Part 3 out of 5
gloom was heavy with portent. The omens knew. In a weak voice and
few words the hurt man thanked him, but the apathetic faces seemed
to say What of that? And the frowning faces that he could not see
still filled the darkness with anger.
And then from the end of the chamber, dressed in white, and all
shining with moonlight, came Serafina.
Rodriguez in awed silence watched her come. He saw her pass
through the moonlight and grow dimmer, and glide to the moonlight
again that streamed through another window. A great dim golden
circle appeared at the far end of the chamber whence she had come,
as the servent returned with his candle and held it high to give
light for Dona Serafina. But that one flame seemed to make the
darkness only blacker; and for any cheerfulness it brought to the
gloom it had better never have challenged those masses of darkness
at all in that high chamber among the brooding portraits it seemed
trivial, ephemeral, modern, ill able to cope with the power of
ancient things, dead days and forgotten voices, which make their
home in the darkness because the days that have usurped them have
stolen the light of the sun.
And there the man stood holding his candle high, and the rays of
the moon became more magical still beside that little mundane,
flickering thing. And Serafina was moving through the moonlight as
though its rays were her sisters, which she met noiselessly and
brightly upon some island, as it seemed to Rodriguez, beyond the
costs of Earth, so quietly and so brightly did her slender figure
move and so aloof from him appeared her eyes. And there came on
Rodriguez that feeling that some deride and that others explain
away, the feeling of which romance is mainly made and which is the
aim and goal of all the earth. And his love for Serafina seemed to
him not only to be an event in his life but to have some part in
veiled and shadowy destinies and to have the blessing of most
distant days: grey beards seemed to look out of graves in
forgotten places to wag approval: hands seemed to beckon to him
out of far-future times, where faces were smiling quietly: and,
dreaming on further still, this vast approval that gave
benediction to his heart's youthful fancy seemed to widen and
widen like the gold of a summer's evening or, the humming of bees
in summer in endless rows of limes, until it became a part of the
story of man. Spring days of his earliest memory seemed to have
their part in it, as well as wonderful evenings of days that were
yet to be, till his love for Serafina was one with the fate of
earth; and, wandering far on their courses, he knew that the stars
blessed it. But Serafina went up to the man on the couch with no
look for Rodriguez.
With no look for Rodriguez she bent over the stricken hidalgo. He
raised himself a little on one elbow. "It is nothing," he said,
Still she bent over him. He laid his head down again, but now with
open and undimmed eyes. She put her hand to his forehead, she
spoke in a low voice to him; she lavished upon him sympathy for
which Rodriguez would have offered his head to swords; and all,
thought Rodriguez for three blows from a knave's frying-pan: and
his anger against Morano flared up again fiercely. Then there came
another thought to him out of the shadows, where Serafina was
standing all white, a figure of solace. Who was this man who so
mysteriously blended with the other unknown things that haunted
the gloom of that chamber? Why had he fought him at night? What
was he to Serafina? Thoughts crowded up to him from the interior
of the darkness, sombre and foreboding as the shadows that nursed
them. He stood there never daring to speak to Serafina; looking
for permission to speak, such as a glance might give. And no
And now, as though soothed by her beauty, the hurt man closed his
eyes. Serafina stood beside him anxious and silent, gleaming in
that dim place. The servant at the far end of the chamber still
held his one candle high, as though some light of earth were
needed against the fantastic moon, which if unopposed would give
everything over to magic. Rodriguez stood there, scarcely
breathing. All was silent. And then through the door by which
Serafina had come, past that lonely, golden, moon-defying candle,
all down the long room across moonlight and blackness, came the
lady of the house, Serafina's mother. She came, as Serafina came,
straight toward the man on the couch, giving no look to Rodriguez,
walking something as Serafina walked, with the same poise, the
same dignity, though the years had carried away from her the grace
Serafina had: so that, though you saw that they were mother and
daughter, the elder lady called to mind the lovely things of
earth, large gardens at evening, statues dim in the dusk, summer
and whatsoever binds us to earthly things; but Serafina turned
Rodriguez' thoughts to the twilight in which he first saw her, and
he pictured her native place as far from here, in mellow fields
near the moon, wherein she had walked on twilight outlasting any
we know, with all delicate things of our fancy, too fair for the
As the lady approached the couch upon which the young man was
lying, and still no look was turned towards Rodriguez, his young
dreams fled as butterflies sailing high in the heat of June that
are suddenly plunged in night by a total eclipse of the sun. He
had never spoken to Serafina, or seen before her mother, and they
did not know his name; he knew that he, Rodriguez, had no claim to
a welcome. But his dreams had flocked so much about Serafina's
face, basking so much in her beauty, that they now fell back
dying; and when a man's dreams die what remains, if he lingers
awhile behind them?
Rodriguez suddenly felt that his left shoe was off and his right
eye still bandaged, things that he had not noticed while his only
thought was for the man he carried to shelter, but torturing his
consciousness now that he thought of himself. He opened his lips
to explain; but before words came to him, looking at the face of
Serafina's mother, standing now by the couch, he felt that, not
knowing how, he had somehow wronged the Penates of this house, or
whatever was hid in the dimness of that long chamber, by carrying
in this young man there to rest from his hurt.
Rodriguez' depression arose from these causes, but having arisen,
it grew of its own might: he had had nothing to eat since morning,
and in the favouring atmosphere of hunger his depression grew
gigantic. He opened his lips once more to say farewell, was
oppressed by all manner of thoughts that held him dumb, and turned
away in silence and left the house. Outside he recovered his
mandolin and his shoe. He was tired with the weariness of defeated
dreams that slept in his spirit exhausted, rather than with any
fatigue his young muscles had from the journey. He needed sleep;
he looked at the shuttered houses; then at the soft dust of the
road in which dogs lay during the daylight. But the dust was near
to his mood, so he lay down where he had fought the unknown
hidalgo. A light wind wandered the street like a visitor come to
the village out of a friendly valley, but Rodriguez' four days on
the roads had made him familiar with all wandering things, and the
breeze on his forehead troubled him not at all: before it had
wearied of wandering in the night Rodriguez had fallen asleep.
Just by the edge of sleep, upon which side he knew not, he heard
the window of the balcony creak, and looked up wide awake all in a
moment. But nothing stirred in the darkness of the balcony and the
window was fast shut. So whatever sound came from the window came
not from its opening but shutting: for a while he wondered; and
then his tired thoughts rested, and that was sleep.
A light rain woke Rodriguez, drizzling upon his face; the first
light rain that had fallen in a romantic tale. Storms there had
been, lashing oaks to terrific shapes seen at night by flashes of
lightning, through which villains rode abroad or heroes sought
shelter at midnight; hurricanes there had been, flapping huge
cloaks, fierce hail and copious snow; but until now no drizzle. It
was morning; dawn was old; and pale and grey and unhappy.
The balcony above him, still empty, scarcely even held romance
now. Rain dripped from it sadly. Its cheerless bareness seemed
worse than the most sinister shadows of night.
And then Rodriguez saw a rose lying on the ground beside him. And
for all the dreams, fancies, and hopes that leaped up in
Rodriguez' mind, rising and falling and fading, one thing alone he
knew and all the rest was mystery: the rose had lain there before
the rain had fallen. Beneath the rose was white dust, while all
around it the dust was turning grey with rain.
Rodriguez tried to guess how long the rain had fallen. The rose
may have lain beside him all night long. But the shadows of
mystery receded no farther than this one fact that the rose was
there before the rain began. No sign of any kind came from the
Rodriguez put the rose safe under his coat, wrapped in the
kerchief that had guarded the mandolin, to carry it far from
Lowlight, through places familiar with roses and places strange to
them; but it remained for him a thing of mystery until a day far
Sadly he left the house in the sad rain, marching away alone to
look for his wars.
THE SEVENTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE CAME TO SHADOW VALLEY
Rodriguez still believed it to be the duty of any Christian man to
kill Morano. Yet, more than comfort, more than dryness, he missed
Morano's cheerful chatter, and his philosophy into which all
occasions so easily slipped. Upon his first day's journey all was
new; the very anemones kept him company; but now he made the
discovery that lonely roads are long.
When he had suggested food or rest Morano had fallen in with his
wishes; when he had suggested winning a castle in vague wars
Morano had agreed with him. Now he had dismissed Morano and had
driven him away at the rapier's point. There was no one now either
to cook his food or to believe in the schemes his ambition made.
There was no one now to speak of the wars as the natural end of
the journey. Alone in the rain the wars seemed far away and
castles hard to come by. The unromantic rain in which no dreams
thrive fell on and on.
The village of Lowlight was some way behind him, as he went with
mournful thoughts through the drizzling rain, when he caught the
smell of bacon. He looked for a house but the plain was bare
except for small bushes. He looked up wind, which was blowing from
the west, whence came the unmistakable smell of bacon: and there
was a small fire smoking greyly against a bush; and the fat figure
crouching beside it, although the face was averted, was clearly
none but Morano. And when Rodriguez saw that he was tenderly
holding the infamous frying-pan, the very weapon that had done the
accursed deed, then he almost felt righteous anger; but that
frying-pan held other memories too, and Rodriguez felt less fury
than what he thought he felt. As for killing Morano, Rodriguez
believed, or thought he believed, that he was too far from the
road for it to be possible to overtake him to mete out his just
punishment. As for the bacon, Rodriguez scorned it and marched on
down the road. Now one side of the frying-pan was very hot, for it
was tilted a little and the lard had run sideways. By tilting it
back again slowly Morano could make the fat run back bit by bit
over the heated metal, and whenever it did so it sizzled. He now
picked up the frying-pan and one log that was burning well and
walked parallel with Rodriguez. He was up-wind of him, and
whenever the bacon-fat sizzled Rodriguez caught the smell of it. A
small matter to inspire thoughts; but Rodriguez had eaten nothing
since the morning before, and ideas surged through his head; and
though they began with moral indignation they adapted themselves
more and more to hunger, until there came the idea that since his
money had bought the bacon the food was rightfully his, and he had
every right to eat it wherever he found it. So much can slaves
sometimes control the master, and the body rule the brain.
So Rodriguez suddenly turned and strode up to Morano. "My bacon,"
"Master," Morano said, for it was beginning to cool, "let me make
another small fire."
"Knave, call me not master," said Rodriguez.
Morano, who knew when speech was good, was silent now, and blew on
the smouldering end of the log he carried and gathered a handful
of twigs and shook the rain off them; and soon had a small fire
again, warming the bacon. He had nothing to say which bacon could
not say better. And when Rodriguez had finished up the bacon he
carefully reconsidered the case of Morano, and there were points
in it which he had not thought of before. He reflected that for
the execution of knaves a suitable person was provided. He should
perhaps give Morano up to la Garda. His next thought was where to
find la Garda. And easily enough another thought followed that
one, which was that although on foot and still some way behind
four of la Garda were trying to find him. Rodriguez' mind, which
was looking at life from the point of view of a judge, changed
somewhat at this thought. He reflected next that, for the
prevention of crime, to make Morano see the true nature of his
enormity so that he should never commit it again might after all
be as good as killing him. So what we call his better nature, his
calmer judgment, decided him now to talk to Morano and not to kill
him: but Morano, looking back upon this merciful change, always
attributed it to fried bacon.
"Morano," said Rodriguez' better nature, "to offend the laws of
Chivalry is to have against you the swords of all true men."
"Master," Morano said, "that were dreadful odds."
"And rightly," said Rodriguez.
"Master," said Morano, "I will keep those laws henceforth. I may
cook bacon for you when you are hungry, I may brush the dust from
your cloak, I may see to your comforts. This Chivalry forbids none
of that. But when I see anyone trying to kill you, master; why,
kill you he must, and welcome."
"Not always," said Rodriguez somewhat curtly, for it struck him
that Morano spoke somehow too lightly of sacred things.
"Not always?" asked Morano.
"No," said Rodriguez.
"Master, I implore you tell me," said Morano, "when they may kill
you and when they may not, so that I may never offend again."
Rodriguez cast a swift glance at him but found his face so full of
puzzled anxiety that he condescended to do what Morano had asked,
and began to explain to him the rudiments of the laws of Chivalry.
"In the wars," he said, "you may defend me whoever assails me, or
if robbers or any common persons attack me, but if I arrange a
meeting with a gentleman, and any knave basely interferes, then is
he damned hereafter as well as accursed now; for, the laws of
Chivalry being founded on true religion, the penalty for their
breach is by no means confined to this world."
"Master," replied Morano thoughtfully, "if I be not damned already
I will avoid those fires of Hell; and none shall kill you that you
have not chosen to kill you, and those that you choose shall kill
you whenever you have a mind."
Rodriguez opened his lips to correct Morano but reflected that,
though in his crude and base-born way, he had correctly
interpreted the law so far as his mind was able.
So he briefly said "Yes," and rose and returned to the road,
giving Morano no order to follow him; and this was the last
concession he made to the needs of Chivalry on account of the sin
of Morano. Morano gathered up the frying-pan and followed
Rodriguez, and when they came to the road he walked behind him in
For three or four miles they walked thus, Morano knowing that he
followed on sufferance and calling no attention to himself with
his garrulous tongue. But at the end of an hour the rain lifted;
and with the coming out of the sun Morano talked again.
"Master," he said, "the next man that you choose to kill you, let
him be one too base-born to know the tricks of the rapier, too
ignorant to do aught but wish you well, some poor fat fool over
forty who shall be too heavy to elude your rapier's point and too
elderly for it to matter when you kill him at your Chivalry, the
best of life being gone already at forty-five."
"There is timber here," said Rodriguez. "We will have some more
bacon while you dry my cloak over a fire."
Thus he acknowledged Morano again for his servant but never
acknowledged that in Morano's words he had understood any poor
sketch of Morano's self, or that the words went to his heart.
"Timber, Master?" said Morano, though it did not need Rodriguez to
point out the great oaks that now began to stand beside their
journey, but he saw that the other matter was well and thus he
left well alone.
Rodriguez waved an arm towards the great trees. "Yes, indeed,"
said Morano, and began to polish up the frying-pan as he walked.
Rodriguez, who missed little, caught a glimpse of tears in
Morano's eyes, for all that his head was turned downward over the
frying-pan; yet he said nothing, for he knew that forgiveness was
all that Morano needed, and that he had now given him: and it was
much to give, reflected Rodriguez, for so great a crime, and
dismissed the matter from his mind.
And now their road dipped downhill, and they passed a huge oak and
then another. More and more often now they met these solitary
giants, till their view began to be obscured by them. The road
dwindled till it was no better than a track, the earth beside it
was wild and rocky; Rodriguez wondered to what manner of land he
was coming. But continually the branches of some tree obscured his
view and the only indication he had of it was from the road he
trod, which seemed to tell him that men came here seldom. Beyond
every huge tree that they passed as they went downhill Rodriguez
hoped to get a better view, but always there stood another to
close the vista. It was some while before he realised that he had
entered a forest. They were come to Shadow Valley.
The grandeur of this place, penetrated by shafts of sunlight,
coloured by flashes of floating butterflies, filled by the chaunt
of birds rising over the long hum of insects, lifted the fallen
spirits of Rodriguez as he walked on through the morning.
He still would not have exchanged his rose for the whole forest;
but in the mighty solemnity of the forest his mourning for the
lady that he feared he had lost no longer seemed the only solemn
thing: indeed, the sombre forest seemed well attuned to his mood;
and what complaint have we against Fate wherever this is so. His
mood was one of tragic loss, the defeat of an enterprise that his
hopes had undertaken, to seize victory on the apex of the world,
to walk all his days only just outside the edge of Paradise, for
no less than that his hopes and his first love promised each
other; and then he walked despairing in small rain. In this mood
Fate had led him to solemn old oaks standing huge among shadows;
and the grandeur of their grey grip on the earth that had been
theirs for centuries was akin to the grandeur of the high hopes he
had had, and his despair was somehow soothed by the shadows. And
then the impudent birds seemed to say "Hope again."
They walked for miles into the forest and lit a fire before noon,
for Rodriguez had left Lowlight very early. And by it Morano
cooked bacon again and dried his master's cloak. They ate the
bacon and sat by the fire till all their clothes were dry, and
when the flames from the great logs fell and only embers glowed
they sat there still, with hands spread to the warmth of the
embers; for to those who wander a fire is food and rest and
comfort. Only as the embers turned grey did they throw earth over
their fire and continue their journey. Their road grew smaller and
the forest denser.
They had walked some miles from the place where they lit their
fire, when a somewhat unmistakable sound made Rodriguez look ahead
of him. An arrow had struck a birch tree on the right side, ten or
twelve paces in front of him; and as he looked up another struck
it from the opposite side just level with the first; the two were
sticking in it ten feet or so from the ground. Rodriguez drew his
sword. But when a third arrow went over his head from behind and
struck the birch tree, whut! just between the other two, he
perceived, as duller minds could have done, that it was a hint,
and he returned his sword and stood still. Morano questioned his
master with his eyes, which were asking what was to be done next.
But Rodriguez shrugged his shoulders: there was no fighting with
an invisible foe that could shoot like that. That much Morano
knew, but he did not know that there might not be some law of
Chivalry that would demand that Rodriguez should wave his sword in
the air or thrust at the birch tree until someone shot him. When
there seemed to be no such rule Morano was well content. And
presently men came quietly on to the road from different parts of
the wood. They were dressed in brown leather and wore leaf-green
hats, and round each one's neck hung a disk of engraved copper.
They came up to the travellers carrying bows, and the leader said
"Senor, all travellers here bring tribute to the King of Shadow
Valley," at the mention of whom all touched hats and bowed their
heads. "What do you bring us?"
Rodriguez thought of no answer; but after a moment he said, for
the sake of loyalty: "I know one king only."
"There is only one king in Shadow Valley," said the bowman.
"He brings a tribute of emeralds," said another, looking at
Rodriguez' scabbard. And then they searched him and others search
Morano. There were eight or nine of them, all in their leaf-green
hats, with ribbons round their necks of the same colour to hold
the copper disks. They took a gold coin from Morano and grey
greasy pieces of silver. One of them took his frying-pan; but he
looked so pitifully at them as he said simply, "I starve," that
the frying-pan was restored to him.
They unbuckled Rodriguez' belt and took from him sword and
scabbard and three gold pieces from his purse. Next they found the
gold piece that was hanging round his neck, still stuffed inside
his clothes where he had put it when he was riding. Having
examined it they put it back inside his clothes, while the leader
rebuckled his sword-belt about his waist and returned him his
Others returned his money to Morano. "Master," said the leader,
bowing to Rodriguez, his green hat in hand, "under our King, the
forest is yours."
Morano was pleased to hear this respect paid to his master, but
Rodriguez was so surprised that he who was never curt without
reason found no more to say than "Why?"
"Because we are your servants," said the other.
"Who are you?" asked Rodriguez.
"We are the green bowmen, master," he said, "who hold this forest
against all men for our King."
"And who is he?" said Rodriguez.
And the bowman answered: "The King of Shadow Valley," at which the
others all touched hats and bowed heads again. And Rodriguez
seeing that the mystery would grow no clearer for any information
to be had from them said: "Conduct me to your king."
"That, master, we cannot do," said the chief of the bowmen. "There
be many trees in this forest, and behind any one of them he holds
his court. When he needs us there is his clear horn. But when men
need him who knows which shadow is his of all that lie in the
forest?" Whether or not there was anything interesting in the
mystery, to Rodriguez it was merely annoying; and finding it grew
no clearer he turned his attention to shelter for the night, to
which all travellers give a thought at least once, between noon
"Is there any house on this road, senor," he said, "in which we
could rest the night?"
"Ten miles from here," said he, "and not far from the road you
take is the best house we have in the forest. It is yours, master,
for as long as you honour it."
"Come then," said Rodriguez, "and I thank you, senor."
So they all started together, Rodriguez with the leader going in
front and Morano following with all the bowmen. And soon the
bowmen were singing songs of the forest, hunting songs, songs of
the winter; and songs of the long summer evenings, songs of love.
Cheered by this merriment, the miles slipped by.
And Rodriguez gathered from the songs they sang something of what
they were and of how they lived in the forest, living amongst the
woodland creatures till these men's ways were almost as their
ways; killing what they needed for food but protecting the
woodland things against all others; straying out amongst the
villages in summer evenings, and always welcome; and owning no
allegiance but to the King of the Shadow Valley.
And the leader told Rodriguez that his name was Miguel Threegeese,
given him on account of an exploit in his youth when he lay one
night with his bow by one of the great pools in the forest, where
the geese come in winter. He said the forest was a hundred miles
long, lying mostly along a great valley, which they were crossing.
And once they had owned allegiance to kings of Spain, but now to
none but the King of the Shadow Valley, for the King of Spain's
men had once tried to cut some of the forest down, and the forest
Behind him the men sang on of woodland things, and of cottage
gardens in the villages: with singing and laughter they came to
their journey's end. A cottage as though built by peasants with
boundless material stood in the forest. It was a thatched cottage
built in the peasant's way but of enormous size. The leader
entered first and whispered to those within, who rose and bowed to
Rodriguez as he entered, twenty more bowmen who had been sitting
at a table. One does not speak of the banqueting-hall of a
cottage, but such it appeared, for it occupied more than half of
the cottage and was as large as the banqueting-hall of any castle.
It was made of great beams of oak, and high at either end just
under the thatch were windows with their little square panes of
bulging bluish glass, which at that time was rare in Spain. A
table of oak ran down the length of it, cut from a single tree,
polished and dark from the hands of many men that had sat at it.
Boar spears hung on the wall, great antlers and boar's tusks and,
carved in the oak of the wall and again on a high, dark chair that
stood at the end of the long table empty, a crown with oak leaves
that Rodriguez recognised. It was the same as the one that was cut
on his gold coin, which he had given no further thought to, riding
to Lowlight, and which the face of Serafina had driven from his
mind altogether. "But," he said, and then was silent, thinking to
learn more by watching than by talking. And his companions of the
road came in and all sat down on the benches beside the ample
table, and a brew was brought, a kind of pale mead, that they
called forest water. And all drank; and, sitting at the table,
watching them more closely than he could as he walked in the
forest, Rodriguez saw by the sunlight that streamed in low through
one window that on the copper disks they wore round their necks on
green ribbon the design was again the same. It was much smaller
than his on the gold coin but the same strange leafy crown. "Wear
it as you go through Shadow Valley," he now seemed to remember the
man saying to him who put it round his neck. But why? Clearly
because it was the badge of this band of men. And this other man
was one of them.
His eyes strayed back to the great design on the wall. "The crown
of the forest," said Miguel as he saw his eyes wondering at it,
"as you doubtless know, senor."
Why should he know? Of course because he bore the design himself.
"Who wears it?" said Rodriguez.
"The King of Shadow Valley."
Morano was without curiosity; he did not question good drink; he
sat at the table with a cup of horn in his hand, as happy as
though he had come to his master's castle, though that had not yet
The sun sank under the oaks, filling the hall with a ruddy glow,
turning the boar spears scarlet and reddening the red faces of the
merry men of the bow.
A dozen of the men went out; to relieve the guard in the forest,
Miguel explained. And Rodriguez learned that he had come through a
line of sentries without ever seeing one. Presently a dozen others
came in from their posts and unslung their bows and laid them on
pegs on the wall and sat down at the table. Whereat there were
whispered words and they all rose and bowed to Rodriguez. And
Rodriguez had caught the words "A prince of the forest." What did
Soon the long hall grew dim, and his love for the light drew
Rodriguez out to watch the sunset. And there was the sun under
indescribable clouds, turning huge and yellow among the trunks of
the trees and casting glory munificently down glades. It set, and
the western sky became blood-red and lilac: from the other end of
the sky the moon peeped out of night. A hush came and a chill, and
a glory of colour, and a dying away of light; and in the hush the
mystery of the great oaks became magical. A blackbird blew a tune
less of this earth than of fairy-land.
Rodriguez wished that he could have had a less ambition than to
win a castle in the wars, for in those glades and among those oaks
he felt that happiness might be found under roofs of thatch. But
having come by his ambition he would not desert it.
Now rushlights were lit in the great cottage and the window of the
long room glowed yellow. A fountain fell in the stillness that he
had not heard before. An early nightingale tuned a tentative note.
"The forest is fair, is it not?" said Miguel.
Rodriguez had no words to say. To turn into words the beauty that
was now shining in his thoughts, reflected from the evening there,
was no easier than for wood to reflect all that is seen in the
"You love the forest," he said at last.
"Master," said Miguel, "it is the only land in which we should
live our days. There are cities and roads but man is not meant for
them. I know not, master, what God intends about us; but in cities
we are against the intention at every step, while here, why, we
drift along with it."
"I, too, would live here always," said Rodriguez.
"The house is yours," said Miguel. And Rodriguez answered: "I go
tomorrow to the wars."
They turned round then and walked slowly back to the cottage, and
entered the candlelight and the loud talk of many men out of the
hush of the twilight. But they passed from the room at once by a
door on the left, and came thus to a large bedroom, the only other
room in the cottage.
"Your room, master," said Miguel Threegeese.
It was not so big as the hall where the bowmen sat, but it was a
goodly room. The bed was made of carved wood, for there were
craftsmen in the forest, and a hunt went all the way round it with
dogs and deer. Four great posts held a canopy over it: they were
four young birch-trees seemingly still wearing their bright bark,
but this had been painted on their bare timber by some woodland
artist. The chairs had not the beauty of the great ages of
furniture, but they had a dignity that the age of commerce has not
dreamed of. Each one was carved out of a single block of wood:
there was no join in them anywhere. One of them lasts to this day.
The skins of deer covered the long walls. There were great basins
and jugs of earthenware. All was forest-made. The very shadows
whispering among themselves in corners spoke of the forest. The
room was rude; but being without ornament, except for the work of
simple craftsmen, it had nothing there to offend the sense of
right of anyone entering its door, by any jarring conflict with
the purposes and traditions of the land in which it stood. All the
woodland spirits might have entered there, and slept--if spirits
sleep--in the great bed, and left at dawn unoffended. In fact that
age had not yet learned vulgarity.
When Miguel Threegeese left Morano entered.
"Master," he said, "they are making a banquet for you."
"Good," said Rodriguez. "We will eat it." And he waited to hear
what Morano had come to say, for he could see that it was more
"Master," said Morano, "I have been talking with the bowman. And
they will give you whatever you ask. They are good people, master,
and they will give you all things, whatever you asked of them."
Rodriguez would not show to his servant that it all still puzzled
"They are very amiable men," he said.
"Master," said Morano, coming to the point, "that Garda, they will
have walked after us. They must be now in Lowlight. They have all
to-night to get new shoes on their horses. And to-morrow, master,
to-morrow, if we be still on foot..."
Rodriguez was thinking. Morano seemed to him to be talking sense.
"You would like another ride?" he said to Morano.
"Master," he answered, "riding is horrible. But the public
garrotter, he is a bad thing too." And he meditatively stroked the
bristles under his chin.
"They would give us horses?" said Rodriguez.
"Anything, master, I am sure of it. They are good people."
"They'll have news of the road by which they left Lowlight," said
Rodriguez reflectively. "They say la Garda dare not enter the
forest," Morano continued, "but thirty miles from here the forest
ends. They could ride round while we go through."
"They would give us horses?" said Rodriguez again.
"Surely," said Morano.
And then Rodriguez asked where they cooked the banquet, since he
saw that there were only two rooms in the great cottage and his
inquiring eye saw no preparations for cooking about the fireplace
of either. And Morano pointed through a window at the back of the
room to another cottage among the trees, fifty paces away. A red
glow streamed from its windows, growing strong in the darkening
"That is their kitchen, master," he said. "The whole house is
kitchen." His eyes looked eagerly at it, for, though he loved
bacon, he welcomed the many signs of a dinner of boundless
As he and his master returned to the long hall great plates of
polished wood were being laid on the table. They gave Rodriguez a
place on the right of the great chair that had the crown of the
forest carved on the back.
"Whose chair is that?" said Rodriguez.
"The King of Shadow Valley," they said.
"He is not here then," said Rodriguez.
"Who knows?" said a bowman.
"It is his chair," said another; "his place is ready. None knows
the ways of the King of Shadow Valley."
"He comes sometimes at this hour," said a third, "as the boar
comes to Heather Pool at sunset. But not always. None knows his
"If they caught the King," said another, "the forest would perish.
None loves it as he, none knows its ways as he, no other could so
"Alas," said Miguel, "some day when he be not here they will enter
the forest." All knew whom he meant by they. "And the goodly trees
will go." He spoke as a man foretelling the end of the world; and,
as men to whom no less was announced, the others listened to him.
They all loved Shadow Valley.
In this man's time, so they told Rodriguez, none entered the
forest to hurt it, no tree was cut except by his command, and
venturous men claiming rights from others than him seldom laid axe
long to tree before he stood near, stepping noiselessly from among
shadows of trees as though he were one of their spirits coming for
vengeance on man.
All this they told Rodriguez, but nothing definite they told of
their king, where he was yesterday, where he might be now; and any
questions he asked of such things seemed to offend a law of the
And then the dishes were carried in, to Morano's great delight:
with wide blue eyes he watched the produce of that mighty estate
coming in through the doorway cooked. Boars' heads, woodcock,
herons, plates full of fishes, all manner of small eggs, a roe-
deer and some rabbits, were carried in by procession. And the men
set to with their ivory-handled knives, each handle being the
whole tusk of a boar. And with their eating came merriment and
tales of past huntings and talk of the forest and stories of the
King of Shadow Valley.
And always they spoke of him not only with respect but also with
the discretion, Rodriguez thought, of men that spoke of one who
might be behind them at that moment, and one who tolerated no
trifling with his authority. Then they sang songs again, such as
Rodriguez had heard on the road, and their merry lives passed
clearly before his mind again, for we live in our songs as no men
live in histories. And again Rodriguez lamented his hard ambition
and his long, vague journey, turning away twice from happiness;
once in the village of Lowlight where happiness deserted him, and
here in the goodly forest where he jilted happiness. How well
could he and Morano live as two of this band, he thought; leaving
all cares in cities: for there dwelt cares in cities even then.
Then he put the thought away. And as the evening wore away with
merry talk and with song, Rodriguez turned to Miguel and told him
how it was with la Garda and broached the matter of horses. And
while the others sang Miguel spoke sadly to him. "Master," he
said, "la Garda shall never take you in Shadow Valley, yet if you
must leave us to make your fortune in the wars, though your
fortune waits you here, there be many horses in the forest, and
you and your servant shall have the best."
"Tomorrow morning, senor?" said Rodriguez.
"Even so," said Miguel.
"And how shall I send them to you again?" said Rodriguez.
"Master, they are yours," said Miguel.
But this Rodriguez would not have, for as yet he only guessed what
claim at all he had upon Shadow Valley, his speculations being far
more concerned with the identity of the hidalgo that he had fought
the night before, how he concerned Serafina, who had owned the
rose that he carried: in fact his mind was busy with such studies
as were proper to his age. And at last they decided between them
on the house of a lowland smith, who was the furthest man that the
bowmen knew who was secretly true to their king. At his house
Rodriguez and Morano should leave the horses. He dwelt sixty miles
from the northern edge of the forest, and would surely give
Rodriguez fresh horses if he possessed them, for he was a true man
to the bowman. His name was Gonzalez and he dwelt in a queer green
They turned then to listen a moment to a hunting song that all the
bowmen were singing about the death of a boar. Its sheer merriment
constrained them. Then Miguel spoke again. "You should not leave
the forest," he said sadly.
Rodriguez sighed: it was decided. Then Miguel told him of his
road, which ran north-eastward and would one day bring him out of
Spain. He told him how towns on the way, and the river Ebro, and
with awe and reverence he spoke of the mighty Pyrenees. And then
Rodriguez rose, for the start was to be at dawn, and walked
quietly through the singing out of the hall to the room where the
great bed was. And soon he slept, and his dreams joined in the
endless hunt through Shadow Valley that was carved all round the
timbers of his bed.
All too soon he heard voices, voices far off at first, to which he
drew nearer and nearer; thus he woke grudgingly out of the deeps
of sleep. It was Miguel and Morano calling him.
When at length he reached the hall all the merriment of the
evening was gone from it but the sober beauty of the forest
flooded in through both windows with early sunlight and bird-song;
so that it had not the sad appearance of places in which we have
rejoiced, when we revisit them next day or next generation and
find them all deserted by dance and song.
Rodriguez ate his breakfast while the bowmen waited with their
bows all strung by the door. When he was ready they all set off in
the early light through the forest.
Rodriguez did not criticise his ambition; it sailed too high above
his logic for that; but he regretted it, as he went through the
beauty of the forest among these happy men. But we must all have
an ambition, and Rodriguez stuck to the one he had. He had
another, but it was an ambition with weak wings that could not
come to hope. It depended upon the first. If he could win a castle
in the wars he felt that he might even yet hope towards Lowlight.
Little was said, and Rodriguez was all alone with his thoughts. In
two hours they met a bowman holding two horses. They had gone
"Farewell to the forest," said Miguel to Rodriguez. There was
almost a query in his voice. Would Rodriguez really leave them? it
seemed to say.
"Farewell," he answered.
Morano too had looked sideways towards his master, seeming almost
to wonder what his answer would be: when it came he accepted it
and walked to the horses. Rodriguez mounted: willing hands helped
up Morano. "Farewell," said Miguel once more. And all the bowmen
"Make my farewell," said Rodriguez, "to the King of Shadow
A twig cracked in the forest.
"Hark," said Miguel. "Maybe that was a boar."
"I cannot wait to hunt," said Rodriguez, "for I have far to go."
"Maybe," said Miguel, "it was the King's farewell to you."
Rodriguez looked into the forest and saw nothing.
"Farewell," he said again. The horses were fresh and he let his
go. Morano lumbered behind him. In two miles they came to the edge
of the forest and up a rocky hill, and so to the plains again, and
one more adventure lay behind them. Rodriguez turned round once on
the high ground and took a long look back on the green undulations
of peace. The forest slept there as though empty of men.
Then they rode. In the first hour, easily cantering, they did ten
miles. Then they settled down to what those of our age and country
and occupation know as a hound-jog, which is seven miles an hour.
And after two hours they let the horses rest. It was the hour of
the frying-pan. Morano, having dismounted, stretched himself
dolefully; then he brought out all manner of meats. Rodriguez
looked wonderingly at them.
"For the wars, master," said Morano. To whatever wars they went,
the green bowmen seemed to have supplied an ample commissariat.
They ate. And Rodriguez thought of the wars, for the thought of
Serafina made him sad, and his rejection of the life of the forest
saddened him too; so he sought to draw from the future the comfort
that he could not get from the past.
They mounted again and rode again for three hours, till they saw
very far off on a hill a village that Miguel had told them was
fifty miles from the forest.
"We rest the night there," said Rodriguez pointing, though it was
yet seven or eight miles away.
"All the Saints be praised," said Morano.
They dismounted then and went on foot, for the horses were weary.
At evening they rode slowly into the village. At an inn whose
hospitable looks were as cheerfully unlike the Inn of the Dragon
and Knight as possible, they demanded lodging for all four. They
went first to the stable, and when the horses had been handed over
to the care of a groom they returned to the inn, and mine host and
Rodriguez had to help Morano up the three steps to the door, for
he had walked nine miles that day and ridden fifty and he was too
weary to climb the steps.
And later Rodriguez sat down alone to his supper at a table well
and variously laden, for the doors of mine hosts' larder were
opened wide in his honour; but Rodriguez ate sparingly, as do
And soon he sought his bed. And on the old echoing stairs as he
and mine host ascended they met Morano leaning against the wall.
What shall I say of Morano? Reader, your sympathy is all ready to
go out to the poor, weary man. He does not entirely deserve it,
and shall not cheat you of it. Reader, Morano was drunk. I tell
you this sorry truth rather than that the knave should have
falsely come by your pity. And yet he is dead now over three
hundred years, having had his good time to the full. Does he
deserve your pity on that account? Or your envy? And to whom or
what would you give it? Well, anyhow, he deserved no pity for
being drunk. And yet he was thirsty, and too tired to eat, and
sore in need of refreshment, and had had no more cause to learn to
shun good wine than he had had to shun the smiles of princesses;
and there the good wine had been, sparkling beside him merrily.
And now, why now, fatigued as he had been an hour or so ago (but
time had lost its tiresome, restless meaning), now he stood firm
while all things and all men staggered.
"Morano," said Rodriguez as he passed that foolish figure, "we go
sixty miles to-morrow."
"Sixty, master?" said Morano. "A hundred: two hundred."
"It is best to rest now," said his master.
"Two hundred, master, two hundred," Morano replied.
And then Rodriguez left him, and heard him muttering his challenge
to distance still, "Two hundred, two hundred," till the old
stairway echoed with it.
And so he came to his chamber, of which he remembered little, for
sleep lurked there and he was soon with dreams, faring further
with them than my pen can follow.
THE EIGHTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE TRAVELLED FAR
One blackbird on a twig near Rodriguez' window sang, then there
were fifty singing, and morning arose over Spain all golden and
Rodriguez descended and found mine host rubbing his hands by his
good table, with a look on his face that seemed to welcome the day
and to find good auguries concerning it. But Morano looked as one
that, having fallen from some far better place, is ill-content
with earth and the mundane way.
He had scorned breakfast; but Rodriguez breakfasted. And soon the
two were bidding mine host farewell. They found their horses
saddled, they mounted at once, and rode off slowly in the early
day. The horses were tired and, slowly trotting and walking, and
sometimes dismounting and dragging the horses on, it was nearly
two hours before they had done ten miles and come to the house of
the smith in a rocky village: the street was cobbled and the
houses were all of stone.
The early sparkle had gone from the dew, but it was still morning,
and many a man but now sat down to his breakfast, as they arrived
and beat on the door.
Gonzalez the smith opened it, a round and ruddy man past fifty, a
citizen following a reputable trade, but once, ah once, a bowman.
"Senor," said Rodriguez, "our horses are weary. We have been told
you will change them for us."
"Who told you that?" said Gonzalez.
"The green bowmen in Shadow Valley," the young man answered.
As a meteor at night lights up with its greenish glare flowers and
blades of grass, twisting long shadows behind them, lights up
lawns and bushes and the deep places of woods, scattering quiet
night for a moment, so the unexpected answer of Rodriguez lit
memories in the mind of the smith all down the long years; and a
twinkle and a sparkle of those memories dancing in woods long
forsaken flashed from his eyes.
"The green bowmen, senor," said Gonzalez. "Ah, Shadow Valley!"
"We left it yesterday," said Rodriguez.
When Gonzalez heard this he poured forth questions. "The forest,
senor; how is it now with the forest? Do the boars still drink at
Heather Pool? Do the geese go still to Greatmarsh? They should
have come early this year. How is it with Larios, Raphael, Migada?
Who shoots woodcock now?"
The questions flowed on past answering, past remembering: he had
not spoken of the forest for years. And Rodriguez answered as such
questions are always answered, saying that all was well, and
giving Gonzalez some little detail of some trifling affair of the
forest, which he treasured as small shells are treasured in inland
places when travellers bring them from the sea; but all that he
heard of the forest seemed to the smith like something gathered on
a far shore of time. Yes, he had been a bowman once.
But he had no horses. One horse that drew a cart, but no horses
for riding at all. And Rodriguez thought of the immense miles
lying between him and the foreign land, keeping him back from his
ambition; they all pressed on his mind at once. The smith was
sorry, but he could not make horses.
"Show him your coin, master," said Morano.
"Ah, a small token," said Rodriguez, drawing it forth still on its
green ribbon under his clothing. "The bowman's badge, is it not?"
Gonzalez looked at it, then looked at Rodriguez.
"Master," he said, "you shall have your horses. Give me time: you
shall have them. Enter, master." And he bowed and widely opened
the door. "If you will breakfast in my house while I go to the
neighbours you shall have some horses, master."
So they entered the house, and the smith with many bows gave the
travellers over to the care of his wife, who saw from her
husband's manner that these were persons of importance and as such
she treated them both, and as such entertained them to their
second breakfast. And this meant they ate heartily, as travellers
can, who can go without a breakfast or eat two; and those who
dwell in cities can do neither.
And while the plump dame did them honour they spoke no word of the
forest, for they knew not what place her husband's early years had
in her imagination.
They had barely finished their meal when the sound of hooves on
cobbles was heard and Gonzalez beat on the door. They all went to
the door and found him there with two horses. The horses were
saddled and bridled. They fixed the stirrups to please them, then
the travellers mounted at once. Rodriguez made his grateful
farewell to the wife of the smith: then, turning to Gonzalez, he
pointed to the two tired horses which had waited all the while
with their reins thrown over a hook on the wall.
"Let the owner of these have them till his own come back," he
said, and added: "How far may I take these?"
"They are good horses," said the smith.
"Yes," said Rodriguez.
"They could do fifty miles to-day," Gonzalez continued, "and to-
morrow, why, forty, or a little more."
"And where will that bring me?" said Rodriguez, pointing to the
straight road which was going his way, north-eastward.
"That," said Gonzalez, "that should bring you some ten or twenty
miles short of Saspe."
"And where shall I leave the horses?" Rodriguez asked.
"Master," Gonzalez said, "in any village where there be a smith,
if you say 'these are the horses of the smith Gonzalez, who will
come for them one day from here,' they will take them in for you,
"But," and Gonzalez walked a little away from his wife, and the
horses walked and he went beside them, "north of here none knows
the bowmen. You will get no fresh horses, master. What will you
"Walk," said Rodriguez.
Then they said farewell, and there was a look on the face of the
smith almost such as the sons of men might have worn in Genesis
when angels visited them briefly.
They settled down into a steady trot and trotted thus for three
hours. Noon came, and still there was no rest for Morano, but only
dust and the monotonous sight of the road, on which his eyes were
fixed: nearly an hour more passed, and at last he saw his master
halt and turn round in his saddle.
"Dinner," Rodriguez said.
All Morano's weariness vanished: it was the hour of the frying-pan
They had done more than twenty-one miles from the house of
Gonzalez. Nimbly enough, in his joy at feeling the ground again,
Morano ran and gathered sticks from the bushes. And soon he had a
fire, and a thin column of grey smoke going up from it that to him
was always home.
When the frying-pan warmed and lard sizzled, when the smell of
bacon mingled with the smoke, then Morano was where all wise men
and all unwise try to be, and where some of one or the other some
times come for awhile, by unthought paths and are gone again; for
that smoky, mixed odour was happiness.
Not for long men and horses rested, for soon Rodriguez' ambition
was drawing him down the road again, of which he knew that there
remained to be travelled over two hundred miles in Spain, and how
much beyond that he knew not, nor greatly cared, for beyond the
frontier of Spain he believed there lay the dim, desired country
of romance where roads were long no more and no rain fell. They
mounted again and pushed on for this country. Not a village they
saw but that Morano hoped that here his affliction would end and
that he would dismount and rest; and always Rodriguez rode on and
Morano followed, and with a barking of dogs they were gone and the
village rested behind them. For many an hour their slow trot
carried them on; and Morano, clutching the saddle with worn arms,
already was close to despair, when Rodriguez halted in a little
village at evening before an inn. They had done their fifty miles
from the house of Gonzalez, and even a little more.
Morano rolled from his horse and beat on the small green door.
Mine host came out and eyed them, preening the point of his beard;
and Rodriguez sat his horse and looked at him. They had not the
welcome here that Gonzalez gave them; but there was a room to
spare for Rodriguez, and Morano was promised what he asked for,
straw; and there was shelter to be had for the horses. It was all
the travellers needed.
Children peered at the strangers, gossips peeped out of doors to
gather material concerning them, dogs noted their coming, the eyes
of the little village watched them curiously, but Rodriguez and
Morano passed into the house unheeding; and past those two tired
men the mellow evening glided by like a dream. Tired though
Rodriguez was he noticed a certain politeness in mine host while
he waited at supper, which had not been noticeable when he had
first received him, and rightly put this down to some talk of
Morano's; but he did not guess that Morano had opened wide blue
eyes and, babbling to his host, had guilelessly told him that his
master a week ago had killed an uncivil inn-keeper.
Scarcely were late birds home before Rodriguez sought his bed, and
not all of them were sleeping before he slept.
Another morning shone, and appeared to Spain, and all at once
Rodriguez was wide awake. It was the eighth day of his wanderings.
When he had breakfasted and paid his due in silver he and Morano
departed, leaving mine host upon his doorstep bowing with an
almost perplexed look on his shrewd face as he took the points of
moustachios and beard lightly in turn between finger and thumb:
for we of our day enter vague details about ourselves in the book
downstairs when we stay at inns, but it was mine host's custom to
gather all that with his sharp eyes. Whatever he gathered,
Rodriguez and Morano were gone.
But soon their pace dwindled, the trot slackening and falling to a
walk; soon Rodriguez learned what it is to travel with tired
horses. To Morano riding was merely riding, and the discomforts of
that were so great that he noticed no difference. But to
Rodriguez, his continual hitting and kicking his horse's sides,
his dislike of doing it, the uselessness of it when done, his
ambition before and the tired beast underneath, the body always
some yards behind the beckoning spirit, were as great vexation as
a traveller knows. It came to dismounting and walking miles on
foot; even then the horses hung back. They halted an hour over
dinner while the horses grazed and rested, and they returned to
their road refreshed by the magic that was in the frying-pan, but
the horses were no fresher.
When our bodies are slothful and lie heavy, never responding to
the spirit's bright promptings, then we know dullness: and the
burden of it is the graver for hearing our spirits call faintly,
as the chains of a buccaneer in some deep prison, who hears a
snatch of his comrades' singing as they ride free by the coast,
would grow more unbearable than ever before. But the weight of his
tired horse seemed to hang heavier on the fanciful hopes that
Rodriguez' dreams had made. Farther than ever seemed the Pyrenees,
huger than ever their barrier, dimmer and dimmer grew the lands of
If the hopes of Rodriguez were low, if his fancies were faint,
what material have I left with which to make a story with glitter
enough to hold my readers' eyes to the page: for know that mere
dreams and idle fancies, and all amorous, lyrical, unsubstantial
things, are all that we writers have of which to make a tale, as
they are all that the Dim Ones have to make the story of man.
Sometimes riding, sometimes going on foot, with the thought of the
long, long miles always crowding upon Rodriguez, overwhelming his
hopes; till even the castle he was to win in the wars grew too
pale for his fancy to see, tired and without illusions, they came
at last by starlight to the glow of a smith's forge. He must have
done forty-five miles and he knew they were near Caspe.
The smith was working late, and looked up when Rodriguez halted.
Yes, he knew Gonzalez, a master in the trade: there was a welcome
for his horses.
But for the two human travellers there were excuses, even
apologies, but no spare beds. It was the same in the next three or
four houses that stood together by the road. And the fever of
Rodriguez' ambition drove him on, though Morano would have lain
down and slept where they stood, though he himself was weary. The
smith had received his horses; after that he cared not whether
they gave him shelter or not, the alternative being the road, and
that bringing nearer his wars and the castle he was to win. And
that fancy that led his master Morano allowed always to lead him
too, though a few more miles and he would have fallen asleep as he
walked and dropped by the roadside and slept on. Luckily they had
gone barely two miles from the forge where the horses rested, when
they saw a high, dark house by the road and knocked on the door
and found shelter. It was an old woman who let them in, a farmer's
wife, and she had room for them and one mattress, but no bed. They
were too tired to eat and did not ask for food, but at once
followed her up the booming stairs of her house, which were all
dark but for her candle, and so came among huge minuetting shadows
to the long loft at the top. There was a mattress there which the
old woman laid out for Rodriguez, and a heap of hay for Morano.
Just for a moment, as Rodriguez climbed the last step of the stair
and entered the loft where the huge shadows twirled between the
one candle's light and the unbeaten darkness in corners, just for
a moment romance seemed to beckon to him; for a moment, in spite
of his fatigue and dejection, in spite of the possibility of his
quest being crazy, for a moment he felt that great shadows and
echoing boards, the very cobwebs even that hung from the black
rafters, were all romantic things; he felt that his was a glorious
adventure and that all these things that filled the loft in the
night were such as should fitly attend on youth and glory. In a
moment that feeling was gone he knew not why it had come. And
though he remembered it till grey old age, when he came to know
the causes of many things, he never knew what romance might have
to do with shadows or echoes at night in an empty room, and only
knew of such fancies that they came from beyond his understanding,
whether from wisdom or folly.
Morano was first asleep, as enormous snores testified, almost
before the echoes had died away of the footsteps of the old woman
descending the stairs; but soon Rodriguez followed him into the
region of dreams, where fantastic ambitions can live with less of
a struggle than in the broad light of day: he dreamed he walked at
night down a street of castles strangely colossal in an awful
starlight, with doors too vast for any human need, whose
battlements were far in the heights of night; and chose, it being
in time of war, the one that should be his; but the gargoyles on
it were angry and spoiled the dream.
Dream followed dream with furious rapidity, as the dreams of tired
men do, racing each other, jostling and mingling and dancing, an
ill-assorted company: myriads went by, a wild, grey, cloudy
multitude; and with the last walked dawn.
Rodriguez rose more relieved to quit so tumultuous a rest than
refreshed by having had it.
He descended, leaving Morano to sleep on, and not till the old
dame had made a breakfast ready did he return to interrupt his
Even as he awoke upon his heap of hay Morano remained as true to
his master's fantastic quest as the camel is true to the
pilgrimage to Mecca. He awoke grumbling, as the camel grumbles at
dawn when the packs are put on him where he lies, but never did he
doubt that they went to victorious wars where his master would win
a castle splendid with towers.
Breakfast cheered both the travellers. And then the old lady told
Rodriguez that Caspe was but a three hours' walk, and that cheered
them even more, for Caspe is on the Ebro, which seemed to mark for
Rodriguez a stage in his journey, being carried easily in his
imagination, like the Pyrenees. What road he would take when he
reached Caspe he had not planned. And soon Rodriguez expressed his
gratitude, full of fervour, with many a flowery phrase which lived
long in the old dame's mind; and the visit of those two travellers
became one of the strange events of that house and was chief of
the memories that faintly haunted the rafters of the loft for
They did not reach Caspe in three hours, but went lazily, being
weary; for however long a man defies fatigue the hour comes when
it claims him. The knowledge that Caspe lay near with sure lodging
for the night, soothed Rodriguez' impatience. And as they loitered
they talked, and they decided that la Garda must now be too far
behind to pursue any longer. They came in four hours to the bank
of the Ebro and there saw Caspe near them; but they dined once
more on the grass, sitting beside the river, rather than enter the
town at once, for there had grown in both travellers a liking for
the wanderers' green table of earth.
It was a time to make plans. The country of romance was far away
and they were without horses.
"Will you buy horses, master?" said Morano.
"We might not get them over the Pyrenees," said Rodriguez, though
he had a better reason, which was that three gold pieces did not
buy two saddled horses. There were no more friends to hire from.
Morano grew thoughtful. He sat with his feet dangling over the
bank of the Ebro.
"Master," he said after a while, "this river goes our way. Let us
come by boat, master, and drift down to France at our ease."
To get a river over a range of mountains is harder than to get
horses. Some such difficulty Rodriguez implied to him; but Morano,
having come slowly by an idea, parted not so easily with it.
"It goes our way, master," he repeated, and pointed a finger at
At this moment a certain song that boatmen sing on that river,
when the current is with them and they have nothing to do but be
idle and their lazy thoughts run to lascivious things, came to the
ears of Rodriguez and Morano; and a man with a bright blue sash
steered down the Ebro. He had been fishing and was returning home.
"Master," Morano said, "that knave shall row us there."
Rodriguez seeing that the idea was fixed in Morano's mind
determined that events would move it sooner than argument, and so
made no reply.
"Shall I tell him, master?" asked Morano.
"Yes," said Rodriguez, "if he can row us over the Pyrenees."
This was the permission that Morano sought, and a hideous yell
broke from his throat hailing the boatman. The boatman looked up
lazily, a young man with strong brown arms, turning black
moustaches towards Morano. Again Morano hailed him and ran along
the bank, while the boat drifted down and the boatman steered in
towards Morano. Somehow Morano persuaded him to come in to see
what he wanted; and in a creek he ran his boat aground, and there
he and Morano argued and bargained. But Rodriguez remained where
he was, wondering why it took so long to turn his servant's mind
from that curious fancy. At last Morano returned.
"Well?" said Rodriguez.
"Master," said Morano, "he will row us to the Pyrenees."
"The Pyrenees!" said Rodriguez. "The Ebro runs into the sea." For
they had taught him this at the college of San Josephus.
"He will row us there," said Morano, "for a gold piece a day,
rowing five hours each day."
Now between them they had but four gold pieces; but that did not
make the Ebro run northward. It seemed that the Ebro, after going
their way, as Morano had said, for twenty or thirty miles, was
joined by the river Segre, and that where the Ebro left them,
turning eastwards, the course of the Segre took them on their way:
but it would be rowing against the current.
"How far is it?" said Rodriguez.
"A hundred miles, he says," answered Morano. "He knows it well."
Rodriguez calculated swiftly. First he added thirty miles; for he
knew that his countrymen took a cheerful view of distance, seldom
allowing any distance to oppress them under its true name at the
out set of a journey; then he guessed that the boatman might row
five miles an hour for the first thirty miles with the stream of
the Ebro, and he hoped that he might row three against the Segre
until they came near the mountains, where the current might grow
"Morano," he said, "we shall have to row too."
"Row, master?" said Morano.
"We can pay him for four days," said Rodriguez. "If we all row we
may go far on our way."
"It is better than riding," replied Morano with entire
And so they walked to the creek and Rodriguez greeted the boatman,
whose name was Perez; and they entered the boat and he rowed them
down to Caspe. And, in the house of Perez, Rodriguez slept that
night in a large dim room, untidy with diverse wares: they slept
on heaps of things that pertained to the river and fishing. Yet it
was late before Rodriguez slept, for in sight of his mind came
glimpses at last of the end of his journey; and, when he slept at
last, he saw the Pyrenees. Through the long night their mighty
heads rejected him, staring immeasurably beyond him in silence,
and then in happier dreams they beckoned him for a moment. Till at
last a bird that had entered the city of Caspe sang clear and it
was dawn. With that first light Rodriguez arose and awoke Morano.
Together they left that long haven of lumber and found Perez
already stirring. They ate hastily and all went down to the boat,
the unknown that waits at the end of all strange journeys
quickening their steps as they went through the early light.
Perez rowed first and the others took their turns and so they went
all the morning down the broad flood of the Ebro, and came in the
afternoon to its meeting place with the Segre. And there they
landed and stretched their limbs on shore and lit a fire and
feasted, before they faced the current that would be henceforth
against them. Then they rowed on.
When they landed by starlight and unrolled a sheet of canvas that
Perez had put in the boat, and found what a bad time starlight is
for pitching a tent, Rodriguez and Morano had rowed for four hours
each and Perez had rowed for five. They carried no timber in the
boat but used the oars for tent-poles and cut tent-pegs with a
small hatchet that Perez had brought.
They stumbled on rocks, tore the canvas on bushes, lost the same
thing over and over again; in fact they were learning the craft of
wandering. Yet at last their tent was up and a good fire
comforting them outside, and Morano had cooked the food and they
had supped and talked, and after that they slept. And over them
sleeping the starlight faded away, and in the greyness that none
of them dreamed was dawn five clear notes were heard so shrill in
the night that Rodriguez half waking wondered what bird of the
darkness called, and learned from the answering chorus that it was
He woke Morano who rose in that chilly hour and, striking sparks
among last night's embers, soon had a fire: they hastily made a
meal and wrapped up their tent and soon they were going onward
against the tide of the Segre. And that day Morano rowed more
skilfully; and Rodriguez unwrapped his mandolin and played,
reclining in the boat while he rested from rowing. And the
mandolin told them all, what the words of none could say, that
they fared to adventure in the land of Romance, to the overthrow
of dullness and the sameness of all drear schemes and the conquest
of discontent in the spirit of man; and perhaps it sang of a time
that has not yet come, or the mandolin lied.
That evening three wiser men made their camp before starlight.
They were now far up the Segre.
For thirteen hours next day they toiled at the oars or lay
languid. And while Rodriguez rested he played on his mandolin. The
Segre slipped by them.
They seemed like no men on their way to war, but seemed to loiter
as the bright river loitered, which slid seaward in careless ease
and was wholly freed from time.
On this day they heard men speak of the Pyrenees, two men and a
woman walking by the river; their voices came to the boat across
the water, and they spoke of the Pyrenees. And on the next day
they heard men speak of war. War that some farmers had fled from
on the other side of the mountain. When Rodriguez heard these
chance words his dreams came nearer till they almost touched the
edges of reality.
It was the last day of Perez' rowing. He rowed well although they
neared the cradle of the Segre and he struggled against them in
his youth. Grey peaks began to peer that had nursed that river.
Grey faces of stone began to look over green hills. They were the
When Rodriguez saw at last the Pyrenees he drew a breath and was
unable to speak. Soon they were gone again below the hills: they
had but peered for a moment to see who troubled the Segre.
And the sun set and still they did not camp, but Perez rowed on
into the starlight. That day he rowed six hours.
They pitched their tent as well as they could in the darkness;
and, breathing a clear new air all crisp from the Pyrenees, they
slept outside the threshold of adventure.
Rodriguez awoke cold. Once more he heard the first blackbird who
sings clear at the edge of night all alone in the greyness, the
nightingale's only rival; a rival like some unknown in the midst
of a crowd who for a moment leads some well-loved song, in notes
more liquid than a master-singer's; and all the crowd joins in and
his voice is lost, and no one learns his name. At once a host of
birds answered him out of dim bushes, whose shapes had barely as
yet emerged from night. And in this chorus Perez awoke, and even
They all three breakfasted together, and then the wanderers said
good-bye to Perez. And soon he was gone with his bright blue sash,
drifting homewards with the Segre, well paid yet singing a little
sadly as he drifted; for he had been one of a quest, and now he
left it at the edge of adventure, near solemn mountains and,
beyond them, romantic, near-unknown lands. So Perez left and
Rodriguez and Morano turned again to the road, all the more
lightly because they had not done a full day's march for so long,
and now a great one unrolled its leagues before them.
The heads of the mountains showed themselves again. They tramped
as in the early days of their quest. And as they went the
mountains, unveiling themselves slowly, dropping film after film
of distance that hid their mighty forms, gradually revealed to
the wanderers the magnificence of their beauty. Till at evening
Rodriguez and Morano stood on a low hill, looking at that
tremendous range, which lifted far above the fields of Earth, as
though its mountains were no earthly things but sat with Fate and
watched us and did not care.
Rodriguez and Morano stood and gazed in silence. They had come
twenty miles since morning, they were tired and hungry, but the
mountains held them: they stood there looking neither for rest nor
food. Beyond them, sheltering under the low hills, they saw a
little village. Smoke straggled up from it high into the evening:
beyond the village woods sloped away upwards. But far above smoke
or woods the bare peaks brooded. Rodriguez gazed on their austere
solemnity, wondering what secret they guarded there for so long,
guessing what message they held and hid from man; until he learned
that the mystery they guarded among them was of things that he
knew not and could never know.
Tinkle-ting said the bells of a church, invisible among the houses
of that far village. Tinkle-ting said the crescent of hills that
sheltered it. And after a while, speaking out of their grim and
enormous silences with all the gravity of their hundred ages,
Tinkle-ting said the mountains. With this trivial message Echo
returned from among the homes of the mighty, where she had run
with the small bell's tiny cry to trouble their crowned aloofness.
Rodriguez and Morano pressed on, and the mountains cloaked
themselves as they went, in air of many colours; till the stars
came out and the lights of the village gleamed. In darkness, with
surprise in the tones of the barking dogs, the two wanderers came
to the village where so few ever came, for it lay at the end of
Spain, cut off by those mighty rocks, and they knew not much of
what lands lay beyond.
They beat on a door below a hanging board, on which was written
"The Inn of the World's End": a wandering scholar had written it
and had been well paid for his work, for in those days writing was
rare. The door was opened for them by the host of the inn, and
they entered a room in which men who had supped were sitting at a
table. They were all of them men from the Spanish side of the
mountains, farmers come into the village on the affairs of Mother
Earth; next day they would be back at their farms again; and of
the land the other side of the mountains that was so near now they
knew nothing, so that it still remained for the wanderers a thing
of mystery wherein romance could dwell: and because they knew
nothing of that land the men at the inn treasured all the more the
rumours that sometimes came from it, and of these they talked, and
mine host listened eagerly, to whom all tales were brought soon or
late; and most he loved to hear tales from beyond the mountains.
Rodriguez and Morano sat still and listened, and the talk was all
of war. It was faint and vague like fable, but rumour clearly said
War, and the other side of the mountains. It may be that no man
has a crazy ambition without at moments suspecting it; but prove
it by the touchstone of fact and he becomes at once as a woman
whose invalid son, after years of seclusion indoors, wins
unexpectedly some athletic prize. When Rodriguez heard all this
talk of wars quite near he thought of his castle as already won;
his thoughts went further even, floating through Lowlight in the
glowing evening, and drifting up and down past Serafina's house
below the balcony where she sat for ever.
Some said the Duke would never attack the Prince because the
Duke's aunt was a princess from the Troubadour's country. Another
said that there would surely be war. Others said that there was
war already, and too late for man to stop it. All said it would
soon be over.
And one man said that it was the last war that would come, because
gunpowder made fighting impossible. It could smite a man down, he
said, at two hundred paces, and a man be slain not knowing whom he
fought. Some loved fighting and some loved peace, he said, but
gunpowder suited none.
"I like not the sound of that gunpowder, master," said Morano to
"Nobody likes it," said the man at the table. "It is the end of
war." And some sighed and some were glad. But Rodriguez determined
to push on before the last war was over.
Next morning Rodriguez paid the last of his silver pieces and set
off with Morano before any but mine host were astir. There was
nothing but the mountains in front of them.
They climbed all the morning and they came to the fir woods. There
they lit a good fire and Morano brought out his frying-pan. Over
the meal they took stock of their provisions and found that, for
all the store Morano had brought from the forest, they had now
only food for three days; and they were quite without money. Money
in those uplifted wastes seemed trivial, but the dwindling food
told Rodriguez that he must press on; for man came among those
rocky monsters supplied with all his needs, or perished unnoticed
before their stony faces. All the afternoon they passed through
the fir woods, and as shadows began to grow long they passed the
last tree. The village and all the fields about it and the road by
which they had come were all spread out below them like little
trivial things dimly remembered from very long ago by one whose
memory weakens. Distance had dwarfed them, and the cold regard of
those mighty peaks ignored them. And then a shadow fell on the
village, then tiny lights shone out. It was night down there.
Still the two wanderers climbed on in the daylight. With their
faces to the rocks they scarce saw night climb up behind them. But
when Rodriguez looked up at the sky to see how much light was
left, and met the calm gaze of the evening star, he saw that Night
and the peaks were met together, and understood all at once how
puny an intruder is man.
"Morano," said Rodriguez, "we must rest here for the night."
Morano looked round him with an air of discontent, not with his
master's words but with the rocks' angular hardness. There was
scarce a plant of any kind near them now. They were near the snow,
which had flushed like a wild rose at sunset but was now all grey.
Grey cliffs seemed to be gazing sheer at eternity; and here was
man, the creature of a moment, who had strayed in the cold all
homeless among his betters. There was no welcome for them there:
whatever feeling great mountains evoke, THAT feeling was clear in
Rodriguez and Morano. They were all amongst those that have other
aims, other ends, and know naught of man. A bitter chill from the
snow and from starry space drove this thought home.
They walked on looking for a better place, as men will, but found
none. And at last they lay down on the cold earth under a rock
that seemed to give shelter from the wind, and there sought sleep;
but cold came instead, and sleep kept far from the tremendous
presences of the peaks of the Pyrenees that gazed on things far
An ageing moon arose, and Rodriguez touched Morano and rose up;
and the two went slowly on, tired though they were. Picture the
two tiny figures, bent, shivering and weary, walking with clumsy
sticks cut in the wood, amongst the scorn of those tremendous
peaks, which the moon showed all too clearly.
They got little warmth from walking, they were too weary to run;
and after a while they halted and burned their sticks, and got a
little warmth for some moments from their fire, which burned
feebly and strangely in those inhuman solitudes.
Then they went on again and their track grew steeper. They rested
again for fatigue, and rose and climbed again because of the cold;
and all the while the peaks stared over them to spaces far beyond
the thought of man.
Long before Spain knew anything of dawn a monster high in heaven
smiled at the sun, a peak out-towering all its aged children. It
greeted the sun as though this lonely thing, that scorned the race
of man since ever it came, had met a mighty equal out in Space.
The vast peak glowed, and the rest of its grey race took up the
greeting leisurely one by one. Still it was night in all Spanish
Rodriguez and Morano were warmed by that cold peak's glow, though
no warmth came from it at all; but the sight of it cheered them
and their pulses rallied, and so they grew warmer in that bitter
And then dawn came, and showed them that they were near the top of
the pass. They had come to the snow that gleams there
There was no material for a fire but they ate cold meats, and went
wearily on. They passed through that awful assemblage of peaks. By
noon they were walking upon level ground.
In the afternoon Rodriguez, tired with the journey and with the
heat of the sun, decided that it was possible to sleep, and,
wrapping his cloak around him, he lay down, doing what Morano
would have done, by instinct. Morano was asleep at once and
Rodriguez soon after. They awoke with the cold at sunset.
Refreshed amazingly they ate some food and started their walk
again to keep themselves warm for the night. They were still on
level ground and set out with a good stride in their relief at
being done with climbing. Later they slowed down and wandered just
to keep warm. And some time in the starlight they felt their path
dip, and knew that they were going downward now to the land of
When the peaks glowed again, first meeting day in her earliest
dancing-grounds of filmy air, they stood now behind the wanderers.
Below them still in darkness lay the land of their dream, but
hitherto it had always faded at dawn. Now hills put up their heads
one by one through films of mist; woods showed, then hedges, and
afterwards fields, greyly at first and then, in the cold hard
light of morning, becoming more and more real. The sight of the
land so long sought, at moments believed by Morano not to exist on
earth, perhaps to have faded away when fables died, swept their
fatigue from the wanderers, and they stepped out helped by the
slope of the Pyrenees and cheered by the rising sun. They came at
last to things that welcome man, little shrubs flowering, and--at
noon--to the edge of a fir wood. They entered the wood and lit a
merry fire, and heard birds singing, at which they both rejoiced,
for the great peaks had said nothing.
They ate the food that Morano cooked, and drew warmth and cheer
from the fire, and then they slept a little: and, rising from
sleep, they pushed on through the wood, downward and downward
toward the land of their dreams, to see if it was true.
They passed the wood and came to curious paths, and little hills,
and heath, and rocky places, and wandering vales that twisted all
awry. They passed through them all with the slope of the mountain
behind them. When level rays from the sunset mellowed the fields
of France the wanderers were walking still, but the peaks were far
behind them, austerely gazing on the remotest things, forgetting
the footsteps of man. And walking on past soft fields in the
evening, all tilted a little about the mountain's feet, they had
scarcely welcomed the sight of the evening star, when they saw
before them the mild glow of a window and knew they were come
again to the earth that is mother to man. In their cold savagery
the inhuman mountains decked themselves out like gods with colours
they took from the sunset; then darkened, all those peaks, in
brooding conclave and disappeared in the night. And the hushed
night heard the tiny rap of Morano's hands on the door of the
house that had the glowing window.
THE NINTH CHRONICLE
HOW HE WON A CASTLE IN SPAIN
The woman that came to the door had on her face a look that
"Are you soldiers?" she said. And her scared look portended war.
"My master is a traveller looking for the wars," said Morano. "Are
the wars near?"
"Oh, no, not near," said the woman; "not near."
And something in the anxious way she said "not near" pleased
"We shall find those wars, master," he said.
And then they both questioned her. It seemed the wars were but
twenty miles away. "But they will move northward," she said.
"Surely they will move farther off?"
Before the next night was passed Rodriguez' dream might come true!
And then the man came to the door anxious at hearing strange
voices; and Morano questioned him too, but he understood never a
word. He was a French farmer that had married a Spanish girl, out
of the wonderful land beyond the mountains: but whether he
understood her or not he never understood Spanish. But both
Rodriguez and the farmer's wife knew the two languages, and he had
no difficulty in asking for lodging for the night; and she looked
wistfully at him going to the wars, for in those days wars were
small and not every man went. The night went by with dreams that
were all on the verge of waking, which passed like ghosts along
the edge of night almost touched by the light of day. It was
Rodriguez whom these dreams visited. The farmer and his wife
wondered awhile and then slept; Morano slept with all his wonted
lethargy; but Rodriguez with his long quest now on the eve of
fulfilment slept a tumultuous sleep. Sometimes his dreams raced
over the Pyrenees, running south as far as Lowlight; and sometimes
they rushed forward and clung like bats to the towers of the great
castle that he should win in the war. And always he lay so near
the edge of sleep that he never distinguished quite between
thought and dream.
Dawn came and he put by all the dreams but the one that guided him
always, and went and woke Morano. They ate hurriedly and left the
house, and again the farmer's wife looked curiously at Rodriguez,
as though there were something strange in a man that went to wars:
for those days were not as these days. They followed the direction
that had been given them, and never had the two men walked so
fast. By the end of four hours they had done sixteen miles. They
halted then, and Morano drew out his frying-pan with a haughty
flourish, and cooked in the grand manner, every movement he made
was a triumphant gesture; for they had passed refugees! War was
now obviously close: they had but to take the way that the
refugees were not taking. The dream was true: Morano saw himself
walking slowly in splendid dress along the tapestried corridors of
his master's castle. He would have slept after eating and would
have dreamed more of this, but Rodriguez commanded him to put the
things together: so what remained of the food disappeared again in
a sack, the frying-pan was slung over his shoulders, and Morano
stood ready again for the road.
They passed more refugees: their haste was unmistakable, and told
more than their lips could have told had they tarried to speak:
the wars were near now, and the wanderers went leisurely.
As they strolled through the twilight they came over the brow of a
hill, a little fold of the earth disturbed eras ago by the awful
rushing up of the Pyrenees; and they saw the evening darkening
over the fields below them and a white mist rising only just clear
of the grass, and two level rows of tents greyish-white like the
mist, with a few more tents scattered near them. The tents had
come up that evening with the mist, for there were men still
hammering pegs. They were lighting fires now as evening settled
in. Two hundred paces or so separated each row. It was two armies
facing each other.
The gloaming faded: mist and the tents grew greyer: camp-fires
blinked out of the dimness and grew redder and redder, and candles
began to be lit beside the tents till all were glowing pale
golden: Rodriguez and Morano stood there wondering awhile as they
looked on the beautiful aura that surrounds the horrors of war.
They came by starlight to that tented field, by twinkling
starlight to the place of Rodriguez' dream.
"For which side will you fight, master?" said Morano in his ear.
"For the right," said Rodriguez and strode on towards the nearest
tents, never doubting that he would be guided, though not trying
to comprehend how this could be.
They met with an officer going among his tents. "Where do you go?"
"Senor," Rodriguez said, "I come with my mandolin to sing songs to
And at this the officer called out and others came from their
tents; and Rodriguez repeated his offer to them not without
confidence, for he knew that he had a way with the mandolin. And
they said that they fought a battle on the morrow and could not
listen to song: they heaped scorn on singing for they said they
must needs prepare for the fight: and all of them looked with
scorn on the mandolin. So Rodriguez bowed low to them with doffed
hat and left them; and Morano bowed also, seeing his master bow;
and the men of that camp returned to their preparations. A short
walk brought Rodriguez and his servant to the other camp, over a
flat field convenient for battle. He went up to a large tent well
lit, the door being open towards him; and, having explained his
errand to a sentry that stood outside, he entered and saw three
persons of quality that were sitting at a table. To them he bowed
low in the tent door, saying: "Senors, I am come to sing songs to
you, playing the while upon my mandolin."
And they welcomed him gladly, saying: "We fight tomorrow and will
gladly cheer our hearts with the sound of song and strengthen our
And so Rodriguez sang among the tents, standing by a great fire to
which they led him; and men came from the tents and into the
circle of light, and in the darkness outside it were more than
Rodriguez saw. And he sang to the circle of men and the vague
glimmer of faces. Songs of their homes he sang them, not in their
language, but songs that were made by old poets about the homes of
their infancy, in valleys under far mountains remote from the
Pyrenees. And in the song the yearnings of dead poets lived again,
all streaming homeward like swallows when the last of the storms
is gone: and those yearnings echoed in the hearts that beat in the
night around the campfire, and they saw their own homes. And then
he began to touch his mandolin; and he played them the tunes that
draw men from their homes and that march them away to war. The
tunes flowed up from the firelight: the mandolin knew. And the men
heard the mandolin saying what they would say.
In the late night he ended, and a hush came down on the camp while
the music floated away, going up from the dark ring of men and the
fire-lit faces, touching perhaps the knees of the Pyrenees and
drifting thence wherever echoes go. And the sparks of the camp-
fire went straight upwards as they had done for hours, and the men
that sat around it saw them go: for long they had not seen the
sparks stream upwards, for their thoughts were far away with the
mandolin. And all at once they cheered. And Rodriguez bowed to the
one whose tent he had entered, and sought permission to fight for
them in the morning.
With good grace this was accorded him, and while he bowed and well
expressed his thanks he felt Morano touching his elbow. And as
soon as he had gone aside with Morano that fat man's words bubbled
over and were said.
"Master, fight not for these men," he exclaimed, "for they listen
to song till midnight while the others prepare for battle. The
others will win the fight, master, and where will your castle be?"
"Morano," said Rodriguez, "there seems to be truth in that. Yet
must we fight for the right. For how would it be if those that
have denied song should win and thrive? The arm of every good man
must be against them. They have denied song, Morano! We must fight
against them, you and I, while we can lay sword to head."
"Yes, indeed, master," said Morano. "But how shall you come by
"As for that," said Rodriguez, "it must some day be won, yet not
by denying song. These have given a welcome to song, and the
others have driven it forth. And what would life be if those that
deny song are to be permitted to thrive unmolested by all good
"I know not, master," said Morano, "but I would have that castle."
"Enough," said Rodriguez. "We must fight for the right."
And so Rodriguez remained true to those that had heard him sing.
And they gave him a casque and breast-plate, proof, they said,
against any sword, and offered a sword that they said would surely
cleave any breast-plate. For they fought not in battle with the
nimble rapier. But Rodriguez did not forsake that famous exultant
sword whose deeds he knew from many an ancient song; which he had
brought so far to give it its old rich drink of blood. He believed
it the bright key of the castle he was to win.
And they gave Rodriguez a good bed on the ground in the tent of
the three leaders, the tent to which he first came; for they
honoured him for the gift of song that he had, and because he was
a stranger, and because he had asked permission to fight for them
in their battle. And Rodriguez took one look by the light of a
lantern at the rose he had carried from Lowlight, then slept a
sleep through whose dreams loomed up the towers of castles.
Dawn came and he slept on still; but by seven all the camp was
loudly astir, for they had promised the enemy to begin the battle
at eight. Rodriguez breakfasted lightly; for, now that the day of
his dreams was come at last and all his hopes depended on the day,
an anxiety for many things oppressed him. It was as though his
castle, rosy and fair in dreams, chilled with its huge cold rocks
all the air near it: it was as though Rodriguez touched it at last
with his hands and felt a dankness of which he had never dreamed.
Then it came to the hour of eight and his anxieties passed.
The army was now drawn up before its tents in line, but the enemy
was not yet ready and so they had to wait.
When the signal at length was given and the cannoniers fired their
pieces, and the musketoons were shot off, many men fell. Now
Rodriguez, with Morano, was placed on the right, and either
through a slight difference in numbers or because of an unevenness
in the array of battle they a little overlapped the enemy's left.
When a few men fell wounded there by the discharge of the
musketoons this overlapping was even more pronounced.
Now the leaders of that fair army scorned all unknightly devices,
and would never have descended to any vile ruse de querre. The
reproach can therefore never be made against them that they ever
intended to outflank their enemy. Yet, when both armies advanced
after the discharge of the musketoons and the merry noise of the
cannon, this occurred as the result of chance, which no leader can
be held accountable for; so that those that speak of treachery in
this battle, and deliberate outflanking, lie.
Now Rodriguez as he advanced with his sword, when the musketoons
were empty, had already chosen his adversary. For he had carefully
watched those opposite to him, before any smoke should obscure
them, and had selected the one who from the splendour of his dress
might be expected to possess the finest castle. Certainly this
adversary outshone those amongst whom he stood, and gave fair
promise of owning goodly possessions, for he wore a fine green
cloak over a dress of lilac, and his helm and cuirass had a look
of crafty workmanship. Towards him Rodriguez marched.
Then began fighting foot to foot, and there was a pretty laying on
of swords. And had there been a poet there that day then the story
of their fight had come down to you, my reader, all that way from
the Pyrenees, down all those hundreds of years, and this tale of
mine had been useless, the lame repetition in prose of songs that
your nurses had sung to you. But they fought unseen by those that
see for the Muses.
Rodriguez advanced upon his chosen adversary and, having briefly
bowed, they engaged at once. And Rodriguez belaboured his helm
till dints appeared, and beat it with swift strokes yet till the
dints were cracks, and beat the cracks till hair began to appear:
and all the while his adversary's strokes grew weaker and wilder,
until he tottered to earth and Rodriguez had won. Swift then as
cats, while Morano kept off others, Rodriguez leaped to his
throat, and, holding up the stiletto that he had long ago taken as
his legacy from the host of the Dragon and Knight, he demanded the
fallen man's castle as ransom for his life.
"My castle, senor?" said his prisoner weakly.
"Yes," said Rodriguez impatiently.
"Yes, senor," said his adversary and closed his eyes for awhile.
"Does he surrender his castle, master?" asked Morano.
"Yes, indeed," said Rodriguez. They looked at each other: all at
last was well.
The battle was rolling away from them and was now well within the
History says of that day that the good men won. And, sitting, a
Muse upon her mythical mountain, her decision must needs be one
from which we may not appeal: and yet I wonder if she is ever
bribed. Certainly the shrewd sense of Morano erred for once; for
those for whom he had predicted victory, because they prepared so
ostentatiously upon the field, were defeated; while the others,
having made their preparations long before, were able to cheer
themselves with song before the battle and to win it when it came.
And so Rodriguez was left undisturbed in possession of his
prisoner and with the promise of his castle as a ransom. The
battle was swiftly over, as must needs be where little armies meet
so close. The enemy's camp was occupied, his army routed, and
within an hour of beginning the battle the last of the fighting
The army returned to its tents to rejoice and to make a banquet,
bringing with them captives and horses and other spoils of war.
And Rodriguez had honour among them because he had fought on the
right and so was one of those that had broken the enemy's left,
from which direction victory had come. And they would have feasted
him and done him honour, both for his work with the sword and for
his songs to the mandolin; and they would have marched away soon
to their own country and would have taken him with them and
advanced him to honour there. But Rodriguez would not stay with
them for he had his castle at last, and must needs march off at
once with his captive and Morano to see the fulfilment of his
dream. And therefore he thanked the leaders of that host with many