The Ninth Vibration, et. al.
L. Adams Beck
Part 1 out of 4
THE NINTH VIBRATION AND OTHER STORIES
BY L. ADAMS BECK
THE NINTH VIBRATION
A ROMANCE OF THE EAST
THE INCOMPARABLE LADY
A STORY OF CHINA WITH A MORAL
THE HATRED OF THE QUEEN
A STORY OF BURMA
FIRE OF BEAUTY
THE BUILDING OF THE TAJ MAHAL
"HOW GREAT IS THE GLORY OF KWANNON!"
"THE ROUND-FACED BEAUTY"
THE NINTH VIBRATION
There is a place uplifted nine thousand feet in purest air where
one of the most ancient tracks in the world runs from India into
Tibet. It leaves Simla of the Imperial councils by a stately
road; it passes beyond, but now narrowing, climbing higher beside
the khuds or steep drops to the precipitous valleys beneath, and
the rumor of Simla grows distant and the way is quiet, for, owing
to the danger of driving horses above the khuds, such baggage as
you own must be carried by coolies, and you yourself must either
ride on horseback or in the little horseless carriage of the
Orient, here drawn and pushed by four men. And presently the
deodars darken the way with a solemn presence, for-
These are the Friars of the wood,
The Brethren of the Solitude
Hooded and grave-"
-their breath most austerely pure in the gradually chilling air.
Their companies increase and now the way is through a great wood
where it has become a trail and no more, and still it climbs for
many miles and finally a rambling bungalow, small and low, is
sighted in the deeps of the trees, a mountain stream from unknown
heights falling beside it. And this is known as the House in the
Woods. Very few people are permitted to go there, for the owner
has no care for money and makes no provision for guests. You must
take your own servant and the khansamah will cook you such simple
food as men expect in the wilds, and that is all. You stay as
long as you please and when you leave not even a gift to the
khansamah is permitted.
I had been staying in Ranipur of the plains while I considered
the question of getting to Upper Kashmir by the route from Simla
along the old way to Chinese Tibet where I would touch Shipki in
the Dalai Lama's territory and then pass on to Zanskar and so
down to Kashmir - a tremendous route through the Himalaya and a
crowning experience of the mightiest mountain scenery in the
world. I was at Ranipur for the purpose of consulting my old
friend Olesen, now an irrigation official in the Rampur district
- a man who had made this journey and nearly lost his life in
doing it. It is not now perhaps so dangerous as it was, and my
life was of no particular value to any one but myself, and the
plan interested me.
I pass over the long discussions of ways and means in the
blinding heat of Ranipur. Olesen put all his knowledge at my
service and never uttered a word of the envy that must have
filled him as he looked at the distant snows cool and luminous in
blue air, and, shrugging good-natured shoulders, spoke of the
work that lay before him on the burning plains until the terrible
summer should drag itself to a close. We had vanquished the
details and were smoking in comparative silence one night on the
veranda, when he said in his slow reflective way;
"You don't like the average hotel, Ormond, and you'll like it
still less up Simla way with all the Simla crowd of grass-widows
and fellows out for as good a time as they can cram into the hot
weather. I wonder if I could get you a permit for The House in
the Woods while you re waiting to fix up your men and route for
He explained and of course I jumped at the chance. It belonged,
he said, to a man named Rup Singh, a pandit, or learned man of
Ranipur. He had always spent the summer there, but age and
failing health made this impossible now, and under certain
conditions he would occasionally allow people known to friends of
his own to put up there.
"And Rup Singh and I are very good friends," Olesen said; "I won
his heart by discovering the lost Sukh Mandir, or Hall of
Pleasure, built many centuries ago by a Maharao of Ranipur for a
summer retreat in the great woods far beyond Simla. There are
lots of legends about it here in Ranipur. They call it The House
of Beauty. Rup Singh's ancestor had been a close friend of the
Maharao and was with him to the end, and that's why he himself
sets such store on the place. You have a good chance if I ask for
He told me the story and since it is the heart of my own I give
it briefly. Many centuries ago the Ranipur Kingdom was ruled by
the Maharao Rai Singh a prince of the great lunar house of the
Rajputs. Expecting a bride from some far away kingdom (the name
of this is unrecorded) he built the Hall of Pleasure as a summer
palace, a house of rare and costly beauty. A certain great
chamber he lined with carved figures of the Gods and their
stories, almost unsurpassed for truth and life. So, with the pine
trees whispering about it the secret they sigh to tell, he hoped
to create an earthly Paradise with this Queen in whom all
loveliness was perfected. And then some mysterious tragedy ended
all his hopes. It was rumoured that when the Princess came to his
court, she was, by some terrible mistake, received with insult
and offered the position only of one of his women. After that
nothing was known. Certain only is it that he fled to the hills,
to the home of his broken hope, and there ended his days in
solitude, save for the attendance of two faithful friends who
would not abandon him even in the ghostly quiet of the winter
when the pine boughs were heavy with snow and a spectral moon
stared at the panthers shuffling through the white wastes
beneath. Of these two Rup Singh's ancestor was one. And in his
thirty fifth year the Maharao died and his beauty and strength
passed into legend and his kingdom was taken by another and the
jungle crept silently over his Hall of Pleasure and the story
"There was not a memory of the place up there," Olesen went on.
"Certainly I never heard anything of it when I went up to the
Shipki in 1904. But I had been able to be useful to Rup Singh and
he gave me a permit for The House in the Woods, and I stopped
there for a few days' shooting. I remember that day so well. I
was wandering in the dense woods while my men got their midday
grub, and I missed the trail somehow and found myself in a part
where the trees were dark and thick and the silence heavy as
lead. It was as if the trees were on guard - they stood shoulder
to shoulder and stopped the way. Well, I halted, and had a notion
there was something beyond that made me doubt whether to go on. I
must have stood there five minutes hesitating. Then I pushed on,
bruising the thick ferns under my shooting boots and stooping
under the knotted boughs. Suddenly I tramped out of the jungle
into a clearing, and lo and behold a ruined House, with blocks of
marble lying all about it, and carved pillars and a great roof
all being slowly smothered by the jungle. The weirdest thing you
ever saw. I climbed some fallen columns to get a better look, and
as I did I saw a face flash by at the arch of a broken window. I
sang out in Hindustani, but no answer: only the echo from the
woods. Somehow that dampened my ardour, and I didn't go in to
what seemed like a great ruined hall for the place was so eerie
and lonely, and looked mighty snaky into the bargain. So I came
ingloriously away and told Rup Singh. And his whole face
changed. 'That is The House of Beauty,' he said. 'All my life
have I sought it and in vain. For, friend of my soul, a man must
lose himself that he may find himself and what lies beyond, and
the trodden path has ever been my doom. And you who have not
sought have seen. Most strange are the way of the Gods'. Later on
I knew this was why he had always gone up yearly, thinking and
dreaming God knows what. He and I tried for the place together,
but in vain and the whole thing is like a dream. Twice he has let
friends of mine stay at The House in the Woods, and I think he
won't refuse now."
"Did he ever tell you the story?"
"Never. I only know what I've picked up here. Some horrible
mistake about the Rani that drove the man almost mad with
remorse. I've heard bits here and there. There's nothing so vital
as tradition in India."
"I wonder'. what really happened."
"That we shall never know. I got a little old picture of the
Maharao - said to be painted by a Pahari artist. It's not likely
to be authentic, but you never can tell. A Brahman sold it to me
that he might complete his daughter's dowry, and hated doing it."
"May I see it?"
"Why certainly. Not a very good light, but - can do, as the
He brought it out rolled in silk stuff and I carried it under the
hanging lamp. A beautiful young man indeed, with the air of race
these people have beyond all others;- a cold haughty face,
immovably dignified. He sat with his hands resting lightly on the
arms of his chair of State. A crescent of rubies clasped the
folds of the turban and from this sprang an aigrette scattering
splendours. The magnificent hilt of a sword was ready beside him.
The face was not only beautiful but arresting.
"A strange picture," I said. "The artist has captured the man
himself. I can see him trampling on any one who opposed him, and
suffering in the same cold secret way. It ought to he authentic
if it isn't. Don't you know any more?"
"Nothing. Well - to bed, and tomorrow I'll see Rup Singh."
I was glad when he returned with the permission. I was to be very
careful, he said, to make no allusion to the lost palace, for two
women were staying at the House in the Woods - a mother and
daughter to whom Rup Singh had granted hospitality because of an
obligation he must honor. But with true Oriental distrust of
women he had thought fit to make no confidence to them. I
promised and asked Olesen if he knew them.
"Slightly. Canadians of Danish blood like my own. Their name is
Ingmar. Some people think the daughter good-looking. The mother
is supposed to be clever; keen on occult subjects which she came
back to India to study. The husband was a great naturalist and
the kindest of men. He almost lived in the jungle and the natives
had all sorts of rumours about his powers. You know what they
are. They said the birds and beasts followed him about. Any old
thing starts a legend."
"What was the connection with Rup Singh?"
"He was in difficulties and undeservedly, and Ingmar generously
lent him money at a critical time, trusting to his honour for
repayment. Like most Orientals he never forgets a good turn and
would do anything for any of the family - except trust the women
with any secret he valued. The father is long dead. By the way
Rup Singh gave me a queer message for you. He said; 'Tell the
Sahib these words - "Let him who finds water in the desert share
his cup with him who dies of thirst." He is certainly getting
very old. I don't suppose he knew himself what he meant."
I certainly did not. However my way was thus smoothed for me and
I took the upward road, leaving Olesen to the long ungrateful
toil of the man who devotes his life to India without sufficient
time or knowledge to make his way to the inner chambers of her
beauty. There is no harder mistress unless you hold the pass-key
to her mysteries, there is none of whom so little can be told in
words but who kindles so deep a passion. Necessity sometimes
takes me from that enchanted land, but when the latest dawns are
shining in my skies I shall make my feeble way back to her and
die at her worshipped feet. So I went up from Kalka.
I have never liked Simla. It is beautiful enough - eight
thousand feet up in the grip of the great hills looking toward
the snows, the famous summer home of the Indian Government. Much
diplomacy is whispered on Observatory Hill and many are the
lighter diversions of which Mr. Kipling and lesser men have
written. But Simla is also a gateway to many things - to the
mighty deodar forests that clothe the foot-hills of the
mountains, to Kulu, to the eternal snows, to the old, old bridle
way that leads up to the Shipki Pass and the mysteries of Tibet
- and to the strange things told in this story. So I passed
through with scarcely a glance at the busy gayety of the little
streets and the tiny shops where the pretty ladies buy their
rouge and powder. I was attended by my servant Ali Khan, a
Mohammedan from Nagpur, sent up with me by Olesen with strong
recommendation. He was a stout walker, so too am I, and an
inveterate dislike to the man-drawn carriage whenever my own legs
would serve me decided me to walk the sixteen miles to the House
in the Woods, sending on the baggage. Ali Khan despatched it and
prepared to follow me, the fine cool air of the hills giving us a
"Subhan Alla! (Praise be to God!) the air is sweet!" he said,
stepping out behind me. "What time does the Sahib look to reach
"About five or six. Now, Ali Khan, strike out of the road. You
know the way."
So we struck up into the glorious pine woods, mountains all about
us. Here and there as we climbed higher was a little bank of
forgotten snow, but spring had triumphed and everywhere was the
waving grace of maiden-hair ferns, banks of violets and strangely
beautiful little wild flowers. These woods are full of panthers,
but in day time the only precaution necessary is to take no dog,
- a dainty they cannot resist. The air was exquisite with the
sun-warm scent of pines, and here and there the trees broke away
disclosing mighty ranges of hills covered with rich blue shadows
like the bloom on a plum, - the clouds chasing the sunshine over
the mountain sides and the dark green velvet of the robe of
pines. I looked across ravines that did not seem gigantic and yet
the villages on the other side were like a handful of peas, so
tremendous was the scale. I stood now and then to see the
rhododendrons, forest trees here with great trunks and massive
boughs glowing with blood-red blossom, and time went by and I
took no count of it, so glorious was the climb.
It must have been hours later when it struck me that the sun was
getting low and that by now we should be nearing The House in the
Woods. I said as much to Ali Khan. He looked perplexed and
agreed. We had reached a comparatively level place, the trail
faint but apparent, and it surprised me that we heard no sound of
life from the dense wood where our goal must be.
"I know not, Presence," he said. "May his face be blackened that
directed me. I thought surely I could not miss the way, and
We cast back and could see no trail forking from the one we were
on. There was nothing for it but to trust to luck and push on.
But I began to be uneasy and so was the man. I had stupidly
forgotten to unpack my revolver, and worse, we had no food, and
the mountain air is an appetiser, and at night the woods have
their dangers, apart from being absolutely trackless. We had not
met a living being since we left the road and there seemed no
likelihood of asking for directions. I stopped no longer for
views but went steadily on, Ali Khan keeping up a running fire of
low-voiced invocations and lamentations. And now it was dusk and
the position decidely unpleasant.
It was at that moment I saw a woman before us walking lightly and
steadily under the pines. She must have struck into the trail
from the side for she never could have kept before us all the
way. A native woman, but wearing the all-concealing boorka, more
like a town dweller than a woman of the hills. I put on speed and
Ali Khan, now very tired, toiled on behind me as I came up with
her and courteously asked the way. Her face was entirely hidden,
but the answering voice was clear and sweet. I made up my mind
she was young, for it had the bird-like thrill of youth.
"If the Presence continues to follow this path he will arrive. It
is not far. They wait for him."
That was all. It left me with a desire to see the veiled face. We
passed on and Ali Khan looked fearfully back.
"Ajaib! (Wonderful!) A strange place to meet one of the
purdah-nashin (veiled women)" he muttered. "What would she be
doing up here in the heights? She walked like a Khanam (khan's
wife) and I saw the gleam of gold under the boorka."
I turned with some curiosity as he spoke, and lo! there was no
human being in sight. She had disappeared from the track behind
us and it was impossible to say where. The darkening trees were
beginning to hold the dusk and it seemed unimaginable that a
woman should leave the way and take to the dangers of the woods.
"Puna-i-Khoda - God protect us!" said Ali Khan in a shuddering
whisper. "She was a devil of the wilds. Press on, Sahib. We
should not be here in the dark."
There was nothing else to do. We made the best speed we could,
and the trees grew more dense and the trail fainter between the
close trunks, and so the night came bewildering with the
expectation that we must pass the night unfed and unarmed in the
cold of the heights. They might send out a search party from The
House in the Woods - that was still a hope, if there were no
other. And then, very gradually and wonderfully the moon dawned
over the tree tops and flooded the wood with mysterious silver
lights and about her rolled the majesty of the stars. We pressed
on into the heart of the night. From the dense black depths we
emerged at last. An open glade lay before us - the trees falling
back to right and left to disclose - what?
A long low house of marble, unlit, silent, bathed in pale
splendour and shadow. About it stood great deodars, clothed in
clouds of the white blossoming clematis, ghostly and still.
Acacias hung motionless trails of heavily scented bloom as if
carved in ivory. It was all silent as death. A flight of nobly
sculptured steps led up to a broad veranda and a wide open door
with darkness behind it. Nothing more.
I forced myself to shout in Hindustani - the cry seeming a brutal
outrage upon the night, and an echo came back numbed in the black
woods. I tried once more and in vain. We stood absorbed also into
"Ya Alla! it is a house of the dead!" whispered Ali Khan,
shuddering at my shoulder, - and even as the words left his lips
I understood where we were. "It is the Sukh Mandir." I said. "It
is the House of the Maharao of Ranipur."
It was impossible to be in Ranipur and hear nothing of the dead
house of the forest and Ali Khan had heard - God only knows what
tales. In his terror all discipline, all the inborn respect of
the native forsook him, and without word or sign he turned and
fled along the track, crashing through the forest blind and mad
with fear. It would have been insanity to follow him, and in
India the first rule of life is that the Sahib shows no fear, so
I left him to his fate whatever it might be, believing at the
same time that a little reflection and dread of the lonely forest
would bring him to heel quickly.
I stood there and the stillness flowed like water about me. It
was as though I floated upon it - bathed in quiet. My thoughts
adjusted themselves. Possibly it was not the Sukh Mandir. Olesen
had spoken of ruin. I could see none. At least it was shelter
from the chill which is always present at these heights when the
sun sets, - and it was beautiful as a house not made with hands.
There was a sense of awe but no fear as I went slowly up the
great steps and into the gloom beyond and so gained the hall.
The moon went with me and from a carven arch filled with marble
tracery rained radiance that revealed and hid. Pillars stood
about me, wonderful with horses ramping forward as in the Siva
Temple at Vellore. They appeared to spring from the pillars into
the gloom urged by invisible riders, the effect barbarously rich
and strange - motion arrested, struck dumb in a violent gesture,
and behind them impenetrable darkness. I could not see the end of
this hall - for the moon did not reach it, but looking up I
beheld the walls fretted in great panels into the utmost
splendour of sculpture, encircling the stories of the Gods amid a
twining and under-weaving of leaves and flowers. It was more like
a temple than a dwelling. Siva, as Nataraja the Cosmic Dancer,
the Rhythm of the Universe, danced before me, flinging out his
arms in the passion of creation. Kama, the Indian Eros, bore his
bow strung with honey-sweet black bees that typify the heart's
desire. Krishna the Beloved smiled above the herd-maidens
adoring at his feet. Ganesha the Elephant-Headed, sat in massive
calm, wreathing his wise trunk about him. And many more. But all
these so far as I could see tended to one centre panel larger
than any, representing two life-size figures of a dim beauty. At
first I could scarcely distinguish one from the other in the
upward-reflected light, and then, even as I stood, the moving
moon revealed the two as if floating in vapor. At once I
recognized the subject - I had seen it already in the ruined
temple of Ranipur, though the details differed. Parvati, the
Divine Daughter of the Himalaya, the Emanation of the mighty
mountains, seated upon a throne, listening to a girl who played
on a Pan pipe before her. The goddess sat, her chin leaned upon
her hand, her shoulders slightly inclined in a pose of gentle
sweetness, looking down upon the girl at her feet, absorbed in
the music of the hills and lonely places. A band of jewels,
richly wrought, clasped the veil on her brows, and below the bare
bosom a glorious girdle clothed her with loops and strings and
tassels of jewels that fell to her knees - her only garment.
The girl was a lovely image of young womanhood, the proud swell
of the breast tapering to the slim waist and long limbs easily
folded as she half reclined at the divine feet, her lips pressed
to the pipe. Its silent music mysteriously banished fear. The
sleep must be sweet indeed that would come under the guardianship
of these two fair creatures - their gracious influence was dewy
in the air. I resolved that I would spend the night beside them.
Now with the march of the moon dim vistas of the walls beyond
sprang into being. Strange mythologies - the incarnations of
Vishnu the Preserver, the Pastoral of Krishna the Beautiful. I
promised myself that next day I would sketch some of the
loveliness about me. But the moon was passing on her way - I
folded the coat I carried into a pillow and lay down at the feet
of the goddess and her nymph. Then a moonlit quiet I slept in a
dream of peace.
Sleep annihilates time. Was it long or short when I woke like a
man floating up to the surface from tranquil deeps? That I cannot
tell, but once more I possessed myself and every sense was on
My hearing first. Bare feet were coming, falling softly as
leaves, but unmistakable. There was a dim whispering but I could
hear no word. I rose on my elbow and looked down the long hall.
Nothing. The moonlight lay in pools of light and seas of shadow
on the floor, and the feet drew nearer. Was I afraid? I cannot
tell, but a deep expectation possessed me as the sound grew like
the rustle of grasses parted in a fluttering breeze, and now a
girl came swiftly up the steps, irradiate in the moonlight, and
passing up the hall stood beside me. I could see her robe, her
feet bare from the jungle, but her face wavered and changed and
re- united like the face of a dream woman. I could not fix it for
one moment, yet knew this was the messenger for whom I had waited
all my life - for whom one strange experience, not to be told at
present, had prepared me in early manhood. Words came, and I
"Is this a dream?"
"No. We meet in the Ninth Vibration. All here is true."
"Is a dream never true?"
"Sometimes it is the echo of the Ninth Vibration and therefore a
harmonic of truth. You are awake now. It is the day-time that is
the sleep of the soul. You are in the Lower Perception, wherein
the truth behind the veil of what men call Reality is perceived."
"Can I ascend?"
"I cannot tell. That is for you, not me.
"What do I perceive tonight?"
"The Present as it is in the Eternal. Say no more. Come with me."
She stretched her hand and took mine with the assurance of a
goddess, and we went up the hall where the night had been deepest
between the great pillars.
Now it is very clear to me that in every land men, when the doors
of perception are opened, will see what we call the Supernatural
clothed in the image in which that country has accepted it.
Blake, the mighty mystic, will see the Angels of the Revelation,
driving their terrible way above Lambeth - it is not common nor
unclean. The fisherman, plying his coracle on the Thames will
behold the consecration of the great new Abbey of Westminster
celebrated with mass and chant and awful lights in the dead
mid-noon of night by that Apostle who is the Rock of the Church.
Before him who wanders in Thessaly Pan will brush the dewy lawns
and slim-girt Artemis pursue the flying hart. In the pale gold of
Egyptian sands the heavy brows of Osiris crowned with the pshent
will brood above the seer and the veil of Isis tremble to the
lifting. For all this is the rhythm to which the souls of men are
attuned and in that vibration they will see, and no other, since
in this the very mountains and trees of the land are rooted. So
here, where our remote ancestors worshipped the Gods of Nature,
we must needs stand before the Mystic Mother of India, the divine
daughter of the Himalaya.
How shall I describe the world we entered? The carvings upon the
walls had taken life - they had descended. It was a gathering of
the dreams men have dreamed here of the Gods, yet most real and
actual. They watched in a serenity that set them apart in an
atmosphere of their own - forms of indistinct majesty and august
beauty, absolute, simple, and everlasting. I saw them as one sees
reflections in rippled water - no more. But all faces turned to
the place where now a green and flowering leafage enshrined and
partly hid the living Nature Goddess, as she listened to a voice
that was not dumb to me. I saw her face only in glimpses of an
indescribable sweetness, but an influence came from her presence
like the scent of rainy pine forests, the coolness that breathes
from great rivers, the passion of Spring when she breaks on the
world with a wave of flowers. Healing and life flowed from it.
Understanding also. It seemed I could interpret the very silence
of the trees outside into the expression of their inner life, the
running of the green life-blood in their veins, the delicate
trembling of their finger-tips.
My companion and I were not heeded. We stood hand in hand like
children who have innocently strayed into a palace, gazing in
wonderment. The august life went its way upon its own occasions,
and, if we would, we might watch. Then the voice, clear and cold,
proceeding, as it were, with some story begun before we had
strayed into the Presence, the whole assembly listening in
"- and as it has been so it will be, for the Law will have the
blind soul carried into a body which is a record of the sins it
has committed, and will not suffer that soul to escape from
rebirth into bodies until it has seen the truth -"
And even as this was said and I listened, knowing myself on the
verge of some great knowledge, I felt sleep beginning to weigh
upon my eyelids. The sound blurred, flowed unsyllabled as a
stream, the girl's hand grew light in mine; she was fading,
becoming unreal; I saw her eyes like faint stars in a mist. They
were gone. Arms seemed to receive me - to lay me to sleep and I
sank below consciousness, and the night took me.
When I awoke the radiant arrows of the morning were shooting
into the long hall where I lay, but as I rose and looked about
me, strange - most strange, ruin encircled me everywhere. The
blue sky was the roof. What I had thought a palace lost in the
jungle, fit to receive its King should he enter, was now a broken
hall of State; the shattered pillars were festooned with waving
weeds, the many coloured lantana grew between the fallen blocks
of marble. Even the sculptures on the walls were difficult to
decipher. Faintly I could trace a hand, a foot, the orb of a
woman's bosom, the gracious outline of some young God, standing
above a crouching worshipper. No more. Yes, and now I saw above
me as the dawn touched it the form of the Dweller in the Windhya
Hills, Parvati the Beautiful, leaning softly over something
breathing music at her feet. Yet I knew I could trace the almost
obliterated sculpture only because I had already seen it defined
in perfect beauty. A deep crack ran across the marble; it was
weathered and stained by many rains, and little ferns grew in the
crevices, but I could reconstruct every line from my own
knowledge. And how? The Parvati of Ranipur differed in many
important details. She stood, bending forward, wheras this sweet
Lady sat. Her attendants were small satyr-like spirits of the
wilds, piping and fluting, in place of the reclining maiden. The
sweeping scrolls of a great halo encircled her whole person. Then
how could I tell what this neary obliterated carving had been? I
groped for the answer and could not find it. I doubted-
"Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten of the insane root
That takes the reason captive?"
Memory rushed over me like the sea over dry sands. A girl - there
had been a girl - we had stood with clasped hands to hear a
strange music, but in spite of the spiritual intimacy of those
moments I could not recall her face. I saw it cloudy against a
background of night and dream, the eyes remote as stars, and so
it eluded me. Only her presence and her words sur- vived; "We
meet in the Ninth Vibration. All here is true." But the Ninth
Vibration itself was dream-land. I had never heard the phrase - I
could not tell what was meant, nor whether my apprehension was
true or false. I knew only that the night had taken her and the
dawn denied her, and that, dream or no dream, I stood there with
a pang of loss that even now leaves me wordless.
A bird sang outside in the acacias, clear and shrill for day, and
this awakened my senses and lowered me to the plane where I
became aware of cold and hunger, and was chilled with dew. I
passed down the tumbled steps that had been a stately ascent the
night before and made my way into the jungle by the trail, small
and lost in fern, by which we had come. Again I wandered, and it
was high noon before I heard mule bells at a distance, and, thus
guided, struck down through the green tangle to find myself,
wearied but safe, upon the bridle way that leads to Fagu and the
far Shipki. Two coolies then directed me to The House in the
All was anxiety there. Ali Khan had arrived in the night, having
found his way under the guidance of blind flight and fear. He had
brought the news that I was lost in the jungle and amid the
dwellings of demons. It was, of course, hopeless to search in the
dark, though the khansamah and his man had gone as far as they
dared with lanterns and shouting, and with the daylight they
tried again and were even now away. It was useless to reproach
the man even if I had cared to do so. His ready plea was that as
far as men were concerned he was as brave as any (which was true
enough as I had reason to know later) but that when it came to
devilry the Twelve Imaums themselves would think twice before
"Inshalla ta-Alla! (If the sublime God wills!) this unworthy one
will one day show the Protector of the poor, that he is a
respectable person and no coward, but it is only the Sahibs who
laugh in the face of devils."
He went off to prepare me some food, consumed with curiosity as
to my adventures, and when I had eaten I found my tiny
whitewashed cell, for the room was little more, and slept for
Late in the afternoon I waked and looked out. A, low but glowing
sunlight suffused the wild garden reclaimed from the
strangle-hold of the jungle and hemmed in with rocks and forest.
A few simple flowers had been planted here and there, but its
chief beauty was a mountain stream, brown and clear as the eyes
of a dog, that fell from a crag above into a rocky basin,
maidenhair ferns growing in such masses about it that it was
henceforward scarcely more than a woodland voice. Beside it two
great deodars spread their canopies, and there a woman sat in a
low chair, a girl beside her reading aloud. She had thrown her
hat off and the sunshine turned her massed dark hair to bronze.
That was all I could see. I went out and joined them, taking the
note of introduction which Olesen had given me.
I pass over the unessentials of my story; their friendly
greetings and sympathy for my adventure. It set us at ease at
once and I knew my stay would be the happier for their presence
though it is not every woman one would choose as a companion in
the great mountain country. But what is germane to my purpose
must be told, and of this a part is the per- sonality of Brynhild
Ingmar. That she was beautiful I never doubted, though I have
heard it disputed and smiled inwardly as the disputants urged lip
and cheek and shades of rose and lily, weighing and appraising.
Let me describe her as I saw her or, rather, as I can, adding
that even without all this she must still have been beautiful
because of the deep significance to those who had eyes to see or
feel some mysterious element which mingled itself with her
presence comparable only to the delight which the power and
spiritual essence of Nature inspires in all but the dullest
minds. I know I cannot hope to convey this in words. It means
little if I say I thought of all quiet lovely solitary things
when I looked into her calm eyes, - that when she moved it was
like clear springs renewed by flowing, that she seemed the
perfect flowering of a day in June, for these are phrases. Does
Nature know her wonders when she shines in her strength? Does a
woman know the infinite meanings her beauty may have for the
beholder? I cannot tell. Nor can I tell if I saw this girl as she
may have seemed to those who read only the letter of the book and
are blind to its spirit, or in the deepest sense as she really
was in the sight of That which created her and of which she was a
part. Surely it is a proof of the divinity of love that in and
for a moment it lifts the veil of so-called reality and shows
each to the other mysteriously perfect and inspiring as the world
will never see them, but as they exist in the Eternal, and in the
sight of those who have learnt that the material is but the
dream, and the vision of love the truth.
I will say then, for the alphabet of what I knew but cannot tell,
that she had the low broad brows of a Greek Nature Goddess, the
hair swept back wing-like from the temples and massed with a
noble luxuriance. It lay like rippled bronze, suggesting
something strong and serene in its essence. Her eyes were clear
and gray as water, the mouth sweetly curved above a resolute
chin. It was a face which recalled a modelling in marble rather
than the charming pastel and aquarelle of a young woman's
colouring, and somehow I thought of it less as the beauty of a
woman than as some sexless emanation of natural things, and this
impression was strengthened by her height and the long limbs,
slender and strong as those of some youth trained in the
pentathlon, subject to the severest discipline until all that was
superfluous was fined away and the perfect form expressing the
true being emerged. The body was thus more beautiful than the
face, and I may note in passing that this is often the case,
because the face is more directly the index of the restless and
unhappy soul within and can attain true beauty only when the soul
is in harmony with its source.
She was a little like her pale and wearied mother. She might
resemble her still more when the sorrow of this world that
worketh death should have had its will of her. I had yet to learn
that this would never be - that she had found the open door of
We three spent much time together in the days that followed. I
never tired of their company and I think they did not tire of
mine, for my wanderings through the world and my studies in the
ancient Indian literatures and faiths with the Pandit Devaswami
were of interest to them both though in entirely different ways.
Mrs. Ingmar was a woman who centred all her interests in books
and chiefly in the scientific forms of occult research. She was
no believer in anything outside the range of what she called
human experience. The evidences had convinced her of nothing but
a force as yet unclassified in the scientific categories and all
her interest lay in the undeveloped powers of brain which might
be discovered in the course of ignorant and credulous experiment.
We met therefore on the common ground of rejection of the
so-called occultism of the day, though I knew even then, and how
infinitely better now, that her constructions were wholly
Nearly all day she would lie in her chair under the deodars by
the delicate splash and ripple of the stream. Living imprisoned
in the crystal sphere of the intellect she saw the world outside,
painted in few but distinct colours, small, comprehensible,
moving on a logical orbit. I never knew her posed for an
explanation. She had the contented atheism of a certain type of
French mind and found as much ease in it as another kind of sweet
woman does in her rosary and confessional.
"I cannot interest Brynhild," she said, when I knew her better.
"She has no affinity with science. She is simply a nature
worshipper, and in such places as this she seems to draw life
from the inanimate life about her. I have sometimes wondered
whether she might not be developed into a kind of bridge between
the articulate and the inarticulate, so well does she understand
trees and flowers. Her father was like that - he had all sorts of
strange power with animals and plants, and thought he had more
than he had. He could never realize that the energy of nature is
"You think all energy is mechanical?"
"Certainly. We shall lay our finger on the mainspring one day and
the mystery will disappear. But as for Brynhild - I gave her the
best education possible and yet she has never understood the
conception of a universe moving on mathematical laws to which we
must submit in body and mind. She has the oddest ideas. I would
not willingly say of a child of mine that she is a mystic, and
She shook her head compassionately. But I scarcely heard. My eyes
were fixed on Brynhild, who stood apart, looking steadily out
over the snows. It was a glorious sunset, the west vibrating
with gorgeous colour spilt over in torrents that flooded the sky,
Terrible splendours - hues for which we have no thought - no
name. I had not thought of it as music until I saw her face but
she listened as well as saw, and her expression changed as it
changes when the pomp of a great orchestra breaks upon the
silence. It flashed to the chords of blood-red and gold that was
burning fire. It softened through the fugue of woven crimson
gold and flame, to the melancholy minor of ashes-of-roses and
paling green, and so through all the dying glories that faded
slowly to a tranquil grey and left the world to the silver
melody of one sole star that dawned above the ineffable heights
of the snows. Then she listened as a child does to a bird,
entranced, with a smile like a butterfly on her parted lips. I
never saw such a power of quiet.
She and I were walking next day among the forest ways, the
pine-scented sunshine dappling the dropped frondage. We had been
speaking of her mother. "It is such a misfortune for her," she
said thoughtfully, "that I am not clever. She should have had a
daughter who could have shared her thoughts. She analyses
everything, reasons about everything, and that is quite out of my
She moved beside me with her wonderful light step - the poise and
balance of a nymph in the Parthenon frieze.
"How do you see things?"
"See? That is the right word. I see things - I never reason about
them. They are. For her they move like figures in a sum. For me
every one of them is a window through which one may look to what
"To what they really are - not what they seem."
I looked at her with interest.
"Did you ever hear of the double vision?"
For this is a subject on which the spiritually learned men of
India, like the great mystics of all the faiths, have much to
say. I had listened with bewilderment and doubt to the
expositions of my Pandit on this very head. Her simple words
seemed for a moment the echo of his deep and searching thought.
Yet it surely could not be. Impossible.
"Never. What does it mean?" She raised clear unveiled eyes. "You
must forgive me for being so stupid, but it is my mother who is
at home with all these scientific phrases. I know none of them."
"It means that for some people the material universe - the things
we see with our eyes - is only a mirage, or say, a symbol, which
either hides or shadows forth the eternal truth. And in that
sense they see things as they really are, not as they seem to the
rest of us. And whether this is the statement of a truth or the
wildest of dreams, I cannot tell."
She did not answer for a moment; then said;
"Are there people who believe this - know it?"
"Certainly. There are people who believe that thought is the only
real thing - that the whole universe is thought made visible.
That we create with our thoughts the very body by which we shall
re-act on the universe in lives to be.
"Do you believe it?"
"I don't know. Do you?"
She paused; looked at me, and then went on:
"You see, I don't think things out. I only feel. But this cannot
I felt she was eluding the question. She began to interest me
more than any one I had ever known. She had extraordinary power
of a sort. Once, in the woods, where I was reading in so deep a
shade that she never saw me, I had an amazing vision of her. She
stood in a glade with the sunlight and shade about her; she had
no hat and a sunbeam turned her hair to pale bronze. A small
bright April shower was falling through the sun, and she stood in
pure light that reflected itself in every leaf and grass-blade.
But it was nothing of all this that arrested me, beautiful as it
was. She stood as though life were for the moment suspended;-
then, very softly, she made a low musical sound, infinitely
wooing, from scarcely parted lips, and instantly I saw a bird of
azure plumage flutter down and settle on her shoulder, pluming
himself there in happy security. Again she called softly and
another followed the first. Two flew to her feet, two more to her
breast and hand. They caressed her, clung to her, drew some
joyous influence from her presence. She stood in the glittering
rain like Spring with her birds about her - a wonderful sight.
Then, raising one hand gently with the fingers thrown back she
uttered a different note, perfectly sweet and intimate, and the
branches parted and a young deer with full bright eyes fixed on
her advanced and pushed a soft muzzle into her hand.
In my astonishment I moved, however slightly, and the picture
broke up. The deer sprang back into the trees, the birds
fluttered up in a hurry of feathers, and she turned calm eyes
upon me, as unstartled as if she had known all the time that I
"You should not have breathed," she said smiling. "They must have
I rose up and joined her.
"It is a marvel. I can scarcely believe my eyes. How do you do
"My father taught me. They come. How can I tell?"
She turned away and left me. I thought long over this episode. I
recalled words heard in the place of my studies - words I had
dismissed without any care at the moment. "To those who see,
nothing is alien. They move in the same vibration with all that
has life, be it in bird or flower. And in the Uttermost also, for
all things are One. For such there is no death."
That was beyond me still, but I watched her with profound
interest. She recalled also words I had half forgotten-
"There was nought above me and nought below,
My childhood had not learnt to know;
For what are the voices of birds,
Aye, and of beasts, but words, our words, -
Only so much more sweet."
That might have been written of her. And more.
She had found one day in the woods a flower of a sort I had once
seen in the warm damp forests below Darjiling - ivory white and
shaped like a dove in flight. She wore it that evening on her
bosom. A week later she wore what I took to be another.
"You have had luck," I said; "I never heard of such a thing being
seen so high up, and you have found it twice."
"No, it is the same."
"The same? Impossible. You found it more than a week ago." "I
know. It is ten days. Flowers don't die when one understands them
- not as most people think."
Her mother looked up and said fretfully:
"Since she was a child Brynhild has had that odd idea. That
flower is dead and withered. Throw it away, child. It looks
Was it glamour? What was it? I saw the flower dewy fresh in her
bosom She smiled and turned away.
It was that very evening she left the veranda where we were
sitting in the subdued light of a little lamp and passed beyond
where the ray cut the darkness. She went down the perspective of
trees to the edge of he clearing and I rose to follow for it
seemed absolutely unsafe that she should be on the verge of the
panther-haunted woods alone. Mrs. Ingmar turned a page of her
"She will not like it if you go. I cannot imagine that she should
come to harm. She always goes her own way - light or dark."
I returned to my seat and watched steadfastly. At first I could
see nothing but as my sight adjusted itself I saw her a long way
down the clearing that opened the snows, and quite certainly also
I saw something like a huge dog detach itself from the woods and
bound to her feet. It mingled with her dark dress and I lost it.
Mrs. Ingmar said, seeing my anxiety but nothing else; "Her father
was just the same; - he had no fear of anything that lives. No
doubt some people have that power. I have never seen her attract
birds and beasts as he certainly did, but she is quite as fond of
I could not understand her blindness - what I myself had seen
raised questions I found unanswerable, and her mother saw
nothing! Which of us was right? presently she came back slowly
and I ventured no word.
A woodland sorcery, innocent as the dawn, hovered about her. What
was it? Did the mere love of these creatures make a bond between
her soul and theirs, or was the ancient dream true and could she
at times move in the same vibration? I thought of her as a
wood-spirit sometimes, an expression herself of some passion of
beauty in Nature, a thought of snows and starry nights and
flowing rivers made visible in flesh. It is surely when seized
with the urge of some primeval yearning which in man is merely
sexual that Nature conceives her fair forms and manifests them,
for there is a correspondence that runs through all creation.
Here I ask myself - Did I love her? In a sense, yes, deeply, but
not in the common reading of the phrase. I have trembled with
delight before the wild and terrible splendour of the Himalayan
heights-; low golden moons have steeped my soul longing, but I
did not think of these things as mine in any narrow sense, nor so
desire them. They were Angels of the Evangel of beauty. So too
was she. She had none of the "silken nets and traps of adamant,"
she was no sister of the "girls of mild silver or of furious
gold"; - but fair, strong, and her own, a dweller in the House of
Quiet. I did not covet her. I loved her.
Days passed. There came a night when the winds were loosed - no
moon, the stars flickering like blown tapers through driven
clouds, the trees swaying and lamenting.
"There will be rain tomorrow." Mrs. Ingmar said, as we parted for
the night. I closed my door. Some great cat of the woods was
crying harshly outside my window, the sound receding towards the
bridle way. I slept in a dream of tossing seas and ships
labouring among them.
With the sense of a summons I waked - I cannot tell when.
Unmistakable, as if I were called by name. I rose and dressed,
and heard distinctly bare feet passing my door. I opened it
noiselessly and looked out into the little passage way that made
for the entry, and saw nothing but pools of darkness and a dim
light from the square of the window at the end. But the wind had
swept the sky clear with its flying bosom and was sleeping now in
its high places and the air was filled with a mild moony radiance
and a great stillness.
Now let me speak with restraint and exactness. I was not afraid
but felt as I imagine a dog feels in the presence of his master,
conscious of a purpose, a will entirely above his own and
incomprehensible, yet to be obeyed without question. I followed
my reading of the command, bewildered but docile, and
understanding nothing but that I was called.
The lights were out. The house dead silent; the familiar veranda
ghostly in the night. And now I saw a white figure at the head of
the steps - Brynhild. She turned and looked over her shoulder,
her face pale in the moon, and made the same gesture with which
she summoned her birds. I knew her meaning, for now we were
moving in the same rhythm, and followed as she took the lead. How
shall I describe that strange night in the jungle. There were
fire-flies or dancing points of light that recalled them. Perhaps
she was only thinking them - only thinking the moon and the
quiet, for we were in the world where thought is the one reality.
But they went with us in a cloud and faintly lighted our way.
There were exquisite wafts of perfume from hidden flowers
breathing their dreams to the night. Here and there a drowsy bird
stirred and chirped from the roof of darkness, a low note of
content that greeted her passing. It was a path intricate and
winding and how long we went, and where, I cannot tell. But at
last she stooped and parting the boughs before her we stepped
into an open space, and before us - I knew it - I knew it! - The
House of Beauty.
She paused at the foot of the great marble steps and looked at
"We have met here already."
I did not wonder - I could not. In the Ninth vibration surprise
had ceased to be. Why had I not recognized her before - O dull of
heart! That was my only thought. We walk blindfold through the
profound darkness of material nature, the blinder because we
believe we see it. It is only when the doors of the material are
closed that the world appears to man as it exists in the eternal
"Did you know this?" I asked, trembling before mystery.
"I knew it, because I am awake. You forgot it in the dull sleep
which we call daily life. But we were here and THEY began the
story of the King who made this house. Tonight we shall hear it.
It he story of Beauty wandering through the world and the world
received her not. We hear it in this place because here he
agonized for what he knew too late."
"Was that our only meeting?"
"We meet every night, but you forget when the day brings the
sleep of the soul. - You do not sink deep enough into rest to
remember. You float on the surface where the little bubbles of
foolish dream are about you and I cannot reach you then."
"How can I compel myself to the deeps?"
"You cannot. It will come. But when you have passed up the bridle
way and beyond the Shipki, stop at Gyumur. There is the Monastery
of Tashigong, and there one will meet you-
"Stephen Clifden. He will tell you what you desire to know.
Continue on then with him to Yarkhand. There in the Ninth
Vibration we shall meet again. It is a long journey but you will
"Do you certainly know that we shall meet again?"
"When you have learnt, we can meet when we will. He will teach
you the Laya Yoga. You should not linger here in the woods any
longer. You should go on. In three days it will be possible."
"But how have you learnt - a girl and young?"
"Through a close union with Nature - that is one of the three
roads. But I know little as yet. Now take my hand and come.
"One last question. Is this house ruined and abject as I have
seen it in the daylight, or royal and the house of Gods as we see
it now? Which is truth?"
"In the day you saw it in the empty illusion of blind thought.
Tonight, eternally lovely as in the thought of the man who made
it. Nothing that is beautiful is lost, though in the sight of the
unwise it seems to die. Death is in the eyes we look through -
when they are cleansed we see Life only. Now take my hand and
come. Delay no more."
She caught my hand and we entered the dim magnificence of the
great hall. The moon entered with us.
Instantly I had the feeling of supernatural presence. Yet I only
write this in deference to common use, for it was absolutely
natural - more so than any I have met in the state called daily
life. It was a thing in which I had a part, and if this was
supernatural so also was I.
Again I saw the Dark One, the Beloved, the young Krishna, above
the women who loved him. He motioned with his hand as we passed,
as though he waved us smiling on our way. Again the dancers moved
in a rhythmic tread to the feet of the mountain Goddess - again
we followed to where she bent to hear. But now, solemn listening
faces crowded in the shadows about her, grave eyes fixed
immovably upon what lay at her feet - a man, submerged in the
pure light that fell from her presence, his dark face stark and
fine, lips locked, eyes shut, arms flung out cross-wise in utter
abandonment, like a figure of grief invisibly crucified upon his
shame. I stopped a few feet from him, arrested by a barrier I
could not pass. Was it sleep or death or some mysterious state
that partook of both? Not sleep, for there was no flutter of
breath. Not death - no rigid immobility struck chill into the
air. It was the state of subjection where the spirit set free
lies tranced in the mighty influences which surround us
invisibly until we have entered, though but for a moment, the
And now, with these Listeners about us, a clear voice began and
stirred the air with music. I have since been asked in what
tongue it spoke and could only answer that it reached my ears in
the words of my childhood, and that I know whatever that language
had been it would so have reached me.
"Great Lady, hear the story of this man's fall, for it is the
story of man. Be pitiful to the blind eyes and give them light."
There was long since in Ranipur a mighty King and at his birth
the wise men declared that unless he cast aside all passions that
debase the soul, relinquishing the lower desires for the higher
until a Princess laden with great gifts should come to be his
bride, he would experience great and terrible misfortunes. And
his royal parents did what they could to possess him with this
belief, but they died before he reached manhood. Behold him then,
a young King in his palace, surrounded with splendour. How should
he withstand the passionate crying of the flesh or believe that
through pleasure comes satiety and the loss of that in the spirit
whereby alone pleasure can be enjoyed? For his gift was that he
could win all hearts. They swarmed round him like hiving bees and
hovered about him like butterflies. Sometimes he brushed them
off. Often he caressed them, and when this happened, each thought
proudly "I am the Royal Favourite. There is none other than me."
Also the Princess delayed who would be the crest-jewel of the
crown, bringing with her all good and the blessing of the High
Gods, and in consequence of all these things the King took such
pleasures as he could, and they were many, not knowing they
darken the inner eye whereby what is royal is known through
(Most pitiful to see, beneath the close-shut lids of the man at
the feet of the Dweller in the Heights, tears forced themselves,
as though a corpse dead to all else lived only to anguish. They
flowed like blood-drops upon his face as he lay enduring, and the
voice proceeded.) What was the charm of the King? Was it his
stately height and strength? Or his faithless gayety? Or his
voice, deep and soft as the sitar when it sings of love? His
women said - some one thing, some another, but none of these
ladies were of royal blood, and therefore they knew not.
Now one day, the all-privileged jester of the King, said,
"Maharaj, you divert yourself. But how if, while we feast and
play, the Far Away Princess glided past and was gone, unknown and
And the King replied:
"Fool, content yourself. I shall know my Princess, but she delays
so long that I weary.
Now in a far away country was a Princess, daughter of the
Greatest, and her Father hesitated to give her in marriage to
such a King for all reported that he was faithless of heart, but
having seen his portrait she loved him and fled in disguise from
the palaces of her Father, and being captured she was brought
before the King in Ranipur.
He sat upon a cloth of gold and about him was the game he had
killed in hunting, in great masses of ruffled fur and plumage,
and he turned the beauty of his face carelessly upon her, and as
the Princess looked upon him, her heart yearned to him, and he
said in his voice that was like the male string of the sitar:
"Little slave, what is your desire?"
Then she saw that the long journey had scarred her feet and
dimmed her hair with dust, and that the King's eyes, worn with
days and nights of pleasure did not pierce her disguise. Now in
her land it is a custom that the blood royal must not proclaim
itself, so she folded her hands and said gently:
"A place in the household of the King." And he, hearing that the
Waiting slave of his chief favorite Jayashri was dead, gave her
that place. So the Princess attended on those ladies, courteous
and obedient to all authority as beseemed her royalty, and she
braided her bright hair so that it hid the little crowns which
the Princesses of her House must wear always in token of their
rank, and every day her patience strengthened.
Sometimes the King, carelessly desiring her laughing face and sad
eyes, would send for her to wile away an hour, and he would say;
"Dance, little slave, and tell me stories of the far countries.
You quite unlike my Women, doubtless because you are a slave."
And she thought - "No, but because I am a Princess," - but this
she did not say. She laughed and told him the most marvellous
stories in the world until he laid his head upon her warm bosom,
There were stories of the great Himalayan solitudes where in the
winter nights the white tiger stares at the witches' dance of the
Northern Lights dazzled by the hurtling of their myriad spears.
And she told how the King-eagle, hanging motionless over the
peaks of Gaurisankar, watches with golden eyes for his prey, and
falling like a plummet strikes its life out with his clawed heel
and, screaming with triumph, bears it to his fierce mate in her
cranny of the rocks.
"A gallant story!" the King would say. "More!" Then she told of
the tropical heats and the stealthy deadly creatures of forest
and jungle, and the blue lotus of Buddha swaying on the still
lagoon,- And she spoke of loves of men and women, their passion
and pain and joy. And when she told of their fidelity and valour
and honour that death cannot quench, her voice was like the song
of a minstrel, for she had read all the stories of the ages and
the heart of a Princess told her the rest. And the King listened
unwearying though he believed this was but a slave.
(The face of the man at the feet of the Dweller in the Heights
twitched in a white agony. Pearls of sweat were distilled upon
his brows, but he moved neither hand nor foot, enduring as in a
flame of fire. And the voice continued.)
So one day, in the misty green of the Spring, while she rested at
his feet in the garden Pavilion, he said to her:
"Little slave, why do you love me?"
And she answered proudly:
"Because you have the heart of a King."
He replied slowly;
"Of the women who have loved me none gave this reason, though
they gave many."
She laid her cheek on his hand.
"That is the true reason."
But he drew it away and was vaguely troubled, for her words, he
knew not why, reminded him of the Far Away Princess and of things
he had long forgotten, and he said; "What does a slave know of
the hearts of Kings?" And that night he slept or waked alone.
Winter was at hand with its blue and cloudless days, and she was
commanded to meet the King where the lake lay still and shining
like an ecstasy of bliss, and she waited with her chin dropped
into the cup of her hands, looking over the water with eyes that
did not see, for her whole soul said; "How long 0 my Sovereign
Lord, how long before you know the truth and we enter together
into our Kingdom?"
As she sat she heard the King's step, and the colour stole up
into her face in a flush like the earliest sunrise. "He is
coming," she said; and again; "He loves me."
So he came beside the water, walking slowly. But the King was not
alone. His arm embraced the latest-come beauty from Samarkhand,
and, with his head bent, he whispered in her willing ear.
Then clasping her hands, the Princess drew a long sobbing breath,
and he turned and his eyes grew hard as blue steel.
"Go, slave," he cried. "What place have you in Kings' gardens?
Go. Let me see you no more."
(The man lying at the feet of the Dweller in the Heights, raised
a heavy arm and flung it above his head, despairing, and it fell
again on the cross of his torment. And the voice went on.)
And as he said this, her heart broke; and she went and her feet
were weary. So she took the wise book she loved and unrolled it
until she came to a certain passage, and this she read twice;
"If the heart of a slave be broken it may be mended with jewels
and soft words, but the heart of a Princess can be healed only by
the King who broke it, or in Yamapura, the City under the Sunset
where they make all things new. Now, Yama, the Lord of this City,
is the Lord of Death." And having thus read the Princess rolled
the book and put it from her.
And next day, the King said to his women; "Send for her," for his
heart smote him and he desired to atone royally for the shame of
his speech. And they sought and came back saying;
"Maharaj, she is gone. We cannot find her."
Fear grew in the heart of the King - a nameless dread, and he
said, "Search." And again they sought and returned and the King
was striding up and down the great hall and none dared cross his
path. But, trembling, they told him, and he replied; "Search
again. I will not lose her, and, slave though be, she shall be my
So they ran, dispersing to the Four Quarters, and King strode up
and down the hall, and Loneliness kept step with him and clasped
his hand and looked his eyes.
Then the youngest of the women entered with a tale to tell.
Majesty, we have found her. She lies beside the lake. When the
birds fled this morning she fled with them, but upon a longer
journey. Even to Yamapura, the City under the Sunset."
And the King said; "Let none follow." And he strode forth
swiftly, white with thoughts he dared not think.
The Princess lay among the gold of the fallen leaves. All was
gold, for her bright hair was out-spread in shining waves and in
it shone the glory of the hidden crown. On her face was no smile
- only at last was revealed the patience she had covered with
laughter so long that even the voice of the King could not now
break it into joy. The hands that had clung, the swift feet that
had run beside his, the tender body, mighty to serve and to love,
lay within touch but farther away than the uttermost star was the
Far Away Princess, known and loved too late.
And he said; "My Princess - 0 my Princess!" and laid his head on
her cold bosom.
"Too late!" a harsh Voice croaked beside him, and it was the
voice of the Jester who mocks at all things. "Too late! 0
madness, to despise the blood royal because it humbled itself to
service and so was doubly royal. The Far Away Princess came laden
with great gifts, and to her the King's gift was the wage of a
slave and a broken heart. Cast your crown and sceptre in the
dust, 0 King - 0 King of Fools."
(The man at the feet of the Dweller in the Heights moved. Some
dim word shaped upon his locked lips. She listened in a divine
calm. It seemed that the very Gods drew nearer. Again the man
essayed speech, the body dead, life only in the words that none
could hear. The voice went on.)
But the Princess flying wearily because of the sore wound in her
heart, came at last to the City under the Sunset, where the Lord
of Death rules in the House of Quiet, and was there received with
royal honours for in that land are no disguises. And she knelt
before the Secret One and in a voice broken with agony entreated
him to heal her. And with veiled and pitying eyes he looked upon
her, for many and grievous as are the wounds he has healed this
was more grievous still. And he said;
"Princess, I cannot, But this I can do - I can give a new heart
in a new birth - happy and careless as the heart of a child. Take
this escape from the anguish you endure and be at peace."
But the Princess, white with pain, asked only;
"In this new heart and birth, is there room for the King?"
And the Lord of Peace replied;
"None. He too will be forgotten."
Then she rose to her feet.
"I will endure and when he comes I will serve him once more. If
he will he shall heal me, and if not I will endure for ever."
And He who is veiled replied;
"In this sacred City no pain may disturb the air, therefore you
must wait outside in the chill and the dark. Think better,
Princess! Also, he must pass through many rebirths, because he
beheld the face of Beauty unveiled and knew her not. And when he
comes he will be weary and weak as a new-born child, and no more
a great King." And the Princess smiled;
"Then he will need me the more," she said; "I will wait and kiss
the feet of my King."
And the Lord of Death was silent. So she went outside into the
darkness of the spaces, and the souls free passed her like homing
doves, and she sat with her hands clasped over the sore wound in
her heart, watching the earthward way. And the Princess is
keeping still the day of her long patience."
The voice ceased. And there was a great silence, and the
listening faces drew nearer.
Then the Dweller in the Heights spoke in a voice soft as the
falling of snow in the quiet of frost and moon. I could have wept
myself blind with joy to hear that music. More I dare not say.
"He is in the Lower State of Perception. He sorrows for his loss.
Let him have one instant's light that still he may hope."
She bowed above the man, gazing upon him as a mother might upon
her sleeping child. The dead eyelids stirred, lifted, a faint
gleam showed beneath them, an unspeakable weariness. I thought
they would fall unsatisfied. Suddenly he saw What looked upon
him, and a terror of joy no tongue can tell flashed over the dark
mirror of his face. He stretched a faint hand to touch her feet,
a sobbing sigh died upon his lips, and once more the swooning
sleep took him. He lay as a dead man before the Assembly.
"The night is far spent," a voice said, from I know not where.
And I knew it was said not only for the sleeper but for all, for
though the flying feet of Beauty seem for a moment to outspeed us
she will one day wait our coming and gather us to her bosom.
As before, the vision spread outward like rings in a broken
reflection in water. I saw the girl beside me, but her hand grew
light in mine. I felt it no longer. I heard the roaring wind in
the trees, or was it a great voice thundering in my ears? Sleep
took me. I waked in my little room.
Strange and sad - I saw her next day and did not remember her
whom of all things I desired to know. I remembered the vision and
knew that whether in dream or waking I had heard an eternal
truth. I longed with a great longing to meet my beautiful
companion, and she stood at my side and I was blind.
Now that I have climbed a little higher on the Mount of Vision it
seems even to myself that this could not be. Yet it was, and it
is true of not this only but of how much else!
She knew me. I learnt that later, but she made no sign. Her
simplicities had carried her far beyond and above me, to places
where only the winged things attain- "as a bird among the
bird-droves of God."
I have since known that this power of direct simplicity in her
was why among the great mountains we beheld the Divine as the
emanation of the terrible beauty about us. We cannot see it as it
is - only in some shadowing forth, gathering sufficient strength
for manifestation from the spiritual atoms that haunt the region
where that form has been for ages the accepted vehicle of
adoration. But I was now to set forth to find another knowledge -
to seek the Beauty that blinds us to all other. Next day the man
who was directing my preparations for travel sent me word from
Simla that all was ready and I could start two days later. I told
my friends the time of parting was near.
"But it was no surprise to me," I added, "for I had heard already
that in a very few days I should be on my way.
Mrs. Ingmar was more than kind. She laid a frail hand on mine.
"We shall miss you indeed. If it is possible to send us word of
your adventures in those wild solitudes I hope you will do it. Of
course aviation will soon lay bare their secrets and leave them
no mysteries, so you don't go too soon. One may worship science
and yet feel it injures the beauty of the world. But what is
beauty compared with knowledge?"
"Do you never regret it?" I asked.
"Never, dear Mr. Ormond. I am a worshipper of hard facts and
however hideous they may be I prefer them to the prismatic
colours of romance."
Brynhild, smiling, quoted;
"Their science roamed from star to star
And than itself found nothing greater.
What wonder? In a Leyden jar
They bottled the Creator?"
"There is nothing greater than science," said Mrs. Ingmar with
soft reverence. "The mind of man is the foot-rule of the
She meditated for a moment and then added that my kind interests
in their plans decided her to tell me that she would be returning
to Europe and then to Canada in a few months with a favourite
niece as her companion while Brynhild would remain in India with
friends in Mooltan for a time. I looked eagerly at her but she
was lost in her own thoughts and it was evidently not the time to
If I had hoped for a vision before I left the neighbourhood of
that strange House of Beauty where a spirit imprisoned appeared
to await the day of enlightenment I was disappointed. These
things do not happen as one expects or would choose. The wind
bloweth where it listeth until the laws which govern the inner
life are understood, and then we would not choose if we could for
we know that all is better than well. In this world, either in
the blinded sight of daily life or in the clarity of the true
sight I have not since seen it, but that has mattered little, for
having heard an authentic word within its walls I have passed on
my way elsewhere.
Next day a letter from Olesen reached me.
"Dear Ormond, I hope you have had a good time at the House in the
Woods. I saw Rup Singh a few days ago and he wrote the odd
message I enclose. You know what these natives are, even the most
sensible of them, and you will humour the old fellow for he ages
very fast and I think is breaking up. But this was not what I
wanted to say. I had a letter from a man I had not seen for years
- a fellow called Stephen Clifden, who lives in Kashmir. As a
matter of fact I had forgotten his existence but evidently he has
not repaid the compliment for he writes as follows - No, I had
better send you the note and you can do as you please. I am
rushed off my legs with work and the heat is hell with the lid
But the rest was of no interest except to a friend of years'
standing. I read Rup Singh's message first. It was written in his
"To the Honoured One who has attained to the favour of the
"You have with open eyes seen what this humble one has dreamed
but has not known. If the thing be possible, write me this word
that I may depart in peace. 'With that one who in a former birth
you loved all is well. Fear nothing for him. The way is long but
at the end the lamps of love are lit and the Unstruck music is
sounded. He lies at the feet of Mercy and there awaits his hour.'
And if it be not possible to write these words, write nothing, 0
Honoured, for though it be in the hells my soul shall find my
King, and again I shall serve him as once I served."
I understood, and wrote those words as he had written them.
Strange mystery of life - that I who had not known should see,
and that this man whose fidelity had not deserted his broken King
in his utter downfall should have sought with passion for one
sight of the beloved face across the waters of death and sought
in vain. I thought of those Buddhist words of Seneca - "The soul
may be and is in the mass of men drugged and silenced by the
seductions of sense and the deceptions of the world. But if, in
some moment of detachment and elation, when its captors and
jailors relax their guard, it can escape their clutches, it will
seek at once the region of its birth and its true home."
Well - the shell must break before the bird can fly, and the time
drew near for the faithful servant to seek his lord. My message
reached him in time and gladdened him.
I turned then to Clifden's letter.
"Dear Olesen, you will have forgotten me, and feeling sure of
this I should scarcely have intruded a letter into your busy life
were it not that I remember your good-nature as a thing
unforgettable though so many years have gone by. I hear of you
sometimes when Sleigh comes up the Sind valley, for I often camp
at Sonamarg and above the Zoji La and farther. I want you to give
a message to a man you know who should be expecting to hear from
me. Tell him I shall be at the Tashigong Monastery when he
reaches Gyumur beyond the Shipki. Tell him I have the
information he wants and I will willingly go on with him to
Yarkhand and his destination. He need not arrange for men beyond
Gyumur. All is fixed. So sorry to bother you, old man, but I
don't know Ormond's address, except that he was with you and has
gone up Simla way. And of course he will be keen to hear the
thing is settled."
Amazing. I remembered the message I had heard and this man's
words rang true and kindly, but what could it mean? I really did
not question farther than this for now I could not doubt that I
was guided. Stronger hands than mine had me in charge, and it
only remained for me to set forth in confidence and joy to an end
that as yet I could not discern. I turned my face gladly to the
wonder of the mountains.
Gladly - but with a reservation. I was leaving a friend and one
whom I dimly felt might one day be more than a friend - Brynhild
Ingmar. That problem must be met before I could take my way. I
thought much of what might be said at parting. True, she had the
deepest attraction for me, but true also that I now beheld a
quest stretching out into the unknown which I must accept in the
spirit of the knight errant. Dare I then bind my heart to any
allegiance which would pledge me to a future inconsistent with
what lay before me? How could I tell what she might think of the
things which to me were now real and external - the revelation of
the only reality that underlies all the seeming. Life can never
be the same for the man who has penetrated to this, and though it
may seem a hard saying there can be but a maimed understanding
between him and those who still walk amid the phantoms of death
Her sympathy with nature was deep and wonderful but might it not
be that though the earth was eloquent to her the skies were
silent? I was but a beginner myself - I knew little indeed. Dare
I risk that little in a sweet companionship which would sink me
into the contentment of the life lived by the happily deluded
between the cradle and the grave and perhaps close to me for ever
that still sphere where my highest hope abides? I had much to
ponder, for how could I lose her out of my life - though I knew
not at all whether she who had so much to make her happiness
would give me a single thought when I was gone.
If all this seem the very uttermost of selfish vanity, forgive a
man who grasped in his hand a treasure so new, so wonderful that
he walked in fear and doubt lest it should slip away and leave
him in a world darkened for ever by the torment of the knowledge
that it might have been his and he had bartered it for the mess
of pottage that has bought so many birthrights since Jacob
bargained with his weary brother in the tents of Lahai-roi. I
thought I would come back later with my prize gained and throwing
it at her feet ask her wisdom in return, for whatever I might not
know I knew well she was wiser than I except in that one shining
of the light from Eleusis. I walked alone in the woods thinking
of these things and no answer satisfied me.
I did not see her alone until the day I left, for I was compelled
by the arrangements I was making to go down to Simla for a night.
And now the last morning had come with golden sun - shot mists
rolling upward to disclose the far white billows of the sea of
eternity, the mountains awaking to their enormous joys. The trees
were dripping glory to the steaming earth; it flowed like rivers
into their most secret recesses, moss and flower, fern and leaf
floated upon the waves of light revealing their inmost soul in
triumphant gladness. Far off across the valleys a cuckoo was
calling - the very voice of spring, and in the green world above
my head a bird sang, a feathered joy, so clear, so passionate
that I thought the great summer morning listened in silence to
his rapture ringing through the woods. I waited until the
Jubilate was ended and then went in to bid good-bye to my
Mrs. Ingmar bid me the kindest farewell and I left her serene in
the negation of all beauty, all hope save that of a world run on
the lines of a model municipality, disease a memory, sewerage,
light and air systems perfected, the charted brain sending its
costless messages to the outer parts of the habitable globe, and
at least a hundred years of life with a decent cremation at the
end of it assured to every eugenically born citizen. No more. But
I have long ceased to regret that others use their own eyes
whether clear or dim. Better the merest glimmer of light
perceived thus than the hearsay of the revelations of others. And
by the broken fragments of a bewildered hope a man shall
eventually reach the goal and rejoice in that dawn where the
morning stars sing together and the sons of God shout for joy. It
must come, for it is already here.
Brynhild walked with me through the long glades in the fresh thin
air to the bridle road where my men and ponies waited, eager to
be off. We stood at last in the fringe of trees on a small height
which commanded the way; - a high uplifted path cut along the
shoulders of the hills and on the left the sheer drop of the
valleys. Perhaps seven or eight feet in width and dignified by
the name of the Great Hindustan and Tibet Road it ran winding far
away into Wonderland. Looking down into the valleys, so far
beneath that the solitudes seem to wall them in I thought of all
the strange caravans which have taken this way with tinkle of
bells and laughter now so long silenced, and as I looked I saw a
lost little monastery in a giant crevice, solitary as a planet on
the outermost ring of the system, and remembrance flashed into my
mind and I said;
"I have marching orders that have countermanded my own plans. I
am to journey to the Buddhist Monastery of Tashigong, and there
meet a friend who will tell me what is necessary that I may
travel to Yarkhand and beyond. It will be long before I see
In those crystal clear eyes I saw a something new to me - a faint
smile, half pitying, half sad;
"Who told you, and where?"
"A girl in a strange place. A woman who has twice guided me -"
I broke off. Her smile perplexed me. I could not tell what to
say. She repeated in a soft undertone;
"Great Lady, be pitiful to the blind eyes and give them light."
And instantly I knew. 0 blind - blind! Was the unhappy King of
the story duller of heart than I? And shame possessed me. Here
was the chrysoberyl that all day hides its secret in deeps of
lucid green but when the night comes flames with its fiery
ecstasy of crimson to the moon, and I - I had been complacently
considering whether I might not blunt my own spiritual instinct
by companionship with her, while she had been my guide, as
infinitely beyond me in insight as she was in all things
beautiful. I could have kissed her feet in my deep repentance.
True it is that the gateway of the high places is reverence and
he who cannot bow his head shall receive no crown. I saw that my
long travel in search of knowledge would have been utterly vain
if I had not learnt that lesson there and then. In those moments
of silence I learnt it once and for ever.
She stood by me breathing the liquid morning air, her face turned
upon the eternal snows. I caught her hand in a recognition that
might have ended years of parting, and its warm youth vibrated in
mine, the foretaste of all understanding, all unions, of love
that asks nothing, that fears nothing, that has no petition to
make. She raised her eyes to mine and her tears were a rainbow of
hope. So we stood in silence that was more than any words, and
the golden moments went by. I knew her now for what she was, one
of whom it might have been written;
"I come from where night falls clearer
Than your morning sun can rise;
From an earth that to heaven draws nearer
Than your visions of Paradise,-
For the dreams that your dreamers dream
We behold them with open eyes."
With open eyes! Later I asked the nature of the strange bond that
had called her to my side.
"I do not understand that fully myself," she said - "That is part
of the knowledge we must wait for. But you have the eyes that
see, and that is a tie nothing can break. I had waited long in
the House of Beauty for you. I guided you there. But between you
and me there is also love."
I stretched an eager hand but she repelled it gently, drawing
back a little. "Not love of each other though we are friends and
in the future may be infinitely more. But - have you ever seen a
drawing of Blake's - a young man stretching his arms to a white
swan which flies from him on wings he cannot stay? That is the
story of both our lives. We long to be joined in this life, here
and now, to an unspeakable beauty and power whose true believers
we are because we have seen and known. There is no love so
binding as the same purpose. Perhaps that is the only true love.
And so we shall never be apart though we may never in this world
be together again in what is called companionship."
"We shall meet," I said confidently. She smiled and was silent.
"Do we follow a will-o'-the wisp in parting? Do we give up the
substance for the shadow? Shall I stay?"
She laughed joyously;
"We give a single rose for a rose-tree that bears seven times
seven. Daily I see more, and you are going where you will be
instructed. As you know my mother prefers for a time to have my
cousin with her to help her with the book she means to write. So
I shall have time to myself. What do you think I shall do?"
"Blow away on a great wind. Ride on the crests of tossing waves.
Catch a star to light the fireflies!"
She laughed like a bird's song.
"Wrong - wrong! I shall be a student. All I know as yet has come
to me by intuition, but there is Law as well as Love and I will
learn. I have drifted like a happy cloud before the wind. Now I
will learn to be the wind that blows the clouds."
I looked at her in astonishment. If a flower had desired the same
thing it could scarcely have seemed more incredible, for I had
thought her whole life and nature instinctive not intellective.
She smiled as one who has a beloved secret to keep.
"When you have gained what in this country they call The
Knowledge of Regeneration, come back and ask me what I have
She would say no more of that and turned to another matter,
speaking with earnestness;
"Before you came here I had a message for you, and Stephen
Clifden will tell you the same thing when you meet. Believe it
for it is true. Remember always that the psychical is not the
mystical and that what we seek is not marvel but vision. These
two things are very far apart, so let the first with all its
dangers pass you by, for our way lies to the heights, and for us
there is only one danger - that of turning back and losing what
the whole world cannot give in exchange. I have never seen
Stephen Clifden but I know much of him. He is a safe guide - a
man who has had much and strange sorrow which has brought him joy
that cannot be told. He will take you to those who know the
things that you desire. I wish I might have gone too."
Something in the sweetness of her voice, its high passion, the
strong beauty of her presence woke a poignant longing in my
heart. I said;
"I cannot leave you. You are the only guide I can follow. Let us
search together - you always on before."
"Your way lies there," she pointed to the high mountains. "And
mine to the plains, and if we chose our own we should wander. But
we shall meet again in the way and time that will be best and
with knowledge so enlarged that what we have seen already will be
like an empty dream compared to daylight truth. If you knew what
waits for you you would not delay one moment."
She stood radiant beneath the deodars, a figure of Hope, pointing
steadily to the heights. I knew her words were true though as yet
I could not tell how. I knew that whereas we had seen the
Wonderful in beautiful though local forms there is a plane where
the Formless may be apprehended in clear dream and solemn
vision-the meeting of spirit with Spirit. What that revelation
would mean I could not guess - how should I? - but I knew the
illusion we call death and decay would wither before it. There is
a music above and beyond the Ninth Vibration though I must love
those words for ever for what their hidden meaning gave me.
I took her hand and held it. Strange - beyond all strangeness
that that story of an ancient sorrow should have made us what we
were to each other - should have opened to me the gates of that
Country where she wandered content. For the first time I had
realized in its fulness the loveliness of this crystal nature,
clear as flowing water to receive and transmit the light - itself
a prophecy and fulfilment of some higher race which will one day
inhabit our world when it has learnt the true values. She drew a
flower from her breast and gave it to me. It lies before me white
and living as I write these words.
I sprang down the road and mounted, giving the word to march. The
men shouted and strode on - our faces to the Shipki Pass and what
We had parted.
Once, twice, I looked back, and standing in full sunlight, she
waved her hand.
We turned the angle of the rocks.
What I found - what she found is a story strange and beautiful
which I may tell one day to those who care to hear. That for me
there were pauses, hesitancies, dreads, on the way I am not
concerned to deny, for so it must always be with the roots of the
old beliefs of fear and ignorance buried in the soil of our
hearts and ready to throw out their poisonous fibres. But there
was never doubt. For myself I have long forgotten the meaning of
that word in anything that is of real value.
Do not let it be thought that the treasure is reserved for the
few or those of special gifts. And it is as free to the West as
to the East though I own it lies nearer to the surface in the
Orient where the spiritual genius of the people makes it possible
and the greater and more faithful teachers are found. It is not
without meaning that all the faiths of the world have dawned in
those sunrise skies. Yet it is within reach of all and asks only
recognition, for the universe has been the mine of its jewels-
"Median gold it holds, and silver from Atropatene, Ruby and
emerald from Hindustan, and Bactrian agate, Bright with beryl
and pearl, sardonyx and sapphire."-
-and more that cannot be uttered - the Lights and Perfections.
So for all seekers I pray this prayer - beautiful in its sonorous
Latin, but noble in all the tongues;
"Supplico tibi, Pater et Dux - I pray Thee, Guide of our vision,
that we may remember the nobleness with which Thou hast endowed
us, and that Thou wouldest be always on our right and on our left
in the motion of our wills, that we may be purged from the
contagion of the body and the affections of the brute and
overcome and rule them. And I pray also that Thou wouldest drive
away the blinding darkness from the eyes of our souls that we may
know well what is to be held for divine and what for mortal."
"The nobleness with which Thou hast endowed us-" this, and not
the cry of the miserable sinner whose very repentance is no
virtue but the consequence of failure and weakness is the strong
music to which we must march.
And the way is open to the mountains.
THE INTERPRETER A ROMANCE OF THE EAST
There are strange things in this story, but, so far as I
understand them, I tell the truth. If you measure the East with a
Western foot-rule you will say, "Impossible." I should have said
Of myself I will say as little as I can, for this story is of
Vanna Loring. I am an incident only, though I did not know that
My name is Stephen Clifden, and I was eight-and-thirty; plenty of
money, sound in wind and limb. I had been by way of being a
writer before the war, the hobby of a rich man; but if I picked
up anything in the welter in France, it was that real work is the
only salvation this mad world has to offer; so I meant to begin
at the beginning, and learn my trade like a journeyman labourer.
I had come to the right place. A very wonderful city is Peshawar
- rather let us say, two cities - the compounds, the
fortifications where Europeans dwell in such peace as their
strong right arms can secure them; and the native city and bazaar
humming and buzzing like a hive of angry bees with the rumours
that come up from Lower India or down the Khyber Pass with the
camel caravans loaded with merchandise from Afghanistan,
Bokhara, and farther. And it is because of this that Peshawar is
the Key of India, and a city of Romance that stands at every
corner, and cries aloud in the market - place. For at Peshawar
every able-bodied man sleeps with his revolver under his pillow,
and the old Fort is always ready in case it should be necessary
at brief and sharp notice to hurry the women and children into
it, and possibly, to die in their defense. So enlivening is the
neighbourhood of the frontier tribes that haunt the famous Khyber
Pass and the menacing hills where danger is always lurking.
But there was society here, and I was swept into it - there was
chatter, and it galled me.
I was beginning to feel that I had missed my mark, and must go
farther afield, perhaps up into Central Asia, when I met Vanna
Loring. If I say that her hair was soft and dark; that she had
the deepest hazel eyes I have ever seen, and a sensitive, tender
mouth; that she moved with a flowing grace like "a wave of the
sea - it sounds like the portrait of a beauty, and she was never
that. Also, incidentally, it gives none of her charm. I never
heard any one get any further than that she was "oddly
attractive" - let us leave it at that. She was certainly
attractive to me.
She was the governess of little Winifred Meryon, whose father
held the august position of General Commanding the Frontier
Forces, and her mother the more commanding position of the
reigning beauty of Northern India, generally speaking. No one
disputed that. She was as pretty as a picture, and her charming
photograph had graced as many illustrated papers as there were
illustrated papers to grace.
But Vanna - I gleaned her story by bits when I came across her
with the child in the gardens. I was beginning to piece it
Her love of the strange and beautiful she had inherited from a
young Italian mother, daughter of a political refugee; her
childhood had been spent in a remote little village in the West
of England; half reluctantly she told me how she had brought
herself up after her mother's death and her father's second
marriage. Little was said of that, but I gathered that it had
been a grief to her, a factor in her flight to the East.
We were walking in the Circular Road then with Winifred in front
leading her Pekingese by its blue ribbon, and we had it almost to
ourselves except for a few natives passing slow and dignified on
their own occasions, for fashionable Peshawar was finishing its
last rubber of bridge, before separating to dress for dinner, and
had no time to spare for trivialities and sunsets.
"So when I came to three-and-twenty," she said slowly, "I felt I
must break away from our narrow life. I had a call to India
stronger than anything on earth. You would not understand but
that was so, and I had spent every spare moment in teaching
myself India - its history, legends, religions, everything! And I
was not wanted at home, and I had grown afraid."
I could divine years of patience and repression under this plain
tale, but also a power that would be dynamic when the authentic
voice called. That was her charm - gentleness in strength - a
"What were you afraid of?"
"Of growing old and missing what was waiting for me out here. But
I could not get away like other people. No money, you see. So I
thought I would come out here and teach. Dare I? Would they let
me? I knew I was fighting life and chances and risks if I did it;
but it was death if I stayed there. And then- Do you really care
"Of course. Tell me how you broke your chain."
"I spare you the family quarrels. I can never go back. But I was
spurred - spurred to take some wild leap; and I took it. Six
years ago I came out. First I went to a doctor and his wife at
Cawnpore. They had a wonderful knowledge of the Indian peoples,
and there I learned Hindustani and much else. Then he died. But
an aunt had left me two hundred pounds, and I could wait a little
and choose; and so I came here."
It interested me. The courage that pale elastic type of woman
"Have you ever regretted it? Would they take you back if you
"Never, to both questions," she said, smiling. "Life is glorious.
I've drunk of a cup I never thought to taste; and if I died
tomorrow I should know I had done right. I rejoice in every
moment I live - even when Winifred and I are wrestling with
"I shouldn't have thought life was very easy with Lady Meryon."
"Oh, she is kind enough in an indifferent sort of way. I am not
the persecuted Jane Eyre sort of governess at all. But that is
all on the surface and does not matter. It is India I care for
-the people, the sun, the infinite beauty. It was coming home.
You would laugh if I told you I knew Peshawar long before I came
here. Knew it - walked here, lived. Before there were English in
India at all." She broke off. "You won't understand."
"Oh, I have had that feeling, too," I said patronizingly. "If one
has read very much about a place-"
"That was not quite what I meant. Never mind. The people, the
place - that is the real thing to me. All this is the dream." The
sweep of her hand took in not only Winifred and myself, but the
general's stately residence, which to blaspheme in Peshawar is
"By George, I would give thousands to feel that! I can't get out
of Europe here. I want to write, Miss Loring," I found myself
saying. "I'd done a bit, and then the war came and blew my life
to pieces. Now I want to get inside the skin of the East, and I
can't do it. I see it from outside, with a pane of glass between.
No life in it. If you feel as you say, for God's sake be my
I really meant what I said. I knew she was a harp that any breeze
would sweep into music. I divined that temperament in her and
proposed to use it for my own ends. She had and I had not, the
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