Part 2 out of 5
and Knight, Morano, if driven to admit any connection between
murder and his daily bread, would have said, "All the more need
then for God's mercy through the intercession of His most blessed
Saints." But these words had never passed Morano's lips, for
shrewd as he was in enquiry into any matter that he desired to
know, his shrewdness was no less in avoiding enquiry where there
might be something that he desired not to know, such as the origin
of his wages as servant of the Inn of the Dragon and Knight, those
delicate gold rings with settings empty of jewels.
Morano soon recognized the Infidel by his dress, and after that no
other wars concerned him. He slapped his thigh, he shouted
encouragement, he howled vile words of abuse, partly because he
believed that this foul abuse was rightly the due of the Infidel,
and partly because he believed it delighted God.
Rodriguez stood and watched, pleased at the huge joy of the simple
man. The Slave of Orion stood watching in silence too, but who
knows if he felt pleasure or any other emotion? Perhaps his mind
was simply like ours; perhaps, as has been claimed by learned men
of the best-informed period, that mind had some control upon the
comet, even when farthest out from the paths we know. Morano
turned round for a moment to Rodriguez:
"Good wars, master, good wars," he said with a vast zest, and at
once his head was back again at that calm blue window. In that
flash of the head Rodriguez had seen his eyes, blue, round and
bulging; the round man was like a boy who in some shop window has
seen, unexpected, huge forbidden sweets. Clearly, in the war he
watched things were going well for the Cross, for such cries came
from Morano as "A pretty stroke," "There now, the dirty Infidel,"
"Now see God's power shown," "Spare him not, good knight; spare
him not," and many more, till, uttered faster and faster, they
merged into mere clamorous rejoicing.
But the battles beyond the blue window seemed to move fast, and
now a change was passing across Morano's rejoicings. It was not
that he swore more for the cause of the Cross, but brief,
impatient, meaningless oaths slipped from him now; he was becoming
irritable; a puzzled look, so far as Rodriguez could see, was
settling down on his features. For a while he was silent except
for the little, meaningless oaths. Then he turned round from the
glass, his hands stretched out, his face full of urgent appeal.
"Masters," he said, "God's enemy wins!"
In answer to Morano's pitiful look Rodriguez' hand went to his
sword-hilt; the Slave of Orion merely smiled with his lips; Morano
stood there with his hands still stretched out, his face still all
appeal, and something more for there was reproach in his eyes that
men could tarry while the Cross was in danger and the Infidel
lived. He did not know that it was all finished and over hundreds
of years ago, a page of history upon which many pages were turned,
and which lay as unalterable as the fate of some warm swift
creature of early Eocene days over whose fossil today the strata
lie long and silent.
"But can nothing be done, master?" he said when Rodriguez told him
this. And when Rodriguez failed him here, he turned away from the
window. To him the Infidel were game, but to see them defeating
Christian knights violated the deeps of his feelings.
Morano sulky excited little more notice from his host and his
master who had watched his rejoicings, and they seem to have
forgotten this humble champion of Christendom. The Professor
slightly bowed to Rodriguez and extended a graceful hand. He
pointed to the other window.
Reader, your friend shows you his collection of stamps, his
fossils, his poems, or his luggage labels. One of them interests
you, you look at it awhile, you are ready to go away: then your
friend shows you another. This also must be seen; for your
friend's collection is a precious thing; it is that point upon
huge Earth on which his spirit has lit, on which it rests, on
which it shelters even (who knows from what storms?). To slight it
were to weaken such hold as his spirit has, in its allotted time,
upon this sphere. It were like breaking the twig of a plant upon
which a butterfly rests, and on some stormy day and late in the
Rodriguez felt all this dimly, but no less surely; and went to the
Below the window were those wars that were soon coming to Spain,
hooded in mist and invisible. In the centre of the window swam as
profound a blue, dwindling to paler splendour at the edge, the
wandering lights were as lovely, as in the other window just to
the left; but in the view from the right-hand window how sombre a
difference. A bare yard separated the two. Through the window to
the left was colour, courtesy, splendour; there was Death as least
disguising himself, well cloaked, taking mincing steps, bowing,
wearing a plume in his hat and a decent mask. In the right-hand
window all the colours were fading, war after war they grew
dimmer; and as the colours paled Death's sole purpose showed
clearer. Through the beautiful left-hand window were killings to
be seen, and less mercy than History supposes, yet some of the
fighters were merciful, and mercy was sometimes a part of Death's
courtly pose, which went with the cloak and the plume. But in the
other window through that deep, beautiful blue Rodriguez saw Man
make a new ally, an ally who was only cruel and strong and had no
purpose but killing, who had no pretences or pose, no mask and no
manner, but was only the slave of Death and had no care but for
his business. He saw it grow bigger and stronger. Heart it had
none, but he saw its cold steel core scheming methodical plans and
dreaming always destruction. Before it faded men and their fields
and their houses. Rodriguez saw the machine.
Many a proud invention of ours that Rodriguez saw raging on that
ruinous plain he might have anticipated, but not for all Spain
would he have done so: it was for the sake of Spain that he was
silent about much that he saw through that window. As he looked
from war to war he saw almost the same men fighting, men with
always the same attitude to the moment and with similar dim
conception of larger, vaguer things; grandson differed
imperceptibly from grandfather; he saw them fight sometimes
mercifully, sometimes murderously, but in all the wars beyond that
twinkling window he saw the machine spare nothing.
Then he looked farther, for the wars that were farthest from him
in time were farther away from the window. He looked farther and
saw the ruins of Peronne. He saw them all alone with their doom at
night, all drenched in white moonlight, sheltering huge darkness
in their stricken hollows. Down the white street, past darkness
after darkness as he went by the gaping rooms that the moon left
mourning alone, Rodriguez saw a captain going back to the wars in
that far-future time, who turned his head a moment as he passed,
looking Rodriguez in the face, and so went on through the ruins to
find a floor on which to lie down for the night. When he was gone
the street was all alone with disaster, and moonlight pouring
down, and the black gloom in the houses.
Rodriguez lifted his eyes and glanced from city to city, to
Albert, Bapaume, and Arras, his gaze moved over a plain with its
harvest of desolation lying forlorn and ungathered, lit by the
flashing clouds and the moon and peering rockets. He turned from
the window and wept.
The deep round window glowed with serene blue glory. It seemed a
foolish thing to weep by that beautiful glass. Morano tried to
comfort him. That calm, deep blue, he felt, and those little
lights, surely, could hurt no one.
What had Rodriguez seen? Morano asked. But that Rodriguez would
not answer, and told no man ever after what he had seen through
The Professor stood silent still: he had no comfort to offer;
indeed his magical wisdom had found none for the world.
You wonder perhaps why the Professor did not give long ago to the
world some of these marvels that are the pride of our age. Reader,
let us put aside my tale for a moment to answer this. For all the
darkness of his sinister art there may well have been some good in
the Slave of Orion; and any good there was, and mere particle
even, would surely have spared the world many of those inventions
that our age has not spared it. Blame not the age, it is now too
late to stop; it is in the grip of inventions now, and has to go
on; we cannot stop content with mustard-gas; it is the age of
Progress, and our motto is Onwards. And if there was no good in
this magical man, then may it not have been he who in due course,
long after he himself was safe from life, caused our inventions to
be so deadly divulged? Some evil spirit has done it, then why not
He stood there silent: let us return to our story.
Perhaps the efforts of poor clumsy Morano to comfort him cheered
Rodriguez and sent him back to the window, perhaps he turned from
them to find comfort of his own; but, however he came by it, he
had a hope that this was a passing curse that had come on the
world, whose welfare he cared for whether he lived or died, and
that looking a little farther into the future he would see Mother
Earth smiling and her children happy again. So he looked through
the deep-blue luminous window once more, beyond the battles we
know. From this he turned back shuddering.
Again he saw the Professor smile with his lips, though whether at
his own weakness, or whether with cynical mirth at the fate of the
world, Rodriguez could not say.
THE FOURTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE SUN
The Professor said that in curiosity alone had been found the
seeds of all that is needful for our damnation. Nevertheless, he
said, if Rodriguez cared to see more of his mighty art the
mysteries of Saragossa were all at his guest's disposal.
Rodriguez, sad and horrified though he was, forgot none of his
courtesy. He thanked the Professor and praised the art of
Saragossa, but his faith in man and his hope for the world having
been newly disappointed, he cared little enough for the things we
should care to see or for any of the amusements that are usually
dear to youth.
"I shall be happy to see anything, senor," he said to the Slave of
Orion, "that is further from our poor Earth, and to study therein
and admire your famous art."
The Professor bowed. He drew small curtains over the windows,
matching his cloak. Morano sought a glimpse through the right-hand
window before the curtains covered it. Rodriguez held him back.
Enough had been seen already, he thought, through that window for
the peace of mind of the world: but he said no word to Morano. He
held him by the arm, and the Professor covered the windows. When
the little mauve curtains were drawn it seemed to Rodriguez that
the windows behind them disappeared and were there no more; but
this he only guessed from uncertain indications.
Then the Professor drew forth his wand and went to his cupboard of
wonder. Thence he brought condiments, oils, and dews of amazement.
These he poured into a vessel that was in the midst of the room, a
bowl of agate standing alone on a table. He lit it and it all
welled up in flame, a low broad flame of the colour of pale
emerald. Over this he waved his wand, which was of exceeding
blackness. Morano watched as children watch the dancer, who goes
from village to village when spring is come, with some new dance
out of Asia or some new song.[Footnote: He doesn't, but why
shouldn't he?] Rodriguez sat and waited. The Professor explained
that to leave this Earth alive, or even dead, was prohibited to
our bodies, unless to a very few, whose names were hidden. Yet the
spirits of men could by incantation be liberated, and being
liberated, could be directed on journeys by such minds as had that
power passed down to them from of old. Such journeys, he said,
were by no means confined by the hills of Earth. "The Saints,"
exclaimed Morano, "guard us utterly!" But Rodriguez smiled a
little. His faith was given to the Saints of Heaven. He wondered
at their wonders, he admired their miracles, he had little faith
to spare for other marvels; in fact he did not believe the Slave
"Do you desire such a journey?" said the Professor.
"It will delight me," answered Rodriguez, "to see this example of
"And you?" he said to Morano.
The question seemed to alarm the placid Morano, but "I follow my
master," he said.
At once the Professor stretched out his ebony wand, calling the
green flame higher. Then he put out his hands over the flame,
without the wand, moving them slowly with constantly tremulous
fingers. And all at once they heard him begin to speak. His deep
voice flowed musically while he scarcely seemed to be speaking but
seemed only to be concerned with moving his hands. It came soft,
as though blown faint from fabulous valleys, illimitably far from
the land of Spain. It seemed full not so much of magic as mere
sleep, either sleep in an unknown country of alien men, or sleep
in a land dreamed sleeping a long while since. As the travellers
heard it they thought of things far away, of mythical journeys and
their own earliest years.
They did not know what he said or what language he used. At first
Rodriguez thought Moorish, then he deemed it some secret language
come down from magicians of old, while Morano merely wondered; and
then they were lulled by the rhythm of those strange words, and so
enquired no more. Rodriguez pictured some sad wandering angel,
upon some mountain-peak of African lands, resting a moment and
talking to the solitudes, telling the lonely valley the mysteries
of his home. While lulled though Morano was he gave up his
alertness uneasily. All the while the green flame flooded upwards:
all the while the tremulous fingers made curious shadows. The
shadow seemed to run to Rodriguez and beckon him thence: even
Morano felt them calling. Rodriguez closed his eyes. The voice and
the Moorish spells made now a more haunting melody: they were now
like a golden organ on undiscoverable mountains. Fear came on
Morano at the thought: who had power to speak like this? He
grasped Rodriguez by the wrist. "Master!" he said, but at that
moment on one of those golden spells the spirit of Rodriguez
drifted away from his body, and out of the greenish light of the
curious room; unhampered by weight, or fatigue, or pain, or sleep;
and it rose above the rocks and over the mountain, an unencumbered
spirit: and the spirit of Morano followed.
The mountain dwindled at once; the Earth swept out all round them
and grew larger, and larger still, and then began to dwindle. They
saw then that they were launched upon some astounding journey.
Does my reader wonder they saw when they had no eyes? They saw as
they had never seen before, with sight beyond what they had ever
thought to be possible. Our eyes gather in light, and with the
little rays of light that they bring us we gather a few images of
things as we suppose them to be. Pardon me, reader, if I call them
things as we suppose them to be; call them by all means Things As
They Really Are, if you wish. These images then, this tiny little
brainful that we gather from the immensities, are all brought in
by our eyesight upside-down, and the brain corrects them again;
and so, and so we know something. An oculist will tell you how it
all works. He may admit it is all a little clumsy, or for the
dignity of his profession he may say it is not at all. But be this
as it may, our eyes are but barriers between us and the
immensities. All our five senses that grope a little here and
touch a little there, and seize, and compare notes, and get a
little knowledge sometimes, they are only barriers between us and
what there is to know. Rodriguez and Morano were outside these
barriers. They saw without the imperfections of eyesight; they
heard on that journey what would have deafened ears; they went
through our atmosphere unburned by speed, and were unchilled in
the bleak of the outer spaces. Thus freed of the imperfections of
the body they sped, no less upon a terrible journey, whose
direction as yet Rodriguez only began to fear.
They had seen the stars pale rapidly and then the flash of dawn.
The Sun rushed up and at once began to grow larger. Earth, with
her curved sides still diminishing violently, was soon a small
round garden in blue and filmy space, in which mountains were
planted. And still the Sun was growing wider and wider. And now
Rodriguez, though he knew nothing of Sun or planets, perceived the
obvious truth of their terrible journey: they were heading
straight for the Sun. But the spirit of Morano was merely
astounded; yet, being free of the body he suffered none of those
inconveniences that perturbation may bring to us: spirits do not
gasp, or palpitate, or weaken, or sicken.
The dwindling Earth seemed now no more than the size of some
unmapped island seen from a mountain-top, an island a hundred
yards or so across, looking like a big table.
Speed is comparative: compared to sound, their pace was beyond
comparison; nor could any modern projectile attain any velocity
comparable to it; even the speed of explosion was slow to it. And
yet for spirits they were moving slowly, who being independent of
all material things, travel with such velocities as that, for
instance, of thought. But they were controlled by one still
dwelling on Earth, who used material things, and the material that
the Professor was using to hurl them upon their journey was light,
the adaptation of which to this purpose he had learned at
Saragossa. At the pace of light they were travelling towards the
They crossed the path of Venus, far from where Venus then was, so
that she scarcely seemed larger to them; Earth was but little
bigger than the Evening Star, looking dim in that monstrous
Crossing the path of Mercury, Mercury appeared huger than our
Moon, an object weirdly unnatural; and they saw ahead of them the
terrific glare in which Mercury basks, from a Sun whose withering
orb had more than doubled its width since they came from the hills
of Earth. And after this the Sun grew terribly larger, filling the
centre of the sky, and spreading and spreading and spreading. It
was now that they saw what would have dazzled eyes, would have
burned up flesh and would have shrivelled every protection that
our scientists' ingenuity could have devised even today. To speak
of time there is meaningless. There is nothing in the empty space
between the Sun and Mercury with which time is at all concerned.
Far less is there meaning in time wherever the spirits of men are
under stress. A few minutes' bombardment in a trench, a few hours
in a battle, a few weeks' travelling in a trackless country; these
minutes, these hours, these weeks can never be few.
Rodriguez and Morano had been travelling about six or seven
minutes, but it seems idle to say so.
And then the Sun began to fill the whole sky in front of them. And
in another minute, if minutes had any meaning, they were heading
for a boundless region of flame that, left and right, was
everywhere, and now towered above them, and went below them into a
And now Morano spoke to Rodriguez. He thought towards him, and
Rodriguez was aware of his thinking: it is thus that spirits
"Master," he said, "when it was all spring in Spain, years ago
when I was thin and young, twenty years gone at least; and the
butterflies were come, and song was everywhere; there came a maid
bare-footed over a stream, walking through flowers, and all to
pluck the anemones." How fair she seemed even now, how bright that
far spring day. Morano told Rodriguez not with his blundering
lips: they were closed and resting deeply millions of miles away:
he told him as spirits tell. And in that clear communication
Rodriguez saw all that shone in Morano's memory, the grace of the
young girl's ankles, the thrill of Spring, the anemones larger and
brighter than anemones ever were, the hawks still in clear sky;
earth happy and heaven blue, and the dreams of youth between. You
would not have said, had you seen Morano's coarse fat body, asleep
in a chair in the Professor's room, that his spirit treasured such
delicate, nymph-like, pastoral memories as now shone clear to
Rodriguez. No words the blunt man had ever been able to utter had
ever hinted that he sometimes thought like a dream of pictures by
Watteau. And now in that awful space before the power of the
terrible Sun, spirit communed with spirit, and Rodriguez saw the
beauty of that far day, framed all about the beauty of one young
girl, just as it had been for years in Morano's memory. How shall
I tell with words what spirit sang wordless to spirit? We poets
may compete with each other in words; but when spirits give up the
purest gold of their store, that has shone far down the road of
their earthly journey, cheering tired hearts and guiding mortal
feet, our words shall barely interpret.
Love, coming long ago over flowers in Spain, found Morano; words
did not tell the story, words cannot tell it; as a lake reflects a
cloud in the blue of heaven, so Rodriguez understood and felt and
knew this memory out of the days of Morano's youth. "And so,
master," said Morano, "I sinned, and would indeed repent, and yet
even now at this last dread hour I cannot abjure that day; and
this is indeed Hell, as the good father said."
Rodriguez tried to comfort Morano with such knowledge as he had of
astronomy, if knowledge it could be called. Indeed, if he had
known anything he would have perplexed Morano more, and his little
pieces of ignorance were well adapted for comfort. But Morano had
given up hope, having long been taught to expect this very fire:
his spirit was no wiser than it had been on Earth, it was merely
freed of the imperfections of the five senses and so had
observation and expression beyond those of any artist the world
has known. This was the natural result of being freed of the body;
but he was not suddenly wiser; and so, as he moved towards this
boundless flame, he expected every moment to see Satan charge out
to meet him: and having no hope for the future he turned to the
past and fondled the memory of that one spring day. His was a
backsliding, unrepentant spirit.
As that monstrous sea of flame grew ruthlessly larger Rodriguez
felt no fear, for spirits have no fear of material things: but
Morano feared. He feared as spirits fear spiritual things; he
thought he neared the home of vast spirits of evil and that the
arena of conflict was eternity. He feared with a fear too great to
be borne by bodies. Perhaps the fat body that slept on a chair on
earth was troubled in dreams by some echo of that fear that
gripped the spirit so sorely. And it may be from such far fears
that all our nightmares come.
When they had travelled nearly ten minutes from Earth and were
about to pass into the midst of the flame, that magician who
controlled their journey halted them suddenly in Space, among the
upper mountain-peaks of the Sun. There they hovered as the clouds
hover that leave their companions and drift among crags of the
Alps: below them those awful mountains heaved and thundered. All
Atlas, and Teneriffe, and lonely Kenia might have lain amongst
them unnoticed. As often as the earthquake rocked their bases it
loosened from near their summits wild avalanches of gold that
swept down their flaming slopes with unthinkable tumult. As they
watched, new mountains rode past them, crowned with their
frightful flames; for, whether man knew it or not, the Sun was
rotating, but the force of its gravity that swung the planets had
no grip upon spirits, who were held by the power of that
tremendous spell that the Professor had learned one midnight at
Saragossa from one of that dread line who have their secrets from
a source that we do not know in a distant age.
There is always something tremendous in the form of great
mountains; but these swept by, not only huger than anything Earth
knows, but troubled by horrible commotions, as though overtaken in
flight by some ceaseless calamity.
Rodriguez and Morano, as they looked at them, forgetting the
gardens of Earth, forgetting Spring and Summer and the sweet
beneficence of sunshine, felt that the purpose of Creation was
evil! So shocking a thought may well astound us here, where green
hills slope to lawns or peer at a peaceful sea; but there among
the flames of those dreadful peaks the Sun seemed not the giver of
joy and colour and life, but only a catastrophe huger than
everlasting war, a centre of hideous violence and ruin and anger
and terror. There came by mountains of copper burning everlasting,
hurling up to unthinkable heights their mass of emerald flame. And
mountains of iron raged by and mountains of salt, quaking and
thundering and clothed with their colours, the iron always scarlet
and the salt blue. And sometimes there came by pinnacles a
thousand miles high that from base to summit were fire, mountains
of pure flame that had no other substance. And these explosive
mountains, born of thunder and earthquake, hurling down avalanches
the size of our continents, and drawing upward out of the deeps of
the Sun new material for splendour and horror, this roaring waste,
this extravagant destruction, were necessary for every tint that
our butterflies wear on their wings. Without those flaming ranges
of mountains of iron they would have no red to show; even the
poppy could have no red for her petals: without the flames that
were blasting the mountains of salt there could be no answering
blue in any wing, or one blue flower for all the bees of Earth:
without the nightmare light of those frightful canyons of copper
that awed the two spirits watching their ceaseless ruin, the very
leaves of the woods we love would be without their green with
which to welcome Spring; for from the flames of the various metals
and wonders that for ever blaze in the Sun, our sunshine gets all
its colours that it conveys to us almost unseen, and thence the
wise little insects and patient flowers softly draw the gay tints
that they glory in; there is nowhere else to get them.
And yet to Rodriguez and Morano all that they saw seemed wholly
and hideously evil.
How long they may have watched there they tried to guess
afterwards, but as they looked on those terrific scenes they had
no way to separate days from minutes: nothing about them seemed to
escape destruction, and time itself seemed no calmer than were
those shuddering mountains.
Then the thundering ranges passed; and afterwards there came a
gleaming mountain, one huge and lonely peak, seemingly all of
gold. Had our whole world been set beside it and shaped as it was
shaped, that golden mountain would yet have towered above it: it
would have taken our moon as well to reach that flashing peak. It
rode on toward them in its golden majesty, higher than all the
flames, save now and then when some wild gas seemed to flee from
the dread earthquakes of the Sun, and was overtaken in the height
by fire, even above that mountain.
As that mass of gold that was higher than all the world drew near
to Rodriguez and Morano they felt its unearthly menace; and though
it could not overcome their spirits they knew there was a hideous
terror about it. It was in its awful scale that its terror lurked
for any creature of our planet. Though they could not quake or
tremble they felt that terror. The mountain dwarfed Earth.
Man knows his littleness, his own mountains remind him; many
countries are small, and some nations: but the dreams of Man make
up for our faults and failings, for the brevity of our lives, for
the narrowness of our scope; they leap over boundaries and are
away and away. But this great mountain belittled the world and
all: who gazed on it knew all his dreams to be puny. Before this
mountain Man seemed a trivial thing, and Earth, and all the dreams
Man had of himself and his home.
The golden mass drew opposite those two watchers and seemed to
challenge with its towering head the pettiness of the tiny world
they knew. And then the whole gleaming mountain gave one shudder
and fell into the awful plains of the Sun. Straight down before
Rodriguez and Morano it slipped roaring, till the golden peak was
gone, and the molten plain closed over it; and only ripples
remained, the size of Europe, as when a tumbling river strikes the
rocks of its bed and on its surface heaving circles widen and
disappear. And then, as though this horror left nothing more to be
shown, they felt the Professor beckon to them from Earth.
Over the plains of the Sun a storm was sweeping in gusts of
howling flame as they felt the Professor's spell drawing them
home. For the magnitude of that storm there are no words in use
among us; its velocity, if expressed in figures, would have no
meaning; its heat was immeasurable. Suffice it to say that if such
a tempest could have swept over Earth for a second, both the poles
would have boiled. The travellers left it galloping over that
plain, rippled from underneath by the restless earthquake and
whipped into flaming foam by the force of the storm. The Sun
already was receding from them, already growing smaller. Soon the
storm seemed but a cloud of light sweeping over the empty plain,
like a murderous mourner rushing swiftly away from the grave of
that mighty mountain.
And now the Professor's spell gripped them in earnest: rapidly the
Sun grew smaller. As swiftly as he had sent them upon that journey
he was now drawing them home. They overtook thunders that they had
heard already, and passed them, and came again to the silent
spaces which the thunders of the Sun are unable to cross, so that
even Mercury is undisturbed by them.
I have said that spirits neither fade nor weary. But a great
sadness was on them; they felt as men feel who come whole away
from periods of peril. They had seen cataclysms too vast for our
imagination, and a mournfulness and a satiety were upon them. They
could have gazed at one flower for days and needed no other
experience, as a wounded man may be happy staring at the flame of
Crossing the paths of Mercury and Venus, they saw that these
planets had not appreciably moved, and Rodriguez, who knew that
planets wander in the night, guessed thereby that they had not
been absent from Earth for many hours.
They rejoiced to see the Sun diminishing steadily. Only for a
moment as they started their journey had they seen that solar
storm rushing over the plains of the Sun; but now it appeared to
hang halted in its mid anger, as though blasting one region
Moving on with the pace of light, they saw Earth, soon after
crossing the path of Venus, beginning to grow larger than a star.
Never had home appeared more welcome to wanderers, who see their
house far off, returning home.
And as Earth grew larger, and they began to see forms that seemed
like seas and mountains, they looked for their own country, but
could not find it: for, travelling straight from the Sun, they
approached that part of the world that was then turned towards it,
and were heading straight for China, while Spain lay still in
But when they came near Earth and its mountains were clear, then
the Professor drew them across the world, into the darkness and
over Spain; so that those two spirits ended their marvellous
journey much as the snipe ends his, a drop out of heaven and a
swoop low over marshes. So they came home, while Earth seemed
calling to them with all her voices; with memories, sights and
scents, and little sounds; calling anxiously, as though they had
been too long away and must be home soon. They heard a cock crow
on the edge of the night; they heard more little sounds than words
can say; only the organ can hint at them. It was Earth calling.
For, talk as we may of our dreams that transcend this sphere, or
our hopes that build beyond it, Mother Earth has yet a mighty hold
upon us; and her myriad sounds were blending in one cry now,
knowing that it was late and that these two children of hers were
nearly lost. For our spirits that sometimes cross the path of the
angels, and on rare evenings hear a word of their talk, and have
brief equality with the Powers of Light, have the duty also of
moving fingers and toes, which freeze if our proud spirits forget
their task for too long.
And just as Earth was despairing they reached the Professor's
mountain and entered the room in which their bodies were.
Blue and cold and ugly looked the body of Morano, but for all its
pallor there was beauty in the young face of Rodriguez.
The Professor stood before them as he had stood when their spirits
left, with the table between him and the bodies, and the bowl on
the table which held the green flame, now low and flickering
desperately, which the Professor watched as it leaped and failed,
with an air of anxiety that seemed to pinch his thin features.
With an impatience strange to him he waved a swift hand towards
each of the two bodies where they sat stiff, illumined by the last
of the green light; and at those rapid gestures the travellers
returned to their habitations.
They seemed to be just awakening out of deep sleep. Again they saw
the Professor standing before them. But they saw him only with
blinking eyes, they saw him only as eyes can see, guessing at his
mind from the lines of his face, at his thoughts from the
movements of his hands, guessing as men guess, blindly: only a
moment before they had known him utterly. Now they were dazed and
forgetting: slow blood began to creep again to their toes and to
come again to its place under fingernails: it came with intense
pain: they forgot their spirits. Then all the woes of Earth
crowded their minds at once, so that they wished to weep, as
The Professor gave this mood time to change, as change it
presently did. For the warm blood came back and lit their cheeks,
and a tingling succeeded the pain in their fingers and toes, and a
mild warmth succeeded the tingling: their thoughts came back to
the things of every day, to mundane things and the affairs of the
body. Therein they rejoiced, and Morano no less than Rodriguez;
though it was a coarse and common body that Morano's spirit
inhabited. And when the Professor saw that the first sorrow of
Earth, which all spirits feel when they land here, had passed
away, and that they were feeling again the joy of mundane things,
only then did he speak.
"Senor," he said, "beyond the path of Mars run many worlds that I
would have you know. The greatest of these is Jupiter, towards
whom all that follow my most sacred art show reverent affection.
The smallest are those that sometimes strike our world, flaming
all green upon November nights, and are even as small as apples."
He spoke of our world with a certain air and a pride, as though,
through virtue of his transcendent art, the world were only his.
"The world that we name Argola," he said, "is far smaller than
Spain and, being invisible from Earth, is only known to the few
who have spoken to spirits whose wanderings have surpassed the
path of Mars. Nearly half of Argola you shall find covered with
forests, which though very dense are no deeper than moss, and the
elephants in them are not larger than beetles. You shall see many
wonders of smallness in this world of Argola, which I desire in
especial to show you, since it is the orb with which we who study
the Art are most familiar, of all the worlds that the vulgar have
not known. It is indeed the prize of our traffic in those things
that far transcend the laws that have forbidden them."
And as he said this the green flame in the bowl before him died,
and he moved towards his cupboard of wonder. Rodriguez hastily
thanked the Professor for his great courtesy in laying bare before
him secrets that the centuries hid, and then he referred to his
own great unworthiness, to the lateness of the hour, to the
fatigue of the Professor, and to the importance to Learning of
adequate rest to refresh his illustrious mind. And all that he
said the Professor parried with bows, and drew enchantments from
his cupboard of wonder to replenish the bowl on the table. And
Rodriguez saw that he was in the clutch of a collector, one who
having devoted all his days to a hobby will exhibit his treasures
to the uttermost, and that the stars that magic knows were no less
to the Professor than all the whatnots that a man collects and
insists on showing to whomsoever enters his house. He feared some
terrible journey, perhaps some bare escape; for though no material
thing can quite encompass a spirit, he knew not what wanderers he
might not meet in lonely spaces beyond the path of Mars. So when
his last polite remonstrance failed, being turned aside with a
pleasant phrase and a smile from the grim lips, and looking at
Morano he saw that he shared his fears, then he determined to show
whatever resistance were needed to keep himself and Morano in this
old world that we know, or that youth at least believes that it
He watched the Professor return with his packets of wonder; dust
from a fallen star, phials of tears of lost lovers, poison and
gold out of elf-land, and all manner of things. But the moment
that he put them into the bowl Rodriguez' hand flew to his sword-
hilt. He heaved up his elbow, but no sword came forth, for it lay
magnetised to its scabbard by the grip of a current of magic. When
Rodriguez saw this he knew not what to do.
The Professor went on pouring into the bowl. He added an odour
distilled out of dream-roses, three drops from the gall-bladder of
a fabulous beast, and a little dust that had been man. More too he
added, so that my reader might wonder were I to tell him all; yet
it is not so easy to free our spirits from the gross grip of our
bodies. Wonder not then, my reader, if the Professor exerted
strange powers. And all the while Morano was picking at a nail
that fastened on the handle to his frying-pan.
And just as the last few mysteries were shaken into the bowl,--and
there were two among them of which even Asia is ignorant,--just as
the dews were blended with the powers in a grey-green sinister
harmony, Morano untwisted his nail and got the handle loose.
The Professor kindled the mixture in the bowl; again green flame
arose, again that voice of his began to call to their spirits, and
its beauty and the power of its spell were as of some fallen
angel. The spirit of Rodriguez was nearly passing helplessly forth
again on some frightful journey, when Morano losed his scabbard
and sword from its girdle and tied the handle of his frying-pan
across it a little below the hilt with a piece of string. Across
the table the Professor intoned his spell, across a narrow table,
but it seemed to come from the far side of the twilight, a
twilight red and golden in long layers, of an evening wonderfully
long ago. It seemed to take its music out of the lights that it
flowed through and to call Rodriguez from immediately far away,
with a call which it were sacrilege to refuse, and anguish even,
and hard toil such as there was no strength to do. And then Morano
held up the sword in its scabbard with the handle of the frying-
pan tied across. Rodriguez, disturbed by a stammer in the spell,
looked up and saw the Professor staring at the sword where Morano
held it up before his face in the green light of the flame from
the bowl. He did not seem like a fallen angel now. His spell had
stopped. He seemed like a professor who had forgotten the theme of
his lecture, while the class waits. For Morano was holding up the
sign of the cross.
"You have betrayed me!" shouted the Slave of Orion: the green
flame died, and he strode out of the room, his purple cloak
floating behind him.
"Master," Morano said, "it was always good against magic."
The sword was loose in the scabbard as Rodriguez took it back;
there was no longer a current of magic gripping the steel.
A little uneasily Rodriguez thanked Morano: he was not sure if
Morano had behaved as a guest's servant should. But when he
thought of the Professor's terrible spells, which had driven them
to the awful crags of the sun, and might send them who knows where
to hob-nob with who knows what, his second thoughts perceived that
Morano was right to cut short those arts that the Slave of Orion
loved, even by so extreme a step: and he praised Morano as his
ready shrewdness deserved.
"We were very nearly too late back from that outing, master,"
"How know you that?" said Rodriguez.
"This old body knew," said Morano. "Those heart-thumpings, this
warmness, and all the things that make a fat body comfortable,
they were stopping, master, they were spoiling, they were getting
cold and strange: I go no more errands for that senor."
A certain diffidence about criticising his host even now; and a
very practical vein that ran through his nature, now showing
itself in anxiety for a bed at so late an hour; led Rodriguez to
change the subject. He wanted that aged butler, yet dare not ring
the bell; for he feared lest with all the bells there might be in
use that frightful practice that he had met by the outer door, a
chain connected with some hideous hook that gave anguish to
something in the basement whenever one touched the handle, so that
the menials of that grim Professor were shrilly summoned by
screams. And therefore Rodriguez sought counsel of Morano, who
straightway volunteered to find the butler's quarters, by a
certain sense that he had of the fitness of things: and forth he
went, but would not leave the room without the scabbard and the
handle of the frying-pan lashed to it, which he bore high before
him in both his hands as though he were leading some austere
procession. And even so he returned with that aged man the butler,
who led them down dim corridors of stone; but, though he showed
the way, Morano would go in front, still holding up that scabbard
and handle before him, while Rodriguez held the bare sword. And so
they came to a room lit by the flare of one candle, which their
guide told them the Professor had prepared for his guest. In the
vastness of it was a great bed. Shadows and a whir as of wings
passed out of the door as they entered. "Bats," said the ancient
guide. But Morano believed he had routed powers of evil with the
handle of his frying-pan and his master's scabbard. Who could say
what they were in such a house, where bats and evil spirits
sheltered perennially from the brooms of the just? Then that
ancient man with the lips of some woodland thing departed, and
Rodriguez went to the great bed. On a pile of straw that had been
cast into the room Morano lay down across the door, setting the
scabbard upright in a rat-hole near his head, while Rodriguez lay
down with the bare sword in his hand. There was only one door in
the room, and this Morano guarded. Windows there were, but they
were shuttered with raw oak of enormous thickness. He had already
enquired with his sword behind the velvet curtains. He felt secure
in the bulk of Morano across the only door, at least from
creatures of this world: and Morano feared no longer either spirit
or spell, believing that he had vanquished the Professor with his
symbol, and all such allies as he may have had here or elsewhere.
But not thus easily do we overcome the powers of evil.
A step was heard such as man walks with at the close of his later
years, coming along the corridor of stone; and they knew it for
the Professor's butler returning. The latch of the door trembled
and lifted, and the great oak door bumped slowly against Morano,
who arose grumbling, and the old man appeared.
"The Professor," he said, while Morano watched him grudgingly,
"returns with all his household to Saragossa at once, to resume
those studies for which his name resounds, a certain conjunction
of the stars having come favourably."
Even Morano doubted that so suddenly the courses of the stars,
which he deemed to be gradual, should have altered from antagonism
towards the Professor's art into a favourable aspect. Rodriguez
sleepily acknowledged the news and settled himself to sleep, still
sword in hand, when the servitor repeated with as much emphasis as
his aged voice could utter, "With all his household, senor."
"Yes," muttered Rodriguez. "Farewell."
And repeating again, "He takes his household with him," the old
man shuffled back from the room and hesitatingly closed the door.
Before the sound of his slow footsteps had failed to reach the
room Morano was asleep under his cross. Rodriguez still watched
for a while the shadows leaping and shuddering away from the
candle, riding over the ceiling, striding hugely along the walls,
towards him and from him, as draughts swayed the ruddy flame;
then, gripping his sword still firmer in his hand, as though that
could avail against magic, he fell into the sleep of tired men.
No sound disturbed Rodriguez or Morano till both awoke in late
morning upon the rocks of the mountain. The sun had climbed over
the crags and now shone on their faces. Rodriguez was still lying
with his sword gripped in his hand, but the cross had fallen by
Morano and now lay on the rocks beside him with the handle of the
frying-pan still tied in its place by string. A young, wild,
woodland squirrel gambolled near, though there were no woods for
it anywhere within sight: it leaped and played as though rejoicing
in youth, with such merriment as though youth had but come to it
newly or been lost and restored again.
All over the mountain they looked but there was no house, nor any
sign of dwelling of man or spirit.
THE FIFTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE RODE IN THE TWILIGHT AND SAW SERAFINA
Rodriguez, who loved philosophy, turned his mind at once to the
journey that lay before him, deciding which was the north; for he
knew that it was by the north that he must leave Spain, which he
still desired to leave since there were no wars in that country.
Morano knew not clearly what philosophy was, yet he wasted no
thoughts upon the night that was gone; and, fitting up his frying-
pan immediately, he brought out what was left of his bacon and
began to look for material to make a fire. The bacon lay waiting
in the frying-pan for some while before this material was
gathered, for nothing grew on the mountain but a heath; and of
that there were few bushes, scattered here and there.
Rodriguez, far from ruminating upon the events of the previous
night, realised as he watched these preparations that he was
enormously hungry. And when Morano had kindled a fire and the
smell of cooking arose, he who had held the chair of magic at
Saragossa was banished from both their minds, although upon this
very spot they had spent so strange a night; but where bacon is,
and there be hungry men, the things of yesterday are often
"Morano," said Rodriguez, "we must walk far to-day."
"Indeed, master," said Morano, "we must push on to these wars; for
you have no castle, master, no lands, no fortune ..."
"Come," said Rodriguez.
Morano slung his frying-pan behind him: they had eaten up the last
of his bacon: he stood up, and they were ready for the journey.
The smoke from their meagre fire went thinly into the air, the
small grey clouds of it went slowly up: nothing beside remained to
bid them farewell, or for them to thank for their strange night's
hospitality. They climbed till they reached the rugged crest of
the mountain; thence they saw a wide plain and the morning: the
day was waiting for them.
The northern slope of the mountain was wholly different from that
black congregation of angry rocks through which they had climbed
by night to the House of Wonder.
The slope that now lay before them was smooth and grassy, flowing
before them far, a gentle slope that was soon to lend speed to
Rodriguez' feet, adding nimbleness even to youth. Soon, too, it
was to lift onward the dull weight of Morano as he followed his
master towards unknown wars, youth going before him like a spirit
and the good slope helping behind. But before they gave themselves
to that waiting journey they stood a moment and looked at the
shining plain that lay before them like an open page, on which was
the whole chronicle of that day's wayfaring. There was the road
they should travel by, there were the streams it crossed and
narrow woods they might rest in, and dim on the farthest edge was
the place they must spend that night. It was all, as it were
written, upon the plain they watched, but in a writing not
intended for them, and, clear although it be, never to be
interpreted by one of our race. Thus they saw clear, from a
height, the road they would go by, but not one of all the events
to which it would lead them.
"Master," said Morano, "shall we have more adventures to-day?"
"I trust so," said Rodriguez. "We have far to go, and it will be
dull journeying without them."
Morano turned his eyes from his master's face and looked back to
the plain. "There, master," he said, "where our road runs through
a wood, will our adventure be there, think you? Or there,
perhaps," and he waved his hand widely farther.
"No," said Rodriguez, "we pass that in bright daylight."
"Is that not good for adventure?" said Morano.
"The romances teach," said Rodriguez, "that twilight or night are
better. The shade of deep woods is favourable, but there are no
such woods on this plain. When we come to evening we shall
doubtless meet some adventure, far over there." And he pointed to
the grey rim of the plain where it started climbing towards hills.
"These are good days," said Morano. He forgot how short a time ago
he had said regretfully that these days were not as the old days.
But our race, speaking generally, is rarely satisfied with the
present, and Morano's cheerfulness had not come from his having
risen suddenly superior to this everyday trouble of ours; it came
from his having shifted his gaze to the future. Two things are
highly tolerable to us, and even alluring, the past and the
future. It was only with the present that Morano was ever
When Morano said that the days were good Rodriguez set out to find
them, or at least that one that for some while now lay waiting for
them on the plain. He strode down the slope at once and, endowing
nature with his own impatience, he felt that he heard the morning
call to him wistfully. Morano followed.
For an hour these refugees escaping from peace went down the
slope; and in that hour they did five swift miles, miles that
seemed to run by them as they walked, and so they came lightly to
the level plain. And in the next hour they did four miles more.
Words were few, either because Morano brooded mainly upon one
thought, the theme of which was his lack of bacon, or because he
kept his breath to follow his master who, with youth and the
morning, was coming out of the hills at a pace not tuned to
Morano's forty years or so. And at the end of these nine miles
Morano perceived a house, a little way from the road, on the left,
upon rising ground. A mile or so ahead they saw the narrow wood
that they had viewed in the morning from the mountain running
across the plain. They saw now by the lie of the ground that it
probably followed a stream, a pleasant place in which to take the
rest demanded by Spain at noon. It was just an hour to noon; so
Rodriguez, keeping the road, told Morano to join him where it
entered the wood when he had acquired his bacon. And then as they
parted a thought occurred to Rodriguez, which was that bacon cost
money. It was purely an afterthought, an accidental fancy, such as
inspirations are, for he had never had to buy bacon. So he gave
Morano a fifth part of his money, a large gold coin the size of
one of our five-shilling pieces, engraved of course upon one side
with the glories and honours of that golden period of Spain, and
upon the other with the head of the lord the King. It was only by
chance he had brought any at all; he was not what our newspapers
will call, if they ever care to notice him, a level-headed
business man. At the sight of the gold piece Morano bowed, for he
felt this gift of gold to be an occasion; but he trusted more for
the purchase of the bacon to some few small silver coins of his
own that he kept among lumps of lard and pieces of string.
And so they parted for a while, Rodriguez looking for some great
shadowy oak with moss under it near a stream, Morano in quest of
When Rodriguez entered the wood he found his oak, but it was not
such an oak as he cared to rest beneath during the heat of the
day, nor would you have done so, my reader, even though you have
been to the wars and seen many a pretty mess; for four of la Garda
were by it and were arranging to hang a man from the best of the
"La Garda again," said Rodriguez nearly aloud.
His eye drooped, his look was listless, he gazed at other things;
while a glance that you had not noticed, flashed slantingly at la
Garda, satisfied Rodriguez that all four were strangers: then he
walked straight towards them merrily. The man they proposed to
hang was a stranger too. He appeared at first to be as stout as
Morano, and he was nearly half a foot taller, but his stoutness
turned out to be sheer muscle. The broad man was clothed in old
brown leather and had blue eyes.
Now there was something about the poise of Rodriguez' young head
which gave him an air not unlike that which the King himself
sometimes wore when he went courting. It suited his noble sword
and his merry plume. When la Garda saw him they were all
politeness at once, and invited him to see the hanging, for which
Rodriguez thanked them with amplest courtesy.
"It is not a bull-fight," said the chief of la Garda almost
apologetically. But Rodriguez waved aside his deprecations and
declared himself charmed at the prospect of a hanging.
Bear with me, reader, while I champion a bad cause and seek to
palliate what is inexcusable. As we travel about the world on our
way through life we meet and pass here and there, in peace or in
war, other men, fellow-travellers: and sometimes there is no more
than time for a glance, eye to eye. And in that glance you see the
sort of man: and chiefly there are two sorts. The one sort always
brooding, always planning; mean, silent men, collecting properties
and money; keeping the law on their side, keeping everything on
their side; except women and heaven, and the late, leisurely
judgment of simple people: and the others merry folk, whose eyes
twinkle, whose money flies, who will sooner laugh than plan, who
seem to inherit rightfully the happiness that the others plot for,
and fail to come by with all their schemes. In the man who was to
provide the entertainment Rodriguez recognised the second kind.
Now even though the law had caught a saint that had strayed too
far outside the boundary of Heaven, and desired to hang him,
Rodriguez knew that it was his duty to help the law while help was
needed, and to applaud after the thing was done. The law to
Rodriguez was the most sacred thing man had made, if indeed it
were not divine; but since the privilege that two days ago had
afforded him of studying it more closely, it appeared to him the
blindest, silliest thing with which he had had to do since the
kittens were drowned that his cat Tabitharina had had at Arguento
It was in this deplorable state of mind that Rodriguez' glance
fell on the merry eyes and the solemn predicament of the man in
the leather coat, standing pinioned under a long branch of the
oak-tree: and he determined from that moment to disappoint la
Garda and, I fear also, my reader, perhaps to disappoint you, of
the hanging that they at least had promised themselves.
"Think you," said Rodriguez, "that for so stout a knave this
branch of yours suffices?"
Now it was an excellent branch. But it was not so much Rodriguez'
words as the anxious way in which he looked at the branch that
aroused the anxieties of la Garda: and soon they were looking
about to find a better tree; and when four men start doing this in
a wood time quickly passes. Meanwhile Morano drew near, and
Rodriguez went to meet him.
"Master," said Morano, all out of breath, "they had no bacon. But
I got these two bottles of wine. It is strong wine, which is a
rare deluder of the senses, which will need to be deluded if we
are to go hungry."
Rodriguez was about to cut short Morano's chatter when he thought
of a use for the wine, and was silent a moment. And as he pondered
Morano looked up and saw la Garda and at the same time perceived
the situation, for he had as quick an eye for a bad business as
"No one with the horses," was his comment; for they were tethered
a little apart. But Rodriguez' mind had already explored a surer
method than the one that Morano seemed to be contemplating. This
method he told Morano. And now, from little tugs that they were
giving to the doubled rope that hung over the branch of the oak-
tree, it was clear enough that the men of the law were returning
to their confidence in that very sufficient branch.
They looked up with questions ripe to drop from their lips when
they saw Rodriguez returning with Morano. But before one of them
spoke Morano flung to them from far off a little piece of his
wisdom: for cast a truth into an occasion and it will always
trouble the waters, usually stirring up contradiction, but always
bringing something to the surface.
"Senores," he said, "no man can enjoy a hanging with a dry
Thus he turned their attention a while from the business in hand,
changing their thoughts from the stout neck of the prisoner to
their own throats, wondering were they dry; and you do not wonder
long about this in the south without finding that what you feared
is true. And then he let them see the two great bottles, all full
of wine, for the invention of the false bottom that gives to our
champagne-bottles the place they rightly hold among famous
deceptions had not as yet been discovered.
"It is true," said la Garda. And Rodriguez made Morano put one of
the bottles away in a piece of a sack that he carried: and when la
Garda saw one of the two bottles disappear it somehow decided them
to have the other, though how this came to be so there is no
saying; and thus the hanging was postponed again.
Now the drink was a yellow wine, sweet and heavy and stronger than
our port; only our whisky could out-triumph it, but there in the
warm south it answered its purpose. Rodriguez beckoned Morano up
and offered the bottle to one of la Garda; but scarcely had he put
it to his lips when Rodriguez bade him stop, saying that he had
had his share. And he did the same with the next man.
Now there be few things indeed which la Garda resent more than
meagre hospitality in the matter of drink, and with all their wits
striving to cope with this vicious defect in Rodriguez, as they
rightly or wrongly regarded it, how should they have any to spare
for obvious precautions? As the third man drank, Rodriguez turned
to speak to Morano; and the representative of the law took such
advantage of an opportunity that he feared to be fleeting, that
when Rodriguez turned round again the bottle was just half empty.
Rodriguez had timed it very nicely.
Next Rodriguez put the bottle to his lips and held it there a
little time, while the fourth man of the law, who was guarding the
prisoner, watched Rodriguez wistfully, and afterwards Morano, who
took the bottle next. Yet neither Rodriguez nor Morano drank.
"You can finish the bottle," said Rodriguez to this anxious
watcher, who came forward eagerly though full of doubts, which
changed to warm feelings of exuberant gratitude when he found how
much remained. Thus he obtained not much less than two tumblerfuls
of wine that, as I have said, was stronger than port; and noon was
nearing and it was spring in Spain. And then he returned to guard
his prisoner under the oak-tree and lay down there on the moss,
remembering that it was his duty to keep awake. And afterwards
with one hand he took hold of a rope that bound the prisoner's
ankles, so that he might still guard his prisoner even though he
should fall asleep.
Now two of the men had had little more than the full of a sherry
glass each. To these Morano made signs that there was another
bottle, and, coming round behind his master, he covertly uncorked
it and gave them their heart's desire; and a little was left over
for the man who drank third on the first occasion. And presently
the spirits of all four of la Garda grew haughty and forgot their
humble bodies, and would fain have gone forth to dwell with the
sons of light, while their bodies lay on the moss and the sun grew
warmer and warmer, shining dappled in amongst the small green
leaves. All seemed still but for the winged insects flashing
through shafts of the sunlight out of the gloom of the trees and
disappearing again like infinitesimal meteors. But our concern is
with the thoughts of man, of which deeds are but the shadows:
wherever these are active it is wrong to say all is still; for
whether they cast their shadows, which are actions, or whether
they remain a force not visibly stirring matter, they are the
source of the tales we write and the lives we lead; it is they
that gave History her material and they that bade her work it up
And thoughts were very active about that oak-tree. For while the
thoughts of la Garda arose like dawn, and disappeared into mists,
their prisoner was silently living through the sunny days of his
life, which are at no time quite lost to us, and which flash vivid
and bright and near when memory touches them, herself awakened by
the nearness of death. He lived again days far from the day that
had brought him where he stood. He drew from those days (that is
to say) that delight, that essence of hours, that something which
we call life. The sun, the wind, the rough sand, the splash of the
sea, on the star-fish, and all the things that it feels during its
span, are stored in something like its memory, and are what we
call its life: it is the same with all of us. Life is feeling. The
prisoner from the store of his memory was taking all he had. His
head was lifted, he was gazing northwards, far further than his
eyes could see, to shining spaces in great woods; and there his
threatened being walked in youth, with steps such as spirits take,
over immortal flowers, which were dim and faint but unfading
because they lived on in memory. In memory he walked with some who
were now far from his footsteps. And, seen through the gloaming of
that perilous day, how bright did those far days appear! Did they
not seem sunnier than they really were? No, reader; for all the
radiance that glittered so late in his mind was drawn from those
very days; it was their own brightness that was shining now: we
are not done with the days that were as soon as their sunsets have
faded, but a light remains from them and grows fairer and fairer,
like an afterglow lingering among tremendous peaks above
immeasurable slopes of snow.
The prisoner had scarcely noticed Rodriguez or his servant, any
more than he noticed his captors; for there come an intensity to
those who walk near death that makes them a little alien from
other men, life flaring up in them at the last into so grand a
flame that the lives of the others seem a little cold and dim
where they dwell remote from that sunset that we call mortality.
So he looked silently at the days that were as they came dancing
back again to him from where they had long lain lost in chasms of
time, to which they had slipped over dark edges of years. Smiling
they came, but all wistfully anxious, as though their errand were
paramount and their span short: he saw them cluster about him,
running now, bringing their tiny gifts, and scarcely heard the
heavy sigh of his guard as Rodriguez gagged him and Morano tied
Had Rodriguez now released the prisoner they could have been three
to three, in the event of things going wrong with the sleep of la
Garda; but, since in the same time they could gag and bind
another, the odds would be the same at two to two, and Rodriguez
preferred this to the slight uncertainties that would be connected
with the entry of another partner. They accordingly gagged the
next man and bound his wrists and ankles. And that Spanish wine
held good with the other two and bound them far down among the
deeps of dreams: and so it should, for it was of a vine that grew
in the vales of Spain and had ripened in one of the years of the
They bound one as easily as they had bound the other two; and the
last Rodriguez watched while Morano cut the ropes off the
prisoner, for he had run out of bits of twine and all other
improvisations. With these ropes he ran back to his master, and
they tied up the last prisoner but did not gag him.
"Shall we gag him, master, like the rest?" said Morano.
"No," said Rodriguez. "He has nothing to say."
And though this remark turned out to be strictly untrue, it well
enough answered its purpose.
And then they saw standing before them the man they had freed. And
he bowed to Rodriguez like one that had never bowed before. I do
not mean that he bowed with awkwardness, like imitative men unused
to politeness, but he bowed as the oak bows to the woodman; he
stood straight, looking Rodriguez in the eyes, then he bowed as
though he had let his spirit break, which allowed him to bow to
never a man before. Thus, if my pen has been able dimly to tell of
it, thus bowed the man in the old leathern jacket. And Rodriguez
bowed to him in answer with the elegance that they that had dwelt
at Arguento Harez had slowly drawn from the ages.
"Senor, your name," said the stranger.
"Lord of Arguento Harez," said Rodriguez.
"Senor," he said, "being a busy man, I have seldom time to pray.
And the blessed Saints, being more busy than I, I think seldom
hear my prayers: yet your name shall go up to them. I will often
tell it them quietly in the forest, and not on their holy days
when bells are ringing and loud prayers fill Heaven. It may be ..."
"Senor," Rodriguez said, "I profoundly thank you."
Even in these days, when bullets are often thicker than prayers,
we are not quite thankless for the prayers of others: in those
days they were what "closing quotations" are on the Stock
Exchange, ink in Fleet Street, machinery in the Midlands; common
but valued; and Rodriguez' thanks were sincere.
And now that the curses of the ungagged one of la Garda were
growing monotonous, Rodriguez turned to Morano.
"Ungag the rest," he said, "and let them talk to each other."
"Master," Morano muttered, feeling that there was enough noise
already for a small wood, but he went and did as he was ordered.
And Rodriguez was justified of his humane decision, for the pent
thoughts of all three found expression together and, all four now
talking at once, mitigated any bitterness there may have been in
those solitary curses. And now Rodriguez could talk undisturbed.
"Whither?" said the stranger.
"To the wars," said Rodriguez, "if wars there be."
"Aye," said the stranger, "there be always wars somewhere. By
which road go you?"
"North," said Rodriguez, and he pointed. The stranger turned his
eyes to the way Rodriguez pointed.
"That brings you to the forest," he said, "unless you go far
around, as many do."
"What forest?" said Rodriguez.
"The great forest named Shadow Valley," said the stranger.
"How far?" said Rodriguez.
"Forty miles," said the stranger.
Rodriguez looked at la Garda and then at their horses, and
thought. He must be far from la Garda by nightfall.
"It is not easy to pass through Shadow Valley," said the stranger.
"Is it not?" said Rodriguez.
"Have you a gold great piece?" the stranger said.
Rodriguez held out one of his remaining four: the stranger took
it. And then he began to rub it on a stone, and continued to rub
while Rodriguez watched in silence, until the image of the lord
the King was gone and the face of the coin was scratchy and shiny
and flat. And then he produced from a pocket or pouch in his
jacket a graving tool with a round wooden handle, which he took in
the palm of his hand, and the edge of the steel came out between
his forefinger and thumb: and with this he cut at the coin. And
Morano rejoined them from his merciful mission and stood and
wondered at the cutting. And while he cut they talked.
They did not ask him how he came to be chosen for hanging, because
in every country there are about a hundred individualists, varying
to perhaps half a hundred in poor ages. They go their hundred
ways, or their half-dozen ways; and there is a hundred and first
way, or a seventh way, which is the way that is cut for the rest:
and if some of the rest catch one of the hundred, or one of the
six, they naturally hang him, if they have a rope, and if hanging
is the custom of the country, for different countries use
different methods. And you saw by this man's eyes that he was one
of the hundred. Rodriguez therefore only sought to know how he
came to be caught.
"La Garda found you, senor?" he said.
"As you see," said the stranger. "I came too far from my home."
"You were travelling?" said Rodriguez.
"Shopping," he said.
At this word Morano's interest awakened wide. "Senor," he said,
"what is the right price for a bottle of this wine that la Garda
"I know not," said the man in the brown jacket; "they give me
"Where is your home, senor?" Rodriguez asked.
"It is Shadow Valley," he said.
One never saw Rodriguez fail to understand anything: if he could
not clear a situation up he did not struggle with it. Morano
rubbed his chin: he had heard of Shadow Valley only dimly, for all
the travellers he had known out of the north had gone round it.
Rodriguez and Morano bent their heads and watched a design that
was growing out of the gold. And as the design grew under the hand
of the strange worker he began to talk of the horses. He spoke as
though his plans had been clearly established by edict, and as
though no others could be.
"When I have gone with two horses," he said, "ride hard with the
other two till you reach the village named Lowlight, and take them
to the forge of Fernandez the smith, where one will shoe them who
is not Fernandez."
And he waved his hand northwards. There was only one road. Then
all his attention fell back again to his work on the gold coin;
and when those blue eyes were turned away there seemed nothing
left to question. And now Rodriguez saw the design was a crown, a
plain gold circlet with oak leaves rising up from it. And this
woodland emblem stood up out of the gold, for the worker had
hollowed the coin away all around it, and was sloping it up to the
edge. Little was said by the watchers in the wonder of seeing the
work, for no craft is very far from the line beyond which is
magic, and the man in the leather coat was clearly a craftsman:
and he said nothing for he worked at a craft. And when the
arboreal crown was finished, and its edges were straight and
sharp, an hour had passed since he began near noon. Then he
drilled a hole near the rim and, drawing a thin green ribbon from
his pocket, he passed it through the hole and, rising, he suddenly
hung it round Rodriguez' neck.
"Wear it thus," he said, "while you go through Shadow Valley."
As he said this he stepped back among the trees, and Rodriguez
followed to thank him. Not finding him behind the tree where he
thought to find him, he walked round several others, and Morano
joined his search; but the stranger had vanished. When they
returned again to the little clearing they heard sounds of
movement in the wood, and a little way off where the four horses
had grazed there were now only two, which were standing there with
their heads up.
"We must ride, Morano," said Rodriguez.
"Ride, master?" said Morano dolefully.
"If we walk away," said Rodriguez, "they will walk after us."
"They" meant la Garda. It was unnecessary for him to tell Morano
what I thus tell the reader, for in the wood it was hard to hear
anyone else, while to think of anyone else was out of the
"What shall I do to them, master?" said Morano.
They were now standing close to their captives and this simple
question calmed the four men's curses, all of a sudden, like
shutting the door on a storm.
"Leave them," Rodriguez said. And la Garda's spirits rose and they
"Ah. To die in the wood," said Morano. "No," said Rodriguez; and
he walked towards the horses. And something in that "No" sounding
almost contemptuous, Morano's feelings were hurt, and he blurted
out to his master "But how can they get away to get their food??
It is good knots that I tie, master."
"Morano," Rodriguez said, "I remember ten ways in the books of
romance whereby bound men untie themselves; and doubtless one or
two more I have read and forgot; and there may be other ways in
the books that I have not read, besides any way that there be of
which no books tell. And in addition to these ways, one of them
may draw a comrade's sword with his teeth and thus ..."
"Shall I pull out their teeth?" said Morano.
"Ride," said Rodriguez, for they were now come to the horses. And
sorrowfully Morano looked at the horse that was to be his, as a
man might look at a small, uncomfortable boat that is to carry him
far upon a stormy day. And then Rodriguez helped him into the
"Can you stay there?" Rodriguez said. "We have far to go."
"Master," Morano answered, "these hands can hold till evening."
And then Rodriguez mounted, leaving Morano gripping the high front
of the saddle with his large brown hands. But as soon as the
horses started he got a grip with his heels as well, and later on
with his knees. Rodriguez led the way on to the straggling road
and was soon galloping northwards, while Morano's heels kept his
horse up close to his master's. Morano rode as though trained in
the same school that some while later taught Macaulay's
equestrian, who rode with "loose rein and bloody spur." Yet the
miles went swiftly by as they galloped on soft white dust, which
lifted and settled, some of it, back on the lazy road, while some
of it was breathed by Morano. The gold coin on the green silk
ribbon flapped up and down as Rodriguez rode, till he stuffed it
inside his clothing and remembered no more about it. Once they saw
before them the man they had snatched from the noose: he was going
hard and leading a loose horse. And then where the road bent round
a low hill he galloped out of sight and they saw him no more. He
had the loose horse to change on to as soon as the other was
tired: they had no prospect of overtaking him. And so he passed
out of their minds as their host had done who went away with his
household to Saragossa.
At first Rodriguez' mandolin, that was always slung on his back,
bumped up and down uncomfortably; but he eased it by altering the
strap: small things like this bring contentment. And then he
settled down to ride. But no contentment came near Morano nor did
he look for it. On the first day of his wanderings he had worn his
master's clothes, which has been an experience standing somewhat
where toothache does, which is somewhere about half-way between
discomfort and agony. On the second day he had climbed at the end
of a weary journey over those sharp rocks whose shape was adapted
so ill to his body. On the third day he was riding. He did not
look for comfort. But he met discomfort with an easy resignation
that almost defeated the intention of Satan who sends it, unless--
as is very likely--it be from Heaven. And in spite of all
discomforts he gaily followed Rodriguez. In a thousand days at the
Inn of the Dragon and Knight no two were so different to Morano
that one stood out from the other, or any from the rest. It was
all as though one day were repeated again and again; and at some
point in this monotonous repetition, like a milestone shaped as
the rest on a perfectly featureless road, life would end and the
meaningless repetition stop: and looking back on it there would
only be one day to see, or, if he could not look back, it would be
all gone for nothing. And then, into that one day that he was
living on in the gloaming of that grim inn, Rodriguez had
appeared, and Morano had known him for one of those wandering
lights that sometimes make sudden day among the stars. He knew--
no, he felt--that by following him, yesterday today and tomorrow
would be three separate possessions in memory. Morano gladly gave
up that one dull day he was living for the new strange days
through which Rodriguez was sure to lead him. Gladly he left it:
if this be not true how then has a man with a dream led thousands
to follow his fancy, from the Crusades to whatever gay madness be
the fashion when this is read? As they galloped the scent of the
flowers rushed into Rodriguez' nostrils, while Morano mainly
breathed the dust from the hooves of his master's horse. But the
quest was favoured the more by the scent of the flowers inspiring
its leader's fancies. So Morano gained even from this.
In the first hour they shortened by fifteen miles the length of
their rambling quest. In the next hour they did five miles; and in
the third hour ten. After this they rode slowly. The sun was
setting. Morano regarded the sunset with delight, for it seemed to
promise jovially the end of his sufferings, which except for brief
periods when they went on foot, to rest--as Rodriguez said--the
horses, had been continuous and even increasing since they
started. Rodriguez, perhaps a little weary too, drew from the
sunset a more sombre feeling, as sensitive minds do: he responded
to its farewell, he felt its beauty, and as little winds turned
cool and the shine of blades of grass faded, making all the plain
dimmer, he heard, or believed he heard, further off than he could
see, sounds on the plain beyond ridges, in hollows, behind clumps
of bushes; as though small creatures all unknown to his learning
played instruments cut from reeds upon unmapped streams. In this
hour, among these fancies, Rodriguez saw clear on a hill the white
walls of the village of Lowlight. And now they began to notice
that a great round moon was shining. The sunset grew dimmer and
the moonlight stole in softly, as a cat might walk through great
doors on her silent feet into a throne-room just as the king had
gone: and they entered the village slowly in the perfect moment of
The round horizon was brimming with a pale but magical colour,
welling up to the tips of trees and the battlements of white
towers. Earth seemed a mysterious cup overfull of this pigment of
wonder. Clouds wandering low, straying far from their azure
fields, were dipped in it. The towers of Lowlight turned slowly
rose in that light, and glowed together with the infinite
gloaming, so that for this brief hour the things of man were wed
with the things of eternity. It was into this wide, pale flame of
aetherial rose that the moon came stealing like a magician on tip-
toe, to enchant the tips of the trees, low clouds and the towers
of Lowlight. A blue light from beyond our world touched the pink
that is Earth's at evening: and what was strange and a matter for
hushed voices, marvellous but yet of our earth, became at that
touch unearthly. All in a moment it was, and Rodriguez gasped to
see it. Even Morano's eyes grew round with the coming of wonder,
or with some dim feeling that an unnoticed moment had made all
things strange and new.
For some moments the spell of moonlight on sunlight hovered: the
air was brimming and quivering with it: magic touched earth. For
some moments, some thirty beats of a heron's wing, had the angels
sung to men, had their songs gone earthward into that rosy glow,
gliding past layers of faintly tinted cloud, like moths at dusk
towards a briar-rose; in those few moments men would have known
their language. Rodriguez reined in his horse in the heavy silence
and waited. For what he waited he knew not: some unearthly answer
perhaps to his questioning thoughts that had wandered far from
earth, though no words came to him with which to ask their
question and he did not know what question they would ask. He was
all vibrating with the human longing: I know not what it is, but
perhaps philosophers know. He sat there waiting while a late bird
sailed homeward, sat while Morano wondered. And nothing spake from
And now a dog began to notice the moon: now a child cried suddenly
that had been dragged back from the street, where it had wandered
at bedtime: an old dog rose from where it had lain in the sun and
feebly yet confidently scratched at a door: a cat peered round a
corner: a man spoke: Rodriguez knew there would be no answer now.
Rodriguez hit his horse, the tired animal went forward, and he and
Morano rode slowly up the street.
Dona Serafina of the Valley of Dawnlight had left the heat of the
room that looked on the fields, and into which the sun had all day
been streaming, and had gone at sunset to sit in the balcony that
looked along the street. Often she would do this at sunset; but
she rather dreamed as she sat there than watched the street, for
all that it had to show she knew without glancing. Evening after
evening as soon as winter was over the neighbour would come from
next door and stretch himself and yawn and sit on a chair by his
doorway, and the neighbour from opposite would saunter across the
way to him, and they would talk with eagerness of the sale of
cattle, and sometimes, but more coldly, of the affairs of kings.
She knew, but cared not to know, just when the two old men would
begin their talk. She knew who owned every dog that stretched
itself in the dust until chilly winds blew in the dusk and they
rose up dissatisfied. She knew the affairs of that street like an
old, old lesson taught drearily, and her thoughts went far away to
vales of an imagination where they met with many another maiden
fancy, and they all danced there together through the long
twilight in Spring. And then her mother would come and warn her
that the evening grew cold, and Serafina would turn from the
mystery of evening into the house and the candle-light. This was
so evening after evening all through spring and summer for two
long years of her youth. And then, this evening, just as the two
old neighbours began to discuss whether or not the subjugation of
the entire world by Spain would be for its benefit, just as one of
the dogs in the road was rising slowly to shake itself, neighbours
and dogs all raised their heads to look, and there was Rodriguez
riding down the street and Morano coming behind him. When Serafina
saw this she brought her eyes back from dreams, for she dreamed
not so deeply but that the cloak and plume of Rodriguez found some
place upon the boundaries of her day-dream. When she saw the way
he sat his horse and how he carried his head she let her eyes
flash for a little moment along the street from her balcony. And
if some critical reader ask how she did it I answer, "My good sir,
I can't tell you, because I don't know," or "My dear lady, what a
question to ask!" And where she learned to do it I cannot think,
but nothing was easier. And then she smiled to think that she had
done the very thing that her mother had warned her there was
danger in doing.
"Serafina," her mother said in that moment at the large window,
"the evening grows cold. It might be dangerous to stay there
longer." And Serafina entered the house, as she had done at the
coming of dusk on many an evening.
Rodriguez missed as much of that flash of her eyes, shot from
below the darkness of her hair, as youth in its first glory and
freedom misses. For at the point on the road called life at which
Rodriguez was then, one is high on a crag above the promontories
of watchmen, lower only than the peaks of the prophets, from which
to see such things. Yet it did not need youth to notice Serafina.
Beggars had blessed her for the poise of her head.
She turned that head a little as she went between the windows,
till Rodriguez gazing up to her saw the fair shape of her neck:
and almost in that moment the last of the daylight died. The
windows shut; and Rodriguez rode on with Morano to find the forge
that was kept by Fernandez the smith. And presently they came to
the village forge, a cottage with huge, high roof whose beams were
safe from sparks; and its fire was glowing redly into the
moonlight through the wide door made for horses, although there
seemed no work to be done, and a man with a swart moustache was
piling more logs on. Over the door was burned on oak in ungainly
"For whom do you seek, senor?" he said to Rodriguez, who had
halted before him with his horse's nose inside the doorway
"I look," he said, "for him who is not Fernandez."
"I am he," said the man by the fire.
Rodriguez questioned no further but dismounted, and bade Morano
lead the horses in. And then he saw in the dark at the back of the
forge the other two horses that he had seen in the wood. And they
were shod as he had never seen horses shod before. For the front
pair of shoes were joined by a chain riveted stoutly to each, and
the hind pair also; and both horses were shod alike. The method
was equally new to Morano. And now the man with the swart
moustache picked up another bunch of horseshoes hanging in pairs
on chains. And Rodriguez was not far out when he guessed that
whenever la Garda overtook their horses they would find that
Fernandez was far away making holiday, while he who shod them now
would be gone upon other business. And all this work seemed to
Rodriguez not to be his affair.
"Farewell," he said to the smith that was not Fernandez; and with
a pat for his horse he left it, having obtained a promise of oats.
And so Rodriguez and Morano went on foot again, Morano elated in
spite of fatigue and pain, rejoicing to feel the earth once more,
flat under the soles of his feet; Rodriguez a little humbled. THE
THE SIXTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE SANG TO HIS MANDOLIN AND WHAT CAME OF HIS SINGING
They walked back slowly in silence up the street down which they
had ridden. Earth darkened, the moon grew brighter: and Rodriguez
gazing at the pale golden disk began to wonder who dwelt in the
lunar valleys; and what message, if folk were there, they had for
our peoples; and in what language such message could ever be, and
how it could fare across that limpid remoteness that wafted light
on to the coasts of Earth and lapped in silence on the lunar
shores. And as he wondered he thought of his mandolin.
"Morano," he said, "buy bacon."
Morano's eyes brightened: they were forty-five miles from the
hills on which he had last tasted bacon. He selected his house
with a glance, and then he was gone. And Rodriguez reflected too
late that he had forgotten to tell Morano where he should find
him, and this with night coming on in a strange village. Scarcely,
Rodriguez reflected, he knew where he was going himself. Yet if
old tunes lurking in its hollows, echoing though imperceptibly
from long-faded evenings, gave the mandolin any knowledge of human
affairs that other inanimate things cannot possess, the mandolin
Let us in fancy call up the shade of Morano from that far
generation. Let us ask him where Rodriguez is going. Those blue
eyes, dim with the distance over which our fancy has called them,
look in our eyes with wonder.
"I do not know," he says, "where Don Rodriguez is going. My master
did not tell me."
Did he notice nothing as they rode by that balcony?
"Nothing," Morano answers, "except my master riding."
We may let Morano's shade drift hence again, for we shall discover
nothing: nor is this an age to which to call back spirits.
Rodriguez strolled slowly on the deep dust of that street as
though wondering all the while where he should go; and soon he and
his mandolin were below that very balcony whereon he had seen the
white neck of Serafina gleam with the last of the daylight. And
now the spells of the moon charmed Earth with their full power.
The balcony was empty. How should it have been otherwise? And yet
Rodriguez grieved. For between the vision that had drawn his
footsteps and that bare balcony below shuttered windows was the
difference between a haven, sought over leagues of sea, and sheer,
uncharted cliff. It brought a wistfulness into the music he
played, and a melancholy that was all new to Rodriguez, yet often
and often before had that mandolin sent up through evening against
unheeding Space that cry that man cannot utter; for the spirit of
man needs a mandolin as a comrade to face the verdict of the
chilly stars as he needs a bulldog for more mundane things.
Soon out of the depth of that stout old mandolin, in which so many
human sorrows had spun tunes out of themselves, as the spiders
spin misty grey webs, till it was all haunted with music, soon the
old cry went up to the stars again, a thread of supplication spun
of the matter which else were distilled in tears, beseeching it
knew not what. And, but that Fate is deaf, all that man asks in
music had been granted then.
What sorrows had Rodriguez known in his life that he made so sad a
melody? I know not. It was the mandolin. When the mandolin was
made it knew at once all the sorrows of man, and all the old
unnamed longings that none defines. It knew them as the dog knows
the alliance that its forefathers made with man. A mandolin weeps
the tears that its master cannot shed, or utters the prayers that
are deeper than its master's lips can draw, as a dog will fight
for his master with teeth that are longer than man's. And if the
moonlight streamed on untroubled, and though Fate was deaf, yet
beauty of those fresh strains going starward from under his
fingers touched at least the heart of Rodriguez and gilded his
dreams and gave to his thoughts a mournful autumnal glory, until
he sang all newly as he never had sung before, with limpid voice
along the edge of tears, a love-song old as the woods of his
father's valleys at whose edge he had heard it once drift through
the evening. And as he played and sang with his young soul in the
music he fancied (and why not, if they care aught for our souls in
Heaven?) he fancied the angles putting their hands each one on a
star and leaning out of Heaven through the constellations to
"A vile song, senor, and a vile tune with it," said a voice quite
However much the words hurt his pride in his mandolin Rodriguez
recognised in the voice the hidalgo's accent and knew that it was
an equal that now approached him in the moonlight round a corner
of the house with the balcony; and he knew that the request he
courteously made would be as courteously granted.
"Senor," he said, "I pray you to permit me to lean my mandolin
against the wall securely before we speak of my song."
"Most surely, senor," the stranger replied, "for there is no fault
with the mandolin."
"Senor," Rodriguez said, "I thank you profoundly." And he bowed to
the gallant, whom he now perceived to be young, a youth tall and
lithe like himself, one whom we might have chosen for these
chronicles had we not found Rodriguez.
Then Rodriguez stepped back a short way and placed his kerchief on
the ground; and upon this he put his mandolin and leaned it
against the wall. When the mandolin was safe from dust or accident
he approached the stranger and drew his sword.
"Senor," he said, "we will now discuss music."
"Right gladly, senor," said the young man, who now drew his sword
also. There were no clouds; the moon was full; the evening
Scarcely had the flash of thin rapiers crossing each other by
moonlight begun to gleam in the street when Morano appeared beside
them and stood there watching. He had bought his bacon and gone
straight to the house with the balcony. For though he knew no
Latin he had not missed the silent greeting that had welcomed his
master to that village, or failed to interpret the gist of the
words that Rodriguez' dumb glance would have said. He stood there
watching while each combatant stood his ground.
And Rodriguez remembered all those passes and feints that he had
had from his father, and which Sevastiani, a master of arms in
Madrid, had taught in his father's youth: and some were famous and
some were little known. And all these passes, as he tried them one
by one, his unknown antagonist parried. And for a moment Rodriguez
feared that Morano would see those passes in which he trusted
foiled by that unknown sword, and then he reflected that Morano
knew nothing of the craft of the rapier, and with more content at
that thought he parried thrusts that were strange to him. But
something told Morano that in this fight the stranger was master
and that along that pale-blue, moonlit, unknown sword lurked a
sure death for Rodriguez. He moved from his place of vantage and
was soon lost in large shadows; while the rapiers played and blade
rippled on blade with a sound as though Death were gently
sharpening his scythe in the dark. And now Rodriguez was giving
ground, now his antagonist pressed him; thrusts that he believed
invincible had failed; now he parried wearily and had at once to
parry again; the unknown pressed on, was upon him, was scattering
his weakening parries; drew back his rapier for a deadlier pass,
learned in a secret school, in a hut on mountains he knew, and
practised surely; and fell in a heap upon Rodriguez' feet, struck
full on the back of the head by Morano's frying-pan.
"Most vile knave," shouted Rodriguez as he saw Morano before him
with his frying-pan in his hand, and with something of the stupid
expression that you see on the face of a dog that has done some
foolish thing which it thinks will delight its master.
"Master! I am your servant," said Morano.
"Vile, miserable knave," replied Rodriguez.
"Master," Morano said plaintively, "shall I see to your comforts,
your food, and not to your life?"
"Silence," thundered Rodriguez as he stooped anxiously to his
antagonist, who was not unconscious but only very giddy and who
now rose to his feet with the help of Rodriguez.
"Alas, senor," said Rodriguez, "the foul knave is my servant. He
shall be flogged. He shall be flayed. His vile flesh shall be cut
off him. Does the hurt pain you, senor? Sit and rest while I beat
the knave, and then we will continue our meeting."
And he ran to his kerchief on which rested his mandolin and laid
it upon the dust for the stranger.
"No, no," said he. "My head clears again. It is nothing."
"But rest, senor, rest," said Rodriguez. "It is always well to
rest before an encounter. Rest while I punish the knave."
And he led him to where the kerchief lay on the ground. "Let me
see the hurt, senor," he continued. And the stranger removed his
plumed hat as Rodriguez compelled him to sit down. He straightened
out the hat as he sat, and the hurt was shown to be of no great
"The blessed Saints be praised," Rodriguez said. "It need not stop
our encounter. But rest awhile, senor."
"Indeed, it is nothing," he answered.
"But the indignity is immeasurable," sighed Rodriguez. "Would you
care, senor, when you are well rested to give the chastisement
"As far as that goes," said the stranger, "I can chastise him
"If you are fully recovered, senor," Rodriguez said, "my own sword
is at your disposal to beat him sore with the flat of it, or how
you will. Thus no dishonour shall touch your sword from the skin
of so vile a knave."
The stranger smiled: the idea appealed to him.
"You make a noble amend, senor," he said as he bowed over
Rodriguez' proffered sword.
Morano had not moved far, but stood near, wondering. "What should
a servant do if not work for his master?" he wondered. And how
work for him when dead? And dead, as it seemed to Morano, through
his own fault if he allowed any man to kill him when he perceived
him about to do so. He stood there puzzled. And suddenly he saw
the stranger coming angrily towards him in the clear moonlight
with a sword. Morano was frightened.
As the hidalgo came up to him he stretched out his left hand to
seize Morano by the shoulder. Up went the frying-pan, the stranger
parried, but against a stroke that no school taught or knew, and
for the second time he went down in the dust with a reeling head.
Rodriguez turned toward Morano and said to him ... No, realism is
all very well, and I know that my duty as author is to tell all
that happened, and I could win mighty praise as a bold,
unconventional writer; at the same time, some young lady will be
reading all this next year in some far country, or in twenty years
in England, and I would sooner she should not read what Rodriguez
said. I do not, I trust, disappoint her. But the gist of it was
that he should leave that place now and depart from his service
for ever. And hearing those words Morano turned mournfully away
and was at once lost in the darkness. While Rodriguez ran once
more to help his fallen antagonist. "Senor, senor," he said with
an emotion that some wearing centuries and a cold climate have
taught us not to show, and beyond those words he could find no
more to say.
"Giddy, only giddy," said the stranger.
A tear fell on his forehead as Rodriguez helped him to his feet.
"Senor," Rodriguez said fervently, "we will finish our encounter
come what may. The knave is gone and ..."
"But I am somewhat giddy," said the other.
"I will take off one of my shoes," said Rodriguez, "leaving the
other on. It will equalise our unsteadiness, and you shall not be
disappointed in our encounter. Come," he added kindly.
"I cannot see so clearly as before," the young hidalgo murmured.
"I will bandage my right eye also," said Rodriguez, "and if this
cannot equalise it ..."
"It is a most fair offer," said the young man.
"I could not bear that you should be disappointed of your
encounter," Rodriguez said, "by this spirit of Hell that has got
itself clothed in fat and dares to usurp the dignity of man."
"It is a right fair offer," the young man said again.
"Rest yourself, senor," said Rodriguez, "while I take off my
shoe," and he indicated his kerchief which was still on the
The stranger sat down a little wearily, and Rodriguez sitting upon
the dust took off his left shoe. And now he began to think a
little wistfully of the face that had shone from that balcony,
where all was dark now in black shadow unlit by the moon. The
emptiness of the balcony and its darkness oppressed him; for he
could scarcely hope to survive an encounter with that swordsman,
whose skill he now recognised as being of a different class from
his own, a class of which he knew nothing. All his own feints and
passes were known, while those of his antagonist had been strange
and new, and he might well have even others. The stranger's
giddiness did not alter the situation, for Rodriguez knew that his
handicap was fair and even generous. He believed he was near his
grave, and could see no spark of light to banish that dark belief;
yet more chances than we can see often guard us on such occasions.
The absence of Serafina saddened him like a sorrowful sunset.
Rodriguez rose and limped with his one shoe off to the stranger,
who was sitting upon his kerchief.
"I will bandage my right eye now, senor," he said.
The young man rose and shook the dust from the kerchief and gave
it to Rodriguez with a renewed expression of his gratitude at the
fairness of the strange handicap. When Rodriguez had bandaged his
eye the stranger returned his sword to him, which he had held in
his hand since his effort to beat Morano, and drawing his own
stepped back a few paces from him. Rodriguez took one hopeless
look at the balcony, saw it as empty and as black as ever, then he
faced his antagonist, waiting.
"Bandage one eye, indeed!" muttered Morano as he stepped up behind
the stranger and knocked him down for the third time with a blow
over the head from his frying-pan.
The young hidalgo dropped silently.
Rodriguez uttered one scream of anger and rushed at Morano with
his sword. Morano had already started to run; and, knowing well
that he was running for his life, he kept for awhile the start
that he had of the rapier. Rodriguez knew that no plump man of
over forty could last against his lithe speed long. He saw Morano
clearly before him, then lost sight of him for a moment and ran
confidently on pursuing. He ran on and on. And at last he
recognised that Morano had slipped into the darkness, which lies
always so near to the moonlight, and was not in front of him at
all. So he returned to his fallen antagonist and found him
breathing heavily where he fell, scarcely conscious. The third
stroke of the frying-pan had done its work surely. Rodriguez' fury
died down, only because it is difficult to feel two emotions at
once: it died down as pity took its place, though every now and
then it would suddenly flare and fall again. He returned his sword
and lifted the young hidalgo and carried him to the door of the
house under which they had fought.
With one fist he beat on the door without putting the hurt man
down, and continued to hit it until steps were heard, and bolts
began to grumble, as though disturbed too early from their rusty
sleep in stone sockets.
The door of the house with the balcony was opened by a servant
who, when he saw who it was that Rodriguez carried, fled into the
house in alarm, as one who runs with bad news. He carried one
candle and, when he had disappeared with the steaming flame,
Rodriguez found himself in a long hall lit by the moonlight only,
which was looking in through the small contorted panes of the
upper part of a high window. Alone with echoes and shadows
Rodriguez carried the hurt man through the hall, who was muttering
now as he came back to consciousness. And, as he went, there came
to Rodriguez thoughts between wonder and hope, for he had had no
thought at all when he beat on the door except to get shelter and
help for the hurt man. At the end of the hall they came to an open
door that led into a chamber partly shining with moonlight.
"In there," said the man that he carried.
Rodriguez carried him in and laid him on a long couch at the end
of the room. Large pictures of men in the blackness, out of the
moon's rays, frowned at Rodriguez mysteriously. He could not see
their faces in the darkness, but he somehow knew they frowned. Two
portraits that were clear in the moonlight eyed him with absolute
apathy. So cold a welcome from that house's past generations boded
no good to him from those that dwelt there today. Rodriguez knew
that in carrying the hurt man there he helped at a Christian deed;
and yet there was no putting the merits of the case against the
omens that crowded the chamber, lurking along the edge of
moonlight and darkness, disappearing and reappearing till the