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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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page: 286

CHAPTER VI.

“WHAT has come to that evil one? She walks the land as though she were a queen,” the people of Yprès said to one another, watching the creature they abhorred as she went through the town to the river‐stair or to the market‐stall.

She seemed to them transfigured.

A perpetual radiance shone in the dark depths of her eyes; a proud elasticity replaced the old sullen defiance of her carriage; her face had a sweet musing mystery and dreaminess on it; and when she smiled, her smile was soft, and sudden, like the smile of one who bears fair tidings in her heart unspoken.

Even those people, dull and plodding and taciturn, absorbed in their small trades or in their continual field labour, were struck by the change in her, and looked after her, and listened in a stupid wonder to the sonorous songs in an unknown tongue that rose so often to her lips as she strode amongst the summer grasses or led the laden mules through the fords.

They saw, even with their eyes purblind from hate, that she had thrown off their yoke, and had escaped from their narrow world, and was happy with some rich, mute, nameless happiness that they could neither evade nor understand.

The fall of evening always brought her to him; he let her come, finding a certain charm in that savage temper which grew so tame to him; in that fierce courage which to him was so humble; in that absolute ignorance which was yet so curiously blended with so strong a power of fancy and so quick an instinct of beauty. But he let her go again with indifference, and never tried by any word to keep her an hour later than she chose to stay. She was to him like some handsome, dangerous beast that flew at all others and crouched to himself. He had a certain pleasure in her colour and her grace; in making her great eyes glow, and page: 287 seeing the light of a wakening intelligence break over all her beautiful, clouded, fierce face.

As she learned to hear more often the sound of her own voice, and to use a more varied and copious language, a rude eloquence came naturally to her; and, when her silence was broken, it was usually for some terse, vivid, picturesque utterance which had an artistic interest for him. In this simple and monotonous province, with its tedious sameness of life and its green arable country that tired a sight fed in youth on the grandeur of cloud‐reaching mountains and the tumults of ice‐tossing seas, this creature so utterly unlike her kind, so golden with the glow of tawny desert suns, and so strong with the liberty and the ferocity and the dormant passion and the silent force of some free forest animal, was in a way welcome.

All things were so new and strange to her; all the common knowledge was so utterly unknown to her; all other kinds of life were so unintelligible to her; and yet with all her ignorance, she had so swift a fancy, so keen an irony, so poetic an instinct, that it seemed to him when he spoke with her that he talked to some creature from another planet than his own.

He like to make her smile; he liked to make her suffer; he liked to inflame, to wound, to charm, to tame her; he liked all these without passion, rather with curiosity than with interest, much as he had liked in the season of his boyhood to ruffle the plumage of a captured sea‐bird; to see its eye sparkle, and then grow dull and flash again with pain, and then at the last turn soft with weary, wistful tenderness, having been taught at once the misery of bondage and the tyranny of human love.

She was a bronzed, bare‐footed, fleet‐limbed young outcast, so he told himself, with the scowl of an habitual defiance on her straight brows, and the curl of an untamable scorn upon her rich red lips, and a curious sovereignty and savageness in her dauntless carriage; and yet there was a certain nobility and melancholy in her that made her seem like one of a great and fallen race; and in her eyes there was a look repellant yet appealing, and lustrous with sleeping passion, that tempted him to wake what slumbered there.

But in these early spring‐tide days he suffered her to page: 288 come and go as she listed, without either persuasion or forbiddance on his own part.

The impassioned reverence which she had for the things he had created was only the untutored, unreasoning reverence of the savage or of the peasant; but it had a sweetness for him.

He had been alone so long; and so long had passed since any cheek had flushed and any breast had heaved under the influence of any one of those strange fancies and noble stories which he had pictured on the walls of his lonely chamber. He had despaired of and had despised himself; despised his continual failure, despaired of all power to sway the souls and gain the eyes of his fellow‐men. It was a little thing—a thing so little that he called himself a fool for taking any count of it; yet the hot tears that dimmed the sight of this young barbarian who was herself of no more value than the mill‐dust that drifted on the breeze, the soft vague breathless awe that stole upon her as she gazed at the colourless shadows in which his genius spent itself, these were sweet to him with a sweetness that made him ashamed of his own weakness.

She had given the breath of life back to his body by an act of which he was ignorant; and now she gave back the breath of hope to his mind by a worship which he contemned even whilst he was glad of it.

Meanwhile the foul tongues of her enemies rang with loud glee over this new shame which they could cast at her.

“She has found a lover,—oh ho!—that brown wicked thing. A lover meet for her;—a man who walks abroad in the moonless nights, and plucks the mandrake, and worships the devil, and paints people in their own likeness, so that as the colour dries the life wastes!” So the women screamed after her often as she went; she nothing understanding or heeding, but lost in the dreams of her own waking imagination.

At times such words as these reached Claudis Flamma, but he turned a deaf ear to them: he had the wisdom of the world in him, though he was only an old miller who had never stirred ten leagues from his home; and whilst the devil served him well, he quarrelled not with the devil. In a grim way, it was a pleasure to him to think that the thing he hated might be accursed body and soul: he had never page: 289 cared either for her body or her soul; so that the first worked for him, the last might destroy itself in its own darkness:—he had never stretched a finger to hold it back.

The pride and the honesty and the rude candour and instinctive purity of this young life of hers had been a perpetual hindrance and canker to him: begotten of evil, by all the laws of justice, in evil she should live and die. So Flamma reasoned; and to the sayings of his country‐side he gave a stony ear and a stony glance.

She never once, after the first day, breathed a word to Arslàn about the treatment that she received at Yprès. It was not in her nature to complain; and she abhorred even his pity. Whatever she endured, she kept silence on it; when he asked her how her grandsire dealt with her, she always answered him—“it is well enough with me now.” He cared not enough to doubt her.

And in a manner she had learned how to keep her tyrant at bay. He did not dare to lay hands on her now that her eyes had got that new fire, and her voice that serene contempt. His wolf‐cub had shown her teeth, at last, at his lash; and he did not venture to sting her to revolt with too long use of scourge and chain. So she obtained more leisure; and what she did not spend in Arslàn’s tower she spent in acquiring another art—she learned to read.

There was an old herb‐seller in the market‐place who was not so harsh to her as the others were, but who had now and then for her a rough kindly word out of gentleness to the memory of Reine Flamma. This woman was better educated than most, and could even write a little. To her Folle‐Farine went.

“See here,” she said: “you are feeble and I am strong. I know every nook and corner in the woods. I know a hundred rare herbs that you never find. I will bring you a basketful of them twice in each week, if you will show me how to read those signs that the people call letters.”

The old woman hesitated. “It were as much as my life is worth to have you seen with me. The lads will stone my window. Still—.” The wish for the rare herbs and, and the remembrance of the fatigue that would be spared to her rheumatic body by compliance, prevailed over her fears. She consented.

Three times a week Folle‐Farine rose while it was still dark, page: 290 and scoured the wooded lands and the moss‐green orchards and the little brooks in the meadows in search of every herb that grew. She knew those green places which had been her only kingdom and her only solace as no one else knew them; and the old dame’s herb‐stall was the envy and despair of the market‐place.

Now and then a labourer earlier than the rest, or as a vagrant sleeping under a hedge‐row, saw her going through the darkness with her green bundle on her head, or stooping amongst the water‐courses ankle deep in rushes, and he crossed himself and went and told how he had seen the Evil Spirit of Yprès gathering the poison‐weeds that made ships founder, and strong men droop and die, and women love unnatural and horrible things, and all manner of woe and sickness overtake those whom she hated.

Often, too, at this lonely time, before the day broke, she met Arslàn.

It was his habit to be abroad when others slept: studies of the night and its peculiar loveliness entered largely into many of his paintings; the beauty of water rippling in the moonbeam, of grey weeds blowing against the first faint red of dawn, of dark fields with sleeping cattle and folded sheep, of pools made visible by the shine of their folded white lilies, these were all things he cared to study. The earth has always most charm, and least pain, to the poet or the artist when men are hidden away under their roofs. Then they do not break its claim with either their mirth or their brutality; then the vile and revolting coarseness of their works, that blot it with so much deformity, is softened and obscured in the purple breadths of shadow and the dim tender gleam of stars; and it was then that he loved best to move abroad.

Sometimes the shepherd going to his flocks, or the housewife opening her shutter in the wayside cabin, or the huckster driving early his mule seawards to meet the fish that the night‐trawlers had brought, saw them together thus, and talked of it; and said that these two, accursed of all honest folk, were after some unholy work—coming from the orgy of some witches’ sabbath, or seeking some devil’s root that would give them the treasured gold of misers’ tombs, or the powers of life and death.

For these things are still believed by many a peasant’s page: 291 hearth, and whispered darkly as night closes in and the wind rises.

Wading in the shallow streams, with the breeze tossing her hair, and the dew bright on her sheaf of herbs, Folle‐Farine paid thus the only wages that she could for leaning the art of letters.

One day he had said to her, half unconsciously, “If only you were not so ignorant!”—and since that day she had set herself to clear away her ignorance little by little, as she would have cleared brushwood with her hatchet.

It was the sweetest hour which she had ever known when she was able to stand before him and say, “The characters that men print are no longer riddles to me.”

He praised her; and she was glad and proud.

It was love that had entered into her, but a great love, full of intense humility, of supreme self‐sacrifice; a love that unconsciously led her to chasten into gentleness the fierce soul in her, and to try and seek light for the darkness of her mind.

He saw the influence he had on her, but he was careless of it.

A gipsy‐child working for bread at a little mill‐house in these Norman woods,—what use would be to her beauty of thought, grace of fancy, the desire begotten of knowledge, the poetry learned from the past?

Still, he gave her these; partly because he pitied her, partly because in his exhaustion and solitude this creature, in her beauty and her submission, was welcome to him.

And yet he thought so little of her, and chiefly, when he thought of her, chose to perplex her or to wound her, that he might see her eyes dilate in wondering amaze, or her face quiver and flush, and then grow dark, with the torment of a mute and subdued pain.

She was a study to him, as was the scarlet rose in the garden ways, or the purple‐breasted pigeon in the woods; he dealt with her as he would have dealt with the flower or the bird if he had wished to study them more nearly, by tearing the rose open at its core, or casting a stone at the blue‐rock on the wing.

This was not cruelty in him; it was only habit—habit, and the callousness begotten by his own continual pain.

The pain as of a knife for ever thrust into the loins, of a page: 292 cord for ever knotted hard about the temples, which is the daily and nightly penalty of those mad enough to believe that they have the force in them to change the sluggard appetites and the hungry cruelties of their kind into a life of high endeavour and divine desire.

He held that a man’s chief passion is his destiny, and will shape his fate, roughhew his fate as circumstance or as hazard may. His chief, his sole passion was a great ambition—a passion pure as crystal, since the eminence he craved was for his creations, not for his name: yet it had failed to compel the destiny that he believed to be his own; and every hour he seemed to sink lower and lower into oblivion, further and further from the possibility of any fulfillment of his dreams; and the wasted years of his life fell away one by one into the gulf of the past, vain, unheard, unfruitful, as the frozen words on the deck of the ship of Pantagruel.

“What is the use?” he muttered, half aloud, one day before his paintings. “What is the use? If I die tomorrow they will sell for so much rubbish to heat a bakery store. It is only a mad waste of hours—waste of colour, of canvas, of labour. The world has told me so, many years. The world always knows what it wants. It selects unerringly. It must judge better than I do. The man is a fool, indeed, who presumes himself to be wiser than all his generation. If the world will have nothing to do with you, go and hang yourself—or if you fear to do that, dig a ditch or a grave for a daily meal. Give over dreams. The world knows what it wants, and if it wanted you would take you. It has brazen lungs to shout for what it needs; the lungs of a multitude. It is no use what your own voice whispers you unless those great lungs also shout before you, Hosannah.”

So he spoke to himself in the bitterness of his soul, standing before his cartoons in which he had put all the genius there was in him, and which hung there unseen save by the spider that wove and the moth that flew over them.

Folle‐Farine, who was that day in his chamber, looked at him with the wistful far‐reaching comprehension which an unerring instinct taught her.

“Of a winter night,” she said, slowly, “I have heard page: 293 old Pitchou read aloud to Flamma, and she reads of their God, the one they hang everywhere on the crosses here; and the story ran that the populace scourged and nailed to death the one whom they knew afterwards, when too late, to have been the great man that they looked for, and that, being bidden to make their choice of one to save, they chose to ransom and honour a thief: one called Barabbas. Is it true?—If the world’s choice were wrong once, why not twice?”

Arslàn smiled; the smile she knew so well, and which had no more warmth than the ice floes of his native seas.

“Why not twice? Why not a thousand times? A thief has the world’s sympathies always. It is always the Barabbas—the trickster in talent, the forger of stolen wisdom, the bravo of political crime, the huckster of plundered thoughts, the charlatan of false art, whom the vox populi elects and sets free, and sends on his way rejoicing. ‘Will ye have Christ or Barrabas?’ Every generation is asked the same question, and every generation gives the same answer; and scourges the divinity out of its midst, and finds its idol in brute force and low greed.”

She only dimly comprehended, not well knowing why her words had thus roused him. She pondered awhile, then her face cleared.

“But the end?” she asked. “The dead God is the God of all these people round us now, and they have built great places in his honour, and they bow when they pass his likeness in the highway or the market place. But with Barabbas—what was the end? It seems that they loathe and despise him?”

Arslàn laughed a little.

“His end? In Syria maybe the vultures picked his bones, where they lay whitening on the plains—those times were primitive, the world was young. But in our day Barabbas lives and dies in honour, and has a tomb that stares all men in the face, setting forth his virtues, so that all who run may read. In our day Barabbas—the Barabbas of money greeds and delicate cunning, and the theft which has risen to science, and the assassination that kills souls and not bodies, and the crime that deals moral death and not material death—our Barabbas, who is crowned Fraud page: 294 in the place of mailed Force—lives always in purple and fine linen, and ends in the odours of sanctity with the prayers of priests over his corpse.”

He spoke with a certain fierce passion that rose in him whenever he thought of that world which had rejected him, and had accepted so many others, weaker in brain and nerve, but stronger in one sense, because more dishonest; and as he spoke he went straight to a wall on his right where a great sea of grey paper was stretched, untouched, and ready to his hand.

She would have spoken, but he made a motion to silence.

“Hush! be quiet,” he said to her, almost harshly, “I have thought of something.”

And he took the charcoal and swept rapidly with it over the dull blank surface till the vacancy glowed with life. A thought had kindled in him; a vision had arisen before him.

The scene around him vanished utterly from his sight. The grey stone walls, the square windows through which the fading sun rays fell, the level pastures and sullen streams, and paled skies without; all faded away as though they had existed only in a dream.

All the empty space about him became peopled with many human shapes that for him had breath and being, though no other eye could have beheld them. The old Syrian world of eighteen hundred years before arose and glowed before him. The things of his own life died away, and in their stead he saw the fierce flame of eastern suns, the gleaming range of marble palaces, the purple flush of pomegranate flowers, the deep colour of oriental robes, the soft silver of hills olive crested, the tumult of a city at high festival. And he could not rest until all he thus saw in his vision he had rendered as far as his hand could render it; and what he drew was this.

A great thirsty, heated, seething crowd; a crowd that had manhood and womanhood, age and infancy, youths and maidens, within its ranks; a crowd in whose faces every animal lust and every human passion were let loose; a crowd on which a noon sun without shadow streamed; a sun which parched and festered and engendered all corruption in the land on which it looked. This crowd was in a city, a city on whose flat roofs the myrtle and the cistus bloomed; page: 295 above whose walls the plumes of olives waved; upon whose distant slopes the darkling cedar groves rose straight against the sky, and on whose loft temple plates of gold glistened against the shining heavens. This crowd had scourges, and stones, and goads in their hands; and in their midst they led one clothed in white, whose head was thorn‐crowned, and whose eyes were filled with a god’s pity and a man’s reproach; and him they stoned, and lashed, and hooted.

And triumphant in the throng, whose choice he was, seated aloft upon men’s shoulders, with a purple robe thrown on his shoulders, there sat a brawny, grinning, bloated, jibbering thing, with curled lips and savage eyes, and satyr’s leer: the creature of greed, of lust, of obscenity, of brutality, of avarice, of desire. This thing the people followed, rejoicing exceedingly, content in the guide whom they had chosen, victorious in the fiend for whom they spurned a deity; crying, with wide‐open throats and brazen lungs, “Barabbas!”

There was not a form in all this close‐packed throng which had not a terrible irony in it, which was not in itself a symbol of some appetite or vice, for which women and men abjure the godhead in them.

A gorged drunkard lay asleep with his amphora broken beneath him, the stream of the purple wine lapped eagerly by ragged children. A money‐changer had left the receipt of custom, eager to watch and shout, and a thief clutched both hands full of the forsaken coins and fled.

A miser had dropped a bag of gold, and stopped to catch at all the rolling pieces, regardless in his greed how the crowd trampled and trod on him. A mother chid and struck her little brown curly child, because he stretched his arms and turned his face towards the thorn‐crowned captive.

A priest of the temple, with a blood‐stained knife thrust in his girdle, dragged beside him, by the throat, a little tender lamb doomed for the sacrifice.

A dancing woman with jewels in her ears, and half naked to the waist, sounding the brazen cymbals above her head, drew a score of youths after her in Barabbas’ train.

On one of the flat roof tops, reclining on purple and fine linen, looking down on the street below from the thick page: 296 foliage of her citron boughs and her red Syrian roses, was an Egyptian wanton; and leaning beside her, tossing golden apples in her bosom, was a young centurion of the Roman guard, languid and laughing, with his fair chest bare to the heat, and his armour flung in a pile beside him.

And thus, in like manner, every figure bore its parable: and above all was the hard, hot, cruel, cloudless sky of blue, without one faintest mist to break its horrible serenity, whilst high in the azure ether and against the sun, an eagle and a vulture fought, locked close, and tearing at each other’s breasts.

Six nights this conception occupied him. His days were not his own, he spent them in a rough mechanical labour which his strength executed while his mind was far away from it; but the nights were all his, and at the end of the sixth night the thing arose, perfect as far as his hand could perfect it; begotten by a chance and ignorant word as have been many of the greatest works the world has seen;—oaks sprung from the acorn a careless child has let fall.

When he had finished it his arm dropped to his side, he stood motionless; the red glow of the dawn lighting the depths of his sleepless eyes.

The artist, for one moment of ecstasy, realises the content of a god when, resting from his labours, he knows that those labours have borne their full fruit.

It is only for a moment; the greater the artist the more swiftly will discontent and misgiving overtake him, the more quickly will the feebleness of his execution disgust him in comparison with the splendour of his ideals; the more surely will he—though the world ring with applause for him—be enraged and derisive and impatient at himself.

But while the moment lasts it is a rapture; keen, pure, intense, surpassing every other. In it, fleeting though it be, he is blessed with a blessing that never falls on any other creature. The work of his brain and of his hand contents him,—it is the purest joy on earth.

Arslàn knew that joy as he looked on the work for which he had given up sleep, and absorbed in which he had almost forgotten hunger and thirst and the passage of time.

He had known no rest until he had embodied the shapes page: 297 that pursued him. He had scarcely spoken, barely slumbered an hour; tired out, consumed with restless fever, weak from want of sleep and neglect of food, he had wrought on, and on, and on, until the vision as he had beheld it lived there, recorded for the world that denied him.

As he looked on it he felt his own strength, and was glad: he had faith in himself, though he had faith in no other thing; he ceased to care what other fate befell him, so that only this supreme power of creation remained with him.

His lamp died out; the bell of a distant clock chimed the fourth hour of the passing night.

The day broke in the east, beyond the grey levels of the fields and plains; the dusky crimson of the dawn rose over the cool dark skies; the light of the morning stars came in and touched the visage of his fettered Christ;—all the rest was in shadow.

He himself remained motionless before it.

He knew that in it lay the best achievement, the highest utterance, the truest parable, that the genius in him had ever conceived and put forth;—and he knew too that he was as powerless to raise it to the public sight of men as though he were stretched dead beneath it; he knew that there would be none to heed whether it rotted there in the dust, or perished by moth or by flame; unless illness should befall him, and it should be taken with the rest to satisfy some petty debt of bread, or oil, or fuel.

There, on the wall, he had written with all the might there was in him, his warning to the age in which he lived, his message to future generations, his claims to men’s remembrance after death: and there were none to see, none to read, none to ratify his heirship.

Great things, beautiful things, things of wisdom, things of grace, things terrible in their scorn and divine in their majesty, rose up about him, incarnated by his mind and his hand—and their doom was to fade and wither without leaving one human mind the richer for their story, one human soul the nobler for their meaning.

A year of labour, and the cartoon could be transferred to the permanent life of the canvas; and he was a master of colour, and loved to wrestle with its intricacies as the mariner struggles with the storm.

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“But what were the use?” he pondered as he stood there. “What the use to be at pains to give it its full life on canvas? No man will ever look on it.”

All labours of his art were dear to him, and none wearisome: yet he doubted what it would avail to commence the perpetuation of this work on canvas.

If the world were never to know that it existed, it would be as well to leave it there on its grey sea of paper, to be moved to and fro with each wind that blew through the broken rafters, and to be brushed by the wing of the owl and the flittermouse.

The door softly unclosed: he did not hear it.

Across the chamber Folle‐Farine stole noiselessly. She had come and gone thus a score of times through those six nights of his vigil; and he had seldom seen her, never spoken to her; now and then she had touched him, and placed before him some simple meal of herbs and bread, and he had taken it half unconsciously, and drunk great draughts of water, and turned back again to his work, not noticing that she had brought to him what he sorely needed, and yet would not of himself have remembered.

She came to him without haste and without sound, and stood before him and looked;—looked with all her soul in her awed eyes.

The dawn was brighter now, red and hazy with curious faint gleams of radiance from the sun, that as yet had not risen. All the light there was fell on the crowed of Jerusalem.

She stood and gazed at it. She had watched it all grow gradually into being out from the chaos of dull spaces and confused lines. This art, which could call life from the dry wastes of wood and paper, and shed perpetual light where all was darkness, was ever to her an alchemy incomprehensible, immeasurable; a thing not to be criticised or questioned, ut adored in all its inscrutable and majestic mystery.

To her it could not have been more marvellous if his hand had changed the river sand to gold, or his touch had wakened the dead cornflowers to bloom afresh as living asphodels. But now for once she forgot the sorcery of the art in the terror and the pathos of the story it told; now for once she forgot, in the creation, its creator.

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All she saw was the face of the Christ,—the pale bent face, in whose eyes there was a patience so perfect, a pity so infinite, a reproach that had no wrath, a scorn that had no cruelty. She had hated the Christ on the cross, because he was the God of the people she hated, and in whose name they reviled her. But this Christ moved her strangely—there, in the light, alone; betrayed and forsaken, while the crowd rushed on, lauding Barabbas.

Ignorant though she was, the profound meaning of the parable penetrated her with their ironies and with their woe—the parable of the genius rejected and the thief exalted.

She trembled and was silent; in her eyes sudden tears swam.

Arslàn turned and looked at her.

“Does it move you so?” he said, slowly. “Well—the world refuses me fame; but I do not know that the world could give me a higher tribute than yours.”

“The world?” she echoed. “The world? You care for the world—you?—who have painted that?”

Arslàn did not answer her: he felt the rebuke.

He had drawn the picture in all its deadly irony, in all its pitiless truth, only himself to desire and strive for the wine streams, and the painted harlotry, and the showers of gold, and the false gods, of a worldly success.

Was he a renegade to his own religion; a sceptic of his own teaching?

It was not for the first time that the dreamy utterances of this untrained and imperfect intelligence had struck home to the imperious and mature intellect of the man of genius.

He flung his charcoal away, and looked at the sun as it rose.

“Care? I?” he answered her. “We, who call ourselves poets or painters, can see the truth and can tell it—we are prophets so far; but when we come down from our Horeb we hanker for the flesh‐pots and the dancing women, and the bags of gold, like all the rest. We are no better than those we preach to; perhaps we are worse. Our eyes are set to the light; but our feet are fixed in the mire.”

She did not hear him; and had she heard, would not have comprehended. Her eyes were still fastened on the picture, and the blood in her cheeks faded and glowed at every everl, breath she drew, and in her eye there was the wistful wistfuy page: 300 wondering, trustful reverence, which shone in those of the child, who, breaking from his mother’s arms, and regardless of the soldier’s stripes, clung to the feet of the scourged captive, and there kneeled and prayed.

Without looking at her, Arslàn went out to his daily labour on the waters.

The sun had fully risen; the day was red and clear; the earth was hushed in perfect stillness, the only sounds there were came from the wings and voices of innumerable birds.

“And yet I desire nothing for myself,” he thought. “I would lie down and die to‐morrow, gladly, did I know that they would live.”

Yet he knew that to desire a fame after death, was as idle as to desire, with a child’s desire, the stars.

For the earth is crowded full with clay gods and false prophets, and fresh legions for ever arriving to carry on the old strife for supremacy; and if a man pass unknown all the time that his voice is audible, and his hand visible, through the sound and smoke of the battle, he will dream in vain of any remembrance when the gates of the grave shall have closed on him and shut him for ever from sight.

When the world was in its youth, it had leisure to treasure its recollections; even to pause and look back; and to see what flower of a fair thought, what fruit of a noble art, it might have overlooked or left down‐trodden.

But now it is so old, and is so tired; it is purblind and heavy of foot; it does not notice what it destroys; it desires rest, and can find none; nothing can matter greatly to it; its dead are so many that it cannot count them; and being thus worn and dulled with age, and suffocated under the weight of its innumberable memories, it is very slow to be moved, and swift—terribly swift—to forget.

Why should it not be?

It has known the best, it has known the worst, that ever can befall it.

And the prayer that to the heart of a man seems so freshly born from his own desire, what is it on the weary ear of the world, save the same old, old cry which it has heard through all the ages, empty as the sound of the wind, and for ever—for ever—unanswered?

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