The Blue Flower, and Others
by Henry van Dyke
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I turned to Graham—"And you?"

He hesitated a little, and then said, doggedly "On one condition."

"And that is?"

"Keene must explain. He must answer my question."

"Do you accept?" I asked Keene.

"Yes and no!" he replied. "No! to answering Graham's question. He is not the person to ask it. I wonder that he does not see the impropriety, the absurdity of his meddling at all in this affair. Besides, he could not understand my answer even if he believed it. But to the explanation, I say, Yes! I will give it, not to Graham, but to you. I make you this proposition. To-morrow is Sunday. We shall be excused from service if we tell the master that we have important business to settle together. You shall come with me on one of my long walks. I will tell you all about them. Then you can be the judge whether there is any harm in them."

"Does that satisfy you?" I said to Graham.

"Yes," he answered, "that seems fair enough. I am content to leave it in that way for the present. And to make it still more fair, I want to take back what I said awhile ago, and to ask Keene's pardon for it."

"Not at all," said Keene, quickly, "it was said in haste, I bear no grudge. You simply did not understand, that is all."

So we turned to go down the hill, and as we turned, Dorothy met us, coming out of the shadows.

"What are you men doing here?" she asked. "I heard your voices from below. What were you talking about?"

"We were talking," said Keene, "my dear Dorothy, we were talking—about walking—yes, that was it—about walking, and about views. The conversation was quite warm, almost a debate. Now, you know all the view-points in this region. Which do you call the best, the most satisfying, the finest prospect? But I know what you will say: the view from the little knoll in front of Hilltop. For there, when you are tired of looking far away, you can turn around and see the old school, and the linden-trees, and the garden."

"Yes," she answered gravely, "that is really the view that I love best. I would give up all the others rather than lose that."


There was a softness in the November air that brought back memories of summer, and a few belated daisies were blooming in the old clearing, as Keene and I passed by the ruins of the farm-house again, early on Sunday morning. He had been talking ever since we started, pouring out his praise of knowledge, wide, clear, universal knowledge, as the best of life's joys, the greatest of life's achievements. The practical life was a blind, dull routine. Most men were toiling at tasks which they did not like, by rules which they did not understand. They never looked beyond the edge of their work. The philosophical life was a spider's web—filmy threads of theory spun out of the inner consciousness—it touched the world only at certain chosen points of attachment. There was nothing firm, nothing substantial in it. You could look through it like a veil and see the real world lying beyond. But the theorist could see only the web which he had spun. Knowing did not come by speculating, theorising. Knowing came by seeing. Vision was the only real knowledge. To see the world, the whole world, as it is, to look behind the scenes, to read human life like a book, that was the glorious thing—most satisfying, divine.

Thus he had talked as we climbed the hill. Now, as we came by the place where we had first met, a new eagerness sounded in his voice.

"Ever since that day I have inclined to tell you something more about myself. I felt sure you would understand. I am planning to write a book—a book of knowledge, in the true sense—a great book about human life. Not a history, not a theory, but a real view of life, its hidden motives, its secret relations. How different they are from what men dream and imagine and play that they are! How much darker, how much smaller, and therefore how much more interesting and wonderful. No one has yet written—perhaps because no one has yet conceived—such a book as I have in mind. I might call it a 'Bionopsis.'"

"But surely," said I, "you have chosen a strange place to write it—the Hilltop School—this quiet and secluded region! The stream of humanity is very slow and slender here—it trickles. You must get out into the busy world. You must be in the full current and feel its force. You must take part in the active life of mankind in order really to know it."

"A mistake!" he cried. "Action is the thing that blinds men. You remember Matthew Arnold's line:

In action's dizzying eddy whurled.

To know the world you must stand apart from it and above it; you must look down on it."

"Well, then," said I, "you will have to find some secret spring of inspiration, some point of vantage from which you can get your outlook and your insight."

He stopped short and looked me full in the face.

"And that," cried he, "is precisely what I have found!"

Then he turned and pushed along the narrow trail so swiftly that I had hard work to follow him. After a few minutes we came to a little stream, flowing through a grove of hemlocks. Keene seated himself on the fallen log that served for a bridge and beckoned me to a place beside him.

"I promised to give you an explanation to-day—to take you on one of my long walks. Well, there is only one of them. It is always the same. You shall see where it leads, what it means. You shall share my secret—all the wonder and glory of it! Of course I know my conduct, has seemed strange to you. Sometimes it has seemed strange even to me. I have been doubtful, troubled, almost distracted. I have been risking a great deal, in danger of losing what I value, what most men count the best thing in the world. But it could not be helped. The risk was worth while. A great discovery, the opportunity of a lifetime, yes, of an age, perhaps of many ages, came to me. I simply could not throw it away. I must use it, make the best of it, at any danger, at any cost. You shall judge for yourself whether I was right or wrong. But you must judge fairly, without haste, without prejudice. I ask you to make me one promise. You will suspend judgment, you will say nothing, you will keep my secret, until you have been with me three times at the place where I am now taking you."

By this time it was clear to me that I had to do with a case lying far outside of the common routine of life; something subtle, abnormal, hard to measure, in which a clear and careful estimate would be necessary. If Keene was labouring under some strange delusion, some disorder of mind, how could I estimate its nature or extent, without time and study, perhaps without expert advice? To wait a little would be prudent, for his sake as well as for the sake of others. If there was some extraordinary, reality behind his mysterious hints, it would need patience and skill to test it. I gave him the promise for which he asked.

At once, as if relieved, he sprang up, and crying, "Come on, follow me!" began to make his way up the bed of the brook. It was one of the wildest walks that I have ever taken. He turned aside for no obstacles; swamps, masses of interlacing alders, close-woven thickets of stiff young spruces, chevaux-de-frise of dead trees where wind-falls had mowed down the forest, walls of lichen-crusted rock, landslides where heaps of broken stone were tumbled in ruinous confusion—through everything he pushed forward. I could see, here and there, the track of his former journeys: broken branches of witch-hazel and moose-wood, ferns trampled down, a faint trail across some deeper bed of moss. At mid-day we rested for a half-hour to eat lunch. But Keene would eat nothing, except a little pellet of some dark green substance that he took from a flat silver box in his pocket. He swallowed it hastily, and stooping his face to the spring by which he had halted, drank long and eagerly.

"An Indian trick," said he, shaking the drops of water from his face. "On a walk, food is a hindrance, a delay. But this tiny taste of bitter gum is a tonic; it spurs the courage and doubles the strength—if you are used to it. Otherwise I should not recommend you to try it. Faugh! the flavour is vile."

He rinsed his mouth again with water, and stood up, calling me to come on. The way, now tangled among the nameless peaks and ranges, bore steadily southward, rising all the time, in spite of many brief downward curves where a steep gorge must be crossed. Presently we came into a hard-wood forest, open and easy to travel. Breasting a long slope, we reached the summit of a broad, smoothly rounding ridge covered with a dense growth of stunted spruce. The trees rose above our heads, about twice the height of a man, and so thick that we could not see beyond them. But, from glimpses here and there, and from the purity and lightness of the air, I judged that we were on far higher ground than any we had yet traversed, the central comb, perhaps, of the mountain-system.

A few yards ahead of us, through the crowded trunks of the dwarf forest, I saw a gray mass, like the wall of a fortress, across our path. It was a vast rock, rising from the crest of the ridge, lifting its top above the sea of foliage. At its base there were heaps of shattered stones, and deep crevices almost like caves. One side of the rock was broken by a slanting gully.

"Be careful," cried my companion, "there is a rattlers' den somewhere about here. The snakes are in their winter quarters now, almost dormant, but they can still strike if you tread on them. Step here! Give me your hand—use that point of rock—hold fast by this bush; it is firmly rooted—so! Here we are on Spy Rock! You have heard of it? I thought so. Other people have heard of it, and imagine that they have found it—five miles east of us—on a lower ridge. Others think it is a peak just back of Cro' Nest. All wrong! There is but one real Spy Rock—here! This earth holds no more perfect view-point. It is one of the rare places from which a man may see the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of them. Look!"

The prospect was indeed magnificent; it was strange what a vast enlargement of vision resulted from the slight elevation above the surrounding peaks. It was like being lifted up so that we could look over the walls. The horizon expanded as if by magic. The vast circumference of vision swept around us with a radius of a hundred miles. Mountain and meadow, forest and field, river and lake, hill and dale, village and farmland, far-off city and shimmering water—all lay open to our sight, and over all the westering sun wove a transparent robe of gem-like hues. Every feature of the landscape seemed alive, quivering, pulsating with conscious beauty. You could almost see the world breathe.

"Wonderful!" I cried. "Most wonderful! You have found a mount of vision."

"Ah," he answered, "you don't half see the wonder yet, you don't begin to appreciate it. Your eyes are new to it. You have not learned the power of far sight, the secret of Spy Rock. You are still shut in by the horizon."

"Do you mean to say that you can look beyond it?"

"Beyond yours—yes. And beyond any that you would dream possible—See! Your sight reaches to that dim cloud of smoke in the south? And beneath it you can make out, perhaps, a vague blotch of shadow, or a tiny flash of brightness where the sun strikes it? New York! But I can see the great buildings, the domes, the spires, the crowded wharves, the tides of people whirling through the streets—and beyond that, the sea, with the ships coming and going! I can follow them on their courses—and beyond that—Oh! when I am on Spy Rock I can see more than other men can imagine."

For a moment, strange to say, I almost fancied could follow him. The magnetism of his spirit imposed upon me, carried me away with him. Then sober reason told me that he was talking of impossibilities.

"Keene," said I, "you are dreaming. The view and the air have intoxicated you. This is a phantasy, a delusion!"

"It pleases you to call it so," he said, "but I only tell you my real experience. Why it should be impossible I do not understand. There is no reason why the power of sight should not be cultivated, enlarged, expanded indefinitely."

"And the straight rays of light?" I asked. "And the curvature of the earth which makes a horizon inevitable?"

"Who knows what a ray of light is?" said he. "Who can prove that it may not be curved, under certain conditions, or refracted in some places in a way that is not possible elsewhere? I tell you there is something extraordinary about this Spy Rock. It is a seat of power—Nature's observatory. More things are visible here than anywhere else—more than I have told you yet. But come, we have little time left. For half an hour, each of us shall enjoy what he can see. Then home again to the narrower outlook, the restricted life."

The downward journey was swifter than the ascent, but no less fatiguing. By the time we reached the school, an hour after dark, I was very tired. But Keene was in one of his moods of exhilaration. He glowed like a piece of phosphorus that has been drenched with light.

Graham took the first opportunity of speaking with me alone.

"Well?" said he.

"Well!" I answered. "You were wrong. There is no treason in Keene's walks, no guilt in his moods. But there is something very strange. I cannot form a judgment yet as to what we should do. We must wait a few days. It will do no harm to be patient. Indeed, I have promised not to judge, not to speak of it, until a certain time. Are you satisfied?"

"This is a curious story," said he, "and I am puzzled by it. But I trust you, I agree to wait, though I am far from satisfied."

Our second expedition was appointed for the following Saturday. Keene was hungry for it, and I was almost as eager, desiring to penetrate as quickly as possible into the heart of the affair. Already a conviction in regard to it was pressing upon me, and I resolved to let him talk, this time, as freely as he would, without interruption or denial.

When we clambered up on Spy Rock, he was more subdued and reserved than he had been the first time. For a while he talked little, but scanned view with wide, shining eyes. Then he began to tell me stories of the places that we could see—strange stories of domestic calamity, and social conflict, and eccentric passion, and hidden crime.

"Do you remember Hawthorne's story of 'The Minister's Black Veil?' It is the best comment on human life that ever was written. Everyone has something to hide. The surface of life is a mask. The substance of life is a secret. All humanity wears the black veil. But it is not impenetrable. No, it is transparent, if you find the right point of view. Here, on Spy Rock, I have found it. I have learned how to look through the veil. I can see, not by the light-rays only, but by the rays which are colourless, imperceptible, irresistible the rays of the unknown quantity, which penetrate everywhere. I can see how men down in the great city are weaving their nets of selfishness and falsehood, and calling them industrial enterprises or political combinations. I can see how the wheels of society are moved by the hidden springs of avarice and greed and rivalry. I can see how children drink in the fables of religion, without understanding them, and how prudent men repeat them without believing them. I can see how the illusions of love appear and vanish, and how men and women swear that their dreams are eternal, even while they fade. I can see how poor people blind themselves and deceive each other, calling selfishness devotion, and bondage contentment. Down at Hilltop yonder I can see how Dorothy Ward and John Graham, without knowing it, without meaning it—"

"Stop, man!" I cried. "Stop, before you say what can never be unsaid. You know it is not true. These are nightmare visions that ride you. Not from Spy Rock nor from anywhere else can you see anything at Hilltop that is not honest and pure and loyal. Come down, now, and let us go home. You will see better there than here."

"I think not," said he, "but I will come. Yes, of course, I am bound to come. But let me have a few minutes here alone. Go you down along the path a little way slowly. I will follow you in a quarter of an hour. And remember we are to be here together once more!"

Once more! Yes, and then what must be done?

How was this strange case to be dealt with so as to save all the actors, as far as possible, from needless suffering? That Keene's mind was disordered at least three of us suspected already. But to me alone was the nature and seat of the disorder known. How make the others understand it? They might easily conceive it to be something different from the fact, some actual lesion of the brain, an incurable insanity. But this it was not. As yet, at least, he was no patient for a mad-house: it would be unjust, probably it would be impossible to have him committed. But on the other hand they might take it too lightly, as the result of overwork, or perhaps of the use of some narcotic. To me it was certain that the trouble went far deeper than this. It lay in the man's moral nature, in the error of his central will. It was the working out, in abnormal form, but with essential truth, of his chosen and cherished ideal of life. Spy Rock was something more than the seat of his delusion, it was the expression of his temperament. The solitary trail that led thither was the symbol of his search for happiness—alone, forgetful of life's lowlier ties, looking down upon the world in the cold abstraction of scornful knowledge. How was such a man to be brought back to the real life whose first condition is the acceptance of a limited outlook, the willingness to live by trust as much as by sight, the power of finding joy and peace in the things that we feel are the best, even though we cannot prove them nor explain them? How could he ever bring anything but discord and sorrow to those who were bound to him?

This was what perplexed and oppressed me. I needed all the time until the next Saturday to think the question through, to decide what should be done. But the matter was taken out of my hands. After our latest expedition Keene's dark mood returned upon him with sombre intensity. Dull, restless, indifferent, half-contemptuous, he seemed to withdraw into himself, observing those around him with half-veiled glances, as if he had nothing better to do and yet found it a tiresome pastime. He was like a man waiting wearily at a railway station for his train. Nothing pleased him. He responded to nothing.

Graham controlled his indignation by a constant effort. A dozen times he was on the point of speaking out. But he restrained himself and played fair. Dorothy's suffering could not be hidden. Her loyalty was strained to the breaking point. She was too tender and true for anger, but she was wounded almost beyond endurance.

Keene's restlessness increased. The intervening Thursday was Thanksgiving Day; most of the boys had gone home; the school had holiday. Early in the morning he came to me.

"Let us take our walk to-day. We have no work to do. Come! In this clear, frosty air, Spy Rock will be glorious!"

"No," I answered, "this is no day for such an expedition. This is the home day. Stay here and be happy with us all. You owe this to love and friendship. You owe it to Dorothy Ward."

"Owe it?" said he. "Speaking of debts, I think each man is his own preferred creditor. But of course you can do as you like about to-day. Tomorrow or Saturday will answer just as well for our third walk together."

About noon he came down from his room and went to the piano, where Dorothy was sitting. They talked together in low tones. Then she stood up, with pale face and wide-open eyes. She laid her hand on his arm.

"Do not go, Edward. For the last time I beg you to stay with us to-day."

He lifted her hand and held it for an instant. Then he bowed, and let it fall.

"You will excuse me, Dorothy, I am sure. I feel the need of exercise. Absolutely I must go; good-by—until the evening."

The hours of that day passed heavily for all of us. There was a sense of disaster in the air. Something irretrievable had fallen from our circle. But no one dared to name it. Night closed in upon the house with a changing sky. All the stars were hidden. The wind whimpered and then shouted. The rain swept down in spiteful volleys, deepening at last into a fierce, steady discharge. Nine o'clock, ten o'clock passed, and Keene did not return. By midnight we were certain that some accident had befallen him.

It was impossible to go up into the mountains in that pitch-darkness of furious tempest. But we could send down to the village for men to organise a search-party and to bring the doctor. At daybreak we set out—some of the men going with the Master along Black Brook, others in different directions to make sure of a complete search—Graham and the doctor and I following the secret trail that I knew only too well. Dorothy insisted that she must go. She would bear no denial, declaring that it would be worse for her alone at home, than if we took her with us.

It was incredible how the path seemed to lengthen. Graham watched the girl's every step, helping her over the difficult places, pushing aside the tangled branches, his eyes resting upon her as frankly, as tenderly as a mother looks at her child. In single file we marched through the gray morning, clearing cold after the storm, and the silence was seldom broken, for we had little heart to talk.

At last we came to the high, lonely ridge, the dwarf forest, the huge, couchant bulk of Spy Rock. There, on the back of it, with his right arm hanging over the edge, was the outline of Edward Keene's form. It was as if some monster had seized him and flung him over its shoulder to carry away.

We called to him but there was no answer. The doctor climbed up with me, and we hurried to the spot where he was lying. His face was turned to the sky, his eyes blindly staring; there was no pulse, no breath; he was already cold in death. His right hand and arm, the side of his neck and face were horribly swollen and livid. The doctor stooped down and examined the hand carefully. "See!" he cried, pointing to a great bruise on his wrist, with two tiny punctures in the middle of it from which a few drops of blood had oozed, "a rattlesnake has struck him. He must have fairly put his hand upon it, perhaps in the dark, when he was climbing. And, look, what is this?"

He picked up a flat silver box, that lay open on the rock. There were two olive-green pellets of a resinous paste in it. He lifted it to his face, and drew a long breath.

"Yes," he said, "it is Gunjab, the most powerful form of Hashish, the narcotic hemp of India. Poor fellow, it saved him from frightful agony. He died in a dream."

"You are right," I said, "in a dream, and for a dream."

We covered his face and climbed down the rock. Dorothy and Graham were waiting below. He had put his coat around her. She was shivering a little. There were tear-marks on her face.

"Well," I said, "you must know it. We have lost him."

"Ah!" said the girl, "I lost him long ago."


There are three vines that belong to the ancient forest. Elsewhere they will not grow, though the soil prepared for them be never so rich, the shade of the arbour built for them never so closely and cunningly woven. Their delicate, thread-like roots take no hold upon the earth tilled and troubled by the fingers of man. The fine sap that steals through their long, slender limbs pauses and fails when they are watered by human hands. Silently the secret of their life retreats and shrinks away and hides itself.

But in the woods, where falling leaves and crumbling tree-trunks and wilting ferns have been moulded by Nature into a deep, brown humus, clean and fragrant—in the woods, where the sunlight filters green and golden through interlacing branches, and where pure moisture of distilling rains and melting snows is held in treasury by never-failing banks of moss—under the verdurous flood of the forest, like sea-weeds under the ocean waves, these three little creeping vines put forth their hands with joy, and spread over rock and hillock and twisted tree-root and mouldering log, in cloaks and scarves and wreaths of tiny evergreen, glossy leaves.

One of them is adorned with white pearls sprinkled lightly over its robe of green. This is Snowberry, and if you eat of it, you will grow wise in the wisdom of flowers. You will know where to find the yellow violet, and the wake-robin, and the pink lady-slipper, and the scarlet sage, and the fringed gentian. You will understand how the buds trust themselves to the spring in their unfolding, and how the blossoms trust themselves to the winter in their withering, and how the busy bands of Nature are ever weaving the beautiful garment of life out of the strands of death, and nothing is lost that yields itself to her quiet handling.

Another of the vines of the forest is called Partridge-berry. Rubies are hidden among its foliage, and if you eat of this fruit, you will grow wise in the wisdom of birds. You will know where the oven-bird secretes her nest, and where the wood-cock dances in the air at night; the drumming-log of the ruffed grouse will be easy to find, and you will see the dark lodges of the evergreen thickets inhabited by hundreds of warblers. There will be no dead silence for you in the forest, any longer, but you will hear sweet and delicate voices on every side, voices that you know and love; you will catch the key-note of the silver flute of the woodthrush, and the silver harp of the veery, and the silver bells of the hermit; and something in your heart will answer to them all. In the frosty stillness of October nights you will see the airy tribes flitting across the moon, following the secret call that guides them southward. In the calm brightness of winter sunshine, filling sheltered copses with warmth and cheer, you will watch the lingering blue-birds and robins and song-sparrows playing at summer, while the chickadees and the juncos and the cross-bills make merry in the windswept fields. In the lucent mornings of April you will hear your old friends coming home to you, Phoebe, and Oriole, and Yellow-Throat, and Red-Wing, and Tanager, and Cat-Bird. When they call to you and greet you, you will understand that Nature knows a secret for which man has never found a word—the secret that tells itself in song.

The third of the forest-vines is Wood-Magic. It bears neither flower nor fruit. Its leaves are hardly to be distinguished from the leaves of the other vines. Perhaps they are a little rounder than the Snowberry's, a little more pointed than the Partridge-berry's; sometimes you might mistake them for the one, sometimes for the other. No marks of warning have been written upon them. If you find them it is your fortune; if you taste them it is your fate.

For as you browse your way through the forest, nipping here and there a rosy leaf of young winter-green, a fragrant emerald tip of balsam-fir, a twig of spicy birch, if by chance you pluck the leaves of Wood-Magic and eat them, you will not know what you have done, but the enchantment of the tree-land will enter your heart and the charm of the wildwood will flow through your veins.

You will never get away from it. The sighing of the wind through the pine-trees and the laughter of the stream in its rapids will sound through all your dreams. On beds of silken softness you will long for the sleep-song of whispering leaves above your head, and the smell of a couch of balsam-boughs. At tables spread with dainty fare you will be hungry for the joy of the hunt, and for the angler's sylvan feast. In proud cities you will weary for the sight of a mountain trail; in great cathedrals you will think of the long, arching aisles of the woodland; and in the noisy solitude of crowded streets you will hone after the friendly forest.

This is what will happen to you if you eat the leaves of that little vine, Wood-Magic. And this is what happened to Luke Dubois.


The Cabin by the Rivers

Two highways meet before the door, and a third reaches away to the southward, broad and smooth and white. But there are no travellers passing by. The snow that has fallen during the night is unbroken. The pale February sunrise makes blue shadows on it, sharp and jagged, an outline of the fir-trees on the mountain-crest quarter of, a mile away.

In summer the highways are dissolved into three wild rivers—the River of Rocks, which issues from the hills; the River of Meadows, which flows from the great lake; and the River of the Way Out, which runs down from their meeting-place to the settlements and the little world. But in winter, when the ice is firm under the snow, and the going is fine, there are no tracks upon the three broad roads except the paths of the caribou, and the footprints of the marten and the mink and the fox, and the narrow trails made by Luke Dubois on his way to and from his cabin by the rivers.

He leaned in the door-way, looking out. Behind him in the shadow, the fire was still snapping in the little stove where he had cooked his breakfast. There was a comforting smell of bacon and venison in the room; the tea-pot stood on the table half-empty. Here in the corner were his rifle and some of his traps. On the wall hung his snowshoes. Under the bunk was a pile of skins. Half-open on the bench lay the book that he had been reading the evening before, while the snow was falling. It was a book of veritable fairy-tales, which told how men had made their way in the world, and achieved great fortunes, and won success, by toiling hard at first, and then by trading and bargaining and getting ahead of other men.

"Well," said Luke, to himself, as he stood at the door, "I could do that too. Without doubt I also am one of the men who can do things. They did not work any harder than I do. But they got better pay. I am twenty-five. For ten years I have worked hard, and what have I got for it? This!"

He stepped out into the morning, alert and vigorous, deep-chested and straight-hipped. The strength of the hills had gone into him, and his eyes were bright with health. His kingdom was spread before him. There along the River of Meadows were the haunts of the moose and the caribou where he hunted in the fall; and yonder on the burnt hills around the great lake were the places where he watched for the bears; and up beside the River of Rocks ran his line of traps, swinging back by secret ways to many a nameless pond and hidden beaver-meadow; and all along the streams, when the ice went out in the spring, the great trout would be leaping in rapid and pool. Among the peaks and valleys of that forest-clad kingdom he could find his way as easily as a merchant walks from his house to his office. The secrets of bird and beast were known to him; every season of the year brought him its own tribute; the woods were his domain, vast, inexhaustible, free.

Here was his home, his cabin that he had built with his own hands. The roof was tight, the walls were well chinked with moss. It was snug and warm. But small—how pitifully small it looked to-day—and how lonely!

His hand-sledge stood beside the door, and against it leaned the axe. He caught it up and began to split wood for the stove. "No!" he cried, throwing down the axe, "I'm tired of this. It has lasted long enough. I'm going out to make my way in the world."

A couple of hours later, the sledge was packed with camp-gear and bundles of skins. The door of the cabin was shut; a ghostlike wreath of blue smoke curled from the chimney. Luke stood, in his snowshoes, on the white surface of the River of the Way Out. He turned to look back for a moment, and waved his hand.

"Good-bye, old cabin! Good-bye, the rivers! Good-bye, the woods!"


The House on the Main Street

All the good houses in Scroll-Saw City were different, in the number and shape of the curious pinnacles that rose from their roofs and in the trimmings of their verandas. Yet they were all alike, too, in their general expression of putting their best foot foremost and feeling quite sure that they made a brave show. They had lace curtains in their front parlour windows, and outside of the curtains were large red and yellow pots of artificial flowers and indestructible palms and vulcanised rubber-plants. It was a gay sight.

But by far the bravest of these houses was the residence of Mr. Matthew Wilson, the principal merchant of Scroll-Saw City. It stood on a corner of Main Street, glancing slyly out of the tail of one eye, side-ways down the street, toward the shop and the business, but keeping a bold, complacent front toward the street-cars and the smaller houses across the way. It might well be satisfied with itself, for it had three more pinnacles than any of its neighbours, and the work of the scroll-saw was looped and festooned all around the eaves and porticoes and bay-windows in amazing richness. Moreover, in the front yard were cast-iron images painted white: a stag reposing on a door-mat; Diana properly dressed and returning from the chase; a small iron boy holding over his head a parasol from the ferrule of which a fountain squirted. The paths were of asphalt, gray and gritty in winter, but now, in the summer heat, black and pulpy to the tread.

There were many feet passing over them this afternoon, for Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Wilson were giving a reception to celebrate the official entrance of their daughter Amanda into a social life which she had permeated unofficially for several years. The house was sizzling full of people. Those who were jammed in the parlour tried to get into the dining-room, and those who were packed in the dining-room struggled to escape, holding plates of stratified cake and liquefied ice-cream high above their neighbours' heads like signals of danger and distress. Everybody was talking at the same time, in a loud, shrill voice, and nobody listened to what anybody else was saying. But it did not matter, for they all said the same things.

"Elegant house for a party, so full of—" "How perfectly lovely Amanda Wilson looks in that—" "Awfully warm day! Were you at the Tompkins' last—" "Wilson's Emporium must be doing good business to keep up all this—" "Hear he's going to enlarge the store and take Luke Woods into the—"

"Shouldn't wonder if there might be a wedding here before next—"

The tide of chatter rose and swelled and ebbed and suddenly sank away. At six o'clock, the minister and two maiden ladies in black silk with lilac ribbons, laid down their last plates of ice-cream and said they thought they must be going. Amanda and her mother preened their dresses and patted their hair. "Come into the study," said Mr. Wilson to Luke. "I want to have a talk with you."

The little bookless room, called the study, was the one that kept its eye on the shop and the business, away down the street. You could see the brick front, and the plate-glass windows, and part of the gilt sign.

"Pretty good store," said Mr. Wilson, jingling the keys in his pocket, "does the biggest trade in the county, biggest but one in the whole state, I guess. And I must say, Luke Woods, you've done your share, these last five years, in building it up. Never had a clerk work so hard and so steady. You've got good business sense, I guess."

"I'm glad you think so," said Luke. "I did as well as I could."

"Yes," said the elder man, "and now I'm about ready to take you in with me, give you a share in the business. I want some one to help me run it, make it larger. We can double it, easy, if we stick to it and spread out. No reason why you shouldn't make a fortune out of it, and have a house just like this on the other corner, when you're my age."

Luke's thoughts were wandering a little. They went out from the stuffy room, beyond the dusty street, and the jangling cars, and the gilt sign, and the shop full of dry-goods and notions, and the high desks in the office—out to the dim, cool forest, where Snowberry and Partridge-berry and Wood-Magic grow. He heard the free winds rushing over the tree-tops, and saw the trail winding away before him in the green shade.

"You are very kind," said he, "I hope you will not be disappointed in me. Sometimes I think, perhaps—"

"Not at all, not at all," said the other. "It's all right. You're well fitted for it. And then, there's another thing. I guess you like my daughter Amanda pretty well. Eh? I've watched you, young man. I've had my eye on you! Now, of course, I can't say much about it—never can be sure of these kind of things, you know—but if you and she—"

The voice went on rolling out words complacently. But something strange was working in Luke's blood, and other voices were sounding faintly in his ears. He heard the lisping of the leaves on the little poplar-trees, the whistle of the black duck's wings as he circled in the air, the distant drumming of the grouse on his log, the rumble of the water-fall in the River of Rocks. The spray cooled his face. He saw the fish rising along the pool, and a stag feeding among the lily-pads.

"I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Wilson," said he at last, when the elder man stopped talking. "You have certainly treated me most generously. The only question is, whether—But to-morrow night, I think, with your consent, I will speak to your daughter. To-night I am going down to the store; there is a good deal of work to do on the books."

But when Luke came to the store, he did not go in. He walked along the street till he came to the river.

The water-side was strangely deserted. Everybody was at supper. A couple of schooners were moored at the wharf. The Portland steamer had gone out. The row-boats hung idle at their little dock. Down the river, drifting and dancing lightly over the opalescent ripples, following the gentle turns of the current which flowed past the end of the dock where Luke was standing, came a white canoe, empty and astray.


The White Canoe

"That looks just like my old canoe," said he. "Somebody must have left it adrift up the river. I wonder how it floated down here without being picked up." He put out his hand and caught it, as it touched the dock.

In the stern a good paddle of maple-wood was lying; in the middle there was a roll of blankets and a pack of camp-stuff; in the bow a rifle.

"All ready for a trip," he laughed. "Nobody going but me? Well, then, au large!" And stepping into the canoe he pushed out on the river.

The saffron and golden lights in the sky diffused themselves over the surface of the water, and spread from the bow of the canoe in deeper waves of purple and orange, as he paddled swiftly up stream. The pale yellow gas-lamps of the town faded behind him. The lumber-yards and factories and disconsolate little houses of the outskirts seemed to melt away. In a little while he was floating between dark walls of forest, through the heart of the wilderness.

The night deepened around him and the sky hung out its thousand lamps. Odours of the woods floated on the air: the spicy fragrance of the firs; the breath of hidden banks of twin-flower. Muskrats swam noiselessly in the shadows, diving with a great commotion as the canoe ran upon them suddenly. A horned owl hooted from the branch of a dead pine-tree; far back in the forest a fox barked twice. The moon crept up behind the wall of trees and touched the stream with silver.

Presently the forest receded: the banks of the river grew broad and open; the dew glistened on the tall grass; it was surely the River of Meadows. Far ahead of him in a bend of the stream, Luke's ear caught a new sound: SLOSH, SLOSH, SLOSH, as if some heavy animal were crossing the wet meadow. Then a great splash! Luke swung the canoe into the shadow of the bank and paddled fast. As he turned the point a black bear came out of the river, and stood on the shore, shaking the water around him in glittering spray. Ping! said the rifle, and the bear fell. "Good luck!" said Luke. "I haven't forgotten how, after all. I'll take him into the canoe, and dress him up at the camp."

Yes, there was the little cabin at the meeting of the rivers. The door was padlocked, but Luke knew how to pry off one of the staples. Squirrels had made a litter on the floor, but that was soon swept out, and a fire crackled in the stove. There was tea and ham and bread in the pack in the canoe. Supper never tasted better. "One more night in the old camp," said Luke as he rolled himself in the blanket and dropped asleep in a moment.

The sun shone in at the door and woke him. "I must have a trout for breakfast," he cried, "there's one waiting for me at the mouth of Alder Brook, I suppose." So he caught up his rod from behind the door, and got into the canoe and paddled up the River of Rocks. There was the broad, dark pool, like a little lake, with a rapid running in at the head, and close beside the rapid, the mouth of the brook. He sent his fly out by the edge of the alders. There was a huge swirl on the water, and the great-grandfather of all the trout in the river was hooked. Up and down the pool he played for half an hour, until at last the fight was over, and for want of a net Luke beached him on the gravel bank at the foot of the pool.

"Seven pounds if it's an ounce," said he. "This is my lucky day. Now all I need is some good meat to provision the camp."

He glanced down the river, and on the second point below the pool he saw a great black bullmoose with horns five feet wide.

Quietly, swiftly, the canoe went gliding down the stream; and ever as it crept along, the moose loped easily before it, from point to point, from bay to bay, past the little cabin, down the River of the Way Out, now rustling unseen through a bank of tall alders, now standing out for a moment bold and black on a beach of white sand—so all day long the moose loped down the stream and the white canoe followed. Just as the setting sun was poised above the trees, the great bull stopped and stood with head lifted. Luke pushed the canoe as near as he dared, and looked down for the rifle. He had left it at the cabin! The moose tossed his huge antlers, grunted, and stepped quietly over the bushes into the forest.

Luke paddled on down the stream. It occurred to him, suddenly, that it was near evening. He wondered a little how he should reach home in time for his engagement. But it did not seem strange, as he went swiftly on with the river, to see the first houses of the town, and the lumber-yards, and the schooners at the wharf.

He made the canoe fast at the dock, and went up the Main Street. There was the old shop, but the sign over it read, "Wilson and Woods Company, The Big Store." He went on to the house with the white iron images in the front yard. Diana was still returning from the chase. The fountain still squirted from the point of the little boy's parasol.

On the veranda sat a stout man in a rocking chair, reading the newspaper. At the side of the house two little girls with pig-tails were playing croquet. Some one in the parlour was executing "After the Ball is Over" on a mechanical piano.

Luke accosted a stranger who passed him. "Excuse me, but can you tell me whether this is Mr. Matthew Wilson's house?"

"It used to be," said the stranger, "but old man Wilson has been dead these ten years."

"And who lives here now?" asked Luke.

"Mr. Woods: he married Wilson's daughter," said the stranger, and went on his way.

"Well," said Luke to himself, "this is just a little queer. Woods was my name for a while, when I lived here, but now, I suppose, I'm Luke Dubois again. Dashed if I can understand it. Somebody must have been dreaming."

So he went back to the white canoe, and paddled away up the river, and nobody in Scroll-Saw City ever set eyes on him again.


You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking and the strange way of his finding the One whom he sought—I would tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man.


In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and Herod reigned in Jerusalem, there lived in the city of Ecbatana, among the mountains of Persia, a certain man named Artaban. His house stood close to the outermost of the walls which encircled the royal treasury. From his roof he could look over the seven-fold battlements of black and white and crimson and blue and red and silver and gold, to the hill where the summer palace of the Parthian emperors glittered like a jewel in a crown.

Around the dwelling of Artaban spread a fair garden, a tangle of flowers and fruit-trees, watered by a score of streams descending from the slopes of Mount Orontes, and made musical by innumerable birds. But all colour was lost in the soft and odorous darkness of the late September night, and all sounds were hushed in the deep charm of its silence, save the plashing of the water, like a voice half-sobbing and half-laughing under the shadows. High above the trees a dim glow of light shone through the curtained arches of the upper chamber, where the master of the house was holding council with his friends.

He stood by the doorway to greet his guests—a tall, dark man of about forty years, with brilliant eyes set near together under his broad brow, and firm lines graven around his fine, thin lips; the brow of a dreamer and the mouth of a soldier, a man of sensitive feeling but inflexible will—one of those who, in whatever age they may live, are born for inward conflict and a life of quest.

His robe was of pure white wool, thrown over a tunic of silk; and a white, pointed cap, with long lapels at the sides, rested on his flowing black hair. It was the dress of the ancient priesthood of the Magi, called the fire-worshippers.

"Welcome!" he said, in his low, pleasant voice, as one after another entered the room—"welcome, Abdus; peace be with you, Rhodaspes and Tigranes, and with you my father, Abgarus. You are all welcome. This house grows bright with the joy of your presence."

There were nine of the men, differing widely in age, but alike in the richness of their dress of many-coloured silks, and in the massive golden collars around their necks, marking them as Parthian nobles, and in the winged circles of gold resting upon their breasts, the sign of the followers of Zoroaster.

They took their places around a small black altar at the end of the room, where a tiny flame was burning. Artaban, standing beside it, and waving a barsom of thin tamarisk branches above the fire, fed it with dry sticks of pine and fragrant oils. Then he began the ancient chant of the Yasna, and the voices of his companions joined in the hymn to Ahura-Mazda:

We worship the Spirit Divine, all wisdom and goodness possessing, Surrounded by Holy Immortals, the givers of bounty and blessing; We joy in the work of His hands, His truth and His power confessing.

We praise all the things that are pure, for these are His only Creation The thoughts that are true, and the words and the deeds that have won approbation; These are supported by Him, and for these we make adoration. Hear us, O Mazda! Thou livest in truth and in heavenly gladness; Cleanse us from falsehood, and keep us from evil and bondage to badness, Pour out the light and the joy of Thy life on our darkness and sadness.

Shine on our gardens and fields, shine on our working and waving; Shine on the whole race of man, believing and unbelieving; Shine on us now through the night, Shine on us now in Thy might, The flame of our holy love and the song of our worship receiving.

The fire rose with the chant, throbbing as if the flame responded to the music, until it cast a bright illumination through the whole apartment, revealing its simplicity and splendour.

The floor was laid with tiles of dark blue veined with white; pilasters of twisted silver stood out against the blue walls; the clear-story of round-arched windows above them was hung with azure silk; the vaulted ceiling was a pavement of blue stones, like the body of heaven in its clearness, sown with silver stars. From the four corners of the roof hung four golden magic-wheels, called the tongues of the gods. At the eastern end, behind the altar, there were two dark-red pillars of porphyry; above them a lintel of the same stone, on which was carved the figure of a winged archer, with his arrow set to the string and his bow drawn.

The doorway between the pillars, which opened upon the terrace of the roof, was covered with a heavy curtain of the colour of a ripe pomegranate, embroidered with innumerable golden rays shooting upward from the floor. In effect the room was like a quiet, starry night, all azure and silver, flushed in the cast with rosy promise of the dawn. It was, as the house of a man should be, an expression of the character and spirit of the master.

He turned to his friends when the song was ended, and invited them to be seated on the divan at the western end of the room.

"You have come to-night," said he, looking around the circle, "at my call, as the faithful scholars of Zoroaster, to renew your worship and rekindle your faith in the God of Purity, even as this fire has been rekindled on the altar. We worship not the fire, but Him of whom it is the chosen symbol, because it is the purest of all created things. It speaks to us of one who is Light and Truth. Is it not so, my father?"

"It is well said, my son," answered the venerable Abgarus. "The enlightened are never idolaters. They lift the veil of form and go in to the shrine of reality, and new light and truth are coming to them continually through the old symbols." "Hear me, then, my father an while I tell you of the new light and truth that have come to me through the most ancient of all signs. We have searched the secrets of Nature together, and studied the healing virtues of water and fire and the plants. We have read also the books of prophecy in which the future is dimly foretold in words that are hard to understand. But the highest of all learning is the knowledge of the stars. To trace their course is to untangle the threads of the mystery of life from the beginning to the end. If we could follow them perfectly, nothing would be hidden from us. But is not our knowledge of them still incomplete? Are there not many stars still beyond our horizon—lights that are known only to the dwellers in the far south-land, among the spice-trees of Punt and the gold mines of Ophir?"

There was a murmur of assent among the listeners.

"The stars," said Tigranes, "are the thoughts of the Eternal. They are numberless. But the thoughts of man can be counted, like the years of his life. The wisdom of the Magi is the greatest of all wisdoms on earth, because it knows its own ignorance. And that is the secret of power. We keep men always looking and waiting for a new sunrise. But we ourselves understand that the darkness is equal to the light, and that the conflict between them will never be ended."

"That does not satisfy me," answered Artaban, "for, if the waiting must be endless, if there could be no fulfilment of it, then it would not be wisdom to look and wait. We should become like those new teachers of the Greeks, who say that there is no truth, and that the only wise men are those who spend their lives in discovering and exposing the lies that have been believed in the world. But the new sunrise will certainly appear in the appointed time. Do not our own books tell us that this will come to pass, and that men will see the brightness of a great light?"

"That is true," said the voice of Abgarus; "every faithful disciple of Zoroaster knows the prophecy of the Avesta, and carries the word in his heart. 'In that day Sosiosh the Victorious shall arise out of the number of the prophets in the east country. Around him shall shine a mighty brightness, and he shall make life everlasting, incorruptible, and immortal, and the dead shall rise again.'"

"This is a dark saying," said Tigranes, "and it may be that we shall never understand it. It is better to consider the things that are near at hand, and to increase the influence of the Magi in their own country, rather than to look for one who may be a stranger, and to whom we must resign our power."

The others seemed to approve these words. There was a silent feeling of agreement manifest among them; their looks responded with that indefinable expression which always follows when a speaker has uttered the thought that has been slumbering in the hearts of his listeners. But Artaban turned to Abgarus with a glow on his face, and said:

"My father, I have kept this prophecy in the secret place of my soul. Religion without a great hope would be like an altar without a living fire. And now the flame has burned more brightly, and by the light of it I have read other words which also have come from the fountain of Truth, and speak yet more clearly of the rising of the Victorious One in his brightness."

He drew from the breast of his tunic two small rolls of fine parchment, with writing upon them, and unfolded them carefully upon his knee.

"In the years that are lost in the past, long before our fathers came into the land of Babylon, there were wise men in Chaldea, from whom the first of the Magi learned the secret of the heavens. And of these Balaam the son of Beor was one of the mightiest. Hear the words of his prophecy: 'There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel.'"

The lips of Tigranes drew downward with contempt, as he said:

"Judah was a captive by the waters of Babylon, and the sons of Jacob were in bondage to our kings. The tribes of Israel are scattered through the mountains like lost sheep, and from the remnant that dwells in Judea under the yoke of Rome neither star nor sceptre shall arise."

"And yet," answered Artaban, "it was the Hebrew Daniel, the mighty searcher of dreams, the counsellor of kings, the wise Belteshazzar, who was most honoured and beloved of our great King Cyrus. A prophet of sure things and a reader of the thoughts of the Eternal, Daniel proved himself to our people. And these are the words that he wrote." (Artaban read from the second roll:) "'Know, therefore, and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore Jerusalem, unto the Anointed One, the Prince, the time shall be seven and threescore and two weeks."'

"But, my son," said Abgarus, doubtfully, "these are mystical numbers. Who can interpret them, or who can find the key that shall unlock their meaning?"

Artaban answered: "It has been shown to me and to my three companions among the Magi—Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. We have searched the ancient tablets of Chaldea and computed the time. It falls in this year. We have studied the sky, and in the spring of the year we saw two of the greatest planets draw near together in the sign of the Fish, which is the house of the Hebrews. We also saw a new star there, which shone for one night and then vanished. Now again the two great planets are meeting. This night is their conjunction. My three brothers are watching by the ancient Temple of the Seven Spheres, at Borsippa, in Babylonia, and I am watching here. If the star shines again, they will wait ten days for me at the temple, and then we will set out together for Jerusalem, to see and worship the promised one who shall be born King of Israel. I believe the sign will come. I have made ready for the journey. I have sold my possessions, and bought these three jewels—a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl—to carry them as tribute to the King. And I ask you to go with me on the pilgrimage, that we may have joy together in finding the Prince who is worthy to be served."

While he was speaking he thrust his hand into the inmost fold of his, girdle and drew out three great gems—one blue as a fragment of the night sky, one redder than a ray of sunrise, and one as pure as the peak of a snow-mountain at twilight—and laid them on the outspread scrolls before him.

But his friends looked on with strange and alien eyes. A veil of doubt and mistrust came over their faces, like a fog creeping up from the marshes to hide the hills. They glanced at each other with looks of wonder and pity, as those who have listened to incredible sayings, the story of a wild vision, or the proposal of an impossible enterprise.

At last Tigranes said: "Artaban, this is a vain dream. It comes from too much looking upon the stars and the cherishing of lofty thoughts. It would be wiser to spend the time in gathering money for the new fire-temple at Chala. No king will ever rise from the broken race of Israel, and no end will ever come to the eternal strife of light and darkness. He who looks for it is a chaser of shadows. Farewell."

And another said: "Artaban, I have no knowledge of these things, and my office as guardian of the royal treasure binds me here. The quest is not for me. But if thou must follow it, fare thee well."

And another said: "In my house there sleeps a new bride, and I cannot leave her nor take her with me on this strange journey. This quest is not for me. But may thy steps be prospered wherever thou goest. So, farewell."

And another said: "I am ill and unfit for hardship, but there is a man among my servants whom I will send with thee when thou goest, to bring me word how thou farest."

So, one by one, they left the house of Artaban. But Abgarus, the oldest and the one who loved him the best, lingered after the others had gone, and said, gravely: "My son, it may be that the light of truth is in this sign that has appeared in the skies, and then it will surely lead to the Prince and the mighty brightness. Or it may be that it is only a shadow of the light, as Tigranes has said, and then he who follows it will have a long pilgrimage and a fruitless search. But it is better to follow even the shadow of the best than to remain content with the worst. And those who would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel alone. I am too old for this journey, but my heart shall be a companion of thy pilgrimage day and night, and I shall know the end of thy quest. Go in peace."

Then Abgarus went out of the azure chamber with its silver stars, and Artaban was left in solitude.

He gathered up the jewels and replaced them in his girdle. For a long time he stood and watched the flame that flickered and sank upon the altar. Then he crossed the hall, lifted the heavy curtain, and passed out between the pillars of porphyry to the terrace on the roof.

The shiver that runs through the earth ere she rouses from her night-sleep had already begun, and the cool wind that heralds the daybreak was drawing downward from the lofty snow-traced ravines of Mount Orontes. Birds, half-awakened, crept and chirped among the rustling leaves, and the smell of ripened grapes came in brief wafts from the arbours.

Far over the eastern plain a white mist stretched like a lake. But where the distant peaks of Zagros serrated the western horizon the sky was clear. Jupiter and Saturn rolled together like drops of lambent flame about to blend in one.

As Artaban watched them, a steel-blue spark was born out of the darkness beneath, rounding itself with purple splendours to a crimson sphere, and spiring upward through rays of saffron and orange into a point of white radiance. Tiny and infinitely remote, yet perfect in every part, it pulsated in the enormous vault as if the three jewels in the Magian's girdle had mingled and been transformed into a living heart of light.

He bowed his head. He covered his brow with his hands.

"It is the sign," he said. "The King is coming, and I will go to meet him."


All night long, Vasda, the swiftest of Artaban's horses, had been waiting, saddled and bridled, in her stall, pawing the ground impatiently, and shaking her bit as if she shared the eagerness of her master's purpose, though she knew not its meaning.

Before the birds had fully roused to their strong, high, joyful chant of morning song, before the white mist had begun to lift lazily from the plain, the Other Wise Man was in the saddle, riding swiftly along the high-road, which skirted the base of Mount Orontes, westward.

How close, how intimate is the comradeship between a man and his favourite horse on a long journey. It is a silent, comprehensive friendship, an intercourse beyond the need of words.

They drink at the same way-side springs, and sleep under the same guardian stars. They are conscious together of the subduing spell of nightfall and the quickening joy of daybreak. The master shares his evening meal with his hungry companion, and feels the soft, moist lips caressing the palm of his hand as they close over the morsel of bread. In the gray dawn he is roused from his bivouac by the gentle stir of a warm, sweet breath over his sleeping face, and looks up into the eyes of his faithful fellow-traveller, ready and waiting for the toil of the day. Surely, unless he is a pagan and an unbeliever, by whatever name he calls upon his God, he will thank Him for this voiceless sympathy, this dumb affection, and his morning prayer will embrace a double blessing—God bless us both, the horse and the rider, and keep our feet from falling and our souls from death!

Then, through the keen morning air, the swift hoofs beat their tattoo along the road, keeping time to the pulsing of two hearts that are moved with the same eager desire—to conquer space, to devour the distance, to attain the goal of the journey.

Artaban must indeed ride wisely and well if he would keep the appointed hour with the other Magi; for the route was a hundred and fifty parasangs, and fifteen was the utmost that he could travel in a day. But he knew Vasda's strength, and pushed forward without anxiety, making the fixed distance every day, though he must travel late into the night, and in the morning long before sunrise.

He passed along the brown slopes of Mount Orontes, furrowed by the rocky courses of a hundred torrents.

He crossed the level plains of the Nisaeans, where the famous herds of horses, feeding in the wide pastures, tossed their heads at Vasda's approach, and galloped away with a thunder of many hoofs, and flocks of wild birds rose suddenly from the swampy meadows, wheeling in great circles with a shining flutter of innumerable wings and shrill cries of surprise.

He traversed the fertile fields of Concabar, where the dust from the threshing-floors filled the air with a golden mist, half hiding the huge temple of Astarte with its four hundred pillars.

At Baghistan, among the rich gardens watered by fountains from the rock, he looked up at the mountain thrusting its immense rugged brow out over the road, and saw the figure of King Darius trampling upon his fallen foes, and the proud list of his wars and conquests graven high upon the face of the eternal cliff.

Over many a cold and desolate pass, crawling painfully across the wind-swept shoulders of the hills; down many a black mountain-gorge, where the river roared and raced before him like a savage guide; across many a smiling vale, with terraces of yellow limestone full of vines and fruit-trees; through the oak-groves of Carine and the dark Gates of Zagros, walled in by precipices; into the ancient city of Chala, where the people of Samaria had been kept in captivity long ago; and out again by the mighty portal, riven through the encircling hills, where he saw the image of the High Priest of the Magi sculptured on the wall of rock, with hand uplifted as if to bless the centuries of pilgrims; past the entrance of the narrow defile, filled from end to end with orchards of peaches and figs, through which the river Gyndes foamed down to meet him; over the broad rice-fields, where the autumnal vapours spread their deathly mists; following along the course of the river, under tremulous shadows of poplar and tamarind, among the lower hills; and out upon the flat plain, where the road ran straight as an arrow through the stubble-fields and parched meadows; past the city of Ctesiphon, where the Parthian emperors reigned, and the vast metropolis of Seleucia which Alexander built; across the swirling floods of Tigris and the many channels of Euphrates, flowing yellow through the corn-lands—Artaban pressed onward until he arrived, at nightfall on the tenth day, beneath the shattered walls of populous Babylon.

Vasda was almost spent, and Artaban would gladly have turned into the city to find rest and refreshment for himself and for her. But he knew that it was three hours' journey yet to the Temple of the Seven Spheres, and he must reach the place by midnight if he would find his comrades waiting. So he did not halt, but rode steadily across the stubble-fields.

A grove of date-palms made an island of gloom in the pale yellow sea. As she passed into the shadow Vasda slackened her pace, and began to pick her way more carefully.

Near the farther end of the darkness an access of caution seemed to fall upon her. She scented some danger or difficulty; it was not in her heart to fly from it—only to be prepared for it, and to meet it wisely, as a good horse should do. The grove was close and silent as the tomb; not a leaf rustled, not a bird sang.

She felt her steps before her delicately, carrying her head low, and sighing now and then with apprehension. At last she gave a quick breath of anxiety and dismay, and stood stock-still, quivering in every muscle, before a dark object in the shadow of the last palm-tree.

Artaban dismounted. The dim starlight revealed the form of a man lying across the road. His humble dress and the outline of his haggard face showed that he was probably one of the Hebrews who still dwelt in great numbers around the city. His pallid skin, dry and yellow as parchment, bore the mark of the deadly fever which ravaged the marsh-lands in autumn. The chill of death was in his lean hand, and, as Artaban released it, the arm fell back inertly upon the motionless breast.

He turned away with a thought of pity, leaving the body to that strange burial which the Magians deemed most fitting—the funeral of the desert, from which the kites and vultures rise on dark wings, and the beasts of prey slink furtively away. When they are gone there is only a heap of white bones on the sand.

But, as he turned, a long, faint, ghostly sigh came from the man's lips. The bony fingers gripped the hem of the Magian's robe and held him fast.

Artaban's heart leaped to his throat, not with fear, but with a dumb resentment at the importunity of this blind delay.

How could he stay here in the darkness to minister to a dying stranger? What claim had this unknown fragment of human life upon his compassion or his service? If he lingered but for an hour he could hardly reach Borsippa at the appointed time. His companions would think he had given up the journey. They would go without him. He would lose his quest.

But if he went on now, the man would surely die. If Artaban stayed, life might be restored. His spirit throbbed and fluttered with the urgency of the crisis. Should he risk the great reward of his faith for the sake of a single deed of charity? Should he turn aside, if only for a moment, from the following of the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor, perishing Hebrew?

"God of truth and purity," he prayed, "direct me in the holy path, the way of wisdom which Thou only knowest."

Then he turned back to the sick man. Loosening the grasp of his hand, he carried him to a little mound at the foot of the palm-tree.

He unbound the thick folds of the turban and opened the garment above the sunken breast. He brought water from one of the small canals near by, and moistened the sufferer's brow and mouth. He mingled a draught of one of those simple but potent remedies which he carried always in his girdle—for the Magians were physicians as well as astrologers—and poured it slowly between the colourless lips. Hour after hour he laboured as only a skilful healer of disease can do. At last the man's strength returned; he sat up and looked about him.

"Who art thou?" he said, in the rude dialect of the country, "and why hast thou sought me here to bring back my life?"

"I am Artaban the Magian, of the city of Ecbatana, and I am going to Jerusalem in search of one who is to be born King of the Jews, a great Prince and Deliverer of all men. I dare not delay any longer upon my journey, for the caravan that has waited for me may depart without me. But see, here is all that I have left of bread and wine, and here is a potion of healing herbs. When thy strength is restored thou canst find the dwellings of the Hebrews among the houses of Babylon."

The Jew raised his trembling hand solemnly to heaven.

"Now may the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob bless and prosper the journey of the merciful, and bring him in peace to his desired haven. Stay! I have nothing to give thee in return—only this: that I can tell thee where the Messiah must be sought. For our prophets have said that he should be born not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem of Judah. May the Lord bring thee in safety to that place, because thou hast had pity upon the sick."

It was already long past midnight. Artaban rode in haste, and Vasda, restored by the brief rest, ran eagerly through the silent plain and swam the channels of the river. She put forth the remnant of her strength, and fled over the ground like a gazelle.

But the first beam of the rising sun sent a long shadow before her as she entered upon the final stadium of the journey, and the eyes of Artaban, anxiously scanning the great mound of Nimrod and the Temple of the Seven Spheres, could discern no trace of his friends.

The many-coloured terraces of black and orange and red and yellow and green and blue and white, shattered by the convulsions of nature, and crumbling under the repeated blows of human violence, still glittered like a ruined rainbow in the morning light.

Artaban rode swiftly around the hill. He dismounted and climbed to the highest terrace, looking out toward the west.

The huge desolation of the marshes stretched away to the horizon and the border of the desert. Bitterns stood by the stagnant pools and jackals skulked through the low bushes; but there was no sign of the caravan of the Wise Men, far or near.

At the edge of the terrace he saw a little cairn of broken bricks, and under them a piece of papyrus. He caught it up and read: "We have waited past the midnight, and can delay no longer. We go to find the King. Follow us across the desert."

Artaban sat down upon the ground and covered his head in despair.

"How can I cross the desert," said he, "with no food and with a spent horse? I must return to Babylon, sell my sapphire, and buy a train of camels, and provision for the journey. I may never overtake my friends. Only God the merciful knows whether I shall not lose the sight of the King because I tarried to show mercy."


There was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, where I was listening to the story of the Other Wise Man. Through this silence I saw, but very dimly, his figure passing over the dreary undulations of the desert, high upon the back of his camel, rocking steadily onward like a ship over the waves.

The land of death spread its cruel net around him. The stony waste bore no fruit but briers and thorns. The dark ledges of rock thrust themselves above the surface here and there, like the bones of perished monsters. Arid and inhospitable mountain-ranges rose before him, furrowed with dry channels of ancient torrents, white and ghastly as scars on the face of nature. Shifting hills of treacherous sand were heaped like tombs along the horizon. By day, the fierce heat pressed its intolerable burden on the quivering air. No living creature moved on the dumb, swooning earth, but tiny jerboas scuttling through the parched bushes, or lizards vanishing in the clefts of the rock. By night the jackals prowled and barked in the distance, and the lion made the black ravines echo with his hollow roaring, while a bitter, blighting chill followed the fever of the day. Through heat and cold, the Magian moved steadily onward.

Then I saw the gardens and orchards of Damascus, watered by the streams of Abana and Pharpar, with their sloping swards inlaid with bloom, and their thickets of myrrh and roses. I saw the long, snowy ridge of Hermon, and the dark groves of cedars, and the valley of the Jordan, and the blue waters of the Lake of Galilee, and the fertile plain of Esdraelon, and the hills of Ephraim, and the highlands of Judah. Through all these I followed the figure of Artaban moving steadily onward, until he arrived at Bethlehem. And it was the third day after the three Wise Men had come to that place and had found Mary and Joseph, with the young child, Jesus, and had laid their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh at his feet.

Then the Other Wise Man drew near, weary, but full of hope, bearing his ruby and his pearl to offer to the King. "For now at last," he said, "I shall surely find him, though I be alone, and later than my brethren. This is the place of which the Hebrew exile told me that the prophets had spoken, and here I shall behold the rising of the great light. But I must inquire about the visit of my brethren, and to what house the star directed them, and to whom they presented their tribute."

The streets of the village seemed to be deserted, and Artaban wondered whether the men had all gone up to the hill-pastures to bring down their sheep. From the open door of a cottage he heard the sound of a woman's voice singing softly. He entered and found a young mother hushing her baby to rest. She told him of the strangers from the far East who had appeared in the village three days ago, and how they said that a star had guided them to the place where Joseph of Nazareth was lodging with his wife and her new-born child, and how they had paid reverence to the child and given him many rich gifts.

"But the travellers disappeared again," she continued, "as suddenly as they had come. We were afraid at the strangeness of their visit. We could not understand it. The man of Nazareth took the child and his mother, and fled away that same night secretly, and it was whispered that they were going to Egypt. Ever since, there has been a spell upon the village; something evil hangs over it. They say that the Roman soldiers are coming from Jerusalem to force a new tax from us, and the men have driven the flocks and herds far back among the hills, and hidden themselves to escape it."

Artaban listened to her gentle, timid speech, and the child in her arms looked up in his face and smiled, stretching out its rosy hands to grasp at the winged circle of gold on his breast. His heart warmed to the touch. It seemed like a greeting of love and trust to one who had journeyed long in loneliness and perplexity, fighting with his own doubts and fears, and following a light that was veiled in clouds.

"Why might not this child have been the promised Prince?" he asked within himself, as he touched its soft cheek. "Kings have been born ere now in lowlier houses than this, and the favourite of the stars may rise even from a cottage. But it has not seemed good to the God of wisdom to reward my search so soon and so easily. The one whom I seek has gone before me; and now I must follow the King to Egypt."

The young mother laid the baby in its cradle, and rose to minister to the wants of the strange guest that fate had brought into her house. She set food before him, the plain fare of peasants, but willingly offered, and therefore full of refreshment for the soul as well as for the body. Artaban accepted it gratefully; and, as he ate, the child fell into a happy slumber, and murmured sweetly in its dreams, and a great peace filled the room.

But suddenly there came the noise of a wild confusion in the streets of the village, a shrieking and wailing of women's voices, a clangour of brazen trumpets and a clashing of swords, and a desperate cry: "The soldiers! the soldiers of Herod! They are killing our children." The young mother's face grew white with terror. She clasped her child to her bosom, and crouched motionless in the darkest corner of the room, covering him with the folds of her robe, lest he should wake and cry.

But Artaban went quickly and stood in the doorway of the house. His broad shoulders filled the portal from side to side, and the peak of his white cap all but touched the lintel.

The soldiers came hurrying down the street with bloody hands and dripping swords. At the sight of the stranger in his imposing dress they hesitated with surprise. The captain of the band approached the threshold to thrust him aside. But Artaban did not stir. His face was as calm as though he were watching the stars, and in his eyes there burned that steady radiance before which even the half-tamed hunting leopard shrinks, and the bloodhound pauses in his leap. He held the soldier silently for an instant, and then said in a low voice: "I am all alone in this place, and I am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will leave me in peace."

He showed the ruby, glistening in the hollow of his hand like a great drop of blood.

The captain was amazed at the splendour of the gem. The pupils of his eyes expanded with desire, and the hard lines of greed wrinkled around his lips. He stretched out his hand and took the ruby.

"March on!" he cried to his men, "there is no child here. The house is empty."

The clamor and the clang of arms passed down the street as the headlong fury of the chase sweeps by the secret covert where the trembling deer is hidden. Artaban re-entered the cottage. He turned his face to the east and prayed:

"God of truth, forgive my sin! I have said the thing that is not, to save the life of a child. And two of my gifts are gone. I have spent for man that which was meant for God. Shall I ever be worthy to see the face of the King?"

But the voice of the woman, weeping for joy in the shadow behind him, said very gently:

"Because thou hast saved the life of my little one, may the Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace."


Again there was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, deeper and more mysterious than the first interval, and I understood that the years of Artaban were flowing very swiftly under the stillness, and I caught only a glimpse, here and there, of the river of his life shining through the mist that concealed its course.

I saw him moving among the throngs of men in populous Egypt, seeking everywhere for traces of the household that had come down from Bethlehem, and finding them under the spreading sycamore-trees of Heliopolis, and beneath the walls of the Roman fortress of New Babylon beside the Nile—traces so faint and dim that they vanished before him continually, as footprints on the wet river-sand glisten for a moment with moisture and then disappear.

I saw him again at the foot of the pyramids, which lifted their sharp points into the intense saffron glow of the sunset sky, changeless monuments of the perishable glory and the imperishable hope of man. He looked up into the face of the crouching Sphinx and vainly tried to read the meaning of the calm eyes and smiling mouth. Was it, indeed, the mockery of all effort and all aspiration, as Tigranes had said—the cruel jest of a riddle that has no answer, a search that never can succeed? Or was there a touch of pity and encouragement in that inscrutable smile—a promise that even the defeated should attain a victory, and the disappointed should discover a prize, and the ignorant should be made wise, and the blind should see, and the wandering should come into the haven at last?

I saw him again in an obscure house of Alexandria, taking counsel with a Hebrew rabbi. The venerable man, bending over the rolls of parchment on which the prophecies of Israel were written, read aloud the pathetic words which foretold the sufferings of the promised Messiah—the despised and rejected of men, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

"And remember, my son," said he, fixing his eyes upon the face of Artaban, "the King whom thou seekest is not to be found in a palace, nor among the rich and powerful. If the light of the world and the glory of Israel had been appointed to come with the greatness of earthly splendour, it must have appeared long ago. For no son of Abraham will ever again rival the power which Joseph had in the palaces of Egypt, or the magnificence of Solomon throned between the lions in Jerusalem. But the light for which the world is waiting is a new light, the glory that shall rise out of patient and triumphant suffering. And the kingdom which is to be established forever is a new kingdom, the royalty of unconquerable love.

"I do not know how this shall come to pass, nor how the turbulent kings and peoples of earth shall be brought to acknowledge the Messiah and pay homage to him. But this I know. Those who seek him will do well to look among the poor and the lowly, the sorrowful and the oppressed."

So I saw the Other Wise Man again and again, travelling from place to place, and searching among the people of the dispersion, with whom the little family from Bethlehem might, perhaps, have found a refuge. He passed through countries where famine lay heavy upon the land, and the poor were crying for bread. He made his dwelling in plague-stricken cities where the sick were languishing in the bitter companionship of helpless misery. He visited the oppressed and the afflicted in the gloom of subterranean prisons, and the crowded wretchedness of slave-markets, and the weary toil of galley-ships. In all this populous and intricate world of anguish, though he found none to worship, he found many to help. He fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and healed the sick, and comforted the captive; and his years passed more swiftly than the weaver's shuttle that flashes back and forth through the loom while the web grows and the pattern is completed.

It seemed almost as if he had forgotten his quest. But once I saw him for a moment as he stood alone at sunrise, waiting at the gate of a Roman prison. He had taken from a secret resting-place in his bosom the pearl, the last of his jewels. As he looked at it, a mellower lustre, a soft and iridescent light, full of shifting gleams of azure and rose, trembled upon its surface. It seemed to have absorbed some reflection of the lost sapphire and ruby. So the secret purpose of a noble life draws into itself the memories of past joy and past sorrow. All that has helped it, all that has hindered it, is transfused by a subtle magic into its very essence. It becomes more luminous and precious the longer it is carried close to the warmth of the beating heart.

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