But though my hopes revived not from their ashes; yet, so much of Mardi had we searched, it seemed as if the long pursuit must, ere many moons, be ended; whether for weal or woe, my frenzy sometimes reeked not.
After its first fair morning flushings, all that day was overcast. We sailed upon an angry sea, beneath an angry sky. Deep scowled on deep; and in dun vapors, the blinded sun went down, unseen; though full toward the West our three prows were pointed; steadfast as three printed points upon the compass-card.
"When we set sail from Odo, 'twas a glorious morn in spring," said Yoomy; "toward the rising sun we steered. But now, beneath autumnal night-clouds, we hasten to its setting."
"How now?" cried Media; "why is the minstrel mournful?—He whose place it is to chase away despondency: not be its minister."
"Ah, my lord, so thou thinkest. But better can my verses soothe the sad, than make them light of heart. Nor are we minstrels so gay of soul as Mardi deems us. The brook that sings the sweetest, murmurs through the loneliest woods:
The isles hold thee not, thou departed! From thy bower, now issues no lay:— In vain we recall perished warblings: Spring birds, to far climes, wing their way!"
As Yoomy thus sang; unmindful of the lay, with paddle plying, in low, pleasant tones, thus hummed to himself our bowsman, a gamesome wight:—
Ho! merrily ho! we paddlers sail! Ho! over sea-dingle, and dale!— Our pulses fly, Our hearts beat high, Ho! merrily, merrily, ho!
But a sudden splash, and a shrill, gurgling sound, like that of a fountain subsiding, now broke upon the air. Then all was still, save the rush of the waves by our keels.
"Save him! Put back!"
From his elevated seat, the merry bowsman, too gleefully reaching forward, had fallen into the lagoon.
With all haste, our speeding canoes were reversed; but not till we had darted in upon another darkness than that in which the bowsman fell.
As, blindly, we groped back, deep Night dived deeper down in the sea.
"Drop paddles all, and list."
Holding their breath, over the six gunwales all now leaned; but the only moans were the wind's.
Long time we lay thus; then slowly crossed and recrossed our track, almost hopeless; but yet loth to leave him who, with a song in his mouth, died and was buried in a breath.
"Let us away," said Media—"why seek more? He is gone."
"Ay, gone," said Babbalanja, "and whither? But a moment since, he was among us: now, the fixed stars are not more remote than he. So far off, can he live? Oh, Oro! this death thou ordainest, unmans the manliest. Say not nay, my lord. Let us not speak behind Death's back. Hard and horrible is it to die: blindfold to leap from life's verge! But thus, in clouds of dust, and with a trampling as of hoofs, the generations disappear; death driving them all into his treacherous fold, as wild Indians the bison herds. Nay, nay, Death is Life's last despair. Hard and horrible is it to die. Oro himself, in Alma, died not without a groan. Yet why, why live? Life is wearisome to all: the same dull round. Day and night, summer and winter, round about us revolving for aye. One moment lived, is a life. No new stars appear in the sky; no new lights in the soul. Yet, of changes there are many. For though, with rapt sight, in childhood, we behold many strange things beneath the moon, and all Mardi looks a tented fair— how soon every thing fades. All of us, in our very bodies, outlive our own selves. I think of green youth as of a merry playmate departed; and to shake hands, and be pleasant with my old age, seems in prospect even harder, than to draw a cold stranger to my bosom. But old age is not for me. I am not of the stuff that grows old. This Mardi is not our home. Up and down we wander, like exiles transported to a planet afar:—'tis not the world we were born in; not the world once so lightsome and gay; not the world where we once merrily danced, dined, and supped; and wooed, and wedded our long-buried wives. Then let us depart. But whither? We push ourselves forward then, start back in affright. Essay it again, and flee. Hard to live; hard to die; intolerable suspense! But the grim despot at last interposes; and with a viper in our winding-sheets, we are dropped in the sea."
"To me," said Mohi, his gray locks damp with night-dews, "death's dark defile at times seems at hand, with no voice to cheer. That all have died, makes it not easier for me to depart. And that many have been quenched in infancy seems a mercy to the slow perishing of my old age, limb by limb and sense by sense. I have long been the tomb of my youth. And more has died out of me, already, than remains for the last death to finish. Babbalanja says truth. In childhood, death stirred me not; in middle age, it pursued me like a prowling bandit on the road; now, grown an old man, it boldly leads the way; and ushers me on; and turns round upon me its skeleton gaze: poisoning the last solaces of life. Maramma but adds to my gloom."
"Death! death!" cried Yoomy, "must I be not, and millions be? Must I go, and the flowers still bloom? Oh, I have marked what it is to be dead;—how shouting boys, of holidays, hide-and-seek among the tombs, which must hide all seekers at last."
"Clouds on clouds!" cried Media, "but away with them all! Why not leap your graves, while ye may? Time to die, when death comes, without dying by inches. 'Tis no death, to die; the only death is the fear of it. I, a demi-god, fear death not."
"But when the jackals howl round you?" said Babbalanja.
"Drive them off! Die the demi-god's death! On his last couch of crossed spears, my brave old sire cried, 'Wine, wine; strike up, conch and cymbal; let the king die to martial melodies!'"
"More valiant dying, than dead," said Babbalanja. "Our end of the winding procession resounds with music and flaunts with banners with brave devices: 'Cheer up!' 'Fear not!' 'Millions have died before!'— but in the endless van, not a pennon streams; all there, is silent and solemn. The last wisdom is dumb."
Silence ensued; during which, each dip of the paddles in the now calm water, fell full and long upon the ear.
Anon, lifting his head, Babbalanja thus:—"Yillah still eludes us. And in all this tour of Mardi, how little have we found to fill the heart with peace: how much to slaughter all our yearnings."
"Croak no more, raven!" cried Media. "Mardi is full of spring-time sights, and jubilee sounds. I never was sad in my life."
"But for thy one laugh, my lord, how many groans! Were all happy, or all miserable,—more tolerable then, than as it is. But happiness and misery are so broadly marked, that this Mardi may be the retributive future of some forgotten past.—Yet vain our surmises. Still vainer to say, that all Mardi is but a means to an end; that this life is a state of probation: that evil is but permitted for a term; that for specified ages a rebel angel is viceroy.—Nay, nay. Oro delegates his scepter to none; in his everlasting reign there are no interregnums; and Time is Eternity; and we live in Eternity now. Yet, some tell of a hereafter, where all the mysteries of life will be over; and the sufferings of the virtuous recompensed. Oro is just, they say.—Then always,—now, and evermore. But to make restitution implies a wrong; and Oro can do no wrong. Yet what seems evil to us, may be good to him. If he fears not, nor hopes,—he has no other passion; no ends, no purposes. He lives content; all ends are compassed in Him; He has no past, no future; He is the everlasting now; which is an everlasting calm; and things that are, have been,— will be. This gloom's enough. But hoot! hoot! the night-owl ranges through the woodlands of Maramma; its dismal notes pervade our lives; and when we would fain depart in peace, that bird flies on before:— cloud-like, eclipsing our setting suns, and filling the air with dolor."
"Too true!" cried Yoomy. "Our calms must come by storms. Like helmless vessels, tempest-tossed, our only anchorage is when we founder."
"Our beginnings," murmured Mohi, "are lost in clouds; we live in darkness all our days, and perish without an end."
"Croak on, cowards!" cried Media, "and fly before the hideous phantoms that pursue ye."
"No coward he, who hunted, turns and finds no foe to fight," said Babbalanja. "Like the stag, whose brow is beat with wings of hawks, perched in his heavenward antlers; so I, blinded, goaded, headlong, rush! this way and that; nor knowing whither; one forest wide around!"
CHAPTER LXXXII They Sail From Night To Day
Ere long the three canoes lurched heavily in a violent swell. Like palls, the clouds swept to and fro, hooding the gibbering winds. At every head-beat wave, our arching prows reared up, and shuddered; the night ran out in rain.
Whither to turn we knew not; nor what haven to gain; so dense the darkness.
But at last, the storm was over. Our shattered prows seemed gilded. Day dawned; and from his golden vases poured red wine upon the waters.
That flushed tide rippled toward us; floating from the east, a lone canoe; in which, there sat a mild, old man; a palm-bough in his hand: a bird's beak, holding amaranth and myrtles, his slender prow.
"Alma's blessing upon ye, voyagers! ye look storm-worn."
"The storm we have survived, old man; and many more, we yet must ride," said Babbalanja.
"The sun is risen; and all is well again. We but need to repair our prows," said Media.
"Then, turn aside to Serenia, a pleasant isle, where all are welcome; where many storm-worn rovers land at last to dwell."
"Serenia?" said Babbalanja; "methinks Serenia is that land of enthusiasts, of which we hear, my lord; where Mardians pretend to the unnatural conjunction of reason with things revealed; where Alma, they say, is restored to his divine original; where, deriving their principles from the same sources whence flow the persecutions of Maramma,—men strive to live together in gentle bonds of peace and charity;—folly! folly!"
"Ay," said Media; "much is said of those people of Serenia; but their social fabric must soon fall to pieces; it is based upon the idlest of theories. Thanks for thy courtesy, old man, but we care not to visit thy isle. Our voyage has an object, which, something tells me, will not be gained by touching at thy shores. Elsewhere we may refit. Farewell! 'Tis breezing; set the sails! Farewell, old man."
"Nay, nay! think again; the distance is but small; the wind fair,—but 'tis ever so, thither;—come: we, people of Serenia, are most anxious to be seen of Mardi; so that if our manner of life seem good, all Mardi may live as we. In blessed Alma's name, I pray ye, come!"
"Shall we then, my lord?"
"Lead on, old man! We will e'en see this wondrous isle."
So, guided by the venerable stranger, by noon we descried an island blooming with bright savannas, and pensive with peaceful groves.
Wafted from this shore, came balm of flowers, and melody of birds: a thousand summer sounds and odors. The dimpled tide sang round our splintered prows; the sun was high in heaven, and the waters were deep below.
"The land of Love!" the old man murmured, as we neared the beach, where innumerable shells were gently rolling in the playful surf, and murmuring from their tuneful valves. Behind, another, and a verdant surf played against lofty banks of leaves; where the breeze, likewise, found its shore.
And now, emerging from beneath the trees, there came a goodly multitude in flowing robes; palm-branches in their hands; and as they came, they sang:—
Hail! voyagers, hail! Whence e'er ye come, where'er ye rove, No calmer strand, No sweeter land, Will e'er ye view, than the Land of Love!
Hail! voyagers, hail! To these, our shores, soft gales invite: The palm plumes wave, The billows lave, And hither point fix'd stars of light!
Hail! voyagers, hail! Think not our groves wide brood with gloom; In this, our isle, Bright flowers smile: Full urns, rose-heaped, these valleys bloom.
Hail! voyagers, hail! Be not deceived; renounce vain things; Ye may not find A tranquil mind, Though hence ye sail with swiftest wings.
Hail! voyagers, hail! Time flies full fast; life soon is o'er; And ye may mourn, That hither borne, Ye left behind our pleasant shore.
CHAPTER LXXXIII They Land
The song was ended; and as we gained the strand, the crowd embraced us; and called us brothers; ourselves and our humblest attendants.
"Call ye us brothers, whom ere now ye never saw?"
"Even so," said the old man, "is not Oro the father of all? Then, are we not brothers? Thus Alma, the master, hath commanded."
"This was not our reception in Maramma," said Media, "the appointed place of Alma; where his precepts are preserved."
"No, no," said Babbalanja; "old man! your lesson of brotherhood was learned elsewhere than from Alma; for in Maramma and in all its tributary isles true brotherhood there is none. Even in the Holy Island many are oppressed; for heresies, many murdered; and thousands perish beneath the altars, groaning with offerings that might relieve them."
"Alas! too true. But I beseech ye, judge not Alma by all those who profess his faith. Hast thou thyself his records searched?"
"Fully, I have not. So long, even from my infancy, have I witnessed the wrongs committed in his name; the sins and inconsistencies of his followers; that thinking all evil must flow from a congenial fountain, I have scorned to study the whole record of your Master's life. By parts I only know it."
"Ah! baneful error! But thus is it, brothers!! that the wisest are set against the Truth, because of those who wrest it from itself."
"Do ye then claim to live what your Master hath spoken? Are your precepts practices?"
"Nothing do we claim: we but 'earnestly endeavor."
"Tell me not of your endeavors, but of your life. What hope for the fatherless among ye?"
"Adopted as a son."
"Of one poor, and naked?"
"Clothed, and he wants for naught."
"If ungrateful, he smite you?"
"Still we feed and clothe him."
"If yet an ingrate?"
"Long, he can not be; for Love is a fervent fire."
"But what, if widely he dissent from your belief in Alma;—then, surely, ye must cast him forth?"
"No, no; we will remember, that if he dissent from us, we then equally dissent from him; and men's faculties are Oro-given. Nor will we say that he is wrong, and we are right; for this we know not, absolutely. But we care not for men's words; we look for creeds in actions; which are the truthful symbols of the things within. He who hourly prays to Alma, but lives not up to world-wide love and charity—that man is more an unbeliever than he who verbally rejects the Master, but does his bidding. Our lives are our Amens."
"But some say that what your Alma teaches is wholly new—a revelation of things before unimagined, even by the poets. To do his bidding, then, some new faculty must be vouchsafed, whereby to apprehend aright."
"So have I always thought," said Mohi.
"If Alma teaches love, I want no gift to learn," said Yoomy.
"All that is vital in the Master's faith, lived here in Mardi, and in humble dells was practiced, long previous to the Master's coming. But never before was virtue so lifted up among us, that all might see; never before did rays from heaven descend to glorify it, But are Truth, Justice, and Love, the revelations of Alma alone? Were they never heard of till he came? Oh! Alma but opens unto us our own hearts. Were his precepts strange we would recoil—not one feeling would respond; whereas, once hearkened to, our souls embrace them as with the instinctive tendrils of a vine."
"But," said Babbalanja, "since Alma, they say, was solely intent upon the things of the Mardi to come—which to all, must seem uncertain—of what benefit his precepts for the daily lives led here?"
"Would! would that Alma might once more descend! Brother! were the turf our everlasting pillow, still would the Master's faith answer a blessed end;—making us more truly happy here. That is the first and chief result; for holy here, we must be holy elsewhere. 'Tis Mardi, to which loved Alma gives his laws; not Paradise."
"Full soon will I be testing all these things," murmured Mohi.
"Old man," said Media, "thy years and Mohi's lead ye both to dwell upon the unknown future. But speak to me of other themes. Tell me of this island and its people. From all I have heard, and now behold, I gather that here there dwells no king; that ye are left to yourselves; and that this mystic Love, ye speak of, is your ruler. Is it so? Then, are ye full as visionary, as Mardi rumors. And though for a time, ye may have prospered,—long, ye can not be, without some sharp lesson to convince ye, that your faith in Mardian virtue is entirely vain."
"Truth. We have no king; for Alma's precepts rebuke the arrogance of place and power. He is the tribune of mankind; nor will his true faith be universal Mardi's, till our whole race is kingless. But think not we believe in man's perfection. Yet, against all good, he is not absolutely set. In his heart, there is a germ. That we seek to foster. To that we cling; else, all were hopeless!"
"Your social state?"
"It is imperfect; and long must so remain. But we make not the miserable many support the happy few. Nor by annulling reason's laws, seek to breed equality, by breeding anarchy. In all things, equality is not for all. Each has his own. Some have wider groves of palms than others; fare better; dwell in more tasteful arbors; oftener renew their fragrant thatch. Such differences must be. But none starve outright, while others feast. By the abounding, the needy are supplied. Yet not by statute, but from dictates, born half dormant in us, and warmed into life by Alma. Those dictates we but follow in all we do; we are not dragged to righteousness; but go running. Nor do we live in common. For vice and virtue blindly mingled, form a union where vice too often proves the alkali. The vicious we make dwell apart, until reclaimed. And reclaimed they soon must be, since every thing invites. The sin of others rests not upon our heads: none we drive to crime. Our laws are not of vengeance bred, but Love and Alma."
"Fine poetry all this," said Babbalanja, "but not so new. Oft do they warble thus in bland Maramma!"
"It sounds famously, old man!" said Media, "but men are men. Some must starve; some be scourged.—Your doctrines are impracticable."
"And are not these things enjoined by Alma? And would Alma inculcate the impossible? of what merit, his precepts, unless they may be practiced? But, I beseech ye, speak no more of Maramma. Alas! did Alma revisit Mardi, think you, it would be among those Morals he would lay his head?"
"No, no," said Babbalanja, "as an intruder he came; and an intruder would he be this day. On all sides, would he jar our social systems."
"Not here, not here! Rather would we welcome Alma hungry and athirst, than though he came floating hither on the wings of seraphs; the blazing zodiac his diadem! In all his aspects we adore him; needing no pomp and power to kindle worship. Though he came from Oro; though he did miracles; though through him is life;—not for these things alone, do we thus love him. We love him from, an instinct in us;—a fond, filial, reverential feeling. And this would yet stir in our souls, were death our end; and Alma incapable of befriending us. We love him because we do."
"Is this man divine?" murmured Babbalanja. "But thou speakest most earnestly of adoring Alma:—I see no temples in your groves."
"Because this isle is all one temple to his praise; every leaf is consecrated his. We fix not Alma here and there; and say,—'those groves for Him, and these broad fields for us.' It is all his own; and we ourselves; our every hour of life; and all we are, and have."
"Then, ye forever fast and pray; and stand and sing; as at long intervals the censer-bearers in Maramma supplicate their gods."
"Alma forbid! We never fast; our aspirations are our prayers; our lives are worship. And when we laugh, with human joy at human things, —then do we most sound great Oro's praise, and prove the merit of sweet Alma's love! Our love in Alma makes us glad, not sad. Ye speak of temples;—behold! 'tis by not building them, that we widen charity among us. The treasures which, in the islands round about, are lavished on a thousand fanes;—with these we every day relieve the Master's suffering disciples. In Mardi, Alma preached in open fields, —and must his worshipers have palaces?"
"No temples, then no priests;" said Babbalanja, "for few priests will enter where lordly arches form not the portal."
"We have no priests, but one; and he is Alma's self. We have his precepts: we seek no comments but our hearts."
"But without priests and temples, how long will flourish this your faith?" said Media.
"For many ages has not this faith lived, in spite of priests and temples? and shall it not survive them? What we believe, we hold divine; and things divine endure forever."
"But how enlarge your bounds? how convert the vicious, without persuasion of some special seers? Must your religion go hand in hand with all things secular?"
"We hold not, that one man's words should be a gospel to the rest; but that Alma's words should be a gospel to us all. And not by precepts would we have some few endeavor to persuade; but all, by practice, fix convictions, that the life we lead is the life for all. We are apostles, every one. Where'er we go, our faith we carry in our hands, and hearts. It is our chiefest joy. We do not put it wide away six days out of seven; and then, assume it. In it we all exult, and joy; as that which makes us happy here; as that, without which, we could be happy nowhere; as something meant for this time present, and henceforth for aye. It is our vital mode of being; not an incident. And when we die, this faith shall be our pillow; and when we rise, our staff; and at the end, our crown. For we are all immortal. Here, Alma joins with our own hearts, confirming nature's promptings."
"How eloquent he is!" murmured Babbalanja. "Some black cloud seems floating from me. I begin to see. I come out in light. The sharp fang tears me less. The forked flames wane. My soul sets back like ocean streams, that sudden change their flow. Have I been sane? Quickened in me is a hope. But pray you, old man—say on—methinks, that in your faith must be much that jars with reason."
"No, brother! Right-reason, and Alma, are the same; else Alma, not reason, would we reject. The Master's great command is Love; and here do all things wise, and all things good, unite. Love is all in all. The more we love, the more we know; and so reversed. Oro we love; this isle; and our wide arms embrace all Mardi like its reef. How can we err, thus feeling? We hear loved Alma's pleading, prompting voice, in every breeze, in every leaf; we see his earnest eye in every star and flower."
"Poetry!" cried Yoomy; "and poetry is truth! He stirs me."
"When Alma dwelt in Mardi, 'twas with the poor and friendless. He fed the famishing; he healed the sick; he bound up wounds. For every precept that he spoke, he did ten thousand mercies. And Alma is our loved example."
"Sure, all this is in the histories!" said Mohi, starting.
"But not alone to poor and friendless, did Alma wend his charitable way. From lowly places, he looked up; and long invoked great chieftains in their state; and told them all their pride was vanity; and bade them ask their souls. 'In me,' he cried, 'is that heart of mild content, which in vain ye seek in rank and title. I am Love: love ye then me.'"
"Cease, cease, old man!" cried Media; "thou movest me beyond my seeming. What thoughts are these? Have done! Wouldst thou unking me?"
"Alma is for all; for high and low. Like heaven's own breeze, he lifts the lily from its lowly stem, and sweeps, reviving, through the palmy groves. High thoughts he gives the sage, and humble trust the simple. Be the measure what it may, his grace doth fill it to the brim. He lays the lashings of the soul's wild aspirations after things unseen; oil he poureth on the waters; and stars come out of night's black concave at his great command. In him is hope for all; for all, unbounded joys. Fast locked in his loved clasp, no doubts dismay. He opes the eye of faith and shuts the eye of fear. He is all we pray for, and beyond; all, that in the wildest hour of ecstasy, rapt fancy paints in bright Auroras upon the soul's wide, boundless Orient!"
"Oh, Alma, Alma! prince divine!" cried Babbalanja, sinking on his knees—"in thee, at last, I find repose. Hope perches in my heart a dove;—a thousand rays illume;—all Heaven's a sun. Gone, gone! are all distracting doubts. Love and Alma now prevail. I see with other eyes:—Are these my hands? What wild, wild dreams were mine;—I have been mad. Some things there are, we must not think of. Beyond one obvious mark, all human lore is vain. Where have I lived till now? Had dark Maramma's zealot tribe but murmured to me as this old man, long since had I, been wise! Reason no longer domineers; but still doth speak. All I have said ere this, that wars with Alma's precepts, I here recant. Here I kneel, and own great Oro and his sovereign son."
"And here another kneels and prays," cried Yoomy.
"In Alma all my dreams are found, my inner longings for the Love supreme, that prompts my every verse. Summer is in my soul."
"Nor now, too late for these gray hairs," cried Mohi, with devotion. "Alma, thy breath is on my soul. I see bright light."
"No more a demigod," cried Media, "but a subject to our common chief. No more shall dismal cries be heard from Odo's groves. Alma, I am thine."
With swimming eyes the old man kneeled; and round him grouped king, sage, gray hairs, and youth.
There, as they kneeled, and as the old man blessed them, the setting sun burst forth from mists, gilded the island round about, shed rays upon their heads, and went down in a glory—all the East radiant with red burnings, like an altar-fire.
CHAPTER LXXXIV Babbalanja Relates To Them A Vision
Leaving Babbalanja in the old man's bower, deep in meditation; thoughtfully we strolled along the beach, inspiring the musky, midnight air; the tropical stars glistening in heaven, like drops of dew among violets.
The waves were phosphorescent, and laved the beach with a fire that cooled it.
Returning, we espied Babbalanja advancing in his snow-white mantle. The fiery tide was ebbing; and in the soft, moist sand, at every step, he left a lustrous foot-print.
"Sweet friends! this isle is full of mysteries," he said. "I have dreamed of wondrous things. After I had laid me down, thought pressed hard upon me. By my eyes passed pageant visions. I started at a low, strange melody, deep in my inmost soul. At last, methought my eyes were fixed on heaven; and there, I saw a shining spot, unlike a star. Thwarting the sky, it grew, and grew, descending; till bright wings were visible: between them, a pensive face angelic, downward beaming; and, for one golden moment, gauze-vailed in spangled Berenice's Locks.
"Then, as white flame from yellow, out from that starry cluster it emerged; and brushed the astral Crosses, Crowns, and Cups. And as in violet, tropic seas, ships leave a radiant-white, and fire-fly wake; so, in long extension tapering, behind the vision, gleamed another Milky-Way.
"Strange throbbings seized me; my soul tossed on its own tides. But soon the inward harmony bounded in exulting choral strains. I heard a feathery rush; and straight beheld a form, traced all over with veins of vivid light. The vision undulated round me.
"'Oh! Spirit!! angel! god! whate'er thou art,'—I cried, 'leave me; I am but man.'
"Then, I heard a low, sad sound, no voice. It said, or breathed upon me,—'Thou hast proved the grace of Alma: tell me what thou'st learned.'
"Silent replied my soul, for voice was gone,—'This have I learned, oh! spirit!—In things mysterious, to seek no more; but rest content, with knowing naught but Love.'
"'Blessed art thou for that: thrice blessed,' then I heard, and since humility is thine, thou art one apt to learn. That which thy own wisdom could not find, thy ignorance confessed shall gain. Come, and see new things.'
"Once more it undulated round me; its lightning wings grew dim; nearer, nearer; till I felt a shock electric,—and nested 'neath its wing.
"We clove the air; passed systems, suns, and moons: what seem from Mardi's isles, the glow-worm stars.
"By distant fleets of worlds we sped, as voyagers pass far sails at sea, and hail them not. Foam played before them as they darted on; wild music was their wake; and many tracks of sound we crossed, where worlds had sailed before.
"Soon, we gained a point, where a new heaven was seen; whence all our firmament seemed one nebula. Its glories burned like thousand steadfast-flaming lights.
"Here hived the worlds in swarms: and gave forth sweets ineffable.
"We lighted on a ring, circling a space, where mornings seemed forever dawning over worlds unlike.
"'Here,' I heard, 'thou viewest thy Mardi's Heaven. Herein each world is portioned.'
"As he who climbs to mountain tops pants hard for breath; so panted I for Mardi's grosser air. But that which caused my flesh to faint, was new vitality to my soul. My eyes swept over all before me. The spheres were plain as villages that dot a landscape. I saw most beauteous forms, yet like our own. Strange sounds I heard of gladness that seemed mixed with sadness:—a low, sweet harmony of both. Else, I know not how to phrase what never man but me e'er heard.
"'In these blest souls are blent,' my guide discoursed, 'far higher thoughts, and sweeter plaints than thine. Rude joy were discord here. And as a sudden shout in thy hushed mountain-passes brings down the awful avalanche; so one note of laughter here, might start some white and silent world.'
"Then low I murmured:—'Is their's, oh guide! no happiness supreme? their state still mixed? Sigh these yet to know? Can these sin?'
"Then I heard:—'No mind but Oro's can know all; no mind that knows not all can be content; content alone approximates to happiness. Holiness comes by wisdom; and it is because great Oro is supremely wise, that He's supremely holy. But as perfect wisdom can be only Oro's; so, perfect holiness is his alone. And whoso is otherwise than perfect in his holiness, is liable to sin.
"'And though death gave these beings knowledge, it also opened other mysteries, which they pant to know, and yet may learn. And still they fear the thing of evil; though for them, 'tis hard to fall. Thus hoping and thus fearing, then, their's is no state complete. And since Oro is past finding out, and mysteries ever open into mysteries beyond; so, though these beings will for aye progress in wisdom and in good; yet, will they never gain a fixed beatitude. Know, then, oh mortal Mardian! that when translated hither, thou wilt but put off lowly temporal pinings, for angel and eternal aspirations. Start not: thy human joy hath here no place: no name.
"Still, I mournful mused; then said:—'Many Mardians live, who have no aptitude for Mardian lives of thought: how then endure more earnest, everlasting, meditations?'
"'Such have their place,' I heard.
"'Then low I moaned, 'And what, oh! guide! of those who, living thoughtless lives of sin, die unregenerate; no service done to Oro or to Mardian?'
"'They, too, have their place,' I heard; 'but 'tis not here. And Mardian! know, that as your Mardian lives are long preserved through strict obedience to the organic law, so are your spiritual lives prolonged by fast keeping of the law of mind. Sin is death.'
"'Ah, then,' yet lower moan made I; 'and why create the germs that sin and suffer, but to perish?'
"'That,' breathed my guide; 'is the last mystery which underlieth all the rest. Archangel may not fathom it; that makes of Oro the everlasting mystery he is; that to divulge, were to make equal to himself in knowledge all the souls that are; that mystery Oro guards; and none but him may know.'
"Alas! were it recalled, no words have I to tell of all that now my guide discoursed, concerning things unsearchable to us. My sixth sense which he opened, sleeps again, with all the wisdom that it gained.
"Time passed; it seemed a moment, might have been an age; when from high in the golden haze that canopied this heaven, another angel came; its vans like East and West; a sunrise one, sunset the other. As silver-fish in vases, so, in his azure eyes swam tears unshed.
"Quick my guide close nested me; through its veins the waning light throbbed hard.
"'Oh, spirit! archangel! god! whate'er thou art,' it breathed; 'leave me: I am but blessed, not glorified.'
"So saying, as down from doves, from its wings dropped sounds. Still nesting me, it crouched its plumes.
"Then, in a snow of softest syllables, thus breathed the greater and more beautiful:—'From far away, in fields beyond thy ken, I heard thy fond discourse with this lone Mardian. It pleased me well; for thy humility was manifeat; no arrogance of knowing. Come thou and learn new things.'
"And straight it overarched us with its plumes; which, then, down- sweeping, bore us up to regions where my first guide had sunk, but for the power that buoyed us, trembling, both.
"My eyes did wane, like moons eclipsed in overwhelming dawns: such radiance was around; such vermeil light, born of no sun, but pervading all the scene. Transparent, fleck-less, calm, all glowed one flame.
"Then said the greater guide This is the night of all ye here behold— its day ye could not bide. Your utmost heaven is far below.'
"Abashed, smote down, I, quaking, upward gazed; where, to and fro, the spirits sailed, like broad-winged crimson-dyed flamingos, spiraling in sunset-clouds. But a sadness glorified, deep-fringed their mystic temples, crowned with weeping halos, bird-like, floating o'er them, whereso'er they roamed.
"Sights and odors blended. As when new-morning winds, in summer's prime, blow down from hanging gardens, wafting sweets that never pall; so, from those flowery pinions, at every motion, came a flood of fragrance.
"And now the spirits twain discoursed of things, whose very terms, to me, were dark. But my first guide grew wise. For me, I could but blankly list; yet comprehended naught; and, like the fish that's mocked with wings, and vainly seeks to fly;—again I sought my lower element.
"As poised, we hung in this rapt ether, a sudden trembling seized the four wings now folding me. And afar of, in zones still upward reaching, suns' orbits off, I, tranced, beheld an awful glory. Sphere in sphere, it burned:—the one Shekinah! The air was flaked with fire;—deep in which, fell showers of silvery globes, tears magnified —braiding the flame with rainbows. I heard a sound; but not for me, nor my first guide, was that unutterable utterance. Then, my second guide was swept aloft, as rises a cloud of red-dyed leaves in autumn whirlwinds.
"Fast clasping me, the other drooped, and, instant, sank, as in a vacuum; myriad suns' diameters in a breath;—my five senses merged in one, of falling; till we gained the nether sky, descending still.
"Then strange things—soft, sad, and faint, I saw or heard; as, when, in sunny, summer seas, down, down, you dive, starting at pensive phantoms, that you can not fix.
"'These,' breathed my guide, 'are spirits in their essences; sad, even in undevelopment. With these, all space is peopled;—all the air is vital with intelligence, which seeks embodiment. This it is, that unbeknown to Mardians, causes them to strangely start in solitudes of night, and in the fixed flood of their enchanted noons. From hence, are formed your mortal souls; and all those sad and shadowy dreams, and boundless thoughts man hath, are vague remembrances of the time when the soul's sad germ, wide wandered through these realms. And hence it is, that when ye Mardians feel most sad, then ye feel most immortal.
"Like a spark new-struck from flint, soon Mardi showed afar. It glowed within a sphere, which seemed, in space, a bubble, rising from vast depths to the sea's surface. Piercing it, my Mardian strength returned; but the angel's veins once more grew dim.
"Nearing the isles, thus breathed my guide:—'Loved one, love on! But know, that heaven hath no roof. To know all is to be all. Beatitude there is none. And your only Mardian happiness is but exemption from great woes—no more. Great Love is sad; and heaven is Love. Sadness makes the silence throughout the realms of space; sadness is universal and eternal; but sadness is tranquillity; tranquillity the uttermost that souls may hope for.'
"Then, with its wings it fanned adieu; and disappeared where the sun flames highest."
We heard the dream and, silent, sought repose, to dream away our wonder.
CHAPTER LXXXV They Depart From Serenia
At sunrise, we stood upon the beach.
Babbalanja thus:—"My voyage is ended. Not because what we sought is found; but that I now possess all which may be had of what I sought in Mardi. Here, tarry to grow wiser still:—then I am Alma's and the world's. Taji! for Yillah thou wilt hunt in vain; she is a phantom that but mocks thee; and while for her thou madly huntest, the sin thou didst cries out, and its avengers still will follow. But here they may not come: nor those, who, tempting, track thy path. Wise counsel take. Within our hearts is all we seek: though in that search many need a prompter. Him I have found in blessed Alma. Then rove no more. Gain now, in flush of youth, that last wise thought, too often purchased, by a life of woe. Be wise: be wise.
"Media! thy station calls thee home. Yet from this isle, thou earnest that, wherewith to bless thy own. These flowers, that round us spring, may be transplanted: and Odo made to bloom with amaranths and myrtles, like this Serenia. Before thy people act the things, thou here hast heard. Let no man weep, that thou may'st laugh; no man toil too hard, that thou may'st idle be. Abdicate thy throne: but still retain the scepter. None need a king; but many need a ruler.
"Mohi! Yoomy! do we part? then bury in forgetfulness much that hitherto I've spoken. But let not one syllable of this old man's words be lost.
"Mohi! Age leads thee by the hand. Live out thy life; and die, calm- browed.
"But Yoomy! many days are thine. And in one life's span, great circles may be traversed, eternal good be done. Take all Mardi for thy home. Nations are but names; and continents but shifting sands.
"Once more: Taji! be sure thy Yillah never will be found; or found, will not avail thee. Yet search, if so thou wilt; more isles, thou say'st, are still unvisited; and when all is seen, return, and find thy Yillah here.
"Companions all! adieu."
And from the beach, he wended through the woods.
Our shallops now refitted, we silently embarked; and as we sailed away, the old man blessed us.
For a time, each prow's ripplings were distinctly heard: ripple after ripple.
With silent, steadfast eyes, Media still preserved his noble mien; Mohi his reverend repose; Yoomy his musing mood.
But as a summer hurricane leaves all nature still, and smiling to the eye; yet, in deep woods, there lie concealed some anguished roots torn up:—so, with these.
Much they longed, to point our prows for Odo's isle; saying our search was over.
But I was fixed as fate.
On we sailed, as when we first embarked; the air was bracing as before. More isles we visited:—thrice encountered the avengers: but unharmed; thrice Hautia's heralds but turned not aside;—saw many checkered scenes—wandered through groves, and open fields—traversed many vales—climbed hill-tops whence broad views were gained—tarried in towns—broke into solitudes—sought far, sought near:—Still Yillah there was none.
Then again they all would fain dissuade me.
"Closed is the deep blue eye," said Yoomy.
"Fate's last leaves are turning, let me home and die," said Mohi.
"So nigh the circuit's done," said Media, "our morrow's sun must rise o'er Odo; Taji! renounce the hunt."
"I am the hunter, that never rests! the hunter without a home! She I seek, still flies before; and I will follow, though she lead me beyond the reef; through sunless seas; and into night and death. Her, will I seek, through all the isles and stars; and find her, whate'er betide!"
Again they yielded; and again we glided on;—our storm-worn prows, now pointed here, now there;—beckoned, repulsed;—their half-rent sails, still courting every breeze.
But that same night, once more, they wrestled with me. Now, at last, the hopeless search must be renounced: Yillah there was none: back must I hie to blue Serenia.
Then sweet Yillah called me from the sea;—still must I on! but gazing whence that music seemed to come, I thought I saw the green corse drifting by: and striking 'gainst our prow, as if to hinder. Then, then! my heart grew hard, like flint; and black, like night; and sounded hollow to the hand I clenched. Hyenas filled me with their laughs; death-damps chilled my brow; I prayed not, but blasphemed.
CHAPTER LXXXVI They Meet The Phantoms
That starless midnight, there stole from out the darkness, the Iris flag of Hautia.
Again the sirens came. They bore a large and stately urn-like flower, white as alabaster, and glowing, as if lit up within. From its calyx, flame-like, trembled forked and crimson stamens, burning with intensest odors.
The phantoms nearer came; their flower, as an urn of burning niter. Then it changed, and glowed like Persian dawns; or passive, was shot over by palest lightnings;—so variable its tints.
"The night-blowing Cereus!" said Yoomy, shuddering, "that never blows in sun-light; that blows but once; and blows but for an hour.—For the last time I come; now, in your midnight of despair, and promise you this glory. Take heed! short time hast thou to pause; through me, perhaps, thy Yillah may be found."
"Away! away! tempt me not by that, enchantress! Hautia! I know thee not; I fear thee not; but instinct makes me hate thee. Away! my eyes are frozen shut; I will not be tempted more."
"How glorious it burns!" cried Media. I reel with incense:—can such sweets be evil?"
"Look! look!" cried Yoomy, "its petals wane, and creep; one moment more, and the night-flower shuts up forever the last, last hope of Yillah!"
"Yillah! Yillah! Yillah!" bayed three vengeful voices far behind.
"Yillah! Yillah!—dash the urn! I follow, Hautia! though thy lure be death."
The Cereus closed; and in a mist the siren prow went on before; we, following.
When day dawned, three radiant pilot-fish swam in advance: three ravenous sharks astern.
And, full before us, rose the isle of Hautia.
CHAPTER LXXXVII They Draw Nigh To Flozella
As if Mardi were a poem, and every island a canto, the shore now in sight was called Flozella-a-Nina, or The-Last-Verse-of-the-Song.
According to Mohi, the origin of this term was traceable to the remotest antiquity.
In the beginning, there were other beings in Mardi besides Mardians; winged beings, of purer minds, and cast in gentler molds, who would fain have dwelt forever with mankind. But the hearts of the Mardians were bitter against them, because of their superior goodness. Yet those beings returned love for malice, and long entreated to virtue and charity. But in the end, all Mardi rose up against them, and hunted them from isle to isle; till, at last, they rose from the woodlands like a flight of birds, and disappeared in the skies. Thereafter, abandoned of such sweet influences, the Mardians fell into all manner of sins and sufferings, becoming the erring things their descendants were now. Yet they knew not, that their calamities were of their own bringing down. For deemed a victory, the expulsion of the winged beings was celebrated in choruses, throughout Mardi. And among other jubilations, so ran the legend, a pean was composed, corresponding in the number of its stanzas, to the number of islands. And a band of youths, gayly appareled, voyaged in gala canoes all round the lagoon, singing upon each isle, one verse of their song. And Flozella being the last isle in their circuit, its queen commemorated the circumstance, by new naming her realm.
That queen had first incited Mardi to wage war against the beings with wings. She it was, who had been foremost in every assault. And that queen was ancestor of Hautia, now ruling the isle.
Approaching the dominions of one who so long had haunted me, conflicting emotions tore up my soul in tornadoes. Yet Hautia had held out some prospect of crowning my yearnings. But how connected were Hautia and Yillah? Something I hoped; yet more I feared. Dire presentiments, like poisoned arrows, shot through me. Had they pierced me before, straight to Flozella would I have voyaged; not waiting for Hautia to woo me by that last and victorious temptation. But unchanged remained my feelings of hatred for Hautia; yet vague those feelings, as the language of her flowers. Nevertheless, in some mysterious way seemed Hautia and Yillah connected. But Yillah was all beauty, and innocence; my crown of felicity; my heaven below;—and Hautia, my whole heart abhorred. Yillah I sought; Hautia sought me. One, openly beckoned me here; the other dimly allured me there. Yet now was I wildly dreaming to find them together. But so distracted my soul, I knew not what it was, that I thought.
Slowly we neared the land. Flozella-a-Nina!—An omen? Was this isle, then, to prove the last place of my search, even as it was the Last- Verse-of-the-Song?
CHAPTER LXXXVIII They Land
A jeweled tiara, nodding in spray, looks flowery Flozella, approached from the sea. For, lo you! the glittering foam all round its white marge; where, forcing themselves underneath the coral ledge, and up through its crevices, in fountains, the blue billows gush. While, within, zone above zone, thrice zoned in belts of bloom, all the isle, as a hanging-garden soars; its tapering cone blending aloft, with heaven's own blue.
"What flies through the spray! what incense is this?" cried Media.
"Ha! you wild breeze! you have been plundering the gardens of Hautia," cried Yoomy.
"No sweets can be sweeter," said Braid-Beard, "but no Upas more deadly."
Anon we came nearer; sails idly flapping, and paddles suspended; sleek currents our coursers. And round about the isle, like winged rainbows, shoals of dolphins were leaping over floating fragments of wrecks:— dark-green, long-haired ribs, and keels of canoes. For many shallops, inveigled by the eddies, were oft dashed to pieces against that flowery strand. But what cared the dolphins? Mardian wrecks were their homes. Over and over they sprang: from east to west: rising and setting: many suns in a moment; while all the sea, like a harvest plain, was stacked with their glittering sheaves of spray.
And far down, fathoms on fathoms, flitted rainbow hues:—as seines- full of mermaids; half-screening the bones of the drowned.
Swifter and swifter the currents now ran; till with a shock, our prows were beached.
There, beneath an arch of spray, three dark-eyed maidens stood; garlanded with columbines, their nectaries nodding like jesters' bells; and robed in vestments blue.
"The pilot-fish transformed!" cried Yoomy.
"The night-eyed heralds three!" said Mohi.
Following the maidens, we now took our way along a winding vale; where, by sweet-scented hedges, flowed blue-braided brooks; their tributaries, rivulets of violets, meandering through the meads.
On one hand, forever glowed the rosy mountains with a tropic dawn; and on the other; lay an Arctic eve;—the white daisies drifted in long banks of snow, and snowed the blossoms from the orange boughs. There, summer breathed her bridal bloom; her hill-top temples crowned with bridal wreaths.
We wandered on, through orchards arched in long arcades, that seemed baronial halls, hung o'er with trophies:—so spread the boughs in antlers. This orchard was the frontlet of the isle.
The fruit hung high in air, that only beaks, not hands, might pluck.
Here, the peach tree showed her thousand cheeks of down, kissed often by the wooing winds; here, in swarms; the yellow apples hived, like golden bees upon the boughs; here, from the kneeling, fainting trees, thick fell the cherries, in great drops of blood; and here, the pomegranate, with cold rind and sere, deep pierced by bills of birds revealed the mellow of its ruddy core. So, oft the heart, that cold and withered seems, within yet hides its juices.
This orchard passed, the vale became a lengthening plain, that seemed the Straits of Ormus bared so thick it lay with flowery gems: torquoise-hyacinths, ruby-roses, lily-pearls. Here roved the vagrant vines; their flaxen ringlets curling over arbors, which laughed and shook their golden locks. From bower to bower, flew the wee bird, that ever hovering, seldom lights; and flights of gay canaries passed, like jonquils, winged.
But now, from out half-hidden bowers of clematis, there issued swarms of wasps, which flying wide, settled on all the buds.
And, fifty nymphs preceding, who now follows from those bowers, with gliding, artful steps:—the very snares of love!—Hautia. A gorgeous amaryllis in her hand; Circe-flowers in her ears; her girdle tied with vervain.
She came by privet hedges, drooping; downcast honey-suckles; she trod on pinks and pansies, blue-bells, heath, and lilies. She glided on: her crescent brow calm as the moon, when most it works its evil influences.
Her eye was fathomless.
But the same mysterious, evil-boding gaze was there, which long before had haunted me in Odo, ere Yillah fled.—Queen Hautia the incognito! Then two wild currents met, and dashed me into foam.
"Yillah! Yillah!—tell me, queen!" But she stood motionless; radiant, and scentless: a dahlia on its stalk. "Where? Where?"
"Is not thy voyage now ended?—Take flowers! Damsels, give him wine to drink. After his weary hunt, be the wanderer happy."
I dashed aside their cups, and flowers; still rang the vale with Yillah!
"Taji! did I know her fate, naught would I now disclose; my heralds pledged their queen to naught. Thou but comest here to supplant thy mourner's night-shade, with marriage roses. Damsels! give him wreaths; crowd round him; press him with your cups!"
Once more I spilled their wine, and tore their garlands. Is not that, the evil eye that long ago did haunt me? and thou, the Hautia who hast followed me, and wooed, and mocked, and tempted me, through all this long, long voyage? I swear! thou knowest all."
"I am Hautia. Thou hast come at last. Crown him with your flowers! Drown him in your wine! To all questions, Taji! I am mute.—Away!— damsels dance; reel round him; round and round!"
Then, their feet made music on the rippling grass, like thousand leaves of lilies on a lake. And, gliding nearer, Hautia welcomed Media; and said, "Your comrade here is sad:—be ye gay. Ho, wine!—I pledge ye, guests!"
Then, marking all, I thought to seem what I was not, that I might learn at last the thing I sought.
So, three cups in hand I held; drank wine, and laughed; and half-way met Queen Hautia's blandishments.
CHAPTER LXXXIX They Enter The Bower Of Hautia
Conducted to the arbor, from which the queen had emerged, we came to a sweet-brier bower within; and reclined upon odorous mats.
Then, in citron cups, sherbet of tamarinds was offered to Media, Mohi, Yoomy; to me, a nautilus shell, brimmed with a light-like fluid, that welled, and welled like a fount.
"Quaff, Taji, quaff! every drop drowns a thought!"
Like a blood-freshet, it ran through my veins.
A philter?—How Hautia burned before me! Glorious queen! with all the radiance, lighting up the equatorial night.
"Thou art most magical, oh queen! about thee a thousand constellations cluster."
"They blaze to burn," whispered Mohi.
"I see ten million Hautias!—all space reflects her, as a mirror."
Then, in reels, the damsels once more mazed, the blossoms shaking from their brows; till Hautia, glided near; arms lustrous as rainbows: chanting some wild invocation.
My soul ebbed out; Yillah there was none! but as I turned round open- armed, Hautia vanished.
"She is deeper than the sea," said Media.
"Her bow is bent," said Yoomy.
"I could tell wonders of Hautia and her damsels," said Mohi.
"Listen; and in his own words will I recount the adventure of the youth Ozonna. It will show thee, Taji, that the maidens of Hautia are all Yillahs, held captive, unknown to themselves; and that Hautia, their enchantress, is the most treacherous of queens.
"'Camel-like, laden with woe,' said Ozonna, 'after many wild rovings in quest of a maiden long lost—beautiful Ady! and after being repelled in Maramma; and in vain hailed to land at Serenia, represented as naught but another Maramma;—with vague promises of discovering Ady, three sirens, who long had pursued, at last inveigled me to Flozella; where Hautia made me her thrall. But ere long, in Rea, one of her maidens, I thought I discovered my Ady transformed. My arms opened wide to embrace; but the damsel knew not Ozonna. And even, when after hard wooing, I won her again, she seemed not lost Ady, but Rea. Yet all the while, from deep in her strange, black orbs, Ady's blue eyes seemed pensively looking:—blue eye within black: sad, silent soul within merry. Long I strove, by fixed ardent gazing, to break the spell, and restore in Rea my lost one's Past. But in vain. It was only Rea, not Ady, who at stolen intervals looked on me now. One morning Hautia started as she greeted me; her quick eye rested on my bosom; and glancing there, affrighted, I beheld a distinct, fresh mark, the impress of Rea's necklace drop. Fleeing, I revealed what had passed to the maiden, who broke from my side; as I, from Hautia's. The queen summoned her damsels, but for many hours the call was unheeded; and when at last they came, upon each bosom lay a necklace-drop like Rea's. On the morrow, lo! my arbor was strown over with bruised Linden-leaves, exuding a vernal juice. Full of forbodings, again I sought Rea: who, casting down her eyes, beheld her feet stained green. Again she fled; and again Hautia summoned her damsels: malicious triumph in her eye; but dismay succeeded: each maid had spotted feet. That night Rea was torn from my side by three masks; who, stifling her cries, rapidly bore her away; and as I pursued, disappeared in a cave. Next morning, Hautia was surrounded by her nymphs, but Rea was absent. Then, gliding near, she snatched from my hair, a jet-black tress, loose-hanging. 'Ozonna is the murderer! See! Rea's torn hair entangled with his!' Aghast, I swore that I knew not her fate. 'Then let the witch Larfee be called!' The maidens darted from the bower; and soon after, there rolled into it a green cocoa-nut, followed by the witch, and all the damsels, flinging anemones upon it. Bowling this way and that, the nut at last rolled to my feet.—'It is he!' cried all.—Then they bound me with osiers; and at midnight, unseen and irresistible hands placed me in a shallop; which sped far out into the lagoon, where they tossed me to the waves; but so violent the shock, the osiers burst; and as the shallop fled one way, swimming another, ere long I gained land.
"'Thus in Flozella, I found but the phantom of Ady, and slew the last hope of Ady the true.'"
This recital sank deep into my soul. In some wild way, Hautia had made a captive of Yillah; in some one of her black-eyed maids, the blue- eyed One was transformed. From side to side, in frenzy, I turned; but in all those cold, mystical eyes, saw not the warm ray that I sought.
"Hast taken root within this treacherous soil?" cried Media. "Away! thy Yillah is behind thee, not before. Deep she dwells in blue Serenia's groves; which thou would'st not search. Hautia mocks thee; away! The reef is rounded; but a strait flows between this isle and Odo, and thither its ruler must return. Every hour I tarry here, some wretched serf is dying there, for whom, from blest Serenia, I carry life and joy. Away!"
"Art still bent on finding evil for thy good?" cried Mohi.—"How can Yillah harbor here?—Beware!—Let not Hautia so enthrall thee."
"Come away, come away," cried Yoomy. "Far hence is Yillah! and he who tarries among these flowers, must needs burn juniper."
"Look on me, Media, Mohi, Yoomy. Here I stand, my own monument, till Hautia breaks the spell."
In grief they left me.
Vee-Vee's conch I heard no more.
CHAPTER XC Taji With Hautia
As their last echoes died away down the valley, Hautia glided near;— zone unbound, the amaryllis in her hand. Her bosom ebbed and flowed; the motes danced in the beams that darted from her eyes.
"Come! let us sin, and be merry. Ho! wine, wine, wine! and lapfuls of flowers! let all the cane-brakes pipe their flutes. Damsels! dance; reel, swim, around me:—I, the vortex that draws all in. Taji! Taji!— as a berry, that name is juicy in my mouth!—Taji, Taji!" and in choruses, she warbled forth the sound, till it seemed issuing from her syren eyes.
My heart flew forth from out its bars, and soared in air; but as my hand touched Hautia's, down dropped a dead bird from the clouds.
"Ha! how he sinks!—but did'st ever dive in deep waters, Taji? Did'st ever see where pearls grow?—To the cave!—damsels, lead on!"
Then wending through constellations of flowers, we entered deep groves. And thus, thrice from sun-light to shade, it seemed three brief nights and days, ere we paused before the mouth of the cavern.
A bow-shot from the sea, it pierced the hill-side like a vaulted way; and glancing in, we saw far gleams of water; crossed, here and there, by long-flung distant shadows of domes and columns. All Venice seemed within.
From a stack of golden palm-stalks, the damsels now made torches; then stood grouped; a sheaf of sirens in a sheaf of frame.
Illuminated, the cavern shone like a Queen of Kandy's casket: full of dawns and sunsets.
From rocky roof to bubbling floor, it was columned with stalactites; and galleried all round, in spiral tiers, with sparkling, coral ledges.
And now, their torches held aloft, into the water the maidens softly glided; and each a lotus floated; while, from far above, into the air Hautia flung her flambeau; then bounding after, in the lake, two meteors were quenched.
Where she dived, the flambeaux clustered; and up among them, Hautia rose; hands, full of pearls.
"Lo! Taji; all these may be had for the diving; and Beauty, Health, Wealth, Long Life, and the Last Lost Hope of man. But through me alone, may these be had. Dive thou, and bring up one pearl if thou canst."
Down, down! down, down, in the clear, sparkling water, till I seemed crystalized in the flashing heart of a diamond; but from those bottomless depths, I uprose empty handed.
"Pearls, pearls! thy pearls! thou art fresh from the mines. Ah, Taji! for thee, bootless deep diving. Yet to Hautia, one shallow plunge reveals many Golcondas. But come; dive with me:—join hands—let me show thee strange things."
"Show me that which I seek, and I will dive with thee, straight through the world, till we come up in oceans unknown."
"Nay, nay; but join hands, and I will take thee, where thy Past shall be forgotten; where thou wilt soon learn to love the living, not the dead."
"Better to me, oh Hautia! all the bitterness of my buried dead, than all the sweets of the life thou canst bestow; even, were it eternal."
CHAPTER XCI Mardi Behind: An Ocean Before
Returned from the cave, Hautia reclined in her clematis bower, invisible hands flinging fennel around her. And nearer, and nearer, stole dulcet sounds dissolving my woes, as warm beams, snow. Strange languors made me droop; once more within my inmost vault, side by side, the Past and Yillah lay:—two bodies tranced;—while like a rounding sun, before me Hautia magnified magnificence; and through her fixed eyes, slowly drank up my soul.
Thus we stood:—snake and victim: life ebbing out from me, to her.
But from that spell, I burst again, as all the Past smote all the Present in me.
"Oh Hautia! thou knowest the mystery I die to fathom. I see it crouching in thine eye:—Reveal!"
"Weal or woe?"
"Life or death!"
"See, see!" and Yillah's rose-pearl danced before me.
I snatched it from her hand:—"Yillah! Yillah!"
"Rave on: she lies too deep to answer; stranger voices than thine she hears:—bubbles are bursting round her."
"Drowned! drowned then, even as she dreamed:—I come, I come!—Ha, what form is this?—hast mosses? sea-thyme? pearls?—Help, help! I sink!—Back, shining monster!—-What, Hautia,—is it thou?—Oh vipress, I could slay thee!"
"Go, go,—and slay thyself: I may not make thee mine;—go,—dead to dead!—There is another cavern in the hill." Swift I fled along the valley-side; passed Hautia's cave of pearls; and gained a twilight arch; within, a lake transparent shone. Conflicting currents met, and wrestled; and one dark arch led to channels, seaward tending.
Round and round, a gleaming form slow circled in the deepest eddies:— white, and vaguely Yillah.
Straight I plunged; but the currents were as fierce headwinds off capes, that beat back ships.
Then, as I frenzied gazed; gaining the one dark arch, the revolving shade darted out of sight, and the eddies whirled as before.
"Stay, stay! let me go with thee, though thou glidest to gulfs of blackness;—naught can exceed the hell of this despair!—Why beat longer in this corpse oh, my heart!"
As somnambulists fast-frozen in some horrid dream, ghost-like glide abroad, and fright the wakeful world; so that night, with death-glazed eyes, to and fro I flitted on the damp and weedy beach.
"Is this specter, Taji?"—and Mohi and the minstrel stood before me.
"Taji lives no more. So dead, he has no ghost. I am his spirit's phantom's phantom."
"Nay, then, phantom! the time has come to flee."
They dragged me to the water's brink, where a prow was beached. Soon— Mohi at the helm—we shot beneath the far-flung shadow of a cliff; when, as in a dream, I hearkened to a voice.
Arrived at Odo, Media had been met with yells. Sedition was in arms, and to his beard defied him. Vain all concessions then. Foremost stood the three pale sons of him, whom I had slain, to gain the maiden lost. Avengers, from the first hour we had parted on the sea, they had drifted on my track survived starvation; and lived to hunt me round all Mardi's reef; and now at Odo, that last threshold, waited to destroy; or there, missing the revenge they sought, still swore to hunt me round Eternity.
Behind the avengers, raged a stormy mob, invoking Media to renounce his rule. But one hand waving like a pennant above the smoke of some sea-fight, straight through that tumult Media sailed serene: the rioters parting from before him, as wild waves before a prow inflexible.
A haven gained, he turned to Mohi and the minstrel:—"Oh, friends! after our long companionship, hard to part! But henceforth, for many moons, Odo will prove no home for old age, or youth. In Serenia only, will ye find the peace ye seek; and thither ye must carry Taji, who else must soon be slain, or lost. Go: release him from the thrall of Hautia. Outfly the avengers, and gain Serenia. Reek not of me. The state is tossed in storms; and where I stand, the combing billows must break over. But among all noble souls, in tempest-time, the headmost man last flies the wreck. So, here in Odo will I abide, though every plank breaks up beneath me. And then,—great Oro! let the king die clinging to the keel! Farewell!"
Such Mohi's tale.
In trumpet-blasts, the hoarse night-winds now blew; the Lagoon, black with the still shadows of the mountains, and the driving shadows of the clouds. Of all the stars, only red Arcturus shone. But through the gloom, and on the circumvallating reef, the breakers dashed ghost-white.
An outlet in that outer barrier was nigh.
"Ah! Yillah! Yillah!—the currents sweep thee ocean-ward; nor will I tarry behind.—Mardi, farewell!—Give me the helm, old man!"
"Nay, madman! Serenia is our haven. Through yonder strait, for thee, perdition lies. And from the deep beyond, no voyager e'er puts back."
"And why put back? is a life of dying worth living o'er again?—Let me, then, be the unreturning wanderer. The helm! By Oro, I will steer my own fate, old man.—Mardi, farewell!"
"Nay, Taji: commit not the last, last crime!" cried Yoomy.
"He's seized the helm! eternity is in his eye! Yoomy: for our lives we must now swim."
And plunging, they struck out for land: Yoomy buoying Mohi up, and the salt waves dashing the tears from his pallid face, as through the scud, he turned it on me mournfully.
"Now, I am my own soul's emperor; and my first act is abdication! Hail! realm of shades!"—and turning my prow into the racing tide, which seized me like a hand omnipotent, I darted through.
Churned in foam, that outer ocean lashed the clouds; and straight in my white wake, headlong dashed a shallop, three fixed specters leaning o'er its prow: three arrows poising.
And thus, pursuers and pursued flew on, over an endless sea.