars; and the surface of the
sleeping Earth began to harden against the cold of the night. Presently
from their lairs arose, and shook themselves and went stealthily forth,
those of Earth’s children to whom it is the law to prowl abroad as soon
as the dusk has fallen. And they went pattering softly over the plain,
and their eyes shone in the dark, and crossed and recrossed one another
in their courses. Suddenly there became manifest in the midst of the
plain that fearful portent of the presence of Man—a little flickering
fire. And the children of Earth who prowl abroad by night looked
sideways at it and snarled and edged away; all but the wolves, who came
a little nearer, for it was winter and the wolves were hungry, and they
had come in thousands from the mountains, and they said in their hearts,
“We are strong.” Around the fire a little tribe was encamped. They, too,
had come from the mountains, and from lands beyond them, but it was in
the mountains that the wolves first winded them; they picked up bones at
first that the tribe had dropped, but they were closer now and on all
sides. It was Loz who had lit the fire. He had killed a small furry
beast, hurling his stone axe at it, and had gathered a quantity of
reddish brown stones, and had laid them in a long row, and placed bits
of the small beast all along it; then he lit a fire on each side, and
the stones heated, and the bits began to cook. It was at this time that
the tribe noticed that the wolves who had followed them so far were no
longer content with the scraps of deserted encampments. A line of yellow
eyes surrounded them, and when it moved it was to come nearer. So the
men of the tribe hastily tore up brushwood, and felled a small tree with
their flint axes, and heaped it all over the fire that Loz had made, and
for a while the great heap hid the flame, and the wolves came trotting
in and sat down again on their haunches much closer than before; and the
fierce and valiant dogs that belonged to the tribe believed that their
end was about to come while fighting, as they had long since prophesied
it would. Then the flame caught the lofty stack of brushwood, and rushed
out of it, and ran up the side of it, and stood up haughtily far over
the top, and the wolves seeing this terrible ally of Man revelling there
in his strength, and knowing nothing of his frequent treachery to his
masters, went slowly away as though they had other purposes. And for the
rest of that night the dogs of the encampment cried out to them and
besought them to come back. But the tribe lay down all round the fire
under thick furs and slept. And a great wind arose and blew into the
roaring heart of the fire till it was red no longer, but all pallid with
heat. With the dawn the tribe awoke.

Loz might have known that after such a mighty conflagration nothing
could remain of his small furry beast, but there was hunger in him and
little reason as he searched among the ashes. What he found there amazed
him beyond measure; there was no meat, there was not even his row of
reddish brown stones, but something longer than a man’s leg and narrower
than his hand, was lying there like a great flattened snake. When Loz
looked at its thin edges and saw that it ran to a point, he picked up
stones to chip it and make it sharp. It was the instinct of Loz to
sharpen things. When he found that it could not be chipped his
wonderment increased. It was many hours before he discovered that he
could sharpen the edges by rubbing them with a stone; but at last the
point was sharp, and all one side of it except near the end, where Loz
held it in his hand. And Loz lifted it and brandished it, and the Stone
Age was over. That afternoon in the little encampment, just as the tribe
moved on, the Stone Age passed away, which, for perhaps thirty or forty
thousand years, had slowly lifted Man from among the beasts and left him
with his supremacy beyond all hope of reconquest.

It was not for many days that any other man tried to make for himself an
iron sword by cooking the same kind of small furry beast that Loz had
tried to cook. It was not for many years that any thought to lay the
meat along stones as Loz had done; and when they did, being no longer on
the plains of Thold, they used flints or chalk. It was not for many
generations that another piece of iron ore was melted and the secret
slowly guessed. Nevertheless one of Earth’s many veils was torn aside by
Loz to give us ultimately the steel sword and the plough, machinery and
factories; let us not blame Loz if we think that he did wrong, for he
did all in ignorance. The tribe moved on until it came to water, and
there it settled down under a hill, and they built their huts there.
Very soon they had to fight with another tribe, a tribe that was
stronger than them; but the sword of Loz was terrible and his tribe slew
their foes. You might make one blow at Loz, but then would come one
thrust from that iron sword, and there was no way of surviving it. No
one could fight with Loz. And he became the ruler of the tribe in the
place of Iz, who hitherto had ruled it with his sharp axe, as his father
had before him.

Now Loz begat Lo, and in his old age gave his sword to him, and Lo ruled
the tribe with it. And Lo called the name of the sword Death, because it
was so swift and terrible.

And Iz begat Ird, who was of no account. And Ird hated Lo because he was
of no account by reason of the iron sword of Lo.

One night Ird stole down to the hut of Lo, carrying his sharp axe, and
he went very softly, but Lo’s dog, Warner, heard him coming, and he
growled softly by his master’s door. When Ird came to the hut he heard
Lo talking gently to his sword. And Lo was saying, “Lie still, Death.
Rest, rest, old sword,” and then, “What, again, Death? Be still. Be

And then again: “What, art thou hungry, Death? Or thirsty, poor old
sword? Soon, Death, soon. Be still only a little.”

But Ird fled, for he did not like the gentle tone of Lo as he spoke to
his sword.

And Lo begat Lod. And when Lo died Lod took the iron sword and ruled the

And Ird begat Ith, who was of no account, like his father.

Now when Lod had smitten a man or killed a terrible beast, Ith would go
away for a while into the forest rather than hear the praises that would
be given to Lod.

And once, as Ith sat in the forest waiting for the day to pass, he
suddenly thought he saw a tree trunk looking at him as with a face. And
Ith was afraid, for trees should not look at men. But soon Ith saw that
it was only a tree and not a man, though it was like a man. Ith used to
speak to this tree, and tell it about Lod, for he dared not speak to any
one else about him. And Ith found comfort in talking about Lod.

One day Ith went with his stone axe into the forest, and stayed there
many days.

He came back by night, and the next morning when the tribe awoke they
saw something that was like a man and yet was not a man. And it sat on
the hill with its elbows pointing outwards and was quite still. And Ith
was crouching before it, and hurriedly placing before it fruits and
flesh, and then leaping away from it and looking frightened. Presently
all the tribe came out to see, but dared not come quite close because of
the fear that they saw on the face of Ith. And Ith went to his hut, and
came back again with a hunting spear-head and valuable small stone
knives, and reached out and laid them before the thing that was like a
man, and then sprang away from it.

And some of the tribe questioned Ith about the still thing that was like
a man, and Ith said, “This is Ged.” They then asked, “Who is Ged?” and
Ith said, “Ged sends the crops and the rain; and the sun and the moon
are Ged’s.”

Then the tribe went back to their huts, but later in the day some came
again, and they said to Ith, “Ged is only as we are, having hands and
feet.” And Ith pointed to the right hand of Ged, which was not as his
left, but was shaped like the paw of a beast, and Ith said, “By this ye
may know that he is not as any man.”

Then they said, “He is indeed Ged.” But Lod said, “He speaketh not, nor
doth he eat,” and Ith answered, “The thunder is his voice and the famine
is his eating.”

After this the tribe copied Ith, and brought little gifts of meat to
Ged; and Ith cooked them before him that Ged might smell the cooking.

One day a great thunder-storm came trampling up from the distance and
raged among the hills, and the tribe all hid away from it in their huts.
And Ith appeared among the huts looking unafraid. And Ith said little,
but the tribe thought that he had expected the terrible storm because
the meat that they had laid before Ged had been tough meat, and not the
best parts of the beasts they slew.

And Ged grew to have more honour among the tribe than Lod. And Lod was

One night Lod arose when all were asleep, and quieted his dog, and took
his iron sword and went away to the hill. And he came on Ged in the
starlight, sitting still, with his elbows pointing outwards, and his
beast’s paw, and the mark of the fire on the ground where his food had
been cooked.

And Lod stood there for a while in great fear, trying to keep to his
purpose. Suddenly he stepped up close to Ged and lifted his iron sword,
and Ged neither hit nor shrank. Then the thought came into Lod’s mind,
“Ged does not hit. What will Ged do instead?”

And Lod lowered his sword and struck not, and his imagination began to
work on that, “What will Ged do instead?”

And the more Lod thought, the worse was his fear of Ged.

And Lod ran away and left him.

Lod still ruled the tribe in battle or in the hunt, but the chiefest
spoils of battle were given to Ged, and the beasts that they slew were
Ged’s; and all questions that concerned war or peace, and questions of
law and disputes, were always brought to him, and Ith gave the answers
after speaking to Ged by night.

At last Ith said, the day after an eclipse, that the gifts which they
brought to Ged were not enough, that some far greater sacrifice was
needed, that Ged was very angry even now, and not to be appeased by any
ordinary sacrifice.

And Ith said that to save the tribe from the anger of Ged he would speak
to Ged that night, and ask him what new sacrifice he needed.

Deep in his heart Lod shuddered, for his instinct told him that Ged
wanted Lod’s only son, who should hold the iron sword when Lod was gone.

No one would dare touch Lod because of the iron sword, but his instinct
said in his slow mind again and again, “Ged loves Ith. Ith has said so.
Ith hates the sword-holders.”

“Ith hates the sword-holders. Ged loves Ith.”

Evening fell and the night came when Ith should speak with Ged, and Lod
became ever surer of the doom of his race.

He lay down but could not sleep.

Midnight had barely come when Lod arose and went with his iron sword
again to the hill.

And there sat Ged. Had Ith been to him yet? Ith whom Ged loved, who
hated the sword-holders.

And Lod looked long at the old sword of iron that had come to his
grandfather on the plains of Thold.

Good-bye, old sword! And Lod laid it on the knees of Ged, then went

And when Ith came, a little before dawn, the sacrifice was found
acceptable unto Ged.

                            _The Idle City_

There was once a city which was an idle city, wherein men told vain

And it was that city’s custom to tax all men that would enter in, the
toll of some idle story in the gate.

So all men paid to the watchers in the gate the toll of an idle story,
and passed into the city unhindered and unhurt. And in a certain hour of
the night when the king of that city arose and went pacing swiftly up
and down the chamber of his sleeping, and called upon the name of the
dead queen, then would the watchers fasten up the gate and go into that
chamber to the king, and, sitting on the floor, would tell him all the
tales that they had gathered. And listening to them some calmer mood
would come upon the king, and listening still he would lie down again
and at last fall asleep, and all the watchers silently would arise and
steal away from the chamber.

A while ago wandering, I came to the gate of that city. And even as I
came a man stood up to pay his toll to the watchers. They were seated
cross-legged on the ground between him and the gate, and each one held a
spear. Near him two other travellers sat on the warm sand waiting. And
the man said:

Now the city of Nombros forsook the worship of the gods and turned
towards God. So the gods threw their cloaks over their faces and strode
away from the city, and going into the haze among the hills passed
through the trunks of the olive groves into the sunset. But when they
had already left the earth, they turned and looked through the gleaming
folds of the twilight for the last time at their city; and they looked
half in anger and half in regret, then turned and went away for ever.
But they sent back a Death, who bore a scythe, saying to it: “Slay half
in the city that forsook us, but half of them spare alive that they may
yet remember their old forsaken gods.”

But God sent a destroying angel to show that He was God, saying unto
him: “Go down and show the strength of mine arm unto that city and slay
half of the dwellers therein, yet spare a half of them that they may
know that I am God.”

And at once the destroying angel put his hand to his sword, and the
sword came out of the scabbard with a deep breath, like to the breath
that a broad woodman takes before his first blow at some giant oak.
Thereat the angel pointed his arms downwards, and bending his head
between them, fell forward from Heaven’s edge, and the spring of his
ankles shot him downwards with his wings furled behind him. So he went
slanting earthward through the evening with his sword stretched out
before him, and he was like a javelin that some hunter hath hurled that
returneth again to the earth: but just before he touched it he lifted
his head and spread his wings with the under feathers forward, and
alighted by the bank of the broad Flavro that divides the city of
Nombros. And down the bank of the Flavro he fluttered low, like to a
hawk over a new-cut cornfield when the little creatures of the corn are
shelterless, and at the same time down the other bank the Death from the
gods went mowing.

At once they saw each other, and the angel glared at the Death, and the
Death leered back at him, and the flames in the eyes of the angel
illumined with a red glare the mist that lay in the hollows of the
sockets of the Death. Suddenly they fell on one another, sword to
scythe. And the angel captured the temples of the gods, and set up over
them the sign of God, and the Death captured the temples of God, and led
into them the ceremonies and sacrifices of the gods; and all the while
the centuries slipped quietly by going down the Flavro seawards.

And now some worship God in the temple of the gods, and others worship
the gods in the temple of God, and still the angel hath not returned
again to the rejoicing choirs, and still the Death hath not gone back to
die with the dead gods; but all through Nombros they fight up and down,
and still on each side of the Flavro the city lives.

[Illustration: THE SILENCE OF GED]

And the watchers in the gate said, “Enter in.”

Then another traveller rose up, and said:

“Solemnly between Huhenwāzi and Nitcrāna the huge grey clouds came
floating. And those great mountains, heavenly Huhenwāzi, and Nitcrāna,
the king of peaks, greeted them, calling them brothers. And the clouds
were glad of their greeting for they meet with companions seldom in the
lonely heights of the sky.

“But the vapours of evening said unto the earth-mist, ‘What are those
shapes that dare to move above us and to go where Nitcrāna is and

“And the earth-mist said in answer unto the vapours of evening, ‘It is
only an earth-mist that has become mad and has left the warm and
comfortable earth, and has in his madness thought that his place is with
Huhenwāzi and Nitcrāna.’

“‘Once,’ said the vapours of evening, ‘there were clouds, but this was
many and many a day ago, as our forefathers have said. Perhaps the mad
one thinks he is the clouds.’

“Then spake the earth-worms from the warm deeps of the mud, saying ‘O,
earth-mist, thou art indeed the clouds, and there are no clouds but
thou. And as for Huhenwāzi and Nitcrāna, I cannot see them, and
therefore they are not high, and there are no mountains in the world but
those that I cast up every morning out of the deeps of the mud.’

“And the earth-mist and the vapours of evening were glad at the voice of
the earth-worms, and looking earthward believed what they had said.

“And indeed it is better to be as the earth-mist, and to keep close to
the warm mud at night, and to hear the earth-worm’s comfortable speech,
and not to be a wanderer in the cheerless heights, but to leave the
mountains alone with their desolate snow, to draw what comfort they can
from their vast aspect over all the cities of men, and from the whispers
that they hear at evening of unknown distant Gods.”

And the watchers in the gate said, “Enter in.”

Then a man stood up who came out of the west, and told a western tale.
He said:

“There is a road in Rome that runs through an ancient temple that once
the gods had loved; it runs along the top of a great wall, and the floor
of the temple lies far down beneath it, of marble, pink and white.

“Upon the temple floor I counted to the number of thirteen hungry cats.

“Sometimes,” they said among themselves, “It was the gods that lived
here, sometimes it was men, and now it’s cats. So let us enjoy the sun
on the hot marble before another people comes.

“For it was at that hour of a warm afternoon when my fancy is able to
hear the silent voices.

“And the fearful leanness of all those thirteen cats moved me to go into
a neighbouring fish shop, and there to buy a quantity of fishes. Then I
returned and threw them all over the railing at the top of the great
wall, and they fell for thirty feet, and hit the sacred marble with a

“Now, in any other town but Rome, or in the minds of any other cats, the
sight of fishes falling out of heaven had surely excited wonder. They
rose slowly, and all stretched themselves, then they came leisurely
towards the fishes. ‘It is only a miracle,’ they said in their hearts.”

And the watchers in the gate said, “Enter in.”

Proudly and slowly, as they spoke, drew up to them a camel, whose rider
sought for entrance to the city. His face shone with the sunset by which
for long he had steered for the city’s gate. Of him they demanded toll.
Whereat he spoke to his camel, and the camel roared and kneeled, and the
man descended from him. And the man unwrapped from many silks a box of
divers metals wrought by the Japanese, and on the lid of it were figures
of men who gazed from some shore at an isle of the Inland Sea. This he
showed to the watchers, and when they had seen it, said, “It has seemed
to me that these speak to each other thus:

“Behold now Oojni, the dear one of the sea, the little mother sea that
hath no storms. She goeth out from Oojni singing a song, and she
returneth singing over her sands. Little is Oojni in the lap of the sea,
and scarce to be perceived by wondering ships. White sails have never
wafted her legends afar, they are told not by bearded wanderers of the
sea. Her fireside tales are known not to the North, the dragons of China
have not heard of them, nor those that ride on elephants through Ind.

“Men tell the tales and the smoke ariseth upwards; the smoke departeth
and the tales are told.

“Oojni is not a name among the nations, she is not known of where the
merchants meet, she is not spoken of by alien lips.

“Indeed, but Oojni is little among the isles, yet is she loved by those
that know her coasts and her inland places hidden from the sea.

“Without glory, without fame, and without wealth, Oojni is greatly loved
by a little people, and by a few; yet not by few, for all her dead still
love her, and oft by night come whispering through her woods. Who could
forget Oojni even among the dead?

“For here in Oojni, wot you, are homes of men, and gardens, and golden
temples of the gods, and sacred places inshore from the sea, and many
murmurous woods. And there is a path that winds over the hills to go
into mysterious holy lands where dance by night the spirits of the
woods, or sing unseen in the sunlight; and no one goes into these holy
lands, for who that love Oojni would rob her of her mysteries, and the
curious aliens come not. Indeed, but we love Oojni though she is so
little; she is the little mother of our race, and the kindly nurse of
all seafaring birds.

“And behold, even now caressing her, the gentle fingers of the mother
sea, whose dreams are afar with that old wanderer Ocean.

“And yet let us forget not Fuzi-Yama, for he stands manifest over clouds
and sea, misty below, and vague and indistinct, but clear above for all
the isles to watch. The ships make all their journeys in his sight, the
nights and the days go by him like a wind, the summers and winters under
him flicker and fade, the lives of men pass quietly here and hence, and
Fuzi-Yama watches there—and knows.”

And the watchers in the gate said “Enter in.”

And I, too, would have told them a tale, very wonderful and very true;
one that I had told in many cities, which as yet had no believers. But
now the sun had set, and the brief twilight gone, and ghostly silences
were rising from far and darkening hills. A stillness hung over that
city’s gate. And the great silence of the solemn night was more
acceptable to the watchers in the gate than any sound of man. Therefore
they beckoned to us, and motioned with their hands that we should pass
untaxed into the city. And softly we went up over the sand, and between
the high rock pillars of the gate, and a deep stillness settled among
the watchers, and the stars over them twinkled undisturbed.

For how short a while man speaks, and withal how vainly. And for how
long he is silent. Only the other day I met a king in Thebes, who had
been silent already for four thousand years.

                           _The Hashish Man_

I was at dinner in London the other day. The ladies had gone upstairs,
and no one sat on my right; on my left there was a man I did not know,
but he knew my name somehow apparently, for he turned to me after a
while, and said, “I read a story of yours about Bethmoora in a review.”

Of course I remembered the tale. It was about a beautiful Oriental city
that was suddenly deserted in a day—nobody quite knew why. I said, “Oh,
yes,” and slowly searched in my mind for some more fitting
acknowledgement of the compliment that his memory had paid me.

I was greatly astonished when he said, “You were wrong about the gnousar
sickness; it was not that at all.”

I said, “Why! Have you been there?”

And he said, “Yes; I do it with hashish. I know Bethmoora well.” And he
took out of his pocket a small box full of some black stuff that looked
like tar, but had a stranger smell. He warned me not to touch it with my
finger, as the stain remained for days. “I got it from a gipsy,” he
said. “He had a lot of it, as it had killed his father.” But I
interrupted him, for I wanted to know for certain what it was that had
made desolate that beautiful city, Bethmoora, and why they fled from it
swiftly in a day. “Was it because of the Desert’s curse?” I asked. And
he said, “Partly it was the fury of the Desert and partly the advice of
the Emperor Thuba Mleen, for that fearful beast is in some way connected
with the Desert on his mother’s side.” And he told me this strange
story: “You remember the sailor with the black scar, who was there on
the day that you described when the messengers came on mules to the gate
of Bethmoora, and all the people fled. I met this man in a tavern,
drinking rum, and he told me all about the flight from Bethmoora, but
knew no more than you did what the message was, or who had sent it.
However, he said he would see Bethmoora once more whenever he touched
again at an eastern port, even if he had to face the Devil. He often
said that he would face the Devil to find out the mystery of that
message that emptied Bethmoora in a day. And in the end he had to face
Thuba Mleen, whose weak ferocity he had not imagined. For one day the
sailor told me he had found a ship, and I met him no more after that in
the tavern drinking rum. It was about that time that I got the hashish
from the gipsy, who had a quantity that he did not want. It takes one
literally out of oneself. It is like wings. You swoop over distant
countries and into other worlds. Once I found out the secret of the
universe. I have forgotten what it was, but I know that the Creator does
not take Creation seriously, for I remember that He sat in Space with
all His work in front of Him and laughed. I have seen incredible things
in fearful worlds. As it is your imagination that takes you there, so it
is only by your imagination that you can get back. Once out in æther I
met a battered, prowling spirit, that had belonged to a man whom drugs
had killed a hundred years ago; and he led me to regions that I had
never imagined; and we parted in anger beyond the Pleiades, and I could
not imagine my way back. And I met a huge grey shape that was the Spirit
of some great people, perhaps of a whole star, and I besought It to show
me my way home, and It halted beside me like a sudden wind and pointed,
and, speaking quite softly, asked me if I discerned a certain tiny
light, and I saw a far star faintly, and then It said to me, ‘That is
the Solar System,’ and strode tremendously on. And somehow I imagined my
way back, and only just in time, for my body was already stiffening in a
chair in my room; and the fire had gone out and everything was cold, and
I had to move each finger one by one, and there were pins and needles in
them, and dreadful pains in the nails, which began to thaw; and at last
I could move one arm, and reached a bell, and for a long time no one
came, because every one was in bed. But at last a man appeared, and they
got a doctor; and _he_ said that it was hashish poisoning, but it would
have been all right if I hadn’t met that battered, prowling spirit.

“I could tell you astounding things that I have seen, but you want to
know who sent that message to Bethmoora. Well, it was Thuba Mleen. And
this is how I know. I often went to the city after that day that you
wrote of (I used to take hashish of an evening in my flat), and I always
found it uninhabited. Sand had poured into it from the desert, and the
streets were yellow and smooth, and through open, swinging doors the
sand had drifted.

“One evening I had put the guard in front of the fire, and settled into
a chair and eaten my hashish, and the first thing that I saw when I came
to Bethmoora was the sailor with the black scar, strolling down the
street, and making footprints in the yellow sand. And now I knew that I
should see what secret power it was that kept Bethmoora uninhabited.

“I saw that there was anger in the Desert, for there were storm clouds
heaving along the skyline, and I heard a muttering amongst the sand.

“The sailor strolled on down the street, looking into the empty houses
as he went; sometimes he shouted and sometimes he sang, and sometimes he
wrote his name on a marble wall. Then he sat down on a step and ate his
dinner. After a while he grew tired of the city, and came back up the
street. As he reached the gate of green copper three men on camels

“I could do nothing. I was only a consciousness, invisible, wandering:
my body was in Europe. The sailor fought well with his fists, but he was
over-powered and bound with ropes, and led away through the Desert.

“I followed for as long as I could stay, and found that they were going
by the way of the Desert round the Hills of Hap towards Utnar Véhi, and
then I knew that the camel men belonged to Thuba Mleen.

“I work in an insurance office all day, and I hope you won’t forget me
if ever you want to insure—life, fire, or motor—but that’s no part of my
story. I was desperately anxious to get back to my flat, though it is
not good to take hashish two days running; but I wanted to see what they
would do to the poor fellow, for I had heard bad rumours about Thuba
Mleen. When at last I got away I had a letter to write; then I rang for
my servant, and told him that I must not be disturbed, though I left my
door unlocked in case of accidents. After that I made up a good fire,
and sat down and partook of the pot of dreams. I was going to the palace
of Thuba Mleen.

“I was kept back longer than usual by noises in the street, but suddenly
I was up above the town; the European countries rushed by beneath me,
and there appeared the thin white palace spires of horrible Thuba Mleen.
I found him presently at the end of a little narrow room. A curtain of
red leather hung behind him, on which all the names of God, written in
Yannish, were worked with a golden thread. Three windows were small and
high. The Emperor seemed no more than about twenty, and looked small and
weak. No smiles came on his nasty yellow face, though he tittered
continually. As I looked from his low forehead to his quivering under
lip, I became aware that there was some horror about him, though I was
not able to perceive what it was. And then I saw it—the man never
blinked; and though later on I watched those eyes for a blink, it never
happened once.

[Illustration: THUBA MLEEN]

“And then I followed the Emperor’s rapt glance, and I saw the sailor
lying on the floor, alive but hideously rent, and the royal torturers
were at work all round him. They had torn long strips from him, but had
not detached them, and they were torturing the ends of them far away
from the sailor.” The man that I met at dinner told me many things which
I must omit. “The sailor was groaning softly, and every time he groaned
Thuba Mleen tittered. I had no sense of smell, but I could hear and see,
and I do not know which was the most revolting—the terrible condition of
the sailor or the happy unblinking face of horrible Thuba Mleen.

“I wanted to go away, but the time was not yet come, and I had to stay
where I was.

“Suddenly the Emperor’s face began to twitch violently and his under lip
quivered faster, and he whimpered with anger, and cried with a shrill
voice, in Yannish, to the captain of his torturers that there was a
spirit in the room. I feared not, for living men cannot lay hands on a
spirit, but all the torturers were appalled at his anger, and stopped
their work, for their hands trembled with fear. Then two men of the
spear-guard slipped from the room, and each of them brought back
presently a golden bowl, with knobs on it, full of hashish; and the
bowls were large enough for heads to have floated in had they been
filled with blood. And the two men fell to rapidly, each eating with two
great spoons—there was enough in each spoonful to have given dreams to a
hundred men. And there came upon them soon the hashish state, and their
spirits hovered, preparing to go free, while I feared horribly, but ever
and anon they fell back again to the bodies, recalled by some noise in
the room. Still the men ate, but lazily now, and without ferocity. At
last the great spoons dropped out of their hands, and their spirits rose
and left them. I could not flee. And the spirits were more horrible than
the men, because they were young men, and not yet wholly moulded to fit
their fearful souls. Still the sailor groaned softly, evoking little
titters from the Emperor Thuba Mleen. Then the two spirits rushed at me,
and swept me thence as gusts of wind sweep butterflies, and away we went
from that small, pale, heinous man. There was no escaping from these
spirits’ fierce insistence. The energy in my minute lump of the drug was
overwhelmed by the huge spoonsful that these men had eaten with both
hands. I was whirled over Arvle Woondery, and brought to the lands of
Snith, and swept on still until I came to Kragua, and beyond this to
those bleak lands that are nearly unknown to fancy. And we came at last
to those ivory hills that are named the Mountains of Madness, and I
tried to struggle against the spirits of that frightful Emperor’s men,
for I heard on the other side of the ivory hills the pittering of those
beasts that prey on the mad, as they prowled up and down. It was no
fault of mine that my little lump of hashish could not fight with their
horrible spoonsful....”

Some one was tugging at the hall-door bell. Presently a servant came and
told our host that a policeman in the hall wished to speak to him at
once. He apologised to us, and went outside, and we heard a man in heavy
boots, who spoke in a low voice to him. My friend got up and walked over
to the window, and opened it, and looked outside. “I should think it
will be a fine night,” he said. Then he jumped out. When we put our
astonished heads out of the window to look for him, he was already out
of sight.

                            _Poor Old Bill_

On an antique haunt of sailors, a tavern of the sea, the light of day
was fading. For several evenings I had frequented this place, in the
hope of hearing something from the sailors, as they sat over strange
wines, about a rumor that had reached my ears of a certain fleet of
galleons of old Spain still said to be afloat in the South Seas in some
uncharted region.

In this I was again to be disappointed. Talk was low and seldom, and I
was about to leave, when a sailor, wearing ear-rings of pure gold,
lifted up his head from his wine, and looking straight before him at the
wall, told his tale loudly:

(When later on a storm of rain arose and thundered on the tavern’s
leaded panes, he raised his voice without effort and spoke on still. The
darker it got the clearer his wild eyes shone.)

“A ship with sails of the olden time was nearing fantastic isles. We had
never seen such isles.

“We all hated the captain, and he hated us. He hated us all alike, there
was no favouritism about him. And he never would talk a word with any of
us, except sometimes in the evening when it was getting dark he would
stop and look up and talk a bit to the men he had hanged at the

“We were a mutinous crew. But Captain was the only man that had pistols.
He slept with one under his pillow and kept one close beside him. There
was a nasty look about the isles. They were small and flat as though
they had come up only recently from the sea, and they had no sand or
rocks like honest isles, but green grass down to the water. And there
were little cottages there whose looks we did not like. Their thatches
came almost down to the ground, and were strangely turned up at the
corners, and under the low eaves were queer dark windows whose little
leaded panes were too thick to see through. And no one, man or beast,
was walking about, so that you could not know what kind of people lived
there. But Captain knew. And he went ashore and into one of the
cottages, and someone lit lights inside, and the little windows wore an
evil look.


“It was quite dark when he came aboard again, and he bade a cheery
good-night to the men that swung from the yard-arm, and he eyed us in a
way that frightened poor old Bill.

“Next night we found that he had learned to curse, for he came on a lot
of us asleep in our bunks, and among them poor old Bill, and he pointed
at us with a finger, and made a curse that our souls should stay all
night at the top of the masts. And suddenly there was the soul of poor
old Bill sitting like a monkey at the top of the mast, and looking at
the stars, and freezing through and through.

“We got up a little mutiny after that, but Captain comes up and points
with his finger again, and this time poor old Bill and all the rest are
swimming behind the ship through the cold green water, though their
bodies remain on deck.

“It was the cabin-boy who found out that Captain couldn’t curse when he
was drunk, though he could shoot as well at one time as another.

“After that it was only a matter of waiting, and of losing two men when
the time came. Some of us were murderous fellows, and wanted to kill
Captain, but poor old Bill was for finding a bit of an island, out of
the track of ships, and leaving him there with his share of our year’s
provisions. And everybody listened to poor old Bill, and we decided to
maroon Captain as soon as we caught him when he couldn’t curse.

“It was three whole days before Captain got drunk again, and poor old
Bill and all had a dreadful time, for Captain invented new curses every
day, and wherever he pointed his finger our souls had to go; and the
fishes got to know us, and so did the stars, and none of them pitied us
when we froze on the masts or were hurried through forests of seaweed
and lost our way—both stars and fishes went about their businesses with
cold, unastonished eyes. Once when the sun had set and it was twilight,
and the moon was showing clearer and clearer in the sky, and we stopped
our work for a moment because Captain seemed to be looking away from us
at the colours in the sky, he suddenly turned and sent our souls to the
Moon. And it was colder there than ice at night; and there were horrible
mountains making shadows; and it was all as silent as miles of tombs;
and Earth was shining up in the sky as big as the blade of a scythe, and
we all got homesick for it, but could not speak nor cry. It was quite
dark when we got back, and we were very respectful to Captain all the
next day, but he cursed several of us again very soon. What we all
feared most was that he would curse our souls to Hell, and none of us
mentioned Hell above a whisper for fear that it should remind him. But
on the third evening the cabin-boy came and told us that Captain was
drunk. And we all went to his cabin, and we found him lying there across
his bunk, and he shot as he had never shot before; but he had no more
then the two pistols, and he would only have killed two men if he hadn’t
caught Joe over the head with the end of one of his pistols. And then we
tied him up. And poor old Bill put the rum between Captain’s teeth, and
kept him drunk for two days, so that he could not curse, till we found a
convenient rock. And before sunset of the second day we found a nice
bare island for Captain, out of the track of ships, about a hundred
yards long and about eighty wide; and we rowed him along to it in a
little boat, and gave him provisions for a year, the same as we had
ourselves, because poor old Bill wanted to be fair. And we left him
sitting comfortable with his back to a rock singing a sailor’s song.

“When we could no longer hear Captain singing we all grew very cheerful
and made a banquet out of our year’s provisions, as we all hoped to be
home again in under three weeks. We had three great banquets every day
for a week—every man had more than he could eat, and what was left over
we threw on the floor like gentlemen. And then one day, as we saw San
Huëlgédos, and wanted to sail in to spend our money, the wind changed
round from behind us and beat us out to sea. There was no tacking
against it, and no getting into the harbor, though other ships sailed by
us and anchored there. Sometimes a dead calm would fall on us, while
fishing boats all around us flew before half a gale, and sometimes the
wind would beat us out to sea when nothing else was moving. All day we
tried, and at night we laid to and tried again next day. And all the
sailors of the other ships were spending their money in San Huëlgédos
and we could not come nigh it. Then we spoke horrible things against the
wind and against San Huëlgédos, and sailed away.

“It was just the same at Norenna.

“We kept close together now and talked in low voices. Suddenly poor old
Bill grew frightened. As we went all along the Siractic coast-line, we
tried again and again, and the wind was waiting for us in every harbour
and sent us out to sea. Even the little islands would not have us. And
then we knew that there was no landing yet for poor old Bill, and every
one upbraided his kind heart that had made them maroon Captain on a
rock, so as not to have his blood upon their heads. There was nothing to
do but to drift about the seas. There were no banquets now, because we
feared that Captain might live his year and keep us out to sea.

“At first we used to hail all passing ships, and used to try to board
them in the boats; but there was no rowing against Captain’s curse, and
we had to give that up. So we played cards for a year in Captain’s
cabin, night and day, storm and fine, and every one promised to pay poor
old Bill when we got ashore.

“It was horrible to us to think what a frugal man Captain really was, he
that used to get drunk every other day whenever he was at sea, and here
he was still alive, and sober too, for his curse still kept us out of
every port, and our provisions were gone.

“Well, it came to drawing lots, and Jim was the unlucky one. Jim only
kept us about three days, and then we drew lots again, and this time it
was the nigger. The nigger didn’t keep us any longer, and we drew again,
and this time it was Charlie, and still Captain was alive.

“As we got fewer one of us kept us longer. Longer and longer a mate used
to last us, and we all wondered how ever Captain did it. It was five
weeks over the year when, we drew Mike, and he kept us for a week, and
Captain was still alive. We wondered he didn’t get tired of the same old
curse; but we supposed things looked different when one is alone on an

“When there was only Jakes and poor old Bill and the cabin-boy and Dick,
we didn’t draw any longer. We said that the cabin-boy had had all the
luck, and he mustn’t expect any more. Then poor old Bill was alone with
Jakes and Dick, and Captain was still alive. When there was no more boy,
and the Captain still alive, Dick, who was a huge strong man like poor
old Bill, said that it was Jakes’ turn, and he was very lucky to have
lived as long as he had. But poor old Bill talked it all over with
Jakes, and they thought it better that Dick should take his turn.

“Then there was Jakes and poor old Bill; and Captain would not die.

“And these two used to watch one another night and day, when Dick was
gone and no one else was left to them. And at last poor old Bill fell
down in a faint and lay there for an hour. Then Jakes came up to him
slowly with his knife, and makes a stab at poor old Bill as he lies
there on the deck. And poor old Bill caught hold of him by the wrist,
and put his knife into him twice to make quite sure, although it spoiled
the best part of the meat. Then poor old Bill was all alone at sea.

“And the very next week, before the food gave out, Captain must have
died on his bit of an island; for poor old Bill heard Captain’s soul
going cursing over the sea, and the day after that the ship was cast on
a rocky coast.

“And Captain’s been dead now for over a hundred years, and poor old Bill
is safe ashore again. But it looks as if Captain hadn’t done with him
yet, for poor old Bill doesn’t ever get any older, and somehow or other
he doesn’t seem to die. Poor old Bill!”

When this was over the man’s fascination suddenly snapped, and we all
jumped up and left him.

It was not only his revolting story, but it was the fearful look in the
eyes of the man who told it, and the terrible ease with which his voice
surpassed the roar of the rain, that decided me never again to enter
that haunt of sailors—the tavern of the sea.

                             _The Beggars_

I was walking down Piccadilly not long ago, thinking of nursery rhymes
and regretting old romance.

As I saw the shopkeepers walk by in their black frock-coats and their
black hats, I thought of the old line in nursery annals, “The merchants
of London, they wear scarlet.”

The streets were all so unromantic, dreary. Nothing could be done for
them, I thought—nothing. And then my thoughts were interrupted by
barking dogs. Every dog in the street seemed to be barking—every kind of
dog, not only the little ones but the big ones too. They were all facing
East towards the way I was coming by. Then I turned round to look and
had this vision, in Piccadilly, on the opposite side to the houses just
after you pass the cab-rank.

Tall bent men were coming down the street arrayed in marvellous cloaks.
All were sallow of skin and swarthy of hair, and the most of them wore
strange beards. They were coming slowly, and they walked with staves,
and their hands were out for alms.

All the beggars had come to town.

I would have given them a gold doubloon engraven with the towers of
Castille, but I had no such coin. They did not seem the people to whom
it were fitting to offer the same coin as one tendered for the use of a
taxicab (O marvellous, ill-made word, surely the pass-word somewhere of
some evil order). Some of them wore purple cloaks with wide green
borders, and the border of green was a narrow strip with some, and some
wore cloaks of old and faded red, and some wore violet cloaks, and none
wore black. And they begged gracefully, as gods might beg for souls.

I stood by a lamp-post, and they came up to it, and one addressed it,
calling the lamp-post brother, and said, “O lamp-post, our brother of
the dark, are there many wrecks by thee in the tides of night? Sleep
not, brother, sleep not. There were many wrecks an it were not for

It was strange: I had not thought of the majesty of the street lamp and
his long watching over drifting men. But he was not beneath the notice
of these cloaked strangers.

And then one murmured to the street: “Art thou weary, street? Yet a
little longer they shall go up and down, and keep thee clad with tar and
wooden bricks. Be patient, street. In a while the earthquake cometh.”

“Who are you?” people said. “And where do you come from?”

“Who may tell what we are,” they answered, “or whence we come?”

And one turned towards the smoke-stained houses, saying, “Blessed be the
houses, because men dream therein.”

Then I perceived, what I had never thought, that all these staring
houses were not alike, but different one from another, because they held
different dreams.

And another turned to a tree that stood by the Green Park railings,
saying, “Take comfort, tree, for the fields shall come again.”

And all the while the ugly smoke went upwards, the smoke that has
stifled Romance and blackened the birds. This, I thought, they can
neither praise nor bless. And when they saw it they raised their hands
towards it, towards the thousand chimneys, saying, “Behold the smoke.
The old coal-forests that have lain so long in the dark, and so long
still, are dancing now and going back to the sun. Forget not Earth, O
our brother, and we wish thee joy of the sun.”

It had rained, and a cheerless stream dropped down a dirty gutter. It
had come from heaps of refuse, foul and forgotten; it had gathered upon
its way things that were derelict, and went to sombre drains unknown to
man or the sun. It was this sullen stream as much as all other causes
that had made me say in my heart that the town was vile, that Beauty was
dead in it, and Romance fled.

Even this thing they blessed. And one that wore a purple cloak with
broad green border, said, “Brother, be hopeful yet, for thou shalt
surely come at last to the delectable Sea, and meet the heaving, huge,
and travelled ships, and rejoice by isles that know the golden sun.”
Even thus they blessed the gutter, and I felt no whim to mock.

And the people that went by, in their black unseemly coats and their
misshapen, monstrous, shiny hats, the beggars also blessed. And one of
them said to one of these dark citizens: “O twin of Night himself, with
thy specks of white at wrists and neck like to Night’s scattered stars.
How fearfully thou dost veil with black thy hid, unguessed desires. They
are deep thoughts in thee that they will not frolic with colour, that
they say ‘No’ to purple, and to lovely green ‘Begone.’ Thou hast wild
fancies that they must needs be tamed with black, and terrible
imaginings that they must be hidden thus. Has thy soul dreams of the
angels, and of the walls of faëry that thou has guarded it so utterly,
lest it dazzle astonished eyes? Even so God hid the diamond deep down in
miles of clay.

“The wonder of thee is not marred by mirth.

“Behold thou art very secret.

“Be wonderful. Be full of mystery.”

Silently the man in the black frock-coat passed on. And I came to
understand when the purple beggar had spoken, that the dark citizen had
trafficked perhaps with Ind, that in his heart were strange and dumb
ambitions: that his dumbness was founded by solemn rite on the roots of
ancient tradition: that it might be overcome one day by a cheer in the
street or by some one singing a song, and that when this shopman spoke
there might come clefts in the world and people peering over at the

Then turning towards Green Park, where as yet Spring was not, the
beggars stretched out their hands, and looking at the frozen grass and
the yet unbudding trees they, chanting all together, prophesied

A motor omnibus came down the street, nearly running over some of the
dogs that were barking ferociously still. It was sounding its horn

And the vision went then.


  _In a letter from a friend whom I have never seen, one of those that
    read my books, this line was quoted—“But he, he never came to
    Carcassonne.” I do not know the origin of the line, but I made
    this tale about it._

When Camorak reigned at Arn, and the world was fairer, he gave a
festival to all the Weald to commemorate the splendour of his youth.

They say that his house at Arn was huge and high, and its ceiling
painted blue; and when evening fell men would climb up by ladders and
light the scores of candles hanging from slender chains. And they say,
too, that sometimes a cloud would come, and pour in through the top of
one of the oriel windows, and it would come over the edge of the
stonework as the sea-mist comes over a sheer cliff’s shaven lip where an
old wind has blown for ever and ever (he has swept away thousands of
leaves and thousands of centuries, they are all one to him, he owes no
allegiance to Time.) And the cloud would re-shape itself in the hall’s
lofty vault and drift on through it slowly, and out to the sky again
through another window. And from its shape the knights in Camorak’s hall
would prophesy the battles and sieges of the next season of war. They
say of the hall of Camorak at Arn that there hath been none like it in
any land, and foretell that there will be never.

Hither had come in the folk of the Weald from sheepfold and from forest,
revolving slow thoughts of food, and shelter, and love, and they sat
down wondering in that famous hall; and therein also were seated the men
of Arn, the town that clustered round the King’s high house, and was all
roofed with the red, maternal earth.

If old songs may be trusted, it was a marvellous hall.

Many who sat there could only have seen it distantly before, a clear
shape in the landscape, but smaller than a hill. Now they beheld along
the wall the weapons of Camorak’s men, of which already the lute-players
made songs, and tales were told at evening in the byres. There they
descried the shield of Camorak that had gone to and fro across so many
battles, and the sharp but dinted edges of his sword; there were the
weapons of Gadriol the Leal, and Norn, and Athoric of the Sleety Sword,
Heriel the Wild, Yarold, and Thanga of Esk, their arms hung evenly all
round the hall, low where a man could reach them; and in the place of
honour in the midst, between the arms of Camorak and of Gadriol the
Leal, hung the harp of Arleon. And of all the weapons hanging on those
walls none were more calamitous to Camorak’s foes than was the harp of
Arleon. For to a man that goes up against a strong place on foot,
pleasant indeed is the twang and jolt of some fearful engine of war that
his fellow-warriors are working behind him, from which huge rocks go
sighing over his head and plunge among his foes; and pleasant to a
warrior in the wavering fight are the swift commands of his King, and a
joy to him are his comrades’ distant cheers exulting suddenly at a turn
of the war. All this and more was the harp to Camorak’s men; for not
only would it cheer his warriors on, but many a time would Arleon of the
Harp strike wild amazement into opposing hosts by some rapturous
prophecy suddenly shouted out while his hand swept over the roaring
strings. Moreover, no war was ever declared till Camorak and his men had
listened long to the harp, and were elate with the music and mad against
peace. Once Arleon, for the sake of a rhyme, had made war upon Estabonn;
and an evil king was overthrown, and honour and glory won; from such
queer motives does good sometimes accrue.

Above the shields and the harps all round the hall were the painted
figures of heroes of fabulous famous songs. Too trivial, because too
easily surpassed by Camorak’s men, seemed all the victories that the
earth had known; neither was any trophy displayed of Camorak’s seventy
battles, for these were as nothing to his warriors or him compared with
those things that their youth had dreamed and which they mightily
purposed yet to do.

Above the painted pictures there was darkness, for evening was closing
in, and the candles swinging on their slender chain were not yet lit in
the roof; it was as though a piece of the night had been builded in to
the edifice like a huge natural rock that juts into a house. And there
sat all the warriors of Arn and the Weald-folk wondering at them; and
none were more than thirty, and all were skilled in war. And Camorak sat
at the head of all, exulting in his youth.

We must wrestle with Time for some seven decades, and he is a weak and
puny antagonist in the first three bouts.

Now there was present at this feast a diviner, one who knew the schemes
of Fate, and he sat among the people of the Weald and had no place of
honour, for Camorak and his men had no fear of Fate. And when the meat
was eaten and the bones cast aside, the king rose up from his chair, and
having drunken wine, and being in the glory of his youth and with all
his knights about him, called to the diviner, saying, “Prophesy.”

And the diviner rose up, stroking his grey beard, and spake
guardedly—“There are certain events,” he said, “upon the ways of Fate
that are veiled even from a diviner’s eyes, and many more are clear to
us that were better veiled from all; much I know that is better
unforetold, and some things that I may not foretell on pain of centuries
of punishment. But this I know and foretell—that you will never come to

Instantly there was a buzz of talk telling of Carcassonne—some had heard
of it in speech or song, some had read of it, and some had dreamed of
it. And the king sent Arleon of the Harp down from his right hand to
mingle with the Weald-folk to hear aught that any told of Carcassonne.
But the warriors told of the places they had won to—many a hard-held
fortress, many a far-off land, and swore that they would come to

And in a while came Arleon back to the king’s right hand, and raised his
harp and chanted and told of Carcassonne. Far away it was, and far and
far away, a city of gleaming ramparts rising one over other, and marble
terraces behind the ramparts, and fountains shimmering on the terraces.
To Carcassonne the elf-kings with their fairies had first retreated from
men, and had built it on an evening late in May by blowing their elfin
horns. Carcassonne! Carcassonne!

Travellers had seen it sometimes like a clear dream, with the sun
glittering on its citadel upon a far-off hill-top, and then the clouds
had come or a sudden mist; no one had seen it long or come quite close
to it; though once there were some men that came very near, and the
smoke from the houses blew into their faces, a sudden gust—no more, and
these declared that some one was burning cedarwood there. Men had
dreamed that there is a witch there, walking alone through the cold
courts and corridors of marmorean palaces, fearfully beautiful still for
all her four-score centuries, singing the second oldest song, which was
taught her by the sea, shedding tears for loneliness from eyes that
would madden armies, yet will she not call her dragons home—Carcassonne
is terribly guarded. Sometimes she swims in a marble bath through whose
deeps a river tumbles, or lies all morning on the edge of it to dry
slowly in the sun, and watches the heaving river trouble the deeps of
the bath. It flows through the caverns of earth for further than she
knows, and coming to light in the witch’s bath goes down through the
earth again to its own peculiar sea.

In autumn sometimes it comes down black with snow that spring has molten
in unimagined mountains, or withered blooms of mountain shrubs go
beautifully by.

When there is blood in the bath she knows there is war in the mountains;
and yet she knows not where those mountains are.

When she sings the fountains dance up from the dark earth, when she
combs her hair they say there are storms at sea, when she is angry the
wolves grow brave and all come down to the byres, when she is sad the
sea is sad, and both are sad for ever. Carcassonne! Carcassonne!

This city is the fairest of the wonders of Morning; the sun shouts when
he beholdeth it; for Carcassonne Evening weepeth when Evening passeth

And Arleon told how many goodly perils were round about the city, and
how the way was unknown, and it was a knightly venture. Then all the
warriors stood up and sang of the splendour of the venture. And Camorak
swore by the gods that had builded Arn, and by the honour of his
warriors that, alive or dead, he would come to Carcassonne.

But the diviner rose and passed out of the hall, brushing the crumbs
from him with his hands and smoothing his robe as he went.

Then Camorak said, “There are many things to be planned, and counsels to
be taken, and provender to be gathered. Upon what day shall we start?”
And all the warriors answering shouted, “Now.” And Camorak smiled
thereat, for he had but tried them. Down then from the walls they took
their weapons, Sikorix, Kelleron, Aslof, Wole of the Axe; Huhenoth,
Peacebreaker; Wolwuf, Father of War; Tarion, Lurth of the War-cry and
many another. Little then dreamed the spiders that sat in that ringing
hall of the unmolested leisure they were soon to enjoy.

When they were armed they all formed up and marched out of the hall, and
Arleon strode before them singing of Carcassonne.

But the folk of the Weald arose and went back well-fed to their byres.
They had no need of wars or of rare perils. They were ever at war with
hunger. A long drought or hard winter were to them pitched battles; if
the wolves entered a sheepfold it was like the loss of a fortress, a
thunder-storm on the harvest was like an ambuscade. Well-fed, they went
back slowly to their byres, being at truce with hunger: and the night
filled with stars.

And black against the starry sky appeared the round helms of the
warriors as they passed the tops of the ridges, but in the valleys they
sparkled now and then as the starlight flashed on steel.

They followed behind Arleon going south, whence rumours had always come
of Carcassonne: so they marched in the starlight, and he before them

When they had marched so far that they heard no sound from Arn, and even
inaudible were her swinging bells, when candles burning late far up in
towers no longer sent them their disconsolate welcome; in the midst of
the pleasant night that lulls the rural spaces, weariness came upon
Arleon and his inspiration failed. It failed slowly. Gradually he grew
less sure of the way to Carcassonne. Awhile he stopped to think, and
remembered the way again; but his clear certainty was gone, and in its
place were efforts in his mind to recall old prophecies and shepherd’s
songs that told of the marvellous city. Then as he said over carefully
to himself a song that a wanderer had learnt from a goatherd’s boy far
up the lower slope of ultimate southern mountains, fatigue came down
upon his toiling mind like snow on the winding ways of a city noisy by
night, stilling all.

He stood, and the warriors closed up to him. For long they had passed by
great oaks standing solitary here and there, like giants taking huge
breaths of the night air before doing some furious deed; now they had
come to the verge of a black forest; the tree-trunks stood like those
great columns in an Egyptian hall whence God in an older mood received
the praise of men; the top of it sloped the way of an ancient wind. Here
they all halted and lighted a fire of branches, striking sparks from
flint into a heap of bracken. They eased them of their armour, and sat
round the fire, and Camorak stood up there and addressed them, and
Camorak said: “We go to war with Fate, who has doomed that I shall not
come to Carcassonne. And if we turn aside but one of the dooms of Fate,
then the whole future of the world is ours, and the future that Fate has
ordered is like the dry course of an averted river. But if such men as
we, such resolute conquerors, cannot prevent one doom that Fate has
planned, then is the race of man enslaved for ever to do its petty and
allotted task.”

Then they all drew their swords, and waved them high in the firelight,
and declared war on Fate.

Nothing in the sombre forest stirred or made any sound.

Tired men do not dream of war. When morning came over the gleaming
fields a company that had set out from Arn discovered the camping-place
of the warriors, and brought pavilions and provender. And the warriors
feasted, and the birds in the forest sang, and the inspiration of Arleon

Then they arose, and following Arleon, entered the forest, and marched
away to the South. And many a woman of Arn sent her thoughts with them
as they played alone some old monotonous tune, but their own thoughts
were far before them, skimming over the bath through whose deeps the
river tumbles in marble Carcassonne.

When butterflies were dancing on the air, and the sun neared the zenith,
pavilions were pitched, and all the warriors rested; and then they
feasted again, and then played knightly games, and late in the afternoon
marched on once more, singing of Carcassonne.

And night came down with its mystery on the forest, and gave their
demoniac look again to the trees, and rolled up out of misty hollows a
huge and yellow moon.

And the men of Arn lit fires, and sudden shadows arose and leaped
fantastically away. And the night-wind blew, arising like a ghost, and
passed between the tree-trunks, and slipped down shimmering glades, and
waked the prowling beasts still dreaming of day, and drifted nocturnal
birds afield to menace timorous things, and beat the roses against
cottagers’ panes, and whispered news of the befriending night, and
wafted to the ears of wandering men the sound of a maiden’s song, and
gave a glamour to the lutanist’s tune played in his loneliness on
distant hills; and the deep eyes of moths glowed like a galleon’s lamps,
and they spread their wings and sailed their familiar sea. Upon this
night-wind also the dreams of Camorak’s men floated to Carcassonne.

All the next morning they marched, and all the evening, and knew they
were nearing now the deeps of the forest. And the citizens of Arn kept
close together and close behind the warriors. For the deeps of the
forest were all unknown to travellers, but not unknown to those tales of
fear that men tell at evening to their friends, in the comfort and the
safety of their hearths. Then night appeared, and an enormous moon. And
the men of Camorak slept. Sometimes they woke, and went to sleep again;
and those that stayed awake for long and listened heard heavy two-footed
creatures pad through the night on paws.

As soon as it was light the unarmed men of Arn began to slip away, and
went back by bands through the forest. When darkness came they did not
stop to sleep, but continued their flight straight on until they came to
Arn, and added there by the tales they told to the terror of the forest.

But the warriors feasted, and afterwards Arleon rose, and played his
harp, and led them on again; and a few faithful servants stayed with
them still. And they marched all day through a gloom that was as old as
night, but Arleon’s inspiration burned in his mind like a star. And he
led them till the birds began to drop into the tree-tops, and it was
evening and they all encamped. They had only one pavilion left to them
now, and near it they lit a fire, and Camorak posted a sentry with drawn
sword just beyond the glow of the firelight. Some of the warriors slept
in the pavilion and others round about it.

When dawn came something terrible had killed and eaten the sentry. But
the splendour of the rumours of Carcassonne and Fate’s decree that they
should never come there, and the inspiration of Arleon and his harp, all
urged the warriors on; and they marched deeper and deeper all day into
the forest.

Once they saw a dragon that had caught a bear and was playing with it,
letting it run a little way and overtaking it with a paw.

They came at last to a clear space in the forest just before nightfall.
An odour of flowers arose from it like a mist, and every drop of dew
interpreted heaven unto itself.

It was the hour when twilight kisses Earth.

It was the hour when a meaning comes into senseless things, and trees
out-majesty the pomp of monarchs, and the timid creatures steal abroad
to feed, and as yet the beasts of prey harmlessly dream, and Earth
utters a sigh, and it is night.

In the midst of the wide clearing Camorak’s warriors camped, and
rejoiced to see the stars again appearing one by one.

That night they ate the last of their provisions, and slept unmolested
by the prowling things that haunt the gloom of the forest.

On the next day some of the warriors hunted stags, and others lay in
rushes by a neighboring lake and shot arrows at water-fowl. One stag was
killed, and some geese, and several teal.

Here the adventurers stayed, breathing the pure wild air that cities
know not; by day they hunted, and lit fires by night, and sang and
feasted, and forgot Carcassonne. The terrible denizens of the gloom
never molested them, venison was plentiful, and all manner of
water-fowl: they loved the chase by day, and by night their favourite
songs. Thus day after day went by, thus week after week. Time flung over
this encampment a handful of noons, the gold and silver moons that waste
the year away; Autumn and Winter passed, and Spring appeared; and still
the warriors hunted and feasted there.

One night of the springtide they were feasting about a fire and telling
tales of the chase, and the soft moths came out of the dark and flaunted
their colours in the firelight, and went out grey into the dark again;
and the night wind was cool upon the warriors’ necks, and the camp-fire
was warm in their faces, and a silence had settled among them after some
song, and Arleon all at once rose suddenly up, remembering Carcassonne.
And his hand swept over the strings of his harp, awaking the deeper
chords, like the sound of a nimble people dancing their steps on bronze,
and the music rolled away into the night’s own silence, and the voice of
Arleon rose:

“When there is blood in the bath she knows there is war in the
mountains, and longs for the battle-shout of kingly men.”

And suddenly all shouted, “Carcassonne!” And at that word their idleness
was gone as a dream is gone from a dreamer waked with a shout. And soon
the great march began that faltered no more nor wavered. Unchecked by
battles, undaunted in lonesome spaces, ever unwearied by the vulturous
years, the warriors of Camorak held on; and Arleon’s inspiration led
them still. They cleft with the music of Arleon’s harp the gloom of
ancient silences; they went singing into battles with terrible wild men,
and came out singing, but with fewer voices; they came to villages in
valleys full of the music of bells, or saw the lights at dusk of
cottages sheltering others.

They became a proverb for wandering, and a legend arose of strange,
disconsolate men. Folks spoke of them at nightfall when the fire was
warm and rain slipped down the eaves; and when the wind was high small
children feared the Men Who Would Not Rest were going clattering past.
Strange tales were told of men in old grey armour moving at twilight
along the tops of the hills and never asking shelter; and mothers told
their boys who grew impatient of home that the grey wanderers were once
so impatient and were now hopeless of rest, and were driven along with
the rain whenever the wind was angry.

But the wanderers were cheered in their wandering by the hope of coming
to Carcassonne, and later on by anger against Fate, and at last they
marched on still because it seemed better to march on than to think.

For many years they had wandered and had fought with many tribes; often
they gathered legends in villages and listened to idle singers singing
songs; and all the rumours of Carcassonne still came from the South.

And then one day they came to a hilly land with a legend in it that only
three valleys away a man might see, on clear days, Carcassonne. Tired
though they were and few, and worn with the years which had all brought
them wars, they pushed on instantly, led still by Arleon’s inspiration
which dwindled in his age, though he made music with his old harp still.

All day they climbed down into the first valley and for two days
ascended, and came to the Town That May Not Be Taken In War below the
top of the mountain, and its gates were shut against them, and there was
no way round. To left and right steep precipices stood for as far as eye
could see or legend tell of, and the pass lay through the city.
Therefore Camorak drew up his remaining warriors in line of battle to
wage their last war, and they stepped forward over the crisp bones of
old, unburied armies.

No sentinel defied them in the gate, no arrow flew from any tower of
war. One citizen climbed alone to the mountain’s top, and the rest hid
themselves in sheltered places.

Now, in the top of the mountain was a deep, bowl-like cavern in the
rock, in which fires bubbled softly. But if any cast a boulder into the
fires, as it was the custom for one of those citizens to do when enemies
approached them, the mountain hurled up intermittent rocks for three
days, and the rocks fell flaming all over the town and all round about
it. And just as Camorak’s men began to batter the gate they heard a
crash on the mountain, and a great rock fell beyond them and rolled into
the valley. The next two fell in front of them on the iron roofs of the
town. Just as they entered the town a rock found them crowded in a
narrow street, and shattered two of them. The mountain smoked and
panted; with every pant a rock plunged into the streets or bounced along
the heavy iron roof, and the smoke went slowly up, and up, and up.

When they had come through the long town’s empty streets to the locked
gate at the end, only fifteen were left. When they had broken down the
gate there were only ten alive. Three more were killed as they went up
the slope, and two as they passed near the terrible cavern. Fate let the
rest go some way down the mountain upon the other side, and then took
three of them. Camorak and Arleon alone were left alive. And night came
down on the valley to which they had come, and was lit by flashes from
the fatal mountain; and the two mourned for their comrades all night

But when the morning came they remembered their war with Fate, and their
old resolve to come to Carcassonne, and the voice of Arleon rose in a
quavering song, and snatches of music from his old harp, and he stood up
and marched with his face southwards as he had done for years, and
behind him Camorak went. And when at last they climbed from the third
valley, and stood on the hill’s summit in the golden sunlight of
evening, their aged eyes saw only miles of forest and the birds going to

Their beards were white, and they had travelled very far and hard; it
was the time with them when a man rests from labours and dreams in light
sleep of the years that were and not of the years to come.

Long they looked southwards; and the sun set over remoter forests, and
glowworms lit their lamps, and the inspiration of Arleon rose and flew
away for ever, to gladden, perhaps, the dreams of younger men.

And Arleon said: “My King, I know no longer the way to Carcassonne.”

And Camorak smiled, as the aged smile, with little cause for mirth, and
said: “The years are going by us like huge birds, whom Doom and Destiny
and the schemes of God have frightened up out of some old grey marsh.
And it may well be that against these no warrior may avail, and that
Fate has conquered us, and that our quest has failed.”

And after this they were silent.

Then they drew their swords, and side by side went down into the forest,
still seeking for Carcassonne.

I think they got not far; for there were deadly marshes in that forest,
and gloom that outlasted the nights, and fearful beasts accustomed to
its ways. Neither is there any legend, either in verse or among the
songs of the people of the fields, of any having come to Carcassonne.

                             _In Zaccarath_

“Come,” said the King in sacred Zaccarath, “and let our prophets
prophesy before us.”

A far-seen jewel of light was the holy palace, a wonder to the nomads on
the plains.

There was the King with all his under-lords, and the lesser kings that
did him vassalage, and there were all his queens with all their jewels
upon them.

Who shall tell of the splendour in which they sat; of the thousand
lights and the answering emeralds; of the dangerous beauty of that hoard
of queens, or the flash of their laden necks?

There was a necklace there of rose-pink pearls beyond the art of dreamer
to imagine. Who shall tell of the amethyst chandeliers, where torches,
soaked in rare Bhyrinian oils, burned and gave off a scent of

Footnote 1:

  The herb marvellous, which, growing near the summit of Mount Zaumnos,
  scents all the Zaumnian range, and is smelt far out on the Kepuscran
  plains, and even, when the wind is from the mountains, in the streets
  of the city of Ognoth. At night it closes its petals and is heard to
  breathe, and its breath is a swift poison. This it does even by day if
  the snows are disturbed about it. No plant of this has ever been
  captured alive by a hunter.

Enough to say that when the dawn came up it appeared by contrast pallid
and unlovely and stripped all bare of its glory, so that it hid itself
with rolling clouds.

“Come,” said the King, “let our prophets prophesy.”

Then the heralds stepped through the ranks of the King’s silk-clad
warriors who lay oiled and scented upon velvet cloaks, with a pleasant
breeze among them caused by the fans of slaves; even their
casting-spears were set with jewels; through their ranks the heralds
went with mincing steps, and came to the prophets, clad in brown and
black, and one of them they brought and set him before the King. And the
King looked at him and said, “Prophesy unto us.”

And the prophet lifted his head, so that his beard came clear from his
brown cloak, and the fans of the slaves that fanned the warriors wafted
the tip of it a little awry. And he spake to the King, and spake thus:

“Woe unto thee, King, and woe unto Zaccarath. Woe unto thee, and woe
unto thy women, for your fall shall be sore and soon. Already in Heaven
the gods shun thy god: they know his doom and what is written of him: he
sees oblivion before him like a mist. Thou hast aroused the hate of the
mountaineers. They hate thee all along the crags of Droom. The evilness
of thy days shall bring down the Zeedians on thee as the suns of
springtide bring the avalanche down. They shall do unto Zaccarath as the
avalanche doth unto the hamlets of the valley.” When the queens
chattered or tittered among themselves, he merely raised his voice and
still spake on: “Woe to these walls and the carven things upon them. The
hunter shall know the camping-places of the nomads by the marks of the
camp-fires on the plain, but he shall not know the place of Zaccarath.”

A few of the recumbent warriors turned their heads to glance at the
prophet when he ceased. Far overhead the echoes of his voice hummed on
awhile among the cedarn rafters.

“Is he not splendid?” said the King.

And many of that assembly beat with their palms upon the polished floor
in token of applause. Then the prophet was conducted back to his place
at the far end of that mighty hall, and for a while musicians played on
marvellous curved horns, while drums throbbed behind them hidden in a
recess. The musicians were sitting cross-legged on the floor, all
blowing their huge horns in the brilliant torchlight, but as the drums
throbbed louder in the dark they arose and moved slowly nearer to the
King. Louder and louder drummed the drums in the dark, and nearer and
nearer moved the men with the horns, so that their music should not be
drowned by the drums before it reached the King.

A marvellous scene it was when the tempestuous horns were halted before
the King, and the drums in the dark were like the thunder of God; and
the queens were nodding their heads in time to the music, with their
diadems flashing like heavens of falling stars; and the warriors lifted
their heads and shook, as they lifted them, the plumes of those golden
birds which hunters wait for by the Liddian lakes, in a whole lifetime
killing scarcely six, to make the crests that the warriors wore when
they feasted in Zaccarath. Then the King shouted and the warriors
sang—almost they remembered then old battle-chants. And, as they sang,
the sound of the drums dwindled, and the musicians walked away
backwards, and the drumming became fainter and fainter as they walked,
and altogether ceased, and they blew no more on their fantastic horns.
Then the assemblage beat on the floor with their palms. And afterwards
the queens besought the King to send for another prophet. And the
heralds brought a singer, and placed him before the King; and the singer
was a young man with a harp. And he swept the strings of it, and when
there was silence he sang of the iniquity of the King. And he foretold
the onrush of the Zeedians, and the fall and the forgetting of
Zaccarath, and the coming again of the desert to its own, and the
playing about of little lion cubs where the courts of the palace had

“Of what is he singing?” said a queen to a queen.

“He is singing of everlasting Zaccarath.”

As the singer ceased the assemblage beat listlessly on the floor, and
the King nodded to him, and he departed.

When all the prophets had prophesied to them and all the singers sung,
that royal company arose and went to other chambers, leaving the hall of
festival to the pale and lonely dawn. And alone were left the
lion-headed gods that were carven out of the walls; silent they stood,
and their rocky arms were folded. And shadows over their faces moved
like curious thoughts as the torches flickered and the dull dawn crossed
the fields. And the colours began to change in the chandeliers.

When the last lutanist fell asleep the birds began to sing.

Never was greater splendour or a more famous hall. When the queens went
away through the curtained door with all their diadems, it was as though
the stars should arise in their stations and troop together to the West
at sunrise.

And only the other day I found a stone that had undoubtedly been a part
of Zaccarath, it was three inches long and an inch broad; I saw the edge
of it uncovered by the sand. I believe that only three other pieces have
been found like it.

                              _The Field_

When one has seen Spring’s blossom fall in London, and Summer appear and
ripen and decay, as it does early in cities, and one is in London still,
then, at some moment or another, the country places lift their flowery
heads and call to one with an urgent, masterful clearness, upland behind
upland in the twilight like to some heavenly choir arising rank on rank
to call a drunkard from his gambling-hell. No volume of traffic can
drown the sound of it, no lure of London can weaken its appeal. Having
heard it one’s fancy is gone, and evermore departed, to some coloured
pebble a-gleam in a rural brook, and all that London can offer is swept
from one’s mind like some suddenly smitten metropolitan Goliath.

The call is from afar both in leagues and years, for the hills that call
one are the hills that were, and their voices are the voices of long
ago, when the elf-kings still had horns.

I see them now, those hills of my infancy (for it is they that call),
with their faces upturned to the purple twilight, and the faint
diaphanous figures of the fairies peering out from under the bracken to
see if evening is come. I do not see upon their regal summits those
desirable mansions, and highly desirable residences, which have lately
been built for gentlemen who would exchange customers for tenants.

When the hills called I used to go to them by road, riding a bicycle. If
you go by train you miss the gradual approach, you do not cast off
London like an old forgiven sin, nor pass by little villages on the way
that must have some rumour of the hills; nor, wondering if they are
still the same, come at last upon the edge of their far-spread robes,
and so on to their feet, and see far off their holy, welcoming faces. In
the train you see them suddenly round a curve, and there they all are
sitting in the sun.

I imagine that as one penetrated out from some enormous forest of the
tropics, the wild beasts would become fewer, the gloom would lighten,
and the horror of the place would slowly lift. Yet as one emerges nearer
to the edge of London, and nearer to the beautiful influence of the
hills, the houses become uglier, the streets viler, the gloom deepens,
the errors of civilisation stand bare to the scorn of the fields.

Where ugliness reaches the height of its luxuriance, in the dense misery
of the place, where one imagines the builder saying, “Here I culminate.
Let us give thanks to Satan,” there is a bridge of yellow brick, and
through it, as through some gate of filigree silver opening on
fairyland, one passes into the country.

To left and right, as far as one can see, stretches that monstrous city;
before one are the fields like an old, old song.

There is a field there that is full of king-cups. A stream runs through
it, and along the stream is a little wood of oziers. There I used often
to rest at the stream’s edge before my long journey to the hills.

There I used to forget London, street by street. Sometimes I picked a
bunch of king-cups to show them to the hills.

I often came there. At first I noticed nothing about the field except
its beauty and its peacefulness.

But the second time that I came I thought there was something ominous
about the field.

Down there among the king-cups by the little shallow stream I felt that
something terrible might happen in just such a place.

I did not stay long there, because I thought that too much time spent in
London had brought on these morbid fancies and I went on to the hills as
fast as I could.

I stayed for some days in the country air, and when I came back I went
to the field again to enjoy that peaceful spot before entering London.
But there was still something ominous among the oziers.

A year elapsed before I went there again. I emerged from the shadow of
London into the gleaming sun, the bright green grass and the king-cups
were flaming in the light, and the little stream was singing a happy
song. But the moment I stepped into the field my old uneasiness
returned, and worse than before. It was as though the shadow was
brooding there of some dreadful future thing, and a year had brought it

I reasoned that the exertion of bicycling might be bad for one, and that
the moment one rested this uneasiness might result.

A little later I came back past the field by night, and the song of the
stream in the hush attracted me down to it. And there the fancy came to
me that it would be a terribly cold place to be in in the starlight, if
for some reason one was hurt and could not get away.

I knew a man who was minutely acquainted with the past history of that
locality, and him I asked if anything historical had ever happened in
that field. When he pressed me for my reason in asking him this, I said
that the field had seemed to me such a good place to hold a pageant in.
But he said that nothing of any interest had ever occurred there,
nothing at all.

So it was from the future that the field’s trouble came.

For three years off and on I made visits to the field, and every time
more clearly it boded evil things, and my uneasiness grew more acute
every time that I was lured to go and rest among the cool green grass
under the beautiful oziers. Once to distract my thoughts I tried to
gauge how fast the stream was trickling, but I found myself wondering if
it flowed faster than blood.

I felt that it would be a terrible place to go mad in, one would hear

At last I went to a poet whom I knew, and woke him from huge dreams, and
put before him the whole case of the field. He had not been out of
London all that year, and he promised to come with me and look at the
field, and tell me what was going to happen there. It was late in July
when we went. The pavement, the air, the houses and the dirt had been
all baked dry by the summer, the weary traffic dragged on, and on, and
on, and Sleep spreading her wings soared up and floated from London and
went to walk beautifully in rural places.

When the poet saw the field he was delighted, the flowers were out in
masses all along the stream, he went down to the little wood rejoicing.
By the side of the stream he stood and seemed very sad. Once or twice he
looked up and down it mournfully, then he bent and looked at the
king-cups, first one and then another, very closely, and shaking his

For a long while he stood in silence, and all my old uneasiness
returned, and my bodings for the future.

And then I said, “What manner of field is it?”

And he shook his head sorrowfully.

“It is a battlefield,” he said.

                         _The Day of the Poll_

In the town by the sea it was the day of the poll, and the poet regarded
it sadly when he woke and saw the light of it coming in at his window
between two small curtains of gauze. And the day of the poll was
beautifully bright; stray bird-songs came to the poet at the window; the
air was crisp and wintry, but it was the blaze of sunlight that had
deceived the birds. He heard the sound of the sea that the moon led up
the shore, dragging the months away over the pebbles and shingles and
piling them up with the years where the worn-out centuries lay; he saw
the majestic downs stand facing mightily southwards; he saw the smoke of
the town float up to their heavenly faces—column after column rose
calmly into the morning as house by house was waked by peering shafts of
the sunlight and lit its fires for the day; column by column went up
toward the serene downs’ faces, and failed before they came there and
hung all white over houses; and every one in the town was raving mad.

It was a strange thing that the poet did, for he hired the largest motor
in the town and covered it with all the flags he could find, and set out
to save an intelligence. And he presently found a man whose face was
hot, who shouted that the time was not far distant when a candidate,
whom he named, would be returned at the head of the poll by a thumping
majority. And by him the poet stopped and offered him a seat in the
motor that was covered with flags. When the man saw the flags that were
on the motor, and that it was the largest in the town, he got in. He
said that his vote should be given for that fiscal system that had made
us what we are, in order that the poor man’s food should not be taxed to
make the rich man richer. Or else it was that he would give his vote for
that system of tariff reform which should unite us closer to our
colonies with ties that should long endure, and give employment to all.
But it was not to the polling-booth that that motor went, it passed it
and left the town and came by a small white winding road to the very top
of the downs. There the poet dismissed the car and led that wondering
voter on to the grass and seated himself on a rug. And for long the
voter talked of those imperial traditions that our forefathers had made
for us and which he should uphold with his vote, or else it was of a
people oppressed by a feudal system that was out of date and effete, and
that should be ended or mended. But the poet pointed out to him small,
distant, wandering ships on the sunlit strip of sea, and the birds far
down below them, and the houses below the birds, with the little columns
of smoke that could not find the downs.

And at first the voter cried for his polling-booth like a child; but
after a while he grew calmer, save when faint bursts of cheering came
twittering up to the downs, when the voter would cry out bitterly
against the misgovernment of the Radical party, or else it was—I forget
what the poet told me—he extolled its splendid record.

“See,” said the poet, “these ancient beautiful things, the downs and the
old-time houses and the morning, and the grey sea in the sunlight going
mumbling round the world. And this is the place they have chosen to go
mad in!”

And standing there with all broad England behind him, rolling northward,
down after down, and before him the glittering sea too far for the sound
of the roar of it, there seemed to the voter to grow less important the
questions that troubled the town. Yet he was still angry.

“Why did you bring me here?” he said again.

“Because I grew lonely,” said the poet, “when all the town went mad.”

Then he pointed out to the voter some old bent thorns, and showed him
the way that a wind had blown for a million years, coming up at dawn
from the sea; and he told him of the storms that visit the ships, and
their names and whence they come, and the currents they drive afield,
and the way that the swallows go. And he spoke of the down where they
sat, when the summer came, and the flowers that were not yet, and the
different butterflies, and about the bats and the swifts, and the
thoughts in the heart of man. He spoke of the aged windmill that stood
on the down, and of how to children it seemed a strange old man who was
only dead by day. And as he spoke, and as the sea-wind blew on that high
and lonely place, there began to slip away from the voter’s mind
meaningless phrases that had crowded it long—thumping majority—victory
in the fight—terminological inexactitudes—and the smell of paraffin
lamps dangling in heated schoolrooms, and quotations taken from ancient
speeches because the words were long. They fell away, though slowly, and
slowly the voter saw a wider world and the wonder of the sea. And the
afternoon wore on, and the winter evening came, and the night fell, and
all black grew the sea; and about the time that the stars come blinking
out to look upon our littleness, the polling-booth closed in the town.

When they got back the turmoil was on the wane in the streets; night hid
the glare of the posters; and the tide, finding the noise abated and
being at the flow, told an old tale that he had learned in his youth
about the deeps of the sea, the same which he had told to coastwise
ships that brought it to Babylon by the way of Euphrates before the doom
of Troy.

I blame my friend the poet, however lonely he was, for preventing this
man from registering his vote (the duty of every citizen); but perhaps
it matters less, as it was a foregone conclusion, because the losing
candidate, either through poverty or sheer madness, had neglected to
subscribe to a single football club.

                           _The Unhappy Body_

“Why do you not dance with us and rejoice with us?” they said to a
certain body. And then that body made the confession of its trouble. It
said: “I am united with a fierce and violent soul, that is altogether
tyrannous and will not let me rest, and he drags me away from the dances
of my kin to make me toil at his detestable work; and he will not let me
do the little things, that would give pleasure to the folk I love, but
only cares to please posterity when he has done with me and left me to
the worms; and all the while he makes absurd demands of affection from
those that are near to me, and is too proud even to notice any less than
he demands, so that those that should be kind to me all hate me.” And
the unhappy body burst into tears.

And they said: “No sensible body cares for its soul. A soul is a little
thing, and should not rule a body. You should drink and smoke more till
he ceases to trouble you.” But the body only wept, and said, “Mine is a
fearful soul. I have driven him away for a little while with drink. But
he will soon come back. Oh, he will soon come back!”

And the body went to bed hoping to rest, for it was drowsy with drink.
But just as sleep was near it, it looked up, and there was its soul
sitting on the windowsill, a misty blaze of light, and looking into the

“Come,” said that tyrannous soul, “and look into the street.”

“I have need of sleep,” said the body.

“But the street is a beautiful thing,” the soul said vehemently; “a
hundred of the people are dreaming there.”

“I am ill through want of rest,” the body said.

“That does not matter,” the soul said to it. “There are millions like
you in the earth, and millions more to go there. The people’s dreams are
wandering afield; they pass the seas and the mountains of faëry,
threading the intricate passes led by their souls; they come to golden
temples a-ring with a thousand bells; they pass up steep streets lit by
paper lanterns, where the doors are green and small; they know their way
to witches’ chambers and castles of enchantment; they know the spell
that brings them to the causeway along the ivory mountains—on one side
looking downward they behold the fields of their youth and on the other
lie the radiant plains of the future. Arise and write down what the
people dream.”

“What reward is there for me,” said the body, “if I write down what you
bid me?”

“There is no reward,” said the soul.

“Then I shall sleep,” said the body.

And the soul began to hum an idle song sung by a young man in a fabulous
land as he passed a golden city (where fiery sentinels stood), and knew
that his wife was within it, though as yet but a little child, and knew
by prophecy that furious wars, not yet arisen in far and unknown
mountains, should roll above him with their dust and thirst before he
ever came to that city again—the young man sang it as he passed the
gate, and was now dead with his wife a thousand years.

“I cannot sleep for that abominable song,” the body cried to the soul.

“Then do as you are commanded,” the soul replied. And wearily the body
took a pen again. Then the soul spoke merrily as he looked through the
window. “There is a mountain lifting sheer above London, part crystal
and part mist. Thither the dreamers go when the sound of the traffic has
fallen. At first they scarcely dream because of the roar of it, but
before midnight it stops, and turns, and ebbs with all its wrecks. Then
the dreamers arise and scale the shimmering mountain, and at its summit
find the galleons of dream. Thence some sail East, some West, some into
the Past and some into the Future, for the galleons sail over the years
as well as over the spaces, but mostly they head for the Past and the
olden harbours, for thither the sighs of men are mostly turned, and the
dream-ships go before them, as the merchantmen before the continual
trade-winds go down the African coast. I see the galleons even now raise
anchor after anchor; the stars flash by them; they slip out of the
night; their prows go gleaming into the twilight of memory, and night
soon lies far off, a black cloud hanging low, and faintly spangled with
stars, like the harbour and shore of some low-lying land seen afar with
its harbour lights.”

Dream after dream that soul related as he sat there by the window. He
told of tropical forests seen by unhappy men who could not escape from
London, and never would—forests made suddenly wondrous by the song of
some passing bird flying to unknown eeries and singing an unknown song.
He saw the old men lightly dancing to the tune of elfin pipes—beautiful
dances with fantastic maidens—all night on moonlit imaginary mountains;
he heard far off the music of glittering Springs; he saw the fairness of
blossoms of apple and may thirty years fallen; he heard old voices—old
tears came glistening back; Romance sat cloaked and crowned upon
southern hills, and the soul knew him.

One by one he told the dreams of all that slept in that street.
Sometimes he stopped to revile the body because it worked badly and
slowly. Its chill fingers wrote as fast as they could, but the soul
cared not for that. And so the night wore on till the soul heard
tinkling in Oriental skies far footfalls of the morning.

“See now,” said the soul, “the dawn that the dreamers dread. The sails
of light are paling on those unwreckable galleons; the mariners that
steer them slip back into fable and myth; that other sea the traffic is
turning now at its ebb, and is about to hide its pallid wrecks, and to
come swinging back, with its tumult, at the flow. Already the sunlight
flashes in the gulfs behind the east of the world; the gods have seen it
from their palace of twilight that they built above the sunrise; they
warm their hands at its glow as it streams through their gleaming
arches, before it reaches the world; all the gods are there that have
ever been, and all the gods that shall be; they sit there in the
morning, chanting and praising Man.”

“I am numb and very cold for want of sleep,” said the body.

“You shall have centuries of sleep,” said the soul, “but you must not
sleep now, for I have seen deep meadows with purple flowers flaming tall
and strange above the brilliant grass, and herds of pure white unicorns
that gambol there for joy, and a river running by with a glittering
galleon on it, all of gold, that goes from an unknown inland to an
unknown isle of the sea to take a song from the King of Over-the-Hills
to the Queen of Far-Away.

“I will sing that song to you, and you shall write it down.”

“I have toiled for you for years,” the body said. “Give me now but one
night’s rest, for I am exceeding weary.”

“Oh, go and rest. I am tired of you. I am off,” said the soul.

And he arose and went, we know not whither. But the body they laid in
the earth. And the next night at midnight the wraiths of the dead came
drifting from their tombs to felicitate that body.

“You are free here, you know,” they said to their new companion.

“Now I can rest,” said the body.


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 2. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 3. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

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