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The Blue Flower by Henry van Dyke

Part 3 out of 4

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reflection of the lost sapphire and ruby. So the secret
purpose of a noble life draws into itself the memories of past
joy and past sorrow. All that has helped it, all that has
hindered it, is transfused by a subtle magic into its very
essence. It becomes more luminous and precious the longer it
is carried close to the warmth of the beating heart.

Then, at last, while I was thinking of this pearl, and of
its meaning, I heard the end of the story of the Other Wise


Three-and-thirty years of the life of Artaban had passed away,
and he was still a pilgrim and a seeker after light. His
hair, once darker than the cliffs of Zagros, was now white as
the wintry snow that covered them. His eyes, that once
flashed like flames of fire, were dull as embers smouldering
among the ashes.

Worn and weary and ready to die, but still looking for the
King, he had come for the last time to Jerusalem. He had
often visited the holy city before, and had searched all its
lanes and crowded bevels and black prisons without finding any
trace of the family of Nazarenes who had fled from Bethlehem
long ago. But now it seemed as if he must make one more
effort, and something whispered in his heart that, at last, he
might succeed.

It was the season of the Passover. The city was thronged
with strangers. The children of Israel, scattered in far lands,
had returned to the Temple for the great feast, and there had
been a confusion of tongues in the narrow streets for many days.

But on this day a singular agitation was visible in the
multitude. The sky was veiled with a portentous gloom.
Currents of excitement seemed to flash through the crowd. A
secret tide was sweeping them all one way. The clatter of
sandals and the soft, thick sound of thousands of bare feet
shuffling over the stones, flowed unceasingly along the street
that leads to the Damascus gate.

Artaban joined a group of people from his own country,
Parthian Jews who had come up to keep the Passover, and
inquired of them the cause of the tumult, and where they were

"We are going," they answered, "to the place called
Golgotha, outside the city walls, where there is to be an
execution. Have you not heard what has happened? Two famous
robbers are to be crucified, and with them another, called
Jesus of Nazareth, a man who has done many wonderful works
among the people, so that they love him greatly. But the priests
and elders have said that he must die, because he gave himself
out to be the Son of God. And Pilate has sent him to the cross
because he said that he was the `King of the Jews.'

How strangely these familiar words fell upon the tired
heart of Artaban! They had led him for a lifetime over land
and sea. And now they came to him mysteriously, like a
message of despair. The King had arisen, but he had been
denied and cast out. He was about to perish. Perhaps he was
already dying. Could it be the same who had been born in
Bethlehem thirty-three years ago, at whose birth the star had
appeared in heaven, and of whose coming the prophets had

Artaban's heart beat unsteadily with that troubled,
doubtful apprehension which is the excitement of old age. But
he said within himself: "The ways of God are stranger than
the thoughts of men, and it may be that I shall find the King,
at last, in the hands of his enemies, and shall come in time
to offer my pearl for his ransom before he dies."

So the old man followed the multitude with slow and
painful steps toward the Damascus gate of the city. Just
beyond the entrance of the guardhouse a troop of Macedonian
soldiers came down the street, dragging a young girl with torn
dress and dishevelled hair. As the Magian paused to look at
her with compassion, she broke suddenly from the hands of her
tormentors, and threw herself at his feet, clasping him around
the knees. She had seen his white cap and the winged circle
on his breast.

"Have pity on me," she cried, "and save me, for the sake
of the God of Purity! I also am a daughter of the true
religion which is taught by the Magi. My father was a
merchant of Parthia, but he is dead, and I am seized for his
debts to be sold as a slave. Save me from worse than death!"

Artaban trembled.

It was the old conflict in his soul, which had come to him
in the palm-grove of Babylon and in the cottage at
Bethlehem--the conflict between the expectation of faith and
the impulse of love. Twice the gift which he had consecrated
to the worship of religion had been drawn to the service of
humanity. This was the third trial, the ultimate probation, the
final and irrevocable choice.

Was it his great opportunity, or his last temptation? He
could not tell. One thing only was clear in the darkness of
his mind--it was inevitable. And does not the inevitable come
from God?

One thing only was sure to his divided heart--to rescue
this helpless girl would be a true deed of love. And is not
love the light of the soul?

He took the pearl from his bosom. Never had it seemed so
luminous, so radiant, so full of tender, living lustre. He
laid it in the hand of the slave.

"This is thy ransom, daughter! It is the last of my
treasures which I kept for the King."

While he spoke, the darkness of the sky deepened, and
shuddering tremors ran through the earth heaving convulsively
like the breast of one who struggles with mighty grief.

The walls of the houses rocked to and fro. Stones were
loosened and crashed into the street. Dust clouds filled the air.
The soldiers fled in terror, reeling like drunken men. But
Artaban and the girl whom he had ransomed crouched helpless
beneath the wall of the Praetorium.

What had he to fear? What had he to hope? He had given
away the last remnant of his tribute for the King. He had
parted with the last hope of finding him. The quest was over,
and it had failed. But, even in that thought, accepted and
embraced, there was peace. It was not resignation. It was
not submission. It was something more profound and searching.
He knew that all was well, because he had done the best that
he could from day to day. He had been true to the light that
had been given to him. He had looked for more. And if he had
not found it, if a failure was all that came out of his life,
doubtless that was the best that was possible. He had not
seen the revelation of "life everlasting, incorruptible and
immortal." But he knew that even if he could live his earthly
life over again, it could not be otherwise than it had been.

One more lingering pulsation of the earthquake quivered
through the ground. A heavy tile, shaken from the roof, fell and
struck the old man on the temple. He lay breathless and pale,
with his gray head resting on the young girl's shoulder, and the
blood trickling from the wound. As she bent over him, fearing
that he was dead, there came a voice through the twilight, very
small and still, like music sounding from a distance, in which
the notes are clear but the words are lost. The girl turned to
see if some one had spoken from the window above them, but she
saw no one.

Then the old man's lips began to move, as if in answer,
and she heard him say in the Parthian tongue:

"Not so, my Lord! For when saw I thee an hungered and fed
thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a
stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? When
saw I thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee? Three-and--
thirty years have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy
face, nor ministered to thee, my King."

He ceased, and the sweet voice came again. And
again the maid heard it, very faint and far away. But now it
seemed as though she understood the words:

"Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it
unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it
unto me."

A calm radiance of wonder and joy lighted the pale face of
Artaban like the first ray of dawn, on a snowy mountain-peak.
A long breath of relief exhaled gently from his lips.

His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The
Other Wise Man had found the King.


There was a handful of clay in the bank of a river. It was
only common clay, coarse and heavy; but it had high thoughts
of its own value, and wonderful dreams of the great place
which it was to fill in the world when the time came for its
virtues to be discovered.

Overhead, in the spring sunshine, the trees whispered
together of the glory which descended upon them when the
delicate blossoms and leaves began to expand, and the forest
glowed with fair, clear colours, as if the dust of thousands
of rubies and emeralds were hanging, in soft clouds, above the

The flowers, surprised with the joy of beauty, bent their
heads to one another, as the wind caressed them, and said:
"Sisters, how lovely you have become. You make the day

The river, glad of new strength and rejoicing in the
unison of all its waters, murmured to the shores in music,
telling of its release from icy fetters, its swift flight from
the snow-clad mountains, and the mighty work to which it was
hurrying--the wheels of many mills to be turned, and great ships
to be floated to the sea.

Waiting blindly in its bed, the clay comforted itself with
lofty hopes. "My time will come," it said. "I was not made
to be hidden forever. Glory and beauty and honour are coming
to me in due season."

One day the clay felt itself taken from the place where it
had waited so long. A flat blade of iron passed beneath it,
and lifted it, and tossed it into a cart with other lumps of
clay, and it was carried far away, as it seemed, over a rough
and stony road. But it was not afraid, nor discouraged, for
it said to itself: "This is necessary. The path to glory is
always rugged. Now I am on my way to play a great part in the

But the hard journey was nothing compared with the
tribulation and distress that came after it. The clay was put
into a trough and mixed and beaten and stirred and trampled.
It seemed almost unbearable. But there was consolation in the
thought that something very fine and noble was certainly
coming out of all this trouble. The clay felt sure that, if
it could only wait long enough, a wonderful reward was in
store for it.

Then it was put upon a swiftly turning wheel, and whirled
around until it seemed as if it must fly into a thousand
pieces. A strange power pressed it and moulded it, as it
revolved, and through all the dizziness and pain it felt that
it was taking a new form.

Then an unknown hand put it into an oven, and fires were
kindled about it--fierce and penetrating--hotter than all the
heats of summer that had ever brooded upon the bank of the
river. But through all, the clay held itself together and
endured its trials, in the confidence of a great future.
"Surely," it thought, "I am intended for something very
splendid, since such pains are taken with me. Perhaps I am
fashioned for the ornament of a temple, or a precious vase for
the table of a king."

At last the baking was finished. The clay was taken from
the furnace and set down upon a board, in the cool air, under the
blue sky. The tribulation was passed. The reward was at hand.

Close beside the board there was a pool of water, not very
deep, nor very clear, but calm enough to reflect, with
impartial truth, every image that fell upon it. There, for
the first time, as it was lifted from the board, the clay saw
its new shape, the reward of all its patience and pain, the
consummation of its hopes--a common flower-pot, straight and
stiff, red and ugly. And then it felt that it was not
destined for a king's house, nor for a palace of art, because
it was made without glory or beauty or honour; and it murmured
against the unknown maker, saying, "Why hast thou made me

Many days it passed in sullen discontent. Then it was
filled with earth, and something--it knew not what--but
something rough and brown and dead-looking, was thrust into
the middle of the earth and covered over. The clay rebelled
at this new disgrace. "This is the worst of all that has
happened to me, to be filled with dirt and rubbish. Surely I
am a failure."

But presently it was set in a greenhouse, where the
sunlight fell warm upon it, and water was sprinkled over it,
and day by day as it waited, a change began to come to it.
Something was stirring within it--a new hope. Still it was
ignorant, and knew not what the new hope meant.

One day the clay was lifted again from its place, and
carried into a great church. Its dream was coming true after
all. It had a fine part to play in the world. Glorious music
flowed over it. It was surrounded with flowers. Still it
could not understand. So it whispered to another vessel of
clay, like itself, close beside it, "Why have they set me
here? Why do all the people look toward us?" And the other
vessel answered, "Do you not know? You are carrying a royal
sceptre of lilies. Their petals are white as snow, and the
heart of them is like pure gold. The people look this way
because the flower is the most wonderful in the world. And
the root of it is in your heart."

Then the clay was content, and silently thanked its maker,
because, though an earthen vessel, it held so great a


"Come down, Hermas, come down! The night is past. It is time
to be stirring. Christ is born today. Peace be with you in
His name. Make haste and come down!"

A little group of young men were standing in a street of
Antioch, in the dusk of early morning, fifteen hundred years
ago--a class of candidates who had nearly finished their years
of training for the Christian church. They had come to call
their fellow-student Hermas from his lodging.

Their voices rang out cheerily through the cool air. They
were full of that glad sense of life which the young feel when
they have risen early and come to rouse one who is still
sleeping. There was a note of friendly triumph in their call,
as if they were exulting unconsciously in having begun the
adventure of the new day before their comrade.

But Hermas was not asleep. He had been waking for hours,
and the walls of his narrow lodging had been a prison to his
heart. A nameless sorrow and discontent had fallen upon him, and
he could find no escape from the heaviness of his own thoughts.

There is a sadness of youth into which the old cannot
enter. It seems unreal and causeless. But it is even more
bitter and burdensome than the sadness of age. There is a
sting of resentment in it, a fever of angry surprise that the
world should so soon be a disappointment, and life so early
take on the look of a failure. It has little reason in it,
perhaps, but it has all the more weariness and gloom, because
the man who is oppressed by it feels dimly that it is an
unnatural thing that he should be tired of living before he
has fairly begun to live.

Hermas had fallen into the very depths of this strange
self-pity. He was out of tune with everything around him. He
had been thinking, through the dead night, of all that he had
given up when he left the house of his father, the wealthy
pagan Demetrius, to join the company of the Christians. Only
two years ago he had been one of the richest young men in
Antioch. Now he was one of the poorest. The worst of it was
that, though he had made the choice willingly and with a kind of
enthusiasm, he was already dissatisfied with it.

The new life was no happier than the old. He was weary of
vigils and fasts, weary of studies and penances, weary of
prayers and sermons. He felt like a slave in a treadmill. He
knew that he must go on. His honour, his conscience, his
sense of duty, bound him. He could not go back to the old
careless pagan life again; for something had happened within
him which made a return impossible. Doubtless he had found
the true religion, but he had found it only as a task and a
burden; its joy and peace had slipped away from him.

He felt disillusioned and robbed. He sat beside his hard
couch, waiting without expectancy for the gray dawn of another
empty day, and hardly lifting his head at the shouts of his

"Come down, Hermas, you sluggard! Come down! It is
Christmas morn. Awake, and be glad with us!"

"I am coming," he answered listlessly; "only have patience
a moment. I have been awake since midnight, and waiting for
the day."

"You hear him!" said his friends one to another. "How he
puts us all to shame! He is more watchful, more eager, than
any of us. Our master, John the Presbyter, does well to be
proud of him. He is the best man in our class."

While they were talking the door opened and Hermas stepped
out. He was a figure to be remarked in any company--tall,
broad-shouldered, straight-hipped, with a head proudly poised
on the firm column of the neck, and short brown curls
clustering over the square forehead. It was the perpetual
type of vigorous and intelligent young manhood, such as may be
found in every century among the throngs of ordinary men, as
if to show what the flower of the race should be. But the
light in his eyes was clouded and uncertain; his smooth cheeks
were leaner than they should have been at twenty; and there
were downward lines about his mouth which spoke of desires
unsatisfied and ambitions repressed. He joined his
companions with brief greetings,--a nod to one, a word to
another,--and they passed together down the steep street.

Overhead the mystery of daybreak was silently
transfiguring the sky. The curtain of darkness had lifted
along the edge of the horizon. The ragged crests of Mount
Silpius were outlined with pale saffron light. In the central
vault of heaven a few large stars twinkled drowsily. The
great city, still chiefly pagan, lay more than half-asleep.
But multitudes of the Christians, dressed in white and carrying
lighted torches in their hands, were hurrying toward the
Basilica of Constantine to keep the new holy-day of the
church, the festival of the birthday of their Master.

The vast, bare building was soon crowded, and the younger
converts, who were not yet permitted to stand among the
baptised, found it difficult to come to their appointed place
between the first two pillars of the house, just within the
threshold. There was some good-humoured pressing and jostling
about the door; but the candidates pushed steadily forward.

"By your leave, friends, our station is beyond you. Will
you let us pass? Many thanks."

A touch here, a courteous nod there, a little patience, a
little persistence, and at last they stood in their place.
Hermas was taller than his companions; he could look easily
over their heads and survey the sea of people stretching away
through the columns, under the shadows of the high roof, as
the tide spreads on a calm day into the pillared cavern of
Staffa, quiet as if the ocean hardly dared to breathe. The
light of many flambeaux fell, in flickering, uncertain rays,
over the assembly. At the end of the vista there was a circle
of clearer, steadier radiance. Hermas could see the bishop in
his great chair, surrounded by the presbyters, the lofty desks
on either side for the readers of the Scripture, the
communion-table and the table of offerings in the middle of
the church.

The call to prayer sounded down the long aisle. Thousands
of hands were joyously lifted in the air, as if the sea had
blossomed into waving lilies, and the "Amen" was like the
murmur of countless ripples in an echoing place.

Then the singing began, led by the choir of a hundred
trained voices which the Bishop Paul had founded in Antioch.
Timidly, at first, the music felt its way, as the people
joined with a broken and uncertain cadence: the mingling of
many little waves not yet gathered into rhythm and harmony.
Soon the longer, stronger billows of song rolled in, sweeping
from side to side as the men and the women answered in the
clear antiphony.

Hermas had often been carried on those

Tides of music's golden sea
Selling toward eternity.

But to-day his heart was a rock that stood motionless. The
flood passed by and left him unmoved.

Looking out from his place at the foot of the pillar, he
saw a man standing far off in the lofty bema. Short and
slender, wasted by sickness, gray before his time, with pale
cheeks and wrinkled brow, he seemed at first like a person of
no significance--a reed shaken in the wind. But there was a
look in his deep-set, poignant eyes, as he gathered all the
glances of the multitude to himself, that belied his mean
appearance and prophesied power. Hermas knew very well who it
was: the man who had drawn him from his father's house, the
teacher who was instructing him as a son in the Christian faith,
the guide and trainer of his soul--John of Antioch, whose fame
filled the city and began to overflow Asia, and who was called
already Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed preacher.

Hermas had felt the magic of his eloquence many a time;
and to-day, as the tense voice vibrated through the stillness,
and the sentences moved onward, growing fuller and stronger,
bearing argosies of costly rhetoric and treasures of homely
speech in their bosom, and drawing the hearts of men with a
resistless magic, Hermas knew that the preacher had never been
more potent, more inspired.

He played on that immense congregation as a master on an
instrument. He rebuked their sins, and they trembled. He
touched their sorrows, and they wept. He spoke of the
conflicts, the triumphs, the glories of their faith, and they
broke out in thunders of applause. He hushed them into reverent
silence, and led them tenderly, with the wise men of the East, to
the lowly birthplace of Jesus.

"Do thou, therefore, likewise leave the Jewish people, the
troubled city, the bloodthirsty tyrant, the pomp of the world,
and hasten to Bethlehem, the sweet house of spiritual bread.
For though thou be but a shepherd, and come hither, thou shalt
behold the young Child in an inn. Though thou be a king, and
come not hither, thy purple robe shall profit thee nothing.
Though thou be one of the wise men, this shall be no hindrance
to thee. Only let thy coming be to honour and adore, with
trembling joy, the Son of God, to whose name be glory, on this
His birthday, and forever and forever."

The soul of Hermas did not answer to the musician's touch.
The strings of his heart were slack and soundless; there was
no response within him. He was neither shepherd, nor king,
nor wise man; only an unhappy, dissatisfied, questioning
youth. He was out of sympathy with the eager preacher,
the joyous hearers. In their harmony he had no part. Was it
for this that he had forsaken his inheritance and narrowed his
life to poverty and hardship? What was it all worth?

The gracious prayers with which the young converts were
blessed and dismissed before the sacrament sounded hollow in
his ears. Never had he felt so utterly lonely as in that
praying throng. He went out with his companions like a man
departing from a banquet where all but he had been fed.

"Farewell, Hermas," they cried, as he turned from them at
the door. But he did not look back, nor wave his hand. He
was already alone in his heart.

When he entered the broad Avenue of the Colonnades, the
sun had already topped the eastern hills, and the ruddy light
was streaming through the long double row of archways and over
the pavements of crimson marble. But Hermas turned his back
to the morning, and walked with his shadow before him.

The street began to swarm and whirl and quiver with the
motley life of a huge city: beggars and jugglers, dancers and
musicians, gilded youths in their chariots, and daughters of
joy looking out from their windows, all intoxicated with the
mere delight of living and the gladness of a new day. The
pagan populace of Antioch--reckless, pleasure-loving,
spendthrift--were preparing for the Saturnalia. But all this
Hermas had renounced. He cleft his way through the crowd
slowly, like a reluctant swimmer weary of breasting the tide.

At the corner of the street where the narrow, populous
Lane of the Camel-drivers crossed the Colonnades, a
storyteller had bewitched a circle of people around him. It
was the same old tale of love and adventure that many
generations have listened to; but the lively fancy of the
hearers rent it new interest, and the wit of the improviser
drew forth sighs of interest and shouts of laughter.

A yellow-haired girl on the edge of the throng turned, as
Hermas passed, and smiled in his face. She put out her hand
and caught him by the sleeve.

"Stay," she said, "and laugh a bit with us. I know who
you are--the son of Demetrius. You must have bags of gold.
Why do you look so black? Love is alive yet."

Hermas shook off her hand, but not ungently.

"I don't know what you mean," he said. "You are mistaken
in me. I am poorer than you are."

But as he passed on, he felt the warm touch of her fingers
through the cloth on his arm. It seemed as if she had plucked
him by the heart.

He went out by the Western Gate, under the golden cherubim
that the Emperor Titus had stolen from the ruined Temple of
Jerusalem and fixed upon the arch of triumph. He turned to
the left, and climbed the hill to the road that led to the
Grove of Daphne.

In all the world there was no other highway as beautiful.
It wound for five miles along the foot of the mountains, among
gardens and villas, plantations of myrtles and mulberries,
with wide outlooks over the valley of Orontes and the distant,
shimmering sea.

The richest of all the dwellings was the House
of the Golden Pillars, the mansion of Demetrius. He had won
the favor of the apostate Emperor Julian, whose vain efforts
to restore the worship of the heathen gods, some twenty years
ago, had opened an easy way to wealth and power for all who
would mock and oppose Christianity. Demetrius was not a
sincere fanatic like his royal master; but he was bitter
enough in his professed scorn of the new religion, to make him
a favourite at the court where the old religion was in
fashion. He had reaped a rich reward of his policy, and a
strange sense of consistency made him more fiercely loyal to
it than if it had been a real faith. He was proud of being
called "the friend of Julian"; and when his son joined himself
to the Christians, and acknowledged the unseen God, it seemed
like an insult to his father's success. He drove the boy from
his door and disinherited him.

The glittering portico of the serene, haughty house, the
repose of the well-ordered garden, still blooming with belated
flowers, seemed at once to deride and to invite the young
outcast plodding along the dusty road. "This is your
birthright," whispered the clambering rose-trees by the gate; and
the closed portals of carven bronze said: "You have sold it for
a thought--a dream."'


Hermas found the Grove of Daphne quite deserted. There was no
sound in the enchanted vale but the rustling of the light
winds chasing each other through the laurel thickets, and the
babble of innumerable streams. Memories of the days and
nights of delicate pleasure that the grove had often seen
still haunted the bewildered paths and broken fountains. At
the foot of a rocky eminence, crowned with the ruins of
Apollo's temple, which had been mysteriously destroyed by fire
just after Julian had restored and reconsecrated it, Hermas
sat down beside a gushing spring, and gave himself up to

"How beautiful the world would be, how joyful, how easy to
live in, without religion! These questions about unseen
things, perhaps about unreal things, these restraints and
duties and sacrifices-if I were only free from them all, and
could only forget them all, then I could live my life as I
pleased, and be happy."

"Why not?" said a quiet voice at his back.

He turned, and saw an old man with a long beard and a
threadbare cloak (the garb affected by the pagan philosophers)
standing behind him and smiling curiously.

"How is it that you answer that which has not been
spoken?" said Hermas; "and who are you that honour me with
your company?"

"Forgive the intrusion," answered the stranger; "it is not
ill meant. A friendly interest is as good as an introduction."

"But to what singular circumstance do I owe this interest?"

"To your face," said the old man, with a courteous
inclination. "Perhaps also a little to the fact that I am the
oldest inhabitant here, and feel as if all visitors were my
guests, in a way."

"Are you, then, one of the keepers of the grove? And have
you given up your work with the trees to take a holiday as a

"Not at all. The robe of philosophy is a mere
affectation, I must confess. I think little of it. My
profession is the care of altars. In fact, I am the solitary
priest of Apollo whom the Emperor Julian found here when he
came to revive the worship of the grove, some twenty years
ago. You have heard of the incident?"

"Yes," said Hermas, beginning to be interested; "the whole
city must have heard of it, for it is still talked of. But
surely it was a strange sacrifice that you brought to
celebrate the restoration of Apollo's temple?"

"You mean the ancient goose?" said the old man laughing.
"Well, perhaps it was not precisely what the emperor expected.
But it was all that I had, and it seemed to me not
inappropriate. You will agree to that if you are a Christian,
as I guess from your dress."

"You speak lightly for a priest of Apollo."

"Oh, as for that, I am no bigot. The priesthood is a
professional matter, and the name of Apollo is as good as any
other. How many altars do you think there have been in this

"I do not know."

"Just four-and-twenty, including that of the martyr
Babylas, whose ruined chapel you see just beyond us. I have
had something to do with most of them in my time. They are
transitory. They give employment to care-takers for a while.
But the thing that lasts, and the thing that interests me, is
the human life that plays around them. The game has been
going on for centuries. It still disports itself very
pleasantly on summer evenings through these shady walks.
Believe me, for I know. Daphne and Apollo are shadows. But
the flying maidens and the pursuing lovers, the music and the
dances, these are realities. Life is a game, and the world
keeps it up merrily. But you? You are of a sad countenance
for one so young and so fair. Are you a loser in the game?"
The words and tone of the speaker fitted Hermas' mood as
a key fits the lock. He opened his heart to the old man, and
told him the story of his life: his luxurious boyhood in his
father's house; the irresistible spell which compelled him to
forsake it when he heard John's preaching of the new religion;
his lonely year with the anchorites among the mountains; the
strict discipline in his teacher's house at Antioch; his
weariness of duty, his distaste for poverty, his discontent with

"And to-day," said he, "I have been thinking that I am a
fool. My life is swept as bare as a hermit's cell. There is
nothing in it but a dream, a thought of God, which does not
satisfy me."

The singular smile deepened on his companion's face. "You
are ready, then," he suggested, "to renounce your new religion
and go back to that of your father?"

"No; I renounce nothing, I accept nothing. I do not wish
to think about it. I only wish to live."

"A very reasonable wish, and I think you are about to see
its accomplishment. Indeed, I may even say that I can put you
in the way of securing it. Do you believe in magic?"

"I do not know whether I believe in anything. This is not
a day on which I care to make professions of faith. I believe
in what I see. I want what will give me pleasure."

"Well," said the old man, soothingly, as he plucked a leaf
from the laurel-tree above them and dipped it in the spring, "let
us dismiss the riddles of belief. I like them as little as you
do. You know this is a Castalian fountain. The Emperor Hadrian
once read his fortune here from a leaf dipped in the water. Let
us see what this leaf tells us. It is already turning yellow.
How do you read that?"

"Wealth," said Hermas, laughing, as he looked at his mean

"And here is a bud on the stem that seems to be swelling.
What is that?"

"Pleasure," answered Hermas, bitterly.

"And here is a tracing of wreaths upon the surface. What
do you make of that?"

"What you will," said Hermas, not even taking the trouble
to look. "Suppose we say success and fame?"

"Yes," said the stranger; "it is all written here. I
promise that you shall enjoy it all. But you do not need to
believe in my promise. I am not in the habit of requiring
faith of those whom I would serve. No such hard conditions
for me! There is only one thing that I ask. This is the season
that you Christians call the Christmas, and you have taken up the
pagan custom of exchanging gifts. Well, if I give to you, you
must give to me. It is a small thing, and really the thing you
can best afford to part with: a single word--the name of Him you
profess to worship. Let me take that word and all that
belongs to it entirely out of your life, so that you shall
never hear it or speak it again. You will be richer without
it. I promise you everything, and this is all I ask in
return. Do you consent?"

"Yes. I consent," said Hermas, mocking. "If you can take
your price, a word, you can keep your promise, a dream."

The stranger laid the long, cool, wet leaf softly across
the young man's eyes. An icicle of pain darted through them;
every nerve in his body was drawn together there in a knot of

Then all the tangle of pain seemed to be lifted out of
him. A cool languor of delight flowed back through every
vein, and he sank into a profound sleep.


There is a slumber so deep that it annihilates time. It is
like a fragment of eternity. Beneath its enchantment of
vacancy, a day seems like a thousand years, and a thousand
years might well pass as one day.

It was such a sleep that fell upon Hermas in the Grove of
Daphne. An immeasurable period, an interval of life so blank
and empty that he could not tell whether it was long or short,
had passed over him when his senses began to stir again. The
setting sun was shooting arrows of gold under the glossy
laurel-leaves. He rose and stretched his arms, grasping a
smooth branch above him and shaking it, to make sure that he
was alive. Then he hurried back toward Antioch, treading
lightly as if on air.

The ground seemed to spring beneath his feet. Already his
life had changed, he knew not how. Something that did not
belong to him had dropped away; he had returned to a former
state of being. He felt as if anything might happen to him, and
he was ready for anything. He was a new man, yet curiously
familiar to himself--as if he had done with playing a tiresome
part and returned to his natural state. He was buoyant and free,
without a care, a doubt, a fear.

As he drew near to his father's house he saw a confusion
of servants in the porch, and the old steward ran down to meet
him at the gate.

"Lord, we have been seeking you everywhere. The master is
at the point of death, and has sent for you. Since the sixth
hour he calls your name continually. Come to him quickly,
lord, for I fear the time is short."

Hermas entered the house at once; nothing could amaze him
to-day. His father lay on an ivory couch in the inmost
chamber, with shrunken face and restless eyes, his lean
fingers picking incessantly at the silken coverlet.

"My son!" he murmured; "Hermas, my son! It is good that
you have come back to me. I have missed you. I was wrong to
send you away. You shall never leave me again. You are my
son, my heir. I have changed everything. Hermas, my son, come
nearer--close beside me. Take my hand, my son!"

The young man obeyed, and, kneeling by the couch, gathered
his father's cold, twitching fingers in his firm, warm grasp.

"Hermas, life is passing--long, rich, prosperous; the last
sands, I cannot stay them. My religion, a good policy--Julian
was my friend. But now he is gone--where? My soul is
empty--nothing beyond--very dark--I am afraid. But you know
something better. You found something that made you willing
to give up your life for it--it, must have been almost like
dying--yet you were happy. What was it you found? See, I am
giving you everything. I have forgiven you. Now forgive me.
Tell me, what is it? Your secret, your faith--give it to me
before I go."

At the sound of this broken pleading a strange passion of
pity and love took the young man by the throat. His voice
shook a little as he answered eagerly:

"Father, there is nothing to forgive. I am your son; I will
gladly tell you all that I know. I will give you the secret.
Father, you must believe with all your heart, and soul, and
strength in--"

Where was the word--the word that he had been used to
utter night and morning, the word that had meant to him more
than he had ever known? What had become of it?

He groped for it in the dark room of his mind. He had
thought he could lay his hand upon it in a moment, but it was
gone. Some one had taken it away. Everything else was most
clear to him: the terror of death; the lonely soul appealing
from his father's eyes; the instant need of comfort and help.
But at the one point where he looked for help he could find
nothing; only an empty space. The word of hope had vanished.
He felt for it blindly and in desperate haste.

"Father, wait! I have forgotten something--it has slipped
away from me. I shall find it in a moment. There is hope--I
will tell you presently--oh, wait!"

The bony hand gripped his like a vice; the glazed eyes opened
wider. "Tell me," whispered the old man; "tell me quickly, for I
must go."

The voice sank into a dull rattle. The fingers closed
once more, and relaxed. The light behind the eyes went out.

Hermas, the master of the House of the Golden Pillars, was
keeping watch by the dead.


The break with the old life was as clean as if it had been cut
with a knife. Some faint image of a hermit's cell, a bare
lodging in a back street of Antioch, a class-room full of
earnest students, remained in Hermas' memory. Some dull echo
of the voice of John the Presbyter, and the measured sound of
chanting, and the murmur of great congregations, still
lingered in his ears; but it was like something that had
happened to another person, something that he had read long
ago, but of which he had lost the meaning.

His new life was full and smooth and rich--too rich for
any sense of loss to make itself felt. There were a hundred
affairs to busy him, and the days ran swiftly by as if they were
shod with winged sandals.

Nothing needed to be considered, prepared for, begun.
Everything was ready and waiting for him. All that he had to
do was to go on.

The estate of Demetrius was even greater than the world
had supposed. There were fertile lands in Syria which the
emperor had given him, marble-quarries in Phrygia, and forests
of valuable timber in Cilicia; the vaults of the villa
contained chests of gold and silver; the secret cabinets in
the master's room were full of precious stones. The stewards
were diligent and faithful. The servants of the household
rejoiced at the young master's return. His table was spread;
the rose-garland of pleasure was woven for his head; his cup
was overflowing with the spicy wine of power.

The period of mourning for his father came at a fortunate
moment to seclude and safeguard him from the storm of
political troubles and persecutions that fell upon Antioch
after the insults offered by the people to the imperial
statues in the year 387. The friends of Demetrius, prudent and
conservative persons, gathered around Hermas and made him welcome
to their circle. Chief among them was Libanius, the sophist, his
nearest neighbour, whose daughter Athenais had been the playmate
of Hermas in the old days.

He had left her a child. He found her a beautiful woman.
What transformation is so magical, so charming, as this? To
see the uncertain lines of youth rounded into firmness and
symmetry, to discover the half-ripe, merry, changing face of
the girl matured into perfect loveliness, and looking at you
with calm, clear, serious eyes, not forgetting the past, but
fully conscious of the changed present--this is to behold a
miracle in the flesh.

"Where have you been, these two years?" said Athenais, as
they walked together through the garden of lilies where they
had so often played.

"In a land of tiresome dreams," answered Hermas; "but you
have wakened me, and I am never going back again."

It was not to be supposed that the sudden disappearance of
Hermas from among his former associates could long remain
unnoticed. At first it was a mystery. There was a fear, for two
or three days, that he might be lost. Some of his more intimate
companions maintained that his devotion had led him out into the
desert to join the anchorites. But the news of his return to the
House of the Golden Pillars, and of his new life as its
master, filtered quickly through the gossip of the city.

Then the church was filled with dismay and grief and
reproach. Messengers and letters were sent to Hermas. They
disturbed him a little, but they took no hold upon him. It
seemed to him as if the messengers spoke in a strange
language. As he read the letters there were words blotted out
of the writing which made the full sense unintelligible.

His old companions came to reprove him for leaving them,
to warn him of the peril of apostasy, to entreat him to
return. It all sounded vague and futile. They spoke as if he
had betrayed or offended some one; but when they came to name
the object of his fear--the one whom he had displeased, and to
whom he should return--he heard nothing; there was a blur of
silence in their speech. The clock pointed to the hour, but the
bell did not strike. At last Hermas refused to see them any

One day John the Presbyter stood in the atrium. Hermas
was entertaining Libanius and Athenais in the banquet-hall.
When the visit of the Presbyter was announced, the young
master loosed a collar of gold and jewels from his neck, and
gave it to his scribe.

"Take this to John of Antioch, and tell him it is a gift
from his former pupil--as a token of remembrance, or to spend
for the poor of the city. I will always send him what he
wants, but it is idle for us to talk together any more. I do
not understand what he says. I have not gone to the temple,
nor offered sacrifice, nor denied his teaching. I have simply
forgotten. I do not think about those things any longer. I
am only living. A happy man wishes him all happiness and

But John let the golden collar fall on the marble floor.
"Tell your master that we shall talk together again, in due
time," said he, as he passed sadly out of
the hall.

The love of Athenais and Hermas was like a tiny rivulet
that sinks out of sight in a cavern, but emerges again a
bright and brimming stream. The careless comradery of
childhood was mysteriously changed into a complete

When Athenais entered the House of the Golden Pillars as
a bride, all the music of life came with her. Hermas called
the feast of her welcome "the banquet of the full chord." Day
after day, night after night, week after week, month after
month, the bliss of the home unfolded like a rose of a
thousand leaves. When a child came to them, a strong,
beautiful boy, worthy to be the heir of such a house, the
heart of the rose was filled with overflowing fragrance.
Happiness was heaped upon happiness. Every wish brought its
own accomplishment. Wealth, honour, beauty, peace, love--it
was an abundance of felicity so great that the soul of Hermas
could hardly contain it.

Strangely enough, it began to press upon him, to trouble
him with the very excess of joy. He felt as if there were
something yet needed to complete and secure it all. There was an
urgency within him, a longing to find some outlet for his
feelings, he knew not how--some expression and culmination of his
happiness, he knew not what.

Under his joyous demeanour a secret fire of restlessness
began to burn--an expectancy of something yet to come which
should put the touch of perfection on his life. He spoke of
it to Athenais, as they sat together, one summer evening, in
a bower of jasmine, with their boy playing at their feet.
There had been music in the garden; but now the singers and
lute-players had withdrawn, leaving the master and mistress
alone in the lingering twilight, tremulous with inarticulate
melody of unseen birds. There was a secret voice in the hour
seeking vainly for utterance a word waiting to be spoken.

"How deep is our happiness, my beloved!" said Hermas;
"deeper than the sea that slumbers yonder, below the city.
And yet it is not quite full and perfect. There is a depth of
joy that we have not yet known--a repose of happiness that is
still beyond us. What is it? I have no superstitions, like the
king who cast his signet-ring into the sea because he dreaded
that some secret vengeance would fall on his unbroken good
fortune. That was an idle terror. But there is something
that oppresses me like an invisible burden. There is
something still undone, unspoken, unfelt--something that we
need to complete everything. Have you not felt it, too? Can
you not lead me to it?"

"Yes," she answered, lifting her eyes to his face; "I,
too, have felt it, Hermas, this burden, this need, this
unsatisfied longing. I think I know what it means. It is
gratitude--the language of the heart, the music of happiness.
There is no perfect joy without gratitude. But we have never
learned it, and the want of it troubles us. It is like being
dumb with a heart full of love. We must find the word for it,
and say it together. Then we shall be perfectly joined in
perfect joy. Come, my dear lord, let us take the boy with us,
and give thanks."

Hermas lifted the child in his arms, and turned with
Athenais into the depth of the garden. There was a dismantled
shrine of some forgotten fashion of worship half-hidden among the
luxuriant flowers. A fallen image lay beside it, face downward
in the grass. They stood there, hand in hand, the boy drowsily
resting on his father's shoulder.

Silently the roseate light caressed the tall spires of the
cypress-trees; silently the shadows gathered at their feet;
silently the tranquil stars looked out from the deepening arch
of heaven. The very breath of being paused. It was the hour
of culmination, the supreme moment of felicity waiting for its
crown. The tones of Hermas were clear and low as he began,
half-speaking and half-chanting, in the rhythm of an ancient

"Fair is the world, the sea, the sky, the double kingdom
of day and night, in the glow of morning, in the shadow of
evening, and under the dripping light of stars.

"Fairer still is life in our breasts, with its manifold
music and meaning, with its wonder of seeing and hearing and
feeling and knowing and being.

"Fairer and still more fair is love, that draws us together,
mingles our lives in its flow, and bears them along like a river,
strong and clear and swift, reflecting the stars in its bosom.

"Wide is our world; we are rich; we have all things. Life
is abundant within us--a measureless deep. Deepest of all is
our love, and it longs to speak.

"Come, thou final word; Come, thou crown of speech! Come,
thou charm of peace! Open the gates of our hearts. Lift the
weight of our joy and bear it upward.

"For all good gifts, for all perfect gifts, for love, for
life, for the world, we praise, we bless, we thank--"

As a soaring bird, struck by an arrow, falls headlong from
the sky, so the song of Hermas fell. At the end of his flight
of gratitude there was nothing--a blank, a hollow space.

He looked for a face, and saw a void. He sought for a
hand, and clasped vacancy. His heart was throbbing and
swelling with passion; the bell swung to and fro within him,
beating from side to side as if it would burst; but not a
single note came from it. All the fulness of his feeling,
that had risen upward like a fountain, fell back from the empty
sky, as cold as snow, as hard as hail, frozen and dead. There
was no meaning in his happiness. No one had sent it to him.
There was no one to thank for it. His felicity was a closed
circle, a wall of ice.

"Let us go back," he said sadly to Athenais; "the child is
heavy upon my shoulder. We will lay him to sleep, and go into
the library. The air grows chilly. We were mistaken. The
gratitude of life is only a dream. There is no one to thank."

And in the garden it was already night.


No outward change came to the House of the Golden Pillars.
Everything moved as smoothly, as delicately, as prosperously,
as before. But inwardly there was a subtle, inexplicable
transformation. A vague discontent, a final and inevitable
sense of incompleteness, overshadowed existence from that
night when Hermas realised that his joy could never go beyond

The next morning the old man whom he had seen in the Grove
of Daphne, but never since, appeared mysteriously at the door
of the house, as if he had been sent for, and entered like an
invited guest.

Hermas could not but make him welcome, and at first he
tried to regard him with reverence and affection as the one
through whom fortune had come. But it was impossible. There
was a chill in the inscrutable smile of Marcion, as he called
himself, that seemed to mock at reverence. He was in the
house as one watching a strange experiment--tranquil,
interested, ready to supply anything that might be needed for
its completion, but thoroughly indifferent to the feelings of
the subject; an anatomist of life, looking curiously to see
how long it would continue, and how it would act, after the
heart had been removed.

In his presence Hermas was conscious of a certain
irritation, a resentful anger against the calm, frigid
scrutiny of the eyes that followed him everywhere, like a pair
of spies, peering out over the smiling mouth and the long
white beard.

"Why do you look at me so curiously?" asked Hermas, one
morning, as they sat together in the library. "Do you see
anything strange in me?"

"No," answered Marcion; "something familiar."

"And what is that?"

"A singular likeness to a discontented young man that I
met some years ago in the Grove of Daphne."

"But why should that interest you? Surely it was to be

"A thing that we expect often surprises us when we see it.
Besides, my curiosity is piqued. I suspect you of keeping a
secret from me."

"You are jesting with me. There is nothing in my life
that you do not know. What is the secret?"

"Nothing more than the wish to have one. You are growing
tired of your bargain. The play wearies you. That is
foolish. Do you want to try a new part?"

The question was like a mirror upon which one comes
suddenly in a half-lighted room. A quick illumination falls on
it, and the passer-by is startled by the look of his own face.

"You are right," said Hermas. "I am tired. We have been
going on stupidly in this house, as if nothing were possible
but what my father had done before me. There is nothing
original in being rich, and well-fed, and well-dressed.
Thousands of men have tried it, and have not been satisfied. Let
us do something new. Let us make a mark in the world."

"It is well said," nodded the old man; "you are speaking
again like a man after my own heart. There is no folly but
the loss of an opportunity to enjoy a new sensation."

From that day Hermas seemed to be possessed with a
perpetual haste, an uneasiness that left him no repose. The
summit of life had been attained, the highest possible point
of felicity. Henceforward the course could only be at a
level--perhaps downward. It might be brief; at the best it
could not be very long. It was madness to lose a day, an
hour. That would be the only fatal mistake: to forfeit
anything of the bargain that he had made. He would have it, and
hold it, and enjoy it all to the full. The world might have
nothing better to give than it had already given; but surely it
had many things that were new, and Marcion should help him to
find them.

Under his learned counsel the House of the Golden Pillars
took on a new magnificence. Artists were brought from Corinth
and Rome and Alexandria to adorn it with splendour. Its fame
glittered around the world. Banquets of incredible luxury
drew the most celebrated guests into its triclinium, and
filled them with envious admiration. The bees swarmed and
buzzed about the golden hive. The human insects, gorgeous
moths of pleasure and greedy flies of appetite, parasites and
flatterers and crowds of inquisitive idlers, danced and
fluttered in the dazzling light that surrounded Hermas.

Everything that he touched prospered. He bought a tract
of land in the Caucasus, and emeralds were discovered among
the mountains. He sent a fleet of wheat-ships to Italy, and
the price of grain doubled while it was on the way. He sought
political favour with the emperor, and was rewarded with the
governorship of the city. His name was a word to conjure with.

The beauty of Athenais lost nothing with the passing
seasons, but grew more perfect, even under the inexplicable
shade of dissatisfaction that sometimes veiled it. "Fair as
the wife of Hermas" was a proverb in Antioch; and soon men
began to add to it, "Beautiful as the son of Hermas"; for the
child developed swiftly in that favouring clime. At nine
years of age he was straight and strong, firm of limb and
clear of eye. His brown head was on a level with his father's
heart. He was the jewel of the House of the Golden Pillars;
the pride of Hermas, the new Fortunatus.

That year another drop of success fell into his brimming
cup. His black Numidian horses, which he had been training
for the world-renowned chariot-races of Antioch, won the
victory over a score of rivals. Hermas received the prize
carelessly from the judge's hands, and turned to drive once
more around the circus, to show himself to the people. He
lifted the eager boy into the chariot beside him to share his

Here, indeed, was the glory of his life--this matchless
son, his brighter counterpart carved in breathing ivory,
touching his arm, and balancing himself proudly on the swaying
floor of the chariot. As the horses pranced around the ring,
a great shout of applause filled the amphitheatre, and
thousands of spectators waved their salutations of praise:
"Hail, fortunate Hermas, master of success! Hail, little
Hermas, prince of good luck!"

The, sudden tempest of acclamation, the swift fluttering
of innumerable garments in the air, startled the horses. They
dashed violently forward, and plunged upon the bits. The left
rein broke. They swerved to the right, swinging the chariot
sideways with a grating noise, and dashing it against the
stone parapet of the arena. In an instant the wheel was
shattered. The axle struck the ground, and the chariot was
dragged onward, rocking and staggering.

By a strenuous effort Hermas kept his place on the frail
platform, clinging to the unbroken rein. But the boy was
tossed lightly from his side at the first shock. His head struck
the wall. And when Hermas turned to look for him, he was lying
like a broken flower on the sand.


They carried the boy in a litter to the House of the Golden
Pillars, summoning the most skilful physician of Antioch to
attend him. For hours the child was as quiet as death.
Hermas watched the white eyelids, folded close like lily-buds
at night, even as one watches for the morning. At last they
opened; but the fire of fever was burning in the eyes, and the
lips were moving in a wild delirium.

Hour after hour that sweet childish voice rang through the
halls and chambers of the splendid, helpless house, now rising
in shrill calls of distress and senseless laughter, now
sinking in weariness and dull moaning. The stars shone and
faded; the sun rose and set; the roses bloomed and fell in the
garden; the birds sang and slept among the jasmine-bowers.
But in the heart of Hermas there was no song, no bloom, no
light--only speechless anguish, and a certain fearful looking-for
of desolation.

He was like a man in a nightmare. He saw the shapeless
terror that was moving toward him, but he was impotent to stay
or to escape it. He had done all that he could. There was
nothing left but to wait.

He paced to and fro, now hurrying to the boy's bed as if
he could not bear to be away from it, now turning back as if
he could not endure to be near it. The people of the house,
even Athenais, feared to speak to him, there was something so
vacant and desperate in his face.

At nightfall on the second of those eternal days he shut
himself in the library. The unfilled lamp had gone out,
leaving a trail of smoke in the air. The sprigs of mignonette
and rosemary, with which the room was sprinkled every day,
were unrenewed, and scented the gloom with close odours of
decay. A costly manuscript of Theocritus was tumbled in
disorder on the floor. Hermas sank into a chair like a man in
whom the very spring of being is broken. Through the darkness
some one drew near. He did not even lift his head. A hand
touched him; a soft arm was laid over his shoulders. It was
Athenais, kneeling beside him and speaking very low:

"Hermas--it is almost over--the child! His voice grows
weaker hour by hour. He moans and calls for some one to help
him; then he laughs. It breaks my heart. He has just fallen
asleep. The moon is rising now. Unless a change comes he
cannot last till sunrise. Is there nothing we can do? Is
there no power that can save him? Is there no one to pity us
and spare us? Let us call, let us beg for compassion and
help; let us pray for his life!"

Yes; this was what he wanted--this was the only thing that
could bring relief: to pray; to pour out his sorrow somewhere;
to find a greater strength than his own and cling to it and
plead for mercy and help. To leave this undone was to be
false to his manhood; it was to be no better than the dumb
beasts when their young perish. How could he let his boy
suffer and die, without an effort, a cry, a prayer?

He sank on his knees beside Athenais.

"Out of the depths--out of the depths we call for pity.
The, light of our eyes is fading--the child is dying. Oh, the
child, the child! Spare the child's life, thou merciful--"

Not a word; only that deathly blank. The hands of Hermas,
stretched out in supplication, touched the marble table. He
felt the cool hardness of the polished stone beneath his
fingers. A roll of papyrus, dislodged by his touch, fell
rustling to the floor. Through the open door, faint and far
off, came the footsteps of the servants, moving cautiously.
The heart of Hermas was like a lump of ice in his bosom. He
rose slowly to his feet, lifting Athenais with him.

"It is in vain," he said; "there is nothing for us to do.
Long ago I knew something. I think it would have helped us.
But I have forgotten it. It is all gone. But I would give
all that I have, if I could bring it back again now, at this
hour, in this time of our bitter trouble."

A slave entered the room while he was speaking, and
approached hesitatingly.

"Master," he said, "John of Antioch, whom we were
forbidden to admit to the house, has come again. He would
take no denial. Even now he waits in the peristyle; and the
old man Marcion is with him, seeking to turn him away."

"Come," said Hermas to his wife, "let us go to him."

In the central hall the two men were standing; Marcion,
with disdainful eyes and sneering lips, taunting the unbidden
guest; John, silent, quiet, patient, while the wondering
slaves looked on in dismay. He lifted his searching gaze to
the haggard face of Hermas.

"My son, I knew that I should see you again, even though
you did not send for me. I have come to you because I have
heard that you are in trouble."

"It is true," answered Hermas, passionately; "we are in
trouble, desperate trouble, trouble accursed. Our child is
dying. We are poor, we are destitute, we are afflicted. In
all this house, in all the world, there is no one that can
help us. I knew something long ago, when I was with you,--a
word, a name,--in which we might have found hope. But I have
lost it. I gave it to this man. He has taken it away from me

He pointed to Marcion. The old man's lips curled
scornfully. "A word, a name!" he sneered. "What is that, O
most wise man and holy Presbyter? A thing of air, a thing
that men make to describe their own dreams and fancies. Who
would go about to rob any one of such a thing as that? It is
a prize that only a fool would think of taking. Besides, the
young man parted with it of his own free will. He bargained
with me cleverly. I promised him wealth and pleasure and
fame. What did he give in return? An empty name, which was
a burden--"

"Servant of demons, be still!" The voice of John rang
clear, like a trumpet, through the hall. "There is a name
which none shall dare to take in vain. There is a name which
none can lose without being lost. There is a name at which
the devils tremble. Go quickly, before I speak it!"

Marcion shrank into the shadow of one of the pillars. A
lamp near him tottered on its pedestal and fell with a crash. In
the confusion he vanished, as noiselessly as a shade.

John turned to Hermas, and his tone softened as he said:
"My son, you have sinned deeper than you know. The word with
which you parted so lightly is the keyword of all life.
Without it the world has no meaning, existence no peace, death
no refuge. It is the word that purifies love, and comforts
grief, and keeps hope alive forever. It is the most precious
word that ever ear has heard, or mind has known, or heart has
conceived. It is the name of Him who has given us life and
breath and all things richly to enjoy; the name of Him who,
though we may forget Him, never forgets us; the name of Him
who pities us as you pity your suffering child; the name of
Him who, though we wander far from Him, seeks us in the
wilderness, and sent His Son, even as His Son has sent me this
night, to breathe again that forgotten name in the heart that
is perishing without it. Listen, my son, listen with all your
soul to the blessed name of God our Father."

The cold agony in the breast of Hermas dissolved like a
fragment of ice that melts in the summer sea. A sense of sweet
release spread through him from head to foot. The lost was
found. The dew of peace fell on his parched soul, and the
withering flower of human love raised its head again. He stood
upright, and lifted his hands high toward heaven.

"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord! O my
God, be merciful to me, for my soul trusteth in Thee. My God,
Thou hast given; take not Thy gift away from me, O my God!
Spare the life of this my child, O Thou God, my Father, my

A deep hush followed the cry. "Listen!" whispered
Athenais, breathlessly.

Was it an echo? It could not be, for it came again--the
voice of the child, clear and low, waking from sleep, and
calling: "Father!"



The day before Christmas, in the year of our Lord 722.

Broad snow-meadows glistening white along the banks of the
river Moselle; steep hill-sides blooming with mystic
forget-me-not where the glow of the setting sun cast long
shadows down their eastern slope; an arch of clearest, deepest
gentian bending overhead; in the centre of the aerial garden
the walls of the cloister of Pfalzel, steel-blue to the east,
violet to the west; silence over all,--a gentle, eager,
conscious stillness, diffused through the air, as if earth and
sky were hushing themselves to hear the voice of the river
faintly murmuring down the valley.

In the cloister, too, there was silence at the sunset
hour. All day long there had been a strange and joyful stir
among the nuns. A breeze of curiosity and excitement had
swept along the corridors and through every quiet cell. A famous
visitor had come to the convent.

It was Winfried of England, whose name in the Roman tongue
was Boniface, and whom men called the Apostle of Germany. A
great preacher; a wonderful scholar; but, more than all, a
daring traveller, a venturesome pilgrim, a priest of romance.

He had left his home and his fair estate in Wessex; he
would not stay in the rich monastery of Nutescelle, even
though they had chosen him as the abbot; he had refused a
bishopric at the court of King Karl. Nothing would content
him but to go out into the wild woods and preach to the

Through the forests of Hesse and Thuringia, and along the
borders of Saxony, he had wandered for years, with a handful
of companions, sleeping under the trees, crossing mountains
and marshes, now here, now there, never satisfied with ease
and comfort, always in love with hardship and danger.

What a man he was! Fair and slight, but straight as a
spear and strong as an oaken staff. His face was still young; the
smooth skin was bronzed by wind and sun. His gray eyes, clean
and kind, flashed like fire when he spoke of his adventures, and
of the evil deeds of the false priests with whom he contended.

What tales he had told that day! Not of miracles wrought
by sacred relics; not of courts and councils and splendid
cathedrals; though he knew much of these things. But to-day
he had spoken of long journeyings by sea and land; of perils
by fire and flood; of wolves and bears, and fierce snowstorms,
and black nights in the lonely forest; of dark altars of
heathen gods, and weird, bloody sacrifices, and narrow escapes
from murderous bands of wandering savages.

The little novices had gathered around him, and their
faces had grown pale and their eyes bright as they listened
with parted lips, entranced in admiration, twining their arms
about one another's shoulders and holding closely together,
half in fear, half in delight. The older nuns had turned from
their tasks and paused, in passing by, to bear the pilgrim's
story. Too well they knew the truth of what he spoke. Many a
one among them had seen the smoke rising from the ruins of her
father's roof. Many a one had a brother far away in the wild
country to whom her heart went out night and day, wondering if he
were still among the living.

But now the excitements of that wonderful day were over;
the hour of the evening meal had come; the inmates of the
cloister were assembled in the refectory.

On the dais sat the stately Abbess Addula, daughter of
King Dagobert, looking a princess indeed, in her purple tunic,
with the hood and cuffs of her long white robe trimmed with
ermine, and a snowy veil resting like a crown on her silver
hair. At her right hand was the honoured guest, and at her
left hand her grandson, the young Prince Gregor, a big, manly
boy, just returned from school.

The long, shadowy hall, with its dark-brown rafters and
beams; the double row of nuns, with their pure veils and fair
faces; the ruddy glow of the slanting sunbeams striking upward
through the tops of the windows and painting a pink glow
high up on the walls,--it was all as beautiful as a picture,
and as silent. For this was the rule of the cloister, that at
the table all should sit in stillness for a little while, and
then one should read aloud, while the rest listened.

"It is the turn of my grandson to read to-day," said the
abbess to Winfried; "we shall see how much he has learned in
the school. Read, Gregor; the place in the book is marked."

The lad rose from his seat and turned the pages of the
manuscript. It was a copy of Jerome's version of the
Scriptures in Latin, and the marked place was in the letter of
St. Paul to the Ephesians,--the passage where he describes the
preparation of the Christian as a warrior arming for battle.
The young voice rang out clearly, rolling the sonorous words,
without slip or stumbling, to the end of the chapter.

Winfried listened smiling. "That was bravely read, my
son," said he, as the reader paused. "Understandest thou what
thou readest?"

"Surely, father," answered the boy; "it was taught me by
the masters at Treves; and we have read this epistle from
beginning to end, so that I almost know it by heart."

Then he began to repeat the passage, turning away from the
page as if to show his skill.

But Winfried stopped him with a friendly lifting of the

"Not so, my son; that was not my meaning. When we pray,
we speak to God. When we read, God speaks to us. I ask
whether thou hast heard what He has said to thee in the common
speech. Come, give us again the message of the warrior and
his armour and his battle, in the mother-tongue, so that all
can understand it."

The boy hesitated, blushed, stammered; then he came around
to Winfried's seat, bringing the book. "Take the book, my
father," he cried, "and read it for me. I cannot see the
meaning plain, though I love the sound of the words. Religion
I know, and the doctrines of our faith, and the life of
priests and nuns in the cloister, for which my grandmother
designs me, though it likes me little. And fighting I know,
and the life of warriors and heroes, for I have read of it in
Virgil and the ancients, and heard a bit from the soldiers at
Treves; and I would fain taste more of it, for it likes me much.
But how the two lives fit together, or what need there is of
armour for a clerk in holy orders, I can never see. Tell me the
meaning, for if there is a man in all the world that knows it,
I am sure it is thou."

So Winfried took the book and closed it, clasping the
boy's hand with his own.

"Let us first dismiss the others to their vespers said he,
"lest they should be weary."

A sign from the abbess; a chanted benediction; a murmuring
of sweet voices and a soft rustling of many feet over the
rushes on the floor; the gentle tide of noise flowed out
through the doors and ebbed away down the corridors; the three
at the head of the table were left alone in the darkening

Then Winfried began to translate the parable of the
soldier into the realities of life.

At every turn he knew how to flash a new light into the
picture out of his own experience. He spoke of the combat
with self, and of the wrestling with dark spirits in solitude.
He spoke of the demons that men had worshipped for centuries in
the wilderness, and whose malice they invoked against the
stranger who ventured into the gloomy forest. Gods, they called
them, and told weird tales of their dwelling among the
impenetrable branches of the oldest trees and in the caverns of
the shaggy hills; of their riding on the wind-horses and hurling
spears of lightning against their foes. Gods they were not, but
foul spirits of the air, rulers of the darkness. Was there not
glory and honour in fighting them, in daring their anger under
the shield of faith, in putting them to flight with the sword
of truth? What better adventure could a brave man ask than to
go forth against them, and wrestle with them, and conquer

"Look you, my friends," said Winfried, "how sweet and
peaceful is this convent to-night! It is a garden full of
flowers in the heart of winter; a nest among the branches of
a great tree shaken by the winds; a still haven on the edge of
a tempestuous sea. And this is what religion means for
those who are chosen and called to quietude and prayer and

"But out yonder in the wide forest, who knows what storms
are raving to-night in the hearts of men, though all the woods
are still? who knows what haunts of wrath and cruelty are
closed tonight against the advent of the Prince of Peace? And
shall I tell you what religion means to those who are called
and chosen to dare, and to fight, and to conquer the world for
Christ? It means to go against the strongholds of the
adversary. It means to struggle to win an entrance for the
Master everywhere. What helmet is strong enough for this
strife save the helmet of salvation? What breastplate can
guard a man against these fiery darts but the breastplate of
righteousness? What shoes can stand the wear of these
journeys but the preparation of the gospel of peace?"

"Shoes?" he cried again, and laughed as if a sudden
thought had struck him. He thrust out his foot, covered with
a heavy cowhide boot, laced high about his leg with thongs of

"Look here,--how a fighting man of the cross is
shod! I have seen the boots of the Bishop of Tours,--white
kid, broidered with silk; a day in the bogs would tear them to
shreds. I have seen the sandals that the monks use on the
highroads,--yes, and worn them; ten pair of them have I worn
out and thrown away in a single journey. Now I shoe my feet
with the toughest hides, hard as iron; no rock can cut them,
no branches can tear them. Yet more than one pair of these
have I outworn, and many more shall I outwear ere my journeys
are ended. And I think, if God is gracious to me, that I
shall die wearing them. Better so than in a soft bed with
silken coverings. The boots of a warrior, a hunter, a
woodsman,--these are my preparation of the gospel of peace.

"Come, Gregor," he said, laying his brown hand on the
youth's shoulder, "come, wear the forester's boots with me.
This is the life to which we are called. Be strong in the
Lord, a hunter of the demons, a subduer of the wilderness, a
woodsman of the faith. Come."

The boy's eyes sparkled. He turned to his grandmother.
She shook her head vigorously.

"Nay, father," she said, "draw not the lad away from my
side with these wild words. I need him to help me with my
labours, to cheer my old age."

"Do you need him more than the Master does?" asked
Winfried; "and will you take the wood that is fit for a bow to
make a distaff?"

"But I fear for the child. Thy life is too hard for him.
He will perish with hunger in the woods."

"Once," said Winfried, smiling, "we were camped on the
bank of the river Ohru. The table was set for the morning
meal, but my comrades cried that it was empty; the provisions
were exhausted; we must go without breakfast, and perhaps
starve before we could escape from the wilderness. While they
complained, a fish-hawk flew up from the river with flapping
wings, and let fall a great pike in the midst of the camp.
There was food enough and to spare! Never have I seen the
righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

"But the fierce pagans of the forest," cried the
abbess,--"they may pierce the boy with their arrows, or dash
out his brains with their axes. He is but a child, too young for
the danger and the strife."

"A child in years," replied Winfried, "but a man in
spirit. And if the hero fall early in the battle, he wears
the brighter crown, not a leaf withered, not a flower fallen."

The aged princess trembled a little. She drew Gregor
close to her side, and laid her hand gently on his brown hair.
"I am not sure that he wants to leave me yet. Besides,
there is no horse in the stable to give him, now, and he
cannot go as befits the grandson of a king."

Gregor looked straight into her eyes.

"Grandmother," said he, "dear grandmother, if thou wilt
not give me a horse to ride with this man of God, I will go
with him afoot."


Two years had passed since that Christmas-eve in the cloister
of Pfalzel. A little company of pilgrims, less than a score
of men, were travelling slowly northward through the wide forest
that rolled over the hills of central Germany.

At the head of the band marched Winfried, clad in a tunic
of fur, with his long black robe girt high above his waist, so
that it might not hinder his stride. His hunter's boots were
crusted with snow. Drops of ice sparkled like jewels along
the thongs that bound his legs. There were no other ornaments
of his dress except the bishop's cross hanging on his breast,
and the silver clasp that fastened his cloak about his neck.
He carried a strong, tall staff in his hand, fashioned at the
top into the form of a cross.

Close beside him, keeping step like a familiar comrade,
was the young Prince Gregor. Long marches through the
wilderness had stretched his legs and broadened his back, and
made a man of him in stature as well as in spirit. His
jacket and cap were of wolf-skin, and on his shoulder he
carried an axe, with broad, shining blade. He was a mighty
woodsman now, and could make a spray of chips fly around him
as he hewed his way through the trunk of a pine-tree.

Behind these leaders followed a pair of teamsters, guiding
a rude sledge, loaded with food and the equipage of the camp,
and drawn by two big, shaggy horses, blowing thick clouds of
steam from their frosty nostrils. Tiny icicles hung from the
hairs on their lips. Their flanks were smoking. They sank
above the fetlocks at every step in the soft snow.

Last of all came the rear guard, armed with bows and
javelins. It was no child's play, in those days, to cross
Europe afoot.

The weird woodland, sombre and illimitable, covered hill
and vale, table-land and mountain-peak. There were wide moors
where the wolves hunted in packs as if the devil drove them,
and tangled thickets where the lynx and the boar made their
lairs. Fierce bears lurked among the rocky passes, and had
not yet learned to fear the face of man. The gloomy recesses
of the forest gave shelter to inhabitants who were still more
cruel and dangerous than beasts of prey,--outlaws and sturdy
robbers and mad were-wolves and bands of wandering pillagers.

The pilgrim who would pass from the mouth of the Tiber to
the mouth of the Rhine must trust in God and keep his arrows
loose in the quiver.

The travellers were surrounded by an ocean of trees, so
vast, so full of endless billows, that it seemed to be
pressing on every side to overwhelm them. Gnarled oaks, with
branches twisted and knotted as if in rage, rose in groves
like tidal waves. Smooth forests of beech-trees, round and
gray, swept over the knolls and slopes of land in a mighty
ground-swell. But most of all, the multitude of pines and
firs, innumerable and monotonous, with straight, stark trunks,
and branches woven together in an unbroken flood of darkest
green, crowded through the valleys and over the hills, rising
on the highest ridges into ragged crests, like the foaming
edge of breakers.

Through this sea of shadows ran a narrow stream of shining
whiteness,--an ancient Roman road, covered with snow. It was
as if some great ship had ploughed through the green ocean
long ago, and left behind it a thick, smooth wake of foam.
Along this open track the travellers held their way,--heavily,
for the drifts were deep; warily, for the hard winter had driven
many packs of wolves down from the moors.

The steps of the pilgrims were noiseless; but the sledges
creaked over the dry snow, and the panting of the horses
throbbed through the still air. The pale-blue shadows on the
western side of the road grew longer. The sun, declining
through its shallow arch, dropped behind the tree-tops.
Darkness followed swiftly, as if it had been a bird of prey
waiting for this sign to swoop down upon the world.

"Father," said Gregor to the leader, "surely this day's
march is done. It is time to rest, and eat, and sleep. If we
press onward now, we cannot see our steps; and will not that
be against the word of the psalmist David, who bids us not to
put confidence in the legs of a man?"

Winfried laughed. "Nay, my son Gregor," said he, "thou
hast tripped, even now, upon thy text. For David said only,
'I take no pleasure in the legs of a man.' And so say I, for
I am not minded to spare thy legs or mine, until we come farther
on our way, and do what must be done this night. Draw thy
belt tighter, my son, and hew me out this tree that is fallen
across the road, for our campground is not here."

The youth obeyed; two of the foresters sprang to help him;
and while the soft fir-wood yielded to the stroke of the axes,
and the snow flew from the bending branches, Winfried turned
and spoke to his followers in a cheerful voice, that refreshed
them like wine.

"Courage, brothers, and forward yet a little! The moon
will light us presently, and the path is plain. Well know I
that the journey is weary; and my own heart wearies also for
the home in England, where those I love are keeping feast this
Christmas-eve. But we have work to do before we feast
to-night. For this is the Yuletide, and the heathen people of
the forest are gathered at the thunder-oak of Geismar to
worship their god, Thor. Strange things will be seen there,
and deeds which make the soul black. But we are sent to
lighten their darkness; and we will teach our kinsmen to keep
a Christmas with us such as the woodland has never known.
Forward, then, and stiffen up the feeble knees!"

A murmur of assent came from the men. Even the horses
seemed to take fresh heart. They flattened their backs to
draw the heavy loads, and blew the frost from their nostrils
as they pushed ahead.

The night grew broader and less oppressive. A gate of
brightness was opened secretly somewhere in the sky. Higher
and higher swelled the clear moon-flood, until it poured over
the eastern wall of forest into the road. A drove of wolves
howled faintly in the distance, but they were receding, and
the sound soon died away. The stars sparkled merrily through
the stringent air; the small, round moon shone like silver;
little breaths of dreaming wind wandered across the pointed
fir-tops, as the pilgrims toiled bravely onward, following
their clew of light through a labyrinth of darkness.

After a while the road began to open out a little. There
were spaces of meadow-land, fringed with alders, behind which
a boisterous river ran clashing through spears of ice.

Rude houses of hewn logs appeared in the openings, each one
casting a patch of inky shadow upon the snow. Then the travellers
passed a larger group of dwellings, all silent and unlighted; and
beyond, they saw a great house, with many outbuildings and
inclosed courtyards, from which the hounds bayed furiously, and a
noise of stamping horses came from the stalls. But there was no
other sound of life. The fields around lay naked to the moon.
They saw no man, except that once, on a path that skirted the
farther edge of a meadow, three dark figures passed them, running
very swiftly.

Then the road plunged again into a dense thicket,
traversed it, and climbing to the left, emerged suddenly upon
a glade, round and level except at the northern side, where a
hillock was crowned with a huge oak-tree. It towered above
the heath, a giant with contorted arms, beckoning to the host
of lesser trees. "Here," cried Winfried, as his eyes flashed
and his hand lifted his heavy staff, "here is the Thunder-oak;
and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the
false god Thor."

Withered leaves still clung to the branches of the oak: torn
and faded banners of the departed summer. The bright crimson
of autumn had long since disappeared, bleached away by the
storms and the cold. But to-night these tattered remnants of
glory were red again: ancient bloodstains against the
dark-blue sky. For an immense fire had been kindled in front
of the tree. Tongues of ruddy flame, fountains of ruby
sparks, ascended through the spreading limbs and flung a
fierce illumination upward and around. The pale, pure
moonlight that bathed the surrounding forests was quenched and
eclipsed here. Not a beam of it sifted through the branches
of the oak. It stood like a pillar of cloud between the still
light of heaven and the crackling, flashing fire of earth.

But the fire itself was invisible to Winfried and his
companions. A great throng of people were gathered around it
in a half-circle, their backs to the open glade, their faces
toward the oak. Seen against that glowing background, it was but
the silhouette of a crowd, vague, black, formless, mysterious.

The travellers paused for a moment at the edge of the
thicket, and took counsel together.

"It is the assembly of the tribe," said one of the
foresters, "the great night of the council. I heard of it
three days ago, as we passed through one of the villages. All
who swear by the old gods have been summoned. They will
sacrifice a steed to the god of war, and drink blood, and eat
horse-flesh to make them strong. It will be at the peril of
our lives if we approach them. At least we must hide the
cross, if we would escape death."

"Hide me no cross," cried Winfried, lifting his staff,
"for I have come to show it, and to make these blind folk see
its power. There is more to be done here to-night than the
slaying of a steed, and a greater evil to be stayed than the
shameful eating of meat sacrificed to idols. I have seen it
in a dream. Here the cross must stand and be our rede."

At his command the sledge was left in the border
of the wood, with two of the men to guard it, and the rest of
the company moved forward across the open ground. They
approached unnoticed, for all the multitude were looking
intently toward the fire at the foot of the oak.

Then Winfried's voice rang out, "Hail, ye sons of the
forest! A stranger claims the warmth of your fire in the
winter night."

Swiftly, and as with a single motion, a thousand eyes were
bent upon the speaker. The semicircle opened silently in the
middle; Winfried entered with his followers; it closed again
behind them.

Then, as they looked round the curving ranks, they saw
that the hue of the assemblage was not black, but
white,--dazzling, radiant, solemn. White, the robes of the
women clustered together at the points of the wide crescent;
white, the glittering byrnies of the warriors standing in
close ranks; white, the fur mantles of the aged men who held
the central palace in the circle; white, with the shimmer of
silver ornaments and the purity of lamb's-wool, the raiment of
a little group of children who stood close by the fire; white,
with awe and fear, the faces of all who looked at them; and over
all the flickering, dancing radiance of the flames played and
glimmered like a faint, vanishing tinge of blood on snow.

The only figure untouched by the glow was the old priest,
Hunrad, with his long, spectral robe, flowing hair and beard,
and dead-pale face, who stood with his back to the fire and
advanced slowly to meet the strangers.

"Who are you? Whence come you, and what seek you here?"

"Your kinsman am I, of the German brotherhood," answered
Winfried, "and from England, beyond the sea, have I come to
bring you a greeting from that land, and a message from the
All-Father, whose servant I am."

"Welcome, then," said Hunrad, "welcome, kinsman, and be
silent; for what passes here is too high to wait, and must be
done before the moon crosses the middle heaven, unless,
indeed, thou hast some sign or token from the gods. Canst
thou work miracles?"

The question came sharply, as if a sudden gleam of hope
had flashed through the tangle of the old priest's mind. But
Winfried's voice sank lower and a cloud of disappointment
passed over his face as he replied: "Nay, miracles have I
never wrought, though I have heard of many; but the All-Father
has given no power to my hands save such as belongs to common

"Stand still, then, thou common man," said Hunrad,
scornfully, "and behold what the gods have called us hither to
do. This night is the death-night of the sun-god, Baldur the
Beautiful, beloved of gods and men. This night is the hour of
darkness and the power of winter, of sacrifice and mighty
fear. This night the great Thor, the god of thunder and war,
to whom this oak is sacred, is grieved for the death of
Baldur, and angry with this people because they have forsaken
his worship. Long is it since an offering has been laid upon
his altar, long since the roots of his holy tree have been fed
with blood. Therefore its leaves have withered before the
time, and its boughs are heavy with death. Therefore the
Slavs`and the Wends have beaten us in battle. Therefore the
harvests have failed, and the wolf-hordes have ravaged the
folds, and the strength has departed from the bow, and the
wood of the spear has broken, and the wild boar has slain the
huntsman. Therefore the plague has fallen on our dwellings,
and the dead are more than the living in all our villages.
Answer me, ye people, are not these things true? "

A hoarse sound of approval ran through the circle. A
chant, in which the voices of the men and women blended, like
the shrill wind in the pinetrees above the rumbling thunder of
a waterfall, rose and fell in rude cadences.

O Thor, the Thunderer
Mighty and merciless,
Spare us from smiting!
Heave not thy hammer,
Angry, aginst us;
Plague not thy people.
Take from our treasure
Richest Of ransom.
Silver we send thee,
Jewels and javelins,
Goodliest garments,
All our possessions,
Priceless, we proffer.
Sheep will we slaughter,
Steeds will we sacrifice;
Bright blood shall bathe
O tree of Thunder,
Life-floods shall lave thee,
Strong wood of wonder.
Mighty, have mercy,
Smile as no more,
Spare us and save us,
Spare us, Thor! Thor!

With two great shouts the song ended, and stillness
followed so intense that the crackling of the fire was heard
distinctly. The old priest stood silent for a moment. His
shaggy brows swept down ever his eyes like ashes quenching
flame. Then he lifted his face and spoke.

"None of these things will please the god. More costly is
the offering that shall cleanse your sin, more precious the
crimson dew that shall send new life into this holy tree of
blood. Thor claims your dearest and your noblest gift."

Hunrad moved nearer to the group of children who stood
watching the fire and the swarms of spark-serpents darting
upward. They had heeded none of the priest's words, and did
not notice now that he approached them, so eager were they to
see which fiery snake would go highest among the oak branches.
Foremost among them, and most intent on the pretty game, was
a boy like a sunbeam, slender and quick, with blithe brown
eyes and laughing lips. The priest's hand was laid upon his
shoulder. The boy turned and looked up in his face.

"Here," said the old man, with his voice vibrating as when
a thick rope is strained by a ship swinging from her moorings,
"here is the chosen one, the eldest son of the Chief, the
darling of the people. Hearken, Bernhard, wilt thou go to
Valhalla, where the heroes dwell with the gods, to bear a
message to Thor?"

The boy answered, swift and clear:

"Yes, priest, I will go if my father bids me. Is
it far away? Shall I run quickly? Must I take my bow and
arrows for the wolves?"

The boy's father, the Chieftain Gundhar, standing among
his bearded warriors, drew his breath deep, and leaned so
heavily on the handle of his spear that the wood cracked. And
his wife, Irma, bending forward from the ranks of women,

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