Part 2 out of 4
the farthest pinnacle that overhangs the river, and down
through the Lonely Heart gorge, and over the pass of the White
Horse, and up to the peak of Cro' Nest, and across the rugged
summit of Black Rock. At every wider outlook a strange
exhilaration seemed to come upon him. His spirit glowed like
a live coal in the wind. He overflowed with brilliant talk
and curious stories of the villages and scattered houses that
we could see from our eyries.
But it was not with me that he made his longest expeditions.
They were solitary. Early on Saturday he would leave the rest of
us, with some slight excuse, and start away on the mountain-road,
to be gone all day. Sometimes he would not return till long
after dark. Then I could see the anxious look deepen on
Dorothy's face, and she would slip away down the road to meet
him. But he always came back in good spirits, talkable and
charming. It was the next day that the reaction came. The black
fit took him. He was silent, moody, bitter. Holding himself
aloof, yet never giving utterance to any irritation, he seemed
half-unconsciously to resent the claims of love and friendship,
as if they irked him. There was a look in his eyes as if he
measured us, weighed us, analysed us all as strangers.
Yes, even Dorothy. I have seen her go to meet him with a
flower in her hand that she had plucked for him, and turn away
with her lips trembling, too proud to say a word, dropping the
flower on the grass. John Graham saw it, too. He waited till
she was gone; then he picked up the flower and kept it.
There was nothing to take offence at, nothing on which one
could lay a finger; only these singular alternations of mood
which made Keene now the most delightful of friends, now an
intimate stranger in the circle. The change was inexplicable.
But certainly it seemed to have some connection, as cause or
consequence, with his long, lonely walks.
Once, when he was absent, we spoke of his remarkable
fluctuations of spirit.
The master labelled him. "He is an idealist, a dreamer.
They are always uncertain."
I blamed him. "He gives way too much to his moods. He
lacks self-control. He is in danger of spoiling a fine
I looked at Dorothy. She defended him. "Why should he be
always the same? He is too great for that. His thoughts make
him restless, and sometimes he is tired. Surely you wouldn't
have him act what he don't feel. Why do you want him to do
"I don't know," said Graham, with a short laugh. "None of
us know. But what we all want just now is music. Dorothy, will
you sing a little for us?"
So she sang "The Coulin," and "The Days o' the Kerry
Dancin'," and "The Hawthorn Tree," and "The Green Woods of
Truigha," and "Flowers o' the Forest," and "A la claire
Fontaine," until the twilight was filled with peace.
The boys came back to the school. The wheels of routine
began to turn again, slowly and with a little friction at
first, then smoothly and swiftly as if they had never stopped.
Summer reddened into autumn; autumn bronzed into fall. The
maples and poplars were bare. The oaks alone kept their
rusted crimson glory, and the cloaks of spruce and hemlock on
the shoulders of the hills grew dark with wintry foliage.
Keene's transitions of mood became more frequent and more
extreme. The gulf of isolation that divided him from us when
the black days came seemed wider and more unfathomable.
Dorothy and John Graham were thrown more constantly together.
Keene appeared to encourage their companionship. He watched
them curiously, sometimes, not as if he were jealous, but rather
as if he were interested in some delicate experiment. At other
times he would be singularly indifferent to everything, remote,
Dorothy's birthday, which fell in mid-October, was kept as
a holiday. In the morning everyone had some little birthday
gift for her, except Keene. He had forgotten the birthday
entirely. The shadow of disappointment that quenched the
brightness of her face was pitiful. Even he could not be
blind to it. He flushed as if surprised, and hesitated a
moment, evidently in conflict with himself. Then a look of
shame and regret came into his eyes. He made some excuse for
not going with us to the picnic, at the Black Brook Falls,
with which the day was celebrated. In the afternoon, as we
all sat around the camp-fire, he came swinging through the
woods with his long, swift stride, and going at once to
Dorothy laid a little brooch of pearl and opal in her hand.
"Will you forgive me?" he said. "I hope this is not too
late. But I lost the train back from Newburg and walked home.
I pray that you may never know any tears but pearls, and that
there may be nothing changeable about you but the opal."
"Oh, Edward!" she cried, "how beautiful! Thank you a
thousand times. But I wish you had been with us all day. We
have missed you so much!"
For the rest of that day simplicity and clearness and joy
came back to us. Keene was at his best, a leader of friendly
merriment, a master of good-fellowship, a prince of delicate
chivalry. Dorothy's loveliness unfolded like a flower in the
But the Indian summer of peace was brief. It was hardly
a week before Keene's old moods returned, darker and stranger
than ever. The girl's unconcealable bewilderment, her sense
of wounded loyalty and baffled anxiety, her still look of hurt
and wondering tenderness, increased from day to day. John
Graham's temper seemed to change, suddenly and completely.
From the best-humoured and most careless fellow in the world,
he became silent, thoughtful, irritable toward everyone except
Dorothy. With Keene he was curt and impatient, avoiding him
as much as possible, and when they were together, evidently
struggling to keep down a deep dislike and rising anger. They
had had sharp words when they were alone, I was sure, but
Keene's coolness seemed to grow with Graham's heat. There was
no open quarrel.
One Saturday evening, Graham came to me. "You have seen
what is going on here?" he said.
"Something, at least," I answered, "and I am very sorry
for it. But I don't quite understand it."
"Well, I do; and I'm going to put an end to it. I'm going
to have it out with Ned Keene. He is breaking her heart."
"But are you the right one to take the matter up?"
"Who else is there to do it?"
"He sees nothing, comprehends nothing. 'Practical
type--poetic type--misunderstandings sure to arise--come
together after a while each supply the other's deficiencies.'
Cursed folly! And the girl so unhappy that she can't tell
anyone. It shall not go on, I say. Keene is out on the road
now, taking one of his infernal walks. I'm going to meet him."
"I'm afraid it will make trouble. Let me go with you."
"The trouble is made. Come if you like. I'm going now."
The night lay heavy upon the forest. Where the road
dipped through the valley we could hardly see a rod ahead of
us. But higher up where the way curved around the breast of
the mountain, the woods were thin on the left, and on the
right a sheer precipice fell away to the gorge of the brook.
In the dim starlight we saw Keene striding toward us. Graham
stepped out to meet him.
"Where have you been, Ned Keene?" he cried. The cry was
a challenge. Keene lifted his head and stood still. Then he
laughed and took a step forward.
"Taking a long walk, Jack Graham,," he answered. "It was
glorious. You should have been with me. But why this sudden
"Because your long walk is a pretence. You are playing false.
There is some woman that you go to see at West Point, at Highland
Falls, who knows where?"
Keene laughed again.
"Certainly you don't know, my dear fellow; and neither do
I. Since when has walking become a vice in your estimation?
You seem to be in a fierce mood. What's the matter?"
"I will tell you what's the matter. You have been acting
like a brute to the girl you profess to love."
"Plain words! But between friends frankness is best. Did
she ask you to tell me?"
"No! You know too well she would die before she would
speak. You are killing her, that is what you are doing with
your devilish moods and mysteries. You must stop. Do you
hear? You must give her up."
"I hear well enough, and it sounds like a word for her and
two for yourself. Is that it?"
"Damn you," cried the younger man, "let the words go!
we'll settle it this way"----and he sprang at the other's
Keene, cool and well-braced, met him with a heavy blow in
the chest. He recoiled, and I rushed between them, holding
Graham back, and pleading for self-control. As we stood thus,
panting and confused, on the edge of the cliff, a singing
voice floated up to us from the shadows across the valley. It
was Herrick's song again:
A heart as soft, a heart as kind,
A heart as sound and free
Is in the whole world thou canst find,
That heart I'll give to thee.
"Come, gentlemen," I cried, "this is folly, sheer madness.
You can never deal with the matter in this way. Think of the
girl who is singing down yonder. What would happen to her,
what would she suffer, from scandal, from her own feelings, if
either of you should be killed, or even seriously hurt by the
other? There must be no quarrel between you."
"Certainly," said Keene, whose poise, if shaken at all,
had returned, "certainly, you are right. It is not of my
seeking, nor shall I be the one to keep it up. I am willing to
let it pass. It is but a small matter at most."
I turned to Graham--"And you?"
He hesitated a little, and then said, doggedly "On one
"And that is?"
"Keene must explain. He must answer my question."
"Do you accept?" I asked Keene.
"Yes and no!" he replied. "No! to answering Graham's
question. He is not the person to ask it. I wonder that he
does not see the impropriety, the absurdity of his meddling at
all in this affair. Besides, he could not understand my
answer even if he believed it. But to the explanation, I say,
Yes! I will give it, not to Graham, but to you. I make you
this proposition. To-morrow is Sunday. We shall be excused
from service if we tell the master that we have important
business to settle together. You shall come with me on one of
my long walks. I will tell you all about them. Then you can
be the judge whether there is any harm in them."
"Does that satisfy you?" I said to Graham.
"Yes," he answered, "that seems fair enough. I am content
to leave it in that way for the present. And to make it still
more fair, I want to take back what I said awhile ago, and to
ask Keene's pardon for it."
"Not at all," said Keene, quickly, "it was said in haste,
I bear no grudge. You simply did not understand, that is
So we turned to go down the hill, and as we turned,
Dorothy met us, coming out of the shadows.
"What are you men doing here?" she asked. "I heard your
voices from below. What were you talking about?"
"We were talking," said Keene, "my dear Dorothy, we were
talking--about walking--yes, that was it--about walking, and
about views. The conversation was quite warm, almost a
debate. Now, you know all the view-points in this region.
Which do you call the best, the most satisfying, the finest
prospect? But I know what you will say: the view from the
little knoll in front of Hilltop. For there, when you are tired
of looking far away, you can turn around and see the old school,
and the linden-trees, and the garden."
"Yes," she answered gravely, "that is really the view that
I love best. I would give up all the others rather than lose
There was a softness in the November air that brought back
memories of summer, and a few belated daisies were blooming in
the old clearing, as Keene and I passed by the ruins of the
farm-house again, early on Sunday morning. He had been
talking ever since we started, pouring out his praise of
knowledge, wide, clear, universal knowledge, as the best of
life's joys, the greatest of life's achievements. The
practical life was a blind, dull routine. Most men were
toiling at tasks which they did not like, by rules which they
did not understand. They never looked beyond the edge of
their work. The philosophical life was a spider's web--filmy
threads of theory spun out of the inner consciousness--it touched
the world only at certain chosen points of attachment. There was
nothing firm, nothing substantial in it. You could look through
it like a veil and see the real world lying beyond. But the
theorist could see only the web which he had spun. Knowing did
not come by speculating, theorising. Knowing came by seeing.
Vision was the only real knowledge. To see the world, the whole
world, as it is, to look behind the scenes, to read human life
like a book, that was the glorious thing--most satisfying,
Thus he had talked as we climbed the hill. Now, as we
came by the place where we had first met, a new eagerness
sounded in his voice.
"Ever since that day I have inclined to tell you something
more about myself. I felt sure you would understand. I am
planning to write a book--a book of knowledge, in the true
sense--a great book about human life. Not a history, not a
theory, but a real view of life, its hidden motives, its
secret relations. How different they are from what men dream
and imagine and play that they are! How much darker, how much
smaller, and therefore how much more interesting and wonderful.
No one has yet written--perhaps because no one has yet
conceived--such a book as I have in mind. I might call it a
"But surely," said I, "you have chosen a strange place to
write it--the Hilltop School--this quiet and secluded region!
The stream of humanity is very slow and slender here--it
trickles. You must get out into the busy world. You must be
in the full current and feel its force. You must take part in
the active life of mankind in order really to know it."
"A mistake!" he cried. "Action is the thing that blinds
men. You remember Matthew Arnold's line:
In action's dizzying eddy whurled.
To know the world you must stand apart from it and above it;
you must look down on it."
"Well, then," said I, "you will have to find some secret
spring of inspiration, some point of vantage from which you
can get your outlook and your insight."
He stopped short and looked me full in the face.
"And that," cried he, "is precisely what I have found!"
Then he turned and pushed along the narrow trail so
swiftly that I had hard work to follow him. After a few
minutes we came to a little stream, flowing through a grove of
hemlocks. Keene seated himself on the fallen log that served
for a bridge and beckoned me to a place beside him.
"I promised to give you an explanation to-day--to take you
on one of my long walks. Well, there is only one of them. It
is always the same. You shall see where it leads, what it
means. You shall share my secret--all the wonder and glory of
it! Of course I know my conduct, has seemed strange to you.
Sometimes it has seemed strange even to me. I have been
doubtful, troubled, almost distracted. I have been risking a
great deal, in danger of losing what I value, what most men
count the best thing in the world. But it could not be
helped. The risk was worth while. A great discovery, the
opportunity of a lifetime, yes, of an age, perhaps of many
ages, came to me. I simply could not throw it away. I must
use it, make the best of it, at any danger, at any cost. You
shall judge for yourself whether I was right or wrong. But you
must judge fairly, without haste, without prejudice. I ask you
to make me one promise. You will suspend judgment, you will say
nothing, you will keep my secret, until you have been with me
three times at the place where I am now taking you."
By this time it was clear to me that I had to do with a
case lying far outside of the common routine of life;
something subtle, abnormal, hard to measure, in which a clear
and careful estimate would be necessary. If Keene was
labouring under some strange delusion, some disorder of mind,
how could I estimate its nature or extent, without time and
study, perhaps without expert advice? To wait a little would
be prudent, for his sake as well as for the sake of others.
If there was some extraordinary, reality behind his mysterious
hints, it would need patience and skill to test it. I gave
him the promise for which he asked.
At once, as if relieved, he sprang up, and crying, "Come
on, follow me!" began to make his way up the bed of the brook.
It was one of the wildest walks that I have ever taken. He
turned aside for no obstacles; swamps, masses of interlacing
alders, close-woven thickets of stiff young spruces,
chevaux-de-frise of dead trees where wind-falls had mowed down
the forest, walls of lichen-crusted rock, landslides where heaps
of broken stone were tumbled in ruinous confusion--through
everything he pushed forward. I could see, here and there, the
track of his former journeys: broken branches of witch-hazel and
moose-wood, ferns trampled down, a faint trail across some
deeper bed of moss. At mid-day we rested for a half-hour to
eat lunch. But Keene would eat nothing, except a little
pellet of some dark green substance that he took from a flat
silver box in his pocket. He swallowed it hastily, and
stooping his face to the spring by which he had halted, drank
long and eagerly.
"An Indian trick," said he, shaking the drops of water
from his face. "On a walk, food is a hindrance, a delay. But
this tiny taste of bitter gum is a tonic; it spurs the courage
and doubles the strength--if you are used to it. Otherwise I
should not recommend you to try it. Faugh! the flavour is vile."
He rinsed his mouth again with water, and stood up,
calling me to come on. The way, now tangled among the
nameless peaks and ranges, bore steadily southward, rising all
the time, in spite of many brief downward curves where a steep
gorge must be crossed. Presently we came into a hard-wood
forest, open and easy to travel. Breasting a long slope, we
reached the summit of a broad, smoothly rounding ridge covered
with a dense growth of stunted spruce. The trees rose above
our heads, about twice the height of a man, and so thick that
we could not see beyond them. But, from glimpses here and
there, and from the purity and lightness of the air, I judged
that we were on far higher ground than any we had yet
traversed, the central comb, perhaps, of the mountain-system.
A few yards ahead of us, through the crowded trunks of the
dwarf forest, I saw a gray mass, like the wall of a fortress,
across our path. It was a vast rock, rising from the crest of
the ridge, lifting its top above the sea of foliage. At its
base there were heaps of shattered stones, and deep crevices
almost like caves. One side of the rock was broken by a slanting
"Be careful," cried my companion, "there is a rattlers'
den somewhere about here. The snakes are in their winter
quarters now, almost dormant, but they can still strike if you
tread on them. Step here! Give me your hand--use that point
of rock--hold fast by this bush; it is firmly rooted--so!
Here we are on Spy Rock! You have heard of it? I thought so.
Other people have heard of it, and imagine that they have
found it--five miles east of us--on a lower ridge. Others
think it is a peak just back of Cro' Nest. All wrong! There
is but one real Spy Rock--here! This earth holds no more
perfect view-point. It is one of the rare places from which
a man may see the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of
The prospect was indeed magnificent; it was strange what
a vast enlargement of vision resulted from the slight
elevation above the surrounding peaks. It was like being
lifted up so that we could look over the walls. The horizon
expanded as if by magic. The vast circumference of vision swept
around us with a radius of a hundred miles. Mountain and meadow,
forest and field, river and lake, hill and dale, village and
farmland, far-off city and shimmering water--all lay open to our
sight, and over all the westering sun wove a transparent robe of
gem-like hues. Every feature of the landscape seemed alive,
quivering, pulsating with conscious beauty. You could almost
see the world breathe.
"Wonderful!" I cried. "Most wonderful! You have found a
mount of vision."
"Ah," he answered, "you don't half see the wonder yet, you
don't begin to appreciate it. Your eyes are new to it. You
have not learned the power of far sight, the secret of Spy
Rock. You are still shut in by the horizon."
"Do you mean to say that you can look beyond it?"
"Beyond yours--yes. And beyond any that you would dream
possible--See! Your sight reaches to that dim cloud of smoke
in the south? And beneath it you can make out, perhaps, a
vague blotch of shadow, or a tiny flash of brightness where the
sun strikes it? New York! But I can see the great buildings,
the domes, the spires, the crowded wharves, the tides of people
whirling through the streets--and beyond that, the sea, with the
ships coming and going! I can follow them on their courses--and
beyond that--Oh! when I am on Spy Rock I can see more than
other men can imagine."
For a moment, strange to say, I almost fancied could
follow him. The magnetism of his spirit imposed upon me,
carried me away with him. Then sober reason told me that he
was talking of impossibilities.
"Keene," said I, "you are dreaming. The view and the air
have intoxicated you. This is a phantasy, a delusion!"
"It pleases you to call it so," he said, "but I only tell
you my real experience. Why it should be impossible I do not
understand. There is no reason why the power of sight should
not be cultivated, enlarged, expanded indefinitely."
"And the straight rays of light?" I asked. "And the curvature
of the earth which makes a horizon inevitable?"
"Who knows what a ray of light is?" said he. "Who can
prove that it may not be curved, under certain conditions, or
refracted in some places in a way that is not possible
elsewhere? I tell you there is something extraordinary about
this Spy Rock. It is a seat of power--Nature's observatory.
More things are visible here than anywhere else--more than I
have told you yet. But come, we have little time left. For
half an hour, each of us shall enjoy what he can see. Then
home again to the narrower outlook, the restricted life."
The downward journey was swifter than the ascent, but no
less fatiguing. By the time we reached the school, an hour
after dark, I was very tired. But Keene was in one of his
moods of exhilaration. He glowed like a piece of phosphorus
that has been drenched with light.
Graham took the first opportunity of speaking with me alone.
"Well?" said he.
"Well!" I answered. "You were wrong. There is no treason in
Keene's walks, no guilt in his moods. But there is something
very strange. I cannot form a judgment yet as to what we should
do. We must wait a few days. It will do no harm to be patient.
Indeed, I have promised not to judge, not to speak of it, until a
certain time. Are you satisfied?"
"This is a curious story," said he, "and I am puzzled by
it. But I trust you, I agree to wait, though I am far from
Our second expedition was appointed for the following
Saturday. Keene was hungry for it, and I was almost as eager,
desiring to penetrate as quickly as possible into the heart of
the affair. Already a conviction in regard to it was pressing
upon me, and I resolved to let him talk, this time, as freely
as he would, without interruption or denial.
When we clambered up on Spy Rock, he was more subdued and
reserved than he had been the first time. For a while he
talked little, but scanned view with wide, shining eyes. Then
he began to tell me stories of the places that we could
see--strange stories of domestic calamity, and social conflict,
and eccentric passion, and hidden crime.
"Do you remember Hawthorne's story of 'The Minister's
Black Veil?' It is the best comment on human life that ever
was written. Everyone has something to hide. The surface of
life is a mask. The substance of life is a secret. All
humanity wears the black veil. But it is not impenetrable.
No, it is transparent, if you find the right point of view.
Here, on Spy Rock, I have found it. I have learned how to
look through the veil. I can see, not by the light-rays only,
but by the rays which are colourless, imperceptible,
irresistible the rays of the unknown quantity, which penetrate
everywhere. I can see how men down in the great city are
weaving their nets of selfishness and falsehood, and calling
them industrial enterprises or political combinations. I can
see how the wheels of society are moved by the hidden springs
of avarice and greed and rivalry. I can see how children
drink in the fables of religion, without understanding them,
and how prudent men repeat them without believing them. I can
see how the illusions of love appear and vanish, and how men and
women swear that their dreams are eternal, even while they fade.
I can see how poor people blind themselves and deceive each
other, calling selfishness devotion, and bondage contentment.
Down at Hilltop yonder I can see how Dorothy Ward and John
Graham, without knowing it,without meaning it--"
"Stop, man!" I cried. "Stop, before you say what can
never be unsaid. You know it is not true. These are
nightmare visions that ride you. Not from Spy Rock nor from
anywhere else can you see anything at Hilltop that is not
honest and pure and loyal. Come down, now, and let us go
home. You will see better there than here."
"I think not," said he, "but I will come. Yes, of course,
I am bound to come. But let me have a few minutes here alone.
Go you down along the path a little way slowly. I will follow
you in a quarter of an hour. And remember we are to be here
together once more!"
Once more! Yes, and then what must be done?
How was this strange case to be dealt with so as to save all
the actors, as far as possible, from needless suffering? That
Keene's mind was disordered at least three of us suspected
already. But to me alone was the nature and seat of the
disorder known. How make the others understand it? They
might easily conceive it to be something different from the
fact, some actual lesion of the brain, an incurable insanity.
But this it was not. As yet, at least, he was no patient for
a mad-house: it would be unjust, probably it would be
impossible to have him committed. But on the other hand they
might take it too lightly, as the result of overwork, or
perhaps of the use of some narcotic. To me it was certain
that the trouble went far deeper than this. It lay in the
man's moral nature, in the error of his central will. It was
the working out, in abnormal form, but with essential truth,
of his chosen and cherished ideal of life. Spy Rock was
something more than the seat of his delusion. it was the
expression of his temperament. The solitary trail that led
thither was the symbol of his search for happiness--alone,
forgetful of life's lowlier ties, looking down upon the world in
the cold abstraction of scornful knowledge. How was such a man
to be brought back to the real life whose first condition is the
acceptance of a limited outlook, the willingness to live by
trust as much as by sight, the power of finding joy and peace
in the things that we feel are the best, even though we cannot
prove them nor explain them? How could he ever bring anything
but discord and sorrow to those who were bound to him?
This was what perplexed and oppressed me. I needed all
the time until the next Saturday to think the question
through, to decide what should be done. But the matter was
taken out of my hands. After our latest expedition Keene's
dark mood returned upon him with sombre intensity. Dull,
restless, indifferent, half-contemptuous, he seemed to
withdraw into himself, observing those around him with
half-veiled glances, as if he had nothing better to do and yet
found it a tiresome pastime. He was like a man waiting
wearily at a railway station for his train. Nothing pleased
him. He responded to nothing.
Graham controlled his indignation by a constant effort.
A dozen times he was on the point of speaking out. But he
restrained himself and played fair. Dorothy's suffering could
not be hidden. Her loyalty was strained to the breaking
point. She was too tender and true for anger, but she was
wounded almost beyond endurance.
Keene's restlessness increased. The intervening Thursday
was Thanksgiving Day; most of the boys had gone home; the
school had holiday. Early in the morning he came to me.
"Let us take our walk to-day. We have no work to do.
Come! In this clear, frosty air, Spy Rock will be glorious!"
"No," I answered, "this is no day for such an expedition.
This is the home day. Stay here and be happy with us all.
You owe this to love and friendship. You owe it to Dorothy
"Owe it?" said he. "Speaking of debts, I think each man
is his own preferred creditor. But of course you can do as
you like about to-day. Tomorrow or Saturday will answer just
as well for our third walk together."
About noon he came down from his room and went to the
piano, where Dorothy was sitting. They talked together in low
tones. Then she stood up, with pale face and wide-open eyes.
She laid her hand on his arm.
"Do not go, Edward. For the last time I beg you to stay
with us to-day."
He lifted her hand and held it for an instant. Then he
bowed, and let it fall.
"You will excuse me, Dorothy, I am sure. I feel the need
of exercise. Absolutely I must go; good-by--until the
The hours of that day passed heavily for all of us. There
was a sense of disaster in the air. Something irretrievable
had fallen from our circle. But no one dared to name it.
Night closed in upon the house with a changing sky. All the
stars were hidden. The wind whimpered and then shouted. The
rain swept down in spiteful volleys, deepening at last into a
fierce, steady discharge. Nine o'clock, ten o'clock passed,
and Keene did not return. By midnight we were certain that
some accident had befallen him.
It was impossible to go up into the mountains in that
pitch-darkness of furious tempest. But we could send down to
the village for men to organise a search-party and to bring
the doctor. At daybreak we set out--some of the men going
with the Master along Black Brook, others in different
directions to make sure of a complete search--Graham and the
doctor and I following the secret trail that I knew only too
well. Dorothy insisted that she must go. She would bear no
denial, declaring that it would be worse for her alone at
home, than if we took her with us.
It was incredible how the path seemed to lengthen. Graham
watched the girl's every step, helping her over the difficult
places, pushing aside the tangled branches, his eyes resting
upon her as frankly, as tenderly as a mother looks at her
child. In single file we marched through the gray morning,
clearing cold after the storm, and the silence was seldom
broken, for we had little heart to talk.
At last we came to the high, lonely ridge, the dwarf
forest, the huge, couchant bulk of Spy Rock. There, on the back
of it, with his right arm hanging over the edge, was the outline
of Edward Keene's form. It was as if some monster had seized him
and flung him over its shoulder to carry away.
We called to him but there was no answer. The doctor
climbed up with me, and we hurried to the spot where he was
lying. His face was turned to the sky, his eyes blindly
staring; there was no pulse, no breath; he was already cold in
death. His right hand and arm, the side of his neck and face
were horribly swollen and livid. The doctor stooped down and
examined the hand carefully. "See!" he cried, pointing to a
great bruise on his wrist, with two tiny punctures in the
middle of it from which a few drops of blood had oozed, "a
rattlesnake has struck him. He must have fairly put his hand
upon it, perhaps in the dark, when he was climbing. And,
look, what is this?"
He picked up a flat silver box, that lay open on the rock.
There were two olive-green pellets of a resinous paste in it.
He lifted it to his face, and drew a long breath.
"Yes," he said, "it is Gunjab, the most powerful form of
Hashish, the narcotic hemp of India. Poor fellow, it saved
him from frightful agony. He died in a dream."
"You are right," I said, "in a dream, and for a dream."
We covered his face and climbed down the rock. Dorothy
and Graham were waiting below. He had put his coat around
her. She was shivering a little. There were tear-marks on
"Well," I said, "you must know it. We have lost him."
"Ah!" said the girl, "I lost him long ago."
There are three vines that belong to the ancient forest.
Elsewhere they will not grow, though the soil prepared for
them be never so rich, the shade of the arbour built for them
never so closely and cunningly woven. Their delicate,
thread-like roots take no hold upon the earth tilled and
troubled by the fingers of man. The fine sap that steals
through their long, slender limbs pauses and fails when they
are watered by human hands. Silently the secret of their life
retreats and shrinks away and hides itself.
But in the woods, where falling leaves and crumbling
tree-trunks and wilting ferns have been moulded by Nature into
a deep, brown humus, clean and fragrant--in the woods, where
the sunlight filters green and golden through interlacing
branches, and where pure moisture of distilling rains and
melting snows is held in treasury by never-failing banks of
moss--under the verdurous flood of the forest, like sea-weeds
under the ocean waves, these three little creeping vines put
forth their hands with joy, and spread over rock and hillock and
twisted tree-root and mouldering log, in cloaks and scarves and
wreaths of tiny evergreen, glossy leaves.
One of them is adorned with white pearls sprinkled lightly
over its robe of green. This is Snowberry, and if you eat of
it, you will grow wise in the wisdom of flowers. You will
know where to find the yellow violet, and the wake-robin, and
the pink lady-slipper, and the scarlet sage, and the fringed
gentian. You will understand how the buds trust themselves to
the spring in their unfolding, and how the blossoms trust
themselves to the winter in their withering, and how the busy
bands of Nature are ever weaving the beautiful garment of life
out of the strands of death, and nothing is lost that yields
itself to her quiet handling.
Another of the vines of the forest is called Partridge-berry.
Rubies are hidden among its foliage, and if you eat of this
fruit, you will grow wise in the wisdom of birds. You will know
where the oven-bird secretes her nest, and where the wood-cock
dances in the air at night; the drumming-log of the ruffed grouse
will be easy to find, and you will see the dark lodges of the
evergreen thickets inhabited by hundreds of warblers. There will
be no dead silence for you in the forest, any longer, but you
will hear sweet and delicate voices on every side, voices that
you know and love; you will catch the key-note of the silver
flute of the woodthrush, and the silver harp of the veery, and
the silver bells of the hermit; and something in your heart will
answer to them all. In the frosty stillness of October nights
you will see the airy tribes flitting across the moon, following
the secret call that guides them southward. In the calm
brightness of winter sunshine, filling sheltered copses with
warmth and cheer, you will watch the lingering blue-birds and
robins and song-sparrows playing at summer, while the chickadees
and the juncos and the cross-bills make merry in the windswept
fields. In the lucent mornings of April you will hear your old
friends coming home to you, Phoebe, and Oriole, and
Yellow-Throat, and Red-Wing, and Tanager, and Cat-Bird. When
they call to you and greet you, you will understand that Nature
knows a secret for which man has never found a word--the secret
that tells itself in song.
The third of the forest-vines is Wood-Magic. It bears neither
flower nor fruit. Its leaves are hardly to be distinguished
from the leaves of the other vines. Perhaps they are a little
rounder than the Snowberry's, a little more pointed than the
Partridge-berry's; sometimes you might mistake them for the
one, sometimes for the other. No marks of warning have been
written upon them. If you find them it is your fortune; if
you taste them it is your fate.
For as you browse your way through the forest, nipping
here and there a rosy leaf of young winter-green, a fragrant
emerald tip of balsam-fir, a twig of spicy birch, if by chance
you pluck the leaves of Wood-Magic and eat them, you will not
know what you have done, but the enchantment of the tree-land
will enter your heart and the charm of the wildwood will flow
through your veins.
You will never get away from it. The sighing of the wind
through the pine-trees and the laughter of the stream in its
rapids will sound through all your dreams. On beds of silken
softness you will long for the sleep-song of whispering leaves
above your head, and the smell of a couch of balsam-boughs. At
tables spread with dainty fare you will be hungry for the joy of
the hunt, and for the angler's sylvan feast. In proud cities you
will weary for the sight of a mountain trail; in great cathedrals
you will think of the long, arching aisles of the woodland; and
in the noisy solitude of crowded streets you will hone after the
This is what will happen to you if you eat the leaves of
that little vine, Wood-Magic. And this is what happened to
The Cabin by the Rivers
Two highways meet before the door, and a third reaches away to
the southward, broad and smooth and white. But there are no
travellers passing by. The snow that has fallen during the
night is unbroken. The pale February sunrise makes blue shadows
on it, sharp and jagged, an outline of the fir-trees on the
mountain-crest quarter of, a mile away.
In summer the highways are dissolved into three wild
rivers--the River of Rocks, which issues from the hills; the
River of Meadows, which flows from the great lake; and the
River of the Way Out, which runs down from their meeting-place
to the settlements and the little world. But in winter, when
the ice is firm under the snow, and the going is fine, there
are no tracks upon the three broad roads except the paths of
the caribou, and the footprints of the marten and the mink and
the fox, and the narrow trails made by Luke Dubois on his way
to and from his cabin by the rivers.
He leaned in the door-way, looking out. Behind him in the
shadow, the fire was still snapping in the little stove where
he had cooked his breakfast. There was a comforting smell of
bacon and venison in the room; the tea-pot stood on the table
half-empty. Here in the corner were his rifle and some of his
traps. On the wall hung his snowshoes. Under the bunk was a
pile of skins. Half-open on the bench lay the book that he had
been reading the evening before, while the snow was falling. It
was a book of veritable fairy-tales, which told how men had made
their way in the world, and achieved great fortunes, and won
success, by toiling hard at first, and then by trading and
bargaining and getting ahead of other men.
"Well," said Luke, to himself, as he stood at the door, "I
could do that too. Without doubt I also am one of the men who
can do things. They did not work any harder than I do. But
they got better pay. I am twenty-five. For ten years I have
worked hard, and what have I got for it? This!"
He stepped out into the morning, alert and vigorous,
deep-chested and straight-hipped. The strength of the hills
had gone into him, and his eyes were bright with health. His
kingdom was spread before him. There along the River of
Meadows were the haunts of the moose and the caribou where he
hunted in the fall; and yonder on the burnt hills around the
great lake were the places where he watched for the bears; and
up beside the River of Rocks ran his line of traps, swinging back
by secret ways to many a nameless pond and hidden
beaver-meadow; and all along the streams, when the ice went
out in the spring, the great trout would be leaping in rapid
and pool. Among the peaks and valleys of that forest-clad
kingdom he could find his way as easily as a merchant walks
from his house to his office. The secrets of bird and beast
were known to him; every season of the year brought him its
own tribute; the woods were his domain, vast, inexhaustible,
Here was his home, his cabin that he had built with his
own hands. The roof was tight, the walls were well chinked
with moss. It was snug and warm. But small--how pitifully
small it looked to-day--and how lonely!
His hand-sledge stood beside the door, and against it
leaned the axe. He caught it up and began to split wood for
the stove. "No!" he cried, throwing down the axe, "I'm tired
of this. It has lasted long enough. I'm going out to make my
way in the world."
A couple of hours later, the sledge was packed with camp-gear
and bundles of skins. The door of the cabin was shut; a
ghostlike wreath of blue smoke curled from the chimney. Luke
stood, in his snowshoes, on the white surface of the River of the
Way Out. He turned to look back for a moment, and waved his
"Good-bye, old cabin! Good-bye, the rivers! Good-bye, the
The House on the Main Street
All the good houses in Scroll-Saw City were different, in the
number and shape of the curious pinnacles that rose from their
roofs and in the trimmings of their verandas. Yet they were
all alike, too, in their general expression of putting their
best foot foremost and feeling quite sure that they made a
brave show. They had lace curtains in their front parlour
windows, and outside of the curtains were large red and yellow
pots of artificial flowers and indestructible palms and
vulcanised rubber-plants. It was a gay sight.
But by far the bravest of these houses was the residence
of Mr. Matthew Wilson, the principal merchant of Scroll-Saw
City. It stood on a corner of Main Street, glancing slyly out
of the tail of one eye, side-ways down the street, toward the
shop and the business, but keeping a bold, complacent front
toward the street-cars and the smaller houses across the way.
It might well be satisfied with itself, for it had three more
pinnacles than any of its neighbours, and the work of the
scroll-saw was looped and festooned all around the eaves and
porticoes and bay-windows in amazing richness. Moreover, in
the front yard were cast-iron images painted white: a stag
reposing on a door-mat; Diana properly dressed and returning
from the chase; a small iron boy holding over his head a
parasol from the ferrule of which a fountain squirted. The
paths were of asphalt, gray and gritty in winter, but now, in
the summer heat, black and pulpy to the tread.
There were many feet passing over them this afternoon, for
Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Wilson were giving a reception to
celebrate the official entrance of their daughter Amanda into a
social life which she had permeated unofficially for several
years. The house was sizzling full of people. Those who were
jammed in the parlour tried to get into the dining-room, and
those who were packed in the dining-room struggled to escape,
holding plates of stratified cake and liquefied ice-cream high
above their neighbours' heads like signals of danger and
distress. Everybody was talking at the same time, in a loud,
shrill voice, and nobody listened to what anybody else was
saying. But it did not matter, for they all said the same things.
"Elegant house for a party, so full of--" "How perfectly
lovely Amanda Wilson looks in that--" "Awfully warm day!
Were you at the Tompkins' last--" "Wilson's Emporium must be
doing good business to keep up all this--" "Hear he's going
to enlarge the store and take Luke Woods into the--"
"Shouldn't wonder if there might be a wedding here before
The tide of chatter rose and swelled and ebbed and
suddenly sank away. At six o'clock, the minister and two
maiden ladies in black silk with lilac ribbons, laid down their
last plates of ice-cream and said they thought they must be
going. Amanda and her mother preened their dresses and patted
their hair. Come into the study," said Mr. Wilson to Luke. "I
want to have a talk with you."
The little bookless room, called the study, was the one
that kept its eye on the shop and the business, away down the
street. You could see the brick front, and the plate-glass
windows, and part of the gilt sign.
"Pretty good store," said Mr. Wilson, jingling the keys in
his pocket, "does the biggest trade in the county, biggest but
one in the whole state, I guess. And I must say, Luke Woods,
you've done your share, these last five years, in building it
up. Never had a clerk work so hard and so steady. You've got
good business sense, I guess."
"I'm glad you think so," said Luke. "I did as well as I
"Yes," said the elder man, "and now I'm about ready to
take you in with me, give you a share in the business. I want
some one to help me run it, make it larger. We can double it,
easy, if we stick to it and spread out. No reason why you
shouldn't make a fortune out of it, and have a house just like
this on the other corner, when you're my age."
Luke's thoughts were wandering a little. They went out
from the stuffy room, beyond the dusty street, and the
jangling cars, and the gilt sign, and the shop full of
dry-goods and notions, and the high desks in the office--out
to the dim, cool forest, where Snowberry and Partridge-berry
and Wood-Magic grow. He heard the free winds rushing over the
tree-tops, and saw the trail winding away before him in the
"You are very kind," said he, "I hope you will not be
disappointed in me. Sometimes I think, perhaps--"
"Not at all, not at all," said the other. "It's all
right. You're well fitted for it. And then, there's another
thing. I guess you like my daughter Amanda pretty well. Eh?
I've watched you, young man. I've had my eye on you! Now, of
course, I can't say much about it--never can be sure of these
kind of things, you know--but if you and she--"
The voice went on rolling out words complacently. But
something strange was working in Luke's blood,
and other voices were sounding faintly in his ears. He heard
the lisping of the leaves on the little poplar-trees, the
whistle of the black duck's wings as he circled in the air,
the distant drumming of the grouse on his log, the rumble of
the water-fall in the River of Rocks. The spray cooled his
face. He saw the fish rising along the pool, and a stag
feeding among the lily-pads.
"I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Wilson," said he at
last, when the elder man stopped talking. "You have certainly
treated me most generously. The only question is, whether--
But to-morrow night, I think, with your consent, I will speak
to your daughter. To-night I am going down to the store;
there is a good deal of work to do on the books."
But when Luke came to the store, he did not go in. He
walked along the street till he came to the river.
The water-side was strangely deserted. Everybody was at
supper. A couple of schooners were moored at the wharf. The
Portland steamer had gone out. The row-boats hung idle at their
little dock. Down the river, drifting and dancing lightly over
the opalescent ripples, following the gentle turns of the current
which flowed past the end of the dock where Luke was standing,
came a white canoe, empty and astray.
The White Canoe
"That looks just like my old canoe," said he. "Somebody must
have left it adrift up the river. I wonder how it floated
down here without being picked up." He put out his hand and
caught it, as it touched the dock.
In the stern a good paddle of maple-wood was lying; in the
middle there was a roll of blankets and a pack of camp-stuff; in
the bow a rifle.
"All ready for a trip," he laughed. "Nobody going but me?
Well, then, au large!" And stepping into the canoe he
pushed out on the river.
The saffron and golden lights in the sky diffused
themselves over the surface of the water, and spread from the bow
of the canoe in deeper waves of purple and orange, as he paddled
swiftly up stream. The pale yellow gas-lamps of the town faded
behind him. The lumber-yards and factories and disconsolate
little houses of the outskirts seemed to melt away. In a little
while he was floating between dark walls of forest, through the
heart of the wilderness.
The night deepened around him and the sky hung out its
thousand lamps. Odours of the woods floated on the air: the
spicy fragrance of the firs; the breath of hidden banks of
twin-flower. Muskrats swam noiselessly in the shadows, diving
with a great commotion as the canoe ran upon them suddenly.
A horned owl hooted from the branch of a dead pine-tree; far
back in the forest a fox barked twice. The moon crept up
behind the wall of trees and touched the stream with silver.
Presently the forest receded: the banks of the river grew
broad and open; the dew glistened on the tall grass; it was
surely the River of Meadows. Far ahead of him in a bend of
the stream, Luke's ear caught a new sound: SLOSH, SLOSH, SLOSH,
as if some heavy animal were crossing the wet meadow. Then a
great splash! Luke swung the canoe into the shadow of the bank
and paddled fast. As he turned the point a black bear came out
of the river, and stood on the shore, shaking the water around
him in glittering spray. Ping! said the rifle, and the bear
fell. "Good luck!" said Luke. "I haven't forgotten how,
after all. I'll take him into the canoe, and dress him up at
Yes, there was the little cabin at the meeting of the
rivers. The door was padlocked, but Luke knew how to pry off
one of the staples. Squirrels had made a litter on the floor,
but that was soon swept out, and a fire crackled in the stove.
There was tea and ham and bread in the pack in the canoe.
Supper never tasted better. "One more night in the old camp,"
said Luke as he rolled himself in the blanket and dropped
asleep in a moment.
The sun shone in at the door and woke him. "I must have
a trout for breakfast," he cried, "there's one waiting for me
at the mouth of Alder Brook, I suppose." So he caught up his
rod from behind the door, and got into the canoe and paddled
up the River of Rocks. There was the broad, dark pool, like a
little lake, with a rapid running in at the head, and close
beside the rapid, the mouth of the brook. He sent his fly out by
the edge of the alders. There was a huge swirl on the water, and
the great-grandfather of all the trout in the river was
hooked. Up and down the pool he played for half an hour,
until at last the fight was over, and for want of a net Luke
beached him on the gravel bank at the foot of the pool.
"Seven pounds if it's an ounce," said he. "This is my
lucky day. Now all I need is some good meat to provision the
He glanced down the river, and on the second point below
the pool he saw a great black bullmoose with horns five feet
Quietly, swiftly, the canoe went gliding down the stream;
and ever as it crept along, the moose loped easily before it,
from point to point, from bay to bay, past the little cabin,
down the River of the Way Out, now rustling unseen through a
bank of tall alders, now standing out for a moment bold and
black on a beach of white sand--so all day long the moose loped
down the stream and the white canoe followed. Just as the
setting sun was poised above the trees, the great bull stopped
and stood with head lifted. Luke pushed the canoe as near as he
dared, and looked down for the rifle. He had left it at the
cabin! The moose tossed his huge antlers, grunted, and stepped
quietly over the bushes into the forest.
Luke paddled on down the stream. It occurred to him,
suddenly, that it was near evening. He wondered a little how
he should reach home in time for his engagement. But it did
not seem strange, as he went swiftly on with the river, to see
the first houses of the town, and the lumber-yards, and the
schooners at the wharf.
He made the canoe fast at the dock, and went up the Main
Street. There was the old shop, but the sign over it read,
"Wilson and Woods Company, The Big Store." He went on to the
house with the white iron images in the front yard. Diana was
still returning from the chase. The fountain still squirted
from the point of the little boy's parasol.
On the veranda sat a stout man in a rocking chair, reading the
newspaper. At the side of the house two little girls with
pig-tails were playing croquet. Some one in the parlour was
executing "After the Ball is Over" on a mechanical piano.
Luke accosted a stranger who passed him. "Excuse me, but
can you tell me whether this is Mr. Matthew Wilson's house?"
"It used to be," said the stranger, "but old man Wilson
has been dead these ten years."
"And who lives here now?" asked Luke.
"Mr. Woods: he married Wilson's daughter," said the
stranger, and went on his way.
"Well," said Luke to himself, "this is just a little
queer. Woods was my name for a while, when I lived here, but
now, I suppose, I'm Luke Dubois again. Dashed if I can
understand it. Somebody must have been dreaming."
So he went back to the white canoe, and paddled away up
the river, and nobody in Scroll-Saw City ever set eyes on him
THE OTHER WISE MAN
You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how
they travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the
manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story
of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising,
and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren
in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire
of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet
accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the
probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking and the
strange way of his finding the One whom he sought--I would
tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of
Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man.
In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and
Herod reigned in Jerusalem, there lived in the city of
Ecbatana, among the mountains of Persia, a certain man named
Artaban. His house stood close to the outermost of the walls
which encircled the royal treasury. From his roof he could look
over the seven-fold battlements of black and white and crimson
and blue and red and silver and gold, to the hill where the
summer palace of the Parthian emperors glittered like a jewel in
Around the dwelling of Artaban spread a fair garden, a
tangle of flowers and fruit-trees, watered by a score of
streams descending from the slopes of Mount Orontes, and made
musical by innumerable birds. But all colour was lost in the
soft and odorous darkness of the late September night, and all
sounds were hushed in the deep charm of its silence, save the
plashing of the water, like a voice half-sobbing and
half-laughing under the shadows. High above the trees a dim
glow of light shone through the curtained arches of the upper
chamber, where the master of the house was holding council
with his friends.
He stood by the doorway to greet his guests--a tall, dark
man of about forty years, with brilliant eyes set near together
under his broad brow, and firm lines graven around his fine, thin
lips; the brow of a dreamer and the mouth of a soldier, a man of
sensitive feeling but inflexible will--one of those who, in
whatever age they may live, are born for inward conflict and a
life of quest.
His robe was of pure white wool, thrown over a tunic of
silk; and a white, pointed cap, with long lapels at the sides,
rested on his flowing black hair. It was the dress of the
ancient priesthood of the Magi, called the fire-worshippers.
"Welcome!" he said, in his low, pleasant voice, as one
after another entered the room--"welcome, Abdus; peace be with
you, Rhodaspes and Tigranes, and with you my father, Abgarus.
You are all welcome. This house grows bright with the joy of
There were nine of the men, differing widely in age, but
alike in the richness of their dress of many-coloured silks,
and in the massive golden collars around their necks, marking
them as Parthian nobles, and in the winged circles of gold
resting upon their breasts, the sign of the followers of
They took their places around a small black altar at the
end of the room, where a tiny flame was burning. Artaban,
standing beside it, and waving a barsom of thin tamarisk
branches above the fire, fed it with dry sticks of pine and
fragrant oils. Then he began the ancient chant of the Yasna,
and the voices of his companions joined in the hymn to
We worship the Spirit Divine,
all wisdom and goodness possessing,
Surrounded by Holy Immortals,
the givers of bounty and blessing;
We joy in the work of His hands,
His truth and His power confessing.
We praise all the things that are pure,
for these are His only Creation
The thoughts that are true, and the words
and the deeds that have won approbation;
These are supported by Him,
and for these we make adoration.
Hear us, O Mazda! Thou livest
in truth and in heavenly gladness;
Cleanse us from falsehood, and keep us
from evil and bondage to badness,
Pour out the light and the joy of Thy life
on our darkness and sadness.
Shine on our gardens and fields,
shine on our working and waving;
Shine on the whole race of man,
believing and unbelieving;
Shine on us now through the night,
Shine on us now in Thy might,
The flame of our holy love
and the song of our worship receiving.
The fire rose with the chant, throbbing as if the flame
responded to the music, until it cast a bright illumination
through the whole apartment, revealing its simplicity and
The floor was laid with tiles of dark blue veined with
white; pilasters of twisted silver stood out against the blue
walls; the clear-story of round-arched windows above them was
hung with azure silk; the vaulted ceiling was a pavement of
blue stones, like the body of heaven in its clearness, sown with
silver stars. From the four corners of the roof hung four
golden magic-wheels, called the tongues of the gods. At the
eastern end, behind the altar, there were two dark-red pillars
of porphyry; above them a lintel of the same stone, on which
was carved the figure of a winged archer, with his arrow set
to the string and his bow drawn.
The doorway between the pillars, which opened upon the
terrace of the roof, was covered with a heavy curtain of the
colour of a ripe pomegranate, embroidered with innumerable
golden rays shooting upward from the floor. In effect the
room was like a quiet, starry night, all azure and silver,
flushed in the cast with rosy promise of the dawn. It was, as
the house of a man should be, an expression of the character
and spirit of the master.
He turned to his friends when the song was ended, and
invited them to be seated on the divan at the western end of
"You have come to-night," said he, looking around the
circle, "at my call, as the faithful scholars of Zoroaster, to
renew your worship and rekindle your faith in the God of Purity,
even as this fire has been rekindled on the altar. We worship
not the fire, but Him of whom it is the chosen symbol, because it
is the purest of all created things. It speaks to us of one who
is Light and Truth. Is it not so, my father?"
"It is well said, my son," answered the venerable Abgarus.
"The enlightened are never idolaters. They lift the veil of
form and go in to the shrine of reality, and new light and
truth are coming to them continually through the old symbols."
"Hear me, then, my father and my friends," said Artaban,
"while I tell you of the new light and truth that have come to
me through the most ancient of all signs. We have searched
the secrets of Nature together, and studied the healing virtues
of water and fire and the plants. We have read also the
books of prophecy in which the future is dimly foretold in
words that are hard to understand. But the highest of all
learning is the knowledge of the stars. To trace their course
is to untangle the threads of the mystery of life from the
beginning to the end. If we could follow them perfectly, nothing
would be hidden from us. But is not our knowledge of them still
incomplete? Are there not many stars still beyond our
horizon--lights that are known only to the dwellers in the far
south-land, among the spice-trees of Punt and the gold mines of
There was a murmur of assent among the listeners.
"The stars," said Tigranes, "are the thoughts of the
Eternal. They are numberless. But the thoughts of man can be
counted, like the years of his life. The wisdom of the Magi
is the greatest of all wisdoms on earth, because it knows its
own ignorance. And that is the secret of power. We keep men
always looking and waiting for a new sunrise. But we
ourselves understand that the darkness is equal to the light,
and that the conflict between them will never be ended."
"That does not satisfy me," answered Artaban, "for, if the
waiting must be endless, if there could be no fulfilment of
it, then it would not be wisdom to look and wait. We should
become like those new teachers of the Greeks, who say that
there is no truth, and that the only wise men are those who
spend their lives in discovering and exposing the lies that
have been believed in the world. But the new sunrise will
certainly appear in the appointed time. Do not our own books
tell us that this will come to pass, and that men will see the
brightness of a great light?"
"That is true," said the voice of Abgarus; "every faithful
disciple of Zoroaster knows the prophecy of the Avesta, and
carries the word in his heart. `In that day Sosiosh the
Victorious shall arise out of the number of the prophets in
the east country. Around him shall shine a mighty brightness,
and he shall make life everlasting, incorruptible, and
immortal, and the dead shall rise again.'"
"This is a dark saying," said Tigranes, "and it may be
that we shall never understand it. It is better to consider
the things that are near at hand, and to increase the
influence of the Magi in their own country, rather than to
look for one who may be a stranger, and to whom we must resign
The others seemed to approve these words. There was a
silent feeling of agreement manifest among them; their looks
responded with that indefinable expression which always
follows when a speaker has uttered the thought that has been
slumbering in the hearts of his listeners. But Artaban turned
to Abgarus with a glow on his face, and said:
"My father, I have kept this prophecy in the secret place
of my soul. Religion without a great hope would be like an
altar without a living fire. And now the flame has burned
more brightly, and by the light of it I have read other words
which also have come from the fountain of Truth, and speak yet
more clearly of the rising of the Victorious One in his
He drew from the breast of his tunic two small rolls of
fine parchment, with writing upon them, and unfolded them
carefully upon his knee.
"In the years that are lost in the past, long before our
fathers came into the land of Babylon, there were wise men in
Chaldea, from whom the first of the Magi learned the secret of
the heavens. And of these Balaam the son of Beor was one of the
mightiest. Hear the words of his prophecy: 'There shall come a
star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel.'"
The lips of Tigranes drew downward with contempt, as he
"Judah was a captive by the waters of Babylon, and the
sons of Jacob were in bondage to our kings. The tribes of
Israel are scattered through the mountains like lost sheep,
and from the remnant that dwells in Judea under the yoke of
Rome neither star nor sceptre shall arise."
"And yet," answered Artaban, "it was the Hebrew Daniel,
the mighty searcher of dreams, the counsellor of kings, the
wise Belteshazzar, who was most honoured and beloved of our
great King Cyrus. A prophet of sure things and a reader of
the thoughts of the Eternal, Daniel proved himself to our
people. And these are the words that he wrote." (Artaban
read from the second roll:) " 'Know, therefore, and understand
that from the going forth of the commandment to restore
Jerusalem, unto the Anointed One, the Prince, the time shall be
seven and threescore and two weeks."'
"But, my son," said Abgarus, doubtfully, "these are
mystical numbers. Who can interpret them, or who can find the
key that shall unlock their meaning?"
Artaban answered: "It has been shown to me and to my
three companions among the Magi--Caspar, Melchior, and
Balthazar. We have searched the ancient tablets of Chaldea
and computed the time. It falls in this year. We have
studied the sky, and in the spring of the year we saw two of
the greatest planets draw near together in the sign of the
Fish, which is the house of the Hebrews. We also saw a new
star there, which shone for one night and then vanished. Now
again the two great planets are meeting. This night is their
conjunction. My three brothers are watching by the ancient
Temple of the Seven Spheres, at Borsippa, in Babylonia, and I
am watching here. If the star shines again, they will wait
ten days for me at the temple, and then we will set out
together for Jerusalem, to see and worship the promised one who
shall be born King of Israel. I believe the sign will come. I
have made ready for the journey. I have sold my possessions, and
bought these three jewels--a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl--to
carry them as tribute to the King. And I ask you to go with me
on the pilgrimage, that we may have joy together in finding the
Prince who is worthy to be served."
While he was speaking he thrust his hand into the inmost
fold of his, girdle and drew out three great gems--one blue as
a fragment of the night sky, one redder than a ray of sunrise,
and one as pure as the peak of a snow-mountain at
twilight--and laid them on the outspread scrolls before him.
But his friends looked on with strange and alien eyes. A
veil of doubt and mistrust came over their faces, like a fog
creeping up from the marshes to hide the hills. They glanced
at each other with looks of wonder and pity, as those who have
listened to incredible sayings, the story of a wild vision, or
the proposal of an impossible enterprise.
At last Tigranes said: "Artaban, this is a vain dream.
It comes from too much looking upon the stars and the
cherishing of lofty thoughts. It would be wiser to spend the
time in gathering money for the new fire-temple at Chala. No
king will ever rise from the broken race of Israel, and no end
will ever come to the eternal strife of light and darkness.
He who looks for it is a chaser of shadows. Farewell."
And another said: "Artaban, I have no knowledge of these
things, and my office as guardian of the royal treasure binds
me here. The quest is not for me. But if thou must follow
it, fare thee well."
And another said: "In my house there sleeps a new bride,
and I cannot leave her nor take her with me on this strange
journey. This quest is not for me. But may thy steps be
prospered wherever thou goest. So, farewell."
And another said: "I am ill and unfit for hardship, but
there is a man among my servants whom I will send with thee
when thou goest, to bring me word how thou farest."
So, one by one, they left the house of Artaban. But
Abgarus, the oldest and the one who loved him the best,
lingered after the others had gone, and said, gravely: "My
son, it may be that the light of truth is in this sign that
has appeared in the skies, and then it will surely lead to the
Prince and the mighty brightness. Or it may be that it is
only a shadow of the light, as Tigranes has said, and then he
who follows it will have a long pilgrimage and a fruitless
search. But it is better to follow even the shadow of the
best than to remain content with the worst. And those who
would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel
alone. I am too old for this journey, but my heart shall be
a companion of thy pilgrimage day and night, and I shall know
the end of thy quest. Go in peace."
Then Abgarus went out of the azure chamber with its silver
stars, and Artaban was left in solitude.
He gathered up the jewels and replaced them in his girdle.
For a long time he stood and watched the flame that flickered
and sank upon the altar. Then he crossed the hall, lifted the
heavy curtain, and passed out between the pillars of porphyry to
the terrace on the roof.
The shiver that runs through the earth ere she rouses from
her night-sleep had already begun, and the cool wind that
heralds the daybreak was drawing downward from the lofty
snow-traced ravines of Mount Orontes. Birds, half-awakened,
crept and chirped among the rustling leaves, and the smell of
ripened grapes came in brief wafts from the arbours.
Far over the eastern plain a white mist stretched like a
lake. But where the distant peaks of Zagros serrated the
western horizon the sky was clear. Jupiter and Saturn rolled
together like drops of lambent flame about to blend in one.
As Artaban watched them, a steel-blue spark was born out
of the darkness beneath, rounding itself with purple
splendours to a crimson sphere, and spiring upward through
rays of saffron and orange into a point of white radiance.
Tiny and infinitely remote, yet perfect in every part, it
pulsated in the enormous vault as if the three jewels in the
Magian's girdle had mingled and been transformed into a living
heart of light.
He bowed his head. He covered his brow with his hands.
"It is the sign," he said. "The King is coming, and I
will go to meet him."
All night long, Vasda, the swiftest of Artaban's horses, had
been waiting, saddled and bridled, in her stall, pawing the
ground impatiently, and shaking her bit as if she shared the
eagerness of her master's purpose, though she knew not its
Before the birds had fully roused to their strong, high,
joyful chant of morning song, before the white mist had begun
to lift lazily from the plain, the Other Wise Man was in the
saddle, riding swiftly along the high-road, which skirted the
base of Mount Orontes, westward.
How close, how intimate is the comradeship between a man
and his favourite horse on a long journey. It is a silent,
comprehensive friendship, an intercourse beyond the need of
They drink at the same way-side springs, and sleep under
the same guardian stars. They are conscious together of the
subduing spell of nightfall and the quickening joy of
daybreak. The master shares his evening meal with his hungry
companion, and feels the soft, moist lips caressing the palm
of his hand as they close over the morsel of bread. In the
gray dawn he is roused from his bivouac by the gentle stir of
a warm, sweet breath over his sleeping face, and looks up into
the eyes of his faithful fellow-traveller, ready and waiting
for the toil of the day. Surely, unless he is a pagan and an
unbeliever, by whatever name he calls upon his God, he will
thank Him for this voiceless sympathy, this dumb affection,
and his morning prayer will embrace a double blessing--God
bless us both, the horse and the rider, and keep our feet from
falling and our souls from death!
Then, through the keen morning air, the swift hoofs beat
their tattoo along the road, keeping time to the pulsing of
two hearts that are moved with the same eager desire--to
conquer space, to devour the distance, to attain the goal of
Artaban must indeed ride wisely and well if he would keep
the appointed hour with the other Magi; for the route was a
hundred and fifty parasangs, and fifteen was the utmost that
he could travel in a day. But he knew Vasda's strength, and
pushed forward without anxiety, making the fixed distance
every day, though he must travel late into the night, and in
the morning long before sunrise.
He passed along the brown slopes of Mount Orontes,
furrowed by the rocky courses of a hundred torrents.
He crossed the level plains of the Nisaeans, where the
famous herds of horses, feeding in the wide pastures, tossed
their heads at Vasda's approach, and galloped away with a
thunder of many hoofs, and flocks of wild birds rose suddenly
from the swampy meadows, wheeling in great circles with a
shining flutter of innumerable wings and shrill cries of
He traversed the fertile fields of Concabar, where the
dust from the threshing-floors filled the air with a golden
mist, half hiding the huge temple of Astarte with its four
At Baghistan, among the rich gardens watered by fountains
from the rock, he looked up at the mountain thrusting its
immense rugged brow out over the road, and saw the figure of
King Darius trampling upon his fallen foes, and the proud list
of his wars and conquests graven high upon the face of the
Over many a cold and desolate pass, crawling painfully
across the wind-swept shoulders of the hills; down many a
black mountain-gorge, where the river roared and raced before
him like a savage guide; across many a smiling vale, with
terraces of yellow limestone full of vines and fruit-trees;
through the oak-groves of Carine and the dark Gates of Zagros,
walled in by precipices; into the ancient city of Chala, where
the people of Samaria had been kept in captivity long ago; and
out again by the mighty portal, riven through the encircling
hills, where he saw the image of the High Priest of the Magi
sculptured on the wall of rock, with hand uplifted as if to bless
the centuries of pilgrims; past the entrance of the narrow
defile, filled from end to end with orchards of peaches and figs,
through which the river Gyndes foamed down to meet him; over
the broad rice-fields, where the autumnal vapours spread their
deathly mists; following along the course of the river, under
tremulous shadows of poplar and tamarind, among the lower
hills; and out upon the flat plain, where the road ran
straight as an arrow through the stubble-fields and parched
meadows; past the city of Ctesiphon, where the Parthian
emperors reigned, and the vast metropolis of Seleucia which
Alexander built; across the swirling floods of Tigris and the
many channels of Euphrates, flowing yellow through the
corn-lands--Artaban pressed onward until he arrived, at
nightfall on the tenth day, beneath the shattered walls of
Vasda was almost spent, and Artaban would gladly have
turned into the city to find rest and refreshment for himself
and for her. But he knew that it was three hours' journey yet
to the Temple of the Seven Spheres, and he must reach the
place by midnight if he would find his comrades waiting. So
he did not halt, but rode steadily across the stubble-fields.
A grove of date-palms made an island of gloom in the pale
yellow sea. As she passed into the shadow Vasda slackened her
pace, and began to pick her way more carefully.
Near the farther end of the darkness an access of caution
seemed to fall upon her. She scented some danger or
difficulty; it was not in her heart to fly from it--only to be
prepared for it, and to meet it wisely, as a good horse should
do. The grove was close and silent as the tomb; not a leaf
rustled, not a bird sang.
She felt her steps before her delicately, carrying her
head low, and sighing now and then with apprehension. At last
she gave a quick breath of anxiety and dismay, and stood
stock-still, quivering in every muscle, before a dark object in
the shadow of the last palm-tree.
Artaban dismounted. The dim starlight revealed the form
of a man lying across the road. His humble dress and the
outline of his haggard face showed that he was probably one of
the Hebrews who still dwelt in great numbers around the city.
His pallid skin, dry and yellow as parchment, bore the mark of
the deadly fever which ravaged the marsh-lands in autumn. The
chill of death was in his lean hand, and, as Artaban released
it, the arm fell back inertly upon the motionless breast.
He turned away with a thought of pity, leaving the body to
that strange burial which the Magians deemed most fitting--the
funeral of the desert, from which the kites and vultures rise
on dark wings, and the beasts of prey slink furtively away.
When they are gone there is only a heap of white bones on the
But, as he turned, a long, faint, ghostly sigh came from
the man's lips. The bony fingers gripped the hem of the
Magian's robe and held him fast.
Artaban's heart leaped to his throat, not with fear, but
with a dumb resentment at the importunity of this blind delay.
How could he stay here in the darkness to minister to a
dying stranger? What claim had this unknown fragment of human
life upon his compassion or his service? If he lingered but
for an hour he could hardly reach Borsippa at the appointed
time. His companions would think he had given up the journey.
They would go without him. He would lose his quest.
But if he went on now, the man would surely die. If
Artaban stayed, life might be restored. His spirit throbbed
and fluttered with the urgency of the crisis. Should he risk
the great reward of his faith for the sake of a single deed of
charity? Should he turn aside, if only for a moment, from the
following of the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor,
"God of truth and purity," he prayed, "direct me in the
holy path, the way of wisdom which Thou only knowest."
Then he turned back to the sick man. Loosening
the grasp of his hand, he carried him to a little mound at the
foot of the palm-tree.
He unbound the thick folds of the turban and opened the
garment above the sunken breast. He brought water from one of
the small canals near by, and moistened the sufferer's brow
and mouth. He mingled a draught of one of those simple but
potent remedies which he carried always in his girdle--for the
Magians were physicians as well as astrologers--and poured it
slowly between the colourless lips. Hour after hour he
laboured as only a skilful healer of disease can do. At last
the man's strength returned; he sat up and looked about him.
"Who art thou?" he said, in the rude dialect of the
country, "and why hast thou sought me here to bring back my
"I am Artaban the Magian, of the city of Ecbatana, and I
am going to Jerusalem in search of one who is to be born King
of the Jews, a great Prince and Deliverer of all men. I dare
not delay any longer upon my journey, for the caravan that has
waited for me may depart without me. But see, here is all that I
have left of bread and wine, and here is a potion of healing
herbs. When thy strength is restored thou canst find the
dwellings of the Hebrews among the houses of Babylon."
The Jew raised his trembling hand solemnly to heaven.
"Now may the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob bless and
prosper the journey of the merciful, and bring him in peace to
his desired haven. Stay! I have nothing to give thee in
return--only this: that I can tell thee where the Messiah must
be sought. For our prophets have said that he should be born
not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem of Judah. May the Lord
bring thee in safety to that place, because thou hast had pity
upon the sick."
It was already long past midnight. Artaban rode in haste,
and Vasda, restored by the brief rest, ran eagerly through the
silent plain and swam the channels of the river. She put
forth the remnant of her strength, and fled over the ground
like a gazelle.
But the first beam of the rising sun sent a long shadow before
her as she entered upon the final stadium of the journey, and the
eyes of Artaban, anxiously scanning the great mound of Nimrod and
the Temple of the Seven Spheres, could discern no trace of his
The many-coloured terraces of black and orange and red and
yellow and green and blue and white, shattered by the
convulsions of nature, and crumbling under the repeated blows
of human violence, still glittered like a ruined rainbow in
the morning light.
Artaban rode swiftly around the hill. He dismounted and
climbed to the highest terrace, looking out toward the west.
The huge desolation of the marshes stretched away to the
horizon and the border of the desert. Bitterns stood by the
stagnant pools and jackals skulked through the low bushes; but
there was no sign of the caravan of the Wise Men, far or near.
At the edge of the terrace he saw a little cairn of broken
bricks, and under them a piece of papyrus. He caught it up
and read: "We have waited past the midnight, and can delay no
longer. We go to find the King. Follow us across the desert."
Artaban sat down upon the ground and covered his head in
"How can I cross the desert," said he, "with no food and
with a spent horse? I must return to Babylon, sell my
sapphire, and buy a train of camels, and provision for the
journey. I may never overtake my friends. Only God the
merciful knows whether I shall not lose the sight of the King
because I tarried to show mercy."
There was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, where I was
listening to the story of the Other Wise Man. Through this
silence I saw, but very dimly, his figure passing over the
dreary undulations of the desert, high upon the back of his
camel, rocking steadily onward like a ship over the waves.
The land of death spread its cruel net around him. The
stony waste bore no fruit but briers and thorns. The dark
ledges of rock thrust themselves above the surface here and
there, like the bones of perished monsters. Arid and
inhospitable mountain-ranges rose before him, furrowed with dry
channels of ancient torrents, white and ghastly as scars on the
face of nature. Shifting hills of treacherous sand were heaped
like tombs along the horizon. By day, the fierce heat pressed
its intolerable burden on the quivering air. No living creature
moved on the dumb, swooning earth, but tiny jerboas scuttling
through the parched bushes, or lizards vanishing in the clefts of
the rock. By night the jackals prowled and barked in the
distance, and the lion made the black ravines echo with his
hollow roaring, while a bitter, blighting chill followed the
fever of the day. Through heat and cold, the Magian moved
Then I saw the gardens and orchards of Damascus, watered
by the streams of Abana and Pharpar, with their sloping swards
inlaid with bloom, and their thickets of myrrh and roses. I
saw the long, snowy ridge of Hermon, and the dark groves of
cedars, and the valley of the Jordan, and the blue waters of
the Lake of Galilee, and the fertile plain of Esdraelon, and the
hills of Ephraim, and the highlands of Judah. Through all these
I followed the figure of Artaban moving steadily onward, until he
arrived at Bethlehem. And it was the third day after the three
Wise Men had come to that place and had found Mary and Joseph,
with the young child, Jesus, and had laid their gifts of gold and
frankincense and myrrh at his feet.
Then the Other Wise Man drew near, weary, but full of
hope, bearing his ruby and his pearl to offer to the King.
"For now at last," he said, "I shall surely find him, though
I be alone, and later than my brethren. This is the place of
which the Hebrew exile told me that the prophets had spoken,
and here I shall behold the rising of the great light. But I
must inquire about the visit of my brethren, and to what house
the star directed them, and to whom they presented their
The streets of the village seemed to be deserted, and
Artaban wondered whether the men had all gone up to the
hill-pastures to bring down their sheep. From the open door of a
cottage he heard the sound of a woman's voice singing softly. He
entered and found a young mother hushing her baby to rest. She
told him of the strangers from the far East who had appeared in
the village three days ago, and how they said that a star had
guided them to the place where Joseph of Nazareth was lodging
with his wife and her new-born child, and how they had paid
reverence to the child and given him many rich gifts.
"But the travellers disappeared again," she continued, "as
suddenly as they had come. We were afraid at the strangeness
of their visit. We could not understand it. The man of
Nazareth took the child and his mother, and fled away that
same night secretly, and it was whispered that they were going
to Egypt. Ever since, there has been a spell upon the
village; something evil hangs over it. They say that the
Roman soldiers are coming from Jerusalem to force a new tax
from us, and the men have driven the flocks and herds far back
among the hills, and hidden themselves to escape it."
Artaban listened to her gentle, timid speech, and the
child in her arms looked up in his face and smiled, stretching
out its rosy hands to grasp at the winged circle of gold on
his breast. His heart warmed to the touch. It seemed like a
greeting of love and trust to one who had journeyed long in
loneliness and perplexity, fighting with his own doubts and
fears, and following a light that was veiled in clouds.
"Why might not this child have been the promised Prince?"
he asked within himself, as he touched its soft cheek. "Kings
have been born ere now in lowlier houses than this, and the
favourite of the stars may rise even from a cottage. But it
has not seemed good to the God of wisdom to reward my search
so soon and so easily. The one whom I seek has gone before
me; and now I must follow the King to Egypt."
The young mother laid the baby in its cradle, and rose to
minister to the wants of the strange guest that fate had
brought into her house. She set food before him, the plain
fare of peasants, but willingly offered, and therefore full of
refreshment for the soul as well as for the body. Artaban
accepted it gratefully; and, as he ate, the child fell into a
happy slumber, and murmured sweetly in its dreams, and a great
peace filled the room.
But suddenly there came the noise of a wild confusion in
the streets of the village, a shrieking and wailing of women's
voices, a clangour of brazen trumpets and a clashing of
swords, and a desperate cry: "The soldiers! the soldiers of
Herod! They are killing our children."
The young mother's face grew white with terror. She
clasped her child to her bosom, and crouched motionless in the
darkest corner of the room, covering him with the folds of her
robe, lest he should wake and cry.
But Artaban went quickly and stood in the doorway of the
house. His broad shoulders filled the portal from side to
side, and the peak of his white cap all but touched the
The soldiers came hurrying down the street with bloody
hands and dripping swords. At the sight of the stranger in
his imposing dress they hesitated with surprise. The captain
of the band approached the threshold to thrust him aside. But
Artaban did not stir. His face was as calm as though he were
watching the stars, and in his eyes there burned that steady
radiance before which even the half-tamed hunting leopard
shrinks, and the bloodhound pauses in his leap. He held the
soldier silently for an instant, and then said in a low voice:
"I am all alone in this place, and I am waiting to give
this jewel to the prudent captain who will leave me in peace."
He showed the ruby, glistening in the hollow of his hand
like a great drop of blood.
The captain was amazed at the splendour of the gem. The
pupils of his eyes expanded with desire, and the hard lines of
greed wrinkled around his lips. He stretched out his hand and
took the ruby.
"March on!" he cried to his men, "there is no child here.
The house is empty."
The clamor and the clang of arms passed down the street
as the headlong fury of the chase sweeps by the secret covert
where the trembling deer is hidden. Artaban re-entered the
cottage. He turned his face to the east and prayed:
"God of truth, forgive my sin! I have said the thing that
is not, to save the life of a child. And two of my gifts are
gone. I have spent for man that which was meant for God.
Shall I ever be worthy to see the face of the King?"
But the voice of the woman, weeping for joy in the shadow
behind him, said very gently:
"Because thou hast saved the life of my little one, may
the Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make His face to
shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up
His countenance upon thee and give thee peace."
Again there was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, deeper and
more mysterious than the first interval, and I understood that
the years of Artaban were flowing very swiftly under the
stillness, and I caught only a glimpse, here and there, of the
river of his life shining through the mist that concealed its
I saw him moving among the throngs of men in populous
Egypt, seeking everywhere for traces of the household that had
come down from Bethlehem, and finding them under the spreading
sycamore-trees of Heliopolis, and beneath the walls of the
Roman fortress of New Babylon beside the Nile--traces so faint
and dim that they vanished before him continually, as
footprints on the wet river-sand glisten for a moment with
moisture and then disappear.
I saw him again at the foot of the pyramids, which lifted
their sharp points into the intense saffron glow of the sunset
sky, changeless monuments of the perishable glory and the
imperishable hope of man. He looked up into the face of the
crouching Sphinx and vainly tried to read the meaning of the
calm eyes and smiling mouth. Was it, indeed, the mockery of
all effort and all aspiration, as Tigranes had said--the cruel
jest of a riddle that has no answer, a search that never can
succeed? Or was there a touch of pity and encouragement in
that inscrutable smile--a promise that even the defeated
should attain a victory, and the disappointed should discover a
prize, and the ignorant should be made wise, and the blind should
see, and the wandering should come into the haven at last?
I saw him again in an obscure house of Alexandria, taking
counsel with a Hebrew rabbi. The venerable man, bending over
the rolls of parchment on which the prophecies of Israel were
written, read aloud the pathetic words which foretold the
sufferings of the promised Messiah--the despised and rejected
of men, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
"And remember, my son," said he, fixing his eyes upon the
face of Artaban, "the King whom thou seekest is not to be
found in a palace, nor among the rich and powerful. If the
light of the world and the glory of Israel had been appointed
to come with the greatness of earthly splendour, it must have
appeared long ago. For no son of Abraham will ever again
rival the power which Joseph had in the palaces of Egypt, or
the magnificence of Solomon throned between the lions in
Jerusalem. But the light for which the world is waiting is a new
light, the glory that shall rise out of patient and triumphant
suffering. And the kingdom which is to be established forever is
a new kingdom, the royalty of unconquerable love.
"I do not know how this shall come to pass, nor how the
turbulent kings and peoples of earth shall be brought to
acknowledge the Messiah and pay homage to him. But this I
know. Those who seek him will do well to look among the poor
and the lowly, the sorrowful and the oppressed."
So I saw the Other Wise Man again and again, travelling
from place to place, and searching among the people of the
dispersion, with whom the little family from Bethlehem might,
perhaps, have found a refuge. He passed through countries
where famine lay heavy upon the land, and the poor were crying
for bread. He made his dwelling in plague-stricken cities
where the sick were languishing in the bitter companionship of
helpless misery. He visited the oppressed and the afflicted
in the gloom of subterranean prisons, and the crowded
wretchedness of slave-markets, and the weary toil of
galley-ships. In all this populous and intricate world of
anguish, though he found none to worship, he found many to help.
He fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and healed the sick,
and comforted the captive; and his years passed more swiftly than
the weaver's shuttle that flashes back and forth through the loom
while the web grows and the pattern is completed.
It seemed almost as if he had forgotten his quest. But
once I saw him for a moment as he stood alone at sunrise,
waiting at the gate of a Roman prison. He had taken from a
secret resting-place in his bosom the pearl, the last of his
jewels. As he looked at it, a mellower lustre, a soft and
iridescent light, full of shifting gleams of azure and rose,
trembled upon its surface. It seemed to have absorbed some