Part 2 out of 2
"Solemnly between Huhenwazy and Nitcrana the huge grey clouds came
floating. And those great mountains, heavenly Huhenwazi and Nitcrana, 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 Nitcrana 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
Huhenwazi and Nitcrana.'
"'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 Huhenwazi and Nitcrana, 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
"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
"And the awful 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 smack.
"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 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 know of where the
merchants meet, she is not spoken of by alien lips.
"'Indeed, but Oojni is a 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 could 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 far 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 a 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 acknowledgment
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 aether 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 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 Vehi, 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.
"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 in 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 their
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 rumour 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 yard-arm.
"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 than 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 the 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
Huegedos, 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 harbour, 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 the next day. And all the sailors of the
other ships were spending their money in San Huegedos and we could not
come nigh it. Then we spoke horrible things against the wind and against
San Huegedos, 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 towing 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 island.
"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 than 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 the Captain's soul going
cursing over the sea, and the day after that the ship was cast on a rocky
"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.
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 marvelous cloaks. All
were sallow of skin and swarthy of hair, and 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
Castile, but I had no such coin. They did not seem the people to who it
were fitting to offer the same coin as one tendered for the use of a
taxicab (O marvelous, 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 thee."
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
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 somber 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 wrist 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 faery that thou hast 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 abyss.
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 daffodils.
A motor omnibus came down the street, nearly running over some of the dogs
that were barking ferociously still. It was sounding its horn noisily.
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 cliffs 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 all was
roofed with red, maternal earth.
If old songs may be trusted, it was a marvelous 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 described
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 light are
the swift commands of his King, and a joy to him are his comrades' instant
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
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 into 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 Carcassonne.
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.
Travellers had seen it sometimes like a clear dream, with the sun
glittering on its citadel upon a far-off hilltop, 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 and still for all her
fourscore 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
In autumn sometimes it comes down black with snow that spring has molten
in unimagined mountains, or withered blooms of mountain shrubs go
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 away.
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, Peace-breaker;
Wolwuf, Father of War; Tarion, Lurth of the Warcry 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 talk of the Weald arose and went back well fed to 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 sheep-fold 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 singing.
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
marvelous 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 somber 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 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 awoke.
Then they rose, 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 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
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 treetops, 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
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 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 neighbouring 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
moons, the gold and silver moons that waste the year away; Autumn and
Winter passed, and Spring appeared; and still the warriors hunted and
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
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
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 long.
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 roost.
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
glow-worms 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 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.
"Come," said the King in sacred Zaccarath, "and let our prophets prophesy
A far-seen jewel of light was the holy palace, a wonder to the nomads on
There was the King with all his underlords, and the lesser kings that did
him vassalage, and there were all his queens with all their jewels upon
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 the
dreamer to imagine. Who shall tell of the amethyst chandeliers, where
torches, soaked in rare Bhyrinian oils, burned and gave off a scent of
(This 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
Enough to say that when the dawn came up it appeared by contrast pallid
and unlovely and stripped bare of all 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
crosslegged 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
"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
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.
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 agleam
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 osiers. There I used often to
rest at the streams 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 osiers.
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 nearer.
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 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 terrible 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 osiers. Once to distract my thoughts I tried to gauge how fast
the stream was trickling, but I found myself wondering if it flowed faster
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 head.
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 south-wards; 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 the 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 let 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 man
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 river.
"Come," said the 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 mountains of faery, 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
"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 myst. 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
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 eyries 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 the 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
"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.