Part 4 out of 6
THE SILENT FOUNTAIN
I turned and followed the spotted leopardess, catching but one
glimpse of her as she tore up the brow of the hill to the gate of
the palace. When I reached the entrance-hall, the princess was
just throwing the robe around her which she had left on the floor.
The blood had ceased to flow from her wounds, and had dried in the
wind of her flight.
When she saw me, a flash of anger crossed her face, and she turned
her head aside. Then, with an attempted smile, she looked at me,
"I have met with a small accident! Happening to hear that the
cat-woman was again in the city, I went down to send her away. But
she had one of her horrid creatures with her: it sprang upon me,
and had its claws in my neck before I could strike it!"
She gave a shiver, and I could not help pitying her, although I
knew she lied, for her wounds were real, and her face reminded me
of how she looked in the cave. My heart began to reproach me that
I had let her fight unaided, and I suppose I looked the compassion
"Child of folly!" she said, with another attempted smile, "--not
crying, surely!--Wait for me here; I am going into the black hall
for a moment. I want you to get me something for my scratches."
But I followed her close. Out of my sight I feared her.
The instant the princess entered, I heard a buzzing sound as of
many low voices, and, one portion after another, the assembly began
to be shiftingly illuminated, as by a ray that went travelling from
spot to spot. Group after group would shine out for a space, then
sink back into the general vagueness, while another part of the vast
company would grow momently bright.
Some of the actions going on when thus illuminated, were not unknown
to me; I had been in them, or had looked on them, and so had the
princess: present with every one of them I now saw her. The
skull-headed dancers footed the grass in the forest-hall: there was
the princess looking in at the door! The fight went on in the Evil
Wood: there was the princess urging it! Yet I was close behind her
all the time, she standing motionless, her head sunk on her bosom.
The confused murmur continued, the confused commotion of colours
and shapes; and still the ray went shifting and showing. It settled
at last on the hollow in the heath, and there was the princess,
walking up and down, and trying in vain to wrap the vapour around
her! Then first I was startled at what I saw: the old librarian
walked up to her, and stood for a moment regarding her; she fell;
her limbs forsook her and fled; her body vanished.
A wild shriek rang through the echoing place, and with the fall of
her eidolon, the princess herself, till then standing like a statue
in front of me, fell heavily, and lay still. I turned at once
and went out: not again would I seek to restore her! As I stood
trembling beside the cage, I knew that in the black ellipsoid I had
been in the brain of the princess!--I saw the tail of the leopardess
While still endeavouring to compose myself, I heard the voice of
the princess beside me.
"Come now," she said; "I will show you what I want you to do for me."
She led the way into the court. I followed in dazed compliance.
The moon was near the zenith, and her present silver seemed brighter
than the gold of the absent sun. She brought me through the trees
to the tallest of them, the one in the centre. It was not quite
like the rest, for its branches, drawing their ends together at the
top, made a clump that looked from beneath like a fir-cone. The
princess stood close under it, gazing up, and said, as if talking
"On the summit of that tree grows a tiny blossom which would at once
heal my scratches! I might be a dove for a moment and fetch it,
but I see a little snake in the leaves whose bite would be worse to
a dove than the bite of a tiger to me!--How I hate that cat-woman!"
She turned to me quickly, saying with one of her sweetest smiles,
"Can you climb?"
The smile vanished with the brief question, and her face changed
to a look of sadness and suffering. I ought to have left her to
suffer, but the way she put her hand to her wounded neck went to
I considered the tree. All the way up to the branches, were
projections on the stem like the remnants on a palm of its fallen
"I can climb that tree," I answered.
"Not with bare feet!" she returned.
In my haste to follow the leopardess disappearing, I had left my
sandals in my room.
"It is no matter," I said; "I have long gone barefoot!"
Again I looked at the tree, and my eyes went wandering up the stem
until my sight lost itself in the branches. The moon shone like
silvery foam here and there on the rugged bole, and a little rush
of wind went through the top with a murmurous sound as of water
falling softly into water. I approached the tree to begin my ascent
of it. The princess stopped me.
"I cannot let you attempt it with your feet bare!" she insisted.
"A fall from the top would kill you!"
"So would a bite from the snake!" I answered--not believing, I
confess, that there was any snake.
"It would not hurt YOU!" she replied. "--Wait a moment."
She tore from her garment the two wide borders that met in front,
and kneeling on one knee, made me put first my left foot, then my
right on the other, and bound them about with the thick embroidered
"You have left the ends hanging, princess!" I said.
"I have nothing to cut them off with; but they are not long enough
to get entangled," she replied.
I turned to the tree, and began to climb.
Now in Bulika the cold after sundown was not so great as in certain
other parts of the country--especially about the sexton's cottage;
yet when I had climbed a little way, I began to feel very cold, grew
still colder as I ascended, and became coldest of all when I got
among the branches. Then I shivered, and seemed to have lost my
hands and feet.
There was hardly any wind, and the branches did not sway in the
least, yet, as I approached the summit, I became aware of a peculiar
unsteadiness: every branch on which I placed foot or laid hold,
seemed on the point of giving way. When my head rose above the
branches near the top, and in the open moonlight I began to look
about for the blossom, that instant I found myself drenched from
head to foot. The next, as if plunged in a stormy water, I was
flung about wildly, and felt myself sinking. Tossed up and down,
tossed this way and tossed that way, rolled over and over, checked,
rolled the other way and tossed up again, I was sinking lower and
lower. Gasping and gurgling and choking, I fell at last upon a
"I told you so!" croaked a voice in my ear.
I AM SILENCED
I rubbed the water out of my eyes, and saw the raven on the edge
of a huge stone basin. With the cold light of the dawn reflected
from his glossy plumage, he stood calmly looking down upon me. I lay
on my back in water, above which, leaning on my elbows, I just lifted
my face. I was in the basin of the large fountain constructed by my
father in the middle of the lawn. High over me glimmered the thick,
steel-shiny stalk, shooting, with a torrent uprush, a hundred feet
into the air, to spread in a blossom of foam.
Nettled at the coolness of the raven's remark,
"You told me nothing!" I said.
"I told you to do nothing any one you distrusted asked you!"
"Tut! how was mortal to remember that?"
"You will not forget the consequences of having forgotten it!"
replied Mr. Raven, who stood leaning over the margin of the basin,
and stretched his hand across to me.
I took it, and was immediately beside him on the lawn, dripping
"You must change your clothes at once!" he said. "A wetting does
not signify where you come from--though at present such an accident
is unusual; here it has its inconveniences!"
He was again a raven, walking, with something stately in his step,
toward the house, the door of which stood open.
"I have not much to change!" I laughed; for I had flung aside my
robe to climb the tree.
"It is a long time since I moulted a feather!" said the raven.
In the house no one seemed awake. I went to my room, found a
dressing-gown, and descended to the library.
As I entered, the librarian came from the closet. I threw myself
on a couch. Mr. Raven drew a chair to my side and sat down. For
a minute or two neither spoke. I was the first to break the silence.
"What does it all mean?" I said.
"A good question!" he rejoined: "nobody knows what anything is; a
man can learn only what a thing means! Whether he do, depends on
the use he is making of it."
"I have made no use of anything yet!"
"Not much; but you know the fact, and that is something! Most
people take more than a lifetime to learn that they have learned
nothing, and done less! At least you have not been without the
desire to be of use!"
"I did want to do something for the children--the precious Little
Ones, I mean."
"I know you did--and started the wrong way!"
"I did not know the right way."
"That is true also--but you are to blame that you did not."
"I am ready to believe whatever you tell me--as soon as I understand
what it means."
"Had you accepted our invitation, you would have known the right
way. When a man will not act where he is, he must go far to find
"Indeed I have gone far, and got nowhere, for I have not found my
work! I left the children to learn how to serve them, and have only
learned the danger they are in."
"When you were with them, you were where you could help them: you
left your work to look for it! It takes a wise man to know when to
go away; a fool may learn to go back at once!"
"Do you mean, sir, I could have done something for the Little Ones
by staying with them?"
"Could you teach them anything by leaving them?"
"No; but how could I teach them? I did not know how to begin.
Besides, they were far ahead of me!"
"That is true. But you were not a rod to measure them with!
Certainly, if they knew what you know, not to say what you might
have known, they would be ahead of you--out of sight ahead! but you
saw they were not growing--or growing so slowly that they had not
yet developed the idea of growing! they were even afraid of
growing!--You had never seen children remain children!"
"But surely I had no power to make them grow!"
"You might have removed some of the hindrances to their growing!"
"What are they? I do not know them. I did think perhaps it was
the want of water!"
"Of course it is! they have none to cry with!"
"I would gladly have kept them from requiring any for that purpose!"
"No doubt you would--the aim of all stupid philanthropists! Why,
Mr. Vane, but for the weeping in it, your world would never have
become worth saving! You confess you thought it might be water they
wanted: why did not you dig them a well or two?"
"That never entered my mind!"
"Not when the sounds of the waters under the earth entered your
"I believe it did once. But I was afraid of the giants for them.
That was what made me bear so much from the brutes myself!"
"Indeed you almost taught the noble little creatures to be afraid
of the stupid Bags! While they fed and comforted and worshipped
you, all the time you submitted to be the slave of bestial men!
You gave the darlings a seeming coward for their hero! A worse
wrong you could hardly have done them. They gave you their hearts;
you owed them your soul!--You might by this time have made the Bags
hewers of wood and drawers of water to the Little Ones!"
"I fear what you say is true, Mr. Raven! But indeed I was afraid
that more knowledge might prove an injury to them--render them less
innocent, less lovely."
"They had given you no reason to harbour such a fear!"
"Is not a little knowledge a dangerous thing?"
"That is one of the pet falsehoods of your world! Is man's greatest
knowledge more than a little? or is it therefore dangerous? The
fancy that knowledge is in itself a great thing, would make any
degree of knowledge more dangerous than any amount of ignorance.
To know all things would not be greatness."
"At least it was for love of them, not from cowardice that I served
"Granted. But you ought to have served the Little Ones, not the
giants! You ought to have given the Little Ones water; then they
would soon have taught the giants their true position. In the
meantime you could yourself have made the giants cut down two-thirds
of their coarse fruit-trees to give room to the little delicate
ones! You lost your chance with the Lovers, Mr. Vane! You
speculated about them instead of helping them!"
THE PERSIAN CAT
I sat in silence and shame. What he said was true: I had not been
a wise neighbour to the Little Ones!
Mr. Raven resumed:
"You wronged at the same time the stupid creatures themselves. For
them slavery would have been progress. To them a few such lessons
as you could have given them with a stick from one of their own
trees, would have been invaluable."
"I did not know they were cowards!"
"What difference does that make? The man who grounds his action on
another's cowardice, is essentially a coward himself.--I fear worse
will come of it! By this time the Little Ones might have been able
to protect themselves from the princess, not to say the giants--they
were always fit enough for that; as it was they laughed at them!
but now, through your relations with her,----"
"I hate her!" I cried.
"Did you let her know you hated her?"
Again I was silent.
"Not even to her have you been faithful!--But hush! we were followed
from the fountain, I fear!"
"No living creature did I see!--except a disreputable-looking cat
that bolted into the shrubbery."
"It was a magnificent Persian--so wet and draggled, though, as to
look what she was--worse than disreputable!"
"What do you mean, Mr. Raven?" I cried, a fresh horror taking me
by the throat. "--There was a beautiful blue Persian about the
house, but she fled at the very sound of water!--Could she have
been after the goldfish?"
"We shall see!" returned the librarian. "I know a little about
cats of several sorts, and there is that in the room which will
unmask this one, or I am mistaken in her."
He rose, went to the door of the closet, brought from it the
mutilated volume, and sat down again beside me. I stared at the
book in his hand: it was a whole book, entire and sound!
"Where was the other half of it?" I gasped.
"Sticking through into my library," he answered.
I held my peace. A single question more would have been a plunge
into a bottomless sea, and there might be no time!
"Listen," he said: "I am going to read a stanza or two. There is
one present who, I imagine, will hardly enjoy the reading!"
He opened the vellum cover, and turned a leaf or two. The parchment
was discoloured with age, and one leaf showed a dark stain over
two-thirds of it. He slowly turned this also, and seemed looking
for a certain passage in what appeared a continuous poem. Somewhere
about the middle of the book he began to read.
But what follows represents--not what he read, only the impression
it made upon me. The poem seemed in a language I had never before
heard, which yet I understood perfectly, although I could not write
the words, or give their meaning save in poor approximation. These
fragments, then, are the shapes which those he read have finally
taken in passing again through my brain:--
"But if I found a man that could believe
In what he saw not, felt not, and yet knew,
From him I should take substance, and receive
Firmness and form relate to touch and view;
Then should I clothe me in the likeness true
Of that idea where his soul did cleave!"
He turned a leaf and read again:--
"In me was every woman. I had power
Over the soul of every living man,
Such as no woman ever had in dower--
Could what no woman ever could, or can;
All women, I, the woman, still outran,
Outsoared, outsank, outreigned, in hall or bower.
"For I, though me he neither saw nor heard,
Nor with his hand could touch finger of mine,
Although not once my breath had ever stirred
A hair of him, could trammel brain and spine
With rooted bonds which Death could not untwine--
Or life, though hope were evermore deferred."
Again he paused, again turned a leaf, and again began:--
"For by his side I lay, a bodiless thing;
I breathed not, saw not, felt not, only thought,
And made him love me--with a hungering
After he knew not what--if it was aught
Or but a nameless something that was wrought
By him out of himself; for I did sing
"A song that had no sound into his soul;
I lay a heartless thing against his heart,
Giving him nothing where he gave his whole
Being to clothe me human, every part:
That I at last into his sense might dart,
Thus first into his living mind I stole.
"Ah, who was ever conquering Love but I!
Who else did ever throne in heart of man!
To visible being, with a gladsome cry
Waking, life's tremor through me throbbing ran!"
A strange, repulsive feline wail arose somewhere in the room. I
started up on my elbow and stared about me, but could see nothing.
Mr. Raven turned several leaves, and went on:--
"Sudden I woke, nor knew the ghastly fear
That held me--not like serpent coiled about,
But like a vapour moist, corrupt, and drear,
Filling heart, soul, and breast and brain throughout;
My being lay motionless in sickening doubt,
Nor dared to ask how came the horror here.
"My past entire I knew, but not my now;
I understood nor what I was, nor where;
I knew what I had been: still on my brow
I felt the touch of what no more was there!
I was a fainting, dead, yet live Despair;
A life that flouted life with mop and mow!
"That I was a queen I knew right well,
And sometimes wore a splendour on my head
Whose flashing even dead darkness could not quell--
The like on neck and arms and girdle-stead;
And men declared a light my closed eyes shed
That killed the diamond in its silver cell."
Again I heard the ugly cry of feline pain. Again I looked, but saw
neither shape nor motion. Mr. Raven seemed to listen a moment, but
again turned several pages, and resumed:--
"Hideously wet, my hair of golden hue
Fouled my fair hands: to have it swiftly shorn
I had given my rubies, all for me dug new--
No eyes had seen, and such no waist had worn!
For a draught of water from a drinking horn,
For one blue breath, I had given my sapphires blue!
"Nay, I had given my opals for a smock,
A peasant-maiden's garment, coarse and clean:
My shroud was rotting! Once I heard a cock
Lustily crow upon the hillock green
Over my coffin. Dulled by space between,
Came back an answer like a ghostly mock."
Once more arose the bestial wail.
"I thought some foul thing was in the room!" said the librarian,
casting a glance around him; but instantly he turned a leaf or two,
and again read:--
"For I had bathed in milk and honey-dew,
In rain from roses shook, that ne'er touched earth,
And ointed me with nard of amber hue;
Never had spot me spotted from my birth,
Or mole, or scar of hurt, or fret of dearth;
Never one hair superfluous on me grew.
"Fleeing cold whiteness, I would sit alone--
Not in the sun--I feared his bronzing light,
But in his radiance back around me thrown
By fulgent mirrors tempering his might;
Thus bathing in a moon-bath not too bright,
My skin I tinted slow to ivory tone.
"But now, all round was dark, dark all within!
My eyes not even gave out a phantom-flash;
My fingers sank in pulp through pulpy skin;
My body lay death-weltered in a mash
Of slimy horrors----"
With a fearsome yell, her clammy fur staring in clumps, her tail
thick as a cable, her eyes flashing green as a chrysoprase, her
distended claws entangling themselves so that she floundered across
the carpet, a huge white cat rushed from somewhere, and made for
the chimney. Quick as thought the librarian threw the manuscript
between her and the hearth. She crouched instantly, her eyes fixed
on the book. But his voice went on as if still he read, and his
eyes seemed also fixed on the book:--
"Ah, the two worlds! so strangely are they one,
And yet so measurelessly wide apart!
Oh, had I lived the bodiless alone
And from defiling sense held safe my heart,
Then had I scaped the canker and the smart,
Scaped life-in-death, scaped misery's endless moan!"
At these words such a howling, such a prolonged yell of agony burst
from the cat, that we both stopped our ears. When it ceased,
Mr. Raven walked to the fire-place, took up the book, and, standing
between the creature and the chimney, pointed his finger at her for
a moment. She lay perfectly still. He took a half-burnt stick
from the hearth, drew with it some sign on the floor, put the
manuscript back in its place, with a look that seemed to say, "Now
we have her, I think!" and, returning to the cat, stood over her
and said, in a still, solemn voice:--
"Lilith, when you came here on the way to your evil will, you
little thought into whose hands you were delivering yourself!--
Mr. Vane, when God created me,--not out of Nothing, as say the
unwise, but out of His own endless glory--He brought me an angelic
splendour to be my wife: there she lies! For her first thought
was POWER; she counted it slavery to be one with me, and bear
children for Him who gave her being. One child, indeed, she bore;
then, puffed with the fancy that she had created her, would have
me fall down and worship her! Finding, however, that I would but
love and honour, never obey and worship her, she poured out her
blood to escape me, fled to the army of the aliens, and soon had
so ensnared the heart of the great Shadow, that he became her slave,
wrought her will, and made her queen of Hell. How it is with her
now, she best knows, but I know also. The one child of her body
she fears and hates, and would kill, asserting a right, which is a
lie, over what God sent through her into His new world. Of creating,
she knows no more than the crystal that takes its allotted shape,
or the worm that makes two worms when it is cloven asunder. Vilest
of God's creatures, she lives by the blood and lives and souls of
men. She consumes and slays, but is powerless to destroy as to
The animal lay motionless, its beryl eyes fixed flaming on the man:
his eyes on hers held them fixed that they could not move from his.
"Then God gave me another wife--not an angel but a woman--who is to
this as light is to darkness."
The cat gave a horrible screech, and began to grow bigger. She
went on growing and growing. At last the spotted leopardess uttered
a roar that made the house tremble. I sprang to my feet. I do not
think Mr. Raven started even with his eyelids.
"It is but her jealousy that speaks," he said, "jealousy self-kindled,
foiled and fruitless; for here I am, her master now whom she, would
not have for her husband! while my beautiful Eve yet lives, hoping
immortally! Her hated daughter lives also, but beyond her evil ken,
one day to be what she counts her destruction--for even Lilith
shall be saved by her childbearing. Meanwhile she exults that my
human wife plunged herself and me in despair, and has borne me a
countless race of miserables; but my Eve repented, and is now
beautiful as never was woman or angel, while her groaning, travailing
world is the nursery of our Father's children. I too have repented,
and am blessed.--Thou, Lilith, hast not yet repented; but thou
must.--Tell me, is the great Shadow beautiful? Knowest thou how
long thou wilt thyself remain beautiful?--Answer me, if thou knowest."
Then at last I understood that Mr. Raven was indeed Adam, the old
and the new man; and that his wife, ministering in the house of the
dead, was Eve, the mother of us all, the lady of the New Jerusalem.
The leopardess reared; the flickering and fleeing of her spots began;
the princess at length stood radiant in her perfect shape.
"I AM beautiful--and immortal!" she said--and she looked the goddess
she would be.
"As a bush that burns, and is consumed," answered he who had been
her husband. "--What is that under thy right hand?"
For her arm lay across her bosom, and her hand was pressed to her
A swift pang contorted her beautiful face, and passed.
"It is but a leopard-spot that lingers! it will quickly follow
those I have dismissed," she answered.
"Thou art beautiful because God created thee, but thou art the slave
of sin: take thy hand from thy side."
Her hand sank away, and as it dropt she looked him in the eyes with
a quailing fierceness that had in it no surrender.
He gazed a moment at the spot.
"It is not on the leopard; it is in the woman!" he said. "Nor will
it leave thee until it hath eaten to thy heart, and thy beauty
hath flowed from thee through the open wound!"
She gave a glance downward, and shivered.
"Lilith," said Adam, and his tone had changed to a tender beseeching,
"hear me, and repent, and He who made thee will cleanse thee!"
Her hand returned quivering to her side. Her face grew dark. She
gave the cry of one from whom hope is vanishing. The cry passed
into a howl. She lay writhing on the floor, a leopardess covered
"The evil thou meditatest," Adam resumed, "thou shalt never compass,
Lilith, for Good and not Evil is the Universe. The battle between
them may last for countless ages, but it must end: how will it fare
with thee when Time hath vanished in the dawn of the eternal morn?
Repent, I beseech thee; repent, and be again an angel of God!"
She rose, she stood upright, a woman once more, and said,
"I will not repent. I will drink the blood of thy child."
My eyes were fastened on the princess; but when Adam spoke, I turned
to him: he stood towering above her; the form of his visage was
altered, and his voice was terrible.
"Down!" he cried; "or by the power given me I will melt thy very
She flung herself on the floor, dwindled and dwindled, and was again
a gray cat. Adam caught her up by the skin of her neck, bore her
to the closet, and threw her in. He described a strange figure on
the threshold, and closing the door, locked it.
Then he returned to my side the old librarian, looking sad and worn,
and furtively wiping tears from his eyes.
"We must be on our guard," he said, "or she will again outwit us.
She would befool the very elect!"
"How are we to be on our guard?" I asked.
"Every way," he answered. "She fears, therefore hates her child, and
is in this house on her way to destroy her. The birth of children
is in her eyes the death of their parents, and every new generation
the enemy of the last. Her daughter appears to her an open channel
through which her immortality--which yet she counts self-inherent--is
flowing fast away: to fill it up, almost from her birth she has
pursued her with an utter enmity. But the result of her machinations
hitherto is, that in the region she claims as her own, has appeared
a colony of children, to which that daughter is heart and head and
sheltering wings. My Eve longed after the child, and would have
been to her as a mother to her first-born, but we were then unfit
to train her: she was carried into the wilderness, and for ages
we knew nothing of her fate. But she was divinely fostered, and
had young angels for her playmates; nor did she ever know care until
she found a baby in the wood, and the mother-heart in her awoke.
One by one she has found many children since, and that heart is not
yet full. Her family is her absorbing charge, and never children
were better mothered. Her authority over them is without appeal,
but it is unknown to herself, and never comes to the surface except
in watchfulness and service. She has forgotten the time when she
lived without them, and thinks she came herself from the wood, the
first of the family.
"You have saved the life of her and their enemy; therefore your life
belongs to her and them. The princess was on her way to destroy
them, but as she crossed that stream, vengeance overtook her, and
she would have died had you not come to her aid. You did; and ere
now she would have been raging among the Little Ones, had she dared
again cross the stream. But there was yet a way to the blessed
little colony through the world of the three dimensions; only, from
that, by the slaying of her former body, she had excluded herself,
and except in personal contact with one belonging to it, could not
re-enter it. You provided the opportunity: never, in all her long
years, had she had one before. Her hand, with lightest touch, was
on one or other of your muffled feet, every step as you climbed. In
that little chamber, she is now watching to leave it as soon as ever
"She cannot know anything about the door!--she cannot at least know
how to open it!" I said; but my heart was not so confident as my
"Hush, hush!" whispered the librarian, with uplifted hand; "she can
hear through anything!--You must go at once, and make your way to
my wife's cottage. I will remain to keep guard over her."
"Let me go to the Little Ones!" I cried.
"Beware of that, Mr. Vane. Go to my wife, and do as she tells you."
His advice did not recommend itself: why haste to encounter
measureless delay? If not to protect the children, why go at all?
Alas, even now I believed him only enough to ask him questions,
not to obey him!
"Tell me first, Mr. Raven," I said, "why, of all places, you have
shut her up there! The night I ran from your house, it was
immediately into that closet!"
"The closet is no nearer our cottage, and no farther from it, than
any or every other place."
"But," I returned, hard to persuade where I could not understand,
"how is it then that, when you please, you take from that same door
a whole book where I saw and felt only a part of one? The other
part, you have just told me, stuck through into your library: when
you put it again on the shelf, will it not again stick through into
that? Must not then the two places, in which parts of the same
volume can at the same moment exist, lie close together? Or can
one part of the book be in space, or SOMEWHERE, and the other out
of space, or NOWHERE?"
"I am sorry I cannot explain the thing to you," he answered; "but
there is no provision in you for understanding it. Not merely,
therefore, is the phenomenon inexplicable to you, but the very nature
of it is inapprehensible by you. Indeed I but partially apprehend
it myself. At the same time you are constantly experiencing things
which you not only do not, but cannot understand. You think you
understand them, but your understanding of them is only your being
used to them, and therefore not surprised at them. You accept them,
not because you understand them, but because you must accept them:
they are there, and have unavoidable relations with you! The fact is,
no man understands anything; when he knows he does not understand,
that is his first tottering step--not toward understanding, but
toward the capability of one day understanding. To such things as
these you are not used, therefore you do not fancy you understand
them. Neither I nor any man can here help you to understand; but
I may, perhaps, help you a little to believe!"
He went to the door of the closet, gave a low whistle, and stood
listening. A moment after, I heard, or seemed to hear, a soft whir
of wings, and, looking up, saw a white dove perch for an instant on
the top of the shelves over the portrait, thence drop to Mr. Raven's
shoulder, and lay her head against his cheek. Only by the motions
of their two heads could I tell that they were talking together;
I heard nothing. Neither had I moved my eyes from them, when
suddenly she was not there, and Mr. Raven came back to his seat.
"Why did you whistle?" I asked. "Surely sound here is not sound
"You are right," he answered. "I whistled that you might know I
called her. Not the whistle, but what the whistle meant reached
her.--There is not a minute to lose: you must go!"
"I will at once!" I replied, and moved for the door.
"You will sleep to-night at my hostelry!" he said--not as a question,
but in a tone of mild authority.
"My heart is with the children," I replied. "But if you insist----"
"I do insist. You can otherwise effect nothing.--I will go with
you as far as the mirror, and see you off."
He rose. There came a sudden shock in the closet. Apparently the
leopardess had flung herself against the heavy door. I looked at
"Come; come!" he said.
Ere we reached the door of the library, a howling yell came after
us, mingled with the noise of claws that scored at the hard oak.
I hesitated, and half turned.
"To think of her lying there alone," I murmured, "--with that
"Nothing will ever close that wound," he answered, with a sigh.
"It must eat into her heart! Annihilation itself is no death to
evil. Only good where evil was, is evil dead. An evil thing must
live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the
slaying of evil."
I held my peace until a sound I did not understand overtook us.
"If she should break loose!" I cried.
"Make haste!" he rejoined. "I shall hurry down the moment you are
gone, and I have disarranged the mirrors."
We ran, and reached the wooden chamber breathless. Mr. Raven seized
the chains and adjusted the hood. Then he set the mirrors in their
proper relation, and came beside me in front of the standing one.
Already I saw the mountain range emerging from the mist.
Between us, wedging us asunder, darted, with the yell of a demon,
the huge bulk of the spotted leopardess. She leaped through the
mirror as through an open window, and settled at once into a low,
even, swift gallop.
I cast a look of dismay at my companion, and sprang through to follow
her. He came after me leisurely.
"You need not run," he called; "you cannot overtake her. This is
As he spoke he turned in the opposite direction.
"She has more magic at her finger-tips than I care to know!" he
"We must do what we can!" I said, and ran on, but sickening as I
saw her dwindle in the distance, stopped, and went back to him.
"Doubtless we must," he answered. "But my wife has warned Mara,
and she will do her part; you must sleep first: you have given me
"Nor do I mean to break it. But surely sleep is not the first thing!
Surely, surely, action takes precedence of repose!"
"A man can do nothing he is not fit to do.--See! did I not tell
you Mara would do her part?"
I looked whither he pointed, and saw a white spot moving at an acute
angle with the line taken by the leopardess.
"There she is!" he cried. "The spotted leopardess is strong, but
the white is stronger!"
"I have seen them fight: the combat did not appear decisive as to
"How should such eyes tell which have never slept? The princess did
not confess herself beaten--that she never does--but she fled! When
she confesses her last hope gone, that it is indeed hard to kick
against the goad, then will her day begin to dawn! Come; come! He
who cannot act must make haste to sleep!"
THE SEXTON'S OLD HORSE
I stood and watched the last gleam of the white leopardess melt away,
then turned to follow my guide--but reluctantly. What had I to do
with sleep? Surely reason was the same in every world, and what
reason could there be in going to sleep with the dead, when the hour
was calling the live man? Besides, no one would wake me, and how
could I be certain of waking early--of waking at all?--the sleepers
in that house let morning glide into noon, and noon into night, nor
ever stirred! I murmured, but followed, for I knew not what else
The librarian walked on in silence, and I walked silent as he. Time
and space glided past us. The sun set; it began to grow dark, and
I felt in the air the spreading cold of the chamber of death. My
heart sank lower and lower. I began to lose sight of the lean,
long-coated figure, and at length could no more hear his swishing
stride through the heather. But then I heard instead the
slow-flapping wings of the raven; and, at intervals, now a firefly,
now a gleaming butterfly rose into the rayless air.
By and by the moon appeared, slow crossing the far horizon.
"You are tired, are you not, Mr. Vane?" said the raven, alighting
on a stone. "You must make acquaintance with the horse that will
carry you in the morning!"
He gave a strange whistle through his long black beak. A spot
appeared on the face of the half-risen moon. To my ears came
presently the drumming of swift, soft-galloping hoofs, and in a
minute or two, out of the very disc of the moon, low-thundered the
terrible horse. His mane flowed away behind him like the crest of
a wind-fighting wave, torn seaward in hoary spray, and the whisk
of his tail kept blinding the eye of the moon. Nineteen hands he
seemed, huge of bone, tight of skin, hard of muscle--a steed the
holy Death himself might choose on which to ride abroad and slay!
The moon seemed to regard him with awe; in her scary light he looked
a very skeleton, loosely roped together. Terrifically large, he
moved with the lightness of a winged insect. As he drew near, his
speed slackened, and his mane and tail drifted about him settling.
Now I was not merely a lover of horses, but I loved every horse I
saw. I had never spent money except upon horses, and had never
sold a horse. The sight of this mighty one, terrible to look at,
woke in me longing to possess him. It was pure greed, nay, rank
covetousness, an evil thing in all the worlds. I do not mean that
I could have stolen him, but that, regardless of his proper place,
I would have bought him if I could. I laid my hands on him, and
stroked the protuberant bones that humped a hide smooth and thin,
and shiny as satin--so shiny that the very shape of the moon was
reflected in it; I fondled his sharp-pointed ears, whispered words
in them, and breathed into his red nostrils the breath of a man's
life. He in return breathed into mine the breath of a horse's life,
and we loved one another. What eyes he had! Blue-filmy like the
eyes of the dead, behind each was a glowing coal! The raven, with
wings half extended, looked on pleased at my love-making to his
"That is well! be friends with him," he said: "he will carry you
all the better to-morrow!--Now we must hurry home!"
My desire to ride the horse had grown passionate.
"May I not mount him at once, Mr. Raven?" I cried.
"By all means!" he answered. "Mount, and ride him home."
The horse bent his head over my shoulder lovingly. I twisted my
hands in his mane and scrambled onto his back, not without aid from
certain protuberant bones.
"He would outspeed any leopard in creation!" I cried.
"Not that way at night," answered the raven; "the road is difficult.--
But come; loss now will be gain then! To wait is harder than to
run, and its meed is the fuller. Go on, my son--straight to the
cottage. I shall be there as soon as you. It will rejoice my
wife's heart to see son of hers on that horse!"
I sat silent. The horse stood like a block of marble.
"Why do you linger?" asked the raven.
"I long so much to ride after the leopardess," I answered, "that I
can scarce restrain myself!"
"You have promised!"
"My debt to the Little Ones appears, I confess, a greater thing than
my bond to you."
"Yield to the temptation and you will bring mischief upon them--and
on yourself also."
"What matters it for me? I love them; and love works no evil. I
But the truth was, I forgot the children, infatuate with the horse.
Eyes flashed through the darkness, and I knew that Adam stood in his
own shape beside me. I knew also by his voice that he repressed an
indignation almost too strong for him.
"Mr. Vane," he said, "do you not know why you have not yet done
anything worth doing?"
"Because I have been a fool," I answered.
"Which do you count your most indiscreet action?"
"Bringing the princess to life: I ought to have left her to her
"Nay, now you talk foolishly! You could not have done otherwise
than you did, not knowing she was evil!--But you never brought any
one to life! How could you, yourself dead?"
"I dead?" I cried.
"Yes," he answered; "and you will be dead, so long as you refuse to
"Back to the old riddling!" I returned scornfully.
"Be persuaded, and go home with me," he continued gently. "The
most--nearly the only foolish thing you ever did, was to run from
I pressed the horse's ribs, and he was off like a sudden wind. I
gave him a pat on the side of the neck, and he went about in a
sharp-driven curve, "close to the ground, like a cat when scratchingly
she wheels about after a mouse," leaning sideways till his mane
swept the tops of the heather.
Through the dark I heard the wings of the raven. Five quick flaps
I heard, and he perched on the horse's head. The horse checked
himself instantly, ploughing up the ground with his feet.
"Mr. Vane," croaked the raven, "think what you are doing! Twice
already has evil befallen you--once from fear, and once from
heedlessness: breach of word is far worse; it is a crime."
"The Little Ones are in frightful peril, and I brought it upon them!"
I cried. "--But indeed I will not break my word to you. I will
return, and spend in your house what nights--what days--what years
"I tell you once more you will do them other than good if you go
to-night," he insisted.
But a false sense of power, a sense which had no root and was merely
vibrated into me from the strength of the horse, had, alas, rendered
me too stupid to listen to anything he said!
"Would you take from me my last chance of reparation?" I cried.
"This time there shall be no shirking! It is my duty, and I will
go--if I perish for it!"
"Go, then, foolish boy!" he returned, with anger in his croak. "Take
the horse, and ride to failure! May it be to humility!"
He spread his wings and flew. Again I pressed the lean ribs under
"After the spotted leopardess!" I whispered in his ear.
He turned his head this way and that, snuffing the air; then started,
and went a few paces in a slow, undecided walk. Suddenly he
quickened his walk; broke into a trot; began to gallop, and in a
few moments his speed was tremendous. He seemed to see in the
dark; never stumbled, not once faltered, not once hesitated. I sat
as on the ridge of a wave. I felt under me the play of each
individual muscle: his joints were so elastic, and his every
movement glided so into the next, that not once did he jar me. His
growing swiftness bore him along until he flew rather than ran.
The wind met and passed us like a tornado.
Across the evil hollow we sped like a bolt from an arblast. No
monster lifted its neck; all knew the hoofs that thundered over
their heads! We rushed up the hills, we shot down their farther
slopes; from the rocky chasms of the river-bed he did not swerve;
he held on over them his fierce, terrible gallop. The moon, half-way
up the heaven, gazed with a solemn trouble in her pale countenance.
Rejoicing in the power of my steed and in the pride of my life, I
sat like a king and rode.
We were near the middle of the many channels, my horse every other
moment clearing one, sometimes two in his stride, and now and then
gathering himself for a great bounding leap, when the moon reached
the key-stone of her arch. Then came a wonder and a terror: she
began to descend rolling like the nave of Fortune's wheel bowled by
the gods, and went faster and faster. Like our own moon, this one
had a human face, and now the broad forehead now the chin was
uppermost as she rolled. I gazed aghast.
Across the ravines came the howling of wolves. An ugly fear began
to invade the hollow places of my heart; my confidence was on the
wane! The horse maintained his headlong swiftness, with ears
pricked forward, and thirsty nostrils exulting in the wind his
career created. But there was the moon jolting like an old
chariot-wheel down the hill of heaven, with awful boding! She
rolled at last over the horizon-edge and disappeared, carrying all
her light with her.
The mighty steed was in the act of clearing a wide shallow channel
when we were caught in the net of the darkness. His head dropped;
its impetus carried his helpless bulk across, but he fell in a heap
on the margin, and where he fell he lay. I got up, kneeled beside
him, and felt him all over. Not a bone could I find broken, but he
was a horse no more. I sat down on the body, and buried my face in
THE LOVERS AND THE BAGS
Bitterly cold grew the night. The body froze under me. The cry
of the wolves came nearer; I heard their feet soft-padding on the
rocky ground; their quick panting filled the air. Through the
darkness I saw the many glowing eyes; their half-circle contracted
around me. My time was come! I sprang to my feet.--Alas, I had not
even a stick!
They came in a rush, their eyes flashing with fury of greed, their
black throats agape to devour me. I stood hopelessly waiting them.
One moment they halted over the horse--then came at me.
With a sound of swiftness all but silence, a cloud of green eyes
came down on their flank. The heads that bore them flew at the
wolves with a cry feebler yet fiercer than their howling snarl, and
by the cry I knew them: they were cats, led by a huge gray one. I
could see nothing of him but his eyes, yet I knew him--and so knew
his colour and bigness. A terrific battle followed, whose tale
alone came to me through the night. I would have fled, for surely
it was but a fight which should have me!--only where was the use?
my first step would be a fall! and my foes of either kind could both
see and scent me in the dark!
All at once I missed the howling, and the caterwauling grew wilder.
Then came the soft padding, and I knew it meant flight: the cats
had defeated the wolves! In a moment the sharpest of sharp teeth
were in my legs; a moment more and the cats were all over me in a
live cataract, biting wherever they could bite, furiously scratching
me anywhere and everywhere. A multitude clung to my body; I could
not flee. Madly I fell on the hateful swarm, every finger instinct
with destruction. I tore them off me, I throttled at them in vain:
when I would have flung them from me, they clung to my hands like
limpets. I trampled them under my feet, thrust my fingers in their
eyes, caught them in jaws stronger than theirs, but could not rid
myself of one. Without cease they kept discovering upon me space
for fresh mouthfuls; they hauled at my skin with the widespread,
horribly curved pincers of clutching claws; they hissed and spat in
my face--but never touched it until, in my despair, I threw myself
on the ground, when they forsook my body, and darted at my face.
I rose, and immediately they left it, the more to occupy themselves
with my legs. In an agony I broke from them and ran, careless
whither, cleaving the solid dark. They accompanied me in a
surrounding torrent, now rubbing, now leaping up against me, but
tormenting me no more. When I fell, which was often, they gave me
time to rise; when from fear of falling I slackened my pace, they
flew afresh at my legs. All that miserable night they kept me
running--but they drove me by a comparatively smooth path, for I
tumbled into no gully, and passing the Evil Wood without seeing it,
left it behind in the dark. When at length the morning appeared,
I was beyond the channels, and on the verge of the orchard valley.
In my joy I would have made friends with my persecutors, but not a
cat was to be seen. I threw myself on the moss, and fell fast asleep.
I was waked by a kick, to find myself bound hand and foot, once more
the thrall of the giants!
"What fitter?" I said to myself; "to whom else should I belong?"
and I laughed in the triumph of self-disgust. A second kick stopped
my false merriment; and thus recurrently assisted by my captors, I
succeeded at length in rising to my feet.
Six of them were about me. They undid the rope that tied my legs
together, attached a rope to each of them, and dragged me away. I
walked as well as I could, but, as they frequently pulled both ropes
at once, I fell repeatedly, whereupon they always kicked me up again.
Straight to my old labour they took me, tied my leg-ropes to a tree,
undid my arms, and put the hateful flint in my left hand. Then
they lay down and pelted me with fallen fruit and stones, but seldom
hit me. If I could have freed my legs, and got hold of a stick I
spied a couple of yards from me, I would have fallen upon all six
of them! "But the Little Ones will come at night!" I said to myself,
and was comforted.
All day I worked hard. When the darkness came, they tied my hands,
and left me fast to the tree. I slept a good deal, but woke often,
and every time from a dream of lying in the heart of a heap of
children. With the morning my enemies reappeared, bringing their
kicks and their bestial company.
It was about noon, and I was nearly failing from fatigue and hunger,
when I heard a sudden commotion in the brushwood, followed by a
burst of the bell-like laughter so dear to my heart. I gave a loud
cry of delight and welcome. Immediately rose a trumpeting as of baby-elephants, a neighing as of foals, and a bellowing as of calves,
and through the bushes came a crowd of Little Ones, on diminutive
horses, on small elephants, on little bears; but the noises came
from the riders, not the animals. Mingled with the mounted ones
walked the bigger of the boys and girls, among the latter a woman with
a baby crowing in her arms. The giants sprang to their lumbering
feet, but were instantly saluted with a storm of sharp stones; the
horses charged their legs; the bears rose and hugged them at the
waist; the elephants threw their trunks round their necks, pulled
them down, and gave them such a trampling as they had sometimes
given, but never received before. In a moment my ropes were undone,
and I was in the arms, seemingly innumerable, of the Little Ones.
For some time I saw no more of the giants.
They made me sit down, and my Lona came, and without a word began
to feed me with the loveliest red and yellow fruits. I sat and ate,
the whole colony mounting guard until I had done. Then they brought
up two of the largest of their elephants, and having placed them
side by side, hooked their trunks and tied their tails together.
The docile creatures could have untied their tails with a single
shake, and unhooked their trunks by forgetting them; but tails and
trunks remained as their little masters had arranged them, and it
was clear the elephants understood that they must keep their bodies
parallel. I got up, and laid myself in the hollow between their
two backs; when the wise animals, counteracting the weight that
pushed them apart, leaned against each other, and made for me a most
comfortable litter. My feet, it is true, projected beyond their
tails, but my head lay pillowed on an ear of each. Then some of
the smaller children, mounting for a bodyguard, ranged themselves
in a row along the back of each of my bearers; the whole assembly
formed itself in train; and the procession began to move.
Whither they were carrying me, I did not try to conjecture; I yielded
myself to their pleasure, almost as happy as they. Chattering and
laughing and playing glad tricks innumerable at first, the moment
they saw I was going to sleep, they became still as judges.
I woke: a sudden musical uproar greeted the opening of my eyes.
We were travelling through the forest in which they found the babies,
and which, as I had suspected, stretched all the way from the valley
to the hot stream.
A tiny girl sat with her little feet close to my face, and looked
down at me coaxingly for a while, then spoke, the rest seeming to
hang on her words.
"We make a petisson to king," she said.
"What is it, my darling?" I asked.
"Sut eyes one minute," she answered.
"Certainly I will! Here goes!" I replied, and shut my eyes close.
"No, no! not fore I tell oo!" she cried.
I opened them again, and we talked and laughed together for quite
"Close eyes!" she said suddenly.
I closed my eyes, and kept them close. The elephants stood still.
I heard a soft scurry, a little rustle, and then a silence--for in
that world SOME silences ARE heard.
"Open eyes!" twenty voices a little way off shouted at once; but
when I obeyed, not a creature was visible except the elephants that
bore me. I knew the children marvellously quick in getting out of
the way--the giants had taught them that; but when I raised myself,
and looking about in the open shrubless forest, could descry neither
hand nor heel, I stared in "blank astonishment."
The sun was set, and it was fast getting dark, yet presently a
multitude of birds began to sing. I lay down to listen, pretty
sure that, if I left them alone, the hiders would soon come out
The singing grew to a little storm of bird-voices. "Surely the
children must have something to do with it!--And yet how could they
set the birds singing?" I said to myself as I lay and listened.
Soon, however, happening to look up into the tree under which my
elephants stood, I thought I spied a little motion among the leaves,
and looked more keenly. Sudden white spots appeared in the dark
foliage, the music died down, a gale of childish laughter rippled
the air, and white spots came out in every direction: the trees were
full of children! In the wildest merriment they began to descend,
some dropping from bough to bough so rapidly that I could scarce
believe they had not fallen. I left my litter, and was instantly
surrounded--a mark for all the artillery of their jubilant fun.
With stately composure the elephants walked away to bed.
"But," said I, when their uproarious gladness had had scope for a
while, "how is it that I never before heard you sing like the birds?
Even when I thought it must be you, I could hardly believe it!"
"Ah," said one of the wildest, "but we were not birds then! We
were run-creatures, not fly-creatures! We had our hide-places in
the bushes then; but when we came to no-bushes, only trees, we had
to build nests! When we built nests, we grew birds, and when we
were birds, we had to do birds! We asked them to teach us their
noises, and they taught us, and now we are real birds!--Come and
see my nest. It's not big enough for king, but it's big enough for
king to see me in it!"
I told him I could not get up a tree without the sun to show me the
way; when he came, I would try.
"Kings seldom have wings!" I added.
"King! king!" cried one, "oo knows none of us hasn't no wings--foolis
feddery tings! Arms and legs is better."
"That is true. I can get up without wings--and carry straws in my
mouth too, to build my nest with!"
"Oo knows!" he answered, and went away sucking his thumb.
A moment after, I heard him calling out of his nest, a great way
up a walnut tree of enormous size,
"Up adain, king! Dood night! I seepy!"
And I heard no more of him till he woke me in the morning.
I lay down by a tree, and one and one or in little groups, the
children left me and climbed to their nests. They were always so
tired at night and so rested in the morning, that they were equally
glad to go to sleep and to get up again. I, although tired also,
lay awake: Lona had not bid me good night, and I was sure she would
I had been struck, the moment I saw her again, with her resemblance
to the princess, and could not doubt her the daughter of whom Adam
had told me; but in Lona the dazzling beauty of Lilith was softened
by childlikeness, and deepened by the sense of motherhood. "She is
occupied probably," I said to myself, "with the child of the woman
I met fleeing!" who, she had already told me, was not half mother
She came at length, sat down beside me, and after a few moments
of silent delight, expressed mainly by stroking my face and hands,
began to tell me everything that had befallen since I went. The
moon appeared as we talked, and now and then, through the leaves,
lighted for a quivering moment her beautiful face--full of thought,
and a care whose love redeemed and glorified it. How such a child
should have been born of such a mother--such a woman of such a
princess, was hard to understand; but then, happily, she had two
parents--say rather, three! She drew my heart by what in me was
likest herself, and I loved her as one who, grow to what perfection
she might, could only become the more a child. I knew now that I
loved her when I left her, and that the hope of seeing her again
had been my main comfort. Every word she spoke seemed to go straight
to my heart, and, like the truth itself, make it purer.
She told me that after I left the orchard valley, the giants began
to believe a little more in the actual existence of their neighbours,
and became in consequence more hostile to them. Sometimes the
Little Ones would see them trampling furiously, perceiving or
imagining some indication of their presence, while they indeed
stood beside, and laughed at their foolish rage. By and by, however,
their animosity assumed a more practical shape: they began to
destroy the trees on whose fruit the Little Ones lived. This drove
the mother of them all to meditate counteraction. Setting the
sharpest of them to listen at night, she learned that the giants
thought I was hidden somewhere near, intending, as soon as I
recovered my strength, to come in the dark and kill them sleeping.
Thereupon she concluded that the only way to stop the destruction
was to give them ground for believing that they had abandoned the
place. The Little Ones must remove into the forest--beyond the
range of the giants, but within reach of their own trees, which they
must visit by night! The main objection to the plan was, that the
forest had little or no undergrowth to shelter--or conceal them if
But she reflected that where birds, there the Little Ones could
find habitation. They had eager sympathies with all modes of life,
and could learn of the wildest creatures: why should they not take
refuge from the cold and their enemies in the tree-tops? why not,
having lain in the low brushwood, seek now the lofty foliage? why
not build nests where it would not serve to scoop hollows? All that
the birds could do, the Little Ones could learn--except, indeed, to
She spoke to them on the subject, and they heard with approval.
They could already climb the trees, and they had often watched the
birds building their nests! The trees of the forest, although
large, did not look bad! They went up much nearer the sky than
those of the giants, and spread out their arms--some even stretched
them down--as if inviting them to come and live with them! Perhaps,
in the top of the tallest, they might find that bird that laid the
baby-eggs, and sat upon them till they were ripe, then tumbled them
down to let the little ones out! Yes; they would build sleep-houses
in the trees, where no giant would see them, for never by any chance
did one throw back his dull head to look up! Then the bad giants
would be sure they had left the country, and the Little Ones would
gather their own apples and pears and figs and mesples and peaches
when they were asleep!
Thus reasoned the Lovers, and eagerly adopted Lona's suggestion--with
the result that they were soon as much at home in the tree-tops as
the birds themselves, and that the giants came ere long to the
conclusion that they had frightened them out of the country--whereupon
they forgot their trees, and again almost ceased to believe in the
existence of their small neighbours.
Lona asked me whether I had not observed that many of the children
were grown. I answered I had not, but could readily believe it.
She assured me it was so, but said the certain evidence that their
minds too had grown since their migration upward, had gone far in
mitigation of the alarm the discovery had occasioned her.
In the last of the short twilight, and later when the moon was
shining, they went down to the valley, and gathered fruit enough
to serve them the next day; for the giants never went out in the
twilight: that to them was darkness; and they hated the moon: had
they been able, they would have extinguished her. But soon the
Little Ones found that fruit gathered in the night was not altogether
good the next day; so the question arose whether it would not be
better, instead of pretending to have left the country, to make
the bad giants themselves leave it.
They had already, she said, in exploring the forest, made
acquaintance with the animals in it, and with most of them
personally. Knowing therefore how strong as well as wise and
docile some of them were, and how swift as well as manageable many
others, they now set themselves to secure their aid against the
giants, and with loving, playful approaches, had soon made more
than friends of most of them, from the first addressing horse or
elephant as Brother or Sister Elephant, Brother or Sister Horse,
until before long they had an individual name for each. It was
some little time longer before they said Brother or Sister Bear,
but that came next, and the other day she had heard one little
fellow cry, "Ah, Sister Serpent!" to a snake that bit him as he
played with it too roughly. Most of them would have nothing to do
with a caterpillar, except watch it through its changes; but when
at length it came from its retirement with wings, all would
immediately address it as Sister Butterfly, congratulating it on
its metamorphosis--for which they used a word that meant something
like REPENTANCE--and evidently regarding it as something sacred.
One moonlit evening, as they were going to gather their fruit, they
came upon a woman seated on the ground with a baby in her lap--the
woman I had met on my way to Bulika. They took her for a giantess
that had stolen one of their babies, for they regarded all babies as
their property. Filled with anger they fell upon her multitudinously,
beating her after a childish, yet sufficiently bewildering fashion.
She would have fled, but a boy threw himself down and held her by
the feet. Recovering her wits, she recognised in her assailants
the children whose hospitality she sought, and at once yielded the
baby. Lona appeared, and carried it away in her bosom.
But while the woman noted that in striking her they were careful not
to hurt the child, the Little Ones noted that, as she surrendered
her, she hugged and kissed her just as they wanted to do, and came
to the conclusion that she must be a giantess of the same kind as
the good giant. The moment Lona had the baby, therefore, they
brought the mother fruit, and began to show her every sort of
Now the woman had been in perplexity whither to betake herself, not
daring to go back to the city, because the princess was certain
to find out who had lamed her leopardess: delighted with the
friendliness of the little people, she resolved to remain with them
for the present: she would have no trouble with her infant, and
might find some way of returning to her husband, who was rich in
money and gems, and very seldom unkind to her.
Here I must supplement, partly from conjecture, what Lona told me
about the woman. With the rest of the inhabitants of Bulika, she
was aware of the tradition that the princess lived in terror of
the birth of an infant destined to her destruction. They were
all unacquainted, however, with the frightful means by which she
preserved her youth and beauty; and her deteriorating physical
condition requiring a larger use of those means, they took the
apparent increase of her hostility to children for a sign that she
saw her doom approaching. This, although no one dreamed of any
attempt against her, nourished in them hopes of change.
Now arose in the mind of the woman the idea of furthering the
fulfilment of the shadowy prediction, or of using the myth at least
for her own restoration to her husband. For what seemed more
probable than that the fate foretold lay with these very children?
They were marvellously brave, and the Bulikans cowards, in abject
terror of animals! If she could rouse in the Little Ones the
ambition of taking the city, then in the confusion of the attack,
she would escape from the little army, reach her house unrecognised,
and there lying hidden, await the result!
Should the children now succeed in expelling the giants, she would
begin at once, while they were yet flushed with victory, to suggest
the loftier aim! By disposition, indeed, they were unfit for
warfare; they hardly ever quarrelled, and never fought; loved every
live thing, and hated either to hurt or to suffer. Still, they
were easily influenced, and could certainly be taught any exercise
within their strength!--At once she set some of the smaller ones
throwing stones at a mark; and soon they were all engrossed with
the new game, and growing skilful in it.
The first practical result was their use of stones in my rescue.
While gathering fruit, they found me asleep, went home, held a
council, came the next day with their elephants and horses,
overwhelmed the few giants watching me, and carried me off. Jubilant
over their victory, the smaller boys were childishly boastful, the
bigger boys less ostentatious, while the girls, although their eyes
flashed more, were not so talkative as usual. The woman of Bulika
no doubt felt encouraged.
We talked the greater part of the night, chiefly about the growth
of the children, and what it might indicate. With Lona's power
of recognising truth I had long been familiar; now I began to be
astonished at her practical wisdom. Probably, had I been more of
a child myself, I should have wondered less.
It was yet far from morning when I became aware of a slight
fluttering and scrambling. I rose on my elbow, and looking about
me, saw many Little Ones descend from their nests. They disappeared,
and in a few moments all was again still.
"What are they doing?" I asked.
"They think," answered Lona, "that, stupid as they are, the giants
will search the wood, and they are gone to gather stones with which
to receive them. Stones are not plentiful in the forest, and they
have to scatter far to find enow. They will carry them to their
nests, and from the trees attack the giants as they come within
reach. Knowing their habits, they do not expect them before the
morning. If they do come, it will be the opening of a war of
expulsion: one or the other people must go. The result, however,
is hardly doubtful. We do not mean to kill them; indeed, their
skulls are so thick that I do not think we could!--not that killing
would do them much harm; they are so little alive! If one were
killed, his giantess would not remember him beyond three days!"
"Do the children then throw so well that the thing MIGHT happen?"
"Wait till you see them!" she answered, with a touch of pride.
"--But I have not yet told you," she went on, "of a strange thing
that happened the night before last!--We had come home from gathering
our fruit, and were asleep in our nests, when we were roused by
the horrid noises of beasts fighting. The moon was bright, and
in a moment our trees glittered with staring little eyes, watching
two huge leopardesses, one perfectly white, the other covered with
black spots, which worried and tore each other with I do not know
how many teeth and claws. To judge by her back, the spotted creature
must have been climbing a tree when the other sprang upon her. When
first I saw them, they were just under my own tree, rolling over
and over each other. I got down on the lowest branch, and saw them
perfectly. The children enjoyed the spectacle, siding some with
this one, some with that, for we had never seen such beasts before,
and thought they were only at play. But by degrees their roaring
and growling almost ceased, and I saw that they were in deadly
earnest, and heartily wished neither might be left able to climb a
tree. But when the children saw the blood pouring from their flanks
and throats, what do you think they did? They scurried down to
comfort them, and gathering in a great crowd about the terrible
creatures, began to pat and stroke them. Then I got down as well,
for they were much too absorbed to heed my calling to them; but
before I could reach them, the white one stopped fighting, and sprang
among them with such a hideous yell that they flew up into the trees
like birds. Before I got back into mine, the wicked beasts were
at it again tooth and claw. Then Whitey had the best of it; Spotty
ran away as fast as she could run, and Whitey came and lay down at
the foot of my tree. But in a minute or two she was up again, and
walking about as if she thought Spotty might be lurking somewhere.
I waked often, and every time I looked out, I saw her. In the
morning she went away."
"I know both the beasts," I said. "Spotty is a bad beast. She
hates the children, and would kill every one of them. But Whitey
loves them. She ran at them only to frighten them away, lest Spotty
should get hold of any of them. No one needs be afraid of Whitey!"
By this time the Little Ones were coming back, and with much noise,
for they had no care to keep quiet now that they were at open war
with the giants, and laden with good stones. They mounted to their
nests again, though with difficulty because of their burdens, and
in a minute were fast asleep. Lona retired to her tree. I lay
where I was, and slept the better that I thought most likely the
white leopardess was still somewhere in the wood.
I woke soon after the sun, and lay pondering. Two hours passed, and
then in truth the giants began to appear, in straggling companies of
three and four, until I counted over a hundred of them. The children
were still asleep, and to call them would draw the attention of
the giants: I would keep quiet so long as they did not discover me.
But by and by one came blundering upon me, stumbled, fell, and rose
again. I thought he would pass heedless, but he began to search
about. I sprang to my feet, and struck him in the middle of his
huge body. The roar he gave roused the children, and a storm as
of hail instantly came on, of which not a stone struck me, and not
one missed the giant. He fell and lay. Others drew near, and the
storm extended, each purblind creature becoming, as he entered the
range of a garrisoned tree, a target for converging stones. In a
short time almost every giant was prostrate, and a jubilant pćan of
bird-song rose from the tops of fifty trees.
Many elephants came hurrying up, and the children descending the
trees like monkeys, in a moment every elephant had three or four of
them on his back, and thus loaded, began to walk over the giants,
who lay and roared. Losing patience at length with their noise,
the elephants gave them a few blows of their trunks, and left them.
Until night the bad giants remained where they had fallen, silent
and motionless. The next morning they had disappeared every one,
and the children saw no more of them. They removed to the other end
of the orchard valley, and never after ventured into the forest.
Victory thus gained, the woman of Bulika began to speak about the
city, and talked much of its defenceless condition, of the wickedness
of its princess, of the cowardice of its inhabitants. In a few
days the children chattered of nothing but Bulika, although indeed
they had not the least notion of what a city was. Then first I
became aware of the design of the woman, although not yet of its
The idea of taking possession of the place, recommended itself
greatly to Lona--and to me also. The children were now so rapidly
developing faculty, that I could see no serious obstacle to the
success of the enterprise. For the terrible Lilith--woman or
leopardess, I knew her one vulnerable point, her doom through her
daughter, and the influence the ancient prophecy had upon the
citizens: surely whatever in the enterprise could be called risk, was
worth taking! Successful,--and who could doubt their success?--must
not the Little Ones, from a crowd of children, speedily become a
youthful people, whose government and influence would be all for
righteousness? Ruling the wicked with a rod of iron, would they
not be the redemption of the nation?
At the same time, I have to confess that I was not without views
of personal advantage, not without ambition in the undertaking. It
was just, it seemed to me, that Lona should take her seat on the
throne that had been her mother's, and natural that she should make
of me her consort and minister. For me, I would spend my life in
her service; and between us, what might we not do, with such a core
to it as the Little Ones, for the development of a noble state?
I confess also to an altogether foolish dream of opening a commerce
in gems between the two worlds--happily impossible, for it could
have done nothing but harm to both.
Calling to mind the appeal of Adam, I suggested to Lona that to
find them water might perhaps expedite the growth of the Little
Ones. She judged it prudent, however, to leave that alone for the
present, as we did not know what its first consequences might be;
while, in the course of time, it would almost certainly subject
them to a new necessity.
"They are what they are without it!" she said: "when we have the
city, we will search for water!"
We began, therefore, and pushed forward our preparations, constantly
reviewing the merry troops and companies. Lona gave her attention
chiefly to the commissariat, while I drilled the little soldiers,
exercised them in stone-throwing, taught them the use of some other
weapons, and did all I could to make warriors of them. The main
difficulty was to get them to rally to their flag the instant the
call was sounded. Most of them were armed with slings, some of the
bigger boys with bows and arrows. The bigger girls carried
aloe-spikes, strong as steel and sharp as needles, fitted to longish
shafts--rather formidable weapons. Their sole duty was the charge
of such as were too small to fight.
Lona had herself grown a good deal, but did not seem aware of it:
she had always been, as she still was, the tallest! Her hair was
much longer, and she was become almost a woman, but not one beauty
of childhood had she outgrown. When first we met after our long
separation, she laid down her infant, put her arms round my neck,
and clung to me silent, her face glowing with gladness: the child
whimpered; she sprang to him, and had him in her bosom instantly.
To see her with any thoughtless, obstinate, or irritable little one,
was to think of a tender grandmother. I seemed to have known her
for ages--for always--from before time began! I hardly remembered
my mother, but in my mind's eye she now looked like Lona; and if I
imagined sister or child, invariably she had the face of Lona! My
every imagination flew to her; she was my heart's wife! She hardly
ever sought me, but was almost always within sound of my voice. What
I did or thought, I referred constantly to her, and rejoiced to
believe that, while doing her work in absolute independence, she
was most at home by my side. Never for me did she neglect the
smallest child, and my love only quickened my sense of duty. To
love her and to do my duty, seemed, not indeed one, but inseparable.
She might suggest something I should do; she might ask me what she
ought to do; but she never seemed to suppose that I, any more than
she, would like to do, or could care about anything except what must
be done. Her love overflowed upon me--not in caresses, but in a
closeness of recognition which I can compare to nothing but the
devotion of a divine animal.
I never told her anything about her mother.
The wood was full of birds, the splendour of whose plumage, while
it took nothing from their song, seemed almost to make up for the
lack of flowers--which, apparently, could not grow without water.
Their glorious feathers being everywhere about in the forest, it
came into my heart to make from them a garment for Lona. While I
gathered, and bound them in overlapping rows, she watched me with
evident appreciation of my choice and arrangement, never asking
what I was fashioning, but evidently waiting expectant the result
of my work. In a week or two it was finished--a long loose mantle,
to fasten at the throat and waist, with openings for the arms.
I rose and put it on her. She rose, took it off, and laid it at
my feet--I imagine from a sense of propriety. I put it again on
her shoulders, and showed her where to put her arms through. She
smiled, looked at the feathers a little and stroked them--again
took it off and laid it down, this time by her side. When she left
me, she carried it with her, and I saw no more of it for some days.
At length she came to me one morning wearing it, and carrying
another garment which she had fashioned similarly, but of the dried
leaves of a tough evergreen. It had the strength almost of leather,
and the appearance of scale-armour. I put it on at once, and we
always thereafter wore those garments when on horseback.
For, on the outskirts of the forest, had appeared one day a troop
of full-grown horses, with which, as they were nowise alarmed at
creatures of a shape so different from their own, I had soon made
friends, and two of the finest I had trained for Lona and myself.
Already accustomed to ride a small one, her delight was great when
first she looked down from the back of an animal of the giant kind;
and the horse showed himself proud of the burden he bore. We
exercised them every day until they had such confidence in us as
to obey instantly and fear nothing; after which we always rode them
at parade and on the march.
The undertaking did indeed at times appear to me a foolhardy one,
but the confidence of the woman of Bulika, real or simulated,
always overcame my hesitancy. The princess's magic, she insisted,
would prove powerless against the children; and as to any force she
might muster, our animal-allies alone would assure our superiority:
she was herself, she said, ready, with a good stick, to encounter
any two men of Bulika. She confessed to not a little fear of the
leopardess, but I was myself ready for her. I shrank, however, from
carrying ALL the children with us.
"Would it not be better," I said, "that you remained in the forest
with your baby and the smallest of the Little Ones?"
She answered that she greatly relied on the impression the sight of
them would make on the women, especially the mothers.
"When they see the darlings," she said, "their hearts will be taken
by storm; and I must be there encouraging them to make a stand! If
there be a remnant of hardihood in the place, it will be found among
"YOU must not encumber yourself," I said to Lona, "with any of the
children; you will be wanted everywhere!"
For there were two babies besides the woman's, and even on horseback
she had almost always one in her arms.
"I do not remember ever being without a child to take care of," she
answered; "but when we reach the city, it shall be as you wish!"
Her confidence in one who had failed so unworthily, shamed me. But
neither had I initiated the movement, nor had I any ground for
opposing it; I had no choice, but must give it the best help I
could! For myself, I was ready to live or die with Lona. Her
humility as well as her trust humbled me, and I gave myself heartily
to her purposes.
Our way lying across a grassy plain, there was no need to take food
for the horses, or the two cows which would accompany us for the
infants; but the elephants had to be provided for. True, the grass
was as good for them as for those other animals, but it was short,
and with their one-fingered long noses, they could not pick enough
for a single meal. We had, therefore, set the whole colony to
gather grass and make hay, of which the elephants themselves could
carry a quantity sufficient to last them several days, with the
supplement of what we would gather fresh every time we halted. For
the bears we stored nuts, and for ourselves dried plenty of fruits.
We had caught and tamed several more of the big horses, and now
having loaded them and the elephants with these provisions, we were
prepared to set out.
Then Lona and I held a general review, and I made them a little
speech. I began by telling them that I had learned a good deal
about them, and knew now where they came from.
"We did not come from anywhere," they cried, interrupting me; "we
I told them that every one of them had a mother of his own, like
the mother of the last baby; that I believed they had all been
brought from Bulika when they were so small that they could not
now remember it; that the wicked princess there was so afraid of
babies, and so determined to destroy them, that their mothers had
to carry them away and leave them where she could not find them;
and that now we were going to Bulika, to find their mothers, and
deliver them from the bad giantess.
"But I must tell you," I continued, "that there is danger before us,
for, as you know, we may have to fight hard to take the city."
"We can fight! we are ready!" cried the boys.
"Yes, you can," I returned, "and I know you will: mothers are worth
fighting for! Only mind, you must all keep together."
"Yes, yes; we'll take care of each other," they answered. "Nobody
shall touch one of us but his own mother!"
"You must mind, every one, to do immediately what your officers tell
"We will, we will!--Now we're quite ready! Let us go!"
"Another thing you must not forget," I went on: "when you strike,
be sure you make it a downright swinging blow; when you shoot an
arrow, draw it to the head; when you sling a stone, sling it strong
"That we will!" they cried with jubilant, fearless shout.
"Perhaps you will be hurt!"
"We don't mind that!--Do we, boys?"
"Not a bit!"
"Some of you may very possibly be killed!" I said.
"I don't mind being killed!" cried one of the finest of the smaller
boys: he rode a beautiful little bull, which galloped and jumped like
"I don't either! I don't either!" came from all sides.
Then Lona, queen and mother and sister of them all, spoke from her
big horse by my side:
"I would give my life," she said, "to have my mother! She might
kill me if she liked! I should just kiss her and die!"
"Come along, boys!" cried a girl. "We're going to our mothers!"
A pang went through my heart.--But I could not draw back; it would
be moral ruin to the Little Ones!
THE LITTLE ONES IN BULIKA
It was early in the morning when we set out, making, between the
blue sky and the green grass, a gallant show on the wide plain. We
would travel all the morning, and rest the afternoon; then go on at
night, rest the next day, and start again in the short twilight.
The latter part of our journey we would endeavour so to divide as
to arrive at the city with the first of the morning, and be already
inside the gates when discovered.
It seemed as if all the inhabitants of the forest would migrate with
us. A multitude of birds flew in front, imagining themselves, no
doubt, the leading division; great companies of butterflies and
other insects played about our heads; and a crowd of four-footed
creatures followed us. These last, when night came, left us almost
all; but the birds and the butterflies, the wasps and the
dragon-flies, went with us to the very gates of the city.
We halted and slept soundly through the afternoon: it was our first
real march, but none were tired. In the night we went faster,
because it was cold. Many fell asleep on the backs of their beasts,
and woke in the morning quite fresh. None tumbled off. Some rode
shaggy, shambling bears, which yet made speed enough, going as fast
as the elephants. Others were mounted on different kinds of deer,
and would have been racing all the way had I not prevented it.
Those atop of the hay on the elephants, unable to see the animals
below them, would keep talking to them as long as they were awake.
Once, when we had halted to feed, I heard a little fellow, as he
drew out the hay to give him, commune thus with his "darling beast":
"Nosy dear, I am digging you out of the mountain, and shall soon
get down to you: be patient; I'm a coming! Very soon now you'll
send up your nose to look for me, and then we'll kiss like good
elephants, we will!"
The same night there burst out such a tumult of elephant-trumpeting,
horse-neighing, and child-imitation, ringing far over the silent
levels, that, uncertain how near the city might not be, I quickly
stilled the uproar lest it should give warning of our approach.
Suddenly, one morning, the sun and the city rose, as it seemed,
together. To the children the walls appeared only a great mass of
rock, but when I told them the inside was full of nests of stone,
I saw apprehension and dislike at once invade their hearts: for the
first time in their lives, I believe--many of them long little
lives--they knew fear. The place looked to them bad: how were they
to find mothers in such a place? But they went on bravely, for they
had confidence in Lona--and in me too, little as I deserved it.
We rode through the sounding archway. Sure never had such a
drumming of hoofs, such a padding of paws and feet been heard on
its old pavement! The horses started and looked scared at the echo
of their own steps; some halted a moment, some plunged wildly and
wheeled about; but they were soon quieted, and went on. Some of the
Little Ones shivered, and all were still as death. The three girls
held closer the infants they carried. All except the bears and
butterflies manifested fear.
On the countenance of the woman lay a dark anxiety; nor was I myself
unaffected by the general dread, for the whole army was on my hands
and on my conscience: I had brought it up to the danger whose shadow
was now making itself felt! But I was supported by the thought of
the coming kingdom of the Little Ones, with the bad giants its
slaves, and the animals its loving, obedient friends! Alas, I who
dreamed thus, had not myself learned to obey! Untrusting, unfaithful
obstinacy had set me at the head of that army of innocents! I was
myself but a slave, like any king in the world I had left who does
or would do only what pleases him! But Lona rode beside me a child
indeed, therefore a free woman--calm, silent, watchful, not a whit
We were nearly in the heart of the city before any of its inhabitants
became aware of our presence. But now windows began to open, and
sleepy heads to look out. Every face wore at first a dull stare of
wonderless astonishment, which, as soon as the starers perceived
the animals, changed to one of consternation. In spite of their
fear, however, when they saw that their invaders were almost all
children, the women came running into the streets, and the men
followed. But for a time all of them kept close to the houses,
leaving open the middle of the way, for they durst not approach the
At length a boy, who looked about five years old, and was full of
the idea of his mother, spying in the crowd a woman whose face
attracted him, threw himself upon her from his antelope, and clung
about her neck; nor was she slow to return his embrace and kisses.
But the hand of a man came over her shoulder, and seized him by
the neck. Instantly a girl ran her sharp spear into the fellow's
arm. He sent forth a savage howl, and immediately stabbed by two
or three more, fled yelling.
"They are just bad giants!" said Lona, her eyes flashing as she
drove her horse against one of unusual height who, having stirred
up the little manhood in him, stood barring her way with a club.
He dared not abide the shock, but slunk aside, and the next moment
went down, struck by several stones. Another huge fellow, avoiding
my charger, stepped suddenly, with a speech whose rudeness alone
was intelligible, between me and the boy who rode behind me. The
boy told him to address the king; the giant struck his little horse
on the head with a hammer, and he fell. Before the brute could
strike again, however, one of the elephants behind laid him
prostrate, and trampled on him so that he did not attempt to get
up until hundreds of feet had walked over him, and the army was
But at sight of the women what a dismay clouded the face of Lona!
Hardly one of them was even pleasant to look upon! Were her
darlings to find mothers among such as these?
Hardly had we halted in the central square, when two girls rode up
in anxious haste, with the tidings that two of the boys had been
hurried away by some women. We turned at once, and then first
discovered that the woman we befriended had disappeared with her
But at the same moment we descried a white leopardess come bounding
toward us down a narrow lane that led from the square to the palace.
The Little Ones had not forgotten the fight of the two leopardesses
in the forest: some of them looked terrified, and their ranks began
to waver; but they remembered the order I had just given them, and
We stopped to see the result; when suddenly a small boy, called Odu,
remarkable for his speed and courage, who had heard me speak of the
goodness of the white leopardess, leaped from the back of his bear,
which went shambling after him, and ran to meet her. The leopardess,
to avoid knocking him down, pulled herself up so suddenly that she
went rolling over and over: when she recovered her feet she found
the child on her back. Who could doubt the subjugation of a people
which saw an urchin of the enemy bestride an animal of which they
lived in daily terror? Confident of the effect on the whole army,
we rode on.
As we stopped at the house to which our guides led us, we heard a
scream; I sprang down, and thundered at the door. My horse came
and pushed me away with his nose, turned about, and had begun to
batter the door with his heels, when up came little Odu on the
leopardess, and at sight of her he stood still, trembling. But she
too had heard the cry, and forgetting the child on her back, threw
herself at the door; the boy was dashed against it, and fell
senseless. Before I could reach him, Lona had him in her arms, and
as soon as he came to himself, set him on the back of his bear,
which had still followed him.
When the leopardess threw herself the third time against the door,
it gave way, and she darted in. We followed, but she had already
vanished. We sprang up a stair, and went all over the house, to
find no one. Darting down again, we spied a door under the stair,
and got into a labyrinth of excavations. We had not gone far,
however, when we met the leopardess with the child we sought across
He told us that the woman he took for his mother threw him into a
hole, saying she would give him to the leopardess. But the
leopardess was a good one, and took him out.
Following in search of the other boy, we got into the next house
more easily, but to find, alas, that we were too late: one of the
savages had just killed the little captive! It consoled Lona,
however, to learn which he was, for she had been expecting him to
grow a bad giant, from which worst of fates death had saved him.
The leopardess sprang upon his murderer, took him by the throat,
dragged him into the street, and followed Lona with him, like a cat
with a great rat in her jaws.
"Let us leave the horrible place," said Lona; "there are no mothers
here! This people is not worth delivering."
The leopardess dropped her burden, and charged into the crowd, this
way and that, wherever it was thickest. The slaves cried out and
ran, tumbling over each other in heaps.
When we got back to the army, we found it as we had left it, standing
in order and ready.
But I was far from easy: the princess gave no sign, and what she
might be plotting we did not know! Watch and ward must be kept the
The Little Ones were such hardy creatures that they could repose
anywhere: we told them to lie down with their animals where they
were, and sleep till they were called. In one moment they were
down, and in another lapt in the music of their sleep, a sound as
of water over grass, or a soft wind among leaves. Their animals
slept more lightly, ever on the edge of waking. The bigger boys