Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chinese Folktales: Tikki Tikki Tembo

Here's a story that talks about the chinese names, and how they came to be:
Once upon a time in faraway China there lived two brothers, one named Sam, and one named Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako.
Now one day the two brothers were playing near the well in their garden when Sam fell into the well, and Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako ran to his mother, shouting, "Quick, Sam has fallen into the well. What shall we do?"
"What?" cried the mother, "Sam has fallen into the well? Run and tell father!"
Together they ran to the father and cried, "Quick, Sam has fallen into the well. What shall we do?"
"Sam has fallen into the well?" cried the father. "Run and tell the gardner!"
Then they all ran to the gardner and shouted, "Quick, Sam has fallen into the well. What shall we do?"
"Sam has fallen into the well?" cried the gardner, and then he quickly fetched a ladder and pulled the poor boy from the well, who was wet and cold and frightened, and ever so happy to still be alive.
Some time afterward the two brothers were again playing near the well, and this time Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako fell into the well, and Sam ran to his mother, shouting, "Quick, Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako has fallen into the well. What shall we do?"
"What?" cried the mother, "Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako has fallen into the well? Run and tell father!"
Together they ran to the father and cried, "Quick, Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako has fallen into the well. What shall we do?"
"Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako has fallen into the well?" cried the father. "Run and tell the gardner!"
Then they all ran to the gardner and shouted, "Quick, Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako has fallen into the well. What shall we do?"
"Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako has fallen into the well?" cried the gardner, and then he quickly fetched a ladder and pulled Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako from the well, but the poor boy had been in the water so long that he had drowned.
And from that time forth, the Chinese have given their children short names.

Book Choice: Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sherwood Anderson - War

The story came to me from a woman met on a train. The car was crowded and I took the seat beside her. There was a man in the offing who belonged with her--a slender girlish figure of a man in a heavy brown canvas coat such as teamsters wear in the winter. He moved up and down in the aisle of the car, wanting my place by the woman's side, but I did not know that at the time.
The woman had a heavy face and a thick nose. Something had happened to her. She had been struck a blow or had a fall. Nature could never have made a nose so broad and thick and ugly. She had talked to me in very good English. I suspect now that she was temporarily weary of the man in the brown canvas coat, that she had travelled with him for days, perhaps weeks, and was glad of the chance to spend a few hours in the company of some one else.
Everyone knows the feeling of a crowded train in the middle of the night. We ran along through western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. It had rained for days and the fields were flooded. In the clear night the moon came out and the scene outside the car-window was strange and in an odd way very beautiful.
You get the feeling: the black bare trees standing up in clusters as they do out in that country, the pools of water with the moon reflected and running quickly as it does when the train hurries along, the rattle of the car-trucks, the lights in isolated farm-houses, and occasionally the clustered lights of a town as the train rushed through it into the west.
The woman had just come out of war-ridden Poland, had got out of that stricken land with her lover by God knows what miracles of effort. She made me feel the war, that woman did, and she told me the tale that I want to tell you.
I do not remember the beginning of our talk, nor can I tell you of how the strangeness of my mood grew to match her mood until the story she told became a part of the mystery of the still night outside the car- window and very pregnant with meaning to me.
There was a company of Polish refugees moving along a road in Poland in charge of a German. The German was a man of perhaps fifty, with a beard. As I got him, he was much such a man as might be professor of foreign languages in a college in our country, say at Des Moines, Iowa, or Springfield, Ohio. He would be sturdy and strong of body and given to the eating of rather rank foods, as such men are. Also he would be a fellow of books and in his thinking inclined toward the ranker philosophies. He was dragged into the war because he was a German, and he had steeped his soul in the German philosophy of might. Faintly, I fancy, there was another notion in his head that kept bothering him, and so to serve his government with a whole heart he read books that would re-establish his feeling for the strong, terrible thing for which he fought. Because he was past fifty he was not on the battle line, but was in charge of the refugees, taking them out of their destroyed village to a camp near a railroad where they could be fed.
The refugees were peasants, all except the woman in the American train with me, her lover and her mother, an old woman of sixty-five. They had been small landowners and the others in their party had worked on their estate.
Along a country road in Poland went this party in charge of the German who tramped heavily along, urging them forward. He was brutal in his insistence, and the old woman of sixty-five, who was a kind of leader of the refugees, was almost equally brutal in her constant refusal to go forward. In the rainy night she stopped in the muddy road and her party gathered about her. Like a stubborn horse she shook her head and muttered Polish words. "I want to be let alone, that's what I want. All I want in the world is to be let alone," she said, over and over; and then the German came up and putting his hand on her back pushed her along, so that their progress through the dismal night was a constant repetition of the stopping, her muttered words, and his pushing. They hated each other with whole-hearted hatred, that old Polish woman and the German.
The party came to a clump of trees on the bank of a shallow stream and the German took hold of the old woman's arm and dragged her through the stream while the others followed. Over and over she said the words: "I want to be let alone. All I want in the world is to be let alone."
In the clump of trees the German started a fire. With incredible efficiency he had it blazing high in a few minutes, taking the matches and even some bits of dry wood from a little rubber-lined pouch carried in his inside coat pocket. Then he got out tobacco and, sitting down on the protruding root of a tree, smoked and stared at the refugees, clustered about the old woman on the opposite side of the fire.
The German went to sleep. That was what started his trouble. He slept for an hour and when he awoke the refugees were gone. You can imagine him jumping up and tramping heavily back through the shallow stream and along the muddy road to gather his party together again. He would be angry through and through, but he would not be alarmed. It was only a matter, he knew, of going far enough back along the road as one goes back along a road for strayed cattle.
And then, when the German came up to the party, he and the old woman began to fight. She stopped muttering the words about being let alone and sprang at him. One of her old hands gripped his beard and the other buried itself in the thick skin of his neck.
The struggle in the road lasted a long time. The German was tired and not as strong as he looked, and there was that faint thing in him that kept him from hitting the old woman with his fist. He took hold of her thin shoulders and pushed, and she pulled. The struggle was like a man trying to lift himself by his boot straps. The two fought and were full of the determination that will not stop fighting, but they were not very strong physically.
And so their two souls began to struggle. The woman in the train made me understand that quite clearly, although it may be difficult to get the sense of it over to you. I had the night and the mystery of the moving train to help me. It was a physical thing, the fight of the two souls in the dim light of the rainy night on that deserted muddy road. The air was full of the struggle and the refugees gathered about and stood shivering. They shivered with cold and weariness, of course, but also with something else. In the air everywhere about them they could feel the vague something going on. The woman said that she would gladly have given her life to have it stopped, or to have someone strike a light, and that her man felt the same way. It was like two winds struggling, she said, like a soft yielding cloud become hard and trying vainly to push another cloud out of the sky.
Then the struggle ended and the old woman and the German fell down exhausted in the road. The refugees gathered about and waited. They thought something more was going to happen, knew in fact something more would happen. The feeling they had persisted, you see, and they huddled together and perhaps whimpered a little.
What happened is the whole point of the story. The woman in the train explained it very clearly. She said that the two souls, after struggling, went back into the two bodies, but that the soul of the old woman went into the body of the German and the soul of the German into the body of the old woman.
After that, of course, everything was quite simple. The German sat down by the road and began shaking his head and saying he wanted to be let alone, declared that all he wanted in the world was to be let alone, and the Polish woman took papers out of his pocket and began driving her companions back along the road, driving them harshly and brutally along, and when they grew weary pushing them with her hands.
There was more of the story after that. The woman's lover, who had been a school-teacher, took the papers and got out of the country, taking his sweetheart with him. But my mind has forgotten the details. I only remember the German sitting by the road and muttering that he wanted to be let alone, and the old tired mother-in-Poland saying the harsh words and forcing her weary companions to march through the night back into their own country.

Source: Classic Reader

Book Choice: Winesburg, Ohio (Signet Classics) 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

O. Henry - Girl

IN GILT letters on the ground glass of the door of room No. 962 were the words: "Robbins & Hartley, Brokers." The clerks had gone. It was past five, and with the solid tramp of a drove of prize Percherons, scrub- women were invading the cloud-capped twenty-story office building. A puff of red-hot air flavoured with lemon peelings, soft-coal smoke and train oil came in through the half-open windows.
Robbins, fifty, something of an overweight beau, and addicted to first nights and hotel palm-rooms, pretended to be envious of his partner's commuter's joys.
"Going to be something doing in the humidity line to-night," he said. "You out-of-town chaps will be the people, with your katydids and moonlight and long drinks and things out on the front porch."
Hartley, twenty-nine, serious, thin, good-looking, ner- vous, sighed and frowned a little.
"Yes," said he, "we always have cool nights in Floral- hurst, especially in the winter."
A man with an air of mystery came in the door and went up to Hartley.
"I've found where she lives," he announced in the portentous half-whisper that makes the detective at work a marked being to his fellow men.
Hartley scowled him into a state of dramatic silence and quietude. But by that time Robbins had got his cane and set his tie pin to his liking, and with a debonair nod went out to his metropolitan amusements.
"Here is the address," said the detective in a natural tone, being deprived of an audience to foil.
Hartley took the leaf torn out of the sleuth's dingy memorandum book. On it were pencilled the words "Vivienne Arlington, No. 341 East --th Street, care of Mrs. McComus."
"Moved there a week ago," said the detective. "Now, if you want any shadowing done, Mr. Hartley, I can do you as fine a job in that line as anybody in the city. It will be only $7 a day and expenses. Can send in a daily typewritten report, covering -- "
"You needn't go on," interrupted the broker. "It isn't a case of that kind. I merely wanted the address. How much shall I pay you?"
"One day's work," said the sleuth. "A tenner will cover it."
Hartley paid the man and dismissed him. Then he left the office and boarded a Broadway car. At the first large crosstown artery of travel he took an eastbound car that deposited him in a decaying avenue, whose ancient structures once sheltered the pride and glory of the town.
Walking a few squares, he came to the building that he sought. It was a new flathouse, bearing carved upon its cheap stone portal its sonorous name, "The Vallambrosa." Fire-escapes zigzagged down its front -- these laden with household goods, drying clothes, and squalling children evicted by the midsummer heat. Here and there a pale rubber plant peeped from the miscellaneous mass, as if wondering to what kingdom it belonged -- vegetable, animal or artificial.
Hartley pressed the "McComus" button. The door latch clicked spasmodically -- now hospitably, now doubt- fully, as though in anxiety whether it might be admitting friends or duns. Hartley entered and began to climb the stairs after the manner of those who seek their friends in city flat-houses -- which is the manner of a boy who climbs an apple-tree, stopping when he comes upon what he wants.
On the fourth floor he saw Vivienne standing in an open door. She invited him inside, with a nod and a bright, genuine smile. She placed a chair for him near a window, and poised herself gracefully upon the edge of one of those Jekyll-and-Hyde pieces of furniture that are masked and mysteriously hooded, unguessable bulks by day and inquisitorial racks of torture by night.
Hartley cast a quick, critical, appreciative glance at her before speaking, and told himself that his taste in choosing had been flawless.
Vivienne was about twenty-one. She was of the purest Saxon type. Her hair was a ruddy golden, each filament of the neatly gathered mass shining with its own lustre and delicate graduation of colour. In perfect harmony were her ivory-clear complexion and deep sea-blue eyes that looked upon the world with the ingenuous calmness of a mermaid or the pixie of an undiscovered mountain stream. Her frame was strong and yet possessed the grace of absolute naturalness. And yet with all her North- ern clearness and frankness of line and colouring, there seemed to be something of the tropics in her -- something of languor in the droop of her pose, of love of ease in her ingenious complacency of satisfaction and comfort in the mere act of breathing -- something that seemed to claim for her a right as a perfect work of nature to exist and be admired equally with a rare flower or some beauti- ful, milk-white dove among its sober-hued companions.
She was dressed in a white waist and dark skirt - that discreet masquerade of goose-girl and duchess.
"Vivienne," said Hartley, looking at her pleadingly, "you did not answer my last letter. It was only by nearly a week's search that I found where you had moved to. Why have you kept me in suspense when you knew how anxiously I was waiting to see you and hear from you?"
The girl looked out the window dreamily.
"Mr. Hartley," she said hesitatingly, "I hardly know what to say to you. I realize all the advantages of your offer, and sometimes I feel sure that I could be contented with you. But, again, I am doubtful. I was born a city girl, and I am afraid to bind myself to a quiet sub- urban life."
"My dear girl," said Hartley, ardently, "have I not told you that you shall have everything that your heart can desire that is in my power to give you? You shall come to the city for the theatres, for shopping and to visit your friends as often as you care to. You can trust me, can you not?"
"To the fullest," she said, turning her frank eyes upon him with a smile. "I know you are the kindest of men, and that the girl you get will be a lucky one. I learned all about you when I was at the Montgomerys'."
"Ah!" exclaimed Hartley, with a tender, reminiscent light in his eye; "I remember well the evening I first saw you at the Montgomerys'. Mrs. Montgomery was sound- ing your praises to me all the evening. And she hardly did you justice. I shall never forget that supper. Come, Vivienne, promise me. I want you. You'll never regret coming with me. No one else will ever give you as pleasant a home."
The girl sighed and looked down at her folded hands.
A sudden jealous suspicion seized Hartley.
"Tell me, Vivienne," he asked, regarding her keenly, "is there another -- is there some one else ?"
A rosy flush crept slowly over her fair cheeks and neck.
"You shouldn't ask that, Mr. Hartley," she said, in some confusion. "But I will tell you. There is one other -- but he has no right -- I have promised him nothing."
"His name?" demanded Hartley, sternly.
"Rafford Townsend!" exclaimed Hartley, with a grim tightening of his jaw. "How did that man come to know you? After all I've done for him -- "
"His auto has just stopped below," said Vivienne, bending over the window-sill. "He's coming for his answer. Oh I don't know what to do!"
The bell in the flat kitchen whirred. Vivienne hurried to press the latch button.
"Stay here," said Hartley. "I will meet him in the hall."
Townsend, looking like a Spanish grandee in his light tweeds, Panama hat and curling black mustache, came up the stairs three at a time. He stopped at sight of Hartley and looked foolish.
"Go back," said Hartley, firmly, pointing downstairs with his forefinger.
"Hullo!" said Townsend, feigning surprise. "What's up? What are you doing here, old man?"
"Go back," repeated Hartley, inflexibly. "The Law of the Jungle. Do you want the Pack to tear you in pieces? The kill is mine."
"I came here to see a plumber about the bathroom connections," said Townsend, bravely.
"All right," said Hartley. "You shall have that lying plaster to stick upon your traitorous soul. But, go back." Townsend went downstairs, leaving a bitter word to be wafted up the draught of the staircase. Hartley went back to his wooing.
"Vivienne," said he, masterfully. "I have got to have you. I will take no more refusals or dilly-dallying."
"When do you want me?" she asked.
"Now. As soon as you can get ready."
She stood calmly before him and looked him in the eye.
"Do you think for one moment," she said, "that I would enter your home while Héloise is there?"
Hartley cringed as if from an unexpected blow. He folded his arms and paced the carpet once or twice.
"She shall go," he declared grimly. Drops stood upon his brow. "Why should I let that woman make my life miserable? Never have I seen one day of freedom from trouble since I have known her. You are right, Vivienne. Héloise must be sent away before I can take you home. But she shall go. I have decided. I will turn her from my doors."
"When will you do this?" asked the girl.
Hartley clinched his teeth and bent his brows together.
"To-night," he said, resolutely. "I will send her away to-night."
"Then," said Vivienne, "my answer is 'yes.' Come for me when you will."
She looked into his eyes with a sweet, sincere light in her own. Hartley could scarcely believe that her sur- render was true, it was so swift and complete.
"Promise me," he said feelingly, "on your word and honour."
"On my word and honour," repeated Vivienne, softly.
At the door he turned and gazed at her happily, but yet as one who scarcely trusts the foundations of his joy.
"To-morrow," he said, with a forefinger of reminder uplifted.
"To-morrow," she repeated with a smile of truth and candour.
In an hour and forty minutes Hartley stepped off the train at Floralhurst. A brisk walk of ten minutes brought him to the gate of a handsome two-story cottage set upon a wide and well-tended lawn. Halfway to the house he was met by a woman with jet-black braided hair and flowing white summer gown, who half strangled him without apparent cause.
When they stepped into the hall she said:
"Mamma's here. The auto is coming for her in half an hour. She came to dinner, but there's no dinner."
"I've something to tell you," said Hartley. "I thought to break it to you gently, but since your mother is here we may as well out with it."
He stooped and whispered something at her ear.
His wife screamed. Her mother came running into the hall. The dark-haired woman screamed again- the joyful scream of a well-beloved and petted woman.
"Oh, mamma!" she cried ecstatically, "what do you think? Vivienne is coming to cook for us! She is the one that stayed with the Montgomerys a whole year. And now, Billy, dear," she concluded, "you must go right down into the kitchen and discharge Héloise. She has been drunk again the whole day long."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Russian Folktales - The Snow Maiden

Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter and his old wife. They were poor and had no children. The old man cut logs in the forest and carried them into town; in this way he eked out a living. As they grew older they became sadder and sadder at being childless.
"We are growing so old. Who will take care of us?" the wife would ask from time to time.
"Do not worry, old woman. God will not abandon us. He will come to our aid in time," answered the old man.
One day, in the dead of winter, he went into the forest to chop wood and his wife came along to help him. The cold was intense and they were nearly frozen.
"We have no child," said the woodcutter to his wife. "Shall we make a little snow girl to amuse us?"
They began to roll snowballs together, and in a short while they had made a "snegurochka," a snow maiden, so beautiful that no pen could describe her. The old man and the old woman gazed at her and grew even sadder.
"If only the good Lord had sent us a little girl to share our old age!" said the old woman.
They thought on this so strongly that suddenly a miracle happened. They looked at their snow maiden, and were amazed at what they saw. The eyes of the snow maiden twinkled; a diadem studded with precious stones sparkled like fire on her head; a cape of brocade covered her shoulders; embroidered boots appeared on her feet.
The old couple looked at her and did not believe their eyes. Then the mist of breath parted the red lips of Snegurochka; she trembled, looked around, and took a step forward.
The old couple stood there, stupefied; they thought they were dreaming. Snegurochka came toward them and said:
"Good day, kind folk, do not be frightened! I will be a good daughter to you, the joy of your old age. I will honor you as father and mother."
"My darling daughter, let it be as you desire," answered the old man. "Come home with us, our longed-for little girl!" They took her by her white hands and led her from the forest.
As they went, the pine trees swayed goodbye, saying their farewell to Snegurochka, with their rustling wishing her safe journey, happy life.
The old couple brought Snegurochka home to their wooden hut, their 'isba,' and she began her life with them, helping them to do the chores. She was always most respectful, she never contradicted them, and they could not praise her enough, nor tire of gazing at her, she was so kind and so beautiful.
Snegurochka, nevertheless, worried her adopted parents. She was not at all talkative and her little face was always pale, so pale. She did not seem to have a drop of blood, yet her eyes shone like little stars. And her smile! When she smiled she lighted up the isba like a gift of rubles.
They lived together thus for one month, two months; time passed. The old couple could not rejoice enough in their little daughter, gift of God.
One day the old woman said to Snegurochka: "My darling daughter, why are you so shy? You see no friends, you always stay with us, old people; that must be tiresome for you. Why do you not go out and play with your friends, show yourself and see people? You should not spend all your time with us, aged folk."
"I have no wish to go out, dear Mother," answered Snegurochka. "I am happy here."
Carnival time arrived. The streets were alive with strollers, with singing from early morning until late at night. Snegurochka watched the merrymaking through the little frozen window panes. She watched ... and finally she could resist no longer; she gave in to the old woman, put on her little cape, and went into the street to join the throng.
In the same village there lived a maiden called Kupava. She was a true beauty, with hair as black as a raven's wing, skin like blood and milk, and arching brows.
One day a rich merchant came through town. His name was Mizgir, and he was young and tall. He saw Kupava and she pleased him. Kupava was not at all shy; she was saucy and never turned down an invitation to stroll.
Mizgir stopped in the village, called to all the young girls, gave them nuts and spiced bread, and danced with Kupava. From that moment he never left town, and, it must be said, he soon became Kupava's lover. There was Kupava, the belle of the town, parading around in velvets and silks, serving sweet wines to the youths and the maidens and living the joyful life.
The day Snegurochka first strolled in the street, she met Kupava, who introduced all her friends. From then on Snegurochka came out more often and looked at the yours. A young boy, a shepherd, pleased her. He was named Lel. Snegurochka pleased him too, and they became inseparable. Whenever the young girls came out to stroll and to sing, Lel would run to Snegurochka's isba, tap on the window and say: "Snegurochka, dearest, come out and join the dancing." Once she appeared, he never left her side.
One day Mizgir came to the village as the maidens were dancing in the street. He joined in with Kupava and made them all laugh. He noticed Snegurochka and she pleased him; she was so pale and so pretty! From then on Kupava seemed too dark and too heavy. Soon he found her unpleasant. Quarrels and scenes broke out between them and Mizgir stopped seeing her.
Kupava was desolate, but what could she do? One cannot please by force nor revive the past! She noticed that Mizgir often returned to the village and went to the house of Snegurochka's old parents. The rumor flew that Mizgir had asked for Snegurochka's hand in marriage.
When Kupava learned this, her heart trembled. She ran to Snegurochka's isba, reproached her, insulted her, called her a viper, a traitor, made such a scene that they had to force her to leave.
"I will go to the Tsar!" she cried. "I will not suffer this dishonor. There is no law that allows a man to compromise a maiden, then throw her aside like a useless rag!"
So Kupava went to the Tsar to beg for his help against Snegurochka, who she insisted had stolen her lover.
Tsar Berendei ruled this kingdon; he was a good and gracious Tsar who loved truth and watched over all his subjects. He listened to Kupava and ordered Snegurochka brought before him.
The Tsar's envoys arrived at the village with a proclamation ordering Snegurochka to appear before their master.
"Good subjects of the Tsar! Listen well and tell us where the maiden Snegurochka lives. The Tsar summons her! Let her make ready in haste! If she does not come of her will we will take her by force!"
The old woodcutters were filled with fear. But the Tsar's word was law. They helped Snegurochka to make ready and decided to accompany her, to present her to the Tsar.
Tsar Berendei lived in a splendid palace with walls of massive oak and wrought-iron doors; a large stairway led to great halls where Bukhara carpets covered the floors and guardsmen stood in scarlet kaftans with shining axes. All the vast courtyard was filled with people.
Once inside the sumptuous palace, the old couple and Snegurochka stood amazed. The ceilings and arches were covered with paintings, the precious plate was lined up on shelves, along the walls ran benches covered with carpets and brocades, and on these benches were seated the boyars wearing tall hats of bear fur trimmed with gold. Musicians played intricate music on their tympanums. At the far end of the hall, Tsar Berendei himself sat erect on his gilded and sculptured throne. Around him stood bodyguards in kaftans white as snow, holding silver axes.
Tsar Berendei's long white beard fell to his belt. His fur hat was the tallest; his kaftan of precious brocade was embroidered all over with jewels and with gold.
Snegurochka was frightened; she did not dare to take a step nor to raise her eyes.
Tsar Berendei said to her: "Come here, young maiden, come closer, gentle Snegurochka. Do not be afraid, answer my questions. Did you commit the sin of separating two lovers, after stealing the heart of Kupava's beloved? Did you flirt with him and do you intend to marry him? Make sure that you tell me the truth!"
Snegurochka approached the Tsar, curtsied low, knelt before him, and spoke the truth; that she was not at fault, neither in body nor in soul; that it was true that the merchant Mizgir had asked for her in marriage, but that he did not please her and she had refused his hand.
Tsar Benendei took Snegurochka's hands to help her to rise, looked into her eyes and said: "I see in your eyes, lovely maiden, that you speak the truth, that you are nowhere at fault. Go home now in peace and do not be upset!"
And the Tsar let Snegurochka leave with her adoptive parents.
When Kupava learned of the Tsar's decision she went wild with grief. She ripped her sarafan, tore her pearl necklace from her white neck, ran from her isba, and threw herself in the well.
From that day on, Segurochka grew sadder and sadder. She no longer went out in the street to stroll, not even when Lel begged her to come.
Meanwhile, spring had returned. The glorious sun rose higher and higher, the snow melted, the tender grass sprouted, the bushes turned green, the birds sang and made their nests. But the more the sun shone, the paler and sadder Snegurochka grew.
One beautiful spring morning Lel came to Snegurochka's little window and pleaded with her to come out with him, just once, for just a moment. For a long while Snegurochka refused to listen, but finally her heart could no longer resist Lel's pleas, and she went with her beloved to the edge of the village.
"Lel, oh my Lel, play your flute for me alone!" she asked. She stood before Lel, barely alive, her feet tingling, not a drop of blood in her pale face!
Let took out his flute and began to play Snegurochka's favorite air.
She listened to the song, and tears rolled down from her eyes. Then her feet melted beneath her; she fell onto the damp earth and suddenly vanished.
Lel saw nothing but a light mist rising from where she had fallen. The vapor rose, rose, and disappeared slowly in the blue sky ...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ambrose Bierce - One Summer Night

The fact that Henry Armstrong was buried did not seem to him to prove that he was dead: he had always been a hard man to convince. That he really was buried, the testimony of his senses compelled him to admit. His posture -- flat upon his back, with his hands crossed upon his stomach and tied with something that he easily broke without profitably altering the situation -- the strict confinement of his entire person, the black darkness and profound silence, made a body of evidence impossible to controvert and he accepted it without cavil.
But dead -- no; he was only very, very ill. He had, withal, the invalid's apathy and did not greatly concern himself about the uncommon fate that had been allotted to him. No philosopher was he -- just a plain, commonplace person gifted, for the time being, with a pathological indifference: the organ that he feared consequences with was torpid. So, with no particular apprehension for his immediate future, he fell asleep and all was peace with Henry Armstrong.
But something was going on overhead. It was a dark summer night, shot through with infrequent shimmers of lightning silently firing a cloud lying low in the west and portending a storm. These brief, stammering illuminations brought out with ghastly distinctness the monuments and headstones of the cemetery and seemed to set them dancing. It was not a night in which any credible witness was likely to be straying about a cemetery, so the three men who were there, digging into the grave of Henry Armstrong, felt reasonably secure.
Two of them were young students from a medical college a few miles away; the third was a gigantic negro known as Jess. For many years Jess had been employed about the cemetery as a man-of-all-work and it was his favourite pleasantry that he knew 'every soul in the place.' From the nature of what he was now doing it was inferable that the place was not so populous as its register may have shown it to be.
Outside the wall, at the part of the grounds farthest from the public road, were a horse and a light wagon, waiting.
The work of excavation was not difficult: the earth with which the grave had been loosely filled a few hours before offered little resistance and was soon thrown out. Removal of the casket from its box was less easy, but it was taken out, for it was a perquisite of Jess, who carefully unscrewed the cover and laid it aside, exposing the body in black trousers and white shirt. At that instant the air sprang to flame, a cracking shock of thunder shook the stunned world and Henry Armstrong tranquilly sat up. With inarticulate cries the men fled in terror, each in a different direction. For nothing on earth could two of them have been persuaded to return. But Jess was of another breed.
In the grey of the morning the two students, pallid and haggard from anxiety and with the terror of their adventure still beating tumultuously in their blood, met at the medical college.
'You saw it?' cried one.
'God! yes -- what are we to do?'
They went around to the rear of the building, where they saw a horse, attached to a light wagon, hitched to a gatepost near the door of the dissecting-room. Mechanically they entered the room. On a bench in the obscurity sat the negro Jess. He rose, grinning, all eyes and teeth.
'I'm waiting for my pay,' he said.
Stretched naked on a long table lay the body of Henry Armstrong, the head defiled with blood and clay from a blow with a spade.

Source: East of the Web

Book Choice: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Aboriginal Myths - Baiame and Creation

And again like the Lord God, Baiame walked on the earth he had made, among the plants and animals, and created man and woman to rule over them. He fashioned them from the dust of the ridges, and said,
'These are the plants you shall eat - these and these, but not the animals I have created.'
Having set them in a good place, the All-Father departed.
To the first man and woman, children were born and to them in turn children who enjoyed the work of the hands of Baiame. His world had begun to be populated, and men and women praised Baiame for providing for all their needs. Sun and rain brought life to the plants that provided their sustenance.
All was well in the world they had received from the bountiful provider, until a year when the rain ceased to fall. There was little water. The flowers failed to fruit, leaves fell from the dry, withered stems, and there was hunger in the land--a new and terrifying experience for men, women, and little children who had never lacked for food and drink.
In desperation a man killed some of the forbidden animals, and shared the kangaroo-rats he had caught with his wife. They offered some of the flesh to one of their friends but, remembering Baiame's prohibition, he refused it. The man was ill with hunger. They did their best to persuade him to eat, but he remained steadfast in his refusal. At length, wearying of their importunity, he staggered to his feet, turning his back on the tempting food, and walked away.
Shrugging their shoulders, the husband and wife went on with their meal. Once they were satisfied, they thought again of their friend and wondered whether they could persuade him to eat. Taking the remains of the meal with them, they followed his trail. It led across a broad plain and disappeared at the edge of a river. They wondered how he had crossed it and, more importantly, how they themselves could cross. In spite of the fact that it had dwindled in size, owing to the prolonged drought, it was running too swiftly for them to wade or swim.
They could see him, some little distance away on the farther side, lying at the foot of a tall gum tree. They were on the point of turning back when they saw a coal-black figure, half man half beast, dropping from the branches of the tree and stooping over the man who was lying there. They shouted a warning, but were too far away for him to hear, even if he were awake. The black monster picked up the inert body, carried it up into the branches and disappeared. They could only think that the tree trunk was hollow and that the monster had retreated to its home with his lifeless burden.
One event succeeded another with bewildering rapidity. A puff of smoke billowed from the tree. The two frightened observers heard a rending sound as the tree lifted itself from the ground, its roots snapping one by one, and soared across the river, rising as it took a course to the south. As it passed by they had a momentary glimpse of two large, glaring eyes within its shadow, and two white cockatoos with frantically flapping wings, trying to catch up with the flying tree, straining to reach the shelter of its branches.
Within minutes the tree, the cockatoos, and the glaring eyes had dwindled to a speck, far to the south, far above their heads.
For the first time since creation, death had come to one of the men whom Baiame had created, for the monster within the tree trunk was Yowee, the Spirit of Death.
In the desolation of a drought-stricken world, all living things mourned because a man who was alive was now as dead as the kangaroo-rats that had been killed for food.
Baiame's intention for the men and animals he loved had been thwarted. 'The swamp oak trees sighed incessantly, the gum trees shed tears of blood, which crystallised as red gum,' wrote Roland Robinson, in relating this legend of the Kamilroi tribe in his book Wandjina. 'To this day,' he continued, 'to the tribes of that part is the Southern Cross known as "Yaraandoo"--the place of the White Gum tree--and the Pointers as "Mouyi", the white cockatoos.'
It was a sad conclusion to the hopes of a world in the making, but the bright cross of the Southern Cross is a sign to men that there is a place for them in the limitless regions of space, the home of the All-Father himself, and that beyond death lies a new creation.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nό Wa Mends the Sky

I really love to read myths and legends that come from far away lands, especially from China. So here's for you today the story of a woman who knew how to mend the sky:
In ancient times, the four corners of the sky collapsed and the world with its nine regions split open. The sky could not cover all the things under it, nor could the earth carry all the things on it. A great fire raged and would not die out; a fierce flood raced about and could not be checked. Savage beasts devoured innocent people; vicious birds preyed on the weak and old.
Then Nό Wa melted rocks of five colours and used them to mend the cracks in the sky. She supported the four corners of the sky with the legs she had cut off from a giant turtle. She killed the black dragon to save the people of Jizhou, and blocked the flood with the ashes of reeds. Thus the sky was mended, its four corners lifted, the flood tamed, Jizhou pacified, and harmful birds and beasts killed, and the innocent people were able to live on the square earth under the dome of the sky. It was a time when birds, beasts, insects and snakes no longer used their claws or teeth or poisonous stings, for they did not want to catch or eat weaker things.
Nό Wa's deeds benefited the heavens above and the earth below. Her name was remembered by later generations and her light shone on every creation. Now she was travelling on a thunder-chariot drawn by a two-winged dragon and two green hornless dragons, with auspicious objects in her hands and a special mattress underneath, surrounded by golden clouds, a white dragon leading the way and a flying snake following behind. Floating freely over the clouds, she took ghosts and gods to the ninth heaven and had an audience with the Heavenly Emperor at Lin Men, where she rested in peace and dignity under the emperor. She never boasted of her achievements, nor did she try to win any renown; she wanted to conceal her virtues, in line with the ways of the universe.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A slow cure for book abuse

Everyone loves a good read, but when you start believing that Dragon's Den might just take a chance on your waterproof paperback shower shield, you know your appetites are getting out of control. Reading addiction is not the same as loving books; it's more like book abuse, and it's time we afflicted stopped hiding from the truth.
A healthy bibliophile reads their texts carefully; an addict devours them, regardless quality. A lit junkie still thirsts after the best writing, but if necessary they won't hesitate to use Dan Brown to calm the craving, despite knowing how dirty they'll feel in the morning.

Read more at the Source

Monday, August 11, 2008

George Pelecanos interview

I'm deep in conversation with George Pelecanos, speaking from his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, when I ask if he minds being labelled a crime writer. There's a pregnant pause. Dogs start barking, then howling. Have I asked the wrong question?
He excuses himself, pacifies the pooches and moves to another room before answering. "It's fine," he assures me with a deep southern drawl. But he adds a caveat: "I'm not a mystery writer – that is a misnomer. The formula of the mystery novel is that a murder is committed in the first chapter then solved in the last chapter, and the world is set back upright again. That's meant to comfort the reader. I've even heard crime writers say that they're doing some kind of public service by making people feel good about the world. I just don't agree with that. When someone's murdered, it forever haunts the family and the community. It ripples out."

Read more at the Source

Book Choice: The Big Blowdown

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Edgar Allan Poe - The Angel of the Odd

For this fine August Saturday i bring to you a story by master Edgar Allan Poe. Here's the tale of The Angel of the Odd:

IT WAS a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated an unusually hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic truffe formed not the least important item, and was sitting alone in the dining-room, with my feet upon the fender, and at my elbow a small table which I had rolled up to the fire, and upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit, and liqueur. In the morning I had been reading Glover's "Leonidas," Wilkies "Epigoniad," Lamartine's "Pilgrimage," Barlow's "Columbiad," Tuckermann's "Sicily," and Griswold's "Curiosities"; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid. I made effort to arouse myself by aid of frequent Lafitte, and, all failing, I betook myself to a stray newspaper in despair. Having carefully perused the column of "houses to let," and the column of "dogs lost," and then the two columns of "wives and apprentices runaway," I attacked with great resolution the editorial matter, and, reading it from beginning to end without understanding a syllable, conceived the possibility of its being Chinese, and so re-read it from the end to the beginning, but with no more satisfactory result. I was about throwing away, in disgust,
This folio of four pages, happy workWhich not even poets criticise,
when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph which follows:
"The avenues to death are numerous and strange. A London paper mentions the decease of a person from a singular cause. He was playing at 'puff the dart,' which is played with a long needle inserted in some worsted, and blown at a target through a tin tube. He placed the needle at the wrong end of the tube, and drawing his breath strongly to puff the dart forward with force, drew the needle into his throat. It entered the lungs, and in a few days killed him."
Upon seeing this I fell into a great rage, without exactly knowing why. "This thing," I exclaimed, "is a contemptible falsehood–a poor hoax–the lees of the invention of some pitiable penny-a-liner–of some wretched concoctor of accidents in Cocaigne. These fellows, knowing the extravagant gullibility of the age, set their wits to work in the imagination of improbable possibilities–of odd accidents, as they term them; but to a reflecting intellect (like mine," I added, in parenthesis, putting my forefinger unconsciously to the side of my nose), "to a contemplative understanding such as I myself possess, it seems evident at once that the marvelous increase of late in these 'odd accidents' is by far the oddest accident of all. For my own part, I intend to believe nothing henceforward that has anything of the 'singular' about it.
"Mein Gott, den, vat a vool you bees for dat!" replied one of the most remarkable voices I ever heard. At first I took it for a rumbling in my ears–such as man sometimes experiences when getting very drunk- but, upon second thought, I considered the sound as more nearly resembling that which proceeds from an empty barrel beaten with a big stick; and, in fact, this I should have concluded it to be, but for the articulation of the syllables and words. I am by no means naturally nervous, and the very few glasses of Lafitte which I had sipped served to embolden me a little, so that I felt nothing of trepidation, but merely uplifted my eyes with a leisurely movement, and looked carefully around the room for the intruder. I could not, however, perceive any one at all.
"Humph!" resumed the voice, as I continued my survey, "you mus pe so dronk as de pig, den, for not zee me as I zit here at your zide."
Hereupon I bethought me of looking immediately before my nose, and there, sure enough, confronting me at the table sat a personage nondescript, although not altogether indescribable. His body was a wine-pipe, or a rum-puncheon, or something of that character, and had a truly Falstaffian air. In its nether extremity were inserted two kegs, which seemed to answer all the purposes of legs. For arms there dangled from the upper portion of the carcass two tolerably long bottles, with the necks outward for hands. All the head that I saw the monster possessed of was one of those Hessian canteens which resemble a large snuff-box with a hole in the middle of the lid. This canteen (with a funnel on its top, like a cavalier cap slouched over the eyes) was set on edge upon the puncheon, with the hole toward myself; and through this hole, which seemed puckered up like the mouth of a very precise old maid, the creature was emitting certain rumbling and grumbling noises which he evidently intended for intelligible talk.
"I zay," said he, "you mos pe dronk as de pig, vor zit dare and not zee me zit ere; and I zay, doo, you most pe pigger vool as de goose, vor to dispelief vat iz print in de print. 'Tiz de troof-dat it iz–eberry vord ob it."
"Who are you, pray?" said I, with much dignity, although somewhat puzzled; "how did you get here? and what is it you are talking about?"
"Az vor ow I com'd ere," replied the figure, "dat iz none of your pizzness; and as vor vat I be talking apout, I be talk apout vot I tink proper; and as vor who I be, vy dat is de very ting I com'd here for to let you zee for yourzelf."
"You are a drunken vagabond," said I, "and I shall ring the bell and order my footman to kick you into the street."
"He! he! he!" said the fellow, "hu! hu! hu! dat you can't do."
"Can't do!" said I, "what do you mean?–can't do what?"
"Ring de pell," he replied, attempting a grin with his little villainous mouth.
Upon this I made an effort to get up, in order to put my threat into execution; but the ruffian just reached across the table very deliberately, and hitting me a tap on the forehead with the neck of one of the long bottles, knocked me back into the arm-chair from which I had half arisen. I was utterly astounded; and, for a moment, was quite at a loss what to do. In the meantime, he continued his talk.
"You zee," said he, "it iz te bess vor zit still; and now you shall know who I pe. Look at me! zee! I am te Angel ov te Odd!"
"And odd enough, too," I ventured to reply; "but I was always under the impression that an angel had wings."
"Te wing!" he cried, highly incensed, "vat I pe do mit te wing? Mein Gott! do you take me vor a shicken?"
"No–oh, no!" I replied, much alarmed, "you are no chicken- certainly not."
"Well, den, zit still and pehabe yourself, or I'll rap you again mid me vist. It iz te shicken ab te wing, und te owl ab te wing, und te imp ab te wing, und te headteuffel ab te wing. Te angel ab not te wing, and I am te Angel ov te Odd."
"And your business with me at present is–is-"
"My pizzness!" ejaculated the thing, "vy vot a low bred puppy you mos pe vor to ask a gentleman und an angel apout his pizzness!"
This language was rather more than I could bear, even from an angel; so, plucking up courage, I seized a salt-cellar which lay within reach, and hurled it at the head of the intruder. Either he dodged, however, or my aim was inaccurate; for all I accomplished was the demolition of the crystal which protected the dial of the clock upon the mantelpiece. As for the Angel, he evinced his sense of my assault by giving me two or three hard consecutive raps upon the forehead as before. These reduced me at once to submission, and I am almost ashamed to confess that, either through pain or vexation, there came a few tears into my eyes.
"Mein Gott!" said the Angel of the Odd, apparently much softened at my distress; "mein Gott, te man is eder ferry dronck or ferry sorry. You mos not trink it so strong–you mos put de water in te wine. Here, trink dis, like a goot veller, und don't gry now–don't!"
Hereupon the Angel of the Odd replenished my goblet (which was about a third full of Port) with a colorless fluid that he poured from one of his hand bottles. I observed that these bottles had labels about their necks, and that these labels were inscribed "Kirschenwasser."
The considerate kindness of the Angel mollified me in no little measure; and, aided by the water with which he diluted my Port more than once, I at length regained sufficient temper to listen to his very extraordinary discourse. I cannot pretend to recount all that he told me, but I gleaned from what he said that he was the genius who presided over the contre temps of mankind, and whose business it was to bring about the odd accidents which are continually astonishing the skeptic. Once or twice, upon my venturing to express my total incredulity in respect to his pretensions, he grew very angry indeed, so that at length I considered it the wiser policy to say nothing at all, and let him have his own way. He talked on, therefore, at great length, while I merely leaned back in my chair with my eyes shut, and amused myself with munching raisins and flipping the stems about the room. But, by and bye, the Angel suddenly construed this behavior of mine into contempt. He arose in a terrible passion, slouched his funnel down over his eyes, swore a vast oath, uttered a threat of some character which I did not precisely comprehend, and finally made me a low bow and departed, wishing me, in the language of the archbishop in Gil-Blas, "beaucoup de bonheur et un peu plus de bon sens."
His departure afforded me relief. The very few glasses of Lafitte that I had sipped had the effect of rendering me drowsy, and I felt inclined to take a nap of some fifteen or twenty minutes, as is my custom after dinner. At six I had an appointment of consequence, which it was quite indispensable that I should keep. The policy of insurance for my dwelling house had expired the day before; and, some dispute having arisen, it was agreed that, at six, I should meet the board of directors of the company and settle the terms of a renewal. Glancing upward at the clock on the mantel-piece (for I felt too drowsy to take out my watch), I had the pleasure to find that I had still twenty-five minutes to spare. It was half past five; I could easily walk to the insurance office in five minutes; and my usual post prandian siestas had never been known to exceed five and twenty. I felt sufficiently safe, therefore, and composed myself to my slumbers forthwith.
Having completed them to my satisfaction, I again looked toward the time-piece, and was half inclined to believe in the possibility of odd accidents when I found that, instead of my ordinary fifteen or twenty minutes, I had been dozing only three; for it still wanted seven and twenty of the appointed hour. I betook myself again to my nap, and at length a second time awoke, when, to my utter amazement, it still wanted twenty-seven minutes of six. I jumped up to examine the clock, and found that it had ceased running. My watch informed me that it was half past seven; and, of course, having slept two hours, I was too late for my appointment "It will make no difference," I said; "I can call at the office in the morning and apologize; in the meantime what can be the matter with the clock?" Upon examining it I discovered that one of the raisin-stems which I had been flipping about the room during the discourse of the Angel of the Odd had flown through the fractured crystal, and lodging, singularly enough, in the key-hole, with an end projecting outward, had thus arrested the revolution of the minute-hand.
"Ah!" said I; "I see how it is. This thing speaks for itself. A natural accident, such as will happen now and then!"
I gave the matter no further consideration, and at my usual hour retired to bed. Here, having placed a candle upon a reading-stand at the bed-head, and having made an attempt to peruse some pages of the "Omnipresence of the Deity," I unfortunately fell asleep in less than twenty seconds, leaving the light burning as it was.
My dreams were terrifically disturbed by visions of the Angel of the Odd. Methought he stood at the foot of the couch, drew aside the curtains, and, in the hollow, detestable tones of a rum-puncheon, menaced me with the bitterest vengeance for the contempt with which I had treated him. He concluded a long harrangue by taking off his funnelcap, inserting the tube into my gullet, and thus deluging me with an ocean of Kirschenwasser, which he poured, in a continuous flood, from one of the long-necked bottles that stood him instead of an arm. My agony was at length insufferable, and I awoke just in time to perceive that a rat had ran off with the lighted candle from the stand, but not in season to prevent his making his escape with it through the hole. Very soon, a strong suffocating odor assailed my nostrils; the house, I clearly perceived, was on fire. In a few minutes the blaze broke forth with violence, and in an incredibly brief period the entire building was wrapped in flames. All egress from my chamber, except through a window, was cut off. The crowd, however, quickly procured and raised a long ladder. By means of this I was descending rapidly, and in apparent safety, when a huge hog, about whose rotund stomach, and indeed about whose whole air and physiognomy, there was something which reminded me of the Angel of the Odd,–when this hog, I say, which hitherto had been quietly slumbering in the mud, took it suddenly into his head that his left shoulder needed scratching, and could find no more convenient rubbing post than that afforded by the foot of the ladder. In an instant I was precipitated, and had the misfortune to fracture my arm.
This accident, with the loss of my insurance, and with the more serious loss of my hair, the whole of which had been singed off by the fire, predisposed me to serious impressions, so that, finally, I made up my mind to take a wife. There was a rich widow disconsolate for the loss of her seventh husband, and to her wounded spirit I offered the balm of my vows. She yielded a reluctant consent to my prayers. I knelt at her feet in gratitude and adoration. She blushed, and bowed her luxuriant tresse into close contact with those supplied me, temporarily, by Grandjean. I know not how the entanglement took place, but so it was. I arose with a shining pate, wigless, she in disdain and wrath, half buried in alien hair. Thus ended my hopes of the widow by an accident which could not have been anticipated, to be sure, but which the natural sequence of events had brought about.
Without despairing, however, I undertook the siege of a less implacable heart. The fates were again propitious for a brief period; but again a trivial incident interfered. Meeting my betrothed in an avenue thronged with the elite of the city, I was hastening to greet her with one of my best considered bows, when a small particle of some foreign matter lodging in the corner of my eye, rendered me, for the moment, completely blind. Before I could recover my sight, the lady of my love had disappeared–irreparably affronted at what she chose to consider my premeditated rudeness in passing her by ungreeted. While I stood bewildered at the suddenness of this accident (which might have happened, nevertheless, to any one under the sun), and while I still continued incapable of sight, I was accosted by the Angel of the Odd, who proffered me his aid with a civility which I had no reason to expect. He examined my disordered eye with much gentleness and skill, informed me that I had a drop in it, and (whatever a "drop" was) took it out, and afforded me relief.
I now considered it time to die, (since fortune had so determined to persecute me,) and accordingly made my way to the nearest river. Here, divesting myself of my clothes, (for there is no reason why we cannot die as we were born,) I threw myself headlong into the current; the sole witness of my fate being a solitary crow that had been seduced into the eating of brandy-saturated corn, and so had staggered away from his fellows. No sooner had I entered the water than this bird took it into its head to fly away with the most indispensable portion of my apparel. Postponing, therefore, for the present, my suicidal design, I just slipped my nether extremities into the sleeves of my coat, and betook myself to a pursuit of the felon with all the nimbleness which the case required and its circumstances would admit. But my evil destiny attended me still. As I ran at full speed, with my nose up in the atmosphere, and intent only upon the purloiner of my property, I suddenly perceived that my feet rested no longer upon terre firma; the fact is, I had thrown myself over a precipice, and should inevitably have been dashed to pieces, but for my good fortune in grasping the end of a long guide-rope, which descended from a passing balloon.
As soon as I sufficiently recovered my senses to comprehend the terrific predicament in which I stood or rather hung, I exerted all the power of my lungs to make that predicament known to the aeronaut overhead. But for a long time I exerted myself in vain. Either the fool could not, or the villain would not perceive me. Meantime the machine rapidly soared, while my strength even more rapidly failed. I was soon upon the point of resigning myself to my fate, and dropping quietly into the sea, when my spirits were suddenly revived by hearing a hollow voice from above, which seemed to be lazily humming an opera air. Looking up, I perceived the Angel of the Odd. He was leaning with his arms folded, over the rim of the car, and with a pipe in his mouth, at which he puffed leisurely, seemed to be upon excellent terms with himself and the universe. I was too much exhausted to speak, so I merely regarded him with an imploring air.
For several minutes, although he looked me full in the face, he said nothing. At length removing carefully his meerschaum from the right to the left corner of his mouth, he condescended to speak.
"Who pe you?" he asked, "und what der teuffel you pe do dare?"
To this piece of impudence, cruelty, and affectation, I could reply only by ejaculating the monosyllable "Help!"
"Elp!" echoed the ruffian–"not I. Dare iz te pottle–elp yourself, und pe tam'd!"
With these words he let fall a heavy bottle of Kirschenwasser which, dropping precisely upon the crown of my head, caused me to imagine that my brains were entirely knocked out. Impressed with this idea, I was about to relinquish my hold and give up the ghost with a good grace, when I was arrested by the cry of the Angel, who bade me hold on.
"Old on!" he said; "don't pe in te urry–don't. Will you pe take de odder pottle, or ave you pe got zober yet and come to your zenzes?"
I made haste, hereupon, to nod my head twice–once in the negative, meaning thereby that I would prefer not taking the other bottle at present–and once in the affirmative, intending thus to imply that I was sober and had positively come to my senses. By these means I somewhat softened the Angel.
"Und you pelief, ten," he inquired, "at te last? You pelief, ten, in te possibilty of te odd?"
I again nodded my head in assent.
"Und you ave pelief in me, te Angel of te Odd?"
I nodded again.
"Und you acknowledge tat you pe te blind dronk and te vool?"
I nodded once more.
"Put your right hand into your left hand preeches pocket, ten, in token oy your vull zubmission unto te Angel ov te Odd."
This thing, for very obvious reasons, I found it quite impossible to do. In the first place, my left arm had been broken in my fall from the ladder, and, therefore, had I let go my hold with the right hand, I must have let go altogether. In the second place, I could have no breeches until I came across the crow. I was therefore obliged, much to my regret, to shake my head in the negative–intending thus to give the Angel to understand that I found it inconvenient, just at that moment, to comply with his very reasonable demand! No sooner, however, had I ceased shaking my head than-
"Go to der teuffel ten!" roared the Angel of the Odd.
In pronouncing these words, he drew a sharp knife across the guide. rope by which I was suspended, and as we then happened to be precisely over my own house, (which, during my peregrinations, had been handsomely rebuilt,) it so occurred that I tumbled headlong down the ample chimney and alit upon the dining-room hearth.
Upon coming to my senses, (for the fall had very thoroughly stunned me,) I found it about four o'clock in the morning. I lay outstretched where I had fAllan from the balloon. My head grovelled in the ashes of an extinguished fire, while my feet reposed upon the wreck of a small table, overthrown, and amid the fragments of a miscellaneous dessert, intermingled with a newspaper, some broken glass and shattered bottles, and an empty jug of the Schiedam Kirschenwasser. Thus revenged himself the Angel of the Odd.

Source: Classic Literature

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gypsy Heart

After a very long time i bring to you one of my very own short stories. Gypsy Heart talks about the good and the evil that lurks in the hearts of all the people. I know that it's far from perfect, but here it is anyway:

Erato was a kind-hearted girl. She would wake up in the morning with a big smile on her face and go to bed at night just the same. Everyone loved her, old and young alike. Her long blonde curly hair, her sparkling blue eyes, her dove white skin, her always smiling angel-like face and the natural warmth of her being, made her stand out among the youth of her village. She looked so different than the rest of them; so nice, so beautiful, so unreal. But, in the small society of a village, the one that is different, that one is also cursed; cursed by the evil that lurks in every human soul.
Everyone she knew pretended to be nice, pretended to be faithful, pretended to be kind-hearted; she were all the above. She cared for and loved all the people; she respected all, gods and humans, and had faith in them. She has always been like that, ever since she was a kid. Back then, she would give her toys away to other kids, who were poor; once she even dared take off her jacket, while walking in the village’s square, and offer it to the beggar’s daughter, who was shivering with cold.
Her father, a very rich and highly respected man, who had more money and land than anyone would ever dare dream of, didn’t really like the ways of his daughter. He didn’t give a damn about what the other people thought of Erato; “money is money and it shouldn’t be wasted,” was his belief, but he wouldn’t say that aloud because everyone would turn against him. His wife was quite proud of the girl, and his sons, well, they just didn’t seem to care.
As time passed Erato would grow to be more beautiful and more generous, a girl with a heart of gold. The old women would pray for her wishing god to have her always well, the mothers of the younger men would wish for her to be married to their sons, and the girls, well, they would be jealous of her, but none of them could ever be like her. As for the boys, they simply worshipped her. However, the idea of getting married never crossed her mind. She had so much love in her heart, and instead of giving it to a single man she’d rather offer it to anyone who ever needed it. So, she’d spent endless nights and days, taking care of sick and lonely old women, who had no one in the world but her, and just as much time teaching the children of the gypsy that settled close by, how to read and write. Even the priest thought that Erato one day would be “declared a saint!”
Well, her father had no use for kind words. All he cared about was for her to grow up and get married, and stop being so damn stupid. Her brothers felt just the same; the silly girl was giving little by little their fortune away. Something had to be done with her. So, many times, they would try to talk her out of her way of life, but with no success. She would just sit there and listen to them with that big shiny smile of hers, giving no promises about anything.
By her eighteenth birthday she was as beautiful as a fairy, like a dream. Her face was shining brighter than the sun, and her hair were framing it in golden perfection. One after the other the young and not so young men of her village, would go and ask for her hand in marriage, but her father would turn down every offer. His daughter was a princess, and to someone like her she would have to be married. Erato, who really didn’t want to break anyone’s heart, was happy that her father did all the dirty work for her. Besides, she didn’t want to get married. “I don’t want to lock myself into the golden cell of marriage,” she thought.
As time went by, the other village girls started to hate her; she was too good, too beautiful, too true; but nobody’s perfect. They were sure that she was hiding some dark secret, and since they couldn’t find one, they thought it better to create one, through the old ways of gossip. So, it wasn’t long before a rumor found its way to every house in the village. According to it, Erato had fallen in love with a gypsy. When she heard that she just smiled, but her father and brothers were not that amused. For the first time they were really worried. They believed that the whispers of the evil-hearted people were true, and they definitely had to do something about it; but what?
The rumors multiplied by the day. People would find dark secrets where there were none, they would turn their suspicions into facts, and they would start looking at her in a different way. The angel that Erato was would turn into devil before their very eyes, as they’d see what they told them to see, and not what really was. And so, their attitude towards her would gradually change. They wouldn’t talk and smile to her anymore, they would no longer feel touched by the kindness of her heart. But, she wouldn’t change her ways. She’d be helpful and smiling as ever, nice with all, despite their behavior. She thought that if she continued to be her real self, people would start looking at her in the right way again. But the seeds of evil seemed to have taken over everyone’s heart. After a while she was friends only with the gypsies. They loved her truly, deeply, even though she no longer had much to offer to them, since her father prohibited her from taking anything from the house and giving it away.
Of course the young men still liked her and flirted with her, but the looks they gave her talked of lust and not of love. All the innocence was gone. They would not longer see her as a human being, but as a simple body; and a beautiful one at that. Her body, that’s what they talked about all the time.
Her once smiling face has started wearing the mask of sorrow. Her life that used to be full of joy was now covered with gray clouds, and it just seemed to fade away.
She would spend more and more time at the gypsy camp. Only there she felt alive. The gypsies, being simple and hospitable people, made her feel like one of their own. She would teach the children how to read and write, and they would make her smile. She liked that kind of life, with all its simplicity. “They only know how to live the here and now, that’s why they appear to be full of life,” she would think quietly at night. But, that wasn’t the only point in which they were different from the other people. The gypsies were always looking for a reason to be happy and to have fun. They didn’t care if they were rich or poor and they never even seemed to ask for something more than what they had. Oh yes, they were so much different.
She’s spent many a night with her good friends sitting around the open fire and singing, or getting up and performing with them some wild dances, which carried behind them centuries of tradition and history.
Willingly or not Erato, leading that way of life, kept feeding with ill comments the mouths of the people. And even those of them she once helped, now wanted to have nothing to do with her. The other girls felt happy with her sorrow. With their poisonous tongues, they’ve managed to put her aside; with their devilish ways, they paved the way to her total destruction. All the mothers that once thought of her as an angel, now talked about the cursed one, and as for the young men –we’ve already said this- they would only think of ways to conquer her body. Just a few old women still loved her. For when they were sick, only she would look after them. She would bring them medicine and cook for them, and she would spend many sleepless nights by their side.
One dark night, as she was going back home from the gypsy camp, she heard footsteps approaching her from behind. And at the very next moment she felt a strong hand grabbing her from the waist, and another closing her mouth, so that she couldn’t scream. “Tonight you’re going to be mine, you bitch,” someone whispered in her ear, and she recognized the voice at once. It was Andrew; her brothers’ best friend. Tying her hands at the back and covering her mouth with a scarf, he led her to a remote olive field. Once there he pushed her down at the roots of an olive tree and wildly raped her. Her body watered the tree with the red fluid of her lost innocence. As the beast of a man left, he took with him a life and left behind a human rug.
Almost crawling, feeling too weak to walk, Erato found her way home. She woke up her family and told them what happened. As she finished her story, her mother started to say something, but she just didn’t manage to do so. At that very moment Erato’s father hit her fiercely with an open palm on both cheeks, calling her a cursed one, because as he said she disgraced their name. Her mother sat still and heavy on a chair weeping, while her brothers were trying hard to hide a smile. They were sure, that Andrew was not to blame for anything, since he was a good and honest man. Probably, “the bitch made it all up,” they thought.
Erato started shedding bitter tears, crying out that she was innocent, but her mother did not have the strength to stand up for her, and as for the men they were sure of her guilt. After some time, when all was still and quiet, her father who spend the whole time thinking about what to do, suddenly looked at her in hatred and said: “You no longer have a place in this house; you can leave.” She stared back at him fixedly and made him turn his face down to the ground, as in her eyes he read her contempt. Then she got up decidedly, bid farewell her poor mother, and started of to go and find the only good and openhearted people she knew, her gypsy friends.
The next morning, as the news travel fast in the villages, everyone was talking about what has happened; and everyone would ask Andrew why on earth that evil girl tried to destroy his reputation. He, the big liar and hero of the day, told them that she asked him to marry her, but he refused; thus she decided to take revenge. Right next to him stood her brothers giving credit to his words.
And that is how that angel of a girl, suddenly became the bride of Satan. The priest every Sunday at church in his speech would advice the young girls to be faithful in god and virtuous otherwise they would too face the ill fate of the cursed one. And they would listen to him carefully, in order to have something to talk about and laugh afterwards.
Erato, now living with her gypsy friends, felt happy, and thought that she was safe and out of harm’s way. But, she had no idea of the ways that evil works in the hearts of men. Most of the people of the village, headed by her own brothers and father, Andrew and the priest, would every Sunday meet and discuss ways of making the gypsies go away from their land. “What are the devils doing in our fields, in our houses?” her father would ask aloud. “We must drive them away!”
One night, a few weeks after the rape, Erato in fear and in joy, found out that she was pregnant. At that very night a shepherd went running to the village square, screaming that someone has stolen three of his sheep. The evil men found the opportunity they looked for for so long, and so, they put the blame on the gypsies.
Early next morning, many men armed-to-kill with guns and knives, started for the camp, to make that poor people go away, no matter what. The gypsies denied that they stole the sheep and simply refused to leave. Andrew, drawing out his knife, was the first to start the dance of murder, and the others followed. Surprised and unarmed the poor gypsies started to fall one after the other under the stubs of the murderous knives. Rivers of blood were shed and the land itself seemed to lose its life. The gypsy women mourning their hearts out tried to take the children away. They had to at least save them from the ball of Death.
Only one woman didn’t run away but grabbed a knife and thrown herself into the battle. And as the devil’s best of men, Andrew, was getting ready to slaughter a kid that stayed behind, he felt a knife finding its way deep into his breast. The last thing he saw before breathing his life away was Erato’s blazing eyes. A moment later a bloody coward of a man, reached her from behind and cut her throat. None of the killers, in the mist of battle, was able to see the father-murderer cry.
By noon all the gypsy men were dead or seriously injured. The women were crying about the evil that has befallen them, but they were determined to make life worth living again. According to the legend, one of those women somewhere found a knife that possessed some magic powers. They said that every wound it touched it immediately healed, and that was a sign that their god now lived with them.
They buried Erato at the top of a hill from where she could look at the vastness and the beauty of the world. All around her grave, there appeared on their own dozens of strange and beautiful flowers.
As the legend goes, at the very place that her father killed her, the gypsies opened a well, that all year around pours out sweet water that gives life to the plain.
Her father was tormented for many years by terrible nightmares, and one day they found him with his eyes frightfully open, dead in his bed. The people said that: “He met the Lord of Death, even before he died.”
Both of her brothers were hit by a terrible illness that kept them nailed on their beds till the day they expired.
The priest passed away during one of his passionate speeches in the church, which talked about “the gypsies, the children of Satan, who want to destroy our religion.”
The olive tree under which Erato saw the face of evil and terror got withered, but all year around it bloom some weird-looking poppies.
Erato is the most common name among the girls at the gypsy camp.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oscar Wilde - The Young King

Oscar Wilde is without a doubt one of the best writers ever. His short stories i enjoy just as much as his plays and his poems. For you today here comes the tale of The Young King:

It was the night before the day fixed for his coronation, and the
young King was sitting alone in his beautiful chamber. His
courtiers had all taken their leave of him, bowing their heads to
the ground, according to the ceremonious usage of the day, and had
retired to the Great Hall of the Palace, to receive a few last
lessons from the Professor of Etiquette; there being some of them
who had still quite natural manners, which in a courtier is, I need
hardly say, a very grave offence.

The lad--for he was only a lad, being but sixteen years of age--was
not sorry at their departure, and had flung himself back with a
deep sigh of relief on the soft cushions of his embroidered couch,
lying there, wild-eyed and open-mouthed, like a brown woodland
Faun, or some young animal of the forest newly snared by the

And, indeed, it was the hunters who had found him, coming upon him
almost by chance as, bare-limbed and pipe in hand, he was following
the flock of the poor goatherd who had brought him up, and whose
son he had always fancied himself to be. The child of the old
King's only daughter by a secret marriage with one much beneath her
in station--a stranger, some said, who, by the wonderful magic of
his lute-playing, had made the young Princess love him; while
others spoke of an artist from Rimini, to whom the Princess had
shown much, perhaps too much honour, and who had suddenly
disappeared from the city, leaving his work in the Cathedral
unfinished--he had been, when but a week old, stolen away from his
mother's side, as she slept, and given into the charge of a common
peasant and his wife, who were without children of their own, and
lived in a remote part of the forest, more than a day's ride from
the town. Grief, or the plague, as the court physician stated, or,
as some suggested, a swift Italian poison administered in a cup of
spiced wine, slew, within an hour of her wakening, the white girl
who had given him birth, and as the trusty messenger who bare the
child across his saddle-bow stooped from his weary horse and
knocked at the rude door of the goatherd's hut, the body of the
Princess was being lowered into an open grave that had been dug in
a deserted churchyard, beyond the city gates, a grave where it was
said that another body was also lying, that of a young man of
marvellous and foreign beauty, whose hands were tied behind him
with a knotted cord, and whose breast was stabbed with many red

Such, at least, was the story that men whispered to each other.
Certain it was that the old King, when on his deathbed, whether
moved by remorse for his great sin, or merely desiring that the
kingdom should not pass away from his line, had had the lad sent
for, and, in the presence of the Council, had acknowledged him as
his heir.

And it seems that from the very first moment of his recognition he
had shown signs of that strange passion for beauty that was
destined to have so great an influence over his life. Those who
accompanied him to the suite of rooms set apart for his service,
often spoke of the cry of pleasure that broke from his lips when he
saw the delicate raiment and rich jewels that had been prepared for
him, and of the almost fierce joy with which he flung aside his
rough leathern tunic and coarse sheepskin cloak. He missed,
indeed, at times the fine freedom of his forest life, and was
always apt to chafe at the tedious Court ceremonies that occupied
so much of each day, but the wonderful palace--Joyeuse, as they
called it--of which he now found himself lord, seemed to him to be
a new world fresh-fashioned for his delight; and as soon as he
could escape from the council-board or audience-chamber, he would
run down the great staircase, with its lions of gilt bronze and its
steps of bright porphyry, and wander from room to room, and from
corridor to corridor, like one who was seeking to find in beauty an
anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration from sickness.

Upon these journeys of discovery, as he would call them--and,
indeed, they were to him real voyages through a marvellous land, he
would sometimes be accompanied by the slim, fair-haired Court
pages, with their floating mantles, and gay fluttering ribands; but
more often he would be alone, feeling through a certain quick
instinct, which was almost a divination, that the secrets of art
are best learned in secret, and that Beauty, like Wisdom, loves the
lonely worshipper.

Many curious stories were related about him at this period. It was
said that a stout Burgo-master, who had come to deliver a florid
oratorical address on behalf of the citizens of the town, had
caught sight of him kneeling in real adoration before a great
picture that had just been brought from Venice, and that seemed to
herald the worship of some new gods. On another occasion he had
been missed for several hours, and after a lengthened search had
been discovered in a little chamber in one of the northern turrets
of the palace gazing, as one in a trance, at a Greek gem carved
with the figure of Adonis. He had been seen, so the tale ran,
pressing his warm lips to the marble brow of an antique statue that
had been discovered in the bed of the river on the occasion of the
building of the stone bridge, and was inscribed with the name of
the Bithynian slave of Hadrian. He had passed a whole night in
noting the effect of the moonlight on a silver image of Endymion.

All rare and costly materials had certainly a great fascination for
him, and in his eagerness to procure them he had sent away many
merchants, some to traffic for amber with the rough fisher-folk of
the north seas, some to Egypt to look for that curious green
turquoise which is found only in the tombs of kings, and is said to
possess magical properties, some to Persia for silken carpets and
painted pottery, and others to India to buy gauze and stained
ivory, moonstones and bracelets of jade, sandal-wood and blue
enamel and shawls of fine wool.

But what had occupied him most was the robe he was to wear at his
coronation, the robe of tissued gold, and the ruby-studded crown,
and the sceptre with its rows and rings of pearls. Indeed, it was
of this that he was thinking to-night, as he lay back on his
luxurious couch, watching the great pinewood log that was burning
itself out on the open hearth. The designs, which were from the
hands of the most famous artists of the time, had been submitted to
him many months before, and he had given orders that the artificers
were to toil night and day to carry them out, and that the whole
world was to be searched for jewels that would be worthy of their
work. He saw himself in fancy standing at the high altar of the
cathedral in the fair raiment of a King, and a smile played and
lingered about his boyish lips, and lit up with a bright lustre his
dark woodland eyes.

After some time he rose from his seat, and leaning against the
carved penthouse of the chimney, looked round at the dimly-lit
room. The walls were hung with rich tapestries representing the
Triumph of Beauty. A large press, inlaid with agate and lapis-
lazuli, filled one corner, and facing the window stood a curiously
wrought cabinet with lacquer panels of powdered and mosaiced gold,
on which were placed some delicate goblets of Venetian glass, and a
cup of dark-veined onyx. Pale poppies were broidered on the silk
coverlet of the bed, as though they had fallen from the tired hands
of sleep, and tall reeds of fluted ivory bare up the velvet canopy,
from which great tufts of ostrich plumes sprang, like white foam,
to the pallid silver of the fretted ceiling. A laughing Narcissus
in green bronze held a polished mirror above its head. On the
table stood a flat bowl of amethyst.

Outside he could see the huge dome of the cathedral, looming like a
bubble over the shadowy houses, and the weary sentinels pacing up
and down on the misty terrace by the river. Far away, in an
orchard, a nightingale was singing. A faint perfume of jasmine
came through the open window. He brushed his brown curls back from
his forehead, and taking up a lute, let his fingers stray across
the cords. His heavy eyelids drooped, and a strange languor came
over him. Never before had he felt so keenly, or with such
exquisite joy, the magic and the mystery of beautiful things.

When midnight sounded from the clock-tower he touched a bell, and
his pages entered and disrobed him with much ceremony, pouring
rose-water over his hands, and strewing flowers on his pillow. A
few moments after that they had left the room, he fell asleep.

And as he slept he dreamed a dream, and this was his dream.

He thought that he was standing in a long, low attic, amidst the
whir and clatter of many looms. The meagre daylight peered in
through the grated windows, and showed him the gaunt figures of the
weavers bending over their cases. Pale, sickly-looking children
were crouched on the huge crossbeams. As the shuttles dashed
through the warp they lifted up the heavy battens, and when the
shuttles stopped they let the battens fall and pressed the threads
together. Their faces were pinched with famine, and their thin
hands shook and trembled. Some haggard women were seated at a
table sewing. A horrible odour filled the place. The air was foul
and heavy, and the walls dripped and streamed with damp.

The young King went over to one of the weavers, and stood by him
and watched him.

And the weaver looked at him angrily, and said, 'Why art thou
watching me? Art thou a spy set on us by our master?'

'Who is thy master?' asked the young King.

'Our master!' cried the weaver, bitterly. 'He is a man like
myself. Indeed, there is but this difference between us--that he
wears fine clothes while I go in rags, and that while I am weak
from hunger he suffers not a little from overfeeding.'

'The land is free,' said the young King, 'and thou art no man's

'In war,' answered the weaver, 'the strong make slaves of the weak,
and in peace the rich make slaves of the poor. We must work to
live, and they give us such mean wages that we die. We toil for
them all day long, and they heap up gold in their coffers, and our
children fade away before their time, and the faces of those we
love become hard and evil. We tread out the grapes, and another
drinks the wine. We sow the corn, and our own board is empty. We
have chains, though no eye beholds them; and are slaves, though men
call us free.'

'Is it so with all?' he asked,

'It is so with all,' answered the weaver, 'with the young as well
as with the old, with the women as well as with the men, with the
little children as well as with those who are stricken in years.
The merchants grind us down, and we must needs do their bidding.
The priest rides by and tells his beads, and no man has care of us.
Through our sunless lanes creeps Poverty with her hungry eyes, and
Sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us
in the morning, and Shame sits with us at night. But what are
these things to thee? Thou art not one of us. Thy face is too
happy.' And he turned away scowling, and threw the shuttle across
the loom, and the young King saw that it was threaded with a thread
of gold.

And a great terror seized upon him, and he said to the weaver,
'What robe is this that thou art weaving?'

'It is the robe for the coronation of the young King,' he answered;
'what is that to thee?'

And the young King gave a loud cry and woke, and lo! he was in his
own chamber, and through the window he saw the great honey-coloured
moon hanging in the dusky air.

And he fell asleep again and dreamed, and this was his dream.

He thought that he was lying on the deck of a huge galley that was
being rowed by a hundred slaves. On a carpet by his side the
master of the galley was seated. He was black as ebony, and his
turban was of crimson silk. Great earrings of silver dragged down
the thick lobes of his ears, and in his hands he had a pair of
ivory scales.

The slaves were naked, but for a ragged loin-cloth, and each man
was chained to his neighbour. The hot sun beat brightly upon them,
and the negroes ran up and down the gangway and lashed them with
whips of hide. They stretched out their lean arms and pulled the
heavy oars through the water. The salt spray flew from the blades.

At last they reached a little bay, and began to take soundings. A
light wind blew from the shore, and covered the deck and the great
lateen sail with a fine red dust. Three Arabs mounted on wild
asses rode out and threw spears at them. The master of the galley
took a painted bow in his hand and shot one of them in the throat.
He fell heavily into the surf, and his companions galloped away. A
woman wrapped in a yellow veil followed slowly on a camel, looking
back now and then at the dead body.

As soon as they had cast anchor and hauled down the sail, the
negroes went into the hold and brought up a long rope-ladder,
heavily weighted with lead. The master of the galley threw it over
the side, making the ends fast to two iron stanchions. Then the
negroes seized the youngest of the slaves and knocked his gyves
off, and filled his nostrils and his ears with wax, and tied a big
stone round his waist. He crept wearily down the ladder, and
disappeared into the sea. A few bubbles rose where he sank. Some
of the other slaves peered curiously over the side. At the prow of
the galley sat a shark-charmer, beating monotonously upon a drum.

After some time the diver rose up out of the water, and clung
panting to the ladder with a pearl in his right hand. The negroes
seized it from him, and thrust him back. The slaves fell asleep
over their oars.

Again and again he came up, and each time that he did so he brought
with him a beautiful pearl. The master of the galley weighed them,
and put them into a little bag of green leather.

The young King tried to speak, but his tongue seemed to cleave to
the roof of his mouth, and his lips refused to move. The negroes
chattered to each other, and began to quarrel over a string of
bright beads. Two cranes flew round and round the vessel.

Then the diver came up for the last time, and the pearl that he
brought with him was fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz, for it
was shaped like the full moon, and whiter than the morning star.
But his face was strangely pale, and as he fell upon the deck the
blood gushed from his ears and nostrils. He quivered for a little,
and then he was still. The negroes shrugged their shoulders, and
threw the body overboard.

And the master of the galley laughed, and, reaching out, he took
the pearl, and when he saw it he pressed it to his forehead and
bowed. 'It shall be,' he said, 'for the sceptre of the young
King,' and he made a sign to the negroes to draw up the anchor.

And when the young King heard this he gave a great cry, and woke,
and through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn
clutching at the fading stars.

And he fell asleep again, and dreamed, and this was his dream.

He thought that he was wandering through a dim wood, hung with
strange fruits and with beautiful poisonous flowers. The adders
hissed at him as he went by, and the bright parrots flew screaming
from branch to branch. Huge tortoises lay asleep upon the hot mud.
The trees were full of apes and peacocks.

On and on he went, till he reached the outskirts of the wood, and
there he saw an immense multitude of men toiling in the bed of a
dried-up river. They swarmed up the crag like ants. They dug deep
pits in the ground and went down into them. Some of them cleft the
rocks with great axes; others grabbled in the sand.

They tore up the cactus by its roots, and trampled on the scarlet
blossoms. They hurried about, calling to each other, and no man
was idle.

From the darkness of a cavern Death and Avarice watched them, and
Death said, 'I am weary; give me a third of them and let me go.'
But Avarice shook her head. 'They are my servants,' she answered.

And Death said to her, 'What hast thou in thy hand?'

'I have three grains of corn,' she answered; 'what is that to

'Give me one of them,' cried Death, 'to plant in my garden; only
one of them, and I will go away.'

'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice, and she hid her hand
in the fold of her raiment.

And Death laughed, and took a cup, and dipped it into a pool of
water, and out of the cup rose Ague. She passed through the great
multitude, and a third of them lay dead. A cold mist followed her,
and the water-snakes ran by her side.

And when Avarice saw that a third of the multitude was dead she
beat her breast and wept. She beat her barren bosom, and cried
aloud. 'Thou hast slain a third of my servants,' she cried, 'get
thee gone. There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings
of each side are calling to thee. The Afghans have slain the black
ox, and are marching to battle. They have beaten upon their
shields with their spears, and have put on their helmets of iron.
What is my valley to thee, that thou shouldst tarry in it? Get
thee gone, and come here no more.'

'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn
I will not go.'

But Avarice shut her hand, and clenched her teeth. 'I will not
give thee anything,' she muttered.

And Death laughed, and took up a black stone, and threw it into the
forest, and out of a thicket of wild hemlock came Fever in a robe
of flame. She passed through the multitude, and touched them, and
each man that she touched died. The grass withered beneath her
feet as she walked.

And Avarice shuddered, and put ashes on her head. 'Thou art
cruel,' she cried; 'thou art cruel. There is famine in the walled
cities of India, and the cisterns of Samarcand have run dry. There
is famine in the walled cities of Egypt, and the locusts have come
up from the desert. The Nile has not overflowed its banks, and the
priests have cursed Isis and Osiris. Get thee gone to those who
need thee, and leave me my servants.'

'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn
I will not go.'

'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice.

And Death laughed again, and he whistled through his fingers, and a
woman came flying through the air. Plague was written upon her
forehead, and a crowd of lean vultures wheeled round her. She
covered the valley with her wings, and no man was left alive.

And Avarice fled shrieking through the forest, and Death leaped
upon his red horse and galloped away, and his galloping was faster
than the wind.

And out of the slime at the bottom of the valley crept dragons and
horrible things with scales, and the jackals came trotting along
the sand, sniffing up the air with their nostrils.

And the young King wept, and said: 'Who were these men, and for
what were they seeking?'

'For rubies for a king's crown,' answered one who stood behind him.

And the young King started, and, turning round, he saw a man
habited as a pilgrim and holding in his hand a mirror of silver.

And he grew pale, and said: 'For what king?'

And the pilgrim answered: 'Look in this mirror, and thou shalt see

And he looked in the mirror, and, seeing his own face, he gave a
great cry and woke, and the bright sunlight was streaming into the
room, and from the trees of the garden and pleasaunce the birds
were singing.

And the Chamberlain and the high officers of State came in and made
obeisance to him, and the pages brought him the robe of tissued
gold, and set the crown and the sceptre before him.

And the young King looked at them, and they were beautiful. More
beautiful were they than aught that he had ever seen. But he
remembered his dreams, and he said to his lords: 'Take these
things away, for I will not wear them.'

And the courtiers were amazed, and some of them laughed, for they
thought that he was jesting.

But he spake sternly to them again, and said: 'Take these things
away, and hide them from me. Though it be the day of my
coronation, I will not wear them. For on the loom of Sorrow, and
by the white hands of Pain, has this my robe been woven. There is
Blood in the heart of the ruby, and Death in the heart of the
pearl.' And he told them his three dreams.

And when the courtiers heard them they looked at each other and
whispered, saying: 'Surely he is mad; for what is a dream but a
dream, and a vision but a vision? They are not real things that
one should heed them. And what have we to do with the lives of
those who toil for us? Shall a man not eat bread till he has seen
the sower, nor drink wine till he has talked with the vinedresser?'

And the Chamberlain spake to the young King, and said, 'My lord, I
pray thee set aside these black thoughts of thine, and put on this
fair robe, and set this crown upon thy head. For how shall the
people know that thou art a king, if thou hast not a king's

And the young King looked at him. 'Is it so, indeed?' he
questioned. 'Will they not know me for a king if I have not a
king's raiment?'

'They will not know thee, my lord,' cried the Chamberlain.

'I had thought that there had been men who were kinglike,' he
answered, 'but it may be as thou sayest. And yet I will not wear
this robe, nor will I be crowned with this crown, but even as I
came to the palace so will I go forth from it.'

And he bade them all leave him, save one page whom he kept as his
companion, a lad a year younger than himself. Him he kept for his
service, and when he had bathed himself in clear water, he opened a
great painted chest, and from it he took the leathern tunic and
rough sheepskin cloak that he had worn when he had watched on the
hillside the shaggy goats of the goatherd. These he put on, and in
his hand he took his rude shepherd's staff.

And the little page opened his big blue eyes in wonder, and said
smiling to him, 'My lord, I see thy robe and thy sceptre, but where
is thy crown?'

And the young King plucked a spray of wild briar that was climbing
over the balcony, and bent it, and made a circlet of it, and set it
on his own head.

'This shall he my crown,' he answered.

And thus attired he passed out of his chamber into the Great Hall,
where the nobles were waiting for him.

And the nobles made merry, and some of them cried out to him, 'My
lord, the people wait for their king, and thou showest them a
beggar,' and others were wroth and said, 'He brings shame upon our
state, and is unworthy to be our master.' But he answered them not
a word, but passed on, and went down the bright porphyry staircase,
and out through the gates of bronze, and mounted upon his horse,
and rode towards the cathedral, the little page running beside him.

And the people laughed and said, 'It is the King's fool who is
riding by,' and they mocked him.

And he drew rein and said, 'Nay, but I am the King.' And he told
them his three dreams.

And a man came out of the crowd and spake bitterly to him, and
said, 'Sir, knowest thou not that out of the luxury of the rich
cometh the life of the poor? By your pomp we are nurtured, and
your vices give us bread. To toil for a hard master is bitter, but
to have no master to toil for is more bitter still. Thinkest thou
that the ravens will feed us? And what cure hast thou for these
things? Wilt thou say to the buyer, "Thou shalt buy for so much,"
and to the seller, "Thou shalt sell at this price"? I trow not.
Therefore go back to thy Palace and put on thy purple and fine
linen. What hast thou to do with us, and what we suffer?'

'Are not the rich and the poor brothers?' asked the young King.

'Ay,' answered the man, 'and the name of the rich brother is Cain.'

And the young King's eyes filled with tears, and he rode on through
the murmurs of the people, and the little page grew afraid and left

And when he reached the great portal of the cathedral, the soldiers
thrust their halberts out and said, 'What dost thou seek here?
None enters by this door but the King.'

And his face flushed with anger, and he said to them, 'I am the
King,' and waved their halberts aside and passed in.

And when the old Bishop saw him coming in his goatherd's dress, he
rose up in wonder from his throne, and went to meet him, and said
to him, 'My son, is this a king's apparel? And with what crown
shall I crown thee, and what sceptre shall I place in thy hand?
Surely this should be to thee a day of joy, and not a day of

'Shall Joy wear what Grief has fashioned?' said the young King.
And he told him his three dreams.

And when the Bishop had heard them he knit his brows, and said, 'My
son, I am an old man, and in the winter of my days, and I know that
many evil things are done in the wide world. The fierce robbers
come down from the mountains, and carry off the little children,
and sell them to the Moors. The lions lie in wait for the
caravans, and leap upon the camels. The wild boar roots up the
corn in the valley, and the foxes gnaw the vines upon the hill.
The pirates lay waste the sea-coast and burn the ships of the
fishermen, and take their nets from them. In the salt-marshes live
the lepers; they have houses of wattled reeds, and none may come
nigh them. The beggars wander through the cities, and eat their
food with the dogs. Canst thou make these things not to be? Wilt
thou take the leper for thy bedfellow, and set the beggar at thy
board? Shall the lion do thy bidding, and the wild boar obey thee?
Is not He who made misery wiser than thou art? Wherefore I praise
thee not for this that thou hast done, but I bid thee ride back to
the Palace and make thy face glad, and put on the raiment that
beseemeth a king, and with the crown of gold I will crown thee, and
the sceptre of pearl will I place in thy hand. And as for thy
dreams, think no more of them. The burden of this world is too
great for one man to bear, and the world's sorrow too heavy for one
heart to suffer.'

'Sayest thou that in this house?' said the young King, and he
strode past the Bishop, and climbed up the steps of the altar, and
stood before the image of Christ.

He stood before the image of Christ, and on his right hand and on
his left were the marvellous vessels of gold, the chalice with the
yellow wine, and the vial with the holy oil. He knelt before the
image of Christ, and the great candles burned brightly by the
jewelled shrine, and the smoke of the incense curled in thin blue
wreaths through the dome. He bowed his head in prayer, and the
priests in their stiff copes crept away from the altar.

And suddenly a wild tumult came from the street outside, and in
entered the nobles with drawn swords and nodding plumes, and
shields of polished steel. 'Where is this dreamer of dreams?' they
cried. 'Where is this King who is apparelled like a beggar--this
boy who brings shame upon our state? Surely we will slay him, for
he is unworthy to rule over us.'

And the young King bowed his head again, and prayed, and when he
had finished his prayer he rose up, and turning round he looked at
them sadly.

And lo! through the painted windows came the sunlight streaming
upon him, and the sun-beams wove round him a tissued robe that was
fairer than the robe that had been fashioned for his pleasure. The
dead staff blossomed, and bare lilies that were whiter than pearls.
The dry thorn blossomed, and bare roses that were redder than
rubies. Whiter than fine pearls were the lilies, and their stems
were of bright silver. Redder than male rubies were the roses, and
their leaves were of beaten gold.

He stood there in the raiment of a king, and the gates of the
jewelled shrine flew open, and from the crystal of the many-rayed
monstrance shone a marvellous and mystical light. He stood there
in a king's raiment, and the Glory of God filled the place, and the
saints in their carven niches seemed to move. In the fair raiment
of a king he stood before them, and the organ pealed out its music,
and the trumpeters blew upon their trumpets, and the singing boys

And the people fell upon their knees in awe, and the nobles
sheathed their swords and did homage, and the Bishop's face grew
pale, and his hands trembled. 'A greater than I hath crowned
thee,' he cried, and he knelt before him.

And the young King came down from the high altar, and passed home
through the midst of the people. But no man dared look upon his
face, for it was like the face of an angel.

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