Figures of Earth
James Branch Cabell
Part 2 out of 5
"It is a feather, King, wrapped in a bit of my sister's best petticoat."
Then Ferdinand sighed, and he arose from his interesting experiments
with what was left of the Marquess de Henestrosa, to whom the King had
taken a sudden dislike that morning.
"Tut, tut!" said Ferdinand: "yet, after all, I have had a brave time of
it, with my enormities and my iniquities, and it is not as though there
were nothing to look back on! So at what price will you sell me that
"But surely a feather is no use to anybody, King, for does it not seem
to you a quite ordinary feather?"
"Come!" says King Ferdinand, as he washed his hands, "do people anywhere
wrap ordinary feathers in red silk? You squinting rascal, do not think
to swindle me out of eternal bliss by any such foolish talk! I perfectly
recognize that feather as the feather which Milcah plucked from the left
pinion of the Archangel Oriphiel when the sons of God were on more
intricate and scandalous terms with the daughters of men than are
"Well, sir," replied Manuel, "you may be right in a world wherein
nothing is certain. At all events, I have deduced, from one to two
things in this torture-chamber, that it is better not to argue with King
"How can I help being right, when it was foretold long ago that such a
divine emissary as you would bring this very holy relic to turn me from
my sins and make a saint of me?" says Ferdinand, peevishly.
"It appears to me a quite ordinary feather, King: but I recall what a
madman told me, and I do not dispute that your prophets are wiser than
I, for I have been a divine emissary for only a short while."
"Do you name your price for this feather, then!"
"I think it would be more respectful, sir, to refer you to the prophets,
for I find them generous and big-hearted creatures."
Ferdinand nodded his approval. "That is very piously spoken, because it
was prophesied that this relic would be given me for no price at all by
a great nobleman. So I must forthwith write out for you a count's
commission, I suppose, and must write out your grants to fertile lands
and a stout castle or two, and must date your title to these things from
"Certainly," said Manuel, "it would not look well for you to be
neglecting due respect to such a famous prophecy, with that bottle of
ink at your elbow."
So King Ferdinand sent for the Count of Poictesme, and explained to him
as between old friends how the matter stood, and that afternoon the high
Count was confessed and decapitated. Poictesme being now a vacant fief,
King Ferdinand ennobled Manuel, and made him Count of Poictesme.
It was true that all Poictesme was then held by the Northmen, under Duke
Asmund, who denied King Ferdinand's authority with contempt, and
defeated him in battle with annoying persistence: so that Manuel for the
present acquired nothing but the sonorous title.
"Some terrible calamity, however," as King Ferdinand pointed out, "is
sure to befall Asmund and his iniquitous followers before very long, so
we need not bother about them."
"But how may I be certain of that, sir?" Manuel asked.
"Count, I am surprised at such scepticism! Is it not very explicitly
stated in Holy Writ that though the wicked may flourish for a while they
are presently felled like green bay-trees?"
"Yes, to be sure! So there is no doubt that your soldiers will soon
conquer Duke Asmund."
"But I must not send any soldiers to fight against him, now that I am a
saint, for that would not look well. It would have an irreligious
appearance of prompting Heaven."
"Still, King, you are sending soldiers against the Moors--"
"Ah, but it is not your lands, Count, but my city of Ubeda, which the
Moors are attacking, and to attack a saint, as you must undoubtedly
understand, is a dangerous heresy which it is my duty to put down."
"Yes, to be sure! Well, well!" says Manuel, "at any rate, to be a count
is something, and it is better to ward a fine name than a parcel of
pigs, though it appears the pigs are the more nourishing."
In the mean while the King's heralds rode everywhither in fluted armor,
to proclaim the fulfilment of the old prophecy as to the Archangel
Oriphiel's feather. Never before was there such a hubbub in those parts,
for the bells of all the churches sounded all day, and all the people
ran about praying at the top of their voices, and forgiving their
relatives, and kissing the girls, and blowing whistles and ringing
cowbells, because the city now harbored a relic so holy that the vilest
sinner had but to touch it to be purified of iniquity.
And that day King Ferdinand dismissed the evil companions with whom he
had so long rioted in every manner of wickedness, and Ferdinand lived
henceforward as became a saint. He builded two churches a year, and
fared edifyingly on roots and herbs; he washed the feet of three
indigent persons daily, and went in sackcloth; whenever he burned
heretics he fetched and piled up the wood himself, so as to
inconvenience nobody; and he made prioresses and abbesses of his more
intimate and personal associates of yesterday, because he knew that
people are made holy by contact with holiness, and that sainthood is
Thereafter Count Manuel abode for a month at the court of King
Ferdinand, noting whatever to this side and to that side seemed most
notable. Manuel was generally liked by the elect, and in the evening
when the court assembled for family-prayers nobody was more devout than
the Count of Poictesme. He had a quiet way with the abbesses and
prioresses, and with the anchorites and bishops a way of simplicity
which was vastly admired in a divine emissary. "But the particular favor
of Heaven," as King Ferdinand pointed out, "is always reserved for
The feather from the wing of Helmas' goose King Ferdinand had caused to
be affixed to the unassuming skullcap with a halo of gold wire which
Ferdinand now wore in the place of a vainglorious earthly crown; so that
perpetual contiguity with this relic might keep him in augmenting
sanctity. And now that doubt of himself had gone out of his mind,
Ferdinand lived untroubled, and his digestion improved on his light diet
of roots and herbs, and his loving-kindness was infinite, because he
could not now be angry with the pitiable creatures haled before him,
when he considered what lengthy and ingenious torments awaited every one
of them, either in hell or purgatory, while Ferdinand would be playing a
gold harp in heaven.
So Ferdinand dealt tenderly and generously with all. Half of his subjects
said that simply showed you: and the rest of them assented that indeed
you might well say that, and they had often thought of it, and had wished
that young people would take profit by considering such things more
And Manuel got clay and modeled a figure which had the features and the
holy look of King Ferdinand.
"Yes, this young fellow you have made of mud is something like me," the
King conceded, "although clay of course cannot do justice to the fine
red cheeks and nose I used to have in the unregenerate days when I
thought about such vanities, and, besides, it is rather more like you.
Still, Count, the thing has feeling, it is wholesome, it is refreshingly
free from these modern morbid considerations of anatomy, and it does you
"No, King, I like this figure well enough, now that it is done, but it
is not, I somehow know, the figure I desire to make. No, I must follow
after my own thinking and my own desires, and I do not need holiness."
"You artists!" the King said. "But there is more than mud upon your
"In fact, I am puzzled, King, to see you made a saint of by its being
expected of you."
"But, Count, that ought to grieve nobody, so long as I do not complain,
and it is of something graver you are thinking."
"I think, sir, that it is not right to rob anybody of anything, and I
reflect that absolute righteousness is a fine feather in one's cap."
Then Manuel went into the chicken-yard behind the red-roofed palace of
King Ferdinand, and caught a goose, and plucked from its wing a feather.
Thereafter the florid young Count of Poictesme rode east, on a tall
dappled horse, and a retinue of six lackeys in silver and black liveries
came cantering after him, and the two foremost lackeys carried in
knapsacks, marked with a gold coronet, the images which Dom Manuel had
made. A third lackey carried Dom Manuel's shield, upon which were
emblazoned the arms of Poictesme. The black shield displayed a silver
stallion which was rampant in every member and was bridled with gold,
but the ancient arms had been given a new motto.
"What means this Greek?" Dom Manuel had asked.
"_Mundus decipit_, Count," they told him, "is the old pious motto of
Poictesme: it signifies that the affairs of this world are a vain
fleeting show, and that terrestrial appearances are nowhere of any
"Then your motto is green inexperience," said Manuel, "and for me to
bear it would be black ingratitude."
So the writing had been changed in accordance with his instructions, and
it now read _Mundus vult decipi_.
The Feather of Love
In such estate it was that Count Manuel came, on Christmas morning, just
two days after Manuel was twenty-one, into Provence. This land, reputed
sorcerous, in no way displayed to him any unusual features, though it
was noticeable that the King's marmoreal palace was fenced with silver
pikes whereon were set the embalmed heads of young men who had wooed the
Princess Alianora unsuccessfully. Manuel's lackeys did not at first like
the looks of these heads, and said they were unsuitable for Christmas
decorations: but Dom Manuel explained that at this season of general
merriment this palisade also was mirth-provoking because (the weather
being such as was virtually unprecedented in these parts) a light snow
had fallen during the night, so that each head seemed to wear a
They bring Manuel to Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence and King of
Aries, who was holding the Christmas feast in his warm hall. Raymond sat
on a fine throne of carved white ivory and gold, beneath a purple
canopy. And beside him, upon just such another throne, not quite so
high, sat Raymond's daughter, Alianora the Unattainable Princess, in a
robe of watered silk which was of seven colors and was lined with the
dark fur of barbiolets. In her crown were chrysolites and amethysts: it
was a wonder to note how brightly they shone, but they were not so
bright as Alianora's eyes.
She stared as Manuel of the high head came through the hall, wherein the
barons were seated according to their degrees. She had, they say, four
reasons for remembering the impudent, huge, squinting, yellow-haired
young fellow whom she had encountered at the pool of Haranton. She
blushed, and spoke with her father in the whistling and hissing language
which the Apsarasas use among themselves: and her father laughed long
Says Raymond Berenger: "Things might have fallen out much worse. Come
tell me now, Count of Poictesme, what is that I see in your breast
pocket wrapped in red silk?"
"It is a feather, King," replied Manuel, a little wearily, "wrapped in a
bit of my sister's best petticoat."
"Ay, ay," says Raymond Berenger, with a grin that was becoming even more
benevolent, "and I need not ask what price you come expecting for that
feather. None the less, you are an excellently spoken-of young wizard of
noble condition, who have slain no doubt a reasonable number of giants
and dragons, and who have certainly turned kings from folly and
wickedness. For such fine rumors speed before the man who has fine deeds
behind him that you do not come into my realm as a stranger: and, I
repeat, things might have fallen out much worse."
"Now listen, all ye that hold Christmas here!" cried Manuel "A while
back I robbed this Princess of a feather, and the thought of it lay in
my mind more heavy than a feather, because I had taken what did not
belong to me. So a bond was on me, and I set out toward Provence to
restore to her a feather. And such happenings befell me by the way that
at Michaelmas I brought wisdom into one realm, and at All-Hallows I
brought piety into another realm. Now what I may be bringing into this
realm of yours at Heaven's most holy season, Heaven only knows. To the
eye it may seem a quite ordinary feather. Yet life in the wide world, I
find, is a queerer thing than ever any swineherd dreamed of in his
wattled hut, and people everywhere are nourished by their beliefs, in a
way that the meat of pigs can nourish nobody."
Raymond Berenger said, with a wise nod: "I perceive what is in your
heart, and I see likewise what is in your pocket. So why do you tell me
what everybody knows? Everybody knows that the robe of the Apsarasas,
which is the peculiar treasure of Provence, has been ruined by the loss
of a feather, so that my daughter can no longer go abroad in the
appearance of a swan, because the robe is not able to work any more
wonders until that feather in your pocket has been sewed back into the
robe with the old incantation."
"Now, but indeed does everybody know that!" says Manuel.
"--Everybody knows, too, that my daughter has pined away with fretting
after her lost ways of outdoor exercise, and the healthful changes of
air which she used to be having. And finally, everybody knows that, at
my daughter's very sensible suggestion, I have offered my daughter's
hand in marriage to him who would restore that feather, and death to
every impudent young fellow who dared enter here without it, as my
palace fence attests."
"Oh, oh!" says Manuel, smiling, "but seemingly it is no wholesome
adventure which has come to me unsought!"
"--So, as you tell me, you came into Provence: and, as there is no need
to tell me, I hope, who have still two eyes in my head, you have
achieved the adventure. And why do you keep telling me about matters
with which I am as well acquainted as you are?"
"But, King of Arles, how do you know that this is not an ordinary
"Count of Poictesme, do people anywhere--?"
"Oh, spare me that vile bit of worldly logic, sir, and I will concede
whatever you desire!"
"Then do you stop talking such nonsense, and do you stop telling me
about things that everybody knows, and do you give my daughter her
Manuel ascends the white throne of Alianora. "Queer things have befallen
me," said Manuel, "but nothing more strange than this can ever happen,
than that I should be standing here with you, and holding this small
hand in mine. You are not perhaps quite so beautiful nor so clever as
Niafer. Nevertheless, you are the Unattainable Princess, whose
loveliness recalled me from vain grieving after Niafer, within a
half-hour of Niafer's loss. Yes, you are she whose beauty kindled a
dream and a dissatisfaction in the heart of a swineherd, to lead him
forth into the wide world, and through the puzzling ways of the wide
world, and into its high places: so that at the last the swineherd is
standing--a-glitter in satin and gold and in rich furs,--here at the
summit of a throne; and at the last the hand of the Unattainable
Princess is in his hand, and in his heart is misery."
The Princess said, "I do not know anything about this Niafer, who was
probably no better than she should have been, nor do I know of any
conceivable reason for your being miserable."
"Why, is it not the truth," asks Manuel of Alianora, speaking not very
steadily, "that you are to marry the man who restores the feather of
which you were robbed at the pool of Haranton? and can marry none
"It is the truth," she answered, in a small frightened lovely voice,
"and I no longer grieve that it is the truth, and I think it a most
impolite reason for your being miserable."
Manuel laughed without ardor. "See how we live and learn! I recall now
the droll credulity of a lad who watched a shining feather burned, while
he sat within arm's reach thinking about cabbage soup, because his grave
elders assured him that a feather could never be of any use to anybody.
And that, too, after he had seen what uses may be made of an old bridle
or of a duck egg or of anything! Well, but all water that is past the
dam must go its way, even though it be a flood of tears--"
Here Manuel gently shrugged broad shoulders. He took out of his pocket
the feather he had plucked from the wing of Ferdinand's goose.
He said: "A feather I took from you in the red autumn woods, and a
feather I now restore to you, my Princess, in this white palace of
yours, not asking any reward, and not claiming to be remembered by you
in the gray years to come, but striving to leave no obligation
undischarged and no debt unpaid. And whether in this world wherein
nothing is certain, one feather is better than another feather, I do not
know. It well may come about that I must straightway take a foul doom
from fair lips, and that presently my head will be drying on a silver
pike. Even so, one never knows: and I have learned that it is well to
put all doubt of oneself quite out of mind."
He gave her the feather he had plucked from the third goose, and the
trumpets sounded as a token that the quest of Alianora's feather had
been fulfilled, and all the courtiers shouted in honor of Count Manuel.
Alianora looked at what was in her hand, and saw it was a goose-feather,
in nothing resembling the feather which, when she had fled in maidenly
embarrassment from Manuel's over-friendly advances, she had plucked from
the robe of the Apsarasas, and had dropped at Manuel's feet, in order
that her father might be forced to proclaim this quest, and the winning
of it might be predetermined.
Then Alianora looked at Manuel. Now before her the queer unequal eyes of
this big young man were bright and steadfast as altar candles. His chin
was well up, and it seemed to her that this fine young fellow expected
her to declare the truth, when the truth would be his death-sentence.
She had no patience with his nonsense.
Says Alianora, with that lovely tranquil smile of hers: "Count Manuel
has fulfilled the quest. He has restored to me the feather from the robe
of the Apsarasas. I recognize it perfectly."
"Why, to be sure," says Raymond Berenger. "Still, do you get your needle
and the recipe for the old incantation, and the robe too, and make it
plain to all my barons that the power of the robe is returned to it, by
flying about the hall a little in the appearance of a swan. For it is
better to conduct these affairs in due order and without any suspicion
Now matters looked ticklish for Dom Manuel, since he and Alianora knew
that the robe had been spoiled, and that the addition of any number of
goose-feathers was not going to turn Alianora into a swan. Yet the boy's
handsome and high-colored face stayed courteously attentive to the
wishes of his host, and did not change.
But Alianora said indignantly: "My father, I am surprised at you! Have
you no sense of decency at all? You ought to know it is not becoming for
an engaged girl to be flying about Provence in the appearance of a swan,
far less among a parcel of men who have been drinking all morning. It is
the sort of thing that leads to a girl's being talked about."
"Now, that is true, my dear," said Raymond Berenger, abashed, "and the
sentiment does you credit. So perhaps I had better suggest something
"Indeed, my father, I see exactly what you would be suggesting. And I
believe you are right."
"I am not infallible, my dear: but still--"
"Yes, you are perfectly right: it is not well for any married woman to
be known to possess any such robe. There is no telling, just as you say,
what people would be whispering about her, nor what disgraceful tricks
she would get the credit of playing on her husband."
"My daughter, I was only about to tell you--"
"Yes, and you put it quite unanswerably. For you, who have the name of
being the wisest Count that ever reigned in Provence, and the shrewdest
King that Arles has ever had, know perfectly well how people talk, and
how eager people are to talk, and to place the very worst construction
on everything: and you know, too, that husbands do not like such talk.
Certainly I had not thought of these things, my father, but I believe
that you are right."
Raymond Berenger stroked his thick short beard, and said: "Now truly, my
daughter, whether or not I be wise and shrewd--though, as you say, of
course there have been persons kind enough to consider--and in petitions
too--However, be that as it may, and putting aside the fact that
everybody likes to be appreciated, I must confess I can imagine no gift
which would at this high season be more acceptable to any husband than
the ashes of that robe."
"This is a saying," Alianora here declares, "well worthy of Raymond
Berenger: and I have often wondered at your striking way of putting
"That, too, is a gift," the King-Count said, with proper modesty, "which
to some persons is given, and to others not: so I deserve no credit for
it. But, as I was saying when you interrupted me, my dear, it is well
for youth to have its fling, because (as I have often thought) we are
young only once: and so I have not ever criticized your jauntings in far
lands. But a husband is another pair of sandals. A husband does not like
to have his wife flying about the tree tops and the tall lonely
mountains and the low long marshes, with nobody to keep an eye on her,
and that is the truth of it. So, were I in your place, and wise enough
to listen to the old father who loves you, and who is wiser than you, my
dear--why, now that you are about to marry, I repeat to you with all
possible earnestness, my darling, I would destroy this feather and this
robe in one red fire, if only Count Manuel will agree to it. For it is
he who now has power over all your possessions, and not I."
"Count Manuel," says Alianora, with that lovely tranquil smile of hers,
"you perceive that my father is insistent, and it is my duty to be
guided by him. I do not deny that, upon my father's advice, I am asking
you to let perish a strong magic which many persons would value above a
woman's pleading. But I know now"--her eyes met his, and to any young
man anywhere with a heart moving in him, that which Manuel could see in
the bright frightened eyes of Alianora could not but be a joy well-nigh
intolerable,--"but I know now that you, who are to be my husband, and
who have brought wisdom into one kingdom, and piety into another, have
brought love into the third kingdom: and I perceive that this third
magic is a stronger and a nobler magic than that of the Apsarasas. And
it seems to me that you and I would do well to dispense with anything
which is second rate."
"I am of the opinion that you are a singularly intelligent young woman,"
says Manuel, "and I am of the belief that it is far too early for me to
be crossing my wife's wishes, in a world wherein all men are nourished
by their beliefs."
All being agreed, the Yule-log was stirred up into a blaze, which was
duly fed with the goose-feather and the robe of the Apsarasas.
Thereafter the trumpets sounded a fanfare, to proclaim that Raymond
Berenger's collops were cooked and peppered, his wine casks broached,
and his puddings steaming. Then the former swineherd went in to share
his Christmas dinner with the King-Count's daughter, Alianora, whom
people everywhere had called the Unattainable Princess.
And they relate that while Alianora and Manuel sat cosily in the hood of
the fireplace and cracked walnuts, and in the pauses of their talking
noted how the snow was drifting by the windows, the ghost of Niafer went
restlessly about green fields beneath an ever radiant sky in the
paradise of the pagans. When the kindly great-browed warders asked her
what it was she was seeking, the troubled spirit could not tell them,
for Niafer had tasted Lethe, and had forgotten Dom Manuel. Only her love
for him had not been forgotten, because that love had become a part of
her, and so lived on as a blind longing and as a desire which did not
know its aim. And they relate also that in Suskind's low red-pillared
palace Suskind waited with an old thought for company.
THE BOOK OF SPENDING
Often _tymes herde Manuel tell of the fayrness of this Queene of _Furies
_and_ Gobblins _and_ Hydraes, _insomuch that he was enamoured of hyr,
though he neuer sawe hyr: then by this Connynge made he a Hole in the
fyer, and went ouer to hyr, and when he had spoke with hyr, he shewed
hyr his mynde._
They of Poictesme narrate that after dinner King Raymond sent messengers
to his wife, who was spending that Christmas with their daughter, Queen
Meregrett of France, to bid Dame Beatrice return as soon as might be
convenient, so that they might marry off their daughter Alianora to the
famous Count Manuel. They tell also how the holiday season passed with
every manner of festivity, and how Dom Manuel got on splendidly with his
Princess, and how it appeared to onlookers that for both of them, even
for the vaguely condescending boy, love-making proved a very marvelous
and dear pursuit.
Dom Manuel confessed, in reply to jealous questionings, that he did not
think Alianora quite so beautiful nor so clever as Niafer had been, but
this, as Manuel pointed out, was hardly a matter which could be
remedied. At all events, the Princess was a fine-looking and intelligent
girl, as Dom Manuel freely conceded to her: and the magic of the
Apsarasas, in which she was instructing him, Dom Manuel declared to be
very interesting if you cared for that sort of thing.
The Princess humbly admitted, in reply, that of course her magic did not
compare with his, since hers was powerful only over the bodies of men
and beasts, whereas Dom Manuel's magic had so notably controlled the
hearts and minds of kings. Still, as Alianora pointed out, she could
blight corn and cattle, and raise tempests very handily, and, given
time, could smite an enemy with almost any physical malady you selected.
She could not kill outright, to be sure, but even so, these lesser
mischiefs were not despicable accomplishments in a young girl. Anyhow,
she said in peroration, it was atrocious to discourage her by laughing
at the best she could do.
"Ah, but come now, my dear," says Manuel, "I was only teasing. I really
think your work most promising. You have but to continue. Practise, that
is the thing, they say, in all the arts."
"Yes, and with you to help me--"
"No, I have graver matters to attend to than devil-mongering," says
Manuel, "and a bond to lift from myself before I can lay miseries on
For because of the geas that was on him to make a figure in the world,
Dom Manuel had unpacked his two images, and after vexedly considering
them, he had fallen again to modeling in clay, and had made a third
image. This image also was in the likeness of a young man, but it had
the fine proud features and the loving look of Alianora.
Manuel confessed to being fairly well pleased with this figure, but even
so, he did not quite recognize in it the figure he desired to make, and
therefore, he said, he deduced that love was not the thing which was
essential to him.
Alianora did not like the image at all.
"To have made an image of me," she considered, "would have been a very
pretty compliment. But when it comes to pulling about my features, as if
they did not satisfy you, and mixing them up with your features, until
you have made the appearance of a young man that looks like both of us,
it is not a compliment. Instead, it is the next thing but one to
"Perhaps, now I think of it, I am an egotist. At all events, I am
"Nor, dearest," says she, "is it quite befitting that you, who are now
betrothed to a princess, and who are going to be Lord of Provence and
King of Arles, as soon as I can get rid of Father, should be always
messing with wet mud."
"I know that very well," Manuel replied, "but, none the less, a geas is
on me to honor my mother's wishes, and to make an admirable and
significant figure in the world. Apart from that, though, Alianora, I
repeat to you, this scheme of yours, about poisoning your father as soon
as we are married, appears to me for various reasons ill-advised. I am
in no haste to be King of Arles, and, in fact, I am not sure that I wish
to be king at all, because my geas is more important."
"Sweetheart, I love you very much, but my love does not blind me to the
fact that, no matter, what your talents at sorcery, you are in everyday
matters a hopelessly unpractical person. Do you leave this affair to me,
and I will manage it with every regard to appearances."
"Ah, and does one have to preserve appearances even in such matters as
"But certainly it looks much better for Father to be supposed to die of
indigestion. People would be suspecting all sorts of evil of the poor
dear if it were known that his own daughter could not put up with him.
In any event, sweetheart, I am resolved that, since very luckily Father
has no sons, you shall be King of Arles before this new year is out."
"No, I am Manuel: and it means more to me to be Manuel than to be King
of Arles, and Count of Provence, and seneschal of Aix and Brignoles and
Grasse and Massilia and Draguignan and so on."
"Oh, you are breaking my heart with this neglect of your true interests!
And it is all the doing of these three vile images, which you value more
than the old throne of Boson and Rothbold, and oceans more than you do
"Come, I did not say that."
"Yes, and you think, too, a deal more about that dead heathen servant
girl than you do about me, who am a princess and the heir to a kingdom."
Manuel looked at Alianora for a considerable while, before speaking. "My
dear, you are, as I have always told you, an unusually fine looking and
intelligent girl. And yes, you are a princess, of course, though you are
no longer the Unattainable Princess: that makes a difference
certainly--But, over and above all this, there was never anybody like
Niafer, and it would be nonsense to pretend otherwise."
The Princess said: "I wonder at myself. You are schooled in strange
sorceries unknown to the Apsarasas, there is no questioning that, after
the miracles you wrought with Helmas and Ferdinand: even so, I too have
a neat hand at magic, and it is not right for you to be treating me as
though I were the dirt under your feet. And I endure it! It is that
which puzzles me, it makes me wonder at myself, and my sole comfort is
that, at any rate, this wonderful Niafer of yours is dead and done
Manuel sighed. "Yes, Niafer is dead, and these images also are dead
things, and both these facts continually trouble me. Nothing can be done
about Niafer, I suppose, but if only I could give some animation to
these images I think the geas upon me would be satisfied."
"Such a desire is blasphemous, Manuel, for the Eternal Father did no
more than that with His primal sculptures in Eden."
Dom Manuel blinked his vivid blue eyes as if in consideration. "Well,
but," he said, gravely, "but if I am a child of God it is only natural,
I think, that I should inherit the tastes and habits of my Father. No,
it is not blasphemous, I think, to desire to make an animated and lively
figure, somewhat more admirable and significant than that of the average
man. No, I think not. Anyhow, blasphemous or not, that is my need, and I
must follow after my own thinking and my own desire."
"If that desire were satisfied," asks Alianora, rather queerly, "would
you be content to settle down to some such rational method of living as
becomes a reputable sorcerer and king?"
"I think so, for a king has no master, and he is at liberty to travel
everywhither, and to see the ends of this world and judge them. Yes, I
think so, in a world wherein nothing is certain."
"If I but half way believed that, I would endeavor to obtain Schamir."
"And what in the devil is this Schamir?"
"A slip of the tongue," replied Alianora, smiling. "No, I shall have
nothing to do with your idiotic mud figures, and I shall tell you
"Come now, pettikins!" says Manuel. And he began coaxing the Princess of
Provence with just such cajoleries as the big handsome boy had formerly
exercised against the peasant girls of Rathgor.
"Schamir," said Alianora, at last, "is set in a signet ring which is
very well known in the country on the other side of the fire. Schamir
has the appearance of a black pebble; and if, after performing the proper
ceremonies, you were to touch one of these figures with it the figure
would become animated."
"Well, but," says Manuel, "the difficulty is that if I attempt to pass
through the fire in order to reach the country behind it, I shall be
burned to a cinder, and so I have no way of obtaining this talisman."
"In order to obtain it," Alianora told him, "one must hard-boil an egg
from the falcon's nest, then replace it in the nest, and secrete oneself
near by with a crossbow, under a red and white umbrella, until the
mother bird, finding one of her eggs resists all her endeavors to infuse
warmth into it, flies off, and plunges into the nearest fire, and
returns with this ring in her beak. With Schamir she will touch the
boiled egg, and so restore the egg to its former condition. At that
moment she must be shot, and the ring must be secured, before the falcon
can return the talisman to its owner. I mean, to its dreadful owner, who
is"--here Alianora made an incomprehensible sign,--"who is Queen Freydis
"Come," said Manuel, "what is the good of my knowing this in the dead of
winter! It will be months before the falcons are nesting again."
"Manuel, Manuel, there is no understanding you! Do you not see how badly
it looks for a grown man, and far more for a famed champion and a potent
sorcerer, to be pouting and scowling and kicking your heels about like
that, and having no patience at all?"
"Yes, I suppose it does look badly, but I am Manuel, and I follow--"
"Oh, spare me that," cried Alianora, "or else, no matter how much I may
love you, dearest, I shall box your jaws!"
"None the less, what I was going to say is true," declared Manuel, "and
if only you would believe it, matters would go more smoothly between
Magic of the Apsarasas
Now the tale tells how, to humor Alianora, Count Manuel applied himself
to the magic of the Apsarasas. He went with the Princess to a high
secret place, and Alianora, crying sweetly, in the famous old fashion,
"Torolix, Ciccabau, Tio, Tio, Torolililix!" performed the proper
incantations, and forthwith birds came multitudinously from all quarters
of the sky, in a descending flood of color and flapping and whistling
The peacock screamed, "With what measure thou judgest others, thou shalt
thyself be judged."
Sang the nightingale, "Contentment is the greatest happiness."
The turtle-dove called, "It were better for some created things that
they had never been created."
The peewit chirped, "He that hath no mercy for others, shall find none
The stork said huskily, "The fashion of this world passeth away."
And the wail of the eagle was, "Howsoever long life may be, yet its
inevitable term is death."
"Now that is virtually what I said," declared the stork, "and you are a
bold-faced and bald-headed plagiarist."
"And you," replied the eagle, clutching the stork's throat, "are a dead
bird that will deliver no more babies."
But Dom Manuel tugged at the eagle's wing, and asked him if he really
meant that to hold good before this Court of the Birds. And when the
infuriated eagle opened his cruel beak, and held up one murderous claw,
to make solemn oath that indeed he did mean it, and would show them too,
the stork very intelligently flew away.
"I shall not ever forget your kindness, Count Manuel," cried the stork,
"and do you remember that the customary three wishes are always yours
for the asking."
"And I too am grateful," said the abashed eagle,--"yes, upon the whole,
I am grateful, for if I had killed that long-legged pest it would have
been in contempt of the court, and they would have set me to hatching
red cockatrices. Still, his reproach was not unfounded, and I must think
up a new cry."
So the eagle perched on a rock, and said tentatively, "There is such a
thing as being too proud to fight." He shook his bald head disgustedly,
and tried, "The only enduring peace is a peace without victory," but
that did not seem to content him either. Afterward he cried out, "All
persons who oppose me have pygmy minds," and "If everybody does not do
exactly as I order, the heart of the world will be broken": and many
other foolish things he repeated, and shook his head over, for none of
these axioms pleased the eagle, and he no longer admired the pedagogue
who had invented them.
So in his worried quest for a saying sufficiently orotund and
meaningless to content his ethics, and to be hailed with convenience as
a great moral principle, the eagle forgot all about Count Manuel: but
the stork did not forget, because in the eyes of the stork the life of
the stork is valuable.
The other birds uttered various such sentiments as have been recorded,
and all these, they told Manuel, were accredited sorceries. The big
yellow-haired boy did not dispute it, he rarely disputed anything: but
the droop to that curious left eye of his was accentuated, and he
admitted to Alianora that he wondered if such faint-hearted smug little
truths were indeed the height of wisdom, outside of religion and public
speaking. Then he asked which was the wisest of the birds, and they told
him the Zhar-Ptitza, whom others called the Fire-Bird.
Manuel induced Alianora to summon the Zhar-Ptitza, who is the oldest and
the most learned of all living creatures, although he has thus far
learned nothing assuredly except that appearances have to be kept up.
The Zhar-Ptitza came, crying wearily, "Fine feathers make fine birds."
You heard him from afar.
The Zhar-Ptitza himself had every reason to get comfort out of this
axiom, for his plumage was everywhere the most brilliant purple, except
that his neck feathers were the color of new gold, and his tail was blue
with somewhat longer red feathers intermingled. His throat was wattled
gorgeously, and his head was tufted, and he seemed a trifle larger than
the eagle. The Fire-Bird brought with him his nest of cassia and sprigs
of incense, and this he put down upon the lichened rocks, and he sat in
it while he talked with Manuel.
The frivolous question that Manuel raised as to his clay figures, the
Zhar-Ptitza considered a very human bit of nonsense: and the wise
creature said he felt forced to point out that no intelligent bird would
ever dream of making images.
[Illustration: HE WAS DRYING OUT IN THE SUN]
"But, sir," said Manuel, "I do not wish to burden this world with any
more lifeless images. Instead, I wish to make in this world an animated
figure, very much as, they say, a god did once upon a time--"
"Come, you should not try to put too much responsibility upon Jahveh,"
protested the Zhar-Ptitza, tolerantly, "for Jahveh made only one man,
and did not ever do it again. I remember the making of that first man
very clearly, for I was created the morning before, with instructions to
fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven, so I saw the whole
affair. Yes, Jahveh did create the first man on the sixth day. And I
voiced no criticism. For of course after working continuously for nearly
a whole week, and making so many really important things, no creative
artist should be blamed for not being in his happiest vein on the sixth
"And did you happen to notice, sir," asks Manuel, hopefully, "by what
method animation was given to Adam?"
"No, he was drying out in the sun when I first saw him, with Gabriel
sitting at his feet, playing on a flageolet: and naturally I did not pay
any particular attention to such foolishness."
"Well, well, I do not assert that the making of men is the highest form
of art, yet, none the less, a geas is upon me to make myself a very
splendid and admirable young man."
"But why should you be wasting your small portion of breath and
strength? To what permanent use could one put a human being even if the
creature were virtuous and handsome to look at? Ah, Manuel, you have not
seen them pass, as I have seen them pass in swarms, with their wars and
their reforms and their great causes, and leaving nothing but their
bones behind them."
"Yes, yes, to you, at your age, who were old when Nineveh was planned,
it must seem strange; and I do not know why my mother desired that I
should make myself a splendid and admirable young man. But the geas is
The Zhar-Ptitza sighed. "Certainly these feminine whims are not easily
explained. Yet your people have some way of making brand-new men and
women of all kinds. I am sure of this, for otherwise the race would have
been extinct a great while since at the rate they kill one another. And
perhaps they do adhere to Jahveh's method, and make fresh human beings
out of earth, for, now I think of it, I have seen the small, recently
completed ones, who looked exactly like red clay."
"It is undeniable that babies do have something of that look," assented
Manuel. "So then, at least, you think I may be working in the proper
"It seems plausible, because I am certain your people are not
intelligent enough to lay eggs, nor could, of course, such an impatient
race succeed in getting eggs hatched. At all events, they have
undoubtedly contrived some method or other, and you might find out from
the least foolish of them about that method."
"Who, then, is the least foolish of mankind?"
"Probably King Helmas of Albania, for it was prophesied by me a great
while ago that he would become the wisest of men if ever he could come
by one of my shining white feathers, and I hear it reported he has done
"Sir," said Manuel, dubiously, "I must tell you in confidence that
the feather King Helmas has is not yours, but was plucked from the wing
of an ordinary goose."
"Does that matter?" asked the Zhar-Ptitza. "I never prophesied, of
course, that he actually would find one of my shining white feathers,
because all my feathers are red and gold and purple."
"But how can there be any magic in a goose-feather?"
"There is this magic, that, possessing it, King Helmas has faith in, and
has stopped bothering about, himself."
"Is not to bother about yourself the highest wisdom?"
"Oh, no! Oh, dear me, no! I merely said it is the highest of which man
"But the sages and philosophers, sir, that had such fame in the old
time, and made the maxims for you birds! Why, did King Solomon, for
example, rise no higher than that?"
"Yes, yes, to be sure!" said the Zhar-Ptitza, sighing again, "now that
was a sad error. The poor fellow was endowed with, just as an
experiment, considerable wisdom. And it caused him to perceive that a
man attains to actual contentment only when he is drunk or when he is
engaged in occupations not very decorously described. So
Sulieman-ben-Daoud gave over all the rest of his time to riotous living
and to co-educational enterprises. It was logic, but it led to a most
expensive seraglio and to a very unbecoming appearance, and virtually
wrecked the man's health. Yes, that was the upshot of one of you being
endowed with actual wisdom, just as an experiment, to see what would
come of it: so the experiment, of course, has never been repeated. But
of living persons, I dare assert that you will find King Helmas
appreciably freed from a thousand general delusions by his one delusion
"Very well, then," says Manuel. "I suspect a wilful paradox and a forced
cynicism in much of what you have said, but I shall consult with King
Helmas about human life and about the figure I have to make in the
So they bid each other farewell, and the Zhar-Ptitza picked up his nest
of cassia and sprigs of incense, and flew away with it: and as he rose
in the air the Zhar-Ptitza cried, "Fine feathers make fine birds."
"But that is not the true proverb, sir," Manuel called up toward the
resplendent creature, "and such perversions too, they tell me, are a
mark of would-be cleverness."
"So it may seem to you now, my lad, but time is a very transforming
fairy. Therefore do you wait until you are older," the bird replied,
from on high, "and then you will know better than to doubt my cry or to
Ice and Iron
Then came from oversea the Bishops of Ely and Lincoln, the prior of
Hurle, and the Master of the Temple, asking that King Raymond send one
of his daughters, with a suitable dowry, to be the King of England's
wife. "Very willingly," says Raymond Berenger; and told them they could
have his third daughter Sancha, with a thousand marks.
"But, Father," said Alianora, "Sancha is nothing but a child. A fine
queen she would make!"
"Still, my dear," replied King Raymond, "you are already bespoke."
"I was not thinking about myself. I was thinking about Sancha's true
"Of course you were, my dear, and everybody knows the sisterly love you
have for her."
"The pert little mess is spoilt enough as it is, Heaven knows. And if
things came to the pass that I had to stand up whenever Sancha came into
the room, and to sit on a footstool while she lolled back in a chair the
way Meregrett does, it would be the child's ruin."
Raymond Berenger said: "Now certainly it will be hard on you to have two
sisters that are queens, and with perhaps little Beatrice also marrying
some king or another when her time comes, and you staying only a
countess, who are the best-looking of the lot."
"My father, I see what you would be at!" cried Alianora, aghast. "You
think it is my duty to overcome my private inclinations, and to marry
the King of England for ruthless and urgent political reasons!"
"I only said, my darling--"
"--For you have seen at once that I owe this great sacrifice to the
future welfare of our beloved Provence. You have noted, with that
keenness which nothing escapes, that with the aid of your wisdom and
advice I would know very well how to manage this high King that is the
master of no pocket handkerchief place like Provence but of England and
of Ireland too."
"Also, by rights, of Aquitaine and Anjou and Normandy, my precious.
Still, I merely observed--"
"Oh, but believe me, I am not arguing with you, my dear father, for I
know that you are much wiser than I," says Alianora, bravely wiping away
big tears from her lovely eyes.
"Have it your own way, then," replied Raymond Berenger, with outspread
hands. "But what is to be done about you and Count Manuel here?"
The King looked toward the tapestry of Jephthah's sacrifice, beside
which Manuel sat, just then re-altering the figure of the young man with
the loving look of Alianora that Manuel had made because of the urgency
of his geas, and could not seem to get exactly right.
"I am sure, Father, that Manuel also will be self-sacrificing and
magnanimous and sensible about it."
"Ah, yes! but what is to happen afterward? For anyone can see that you
and this squinting long-legged lad are fathoms deep in love with each
"I think that after I am married, Father, you or King Ferdinand or King
Helmas can send Count Manuel into England on some embassy, and I am sure
that he and I will always be true and dear friends without affording any
handle to gossip."
"Oho!" King Raymond said, "I perceive your drift, and it is toward a
harbor that is the King of England's affair, and not mine. My part is to
go away now, so that you two may settle the details of that
ambassadorship in which Dom Manuel is to be the vicar of so many kings."
Raymond Berenger took up his sceptre and departed, and the Princess
turned to where Manuel was pottering with the three images he had made
in the likeness of Helmas and Ferdinand and Alianora. "You see, now,
Manuel dearest, I am heart-broken, but for the realm's sake I must marry
the King of England."
Manuel looked up from his work. "Yes, I heard. I am sorry, and I never
understood politics, but I suppose it cannot be helped. So would you
mind standing a little more to the left? You are in the light now, and
that prevents my seeing clearly what I am doing here to this upper lip."
"And how can you be messing with that wet mud when my heart is
"Because a geas is upon me to make these images. No, I am sure I do not
know why my mother desired it. But everything which is fated must be
endured, just as we must now endure the obligation that is upon you to
marry the high King of England."
"My being married need not matter very much, after I am Queen, for
people declare this King is a poor spindling creature, and, as I was
saying, you can come presently into England."
Manuel looked at her for a moment or two. She colored. He, sitting at
the feet of weeping Jephthah, smiled. "Well," said Manuel, "I will come
into England when you send me a goose-feather. So the affair is arranged."
"Oh, you are all ice and iron!" she said, "and you care for nothing
except your wet mud images, and I detest you!"
"My dearest," Manuel answered placidly, "the trouble is that each of us
desires one particular thing over and above other things. Your desire is
for power and a great name and for a king who will be at once your
mouthpiece, your lackey and your lover. Now, candidly, I cannot spare
the time to be any of these things, because my desire is different from
your desire, but is equally strong. Also, it seems to me, as I become
older, and see more of men and of men's ways, that most people have no
especial desire but only preferences. In a world of such wishy-washy
folk you and I cannot hope to escape being aspersed with comparisons to
ice and iron, but it does not become us to be flinging these venerable
similes in each other's faces."
She kept silence a while. She laughed uneasily. "I so often wonder about
you, Manuel, as to whether inside the big, high-colored, squinting,
solemn husk is living a very wise person or a very unmitigated fool."
"I perceive there is something else which we have in common, for I, too,
often wonder about that."
"It is settled, then?"
"It is settled that, instead of ruling little Arles, you are to be Queen
of England, and Lady of Ireland, and Duchess of Normandy and Aquitaine,
and Countess of Anjou; that our token is to be a goose-feather; and
that, I diffidently repeat, you are to get out of my light and interfere
no longer with the discharge of my geas."
"And what will you do?"
"I must, as always, follow after my own thinking--"
"If you complete the sentence I shall undoubtedly scream."
Manuel laughed good-humoredly. "I suppose I do say it rather often, but
then it is true, and the great trouble between us, Alianora, is that you
do not perceive its truth."
She said, "And I suppose you will now be stalking off to some woman or
another for consolation?"
"No, the consolation I desire is not to be found in petticoats. No,
first of all, I shall go to King Helmas. For my images stay obstinately
lifeless, and there is something lacking to each of them, and none is
the figure I desire to make in this world. Now I do not know what can be
done about it, but the Zhar-Ptitza informs me that King Helmas, since
all doubt of himself has been put out of mind, can aid me if any man
"Then we must say good-bye, though not for a long while, I hope."
"Yes," Manuel said, "this is good-bye, and to a part of my living it is
an eternal good-bye."
Dom Manuel left his images where the old Hebrew captain appeared to
regard them with violent dumb anguish, and Manuel took both of the
girl's lovely little hands, and he stood thus for a while looking down
at the Princess.
Said Manuel, very sadly:
"I cry the elegy of such notions as are possible to boys alone.
'Surely,' I said, 'the informing and all-perfect soul shines through and
is revealed in this beautiful body.' So my worship began for you, whose
violet eyes retain at all times their chill brittle shining, and do not
soften, but have been to me always as those eyes which, they say, a
goddess turns toward ruined lovers who cry the elegy of hope and
contentment, with lips burned bloodless by the searing of passions which
she, immortal, may neither feel nor comprehend. Even so do you, dear
Alianora, who are not divine, look toward me, quite unmoved by anything
except incurious wonder, the while that I cry my elegy.
"I, for love, and for the glamour of bright beguiling dreams that hover
and delude and allure all lovers, could never until to-day behold
clearly what person I was pestering with my notions. I, being blind,
could not perceive your blindness which blindly strove to understand me,
and which hungered for understanding, as I for love. Thus our kisses
veiled, at most, the foiled endeavorings of flesh that willingly would
enter into the soul's high places, but is not able. Now, the game being
over, what is the issue and end of it time must attest. At least we
should each sorrow a little for what we have lost in this gaming,--you
for a lover, and I for love.
"No, but it is not love which lies here expiring, now we part friendlily
at the deathbed of that emotion which yesterday we shared. This emotion
also was not divine; and so might not outlive the gainless months
wherein, like one fishing for pearls in a millpond, I have toiled to
evoke from your heart more than Heaven placed in this heart, wherein
lies no love. Now the crying is stilled that was the crying of
loneliness to its unfound mate: already dust is gathering light and gray
upon the unmoving lips. Therefore let us bury our dead, and having
placed the body in the tomb, let us honestly inscribe above this
fragile, flower-like perished emotion, 'Here lieth lust, not love.'"
Now Alianora pouted. "You use such very ugly words, sweetheart: and you
are talking unreasonably, too, for I am sure I am just as sorry about it
as you are--"
Manuel gave her that slow sleepy smile which was Manuel. "Just," he
said,--"and it is that which humiliates. Yes, you and I are second-rate
persons, Alianora, and we have found each other out. It is a pity. But
we will always keep our secret from the rest of the world, and our
secret will always be a bond between us."
He kissed the Princess, very tenderly, and so left her.
Then Manuel of the high head departed from Aries, with his lackeys and
his images, riding in full estate, and displaying to the spring sunlight
the rearing silver stallion upon his shield and the _motto Mundus vult
decipi_. Alianora, watching from the castle window, wept copiously,
because the poor Princess had the misfortune to be really in love with
Dom Manuel. But there was no doing anything with his obstinacy and his
incomprehensible notions, Alianora had found, and so she set about
disposing of herself and of the future through more plastic means. Her
methods were altered perforce, but her aim remained unchanged: and she
still intended to get everything she desired (which included Manuel) as
soon as she and the King of England had settled down to some sensible
way of living.
It worried this young pretty girl to consult her mirror, and to foreknow
that the King of England would probably be in love with her for months
and months: but then, as she philosophically reflected, all women have
to submit to being annoyed by the romanticism of men. So she dried her
big bright eyes, and sent for dressmakers.
She ordered two robes each of five ells, the one to be of green and
lined with either cendal or sarcenet, and the other to be of brunet
stuff. She selected the cloth for a pair of purple sandals, and for four
pairs of boots, to be embroidered in circles around the ankles, and she
selected also nine very becoming chaplets made of gold filigree and
clusters of precious stones. And so she managed to get through the
morning, and to put Manuel out of mind, for that while, but not for
What Helmas Directed
Now the Count of Poictesme departs from Provence, with his lackeys
carrying his images, and early in April he comes to Helmas the
Deep-Minded. The wise King was then playing with his small daughter
Melusine (who later dethroned and imprisoned him), but he sent the child
away with a kiss, and he attentively heard Dom Manuel through.
King Helmas looked at the images, prodded them with a shriveled
forefinger, and cleared his throat; and then said nothing, because,
after all, Dom Manuel was Count of Poictesme.
"What is needed?" said Manuel.
"They are not true to life," replied Helmas--"particularly this one
which has the look of me."
"Yes, I know that: but who can give life to my images?"
King Helmas pushed back his second best crown, wherein was set the
feather from the wing of the miller's goose, and he scratched his
forehead. He said, "There is a power over all figures of earth and a
queen whose will is neither to loose nor to bind." Helmas turned toward
a thick book, wherein was magic.
"Yes, _queen_ is the same as _cwen_. Therefore Queen Freydis of Audela
might help you."
"Yes, for it is she that owns Schamir. But the falcons are not nesting
now, and how can I go to Freydis, that woman of strange deeds?"
"Oh, people nowadays no longer use falcons; and of course nobody can go
to Freydis uninvited. Still, it can be managed that Freydis will come to
you when the moon is void and powerless, and when this and that has been
Thereafter Helmas the Deep-Minded told Count Manuel what was requisite.
"So you will need such and such things," says King Helmas, "but, above
all, do not forget the ointment."
Count Manuel went alone into Poictesme, which was his fief if only he
could get it. He came secretly to Upper Morven, that place of horrible
fame. Near the ten-colored stone, whereon men had sacrificed to Vel-Tyno
in time's youth, he builded an enclosure of peeled willow wands, and
spread butter upon them, and tied them with knots of yellow ribbons, as
Helmas had directed. Manuel arranged all matters within the enclosure as
Helmas had directed. There Manuel waited, on the last night in April,
regarding the full moon.
In a while you saw the shadowings on the moon's radiancy begin to waver
and move: later they passed from the moon's face like little clouds, and
the moon was naked of markings. This was a token that the Moon-Children
had gone to the well from which once a month they fetch water, and that
for an hour the moon would be void and powerless. With this and that
ceremony Count Manuel kindled such a fire upon the old altar of Vel-Tyno
as Helmas had directed.
Manuel cried aloud: "Now be propitious, infernal, terrestrial and
celestial Bombo! Lady of highways, patroness of crossroads, thou who
bearest the light! Thou who dost labor always in obscurity, thou enemy of
the day, thou friend and companion of darkness! Thou rejoicing in the
barking of dogs and in shed blood, thus do I honor thee."
Manuel did as Helmas had directed, and for an instant the screamings
were pitiable, but the fire ended these speedily.
Then Manuel cried, again: "O thou who wanderest amid shadows and over
tombs, and dost tether even the strong sea! O whimsical sister of the
blighting sun, and fickle mistress of old death! O Gorgo, Mormo, lady of
a thousand forms and qualities! now view with a propitious eye my
Thus Manuel spoke, and steadily the fire upon the altar grew larger and
brighter as he nourished it repugnantly.
When the fire was the height of a warrior, and queer things were
happening to this side and to that side, Count Manuel spoke the ordered
words: and of a sudden the flames' colors were altered, so that green
shimmerings showed in the fire, as though salt were burning there.
Manuel waited. This greenness shifted and writhed and increased in the
heart of the fire, and out of the fire oozed a green serpent, the body
of which was well--nigh as thick as a man's body.
This portent came toward Count Manuel horribly. He, who was familiar
with serpents, now grasped this monster's throat, and to the touch its
scales were like very cold glass.
The great snake shifted so resistlessly that Manuel was forced back
toward the fire and toward a doom more dreadful than burning: and the
firelight was in the snake's contemptuous wise eyes. Manuel was of
stalwart person, but his strength availed him nothing until he began to
recite aloud, as Helmas had directed, the multiplication tables: Freydis
could not withstand mathematics.
So when Manuel had come to two times eleven the tall fire guttered as
though it bended under the passing of a strong wind: then the flames
burned high, and Manuel could see that he was grasping the throat of a
monstrous pig. He, who was familiar with pigs, could see that this was a
black pig, caked with dried curds of the Milky Way; its flesh was chill
to the touch, like dead flesh; and it had long tusks, which possessed
life of their own, and groped and writhed toward Manuel like fat white
Then Manuel said, as Helmas had directed: "Solomon's provision for one
day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal,
ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep,
beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl. But Elijah
the Tishbite was fed by ravens that brought him bread and flesh."
Again the tall flames guttered. Now Manuel was grasping a thick heatless
slab of crystal, like a mirror, wherein he could see himself quite
clearly. Just as he really was, he, who was not familiar with such
mirrors, could see Count Manuel, housed in a little wet dirt with old
inveterate stars adrift about him everywhither; and the spectacle was
enough to frighten anybody.
So Manuel said: "The elephant is the largest of all animals, and in
intelligence approaches the nearest to man. Its nostril is elongated,
and answers to the purpose of a hand. Its toes are undivided, and it
lives two hundred years. Africa breeds elephants, but India produces the
The mirror now had melted into a dark warm fluid which oozed between his
fingers, dripping to the ground. But Manuel held tightly to what
remained between his palms, and he felt, they say, that in the fluid was
struggling something small and soft and living, as though he held a tiny
Said Manuel, "A straight line is the shortest distance between two
Of a sudden the fire became an ordinary fire, and the witches of Amneran
screamed, and Morven was emptied of sorcery, and Count Manuel was
grasping the warm soft throat of a woman. Instantly he had her within
the enclosure of peeled willow wands that had been spread with butter
and tied with knots of yellow ribbon, because into such an enclosure the
power and the dominion of Freydis could never enter.
All these things Manuel did precisely as King Helmas had directed.
They Duel on Morven
So by the light of the seven candles Dom Manuel first saw Queen Freydis
in her own shape, and in the appearance which she wore in her own
country. What Manuel thought there was never any telling: but every
other man who saw Queen Freydis in this appearance declared that
instantly all his past life became a drugged prelude to the moment
wherein he stood face to face with Freydis, the high Queen of Audela.
Freydis showed now as the most lovely of womankind. She had black
plaited hair, and folds of crimson silk were over her white flesh, and
over her shoulders was a black cloak embroidered with little gold stars
and ink-horns, and she wore sandals of gilded bronze. But in her face
was such loveliness as may not be told.
Now Freydis went from one side of the place to the other side, and saw
the magics that protected the enclosure. "Certainly, you have me fast,"
the high Queen said. "What is it you want of me?"
Manuel showed her the three images which he had made, set there arow. "I
need your aid with these."
Queen Freydis looked at them, and Freydis smiled. "These frozen
abortions are painstakingly made. What more can anybody demand?"
Dom Manuel told her that he desired to make an animated and lively
Whereupon she laughed, merrily and sweetly and scornfully, and replied
that never would she give such aid.
"Very well, then," said Manuel, "I have ready the means to compel you."
He showed this lovely woman the instruments of her torture. His handsome
young face was very grave, as though already his heart were troubled. He
thrust her hand into the cruel vise which was prepared. "Now, sorceress,
whom all men dread save me, you shall tell me the Tuyla incantation as
the reward of my endeavors, or else a little by a little I shall destroy
the hand that has wrought so many mischiefs."
Freydis in the light of the seven candles showed pale as milk. She said:
"I am frail and human in this place, and have no power beyond the power
of every woman, and no strength at all. Nevertheless, I will tell you
Manuel set his hand to the lever, ready to loose destruction. "To tell
me what I desire you to tell me will do you no hurt--"
"No," replied Freydis: "but I am not going to take orders from you or
any man breathing."
"--And for defying me you will suffer very terribly--"
"Yes," replied Freydis. "And much you will care!" she said,
"--Therefore I think that you are acting foolishly."
Freydis said: "You make a human woman of me, and then expect me to act
upon reason. It is you who are behaving foolishly."
Count Manuel meditated, for this beyond doubt sounded sensible. From
the look of his handsome young face, his heart was now exceedingly
troubled. Queen Freydis breathed more freely, and began to smile, with
the wisdom of women, which is not super-human, but is ruthless.
"The hand would be quite ruined, too," said Manuel, looking at it more
carefully. Upon the middle finger was a copper ring, in which was set a
largish black stone: this was Schamir. But Manuel looked only at the
He touched it. "Your hand, Queen Freydis, whatever mischief it may have
executed, is soft as velvet. It is colored like rose-petals, but it
smells more sweet than they. No, certainly, my images are not worth the
ruining of such a hand."
Then Manuel released her, sighing. "My geas must stay upon me, and my
images must wait," says Manuel.
"Why, do you really like my hands?" asked Freydis, regarding them
Manuel said: "Ah, fair sweet enemy, do not mock at me! All is in
readiness to compel you to do my will. Had you preserved some ugly shape
I would have conquered you. But against the shape which you now wear I
cannot contend. Dragons and warlocks and chimaeras and such nameless
monsters as I perceive to be crowding about this enclosure of buttered
willow wands I do not fear at all, but I cannot fight against the
appearance which you now wear."
"Why, do you really like my natural appearance?" Freydis said,
incredibly surprised. "It is a comfort, of course, to slip into it
occasionally, but I had never really thought much about it one way or
She went to the great mirror which had been set ready as Helmas
directed, "I never liked my hair in these severe big plaits, either. As
for those monsters yonder, they are my people, who are coming out of the
fire to rescue me, in some of the forgotten shapes, as spoorns and trows
and calcars, and other terrors of antiquity. But they cannot get into
this enclosure of buttered willow wands, poor dears, on account of your
magickings. How foolish they look--do they not?--leering and capering
and gnashing their teeth, with no superstitious persons anywhere to pay
attention to them."
The Queen paused: she coughed delicately. "But you were talking some
nonsense or other about my natural appearance not being bad looking. Now
most men prefer blondes, and, besides, you are not really listening to
me, and that is not polite."
"It is so difficult to talk collectedly," said Manuel, "with your
appalling servitors leering and capering and gnashing double sets of
teeth all over Upper Morven--"
She saw the justice of this. She went now to that doorway through which,
unless a man lifted her over the threshold, she might not pass, on
account of the tonthecs and the spaks and the horseshoes.
She cried, in a high sweet voice: "A penny, a penny, twopence, a penny
and a half, and a half-penny! Now do you go away, all of you, for the
wisdom of Helmas is too strong for us. There is no way for you to get
into, nor for me to get out of, this place of buttered willow wands,
until I have deluded and circumvented this pestiferous, squinting young
mortal. Go down into Bellegarde and spill the blood of Northmen, or
raise a hailstorm, or amuse yourselves in one way or another way.
Anyhow, do you take no thought for me, who am for the while a human
woman: for my adversary is a mortal man, and in that duel never yet has
the man conquered."
She turned to Manuel. She said:
"The land of Audela is my kingdom. But you embraced my penalties, you
have made a human woman of me. So do I tread with wraiths, for my lost
realm alone is real. Here all is but a restless contention of shadows
which pass presently; here all that is visible and all the colors known
to men are shadows dimming the true colors; here time and death, the
darkest shadows known to men, delude you with false seemings: for all
such things as men hold incontestable, because they are apparent to
sight and sense, are a weariful drifting of fogs that veil the world
which is no longer mine. So in this twilit world of yours do we of
Audela appear to be but men and women."
"I would that such women appeared more often," said Manuel.
"The land of Audela is my kingdom, where I am Queen of all that lies
behind this veil of human sight and sense. This veil may not ever be
lifted; but very often the veil is pierced, and noting the broken place,
men call it fire. Through these torn places men may glimpse the world
that is real: and this glimpse dazzles their dimmed eyes and weakling
forces, and this glimpse mocks at their lean might Through these rent
places, when the opening is made large enough, a few men here and there,
not quite so witless as their fellows, know how to summon us of Audela
when for an hour the moon is void and powerless: we come for an old
reason: and we come as men and women."
"Ah, but you do not speak with the voices of men and women," Manuel
replied, "for your voice is music."
"The land of Audela is my kingdom, and very often, just for the sport's
sake, do I and my servitors go secretly among you. As human beings we
blunder about your darkened shadow world, bound by the laws of sight and
sense, but keeping always in our hearts the secrets of Audela and the
secret of our manner of returning thither. Sometimes, too, for the
sport's sake, we imprison in earthen figures a spark of the true life of
Audela: and then you little persons, that have no authentic life, but
only the flickering of a vexed shadow to sustain you in brief
fretfulness, say it is very pretty; and you negligently applaud us as
the most trivial of men and women."
"No; we applaud you as the most beautiful," says Manuel.
"Come now, Count Manuel, and do you have done with your silly
flatterings, which will never wheedle anything out of me! So you have
trapped Queen Freydis in mortal flesh. Therefore I must abide in the
body of a human woman, and be subject to your whims, and to your
beautiful big muscles, you think, until I lend a spark of Audela's true
life to your ridiculous images. But I will show you better, for I will
never give in to you nor to any man breathing."
In silence Count Manuel regarded the delightful shaping and the clear
burning colors of this woman's face. He said, as if in sadness: "The
images no longer matter. It is better to leave them as they are."
"That is very foolish talk," Queen Freydis answered, promptly, "for they
need my aid if ever any images did. Not that, however, I intend to touch
"Indeed, I forbid you to touch them, fair enemy. For were the images
made as animated and lively as I wish them to be, I would be looking at
them always, and not caring for any woman: and no woman anywhere would
have the power to move me as your beauty moves me now, and I would not
be valuing you the worth of an old onion."
"That is not the truth," says Freydis, angrily, "for the man who is
satisfied with the figure he has made is as great a fool about women as
any other man. And who are you to be forbidding me anything?"
"I would have you remember," said Manuel, very masterfully, "that they
are my images, to do with as I wish. Also I would have you remember
that, whatever you may pretend to be in Audela, here I am stronger than
Now the proud woman laughed. Defiantly she touched the nearest image,
with formal ancient gestures, and you could see the black stone Schamir
taking on the colors of an opal. Under her touch the clay image which
had the look of Alianora shivered, and drew sobbing breath. The image
rose, a living creature that was far more beautiful than human kind, and
it regarded Manuel scornfully. Then it passed limping from the
enclosure: and Manuel sighed.
"That is a strong magic," said Manuel: "and this is almost exactly the
admirable and significant figure that I desired to make in the world.
But, as I now perceive too late, I fashioned the legs of this figure
unevenly, and the joy I have in its life is less than the shame that I
take from its limping."
"Such magic is a trifle," Freydis replied, "although it is the only
magic I can perform in an enclosure of buttered willow wands. Now, then,
you see for yourself that I am not going to take orders from you. So the
figure you have made, will you or nil you, must limp about in all men's
sight, for not more than a few centuries, to be sure, but long enough to
prove that I am not going to be dictated to."
"I do not greatly care, O fairest and most shrewd of enemies. A half-hour
since, it seemed to me an important matter to wrest from you this secret
of giving life to images. Now I have seen the miracle; I know that for
the man who has your favor it is possible to become as a god, creating
life, and creating lovelier living beings than any god creates, and
beings which live longer, too: and even so, it is not of these things
that I am really thinking, but only of your eyes."
"Why, do you like my eyes!" says Freydis,--"you, who if once you could
make living images would never be caring about any woman any more?"
But Manuel told her wherein her eyes were different from the eyes of any
other person, and more dangerous, and she listened, willingly enough,
for Freydis was not a human woman. Thereafter it appeared that a
grieving and a great trouble of mind had come upon Manuel because of the
loveliness of Freydis, for he made this complaint:
"There is much loss in the world, where men war ceaselessly with sorrow,
and time like a strong thief strips all men of all they prize. Yet when
the emperor is beaten in battle and his broad lands are lost, he,
shrugging, says, 'In the next battle I may conquer.' And when the
bearded merchant's ship is lost at sea, he says, 'The next voyage,
belike, will be prosperous.' Even when the life of an old beggar departs
from him in a ditch, he says, 'I trust to be to-morrow a glad young
seraph in paradise.' Thus hope serves as a cordial for every hurt: but
for him who had beheld the loveliness of Freydis there is no hope at
"For, in comparison with that alien clear beauty, there is no beauty in
this world. He that has beheld the loveliness of Freydis must go
henceforward as a hungry person, because of troubling memories: and his
fellows deride him enviously. All the world is fretted by his folly,
knowing that his faith in the world's might is no longer firm-set, and
that he aspires to what is beyond the world's giving. In his heart he
belittles the strong stupid lords of earth; and they, being strong, plan
vengeance, the while that in a corner he makes images to commemorate
what is lost: and so for him who has beheld the loveliness of Freydis
there is no hope at all.
"He that has willed to look upon Queen Freydis does not dread to consort
with serpents nor with swine; he faces the mirror wherein a man beholds
himself without self-deceiving; he views the blood that drips from his
soiled hands, and knows that this, too, was needed: yet these endurings
purchase but one hour. The hour passes, and therewith passes also
Freydis, the high Queen. Only the memory of her hour remains, like a
cruel gadfly, for which the crazed beholder of Queen Freydis must build
a lodging in his images, madly endeavoring to commingle memories with
wet mud: and so for him who has beheld the loveliness of Freydis there
is no hope at all."
Freydis heard him through, considerately. "But I wonder to how many
other women you have talked such nonsense about beauty and despair and
eternity," said Freydis, "and they very probably liking to hear it, the
poor fools! And I wonder how you can expect me to believe you, when you
pretend to think me all these fine things, and still keep me penned in
this enclosure like an old vicious cow."
"No, that is not the way it is any longer. For now the figure that I
have made in the world, and all else that is in the world, and all that
is anywhere without this enclosure of buttered willow wands, mean
nothing to me, and there is no meaning in anything save in the
loveliness of Freydis."
Dom Manuel went to the door of the enclosure then to the windows,
sweeping away the gilded tonthecs and the shining spaks, and removing
from the copper nails the horseshoes that had been cast by Mohammed's
mare and Hrimfaxi and Balaam's ass and Pegasus. "You were within my
power. Now I destroy that power, and therewith myself. Now is the place
unguarded, and all your servitors are free to enter, and all your
terrors are untrammeled, to be loosed against me, who have no longer
anything to dread. For I love you with such mortal love as values
nothing else beside its desire, and you care nothing for me."
After a little while of looking she sighed, and said uneasily: "It is
the foolish deed of a true lover. And, really, I do like you, rather.
But, Manuel, I do not know what to do next! Never at any time has this
thing happened before, so that all my garnered wisdom is of no use
whatever. Nobody anywhere has ever dared to snap his fingers at the fell
power of Freydis as you are doing, far less has anybody ever dared to be
making eyes at her. Besides, I do not wish to consume you with
lightnings, and to smite you with insanity appears so unnecessary."
"I love you," Manuel said, "and your heart is hard, and your beauty is
beyond the thinking of man, and your will is neither to loose nor to
bind. In a predicament so unexampled, how can it at all matter to me
whatever you may elect to do?"
"Then certainly I shall not waste any of my fine terrors on you!" said
Freydis, with a vexed tossing of her head. "Nor have I any more time to
waste upon you either, for presently the Moon-Children will be coming
back to their places: and before the hour is out wherein the moon stays
void and powerless I must return to my own kingdom, whither you may not
follow, to provoke me with any more of your nonsense. And then you will
be properly sorry, I dare say, for you will De remembering me always,
and there will be only human women to divert you, and they are poor
Freydis went again to the mirror, and she meditated there. "Yes, you
will be remembering me with my hair in these awful plaits, and that is a
pity, but still you will remember me always. And when you make images
they will be images of me. No, but I cannot have you making any more
outrageous parodies like astonished corpses, and people everywhere
laughing at Queen Freydis!"
She took up the magical pen, laid ready as Helmas had directed, and she
wrote with this gryphon's feather. "So here is the recipe for the Tuyla
incantation with which to give life to your images. It may comfort you a
little to perform that silly magic. It, anyhow, will prevent such
good-for-nothing minxes as may have no more intelligence than to take
you seriously, from putting on too many airs and graces around the
images which you will make of me with my hair done so very
"Nothing can ever comfort me, fair enemy, when you have gone away," said
But he took the parchment.
Bandages for the Victor
They came out of the enclosure, to the old altar of Vel-Tyno, while the
moon was still void and powerless. The servitors of Freydis were
thronging swiftly toward Upper Morven, after a pleasant hour of ravening
and ramping about Poictesme. As spoorns and trows and calcars and as
other long forgotten shapes they came, without any noise, so that Upper
Morven was like the disordered mind of a wretch that is dying in fever:
and to this side and to that side the witches of Amneran sat nodding in
approval of what they saw.
Thus, one by one, the forgotten shapes came to the fire, and cried, "A
penny, a penny, twopence, a penny and a half, and a halfpenny!" as each
entered into the fire which was the gateway to their home.
"Farewell!" said Freydis: and as she spoke she sighed.
"Not thus must be our parting," Manuel says. "For do you listen now,
Queen Freydis! it was Helmas the Deep-Minded who told me what was
requisite. '_Queen_ is the same as _cwen_, which means a woman, no more
nor less,' said the wise King. 'You have but to remember that.'"
She took his meaning. Freydis cried out, angrily: "Then all the
foolishness you have been talking about my looks and your love for me
was pre-arranged! And you have cheated me out of the old Tuyla mystery
by putting on the appearance of loving me, and by pestering me with such
nonsense as a plowman trades against the heart of a milkmaid! Now,
certainly, I shall reward your candor in a fashion that will be
whispered about for a long while."
With that, Queen Freydis set about a devastating magic.
"All, all was pre-arranged save one thing," said Manuel, with a yapping
laugh, and not even looking at the commencing terrors. He thrust into
the fire the parchment which Freydis had given him. "Yes, all was
pre-arranged except that Helmas did not purge me of that which will not
accept the hire of any lying to you. So the Deep-Minded's wisdom comes,
at the last pinch, to naught."
Now Freydis for an instant waved back two-thirds of an appalling
monster, which was as yet incompletely evoked for Dom Manuel's
destruction, and Freydis cried impatiently, "But have you no sense
whatever! for you are burning your hand."
And indeed the boy had already withdrawn his hand with a grimace, for in
the ardor of executing his noble gesture, as Queen Freydis saw, he had
not estimated how hot her fires were.
"It is but a little hurt to me who have taken a great hurt," says
Manuel, sullenly. "For I had thought to lie, and in my mouth the lie
turned to a truth. At least, I do not profit by my false-dealing, and I
wave you farewell with empty hands burned clean of theft."
Then she who was a human woman said, "But you have burned your hand!"
"It does not matter: I have ointments yonder. Make haste, Queen Freydis,
for the hour passes wherein the moon is void and powerless."
"There is time." She brought out water from the enclosure, and swiftly
bathed Dom Manuel's hand.
From the fire now came a whispering, "Make haste, Queen Freydis! make
haste, dear Fairy mistress!"
"There is time," said Freydis, "and do you stop flurrying me!" She
brought from the enclosure a pot of ointment, and she dressed Manuel's
"Borram, borram, Leanhaun shee!" the fire crackled. "Now the hour ends."
Then Freydis sprang from Manuel, toward the flames beyond which she was
queen of ancient mysteries, and beyond which her will was neither to
loose nor to bind. And she cried hastily, "A penny, a penny, twopence--"
But just for a moment she looked back at Morven, and at the man who
waited upon Morven alone and hurt. In his firelit eyes she saw love out
of measure and without hope. And in the breast of Freydis moved the
heart of a human woman.
"I cannot help it," she said, as the hour passed. "Somebody has to
bandage it, and men have no sense in these matters."
Whereon the fire roared angrily, and leaped, and fell dead, for the
Moon-Children Bil and Hjuki had returned from the well which is called
Byrgir, and the moon was no longer void and powerless.
"So, does that feel more comfortable?" said Freydis. She knew that
within this moment age and sorrow and death had somewhere laid
inevitable ambuscades, from which to assail her by and by, for she was
mortal after the sacred fire's extinction, and she meant to make the
best of it.
For a while Count Manuel did not speak. Then he said, in a shaking
voice: "O woman dear and lovely and credulous and compassionate, it is
you and you alone that I must be loving eternally with such tenderness
as is denied to proud and lonely queens on their tall thrones! And it is
you that I must be serving always with such a love as may not be given
to the figure that any man makes in this world! And though all life may
be a dusty waste of endless striving, and though the ways of men may
always be the ways of folly, yet are these ways our ways henceforward,
and not hopeless ways, for you and I will tread them together."
"Now certainly there is in Audela no such moonstruck nonsense to be
hearing, nor any such quick-footed hour of foolishness to be living
through," Freydis replied, "as here to-night has robbed me of my
"Love will repay," said Manuel, as is the easy fashion of men.
And Freydis, a human woman now in all things, laughed low and softly in
the darkness. "Repay me thus, my dearest: no matter how much I may coax
you in the doubtful time to come, do you not ever tell me how you
happened to have the bandages and the pot of ointment set ready by the
mirror. For it is bad for a human woman ever to be seeing through the
devices of wise kings, and far worse for her to be seeing through the
heroic antics of her husband."
Meanwhile in Arles young Alianora had arranged her own match with more
circumspection. The English, who at first demanded twenty thousand marks
as her jointure, had after interminable bargaining agreed to accept her
with three thousand: and she was to be dowered with Plymouth and Exeter
and Tiverton and Torquay and Brixham, and with the tin mines of
Devonshire and Cornwall. In everything except the husband involved, she
was marrying excellently, and so all Arles that night was ornamented
with flags and banners and chaplets and bright hangings and flaring
lamps and torches, and throughout Provence there was festivity of every
sort, and the Princess had great honor and applause.
But in the darkness of Upper Morven they had happiness, no matter for
how brief a while.
THE BOOK OF CAST ACCOUNTS
Consider, _faire Miserie, (quoth Manuel) that it lyes not in mans power
to place his loue where he list, being the worke of an high Deity._ A
Birde was neuer seen in Pontus, _nor true loue in a fleeting mynde:
neuer shall remoue the affection of my Hearte, which in nature
resembleth the stone_ Abiston.
They of Poictesme narrate how Queen Freydis and Count Manuel lived
together amicably upon Upper Morven. They tell also how the iniquitous
usurper, Duke Asmund, at this time held Bellegarde close at hand, but
that his Northmen kept away from Upper Morven, on account of the
supernatural beings you were always apt to encounter thereabouts, so
that Manuel and Freydis had, at first, no human company.
"Between now and a while," said Freydis, "you must be capturing
Bellegarde and cutting off Duke Asmund's ugly head, because by right and
by King Ferdinand's own handwriting all Poictesme belongs to you."
"Well, we will let that wait a bit," says Manuel, "for I do not so
heartily wish to be tied down with parchments in a count's gilded seat
as I do to travel everywhither and see the ends of this world and judge
them. At all events, dear Freydis, I am content enough for the present,
in this little home of ours, and public affairs can wait."
"Still, something ought to be done about it," said Freydis. And, since
Manuel displayed an obstinate prejudice against any lethal plague, she
put the puckerel curse upon Asmund, by which he was afflicted with all
small bodily ills that can intervene between corns and dandruff.
On Upper Morven Freydis had reared by enchantment a modest home, that
was builded of jasper and porphyry and yellow and violet breccia.
Inside, the stone walls were everywhere covered with significant
traceries in low relief, and were incrusted at intervals with disks and
tesserae of turquoise-colored porcelain. The flooring, of course, was of
zinc, as a defence against the unfriendly Alfs, who are at perpetual war
with Audela, and, moreover, there was a palisade, enclosing all, of
peeled willow wands, not buttered but oiled, and fastened with unknotted
Everything was very simple and homelike, and here the servitors of
Freydis attended them when there was need. The fallen Queen was not a
gray witch--not in appearance certainly, but in her endowments, which
were not limited as are the powers of black witches and white witches.
She instructed Dom Manuel in the magic of Audela, and she and Manuel had
great times together that spring and summer, evoking ancient dis-crowned
gods and droll monsters and instructive ghosts to entertain them in the
pauses between other pleasures.
They heard no more, for that turn, of the clay figure to which they had
given life, save for the news brought, by a bogglebo, that as the
limping gay young fellow went down from Morven the reputable citizenry
everywhere were horrified because he went as he was created,
stark-naked, and this was not considered respectable. So a large
tumble-bug came from the west, out of the quagmires of Philistia and
followed after the animated figure, yelping and spluttering, "Morals,
not art!" And for that while, the figure went out of Manuel's saga, thus
"But we will make a much finer figure," says Freydis, "so it does not
"Yes, by and by," says Manuel, "but we will let that wait a bit."
"You are always saying that nowadays!"
"Ah, but, my dear, it is so very pleasant to rest here doing nothing
serious for a little while, now that my geas is discharged. Presently of
course we must be travelling everywhither, and when we have seen the
ends of this world, and have judged them, I shall have time, and greater
knowledge too, to give to this image making--"
"It is not from any remote strange places, dear Manuel, but from his own
land that a man must get the earth for this image making--"
"Well, be that as it may, your kisses are to me far more delicious than
"I love to hear you say that, my dearest, but still--"
"No, not at all, for you are really much nicer when you are cuddling so,
than when you are running about the world pretending to be pigs and
snakes and fireworks, and murdering people with your extravagant
Saying this, he kissed her, and thus stilled her protests, for in these
amiable times Queen Freydis also was at bottom less interested in magic
than in kisses. Indeed, there was never any sorceress more loving and
tender than Freydis, now that she had become a human woman.
If ever she was irritable it was only when Manuel confessed, in reply to
jealous questionings, that he did not find her quite so beautiful nor so
clever as Niafer had been: but this, as Manuel pointed out, could not be
helped. For there had never been anybody like Niafer, and it would be
nonsense to say otherwise.
It is possible that Dom Manuel believed this. The rather homely, not
intelligent, and in no respect bedazzling servant girl may well have
been--in the inexplicable way these things fell out,--the woman whom
Manuel's heart had chosen, and who therefore in his eyes for the rest of
time must differ from all other persons. Certainly no unastigmatic judge
would have decreed this swarthy Niafer fit, as the phrase is, to hold a
candle either to Freydis or Alianora: whereas Manuel did not conceal,
even from these royal ladies themselves, his personal if unique
To the other side, some say that ladies who are used to hourly
admiration cannot endure the passing of a man who seems to admire not
quite wholeheartedly. He who does not admire at all is obviously a fool,
and not worth bothering about. But to him who admits, "You are well
enough," and makes as though to pass on, there is a mystery attached:
and the one way to solve it is to pursue this irritating fellow. Some
(reasoning thus) assert that squinting Manuel was aware of this axiom,
and that he respected it in all his dealings with Freydis and Alianora.
Either way, these theorists did not ever get any verbal buttressing from
Dom Manuel. Niafer dead and lost to him, he, without flaunting any
unexampled ardors, fell to loving Alianora: and now that Freydis had put
off immortality for his kisses, the tall boy had, again, somewhat the
air of consenting to accept this woman's sacrifice, and her loveliness
and all her power and wisdom, as being upon the whole the handiest
available substitute for Niafer's sparse charms.
Yet others declare, more simply, that Dom Manuel was so constituted as
to value more cheaply every desire after he had attained it. And these
say he noted that--again in the inexplicable way these things fall
out,--now Manuel possessed the unearthly Queen she had become, precisely
as Alianora had become, a not extraordinary person, who in all commerce
with her lover dealt as such.
"But do you really love me, O man of all men?" Freydis would say, "and,
this damned Niafer apart, do you love me a little more than you love any
"Why, are there any other women?" says Manuel, in fine surprise. "Oh, to
be sure, I suppose there are, but I had forgotten about them. I have not
heard or seen or thought of those petticoated creatures since my dear
The sorceress purred at this sort of talk, and she rested her head where
there seemed a place especially made for it. "I wish I could believe
your words, king of my heart. I have to strive so hard, nowadays, to
goad you into saying these idiotic suitable dear things: and even when
at last you do say them your voice is light and high, and makes them
sound as though you were joking."
He kissed the thick coil of hair which lay fragrant against his lips.
"Do you know, in spite of my joking, I do love you a great deal?"
"I would practise saying that over to myself," observed Freydis
critically. "You should let your voice break a little after the first
"I speak as I feel. I love you, Freydis, and I tell you so."
"Yes, but you are no longer a perpetual nuisance about it."
"Alas, my dear, you are no longer the unattainable Queen of the country
on the other side of the fire, and that makes a difference, certainly.
It is equally certain that I love you over and above all living women."
"Ah, but, my dearest, who loves you more than any human tongue can
"A peculiarly obstinate and lovely imbecile," says Manuel; and he did
that which seemed suitable.
Later Freydis sighed luxuriously. "That saves you the trouble of
talking, does it not? And you talked so madly and handsomely that first
night, when you wanted to get around me on account of the image, but now
you do not make me any pretty speeches at all."
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