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Jurgen by James Branch Cabell

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_A Comedy of Justice_




_"Of JURGEN eke they maken mencioun,
That of an old wyf gat his youthe agoon,
And gat himselfe a shirte as bright as fyre
Wherein to jape, yet gat not his desire
In any countrie ne condicioun."_



Before each tarradiddle,
Uncowed by sciolists,
Robuster persons twiddle
Tremendously big fists.

"Our gods are good," they tell us;
"Nor will our gods defer
Remission of rude fellows'
Ability to err."

So this, your JURGEN, travels
Content to compromise
Ordainments none unravels
Explicitly ... and sighs.

* * * * *

"Others, with better moderation, do either entertain the vulgar
history of Jurgen as a fabulous addition unto the true and authentic
story of St. Iurgenius of Poictesme, or else we conceive the literal
acception to be a misconstruction of the symbolical expression:
apprehending a veritable history, in an emblem or piece of Christian
poesy. And this emblematical construction hath been received by men
not forward to extenuate the acts of saints."


"A forced construction is very idle. If readers of _The High
History of Jurgen_ do not meddle with the allegory, the allegory
will not meddle with them. Without minding it at all, the whole is
as plain as a pikestaff. It might as well be pretended that we
cannot see Poussin's pictures without first being told the allegory,
as that the allegory aids us in understanding _Jurgen_."


"Too urbane to advocate delusion, too hale for the bitterness of
irony, this fable of Jurgen is, as the world itself, a book wherein
each man will find what his nature enables him to see; which gives
us back each his own image; and which teaches us each the lesson
that each of us desires to learn."


* * * * *






















































_"Nescio quid certe est: et Hylax in limine latrat."_

_A Foreword: Which Asserts Nothing._

In Continental periodicals not more than a dozen articles in all
would seem to have given accounts or partial translations of the
Jurgen legends. No thorough investigation of this epos can be said
to have appeared in print, anywhere, prior to the publication, in
1913, of the monumental _Synopses of Aryan Mythology_ by Angelo
de Ruiz. It is unnecessary to observe that in this exhaustive digest
Professor de Ruiz has given (VII, p. 415 _et sequentia_) a
summary of the greater part of these legends as contained in the
collections of Verville and Buelg; and has discussed at length and
with much learning the esoteric meaning of these folk-stories and
their bearing upon questions to which the "solar theory" of myth
explanation has given rise. To his volumes, and to the pages of Mr.
Lewistam's _Key to the Popular Tales of Poictesme_, must be
referred all those who may elect to think of Jurgen as the
resplendent, journeying and procreative sun.

Equally in reading hereinafter will the judicious waive all
allegorical interpretation, if merely because the suggestions
hitherto advanced are inconveniently various. Thus Verville
finds the Nessus shirt a symbol of retribution, where Buelg,
with rather wide divergence, would have it represent the dangerous
gift of genius. Then it may be remembered that Dr. Codman says,
without any hesitancy, of Mother Sereda: "This Mother Middle is
the world generally (an obvious anagram of _Erda es_), and this
Sereda rules not merely the middle of the working-days but the
midst of everything. She is the factor of _middleness_, of
mediocrity, of an avoidance of extremes, of the eternal compromise
begotten by use and wont. She is the Mrs. Grundy of the Leshy; she is
Comstockery: and her shadow is common-sense." Yet Codman speaks with
certainly no more authority than Prote, when the latter, in his
_Origins of Fable_, declares this epos is "a parable of ... man's
vain journeying in search of that rationality and justice which his
nature craves, and discovers nowhere in the universe: and the shirt
is an emblem of this instinctive craving, as ... the shadow symbolizes
conscience. Sereda typifies a surrender to life as it is, a giving up
of man's rebellious self-centredness and selfishness: the anagram being
_se dare_."

Thus do interpretations throng and clash, and neatly equal the
commentators in number. Yet possibly each one of these unriddlings,
with no doubt a host of others, is conceivable: so that wisdom will
dwell upon none of them very seriously.

With the origin and the occult meaning of the folklore of Poictesme
this book at least is in no wise concerned: its unambitious aim has
been merely to familiarize English readers with the Jurgen epos for
the tale's sake. And this tale of old years is one which, by rare
fortune, can be given to English readers almost unabridged, in view
of the singular delicacy and pure-mindedness of the Jurgen mythos:
in all, not more than a half-dozen deletions have seemed expedient
(and have been duly indicated) in order to remove such sparse and
unimportant outcroppings of mediaeval frankness as might conceivably
offend the squeamish.

Since this volume is presented simply as a story to be read for
pastime, neither morality nor symbolism is hereinafter educed, and
no "parallels" and "authorities" are quoted. Even the gaps are left
unbridged by guesswork: whereas the historic and mythological
problems perhaps involved are relinquished to those really
thoroughgoing scholars whom erudition qualifies to deal with such
topics, and tedium does not deter....

In such terms, and thus far, ran the Foreword to the first issues of
this book, whose later fortunes have made necessary the lengthening
of the Foreword with a postscript. The needed addition--this much at
least chiming with good luck--is brief. It is just that fragment
which some scholars, since the first appearance of this volume, have
asserted--upon what perfect frankness must describe as not
indisputable grounds--to be a portion of the thirty-second chapter
of the complete form of _La Haulte Histoire de Jurgen_.

And in reply to what these scholars assert, discretion says nothing.
For this fragment was, of course, unknown when the High History was
first put into English, and there in consequence appears, here,
little to be won either by endorsing or denying its claims to
authenticity. Rather, does discretion prompt the appending, without
any gloss or scholia, of this fragment, which deals with

_The Judging of Jurgen._

Now a court was held by the Philistines to decide whether or no King
Jurgen should be relegated to limbo. And when the judges were
prepared for judging, there came into the court a great tumblebug,
rolling in front of him his loved and properly housed young ones.
With the creature came pages, in black and white, bearing a sword, a
staff and a lance.

This insect looked at Jurgen, and its pincers rose erect in horror.
The bug cried to the three judges, "Now, by St. Anthony! this Jurgen
must forthwith be relegated to limbo, for he is offensive and lewd
and lascivious and indecent."

"And how can that be?" says Jurgen.

"You are offensive," the bug replied, "because this page has a sword
which I choose to say is not a sword. You are lewd because that page
has a lance which I prefer to think is not a lance. You are
lascivious because yonder page has a staff which I elect to declare
is not a staff. And finally, you are indecent for reasons of which a
description would be objectionable to me, and which therefore I must
decline to reveal to anybody."

"Well, that sounds logical," says Jurgen, "but still, at the same
time, it would be no worse for an admixture of common-sense. For you
gentlemen can see for yourselves, by considering these pages fairly
and as a whole, that these pages bear a sword and a lance and a
staff, and nothing else whatever; and you will deduce, I hope, that
all the lewdness is in the insectival mind of him who itches to be
calling these things by other names."

The judges said nothing as yet. But they that guarded Jurgen, and
all the other Philistines, stood to this side and to that side with
their eyes shut tight, and all these said: "We decline to look at
the pages fairly and as a whole, because to look might seem to imply
a doubt of what the tumblebug has decreed. Besides, as long as the
tumblebug has reasons which he declines to reveal, his reasons stay
unanswerable, and you are plainly a prurient rascal who are making
trouble for yourself."

"To the contrary," says Jurgen, "I am a poet, and I make

"But in Philistia to make literature and to make trouble for
yourself are synonyms," the tumblebug explained. "I know, for
already we of Philistia have been pestered by three of these makers
of literature. Yes, there was Edgar, whom I starved and hunted until
I was tired of it: then I chased him up a back alley one night, and
knocked out those annoying brains of his. And there was Walt, whom I
chivvied and battered from place to place, and made a paralytic of
him: and him, too, I labelled offensive and lewd and lascivious and
indecent. Then later there was Mark, whom I frightened into
disguising himself in a clown's suit, so that nobody might suspect
him to be a maker of literature: indeed, I frightened him so that he
hid away the greater part of what he had made until after he was
dead, and I could not get at him. That was a disgusting trick to
play on me, I consider. Still, these are the only three detected
makers of literature that have ever infested Philistia, thanks be to
goodness and my vigilance, but for both of which we might have been
no more free from makers of literature than are the other

"Now, but these three," cried Jurgen, "are the glory of Philistia:
and of all that Philistia has produced, it is these three alone,
whom living ye made least of, that to-day are honored wherever art
is honored, and where nobody bothers one way or the other about

"What is art to me and my way of living?" replied the tumblebug,
wearily. "I have no concern with art and letters and the other lewd
idols of foreign nations. I have in charge the moral welfare of my
young, whom I roll here before me, and trust with St. Anthony's aid
to raise in time to be God-fearing tumblebugs like me, delighting in
what is proper to their nature. For the rest, I have never minded
dead men being well-spoken-of. No, no, my lad: once whatever I may
do means nothing to you, and once you are really rotten, you will
find the tumblebug friendly enough. Meanwhile I am paid to protest
that living persons are offensive and lewd and lascivious and
indecent, and one must live."

Then the Philistines who stood to this side and to that side said in
indignant unison: "And we, the reputable citizenry of Philistia, are
not at all in sympathy with those who would take any protest against
the tumblebug as a justification of what they are pleased to call
art. The harm done by the tumblebug seems to us very slight, whereas
the harm done by the self-styled artist may be very great."

Jurgen now looked more attentively at this queer creature: and he
saw that the tumblebug was malodorous, certainly, but at bottom
honest and well-meaning; and this seemed to Jurgen the saddest thing
he had found among the Philistines. For the tumblebug was sincere in
his insane doings, and all Philistia honored him sincerely, so that
there was nowhere any hope for this people.

Therefore King Jurgen addressed himself, as his need was, to submit
to the strange customs of the Philistines. "Now do you judge me
fairly," cried Jurgen to his judges, "if there be any justice in
this mad country. And if there be none, do you relegate me to limbo
or to any other place, so long as in that place this tumblebug is
not omnipotent and sincere and insane."

And Jurgen waited....

* * * * *


... _amara lento temperet risu_


Why Jurgen Did the Manly Thing

It is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, saying: In the 'old
days lived a pawnbroker named Jurgen; but what his wife called him
was very often much worse than that. She was a high-spirited woman,
with no especial gift for silence. Her name, they say, was Adelais,
but people by ordinary called her Dame Lisa.

They tell, also, that in the old days, after putting up the shop-windows
for the night, Jurgen was passing the Cistercian Abbey, on his way home:
and one of the monks had tripped over a stone in the roadway. He was
cursing the devil who had placed it there.

"Fie, brother!" says Jurgen, "and have not the devils enough to bear
as it is?"

"I never held with Origen," replied the monk; "and besides, it hurt
my great-toe confoundedly."

"None the less," observes Jurgen, "it does not behoove God-fearing
persons to speak with disrespect of the divinely appointed Prince of
Darkness. To your further confusion, consider this monarch's
industry! day and night you may detect him toiling at the task
Heaven set him. That is a thing can be said of few communicants and
of no monks. Think, too, of his fine artistry, as evidenced in all
the perilous and lovely snares of this world, which it is your
business to combat, and mine to lend money upon. Why, but for him we
would both be vocationless! Then, too, consider his philanthropy!
and deliberate how insufferable would be our case if you and I, and
all our fellow parishioners, were to-day hobnobbing with other
beasts in the Garden which we pretend to desiderate on Sundays! To
arise with swine and lie down with the hyena?--oh, intolerable!"

Thus he ran on, devising reasons for not thinking too harshly of the
Devil. Most of it was an abridgement of some verses Jurgen had
composed, in the shop when business was slack.

"I consider that to be stuff and nonsense," was the monk's glose.

"No doubt your notion is sensible," observed the pawnbroker: "but
mine is the prettier."

Then Jurgen passed the Cistercian Abbey, and was approaching
Bellegarde, when he met a black gentleman, who saluted him and said:

"Thanks, Jurgen, for your good word."

"Who are you, and why do you thank me?" asks Jurgen.

"My name is no great matter. But you have a kind heart, Jurgen. May
your life be free from care!"

"Save us from hurt and harm, friend, but I am already married."

"Eh, sirs, and a fine clever poet like you!"

"Yet it is a long while now since I was a practising poet."

"Why, to be sure! You have the artistic temperament, which is not
exactly suited to the restrictions of domestic life. Then I suppose
your wife has her own personal opinion about poetry, Jurgen."

"Indeed, sir, her opinion would not bear repetition, for I am sure
you are unaccustomed to such language."

"This is very sad. I am afraid your wife does not quite understand
you, Jurgen."

"Sir," says Jurgen, astounded, "do you read people's inmost

The black gentleman seemed much dejected. He pursed his lips, and
fell to counting upon his fingers: as they moved his sharp nails
glittered like flame-points.

"Now but this is a very deplorable thing," says the black gentleman,
"to have befallen the first person I have found ready to speak a
kind word for evil. And in all these centuries, too! Dear me, this
is a most regrettable instance of mismanagement! No matter, Jurgen,
the morning is brighter than the evening. How I will reward you, to
be sure!"

So Jurgen thanked the simple old creature politely. And when Jurgen
reached home his wife was nowhere to be seen. He looked on all sides
and questioned everyone, but to no avail. Dame Lisa had vanished in
the midst of getting supper ready--suddenly, completely and
inexplicably, just as (in Jurgen's figure) a windstorm passes and
leaves behind it a tranquillity which seems, by contrast, uncanny.
Nothing could explain the mystery, short of magic: and Jurgen on a
sudden recollected the black gentleman's queer promise. Jurgen
crossed himself.

"How unjustly now," says Jurgen, "do some people get an ill name for
gratitude! And now do I perceive how wise I am, always to speak
pleasantly of everybody, in this world of tale-bearers."

Then Jurgen prepared his own supper, went to bed, and slept soundly.

"I have implicit confidence," says he, "in Lisa. I have particular
confidence in her ability to take care of herself in any

That was all very well: but time passed, and presently it began to
be rumored that Dame Lisa walked on Morven. Her brother, who was a
grocer and a member of the town-council, went thither to see about
this report. And sure enough, there was Jurgen's wife walking in the
twilight and muttering incessantly.

"Fie, sister!" says the town-councillor, "this is very unseemly
conduct for a married woman, and a thing likely to be talked about."

"Follow me!" replied Dame Lisa. And the town-councillor followed her
a little way in the dusk, but when she came to Amneran Heath and
still went onward, he knew better than to follow.

Next evening the elder sister of Dame Lisa went to Morven. This
sister had married a notary, and was a shrewd woman. In consequence,
she took with her this evening a long wand of peeled willow-wood.
And there was Jurgen's wife walking in the twilight and muttering

"Fie, sister!" says the notary's wife, who was a shrewd woman, "and
do you not know that all this while Jurgen does his own sewing, and
is once more making eyes at Countess Dorothy?"

Dame Lisa shuddered; but she only said, "Follow me!"

And the notary's wife followed her to Amneran Heath, and across the
heath, to where a cave was. This was a place of abominable repute. A
lean hound came to meet them there in the twilight, lolling his
tongue: but the notary's wife struck thrice with her wand, and the
silent beast left them. And Dame Lisa passed silently into the cave,
and her sister turned and went home to her children, weeping.

So the next evening Jurgen himself came to Morven, because all his
wife's family assured him this was the manly thing to do. Jurgen
left the shop in charge of Urien Villemarche, who was a highly
efficient clerk. Jurgen followed his wife across Amneran Heath until
they reached the cave. Jurgen would willingly have been elsewhere.

For the hound squatted upon his haunches, and seemed to grin at
Jurgen; and there were other creatures abroad, that flew low in the
twilight, keeping close to the ground like owls; but they were
larger than owls and were more discomforting. And, moreover, all
this was just after sunset upon Walburga's Eve, when almost anything
is rather more than likely to happen.

So Jurgen said, a little peevishly: "Lisa, my dear, if you go into
the cave I will have to follow you, because it is the manly thing to
do. And you know how easily I take cold."

The voice of Dame Lisa, now, was thin and wailing, a curiously
changed voice. "There is a cross about your neck. You must throw
that away."

Jurgen was wearing such a cross, through motives of sentiment,
because it had once belonged to his dead mother. But now, to
pleasure his wife, he removed the trinket, and hung it on a barberry
bush; and with the reflection that this was likely to prove a
deplorable business, he followed Dame Lisa into the cave.


Assumption of a Noted Garment

The tale tells that all was dark there, and Jurgen could see no one.
But the cave stretched straight forward, and downward, and at the
far end was a glow of light. Jurgen went on and on, and so came
presently to a centaur: and this surprised him not a little, because
Jurgen knew that centaurs were imaginary creatures.

Certainly they were curious to look at: for here was the body of a
fine bay horse, and rising from its shoulders, the sun-burnt body of
a young fellow who regarded Jurgen with grave and not unfriendly
eyes. The Centaur was lying beside a fire of cedar and juniper wood:
near him was a platter containing a liquid with which he was
anointing his hoofs. This stuff, as the Centaur rubbed it in with
his fingers, turned the appearance of his hoofs to gold.

"Hail, friend," says Jurgen, "if you be the work of God."

"Your protasis is not good Greek," observed the Centaur, "because in
Hellas we did not make such reservations. Besides, it is not so much
my origin as my destination which concerns you."

"Well, friend, and whither are you going?"

"To the garden between dawn and sunrise, Jurgen."

"Surely, now, but that is a fine name for a garden! and it is a
place I would take joy to be seeing."

"Up upon my back, Jurgen, and I will take you thither," says the
Centaur, and heaved to his feet. Then said the Centaur, when the
pawnbroker hesitated: "Because, as you must understand, there is no
other way. For this garden does not exist, and never did exist, in
what men humorously called real life; so that of course only
imaginary creatures such as I can enter it."

"That sounds very reasonable," Jurgen estimated: "but as it happens,
I am looking for my wife, whom I suspect to have been carried off by
a devil, poor fellow!"

And Jurgen began to explain to the Centaur what had befallen.

The Centaur laughed. "It may be for that reason I am here. There is,
in any event, only one remedy in this matter. Above all devils--and
above all gods, they tell me, but certainly above all centaurs--is
the power of Koshchei the Deathless, who made things as they are."

"It is not always wholesome," Jurgen submitted, "to speak of
Koshchei. It seems especially undesirable in a dark place like

"None the less, I suspect it is to him you must go for justice."

"I would prefer not doing that," said Jurgen, with unaffected

"You have my sympathy: but there is no question of preference where
Koshchei is concerned. Do you think, for example, that I am frowzing
in this underground place by my own choice? and knew your name by

Jurgen was frightened, a little. "Well, well! but it is usually the
deuce and all, this doing of the manly thing. How, then, can I come
to Koshchei?"

"Roundabout," says the Centaur. "There is never any other way."

"And is the road to this garden roundabout?"

"Oh, very much so, inasmuch as it circumvents both destiny and

"Needs must, then," says Jurgen: "at all events, I am willing to
taste any drink once."

"You will be chilled, though, traveling as you are. For you and I
are going a queer way, in search of justice, over the grave of a
dream and through the malice of time. So you had best put on this
shirt above your other clothing."

"Indeed it is a fine snug shining garment, with curious figures on
it. I accept such raiment gladly. And whom shall I be thanking for
his kindness, now?"

"My name," said the Centaur, "is Nessus."

"Well, then, friend Nessus, I am at your service."

And in a trice Jurgen was on the Centaur's back, and the two of them
had somehow come out of the cave, and were crossing Amneran Heath.
So they passed into a wooded place, where the light of sunset yet
lingered, rather unaccountably. Now the Centaur went westward. And
now about the pawnbroker's shoulders and upon his breast and over
his lean arms glittered like a rainbow the many-colored shirt of

For a while they went through the woods, which were composed of big
trees standing a goodish distance from one another, with the
Centaur's gilded hoofs rustling and sinking in a thick carpet of
dead leaves, all gray and brown, in level stretches that were
unbroken by any undergrowth. And then they came to a white roadway
that extended due west, and so were done with the woods. Now
happened an incredible thing in which Jurgen would never have
believed had he not seen it with his own eyes: for now the Centaur
went so fast that he gained a little by a little upon the sun, thus
causing it to rise in the west a little by a little; and these two
sped westward in the glory of a departed sunset. The sun fell full
in Jurgen's face as he rode straight toward the west, so that he
blinked and closed his eyes, and looked first toward this side, then
the other. Thus it was that the country about him, and the persons
they were passing, were seen by him in quick bright flashes, like
pictures suddenly transmuted into other pictures; and all his
memories of this shining highway were, in consequence, always
confused and incoherent.

He wondered that there seemed to be so many young women along the
road to the garden. Here was a slim girl in white teasing a great
brown and yellow dog that leaped about her clumsily; here a girl sat
in the branches of a twisted and gnarled tree, and back of her was a
broad muddied river, copper-colored in the sun; and here shone the
fair head of a tall girl on horseback, who seemed to wait for
someone: in fine, the girls along the way were numberless, and
Jurgen thought he recollected one or two of them.

But the Centaur went so swiftly that Jurgen could not be sure.


The Garden between Dawn and Sunrise

Thus it was that Jurgen and the Centaur came to the garden between
dawn and sunrise, entering this place in a fashion which it is not
convenient to record. But as they passed over the bridge three fled
before them, screaming. And when the life had been trampled out of
the small furry bodies which these three had misused, there was none
to oppose the Centaur's entry into the garden between dawn and

This was a wonderful garden: yet nothing therein was strange.
Instead, it seemed that everything hereabouts was heart-breakingly
familiar and very dear to Jurgen. For he had come to a broad lawn
which slanted northward to a well-remembered brook: and
multitudinous maples and locust-trees stood here and there,
irregularly, and were being played with very lazily by an irresolute
west wind, so that foliage seemed to toss and ripple everywhere like
green spray: but autumn was at hand, for the locust-trees were
dropping a Danae's shower of small round yellow leaves. Around the
garden was an unforgotten circle of blue hills. And this was a place
of lucent twilight, unlit by either sun or stars, and with no
shadows anywhere in the diffused faint radiancy that revealed this
garden, which is not visible to any man except in the brief interval
between dawn and sunrise.

"Why, but it is Count Emmerick's garden at Storisende," says Jurgen,
"where I used to be having such fine times when I was a lad."

"I will wager," said Nessus, "that you did not use to walk alone in
this garden."

"Well, no; there was a girl."

"Just so," assented Nessus. "It is a local by-law: and here are
those who comply with it."

For now had come toward them, walking together in the dawn, a
handsome boy and girl. And the girl was incredibly beautiful,
because everybody in the garden saw her with the vision of the boy
who was with her. "I am Rudolph," said this boy, "and she is Anne."

"And are you happy here?" asked Jurgen.

"Oh, yes, sir, we are tolerably happy: but Anne's father is very
rich, and my mother is poor, so that we cannot be quite happy until
I have gone into foreign lands and come back with a great many lakhs
of rupees and pieces of eight."

"And what will you do with all this money, Rudolph?"

"My duty, sir, as I see it. But I inherit defective eyesight."

"God speed to you, Rudolph!" said Jurgen, "for many others are in
your plight."

Then came to Jurgen and the Centaur another boy with the small
blue-eyed person in whom he took delight. And this fat and indolent
looking boy informed them that he and the girl who was with him were
walking in the glaze of the red mustard jar, which Jurgen thought
was gibberish: and the fat boy said that he and the girl had decided
never to grow any older, which Jurgen said was excellent good sense
if only they could manage it.

"Oh, I can manage that," said this fat boy, reflectively, "if only I
do not find the managing of it uncomfortable."

Jurgen for a moment regarded him, and then gravely shook hands.

"I feel for you," said Jurgen, "for I perceive that you, too, are a
monstrous clever fellow: so life will get the best of you."

"But is not cleverness the main thing, sir?"

"Time will show you, my lad," says Jurgen, a little sorrowfully.
"And God speed to you, for many others are in your plight."

And a host of boys and girls did Jurgen see in the garden. And all
the faces that Jurgen saw were young and glad and very lovely and
quite heart-breakingly confident, as young persons beyond numbering
came toward Jurgen and passed him there, in the first glow of dawn:
so they all went exulting in the glory of their youth, and
foreknowing life to be a puny antagonist from whom one might take
very easily anything which one desired. And all passed in
couples--"as though they came from the Ark," said Jurgen. But the
Centaur said they followed a precedent which was far older than the

"For in this garden," said the Centaur, "each man that ever lived
has sojourned for a little while, with no company save his
illusions. I must tell you again that in this garden are encountered
none but imaginary creatures. And stalwart persons take their hour
of recreation here, and go hence unaccompanied, to become aldermen
and respected merchants and bishops, and to be admired as captains
upon prancing horses, or even as kings upon tall thrones; each in
his station thinking not at all of the garden ever any more. But now
and then come timid persons, Jurgen, who fear to leave this garden
without an escort: so these must need go hence with one or another
imaginary creature, to guide them about alleys and by-paths, because
imaginary creatures find little nourishment in the public highways,
and shun them. Thus must these timid persons skulk about obscurely
with their diffident and skittish guides, and they do not ever
venture willingly into the thronged places where men get horses and
build thrones."

"And what becomes of these timid persons, Centaur?"

"Why, sometimes they spoil paper, Jurgen, and sometimes they spoil
human lives."

"Then are these accursed persons," Jurgen considered.

"You should know best," replied the Centaur.

"Oh, very probably," said Jurgen. "Meanwhile here is one who walks
alone in this garden, and I wonder to see the local by-laws thus

Now Nessus looked at Jurgen for a while without speaking: and in the
eyes of the Centaur was so much of comprehension and compassion that
it troubled Jurgen. For somehow it made Jurgen fidget and consider
this an unpleasantly personal way of looking at anybody.

"Yes, certainly," said the Centaur, "this woman walks alone. But
there is no help for her loneliness, since the lad who loved this
woman is dead."

"Nessus, I am willing to be reasonably sorry about it. Still, is
there any need of pulling quite such a portentously long face? After
all, a great many other persons have died, off and on: and for
anything I can say to the contrary, this particular young fellow may
have been no especial loss to anybody."

Again the Centaur said, "You should know best."


The Dorothy Who Did Not Understand

For now had come to Jurgen and the Centaur a gold-haired woman,
clothed all in white, and walking alone. She was tall, and lovely
and tender to regard: and hers was not the red and white comeliness
of many ladies that were famed for beauty, but rather it had the
even glow of ivory. Her nose was large and high in the bridge, her
flexible mouth was not of the smallest: and yet whatever other
persons might have said, to Jurgen this woman's countenance was in
all things perfect. Perhaps this was because he never saw her as she
was. For certainly the color of her eyes stayed a matter never
revealed to him: gray, blue or green, there was no saying: they
varied as does the sea; but always these eyes were lovely and
friendly and perturbing.

Jurgen remembered that: for Jurgen saw this was Count Emmerick's
second sister, Dorothy la Desiree, whom Jurgen very long ago (a many
years before he met Dame Lisa and set up in business as a
pawnbroker) had hymned in innumerable verses as Heart's Desire.

"And this is the only woman whom I ever loved," Jurgen remembered,
upon a sudden. For people cannot always be thinking of these

So he saluted her, with such deference as is due to a countess from
a tradesman, and yet with unforgotten tremors waking in his staid
body. But the strangest was yet to be seen, for he noted now that
this was not a handsome woman in middle life but a young girl.

"I do not understand," he said, aloud: "for you are Dorothy. And yet
it seems to me that you are not the Countess Dorothy who is Heitman
Michael's wife."

And the girl tossed her fair head, with that careless lovely gesture
which the Countess had forgotten. "Heitman Michael is well enough,
for a nobleman, and my brother is at me day and night to marry the
man: and certainly Heitman Michael's wife will go in satin and
diamonds at half the courts of Christendom, with many lackeys to
attend her. But I am not to be thus purchased."

"So you told a boy that I remember, very long ago. Yet you married
Heitman Michael, for all that, and in the teeth of a number of other
fine declarations."

"Oh, no, not I," said this Dorothy, wondering. "I never married
anybody. And Heitman Michael has never married anybody, either, old
as he is. For he is twenty-eight, and looks every day of it! But who
are you, friend, that have such curious notions about me?"

"That question I will answer, just as though it were put reasonably.
For surely you perceive I am Jurgen."

"I never knew but one Jurgen. And he is a young man, barely come of
age--" Then as she paused in speech, whatever was the matter upon
which this girl now meditated, her cheeks were tenderly colored by
the thought of it, and in her knowledge of this thing her eyes took
infinite joy.

And Jurgen understood. He had come back somehow to the Dorothy whom
he had loved: but departed, and past overtaking by the fleet hoofs
of centaurs, was the boy who had once loved this Dorothy, and who
had rhymed of her as his Heart's Desire: and in the garden there was
of this boy no trace. Instead, the girl was talking to a staid and
paunchy pawnbroker, of forty-and-something.

So Jurgen shrugged, and looked toward the Centaur: but Nessus had
discreetly wandered away from them, in search of four-leafed
clovers. Now the east had grown brighter, and its crimson began to
be colored with gold.

"Yes, I have heard of this other Jurgen," says the pawnbroker. "Oh,
Madame Dorothy, but it was he that loved you!"

"No more than I loved him. Through a whole summer have I loved

And the knowledge that this girl spoke a wondrous truth was now to
Jurgen a joy that was keen as pain. And he stood motionless for a
while, scowling and biting his lips.

"I wonder how long the poor devil loved you! He also loved for a
whole summer, it may be. And yet again, it may be that he loved you
all his life. For twenty years and for more than twenty years I have
debated the matter: and I am as well informed as when I started."

"But, friend, you talk in riddles."

"Is not that customary when age talks with youth? For I am an old
fellow, in my forties: and you, as I know now, are near
eighteen,--or rather, four months short of being eighteen, for it is
August. Nay, more, it is the August of a year I had not looked ever
to see again; and again Dom Manuel reigns over us, that man of iron
whom I saw die so horribly. All this seems very improbable."

Then Jurgen meditated for a while. He shrugged.

"Well, and what could anybody expect me to do about it? Somehow it
has befallen that I, who am but the shadow of what I was, now walk
among shadows, and we converse with the thin intonations of dead
persons. For, Madame Dorothy, you who are not yet eighteen, in this
same garden there was once a boy who loved a girl, with such love as
it puzzles me to think of now. I believe that she loved him. Yes,
certainly it is a cordial to the tired and battered heart which
nowadays pumps blood for me, to think that for a little while, for a
whole summer, these two were as brave and comely and clean a pair of
sweethearts as the world has known."

Thus Jurgen spoke. But his thought was that this was a girl whose
equal for loveliness and delight was not to be found between two
oceans. Long and long ago that doubtfulness of himself which was
closer to him than his skin had fretted Jurgen into believing the
Dorothy he had loved was but a piece of his imaginings. But
certainly this girl was real. And sweet she was, and innocent she
was, and light of heart and feet, beyond the reach of any man's
inventiveness. No, Jurgen had not invented her; and it strangely
contented him to know as much.

"Tell me your story, sir," says she, "for I love all romances."

"Ah, my dear child, but I cannot tell you very well of just what
happened. As I look back, there is a blinding glory of green woods
and lawns and moonlit nights and dance music and unreasonable
laughter. I remember her hair and eyes, and the curving and the feel
of her red mouth, and once when I was bolder than ordinary--But that
is hardly worth raking up at this late day. Well, I see these things
in memory as plainly as I now seem to see your face: but I can
recollect hardly anything she said. Perhaps, now I think of it, she
was not very intelligent, and said nothing worth remembering. But
the boy loved her, and was happy, because her lips and heart were
his, and he, as the saying is, had plucked a diamond from the
world's ring. True, she was a count's daughter and the sister of a
count: but in those days the boy quite firmly intended to become a
duke or an emperor or something of that sort, so the transient
discrepancy did not worry them."

"I know. Why, Jurgen is going to be a duke, too," says she, very
proudly, "though he did think, a great while ago, before he knew me,
of being a cardinal, on account of the robes. But cardinals are not
allowed to marry, you see--And I am forgetting your story, too! What
happened then?"

"They parted in September--with what vows it hardly matters now--and
the boy went into Gatinais, to win his spurs under the old Vidame de
Soyecourt. And presently--oh, a good while before Christmas!--came
the news that Dorothy la Desiree had married rich Heitman Michael."

"But that is what I am called! And as you know, there is a Heitman
Michael who is always plaguing me. Is that not strange! for you tell
me all this happened a great while ago."

"Indeed, the story is very old, and old it was when Methuselah was
teething. There is no older and more common story anywhere. As the
sequel, it would be heroic to tell you this boy's life was ruined.
But I do not think it was. Instead, he had learned all of a sudden
that which at twenty-one is heady knowledge. That was the hour which
taught him sorrow and rage, and sneering, too, for a redemption. Oh,
it was armor that hour brought him, and a humor to use it, because
no woman now could hurt him very seriously. No, never any more!"

"Ah, the poor boy!" she said, divinely tender, and smiling as a
goddess smiles, not quite in mirth.

"Well, women, as he knew by experience now, were the pleasantest of
playfellows. So he began to play. Rampaging through the world he
went in the pride of his youth and in the armor of his hurt. And
songs he made for the pleasure of kings, and sword-play he made for
the pleasure of men, and a whispering he made for the pleasure of
women, in places where renown was, and where he trod boldly, giving
pleasure to everybody, in those fine days. But the whispering, and
all that followed the whispering, was his best game, and the game he
played for the longest while, with many brightly colored playmates
who took the game more seriously than he did. And their faith in the
game's importance, and in him and his high-sounding nonsense, he
very often found amusing: and in their other chattels too he took
his natural pleasure. Then, when he had played sufficiently, he held
a consultation with divers waning appetites; and he married the
handsome daughter of an estimable pawnbroker in a fair line of
business. And he lived with his wife very much as two people
customarily live together. So, all in all, I would not say his life
was ruined."

"Why, then, it was," said Dorothy. She stirred uneasily, with an
impatient sigh; and you saw that she was vaguely puzzled. "Oh, but
somehow I think you are a very horrible old man: and you seem doubly
horrible in that glittering queer garment you are wearing."

"No woman ever praised a woman's handiwork, and each of you is
particularly severe upon her own. But you are interrupting the

"I do not see"--and those large bright eyes of which the color was
so indeterminable and so dear to Jurgen, seemed even larger
now--"but I do not see how there could well be any more."

"Still, human hearts survive the benediction of the priest, as you may
perceive any day. This man, at least, inherited his father-in-law's
business, and found it, quite as he had anticipated, the fittest of
vocations for a cashiered poet. And so, I suppose, he was content. Ah,
yes; but after a while Heitman Michael returned from foreign parts,
along with his lackeys, and plate, and chest upon chest of merchandise,
and his fine horses, and his wife. And he who had been her lover could
see her now, after so many years, whenever he liked. She was a handsome
stranger. That was all. She was rather stupid. She was nothing
remarkable, one way or another. This respectable pawnbroker saw that
quite plainly: day by day he writhed under the knowledge. Because, as
I must tell you, he could not retain composure in her presence, even
now. No, he was never able to do that."

The girl somewhat condensed her brows over this information. "You
mean that he still loved her. Why, but of course!"

"My child," says Jurgen, now with a reproving forefinger, "you are
an incurable romanticist. The man disliked her and despised her. At
any event, he assured himself that he did. Well, even so, this
handsome stupid stranger held his eyes, and muddled his thoughts,
and put errors into his accounts: and when he touched her hand he
did not sleep that night as he was used to sleep. Thus he saw her,
day after day. And they whispered that this handsome and stupid
stranger had a liking for young men who aided her artfully to
deceive her husband: but she never showed any such favor to the
respectable pawnbroker. For youth had gone out of him, and it seemed
that nothing in particular happened. Well, that was his saga. About
her I do not know. And I shall never know! But certainly she got the
name of deceiving Heitman Michael with two young men, or with five
young men it might be, but never with a respectable pawnbroker."

"I think that is an exceedingly cynical and stupid story," observed
the girl. "And so I shall be off to look for Jurgen. For he makes
love very amusingly," says Dorothy, with the sweetest, loveliest
meditative smile that ever was lost to heaven.

And a madness came upon Jurgen, there in the garden between dawn and
sunrise, and a disbelief in such injustice as now seemed incredible.

"No, Heart's Desire," he cried, "I will not let you go. For you are
dear and pure and faithful, and all my evil dream, wherein you were
a wanton and be-fooled me, was not true. Surely, mine was a dream
that can never be true so long as there is any justice upon earth.
Why, there is no imaginable God who would permit a boy to be robbed
of that which in my evil dream was taken from me!"

"And still I cannot understand your talking, about this dream of

"Why, it seemed to me I had lost the most of myself; and there was
left only a brain which played with ideas, and a body that went
delicately down pleasant ways. And I could not believe as my fellows
believed, nor could I love them, nor could I detect anything in
aught they said or did save their exceeding folly: for I had lost
their cordial common faith in the importance of what use they made
of half-hours and months and years; and because a jill-flirt had
opened my eyes so that they saw too much, I had lost faith in the
importance of my own actions, too. There was a little time of which
the passing might be made endurable; beyond gaped unpredictable
darkness: and that was all there was of certainty anywhere. Now tell
me, Heart's Desire, but was not that a foolish dream? For these
things never happened. Why, it would not be fair if these things
ever happened!"

And the girl's eyes were wide and puzzled and a little frightened.
"I do not understand what you are saying: and there is that about
you which troubles me unspeakably. For you call me by the name which
none but Jurgen used, and it seems to me that you are Jurgen; and
yet you are not Jurgen."

"But I am truly Jurgen. And look you, I have done what never any man
has done before! For I have won back to that first love whom every
man must lose, no matter whom he marries. I have come back again,
passing very swiftly over the grave of a dream and through the
malice of time, to my Heart's Desire! And how strange it seems that
I did not know this thing was inevitable!"

"Still, friend, I do not understand you."

"Why, but I yawned and fretted in preparation for some great and
beautiful adventure which was to befall me by and by, and dazedly I
toiled forward. Whereas behind me all the while was the garden
between dawn and sunrise, and therein you awaited me! Now assuredly,
the life of every man is a quaintly builded tale, in which the right
and proper ending comes first. Thereafter time runs forward, not as
schoolmen fable in a straight line, but in a vast closed curve,
returning to the place of its starting. And it is by a dim
foreknowledge of this, by some faint prescience of justice and
reparation being given them by and by, that men have heart to live.
For I know now that I have always known this thing. What else was
living good for unless it brought me back to you?"

But the girl shook her small glittering head, very sadly. "I do not
understand you, and I fear you. For you talk foolishness and in your
face I see the face of Jurgen as one might see the face of a dead
man drowned in muddy water."

"Yet am I truly Jurgen, and, as it seems to me, for the first time
since we were parted. For I am strong and admirable--even I, who
sneered and played so long, because I thought myself a thing of
no worth at all. That which has been since you and I were young
together is as a mist that passes: and I am strong and admirable,
and all my being is one vast hunger for you, my dearest, and I will
not let you go, for you, and you alone, are my Heart's Desire."

Now the girl was looking at him very steadily, with a small puzzled
frown, and with her vivid young soft lips a little parted. And all
her tender loveliness was glorified by the light of a sky that had
turned to dusty palpitating gold.

"Ah, but you say that you are strong and admirable: and I can only
marvel at such talking. For I see that which all men see."

And then Dorothy showed him the little mirror which was attached to
the long chain of turquoise matrix about her neck: and Jurgen
studied the frightened foolish aged face that he found in the

Thus drearily did sanity return to Jurgen: and his flare of passion
died, and the fever and storm and the impetuous whirl of things was
ended, and the man was very weary. And in the silence he heard the
piping cry of a bird that seemed to seek for what it could not find.

"Well, I am answered," said the pawnbroker: "and yet I know that
this is not the final answer. Dearer than any hope of heaven was
that moment when awed surmises first awoke as to the new strange
loveliness which I had seen in the face of Dorothy. It was then I
noted the new faint flush suffusing her face from chin to brow so
often as my eyes encountered and found new lights in the shining
eyes which were no longer entirely frank in meeting mine. Well, let
that be, for I do not love Heitman Michael's wife.

"It is a grief to remember how we followed love, and found his
service lovely. It is bitter to recall the sweetness of those vows
which proclaimed her mine eternally,--vows that were broken in their
making by prolonged and unforgotten kisses. We used to laugh at
Heitman Michael then; we used to laugh at everything. Thus for a
while, for a whole summer, we were as brave and comely and clean a
pair of sweethearts as the world has known. But let that be, for I
do not love Heitman Michael's wife.

"Our love was fair but short-lived. There is none that may revive
him since the small feet of Dorothy trod out this small love's life.
Yet when this life of ours too is over--this parsimonious life which
can allow us no more love for anybody,--must we not win back,
somehow, to that faith we vowed against eternity? and be content
again, in some fair-colored realm? Assuredly I think this thing will
happen. Well, but let that be, for I do not love Heitman Michael's

"Why, this is excellent hearing," observed Dorothy, "because I see
that you are converting your sorrow into the raw stuff of verses. So
I shall be off to look for Jurgen, since he makes love quite
otherwise and far more amusingly."

And again, whatever was the matter upon which this girl now
meditated, her cheeks were tenderly colored by the thought of it,
and in her knowledge of this thing her eyes took infinite joy.

Thus it was for a moment only: for she left Jurgen now, with the
friendliest light waving of her hand; and so passed from him, not
thinking of this old fellow any longer, as he could see, even in the
instant she turned from him. And she went toward the dawn, in search
of that young Jurgen whom she, who was perfect in all things, had
loved, though only for a little while, not undeservedly.


Requirements of Bread and Butter

"Nessus," says Jurgen, "and am I so changed? For that Dorothy whom I
loved in youth did not know me."

"Good and evil keep very exact accounts," replied the Centaur, "and
the face of every man is their ledger. Meanwhile the sun rises, it
is already another workday: and when the shadows of those two who
come to take possession fall full upon the garden, I warn you, there
will be astounding changes brought about by the requirements of
bread and butter. You have not time to revive old memories by
chatting with the others to whom you babbled aforetime in this

"Ah, Centaur, in the garden between dawn and sunrise there was never
any other save Dorothy la Desiree."

The Centaur shrugged. "It may be you forget; it is certain that you
underestimate the local population. Some of the transient visitors
you have seen, and in addition hereabouts dwell the year round all
manner of imaginary creatures. The fairies live just southward, and
the gnomes too. To your right is the realm of the Valkyries: the
Amazons and the Cynocephali are their allies: all three of these
nations are continually at loggerheads with their neighbors, the
Baba-Yagas, whom Morfei cooks for, and whose monarch is Oh, a person
very dangerous to name. Northward dwell the Lepracauns and the Men
of Hunger, whose king is Clobhair. My people, who are ruled by
Chiron, live even further to the north. The Sphinx pastures on
yonder mountain; and now the Chimaera is old and generally derided,
they say that Cerberus visits the Sphinx at twilight, although I was
never the person to disseminate scandal--"

"Centaur," said Jurgen, "and what is Dorothy doing here?"

"Why, all the women that any man has ever loved live here," replied
the Centaur, "for very obvious reasons."

"That is a hard saying, friend."

Nessus tapped with his forefinger upon the back of Jurgen's hand.
"Worm's-meat! this is the destined food, do what you will, of small
white worms. This by and by will be a struggling pale corruption,
like seething milk. That too is a hard saying, Jurgen. But it is a
true saying."

"And was that Dorothy whom I loved in youth an imaginary creature?"

"My poor Jurgen, you who were once a poet! she was your masterpiece.
For there was only a shallow, stupid and airy, high-nosed and
light-haired miss, with no remarkable good looks,--and consider what
your ingenuity made from such poor material! You should be proud of

"No, Centaur, I cannot very well be proud of my folly: yet I do not
regret it. I have been befooled by a bright shadow of my own
raising, you tell me, and I concede it to be probable. No less, I
served a lovely shadow; and my heart will keep the memory of that
loveliness until life ends, in a world where other men follow
pantingly after shadows which are not even pretty."

"There is something in that, Jurgen: there is also something in an
old tale we used to tell in Thessaly, about a fox and certain

"Well, but look you, Nessus, there is an emperor that reigns now in
Constantinople and occasionally does business with me. Yes, and I
could tell you tales of by what shifts he came to the throne--"

"Men's hands are by ordinary soiled in climbing," quoth the Centaur.

"And 'Jurgen,' this emperor says to me, not many months ago, as he
sat in his palace, crowned and dreary and trying to cheat me out of
my fair profit on some emeralds,--'Jurgen, I cannot sleep of nights,
because of that fool Alexius, who comes into my room with staring
eyes and the bowstring still about his neck. And my Varangians must
be in league with that silly ghost, because I constantly order them
to keep Alexius out of my bedchamber, and they do not obey me,
Jurgen. To be King of the East is not to the purpose, Jurgen, when
one must submit to such vexations.' Yes, it was Caesar Pharamond
himself said this to me: and I deduce the shadow of a crown has led
him into an ugly pickle, for all that he is the mightiest monarch in
the world. And I would not change with Caesar Pharamond, not I who am
a respectable pawnbroker, with my home in fee and my bit of tilled
land. Well, this is a queer world, to be sure: and this garden is
visited by no stranger things than pop into a man's mind sometimes,
without his knowing how."

"Ah, but you must understand that the garden is speedily to be
remodeled. Yonder you may observe the two whose requirements are to
rid the place of all fantastic unremunerative notions; and who will
develop the natural resources of this garden according to generally
approved methods."

And from afar Jurgen could see two figures coming out of the east,
so tall that their heads rose above the encircling hills and
glistened in the rays of a sun which was not yet visible. One was a
white pasty-looking giant, with a crusty expression: he walked with
the aid of a cane. The other was of a pale yellow color: his face
was oily, and he rode on a vast cow that was called AEdhumla.

"Make way there, brother, with your staff of life," says the yellow
giant, "for there is much to do hereabouts."

"Ay, brother, this place must be altered a deal before it meets with
our requirements," the other grumbled. "May I be toasted if I know
where to begin!"

Then as the giants turned dull and harsh faces toward the garden,
the sun came above the circle of blue hills, so that the mingled
shadows of these two giants fell across the garden. For an instant
Jurgen saw the place oppressed by that attenuated mile-long shadow,
as in heraldry you may see a black bar painted sheer across some
brightly emblazoned shield. Then the radiancy of everything twitched
and vanished, as a bubble bursts.

And Jurgen was standing in the midst of a field, very neatly plowed,
but with nothing as yet growing in it. And the Centaur was with him
still, it seemed, for there were the creature's hoofs, but all the
gold had been washed or rubbed away from them in traveling with

"See, Nessus!" Jurgen cried, "the garden is made desolate. Oh,
Nessus, was it fair that so much loveliness should be thus wasted!"

"Nay," said the Centaur, "nay!" Long and wailingly he whinneyed,

And when Jurgen raised his eyes he saw that his companion was not a
centaur, but only a strayed riding-horse.

"Were you the animal, then," says Jurgen, "and was it a quite
ordinary animal, that conveyed me to the garden between dawn and
sunrise?" And Jurgen laughed disconsolately. "At all events, you
have clothed me in a curious fine shirt. And, now I look, your
bridle is marked with a coronet. So I will return you to the castle
at Bellegarde, and it may be that Heitman Michael will reward me."

Then Jurgen mounted this horse and rode away from the plowed field
wherein nothing grew as yet. As they left the furrows they came to a
signboard with writing on it, in a peculiar red and yellow

Jurgen paused to decipher this.

"Read me!" was written on the signboard: "read me, and judge if you
understand! So you stopped in your journey because I called,
scenting something unusual, something droll. Thus, although I am
nothing, and even less, there is no one that sees me but lingers
here. Stranger, I am a law of the universe. Stranger, render the law
what is due the law!"

Jurgen felt cheated. "A very foolish signboard, indeed! for how can
it be 'a law of the universe', when there is no meaning to it!" says
Jurgen. "Why, for any law to be meaningless would not be fair."


Showing that Sereda Is Feminine

Then, having snapped his fingers at that foolish signboard, Jurgen
would have turned easterly, toward Bellegarde: but his horse
resisted. The pawnbroker decided to accept this as an omen.

"Forward, then!" he said, "in the name of Koshchei." And thereafter
Jurgen permitted the horse to choose its own way.

Thus Jurgen came through a forest, wherein he saw many things not
salutary to notice, to a great stone house like a prison, and he
sought shelter there. But he could find nobody about the place,
until he came to a large hall, newly swept. This was a depressing
apartment, in its chill neat emptiness, for it was unfurnished save
for a bare deal table, upon which lay a yardstick and a pair of
scales. Above this table hung a wicker cage, containing a blue bird,
and another wicker cage containing three white pigeons. And in this
hall a woman, no longer young, dressed all in blue, and wearing a
white towel by way of head-dress was assorting curiously colored

She had very bright eyes, with wrinkled lids; and now as she looked
up at Jurgen her shrunk jaws quivered.

"Ah," says she, "I have a visitor. Good day to you, in your
glittering shirt. It is a garment I seem to recognize."

"Good day, grandmother! I am looking for my wife, whom I suspect to
have been carried off by a devil, poor fellow! Now, having lost my
way, I have come to pass the night under your roof."

"Very good: but few come seeking Mother Sereda of their own accord."

Then Jurgen knew with whom he talked: and inwardly he was perturbed,
for all the Leshy are unreliable in their dealings.

So when he spoke it was very civilly. "And what do you do here,

"I bleach. In time I shall bleach that garment you are wearing. For
I take the color out of all things. Thus you see these stuffs here,
as they are now. Clotho spun the glowing threads, and Lachesis wove
them, as you observe, in curious patterns, very marvelous to see:
but when I am done with these stuffs there will be no more color or
beauty or strangeness anywhere apparent than in so many dishclouts."

"Now I preceive," says Jurgen, "that your power and dominion is more
great than any other power which is in the world."

He made a song of this, in praise of the Leshy and their Days, but
more especially in praise of the might of Mother Sereda and of the
ruins that have fallen on Wednesday. To Chetverg and Utornik and
Subbota he gave their due. Pyatinka and Nedelka also did Jurgen
commend for such demolishments as have enregistered their names in
the calendar of saints, no less. Ah, but there was none like Mother
Sereda: hers was the centre of that power which is the Leshy's. The
others did but nibble at temporal things, like furtive mice: she
devastated, like a sandstorm, so that there were many dustheaps
where Mother Sereda had passed, but nothing else.

And so on, and so on. The song was no masterpiece, and would not be
bettered by repetition. But it was all untrammeled eulogy, and the
old woman beat time to it with her lean hands: and her shrunk jaws
quivered, and she nodded her white-wrapped head this way and that
way, with a rolling motion, and on her thin lips was a very proud
and foolish smile.

"That is a good song," says she; "oh, yes, an excellent song! But
you report nothing of my sister Pandelis who controls the day of the

"Monday!" says Jurgen: "yes, I neglected Monday, perhaps because she
is the oldest of you, but in part because of the exigencies of my
rhyme scheme. We must let Pandelis go unhymned. How can I remember
everything when I consider the might of Sereda?"

"Why, but," says Mother Sereda, "Pandelis may not like it, and she
may take holiday from her washing some day to have a word with you.
However, I repeat, that is an excellent song. And in return for your
praise of me, I will tell you that, if your wife has been carried
off by a devil, your affair is one which Koshchei alone can remedy.
Assuredly, I think it is to him you must go for justice."

"But how may I come to him, grandmother?"

"Oh, as to that, it does not matter at all which road you follow.
All highways, as the saying is, lead roundabout to Koshchei. The one
thing needful is not to stand still. This much I will tell you also
for your song's sake, because that was an excellent song, and nobody
ever made a song in praise of me before to-day."

Now Jurgen wondered to see what a simple old creature was this
Mother Sereda, who sat before him shaking and grinning and frail as
a dead leaf, with her head wrapped in a common kitchen-towel, and
whose power was so enormous.

"To think of it," Jurgen reflected, "that the world I inhabit is
ordered by beings who are not one-tenth so clever as I am! I have
often suspected as much, and it is decidedly unfair. Now let me see
if I cannot make something out of being such a monstrous clever

Jurgen said aloud: "I do not wonder that no practising poet ever
presumed to make a song of you. You are too majestical. You frighten
these rhymesters, who feel themselves to be unworthy of so great a
theme. So it remained for you to be appreciated by a pawnbroker,
since it is we who handle and observe the treasures of this world
after you have handled them."

"Do you think so?" says she, more pleased than ever. "Now, may be
that was the way of it. But I wonder that you who are so fine a poet
should ever have become a pawnbroker."

"Well, and indeed, Mother Sereda, your wonder seems to me another
wonder: for I can think of no profession better suited to a retired
poet. Why, there is the variety of company! for high and low and
even the genteel are pressed sometimes for money: then the plowman
slouches into my shop, and the duke sends for me privately. So the
people I know, and the bits of their lives I pop into, give me a
deal to romance about."

"Ah, yes, indeed," says Mother Sereda, wisely, "that well may be the
case. But I do not hold with romance, myself."

"Moreover, sitting in my shop, I wait there quiet-like while tribute
comes to me from the ends of earth: everything which men and women
have valued anywhere comes sooner or later to me: and jewels and
fine knickknacks that were the pride of queens they bring me, and
wedding rings, and the baby's cradle with his little tooth marks on
the rim of it, and silver coffin-handles, or it may be an old
frying-pan, they bring me, but all comes to Jurgen. So that just to
sit there in my dark shop quiet-like, and wonder about the history
of my belongings and how they were made mine, is poetry, and is the
deep and high and ancient thinking of a god who is dozing among what
time has left of a dead world, if you understand me, Mother Sereda."

"I understand: oho, I understand that which pertains to gods, for a
sufficient reason."

"And then another thing, you do not need any turn for business:
people are glad to get whatever you choose to offer, for they would
not come otherwise. So you get the shining and rough-edged coins
that you can feel the proud king's head on, with his laurel-wreath
like millet seed under your fingers; and you get the flat and
greenish coins that are smeared with the titles and the chins and
hooked noses of emperors whom nobody remembers or cares about any
longer: all just by waiting there quiet-like, and making a favor of
it to let customers give you their belongings for a third of what
they are worth. And that is easy labor, even for a poet."

"I understand: I understand all labor."

"And people treat you a deal more civilly than any real need is,
because they are ashamed of trafficking with you at all: I dispute
if a poet could get such civility shown him in any other profession.
And finally, there is the long idleness between business interviews,
with nothing to do save sit there quiet-like and think about the
queerness of things in general: and that is always rare employment
for a poet, even without the tatters of so many lives and homes
heaped up about him like spillikins. So that I would say in all,
Mother Sereda, there is certainly no profession better suited to an
old poet than the profession of pawnbroking."

"Certainly, there may be something in what you tell me," observes
Mother Sereda. "I know what the Little Gods are, and I know what
work is, but I do not think about these other matters, nor about
anything else. I bleach."

"Ah, and a great deal more I could be saying, too, godmother, but
for the fear of wearying you. Nor would I have run on at all about
my private affairs were it not that we two are so close related. And
kith makes kind, as people say."

"But how can you and I be kin?"

"Why, heyday, and was I not born upon a Wednesday? That makes you my
godmother, does it not?"

"I do not know, dearie, I am sure. Nobody ever cared to claim kin
with Mother Sereda before this," says she, pathetically.

"There can be no doubt, though, on the point, no possible doubt.
Sabellius states it plainly. Artemidorus Minor, I grant you, holds
the question debatable, but his reasons for doing so are tolerably
notorious. Besides, what does all his flimsy sophistry avail against
Nicanor's fine chapter on this very subject? Crushing, I consider
it. His logic is final and irrefutable. What can anyone say against
Saevius Nicanor?--ah, what indeed?" demanded Jurgen.

And he wondered if there might not have been perchance some such
persons somewhere, after all. Their names, in any event, sounded
very plausible to Jurgen.

"Ah, dearie, I was never one for learning. It may be as you say."

"You say 'it may be', godmother. That embarrasses me, rather,
because I was about to ask for my christening gift, which in the
press of other matters you overlooked some forty years back. You
will readily conceive that your negligence, however unintentional,
might possibly give rise to unkindly criticism: and so I felt I
ought to mention it, in common fairness to you."

"As for that, dearie, ask what you will within the limits of my
power. For mine are all the sapphires and turquoises and whatever
else in this dusty world is blue; and mine likewise are all the
Wednesdays that have ever been or ever will be: and any one of these
will I freely give you in return for your fine speeches and your
tender heart."

"Ah, but, godmother, would it be quite just for you to accord me so
much more than is granted to other persons?"

"Why, no: but what have I to do with justice? I bleach. Come now,
then, do you make a choice! for I can assure you that my sapphires
are of the first water, and that many of my oncoming Wednesdays will
be well worth seeing."

"No, godmother, I never greatly cared for jewelry: and the future is
but dressing and undressing, and shaving, and eating, and computing
percentage, and so on; the future does not interest me now. So I
shall modestly content myself with a second-hand Wednesday, with one
that you have used and have no further need of: and it will be a
Wednesday in the August of such and such a year."

Mother Sereda agreed to this. "But there are certain rules to be
observed," says she, "for one must have system."

As she spoke, she undid the towel about her head, and she took a
blue comb from her white hair: and she showed Jurgen what was
engraved on the comb. It frightened Jurgen, a little: but he nodded

"First, though," says Mother Sereda, "here is the blue bird. Would
you not rather have that, dearie, than your Wednesday? Most people

"Ah, but, godmother," he replied, "I am Jurgen. No, it is not the
blue bird I desire."

So Mother Sereda took from the wall the wicker cage containing the
three white pigeons: and going before him, with small hunched shoulders,
and shuffling her feet along the flagstones, she led the way into a
courtyard, where, sure enough, they found a tethered he-goat. Of a
dark blue color this beast was, and his eyes were wiser than the eyes
of a beast.

Then Jurgen set about that which Mother Sereda said was necessary.


Of Compromises on a Wednesday

So it was that, riding upon a horse whose bridle was marked with a
coronet, the pawnbroker returned to a place, and to a moment, which
he remembered. It was rather queer to be a fine young fellow again,
and to foresee all that was to happen for the next twenty years.

As it chanced, the first person he encountered was his mother Azra,
whom Coth had loved very greatly but not long. And Jurgen talked
with Azra of what clothes he would be likely to need in Gatinais,
and of how often he would write to her. She disparaged the new shirt
he was wearing, as was to be expected, since Azra had always
preferred to select her son's clothing rather than trust to Jurgen's
taste. His new horse she admitted to be a handsome animal; and only
hoped he had not stolen it from anybody who would get him into
trouble. For Azra, it must be recorded, had never any confidence in
her son; and was the only woman, Jurgen felt, who really understood

And now as his beautiful young mother impartially petted and snapped
at him, poor Jurgen thought of that very real dissension and
severance which in the oncoming years was to arise between them; and
of how she would die without his knowing of her death for two whole
months; and of how his life thereafter would be changed, somehow,
and the world would become an unstable place in which you could no
longer put cordial faith. And he foreknew all the remorse he was to
shrug away, after the squandering of so much pride and love. But
these things were not yet: and besides, these things were

"And yet that these things should be inevitable is decidedly not
fair," said Jurgen.

So it was with all the persons he encountered. The people whom he
loved when at his best as a fine young fellow were so very soon, and
through petty causes, to become nothing to him, and he himself was
to be converted into a commonplace tradesman. And living seemed to
Jurgen a wasteful and inequitable process.

Then Jurgen left the home of his youth, and rode toward Bellegarde,
and tethered his horse upon the heath, and went into the castle.
Thus Jurgen came to Dorothy. She was lovely and dear, and yet, by
some odd turn, not quite so lovely and dear as the Dorothy he had
seen in the garden between dawn and sunrise. And Dorothy, like
everybody else, praised Jurgen's wonderful new shirt.

"It is designed for such festivals," said Jurgen, modestly--"a
little notion of my own. A bit extreme, some persons might consider
it, but there is no pleasing everybody. And I like a trifle of

For there was a masque that night at the castle of Bellegarde: and
wildly droll and sad it was to Jurgen to remember what was to befall
so many of the participants.

Jurgen had not forgotten this Wednesday, this ancient Wednesday upon
which Messire de Montors had brought the Confraternity of St. Medard
from Brunbelois, to enact a masque of The Birth of Hercules, as the
vagabonds were now doing, to hilarious applause. Jurgen remembered
it was the day before Bellegarde discovered that Count Emmerick's
guest, the Vicomte de Puysange, was in reality the notorious outlaw,
Perion de la Foret. Well, yonder the yet undetected impostor was
talking very earnestly with Dame Melicent: and Jurgen knew all that
was in store for this pair of lovers.

Meanwhile, as Jurgen reflected, the real Vicomte de Puysange was at
this moment lying in a delirium, yonder at Benoit's: to-morrow the
true Vicomte would be recognized, and within the year the Vicomte
would have married Felise de Soyecourt, and later Jurgen would meet
her, in the orchard; and Jurgen knew what was to happen then also.

And Messire de Montors was watching Dame Melicent, sidewise, while
he joked with little Ettarre, who was this night permitted to stay
up later than usual, in honor of the masque: and Jurgen knew that
this young bishop was to become Pope of Rome, no less; and that the
child he joked with was to become the woman for possession of whom
Guiron des Rocques and the surly-looking small boy yonder, Maugis
d'Aigremont, would contend with each other until the country
hereabouts had been devastated, and the castle wherein Jurgen now
was had been besieged, and this part of it burned. And wildly droll
and sad it was to Jurgen thus to remember all that was going to
happen to these persons, and to all the other persons who were
frolicking in the shadow of their doom and laughing at this trivial

For here--with so much of ruin and failure impending, and with
sorrow prepared so soon to smite a many of these revellers in ways
foreknown to Jurgen; and with death resistlessly approaching so
soon to make an end of almost all this company in some unlovely
fashion that Jurgen foreknew exactly,--here laughter seemed
unreasonable and ghastly. Why, but Reinault yonder, who laughed so
loud, with his cropped head flung back: would Reinault be laughing
in quite this manner if he knew the round strong throat he thus
exposed was going to be cut like the throat of a calf, while three
Burgundians held him? Jurgen knew this thing was to befall Reinault
Vinsauf before October was out. So he looked at Reinault's throat,
and shudderingly drew in his breath between set teeth.

"And he is worth a score of me, this boy!" thought Jurgen: "and it
is I who am going to live to be an old fellow, with my bit of land
in fee, years after dirt clogs those bright generous eyes, and years
after this fine big-hearted boy is wasted! And I shall forget all
about him, too. Marion l'Edol, that very pretty girl behind him, is
to become a blotched and toothless haunter of alleys, a leering
plucker at men's sleeves! And blue-eyed Colin here, with his baby
mouth, is to be hanged for that matter of coin-clipping--let me
recall, now,--yes, within six years of to-night! Well, but in a way,
these people are blessed in lacking foresight. For they laugh, and I
cannot laugh, and to me their laughter is more terrible than
weeping. Yes, they may be very wise in not glooming over what is
inevitable; and certainly I cannot go so far as to say they are
wrong: but still, at the same time--! And assuredly, living seems to
me in everything a wasteful and inequitable process."

Thus Jurgen, while the others passed a very pleasant evening.

And presently, when the masque was over, Dorothy and Jurgen went out
upon the terrace, to the east of Bellegarde, and so came to an
unforgotten world of moonlight. They sat upon a bench of carved
stone near the balustrade which overlooked the highway: and the boy
and the girl gazed wistfully beyond the highway, over luminous
valleys and tree-tops. Just so they had sat there, as Jurgen
perfectly remembered, when Mother Sereda first used this Wednesday.

"My Heart's Desire," says Jurgen, "I am sad to-night. For I am
thinking of what life will do to us, and what offal the years will
make of you and me."

"My own sweetheart," says she, "and do we not know very well what is
to happen?" And Dorothy began to talk of all the splendid things
that Jurgen was to do, and of the happy life which was to be theirs

"It is horrible," he said: "for we are more fine than we shall ever
be hereafter. We have a splendor for which the world has no
employment. It will be wasted. And such wastage is not fair."

"But presently you will be so and so," says she: and fondly predicts
all manner of noble exploits which, as Jurgen remembered, had once
seemed very plausible to him also. Now he had clearer knowledge as
to the capacities of the boy of whom he had thought so well.

"No, Heart's Desire: no, I shall be quite otherwise."

"--and to think how proud I shall be of you! 'But then I always knew
it', I shall tell everybody, very condescendingly--"

"No, Heart's Desire: for you will not think of me at all."

"Ah, sweetheart! and can you really believe that I shall ever care a
snap of my fingers for anybody but you?"

Then Jurgen laughed a little; for Heitman Michael came now across
the lonely terrace, in search of Madame Dorothy: and Jurgen foreknew
this was the man to whom within two months of this evening Dorothy
was to give her love and all the beauty that was hers, and with whom
she was to share the ruinous years which lay ahead.

But the girl did not know this, and Dorothy gave a little shrugging
gesture. "I have promised to dance with him, and so I must. But the
old fellow is a great plague."

For Heitman Michael was nearing thirty, and this to Dorothy and
Jurgen was an age that bordered upon senility.

"Now, by heaven," said Jurgen, "wherever Heitman Michael does his
next dancing it will not be hereabouts."

Jurgen had decided what he must do.

And then Heitman Michael saluted them civilly. "But I fear I must
rob you of this fair lady, Master Jurgen," says he.

Jurgen remembered that the man had said precisely this a score of
years ago; and that Jurgen had mumbled polite regrets, and had stood
aside while Heitman Michael bore off Dorothy to dance with him. And
this dance had been the beginning of intimacy between Heitman
Michael and Dorothy.

"Heitman," says Jurgen, "the bereavement which you threaten is very
happily spared me, since, as it happens, the next dance is to be

"We can but leave it to the lady," says Heitman Michael, laughing.

"Not I," says Jurgen. "For I know too well what would come of that.
I intend to leave my destiny to no one."

"Your conduct, Master Jurgen, is somewhat strange," observed Heitman

"Ah, but I will show you a thing yet stranger. For, look you, there
seem to be three of us here on this terrace. Yet I can assure you
there are four."

"Read me the riddle, my boy, and have done."

"The fourth of us, Heitman, is a goddess that wears a speckled
garment and has black wings. She can boast of no temples, and no
priests cry to her anywhere, because she is the only deity whom no
prayers can move or any sacrifices placate. I allude, sir, to the
eldest daughter of Nox and Erebus."

"You speak of death, I take it."

"Your apprehension, Heitman, is nimble. Even so, it is not quick
enough, I fear, to forerun the whims of goddesses. Indeed, what
person could have foreseen that this implacable lady would have
taken such a strong fancy for your company."

"Ah, my young bantam," replies Heitman Michael, "it is quite true
that she and I are acquainted. I may even boast of having despatched
one or two stout warriors to serve her underground. Now, as I divine
your meaning, you plan that I should decrease her obligation by
sending her a whippersnapper."

"My notion, Heitman, is that since this dark goddess is about to
leave us, she should not, in common gallantry, be permitted to go
hence unaccompanied. I propose, therefore, that we forthwith decide
who is to be her escort."

Now Heitman Michael had drawn his sword. "You are insane. But you
extend an invitation which I have never yet refused."

"Heitman," cries Jurgen, in honest gratitude and admiration, "I bear
you no ill-will. But it is highly necessary you die to-night, in
order that my soul may not perish too many years before my body."

With that he too whipped out his sword.

So they fought. Now Jurgen was a very acceptable swordsman, but from
the start he found in Heitman Michael his master. Jurgen had never
reckoned upon that, and he considered it annoying. If Heitman
Michael perforated Jurgen the future would be altered, certainly,
but not quite as Jurgen had decided it ought to be remodeled. So
this unlooked-for complication seemed preposterous, and Jurgen began
to be irritated by the suspicion that he was getting himself killed
for nothing at all.

Meanwhile his unruffled tall antagonist seemed but to play with
Jurgen, so that Jurgen was steadily forced back toward the
balustrade. And presently Jurgen's sword was twisted from his hand,
and sent flashing over the balustrade, into the public highway.

"So now, Master Jurgen," says Heitman Michael, "that is the end of
your nonsense. Why, no, there is not any occasion to posture like a
statue. I do not intend to kill you. Why the devil's name, should I?
To do so would only get me an ill name with your parents: and
besides it is infinitely more pleasant to dance with this lady, just
as I first intended." And he turned gaily toward Madame Dorothy.

But Jurgen found this outcome of affairs insufferable. This man was
stronger than he, this man was of the sort that takes and uses
gallantly all the world's prizes which mere poets can but
respectfully admire. All was to do again: Heitman Michael, in his
own hateful phrase, would act just as he had first intended, and
Jurgen would be brushed aside by the man's brute strength. This man
would take away Dorothy, and leave the life of Jurgen to become a
business which Jurgen remembered with distaste. It was unfair.

So Jurgen snatched out his dagger, and drove it deep into the
undefended back of Heitman Michael. Three times young Jurgen stabbed
and hacked the burly soldier, just underneath the left ribs. Even in
his fury Jurgen remembered to strike on the left side.

It was all very quickly done. Heitman Michael's arms jerked upward,
and in the moonlight his fingers spread and clutched. He made
curious gurgling noises. Then the strength went from his knees, so
that he toppled backward. His head fell upon Jurgen's shoulder,
resting there for an instant fraternally; and as Jurgen shuddered
away from the abhorred contact, the body of Heitman Michael
collapsed. Now he lay staring upward, dead at the feet of his
murderer. He was horrible looking, but he was quite dead.

"What will become of you?" Dorothy whispered, after a while. "Oh,
Jurgen, it was foully done, that which you did was infamous! What
will become of you, my dear?"

"I will take my doom," says Jurgen, "and without whimpering, so that
I get justice. But I shall certainly insist upon justice." Then
Jurgen raised his face to the bright heavens. "The man was stronger
than I and wanted what I wanted. So I have compromised with
necessity, in the only way I could make sure of getting that which
was requisite to me. I cry for justice to the power that gave him
strength and gave me weakness, and gave to each of us his desires.
That which I have done, I have done. Now judge!"

Then Jurgen tugged and shoved the heavy body of Heitman Michael,
until it lay well out of sight, under the bench upon which Jurgen
and Dorothy had been sitting. "Rest there, brave sir, until they
find you. Come to me now, my Heart's Desire. Good, that is
excellent. Here I sit with my true love, upon the body of my enemy.
Justice is satisfied, and all is quite as it should be. For you must
understand that I have fallen heir to a fine steed, whose bridle is
marked with a coronet,--prophetically, I take it,--and upon this
steed you will ride pillion with me to Lisuarte. There we will find
a priest to marry us. We will go together into Gatinais. Meanwhile,
there is a bit of neglected business to be attended to." And he drew
the girl close to him.

For Jurgen was afraid of nothing now. And Jurgen thought:

"Oh, that I could detain the moment! that I could make some fitting
verses to preserve this moment in my own memory! Could I but get
into words the odor and the thick softness of this girl's hair as my
hands, that are a-quiver in every nerve of them, caress her hair;
and get into enduring words the glitter and the cloudy shadowings of
her hair in this be-drenching moonlight! For I shall forget all this
beauty, or at best I shall remember this moment very dimly."

"You have done very wrong--" says Dorothy.

Says Jurgen, to himself: "Already the moment passes this miserably
happy moment wherein once more life shudders and stands heart-stricken
at the height of bliss! it passes, and I know even as I lift this girl's
soft face to mine, and mark what faith and submissiveness and expectancy
is in her face, that whatever the future holds for us, and whatever of
happiness we two may know hereafter, we shall find no instant happier
than this, which passes from us irretrievably while I am thinking about
it, poor fool, in place of rising to the issue."

"--And heaven only knows what will become of you Jurgen--"

Says Jurgen, still to himself: "Yes, something must remain to me of
all this rapture, though it be only guilt and sorrow: something I
mean to wrest from this high moment which was once wasted
fruitlessly. Now I am wiser: for I know there is not any memory with
less satisfaction in it than the memory of some temptation we
resisted. So I will not waste the one real passion I have known, nor
leave unfed the one desire which ever caused me for a heart-beat to
forget to think about Jurgen's welfare. And thus, whatever happens,
I shall not always regret that I did not avail myself of this girl's
love before it was taken from me."

So Jurgen made such advances as seemed good to him. And he noted,
with amusing memories of how much afraid he had once been of
shocking his Dorothy's notions of decorum, that she did not repulse
him very vigorously.

"Here, over a dead body! Oh, Jurgen, this is horrible! Now, Jurgen,
remember that somebody may come any minute! And I thought I could
trust you! Ah, and is this all the respect you have for me!" This
much she said in duty. Meanwhile the eyes of Dorothy were dilated
and very tender.

"Faith, I take no chances, this second time. And so whatever
happens, I shall not always regret that which I left undone."

Now upon his lips was laughter, and his arms were about the
submissive girl. And in his heart was an unnamable depression and a
loneliness, because it seemed to him that this was not the Dorothy
whom he had seen in the garden between dawn and sunrise. For in my
arms now there is just a very pretty girl who is not over-careful in
her dealings with young men, thought Jurgen, as their lips met.
Well, all life is a compromise; and a pretty girl is something
tangible, at any rate. So he laughed, triumphantly, and prepared for
the sequel.

But as Jurgen laughed triumphantly, with his arm beneath the head of
Dorothy, and with the tender face of Dorothy passive beneath his lips,
and with unreasonable wistfulness in his heart, the castle bell tolled
midnight. What followed was curious: for as Wednesday passed, the face
of Dorothy altered, her flesh roughened under his touch, and her cheeks
fell away, and fine lines came about her eyes, and she became the
Countess Dorothy whom Jurgen remembered as Heitman Michael's wife.

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