Part 1 out of 5
Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
CHRONICLES OF SHADOW VALLEY
By LORD DUNSANY
To WILLIAM BEEBE
After long and patient research I am still unable to give to the
reader of these Chronicles the exact date of the times that they
tell of. Were it merely a matter of history there could be no
doubts about the period; but where magic is concerned, to however
slight an extent, there must always be some element of mystery,
arising partly out of ignorance and partly from the compulsion of
those oaths by which magic protects its precincts from the tiptoe
Moreover, magic, even in small quantities, appears to affect time,
much as acids affect some metals, curiously changing its
substance, until dates seem to melt into a mercurial form that
renders them elusive even to the eye of the most watchful
It is the magic appearing in Chronicles III and IV that has
gravely affected the date, so that all I can tell the reader with
certainty of the period is that it fell in the later years of the
Golden Age in Spain.
THE FIRST CHRONICLE
HOW HE MET AND SAID FAREWELL TO MINE HOST
OF THE DRAGON AND KNIGHT
THE SECOND CHRONICLE
HOW HE HIRED A MEMORABLE SERVANT
THE THIRD CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME TO THE HOUSE OF WONDER
THE FOURTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE SUN
THE FIFTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE RODE IN THE TWILIGHT AND SAW SERAFINA
THE SIXTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE SANG TO HIS MANDOLIN AND WHAT CAME OF HIS SINGING
THE SEVENTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME TO SHADOW VALLEY
THE EIGHTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE TRAVELLED FAR
THE NINTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE WON A CASTLE IN SPAIN
THE TENTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME BACK TO LOWLIGHT
THE ELEVENTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE TURNED TO GARDENING AND HIS SWORD RESTED
THE TWELFTH CHRONICLE
THE BUILDING OF CASTLE RODRIGUEZ AND THE ENDING OF THESE CHRONICLES
THE FIRST CHRONICLE
HOW HE MET AND SAID FAREWELL TO MINE HOST OF THE DRAGON AND KNIGHT
Being convinced that his end was nearly come, and having lived
long on earth (and all those years in Spain, in the golden time),
the Lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez, whose heights see not
Valladolid, called for his eldest son. And so he addressed him
when he was come to his chamber, dim with its strange red hangings
and august with the splendour of Spain: "O eldest son of mine,
your younger brother being dull and clever, on whom those traits
that women love have not been bestowed by God; and know my eldest
son that here on earth, and for ought I know Hereafter, but
certainly here on earth, these women be the arbiters of all
things; and how this be so God knoweth only, for they are vain and
variable, yet it is surely so: your younger brother then not
having been given those ways that women prize, and God knows why
they prize them for they are vain ways that I have in my mind and
that won me the Valleys of Arguento Harez, from whose heights
Angelico swore he saw Valladolid once, and that won me moreover
also ... but that is long ago and is all gone now ... ah well,
well ... what was I saying?" And being reminded of his discourse,
the old lord continued, saying, "For himself he will win nothing,
and therefore I will leave him these my valleys, for not unlikely
it was for some sin of mine that his spirit was visited with
dullness, as Holy Writ sets forth, the sins of the fathers being
visited on the children; and thus I make him amends. But to you I
leave my long, most flexible, ancient Castilian blade, which
infidels dreaded if old songs be true. Merry and lithe it is, and
its true temper singeth when it meets another blade as two friends
sing when met after many years. It is most subtle, nimble and
exultant; and what it will not win for you in the wars, that shall
be won for you by your mandolin, for you have a way with it that
goes well with the old airs of Spain. And choose, my son, rather a
moonlight night when you sing under those curved balconies that I
knew, ah me, so well; for there is much advantage in the moon. In
the first place maidens see in the light of the moon, especially
in the Spring, more romance than you might credit, for it adds for
them a mystery to the darkness which the night has not when it is
merely black. And if any statue should gleam on the grass near by,
or if the magnolia be in blossom, or even the nightingale singing,
or if anything be beautiful in the night, in any of these things
also there is advantage; for a maiden will attribute to her lover
all manner of things that are not his at all, but are only
outpourings from the hand of God. There is this advantage also in
the moon, that, if interrupters come, the moonlight is better
suited to the play of a blade than the mere darkness of night;
indeed but the merry play of my sword in the moonlight was often a
joy to see, it so flashed, so danced, so sparkled. In the
moonlight also one makes no unworthy stroke, but hath scope for
those fair passes that Sevastiani taught, which were long ago the
wonder of Madrid."
The old lord paused, and breathed for a little space, as it were
gathering breath for his last words to his son. He breathed
deliberately, then spoke again. "I leave you," he said, "well
content that you have the two accomplishments, my son, that are
most needful in a Christian man, skill with the sword and a way
with the mandolin. There be other arts indeed among the heathen,
for the world is wide and hath full many customs, but these two
alone are needful." And then with that grand manner that they had
at that time in Spain, although his strength was failing, he gave
to his eldest son his Castilian sword. He lay back then in the
huge, carved, canopied bed; his eyes closed, the red silk curtains
rustled, and there was no sound of his breathing. But the old
lord's spirit, whatever journey it purposed, lingered yet in its
ancient habitation, and his voice came again, but feebly now and
rambling; he muttered awhile of gardens, such gardens no doubt as
the hidalgos guarded in that fertile region of sunshine in the
proudest period of Spain; he would have known no others. So for
awhile his memory seemed to stray, half blind among those perfumed
earthly wonders; perhaps among these memories his spirit halted,
and tarried those last few moments, mistaking those Spanish
gardens, remembered by moonlight in Spring, for the other end of
his journey, the glades of Paradise. However it be, it tarried.
These rambling memories ceased and silence fell again, with
scarcely the sound of breathing. Then gathering up his strength
for the last time and looking at his son, "The sword to the wars,"
he said. "The mandolin to the balconies." With that he fell back
Now there were no wars at that time so far as was known in Spain,
but that old lord's eldest son, regarding those last words of his
father as a commandment, determined then and there in that dim,
vast chamber to gird his legacy to him and seek for the wars,
wherever the wars might be, so soon as the obsequies of the
sepulture were ended. And of those obsequies I tell not here, for
they are fully told in the Black Books of Spain, and the deeds of
that old lord's youth are told in the Golden Stories. The Book of
Maidens mentions him, and again we read of him in Gardens of
Spain. I take my leave of him, happy, I trust, in Paradise, for he
had himself the accomplishments that he held needful in a
Christian, skill with the sword and a way with the mandolin; and
if there be some harder, better way to salvation than to follow
that which we believe to be good, then are we all damned. So he
was buried, and his eldest son fared forth with his legacy
dangling from his girdle in its long, straight, lovely scabbard,
blue velvet, with emeralds on it, fared forth on foot along a road
of Spain. And though the road turned left and right and sometimes
nearly ceased, as though to let the small wild flowers grow, out
of sheer good will such as some roads never have; though it ran
west and east and sometimes south, yet in the main it ran
northward, though wandered is a better word than ran, and the Lord
of the Valleys of Arguento Harez who owned no valleys, or anything
but a sword, kept company with it looking for the wars. Upon his
back he had slung his mandolin. Now the time of the year was
Spring, not Spring as we know it in England, for it was but early
March, but it was the time when Spring coming up out of Africa, or
unknown lands to the south, first touches Spain, and multitudes of
anemones come forth at her feet.
Thence she comes north to our islands, no less wonderful in our
woods than in Andalusian valleys, fresh as a new song, fabulous as
a rune, but a little pale through travel, so that our flowers do
not quite flare forth with all the myriad blaze of the flowers of
And all the way as he went the young man looked at the flame of
those southern flowers, flashing on either side of him all the
way, as though the rainbow had been broken in Heaven and its
fragments fallen on Spain. All the way as he went he gazed at
those flowers, the first anemones of the year; and long after,
whenever he sang to old airs of Spain, he thought of Spain as it
appeared that day in all the wonder of Spring; the memory lent a
beauty to his voice and a wistfulness to his eyes that accorded
not ill with the theme of the songs he sang, and were more than
once to melt proud hearts deemed cold. And so gazing he came to a
town that stood on a hill, before he was yet tired, though he had
done nigh twenty of those flowery miles of Spain; and since it was
evening and the light was fading away, he went to an inn and drew
his sword in the twilight and knocked with the hilt of it on the
oaken door. The name of it was the Inn of the Dragon and Knight. A
light was lit in one of the upper windows, the darkness seemed to
deepen at that moment, a step was heard coming heavily down a
stairway; and having named the inn to you, gentle reader, it is
time for me to name the young man also, the landless lord of the
Valleys of Arguento Harez, as the step comes slowly down the inner
stairway, as the gloaming darkens over the first house in which he
has ever sought shelter so far from his father's valleys, as he
stands upon the threshold of romance. He was named Rodriguez
Trinidad Fernandez, Concepcion Henrique Maria; but we shall
briefly name him Rodriguez in this story; you and I, reader, will
know whom we mean; there is no need therefore to give him his full
names, unless I do it here and there to remind you.
The steps came thumping on down the inner stairway, different
windows took the light of the candle, and none other shone in the
house; it was clear that it was moving with the steps all down
that echoing stairway. The sound of the steps ceased to
reverberate upon the wood, and now they slowly moved over stone
flags; Rodriguez now heard breathing, one breath with every step,
and at length the sound of bolts and chains undone and the
breathing now very close. The door was opened swiftly; a man with
mean eyes, and expression devoted to evil, stood watching him for
an instant; then the door slammed to again, the bolts were heard
going back again to their places, the steps and the breathing
moved away over the stone floor, and the inner stairway began
again to echo.
"If the wars are here," said Rodriguez to himself and his sword,
"good, and I sleep under the stars." And he listened in the street
for the sound of war and, hearing none, continued his discourse.
"But if I have not come as yet to the wars I sleep beneath a
For the second time therefore he drew his sword, and began to
strike methodically at the door, noting the grain in the wood and
hitting where it was softest. Scarcely had he got a good strip of
the oak to look like coming away, when the steps once more
descended the wooden stair and came lumbering over the stones;
both the steps and the breathing were quicker, for mine host of
the Dragon and Knight was hurrying to save his door.
When he heard the sound of the bolts and chains again Rodriguez
ceased to beat upon the door: once more it opened swiftly, and he
saw mine host before him, eyeing him with those bad eyes; of too
much girth, you might have said, to be nimble, yet somehow
suggesting to the swift intuition of youth, as Rodriguez looked at
him standing upon his door-step, the spirit and shape of a
spider, who despite her ungainly build is agile enough in her way.
Mine host said nothing; and Rodriguez, who seldom concerned
himself with the past, holding that the future is all we can order
the scheme of (and maybe even here he was wrong), made no mention
of bolts or door and merely demanded a bed for himself for the
Mine host rubbed his chin; he had neither beard nor moustache but
wore hideous whiskers; he rubbed it thoughtfully and looked at
Rodriguez. Yes, he said, he could have a bed for the night. No
more words he said, but turned and led the way; while Rodriguez,
who could sing to the mandolin, wasted none of his words on this
discourteous object. They ascended the short oak stairway down
which mine host had come, the great timbers of which were gnawed
by a myriad rats, and they went by passages with the light of one
candle into the interior of the inn, which went back farther from
the street than the young man had supposed; indeed he perceived
when they came to the great corridor at the end of which was his
appointed chamber, that here was no ordinary inn, as it had
appeared from outside, but that it penetrated into the fastness of
some great family of former times which had fallen on evil days.
The vast size of it, the noble design where the rats had spared
the carving, what the moths had left of the tapestries, all
testified to that; and, as for the evil days, they hung about the
place, evident even by the light of one candle guttering with
every draught that blew from the haunts of the rats, an
inseparable heirloom for all who disturbed those corridors.
And so they came to the chamber.
Mine host entered, bowed without grace in the doorway, and
extended his left hand, pointing into the room. The draughts that
blew from the rat-holes in the wainscot, or the mere action of
entering, beat down the flame of the squat, guttering candle so
that the chamber remained dim for a moment, in spite of the
candle, as would naturally be the case. Yet the impression made
upon Rodriguez was as of some old darkness that had been long
undisturbed and that yielded reluctantly to that candle's
intrusion, a darkness that properly became the place and was a
part of it and had long been so, in the face of which the candle
appeared an ephemeral thing devoid of grace or dignity or
tradition. And indeed there was room for darkness in that chamber,
for the walls went up and up into such an altitude that you could
scarcely see the ceiling, at which mine host's eyes glanced, and
Rodriguez followed his look.
He accepted his accommodation with a nod; as indeed he would have
accepted any room in that inn, for the young are swift judges of
character, and one who had accepted such a host was unlikely to
find fault with rats or the profusion of giant cobwebs, dark with
the dust of years, that added so much to the dimness of that
sinister inn. They turned now and went back, in the wake of that
guttering candle, till they came again to the humbler part of the
building. Here mine host, pushing open a door of blackened oak,
indicated his dining-chamber. There a long table stood, and on it
parts of the head and hams of a boar; and at the far end of the
table a plump and sturdy man was seated in shirt-sleeves feasting
himself on the boar's meat. He leaped up at once from his chair as
soon as his master entered, for he was the servant at the Dragon
and Knight; mine host may have said much to him with a flash of
his eyes, but he said no more with his tongue than the one word,
"Dog": he then bowed himself out, leaving Rodriguez to take the
only chair and to be waited upon by its recent possessor. The
boar's meat was cold and gnarled, another piece of meat stood on a
plate on a shelf and a loaf of bread near by, but the rats had had
most of the bread: Rodriguez demanded what the meat was.
"Unicorn's tongue," said the servant, and Rodriguez bade him set
the dish before him, and he set to well content, though I fear the
unicorn's tongue was only horse: it was a credulous age, as all
ages are. At the same time he pointed to a three-legged stool that
he perceived in a corner of the room, then to the table, then to
the boar's meat, and lastly at the servant, who perceived that he
was permitted to return to his feast, to which he ran with
alacrity. "Your name?" said Rodriguez as soon as both were eating.
"Morano," replied the servant, though it must not be supposed that
when answering Rodriguez he spoke as curtly as this; I merely give
the reader the gist of his answer, for he added Spanish words that
correspond in our depraved and decadent language of to-day to such
words as "top dog," "nut" and "boss," so that his speech had a
certain grace about it in that far-away time in Spain.
I have said that Rodriguez seldom concerned himself with the past,
but considered chiefly the future: it was of the future that he
was thinking now as he asked Morano this question:
"Why did my worthy and entirely excellent host shut his door in my
"Did he so?" said Morano.
"He then bolted it and found it necessary to put the chains back,
doubtless for some good reason."
"Yes," said Morano thoughtfully, and looking at Rodriguez, "and so
he might. He must have liked you."
Verily Rodriguez was just the young man to send out with a sword
and a mandolin into the wide world, for he had much shrewd sense.
He never pressed a point, but when something had been said that
might mean much he preferred to store it, as it were, in his mind
and pass on to other things, somewhat as one might kill game and
pass on and kill more and bring it all home, while a savage would
cook the first kill where it fell and eat it on the spot. Pardon
me, reader, but at Morano's remark you may perhaps have exclaimed,
"That is not the way to treat one you like." Not so did Rodriguez.
His attention passed on to notice Morano's rings which he wore in
great profusion upon his little fingers; they were gold and of
exquisite work and had once held precious stones, as large gaps
testified; in these days they would have been priceless, but in an
age when workers only worked at arts that they understood, and
then worked for the joy of it, before the word artistic became
ridiculous, exquisite work went without saying; and as the rings
were slender they were of little value. Rodriguez made no comment
upon the rings; it was enough for him to have noticed them. He
merely noted that they were not ladies' rings, for no lady's ring
would have fitted on to any one of those fingers: the rings
therefore of gallants: and not given to Morano by their owners,
for whoever wore precious stone needed a ring to wear it in, and
rings did not wear out like hose, which a gallant might give to a
servant. Nor, thought he, had Morano stolen them, for whoever
stole them would keep them whole, or part with them whole and get
a better price. Besides Morano had an honest face, or a face at
least that seemed honest in such an inn: and while these thoughts
were passing through his mind Morano spoke again: "Good hams,"
said Morano. He had already eaten one and was starting upon the
next. Perhaps he spoke out of gratitude for the honour and
physical advantage of being permitted to sit there and eat those
hams, perhaps tentatively, to find out whether he might consume
the second, perhaps merely to start a conversation, being
attracted by the honest looks of Rodriguez.
"You are hungry," said Rodriguez.
"Praise God I am always hungry," answered Morano. "If I were not
hungry I should starve."
"Is it so?" said Rodriguez.
"You see," said Morano, "the manner of it is this: my master gives
me no food, and it is only when I am hungry that I dare to rob him
by breaking in, as you saw me, upon his viands; were I not hungry
I should not dare to do so, and so ..." He made a sad and
expressive movement with both his hands suggestive of autumn
leaves blown hence to die.
"He gives you no food?" said Rodriguez.
"It is the way of many men with their dog," said Morano. "They
give him no food," and then he rubbed his hands cheerfully, "and
yet the dog does not die."
"And he gives you no wages?" said Rodriguez.
"Just these rings."
Now Rodriguez had himself a ring upon his finger (as a gallant
should), a slender piece of gold with four tiny angels holding a
sapphire, and for a moment he pictured the sapphire passing into
the hands of mine host and the ring of gold and the four small
angels being flung to Morano; the thought darkened his gaiety for
no longer than one of those fleecy clouds in Spring shadows the
fields of Spain.
Morano was also looking at the ring; he had followed the young
"Master," he said, "do you draw your sword of a night?"
"And you?" said Rodriguez.
"I have no sword," said Morano. "I am but as dog's meat that needs
no guarding, but you whose meat is rare like the flesh of the
unicorn need a sword to guard your meat. The unicorn has his horn
always, and even then he sometimes sleeps."
"It is bad, you think, to sleep," Rodriguez said.
"For some it is very bad, master. They say they never take the
unicorn waking. For me I am but dog's meat: when I have eaten hams
I curl up and sleep; but then you see, master, I know I shall wake
in the morning."
"Ah," said Rodriguez, "the morning's a pleasant time," and he
leaned back comfortably in his chair. Morano took one shrewd look
at him, and was soon asleep upon his three-legged stool.
The door opened after a while and mine host appeared. "It is
late," he said. Rodriguez smiled acquiescently and mine host
withdrew, and presently leaving Morano whom his master's voice had
waked, to curl up on the floor in a corner, Rodriguez took the
candle that lit the room and passed once more through the passages
of the inn and down the great corridor of the fastness of the
family that had fallen on evil days, and so came to his chamber. I
will not waste a multitude of words over that chamber; if you have
no picture of it in your mind already, my reader, you are reading
an unskilled writer, and if in that picture it appear a wholesome
room, tidy and well kept up, if it appear a place in which a
stranger might sleep without some faint foreboding of disaster,
then I am wasting your time, and will waste no more of it with
bits of "descriptive writing" about that dim, high room, whose
blackness towered before Rodriguez in the night. He entered and
shut the door, as many had done before him; but for all his youth
he took some wiser precautions than had they, perhaps, who closed
that door before. For first he drew his sword; then for some while
he stood quite still near the door and listened to the rats; then
he looked round the chamber and perceived only one door; then he
looked at the heavy oak furniture, carved by some artist, gnawed
by rats, and all blackened by time; then swiftly opened the door
of the largest cupboard and thrust his sword in to see who might
be inside, but the carved satyr's heads at the top of the cupboard
eyed him silently and nothing moved. Then he noted that though
there was no bolt on the door the furniture might be placed across
to make what in the wars is called a barricado, but the wiser
thought came at once that this was too easily done, and that if
the danger that the dim room seemed gloomily to forebode were to
come from a door so readily barricadoed, then those must have been
simple gallants who parted so easily with the rings that adorned
Morano's two little fingers. No, it was something more subtle than
any attack through that door that brought his regular wages to
Morano. Rodriguez looked at the window, which let in the light of
a moon that was getting low, for the curtains had years ago been
eaten up by the moths; but the window was barred with iron bars
that were not yet rusted away, and looked out, thus guarded, over
a sheer wall that even in the moonlight fell into blackness.
Rodriguez then looked round for some hidden door, the sword all
the while in his hand, and very soon he knew that room fairly
well, but not its secret, nor why those unknown gallants had given
up their rings.
It is much to know of an unknown danger that it really is unknown.
Many have met their deaths through looking for danger from one
particular direction, whereas had they perceived that they were
ignorant of its direction they would have been wise in their
ignorance. Rodriguez had the great discretion to understand
clearly that he did not know the direction from which danger would
come. He accepted this as his only discovery about that portentous
room which seemed to beckon to him with every shadow and to sigh
over him with every mournful draught, and to whisper to him
unintelligible warnings with every rustle of tattered silk that
hung about his bed. And as soon as he discovered that this was his
only knowledge he began at once to make his preparations: he was a
right young man for the wars. He divested himself of his shoes and
doublet and the light cloak that hung from his shoulder and cast
the clothes on a chair. Over the back of the chair he slung his
girdle and the scabbard hanging therefrom and placed his plumed
hat so that none could see that his Castilian blade was not in its
resting-place. And when the sombre chamber had the appearance of
one having undressed in it before retiring Rodriguez turned his
attention to the bed, which he noticed to be of great depth and
softness. That something not unlike blood had been spilt on the
floor excited no wonder in Rodriguez; that vast chamber was
evidently, as I have said, in the fortress of some great family,
against one of whose walls the humble inn had once leaned for
protection; the great family were gone: how they were gone
Rodriguez did not know, but it excited no wonder in him to see
blood on the boards: besides, two gallants may have disagreed; or
one who loved not dumb animals might have been killing rats. Blood
did not disturb him; but what amazed him, and would have surprised
anyone who stood in that ruinous room, was that there were clean
new sheets on the bed. Had you seen the state of the furniture and
the floor, O my reader, and the vastness of the old cobwebs and
the black dust that they held, the dead spiders and huge dead
flies, and the living generation of spiders descending and
ascending through the gloom, I say that you also would have been
surprised at the sight of those nice clean sheets. Rodriguez noted
the fact and continued his preparations. He took the bolster from
underneath the pillow and laid it down the middle of the bed and
put the sheets back over it; then he stood back and looked at it,
much as a sculptor might stand back from his marble, then he
returned to it and bent it a little in the middle, and after that
he placed his mandolin on the pillow and nearly covered it with
the sheet, but not quite, for a little of the curved dark-brown
wood remained still to be seen. It looked wonderfully now like a
sleeper in the bed, but Rodriguez was not satisfied with his work
until he had placed his kerchief and one of his shoes where a
shoulder ought to be; then he stood back once more and eyed it
with satisfaction. Next he considered the light. He looked at the
light of the moon and remembered his father's advice, as the young
often do, but considered that this was not the occasion for it,
and decided to leave the light of his candle instead, so that
anyone who might be familiar with the moonlight in that shadowy
chamber should find instead a less sinister light. He therefore
dragged a table to the bedside, placed the candle upon it, and
opened a treasured book that he bore in his doublet, and laid it
on the bed near by, between the candle and his mandolin-headed
sleeper; the name of the book was Notes in a Cathedral and dealt
with the confessions of a young girl, which the author claimed to
have jotted down, while concealed behind a pillow near the
Confessional, every Sunday for the entire period of Lent. Lastly
he pulled a sheet a little loose from the bed, until a corner of
it lay on the floor; then he lay down on the boards, still keeping
his sword in his hand, and by means of the sheet and some silk
that hung from the bed, he concealed himself sufficient for his
purpose, which was to see before he should be seen by any intruder
that might enter that chamber.
And if Rodriguez appear to have been unduly suspicious, it should
be borne in mind not only that those empty rings needed much
explanation, but that every house suggests to the stranger
something; and that whereas one house seems to promise a welcome
in front of cosy fires, another good fare, another joyous wine,
this inn seemed to promise murder; or so the young man's intuition
said, and the young are wise to trust to their intuitions.
The reader will know, if he be one of us, who have been to the
wars and slept in curious ways, that it is hard to sleep when
sober upon a floor; it is not like the earth, or snow, or a
feather bed; even rock can be more accommodating; it is hard,
unyielding and level, all night unmistakable floor. Yet Rodriguez
took no risk of falling asleep, so he said over to himself in his
mind as much as he remembered of his treasured book, Notes in a
Cathedral, which he always read to himself before going to rest
and now so sadly missed. It told how a lady who had listened to a
lover longer than her soul's safety could warrant, as he played
languorous music in the moonlight and sang soft by her low
balcony, and how she being truly penitent, had gathered many
roses, the emblems of love (as surely, she said at confession, all
the world knows), and when her lover came again by moonlight had
cast them all from her from the balcony, showing that she had
renounced love; and her lover had entirely misunderstood her. It
told how she often tried to show him this again, and all the
misunderstandings are sweetly set forth and with true Christian
penitence. Sometimes some little matter escaped Rodriguez's memory
and then he longed to rise up and look at his dear book, yet he
lay still where he was: and all the while he listened to the rats,
and the rats went on gnawing and running regularly, scared by
nothing new; Rodriguez trusted as much to their myriad ears as to
his own two. The great spiders descended out of such heights that
you could not see whence they came, and ascended again into
blackness; it was a chamber of prodigious height. Sometimes the
shadow of a descending spider that had come close to the candle
assumed a frightening size, but Rodriguez gave little thought to
it; it was of murder he was thinking, not of shadows; still, in
its way it was ominous, and reminded Rodriguez horribly of his
host; but what of an omen, again, in a chamber full of omens. The
place itself was ominous; spiders could scarce make it more so.
The spider itself was big enough, he thought, to be impaled on his
Castilian blade; indeed, he would have done it but that he thought
it wiser to stay where he was and watch. And then the spider found
the candle too hot and climbed in a hurry all the way to the
ceiling, and his horrible shadow grew less and dwindled away.
It was not that the rats were frightened: whatever it was that
happened happened too quietly for that, but the volume of the
sound of their running had suddenly increased: it was not like
fear among them, for the running was no swifter, and it did not
fade away; it was as though the sound of rats running, which had
not been heard before, was suddenly heard now. Rodriguez looked at
the door, the door was shut. A young Englishman would long ago
have been afraid that he was making a fuss over nothing and would
have gone to sleep in the bed, and not seen what Rodriguez saw. He
might have thought that hearing more rats all at once was merely a
fancy, and that everything was all right. Rodriguez saw a rope
coming slowly down from the ceiling, he quickly determined whether
it was a rope or only the shadow of some huge spider's thread, and
then he watched it and saw it come down right over his bed and
stop within a few feet of it. Rodriguez looked up cautiously to
see who had sent him that strange addition to the portents that
troubled the chamber, but the ceiling was too high and dim for him
to perceive anything but the rope coming down out of the darkness.
Yet he surmised that the ceiling must have softly opened, without
any sound at all, at the moment that he heard the greater number
of rats. He waited then to see what the rope would do; and at
first it hung as still as the great festoons dead spiders had made
in the corners; then as he watched it it began to sway. He looked
up into the dimness then to see who was swaying the rope; and for
a long time, as it seemed to him lying gripping his Castilian
sword on the floor he saw nothing clearly. And then he saw mine
host coming down the rope, hand over hand quite nimbly, as though
he lived by this business. In his right hand he held a poniard of
exceptional length, yet he managed to clutch the rope and hold the
poniard all the time with the same hand.
If there had been something hideous about the shadow of the spider
that came down from that height the shadow of mine host was indeed
demoniac. He too was like a spider, with his body at no time
slender all bunched up on the rope, and his shadow was six times
his size: you could turn from the spider's shadow to the spider
and see that it was for the most part a fancy of the candle half
crazed by the draughts, but to turn from mine host's shadow to
himself and to see his wicked eyes was to say that the candle's
wildest fears were true. So he climbed down his rope holding his
poniard upward. But when he came within perhaps ten feet of the
bed he pointed it downward and began to sway about. It will be
readily seen that by swaying his rope at a height mine host could
drop on any part of the bed. Rodriguez as he watched him saw him
scrutinise closely and continue to sway on his rope. He feared
that mine host was ill satisfied with the look of the mandolin and
that he would climb away again, well warned of his guest's
astuteness, into the heights of the ceiling to devise some
fearfuller scheme; but he was only looking for the shoulder. And
then mine host dropped; poniard first, he went down with all his
weight behind it and drove it through the bolster below where the
shoulder should be, just where we slant our arms across our
bodies, when we lie asleep on our sides, leaving the ribs exposed:
and the soft bed received him. And the moment that mine host let
go of his rope Rodriguez leaped to his feet. He saw Rodriguez,
indeed their eyes met as he dropped through the air, but what
could mine host do? He was already committed to his stroke, and
his poniard was already deep in the mattress when the good
Castilian blade passed through his ribs.
THE SECOND CHRONICLE
HOW HE HIRED A MEMORABLE SERVANT
When Rodriguez woke, the birds were singing gloriously. The sun
was up and the air was sparkling over Spain. The gloom had left
his high chamber, and much of the menace had gone from it that
overnight had seemed to bode in the corners. It had not become
suddenly tidy; it was still more suitable for spiders than men, it
still mourned and brooded over the great family that it had nursed
and that evil days had so obviously overtaken; but it no longer
had the air of finger to lips, no longer seemed to share a secret
with you, and that secret Murder. The rats still ran round the
wainscot, but the song of the birds and the jolly, dazzling
sunshine were so much larger than the sombre room that the young
man's thoughts escaped from it and ran free to the fields. It may
have been only his fancy but the world seemed somehow brighter for
the demise of mine host of the Dragon and Knight, whose body still
lay hunched up on the foot of his bed. Rodriguez jumped up and
went to the high, barred window and looked out of it at the
morning: far below him a little town with red roofs lay; the smoke
came up from the chimneys toward him slowly, and spread out flat
and did not reach so high. Between him and the roofs swallows were
He found water for washing in a cracked pitcher of earthenware and
as he dressed he looked up at the ceiling and admired mine host's
device, for there was an open hole that had come noiselessly,
without any sounds of bolts or lifting of trap-doors, but seemed
to have opened out all round on perfectly oiled groves, to fit
that well-to-do body, and down from the middle of it from some
higher beam hung the rope down which mine host had made his last
Before taking leave of his host Rodriguez looked at his poniard,
which was a good two feet in length, not counting the hilt, and
was surprised to find it an excellent blade. It bore a design on
the steel representing a town, which Rodriguez recognised for the
towers of Toledo; and had held moreover a jewel at the end of the
hilt, but the little gold socket was empty. Rodriguez therefore
perceived that the poniard was that of a gallant, and surmised
that mine host had begun his trade with a butcher's knife, but
having come by the poniard had found it to be handier for his
business. Rodriguez being now fully dressed, girt his own blade
about him, and putting the poniard under his cloak, for he thought
to find a use for it at the wars, set his plumed hat upon him and
jauntily stepped from the chamber. By the light of day he saw
clearly at what point the passages of the inn had dared to make
their intrusion on the corridors of the fortress, for he walked
for four paces between walls of huge grey rocks which had never
been plastered and were clearly a breach in the fortress, though
whether the breach were made by one of the evil days that had come
upon the family in their fastness, and whether men had poured
through it with torches and swords, or whether the gap had been
cut in later years for mine host of the Dragon and Knight, and he
had gone quietly through it rubbing his hands, nothing remained to
show Rodriguez now.
When he came to the dining-chamber he found Morano astir. Morano
looked up from his overwhelming task of tidying the Inn of the
Dragon and Knight and then went on with his pretended work, for he
felt a little ashamed of the knowledge he had concerning the ways
of that inn, which was more than an honest man should know about
such a place.
"Good morning, Morano," said Rodriguez blithely.
"Good morning," answered the servant of the Dragon and Knight.
"I am looking for the wars. Would you like a new master, Morano?"
"Indeed," said Morano, "a good master is better to some men's
minds than a bad one. Yet, you see senor, my bad master has me
bound never to leave him, by oaths that I do not properly
understand the meaning of, and that might blast me in any world
were I to forswear them. He hath bound me by San Sathanas, with
many others. I do not like the sound of that San Sathanas. And so
you see, senor, my bad master suits me better than perhaps to be
whithered in this world by a levin-stroke, and in the next world
"Morano," said Rodriguez, "there is a dead spider on my bed."
"A dead spider, master?" said Morano, with as much concern in his
voice as though no spider had ever sullied that chamber before.
"Yes," said Rodriguez, "I shall require you to keep my bed tidy on
our way to the wars."
"Master," said Morano, "no spider shall come near it, living or
And so our company of one going northward through Spain looking
for romance became a company of two.
"Master," said Morano, "as I do not see him whom I serve, and his
ways are early ways, I fear some evil has overtaken him, whereby
we shall be suspect, for none other dwells here: and he is under
special protection of the Garda Civil; it would be well therefore
to start for the wars right early."
"The guard protect mine host then." Rodriguez said with as much
surprise in his tones as he ever permitted himself.
"Master," Morano said, "it could not be otherwise. For so many
gallants have entered the door of this inn and supped in this
chamber and never been seen again, and so many suspicious things
have been found here, such as blood, that it became necessary for
him to pay the guard well, and so they protect him." And Morano
hastily slung over his shoulder by leather straps an iron pot and
a frying-pan and took his broad felt hat from a peg on the wall.
Rodriguez' eyes looked so curiously at the great cooking utensils
dangling there from the straps that Morano perceived his young
master did not fully understand these preparations: he therefore
instructed him thus: "Master, there be two things necessary in the
wars, strategy and cooking. Now the first of these comes in use
when the captains speak of their achievements and the historians
write of the wars. Strategy is a learned thing, master, and the
wars may not be told of without it, but while the war rageth and
men be camped upon the foughten field then is the time for
cooking; for many a man that fights the wars, if he hath not his
food, were well content to let the enemy live, but feed him and at
once he becometh proud at heart and cannot a-bear the sight of the
enemy walking among his tents but must needs slay him outright.
Aye, master, the cooking for the wars; and when the wars are over
you who are learned shall study strategy."
And Rodriguez perceived that there was wisdom in the world that
was not taught in the College of San Josephus, near to his
father's valleys, where he had learned in his youth the ways of
"Morano," he said, "let us now leave mine host to entertain la
And at the mention of the guard hurry came on Morano, he closed
his lips upon his store of wisdom, and together they left the Inn
of the Dragon and Knight. And when Rodriguez saw shut behind him
that dark door of oak that he had so persistently entered, and
through which he had come again to the light of the sun by many
precautions and some luck, he felt gratitude to Morano. For had it
not been for Morano's sinister hints, and above all his remark
that mine host would have driven him thence because he liked him,
the evil look of the sombre chamber alone might not have been
enough to persuade him to the precautions that cut short the
dreadful business of that inn. And with his gratitude was a
feeling not unlike remorse, for he felt that he had deprived this
poor man of a part of his regular wages, which would have been his
own gold ring and the setting that held the sapphire, had all gone
well with the business. So he slipped the ring from his finger and
gave it to Morano, sapphire and all.
Morano's expressions of gratitude were in keeping with that
flowery period in Spain, and might appear ridiculous were I to
expose them to the eyes of an age in which one in Morano's place
on such an occasion would have merely said, "Damned good of you
old nut, not half," and let the matter drop.
I merely record therefore that Morano was grateful and so
expressed himself; while Rodriguez, in addition to the pleasant
glow in the mind that comes from a generous action, had another
feeling that gives all of us pleasure, or comfort at least (until
it grows monotonous), a feeling of increased safety; for while he
had the ring upon his finger and Morano went unpaid the thought
could not help occurring, even to a generous mind, that one of
these windy nights Morano might come for his wages.
"Master," said Morano looking at the sapphire now on his own
little finger near the top joint, the only stone amongst his row
of rings, "you must surely have great wealth."
"Yes," said Rodriguez slapping the scabbard that held his
Castilian blade. And when he saw that Morano's eyes were staring
at the little emeralds that were dotted along the velvet of the
scabbard he explained that it was the sword that was his wealth:
"For in the wars," he said, "are all things to be won, and nothing
is unobtainable to the sword. For parchment and custom govern all
the possessions of man, as they taught me in the College of San
Josephus. Yet the sword is at first the founder and discoverer of
all possessions; and this my father told me before he gave me this
sword, which hath already acquired in the old time fair castles
with many a tower."
"And those that dwelt in the castles, master, before the sword
came?" said Morano.
"They died and went dismally to Hell," said Rodriguez, "as the old
They walked on then in silence. Morano, with his low forehead and
greater girth of body than of brain to the superficial observer,
was not incapable of thought. However slow his thoughts may have
come, Morano was pondering surely. Suddenly the puckers on his
little forehead cleared and he brightly looked at Rodriguez as
they went on side by side.
"Master," Morano said, "when you choose a castle in the wars, let
it above all things be one of those that is easy to be defended;
for castles are easily got, as the old songs tell, and in the heat
of combat positions are quickly stormed, and no more ado; but,
when wars are over, then is the time for ease and languorous days
and the imperilling of the soul, though not beyond the point where
our good fathers may save it."
"Nay, Morano," Rodriguez said, "no man, as they taught me well in
the College of San Josephus, should ever imperil his soul."
"But, master," Morano said, "a man imperils his body in the wars
yet hopes by dexterity and his sword to draw it safely thence: so
a man of courage and high heart may surely imperil his soul and
still hope to bring it at the last to salvation."
"Not so," said Rodriguez, and gave his mind to pondering upon the
exact teaching he had received on this very point, but could not
So they walked in silence, Rodriguez thinking still of this
spiritual problem, Morano turning, though with infinite slowness,
to another thought upon a lower plane.
And after a while Rodriguez' eyes turned again to the flowers, and
he felt his meditation, as youth will, and looking abroad he saw
the wonder of Spring calling forth the beauty of Spain, and he
lifted up his head and his heart rejoiced with the anemones, as
hearts at his age do: but Morano clung to his thought.
It was long before Rodriguez' fanciful thoughts came back from
among the flowers, for among those delicate earliest blooms of
Spring his youthful visions felt they were with familiars; so they
tarried, neglecting the dusty road and poor gross Morano. But when
his fancies left the flowers at last and looked again at Morano,
Rodriguez perceived that his servant was all troubled with
thought: so he left Morano in silence for his thought to come to
maturity, for he had formed a liking already for the judgments of
Morano's simple mind.
They walked in silence for the space of an hour, and at last
Morano spoke. It was then noon. "Master," he said, "at this hour
it is the custom of la Garda to enter the Inn of the Dragon and to
dine at the expense of mine host."
"A merry custom," said Rodriguez.
"Master," said Morano, "if they find him in less than his usual
health they will get their dinners for themselves in the larder
and dine and afterwards sleep. But after that; master, after that,
should anything inauspicious have befallen mine host, they will
seek out and ask many questions concerning all travellers, too
many for our liking."
"We are many good miles from the Inn of the Dragon and Knight,"
"Master, when they have eaten and slept and asked questions they
will follow on horses," said Morano.
"We can hide," said Rodriguez, and he looked round over the plain,
very full of flowers, but empty and bare under the blue sky of any
place in which a man might hide to escape from pursuers on horse
back. He perceived then that he had no plan.
"Master," said Morano, "there is no hiding like disguises."
Once more Rodriguez looked round him over the plain, seeing no
houses, no men; and his opinion of Morano's judgment sank when he
said disguises. But then Morano unfolded to him that plan which up
to that day had never been tried before, so far as records tell,
in all the straits in which fugitive men have been; and which
seems from my researches in verse and prose never to have been
The plan was this, astute as Morano, and simple as his naive mind.
The clothing for which Rodriguez searched the plain vainly was
ready to hand. No disguise was effective against la Garda, they
had too many suspicions, their skill was to discover disguises.
But in the moment of la Garda's triumph, when they had found out
the disguise, when success had lulled the suspicions for which
they were infamous, then was the time to trick la Garda. Rodriguez
wondered; but the slow mind of Morano was sure, and now he came to
the point, the fruit of his hour's thinking. Rodriguez should
disguise himself as Morano. When la Garda discovered that he was
not the man he appeared to be, a study to which they devoted their
lives, their suspicions would rest and there would be an end of
it. And Morano should disguise himself as Rodriguez.
It was a new idea. Had Rodriguez been twice his age he would have
discarded it at once; for age is guided by precedent which, when
pursued, is a dangerous guide indeed. Even as it was he was
critical, for the novelty of the thing coming thus from his gross
servant surprised him as much as though Morano had uttered poetry
of his own when he sang, as he sometimes did, certain merry
lascivious songs of Spain that any one of the last few centuries
knew as well as any of the others.
And would not la Garda find out that he was himself, Rodriguez
asked, as quickly as they found out he was not Morano.
"That," said Morano, "is not the way of la Garda. For once let la
Garda come by a suspicion, such as that you, master, are but
Morano, and they will cling to it even to the last, and not
abandon it until they needs must, and then throw it away as it
were in disgust and ride hence at once, for they like not tarrying
long near one who has seen them mistaken."
"They will soon then come by another suspicion," said Rodriguez.
"Not so, master," answered Morano, "for those that are as
suspicious as la Garda change their suspicions but slowly. A
suspicion is an old song to them."
"Then," said Rodriguez, "I shall be hard set ever to show that I
am not you if they ever suspect I am."
"It will be hard, master," Morano answered; "but we shall do it,
for we shall have truth upon our side."
"How shall we disguise ourselves?" said Rodriguez.
"Master," said Morano, "when you came to our town none knew you
and all marked your clothes. As for me my fat body is better known
than my clothes, yet am I not too well known by la Garda, for,
being an honest man, whenever la Garda came I used to hide."
"You did well," said Rodriguez.
"Certainly I did well," said Morano, "for had they seen me they
might, on account of certain matters, have taken me to prison, and
prison is no place for an honest man."
"Let us disguise ourselves," said Rodriguez.
"Master," answered Morano, "the brain is greater than the stomach,
and now more than at any time we need the counsel of the brain;
let us therefore appease the clamours of the stomach that it be
And he drew out from amongst his clothing a piece of sacking in
which was a mass of bacon and some lard, and unslung his huge
frying-pan. Rodriguez had entirely forgotten the need of food, but
now the memory of it had rushed upon him like a flood over a
barrier, as soon as he saw the bacon. And when they had collected
enough of tiny inflammable things, for it was a treeless plain,
and Morano had made a fire, and the odour of the bacon became
perceptible, this memory was hugely intensified.
"Let us eat while they eat, master," said Morano, "and plan while
they sleep, and disguise ourselves while they pursue."
And this they did: for after they had eaten they dug up earth and
gathered leaves with which to fill the gaps in Morano's garments
when they should hang on Rodriguez, they plucked a geranium with
whose dye they deepened Rodriguez' complexion, and with the sap
from the stalk of a weed Morano toned to a pallor the ruddy brown
of his tough cheeks. Then they changed clothes altogether, which
made Morano gasp: and after that nothing remained but to cut off
the delicate black moustachios of Rodriguez and to stick them to
the face of Morano with the juice of another flower that he knew
where to find. Rodriguez sighed when he saw them go. He had
pictured ecstatic glances cast some day at those moustachios,
glances from under long eyelashes twinkling at evening from
balconies; and looking at them where they were now, he felt that
this was impossible.
For one moment Morano raised his head with an air, as it were
preening himself, when the new moustachios had stuck; but as soon
as he saw, or felt, his master's sorrow at their loss he
immediately hung his head, showing nothing but shame for the loss
he had caused his master, or for the impropriety of those delicate
growths that so ill become his jowl. And now they took the road
again, Rodriguez with the great frying-pan and cooking-pot; no
longer together, but not too far apart for la Garda to take them
both at once, and to make the doubly false charge that should so
confound their errand. And Morano wore that old triumphant sword,
and carried the mandolin that was ever young.
They had not gone far when it was as Morano had said; for, looking
back, as they often did, to the spot where their road touched the
sky-line, they saw la Garda spurring, seven of them in their
unmistakable looped hats, very clear against the sky which a
moment ago seemed so fair.
When the seven saw the two they did not spare the dust; and first
they came to Morano.
"You," they said, "are Rodriguez Trinidad Fernandez, Concepcion
Henrique Maria, a Lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez."
"No, masters," said Morano.
Oh but denials were lost upon la Garda.
Denials inflamed their suspicions as no other evidence could. Many
a man had they seen with his throat in the hands of the public
garrotter; and all had begun with denials who ended thus. They
looked at the mandolin, at the gay cloak, at the emeralds in the
scabbard, for wherever emeralds go there is evidence to identify
them, until the nature of man changes or the price of emeralds.
They spoke hastily among themselves.
"Without doubt," said one of them, "you are whom we said." And
they arrested Morano.
Then they spurred on to Rodriguez. "You are, they said, "as no man
doubts, one Morano, servant at the Inn of the Dragon and Knight,
whose good master is, as we allege, dead."
"Masters," answered Rodriguez, "I am but a poor traveller, and no
servant at any inn."
Now la Garda, as I have indicated, will hear all things except
denials; and thus to receive two within the space of two moments
infuriated them so fiercely that they were incapable of forming
any other theory that day except the one they held.
There are many men like this; they can form a plausible theory and
grasp its logical points, but take it away from them and destroy
it utterly before their eyes, and they will not so easily lash
their tired brains at once to build another theory in place of the
one that is ruined.
"As the saints live," they said, "you are Morano." And they
arrested Rodriguez too.
Now when they began to turn back by the way they had come
Rodriguez began to fear overmuch identification, so he assured la
Garda that in the next village ahead of them were those who would
answer all questions concerning him, as well as being the
possessors of the finest vintage of wine in the kingdom of Spain.
Now it may be that the mention of this wine soothed the anger
caused in the men of la Garda by two denials, or it may be that
curiosity guided them, at any rate they took the road that led
away from last night's sinister shelter, Rodriguez and five of la
Garda. Two of them stayed behind with Morano, undecided as yet
which way to take, though looking wistfully the way that that wine
was said to be; and Rodriguez left Morano to his own devices, in
which he trusted profoundly.
Now Rodriguez knew not the name of the next village that they
would come to nor the names of any of the dwellers in it.
Yet he had a plan. As he went by the side of one of the horses he
questioned the rider.
"Can Morano write?" he said. La Garda laughed.
"Can Morano talk Latin?" he said. La Garda crossed themselves, all
five men. And after some while of riding, and hard walking for
Rodriguez, to whom they allowed a hand on a stirrup leather, there
came in sight the tops of the brown roofs of a village over a fold
of the plain. "Is this your village?" said one of his captors.
"Surely," answered Rodriguez.
"What is its name?" said one.
"It has many names," said Rodriguez.
And then another one of them recognised it from the shape of its
roofs. "It is Saint Judas-not-Iscariot," he said.
"Aye, so strangers call it," said Rodriguez.
And where the road turned round that fold of the plain, lolling a
little to its left in the idle Spanish air, they came upon the
village all in view. I do not know how to describe this village to
you, my reader, for the words that mean to you what it was are all
the wrong words to use. "Antique," "old-world," "quaint," seem
words with which to tell of it. Yet it had no antiquity denied to
the other villages; it had been brought to birth like them by the
passing of time, and was nursed like them in the lap of plains or
valleys of Spain. Nor was it quainter than any of its neighbours,
though it was like itself alone, as they had their characters
also; and, though no village in the world was like it, it differed
only from the next as sister differs from sister. To those that
dwelt in it, it was wholly apart from all the world of man.
Most of its tall white houses with green doors were gathered about
the market-place, in which were pigeons and smells and declining
sunlight, as Rodriguez and his escort came towards it, and from
round a corner at the back of it the short, repeated song of one
who would sell a commodity went up piercingly.
This was all very long ago. Time has wrecked that village now.
Centuries have flowed over it, some stormily, some smoothly, but
so many that, of the village Rodriguez saw, there can be now no
more than wreckage. For all I know a village of that name may
stand on that same plain, but the Saint Judas-not-Iscariot that
Rodriguez knew is gone like youth.
Queerly tiled, sheltered by small dense trees, and standing a
little apart, Rodriguez recognised the house of the Priest. He
recognised it by a certain air it had. Thither he pointed and la
Garda rode. Again he spoke to them. "Can Morano speak Latin?" he
"God forbid!" said la Garda.
They dismounted and opened a gate that was gilded all over, in a
low wall of round boulders. They went up a narrow path between
thick ilices and came to the green door. They pulled a bell whose
handle was a symbol carved in copper, one of the Priest's
mysteries. The bell boomed through the house, a tiny musical boom,
and the Priest opened the door; and Rodriguez addressed him in
Latin. And the Priest answered him.
At first la Garda had not realised what had happened. And then the
Priest beckoned and they all entered his house, for Rodriguez had
asked him for ink. Into a room they came where a silver ink-pot
was, and the grey plume of the goose. Picture no such ink-pot, my
reader, as they sell to-day in shops, the silver no thicker than
paper, and perhaps a pattern all over it guaranteed artistic. It
was molten silver well wrought, and hollowed for ink. And in the
hollow there was the magical fluid, the stuff that rules the world
and hinders time; that in which flows the will of a king, to
establish his laws for ever; that which gives valleys unto new
possessors; that whereby towers are held by their lawful owners;
that which, used grimly by the King's judge, is death; that which,
when poets play, is mirth for ever and ever.
No wonder la Garda looked at it in awe, no wonder they crossed
themselves again: and then Rodriguez wrote. In the silence that
followed the jaws of la Garda dropped, while the old Priest
slightly smiled, for he somewhat divined the situation already;
and, being the people's friend, he loved not la Garda more than he
was bound by the rules of his duty to man.
Then one of la Garda spoke, bringing back his confidence with a
bluster. "Morano has sold his soul to Satan," he said, "in
exchange for Satan's aid, and Satan has taught his tongue Latin
and guides his fingers in the affairs of the pen." And so said all
la Garda, rejoicing at finding an explanation where a moment ago
there was none, as all men at such times do: little it matters
what the explanation be: does a man in Sahara, who finds water
suddenly, in quire with precision what its qualities are?
And then the Priest said a word and made a sign, against which
Satan himself can only prevail with difficulty, and in presence of
which his spells can never endure. And after this Rodriguez wrote
again. Then were la Garda silent.
And at length the leader said, and he called on them all to
testify, that he had made no charge whatever against this
traveller; moreover, they had escorted him on his way out of
respect for him, because the roads were dangerous, and must now
depart because they had higher duties. So la Garda departed,
looking before them with stern, preoccupied faces and urging their
horses on, as men who go on an errand of great urgency. And
Rodriguez, having thanked them for their protection upon the road,
turned back into the house and the two sat down together, and
Rodriguez told his rescuer the story of the hospitality of the Inn
of the Dragon and Knight.
Not as confession he told it, but as a pleasant tale, for he
looked on the swift demise of la Garda's friend, in the night, in
the spidery room, as a fair blessing for Spain, a thing most
suited to the sweet days of Spring. The spiritual man rejoiced to
hear such a tale, as do all men of peace to hear talk of violent
deeds in which they may not share. And when the tale was ended he
reproved Rodriguez exceedingly, explaining to him the nature of
the sin of blood, and telling him that absolution could be come by
now, though hardly, but how on some future occasion there might be
none to be had. And Rodriguez listened with all the gravity of
expression that youth knows well how to wear while its thoughts
are nimbly dancing far away in fair fields of adventure or love.
And darkness came down and lamps were carried in: and the reverend
father asked Rodriguez in what other affairs of violence his sword
had unhappily been. And Rodriguez knew well the history of that
sword, having gathered all that concerned it out of spoken legend
or song. And although the reverend man frowned minatorily whenever
he heard of its passings through the ribs of the faithful, and
nodded as though his head gave benediction when he heard of the
destruction of God's most vile enemy the infidel, and though he
gasped a little through his lips when he heard of certain
tarryings of that sword, in scented gardens, while Christian
knights should sleep and their swords hang on the wall, though
sometimes even a little he raised his hands, yet he leaned forward
always, listening well, and picturing clearly as though his
gleaming eyes could see them, each doleful tale of violence or
sin. And so night came, and began to wear away, and neither knew
how late the hour was. And then as Rodriguez spoke of an evening
in a garden, of which some old song told well, a night in early
summer under the evening star, and that sword there as always; as
he told of his grandfather as poets had loved to tell, going among
the scents of the huge flowers, familiar with the dark garden as
the moths that drifted by him; as he spoke of a sigh heard
faintly, as he spoke of danger near, whether to body or soul; as
the reverend father was about to raise both his hands; there came
a thunder of knockings upon the locked green door.
THE THIRD CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME TO THE HOUSE OF WONDER
It was the gross Morano. Here he had tracked Rodriguez, for where
la Garda goes is always known, and rumour of it remains long
behind them, like the scent of a fox. He told no tale of his
escape more than a dog does who comes home some hours late; a dog
comes back to his master, that is all, panting a little perhaps;
someone perhaps had caught him and he escaped and came home, a
thing too natural to attempt to speak of by any of the signs that
a dog knows.
Part of Morano's method seems to have resembled Rodriguez', for
just as Rodriguez spoke Latin, so Morano fell back upon his own
natural speech, that he as it were unbridled and allowed to run
free, the coarseness of which had at first astounded, and then
delighted, la Garda.
"And did they not suspect that you were yourself?" said Rodriguez.
"No, master," Morano answered, "for I said that I was the brother
of the King of Aragon."
"The King of Aragon!" Rodriguez said, going to the length of
showing surprise. "Yes, indeed, master." said Morano, "and they
"Recognised you!" exclaimed the Priest.
"Indeed so," said Morano, "for they said that they were themselves
the Kings of Aragon; and so, father, they recognised me for their
"That you should not have said," the Priest told Morano.
"Reverend father," replied Morano, "as Heaven shines, I believed
that what I said was true." And Morano sighed deeply. "And now,"
he said, "I know it is true no more."
Whether he sighed for the loss of his belief in that exalted
relationship, or whether for the loss of that state of mind in
which such beliefs come easily, there was nothing in his sigh to
show. They questioned him further, but he said no more: he was
here, there was no more to say: he was here and la Garda was gone.
And then the reverend man brought for them a great supper, even at
that late hour, for many an hour had slipped softly by as he heard
the sins of the sword; and wine he set out, too, of a certain
golden vintage, long lost--I fear--my reader: but this he gave not
to Morano lest he should be once more, what the reverend father
feared to entertain, that dread hidalgo, the King of Aragon's
brother. And after that, the stars having then gone far on their
ways, the old Priest rose and offered a bed to Rodriguez; and even
as he eyed Morano, wondering where to put him, and was about to
speak, for he had no other bed, Morano went to a corner of the
room and curled up and lay down. And by the time his host had
walked over to him and spoken, asking anxiously if he needed
nothing more, he was almost already asleep, and muttered in
answer, after having been spoken to twice, no more than "Straw,
reverend father, straw."
An armful of this the good man brought him, and then showed
Rodriguez to his room; and they can scarcely have reached it
before Morano was back in Aragon again, walking on golden shoes
(which were sometimes wings), proud among lesser princes.
As precaution for the night Rodriguez took one more glance at his
host's kind face; and then, with sword out of reach and an
unlocked door, he slept till the songs of birds out of the deeps
of the ilices made sleep any longer impossible.
The third morning of Rodriguez' wandering blazed over Spain like
brass; flowers and grass and sky were twinkling all together.
When Rodriguez greeted his host Morano was long astir, having
awakened with dawn, for the simpler and humbler the creature the
nearer it is akin to the earth and the sun. The forces that woke
the birds and opened the flowers stirred the gross lump of Morano,
ending his sleep as they ended the nightingale's song.
They breakfasted hurriedly and Rodriguez rose to depart, feeling
that he had taken hospitality that had not been offered. But
against his departure was the barrier of all the politeness of
Spain. The house was his, said his host, and even the small grove
If I told you half of the things that the reverend man said, you
would say: "This writer is affected. I do not like all this
flowery mush." I think it safer, my reader, not to tell you any of
it. Let us suppose that he merely said, "Quite all right," and
that when Rodriguez thanked him on one knee he answered, "Not at
all;" and that so Rodriguez and Morano left. If here it miss some
flash of the fair form of Truth it is the fault of the age I write
The road again, dust again, birds and the blaze of leaves, these
were the background of my wanderers, until the eye had gone as far
as the eye can roam, and there were the tips of some far pale-blue
mountains that now came into view.
They were still in each other's clothes; but the village was not
behind them very far when Morano explained, for he knew the ways
of la Garda, that having arrested two men upon this road, they
would now arrest two men each on all the other roads, in order to
show the impartiality of the Law, which constantly needs to be
exhibited; and that therefore all men were safe on the road they
were on for a long while to come.
Now there seemed to Rodriguez to be much good sense in what Morano
had said; and so indeed there was for they had good laws in Spain,
and they differed little, though so long ago, from our own
excellent system. Therefore they changed once more, giving back to
each other everything but, alas, those delicate black moustachios;
and these to Rodriguez seemed gone for ever, for the growth of new
ones seemed so far ahead to the long days of youth that his hopes
could scarce reach to them.
When Morano found himself once more in those clothes that had been
with him night and day for so many years he seemed to expand; I
mean no metaphor here; he grew visibly fatter.
"Ah," said Morano after a huge breath, "last night I dreamed, in
your illustrious clothes, that I was in lofty station. And now,
master, I am comfortable."
"Which were best, think you," said Rodriguez, "if you could have
but one, a lofty place or comfort?" Even in those days such a
question was trite, but Rodriguez uttered it only thinking to dip
in the store of Morano's simple wisdom, as one may throw a mere
worm to catch a worthy fish. But in this he was disappointed; for
Morano made no neat comparison nor even gave an opinion, saying
only, "Master, while I have comfort how shall I judge the case of
any who have not?" And no more would he say. His new found
comfort, lost for a day and night, seemed so to have soothed his
body that it closed the gates of the mind, as too much luxury may,
even with poets.
And now Rodriguez thought of his quest again, and the two of them
pushed on briskly to find the wars.
For an hour they walked in silence an empty road. And then they
came upon a row of donkeys; piled high with the bark of the cork-
tree, that men were bringing slowly from far woods. Some of the
men were singing as they went. They passed slow in the sunshine.
"Oh, master," said Morano when they were gone, "I like not that
"Why, Morano?" said Rodriguez. "It was not God that made hurry."
"Master," answered Morano, "I know well who made hurry. And may he
not overtake my soul at the last. Yet it is bad for our fortunes
that these men should loiter thus. You want your castle, master;
and I, I want not always to wander roads, with la Garda perhaps
behind and no certain place to curl up and sleep in front. I look
for a heap of straw in the cellar of your great castle."
"Yes, yes, you shall have it," his master said, "but how do these
folks hinder you?" For Morano was scowling at them over his
shoulder in a way that was somehow spoiling the gladness of
"The air is full of their singing," Morano said. "It is as though
their souls were already flying to Hell, and cawing hoarse with
sin all the way as they go. And they loiter, and they linger..."
Oh, but Morano was angry.
"But," said Rodriguez, "how does their lingering harm you?"
"Where are the wars, master? Where are the wars?" blurted Morano,
his round face turning redder. "The donkeys would be dead, the men
would be running, there would be shouts, cries, and confusion, if
the wars were anywhere near. There would be all things but this."
The men strolled on singing and so passed slow into distance.
Morano was right, though I know not how he knew.
And now the men and the donkeys were nearly out of sight, but had
not yet at all emerged from the wrath of Morano. "Lascivious
knaves," muttered that disappointed man. And whenever he faintly
heard dim snatches of their far song that a breeze here, and
another there, brought over the plain as it ran on the errands of
Spring, he cursed their sins under his breath. Though it seemed
not so much their sins that moved his wrath as the leisure they
had for committing them.
"Peace, peace, Morano," said Rodriguez.
"It is that," said Morano, "that is troubling me."
"This same peace."
"Morano," said Rodriguez, "I had when young to study the affairs
of men; and this is put into books, and so they make history. Now
I learned that there is no thing in which men have taken delight,
that is ever put away from them; for it seems that time, which
altereth every custom, hath altered none of our likings: and in
every chapter they taught me there were these wars to be found."
"Master, the times are altered," said Morano sadly. "It is not now
as in old days."
And this was not the wisdom of Morano, for anger had clouded his
judgment. And a faint song came yet from the donkey-drivers,
wavering over the flowers.
"Master," Morano said, "there are men like those vile sin-mongers,
who have taken delight in peace. It may be that peace has been
brought upon the world by one of these lousy likings."
"The delight of peace," said Rodriguez, "is in its contrast to
war. If war were banished this delight were gone. And man lost
none of his delights in any chapter I read."
The word and the meaning of CONTRAST were such as is understood by
reflective minds, the product of education. Morano felt rather
than reflected; and the word CONTRAST meant nothing to him. This
ended their conversation. And the songs of the donkey-drivers,
light though they were, being too heavy to be carried farther by
the idle air of Spring, Morano ceased cursing their sins.
And now the mountains rose up taller, seeming to stretch
themselves and raise their heads. In a while they seemed to be
peering over the plain. They that were as pale ghosts, far off,
dim like Fate, in the early part of the morning, now appeared
darker, more furrowed, more sinister, more careworn; more
immediately concerned with the affairs of Earth, and so more
menacing to earthly things.
Still they went on and still the mountains grew. And noon came,
when Spain sleeps.
And now the plain was altering, as though cool winds from the
mountains brought other growths to birth, so that they met with
bushes straggling wild; free, careless and mysterious, as they do,
where there is none to teach great Nature how to be tidy.
The wanderers chose a clump of these that were gathered near the
way, like gypsies camped awhile midway on a wonderful journey, who
at dawn will rise and go, leaving but a bare trace of their
resting and no guess of their destiny; so fairy-like, so free, so
phantasmal those dark shrubs seemed.
Morano lay down on the very edge of the shade of one, and
Rodriguez lay fair in the midst of the shade of another, whereby
anyone passing that way would have known which was the older
traveller. Morano, according to his custom, was asleep almost
immediately; but Rodriguez, with wonder and speculation each
toying with novelty and pulling it different ways between them,
stayed awhile wakeful. Then he too slept, and a bird thought it
safe to return to an azalea of its own; which it lately fled from
troubled by the arrival of these two.
And Rodriguez the last to sleep was the first awake, for the shade
of the shrub left him, and he awoke in the blaze of the sun to see
Morano still sheltered, well in the middle now of the shadow he
chose. The gross sleep of Morano I will not describe to you,
reader. I have chosen a pleasant tale for you in a happy land, in
the fairest time of year, in a golden age: I have youth to show
you and an ancient sword, birds, flowers and sunlight, in a plain
unharmed by any dream of commerce: why should I show you the sleep
of that inelegant man whose bulk lay cumbering the earth like a
low, unseemly mountain?
Rodriguez overtook the shade he had lost and lay there resting
until Morano awoke, driven all at once from sleep by a dream or by
mere choking. Then from the intricacies of his clothing, which to
him after those two days was what home is to some far wanderer,
Morano drew out once more a lump of bacon. Then came the fry-pan
and then a fire: it was the Wanderers' Mess. That mess-room has
stood in many lands and has only one roof. We are proud of that
roof, all we who belong to that Mess. We boast of it when we show
it to our friends when it is all set out at night. It has
Aldebaran in it, the Bear and Orion, and at the other end the
Southern Cross. Yes we are proud of our roof when it is at its
What am I saying? I should be talking of bacon. Yes, but there is
a way of cooking it in our Mess that I want to tell you and
cannot. I've tasted bacon there that isn't the same as what you
get at the Ritz. And I want to tell you how that bacon tastes; and
I can't so I talk about stars. But perhaps you are one of us,
reader, and then you will understand. Only why the hell don't we
get back there again where the Evening Star swings low on the wall
of the Mess?
When they rose from table, when they got up from the earth, and
the frying-pan was slung on Morano's back, adding grease to the
mere surface of his coat whose texture could hold no more, they
pushed on briskly for they saw no sign of houses, unless what
Rodriguez saw now dimly above a ravine were indeed a house in the
They had walked from eight till noon without any loitering. They
must have done fifteen miles since the mountains were pale blue.
And now, every mile they went, on the most awful of the dark
ridges the object Rodriguez saw seemed more and more like a house.
Yet neither then, nor as they drew still nearer, nor when they saw
it close, nor looking back on it after years, did it somehow seem
quite right. And Morano sometimes crossed himself as he looked at
it, and said nothing.
Rodriguez, as they walked ceaselessly through the afternoon,
seeing his servant show some sign of weariness, which comes not to
youth, pointed out the house looking nearer than it really was on
the mountain, and told him that he should find there straw, and
they would sup and stay the night. Afterwards, when the strange
appearance of the house, varying with different angles, filled him
with curious forebodings, Rodriguez would make no admission to his
servant, but held to the plan he had announced, and so approached
the queer roofs, neglecting the friendly stars.
Through the afternoon the two travellers pushed on mostly in
silence, for the glances that house seemed to give him from the
edge of its perilous ridge, had driven the mirth from Rodriguez
and had even checked the garrulity on the lips of the tougher
Morano, if garrulity can be ascribed to him whose words seldom
welled up unless some simple philosophy troubled his deeps. The
house seemed indeed to glance at him, for as their road wound on,
the house showed different aspects, different walls and edges of
walls, and different curious roofs; all these walls seemed to peer
at him. One after another they peered, new ones glided
imperceptibly into sight as though to say, We see too.
The mountains were not before them but a little to the right of
their path, until new ones appeared ahead of them like giants
arising from sleep, and then their path seemed blocked as though
by a mighty wall against which its feeble wanderings went in vain.
In the end it turned a bit to its right and went straight for a
dark mountain, where a wild track seemed to come down out of the
rocks to meet it, and upon this track looked down that sinister
house. Had you been there, my reader, you would have said, any of
us had said, Why not choose some other house? There were no other
houses. He who dwelt on the edge of the ravine that ran into that
dark mountain was wholly without neighbours.
And evening came, and still they were far from the mountain.
The sun set on their left. But it was in the eastern sky that the
greater splendour was; for the low rays streaming across lit up
some stormy clouds that were brooding behind the mountain and
turned their gloomy forms to an astounding purple.
And after this their road began to rise toward the ridges. The
mountains darkened and the sinister house was about to emerge with
their shadows, when he who dwelt there lit candles.
The act astonished the wayfarers. All through half the day they
had seen the house, until it seemed part of the mountains; evil it
seemed like their ridges, that were black and bleak and
forbidding, and strange it seemed with a strangeness that moved no
fears they could name, yet it seemed inactive as night.
Now lights appeared showing that someone moved. Window after
window showed to the bare dark mountain its gleaming yellow glare;
there in the night the house forsook the dark rocks that seemed
kin to it, by glowing as they could never glow, by doing what the
beasts that haunted them could not do: this was the lair of man.
Here was the light of flame but the rocks remained dark and cold
as the wind of night that went over them, he who dwelt now with
the lights had forsaken the rocks, his neighbours.
And, when all were lit, one light high in a tower shone green.
These lights appearing out of the mountain thus seemed to speak to
Rodriguez and to tell him nothing. And Morano wondered, as he
seldom troubled to do.
They pushed on up the steepening path.
"Like you the looks of it?" said Rodriguez once.
"Aye, master," answered Morano, "so there be straw."
"You see nothing strange there, then?" Rodriguez said.
"Master," Morano said, "there be saints for all requirements."
Any fears he had felt about that house before, now as he neared it
were gone; it was time to put away fears and face the event; thus
worked Morano's philosophy. And he turned his thoughts to the
achievements upon earth of a certain Saint who met Satan, and
showed to the sovereign of Hell a discourtesy alien to the ways of
It was dark now, and the yellow lights got larger as they drew
nearer the windows, till they saw large shadows obscurely passing
from room to room. The ascent was steep now and the pathway
stopped. No track of any kind approached the house. It stood on a
precipice-edge as though one of the rocks of the mountain: they
climbed over rocks to reach it. The windows flickered and blinked
Nothing invited them there in the look of that house, but they
were now in such a forbidding waste that shelter had to be found;
they were all among edges of rock as black as the night and hard
as the material of which Cosmos was formed, at first upon Chaos'
brink. The sound of their climbing ran noisily up the mountain but
no sound came from the house: only the shadows moved more swiftly
across a room, passed into other rooms and came hurrying back.
Sometimes the shadows stayed and seemed to peer; and when the
travellers stood and watched to see what they were they would
disappear and there were no shadows at all, and the rooms were
filled instead with their wondering speculation. Then they pushed
on over rocks that seemed never trodden by man, so sharp were they
and slanting, all piled together: it seemed the last waste, to
which all shapeless rocks had been thrown.
Morano and these black rocks seemed shaped by a different scheme;
indeed the rocks had never been shaped at all, they were just raw
pieces of Chaos. Morano climbed over their edges with moans and
discomfort. Rodriguez heard him behind him and knew by his moans
when he came to the top of each sharp rock.
The rocks became savager, huger, even more sharp and more angular.
They were there in the dark in multitudes. Over these Rodriguez
staggered, and Morano clambered and tumbled; and so they came,
breathing hard, to the lonely house.
In the wall that their hands had reached there was no door, so
they felt along it till they came to the corner, and beyond the
corner was the front wall of the house. In it was the front door.
But so nearly did this door open upon the abyss that the bats that
fled from their coming, from where they hung above the door of
oak, had little more to do than fall from their crannies, slanting
ever so slightly, to find themselves safe from man in the velvet
darkness, that lay between cliffs so lonely they were almost
strangers to Echo. And here they floated upon errands far from our
knowledge; while the travellers coming along the rocky ledge
between destruction and shelter, knocked on the oaken door.
The sound of their knocking boomed huge and slow through the house
as though they had struck the door of the very mountain. And no
one came. And then Rodriguez saw dimly in the darkness the great
handle of a bell, carved like a dragon running down the wall: he
pulled it and a cry of pain arose from the basement of the house.
Even Morano wondered. It was like a terrible spirit in distress.
It was long before Rodriguez dare touch the handle again. Could it
have been the bell? He felt the iron handle and the iron chain
that went up from it. How could it have been the bell! The bell
had not sounded: he had not pulled hard enough: that scream was
fortuitous. The night on that rocky ledge had jangled his nerves.
He pulled again and more firmly. The answering scream was more
terrible. Rodriguez could doubt no longer, as he sprang back from
the bell-handle, that with the chain he had pulled he inflicted
some unknown agony.
The scream had awakened slow steps that now came towards the
travellers, down corridors, as it sounded, of stone. And then
chains fell on stone and the door of oak was opened by some one
older than what man hopes to come to, with small, peaked lips as
those of some woodland thing.
"Senores," the old one said, "the Professor welcomes you."
They stood and stared at his age, and Morano blurted uncouthly
what both of them felt. "You are old, grandfather," he said.
"Ah, Senores," the old man sighed, "the Professor does not allow
me to be young. I have been here years and years but he never
allowed it. I have served him well but it is still the same. I say
to him, 'Master, I have served you long ...' but he interrupts me
for he will have none of youth. Young servants go among the
villages, he says. And so, and so ..."
"You do not think your master can give you youth!" said Rodriguez.
The old man knew that he had talked too much, voicing that
grievance again of which even the rocks were weary. "Yes," he said
briefly, and bowed and led the way into the house. In one of the
corridors running out of the hall down which he was leading
silently, Rodriguez overtook that old man and questioned him to
"Who is this professor?" he said.
By the light of a torch that spluttered in an iron clamp on the
wall Rodriguez questioned him with these words, and Morano with
his wondering, wistful eyes. The old man halted and turned half
round, and lifted his head and answered. "In the University of
Saragossa," he said with pride, "he holds the Chair of Magic."
Even the names of Oxford or Cambridge, Harvard or Yale or
Princeton, move some respect, and even yet in these unlearned
days. What wonder then that the name of Saragossa heard on that
lonely mountain awoke in Rodriguez some emotion of reverence and
even awed Morano. As for the Chair of Magic, it was of all the
royal endowments of that illustrious University the most honoured
"At Saragossa!" Rodriguez muttered.
"At Saragossa," the old man affirmed.
Between that ancient citadel of learning and this most savage
mountain appeared a gulf scarce to be bridged by thought.
"The Professor rests in his mountain," the old man said, "because
of a conjunction of the stars unfavourable to study, and his class
have gone to their homes for many weeks." He bowed again and led
on along that corridor of dismal stone. The others followed, and
still as Rodriguez went that famous name Saragossa echoed within
And then they came to a door set deep in the stone, and their
guide opened it and they went in; and there was the Professor in a
mystical hat and a robe of dim purple, seated with his back to
them at a table, studying the ways of the stars. "Welcome, Don
Rodriguez," said the Professor before he turned round; and then he
rose, and with small steps backwards and sideways and many bows,
he displayed all those formulae of politeness that Saragossa knew
in the golden age and which her professors loved to execute. In
later years they became more elaborate still, and afterwards were
Rodriguez replied rather by instinct than knowledge; he came of a
house whose bows had never missed graceful ease and which had in
some generations been a joy to the Court of Spain. Morano followed
behind him; but his servile presence intruded upon that elaborate
ceremony, and the Professor held up his hand, and Morano was held
in mid stride as though the air had gripped him. There he stood
motionless, having never felt magic before. And when the Professor
had welcomed Rodriguez in a manner worthy of the dignity of the
Chair that he held at Saragossa, he made an easy gesture and
Morano was free again.
"Master," said Morano to the Professor, as soon as he found he
could move, "master, it looks like magic." Picture to yourself
some yokel shown into the library of a professor of Greek at
Oxford, taking down from a shelf one of the books of the Odyssey,
and saying to the Professor, "It looks like Greek"!
Rodriguez felt grieved by Morano's boorish ignorance. Neither he
nor his host answered him.
The Professor explained that he followed the mysteries dimly,
owing to a certain aspect of Orion, and that therefore his class
were gone to their homes and were hunting; and so he studied alone
under unfavourable auspices. And once more he welcomed Rodriguez
to his roof, and would command straw to be laid down for the man
that Rodriguez had brought from the Inn of the Dragon and Knight;
for he, the Professor, saw all things, though certain stars would
And when Rodriguez had appropriately uttered his thanks, he added
with all humility and delicate choice of phrase a petition that he
might be shown some mere rudiment of the studies for which that
illustrious chair in Saragossa was famous. The Professor bowed
again and, in accepting the well-rounded compliments that
Rodriguez paid to the honoured post he occupied, he introduced
himself by name. He had been once, he said, the Count of the
Mountain, but when his astral studies had made him eminent and he
had mastered the ways of the planet nearest the sun he took the
title Magister Mercurii, and by this had long been known; but had
now forsaken this title, great as it was, for a more glorious
nomenclature, and was called in the Arabic language the Slave of
Orion. When Rodriguez heard this he bowed very low.
And now the Professor asked Rodriguez in which of the activities
of life his interest lay; for the Chair of Magic at Saragossa, he
said, was concerned with them all.
"In war," said Rodriguez.
And Morano unostentatiously rubbed his hands; for here was one, he
thought, who would soon put his master on the right way, and
matters would come to a head and they would find the wars. But far
from concerning himself with the wars of that age, the Slave of
Orion explained that as events came nearer they became grosser or
more material, and that their grossness did not leave them until
they were some while passed away; so that to one whose studies
were with aetherial things, near events were opaque and dim. He
had a window, he explained, through which Rodriguez should see
clearly the ancient wars, while another window beside it looked on
all wars of the future except those which were planned already or
were coming soon to earth, and which were either invisible or seen
dim as through mist.
Rodriguez said that to be privileged to see so classical an
example of magic would be to him both a delight and honour. Yet,
as is the way of youth, he more desired to have a sight of the
wars than he cared for all the learning of the Professor.
And to him who held the Chair of Magic at Saragossa it was a
precious thing that his windows could be made to show these
marvels, while the guest to whom he was about to display these two
gems of his learning was thinking of little but what he should see
through the windows, and not at all of what spells, what midnight
oil, what incantations, what witchcrafts, what lonely hours among
bats, had gone to the gratification of his young curiosity. It is
The Professor rose: his cloak floated out from him as he left the
chamber, and Rodriguez following where he guided saw, by the
torchlight in the corridors, upon the dim purple border signs
that, to his untutored ignorance of magic, were no more than hints
of the affairs of the Zodiac. And if these signs were obscure it
were better they were obscurer, for they dealt with powers that
man needs not to possess, who has the whole earth to regulate and
control; why then should he seek to govern the course of any star?
And Morano followed behind them, hoping to be allowed to get a
sight of the wars.
They came to a room where two round windows were; each of them
larger than the very largest plate, and of very thick glass
indeed, and of a wonderful blue. The blue was like the blue of the
Mediterranean at evening, when lights are in it both of ships and
of sunset, and lights of harbours being lit one by one, and the
light of Venus perhaps and about two other stars, so deeply did it
stare and so twinkled, near its edges, with lights that were
strange to that room, and so triumphed with its clear beauty over
the night outside. No, it was more magical than the Mediterranean
at evening, even though the peaks of the Esterels be purple and
their bases melting in gold and the blue sea lying below them
smiling at early stars: these windows were more mysterious than
that; it was a more triumphant blue; it was like the Mediterranean
seen with the eyes of Shelley, on a happy day in his youth, or
like the sea round Western islands of fable seen by the fancy of
Keats. They were no windows for any need of ours, unless our
dreams be needs, unless our cries for the moon be urged by the
same Necessity as makes us cry for bread. They were clearly
concerned only with magic or poetry; though the Professor claimed
that poetry was but a branch of his subject; and it was so
regarded at Saragossa, where it was taught by the name of
theoretical magic, while by the name of practical magic they
taught dooms, brews, hauntings, and spells.
The Professor stood before the left-hand window and pointed to its
deep-blue centre. "Through this," he said, "we see the wars that
Rodriguez looked into the deep-blue centre where the great bulge
of the glass came out towards him; it was near to the edges where
the glass seemed thinner that the little strange lights were
dancing; Morano dared to tiptoe a little nearer. Rodriguez looked
and saw no night outside. Just below and near to the window was
white mist, and the dim lines and smoke of what may have been
recent wars; but farther away on a plain of strangely vast
dimensions he saw old wars that were. War after war he saw.
Battles that long ago had passed into history and had been for
many ages skilled, glorious and pleasant encounters he saw even
now tumbling before him in their savage confusion and dirt. He saw
a leader, long glorious in histories he had read, looking round
puzzled, to see what was happening, and in a very famous fight
that he had planned very well. He saw retreats that History called
routs, and routs that he had seen History calling retreats. He saw
men winning victories without knowing they had won. Never had man
pried before so shamelessly upon History, or found her such a
liar. With his eyes on the great blue glass Rodriguez forgot the
room, forgot time, forgot his host and poor excited Morano, as he
watched those famous fights.
And now my reader wishes to know what he saw and how it was that
he was able to see it.
As regards the second, my reader will readily understand that the
secrets of magic are very carefully guarded, and any smatterings
of it that I may ever have come by I possess, for what they are
worth, subjects to oaths and penalties at which even bad men
shudder. My reader will be satisfied that even those intimate
bonds between reader and writer are of no use to him here. I say
him as though I had only male readers, but if my reader be a lady
I leave the situation confidently to her intuition. As for the
things he saw, of all of these I am at full liberty to write, and
yet, my reader, they would differ from History's version: never a
battle that Rodriguez saw on all the plain that swept away from
that circular window, but History wrote differently. And now, my
reader, the situation is this: who am I? History was a goddess
among the Greeks, or is at least a distinguished personage,
perhaps with a well-earned knighthood, and certainly with
widespread recognition amongst the Right Kind of People. I have
none of these things. Whom, then, would you believe?
Yet I would lay my story confidently before you, my reader,
trusting in the justice of my case and in your judicial
discernment, but for one other thing. What will the Goddess Clio
say, or the well-deserving knight, if I offend History? She has
stated her case, Sir Bartimeus has written it, and then so late in
the day I come with a different story, a truer but different
story. What will they do? Reader, the future is dark, uncertain
and long; I dare not trust myself to it if I offend History. Clio
and Sir Bartimeus will make hay of my reputation; an innuendo
here, a foolish fact there, they know how to do it, and not a soul
will suspect the goddess of personal malice or the great historian
of pique. Rodriguez gazed then through the deep blue window,
forgetful of all around, on battles that had not all the elegance
or neatness of which our histories so tidily tell. And as he gazed
upon a merry encounter between two men on the fringe of an ancient
fight he felt a touch on his shoulder and then almost a tug, and
turning round beheld the room he was in. How long he had been
absent from it in thought he did not know, but the Professor was
still standing with folded arms where he had left him, probably
well satisfied with the wonder that his most secret art had
awakened in his guest. It was Morano who touched his shoulder,
unable to hold back any longer his impatience to see the wars; his
eyes as Rodriguez turned round were gazing at his master with dog-
The absurd eagerness of Morano, his uncouth touch on his shoulder,
seemed only pathetic to Rodriguez. He looked at the Professor's
face, the nose like a hawk's beak, the small eyes deep down beside
it, dark of hue and dreadfully bright, the silent lips. He stood
there uttering no actual prohibition, concerning which Rodriguez's
eyes had sought; so, stepping aside from his window, Rodriguez
beckoned Morano, who at once ran forward delighted to see those
A slight look of scorn showed faint upon the Professor's face such
as you may see anywhere when a master-craftsman perceives the gaze
of the ignorant turned towards his particular subject. But he said
no word, and soon speech would have been difficult, for the loud
clamour of Morano filled the room: he had seen the wars and his
ecstasies were ungoverned. As soon as he saw those fights he
looked for the Infidels, for his religious mind most loved to see
the Infidel slain. And if my reader discern or suppose some gulf
between religion and the recent business of the Inn of the Dragon