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THE BLUE FLOWER
by HENRY VAN DYKE
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion for something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.
THE DEAR MEMORY OF
BERNARD VAN DYKE
AND THE LOVE THAT LIVES
BEYOND THE YEARS
Sometimes short stories are brought together like parcels in
a basket. Sometimes they grow together like blossoms on a
bush. Then, of course, they really belong to one another,
because they have the same life in them.
The stories in this book have been growing together for a
long time. It is at least ten years since the first of them,
the story of The Other Wise Man, came to me; and all the
others I knew quite well by heart a good while before I could
find the time, in a hard-worked life, to write them down and
try to make them clear and true to others. It has been a slow
task, because the right word has not always been easy to find,
and I wanted to keep free from conventionality in the thought
and close to nature in the picture. It is enough to cause a
man no little shame to see how small is the fruit of so long
And yet, after all, when one wishes to write
about life, especially about that part of it which is inward,
the inwrought experience of living may be of value. And that
is a thing which one cannot get in haste, neither can it be
made to order. Patient waiting belongs to it; and rainy days
belong to it; and the best of it sometimes comes in the doing
of tasks that seem not to amount to much. So in the long run,
I suppose, while delay and failure and interruption may keep
a piece of work very small, yet in the end they enter into the
quality of it and bring it a little nearer to the real thing,
which is always more or less of a secret.
But the strangest part of it all is the way in which a
single thought, an idea, will live with a man while he works,
and take new forms from year to year, and light up the things
that he sees and hears, and lead his imagination by the hand
into many wonderful and diverse regions. It seems to me that
there am two ways in which you may give unity to a book of
stories. You may stay in one place and write about different
themes, preserving always the colour of the same locality. Or
you may go into different places and use as many of the colours
and shapes of life as you can really see in the light of the same
There is such a thought in this book. It is the idea of
the search for inward happiness, which all men who are really
alive are following, along what various paths, and with what
different fortunes! Glimpses of this idea, traces of this
search, I thought that I could see in certain tales that were
in my mind,--tales of times old and new, of lands near and far
away. So I tried to tell them, as best as I could, hoping
that other men, being also seekers, might find some meaning in
There are only little, broken chapters from the long story
of life. None of them is taken from other books. Only one of
them--the story of Winifried and the Thunder-Oak--has the
slightest wisp of a foundation in fact or legend. Yet I think
they are all true.
But how to find a name for such a book,--a name that will tell
enough to show the thought and yet not too much to leave it free?
I have borrowed a symbol from the old
German poet and philosopher, Novalis, to stand instead of a
name. The Blue Flower which he used in his romance of
Heinrich von Ofterdingen to symbolise Poetry, the object of
his young hero's quest, I have used here to signify happiness,
the satisfaction of the heart.
Reader, will you take the book and see if it belongs to
you? Whether it does or not, my wish is that the Blue Flower
may grow in the garden where you work.
December 1, 1902.
I. The Blue Flower
II. The Source
III. The Mill
IV. Spy Rock
VI. The Other Wise Man
VII. I Handful of Clay
VIII. The Lost Word
IX. The First Christmas-Tree
THE BLUE FLOWER
The parents were abed and sleeping. The clock on the wall
ticked loudly and lazily, as if it had time to spare. Outside
the rattling windows there was a restless, whispering wind.
The room grew light, and dark, and wondrous light again, as
the moon played hide-and-seek through the clouds. The boy,
wide-awake and quiet in his bed, was thinking of the Stranger
and his stories.
"It was not what he told me about the treasures," he said
to himself, "that was not the thing which filled me with so
strange a longing. I am not greedy for riches. But the Blue
Flower is what I long for. I can think of nothing else.
Never have I felt so before. It seems as if I had been
dreaming until now--or as if I had just slept over into a new
"Who cared for flowers in the old world where I used to
live? I never heard of anyone whose whole heart was set upon
finding a flower. But now I cannot even tell all that I
feel--sometimes as happy as if I were enchanted. But when the
flower fades from me, when I cannot see it in my mind, then it is
like being very thirsty and all alone. That is what the other
people could not understand.
"Once upon a time, they say, the animals and the trees and
the flowers used to talk to people. It seems to me, every
minute, as if they were just going to begin again. When I
look at them I can see what they want to say. There must be
a great many words that I do not know; if I knew more of them
perhaps I could understand things better. I used to love to
dance, but now I like better to think after the music."
Gradually the boy lost himself in sweet fancies, and
suddenly he found himself again, in the charmed land of sleep.
He wandered in far countries, rich and strange; he traversed
wild waters with incredible swiftness; marvellous creatures
appeared and vanished; he lived with all sorts of men, in
battles, in whirling crowds, in lonely huts. He was cast into
prison. He fell into dire distress and want. All experiences
seemed to be sharpened to an edge. He felt them keenly, yet
they did not harm him. He died and came alive again; he loved to
the height of passion, and then was parted forever from his
beloved. At last, toward morning, as the dawn was stealing
near, his soul grew calm, and the pictures showed more clear
It seemed as if he were walking alone through the deep
woods. Seldom the daylight shimmered through the green veil.
Soon he came to a rocky gorge in the mountains. Under the
mossy stones in the bed of the stream, he heard the water
secretly tinkling downward, ever downward, as he climbed
The forest grew thinner and lighter. He came to a fair
meadow on the slope of the mountain. Beyond the meadow was a
high cliff, and in the face of the cliff an opening like the
entrance to a path. Dark was the way, but smooth, and he
followed easily on till he came near to a vast cavern from
which a flood of radiance streamed to meet him.
As he entered he beheld a mighty beam of light which
sprang from the ground, shattering itself against the roof in
countless sparks, falling and flowing all together into a
great pool in the rock. Brighter was the light-beam than molten
gold, but silent in its rise, and silent in its fall. The sacred
stillness of a shrine, a never-broken hush of joy and wonder,
filled the cavern. Cool was the dripping radiance that softly
trickled down the walls, and the light that rippled from them was
But the pool, as the boy drew near and watched it,
quivered and glanced with the ever-changing colours of a
liquid opal. He dipped his hands in it and wet his lips. It
seemed as if a lively breeze passed through his heart.
He felt an irresistible desire to bathe in the pool.
Slipping off his clothes he plunged in. It was as if he
bathed in a cloud of sunset. A celestial rapture flowed
through him. The waves of the stream were like a bevy of
nymphs taking shape around him, clinging to him with tender
breasts, as he floated onward, lost in delight, yet keenly
sensitive to every impression. Swiftly the current bore him
out of the pool, into a hollow in the cliff. Here a dimness
of slumber shadowed his eyes, while he felt the pressure of
the loveliest dreams.
When he awoke again, he was aware of a new fulness of light,
purer and steadier than the first radiance. He found himself
lying on the green turf, in the open air, beside a little
fountain, which sparkled up and melted away in silver spray.
Dark-blue were the rocks that rose at a little distance, veined
with white as if strange words were written upon them. Dark-blue
was the sky, and cloudless.
All passion had dissolved away from him; every sound was
music; every breath was peace; the rocks were like sentinels
protecting him; the sky was like a cup of blessing full of
But what charmed him most, and drew him with resistless
power, was a tall, clear-blue flower, growing beside the
spring, and almost touching him with its broad, glistening
leaves. Round about were many other flowers, of all hues.
Their odours mingled in a perfect chord of fragrance. He saw
nothing but the Blue Flower.
Long and tenderly he gazed at it, with unspeakable love.
At last he felt that he must go a little nearer to it, when
suddenly it began to move and change. The leaves glistened
more brightly, and drew themselves up closely around the
swiftly growing stalk. The flower bent itself toward him, and
the petals showed a blue, spreading necklace of sapphires, out of
which the lovely face of a girl smiled softly into his eyes.
His sweet astonishment grew with the wondrous transformation.
All at once he heard his mother's voice calling him, and
awoke in his parents' room, already flooded with the gold of
the morning sun.
From the German of Novalis.
In the middle of the land that is called by its inhabitants
Koorma, and by strangers the Land of the Half-forgotten, I was
toiling all day long through heavy sand and grass as hard as
wire. Suddenly, toward evening, I came upon a place where a
gate opened in the wall of mountains, and the plain ran in
through the gate, making a little bay of level country among
Now this bay was not brown and hard and dry, like the
mountains above me, neither was it covered with tawny billows
of sand like the desert along the edge of which I had wearily
coasted. But the surface of it was smooth and green; and as
the winds of twilight breathed across it they were followed by
soft waves of verdure, with silvery turnings of the under
sides of many leaves, like ripples on a quiet harbour. There
were fields of corn, filled with silken rustling, and
vineyards with long rows of trimmed maple-trees standing
each one like an emerald goblet wreathed with vines, and
flower-gardens as bright as if the earth had been embroidered
with threads of blue and scarlet and gold, and olive-orchards
frosted over with delicate and fragrant blossoms. Red-roofed
cottages were scattered everywhere through the sea of
greenery, and in the centre, like a white ship surrounded by
a flock of little boats, rested a small, fair, shining city.
I wondered greatly how this beauty had come into being on
the border of the desert. Passing through the fields and
gardens and orchards, I found that they were all encircled and
lined with channels full of running water. I followed up one
of the smaller channels until it came to a larger stream, and
as I walked on beside it, still going upward, it guided me
into the midst of the city, where I saw a sweet, merry river
flowing through the main street, with abundance of water and
a very pleasant sound.
There were houses and shops and lofty palaces and all that
makes a city, but the life and joy of all, and the one thing
that I remember best, was the river. For in the open square at
the edge of the city there were marble pools where the children
might bathe and play; at the corners of the streets and on the
sides of the houses there were fountains for the drawing of
water; at every crossing a stream was turned aside to run out to
the vineyards; and the river was the mother of them all.
There were but few people in the streets, and none of the
older folk from whom I might ask counsel or a lodging; so I
stood and knocked at the door of a house. It was opened by an
old man, who greeted me with kindness and bade me enter as his
guest. After much courteous entertainment, and when supper
was ended, his friendly manner and something of singular
attractiveness in his countenance led me to tell him of my
strange journeyings in the land of Koorma and in other lands
where I had been seeking the Blue Flower, and to inquire of
him the name and the story of his city and the cause of the
river which made it glad.
"My son," he answered, "this is the city which was called
Ablis, that is to say, Forsaken. For long ago men lived here,
and the river made their fields fertile, and their dwellings were
full of plenty and peace. But because of many evil things which
have been half-forgotten, the river was turned aside, or else it
was dried up at its source in the high place among the mountains,
so that the water flowed down no more. The channels and the
trenches and the marble pools and the basins beside the houses
remained, but they were empty. So the gardens withered; the
fields were barren; the city was desolate; and in the broken
cisterns there was scanty water.
"Then there came one from a distant country who was very
sorrowful to see the desolation. He told the people that it
was vain to dig new cisterns and to keep the channels and
trenches clean; for the water had come only from above. The
Source must be found again and reopened. The river would not
flow unless they traced it back to the spring, and visited it
continually, and offered prayers and praises beside it without
ceasing. Then the spring would rise to an outpouring, and the
water would run down plentifully to make the gardens blossom
and the city rejoice.
"So he went forth to open the fountain; but there were few
that went with him, for he was a poor man of lowly aspect, and
the path upward was steep and rough. But his companions saw
that as he climbed among the rocks, little streams of water
gushed from the places where he trod, and pools began to
gather in the dry river-bed. He went more swiftly than they
could follow him, and at length he passed out of their sight.
A little farther on they came to the rising of the river and
there, beside the overflowing Source, they found their leader
"That was a strange thing," I cried, "and very pitiful.
Tell me how it came to pass, and what was the meaning of it."
"I cannot tell the whole of the meaning," replied the old
man, after a little pause, "for it was many years ago. But
this poor man had many enemies in the city, chiefly among the
makers of cisterns, who hated him for his words. I believe
that they went out after him secretly and slew him. But his
followers came back to the city; and as they came the river
began to run down very gently after them. They returned to the
Source day by day, bringing others with them; for they said that
their leader was really alive, though the form of his life had
changed, and that he met them in that high place while they
remembered him and prayed and sang songs of praise. More and
more the people learned to go with them, and the path grew
plainer and easier to find. The more the Source was revisited,
the more abundant it became, and the more it filled the river.
All the channels and the basins were supplied with water, and men
made new channels which were also filled. Some of those who were
diggers of trenches and hewers of cisterns said that it was
their work which had wrought the change. But the wisest and
best among the people knew that it all came from the Source,
and they taught that if it should ever again be forgotten and
left unvisited the river would fail again and desolation
return. So every day, from the gardens and orchards and the
streets of the city, men and women and children have gone up
the mountain-path with singing, to rejoice beside the spring
from which the river flows and to remember the one who opened it.
We call it the River Carita. And the name of the city is no more
Ablis, but Saloma, which is Peace. And the name of him who died
to find the Source for us is so dear that we speak it only when
"But there are many things yet to learn about our city,
and some that seem dark and cast a shadow on my thoughts.
Therefore, my son, I bid you to be my guest, for there is a
room in my house for the stranger; and to-morrow and on the
following days you shall see how life goes with us, and read,
if you can, the secret of the city."
That night I slept well, as one who has heard a pleasant
tale, with the murmur of running water woven through my
dreams; and the next day I went out early into the streets,
for I was curious to see the manner of the visitation of the
Already the people were coming forth and turning their
steps upward in the mountain-path beside the river. Some of
them went alone, swiftly and in silence; others were in groups
of two or three, talking as they went; others were in larger
companies, and they sang together very gladly and sweetly.
But there were many people who remained working
in their fields or in their houses, or stayed talking on the
corners of the streets. Therefore I joined myself to one of
the men who walked alone and asked him why all the people did
not go to the spring, since the life of the city depended upon
it, and whether, perhaps, the way was so long and so hard that
none but the strongest could undertake it.
"Sir," said he, "I perceive that you are a stranger, for
the way is both short and easy, so that the children are those
who most delight in it; and if a man were in great haste he
could go there and return in a little while. But of those who
remain behind, some are the busy ones who must visit the
fountain at another hour; and some are the careless ones who
take life as it comes and never think where it comes from; and
some are those who do not believe in the Source and will hear
nothing about it."
"How can that be?" I said; "do they not drink of the
water, and does it not make their fields green?"
"It is true," he said; "but these men have made wells
close by the river, and they say that these wells fill
themselves; and they have digged channels through their
gardens, and they say that these channels would always have
water in them even though the spring should cease to flow.
Some of them say also that it is an unworthy thing to drink
from a source that another has opened, and that every man
ought to find a new spring for himself; so they spend the hour
of the visitation, and many more, in searching among the
mountains where there is no path."
While I wondered over this, we kept on in the way. There
was already quite a throng of people all going in the same
direction. And when we came to the Source, which flowed from
an opening in a cliff, almost like a chamber hewn in the rock,
and made a little garden of wild-flowers around it as it fell,
I heard the music of many voices and the beautiful name of him
who had given his life to find the forgotten spring.
Then we came down again, singly and in groups, following
the river. It seemed already more bright
and full and joyous. As we passed through the gardens I saw
men turning aside to make new channels through fields which
were not yet cultivated. And as we entered the city I saw the
wheels of the mills that ground the corn whirling more
swiftly, and the maidens coming with their pitchers to draw
from the brimming basins at the street corners, and the
children laughing because the marble pools were so full that
they could swim in them. There was plenty of water
For many weeks I stayed in the city of Saloma, going up
the mountain-path in the morning, and returning to the day of
work and the evening of play. I found friends among the
people of the city, not only among those who walked together
in the visitation of the Source, but also among those who
remained behind, for many of them were kind and generous,
faithful in their work, and very pleasant in their
Yet there was something lacking between me and them. I
came not onto firm ground with them, for all their warmth of
welcome and their pleasant ways. They were by nature of the
race of those who dwell ever in one place; even in their thoughts
they went not far abroad. But I have been ever a seeker, and the
world seems to me made to wander in, rather than to abide in one
corner of it and never see what the rest has in store. Now
this was what the people of Saloma could not understand, and
for this reason I seemed to them always a stranger, an alien,
a guest. The fixed circle of their life was like an invisible
wall, and with the best will in the world they knew not how to
draw me within it. And I, for my part, while I understood
well their wish to rest and be at peace, could not quite
understand the way in which it found fulfilment, nor share the
repose which seemed to them all-sufficient and lasting. In
their gardens I saw ever the same flowers, and none perfect.
At their feasts I tasted ever the same food, and none that
made an end of hunger. In their talk I heard ever the same
words, and none that went to the depth of thought. The very
quietude and fixity of their being perplexed and estranged me.
What to them was permanent, to me was transient. They were
inhabitants: I was a visitor.
The one in all the city of Saloma with whom was most at home
was Ruamie, the little granddaughter of the old man with whom
I lodged. To her, a girl of thirteen, fair-eyed and full of
joy, the wonted round of life had not yet grown to be a matter of
course. She was quick to feel and answer the newness of every
day that dawned. When a strange bird flew down from the
mountains into the gardens, it was she that saw it and wondered
at it. It was she that walked with me most often in the path to
the Source. She went out with me to the fields in the morning
and almost every day found wild-flowers that were new to me.
At sunset she drew me to happy games of youths and children,
where her fancy was never tired of weaving new turns to the
familiar pastimes. In the dusk she would sit beside me in an
arbour of honeysuckle and question me about the flower that I
was seeking,--for to her I had often spoken of my quest.
"Is it blue," she asked, "as blue as the speedwell that
grows beside the brook?"
"Yes, it is as much bluer than the speedwell, as the river
is deeper than the brook."
"And is it she asked, "as bright as the drops of dew in
"Yes, it is brighter than the drops of dew as the sun is
clearer than the moon."
"And is it sweet," she asked, "as sweet as the honeysuckle
when the day is warm and still?"
"Yes, it is as much sweeter than the honeysuckle as the
night is stiller and more sweet than the day."
"Tell me again," she asked, "when you saw it, and why do
you seek it?"
"Once I saw it when I was a boy, no older than you. Our
house looked out toward the hills, far away and at sunset
softly blue against the eastern sky. It was the day that we
laid my father to rest in the little burying-ground among the
cedar-trees. There was his father's grave, and his father's
father's grave, and there were the places for my mother and
for my two brothers and for my sister and for me. I counted
them all, when the others had gone back to the house. I paced
up and down alone, measuring the ground; there was
room enough for us all; and in the western corner where a
young elm-tree was growing,--that would be my place, for I was
the youngest. How tall would the elm-tree be then? I had
never thought of it before. It seemed to make me sad and
restless,--wishing for something, I knew not what,--longing to
see the world and to taste happiness before I must sleep
beneath the elm-tree. Then I looked off to the blue hills,
shadowy and dream-like, the boundary of the little world that
I knew. And there, in a cleft between the highest peaks I saw
a wondrous thing: for the place at which I was looking seemed
to come nearer and nearer to me; I saw the trees, the rocks,
the ferns, the white road winding before me; the enfolding
hills unclosed like leaves, and in the heart of them I saw a
Blue Flower, so bright, so beautiful that my eyes filled with
tears as I looked. It was like a face that smiled at me and
promised something. Then I heard a call, like the note of a
trumpet very far away, calling me to come. And as I listened
the flower faded into the dimness of the hills."
"Did you follow it," asked Ruamie, "and did you go away from
your home? How could you do that?"
"Yes, Ruamie, when the time came, as soon as I was free,
I set out on my journey, and my home is at the end of the
journey, wherever that may be."
"And the flower," she asked, "you have seen it again?"
"Once again, when I was a youth, I saw it. After a long
voyage upon stormy seas, we came into a quiet haven, and there
the friend who was dearest to me, said good-by, for he was
going back to his own country and his father's house, but I
was still journeying onward. So as I stood at the bow of the
ship, sailing out into the wide blue water, far away among the
sparkling waves I saw a little island, with shores of silver
sand and slopes of fairest green, and in the middle of the
island the Blue Flower was growing, wondrous tall and
dazzling, brighter than the sapphire of the sea. Then the
call of the distant trumpet came floating across the water,
and while it was sounding a shimmer of fog swept over the
island and I could see it no more."
"Was it a real island," asked Ruamie. "Did you ever find
"Never; for the ship sailed another way. But once again
I saw the flower; three days before I came to Saloma. It was
on the edge of the desert, close under the shadow of the great
mountains. A vast loneliness was round about me; it seemed as
if I was the only soul living upon earth; and I longed for the
dwellings of men. Then as I woke in the morning I looked up
at the dark ridge of the mountains, and there against the
brightening blue of the sky I saw the Blue Flower standing up
clear and brave. It shone so deep and pure that the sky grew
pale around it. Then the echo of the far-off trumpet drifted
down the hillsides, and the sun rose, and the flower was
melted away in light. So I rose and travelled on till I came
"And now," said the child, "you are at home with us. Will
you not stay for a long, long while? You may find the Blue
Flower here. There are many kinds in the fields. I find new
ones every day."
"I will stay while I can, Ruamie," I answered,
taking her hand in mine as we walked back to the house at
nightfall, "but how long that may be I cannot tell. For with
you I am at home, yet the place where I must abide is the
place where the flower grows, and when the call comes I must
"Yes," said she, looking at me half in doubt, "I think I
understand. But wherever you go I hope you will find the
flower at last."
In truth there were many things in the city that troubled
me and made me restless, in spite of the sweet comfort of
Ruamie's friendship and the tranquillity of the life in
Saloma. I came to see the meaning of what the old man had
said about the shadow that rested upon his thoughts. For
there were some in the city who said that the hours of
visitation were wasted, and that it would be better to employ
the time in gathering water from the pools that formed among
the mountains in the rainy season, or in sinking wells along
the edge of the desert. Others had newly come to the city and
were teaching that there was no Source, and that the story of
the poor man who reopened it was a fable, and that the hours of
visitation were only hours of dreaming. There were many who
believed them, and many more who said that it did not matter
whether their words were true or false, and that it was of small
moment whether men went to visit the fountain or not, provided
only that they worked in the gardens and kept the marble pools
and basins in repair and opened new canals through the fields,
since there always had been and always would be plenty of water.
As I listened to these sayings it seemed to me doubtful
what the end of the city would be. And while this doubt was
yet heavy upon me, I heard at midnight the faint calling of
the trumpet, sounding along the crest of the mountains: and as
I went out to look where it came from, I saw, through the
glimmering veil of the milky way, the shape of a blossom of
celestial blue, whose petals seemed to fall and fade as I
looked. So I bade farewell to the old man in whose house I
had learned to love the hour of visitation and the Source and
the name of him who opened it; and I kissed the hands and the
brow of the little Ruamie who had entered my heart, and went
forth sadly from the land of Koorma into other lands, to look for
the Blue Flower.
In the Book of the Voyage without a Harbour is written the
record of the ten years which passed before I came back again
to the city of Saloma.
It was not easy to find, for I came down through the
mountains, and as I looked from a distant shoulder of the
hills for the little bay full of greenery, it was not to be
seen. There was only a white town shining far off against the
brown cliffs, like a flake of mica in a cleft of the rocks.
Then I slept that night, full of care, on the hillside, and
rising before dawn, came down in the early morning toward the
The fields were lying parched and yellow under the
sunrise, and great cracks gaped in the earth as if it were
thirsty. The trenches and channels were still there, but
there was little water in them; and through the ragged fringes of
the rusty vineyards I heard, instead of the cheerful songs of the
vintagers, the creaking of dry windlasses and the hoarse throb of
the pumps in sunken wells. The girdle of gardens had shrunk like
a wreath of withered flowers, and all the bright embroidery, of
earth was faded to a sullen gray.
At the foot of an ancient, leafless olive-tree I saw a
group of people kneeling around a newly opened well. I asked
a man who was digging beside the dusty path what this might
mean. He straightened himself for a moment, wiping the sweat
from his brow, and answered, sullenly, "They are worshipping
the windlass: how else should they bring water into their
fields?" Then he fell furiously to digging again, and I
passed on into the city.
There was no sound of murmuring streams in the streets,
and down the main bed of the river I saw only a few shallow
puddles, joined together by a slowly trickling thread. Even
these were fenced and guarded so that no one might come near
to them, and there were men going among to the houses with
water-skins on their shoulders, crying "Water! Water to sell!"
The marble pools in the open square were empty; and at one
of them there was a crowd looking at a man who was being
beaten with rods. A bystander told me that the officers of
the city had ordered him to be punished because he had said
that the pools and the basins and the channels were not all of
pure marble, without a flaw. "For this," said he, "is the
evil doctrine that has come in to take away the glory of our
city, and because of this the water has failed."
"It is a sad change," I answered, "and doubtless they who
have caused it should suffer more than others. But can you
tell me at what hour and in what manner the people now observe
the visitation of the Source?"
He looked curiously at me and replied: "I do not
understand you. There is no visitation save the inspection of
the cisterns and the wells which the syndics of the city ,
whom we call the Princes of Water, carry on daily at every
hour. What source is this of which you speak?"
So I went on through the street, where all the passers-by
seemed in haste and wore weary countenances, until I came to
the house where I had lodged. There was a little basin here
against the wall, with a slender stream of water still flowing
into it, and a group of children standing near with their
pitchers, waiting to fill them.
The door of the house was closed; but when I knocked, it
opened and a maiden came forth. She was pale and sad in
aspect, but a light of joy dawned over the snow of her face,
and I knew by the youth in her eyes that it was Ruamie, who
had walked with me through the vineyards long ago.
With both hands she welcomed me, saying: "You are
expected. Have you found the Blue Flower?"
"Not yet," I answered, "but something drew me back to you.
I would know how it fares with you, and I would go again with
you to visit the Source."
At this her face grew bright, but with a tender, half-sad
"The Source!" she said. "Ah, yes, I was sure that you would
remember it. And this is the hour of the visitation. Come, let
us go up together."
Then we went alone through the busy and weary multitudes
of the city toward the mountain-path. So forsaken was it and
so covered with stones and overgrown with wire-grass that I
could not have found it but for her guidance. But as we
climbed upward the air grew clearer, and more sweet, and I
questioned her of the things that had come to pass in my
absence. I asked her of the kind old man who had taken me
into his house when I came as a stranger. She said, softly,
"He is dead."
"And where are the men and women, his friends, who once
thronged this pathway? Are they also dead?"
"They also are dead."
"But where are the younger ones who sang here so gladly as
they marched upward? Surely they, are living?"
"They have forgotten."
"Where then are the young children whose fathers taught
them this way and bade them remember it. Have they forgotten?"
"They have forgotten."
"But why have you alone kept the hour of visitation? Why
have you not turned back with your companions? How have you
walked here solitary day after day?"
She turned to me with a divine regard, and laying her hand
gently over mine, she said, "I remember always."
Then I saw a few wild-flowers blossoming beside the path.
We drew near to the Source, and entered into the chamber
hewn in the rock. She kneeled and bent over the sleeping
spring. She murmured again and again the beautiful name of
him who had died to find it. Her voice repeated the song that
had once been sung by many voices. Her tears fell softly on
the spring, and as they fell it seemed as if the water stirred
and rose to meet her bending face, and when she looked up it
was as if the dew had fallen on a flower.
We came very slowly down the path along the river Carita,
and rested often beside it, for surely, I thought, the rising
of the spring had sent a`little more water down its dry bed, and
some of it must flow on to the city. So it was almost evening
when we came back to the streets. The people were hurrying to
and fro, for it was the day before the choosing of new Princes of
Water; and there was much dispute about them, and strife over the
building of new cisterns to hold the stores of rain which might
fall in the next year. But none cared for us, as we passed by
like strangers, and we came unnoticed to the door of the house.
Then a great desire of love and sorrow moved within my
breast, and I said to Ruamie, "You are the life of the city,
for you alone remember. Its secret is in your heart, and your
faithful keeping of the hours of visitation is the only cause
why the river has not failed altogether and the curse of
desolation returned. Let me stay with you, sweet soul of all
the flowers that are dead, and I will cherish you forever.
Together we will visit the Source every day; and we shall turn
the people, by our lives and by our words, back to that which
they have forgotten."
There was a smile in her eyes so deep that its meaning cannot
be spoken, as she lifted my hand to her lips, and answered,
"Not so, dear friend, for who can tell whether life or
death will come to the city, whether its people will remember
at last, or whether they will forget forever. Its lot is
mine, for I was born here, and here my life is rooted. But
you are of the Children of the Unquiet Heart, whose feet can
never rest until their task of errors is completed and their
lesson of wandering is learned to the end. Until then go
forth, and do not forget that I shall remember always."
Behind her quiet voice I heard the silent call that
compels us, and passed down the street as one walking in a
dream. At the place where the path turned aside to the ruined
vineyards I looked back. The low sunset made a circle of
golden rays about her head and a strange twin blossom of
celestial blue seemed to shine in her tranquil eyes.
Since then I know not what has befallen the city, nor
whether it is still called Saloma, or once more Ablis, which
is Forsaken. But if it lives at all, I know that it is
because there is one there who remembers, and keeps the hour of
visitation, and treads the steep way, and breathes the beautiful
name over the spring, and sometimes I think that long before my
seeking and journeying brings me to the Blue Flower, it will
bloom for Ruamie beside the still waters of the Source.
How the Young Martimor would Become a Knight
and Assay Great Adventure
When Sir Lancelot was come out of the Red Launds where he did
many deeds of arms, he rested him long with play and game in
a land that is, called Beausejour. For in that land there are
neither castles nor enchantments, but many fair manors, with
orchards and fields lying about them; and the people that
dwell therein have good cheer continually.
Of the wars and of the strange quests that are ever afoot
in Northgalis and Lionesse and the Out Isles, they hear
nothing; but are well content to till the earth in summer when
the world is green; and when the autumn changes green to gold
they pitch pavilions among the fruit-trees and the vineyards,
making merry with song and dance while they gather harvest of
corn and apples and grapes; and in the white days of winter for
pastime they have music of divers instruments and the playing of
But of the telling of tales in that land there is little
skill, neither do men rightly understand the singing of
ballads and romaunts. For one year there is like another, and
so their life runs away, and they leave the world to God.
Then Sir Lancelot had great ease for a time in this quiet
land, and often he lay under the apple-trees sleeping, and
again he taught the people new games and feats of skill. For
into what place soever he came he was welcome, though the
inhabitants knew not his name and great renown, nor the famous
deeds that he had done in tournament and battle. Yet for his
own sake, because he was a very gentle knight, fair-spoken and
full of courtesy and a good man of his hands withal, they
doted upon him.
So he began to tell them tales of many things that have
been done in the world by clean knights and faithful squires.
Of the wars against the Saracens and misbelieving men; of the
discomfiture of the Romans when they came to take truage of King
Arthur; of the strife with the eleven kings and the battle that
was ended but never finished; of the Questing Beast and how King
Pellinore and then Sir Palamides followed it; of Balin that
gave the dolourous stroke unto King Pellam; of Sir Tor that
sought the lady's brachet and by the way overcame two knights
and smote off the head of the outrageous caitiff Abelleus,--of
these and many like matters of pith and moment, full of blood
and honour, told Sir Lancelot, and the people had marvel of
Now, among them that listened to him gladly, was a youth
of good blood and breeding, very fair in the face and of great
stature. His name was Martimor. Strong of arm was he, and
his neck was like a pillar. His legs were as tough as beams
of ash-wood, and in his heart was the hunger of noble tatches
and deeds. So when he heard of Sir Lancelot these redoubtable
histories he was taken with desire to assay his strength. And
he besought the knight that they might joust together.
But in the land of Beausejour there were no arms of war save
such as Sir Lancelot had brought with him. Wherefore they made
shift to fashion a harness out of kitchen gear, with a brazen
platter for a breast-plate, and the cover of the greatest of all
kettles for a shield, and for a helmet a round pot of iron,
whereof the handle stuck down at Martimor's back like a tail.
And for spear he got him a stout young fir-tree, the point
hardened in the fire, and Sir Lancelot lent to him the sword that
he had taken from the false knight that distressed all ladies.
Thus was Martimor accoutred for the jousting, and when he
had climbed upon his horse, there arose much laughter and
mockage. Sir Lancelot laughed a little, though he was
ever a grave man, and said, "Now must we call this knight, La
Queue de Fer, by reason of the tail at his back."
But Martimor was half merry and half wroth, and crying
"'Ware!" he dressed his spear beneath his arm. Right so he
rushed upon Sir Lancelot, and so marvellously did his harness
jangle and smite together as he came, that the horse of Sir
Lancelot was frighted and turned aside. Thus the point of
the fir-tree caught him upon the shoulder and came near to
unhorse him. Then Martimor drew rein and shouted: "Ha! ha!
has Iron-Tail done well?"
"Nobly hast thou done," said Lancelot, laughing, the while
he amended his horse, "but let not the first stroke turn thy
head, else will the tail of thy helmet hang down afore thee
and mar the second stroke!"
So he kept his horse in hand and guided him warily, making
feint now on this side and now on that, until he was aware
that the youth grew hot with the joy of fighting and sought to
deal with him roughly and bigly. Then he cast aside his spear
and drew sword, and as Martimor walloped toward him, he
lightly swerved, and with one stroke cut in twain the young
fir-tree, so that not above an ell was left in the youth's
Then was the youth full of fire, and he also drew sword
and made at Sir Lancelot, lashing heavily as, he would hew
down a tree. But the knight guarded and warded without
distress, until the other breathed hard and was blind with
sweat. Then Lancelot smote him with a mighty stroke upon the
head, but with the flat of his sword, so that Martimor's breath
went clean out of him, and the blood gushed from his mouth, and
he fell over the croup of his horse as he were a man slain.
Then Sir Lancelot laughed no more, but grieved, for he
weened that he had harmed the youth, and he liked him passing
well. So he ran to him and held him in his arms fast and
tended him. And when the breath came again into his body,
Lancelot was glad, and desired the youth that he would pardon
him of that unequal joust and of the stroke too heavy.
At this Martimor sat up and took him by the hand.
"Pardon?" he cried. "No talk of pardon between thee and me,
my Lord Lancelot! Thou hast given me such joy of my life as
never I had before. It made me glad to feel thy might. And
now am I delibred and fully concluded that I also will become
a knight, and thou shalt instruct me how and in what land I
shall seek great adventure."
How Martimor was Instructed of Sir Lancelot to
Set Forth Upon His Quest
So right gladly did Sir Lancelot advise the young Martimor of
all the customs and vows of the noble order of knighthood, and
shew how he might become a well-ruled and a hardy knight to
win good fame and renown. For between these two from the
first there was close brotherhood and affiance, though in
years and in breeding they were so far apart, and this
brotherhood endured until the last, as ye shall see, nor was
the affiance broken.
Thus willingly learned the youth of his master; being
instructed first in the art and craft to manage and guide a
horse; then to handle the shield and the spear, and both to
cut and to foin with the sword; and last of all in the laws of
honour and courtesy, whereby a man may rule his own spirit and
so obtain grace of God, praise of princes, and favour of fair
"For this I tell thee," said Sir Lancelot, as they sat
together under an apple-tree, "there be many good fighters
that are false knights, breaking faith with man and woman,
envious, lustful and orgulous. In them courage is cruel, and
love is lecherous. And in the end they shall come to shame
and shall be overcome by a simpler knight than themselves; or
else they shall win sorrow and despite by the slaying of
better men than they be; and with their paramours they shall
have weary dole and distress of soul and body; for he that is
false, to him shall none be true, but all things shall be
unhappy about him."
"But how and if a man be true in heart," said Martimor,
"yet by some enchantment, or evil fortune, he may do an ill
deed and one that is harmful to his lord or to his friend,
even as Balin and his brother Balan slew each the other
"That is in God's hand," said Lancelot. "Doubtless he may
pardon and assoil all such in their unhappiness, forasmuch as
the secret of it is with him."
"And how if a man be entangled in love," said Martimor, "Yet
his love be set upon one that is not lawful for him to have? For
either he must deny his love, which is great shame, or else he
must do dishonour to the law. What shall he then do?"
At this Sir Lancelot was silent, and heaved a great sigh.
Then said he: "Rest assured that this man shall have sorrow
enough. For out of this net he may not escape, save by
falsehood on the one side, or by treachery on the other.
Therefore say I that he shall not assay to escape, but rather
right manfully to bear the bonds with which he is bound, and
to do honour to them."'
"How may this be?" said Martimor.
"By clean living," said Lancelot, "and by keeping himself
from wine which heats the blood, and by quests and labours and
combats wherein the fierceness of the heart is spent and
overcome, and by inward joy in the pure worship of his lady,
whereat none may take offence."
"How then shall a man bear himself in the following of a
quest?" said Martimor. "Shall he set his face ever forward,
and turn not to right, or left, whatever meet him by the way?
Or shall he hold himself ready to answer them that call to him,
and to succour them that ask help of him, and to turn aside from
his path for rescue and good service?"
"Enough of questions!" said Lancelot. "These are things
whereto each man must answer for himself, and not for other.
True knight taketh counsel of the time. Every day his own
deed. And the winning of a quest is not by haste, nor by hap,
but what needs to be done, that must ye do while ye are in the
Then because of the love that Sir Lancelot bore to
Martimor he gave him his own armour, and the good spear
wherewith he had unhorsed many knights, and the sword that he
took from Sir Peris de Forest Savage that distressed all
ladies, but his shield he gave not, for therein his own
remembrance was blazoned. So he let make a new shield, and in
the corner was painted a Blue Flower that was nameless, and this
he gave to Martimor, saying: "Thou shalt name it when thou
hast found it, and so shalt thou have both crest and motto."
"Now am I well beseen," cried Martimor, "and my adventures are
before me. Which way shall I ride, and where shall I find them?"
"Ride into the wind," said Lancelot, "and what chance
soever it blows thee, thereby do thy best, as it were the
first and the last. Take not thy hand from it until it be
fulfilled. So shalt thou most quickly and worthily achieve
Then they embraced like brothers; and each bade other keep
him well; and Sir Lancelot in leather jerkin, with naked head,
but with his shield and sword, rode to the south toward
Camelot; and Martimor rode into the wind, westward, over the
How Martimor Came to the Mill a
Stayed in a Delay
So by wildsome ways in strange countries and through many
waters and valleys rode Martimor forty days, but adventure met
him none, blow the wind never so fierce or fickle. Neither
dragons, nor giants, nor false knights, nor distressed ladies,
nor fays, nor kings imprisoned could he find.
"These are ill times for adventure," said he, "the world
is full of meat and sleepy. Now must I ride farther afield
and undertake some ancient, famous quest wherein other knights
have failed and fallen. Either I shall follow the Questing
Beast with Sir Palamides, or I shall find Merlin at the great
stone whereunder the Lady of the Lake enchanted him and
deliver him from that enchantment, or I shall assay the
cleansing of the Forest Perilous, or I shall win the favour of
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, or mayhap I shall adventure the
quest of the Sangreal. One or other of these will I achieve,
or bleed the best blood of my body." Thus pondering and
dreaming he came by the road down a gentle hill with close
woods on either hand; and so into a valley with a swift river
flowing through it; and on the river a Mill.
So white it stood among the trees, and so merrily whirred
the wheel as the water turned it, and so bright blossomed the
flowers in the garden, that Martimor had joy of the sight, for
it minded him of his own country. "But here is no adventure,"
thought he, and made to ride by.
Even then came a young maid suddenly through the garden
crying and wringing her hands. And when she saw him she cried
him help. At this Martimor alighted quickly and ran into the
garden, where the young maid soon led him to the millpond,
which was great and deep, and made him understand that her
little hound was swept away by the water and was near to
There saw he a red and white brachet, caught by the swift
stream that ran into the race, fast swimming as ever he could
swim, yet by no means able to escape. Then Martimor stripped
off his harness and leaped into the water and did marvellously
to rescue the little hound. But the fierce river dragged his
legs, and buffeted him, and hurtled at him, and drew him down,
as it were an enemy wrestling with him, so that he had much
ado to come where the brachet was, and more to win back again,
with the brachet in his arm, to the dry land.
Which when he had done he was clean for-spent and fell
upon the ground as a dead man. At this the young maid wept
yet more bitterly than she had wept for her hound, and cried
aloud, "Alas, if so goodly a man should spend his life for my
little brachet!" So she took his head upon her knee and
cherished him and beat the palms of his hands, and the hound
licked his face. And when Martimor opened his eyes he saw the
face of the maid that it was fair as any flower.
Then was she shamed, and put him gently from her knee, and
began to thank him and to ask with what she might reward him
for the saving of the brachet.
"A night's lodging and a day's cheer," quoth Martimor.
"As long as thee liketh," said she, "for my father, the
miller, will return ere sundown, and right gladly will he have
a guest so brave."
"Longer might I like," said he, "but longer may I not
stay, for I ride in a quest and seek great adventures to
become a knight."
So they bestowed the horse in the stable, and went into
the Mill; and when the miller was come home they had such good
cheer with eating of venison and pan-cakes, and drinking of
hydromel, and singing of pleasant ballads, that Martimor clean
forgot he was in a delay. And going to his bed in a fair
garret he dreamed of the Maid of the Mill, whose name was
How the Mill was in Danger and the Delay Endured
In the morning Martimor lay late and thought large thoughts of
his quest, and whither it might lead him, and to what honour
it should bring him. As he dreamed thus, suddenly he heard in
the hall below a trampling of feet and a shouting, with the
voice of Lirette crying and shrieking. With that he sprang
out of his bed, and caught up his sword and dagger, leaping
lightly and fiercely down the stair.
There he saw three foul churls, whereof two strove with
the miller, beating him with great clubs, while the third
would master the Maid and drag her away to do her shame, but
she fought shrewdly. Then Martimor rushed upon the churls,
shouting for joy, and there was a great medley of breaking
chairs and tables and cursing and smiting, and with his sword he
gave horrible strokes.
One of the knaves that fought with the miller, he smote
upon the shoulder and clave him to the navel. And at the
other he foined fiercely so that the point of the sword went
through his back and stuck fast in the wall. But the third
knave, that was the biggest and the blackest, and strove to
bear away the Maid, left bold of her, and leaped upon Martimor
and caught him by the middle and crushed him so that his ribs
Thus they weltered and wrung together, and now one of them
was above and now the other; and ever as they wallowed
Martimor smote him with his dagger, but there came forth no
blood, only water.
Then the black churl broke away from him and ran out at
the door of the mill, and Martimor after. So they ran through
the garden to the river, and there the churl sprang into the
water, and swept away raging and foaming. And as he went he
shouted, "Yet will I put thee to the worse, and mar the Mill,
and have the Maid!"'
Then Martimor cried, "Never while I live shalt
thou mar the Mill or have the Maid, thou foul, black,
misbegotten churl!" So he returned to the Mill, and there the
damsel Lirette made him to understand that these three churls
were long time enemies of the Mill, and sought ever to destroy
it and to do despite to her and her father. One of them was
Ignis, and another was Ventus, and these were the twain that
he had smitten. But the third, that fled down the river (and
he was ever the fiercest and the most outrageous), his name
was Flumen, for he dwelt in the caves of the stream, and was
the master of it before the Mill was built.
"And now," wept the Maid, "he must have had his will with
me and with the Mill, but for God's mercy, thanked be our Lord
"Thank me too," said Mlartimor.
"So I do," said Lirette, and she kissed him. "Yet am I
heavy at heart and fearful, for my father is sorely mishandled
and his arm is broken, so that he cannot tend the Mill nor
guard it. And Flumen is escaped; surely he will harm us
again. Now I know not, where I shall look for help."
"Why not here?" said Martimor.
Then Lirette looked him in the face, smiling a little
sorrily. "But thou ridest in a quest," quoth she, "thou mayst
not stay from thy adventures"
"A month," said he.
"Till my father be well?" said she.
"A month," said he.
"Till thou hast put Flumen to the worse?" said she.
"Right willingly would I have to do with that base,
slippery knave again" said he, "but more than a month I may
not stay, for my quest calls me and I must win worship of men
or ever I become a knight."
So they bound up the miller's wounds and set the Mill in
order. But Martimor had much to do to learn the working of
the Mill; and they were busied with the grinding of wheat and
rye and barley and divers kinds of grain; and the millers
hurts were mended every day; and at night there was merry rest
and good cheer; and Martimor talked with the Maid of the great
adventure that he must find; and thus the delay endured in
Yet More of the Mill, and of the Same Delay, also of the Maid
Now at the end of the third month, which was November,
Martimor made Lirette to understand that it was high time he
should ride farther to follow his quest. For the miller was
now recovered, and it was long that they had heard and seen
naught of Flumen, and doubtless that black knave was well
routed and dismayed that he would not come again. Lirette
prayed him and desired him that he would tarry yet one week.
But Martimor said, No! for his adventures were before him, and
that he could not be happy save in the doing of great deeds
and the winning of knightly fame. Then he showed her the Blue
Flower in his shield that was nameless, and told her how Sir
Lancelot had said that he must find it, then should he name it
and have both crest and motto.
"Does it grow in my garden?" said Lirette.
"I have not seen it," said he, "and now the flowers are
"Perhaps in the month of May?" said she.
"In that month I will come again," said he, "for by that
time it may fortune that I shall achieve my quest, but now
forth must I fare."
So there was sad cheer in the Mill that day, and at night
there came a fierce storm with howling wind and plumping rain,
and Martimor slept ill. About the break of day he was wakened
by a great roaring and pounding; then he looked out of window,
and saw the river in flood, with black waves spuming and
raving, like wood beasts, and driving before them great logs
and broken trees. Thus the river hurled and hammered at the
mill-dam so that it trembled, and the logs leaped as they
would spring over it, and the voice of Flumen shouted hoarsely
and hungrily, "Yet will I mar the Mill and have the Maid!"
Then Martimor ran with the miller out upon the dam, and
they laboured at the gates that held the river back, and
thrust away the logs that were heaped over them, and cut with
axes, and fought with the river. So at last two of the gates
were lifted and one was broken, and the flood ran down
ramping and roaring in great raundon, and as it ran the black
face of Flumen sprang above it, crying, "Yet will I mar both
Mill and Maid."
"That shalt thou never do," cried Martimor, "by foul or
fair, while the life beats in my body."
So he came back with the miller into the Mill, and there
was meat ready for them and they ate strongly and with good
heart. "Now," said the miller, "must I mend the gate. But
how it may be done, I know not, for surely this will be great
travail for a man alone."
"Why alone?" said Martimor.
"Thou wilt stay, then?" said Lirette.
"Yea," said he.
"For another month?" said she.
"Till the gate be mended," said he.
But when the gate was mended there came another flood and
brake the second gate. And when that was mended there came
another flood and brake the third gate. So when all three
were mended firm and fast, being bound with iron, still the
grimly river hurled over the dam, and the voice of Flumen
muttered in the dark of winter nights, "Yet will I
mar--mar--mar--yet will I mar Mill and Maid."
"Oho!" said Martimor, "this is a durable and dogged knave.
Art thou feared of him Lirette?"
"Not so," said she, "for thou art stronger. But fear have
I of the day when thou ridest forth in thy quest."
"Well, as to that," said he, "when I have overcome this
false devil Flumen, then will we consider and appoint that
So the delay continued, and Martimor was both busy and
happy at the Mill, for he liked and loved this damsel well,
and was fain of her company. Moreover the strife with Flumen
was great joy to him.
How the Month of May came to the Mill, and the Delay was Made Longer
Now when the month of May came to the Mill it brought a plenty
of sweet flowers, and Lirette wrought in the garden. With
her, when the day was spent and the sun rested upon the edge
of the hill, went Martimor, and she showed him all her flowers
that were blue. But none of them was like the flower on his
"Is it this?" she cried, giving him a violet. "Too dark,"
"Then here it is," she said, plucking a posy of
"Too light," said he.
"Surely this is it," and she brought him a spray of
"Too slender," said he, "and well I ween that I may not
find that flower, till I ride farther in my quest and achieve
Then was the Maid cast down, and Martimor was fain to
So while they walked thus in the garden, the days were
fair and still, and the river ran lowly and slowly, as it were
full of gentleness, and Flumen had amended him of his evil
ways. But full of craft and guile was that false foe. For
now that the gates were firm and strong, he found a way down
through the corner of the dam, where a water-rat had burrowed,
and there the water went seeping and creeping, gnawing ever at
the hidden breach. Presently in the night came a mizzling rain,
and far among the hills a cloud brake open, and the mill-pond
flowed over and under, and the dam crumbled away, and the Mill
shook, and the whole river ran roaring through the garden.
Then was Martimor wonderly wroth, because the river had
blotted out the Maid's flowers. "And one day," she cried,
holding fast to him and trembling, "one day Flumen will have
me, when thou art gone."
"Not so," said he, "by the faith of my body that foul
fiend shall never have thee. I will bind him, I will compel
him, or die in the deed."
So he went forth, upward along the river, till he came to
a strait Place among the hills. There was a great rock full
of caves and hollows, and there the water whirled and burbled
in furious wise. "Here," thought he, "is the hold of the
knave Flumen, and if I may cut through above this rock and
make a dyke with a gate in it, to let down the water another
way when the floods come, so shall I spoil him of his craft
and put him to the worse."
Then he toiled day and night to make the dyke, and ever by
night Flumen came and strove with him, and did his power to
cast him down and strangle him. But Martimor stood fast and
drave him back.
And at last, as they wrestled and whapped together, they
fell headlong in the stream.
"Ho-o!" shouted Flumen, "now will I drown thee, and mar
the Mill and the Maid."
But Martimor gripped him by the neck and thrust his head
betwixt the leaves of the gate and shut them fast, so that his
eyes stood out like gobbets of foam, and his black tongue hung
from his mouth like a water-weed.
"Now shalt thou swear never to mar Mill nor Maid, but
meekly to serve them," cried Martimor. Then Flumen sware by
wind and wave, by storm and stream, by rain and river, by pond
and pool, by flood and fountain, by dyke and dam.
"These be changeable things," said Martimor, swear by the
Name of God."
So he sware, and even as the Name passed his teeth, the
gobbets of foam floated forth from the gate, and the water-weed
writhed away with the stream, and the river flowed fair and
softly, with a sound like singing.
Then Martimor came back to the Mill, and told how Flumen
was overcome and made to swear a pact. Thus their hearts
waxed light and jolly, and they kept that day as it were a
How Martimor Bled for a Lady and Lived for a Maid,
and how His Great Adventure Ended and Began at the Mill
Now leave we of the Mill and Martimor and the Maid, and let us
speak of a certain Lady, passing tall and fair and young.
This was the Lady Beauvivante, that was daughter to King
Pellinore. And three false knights took her by craft from her
father's court and led her away to work their will on her.
But she escaped from them as they slept by a well, and came
riding on a white palfrey, over hill and dale, as fast as ever
she could drive.
Thus she came to the Mill, and her palfrey was spent, and
there she took refuge, beseeching Martimor that he would hide
her, and defend her from those caitiff knights that must soon
"Of hiding," said he, "will I hear naught, but of
defending am I full fain. For this have I waited."
Then he made ready his horse and his armour, and took both
spear and sword, and stood forth in the bridge. Now this
bridge was strait, so that none could pass there but singly,
and that not till Martimor yielded or was beaten down.
Then came the three knights that followed the Lady, riding
fiercely down the hill. And when they came about ten
spear-lengths from the bridge, they halted, and stood still as
it had been a plump of wood. One rode in black, and one rode
in yellow, and the third rode in black and yellow. So they
cried Martimor that he should give them passage, for they
followed a quest.
"Passage takes, who passage makes!" cried Martimor.
"Right well I know your quest, and it is a foul one."
Then the knight in black rode at him lightly,
but Martimor encountered him with the spear and smote him
backward from his horse, that his head struck the coping of
the bridge and brake his neck. Then came the knight in
yellow, walloping heavily, and him the spear pierced through
the midst of the body and burst in three pieces: so he fell on
his back and the life went out of him, but the spear stuck
fast and stood up from his breast as a stake.
Then the knight in black and yellow, that was as big as
both his brethren, gave a terrible shout, and rode at Martimor
like a wood lion. But he fended with his shield that the
spear went aside, and they clapped together like thunder, and
both horses were overthrown. And lightly they avoided their
horses and rushed together, tracing, rasing, and foining.
Such strokes they gave that great pieces were clipped away
from their hauberks, and their helms, and they staggered to
and fro like drunken men. Then they hurtled together like
rams and each battered other the wind out of his body. So
they sat either on one side of the bridge, to take their
breath, glaring the one at the other as two owls. Then they
stepped together and fought freshly, smiting and thrusting,
ramping and reeling, panting, snorting, and scattering blood, for
the space of two hours. So the knight in black and yellow,
because he was heavier, drave Martimor backward step by step till
he came to the crown of the bridge, and there fell grovelling.
At this the Lady Beauvivante shrieked and wailed, but the damsel
Lirette cried loudly, "Up! Martimor, strike again!"
Then the courage came into his body, and with a great
might he abraid upon his feet, and smote the black and yellow
knight upon the helm by an overstroke so fierce that the sword
sheared away the third part of his head, as it had been a
rotten cheese. So he lay upon the bridge, and the blood ran
out of him. And Martimor smote off the rest of his head
quite, and cast it into the river. Likewise did he with the
other twain that lay dead beyond the bridge. And he cried to
Flumen, "Hide me these black eggs that hatched evil thoughts."
So the river bore them away.
Then Martimor came into the Mill, all for-bled;
"Now are ye free, lady," he cried, and fell down in a swoon.
Then the Lady and the Maid wept full sore and made great dole
and unlaced his helm; and Lirette cherished him tenderly to
recover his life.
So while they were thus busied and distressed, came Sir
Lancelot with a great company of knights and squires riding
for to rescue the princess. When he came to the bridge all
bedashed with blood, and the bodies of the knights headless,
"Now, by my lady's name," said he, "here has been good
fighting, and those three caitiffs are slain! By whose hand
So he came into the Mill, and there he found Martimor
recovered of his swoon, and had marvellous joy of him, when he
heard how he had wrought.
"Now are thou proven worthy of the noble order of
knighthood," said Lancelot, and forthwith he dubbed him
Then he said that Sir Martimor should ride with him to the
court of King Pellinore, to receive a castle and a fair lady
to wife, for doubtless the King would deny him nothing to reward
the rescue of his daughter.
But Martimor stood in a muse; then said he, "May a knight
have his free will and choice of castles, where he will
"Within the law," said Lancelot, "and by the King's word
"Then choose I the Mill," said Martimor, "for here will I
"Freely spoken," said Lancelot, laughing, "so art thou Sir
Martimor of the Mill; no doubt the King will confirm it. And
now what sayest thou of ladies?"
"May a knight have his free will and choice here also?"
"According to his fortune," said Lancelot, "and by the
lady's favour, he may."
"Well, then," said Sir Martimor, taking Lirette by the
hand, "this Maid is to me liefer to have and to wield as my
wife than any dame or princess that is christened."
"What, brother," said Sir Lancelot, "is the wind in that
quarter? And will the Maid have thee?"
"I will well," said Lirette.
"Now are you well provided," said Sir Lancelot, "with
knighthood, and a castle, and a lady. Lacks but a motto and
a name for the Blue Flower in thy shield."
"He that names it shall never find it," said Sir Martimor,
"and he that finds it needs no name."
So Lirette rejoiced Sir Martimor and loved together during
their life-days; and this is the end and the beginning of the
Story of the Mill.
It must have been near Sutherland's Pond that I lost the way.
For there the deserted road which I had been following through
the Highlands ran out upon a meadow all abloom with purple
loose-strife and golden Saint-John's wort. The declining sun
cast a glory over the lonely field, and far in the corner,
nigh to the woods, there was a touch of the celestial colour:
blue of the sky seen between white clouds: blue of the sea
shimmering through faint drifts of silver mist. The hope of
finding that hue of distance and mystery embodied in a living
form, the old hope of discovering the Blue Flower rose again
in my heart. But it was only for a moment, for when I came
nearer I saw that the colour which had caught my eye came from
a multitude of closed gentians--the blossoms which never open
into perfection--growing so closely together that their
blended promise had seemed like a single flower.
So I harked back again, slanting across the meadow, to
find the road. But it had vanished. Wandering among the
alders and clumps of gray birches, here and there I found a
track that looked like it; but as I tried each one, it grew
more faint and uncertain and at last came to nothing in a
thicket or a marsh. While I was thus beating about the bush
the sun dropped below the western rim of hills. It was
necessary to make the most of the lingering light, if I did
not wish to be benighted in the woods. The little village of
Canterbury, which was the goal of my day's march, must lie
about to the north just beyond the edge of the mountain, and
in that direction I turned, pushing forward as rapidly as
possible through the undergrowth.
Presently I came into a region where the trees were larger
and the travelling was easier. It was not a primeval forest,
but a second growth of chestnuts and poplars and maples.
Through the woods there ran at intervals long lines of broken
rock, covered with moss--the ruins, evidently, of ancient
stone fences. The land must have been, in former days, a
farm, inhabited, cultivated, the home of human
hopes and desires and labours, but now relapsed into solitude
and wilderness. What could the life have been among these
rugged and inhospitable Highlands, on this niggard and
reluctant soil? Where was the house that once sheltered the
tillers of this rude corner of the earth?
Here, perhaps, in the little clearing into which I now
emerged. A couple of decrepit apple-trees grew on the edge of
it, and dropped their scanty and gnarled fruit to feast the
squirrels. A little farther on, a straggling clump of ancient
lilacs, a bewildered old bush of sweetbrier, the dark-green
leaves of a cluster of tiger-lilies, long past blooming,
marked the grave of the garden. And here, above this square
hollow in the earth, with the remains of a crumbling chimney
standing sentinel beside it, here the house must have stood.
What joys, what sorrows once centred around this cold and
desolate hearth-stone? What children went forth like birds
from this dismantled nest into the wide world? What guests
"Take care! stand back! There is a rattlesnake in the old
The voice, even more than the words, startled me. I drew
away suddenly, and saw, behind the ruins of the chimney, a man
of an aspect so striking that to this day his face and figure
are as vivid in my memory as if it were but yesterday that I
had met him.
He was dressed in black, the coat of a somewhat formal
cut, a long cravat loosely knotted in his rolling collar. His
head was bare, and the coal-black hair, thick and waving, was
in some disorder. His face, smooth and pale, with high
forehead, straight nose, and thin, sensitive lips--was it old
or young? Handsome it certainly was, the face of a man of
mark, a man of power. Yet there was something strange and
wild about it. His dark eyes, with the fine wrinkles about
them, had a look of unspeakable remoteness, and at the same
time an intensity that seemed to pierce me through and
through. It was as if he saw me in a dream, yet measured me,
weighed me with a scrutiny as exact as it was at bottom
But his lips were smiling, and there was no fault to be
found, at least, with his manner. He had risen from the broad
stone where he had evidently been sitting with his back against
the chimney, and came forward to greet me.
"You will pardon the abruptness of my greeting? I thought
you might not care to make acquaintance with the present
tenant of this old house--at least not without an
"Certainly not," I answered, "you have done me a real
kindness, which is better than the outward form of courtesy.
But how is it that you stay at such close quarters with this
unpleasant tenant? Have you no fear of him?"
"Not the least in the world," he answered, laughing. "I
know the snakes too well, better than they know themselves.
It is not likely that even an old serpent with thirteen
rattles, like this one, could harm me. I know his ways.
Before he could strike I should be out of reach."
"Well," said I, "it is a grim thought, at all events, that
this house, once a cheerful home, no doubt, should have fallen
at last to be the dwelling of such a vile creature."
"Fallen!" he exclaimed. Then he repeated the word with a
questioning accent--"fallen? Are you sure of that? The snake,
in his way, may be quite as honest as the people who lived here
before him, and not much more harmful. The farmer was a miser
who robbed his mother, quarrelled with his brother, and starved
his wife. What she lacked in food, she made up in drink, when
she could. One of the children, a girl, was a cripple, lamed by
her mother in a fit of rage. The two boys were ne'er-do-weels
who ran away from home as soon as they were old enough. One of
them is serving a life-sentence in the State prison for
manslaughter. When the house burned down some thirty years ago,
the woman escaped. The man's body was found with the head
crushed in--perhaps by a falling timber. The family of our
friend the rattlesnake could hardly surpass that record, I think.
But why should we blame them--any of them? They were only acting
out their natures. To one who can see and understand, it is all
perfectly simple, and interesting--immensely interesting."
It is impossible to describe the quiet eagerness, the cool
glow of fervour with which he narrated this little history. It
was the manner of the triumphant pathologist who lays bare some
hidden seat of disease. It surprised and repelled me a little;
yet it attracted me, too, for I could see how evidently he
counted on my comprehension and sympathy.
"Well," said I, "it is a pitiful history. Rural life is
not all peace and innocence. But how came you to know the
"I? Oh, I make it my business to know a little of
everything, and as much as possible of human life, not
excepting the petty chronicles of the rustics around me. It
is my chief pleasure. I earn my living by teaching boys. I
find my satisfaction in studying men. But you are on a
journey, sir, and night is falling. I must not detain you.
Or perhaps you will allow me to forward you a little by
serving as a guide. Which way were you going when you turned
aside to look at this dismantled shrine?"
"To Canterbury," I answered, "to find a night's, or a
month's, lodging at the inn. My journey is a ramble, it has
neither terminus nor time-table."
"Then let me commend to you something vastly better than
the tender mercies of the Canterbury Inn. Come with me to the
school on Hilltop, where I am a teacher. It is a thousand
feet above the village--purer air, finer view, and pleasanter
company. There is plenty of room in the house, for it is
vacation-time. Master Isaac Ward is always glad to entertain
There was something so sudden and unconventional about the
invitation that I was reluctant to accept it; but he gave it
naturally and pressed it with earnest courtesy, assuring me
that it was in accordance with Master Ward's custom, that he
would be much disappointed to lose the chance of talking with
an interesting traveller, that he would far rather let me pay
him for my lodging than have me go by, and so on--so that at
last I consented.
Three minutes' walking from the deserted clearing brought
us into a travelled road. It circled the breast of the
mountain, and as we stepped along it in the dusk I learned
something of my companion. His name was Edward Keene; he
taught Latin and Greek in the Hilltop School; he had studied for
the ministry, but had given it up, I gathered, on account of a
certain loss of interest, or rather a diversion of interest in
another direction. He spoke of himself with an impersonal
"Preachers must be always trying to persuade men," he
said. "But what I care about is to know men. I don't care
what they do. Certainly I have no wish to interfere with them
in their doings, for I doubt whether anyone can really change
them. Each tree bears its own fruit, you see, and by their
fruits you know them."
"What do you say to grafting? That changes the fruit,
"Yes, but a grafted tree is not really one tree. It is
two trees growing together. There is a double life in it, and
the second life, the added life, dominates the other. The
stock becomes a kind of animate soil for the graft to grow
Presently the road dipped into a little valley and rose
again, breasting the slope of a wooded hill which thrust
itself out from the steeper flank of the mountain-range. Down
the hill-side a song floated to meet us--that most noble lyric of
old Robert Herrick:
Bid me to live, and I will live
Thy Protestant to be;
Or bid me love, and I will give
A loving heart to thee.
It was a girl's voice, fresh and clear, with a note of
tenderness in it that thrilled me. Keene's pace quickened.
And soon the singer came in sight, stepping lightly down the
road, a shape of slender whiteness on the background of
gathering night. She was beautiful even in that dim light,
with brown eyes and hair, and a face that seemed to breathe
purity and trust. Yet there was a trace of anxiety in it, or
so I fancied, that gave it an appealing charm.
"You have come at last, Edward," she cried, running
forward and putting her hand in his. "It is late. You have
been out all day; I began to be afraid."
"Not too late," he answered; "there was no need for fear,
Dorothy. I am not alone, you see." And keeping her hand, he
introduced me to the daughter of Master Ward.
It was easy to guess the relation between these two young
people who walked beside me in the dusk. It needed no words
to say that they were lovers. Yet it would have needed many
words to define the sense, that came to me gradually, of
something singular in the tie that bound them together. On
his part there was a certain tone of half-playful
condescension toward her such as one might use to a lovely
child, which seemed to match but ill with her unconscious
attitude of watchful care, of tender solicitude for
him--almost like the manner of an elder sister. Lovers they
surely were, and acknowledged lovers, for their frankness of
demeanour sought no concealment; but I felt that there must be
A little rift within the lute,
though neither of them might know it. Each one's thought of
the other was different from the other's thought of self.
There could not be a complete understanding, a perfect accord.
What was the secret, of which each knew half, but not the other
Thus, with steps that kept time, but with thoughts how
wide apart, we came to the door of the school. A warm flood
of light poured out to greet us. The Master, an elderly,
placid, comfortable man, gave me just the welcome that had
been promised in his name. The supper was waiting, and the
evening passed in such happy cheer that the bewilderments and
misgivings of the twilight melted away, and at bedtime I
dropped into the nest of sleep as one who has found a shelter
The Hilltop School stood on a blessed site. Lifted high above
the village, it held the crest of the last gentle wave of the
mountains that filled the south with crowding billows, ragged
and tumultuous. Northward, the great plain lay at our feet,
smiling in the sun; meadows and groves, yellow fields of
harvest and green orchards, white roads and clustering towns,
with here and there a little city on the bank of the mighty
river which curved in a vast line of beauty toward the blue
Catskill Range, fifty miles away. Lines of filmy smoke, like
vanishing footprints in the air, marked the passage of railway
trains across the landscape--their swift flight reduced by
distance to a leisurely transition. The bright surface of the
stream was furrowed by a hundred vessels; tiny rowboats creeping
from shore to shore; knots of black barges following the lead of
puffing tugs; sloops with languid motion tacking against the
tide; white steamboats, like huge toy-houses, crowded with
pygmy inhabitants, moving smoothly on their way to the great
city, and disappearing suddenly as they turned into the
narrows between Storm-King and the Fishkill Mountains. Down
there was life, incessant, varied, restless, intricate,
many-coloured--down there was history, the highway of ancient
voyagers since the days of Hendrik Hudson, the hunting-ground
of Indian tribes, the scenes of massacre and battle, the last
camp of the Army of the Revolution, the Head-quarters of
Washington--down there were the homes of legend and
poetry, the dreamlike hills of Rip van Winkle's sleep, the
cliffs and caves haunted by the Culprit Fay, the solitudes
traversed by the Spy--all outspread before us, and visible as
in a Claude Lorraine glass, in the tranquil lucidity of
distance. And here, on the hilltop, was our own life; secluded,
yet never separated from the other life; looking down
upon it, yet woven of the same stuff; peaceful in
circumstance, yet ever busy with its own tasks, and holding in
its quiet heart all the elements of joy and sorrow and tragic
The Master was a man of most unworldly wisdom. In his
youth a great traveller, he had brought home many
observations, a few views, and at least one theory. To him
the school was the most important of human institutions--more
vital even than the home, because it held the first real
experience of social contact, of free intercourse with other
minds and lives coming from different households and embodying
different strains of blood. "My school," said he, "is the
world in miniature. If I can teach these boys to study and
play together freely and with fairness to one another, I shall
make men fit to live and work together in society. What they
learn matters less than how they learn it. The great thing is
the bringing out of individual character so that it will find its
place in social harmony."
Yet never man knew less of character in the concrete than
Master Ward. To him each person represented a type--the
scientific, the practical, the poetic. From each one he
expected, and in each one he found, to a certain degree, the
fruit of the marked quality, the obvious, the characteristic.
But of the deeper character, made up of a hundred traits,
coloured and conditioned most vitally by something secret and
in itself apparently of slight importance, he was placidly
unconscious. Classes he knew. Individuals escaped him. Yet
he was a most companionable man, a social solitary, a friendly
His daughter Dorothy seemed to me even more fair and
appealing by daylight than when I first saw her in the dusk.
There was a pure brightness in her brown eyes, a gentle
dignity in her look and bearing, a soft cadence of expectant joy
in her voice. She was womanly in every tone and motion, yet by
no means weak or uncertain. Mistress of herself and of the
house, she ruled her kingdom without an effort. Busied with many
little cares, she bore them lightly. Her spirit overflowed into
the lives around her with delicate sympathy and merry cheer. But
it was in music that her nature found its widest outlet. In the
lengthening evenings of late August she would play from Schumann,
or Chopin, or Grieg, interpreting the vague feelings of
gladness or grief which lie too deep for words. Ballads she
loved, quaint old English and Scotch airs, folk-songs of
Germany, "Come-all-ye's" of Ireland, Canadian chansons. She
sang--not like an angel, but like a woman.
Of the two under-masters in the school, Edward Keene was
the elder. The younger, John Graham, was his opposite in
every respect. Sturdy, fair-haired, plain in the face, he was
essentially an every-day man, devoted to out-of-door sports,
a hard worker, a good player, and a sound sleeper. He came
back to the school, from a fishing-excursion, a few days after my
arrival. I liked the way in which he told of his adventures,
with a little frank boasting, enough to season but not to spoil
the story. I liked the way in which he took hold of his work,
helping to get the school in readiness for the return of the boys
in the middle of September. I liked, more than all, his attitude
to Dorothy Ward. He loved her, clearly enough. When she was in
the room the other people were only accidents to him. Yet there
was nothing of the disappointed suitor in his bearing. He was
cheerful, natural, accepting the situation, giving her the
best he had to give, and gladly taking from her the frank
reliance, the ready comradeship which she bestowed upon him.
If he envied Keene--and how could he help it--at least he
never showed a touch of jealousy or rivalry. The engagement
was a fact which he took into account as something not to be
changed or questioned. Keene was so much more brilliant,
interesting, attractive. He answered so much more fully to
the poetic side of Dorothy's nature. How could she help
Thus the three actors in the drama stood, when
I became an inmate of Hilltop, and accepted the master's
invitation to undertake some of the minor classes in English,
and stay on at the school indefinitely. It was my wish to see
the little play--a pleasant comedy, I hoped--move forward to
a happy ending. And yet--what was it that disturbed me now
and then with forebodings? Something, doubtless, in the
character of Keene, for he was the dominant personality. The
key of the situation lay with him. He was the centre of
interest. Yet he was the one who seemed not perfectly in
harmony, not quite at home, as if something beckoned and urged
"I am glad you are to stay," said he, "yet I wonder at it.
You will find the life narrow, after all your travels.
Ulysses at Ithaca--you will surely be restless to see the
"If you find the life broad enough, I ought not to be
cramped in it."
"Ah, but I have compensations."
"One you certainly have," said I, thinking of Dorothy,
"and that one is enough to make a man happy anywhere."
"Yes, yes," he answered, quickly, "but that is not what I
mean. It is not there that I look for a wider life. Love--do
you think that love broadens a man's outlook? To me it seems
to make him narrower--happier, perhaps, within his own little
circle--but distinctly narrower. Knowledge is the only thing
that broadens life, sets it free from the tyranny of the
parish, fills it with the sense of power. And love is the
opposite of knowledge. Love is a kind of an illusion--a happy
illusion, that is what love is. Don't you see that?"
"See it?" I cried. "I don't know what you mean. Do you
mean that you don't really care for Dorothy Ward? Do you mean
that what you have won in her is an illusion? If so, you are
as wrong as a man can be."
"No, no," he answered, eagerly, "you know I don't mean
that. I could not live without her. But love is not the only
reality. There is something else, something broader,
"Come away," I said, "come away, man! You are talking
nonsense, treason. You are not true to yourself. You've been
working too hard at your books. There's a maggot in your brain.
Come out for a long walk."
That indeed was what he liked best. He was a magnificent
walker, easy, steady, unwearying. He knew every road and lane
in the valleys, every footpath and trail among the mountains.
But he cared little for walking in company; one companion was
the most that he could abide. And, strange to say, it was not
Dorothy whom he chose for his most frequent comrade. With her
he would saunter down the Black Brook path, or climb slowly to
the first ridge of Storm-King. But with me he pushed out to