A House of Pomegranates
Part 1 out of 2
Transcribed from the 1915 Methuen and Co. edition by David Price,
A HOUSE OF POMEGRANATES
The Young King
The Birthday of the Infanta
The Fisherman and his Soul
THE YOUNG KING
[TO MARGARET LADY BROOKE--THE RANEE OF SARAWAK]
It was the night before the day fixed for his coronation, and the
young King was sitting alone in his beautiful chamber. His
courtiers had all taken their leave of him, bowing their heads to
the ground, according to the ceremonious usage of the day, and had
retired to the Great Hall of the Palace, to receive a few last
lessons from the Professor of Etiquette; there being some of them
who had still quite natural manners, which in a courtier is, I need
hardly say, a very grave offence.
The lad--for he was only a lad, being but sixteen years of age--was
not sorry at their departure, and had flung himself back with a
deep sigh of relief on the soft cushions of his embroidered couch,
lying there, wild-eyed and open-mouthed, like a brown woodland
Faun, or some young animal of the forest newly snared by the
And, indeed, it was the hunters who had found him, coming upon him
almost by chance as, bare-limbed and pipe in hand, he was following
the flock of the poor goatherd who had brought him up, and whose
son he had always fancied himself to be. The child of the old
King's only daughter by a secret marriage with one much beneath her
in station--a stranger, some said, who, by the wonderful magic of
his lute-playing, had made the young Princess love him; while
others spoke of an artist from Rimini, to whom the Princess had
shown much, perhaps too much honour, and who had suddenly
disappeared from the city, leaving his work in the Cathedral
unfinished--he had been, when but a week old, stolen away from his
mother's side, as she slept, and given into the charge of a common
peasant and his wife, who were without children of their own, and
lived in a remote part of the forest, more than a day's ride from
the town. Grief, or the plague, as the court physician stated, or,
as some suggested, a swift Italian poison administered in a cup of
spiced wine, slew, within an hour of her wakening, the white girl
who had given him birth, and as the trusty messenger who bare the
child across his saddle-bow stooped from his weary horse and
knocked at the rude door of the goatherd's hut, the body of the
Princess was being lowered into an open grave that had been dug in
a deserted churchyard, beyond the city gates, a grave where it was
said that another body was also lying, that of a young man of
marvellous and foreign beauty, whose hands were tied behind him
with a knotted cord, and whose breast was stabbed with many red
Such, at least, was the story that men whispered to each other.
Certain it was that the old King, when on his deathbed, whether
moved by remorse for his great sin, or merely desiring that the
kingdom should not pass away from his line, had had the lad sent
for, and, in the presence of the Council, had acknowledged him as
And it seems that from the very first moment of his recognition he
had shown signs of that strange passion for beauty that was
destined to have so great an influence over his life. Those who
accompanied him to the suite of rooms set apart for his service,
often spoke of the cry of pleasure that broke from his lips when he
saw the delicate raiment and rich jewels that had been prepared for
him, and of the almost fierce joy with which he flung aside his
rough leathern tunic and coarse sheepskin cloak. He missed,
indeed, at times the fine freedom of his forest life, and was
always apt to chafe at the tedious Court ceremonies that occupied
so much of each day, but the wonderful palace--Joyeuse, as they
called it--of which he now found himself lord, seemed to him to be
a new world fresh-fashioned for his delight; and as soon as he
could escape from the council-board or audience-chamber, he would
run down the great staircase, with its lions of gilt bronze and its
steps of bright porphyry, and wander from room to room, and from
corridor to corridor, like one who was seeking to find in beauty an
anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration from sickness.
Upon these journeys of discovery, as he would call them--and,
indeed, they were to him real voyages through a marvellous land, he
would sometimes be accompanied by the slim, fair-haired Court
pages, with their floating mantles, and gay fluttering ribands; but
more often he would be alone, feeling through a certain quick
instinct, which was almost a divination, that the secrets of art
are best learned in secret, and that Beauty, like Wisdom, loves the
Many curious stories were related about him at this period. It was
said that a stout Burgo-master, who had come to deliver a florid
oratorical address on behalf of the citizens of the town, had
caught sight of him kneeling in real adoration before a great
picture that had just been brought from Venice, and that seemed to
herald the worship of some new gods. On another occasion he had
been missed for several hours, and after a lengthened search had
been discovered in a little chamber in one of the northern turrets
of the palace gazing, as one in a trance, at a Greek gem carved
with the figure of Adonis. He had been seen, so the tale ran,
pressing his warm lips to the marble brow of an antique statue that
had been discovered in the bed of the river on the occasion of the
building of the stone bridge, and was inscribed with the name of
the Bithynian slave of Hadrian. He had passed a whole night in
noting the effect of the moonlight on a silver image of Endymion.
All rare and costly materials had certainly a great fascination for
him, and in his eagerness to procure them he had sent away many
merchants, some to traffic for amber with the rough fisher-folk of
the north seas, some to Egypt to look for that curious green
turquoise which is found only in the tombs of kings, and is said to
possess magical properties, some to Persia for silken carpets and
painted pottery, and others to India to buy gauze and stained
ivory, moonstones and bracelets of jade, sandal-wood and blue
enamel and shawls of fine wool.
But what had occupied him most was the robe he was to wear at his
coronation, the robe of tissued gold, and the ruby-studded crown,
and the sceptre with its rows and rings of pearls. Indeed, it was
of this that he was thinking to-night, as he lay back on his
luxurious couch, watching the great pinewood log that was burning
itself out on the open hearth. The designs, which were from the
hands of the most famous artists of the time, had been submitted to
him many months before, and he had given orders that the artificers
were to toil night and day to carry them out, and that the whole
world was to be searched for jewels that would be worthy of their
work. He saw himself in fancy standing at the high altar of the
cathedral in the fair raiment of a King, and a smile played and
lingered about his boyish lips, and lit up with a bright lustre his
dark woodland eyes.
After some time he rose from his seat, and leaning against the
carved penthouse of the chimney, looked round at the dimly-lit
room. The walls were hung with rich tapestries representing the
Triumph of Beauty. A large press, inlaid with agate and lapis-
lazuli, filled one corner, and facing the window stood a curiously
wrought cabinet with lacquer panels of powdered and mosaiced gold,
on which were placed some delicate goblets of Venetian glass, and a
cup of dark-veined onyx. Pale poppies were broidered on the silk
coverlet of the bed, as though they had fallen from the tired hands
of sleep, and tall reeds of fluted ivory bare up the velvet canopy,
from which great tufts of ostrich plumes sprang, like white foam,
to the pallid silver of the fretted ceiling. A laughing Narcissus
in green bronze held a polished mirror above its head. On the
table stood a flat bowl of amethyst.
Outside he could see the huge dome of the cathedral, looming like a
bubble over the shadowy houses, and the weary sentinels pacing up
and down on the misty terrace by the river. Far away, in an
orchard, a nightingale was singing. A faint perfume of jasmine
came through the open window. He brushed his brown curls back from
his forehead, and taking up a lute, let his fingers stray across
the cords. His heavy eyelids drooped, and a strange languor came
over him. Never before had he felt so keenly, or with such
exquisite joy, the magic and the mystery of beautiful things.
When midnight sounded from the clock-tower he touched a bell, and
his pages entered and disrobed him with much ceremony, pouring
rose-water over his hands, and strewing flowers on his pillow. A
few moments after that they had left the room, he fell asleep.
And as he slept he dreamed a dream, and this was his dream.
He thought that he was standing in a long, low attic, amidst the
whir and clatter of many looms. The meagre daylight peered in
through the grated windows, and showed him the gaunt figures of the
weavers bending over their cases. Pale, sickly-looking children
were crouched on the huge crossbeams. As the shuttles dashed
through the warp they lifted up the heavy battens, and when the
shuttles stopped they let the battens fall and pressed the threads
together. Their faces were pinched with famine, and their thin
hands shook and trembled. Some haggard women were seated at a
table sewing. A horrible odour filled the place. The air was foul
and heavy, and the walls dripped and streamed with damp.
The young King went over to one of the weavers, and stood by him
and watched him.
And the weaver looked at him angrily, and said, 'Why art thou
watching me? Art thou a spy set on us by our master?'
'Who is thy master?' asked the young King.
'Our master!' cried the weaver, bitterly. 'He is a man like
myself. Indeed, there is but this difference between us--that he
wears fine clothes while I go in rags, and that while I am weak
from hunger he suffers not a little from overfeeding.'
'The land is free,' said the young King, 'and thou art no man's
'In war,' answered the weaver, 'the strong make slaves of the weak,
and in peace the rich make slaves of the poor. We must work to
live, and they give us such mean wages that we die. We toil for
them all day long, and they heap up gold in their coffers, and our
children fade away before their time, and the faces of those we
love become hard and evil. We tread out the grapes, and another
drinks the wine. We sow the corn, and our own board is empty. We
have chains, though no eye beholds them; and are slaves, though men
call us free.'
'Is it so with all?' he asked,
'It is so with all,' answered the weaver, 'with the young as well
as with the old, with the women as well as with the men, with the
little children as well as with those who are stricken in years.
The merchants grind us down, and we must needs do their bidding.
The priest rides by and tells his beads, and no man has care of us.
Through our sunless lanes creeps Poverty with her hungry eyes, and
Sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us
in the morning, and Shame sits with us at night. But what are
these things to thee? Thou art not one of us. Thy face is too
happy.' And he turned away scowling, and threw the shuttle across
the loom, and the young King saw that it was threaded with a thread
And a great terror seized upon him, and he said to the weaver,
'What robe is this that thou art weaving?'
'It is the robe for the coronation of the young King,' he answered;
'what is that to thee?'
And the young King gave a loud cry and woke, and lo! he was in his
own chamber, and through the window he saw the great honey-coloured
moon hanging in the dusky air.
And he fell asleep again and dreamed, and this was his dream.
He thought that he was lying on the deck of a huge galley that was
being rowed by a hundred slaves. On a carpet by his side the
master of the galley was seated. He was black as ebony, and his
turban was of crimson silk. Great earrings of silver dragged down
the thick lobes of his ears, and in his hands he had a pair of
The slaves were naked, but for a ragged loin-cloth, and each man
was chained to his neighbour. The hot sun beat brightly upon them,
and the negroes ran up and down the gangway and lashed them with
whips of hide. They stretched out their lean arms and pulled the
heavy oars through the water. The salt spray flew from the blades.
At last they reached a little bay, and began to take soundings. A
light wind blew from the shore, and covered the deck and the great
lateen sail with a fine red dust. Three Arabs mounted on wild
asses rode out and threw spears at them. The master of the galley
took a painted bow in his hand and shot one of them in the throat.
He fell heavily into the surf, and his companions galloped away. A
woman wrapped in a yellow veil followed slowly on a camel, looking
back now and then at the dead body.
As soon as they had cast anchor and hauled down the sail, the
negroes went into the hold and brought up a long rope-ladder,
heavily weighted with lead. The master of the galley threw it over
the side, making the ends fast to two iron stanchions. Then the
negroes seized the youngest of the slaves and knocked his gyves
off, and filled his nostrils and his ears with wax, and tied a big
stone round his waist. He crept wearily down the ladder, and
disappeared into the sea. A few bubbles rose where he sank. Some
of the other slaves peered curiously over the side. At the prow of
the galley sat a shark-charmer, beating monotonously upon a drum.
After some time the diver rose up out of the water, and clung
panting to the ladder with a pearl in his right hand. The negroes
seized it from him, and thrust him back. The slaves fell asleep
over their oars.
Again and again he came up, and each time that he did so he brought
with him a beautiful pearl. The master of the galley weighed them,
and put them into a little bag of green leather.
The young King tried to speak, but his tongue seemed to cleave to
the roof of his mouth, and his lips refused to move. The negroes
chattered to each other, and began to quarrel over a string of
bright beads. Two cranes flew round and round the vessel.
Then the diver came up for the last time, and the pearl that he
brought with him was fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz, for it
was shaped like the full moon, and whiter than the morning star.
But his face was strangely pale, and as he fell upon the deck the
blood gushed from his ears and nostrils. He quivered for a little,
and then he was still. The negroes shrugged their shoulders, and
threw the body overboard.
And the master of the galley laughed, and, reaching out, he took
the pearl, and when he saw it he pressed it to his forehead and
bowed. 'It shall be,' he said, 'for the sceptre of the young
King,' and he made a sign to the negroes to draw up the anchor.
And when the young King heard this he gave a great cry, and woke,
and through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn
clutching at the fading stars.
And he fell asleep again, and dreamed, and this was his dream.
He thought that he was wandering through a dim wood, hung with
strange fruits and with beautiful poisonous flowers. The adders
hissed at him as he went by, and the bright parrots flew screaming
from branch to branch. Huge tortoises lay asleep upon the hot mud.
The trees were full of apes and peacocks.
On and on he went, till he reached the outskirts of the wood, and
there he saw an immense multitude of men toiling in the bed of a
dried-up river. They swarmed up the crag like ants. They dug deep
pits in the ground and went down into them. Some of them cleft the
rocks with great axes; others grabbled in the sand.
They tore up the cactus by its roots, and trampled on the scarlet
blossoms. They hurried about, calling to each other, and no man
From the darkness of a cavern Death and Avarice watched them, and
Death said, 'I am weary; give me a third of them and let me go.'
But Avarice shook her head. 'They are my servants,' she answered.
And Death said to her, 'What hast thou in thy hand?'
'I have three grains of corn,' she answered; 'what is that to
'Give me one of them,' cried Death, 'to plant in my garden; only
one of them, and I will go away.'
'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice, and she hid her hand
in the fold of her raiment.
And Death laughed, and took a cup, and dipped it into a pool of
water, and out of the cup rose Ague. She passed through the great
multitude, and a third of them lay dead. A cold mist followed her,
and the water-snakes ran by her side.
And when Avarice saw that a third of the multitude was dead she
beat her breast and wept. She beat her barren bosom, and cried
aloud. 'Thou hast slain a third of my servants,' she cried, 'get
thee gone. There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings
of each side are calling to thee. The Afghans have slain the black
ox, and are marching to battle. They have beaten upon their
shields with their spears, and have put on their helmets of iron.
What is my valley to thee, that thou shouldst tarry in it? Get
thee gone, and come here no more.'
'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn
I will not go.'
But Avarice shut her hand, and clenched her teeth. 'I will not
give thee anything,' she muttered.
And Death laughed, and took up a black stone, and threw it into the
forest, and out of a thicket of wild hemlock came Fever in a robe
of flame. She passed through the multitude, and touched them, and
each man that she touched died. The grass withered beneath her
feet as she walked.
And Avarice shuddered, and put ashes on her head. 'Thou art
cruel,' she cried; 'thou art cruel. There is famine in the walled
cities of India, and the cisterns of Samarcand have run dry. There
is famine in the walled cities of Egypt, and the locusts have come
up from the desert. The Nile has not overflowed its banks, and the
priests have cursed Isis and Osiris. Get thee gone to those who
need thee, and leave me my servants.'
'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn
I will not go.'
'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice.
And Death laughed again, and he whistled through his fingers, and a
woman came flying through the air. Plague was written upon her
forehead, and a crowd of lean vultures wheeled round her. She
covered the valley with her wings, and no man was left alive.
And Avarice fled shrieking through the forest, and Death leaped
upon his red horse and galloped away, and his galloping was faster
than the wind.
And out of the slime at the bottom of the valley crept dragons and
horrible things with scales, and the jackals came trotting along
the sand, sniffing up the air with their nostrils.
And the young King wept, and said: 'Who were these men, and for
what were they seeking?'
'For rubies for a king's crown,' answered one who stood behind him.
And the young King started, and, turning round, he saw a man
habited as a pilgrim and holding in his hand a mirror of silver.
And he grew pale, and said: 'For what king?'
And the pilgrim answered: 'Look in this mirror, and thou shalt see
And he looked in the mirror, and, seeing his own face, he gave a
great cry and woke, and the bright sunlight was streaming into the
room, and from the trees of the garden and pleasaunce the birds
And the Chamberlain and the high officers of State came in and made
obeisance to him, and the pages brought him the robe of tissued
gold, and set the crown and the sceptre before him.
And the young King looked at them, and they were beautiful. More
beautiful were they than aught that he had ever seen. But he
remembered his dreams, and he said to his lords: 'Take these
things away, for I will not wear them.'
And the courtiers were amazed, and some of them laughed, for they
thought that he was jesting.
But he spake sternly to them again, and said: 'Take these things
away, and hide them from me. Though it be the day of my
coronation, I will not wear them. For on the loom of Sorrow, and
by the white hands of Pain, has this my robe been woven. There is
Blood in the heart of the ruby, and Death in the heart of the
pearl.' And he told them his three dreams.
And when the courtiers heard them they looked at each other and
whispered, saying: 'Surely he is mad; for what is a dream but a
dream, and a vision but a vision? They are not real things that
one should heed them. And what have we to do with the lives of
those who toil for us? Shall a man not eat bread till he has seen
the sower, nor drink wine till he has talked with the vinedresser?'
And the Chamberlain spake to the young King, and said, 'My lord, I
pray thee set aside these black thoughts of thine, and put on this
fair robe, and set this crown upon thy head. For how shall the
people know that thou art a king, if thou hast not a king's
And the young King looked at him. 'Is it so, indeed?' he
questioned. 'Will they not know me for a king if I have not a
'They will not know thee, my lord,' cried the Chamberlain.
'I had thought that there had been men who were kinglike,' he
answered, 'but it may be as thou sayest. And yet I will not wear
this robe, nor will I be crowned with this crown, but even as I
came to the palace so will I go forth from it.'
And he bade them all leave him, save one page whom he kept as his
companion, a lad a year younger than himself. Him he kept for his
service, and when he had bathed himself in clear water, he opened a
great painted chest, and from it he took the leathern tunic and
rough sheepskin cloak that he had worn when he had watched on the
hillside the shaggy goats of the goatherd. These he put on, and in
his hand he took his rude shepherd's staff.
And the little page opened his big blue eyes in wonder, and said
smiling to him, 'My lord, I see thy robe and thy sceptre, but where
is thy crown?'
And the young King plucked a spray of wild briar that was climbing
over the balcony, and bent it, and made a circlet of it, and set it
on his own head.
'This shall he my crown,' he answered.
And thus attired he passed out of his chamber into the Great Hall,
where the nobles were waiting for him.
And the nobles made merry, and some of them cried out to him, 'My
lord, the people wait for their king, and thou showest them a
beggar,' and others were wroth and said, 'He brings shame upon our
state, and is unworthy to be our master.' But he answered them not
a word, but passed on, and went down the bright porphyry staircase,
and out through the gates of bronze, and mounted upon his horse,
and rode towards the cathedral, the little page running beside him.
And the people laughed and said, 'It is the King's fool who is
riding by,' and they mocked him.
And he drew rein and said, 'Nay, but I am the King.' And he told
them his three dreams.
And a man came out of the crowd and spake bitterly to him, and
said, 'Sir, knowest thou not that out of the luxury of the rich
cometh the life of the poor? By your pomp we are nurtured, and
your vices give us bread. To toil for a hard master is bitter, but
to have no master to toil for is more bitter still. Thinkest thou
that the ravens will feed us? And what cure hast thou for these
things? Wilt thou say to the buyer, "Thou shalt buy for so much,"
and to the seller, "Thou shalt sell at this price"? I trow not.
Therefore go back to thy Palace and put on thy purple and fine
linen. What hast thou to do with us, and what we suffer?'
'Are not the rich and the poor brothers?' asked the young King.
'Ay,' answered the man, 'and the name of the rich brother is Cain.'
And the young King's eyes filled with tears, and he rode on through
the murmurs of the people, and the little page grew afraid and left
And when he reached the great portal of the cathedral, the soldiers
thrust their halberts out and said, 'What dost thou seek here?
None enters by this door but the King.'
And his face flushed with anger, and he said to them, 'I am the
King,' and waved their halberts aside and passed in.
And when the old Bishop saw him coming in his goatherd's dress, he
rose up in wonder from his throne, and went to meet him, and said
to him, 'My son, is this a king's apparel? And with what crown
shall I crown thee, and what sceptre shall I place in thy hand?
Surely this should be to thee a day of joy, and not a day of
'Shall Joy wear what Grief has fashioned?' said the young King.
And he told him his three dreams.
And when the Bishop had heard them he knit his brows, and said, 'My
son, I am an old man, and in the winter of my days, and I know that
many evil things are done in the wide world. The fierce robbers
come down from the mountains, and carry off the little children,
and sell them to the Moors. The lions lie in wait for the
caravans, and leap upon the camels. The wild boar roots up the
corn in the valley, and the foxes gnaw the vines upon the hill.
The pirates lay waste the sea-coast and burn the ships of the
fishermen, and take their nets from them. In the salt-marshes live
the lepers; they have houses of wattled reeds, and none may come
nigh them. The beggars wander through the cities, and eat their
food with the dogs. Canst thou make these things not to be? Wilt
thou take the leper for thy bedfellow, and set the beggar at thy
board? Shall the lion do thy bidding, and the wild boar obey thee?
Is not He who made misery wiser than thou art? Wherefore I praise
thee not for this that thou hast done, but I bid thee ride back to
the Palace and make thy face glad, and put on the raiment that
beseemeth a king, and with the crown of gold I will crown thee, and
the sceptre of pearl will I place in thy hand. And as for thy
dreams, think no more of them. The burden of this world is too
great for one man to bear, and the world's sorrow too heavy for one
heart to suffer.'
'Sayest thou that in this house?' said the young King, and he
strode past the Bishop, and climbed up the steps of the altar, and
stood before the image of Christ.
He stood before the image of Christ, and on his right hand and on
his left were the marvellous vessels of gold, the chalice with the
yellow wine, and the vial with the holy oil. He knelt before the
image of Christ, and the great candles burned brightly by the
jewelled shrine, and the smoke of the incense curled in thin blue
wreaths through the dome. He bowed his head in prayer, and the
priests in their stiff copes crept away from the altar.
And suddenly a wild tumult came from the street outside, and in
entered the nobles with drawn swords and nodding plumes, and
shields of polished steel. 'Where is this dreamer of dreams?' they
cried. 'Where is this King who is apparelled like a beggar--this
boy who brings shame upon our state? Surely we will slay him, for
he is unworthy to rule over us.'
And the young King bowed his head again, and prayed, and when he
had finished his prayer he rose up, and turning round he looked at
And lo! through the painted windows came the sunlight streaming
upon him, and the sun-beams wove round him a tissued robe that was
fairer than the robe that had been fashioned for his pleasure. The
dead staff blossomed, and bare lilies that were whiter than pearls.
The dry thorn blossomed, and bare roses that were redder than
rubies. Whiter than fine pearls were the lilies, and their stems
were of bright silver. Redder than male rubies were the roses, and
their leaves were of beaten gold.
He stood there in the raiment of a king, and the gates of the
jewelled shrine flew open, and from the crystal of the many-rayed
monstrance shone a marvellous and mystical light. He stood there
in a king's raiment, and the Glory of God filled the place, and the
saints in their carven niches seemed to move. In the fair raiment
of a king he stood before them, and the organ pealed out its music,
and the trumpeters blew upon their trumpets, and the singing boys
And the people fell upon their knees in awe, and the nobles
sheathed their swords and did homage, and the Bishop's face grew
pale, and his hands trembled. 'A greater than I hath crowned
thee,' he cried, and he knelt before him.
And the young King came down from the high altar, and passed home
through the midst of the people. But no man dared look upon his
face, for it was like the face of an angel.
THE BIRTHDAY OF THE INFANTA
[TO MRS. WILLIAM H. GRENFELL OF TAPLOW COURT--LADY DESBOROUGH]
It was the birthday of the Infanta. She was just twelve years of
age, and the sun was shining brightly in the gardens of the palace.
Although she was a real Princess and the Infanta of Spain, she had
only one birthday every year, just like the children of quite poor
people, so it was naturally a matter of great importance to the
whole country that she should have a really fine day for the
occasion. And a really fine day it certainly was. The tall
striped tulips stood straight up upon their stalks, like long rows
of soldiers, and looked defiantly across the grass at the roses,
and said: 'We are quite as splendid as you are now.' The purple
butterflies fluttered about with gold dust on their wings, visiting
each flower in turn; the little lizards crept out of the crevices
of the wall, and lay basking in the white glare; and the
pomegranates split and cracked with the heat, and showed their
bleeding red hearts. Even the pale yellow lemons, that hung in
such profusion from the mouldering trellis and along the dim
arcades, seemed to have caught a richer colour from the wonderful
sunlight, and the magnolia trees opened their great globe-like
blossoms of folded ivory, and filled the air with a sweet heavy
The little Princess herself walked up and down the terrace with her
companions, and played at hide and seek round the stone vases and
the old moss-grown statues. On ordinary days she was only allowed
to play with children of her own rank, so she had always to play
alone, but her birthday was an exception, and the King had given
orders that she was to invite any of her young friends whom she
liked to come and amuse themselves with her. There was a stately
grace about these slim Spanish children as they glided about, the
boys with their large-plumed hats and short fluttering cloaks, the
girls holding up the trains of their long brocaded gowns, and
shielding the sun from their eyes with huge fans of black and
silver. But the Infanta was the most graceful of all, and the most
tastefully attired, after the somewhat cumbrous fashion of the day.
Her robe was of grey satin, the skirt and the wide puffed sleeves
heavily embroidered with silver, and the stiff corset studded with
rows of fine pearls. Two tiny slippers with big pink rosettes
peeped out beneath her dress as she walked. Pink and pearl was her
great gauze fan, and in her hair, which like an aureole of faded
gold stood out stiffly round her pale little face, she had a
beautiful white rose.
From a window in the palace the sad melancholy King watched them.
Behind him stood his brother, Don Pedro of Aragon, whom he hated,
and his confessor, the Grand Inquisitor of Granada, sat by his
side. Sadder even than usual was the King, for as he looked at the
Infanta bowing with childish gravity to the assembling counters, or
laughing behind her fan at the grim Duchess of Albuquerque who
always accompanied her, he thought of the young Queen, her mother,
who but a short time before--so it seemed to him--had come from the
gay country of France, and had withered away in the sombre
splendour of the Spanish court, dying just six months after the
birth of her child, and before she had seen the almonds blossom
twice in the orchard, or plucked the second year's fruit from the
old gnarled fig-tree that stood in the centre of the now grass-
grown courtyard. So great had been his love for her that he had
not suffered even the grave to hide her from him. She had been
embalmed by a Moorish physician, who in return for this service had
been granted his life, which for heresy and suspicion of magical
practices had been already forfeited, men said, to the Holy Office,
and her body was still lying on its tapestried bier in the black
marble chapel of the Palace, just as the monks had borne her in on
that windy March day nearly twelve years before. Once every month
the King, wrapped in a dark cloak and with a muffled lantern in his
hand, went in and knelt by her side calling out, 'Mi reina! Mi
reina!' and sometimes breaking through the formal etiquette that in
Spain governs every separate action of life, and sets limits even
to the sorrow of a King, he would clutch at the pale jewelled hands
in a wild agony of grief, and try to wake by his mad kisses the
cold painted face.
To-day he seemed to see her again, as he had seen her first at the
Castle of Fontainebleau, when he was but fifteen years of age, and
she still younger. They had been formally betrothed on that
occasion by the Papal Nuncio in the presence of the French King and
all the Court, and he had returned to the Escurial bearing with him
a little ringlet of yellow hair, and the memory of two childish
lips bending down to kiss his hand as he stepped into his carriage.
Later on had followed the marriage, hastily performed at Burgos, a
small town on the frontier between the two countries, and the grand
public entry into Madrid with the customary celebration of high
mass at the Church of La Atocha, and a more than usually solemn
auto-da-fe, in which nearly three hundred heretics, amongst whom
were many Englishmen, had been delivered over to the secular arm to
Certainly he had loved her madly, and to the ruin, many thought, of
his country, then at war with England for the possession of the
empire of the New World. He had hardly ever permitted her to be
out of his sight; for her, he had forgotten, or seemed to have
forgotten, all grave affairs of State; and, with that terrible
blindness that passion brings upon its servants, he had failed to
notice that the elaborate ceremonies by which he sought to please
her did but aggravate the strange malady from which she suffered.
When she died he was, for a time, like one bereft of reason.
Indeed, there is no doubt but that he would have formally abdicated
and retired to the great Trappist monastery at Granada, of which he
was already titular Prior, had he not been afraid to leave the
little Infanta at the mercy of his brother, whose cruelty, even in
Spain, was notorious, and who was suspected by many of having
caused the Queen's death by means of a pair of poisoned gloves that
he had presented to her on the occasion of her visiting his castle
in Aragon. Even after the expiration of the three years of public
mourning that he had ordained throughout his whole dominions by
royal edict, he would never suffer his ministers to speak about any
new alliance, and when the Emperor himself sent to him, and offered
him the hand of the lovely Archduchess of Bohemia, his niece, in
marriage, he bade the ambassadors tell their master that the King
of Spain was already wedded to Sorrow, and that though she was but
a barren bride he loved her better than Beauty; an answer that cost
his crown the rich provinces of the Netherlands, which soon after,
at the Emperor's instigation, revolted against him under the
leadership of some fanatics of the Reformed Church.
His whole married life, with its fierce, fiery-coloured joys and
the terrible agony of its sudden ending, seemed to come back to him
to-day as he watched the Infanta playing on the terrace. She had
all the Queen's pretty petulance of manner, the same wilful way of
tossing her head, the same proud curved beautiful mouth, the same
wonderful smile--vrai sourire de France indeed--as she glanced up
now and then at the window, or stretched out her little hand for
the stately Spanish gentlemen to kiss. But the shrill laughter of
the children grated on his ears, and the bright pitiless sunlight
mocked his sorrow, and a dull odour of strange spices, spices such
as embalmers use, seemed to taint--or was it fancy?--the clear
morning air. He buried his face in his hands, and when the Infanta
looked up again the curtains had been drawn, and the King had
She made a little moue of disappointment, and shrugged her
shoulders. Surely he might have stayed with her on her birthday.
What did the stupid State-affairs matter? Or had he gone to that
gloomy chapel, where the candles were always burning, and where she
was never allowed to enter? How silly of him, when the sun was
shining so brightly, and everybody was so happy! Besides, he would
miss the sham bull-fight for which the trumpet was already
sounding, to say nothing of the puppet-show and the other wonderful
things. Her uncle and the Grand Inquisitor were much more
sensible. They had come out on the terrace, and paid her nice
compliments. So she tossed her pretty head, and taking Don Pedro
by the hand, she walked slowly down the steps towards a long
pavilion of purple silk that had been erected at the end of the
garden, the other children following in strict order of precedence,
those who had the longest names going first.
A procession of noble boys, fantastically dressed as toreadors,
came out to meet her, and the young Count of Tierra-Nueva, a
wonderfully handsome lad of about fourteen years of age, uncovering
his head with all the grace of a born hidalgo and grandee of Spain,
led her solemnly in to a little gilt and ivory chair that was
placed on a raised dais above the arena. The children grouped
themselves all round, fluttering their big fans and whispering to
each other, and Don Pedro and the Grand Inquisitor stood laughing
at the entrance. Even the Duchess--the Camerera-Mayor as she was
called--a thin, hard-featured woman with a yellow ruff, did not
look quite so bad-tempered as usual, and something like a chill
smile flitted across her wrinkled face and twitched her thin
It certainly was a marvellous bull-fight, and much nicer, the
Infanta thought, than the real bull-fight that she had been brought
to see at Seville, on the occasion of the visit of the Duke of
Parma to her father. Some of the boys pranced about on richly-
caparisoned hobby-horses brandishing long javelins with gay
streamers of bright ribands attached to them; others went on foot
waving their scarlet cloaks before the bull, and vaulting lightly
over the barrier when he charged them; and as for the bull himself,
he was just like a live bull, though he was only made of wicker-
work and stretched hide, and sometimes insisted on running round
the arena on his hind legs, which no live bull ever dreams of
doing. He made a splendid fight of it too, and the children got so
excited that they stood up upon the benches, and waved their lace
handkerchiefs and cried out: Bravo toro! Bravo toro! just as
sensibly as if they had been grown-up people. At last, however,
after a prolonged combat, during which several of the hobby-horses
were gored through and through, and, their riders dismounted, the
young Count of Tierra-Nueva brought the bull to his knees, and
having obtained permission from the Infanta to give the coup de
grace, he plunged his wooden sword into the neck of the animal with
such violence that the head came right off, and disclosed the
laughing face of little Monsieur de Lorraine, the son of the French
Ambassador at Madrid.
The arena was then cleared amidst much applause, and the dead
hobbyhorses dragged solemnly away by two Moorish pages in yellow
and black liveries, and after a short interlude, during which a
French posture-master performed upon the tightrope, some Italian
puppets appeared in the semi-classical tragedy of Sophonisba on the
stage of a small theatre that had been built up for the purpose.
They acted so well, and their gestures were so extremely natural,
that at the close of the play the eyes of the Infanta were quite
dim with tears. Indeed some of the children really cried, and had
to be comforted with sweetmeats, and the Grand Inquisitor himself
was so affected that he could not help saying to Don Pedro that it
seemed to him intolerable that things made simply out of wood and
coloured wax, and worked mechanically by wires, should be so
unhappy and meet with such terrible misfortunes.
An African juggler followed, who brought in a large flat basket
covered with a red cloth, and having placed it in the centre of the
arena, he took from his turban a curious reed pipe, and blew
through it. In a few moments the cloth began to move, and as the
pipe grew shriller and shriller two green and gold snakes put out
their strange wedge-shaped heads and rose slowly up, swaying to and
fro with the music as a plant sways in the water. The children,
however, were rather frightened at their spotted hoods and quick
darting tongues, and were much more pleased when the juggler made a
tiny orange-tree grow out of the sand and bear pretty white
blossoms and clusters of real fruit; and when he took the fan of
the little daughter of the Marquess de Las-Torres, and changed it
into a blue bird that flew all round the pavilion and sang, their
delight and amazement knew no bounds. The solemn minuet, too,
performed by the dancing boys from the church of Nuestra Senora Del
Pilar, was charming. The Infanta had never before seen this
wonderful ceremony which takes place every year at Maytime in front
of the high altar of the Virgin, and in her honour; and indeed none
of the royal family of Spain had entered the great cathedral of
Saragossa since a mad priest, supposed by many to have been in the
pay of Elizabeth of England, had tried to administer a poisoned
wafer to the Prince of the Asturias. So she had known only by
hearsay of 'Our Lady's Dance,' as it was called, and it certainly
was a beautiful sight. The boys wore old-fashioned court dresses
of white velvet, and their curious three-cornered hats were fringed
with silver and surmounted with huge plumes of ostrich feathers,
the dazzling whiteness of their costumes, as they moved about in
the sunlight, being still more accentuated by their swarthy faces
and long black hair. Everybody was fascinated by the grave dignity
with which they moved through the intricate figures of the dance,
and by the elaborate grace of their slow gestures, and stately
bows, and when they had finished their performance and doffed their
great plumed hats to the Infanta, she acknowledged their reverence
with much courtesy, and made a vow that she would send a large wax
candle to the shrine of Our Lady of Pilar in return for the
pleasure that she had given her.
A troop of handsome Egyptians--as the gipsies were termed in those
days--then advanced into the arena, and sitting down cross-legs, in
a circle, began to play softly upon their zithers, moving their
bodies to the tune, and humming, almost below their breath, a low
dreamy air. When they caught sight of Don Pedro they scowled at
him, and some of them looked terrified, for only a few weeks before
he had had two of their tribe hanged for sorcery in the market-
place at Seville, but the pretty Infanta charmed them as she leaned
back peeping over her fan with her great blue eyes, and they felt
sure that one so lovely as she was could never be cruel to anybody.
So they played on very gently and just touching the cords of the
zithers with their long pointed nails, and their heads began to nod
as though they were falling asleep. Suddenly, with a cry so shrill
that all the children were startled and Don Pedro's hand clutched
at the agate pommel of his dagger, they leapt to their feet and
whirled madly round the enclosure beating their tambourines, and
chaunting some wild love-song in their strange guttural language.
Then at another signal they all flung themselves again to the
ground and lay there quite still, the dull strumming of the zithers
being the only sound that broke the silence. After that they had
done this several times, they disappeared for a moment and came
back leading a brown shaggy bear by a chain, and carrying on their
shoulders some little Barbary apes. The bear stood upon his head
with the utmost gravity, and the wizened apes played all kinds of
amusing tricks with two gipsy boys who seemed to be their masters,
and fought with tiny swords, and fired off guns, and went through a
regular soldier's drill just like the King's own bodyguard. In
fact the gipsies were a great success.
But the funniest part of the whole morning's entertainment, was
undoubtedly the dancing of the little Dwarf. When he stumbled into
the arena, waddling on his crooked legs and wagging his huge
misshapen head from side to side, the children went off into a loud
shout of delight, and the Infanta herself laughed so much that the
Camerera was obliged to remind her that although there were many
precedents in Spain for a King's daughter weeping before her
equals, there were none for a Princess of the blood royal making so
merry before those who were her inferiors in birth. The Dwarf,
however, was really quite irresistible, and even at the Spanish
Court, always noted for its cultivated passion for the horrible, so
fantastic a little monster had never been seen. It was his first
appearance, too. He had been discovered only the day before,
running wild through the forest, by two of the nobles who happened
to have been hunting in a remote part of the great cork-wood that
surrounded the town, and had been carried off by them to the Palace
as a surprise for the Infanta; his father, who was a poor charcoal-
burner, being but too well pleased to get rid of so ugly and
useless a child. Perhaps the most amusing thing about him was his
complete unconsciousness of his own grotesque appearance. Indeed
he seemed quite happy and full of the highest spirits. When the
children laughed, he laughed as freely and as joyously as any of
them, and at the close of each dance he made them each the funniest
of bows, smiling and nodding at them just as if he was really one
of themselves, and not a little misshapen thing that Nature, in
some humourous mood, had fashioned for others to mock at. As for
the Infanta, she absolutely fascinated him. He could not keep his
eyes off her, and seemed to dance for her alone, and when at the
close of the performance, remembering how she had seen the great
ladies of the Court throw bouquets to Caffarelli, the famous
Italian treble, whom the Pope had sent from his own chapel to
Madrid that he might cure the King's melancholy by the sweetness of
his voice, she took out of her hair the beautiful white rose, and
partly for a jest and partly to tease the Camerera, threw it to him
across the arena with her sweetest smile, he took the whole matter
quite seriously, and pressing the flower to his rough coarse lips
he put his hand upon his heart, and sank on one knee before her,
grinning from ear to ear, and with his little bright eyes sparkling
This so upset the gravity of the Infanta that she kept on laughing
long after the little Dwarf had ran out of the arena, and expressed
a desire to her uncle that the dance should be immediately
repeated. The Camerera, however, on the plea that the sun was too
hot, decided that it would be better that her Highness should
return without delay to the Palace, where a wonderful feast had
been already prepared for her, including a real birthday cake with
her own initials worked all over it in painted sugar and a lovely
silver flag waving from the top. The Infanta accordingly rose up
with much dignity, and having given orders that the little dwarf
was to dance again for her after the hour of siesta, and conveyed
her thanks to the young Count of Tierra-Nueva for his charming
reception, she went back to her apartments, the children following
in the same order in which they had entered.
Now when the little Dwarf heard that he was to dance a second time
before the Infanta, and by her own express command, he was so proud
that he ran out into the garden, kissing the white rose in an
absurd ecstasy of pleasure, and making the most uncouth and clumsy
gestures of delight.
The Flowers were quite indignant at his daring to intrude into
their beautiful home, and when they saw him capering up and down
the walks, and waving his arms above his head in such a ridiculous
manner, they could not restrain their feelings any longer.
'He is really far too ugly to be allowed to play in any place where
we are,' cried the Tulips.
'He should drink poppy-juice, and go to sleep for a thousand
years,' said the great scarlet Lilies, and they grew quite hot and
'He is a perfect horror!' screamed the Cactus. 'Why, he is twisted
and stumpy, and his head is completely out of proportion with his
legs. Really he makes me feel prickly all over, and if he comes
near me I will sting him with my thorns.'
'And he has actually got one of my best blooms,' exclaimed the
White Rose-Tree. 'I gave it to the Infanta this morning myself, as
a birthday present, and he has stolen it from her.' And she called
out: 'Thief, thief, thief!' at the top of her voice.
Even the red Geraniums, who did not usually give themselves airs,
and were known to have a great many poor relations themselves,
curled up in disgust when they saw him, and when the Violets meekly
remarked that though he was certainly extremely plain, still he
could not help it, they retorted with a good deal of justice that
that was his chief defect, and that there was no reason why one
should admire a person because he was incurable; and, indeed, some
of the Violets themselves felt that the ugliness of the little
Dwarf was almost ostentatious, and that he would have shown much
better taste if he had looked sad, or at least pensive, instead of
jumping about merrily, and throwing himself into such grotesque and
As for the old Sundial, who was an extremely remarkable individual,
and had once told the time of day to no less a person than the
Emperor Charles V. himself, he was so taken aback by the little
Dwarf's appearance, that he almost forgot to mark two whole minutes
with his long shadowy finger, and could not help saying to the
great milk-white Peacock, who was sunning herself on the
balustrade, that every one knew that the children of Kings were
Kings, and that the children of charcoal-burners were charcoal-
burners, and that it was absurd to pretend that it wasn't so; a
statement with which the Peacock entirely agreed, and indeed
screamed out, 'Certainly, certainly,' in such a loud, harsh voice,
that the gold-fish who lived in the basin of the cool splashing
fountain put their heads out of the water, and asked the huge stone
Tritons what on earth was the matter.
But somehow the Birds liked him. They had seen him often in the
forest, dancing about like an elf after the eddying leaves, or
crouched up in the hollow of some old oak-tree, sharing his nuts
with the squirrels. They did not mind his being ugly, a bit. Why,
even the nightingale herself, who sang so sweetly in the orange
groves at night that sometimes the Moon leaned down to listen, was
not much to look at after all; and, besides, he had been kind to
them, and during that terribly bitter winter, when there were no
berries on the trees, and the ground was as hard as iron, and the
wolves had come down to the very gates of the city to look for
food, he had never once forgotten them, but had always given them
crumbs out of his little hunch of black bread, and divided with
them whatever poor breakfast he had.
So they flew round and round him, just touching his cheek with
their wings as they passed, and chattered to each other, and the
little Dwarf was so pleased that he could not help showing them the
beautiful white rose, and telling them that the Infanta herself had
given it to him because she loved him.
They did not understand a single word of what he was saying, but
that made no matter, for they put their heads on one side, and
looked wise, which is quite as good as understanding a thing, and
very much easier.
The Lizards also took an immense fancy to him, and when he grew
tired of running about and flung himself down on the grass to rest,
they played and romped all over him, and tried to amuse him in the
best way they could. 'Every one cannot be as beautiful as a
lizard,' they cried; 'that would be too much to expect. And,
though it sounds absurd to say so, he is really not so ugly after
all, provided, of course, that one shuts one's eyes, and does not
look at him.' The Lizards were extremely philosophical by nature,
and often sat thinking for hours and hours together, when there was
nothing else to do, or when the weather was too rainy for them to
The Flowers, however, were excessively annoyed at their behaviour,
and at the behaviour of the birds. 'It only shows,' they said,
'what a vulgarising effect this incessant rushing and flying about
has. Well-bred people always stay exactly in the same place, as we
do. No one ever saw us hopping up and down the walks, or galloping
madly through the grass after dragon-flies. When we do want change
of air, we send for the gardener, and he carries us to another bed.
This is dignified, and as it should be. But birds and lizards have
no sense of repose, and indeed birds have not even a permanent
address. They are mere vagrants like the gipsies, and should be
treated in exactly the same manner.' So they put their noses in
the air, and looked very haughty, and were quite delighted when
after some time they saw the little Dwarf scramble up from the
grass, and make his way across the terrace to the palace.
'He should certainly be kept indoors for the rest of his natural
life,' they said. 'Look at his hunched back, and his crooked
legs,' and they began to titter.
But the little Dwarf knew nothing of all this. He liked the birds
and the lizards immensely, and thought that the flowers were the
most marvellous things in the whole world, except of course the
Infanta, but then she had given him the beautiful white rose, and
she loved him, and that made a great difference. How he wished
that he had gone back with her! She would have put him on her
right hand, and smiled at him, and he would have never left her
side, but would have made her his playmate, and taught her all
kinds of delightful tricks. For though he had never been in a
palace before, he knew a great many wonderful things. He could
make little cages out of rushes for the grasshoppers to sing in,
and fashion the long jointed bamboo into the pipe that Pan loves to
hear. He knew the cry of every bird, and could call the starlings
from the tree-top, or the heron from the mere. He knew the trail
of every animal, and could track the hare by its delicate
footprints, and the boar by the trampled leaves. All the wild-
dances he knew, the mad dance in red raiment with the autumn, the
light dance in blue sandals over the corn, the dance with white
snow-wreaths in winter, and the blossom-dance through the orchards
in spring. He knew where the wood-pigeons built their nests, and
once when a fowler had snared the parent birds, he had brought up
the young ones himself, and had built a little dovecot for them in
the cleft of a pollard elm. They were quite tame, and used to feed
out of his hands every morning. She would like them, and the
rabbits that scurried about in the long fern, and the jays with
their steely feathers and black bills, and the hedgehogs that could
curl themselves up into prickly balls, and the great wise tortoises
that crawled slowly about, shaking their heads and nibbling at the
young leaves. Yes, she must certainly come to the forest and play
with him. He would give her his own little bed, and would watch
outside the window till dawn, to see that the wild horned cattle
did not harm her, nor the gaunt wolves creep too near the hut. And
at dawn he would tap at the shutters and wake her, and they would
go out and dance together all the day long. It was really not a
bit lonely in the forest. Sometimes a Bishop rode through on his
white mule, reading out of a painted book. Sometimes in their
green velvet caps, and their jerkins of tanned deerskin, the
falconers passed by, with hooded hawks on their wrists. At
vintage-time came the grape-treaders, with purple hands and feet,
wreathed with glossy ivy and carrying dripping skins of wine; and
the charcoal-burners sat round their huge braziers at night,
watching the dry logs charring slowly in the fire, and roasting
chestnuts in the ashes, and the robbers came out of their caves and
made merry with them. Once, too, he had seen a beautiful
procession winding up the long dusty road to Toledo. The monks
went in front singing sweetly, and carrying bright banners and
crosses of gold, and then, in silver armour, with matchlocks and
pikes, came the soldiers, and in their midst walked three
barefooted men, in strange yellow dresses painted all over with
wonderful figures, and carrying lighted candles in their hands.
Certainly there was a great deal to look at in the forest, and when
she was tired he would find a soft bank of moss for her, or carry
her in his arms, for he was very strong, though he knew that he was
not tall. He would make her a necklace of red bryony berries, that
would be quite as pretty as the white berries that she wore on her
dress, and when she was tired of them, she could throw them away,
and he would find her others. He would bring her acorn-cups and
dew-drenched anemones, and tiny glow-worms to be stars in the pale
gold of her hair.
But where was she? He asked the white rose, and it made him no
answer. The whole palace seemed asleep, and even where the
shutters had not been closed, heavy curtains had been drawn across
the windows to keep out the glare. He wandered all round looking
for some place through which he might gain an entrance, and at last
he caught sight of a little private door that was lying open. He
slipped through, and found himself in a splendid hall, far more
splendid, he feared, than the forest, there was so much more
gilding everywhere, and even the floor was made of great coloured
stones, fitted together into a sort of geometrical pattern. But
the little Infanta was not there, only some wonderful white statues
that looked down on him from their jasper pedestals, with sad blank
eyes and strangely smiling lips.
At the end of the hall hung a richly embroidered curtain of black
velvet, powdered with suns and stars, the King's favourite devices,
and broidered on the colour he loved best. Perhaps she was hiding
behind that? He would try at any rate.
So he stole quietly across, and drew it aside. No; there was only
another room, though a prettier room, he thought, than the one he
had just left. The walls were hung with a many-figured green arras
of needle-wrought tapestry representing a hunt, the work of some
Flemish artists who had spent more than seven years in its
composition. It had once been the chamber of Jean le Fou, as he
was called, that mad King who was so enamoured of the chase, that
he had often tried in his delirium to mount the huge rearing
horses, and to drag down the stag on which the great hounds were
leaping, sounding his hunting horn, and stabbing with his dagger at
the pale flying deer. It was now used as the council-room, and on
the centre table were lying the red portfolios of the ministers,
stamped with the gold tulips of Spain, and with the arms and
emblems of the house of Hapsburg.
The little Dwarf looked in wonder all round him, and was half-
afraid to go on. The strange silent horsemen that galloped so
swiftly through the long glades without making any noise, seemed to
him like those terrible phantoms of whom he had heard the charcoal-
burners speaking--the Comprachos, who hunt only at night, and if
they meet a man, turn him into a hind, and chase him. But he
thought of the pretty Infanta, and took courage. He wanted to find
her alone, and to tell her that he too loved her. Perhaps she was
in the room beyond.
He ran across the soft Moorish carpets, and opened the door. No!
She was not here either. The room was quite empty.
It was a throne-room, used for the reception of foreign
ambassadors, when the King, which of late had not been often,
consented to give them a personal audience; the same room in which,
many years before, envoys had appeared from England to make
arrangements for the marriage of their Queen, then one of the
Catholic sovereigns of Europe, with the Emperor's eldest son. The
hangings were of gilt Cordovan leather, and a heavy gilt chandelier
with branches for three hundred wax lights hung down from the black
and white ceiling. Underneath a great canopy of gold cloth, on
which the lions and towers of Castile were broidered in seed
pearls, stood the throne itself, covered with a rich pall of black
velvet studded with silver tulips and elaborately fringed with
silver and pearls. On the second step of the throne was placed the
kneeling-stool of the Infanta, with its cushion of cloth of silver
tissue, and below that again, and beyond the limit of the canopy,
stood the chair for the Papal Nuncio, who alone had the right to be
seated in the King's presence on the occasion of any public
ceremonial, and whose Cardinal's hat, with its tangled scarlet
tassels, lay on a purple tabouret in front. On the wall, facing
the throne, hung a life-sized portrait of Charles V. in hunting
dress, with a great mastiff by his side, and a picture of Philip
II. receiving the homage of the Netherlands occupied the centre of
the other wall. Between the windows stood a black ebony cabinet,
inlaid with plates of ivory, on which the figures from Holbein's
Dance of Death had been graved--by the hand, some said, of that
famous master himself.
But the little Dwarf cared nothing for all this magnificence. He
would not have given his rose for all the pearls on the canopy, nor
one white petal of his rose for the throne itself. What he wanted
was to see the Infanta before she went down to the pavilion, and to
ask her to come away with him when he had finished his dance.
Here, in the Palace, the air was close and heavy, but in the forest
the wind blew free, and the sunlight with wandering hands of gold
moved the tremulous leaves aside. There were flowers, too, in the
forest, not so splendid, perhaps, as the flowers in the garden, but
more sweetly scented for all that; hyacinths in early spring that
flooded with waving purple the cool glens, and grassy knolls;
yellow primroses that nestled in little clumps round the gnarled
roots of the oak-trees; bright celandine, and blue speedwell, and
irises lilac and gold. There were grey catkins on the hazels, and
the foxgloves drooped with the weight of their dappled bee-haunted
cells. The chestnut had its spires of white stars, and the
hawthorn its pallid moons of beauty. Yes: surely she would come
if he could only find her! She would come with him to the fair
forest, and all day long he would dance for her delight. A smile
lit up his eyes at the thought, and he passed into the next room.
Of all the rooms this was the brightest and the most beautiful.
The walls were covered with a pink-flowered Lucca damask, patterned
with birds and dotted with dainty blossoms of silver; the furniture
was of massive silver, festooned with florid wreaths, and swinging
Cupids; in front of the two large fire-places stood great screens
broidered with parrots and peacocks, and the floor, which was of
sea-green onyx, seemed to stretch far away into the distance. Nor
was he alone. Standing under the shadow of the doorway, at the
extreme end of the room, he saw a little figure watching him. His
heart trembled, a cry of joy broke from his lips, and he moved out
into the sunlight. As he did so, the figure moved out also, and he
saw it plainly.
The Infanta! It was a monster, the most grotesque monster he had
ever beheld. Not properly shaped, as all other people were, but
hunchbacked, and crooked-limbed, with huge lolling head and mane of
black hair. The little Dwarf frowned, and the monster frowned
also. He laughed, and it laughed with him, and held its hands to
its sides, just as he himself was doing. He made it a mocking bow,
and it returned him a low reverence. He went towards it, and it
came to meet him, copying each step that he made, and stopping when
he stopped himself. He shouted with amusement, and ran forward,
and reached out his hand, and the hand of the monster touched his,
and it was as cold as ice. He grew afraid, and moved his hand
across, and the monster's hand followed it quickly. He tried to
press on, but something smooth and hard stopped him. The face of
the monster was now close to his own, and seemed full of terror.
He brushed his hair off his eyes. It imitated him. He struck at
it, and it returned blow for blow. He loathed it, and it made
hideous faces at him. He drew back, and it retreated.
What is it? He thought for a moment, and looked round at the rest
of the room. It was strange, but everything seemed to have its
double in this invisible wall of clear water. Yes, picture for
picture was repeated, and couch for couch. The sleeping Faun that
lay in the alcove by the doorway had its twin brother that
slumbered, and the silver Venus that stood in the sunlight held out
her arms to a Venus as lovely as herself.
Was it Echo? He had called to her once in the valley, and she had
answered him word for word. Could she mock the eye, as she mocked
the voice? Could she make a mimic world just like the real world?
Could the shadows of things have colour and life and movement?
Could it be that--?
He started, and taking from his breast the beautiful white rose, he
turned round, and kissed it. The monster had a rose of its own,
petal for petal the same! It kissed it with like kisses, and
pressed it to its heart with horrible gestures.
When the truth dawned upon him, he gave a wild cry of despair, and
fell sobbing to the ground. So it was he who was misshapen and
hunchbacked, foul to look at and grotesque. He himself was the
monster, and it was at him that all the children had been laughing,
and the little Princess who he had thought loved him--she too had
been merely mocking at his ugliness, and making merry over his
twisted limbs. Why had they not left him in the forest, where
there was no mirror to tell him how loathsome he was? Why had his
father not killed him, rather than sell him to his shame? The hot
tears poured down his cheeks, and he tore the white rose to pieces.
The sprawling monster did the same, and scattered the faint petals
in the air. It grovelled on the ground, and, when he looked at it,
it watched him with a face drawn with pain. He crept away, lest he
should see it, and covered his eyes with his hands. He crawled,
like some wounded thing, into the shadow, and lay there moaning.
And at that moment the Infanta herself came in with her companions
through the open window, and when they saw the ugly little dwarf
lying on the ground and beating the floor with his clenched hands,
in the most fantastic and exaggerated manner, they went off into
shouts of happy laughter, and stood all round him and watched him.
'His dancing was funny,' said the Infanta; 'but his acting is
funnier still. Indeed he is almost as good as the puppets, only of
course not quite so natural.' And she fluttered her big fan, and
But the little Dwarf never looked up, and his sobs grew fainter and
fainter, and suddenly he gave a curious gasp, and clutched his
side. And then he fell back again, and lay quite still.
'That is capital,' said the Infanta, after a pause; 'but now you
must dance for me.'
'Yes,' cried all the children, 'you must get up and dance, for you
are as clever as the Barbary apes, and much more ridiculous.' But
the little Dwarf made no answer.
And the Infanta stamped her foot, and called out to her uncle, who
was walking on the terrace with the Chamberlain, reading some
despatches that had just arrived from Mexico, where the Holy Office
had recently been established. 'My funny little dwarf is sulking,'
she cried, 'you must wake him up, and tell him to dance for me.'
They smiled at each other, and sauntered in, and Don Pedro stooped
down, and slapped the Dwarf on the cheek with his embroidered
glove. 'You must dance,' he said, 'petit monsire. You must dance.
The Infanta of Spain and the Indies wishes to be amused.'
But the little Dwarf never moved.
'A whipping master should be sent for,' said Don Pedro wearily, and
he went back to the terrace. But the Chamberlain looked grave, and
he knelt beside the little dwarf, and put his hand upon his heart.
And after a few moments he shrugged his shoulders, and rose up, and
having made a low bow to the Infanta, he said -
'Mi bella Princesa, your funny little dwarf will never dance again.
It is a pity, for he is so ugly that he might have made the King
'But why will he not dance again?' asked the Infanta, laughing.
'Because his heart is broken,' answered the Chamberlain.
And the Infanta frowned, and her dainty rose-leaf lips curled in
pretty disdain. 'For the future let those who come to play with me
have no hearts,' she cried, and she ran out into the garden.
THE FISHERMAN AND HIS SOUL
[TO H.S.H. ALICE, PRINCESS OF MONACO]
Every evening the young Fisherman went out upon the sea, and threw
his nets into the water.
When the wind blew from the land he caught nothing, or but little
at best, for it was a bitter and black-winged wind, and rough waves
rose up to meet it. But when the wind blew to the shore, the fish
came in from the deep, and swam into the meshes of his nets, and he
took them to the market-place and sold them.
Every evening he went out upon the sea, and one evening the net was
so heavy that hardly could he draw it into the boat. And he
laughed, and said to himself, 'Surely I have caught all the fish
that swim, or snared some dull monster that will be a marvel to
men, or some thing of horror that the great Queen will desire,' and
putting forth all his strength, he tugged at the coarse ropes till,
like lines of blue enamel round a vase of bronze, the long veins
rose up on his arms. He tugged at the thin ropes, and nearer and
nearer came the circle of flat corks, and the net rose at last to
the top of the water.
But no fish at all was in it, nor any monster or thing of horror,
but only a little Mermaid lying fast asleep.
Her hair was as a wet fleece of gold, and each separate hair as a
thread of fine gold in a cup of glass. Her body was as white
ivory, and her tail was of silver and pearl. Silver and pearl was
her tail, and the green weeds of the sea coiled round it; and like
sea-shells were her ears, and her lips were like sea-coral. The
cold waves dashed over her cold breasts, and the salt glistened
upon her eyelids.
So beautiful was she that when the young Fisherman saw her he was
filled with wonder, and he put out his hand and drew the net close
to him, and leaning over the side he clasped her in his arms. And
when he touched her, she gave a cry like a startled sea-gull, and
woke, and looked at him in terror with her mauve-amethyst eyes, and
struggled that she might escape. But he held her tightly to him,
and would not suffer her to depart.
And when she saw that she could in no way escape from him, she
began to weep, and said, 'I pray thee let me go, for I am the only
daughter of a King, and my father is aged and alone.'
But the young Fisherman answered, 'I will not let thee go save thou
makest me a promise that whenever I call thee, thou wilt come and
sing to me, for the fish delight to listen to the song of the Sea-
folk, and so shall my nets be full.'
'Wilt thou in very truth let me go, if I promise thee this?' cried
'In very truth I will let thee go,' said the young Fisherman.
So she made him the promise he desired, and sware it by the oath of
the Sea-folk. And he loosened his arms from about her, and she
sank down into the water, trembling with a strange fear.
Every evening the young Fisherman went out upon the sea, and called
to the Mermaid, and she rose out of the water and sang to him.
Round and round her swam the dolphins, and the wild gulls wheeled
above her head.
And she sang a marvellous song. For she sang of the Sea-folk who
drive their flocks from cave to cave, and carry the little calves
on their shoulders; of the Tritons who have long green beards, and
hairy breasts, and blow through twisted conchs when the King passes
by; of the palace of the King which is all of amber, with a roof of
clear emerald, and a pavement of bright pearl; and of the gardens
of the sea where the great filigrane fans of coral wave all day
long, and the fish dart about like silver birds, and the anemones
cling to the rocks, and the pinks bourgeon in the ribbed yellow
sand. She sang of the big whales that come down from the north
seas and have sharp icicles hanging to their fins; of the Sirens
who tell of such wonderful things that the merchants have to stop
their ears with wax lest they should hear them, and leap into the
water and be drowned; of the sunken galleys with their tall masts,
and the frozen sailors clinging to the rigging, and the mackerel
swimming in and out of the open portholes; of the little barnacles
who are great travellers, and cling to the keels of the ships and
go round and round the world; and of the cuttlefish who live in the
sides of the cliffs and stretch out their long black arms, and can
make night come when they will it. She sang of the nautilus who
has a boat of her own that is carved out of an opal and steered
with a silken sail; of the happy Mermen who play upon harps and can
charm the great Kraken to sleep; of the little children who catch
hold of the slippery porpoises and ride laughing upon their backs;
of the Mermaids who lie in the white foam and hold out their arms
to the mariners; and of the sea-lions with their curved tusks, and
the sea-horses with their floating manes.
And as she sang, all the tunny-fish came in from the deep to listen
to her, and the young Fisherman threw his nets round them and
caught them, and others he took with a spear. And when his boat
was well-laden, the Mermaid would sink down into the sea, smiling
Yet would she never come near him that he might touch her.
Oftentimes he called to her and prayed of her, but she would not;
and when he sought to seize her she dived into the water as a seal
might dive, nor did he see her again that day. And each day the
sound of her voice became sweeter to his ears. So sweet was her
voice that he forgot his nets and his cunning, and had no care of
his craft. Vermilion-finned and with eyes of bossy gold, the
tunnies went by in shoals, but he heeded them not. His spear lay
by his side unused, and his baskets of plaited osier were empty.
With lips parted, and eyes dim with wonder, he sat idle in his boat
and listened, listening till the sea-mists crept round him, and the
wandering moon stained his brown limbs with silver.
And one evening he called to her, and said: 'Little Mermaid,
little Mermaid, I love thee. Take me for thy bridegroom, for I
But the Mermaid shook her head. 'Thou hast a human soul,' she
answered. 'If only thou wouldst send away thy soul, then could I
And the young Fisherman said to himself, 'Of what use is my soul to
me? I cannot see it. I may not touch it. I do not know it.
Surely I will send it away from me, and much gladness shall be
mine.' And a cry of joy broke from his lips, and standing up in
the painted boat, he held out his arms to the Mermaid. 'I will
send my soul away,' he cried, 'and you shall be my bride, and I
will be thy bridegroom, and in the depth of the sea we will dwell
together, and all that thou hast sung of thou shalt show me, and
all that thou desirest I will do, nor shall our lives be divided.'
And the little Mermaid laughed for pleasure and hid her face in her
'But how shall I send my soul from me?' cried the young Fisherman.
'Tell me how I may do it, and lo! it shall be done.'
'Alas! I know not,' said the little Mermaid: 'the Sea-folk have
no souls.' And she sank down into the deep, looking wistfully at
Now early on the next morning, before the sun was the span of a
man's hand above the hill, the young Fisherman went to the house of
the Priest and knocked three times at the door.
The novice looked out through the wicket, and when he saw who it
was, he drew back the latch and said to him, 'Enter.'
And the young Fisherman passed in, and knelt down on the sweet-
smelling rushes of the floor, and cried to the Priest who was
reading out of the Holy Book and said to him, 'Father, I am in love
with one of the Sea-folk, and my soul hindereth me from having my
desire. Tell me how I can send my soul away from me, for in truth
I have no need of it. Of what value is my soul to me? I cannot
see it. I may not touch it. I do not know it.'
And the Priest beat his breast, and answered, 'Alack, alack, thou
art mad, or hast eaten of some poisonous herb, for the soul is the
noblest part of man, and was given to us by God that we should
nobly use it. There is no thing more precious than a human soul,
nor any earthly thing that can be weighed with it. It is worth all
the gold that is in the world, and is more precious than the rubies
of the kings. Therefore, my son, think not any more of this
matter, for it is a sin that may not be forgiven. And as for the
Sea-folk, they are lost, and they who would traffic with them are
lost also. They are as the beasts of the field that know not good
from evil, and for them the Lord has not died.'
The young Fisherman's eyes filled with tears when he heard the
bitter words of the Priest, and he rose up from his knees and said
to him, 'Father, the Fauns live in the forest and are glad, and on
the rocks sit the Mermen with their harps of red gold. Let me be
as they are, I beseech thee, for their days are as the days of
flowers. And as for my soul, what doth my soul profit me, if it
stand between me and the thing that I love?'
'The love of the body is vile,' cried the Priest, knitting his
brows, 'and vile and evil are the pagan things God suffers to
wander through His world. Accursed be the Fauns of the woodland,
and accursed be the singers of the sea! I have heard them at
night-time, and they have sought to lure me from my beads. They
tap at the window, and laugh. They whisper into my ears the tale
of their perilous joys. They tempt me with temptations, and when I
would pray they make mouths at me. They are lost, I tell thee,
they are lost. For them there is no heaven nor hell, and in
neither shall they praise God's name.'
'Father,' cried the young Fisherman, 'thou knowest not what thou
sayest. Once in my net I snared the daughter of a King. She is
fairer than the morning star, and whiter than the moon. For her
body I would give my soul, and for her love I would surrender
heaven. Tell me what I ask of thee, and let me go in peace.'
'Away! Away!' cried the Priest: 'thy leman is lost, and thou
shalt be lost with her.'
And he gave him no blessing, but drove him from his door.
And the young Fisherman went down into the market-place, and he
walked slowly, and with bowed head, as one who is in sorrow.
And when the merchants saw him coming, they began to whisper to
each other, and one of them came forth to meet him, and called him
by name, and said to him, 'What hast thou to sell?'
'I will sell thee my soul,' he answered. 'I pray thee buy it of
me, for I am weary of it. Of what use is my soul to me? I cannot
see it. I may not touch it. I do not know it.'
But the merchants mocked at him, and said, 'Of what use is a man's
soul to us? It is not worth a clipped piece of silver. Sell us
thy body for a slave, and we will clothe thee in sea-purple, and
put a ring upon thy finger, and make thee the minion of the great
Queen. But talk not of the soul, for to us it is nought, nor has
it any value for our service.'
And the young Fisherman said to himself: 'How strange a thing this
is! The Priest telleth me that the soul is worth all the gold in
the world, and the merchants say that it is not worth a clipped
piece of silver.' And he passed out of the market-place, and went
down to the shore of the sea, and began to ponder on what he should
And at noon he remembered how one of his companions, who was a
gatherer of samphire, had told him of a certain young Witch who
dwelt in a cave at the head of the bay and was very cunning in her
witcheries. And he set to and ran, so eager was he to get rid of
his soul, and a cloud of dust followed him as he sped round the
sand of the shore. By the itching of her palm the young Witch knew
his coming, and she laughed and let down her red hair. With her
red hair falling around her, she stood at the opening of the cave,
and in her hand she had a spray of wild hemlock that was
'What d'ye lack? What d'ye lack?' she cried, as he came panting up
the steep, and bent down before her. 'Fish for thy net, when the
wind is foul? I have a little reed-pipe, and when I blow on it the
mullet come sailing into the bay. But it has a price, pretty boy,
it has a price. What d'ye lack? What d'ye lack? A storm to wreck
the ships, and wash the chests of rich treasure ashore? I have
more storms than the wind has, for I serve one who is stronger than
the wind, and with a sieve and a pail of water I can send the great
galleys to the bottom of the sea. But I have a price, pretty boy,
I have a price. What d'ye lack? What d'ye lack? I know a flower
that grows in the valley, none knows it but I. It has purple
leaves, and a star in its heart, and its juice is as white as milk.
Shouldst thou touch with this flower the hard lips of the Queen,
she would follow thee all over the world. Out of the bed of the
King she would rise, and over the whole world she would follow
thee. And it has a price, pretty boy, it has a price. What d'ye
lack? What d'ye lack? I can pound a toad in a mortar, and make
broth of it, and stir the broth with a dead man's hand. Sprinkle
it on thine enemy while he sleeps, and he will turn into a black
viper, and his own mother will slay him. With a wheel I can draw
the Moon from heaven, and in a crystal I can show thee Death. What
d'ye lack? What d'ye lack? Tell me thy desire, and I will give it
thee, and thou shalt pay me a price, pretty boy, thou shalt pay me
'My desire is but for a little thing,' said the young Fisherman,
'yet hath the Priest been wroth with me, and driven me forth. It
is but for a little thing, and the merchants have mocked at me, and
denied me. Therefore am I come to thee, though men call thee evil,
and whatever be thy price I shall pay it.'
'What wouldst thou?' asked the Witch, coming near to him.
'I would send my soul away from me,' answered the young Fisherman.
The Witch grew pale, and shuddered, and hid her face in her blue
mantle. 'Pretty boy, pretty boy,' she muttered, 'that is a
terrible thing to do.'
He tossed his brown curls and laughed. 'My soul is nought to me,'
he answered. 'I cannot see it. I may not touch it. I do not know
'What wilt thou give me if I tell thee?' asked the Witch, looking
down at him with her beautiful eyes.
'Five pieces of gold,' he said, 'and my nets, and the wattled house
where I live, and the painted boat in which I sail. Only tell me
how to get rid of my soul, and I will give thee all that I
She laughed mockingly at him, and struck him with the spray of
hemlock. 'I can turn the autumn leaves into gold,' she answered,
'and I can weave the pale moonbeams into silver if I will it. He
whom I serve is richer than all the kings of this world, and has
'What then shall I give thee,' he cried, 'if thy price be neither
gold nor silver?'
The Witch stroked his hair with her thin white hand. 'Thou must
dance with me, pretty boy,' she murmured, and she smiled at him as
'Nought but that?' cried the young Fisherman in wonder and he rose
to his feet.
'Nought but that,' she answered, and she smiled at him again.
'Then at sunset in some secret place we shall dance together,' he
said, 'and after that we have danced thou shalt tell me the thing
which I desire to know.'
She shook her head. 'When the moon is full, when the moon is
full,' she muttered. Then she peered all round, and listened. A
blue bird rose screaming from its nest and circled over the dunes,
and three spotted birds rustled through the coarse grey grass and
whistled to each other. There was no other sound save the sound of
a wave fretting the smooth pebbles below. So she reached out her
hand, and drew him near to her and put her dry lips close to his
'To-night thou must come to the top of the mountain,' she
whispered. 'It is a Sabbath, and He will be there.'
The young Fisherman started and looked at her, and she showed her
white teeth and laughed. 'Who is He of whom thou speakest?' he
'It matters not,' she answered. 'Go thou to-night, and stand under
the branches of the hornbeam, and wait for my coming. If a black
dog run towards thee, strike it with a rod of willow, and it will
go away. If an owl speak to thee, make it no answer. When the
moon is full I shall be with thee, and we will dance together on
'But wilt thou swear to me to tell me how I may send my soul from
me?' he made question.
She moved out into the sunlight, and through her red hair rippled
the wind. 'By the hoofs of the goat I swear it,' she made answer.
'Thou art the best of the witches,' cried the young Fisherman, 'and
I will surely dance with thee to-night on the top of the mountain.
I would indeed that thou hadst asked of me either gold or silver.
But such as thy price is thou shalt have it, for it is but a little
thing.' And he doffed his cap to her, and bent his head low, and
ran back to the town filled with a great joy.
And the Witch watched him as he went, and when he had passed from
her sight she entered her cave, and having taken a mirror from a
box of carved cedarwood, she set it up on a frame, and burned
vervain on lighted charcoal before it, and peered through the coils
of the smoke. And after a time she clenched her hands in anger.
'He should have been mine,' she muttered, 'I am as fair as she is.'
And that evening, when the moon had risen, the young Fisherman
climbed up to the top of the mountain, and stood under the branches
of the hornbeam. Like a targe of polished metal the round sea lay
at his feet, and the shadows of the fishing-boats moved in the
little bay. A great owl, with yellow sulphurous eyes, called to
him by his name, but he made it no answer. A black dog ran towards
him and snarled. He struck it with a rod of willow, and it went
At midnight the witches came flying through the air like bats.
'Phew!' they cried, as they lit upon the ground, 'there is some one
here we know not!' and they sniffed about, and chattered to each
other, and made signs. Last of all came the young Witch, with her
red hair streaming in the wind. She wore a dress of gold tissue
embroidered with peacocks' eyes, and a little cap of green velvet
was on her head.
'Where is he, where is he?' shrieked the witches when they saw her,
but she only laughed, and ran to the hornbeam, and taking the
Fisherman by the hand she led him out into the moonlight and began
Round and round they whirled, and the young Witch jumped so high
that he could see the scarlet heels of her shoes. Then right
across the dancers came the sound of the galloping of a horse, but
no horse was to be seen, and he felt afraid.
'Faster,' cried the Witch, and she threw her arms about his neck,
and her breath was hot upon his face. 'Faster, faster!' she cried,
and the earth seemed to spin beneath his feet, and his brain grew
troubled, and a great terror fell on him, as of some evil thing
that was watching him, and at last he became aware that under the
shadow of a rock there was a figure that had not been there before.
It was a man dressed in a suit of black velvet, cut in the Spanish
fashion. His face was strangely pale, but his lips were like a
proud red flower. He seemed weary, and was leaning back toying in
a listless manner with the pommel of his dagger. On the grass
beside him lay a plumed hat, and a pair of riding-gloves gauntleted
with gilt lace, and sewn with seed-pearls wrought into a curious
device. A short cloak lined with sables hang from his shoulder,
and his delicate white hands were gemmed with rings. Heavy eyelids
drooped over his eyes.
The young Fisherman watched him, as one snared in a spell. At last
their eyes met, and wherever he danced it seemed to him that the
eyes of the man were upon him. He heard the Witch laugh, and
caught her by the waist, and whirled her madly round and round.
Suddenly a dog bayed in the wood, and the dancers stopped, and
going up two by two, knelt down, and kissed the man's hands. As
they did so, a little smile touched his proud lips, as a bird's
wing touches the water and makes it laugh. But there was disdain
in it. He kept looking at the young Fisherman.
'Come! let us worship,' whispered the Witch, and she led him up,
and a great desire to do as she besought him seized on him, and he
followed her. But when he came close, and without knowing why he
did it, he made on his breast the sign of the Cross, and called
upon the holy name.
No sooner had he done so than the witches screamed like hawks and
flew away, and the pallid face that had been watching him twitched
with a spasm of pain. The man went over to a little wood, and
whistled. A jennet with silver trappings came running to meet him.
As he leapt upon the saddle he turned round, and looked at the
young Fisherman sadly.
And the Witch with the red hair tried to fly away also, but the
Fisherman caught her by her wrists, and held her fast.
'Loose me,' she cried, 'and let me go. For thou hast named what
should not be named, and shown the sign that may not be looked at.'
'Nay,' he answered, 'but I will not let thee go till thou hast told
me the secret.'
'What secret?' said the Witch, wrestling with him like a wild cat,
and biting her foam-flecked lips.
'Thou knowest,' he made answer.
Her grass-green eyes grew dim with tears, and she said to the
Fisherman, 'Ask me anything but that!'
He laughed, and held her all the more tightly.
And when she saw that she could not free herself, she whispered to
him, 'Surely I am as fair as the daughters of the sea, and as
comely as those that dwell in the blue waters,' and she fawned on
him and put her face close to his.
But he thrust her back frowning, and said to her, 'If thou keepest
not the promise that thou madest to me I will slay thee for a false
She grew grey as a blossom of the Judas tree, and shuddered. 'Be
it so,' she muttered. 'It is thy soul and not mine. Do with it as
thou wilt.' And she took from her girdle a little knife that had a
handle of green viper's skin, and gave it to him.
'What shall this serve me?' he asked of her, wondering.
She was silent for a few moments, and a look of terror came over
her face. Then she brushed her hair back from her forehead, and
smiling strangely she said to him, 'What men call the shadow of the
body is not the shadow of the body, but is the body of the soul.
Stand on the sea-shore with thy back to the moon, and cut away from
around thy feet thy shadow, which is thy soul's body, and bid thy
soul leave thee, and it will do so.'
The young Fisherman trembled. 'Is this true?' he murmured.
'It is true, and I would that I had not told thee of it,' she
cried, and she clung to his knees weeping.
He put her from him and left her in the rank grass, and going to
the edge of the mountain he placed the knife in his belt and began
to climb down.
And his Soul that was within him called out to him and said, 'Lo!
I have dwelt with thee for all these years, and have been thy
servant. Send me not away from thee now, for what evil have I done
And the young Fisherman laughed. 'Thou hast done me no evil, but I
have no need of thee,' he answered. 'The world is wide, and there
is Heaven also, and Hell, and that dim twilight house that lies
between. Go wherever thou wilt, but trouble me not, for my love is
calling to me.'
And his Soul besought him piteously, but he heeded it not, but
leapt from crag to crag, being sure-footed as a wild goat, and at
last he reached the level ground and the yellow shore of the sea.
Bronze-limbed and well-knit, like a statue wrought by a Grecian, he
stood on the sand with his back to the moon, and out of the foam
came white arms that beckoned to him, and out of the waves rose dim
forms that did him homage. Before him lay his shadow, which was
the body of his soul, and behind him hung the moon in the honey-
And his Soul said to him, 'If indeed thou must drive me from thee,
send me not forth without a heart. The world is cruel, give me thy
heart to take with me.'
He tossed his head and smiled. 'With what should I love my love if
I gave thee my heart?' he cried.
'Nay, but be merciful,' said his Soul: 'give me thy heart, for the
world is very cruel, and I am afraid.'
'My heart is my love's,' he answered, 'therefore tarry not, but get
'Should I not love also?' asked his Soul.
'Get thee gone, for I have no need of thee,' cried the young
Fisherman, and he took the little knife with its handle of green
viper's skin, and cut away his shadow from around his feet, and it
rose up and stood before him, and looked at him, and it was even as
He crept back, and thrust the knife into his belt, and a feeling of
awe came over him. 'Get thee gone,' he murmured, 'and let me see
thy face no more.'
'Nay, but we must meet again,' said the Soul. Its voice was low
and flute-like, and its lips hardly moved while it spake.
'How shall we meet?' cried the young Fisherman. 'Thou wilt not
follow me into the depths of the sea?'
'Once every year I will come to this place, and call to thee,' said
the Soul. 'It may be that thou wilt have need of me.'
'What need should I have of thee?' cried the young Fisherman, 'but
be it as thou wilt,' and he plunged into the waters and the Tritons
blew their horns and the little Mermaid rose up to meet him, and
put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the mouth.
And the Soul stood on the lonely beach and watched them. And when
they had sunk down into the sea, it went weeping away over the
And after a 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
East and journeyed. From the East cometh everything that is wise.
Six days I journeyed, and on the morning of the seventh day I came
to a hill that is in the country of the Tartars. I sat down under
the shade of a tamarisk tree to shelter myself from the sun. The
land was dry and burnt up with the heat. The people went to and
fro over the plain like flies crawling upon a disk of polished
'When it was noon a cloud of red dust rose up from the flat rim of
the land. When the Tartars saw it, they strung their painted bows,
and having leapt upon their little horses they galloped to meet it.
The women fled screaming to the waggons, and hid themselves behind
the felt curtains.
'At twilight the Tartars returned, but five of them were missing,
and of those that came back not a few had been wounded. They
harnessed their horses to the waggons and drove hastily away.
Three jackals came out of a cave and peered after them. Then they
sniffed up the air with their nostrils, and trotted off in the
'When the moon rose I saw a camp-fire burning on the plain, and
went towards it. A company of merchants were seated round it on
carpets. Their camels were picketed behind them, and the negroes
who were their servants were pitching tents of tanned skin upon the
sand, and making a high wall of the prickly pear.
'As I came near them, the chief of the merchants rose up and drew
his sword, and asked me my business.
'I answered that I was a Prince in my own land, and that I had
escaped from the Tartars, who had sought to make me their slave.
The chief smiled, and showed me five heads fixed upon long reeds of
'Then he asked me who was the prophet of God, and I answered him
'When he heard the name of the false prophet, he bowed and took me
by the hand, and placed me by his side. A negro brought me some
mare's milk in a wooden dish, and a piece of lamb's flesh roasted.
'At daybreak we started on our journey. I rode on a red-haired
camel by the side of the chief, and a runner ran before us carrying
a spear. The men of war were on either hand, and the mules
followed with the merchandise. There were forty camels in the
caravan, and the mules were twice forty in number.
'We went from the country of the Tartars into the country of those
who curse the Moon. We saw the Gryphons guarding their gold on the
white rocks, and the scaled Dragons sleeping in their caves. As we
passed over the mountains we held our breath lest the snows might
fall on us, and each man tied a veil of gauze before his eyes. As
we passed through the valleys the Pygmies shot arrows at us from
the hollows of the trees, and at night-time we heard the wild men
beating on their drums. When we came to the Tower of Apes we set
fruits before them, and they did not harm us. When we came to the
Tower of Serpents we gave them warm milk in howls of brass, and
they let us go by. Three times in our journey we came to the banks
of the Oxus. We crossed it on rafts of wood with great bladders of
blown hide. The river-horses raged against us and sought to slay
us. When the camels saw them they trembled.
'The kings of each city levied tolls on us, but would not suffer us
to enter their gates. They threw us bread over the walls, little
maize-cakes baked in honey and cakes of fine flour filled with
dates. For every hundred baskets we gave them a bead of amber.
'When the dwellers in the villages saw us coming, they poisoned the
wells and fled to the hill-summits. We fought with the Magadae who
are born old, and grow younger and younger every year, and die when
they are little children; and with the Laktroi who say that they
are the sons of tigers, and paint themselves yellow and black; and
with the Aurantes who bury their dead on the tops of trees, and
themselves live in dark caverns lest the Sun, who is their god,
should slay them; and with the Krimnians who worship a crocodile,
and give it earrings of green glass, and feed it with butter and
fresh fowls; and with the Agazonbae, who are dog-faced; and with
the Sibans, who have horses' feet, and run more swiftly than
horses. A third of our company died in battle, and a third died of
want. The rest murmured against me, and said that I had brought
them an evil fortune. I took a horned adder from beneath a stone
and let it sting me. When they saw that I did not sicken they grew
'In the fourth month we reached the city of Illel. It was night-
time when we came to the grove that is outside the walls, and the
air was sultry, for the Moon was travelling in Scorpion. We took
the ripe pomegranates from the trees, and brake them, and drank
their sweet juices. Then we lay down on our carpets, and waited
for the dawn.
'And at dawn we rose and knocked at the gate of the city. It was
wrought out of red bronze, and carved with sea-dragons and dragons
that have wings. The guards looked down from the battlements and
asked us our business. The interpreter of the caravan answered
that we had come from the island of Syria with much merchandise.
They took hostages, and told us that they would open the gate to us
at noon, and bade us tarry till then.
'When it was noon they opened the gate, and as we entered in the
people came crowding out of the houses to look at us, and a crier
went round the city crying through a shell. We stood in the
market-place, and the negroes uncorded the bales of figured cloths
and opened the carved chests of sycamore. And when they had ended
their task, the merchants set forth their strange wares, the waxed
linen from Egypt and the painted linen from the country of the
Ethiops, the purple sponges from Tyre and the blue hangings from
Sidon, the cups of cold amber and the fine vessels of glass and the
curious vessels of burnt clay. From the roof of a house a company
of women watched us. One of them wore a mask of gilded leather.
'And on the first day the priests came and bartered with us, and on
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