Part 4 out of 4
table, and somewhat upon it covered with a gold cloth; and an old
veiled woman lifted the gold, and the head of the Princess lay
there with the lashes like night upon her cheek, and between her
lips was a little scroll, saying this: `I have chosen my Lover
and my Lord, and he is mightiest, for he is Death.' - So the
Kings went silently away. And there was Peace."
The music of her voice ceased, and the Rana clasped her closer.
"This I cannot do. Better die together. Let us take counsel with
the ancient Brahman, thy guru [teacher], for he is very wise."
She clapped her hands, and the maidens returned, and, bowing,
brought the venerable Prabhu Narayan into the Presence, and again
those roses retired.
Respectful salutation was then offered by the King and the Queen
to that saint, hoary with wisdom - he who had seen her grow into
the loveliness of the sea-born Shri, yet had never seen that
loveliness; for he had never raised his eyes above the chooris
about her ankles. To him the King related his anxieties; and he
sat rapt in musing, and the two waited in dutiful silence until
long minutes had fallen away; and at the last he lifted his head,
weighted with wisdom, and spoke.
"0 King, Descendant of Rama! this outrage cannot be. Yet, knowing
the strength and desire of this obscene one and the weakness of
our power, it is plain that only with cunning can cunning be met.
Hear, therefore, the history of the Fox and the Drum.
"A certain Fox searched for food in the jungle, and so doing
beheld a tree on which hung a drum; and when the boughs knocked
upon the parchment, it sounded aloud. Considering, he believed
that so round a form and so great a voice must portend much good
feeding. Neglecting on this account a fowl that fed near by, he
ascended to the drum. The drum being rent was but air and
parchment, and meanwhile the fowl fled away. And from the eye of
folly he shed the tear of disappointment, having bartered the
substance for the shadow. So must we act with this budmash
[scoundrel]. First, receiving his oath that he will depart
without violence, hid him hither to a great feast, and say that
he shall behold the face of the Queen in a mirror. Provide that
some fair woman of the city show her face, and then let him
depart in peace, showing him friendship. He shall not know he
hath not seen the beauty he would befoul."
After consultation, no better way could be found; but the heart
of the great Lady was heavy with foreboding.
(A hi! that Beauty should wander a pilgrim in the ways of
To Allah-u-Din therefore did the King dispatch this letter by
swift riders on mares of Mewar.
After salutations - "Now whereas thou hast said thou wouldest
look upon the beauty of the Treasure of Chitor, know it is not
the custom of the Rajputs that any eye should light upon their
treasure. Yet assuredly, when requests arise between friends,
there cannot fail to follow distress of mind and division of soul
if these are ungranted. So, under promises that follow, I bid
thee to a feast at my poor house of Chitor, and thou shalt see
that beauty reflected in a mirror, and so seeing, depart in peace
from the house of a friend."
This being writ by the Twice-Born, the Brahman, did the Rana sign
with bitter rage in his heart. And the days passed.
On a certain day found fortunate by the astrologers - a day of
early winter, when the dawns were pure gold and the nights
radiant with a cool moon - did a mighty troop of Moslems set
their camp on the plain of Chitor. It was as if a city had
blossomed in an hour. Those who looked from the walls muttered
prayers to the Lord of the Trident; for these men seemed like the
swarms of the locust - people, warriors all, fierce fighting-men.
And in the ways of Chitor, and up the steep and winding causeway
from the plains, were warriors also, the chosen of the Rajputs,
thick as blades of corn hedging the path.
(Ahi! that the blossom of beauty should have swords for thorns!)
Then, leaving his camp, attended by many Chiefs, - may the
mothers and sires that begot them be accursed! - came
Allah-u-Din, riding toward the Lower Gate, and so upward along
the causeway, between the two rows of men who neither looked nor
spoke, standing like the carvings of war in the Caves of Ajunta.
And the moon was rising through the sunset as he came beneath the
last and seventh gate. Through the towers and palaces he rode
with his following, but no woman, veiled or unveiled, - no, not
even an outcast of the city, - was there to see him come; only
the men, armed and silent. So he turned to Munim Khan that rode
at his bridle, saying,-
"Let not the eye of watchfulness close this night on the pillow
And thus he entered the palace.
Very great was the feast in Chitor, and the wines that those
accursed should not drink (since the Outcast whom they call their
Prophet forbade them) ran like water, and at the right hand of
Allah-u-Din was set the great crystal Cup inlaid with gold by a
craft that is now perished; and he filled and refilled it - may
his own Prophet curse the swine!
But because the sons of Kings eat not with the outcasts, the Rana
entered after, clothed in chain armor of blue steel, and having
greeted him, bid him to the sight of that Treasure. And
Allah-u-Din, his eyes swimming with wine, and yet not drunken,
followed, and the two went alone.
Purdahs [curtains] of great splendour were hung in the great Hall
that is called the Raja's Hall, exceeding rich with gold, and in
front of the opening was a kneeling-cushion, and an a gold stool
before it a polished mirror.
(Ahi! for gold and beauty, the scourges of the world!)
And the Rana was pale to the lips.
Now as the Princes stood by the purdah, a veiled woman, shrouded
in white so that no shape could he seen in her, came forth from
within, and kneeling upon the cushion, she unveiled her face
bending until the mirror, like a pool of water, held it, and that
only. And the King motioned his guest to look, and he looked over
her veiled shoulder and saw. Very great was the bowed beauty that
the mirror held, but Allah-u-Din turned to the Rana.
"By the Bread and the Salt, by the Guest-Right, by the Honour of
thy House, I ask - is this the Treasure of Chitor?"
And since the Sun-Descended cannot lie, no, not though they
perish, the Rana answered, flushing darkly, - "This is not the
Treasure. Wilt thou spare?"
But he would not, and the woman slipped like a shadow behind the
purdah and no word said.
Then was heard the tinkling of chooris, and the little noise fell
upon the silence like a fear, and, parting the curtains, came a
woman veiled like the other. She did not kneel, but took the
mirror in her hand, and Allah-u-Din drew up behind her back. From
her face she raised the veil of gold Dakka webs, and gazed into
the mirror, holding it high, and that Accursed stumbled back,
blinded with beauty, saying this only,- "I have seen the Treasure
So the purdah fell about her.
The next day, after the Imaum of the Accursed had called them to
prayer, they departed, and Allah-u-Din, paying thanks to the Rana
for honours given and taken, and swearing friendship, besought
him to ride to his camp, to see the marvels of gold and steel
armor brought down from the passes, swearing also safe-conduct.
And because the Rajputs trust the word even of a foe, he went.
(A hi! that honour should strike hands with traitors!)
The hours went by, heavy-footed like mourners. Padmini the Rani
knelt by the window in her tower that overlooks the plains.
Motionless she knelt there, as the Goddess Uma lost in her
penances, and she saw her Lord ride forth, and the sparkle of
steel where the sun shone on them, and the Standard of the Cold
Disk on its black ground. So the camp of the Moslem swallowed
them up, and they returned no more. Still she knelt and none
dared speak with her; and as the first shade of evening fell
across the hills of Rajasthan, she saw a horseman spurting over
the flat; and he rode like the wind, and, seeing, she implored
Then entered the Twice-Born, that saint of clear eyes, and he
bore a scroll; and she rose and seated herself, and he stood by
her, as her ladies cowered like frightened doves before the woe
in his face as he read.
"To the Rose of Beauty, The Pearl among Women, the Chosen of the
Palace. Who, having seen thy loveliness, can look on another?
Who, having tasted the wine of the Houris, but thirsts forever?
Behold, I have thy King as hostage. Come thou and deliver him. I
have sworn that he shall return in thy place."
And from a smaller scroll, the Brahman read this:-
"I am fallen in the snare. Act thou as becomes a Rajputni."
Then that Daughter of the Sun lifted her head, for the thronging
of armed feet was heard in the Council Hall below. From the floor
she caught her veil and veiled herself in haste, and the Brahman
with bowed head followed, while her women mourned aloud. And,
descending, between the folds of the purdah she appeared white
and veiled, and the Brahman beside her, and the eyes of all the
Princes were lowered to her shrouded feet, while the voice they
had not heard fell silvery upon the air, and the echoes of the
high roof repeated it.
"Chief of the Rajputs, what is your counsel?" And he of Marwar
stepped forward, and not rais- ing his eyes above her feet,
"Queen, what is thine?"
For the Rajputs have ever heard the voice of their women.
And she said,-
"I counsel that I die and my head be sent to him, that my blood
may quench his desire."
And each talked eagerly with the other, but amid the tumult the
"This is not good talk. In his rage he will slay the King. By my
yoga, I have seen it. Seek another way."
So they sought, but could determine nothing, and they feared to
ride against the dog, for he held the life of the King; and the
tumult was great, but all were for the King's safety.
Then once more she spoke.
"Seeing it is determined that the King's life is more than my
honour, I go this night. In your hand I leave my little son, the
Prince Ajeysi. Prepare my litters, seven hundred of the best, for
all my women go with me. Depart now, for I have a thought from
Then, returning to her bower, she spoke this letter to the saint,
and he wrote it, and it was sent to the camp.
After salutations - "Wisdom and strength have attained their end.
Have ready for release the Rana of Chitor, for this night I come
with my ladies, the prize of the conqueror."
When the sun sank, a great procession with torches descended the
steep way of Chitor - seven hundred litters, and in the first was
borne the Queen, and all her women followed.
All the streets were thronged with women, weeping and beating
their breasts. Very greatly they wept, and no men were seen, for
their livers were black within them for shame as the Treasure of
Chitor departed, nor would they look upon the sight. And across
the plains went that procession; as if the stars had fallen upon
the earth, so glittered the sorrowful lights of the Queen.
But in the camp was great rejoicing, for the Barbarians knew that
many fair women attended on her.
Now, before the entrance to the camp they had made a great
shamiana [tent] ready, hung with shawls of Kashmir and the
plunder of Delhi; and there was set a silk divan for the Rani,
and beside it stood the Loser and the Gainer, Allah-u-Din and the
King, awaiting the Treasure.
Veiled she entered, stepping proudly, and taking no heed of the
Moslem, she stood before her husband, and even through the veil
he could feel the eyes he knew.
And that Accursed spoke, laughing.
"I have won-I have won, 0 King! Bid farewell to the Chosen of the
Palace - the Beloved of the Viceregent of Kings!"
Then she spoke softly, delicately, in her own tongue, that the
outcast should not guess the matter of her speech.
"Stand by me. Stir not. And when I raise my arm, cry the cry of
the Rajputs. NOW!"
And she flung her arm above her head, and instantly, like a lion
roaring, he shouted, drawing his sword, and from every litter
sprang an armed man, glittering in steel, and the bearers, humble
of mien, were Rajput knights, every one.
And Allah-u-Din thrust at the breast of the Queen; but around
them surged the war, and she was hedged with swords like a rose
in the thickets.
Very full of wine, dull with feasting and lust and surprised, the
Moslems fled across the plains, streaming in a broken rabble,
cursing and shouting like low-caste women; and the Rajputs,
wiping their swords, returned from the pursuit and laughed upon
But what shall be said of the joy of the King and of her who had
imagined this thing, in- structed of the Goddess who is the other
half of her Lord?
So the procession returned, singing, to Chitor with those Two in
the midst; but among the dogs that fled was Allah-u-Din, his face
blackened with shame and wrath, the curses choking in his foul
(Aid! that the evil still walk the ways of the world!)
So the time went by and the beauty of the Queen grew, and her
King could see none but hers. Like the moon she obscured the
stars, and every day he remembered her wisdom, her valour, and
his soul did homage at her feet, and there was great content in
It chanced one day that the Queen, looking from her high window
that like an eagle's nest overhung the precipice, saw, on the
plain beneath, a train of men, walking like ants, and each
carried a basket on his back, and behind them was a cloud of dust
like a great army. Already the city was astir because of this
thing, and the rumours came thick and the spies were sent out.
In the dark they returned, and the Rana entered the bower of
Padmini, his eyes burning like coal with hate and wrath, and he
flung his arm round his wife like a shield.
"He is returned, and in power. Counsel me again, 0 wife, for
great is thy wisdom!"
But she answered only this,-
"Fight, for this time it is to the death."
Then each day she watched bow the baskets of earth, emptied upon
the plain at first, made nothing, an ant heap whereat fools might
laugh. But each day as the trains of men came, spilling their
baskets, the great earthworks grew and their height mounted. Day
after day the Rajputs rode forth and slew; and as they slew it
seemed that all the teeming millions of the earth came forth to
take the places of the slain. And the Rajputs fell also, and
under the pennons the thundering forces returned daily, thinned
of their best.
(A hi! that Evil rules the world as God!)
And still the earth grew up to the heights, and the protection of
the hills was slowly withdrawn from Chitor, for on the heights
they made they set their engines of war.
Then in a red dawn that great saint Narayan came to the Queen,
where she watched by her window, and spoke.
"0 great lady, I have dreamed a fearful dream. Nay, rather have I
seen a vision."
With her face set like a sword, the Queen said,-
"In a light red like blood, I waked, and beside me stood the
Mother, - Durga, - awful to see, with a girdle of heads about her
middle; and the drops fell thick and slow from That which she
held in her hand, and in the other was her sickle of Doom. Nor
did she speak, but my soul heard her words."
"She commanded: `Say this to the Rana: "In Chitor is My altar; in
Chitor is thy throne. If thou wouldest save either, send forth
twelve crowned Kings of Chitor to die.'"
As he said this, the Rana, fore-spent with fighting, entered and
heard the Divine word.
Now there were twelve princes of the Rajput blood, and the
youngest was the son of Padmini. What choice had these most
miserable but to appease the dreadful anger of the Goddess? So on
each fourth day a King of Chitor was crowned, and for three days
sat upon the throne, and on the fourth day, set in the front,
went forth and died fighting. So perished eleven Kings of Chitor,
and now there was left but the little Ajeysi, the son of the
And that day was a great Council called.
Few were there. On the plains many lay dead; holding the gates
many watched; but the blood was red in their hearts and flowed
like Indus in the melting of the snows. And to them spoke the
Rana, his hand clenched on his sword, and the other laid on the
small dark head of the Prince Ajeysi, who stood between his
knees. And as he spoke his voice gathered strength till it rang
through the hall like the voice of Indra when he thunders in the
"Men of the Rajputs, this child shall not die. Are we become
jackals that we fall upon the weak and tear them? When have we
put our women and children in the forefront of the war? I - I
only am King of Chitor. Narayan shall save this child for the
time that will surely come. And for us - what shall we do? I die
And like the hollow waves of a great sea they answered him,-
"We will die for Chitor."
There was silence and Marwar spoke.
"Do they not know the duty of a Rajputni?" said the King. "My
household has demanded that the caves be prepared."
And the men clashed stew joy with their swords, and the council
Then that very great saint, the Twice-Born, put off the sacred
thread that is the very soul of the Brahman. In his turban he
wound it secretly, and he stained his noble Aryan body until it
resembled the Pariahs, foul for the pure to see, loathsome for
the pure to touch, and he put on him the rags of the lowest of
the earth, and taking the Prince, he removed from the body of the
child every trace of royal and Rajput birth, and he appeared like
a child of the Bhils - the vile forest wanderers that shame not
to defile their lips with carrion. And in this guise they stood
before the Queen; and when she looked on the saint, the tears
fell from her eyes like rain, not for grief for her son, nor for
death, but that for their sake the pure should be made impure and
the glory of the Brahman-hood be defiled. And she fell at the old
man's feet and laid her head on the ground before him.
"Rise, daughter!" he said, "and take comfort! Are not the eyes of
the Gods clear that they should distinguish? - and this day we
stand before the God of Gods. Have not the Great Ones said, `That
which causes life causes also decay and death'? Therefore we who
go and you who stay are alike a part of the Divine. Embrace now
your child and bless him, for we depart. And it is on account of
the sacrifice of the Twelve that he is saved alive."
So, controlling her tears, she rose, and clasping the child to
her bosom, she bade him be of good cheer since he went with the
Gods. And that great saint took his hand from hers, and for the
first time in the life of the Queen he raised his aged eyes to
her face, and she gazed at him; but what she read, even the
ascetic Visravas, who saw all by the power of his yoga, could not
tell, for it was beyond speech. Very certainly the peace
thereafter possessed her.
So those two went out by the secret ways of the rocks, and
wandering far, were saved by the favour of Durga.
And the nights went by and the days, and the time came that no
longer could they hold Chitor, and all hope was dead.
On a certain day the Rana and the Rani stood for the last time in
her bower, and looked down into the city; and in the streets were
gathered in a very wonderful procession the women of Chitor; and
not one was veiled. Flowers that had bloomed in the inner
chambers, great ladies jewelled for a festival, young brides,
aged mothers, and girl children clinging to the robes of their
mothers who held their babes, crowded the ways. Even the
low-caste women walked with measured steps and proudly, decked in
what they had of best, their eyes lengthened with soorma, and
flowers in the darkness of their hair.
The Queen was clothed in a gold robe of rejoicing, her bodice
latticed with diamonds and great gems, and upon her bosom the
necklace of table emeralds, alight with green fire, which is the
jewel of the Queens of Chitor. So she stood radiant as a vision
of Shri, and it appeared that rays encircled her person.
And the Rana, unarmed save for his sword, had the saffron dress
of a bridegroom and the jeweled cap of the Rajput Kings, and
below in the hall were the Princes and Chiefs, clad even as he.
Then, raising her lotus eyes to her lord, the Princess said,-
"Beloved, the time is come, and we have chosen rightly, for this
is the way of honour, and it is but another link forged in the
chain of existence; for until existence itself is ended and
rebirth destroyed, still shall we meet in lives to come and still
be husband and wife. What room then for despair?"
And he answered,-
"This is true. Go first, wife, and I follow. Let not the door
swing to behind thee. But oh, to see thy beauty once more that is
the very speech of Gods with men! Wilt thou surely come again to
me and again be fair?"
And for all answer she smiled upon him, and at his feet performed
the obeisance of the Rajput wife when she departs upon a journey;
and they went out together, the Queen unveiled.
As she passed through the Princes, they lowered their eyes so
that none saw her; but when she stood on the steps of the palace,
the women all turned eagerly toward her like stars about the
moon, and lifting their arms, they began to sing the dirge of the
So they marched, and in great companies they marched, company
behind company, young and old, past the Queen, saluting her and
drawing courage from the loveliness and kindness of her unveiled
In the rocks beneath the palaces of Chitor are very great caves -
league long and terrible, with ways of darkness no eyes have
seen; and it is believed that in times past spirits have haunted
them with strange wailings. In these was prepared great store of
wood and oils and fragrant matters for burning. So to these caves
they marched and, company by company, disappeared into the
darkness; and the voice of their singing grew faint and hollow,
and died away, as the men stood watching their women go.
Now, when this was done and the last had gone, the Rani descended
the steps, and the Rana, taking a torch dipped in fragrant oils,
followed her, and the Princes walked after, clad like bridegrooms
but with no faces of bridal joy. At the entrance of the caves,
having lit the torch, he gave it into her hand, and she,
receiving it and smiling, turned once upon the threshold, and for
the first time those Princes beheld the face of the Queen, but
they hid their eyes with their hands when they had seen. So she
departed within, and the Rana shut to the door and barred and
bolted it, and the men with him flung down great rocks before it
so that none should know the way, nor indeed is it known to this
day; and with their hands on their swords they waited there, not
speaking, until a great smoke rose between the crevices of the
rocks, but no sound at all.
(Ashes of roses - ashes of roses! . . Ahi! for beauty that is but
touched and remitted!)
The sun was high when those men with their horses and on foot
marched down the winding causeway beneath the seven gates, and so
forth into the plains, and charging unarmed upon the Moslems,
they perished every man. After, it was asked of one who had seen
the great slaughter,-
"Say how my King bore himself."
And he who had seen told this:-
"Reaper of the harvest of battle, on the bed of honour he has
spread a carpet of the slain! He sleeps ringed about by his
enemies. How can the world tell of his deeds? The tongue is
When that Accursed, Allah-u-Din, came up the winding height of
the hills, he found only a dead city, and his heart was sick
Now this is the Sack of Chitor, and by the Oath of the Sack of
Chitor do the Rajputs swear when they bind their honour.
But it is only the ascetic Visravas who by the power of his yoga
has heard every word, and with his eyes beheld that Flame of
Beauty, who, for a brief space illuminating the world as a Queen,
returns to birth in many a shape of sorrowful loveliness until
the Blue-throated God shall in his favour destroy her rebirths.
Salutation to Ganesa the Elephant-Headed One, and to Shri the
Lady of Beauty!
THE BUILDING OF THE TAJ MAHAL
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful- the Smiting!
A day when the soul shall know what it has sent on or kept back.
A day when no soul shall control aught for another. And the
bidding belongs to God.
Now the Shah-in-Shah, Shah Jahan, Emperor in India, loved his
wife with a great love. And of all the wives of the Mogul
Emperors surely this Lady Arjemand, Mumtaz-i-Mahal - the Chosen
of the Palace - was the most worthy of love. In the tresses of
her silk-soft hair his heart was bound, and for none other had he
so much as a passing thought since his soul had been submerged in
her sweetness. Of her he said, using the words of the poet Faisi,
"How shall I understand the magic of Love the Juggler? For he
made thy beauty enter at that small gate the pupil of my eye, And
now - and now my heart cannot contain it!"
But who should marvel? For those who have seen this Arjemand
crowned with the crown the Padishah set upon her sweet low brows,
with the lamps of great jewels lighting the dimples of her cheeks
as they swung beside them, have most surely seen perfection. lie
who sat upon the Peacock Throne, where the outspread tail of
massed gems is centred by that great ruby, "The Eye of the
Peacock, the Tribute of the World," valued it not so much as one
Jock of the dark and perfumed tresses that rolled to her feet.
Less to him the twelve throne columns set close with pearls than
the little pearls she showed in her sweet laughter. For if this
lady was all beauty, so too she was all goodness; and from the
Shah-in-Shah to the poorest, all hearts of the world knelt in
adoration, before the Chosen of the Palace. She was, indeed, an
extraor- dinary beauty, in that she had the soul of a child, and
she alone remained unconscious of her power; and so she walked,
crowned and clothed with humility.
Cold, haughty, and silent was the Shah-in-Shah before she blessed
his arms - flattered, envied, but loved by none. But the gift
this Lady brought with her was love; and this, shining like the
sun upon ice, melted his coldness, and he became indeed the
kingly centre of a kingly court May the Peace be upon her!
Now it was the dawn of a sorrowful day when the pains of the Lady
Arjemand came strong and terrible, and she travailed in agony.
The hakims (physicians) stroked their beards and reasoned one
with another; the wise women surrounded her, and remedies many
and great were tried; and still her anguish grew, and in the
hall without sat the Shah-in-Shah upon his divan, in anguish of
spirit yet greater. The sweat ran on his brows, the knotted veins
were thick on his temples, and his eyes, sunk in their caves,
showed as those of a maddened man. He crouched on his cushions
and stared at the purdah that divided him from the Lady; and all
day the people came and went about him, and there was silence
from the voice he longed to hear; for she would not moan, lest
the sound should slay the Emperor. Her women besought her,
fearing that her strong silence would break her heart; but still
she lay, her hands clenched in one another, enduring; and the
Emperor endured without. The Day of the Smiting!
So, as the time of the evening prayer drew nigh, a child was
born, and the Empress, having done with pain, began to sink
slowly into that profound sleep that is the shadow cast by the
Last. May Allah the Upholder have mercy on our weakness! And the
women, white with fear and watching, looked upon her, and
whispered one to another, "It is the end."
And the aged mother of Abdul Mirza, standing at her head, said,
"She heeds not the cry of the child. She cannot stay." And the
newly wed wife of Saif Khan, standing at her feet, said, "The
voice of the beloved husband is as the Call of the Angel. Let the
Padishah be summoned."
So, the evening prayer being over (but the Emperor had not
prayed), the wisest of the hakims, Kazim Sharif, went before him
"Inhallah! May the will of the Issuer of Decrees in all things be
done! Ascribe unto the Creator glory, bowing before his Throne."
And he remained silent; but the Padishah, haggard in his jewels,
with his face hidden, answered thickly, "The truth! For Allah has
forgotten his slave."
And Kazim Sharif, bowing at his feet and veiling his face with
his hands, replied:
"The voice of the child cannot reach her, and the Lady of Delight
departs. He who would speak with her must speak quickly."
Then the Emperor rose to his feet unsteadily, like a man drunk
with the forbidden juice; and when Kazim Sharif would have
supported him, be flung aside his hands, and he stumbled, a man
wounded to death, as it were, to the marble chamber where she
In that white chamber it was dusk, and they had lit the little
cressets so that a very faint light fell upon her face. A slender
fountain a little cooled the hot, still air with its thin music
and its sprinkled diamonds, and outside, the summer lightnings
were playing wide and blue on the river; but so still was it that
the dragging footsteps of the Emperor raised the hair on the
flesh of those who heard, So the women who should, veiled
themselves, and the others remained like pillars of stone.
Now, when those steps were heard, a faint colour rose in the
cheek of the Lady Arjemand; but she did not raise the heavy
lashes, or move her hand. And he came up beside her, and the
Shadow of God, who should kneel to none, knelt, and his head fell
forward upon her breast; and in the hush the women glided out
like ghosts, leaving the husband with the wife excepting only
that her foster-nurse stood far off, with eyes averted.
So the minutes drifted by, falling audibly one by one into
eternity, and at the long last she slowly opened her eyes and, as
from the depths of a dream, beheld the Emperor; and in a voice
faint as the fall of a rose-leaf she said the one word,
And he from between his clenched teeth, answered, "Speak, wife."
So she, who in all things had loved and served him, - she, Light
of all hearts, dispeller of all gloom, - gathered her dying
breath for consolation, and raised one hand slowly; and it fell
across his, and so remained.
Now, her beauty had been broken in the anguish like a rose in
storm; but it returned to her, doubtless that the Padishah might
take comfort in its memory; and she looked like a houri of
Paradise who, kneeling beside the Zemzem Well, beholds the Waters
of Peace. Not Fatmeh herself, the daughter of the Prophet of God,
shone more sweetly. She repeated the word, "Beloved"; and after a
pause she whispered on with lips that scarcely stirred, "King of
the Age, this is the end."
But still he was like a dead man, nor lifted his face.
"Surely all things pass. And though I go, in your heart I abide,
and nothing can sever us. Take comfort."
But there was no answer.
"Nothing but Love's own hand can slay Love. Therefore, remember
me, and I shall live."
And he answered from the darkness of her bosom, "The whole world
shall remember. But when shall I be united to thee? 0 Allah, how
long wilt thou leave me to waste in this separation?"
And she: "Beloved, what is time? We sleep and the night is gone.
Now put your arms about me, for I sink into rest. What words are
needed between us? Love is enough."
So, making not the Profession of Faith, - and what need, since
all her life was worship, - the Lady Arjemand turned into his
arms like a child. And the night deepened.
Morning, with its arrows of golden light that struck the river to
splendour! Morning, with its pure breath, its sunshine of joy,
and the koels fluting in the Palace gardens! Morning, divine and
new from the hand of the Maker! And in the innermost chamber of
marble a white silence; and the Lady, the Mirror of Goodness,
lying in the Compassion of Allah, and a broken man stretched on
the ground beside her. For all flesh, from the camel-driver to
the Shah-in- Shah, is as one in the Day of the Smiting.
For weeks the Emperor lay before the door of death; and had it
opened to him, he had been blessed. So the months went by, and
very slowly the strength returned to him; but his eyes were
withered and the bones stood out in his cheeks. But he resumed
his throne, and sat upon it kingly, black-bearded, eagle-eyed,
terribly apart in his grief and his royalty; and so seated among
his Usbegs, he declared his will.
"For this Lady (upon whom be peace), departed to the mercy of the
Giver and Taker, shall a tomb-palace be made, the Like of which
is not found in the four corners of the world. Send forth
therefore for craftsmen like the builders of the Temple of
Solomon the Wise; for I will build."
So, taking counsel, they sent in haste into Agra for Ustad Isa,
the Master-Builder, a man of Shiraz; and he, being presented
before the Padishah, received his instructions in these words:-
"I will that all the world shall remember the Flower of the
World, that all hearts shall give thanks for her beauty, which
was indeed the perfect Mirror of the Creator. And since it is
abhorrent of Islam that any image be made in the likeness of
anything that has life, make for me a palace-tomb, gracious as
she was gracious, lovely as she was lovely. Not such as the tombs
of the Kings and the Conquerors, but of a divine sweetness. Make
me a garden on the banks of Jumna, and build it there, where,
sitting in my Pavilion of Marble, I may see it rise."
And Ustad Isa, having heard, said, "Upon my head and eyes!" and
went out from the Presence.
So, musing upon the words of the Padishah, he went to his house
in Agra, and there pondered the matter long and deeply; and for a
whole day and night he refused all food and secluded himself from
the society of all men; for he said:-
"This is a weighty thing, for this Lady (upon whom be peace) must
visibly dwell in her tomb- palace on the shore of the river; and
how shall I, who have never seen her, imagine the grace that was
in her, and restore it to the world? Oh, had I but the memory of
her face! Could I but see it as the Shah-in-Shah sees it,
remembering the past! Prophet of God, intercede for me, that I
may look through his eyes, if but for a moment!"
That night he slept, wearied and weakened with fasting; and
whether it were that the body guarded no longer the gates of the
soul, I cannot say; for, when the body ails, the soul soars free
above its weakness. But a strange marvel happened.
For, as it seemed to him, he awoke at the mid-noon of the night,
and he was sitting, not in his own house, but upon the roof of
the royal palace, looking down on the gliding Jumna, where the
low moon slept in silver, and the light was alone upon the water;
and there were no boats, but sleep and dream, hovering
hand-in-hand, moved upon the air, and his heart was dilated in
the great silence.
Yet he knew well that he waked in some supernatural sphere: for
his eyes could see across the river as if the opposite shore lay
at his feet; and he could distinguish every leaf on every tree,
and the flowers moon-blanched and ghost-like. And there, in the
blackest shade of the pippala boughs, he beheld a faint light
like a pearl; and looking with unspeakable anxiety, he saw within
the light, slowly growing, the figure of a lady exceedingly
glorious in majesty and crowned with a rayed crown of mighty
jewels of white and golden splendour. Her gold robe fell to her
feet, and - very strange to tell - her feet touched not the
ground, but hung a span's length above it, so that she floated in
But the marvel of marvels was her face - not, indeed, for its
beauty, though that transcended all, but for its singular and
compassionate sweetness, wherewith she looked toward the Palace
beyond the river as if it held the heart of her heart, while
death and its river lay between.
And Ustad Isa said:- "0 dream, if this sweetness be but a dream,
let me never wake! Let me see forever this exquisite work of
Allah the Maker, before whom all the craftsmen are as children!
For my knowledge is as nothing, and I am ashamed in its
And as he spoke, she turned those brimming eyes on him, and he
saw her slowly absorbed into the glory of the moonlight; but as
she faded into dream, he beheld, slowly rising, where her feet
had hung in the blessed air, a palace of whiteness, warm as
ivory, cold as chastity, domes and cupolas, slender minars,
arches of marble fretted into sea-foam, screen within screen of
purest marble, to hide the sleeping beauty of a great Queen -
silence in the heart of it, and in every line a harmony beyond
all music. Grace was about it - the grace of a Queen who prays
and does not command; who, seated in her royalty yet inclines all
hearts to love. Arid he saw that its grace was her grace, and its
soul her soul, and that she gave it for the consolation of the
And he fell on his face and worshipped the Master-Builder of the
Universe, saying,- "Praise cannot express thy Perfection. Thine
Essence confounds thought. Surely I am but the tool in the hand
of the Builder."
And when he awoke, he was lying in his own secret chamber, but
beside him was a drawing such as the craftsmen make of the work
they have imagined in their hearts. And it was the Palace of the
Henceforward, how should he waver? He was as a slave who obeys
his master, and with haste he summoned to Agra his Army of
Then were assembled all the master craftsmen of India and of the
outer world. From Delhi, from Shiraz, even from Baghdad and
Syria, they came. Muhammad Hanif, the wise mason, came from
Kandahar, Muhammad Sayyid from Mooltan. Amanat Khan, and other
great writers of the holy Koran, who should make the scripts of
the Book upon fine marble. Inlayers from Kanauj, with fingers
like those of the Spirits that bowed before Solomon the King, who
should make beautiful the pure stone with inlay of jewels, as did
their forefathers for the Rajah of Mewar; mighty dealers with
agate, cornelian, and lapis lazuli. Came also, from Bokhara, Ata
Muhammad and Shakri Muhammad, that they might carve the lilies of
the field, very glorious, about that Flower of the World. Men of
India, men of Persia, men of the outer lands, they came at the
bidding of Ustad Isa, that the spirit of his vision might be made
And a great council was held among these servants of beauty. so
they made a model in little of the glory that was to be, and laid
it at the feet of the Shah-in-Shah; and he allowed it, though not
as yet fully discerning their intent. And when it was approved,
Ustad Isa called to him a man of Kashmir; and the very hand of
the Creator was upon this man, for he could make gardens second
only to the Gardens of Paradise, having been born by that Dal
Lake where are those roses of the earth, the Shalimar and the
Nishat Bagh; and to him said Ustad Isa,-
"Behold, Rain Lal Kashmiri, consider this design! Thus and thus
shall a white palace, exquisite in perfection, arise on the
banks of Jumna. Here, in little, in this model of sandalwood, see
what shall be. Consider these domes, rounded as the Bosom of
Beauty, recalling the mystic fruit of the lotus flower. Consider
these four minars that stand about them like Spirits about the
Throne. And remembering that all this shall stand upon a great
dais of purest marble, and that the river shall be its mirror,
repeating to everlasting its loveliness, make me a garden that
shall be the throne room to this Queen."
And Ram Lal Kashmiri salaamed and said, "Obedience!" and went
forth and pondered night and day, journeying even over the snows
of the Pir Panjal to Kashmir, that he might bathe his eyes in
beauty where she walks, naked and divine, upon the earth. and he
it was who imagined the black marble and white that made the way
So grew the palace that should murmur, like a seashell, in the
ear of the world the secret of love.
Veiled had that loveliness been in the shadow of the palace; but
now the sun should rise upon it and turn its ivory to gold,
should set upon it and flush its snow with rose. The moon should
lie upon it like the pearls upon her bosom, the visible grace of
her presence breathe about it, the music of her voice hover in
the birds and trees of the garden. Times there were when Ustad
Isa despaired lest even these mighty servants of beauty should
miss perfection. Yet it grew and grew, rising like the growth of
So on a certain day it stood completed, and beneath the small
tomb in the sanctuary, veiled with screens of wrought marble so
fine that they might lift in the breeze, - the veils of a Queen,
- slept the Lady Arjemand; and above her a narrow coffer of white
marble, enriched in a great script with the Ninety-Nine Wondrous
Names of God. And the Shah-in-Shah, now grey and worn, entered
and, standing by her, cried in a loud voice, - "I ascribe to the
Unity, the only Creator, the perfection of his handiwork made
visible here by the hand of mortal man. For the beauty that was
secret in my Palace is here revealed; and the Crowned Lady shall
sit forever upon the banks of the Jumna River. It was love that
commanded this Tomb."
And the golden echo carried his voice up into the high dome, and
it died away in whispers of music.
But Ustad Isa standing far off in the throng (for what are
craftsmen in the presence of the mighty?), said softly in his
beard, "It was Love also that built, and therefore it shall
Now it is told that, on a certain night in summer, when the moon
is full, a man who lingers by the straight water, where the
cypresses stand over their own image, may see a strange marvel -
may see the Palace of the Taj dissolve like a pearl, and so rise
in a mist into the moonlight; and in its place, on her dais of
white marble, he shall see the Lady Arjemand, Mumtaz-i-Mahal, the
Chosen of the Palace, stand there in the white perfection of
beauty, smiling as one who hath attained unto the Peace. For she
is its soul.
And kneeling before the dais, he shall see Ustad Isa, who made
this body of her beauty; and his face is hidden in his hands.
"HOW GREAT IS THE GLORY OF KWANNON!"
A JAPANESE STORY
(0 Lovely One-O thou Flower! With Thy beautiful face, with Thy
beautiful eyes, pour light upon the world! Adoration to Kwannon.)
In Japan in the days of the remote Ancestors, near the little
village of Shiobara, the river ran through rocks of a very
strange blue colour, and the bed of the river was also composed
of these rocks, so that the clear water ran blue as turquoise
gems to the sea.
The great forests murmured beside it, and through their swaying
boughs was breathed the song of Eternity. Those who listen may
hear if their ears are open. To others it is but the idle sighing
of the wind.
Now because of all this beauty there stood in these forests a
roughly built palace of unbarked wood, and here the great Emperor
would come from City-Royal to seek rest for his doubtful thoughts
and the cares of state, turning aside often to see the moonlight
in Shiobara. He sought also the free air and the sound of falling
water, yet dearer to him than the plucked strings of sho and
biwa. For he said;
"Where and how shall We find peace even for a moment, and afford
Our heart refreshment even for a single second?"
And it seemed to him that he found such moments at Shiobara.
Only one of his great nobles would His Majesty bring with him -
the Dainagon, and him be chose because he was a worthy and
honorable person and very simple of heart.
There was yet another reason why the Son of Heaven inclined to
the little Shiobara. It had reached the Emperor that a Recluse of
the utmost sanctity dwelt in that forest. His name was Semimaru.
He had made himself a small hut in the deep woods, much as a
decrepit silkworm might spin his last Cocoon and there had the
Peace found him.
It had also reached His Majesty that, although blind, be was
exceedingly skilled in the art of playing the biwa, both in the
Flowing Fount manner and the Woodpecker manner, and that,
especially on nights when the moon was full, this aged man made
such music as transported the soul. This music His Majesty
desired very greatly to hear.
Never had Semimaru left his hut save to gather wood or seek food
until the Divine Emperor commanded his attendance that he might
soothe his august heart with music.
Now on this night of nights the moon was full and the snow heavy
on the pines, and the earth was white also, and when the moon
shone through the boughs it made a cold light like dawn, and the
shadows of the trees were black upon it.
The attendants of His Majesty long since slept for sheer
weariness, for the night was far spent, but the Emperor and the
Dainagon still sat with their eyes fixed on the venerable
Semimaru. For many hours he had played, drawing strange music
from his biwa. Sometimes it had been like rain blowing over the
plains of Adzuma, sometimes like the winds roaring down the
passes of the Yoshino Mountains, and yet again like the voice of
far cities. For many hours they listened without weariness, and
thought that all the stories of the ancients might flow past them
in the weird music that seemed to have neither beginning nor
"It is as the river that changes and changes not, and is ever and
ever the same," said the Emperor in his own soul.
And certainly had a voice announced to His Augustness that
centuries were drifting by as he listened, he could have felt no
Before them, as they sat upon the silken floor cushions, was a
small shrine with a Buddha shelf, and a hanging picture of the
Amida Buddha within it - the expression one of rapt peace.
Figures of Fugen and Fudo were placed before the curtain doors of
the shrine, looking up in adoration to the Blessed One. A small
and aged pine tree was in a pot of grey porcelain from Chosen -
the only ornament in the chamber.
Suddenly His Majesty became aware that the Dainagon also had
fallen asleep from weariness, and that the recluse was no longer
playing, but was speaking in a still voice like a deeply flowing
stream. The Emperor had observed no change from music to speech,
nor could he recall when the music had ceased, so that it
altogether resembled a dream.
"When I first came here - "the Venerable one continued-" it was
not my intention to stay long in the forest. As each day dawned,
I said; `In seven days I go.' And again - 'In seven.' Yet have I
not gone. The days glided by and here have I attained to look on
the beginnings of peace. Then wherefore should I go? - for all
life is within the soul. Shall the fish weary of his pool? And I,
who through my blind eyes feel the moon illuming my forest by
night and the sun by day, abide in peace, so that even the wild
beasts press round to hear my music. I have come by a path
overblown by autumn leaves. But I have come."
Then said the Divine Emperor as if unconsciously;
"Would that I also might come! But the august duties cannot
easily be laid aside. And I have no wife - no son."
And Semimaru, playing very softly on the strings of his biwa made
no other answer, and His Majesty, collecting his thoughts, which
had become, as it were, frozen with the cold and the quiet and
the strange music, spoke thus, as if in a waking dream;
"Why have I not wedded? Because I have desired a bride beyond the
women of earth, and of none such as I desire has the rumor
reached me. Consider that Ancestor who wedded Her Shining
Majesty! Evil and lovely was she, and the passions were loud
about her. And so it is with women. Trouble and vexation of
spirit, or instead a great weariness. But if the Blessed One
would vouchsafe to my prayers a maiden of blossom and dew, with a
heart calm as moonlight, her would I wed. 0, honorable One, whose
wisdom surveys the world, is there in any place near or far - in
heaven or in earth, such a one that I may seek and find?"
And Semimaru, still making a very low music on his biwa, said
"Supreme Master, where the Shiobara River breaks away through the
gorges to the sea, dwelt a poor couple - the husband a
wood-cutter. They had no children to aid in their toil, and
daily the woman addressed her prayers for a son to the
Bodhisattwa Kwannon, the Lady of Pity who looketh down for ever
upon the sound of prayer. Very fervently she prayed, with such
offerings as her poverty allowed, and on a certain night she
dreamed this dream. At the shrine of the Senju Kwannon she knelt
as was her custom, and that Great Lady, sitting enthroned upon
the Lotos of Purity, opened Her eyes slowly from Her divine
contemplation and heard the prayer of the wood-cutter's wife.
Then stooping like a blown willow branch, she gathered a bud from
the golden lotos plant that stood upon her altar, and breathing
upon it it became pure white and living, and it exhaled a perfume
like the flowers of Paradise, This flower the Lady of Pity flung
into the bosom of her petitioner, and closing Her eyes returned
into Her divine dream, whilst the woman awoke, weeping for joy.
But when she sought in her bosom for the Lotos it was gone. Of
all this she boasted loudly to her folk and kin, and the more
so, when in due time she perceived herself to be with child,
for, from that august favour she looked for nothing less than a
son, radiant with the Five Ornaments of riches, health,
longevity, beauty, and success. Yet, when her hour was come, a
girl was born, and blind."
"Was she welcomed?" asked the dreaming voice of the Emperor.
"Augustness, but as a household drudge. For her food was cruelty
and her drink tears. And the shrine of the Senju Kwannon was
neglected by her parents because of the disappointment and shame
of the unwanted gift. And they believed that, lost in Her divine
contemplation, the Great Lady would not perceive this neglect.
The Gods however are known by their great memories."
"Majesty, Tsuyu-Morning Dew. And like the morning dew she shines
in stillness. She has repaid good for evil to her evil parents,
serving them with unwearied service."
"What distinguishes her from others?"
"Augustness, a very great peace. Doubtless the shadow of the
dream of the Holy Kwannon. She works, she moves, she smiles as
one who has tasted of content."
"Has she beauty?"
"Supreme Master, am I not blind? But it is said that she has no
beauty that men should desire her. Her face is flat and round,
and her eyes blind."
"And yet content?"
"Philosophers might envy her calm. And her blindness is without
doubt a grace from the excelling Pity, for could she see her own
exceeding ugliness she must weep for shame. But she sees not. Her
sight is inward, and she is well content."
"Where does she dwell?"
"Supreme Majesty, far from here - where in the heart of the woods
the river breaks through the rocks."
"Venerable One, why have you told me this? I asked for a royal
maiden wise and beautiful, calm as the dawn, and you have told me
of a wood-cutter's drudge, blind and ugly."
And now Semimaru did not answer, but the tones of the biwa grew
louder and clearer, and they rang like a song of triumph, and the
Emperor could hear these words in the voice of the strings.
"She is beautiful as the night, crowned with moon and stars for
him who has eyes to see. Princess Splendour was dim beside her;
Prince Fireshine, gloom! Her Shining Majesty was but a darkened
glory before this maid. All beauty shines within her hidden
And having uttered this the music became wordless once more, but
it still flowed on more and more softly like a river that flows
into the far distance.
The Emperor stared at the mats, musing - the light of the lamp
was burning low. His heart said within him;
"This maiden, cast like a flower from the hand of Kwannon Sama,
will I see."
And as he said this the music had faded away into a thread-like
smallness, and when after long thought he raised his august head,
he was alone save for the Dainagon, sleeping on the mats behind
him, and the chamber was in darkness. Semimaru had departed in
silence, and His Majesty, looking forth into the broad moonlight,
could see the track of his feet upon the shining snow, and the
music came back very thinly like spring rain in the trees. Once
more he looked at the whiteness of the night, and then,
stretching his august person on the mats, he slept amid dreams of
The next day, forbidding any to follow save the Dainagon, His
Majesty went forth upon the frozen snow where the sun shone in a
blinding whiteness. They followed the track of Semimaru's feet
far under the pine trees so heavy with their load of snow that
they were bowed as if with fruit. And the track led on and the
air was so still that the cracking of a bough was like the blow
of a hammer, and the sliding of a load of snow from a branch like
the fall of an avalanche. Nor did they speak as they went. They
listened, nor could they say for what.
Then, when they had gone a very great way, the track ceased
suddenly, as if cut off, and at this spot, under the pines furred
with snow, His Majesty became aware of a perfume so sweet that it
was as though all the flowers of the earth haunted the place with
their presence, and a music like the biwa of Semimaru was heard
in the tree tops. This sounded far off like the whispering of
rain when it falls in very small leaves, and presently it died
away, and a voice followed after, singing, alone in the woods, so
that the silence appeared to have been created that such a music
might possess the world. So the Emperor stopped instantly, and
the Dainagon behind him and he heard these words.
"In me the Heavenly Lotos grew,
The fibres ran from head to feet,
And my heart was the august Blossom.
Therefore the sweetness flowed through the veins of my flesh,
And I breathed peace upon all the world,
And about me was my fragrance shed
That the souls of men should desire me."
Now, as he listened, there came through the wood a maiden, bare -
footed, save for grass sandals, and clad in coarse clothing, and
she came up and passed them, still singing.
And when she was past, His Majesty put up his hand to his eyes,
like one dreaming, and said;
"What have you seen?"
And the Dainagon answered;
"Augustness, a country wench, flat - faced, ugly and blind, and
with a voice like a crow. Has not your Majesty seen this?"
The Emperor, still shading his eyes, replied;
"I saw a maiden so beautiful that her Shining Majesty would be a
black blot beside her. As she went, the Spring and all its
sweetness blew from her garments. Her robe was green with small
gold flowers. Her eyes were closed, but she resembled a cherry
tree, snowy with bloom and dew. Her voice was like the singing
flowers of Paradise."
The Dainagon looked at him with fear and compassion;
"Augustness, how should such a lady carry in her arms a bundle of
"She bore in her hands three lotos flowers, and where each foot
fell I saw a lotos bloom and vanish."
They retraced their steps through the wood; His Majesty radiant
as Prince Fireshine with the joy that filled his soul; the
Dainagon darkened as Prince Firefade with fear, believing that
the strange music of Semimaru had bewitched His Majesty, or that
the maiden herself might possibly have the power of the fox in
shape-changing and bewildering the senses.
Very sorrowful and careful was his heart for he loved his Master.
That night His Majesty dreamed that he stood before the kakemono
of the Amida Buddha, and that as he raised his eyes in adoration
to the Blessed Face, he beheld the images of Fugen and Fudo, rise
up and bow down before that One Who Is. Then, gliding in, before
these Holinesses stood a figure, and it was the wood-cutter's
daughter homely and blinded. She stretched her hands upward as
though invoking the supreme Buddha, and then turning to His
Majesty she smiled upon him, her eyes closed as in bliss
unutterable. And he said aloud.
"Would that I might see her eyes!" and so saying awoke in a great
stillness of snow and moonlight.
Having waked, he said within himself
"This marvel will I wed and she shall be my Empress were she
lower than the Eta, and whether her face be lovely or homely. For
she is certainly a flower dropped from the hand of the Divine."
So when the sun was high His Majesty, again followed by the
Dainagon, went through the forest swiftly, and like a man that
sees his goal, and when they reached the place where the maiden
went by, His Majesty straitly commanded the Dainagon that he
should draw apart, and leave him to speak with the maiden; yet
that he should watch what befell.
So the Dainagon watched, and again he saw her come, very poorly
clad, and with bare feet that shrank from the snow in her grass
sandals, bowed beneath a heavy load of wood upon her shoulders,
and her face flat and homely like a girl of the people, and her
eyes blind and shut.
And as she came she sang this.
"The Eternal way lies before him,
The way that is made manifest in the Wise.
The Heart that loves reveals itself to man.
For now he draws nigh to the Source.
The night advances fast,
And lo! the moon shines bright."
And to the Dainagon it seemed a harsh crying nor could he
distinguish any words at all.
But what His Majesty beheld was this. The evening had come on and
the moon was rising. The snow had gone. It was the full glory of
spring, and the flowers sprang thick as stars upon the grass, and
among them lotos flowers, great as the wheel of a chariot, white
and shining with the luminance of the pearl, and upon each one of
these was seated an incarnate Holiness, looking upward with
joined hands. In the trees were the voices of the mystic Birds
that are the utterance of the Blessed One, proclaiming in harmony
the Five Virtues, The Five Powers, the Seven Steps ascending to
perfect Illumination, the Noble Eightfold Path, and all the Law.
And, bearing, in the heart of the Son of Heaven awoke the Three
Remembrances - the Remembrance of Him who is Blessed, Remembrance
of the Law, and Remembrance of the Communion of the Assembly.
So, looking upward to the heavens, he beheld the Infinite Buddha,
high and lifted up in a great raying glory. About Him were the
exalted Bodhisattwas, the mighty Disciples, great Arhats all, and
all the countless Angelhood. And these rose high into the
infinite until they could be seen but as a point of fire against
the moon. With this golden multitude beyond all numbering was He.
Then, as His Majesty had seen in the dream of the night, the
wood-cutter's daughter, moving through the flowers like one blind
that gropes his way, advanced before the Blessed Feet, and
uplifting her hands, did adoration, and her face he could not
see, but his heart went with her, adoring also the infinite
Buddha seated in the calms of boundless Light.
Then enlightenment entered at his eyes, as a man that wakes from
sleep, and suddenly he beheld the Maiden crowned and robed and
terrible in beauty, and her feet were stayed upon an open lotos,
and his soul knew the Senju Kwannon Herself, myriad-armed for the
helping of mankind.
And turning, she smiled as in the vision, but his eyes being now
clear her blinded eyes were opened, and that glory who shall tell
as those living founts of Wisdom rayed upon him their ineffable
light? In that ocean was his being drowned, and so, bowed before
the Infinite Buddha, he received the Greater Illumination.
How great is the Glory of Kwannon!
When the radiance and the vision were withdrawn and only the moon
looked over the trees, His Majesty rose upon his feet, and
standing on the snow, surrounded with calm, he called to the
Dainagon, and asked this;
"What have you seen?"
"Augustness, nothing but the country wench and moon and snow."
"Augustness, nothing but the harsh voice of the wood-cutter's
"Augustness, nothing but the bone-piercing cold." So His Majesty
adored that which cannot be uttered, saying;
"So Wisdom, so Glory encompass us about, and we see them not for
we are blinded with illusion. Yet every stone is a jewel and
every clod is spirit and to the hems of the Infinite Buddha all
cling. Through the compassion of the Supernal Mercy that walks
the earth as the Bodhisattwa Kwannon, am I admitted to wisdom and
given sight and hearing. And what is all the world to that happy
one who has beheld Her eyes!"
And His Majesty returned through the forest.
When, the next day, he sent for the venerable Semimaru that holy
recluse had departed and none knew where. But still when the moon
is full a strange music moves in the tree tops of Shiobara.
Then His sacred Majesty returned to City-Royal, having determined
to retire into the quiet life, and there, abandoning the throne
to a kinsman wise in greatness, he became a dweller in the
deserted hut of Semimaru.
His life, like a descending moon approaching the hill that should
hide it, was passed in meditation on that Incarnate Love and
Compassion whose glory had augustly been made known to him, and
having cast aside all save the image of the Divine from his soul,
His Majesty became even as that man who desired enlightenment of
the Blessed One.
For he, desiring instruction, gathered precious flowers, and
journeyed to present them as an offering to the Guatama Buddha.
Standing before Him, he stretched forth both his hands holding
Then said the Holy One, looking upon his petitioner's right hand;
"Loose your hold of these."
And the man dropped the flowers from his right hand. And the Holy
One looking upon his left hand, said;
"Loose your hold of these."
And, sorrowing, he dropped the flowers from his left hand. And
again the Master said;
"Loose your hold of that which is neither in the right nor in the
And the disciple said very pitifully;
"Lord, of what should I loose my hold for I have nothing left?"
And He looked upon him steadfastly.
Therefore at last understanding he emptied his soul of all
desire, and of fear that is the shadow of desire, and being
enlightened relinquished all burdens.
So was it also with His Majesty. In peace he dwelt, and becoming
a great Arhat, in peace he departed to that Uttermost Joy where
is the Blessed One made manifest in Pure Light.
As for the parents of the maiden, they entered after sore
troubles into peace, having been remembered by the Infinite. For
it is certain that the enemies also of the Supreme Buddha go to
salvation by thinking on Him, even though it be against Him.
And he who tells this truth makes this prayer to the Lady of
"Grant me, I pray,
One dewdrop from Thy willow spray,
And in the double Lotos keep
My hidden heart asleep."
How great is the Glory of Kwannon!
THE ROUND-FACED BEAUTY
A STORY OF THE CHINESE COURT
In the city of Chang-an music filled the palaces, and the
festivities of the Emperor were measured by its beat. Night, and
the full moon swimming like a gold-fish in the garden lakes,
gave the signal for the Feather Jacket and Rainbow Skirt dances.
Morning, with the rising sun, summoned the court again to the
feast and wine-cup in the floating gardens.
The Emperor Chung Tsu favored this city before all others. The
Yen Tower soaring heavenward, the Drum Towers, the Pearl Pagoda,
were the only fit surroundings of his magnificence; and in the
Pavilion of Tranquil Learning were held those discussions which
enlightened the world and spread the fame of the Jade Emperor far
and wide. In all respects he adorned the Dragon Throne - in all
but one; for Nature, bestowing so much, withheld one gift, and
the Imperial heart, as precious as jade, was also as hard, and he
eschewed utterly the company of the Hidden Palace Flowers.
Yet the Inner Chambers were filled with ladies chosen from all
parts of the Celestial Empire - ladies of the most exquisite and
torturing beauty, moons of loveliness, moving coquettishly on
little feet, with all the grace of willow branches in a light
breeze. They were sprinkled with perfumes, adorned with jewels,
robed in silks woven with gold and embroidered with designs of
flowers and birds. Their faces were painted and their eyebrows
formed into slender and perfect arches whence the soul of man
might well slip to perdition, and a breath of sweet odor followed
each wherever she moved. Every one might have been the Empress of
some lesser kingdom; but though rumours reached the Son of Heaven
from time to time of their charms, - especially when some new
blossom was added to the Imperial bouquet,- he had dismissed them
from his august thoughts, and they languished in a neglect so
complete that the Great Cold Palaces of the Moon were not more
empty than their hearts. They remained under the supervision of
the Princess of Han, August Aunt of the Emperor, knowing that
their Lord considered the company of sleeve-dogs and macaws more
pleasant than their own. Nor had he as yet chosen an Empress, and
it was evident that without some miracle, such as the
intervention of the Municipal God, no heir to the throne could be
Yet the Emperor one day remembered his imprisoned beauties, and
it crossed the Imperial thoughts that even these inferior
creatures might afford such interest as may be found in the
gambols of trained fleas or other insects of no natural
Accordingly, he commanded that the subject last discussed in his
presence should be transferred to the Inner Chambers, and it was
his Order that the ladies should also discuss it, and their
opinions be engraved on ivory, bound together with red silk and
tassels and thus presented at the Dragon feet. The subject chosen
was the following:-
Describe the Qualities of the Ideal Man
Now when this command was laid before the August Aunt, the
guardian of the Inner Chambers, she was much perturbed in mind,
for such a thing was unheard of in all the annals of the Empire.
Recovering herself, she ventured to say that the discussion of
such a question might raise very disquieting thoughts in the
minds of the ladies, who could not be supposed to have any
opinions at all on such a subject. Nor was it desirable that they
should have. To every woman her husband and no other is and must
be the Ideal Man. So it was always in the past; so it must ever
be. There are certain things which it is dangerous to question or
discuss, and how can ladies who have never spoken with any other
man than a parent or a brother judge such matters?
"How, indeed," asked this lady of exalted merit, "can the bat
form an idea of the sunlight, or the carp of the motion of wings?
If his Celestial Majesty had commanded a discussion on the
Superior Woman and the virtues which should adorn her, some
sentiments not wholly unworthy might have been offered. But this
is a calamity. They come unexpectedly, springing up like
mushrooms, and this one is probably due to the lack of virtue of
the inelegant and unintellectual person who is now speaking."
This she uttered in the presence of the principal beauties of the
Inner Chambers. They sat or reclined about her in attitudes of
perfect loveliness. Two, embroidering silver pheasants, paused
with their needles suspended above the stretched silk, to hear
the August Aunt. One, threading beads of jewel jade, permitted
them to slip from the string and so distended the rose of her
mouth in surprise that the small pearl-shells were visible
within. The Lady Tortoise, caressing a scarlet and azure macaw,
in her agitation so twitched the feathers that the bird,
shrieking, bit her finger. The Lady Golden Bells blushed deeply
at the thought of what was required of them; and the little Lady
Summer Dress, youngest of all the assembled beauties, was so
alarmed at the prospect that she began to sob aloud, until she
met the eye of the August Aunt and abruptly ceased.
"It is not, however, to be supposed," said the August Aunt,
opening her snuff-bottle of painted crystal, "that the minds of
our deplorable and unattractive sex are wholly incapable of
forming opinions. But speech is a grave matter for women,
naturally slow-witted and feeble-minded as they are. This
unenlightened person recalls the Odes as saying:-
`A flaw in a piece of white jade
May be ground away,
But when a woman has spoken foolishly
Nothing can be done-'
a consideration which should make every lady here and throughout
the world think anxiously before speech." So anxiously did the
assembled beauties think, that all remained mute as fish in a
pool, and the August Aunt continued:-
"Let Tsu-ssu be summoned. It is my intention to suggest to the
Dragon Emperor that the virtues of women be the subject of our
discourse, and I will myself open and conclude the discussion."
Tsu-ssu was not long in kotowing before the August Aunt, who
despatched her message with the proper ceremonial due to its
Imperial destination; and meanwhile, in much agitation, the
beauties could but twitter and whisper in each other's ears, and
await the response like condemned prisoners who yet hope for
Scarce an hour had dripped away on the water-clock when an
Imperial Missive bound with yellow silk arrived, and the August
Aunt, rising, kotowed nine times before she received it in her
jewelled hand with its delicate and lengthy nails ensheathed in
pure gold and set with gems of the first water. She then read it
aloud, the ladies prostrating themselves.
To the Princess of Han, the August Aunt, the Lady of the Nine
"Having deeply reflected on the wisdom submitted, We thus reply.
Women should not be the judges of their own virtues, since these
exist only in relation to men. Let Our Command therefore be
executed, and tablets presented before us seven days hence, with
the name of each lady appended to her tablet."
It was indeed pitiable to see the anxiety of the ladies! A
sacrifice to Kwan-Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, of a jewel from
each, with intercession for aid, was proposed by the Lustrous
Lady; but the majority shook their heads sadly. The August Aunt,
tossing her head, declared that, as the Son of Heaven had made no
comment on her proposal of opening and closing the discussion,
she should take no part other than safeguarding the interests of
propriety. This much increased the alarm, and, kneeling at her
feet, the swan-like beauties, Deep-Snow and Winter Moon implored
her aid and compassion. But, rising indignantly, the August Aunt
sought her own apartments, and for the first time the inmates of
the Pepper Chamber saw with regret the golden dragons embroidered
on her back.
It was then that the Round-Faced Beauty ventured a remark. This
maiden, having been born in the far-off province of Ssuch-uan,
was considered a rustic by the distinguished elegance of the
Palace and, therefore, had never spoken unless decorum required.
Still, even her detractors were compelled to admit the charms
that had gained her her name. Her face had the flawless outline
of the pearl, and like the blossom of the plum was the purity of
her complexion, upon which the darkness of her eyebrows
resembled two silk-moths alighted to flutter above the brilliance
of her eyes - eyes which even the August Aunt had commended
after a banquet of unsurpassed variety. Her hair had been
compared to the crow's plumage; her waist was like a roll of
silk, and her discretion in habiting herself was such that even
the Lustrous Lady and the Lady Tortoise drew instruction from the
splendours of her robes. It created, however, a general
astonishment when she spoke.
"Paragons of beauty, what is this dull and opaque. witted person
that she should speak?"
"What, indeed!" said the Celestial Sister. "This entirely
undistinguished person cannot even imagine."
A distressing pause followed, during which many whispered
anxiously. The Lustrous Lady broke it.
"It is true that the highly ornamental Round-Faced Beauty is but
lately come, yet even the intelligent Ant may assist the Dragon;
and in the presence of alarm, what is decorum? With a tiger
behind one, who can recall the Book of Rites and act with
"The high-born will at all times remember the Rites!" retorted
the Celestial Sister. "Have we not heard the August Aunt observe:
`Those who understand do not speak. Those who speak do not
The Round-Faced Beauty collected her courage.
"Doubtless this is wisdom; yet if the wise do not speak, who
should instruct us? The August Aunt herself would be silent."
All were confounded by this dilemma, and the little Lady
Summer-Dress, still weeping, entreated that the Round-Faced
Beauty might be heard. The Heavenly Blossoms then prepared to
listen and assumed attitudes of attention, which so disconcerted
the Round-Faced Beauty that she blushed like a spring tulip in
"Beautiful ladies, our Lord, who is unknown to us all, has issued
an august command. It cannot be disputed, for the whisper of
disobedience is heard as thunder in the Imperial Presence. Should
we not aid each other? If any lady has formed a dream in her soul
of the Ideal Man, might not such a picture aid us all? Let us not
be `say-nothing-do-nothing,' but act!"
They hung their heads and smiled, but none would allow that she
had formed such an image. The little Lady Tortoise, laughing
behind her fan of sandalwood, said roguishly: "The Ideal Man
should be handsome, liberal in giving, and assuredly he should
appreciate the beauty of his wives. But this we cannot say to the
A sigh rustled through the Pepper Chamber. The Celestial Sister
looked angrily at the speaker.
"This is the talk of children," she said. "Does no one remember
Kung-fu-tse's [Confucius] description of the Superior Man?"
Unfortunately none did - not even the Celestial Sister herself.
"Is it not probable," said the Round-Faced Beauty, "that the
Divine Emperor remembers it him- self and wishes-"
But the Celestial Sister, yawning audibly, summoned the
attendants to bring rose-leaves in honey, and would hear no more.
The Round-Faced Beauty therefore wandered forth among the mossy
rocks and drooping willows of the Imperial Garden, deeply
considering the matter. She ascended the bow-curved bridge of
marble which crossed the Pool of Clear Weather, and from the top
idly observed the reflection of her rose-and-gold coat in the
water while, with her taper fingers, she crumbled cake for the
fortunate gold-fish that dwelt in it. And, so doing, she remarked
one fish, four-tailed among the six-tailed, and in no way
distinguished by elegance, which secured by far the largest share
of the crumbs dropped into the pool. Bending lower, she observed
this singular fish and its methods.
The others crowded about the spot where the crumbs fell, all
herded together. In their eagerness and stupidity they remained
like a cloud of gold in one spot, slowly waving their tails. But
this fish, concealing itself behind a miniature rock, waited,
looking upward, until the crumbs were falling, and then, rushing
forth with the speed of an arrow, scattered the stupid mass of
fish, and bore off the crumbs to its shelter, where it instantly
"This is notable," said the Round-Faced Beauty. "Observation
enlightens the mind. To be apart - to be distinguished - secures
notice!" And she plunged into thought again, wandering, herself a
flower, among the gorgeous tree peonies.
On the following day the August Aunt commanded that a writer
among the palace attendants should, with brush and ink, be
summoned to transcribe the wisdom of the ladies. She requested
that each would give three days to thought, relating the
following anecdote. "There was a man who, taking a piece of
ivory, carved it into a mulberry leaf, spending three years on
the task. When finished it could not be told from the original,
and was a gift suitable for the Brother of the Sun and Moon. Do
"But yet, 0 Augustness!" said the Celestial Sister, "if the Lord
of Heaven took as long with each leaf, there would be few leaves
on the trees, and if-"
The August Aunt immediately commanded silence and retired. On the
third day she seated herself in her chair of carved ebony, while
the attendant placed himself by her feet and prepared to record
"This insignificant person has decided," began her Augustness,
looking round and unscrewing the amber top of her snuff-bottle,
"to take an unintelligent part in these proceedings. An example
should be set. Attendant, write!"
She then dictated as follows: "The Ideal Man is he who now
decorates the Imperial Throne, or he who in all humility ventures
to resemble the incomparable Emperor. Though he may not hope to
attain, his endeavor is his merit. No further description it
With complacence she inhaled the perfumed snuff, as the writer
appended the elegant characters of her Imperial name.
If it is permissible to say that the faces of the beauties
lengthened visibly, it should now be said. For it had been the
intention of every lady to make an illusion to the Celestial
Emperor and depict him as the Ideal Man. Nor had they expected
that the August Aunt would take any part in the matter.
"Oh, but it was the intention of this commonplace and
undignified person to say this very thing!" cried the Lustrous
Lady, with tears in the jewels of her eyes. "I thought no other
high-minded and distinguished lady would for a moment think of
"And it was my intention also!" fluttered the little Lady
Tortoise, wringing her hands! "What now shall this most unlucky
and unendurable person do? For three nights has sleep forsaken my
unattractive eyelids, and, tossing and turning on a couch
deprived of all comfort, I could only repeat, `The Ideal Man is
the Divine Dragon Emperor!'"
"May one of entirely contemptible attainments make a suggestion
in this assemblage of scintillating wit and beauty?" inquired the
Celestial Sister. "My superficial opinion is that it would be
well to prepare a single paper to which all names should be
appended, stating that His Majesty in his Dragon Divinity
comprises all ideals in his sacred Person."
"Let those words be recorded," said the August Aunt. "What else
should any lady of discretion and propriety say? In this Palace
of Virtuous Peace, where all is consecrated to the Son of Heaven,
though he deigns not to enter it, what other thought dare be
breathed? Has any lady ventured to step outside such a limit? If
so, let her declare herself!"
All shook their heads, and the August Aunt proceeded: "Let the
writer record this as the opinion of every lady of the Imperial
Household, and let each name be separately appended."
Had any desired to object, none dared to confront the August
Aunt; but apparently no beauty so desired, for after three
nights' sleepless meditation, no other thought than this had
occurred to any.
Accordingly, the writer moved from lady to lady and, under the
supervision of the August Aunt, transcribed the following: "The
Ideal Man is the earthly likeness of the Divine Emperor. How
should it be otherwise?" And under this sentence wrote the name
of each lovely one in succession. The papers were then placed in
the hanging sleeves of the August Aunt for safety.
By the decree of Fate, the father of the Round-Faced Beauty had,
before he became an ancestral spirit, been a scholar of
distinction, having graduated at the age of seventy-two with a
composition commended by the Grand Examiner. Having no gold and
silver to give his daughter, he had formed her mind, and had
presented her with the sole jewel of his family-a pearl as large
as a bean. Such was her sole dower, but the accomplished Aunt may
excel the indolent Prince.
Yet, before the thought in her mind, she hesitated and trembled,
recalling the lesson of the gold-fish; and it was with anxiety
that paled her roseate lips that, on a certain day, she had
sought the Willow Bridge Pavilion. There had awaited her a
palace attendant skilled with the brush, and there in secrecy and
dire affright, hearing the footsteps of the August Aunt in every
rustle of leafage, and her voice in the call of every crow, did
the Round-Faced Beauty dictate the following composition:-
"Though the sky rain pearls, it cannot equal the beneficence of
the Son of Heaven. Though the sky rain jade it cannot equal his
magnificence. He has commanded his slave to describe the
qualities of the Ideal Man. How should I, a mere woman, do this?
I, who have not seen the Divine Emperor, how should I know what
is virtue? I, who have not seen the glory of his countenance, how
should I know what is beauty? Report speaks of his excellencies,
but I who live in the dark know not. But to the Ideal Woman, the
very vices of her husband are virtues. Should he exalt another,
this is a mark of his superior taste. Should he dismiss his
slave, this is justice. To the Ideal Woman there is but one Ideal
Man - and that is her lord. From the day she crosses his
threshold, to the day when they clothe her in the garments of
Immortality, this is her sole opinion. Yet would that she might
receive instruction of what only are beauty and virtue in his
This being written, she presented her one pearl to the attendant
and fled, not looking behind her, as quickly as her delicate feet
On the seventh day the compositions, engraved on ivory and bound
with red silk and tassels, were presented to the Emperor, and for
seven days more he forgot their existence. On the eighth the High
Chamberlain ventured to recall them to the Imperial memory, and
the Emperor glancing slightly at one after another, threw them
aside, yawning as he did so. Finally, one arrested his eyes, and
reading it more than once he laid it before him and meditated. An
hour passed in this way while the forgotten Lord Chamberlain
continued to kneel. The Son of Heaven, then raising his head,
pronounced these words: "In the society of the Ideal Woman, she
to whom jealousy is unknown, tranquillity might possibly be
obtained. Let prayer be made before the Ancestors with the
customary offerings, for this is a matter deserving attention."
A few days passed, and an Imperial attendant, escorted by two
mandarins of the peacock- feather and crystal-button rank,
desired an audience of the August Aunt, and, speaking before the
curtain, informed her that his Imperial Majesty would pay a visit
that evening to the Hall of Tranquil Longevity. Such was her
agitation at this honour that she immediately swooned; but,
reviving, summoned all the attendants and gave orders for a
banquet and musicians.
Lanterns painted with pheasants and exquisite landscapes were
hung on all the pavilions. Tap- estries of rose, decorated with
the Five-Clawed Dragons, adorned the chambers; and upon the High
Seat was placed a robe of yellow satin embroidered with pearls.
All was hurry and excitement. The Blossoms of the Palace were so
exquisitely decked that one grain more of powder would have made
them too lily-like, and one touch more of rouge, too rosecheeked.
It was indeed perfection, and, like lotuses upon a lake, or Asian
birds, gorgeous of plumage, they stood ranged in the outer
chamber while the Celestial Emperor took his seat.
The Round-Faced Beauty wore no jewels, having bartered her pearl
for her opportunity; but her long coat of jade-green, embroidered
with golden willows, and her trousers of palest rose left nothing
to be desired. In her hair two golden peonies were fastened with
pins of kingfisher work. The Son of Heaven was seated upon the
throne as the ladies approached, marshaled by the August Aunt. He
was attired in the Yellow Robe with the Flying Dragons, and upon
the Imperial Head was the Cap, ornamented with one hundred and
forty-four priceless gems. From it hung the twelve pendants of
strings of pearls, partly concealing the august eyes of the Jade
Emperor. No greater splendour can strike awe into the soul of
At his command the August Aunt took her seat upon a lesser chair
at the Celestial Feet. Her mien was majestic, and struck awe into
the assembled beauties, whose names she spoke aloud as each
approached and prostrated herself. She then pronounced these
"Beautiful ones, the Emperor, having considered the opinions
submitted by you on the subject of the Superior Man, is pleased
to express his august commendation. Dismiss, therefore, anxiety
from your minds, and prepare to assist at the humble concert of
music we have prepared for his Divine pleasure."
Slightly raising himself in his chair, the Son of Heaven looked
down upon that Garden of Beauty, holding in his hand an ivory
tablet bound with red silk.
"Lovely ladies," he began, in a voice that assuaged fear, "who
among you was it that laid before our feet a composition
beginning thus - 'Though the sky rain pearls'?"
The August Aunt immediately rose.
"Imperial Majesty, none! These eyes supervised every composition.
No impropriety was permitted."
The Son of Heaven resumed: "Let that lady stand forth."
The words were few, but sufficient. Trembling in every limb, the
Round-Faced Beauty separated herself from her companions and
prostrated herself, amid the breathless amazement of the Blossoms
of the Palace. He looked down upon her as she knelt, pale as a
lady carved in ivory, but lovely as the lotus of Chang-Su. He
turned to the August Aunt. "Princess of Han, my Imperial Aunt, I
would speak with this lady alone."
Decorum itself and the custom of Palaces could not conceal the
indignation of the August Aunt as she rose and retired, driving
the ladies before her as a shepherd drives his sheep.
The Hall of Tranquil Longevity being now empty, the Jade Emperor
extended his hand and beckoned the Round-Faced Beauty to
approach. This she did, hanging her head like a flower surcharged
with dew and swaying gracefully as a wind-bell, and knelt on the
lowest step of the Seat of State.
"Loveliest One," said the Emperor, "I have read your composition.
I would know the truth. Did any aid you as you spoke it? Was it
the thought of your own heart?"
"None aided, Divine," said she, almost fainting with fear. "It
was indeed the thought of this illiterate slave, consumed with an
unwarranted but uncontrollable passion."
"And have you in truth desired to see your Lord?"
"As a prisoner in a dungeon desires the light, so was it with
this low person."
"And having seen?"
"Augustness, the dull eyes of this slave are blinded with
She laid her head before his feet.
"Yet you have depicted, not the Ideal Man, but the Ideal Woman.
This was not the Celestial command. How was this?"
"Because, 0 versatile and auspicious Emperor, the blind cannot
behold the sunlight, and it is only the Ideal Woman who is worthy
to comprehend and worship the Ideal Man. For this alone is she
A smile began to illuminate the Imperial Countenance. "And how, 0
Round-Faced Beauty, did you evade the vigilance of the August
She hung her head lower, speaking almost in a whisper. "With her
one pearl did this person buy the secrecy of the writer; and when
the August Aunt slept, did I conceal the paper in her sleeve with
the rest, and her own Imperial hand gave it to the engraver of
She veiled her face with two jade-white hands that trembled
excessively. On hearing this statement the Celestial Emperor
broke at once into a very great laughter, and he laughed loud and
long as a tiller of wheat. The Round-Faced Beauty heard it
demurely until, catching the Imperial eye, decorum was forgotten
and she too laughed uncontrollably. So they continued, and
finally the Emperor leaned back, drying the tears in his eyes
with his august sleeve, and the lady, resuming her gravity, hid
her face in her hands, yet regarded him through her fingers.
When the August Aunt returned at the end of an hour with the
ladies, surrounded by the attendants with their instruments of
music, the Round-Faced Beauty was seated in the chair that she
herself had occupied, and on the whiteness of her brow was hung
the chain of pearls, which had formed the frontal of the Cap of
It is recorded that, advancing from honour to honour, the
Round-Faced Beauty was eventually chosen Empress and became the
mother of the Imperial Prince. The celestial purity of her mind
and the absence of all flaws of jealousy and anger warranted this
distinction. But it is also recorded that, after her elevation,
no other lady was ever exalted in the Imperial favour or received
the slightest notice from the Emperor. For the Empress, now well
acquainted with the Ideal Man, judged it better that his
experiences of the Ideal Woman should be drawn from herself
alone. And as she decreed, so it was done. Doubtless Her Majesty
It is known that the Emperor departed to the Ancestral Spirits at
an early age, seeking, as the August Aunt observed, that repose
which on earth could never more be his. But no one has asserted
that this lady's disposition was free from the ordinary blemishes
As for the Celestial Empress (who survives in history as one of
the most astute rulers who ever adorned the Dragon Throne), she
continued to rule her son and the Empire, surrounded by the
respectful admiration of all.