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A House of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde

Part 2 out of 2

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the second day came the nobles, and on the third day came the
craftsmen and the slaves. And this is their custom with all
merchants as long as they tarry in the city.

'And we tarried for a moon, and when the moon was waning, I wearied
and wandered away through the streets of the city and came to the
garden of its god. The priests in their yellow robes moved
silently through the green trees, and on a pavement of black marble
stood the rose-red house in which the god had his dwelling. Its
doors were of powdered lacquer, and bulls and peacocks were wrought
on them in raised and polished gold. The tilted roof was of sea-
green porcelain, and the jutting eaves were festooned with little
bells. When the white doves flew past, they struck the bells with
their wings and made them tinkle.

'In front of the temple was a pool of clear water paved with veined
onyx. I lay down beside it, and with my pale fingers I touched the
broad leaves. One of the priests came towards me and stood behind
me. He had sandals on his feet, one of soft serpent-skin and the
other of birds' plumage. On his head was a mitre of black felt
decorated with silver crescents. Seven yellows were woven into his
robe, and his frizzed hair was stained with antimony.

'After a little while he spake to me, and asked me my desire.

'I told him that my desire was to see the god.

'"The god is hunting," said the priest, looking strangely at me
with his small slanting eyes.

'"Tell me in what forest, and I will ride with him," I answered.

'He combed out the soft fringes of his tunic with his long pointed
nails. "The god is asleep," he murmured.

'"Tell me on what couch, and I will watch by him," I answered.

'"The god is at the feast," he cried.

'"If the wine be sweet I will drink it with him, and if it be
bitter I will drink it with him also," was my answer.

'He bowed his head in wonder, and, taking me by the hand, he raised
me up, and led me into the temple.

'And in the first chamber I saw an idol seated on a throne of
jasper bordered with great orient pearls. It was carved out of
ebony, and in stature was of the stature of a man. On its forehead
was a ruby, and thick oil dripped from its hair on to its thighs.
Its feet were red with the blood of a newly-slain kid, and its
loins girt with a copper belt that was studded with seven beryls.

'And I said to the priest, "Is this the god?" And he answered me,
"This is the god."

'"Show me the god," I cried, "or I will surely slay thee." And I
touched his hand, and it became withered.

'And the priest besought me, saying, "Let my lord heal his servant,
and I will show him the god."

'So I breathed with my breath upon his hand, and it became whole
again, and he trembled and led me into the second chamber, and I
saw an idol standing on a lotus of jade hung with great emeralds.
It was carved out of ivory, and in stature was twice the stature of
a man. On its forehead was a chrysolite, and its breasts were
smeared with myrrh and cinnamon. In one hand it held a crooked
sceptre of jade, and in the other a round crystal. It ware buskins
of brass, and its thick neck was circled with a circle of
selenites.

'And I said to the priest, "Is this the god?"

'And he answered me, "This is the god."

'"Show me the god," I cried, "or I will surely slay thee." And I
touched his eyes, and they became blind.

'And the priest besought me, saying, "Let my lord heal his servant,
and I will show him the god."

'So I breathed with my breath upon his eyes, and the sight came
back to them, and he trembled again, and led me into the third
chamber, and lo! there was no idol in it, nor image of any kind,
but only a mirror of round metal set on an altar of stone.

'And I said to the priest, "Where is the god?"

'And he answered me: "There is no god but this mirror that thou
seest, for this is the Mirror of Wisdom. And it reflecteth all
things that are in heaven and on earth, save only the face of him
who looketh into it. This it reflecteth not, so that he who
looketh into it may be wise. Many other mirrors are there, but
they are mirrors of Opinion. This only is the Mirror of Wisdom.
And they who possess this mirror know everything, nor is there
anything hidden from them. And they who possess it not have not
Wisdom. Therefore is it the god, and we worship it." And I looked
into the mirror, and it was even as he had said to me.

'And I did a strange thing, but what I did matters not, for in a
valley that is but a day's journey from this place have I hidden
the Mirror of Wisdom. Do but suffer me to enter into thee again
and be thy servant, and thou shalt be wiser than all the wise men,
and Wisdom shall be thine. Suffer me to enter into thee, and none
will be as wise as thou.'

But the young Fisherman laughed. 'Love is better than Wisdom,' he
cried, 'and the little Mermaid loves me.'

'Nay, but there is nothing better than Wisdom,' said the Soul.

'Love is better,' answered the young Fisherman, and he plunged into
the deep, and the Soul went weeping away over the marshes.

And after the second year was over, the Soul came down to the shore
of the sea, and called to the young Fisherman, and he rose out of
the deep and said, 'Why dost thou call to me?'

And the Soul answered, 'Come nearer, that I may speak with thee,
for I have seen marvellous things.'

So he came nearer, and couched in the shallow water, and leaned his
head upon his hand and listened.

And the Soul said to him, 'When I left thee, I turned my face to
the South and journeyed. From the South cometh everything that is
precious. Six days I journeyed along the highways that lead to the
city of Ashter, along the dusty red-dyed highways by which the
pilgrims are wont to go did I journey, and on the morning of the
seventh day I lifted up my eyes, and lo! the city lay at my feet,
for it is in a valley.

'There are nine gates to this city, and in front of each gate
stands a bronze horse that neighs when the Bedouins come down from
the mountains. The walls are cased with copper, and the watch-
towers on the walls are roofed with brass. In every tower stands
an archer with a bow in his hand. At sunrise he strikes with an
arrow on a gong, and at sunset he blows through a horn of horn.

'When I sought to enter, the guards stopped me and asked of me who
I was. I made answer that I was a Dervish and on my way to the
city of Mecca, where there was a green veil on which the Koran was
embroidered in silver letters by the hands of the angels. They
were filled with wonder, and entreated me to pass in.

'Inside it is even as a bazaar. Surely thou shouldst have been
with me. Across the narrow streets the gay lanterns of paper
flutter like large butterflies. When the wind blows over the roofs
they rise and fall as painted bubbles do. In front of their booths
sit the merchants on silken carpets. They have straight black
beards, and their turbans are covered with golden sequins, and long
strings of amber and carved peach-stones glide through their cool
fingers. Some of them sell galbanum and nard, and curious perfumes
from the islands of the Indian Sea, and the thick oil of red roses,
and myrrh and little nail-shaped cloves. When one stops to speak
to them, they throw pinches of frankincense upon a charcoal brazier
and make the air sweet. I saw a Syrian who held in his hands a
thin rod like a reed. Grey threads of smoke came from it, and its
odour as it burned was as the odour of the pink almond in spring.
Others sell silver bracelets embossed all over with creamy blue
turquoise stones, and anklets of brass wire fringed with little
pearls, and tigers' claws set in gold, and the claws of that gilt
cat, the leopard, set in gold also, and earrings of pierced
emerald, and finger-rings of hollowed jade. From the tea-houses
comes the sound of the guitar, and the opium-smokers with their
white smiling faces look out at the passers-by.

'Of a truth thou shouldst have been with me. The wine-sellers
elbow their way through the crowd with great black skins on their
shoulders. Most of them sell the wine of Schiraz, which is as
sweet as honey. They serve it in little metal cups and strew rose
leaves upon it. In the market-place stand the fruitsellers, who
sell all kinds of fruit: ripe figs, with their bruised purple
flesh, melons, smelling of musk and yellow as topazes, citrons and
rose-apples and clusters of white grapes, round red-gold oranges,
and oval lemons of green gold. Once I saw an elephant go by. Its
trunk was painted with vermilion and turmeric, and over its ears it
had a net of crimson silk cord. It stopped opposite one of the
booths and began eating the oranges, and the man only laughed.
Thou canst not think how strange a people they are. When they are
glad they go to the bird-sellers and buy of them a caged bird, and
set it free that their joy may be greater, and when they are sad
they scourge themselves with thorns that their sorrow may not grow
less.

'One evening I met some negroes carrying a heavy palanquin through
the bazaar. It was made of gilded bamboo, and the poles were of
vermilion lacquer studded with brass peacocks. Across the windows
hung thin curtains of muslin embroidered with beetles' wings and
with tiny seed-pearls, and as it passed by a pale-faced Circassian
looked out and smiled at me. I followed behind, and the negroes
hurried their steps and scowled. But I did not care. I felt a
great curiosity come over me.

'At last they stopped at a square white house. There were no
windows to it, only a little door like the door of a tomb. They
set down the palanquin and knocked three times with a copper
hammer. An Armenian in a caftan of green leather peered through
the wicket, and when he saw them he opened, and spread a carpet on
the ground, and the woman stepped out. As she went in, she turned
round and smiled at me again. I had never seen any one so pale.

'When the moon rose I returned to the same place and sought for the
house, but it was no longer there. When I saw that, I knew who the
woman was, and wherefore she had smiled at me.

'Certainly thou shouldst have been with me. On the feast of the
New Moon the young Emperor came forth from his palace and went into
the mosque to pray. His hair and beard were dyed with rose-leaves,
and his cheeks were powdered with a fine gold dust. The palms of
his feet and hands were yellow with saffron.

'At sunrise he went forth from his palace in a robe of silver, and
at sunset he returned to it again in a robe of gold. The people
flung themselves on the ground and hid their faces, but I would not
do so. I stood by the stall of a seller of dates and waited. When
the Emperor saw me, he raised his painted eyebrows and stopped. I
stood quite still, and made him no obeisance. The people marvelled
at my boldness, and counselled me to flee from the city. I paid no
heed to them, but went and sat with the sellers of strange gods,
who by reason of their craft are abominated. When I told them what
I had done, each of them gave me a god and prayed me to leave them.

'That night, as I lay on a cushion in the tea-house that is in the
Street of Pomegranates, the guards of the Emperor entered and led
me to the palace. As I went in they closed each door behind me,
and put a chain across it. Inside was a great court with an arcade
running all round. The walls were of white alabaster, set here and
there with blue and green tiles. The pillars were of green marble,
and the pavement of a kind of peach-blossom marble. I had never
seen anything like it before.

'As I passed across the court two veiled women looked down from a
balcony and cursed me. The guards hastened on, and the butts of
the lances rang upon the polished floor. They opened a gate of
wrought ivory, and I found myself in a watered garden of seven
terraces. It was planted with tulip-cups and moonflowers, and
silver-studded aloes. Like a slim reed of crystal a fountain hung
in the dusky air. The cypress-trees were like burnt-out torches.
From one of them a nightingale was singing.

'At the end of the garden stood a little pavilion. As we
approached it two eunuchs came out to meet us. Their fat bodies
swayed as they walked, and they glanced curiously at me with their
yellow-lidded eyes. One of them drew aside the captain of the
guard, and in a low voice whispered to him. The other kept
munching scented pastilles, which he took with an affected gesture
out of an oval box of lilac enamel.

'After a few moments the captain of the guard dismissed the
soldiers. They went back to the palace, the eunuchs following
slowly behind and plucking the sweet mulberries from the trees as
they passed. Once the elder of the two turned round, and smiled at
me with an evil smile.

'Then the captain of the guard motioned me towards the entrance of
the pavilion. I walked on without trembling, and drawing the heavy
curtain aside I entered in.

'The young Emperor was stretched on a couch of dyed lion skins, and
a gerfalcon perched upon his wrist. Behind him stood a brass-
turbaned Nubian, naked down to the waist, and with heavy earrings
in his split ears. On a table by the side of the couch lay a
mighty scimitar of steel.

'When the Emperor saw me he frowned, and said to me, "What is thy
name? Knowest thou not that I am Emperor of this city?" But I
made him no answer.

'He pointed with his finger at the scimitar, and the Nubian seized
it, and rushing forward struck at me with great violence. The
blade whizzed through me, and did me no hurt. The man fell
sprawling on the floor, and when he rose up his teeth chattered
with terror and he hid himself behind the couch.

'The Emperor leapt to his feet, and taking a lance from a stand of
arms, he threw it at me. I caught it in its flight, and brake the
shaft into two pieces. He shot at me with an arrow, but I held up
my hands and it stopped in mid-air. Then he drew a dagger from a
belt of white leather, and stabbed the Nubian in the throat lest
the slave should tell of his dishonour. The man writhed like a
trampled snake, and a red foam bubbled from his lips.

'As soon as he was dead the Emperor turned to me, and when he had
wiped away the bright sweat from his brow with a little napkin of
purfled and purple silk, he said to me, "Art thou a prophet, that I
may not harm thee, or the son of a prophet, that I can do thee no
hurt? I pray thee leave my city to-night, for while thou art in it
I am no longer its lord."

'And I answered him, "I will go for half of thy treasure. Give me
half of thy treasure, and I will go away."

'He took me by the hand, and led me out into the garden. When the
captain of the guard saw me, he wondered. When the eunuchs saw me,
their knees shook and they fell upon the ground in fear.

'There is a chamber in the palace that has eight walls of red
porphyry, and a brass-sealed ceiling hung with lamps. The Emperor
touched one of the walls and it opened, and we passed down a
corridor that was lit with many torches. In niches upon each side
stood great wine-jars filled to the brim with silver pieces. When
we reached the centre of the corridor the Emperor spake the word
that may not be spoken, and a granite door swung back on a secret
spring, and he put his hands before his face lest his eyes should
be dazzled.

'Thou couldst not believe how marvellous a place it was. There
were huge tortoise-shells full of pearls, and hollowed moonstones
of great size piled up with red rubies. The gold was stored in
coffers of elephant-hide, and the gold-dust in leather bottles.
There were opals and sapphires, the former in cups of crystal, and
the latter in cups of jade. Round green emeralds were ranged in
order upon thin plates of ivory, and in one corner were silk bags
filled, some with turquoise-stones, and others with beryls. The
ivory horns were heaped with purple amethysts, and the horns of
brass with chalcedonies and sards. The pillars, which were of
cedar, were hung with strings of yellow lynx-stones. In the flat
oval shields there were carbuncles, both wine-coloured and coloured
like grass. And yet I have told thee but a tithe of what was
there.

'And when the Emperor had taken away his hands from before his face
he said to me: "This is my house of treasure, and half that is in
it is thine, even as I promised to thee. And I will give thee
camels and camel drivers, and they shall do thy bidding and take
thy share of the treasure to whatever part of the world thou
desirest to go. And the thing shall be done to-night, for I would
not that the Sun, who is my father, should see that there is in my
city a man whom I cannot slay."

'But I answered him, "The gold that is here is thine, and the
silver also is thine, and thine are the precious jewels and the
things of price. As for me, I have no need of these. Nor shall I
take aught from thee but that little ring that thou wearest on the
finger of thy hand."

'And the Emperor frowned. "It is but a ring of lead," he cried,
"nor has it any value. Therefore take thy half of the treasure and
go from my city."

'"Nay," I answered, "but I will take nought but that leaden ring,
for I know what is written within it, and for what purpose."

'And the Emperor trembled, and besought me and said, "Take all the
treasure and go from my city. The half that is mine shall be thine
also."

'And I did a strange thing, but what I did matters not, for in a
cave that is but a day's journey from this place have, I hidden the
Ring of Riches. It is but a day's journey from this place, and it
waits for thy coming. He who has this Ring is richer than all the
kings of the world. Come therefore and take it, and the world's
riches shall be thine.'

But the young Fisherman laughed. 'Love is better than Riches,' he
cried, 'and the little Mermaid loves me.'

'Nay, but there is nothing better than Riches,' said the Soul.

'Love is better,' answered the young Fisherman, and he plunged into
the deep, and the Soul went weeping away over the marshes.

And after the third year was over, the Soul came down to the shore
of the sea, and called to the young Fisherman, and he rose out of
the deep and said, 'Why dost thou call to me?'

And the Soul answered, 'Come nearer, that I may speak with thee,
for I have seen marvellous things.'

So he came nearer, and couched in the shallow water, and leaned his
head upon his hand and listened.

And the Soul said to him, 'In a city that I know of there is an inn
that standeth by a river. I sat there with sailors who drank of
two different-coloured wines, and ate bread made of barley, and
little salt fish served in bay leaves with vinegar. And as we sat
and made merry, there entered to us an old man bearing a leathern
carpet and a lute that had two horns of amber. And when he had
laid out the carpet on the floor, he struck with a quill on the
wire strings of his lute, and a girl whose face was veiled ran in
and began to dance before us. Her face was veiled with a veil of
gauze, but her feet were naked. Naked were her feet, and they
moved over the carpet like little white pigeons. Never have I seen
anything so marvellous; and the city in which she dances is but a
day's journey from this place.'

Now when the young Fisherman heard the words of his Soul, he
remembered that the little Mermaid had no feet and could not dance.
And a great desire came over him, and he said to himself, 'It is
but a day's journey, and I can return to my love,' and he laughed,
and stood up in the shallow water, and strode towards the shore.

And when he had reached the dry shore he laughed again, and held
out his arms to his Soul. And his Soul gave a great cry of joy and
ran to meet him, and entered into him, and the young Fisherman saw
stretched before him upon the sand that shadow of the body that is
the body of the Soul.

And his Soul said to him, 'Let us not tarry, but get hence at once,
for the Sea-gods are jealous, and have monsters that do their
bidding.'

So they made haste, and all that night they journeyed beneath the
moon, and all the next day they journeyed beneath the sun, and on
the evening of the day they came to a city.

And the young Fisherman said to his Soul, 'Is this the city in
which she dances of whom thou didst speak to me?'

And his Soul answered him, 'It is not this city, but another.
Nevertheless let us enter in.' So they entered in and passed
through the streets, and as they passed through the Street of the
Jewellers the young Fisherman saw a fair silver cup set forth in a
booth. And his Soul said to him, 'Take that silver cup and hide
it.'

So he took the cup and hid it in the fold of his tunic, and they
went hurriedly out of the city.

And after that they had gone a league from the city, the young
Fisherman frowned, and flung the cup away, and said to his Soul,
'Why didst thou tell me to take this cup and hide it, for it was an
evil thing to do?'

But his Soul answered him, 'Be at peace, be at peace.'

And on the evening of the second day they came to a city, and the
young Fisherman said to his Soul, 'Is this the city in which she
dances of whom thou didst speak to me?'

And his Soul answered him, 'It is not this city, but another.
Nevertheless let us enter in.' So they entered in and passed
through the streets, and as they passed through the Street of the
Sellers of Sandals, the young Fisherman saw a child standing by a
jar of water. And his Soul said to him, 'Smite that child.' So he
smote the child till it wept, and when he had done this they went
hurriedly out of the city.

And after that they had gone a league from the city the young
Fisherman grew wroth, and said to his Soul, 'Why didst thou tell me
to smite the child, for it was an evil thing to do?'

But his Soul answered him, 'Be at peace, be at peace.'

And on the evening of the third day they came to a city, and the
young Fisherman said to his Soul, 'Is this the city in which she
dances of whom thou didst speak to me?'

And his Soul answered him, 'It may be that it is in this city,
therefore let us enter in.'

So they entered in and passed through the streets, but nowhere
could the young Fisherman find the river or the inn that stood by
its side. And the people of the city looked curiously at him, and
he grew afraid and said to his Soul, 'Let us go hence, for she who
dances with white feet is not here.'

But his Soul answered, 'Nay, but let us tarry, for the night is
dark and there will be robbers on the way.'

So he sat him down in the market-place and rested, and after a time
there went by a hooded merchant who had a cloak of cloth of
Tartary, and bare a lantern of pierced horn at the end of a jointed
reed. And the merchant said to him, 'Why dost thou sit in the
market-place, seeing that the booths are closed and the bales
corded?'

And the young Fisherman answered him, 'I can find no inn in this
city, nor have I any kinsman who might give me shelter.'

'Are we not all kinsmen?' said the merchant. 'And did not one God
make us? Therefore come with me, for I have a guest-chamber.'

So the young Fisherman rose up and followed the merchant to his
house. And when he had passed through a garden of pomegranates and
entered into the house, the merchant brought him rose-water in a
copper dish that he might wash his hands, and ripe melons that he
might quench his thirst, and set a bowl of rice and a piece of
roasted kid before him.

And after that he had finished, the merchant led him to the guest-
chamber, and bade him sleep and be at rest. And the young
Fisherman gave him thanks, and kissed the ring that was on his
hand, and flung himself down on the carpets of dyed goat's-hair.
And when he had covered himself with a covering of black lamb's-
wool he fell asleep.

And three hours before dawn, and while it was still night, his Soul
waked him and said to him, 'Rise up and go to the room of the
merchant, even to the room in which he sleepeth, and slay him, and
take from him his gold, for we have need of it.'

And the young Fisherman rose up and crept towards the room of the
merchant, and over the feet of the merchant there was lying a
curved sword, and the tray by the side of the merchant held nine
purses of gold. And he reached out his hand and touched the sword,
and when he touched it the merchant started and awoke, and leaping
up seized himself the sword and cried to the young Fisherman, 'Dost
thou return evil for good, and pay with the shedding of blood for
the kindness that I have shown thee?'

And his Soul said to the young Fisherman, 'Strike him,' and he
struck him so that he swooned and he seized then the nine purses of
gold, and fled hastily through the garden of pomegranates, and set
his face to the star that is the star of morning.

And when they had gone a league from the city, the young Fisherman
beat his breast, and said to his Soul, 'Why didst thou bid me slay
the merchant and take his gold? Surely thou art evil.'

But his Soul answered him, 'Be at peace, be at peace.'

'Nay,' cried the young Fisherman, 'I may not be at peace, for all
that thou hast made me to do I hate. Thee also I hate, and I bid
thee tell me wherefore thou hast wrought with me in this wise.'

And his Soul answered him, 'When thou didst send me forth into the
world thou gavest me no heart, so I learned to do all these things
and love them.'

'What sayest thou?' murmured the young Fisherman.

'Thou knowest,' answered his Soul, 'thou knowest it well. Hast
thou forgotten that thou gavest me no heart? I trow not. And so
trouble not thyself nor me, but be at peace, for there is no pain
that thou shalt not give away, nor any pleasure that thou shalt not
receive.'

And when the young Fisherman heard these words he trembled and said
to his Soul, 'Nay, but thou art evil, and hast made me forget my
love, and hast tempted me with temptations, and hast set my feet in
the ways of sin.'

And his Soul answered him, 'Thou hast not forgotten that when thou
didst send me forth into the world thou gavest me no heart. Come,
let us go to another city, and make merry, for we have nine purses
of gold.'

But the young Fisherman took the nine purses of gold, and flung
them down, and trampled on them.

'Nay,' he cried, 'but I will have nought to do with thee, nor will
I journey with thee anywhere, but even as I sent thee away before,
so will I send thee away now, for thou hast wrought me no good.'
And he turned his back to the moon, and with the little knife that
had the handle of green viper's skin he strove to cut from his feet
that shadow of the body which is the body of the Soul.

Yet his Soul stirred not from him, nor paid heed to his command,
but said to him, 'The spell that the Witch told thee avails thee no
more, for I may not leave thee, nor mayest thou drive me forth.
Once in his life may a man send his Soul away, but he who receiveth
back his Soul must keep it with him for ever, and this is his
punishment and his reward.'

And the young Fisherman grew pale and clenched his hands and cried,
'She was a false Witch in that she told me not that.'

'Nay,' answered his Soul, 'but she was true to Him she worships,
and whose servant she will be ever.'

And when the young Fisherman knew that he could no longer get rid
of his Soul, and that it was an evil Soul and would abide with him
always, he fell upon the ground weeping bitterly.

And when it was day the young Fisherman rose up and said to his
Soul, 'I will bind my hands that I may not do thy bidding, and
close my lips that I may not speak thy words, and I will return to
the place where she whom I love has her dwelling. Even to the sea
will I return, and to the little bay where she is wont to sing, and
I will call to her and tell her the evil I have done and the evil
thou hast wrought on me.'

And his Soul tempted him and said, 'Who is thy love, that thou
shouldst return to her? The world has many fairer than she is.
There are the dancing-girls of Samaris who dance in the manner of
all kinds of birds and beasts. Their feet are painted with henna,
and in their hands they have little copper bells. They laugh while
they dance, and their laughter is as clear as the laughter of
water. Come with me and I will show them to thee. For what is
this trouble of thine about the things of sin? Is that which is
pleasant to eat not made for the eater? Is there poison in that
which is sweet to drink? Trouble not thyself, but come with me to
another city. There is a little city hard by in which there is a
garden of tulip-trees. And there dwell in this comely garden white
peacocks and peacocks that have blue breasts. Their tails when
they spread them to the sun are like disks of ivory and like gilt
disks. And she who feeds them dances for their pleasure, and
sometimes she dances on her hands and at other times she dances
with her feet. Her eyes are coloured with stibium, and her
nostrils are shaped like the wings of a swallow. From a hook in
one of her nostrils hangs a flower that is carved out of a pearl.
She laughs while she dances, and the silver rings that are about
her ankles tinkle like bells of silver. And so trouble not thyself
any more, but come with me to this city.'

But the young Fisherman answered not his Soul, but closed his lips
with the seal of silence and with a tight cord bound his hands, and
journeyed back to the place from which he had come, even to the
little bay where his love had been wont to sing. And ever did his
Soul tempt him by the way, but he made it no answer, nor would he
do any of the wickedness that it sought to make him to do, so great
was the power of the love that was within him.

And when he had reached the shore of the sea, he loosed the cord
from his hands, and took the seal of silence from his lips, and
called to the little Mermaid. But she came not to his call, though
he called to her all day long and besought her.

And his Soul mocked him and said, 'Surely thou hast but little joy
out of thy love. Thou art as one who in time of death pours water
into a broken vessel. Thou givest away what thou hast, and nought
is given to thee in return. It were better for thee to come with
me, for I know where the Valley of Pleasure lies, and what things
are wrought there.'

But the young Fisherman answered not his Soul, but in a cleft of
the rock he built himself a house of wattles, and abode there for
the space of a year. And every morning he called to the Mermaid,
and every noon he called to her again, and at night-time he spake
her name. Yet never did she rise out of the sea to meet him, nor
in any place of the sea could he find her though he sought for her
in the caves and in the green water, in the pools of the tide and
in the wells that are at the bottom of the deep.

And ever did his Soul tempt him with evil, and whisper of terrible
things. Yet did it not prevail against him, so great was the power
of his love.

And after the year was over, the Soul thought within himself, 'I
have tempted my master with evil, and his love is stronger than I
am. I will tempt him now with good, and it may be that he will
come with me.'

So he spake to the young Fisherman and said, 'I have told thee of
the joy of the world, and thou hast turned a deaf ear to me.
Suffer me now to tell thee of the world's pain, and it may be that
thou wilt hearken. For of a truth pain is the Lord of this world,
nor is there any one who escapes from its net. There be some who
lack raiment, and others who lack bread. There be widows who sit
in purple, and widows who sit in rags. To and fro over the fens go
the lepers, and they are cruel to each other. The beggars go up
and down on the highways, and their wallets are empty. Through the
streets of the cities walks Famine, and the Plague sits at their
gates. Come, let us go forth and mend these things, and make them
not to be. Wherefore shouldst thou tarry here calling to thy love,
seeing she comes not to thy call? And what is love, that thou
shouldst set this high store upon it?'

But the young Fisherman answered it nought, so great was the power
of his love. And every morning he called to the Mermaid, and every
noon he called to her again, and at night-time he spake her name.
Yet never did she rise out of the sea to meet him, nor in any place
of the sea could he find her, though he sought for her in the
rivers of the sea, and in the valleys that are under the waves, in
the sea that the night makes purple, and in the sea that the dawn
leaves grey.

And after the second year was over, the Soul said to the young
Fisherman at night-time, and as he sat in the wattled house alone,
'Lo! now I have tempted thee with evil, and I have tempted thee
with good, and thy love is stronger than I am. Wherefore will I
tempt thee no longer, but I pray thee to suffer me to enter thy
heart, that I may be one with thee even as before.'

'Surely thou mayest enter,' said the young Fisherman, 'for in the
days when with no heart thou didst go through the world thou must
have much suffered.'

'Alas!' cried his Soul, 'I can find no place of entrance, so
compassed about with love is this heart of thine.'

'Yet I would that I could help thee,' said the young Fisherman.

And as he spake there came a great cry of mourning from the sea,
even the cry that men hear when one of the Sea-folk is dead. And
the young Fisherman leapt up, and left his wattled house, and ran
down to the shore. And the black waves came hurrying to the shore,
bearing with them a burden that was whiter than silver. White as
the surf it was, and like a flower it tossed on the waves. And the
surf took it from the waves, and the foam took it from the surf,
and the shore received it, and lying at his feet the young
Fisherman saw the body of the little Mermaid. Dead at his feet it
was lying.

Weeping as one smitten with pain he flung himself down beside it,
and he kissed the cold red of the mouth, and toyed with the wet
amber of the hair. He flung himself down beside it on the sand,
weeping as one trembling with joy, and in his brown arms he held it
to his breast. Cold were the lips, yet he kissed them. Salt was
the honey of the hair, yet he tasted it with a bitter joy. He
kissed the closed eyelids, and the wild spray that lay upon their
cups was less salt than his tears.

And to the dead thing he made confession. Into the shells of its
ears he poured the harsh wine of his tale. He put the little hands
round his neck, and with his fingers he touched the thin reed of
the throat. Bitter, bitter was his joy, and full of strange
gladness was his pain.

The black sea came nearer, and the white foam moaned like a leper.
With white claws of foam the sea grabbled at the shore. From the
palace of the Sea-King came the cry of mourning again, and far out
upon the sea the great Tritons blew hoarsely upon their horns.

'Flee away,' said his Soul, 'for ever doth the sea come nigher, and
if thou tarriest it will slay thee. Flee away, for I am afraid,
seeing that thy heart is closed against me by reason of the
greatness of thy love. Flee away to a place of safety. Surely
thou wilt not send me without a heart into another world?'

But the young Fisherman listened not to his Soul, but called on the
little Mermaid and said, 'Love is better than wisdom, and more
precious than riches, and fairer than the feet of the daughters of
men. The fires cannot destroy it, nor can the waters quench it. I
called on thee at dawn, and thou didst not come to my call. The
moon heard thy name, yet hadst thou no heed of me. For evilly had
I left thee, and to my own hurt had I wandered away. Yet ever did
thy love abide with me, and ever was it strong, nor did aught
prevail against it, though I have looked upon evil and looked upon
good. And now that thou art dead, surely I will die with thee
also.'

And his Soul besought him to depart, but he would not, so great was
his love. And the sea came nearer, and sought to cover him with
its waves, and when he knew that the end was at hand he kissed with
mad lips the cold lips of the Mermaid, and the heart that was
within him brake. And as through the fulness of his love his heart
did break, the Soul found an entrance and entered in, and was one
with him even as before. And the sea covered the young Fisherman
with its waves.

And in the morning the Priest went forth to bless the sea, for it
had been troubled. And with him went the monks and the musicians,
and the candle-bearers, and the swingers of censers, and a great
company.

And when the Priest reached the shore he saw the young Fisherman
lying drowned in the surf, and clasped in his arms was the body of
the little Mermaid. And he drew back frowning, and having made the
sign of the cross, he cried aloud and said, 'I will not bless the
sea nor anything that is in it. Accursed be the Sea-folk, and
accursed be all they who traffic with them. And as for him who for
love's sake forsook God, and so lieth here with his leman slain by
God's judgment, take up his body and the body of his leman, and
bury them in the corner of the Field of the Fullers, and set no
mark above them, nor sign of any kind, that none may know the place
of their resting. For accursed were they in their lives, and
accursed shall they be in their deaths also.'

And the people did as he commanded them, and in the corner of the
Field of the Fullers, where no sweet herbs grew, they dug a deep
pit, and laid the dead things within it.

And when the third year was over, and on a day that was a holy day,
the Priest went up to the chapel, that he might show to the people
the wounds of the Lord, and speak to them about the wrath of God.

And when he had robed himself with his robes, and entered in and
bowed himself before the altar, he saw that the altar was covered
with strange flowers that never had been seen before. Strange were
they to look at, and of curious beauty, and their beauty troubled
him, and their odour was sweet in his nostrils. And he felt glad,
and understood not why he was glad.

And after that he had opened the tabernacle, and incensed the
monstrance that was in it, and shown the fair wafer to the people,
and hid it again behind the veil of veils, he began to speak to the
people, desiring to speak to them of the wrath of God. But the
beauty of the white flowers troubled him, and their odour was sweet
in his nostrils, and there came another word into his lips, and he
spake not of the wrath of God, but of the God whose name is Love.
And why he so spake, he knew not.

And when he had finished his word the people wept, and the Priest
went back to the sacristy, and his eyes were full of tears. And
the deacons came in and began to unrobe him, and took from him the
alb and the girdle, the maniple and the stole. And he stood as one
in a dream.

And after that they had unrobed him, he looked at them and said,
'What are the flowers that stand on the altar, and whence do they
come?'

And they answered him, 'What flowers they are we cannot tell, but
they come from the corner of the Fullers' Field.' And the Priest
trembled, and returned to his own house and prayed.

And in the morning, while it was still dawn, he went forth with the
monks and the musicians, and the candle-bearers and the swingers of
censers, and a great company, and came to the shore of the sea, and
blessed the sea, and all the wild things that are in it. The Fauns
also he blessed, and the little things that dance in the woodland,
and the bright-eyed things that peer through the leaves. All the
things in God's world he blessed, and the people were filled with
joy and wonder. Yet never again in the corner of the Fullers'
Field grew flowers of any kind, but the field remained barren even
as before. Nor came the Sea-folk into the bay as they had been
wont to do, for they went to another part of the sea.

THE STAR-CHILD

[TO MISS MARGOT TENNANT--MRS. ASQUITH]

Once upon a time two poor Woodcutters were making their way home
through a great pine-forest. It was winter, and a night of bitter
cold. The snow lay thick upon the ground, and upon the branches of
the trees: the frost kept snapping the little twigs on either side
of them, as they passed: and when they came to the Mountain-
Torrent she was hanging motionless in air, for the Ice-King had
kissed her.

So cold was it that even the animals and the birds did not know
what to make of it.

'Ugh!' snarled the Wolf, as he limped through the brushwood with
his tail between his legs, 'this is perfectly monstrous weather.
Why doesn't the Government look to it?'

'Weet! weet! weet!' twittered the green Linnets, 'the old Earth is
dead and they have laid her out in her white shroud.'

'The Earth is going to be married, and this is her bridal dress,'
whispered the Turtle-doves to each other. Their little pink feet
were quite frost-bitten, but they felt that it was their duty to
take a romantic view of the situation.

'Nonsense!' growled the Wolf. 'I tell you that it is all the fault
of the Government, and if you don't believe me I shall eat you.'
The Wolf had a thoroughly practical mind, and was never at a loss
for a good argument.

'Well, for my own part,' said the Woodpecker, who was a born
philosopher, 'I don't care an atomic theory for explanations. If a
thing is so, it is so, and at present it is terribly cold.'

Terribly cold it certainly was. The little Squirrels, who lived
inside the tall fir-tree, kept rubbing each other's noses to keep
themselves warm, and the Rabbits curled themselves up in their
holes, and did not venture even to look out of doors. The only
people who seemed to enjoy it were the great horned Owls. Their
feathers were quite stiff with rime, but they did not mind, and
they rolled their large yellow eyes, and called out to each other
across the forest, 'Tu-whit! Tu-whoo! Tu-whit! Tu-whoo! what
delightful weather we are having!'

On and on went the two Woodcutters, blowing lustily upon their
fingers, and stamping with their huge iron-shod boots upon the
caked snow. Once they sank into a deep drift, and came out as
white as millers are, when the stones are grinding; and once they
slipped on the hard smooth ice where the marsh-water was frozen,
and their faggots fell out of their bundles, and they had to pick
them up and bind them together again; and once they thought that
they had lost their way, and a great terror seized on them, for
they knew that the Snow is cruel to those who sleep in her arms.
But they put their trust in the good Saint Martin, who watches over
all travellers, and retraced their steps, and went warily, and at
last they reached the outskirts of the forest, and saw, far down in
the valley beneath them, the lights of the village in which they
dwelt.

So overjoyed were they at their deliverance that they laughed
aloud, and the Earth seemed to them like a flower of silver, and
the Moon like a flower of gold.

Yet, after that they had laughed they became sad, for they
remembered their poverty, and one of them said to the other, 'Why
did we make merry, seeing that life is for the rich, and not for
such as we are? Better that we had died of cold in the forest, or
that some wild beast had fallen upon us and slain us.'

'Truly,' answered his companion, 'much is given to some, and little
is given to others. Injustice has parcelled out the world, nor is
there equal division of aught save of sorrow.'

But as they were bewailing their misery to each other this strange
thing happened. There fell from heaven a very bright and beautiful
star. It slipped down the side of the sky, passing by the other
stars in its course, and, as they watched it wondering, it seemed
to them to sink behind a clump of willow-trees that stood hard by a
little sheepfold no more than a stone's-throw away.

'Why! there is a crook of gold for whoever finds it,' they cried,
and they set to and ran, so eager were they for the gold.

And one of them ran faster than his mate, and outstripped him, and
forced his way through the willows, and came out on the other side,
and lo! there was indeed a thing of gold lying on the white snow.
So he hastened towards it, and stooping down placed his hands upon
it, and it was a cloak of golden tissue, curiously wrought with
stars, and wrapped in many folds. And he cried out to his comrade
that he had found the treasure that had fallen from the sky, and
when his comrade had come up, they sat them down in the snow, and
loosened the folds of the cloak that they might divide the pieces
of gold. But, alas! no gold was in it, nor silver, nor, indeed,
treasure of any kind, but only a little child who was asleep.

And one of them said to the other: 'This is a bitter ending to our
hope, nor have we any good fortune, for what doth a child profit to
a man? Let us leave it here, and go our way, seeing that we are
poor men, and have children of our own whose bread we may not give
to another.'

But his companion answered him: 'Nay, but it were an evil thing to
leave the child to perish here in the snow, and though I am as poor
as thou art, and have many mouths to feed, and but little in the
pot, yet will I bring it home with me, and my wife shall have care
of it.'

So very tenderly he took up the child, and wrapped the cloak around
it to shield it from the harsh cold, and made his way down the hill
to the village, his comrade marvelling much at his foolishness and
softness of heart.

And when they came to the village, his comrade said to him, 'Thou
hast the child, therefore give me the cloak, for it is meet that we
should share.'

But he answered him: 'Nay, for the cloak is neither mine nor
thine, but the child's only,' and he bade him Godspeed, and went to
his own house and knocked.

And when his wife opened the door and saw that her husband had
returned safe to her, she put her arms round his neck and kissed
him, and took from his back the bundle of faggots, and brushed the
snow off his boots, and bade him come in.

But he said to her, 'I have found something in the forest, and I
have brought it to thee to have care of it,' and he stirred not
from the threshold.

'What is it?' she cried. 'Show it to me, for the house is bare,
and we have need of many things.' And he drew the cloak back, and
showed her the sleeping child.

'Alack, goodman!' she murmured, 'have we not children of our own,
that thou must needs bring a changeling to sit by the hearth? And
who knows if it will not bring us bad fortune? And how shall we
tend it?' And she was wroth against him.

'Nay, but it is a Star-Child,' he answered; and he told her the
strange manner of the finding of it.

But she would not be appeased, but mocked at him, and spoke
angrily, and cried: 'Our children lack bread, and shall we feed
the child of another? Who is there who careth for us? And who
giveth us food?'

'Nay, but God careth for the sparrows even, and feedeth them,' he
answered.

'Do not the sparrows die of hunger in the winter?' she asked. 'And
is it not winter now?'

And the man answered nothing, but stirred not from the threshold.

And a bitter wind from the forest came in through the open door,
and made her tremble, and she shivered, and said to him: 'Wilt
thou not close the door? There cometh a bitter wind into the
house, and I am cold.'

'Into a house where a heart is hard cometh there not always a
bitter wind?' he asked. And the woman answered him nothing, but
crept closer to the fire.

And after a time she turned round and looked at him, and her eyes
were full of tears. And he came in swiftly, and placed the child
in her arms, and she kissed it, and laid it in a little bed where
the youngest of their own children was lying. And on the morrow
the Woodcutter took the curious cloak of gold and placed it in a
great chest, and a chain of amber that was round the child's neck
his wife took and set it in the chest also.

So the Star-Child was brought up with the children of the
Woodcutter, and sat at the same board with them, and was their
playmate. And every year he became more beautiful to look at, so
that all those who dwelt in the village were filled with wonder,
for, while they were swarthy and black-haired, he was white and
delicate as sawn ivory, and his curls were like the rings of the
daffodil. His lips, also, were like the petals of a red flower,
and his eyes were like violets by a river of pure water, and his
body like the narcissus of a field where the mower comes not.

Yet did his beauty work him evil. For he grew proud, and cruel,
and selfish. The children of the Woodcutter, and the other
children of the village, he despised, saying that they were of mean
parentage, while he was noble, being sprang from a Star, and he
made himself master over them, and called them his servants. No
pity had he for the poor, or for those who were blind or maimed or
in any way afflicted, but would cast stones at them and drive them
forth on to the highway, and bid them beg their bread elsewhere, so
that none save the outlaws came twice to that village to ask for
alms. Indeed, he was as one enamoured of beauty, and would mock at
the weakly and ill-favoured, and make jest of them; and himself he
loved, and in summer, when the winds were still, he would lie by
the well in the priest's orchard and look down at the marvel of his
own face, and laugh for the pleasure he had in his fairness.

Often did the Woodcutter and his wife chide him, and say: 'We did
not deal with thee as thou dealest with those who are left
desolate, and have none to succour them. Wherefore art thou so
cruel to all who need pity?'

Often did the old priest send for him, and seek to teach him the
love of living things, saying to him: 'The fly is thy brother. Do
it no harm. The wild birds that roam through the forest have their
freedom. Snare them not for thy pleasure. God made the blind-worm
and the mole, and each has its place. Who art thou to bring pain
into God's world? Even the cattle of the field praise Him.'

But the Star-Child heeded not their words, but would frown and
flout, and go back to his companions, and lead them. And his
companions followed him, for he was fair, and fleet of foot, and
could dance, and pipe, and make music. And wherever the Star-Child
led them they followed, and whatever the Star-Child bade them do,
that did they. And when he pierced with a sharp reed the dim eyes
of the mole, they laughed, and when he cast stones at the leper
they laughed also. And in all things he ruled them, and they
became hard of heart even as he was.

Now there passed one day through the village a poor beggar-woman.
Her garments were torn and ragged, and her feet were bleeding from
the rough road on which she had travelled, and she was in very evil
plight. And being weary she sat her down under a chestnut-tree to
rest.

But when the Star-Child saw her, he said to his companions, 'See!
There sitteth a foul beggar-woman under that fair and green-leaved
tree. Come, let us drive her hence, for she is ugly and ill-
favoured.'

So he came near and threw stones at her, and mocked her, and she
looked at him with terror in her eyes, nor did she move her gaze
from him. And when the Woodcutter, who was cleaving logs in a
haggard hard by, saw what the Star-Child was doing, he ran up and
rebuked him, and said to him: 'Surely thou art hard of heart and
knowest not mercy, for what evil has this poor woman done to thee
that thou shouldst treat her in this wise?'

And the Star-Child grew red with anger, and stamped his foot upon
the ground, and said, 'Who art thou to question me what I do? I am
no son of thine to do thy bidding.'

'Thou speakest truly,' answered the Woodcutter, 'yet did I show
thee pity when I found thee in the forest.'

And when the woman heard these words she gave a loud cry, and fell
into a swoon. And the Woodcutter carried her to his own house, and
his wife had care of her, and when she rose up from the swoon into
which she had fallen, they set meat and drink before her, and bade
her have comfort.

But she would neither eat nor drink, but said to the Woodcutter,
'Didst thou not say that the child was found in the forest? And
was it not ten years from this day?'

And the Woodcutter answered, 'Yea, it was in the forest that I
found him, and it is ten years from this day.'

'And what signs didst thou find with him?' she cried. 'Bare he not
upon his neck a chain of amber? Was not round him a cloak of gold
tissue broidered with stars?'

'Truly,' answered the Woodcutter, 'it was even as thou sayest.'
And he took the cloak and the amber chain from the chest where they
lay, and showed them to her.

And when she saw them she wept for joy, and said, 'He is my little
son whom I lost in the forest. I pray thee send for him quickly,
for in search of him have I wandered over the whole world.'

So the Woodcutter and his wife went out and called to the Star-
Child, and said to him, 'Go into the house, and there shalt thou
find thy mother, who is waiting for thee.'

So he ran in, filled with wonder and great gladness. But when he
saw her who was waiting there, he laughed scornfully and said,
'Why, where is my mother? For I see none here but this vile
beggar-woman.'

And the woman answered him, 'I am thy mother.'

'Thou art mad to say so,' cried the Star-Child angrily. 'I am no
son of thine, for thou art a beggar, and ugly, and in rags.
Therefore get thee hence, and let me see thy foul face no more.'

'Nay, but thou art indeed my little son, whom I bare in the
forest,' she cried, and she fell on her knees, and held out her
arms to him. 'The robbers stole thee from me, and left thee to
die,' she murmured, 'but I recognised thee when I saw thee, and the
signs also have I recognised, the cloak of golden tissue and the
amber chain. Therefore I pray thee come with me, for over the
whole world have I wandered in search of thee. Come with me, my
son, for I have need of thy love.'

But the Star-Child stirred not from his place, but shut the doors
of his heart against her, nor was there any sound heard save the
sound of the woman weeping for pain.

And at last he spoke to her, and his voice was hard and bitter.
'If in very truth thou art my mother,' he said, 'it had been better
hadst thou stayed away, and not come here to bring me to shame,
seeing that I thought I was the child of some Star, and not a
beggar's child, as thou tellest me that I am. Therefore get thee
hence, and let me see thee no more.'

'Alas! my son,' she cried, 'wilt thou not kiss me before I go? For
I have suffered much to find thee.'

'Nay,' said the Star-Child, 'but thou art too foul to look at, and
rather would I kiss the adder or the toad than thee.'

So the woman rose up, and went away into the forest weeping
bitterly, and when the Star-Child saw that she had gone, he was
glad, and ran back to his playmates that he might play with them.

But when they beheld him coming, they mocked him and said, 'Why,
thou art as foul as the toad, and as loathsome as the adder. Get
thee hence, for we will not suffer thee to play with us,' and they
drave him out of the garden.

And the Star-Child frowned and said to himself, 'What is this that
they say to me? I will go to the well of water and look into it,
and it shall tell me of my beauty.'

So he went to the well of water and looked into it, and lo! his
face was as the face of a toad, and his body was sealed like an
adder. And he flung himself down on the grass and wept, and said
to himself, 'Surely this has come upon me by reason of my sin. For
I have denied my mother, and driven her away, and been proud, and
cruel to her. Wherefore I will go and seek her through the whole
world, nor will I rest till I have found her.'

And there came to him the little daughter of the Woodcutter, and
she put her hand upon his shoulder and said, 'What doth it matter
if thou hast lost thy comeliness? Stay with us, and I will not
mock at thee.'

And he said to her, 'Nay, but I have been cruel to my mother, and
as a punishment has this evil been sent to me. Wherefore I must go
hence, and wander through the world till I find her, and she give
me her forgiveness.'

So he ran away into the forest and called out to his mother to come
to him, but there was no answer. All day long he called to her,
and, when the sun set he lay down to sleep on a bed of leaves, and
the birds and the animals fled from him, for they remembered his
cruelty, and he was alone save for the toad that watched him, and
the slow adder that crawled past.

And in the morning he rose up, and plucked some bitter berries from
the trees and ate them, and took his way through the great wood,
weeping sorely. And of everything that he met he made inquiry if
perchance they had seen his mother.

He said to the Mole, 'Thou canst go beneath the earth. Tell me, is
my mother there?'

And the Mole answered, 'Thou hast blinded mine eyes. How should I
know?'

He said to the Linnet, 'Thou canst fly over the tops of the tall
trees, and canst see the whole world. Tell me, canst thou see my
mother?'

And the Linnet answered, 'Thou hast clipt my wings for thy
pleasure. How should I fly?'

And to the little Squirrel who lived in the fir-tree, and was
lonely, he said, 'Where is my mother?'

And the Squirrel answered, 'Thou hast slain mine. Dost thou seek
to slay thine also?'

And the Star-Child wept and bowed his head, and prayed forgiveness
of God's things, and went on through the forest, seeking for the
beggar-woman. And on the third day he came to the other side of
the forest and went down into the plain.

And when he passed through the villages the children mocked him,
and threw stones at him, and the carlots would not suffer him even
to sleep in the byres lest he might bring mildew on the stored
corn, so foul was he to look at, and their hired men drave him
away, and there was none who had pity on him. Nor could he hear
anywhere of the beggar-woman who was his mother, though for the
space of three years he wandered over the world, and often seemed
to see her on the road in front of him, and would call to her, and
run after her till the sharp flints made his feet to bleed. But
overtake her he could not, and those who dwelt by the way did ever
deny that they had seen her, or any like to her, and they made
sport of his sorrow.

For the space of three years he wandered over the world, and in the
world there was neither love nor loving-kindness nor charity for
him, but it was even such a world as he had made for himself in the
days of his great pride.

And one evening he came to the gate of a strong-walled city that
stood by a river, and, weary and footsore though he was, he made to
enter in. But the soldiers who stood on guard dropped their
halberts across the entrance, and said roughly to him, 'What is thy
business in the city?'

'I am seeking for my mother,' he answered, 'and I pray ye to suffer
me to pass, for it may be that she is in this city.'

But they mocked at him, and one of them wagged a black beard, and
set down his shield and cried, 'Of a truth, thy mother will not be
merry when she sees thee, for thou art more ill-favoured than the
toad of the marsh, or the adder that crawls in the fen. Get thee
gone. Get thee gone. Thy mother dwells not in this city.'

And another, who held a yellow banner in his hand, said to him,
'Who is thy mother, and wherefore art thou seeking for her?'

And he answered, 'My mother is a beggar even as I am, and I have
treated her evilly, and I pray ye to suffer me to pass that she may
give me her forgiveness, if it be that she tarrieth in this city.'
But they would not, and pricked him with their spears.

And, as he turned away weeping, one whose armour was inlaid with
gilt flowers, and on whose helmet couched a lion that had wings,
came up and made inquiry of the soldiers who it was who had sought
entrance. And they said to him, 'It is a beggar and the child of a
beggar, and we have driven him away.'

'Nay,' he cried, laughing, 'but we will sell the foul thing for a
slave, and his price shall be the price of a bowl of sweet wine.'

And an old and evil-visaged man who was passing by called out, and
said, 'I will buy him for that price,' and, when he had paid the
price, he took the Star-Child by the hand and led him into the
city.

And after that they had gone through many streets they came to a
little door that was set in a wall that was covered with a
pomegranate tree. And the old man touched the door with a ring of
graved jasper and it opened, and they went down five steps of brass
into a garden filled with black poppies and green jars of burnt
clay. And the old man took then from his turban a scarf of figured
silk, and bound with it the eyes of the Star-Child, and drave him
in front of him. And when the scarf was taken off his eyes, the
Star-Child found himself in a dungeon, that was lit by a lantern of
horn.

And the old man set before him some mouldy bread on a trencher and
said, 'Eat,' and some brackish water in a cup and said, 'Drink,'
and when he had eaten and drunk, the old man went out, locking the
door behind him and fastening it with an iron chain.

And on the morrow the old man, who was indeed the subtlest of the
magicians of Libya and had learned his art from one who dwelt in
the tombs of the Nile, came in to him and frowned at him, and said,
'In a wood that is nigh to the gate of this city of Giaours there
are three pieces of gold. One is of white gold, and another is of
yellow gold, and the gold of the third one is red. To-day thou
shalt bring me the piece of white gold, and if thou bringest it not
back, I will beat thee with a hundred stripes. Get thee away
quickly, and at sunset I will be waiting for thee at the door of
the garden. See that thou bringest the white gold, or it shall go
ill with thee, for thou art my slave, and I have bought thee for
the price of a bowl of sweet wine.' And he bound the eyes of the
Star-Child with the scarf of figured silk, and led him through the
house, and through the garden of poppies, and up the five steps of
brass. And having opened the little door with his ring he set him
in the street.

And the Star-Child went out of the gate of the city, and came to
the wood of which the Magician had spoken to him.

Now this wood was very fair to look at from without, and seemed
full of singing birds and of sweet-scented flowers, and the Star-
Child entered it gladly. Yet did its beauty profit him little, for
wherever he went harsh briars and thorns shot up from the ground
and encompassed him, and evil nettles stung him, and the thistle
pierced him with her daggers, so that he was in sore distress. Nor
could he anywhere find the piece of white gold of which the
Magician had spoken, though he sought for it from morn to noon, and
from noon to sunset. And at sunset he set his face towards home,
weeping bitterly, for he knew what fate was in store for him.

But when he had reached the outskirts of the wood, he heard from a
thicket a cry as of some one in pain. And forgetting his own
sorrow he ran back to the place, and saw there a little Hare caught
in a trap that some hunter had set for it.

And the Star-Child had pity on it, and released it, and said to it,
'I am myself but a slave, yet may I give thee thy freedom.'

And the Hare answered him, and said: 'Surely thou hast given me
freedom, and what shall I give thee in return?'

And the Star-Child said to it, 'I am seeking for a piece of white
gold, nor can I anywhere find it, and if I bring it not to my
master he will beat me.'

'Come thou with me,' said the Hare, 'and I will lead thee to it,
for I know where it is hidden, and for what purpose.'

So the Star-Child went with the Hare, and lo! in the cleft of a
great oak-tree he saw the piece of white gold that he was seeking.
And he was filled with joy, and seized it, and said to the Hare,
'The service that I did to thee thou hast rendered back again many
times over, and the kindness that I showed thee thou hast repaid a
hundred-fold.'

'Nay,' answered the Hare, 'but as thou dealt with me, so I did deal
with thee,' and it ran away swiftly, and the Star-Child went
towards the city.

Now at the gate of the city there was seated one who was a leper.
Over his face hung a cowl of grey linen, and through the eyelets
his eyes gleamed like red coals. And when he saw the Star-Child
coming, he struck upon a wooden bowl, and clattered his bell, and
called out to him, and said, 'Give me a piece of money, or I must
die of hunger. For they have thrust me out of the city, and there
is no one who has pity on me.'

'Alas!' cried the Star-Child, 'I have but one piece of money in my
wallet, and if I bring it not to my master he will beat me, for I
am his slave.'

But the leper entreated him, and prayed of him, till the Star-Child
had pity, and gave him the piece of white gold.

And when he came to the Magician's house, the Magician opened to
him, and brought him in, and said to him, 'Hast thou the piece of
white gold?' And the Star-Child answered, 'I have it not.' So the
Magician fell upon him, and beat him, and set before him an empty
trencher, and said, 'Eat,' and an empty cup, and said, 'Drink,' and
flung him again into the dungeon.

And on the morrow the Magician came to him, and said, 'If to-day
thou bringest me not the piece of yellow gold, I will surely keep
thee as my slave, and give thee three hundred stripes.'

So the Star-Child went to the wood, and all day long he searched
for the piece of yellow gold, but nowhere could he find it. And at
sunset he sat him down and began to weep, and as he was weeping
there came to him the little Hare that he had rescued from the
trap,

And the Hare said to him, 'Why art thou weeping? And what dost
thou seek in the wood?'

And the Star-Child answered, 'I am seeking for a piece of yellow
gold that is hidden here, and if I find it not my master will beat
me, and keep me as a slave.'

'Follow me,' cried the Hare, and it ran through the wood till it
came to a pool of water. And at the bottom of the pool the piece
of yellow gold was lying.

'How shall I thank thee?' said the Star-Child, 'for lo! this is the
second time that you have succoured me.'

'Nay, but thou hadst pity on me first,' said the Hare, and it ran
away swiftly.

And the Star-Child took the piece of yellow gold, and put it in his
wallet, and hurried to the city. But the leper saw him coming, and
ran to meet him, and knelt down and cried, 'Give me a piece of
money or I shall die of hunger.'

And the Star-Child said to him, 'I have in my wallet but one piece
of yellow gold, and if I bring it not to my master he will beat me
and keep me as his slave.'

But the leper entreated him sore, so that the Star-Child had pity
on him, and gave him the piece of yellow gold.

And when he came to the Magician's house, the Magician opened to
him, and brought him in, and said to him, 'Hast thou the piece of
yellow gold?' And the Star-Child said to him, 'I have it not.' So
the Magician fell upon him, and beat him, and loaded him with
chains, and cast him again into the dungeon.

And on the morrow the Magician came to him, and said, 'If to-day
thou bringest me the piece of red gold I will set thee free, but if
thou bringest it not I will surely slay thee.'

So the Star-Child went to the wood, and all day long he searched
for the piece of red gold, but nowhere could he find it. And at
evening he sat him down and wept, and as he was weeping there came
to him the little Hare.

And the Hare said to him, 'The piece of red gold that thou seekest
is in the cavern that is behind thee. Therefore weep no more but
be glad.'

'How shall I reward thee?' cried the Star-Child, 'for lo! this is
the third time thou hast succoured me.'

'Nay, but thou hadst pity on me first,' said the Hare, and it ran
away swiftly.

And the Star-Child entered the cavern, and in its farthest corner
he found the piece of red gold. So he put it in his wallet, and
hurried to the city. And the leper seeing him coming, stood in the
centre of the road, and cried out, and said to him, 'Give me the
piece of red money, or I must die,' and the Star-Child had pity on
him again, and gave him the piece of red gold, saying, 'Thy need is
greater than mine.' Yet was his heart heavy, for he knew what evil
fate awaited him.

But lo! as he passed through the gate of the city, the guards bowed
down and made obeisance to him, saying, 'How beautiful is our
lord!' and a crowd of citizens followed him, and cried out, 'Surely
there is none so beautiful in the whole world!' so that the Star-
Child wept, and said to himself, 'They are mocking me, and making
light of my misery.' And so large was the concourse of the people,
that he lost the threads of his way, and found himself at last in a
great square, in which there was a palace of a King.

And the gate of the palace opened, and the priests and the high
officers of the city ran forth to meet him, and they abased
themselves before him, and said, 'Thou art our lord for whom we
have been waiting, and the son of our King.'

And the Star-Child answered them and said, 'I am no king's son, but
the child of a poor beggar-woman. And how say ye that I am
beautiful, for I know that I am evil to look at?'

Then he, whose armour was inlaid with gilt flowers, and on whose
helmet crouched a lion that had wings, held up a shield, and cried,
'How saith my lord that he is not beautiful?'

And the Star-Child looked, and lo! his face was even as it had
been, and his comeliness had come back to him, and he saw that in
his eyes which he had not seen there before.

And the priests and the high officers knelt down and said to him,
'It was prophesied of old that on this day should come he who was
to rule over us. Therefore, let our lord take this crown and this
sceptre, and be in his justice and mercy our King over us.'

But he said to them, 'I am not worthy, for I have denied the mother
who bare me, nor may I rest till I have found her, and known her
forgiveness. Therefore, let me go, for I must wander again over
the world, and may not tarry here, though ye bring me the crown and
the sceptre.' And as he spake he turned his face from them towards
the street that led to the gate of the city, and lo! amongst the
crowd that pressed round the soldiers, he saw the beggar-woman who
was his mother, and at her side stood the leper, who had sat by the
road.

And a cry of joy broke from his lips, and he ran over, and kneeling
down he kissed the wounds on his mother's feet, and wet them with
his tears. He bowed his head in the dust, and sobbing, as one
whose heart might break, he said to her: 'Mother, I denied thee in
the hour of my pride. Accept me in the hour of my humility.
Mother, I gave thee hatred. Do thou give me love. Mother, I
rejected thee. Receive thy child now.' But the beggar-woman
answered him not a word.

And he reached out his hands, and clasped the white feet of the
leper, and said to him: 'Thrice did I give thee of my mercy. Bid
my mother speak to me once.' But the leper answered him not a
word.

And he sobbed again and said: 'Mother, my suffering is greater
than I can bear. Give me thy forgiveness, and let me go back to
the forest.' And the beggar-woman put her hand on his head, and
said to him, 'Rise,' and the leper put his hand on his head, and
said to him, 'Rise,' also.

And he rose up from his feet, and looked at them, and lo! they were
a King and a Queen.

And the Queen said to him, 'This is thy father whom thou hast
succoured.'

And the King said, 'This is thy mother whose feet thou hast washed
with thy tears.' And they fell on his neck and kissed him, and
brought him into the palace and clothed him in fair raiment, and
set the crown upon his head, and the sceptre in his hand, and over
the city that stood by the river he ruled, and was its lord. Much
justice and mercy did he show to all, and the evil Magician he
banished, and to the Woodcutter and his wife he sent many rich
gifts, and to their children he gave high honour. Nor would he
suffer any to be cruel to bird or beast, but taught love and
loving-kindness and charity, and to the poor he gave bread, and to
the naked he gave raiment, and there was peace and plenty in the
land.

Yet ruled he not long, so great had been his suffering, and so
bitter the fire of his testing, for after the space of three years
he died. And he who came after him ruled evilly.

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