You -- ha7?py~across whose tablets a kind fate draws the sponge of
oblivion even while you write, who leave the cup half cmptied and the
feast half- fiLIished; you, from whose thoughts ambitioLI passes in warm
meridian glow, who nourish expectatio~i and hope to the very verge of
the unknown; you, w-ho leas~e W3!'nl with the sweet wine of living, youl:
dim way lighted with the shUle of lorc, your fingers lockefl in the clasp of
frienflship; you, to whom all these things gcutly minister and smooth the
path of the inevitable; you, who die but once and die so fasilv, sLIrely can
not comprehend the full measure of my sufferings!
07h! it was horrible and sickening to feel the old world reel and spin like
this beneath my laggard reet; to see crowns and states and people flit by
liT;e idle shadows on a stlnny wall; to sspouse great quarrels that set men
into wide-asun~ler camps, and to wal~e and find the quarrel long since
orer and forgotten; to swear allegiance to .a king and love and serve him,
and ~hen to find) in the beat of a pulse, that he had gone and was
forgotten; to be the bearer of ~?roun news that should kin3.le
joy in a thousand hearts, and then to wake when even the meaning of
that news, the very cause and purport of it, was long since past and gone
-- it was surely bitter!
And for myself -- I, who, as you know, link a ready sympathy with any
cause, who lo>'e and live and hope with a fervor which no experience
quenches and no adversity can dim -- to be thns cut adrift from all I 1ived
and hoped for, to be cast like this on to the'black, friendless shore of some
age, remote, unknown, unvalued -- surely it was a mischance as neavy as
any mischance could be.
I had not any friend in all that universe, I said to myself as I lay and
thought sad thoughts upon the grassy mound -- a friend? -- not olre kind
human heart in this hive of human atoms set store by me -- not one had
heard I lived -- not one cared if I died. Jthere was not in all the world one
question of how I fared, one wish that ran in union with any wish of mine,
one single link to join me to my killd. And `~hat links could I forge again?
How could I set out to hDpe afresh or love, or fear, or wish for? Hope!
gods! had I not hope .yesterday? And what were they now? a tawdry,
silly sheaf of tinseled faucies. And love! how could I love, rcmen~bering
the new-dead Isobel? and fear and desire! ~leither touched the accused
monotony of my desolation; either would havo been a boon from
Haaven to break the miserable calm of my despair.
t w as thus I reasoned with myself for hours as the gathering darkness
settled down; and, poor as I had often been, and comradeless, I do not
think, in all a long and varied life, I had ever felt more reft of friends or
melancholy lonesome. lr, vain my mind was racked to piece the evidence
of that huge lapEe of time which, there was no doubt, had passed since
the great battle on the C1recy hills. I could recall as they had been set
down every incident of the voyage, my escape, and what had followed
the awakerling; but the sleep itself was to me even now just one lo~~g,
soft, dreamless, well-earned slumber fron~ point to l~oint. i30 absolutely
natural had been that wondrous trance that to think on it would make me
start up with a cry, and shake my fist to where, in the valley, the lights of
Eliz;.bsil.'i cerllp were faintly shining among the trees, ;i~id hah pc .u-. ;<le
meself that t.7 tS wl e thr~ dream -- that tii~ yellow -l.ai.ed ini cess hilil
bom h ;; mocked ro, that iEd.rilr,l in~ieed s.;ll li-.ed, with my j~.ly t l~>l~l
a' -, cl!d I might Eiilt tm~~a to .iu ;enowilar~d sn~il~ s au.,.l lk; i r, si d see
those that I knew, and drink red wine from friendly flagons. Then I would
remember all the many signs that told the prin
cess had not fooled me -- had but spoke the cruel naked truth -- and down
I would sink again on the turf under the deepening shadows and bewail
Tossed hercely about lile this, time passed unnoticed; the day WeIIt Ollt ill
the west behiIId the pale amber and green satin curtains of the sunset,
and, while I sat-and grieved, the yellow stars climbed into the sky, all the
sweet silent planets of the night sot out upon their unseen pathways and
ai r y parabolas, and behind the thickets that sheltered me the moon got
up and threw across the lonely road a tracery of black and silver shadows.
The evening air blew strong and cool upon my flushed, hot brdw, and
lulled the teeming thoaghts that crowded there. Soft velvet bats came
down, and the taint lisp of their hollow wings brushing by me was kindly
and svmpathetic. Overhead, the swallows hung out a.thousaun golden
points to the small people of the twilight, and a faint perfume -- an inconse
of hope -- fell on me with the yellow dust of those gentle flowers. If I say
these cool inHuences somewhat respirited me, you will deride my
changing mood. Yet why shomd I hesitate for that? I did grow caluier
under the gentle caressing of the evening; it was all so fair and still about
me presently, and there was this star that ~ knew and that; and the night-
owl churning overhead was surely the very same bird that had sung
above my hunter-couch in the Saxon woodlands; and the lonely trumpet
of the heron, flying homeward up the valley, brought back a score of
peaceful memorios. After all, men might change and go -- shallow, small
puppets that they were! -- but this, at least, was the same old earth about
me, and that was something. I would find a sheltered corner and sleep.
~ayhap, with to-morrow'sdawn the world might look a little brighter.
Just as this wise resolution was on the point of being put in force, the faint
sound of horse-hoofs, demurely walking Zlp toward my lurking-place,
came down on the night wind, and, retiring a moment into the deep
shadows, I had not lOIlg to wait before the same shaggy palfrey and the
same dreamy old fellow ~ met earlier in the day came pacing along the
road. The scholar -- for so I guessed him -- looked neither to right nor left;
his strange, thin face was turned full up to the moonlight, and the bright
rays shone upon his vacant eyes and long white beard with a strange
sepulchral luster. He was letting the reins hang loose upon his pony's
neck, and, as he came near, thinking himself alone, he stretched out his
long sinewy hands in front; and it was plain to see his lips worked in the
moonlight with unspoken thoughts quicker
than an abbot's at unpaid-for mass. Utterly oblix ious to e~erything
around, iII the white shine of the grca~t nightplanet, old, lunatic, and
gaunt, he lockcd, methought, the strangest wayfarer that ever rode down
a woodland lare by nightfall. He was indeed so weird and mlapproachable
in his reverie that, though I had felt a small gleam of pleasure in first
recognizing something which, if not friend, was at least acquaintance, yet
now as he drew nigh, rcmote and visionary, with glassy eyes fixed on the
twinkling stars, and thin white locks iifting about}lisbroad and wrinkled
forehead, I hesitated to greet him, and stood back.
But that palfrey he bestrode was more watchful than his rider. lIe saw me
loom dark amoIIg the hazels, and came to so sunden a stop as threw the
old man forward upon his ears, and, whatever his fancies may have becu,
jerked them clean from sl,y to earth in less time than it tal~es to write.
The scholar pulled himself together, and with some show of valor, threw
back his wide cloak from his right shothder, and uncoveled on iliS other
side the hilt of a tarnished, rusty sword. Then, peeping and peering all
about, he cried, "l-Io! you there in the shadows! Be ye thieves or beggars,
lknow that I have nothing to give and less to lose."
"And he who stops your way, sir," I answered, stepping forward into the
clear, "is exactly in like circumstance."
"l~h! it is you, friend, is it?'; cried the old man, seeming much relieved. "I
thought I had fahen into a nest of foptpads, or at the least a carDp of
"Your open dedaration, sir, backed by certain evidences of its obyious
truth, ought to have taken you safely through the worst infested thicket
"No doubt, no doubt; but I am glad it is you and not another -- first,
becuse desirable friendships are rarely made by moonlight; and, secondly,
because you bave been in my mind the few hours since we parted,"
"I am honored in that particular, and your courtesy moves me the more
because I was only thinking there were none upon the face of the earth
who were doing so much by me."
"You are green, young man, and therefore apt to let a passing whim, a
shadow of disappointment, lead to a hasty generalizing. You fared not as
you hoped at yonder court?" And the old man bent his keen gray eyes
upon me with a searching shrewdness there was no gainsaying.
"No; in faith I fared badly beyond all expectation."
"And what were you projecting just now when, like the a,.
of Balaam, this most patient beast saw you in the way und interrupted my
redection so roughly?"
"\17hy, at that very moment, sir," I said, "I was looking for a likely place
to pass the night."
"What, on the moss? with no botter hangings to you~ couch than these
lean, draughty, leaness botlghs;~"
"'Tis an honorable bod, sir, and I have fare.l worsa when I have bcen far
"C>h' what a happy thing it is to ba young and full of choler and folly. Not
but that I have done the salrle myself," chuckled the old man; " for il~ou
knowest mandral~e mnst be gathered only at the full moon, and hemlock
roots are digged in the dark -- mally a twilight such as this I spent groping
in the murL:y woods, picking those things tha,t witches love -- and not
gone nome with full wallet until the owls wtre homirig and the pale white
stars were waxing sickly in the morning light. Nevertheless, sir, take an
old marl's word, and presume not too largely on the imm~mities of
"I have no drier bed,"
"No, but I have. Come back with me to~night, and I will lodge you safe
and sound until the rr~orning,"
"ThauLs for the pro~er. Yet this is surely extreme court~ esy between two
wayfarers so nowly mst as we are,"
"And do I, sir," he cried, holding out his thill and shaky palms there in the
pallid light, a gaunt and ragged-looking specter -- a houseless, homeless,
visionary vaorant -- "do I, sir, seem some broiling spendthrift -- some
loose he~lge-compailion -- some shallow-pated swashtuckler -- ha,il-
fellow-well-met with one and all? I have not said so much civility as I did
just now to any one this twenty years!"
"The more thanks are due from him in whose favor you make so great
and generous exception. Is it distaut to your lodgment?"
"But a few miles straight ahead of us,"
"Then I will go with you, for it were churlish to slight so good an offer out
of bare waywardrless;" and I tighterled my belt, and took the ragged,
ungroomed little steed by the rusty, cord-mended bit, and, with these two
strange companions, set out I knew not how or where, and cared but
At first that quaint old man seemed more elated than could reasonably be
expected at having secured me for a guest. He did not opcnly avow it, but
I was not so young or unread iD men but that I could decipher his
pleasure in voice and eye, even while he talked of other subjects. 1-Iow
this interest 0pme, what he could hope to ~,~ t or have of me, however,
well past my comnreherlsion. 'My dress and rustic garb spoke n.t? his
illfCriOI' in pla. c and station, wbile, certes! my rags and tatters nuide rrle
seerll poor even after my humble kinct. fie was a eTcnticnnin, trhough the
sorriest-looking olle who ever put a leg across a saddle. And I~ I was
afoot, a gloomy purseless, unweaporled loiterer in the shadows. what
CouiLi ht~ need of me that lent Snctl lu£ter to l!i3 eyes, and caused hirll to
c}ltlekle so hoarsely far dow-u into his lc ~n and withored throat~ The
morrow no doubt would sh~w, auil h~ the n icantitne, being still morose
and sttd, smarting t.o naVe ImWitiingly played the fool so muctl, anLI full
of g~i~. a!~d sorrow, C respo~lded but dullyto his learued talk.- L~'eeling
this, and bLing only slenderly attached to mrinnarle thil:,gs at best, his
mbld waunered from me after a mile or two -- his eyes grew fixed and
expressionless, his halids dropped sapitle upon the pOGlmel, his chin sunk
down upon tha limp, woril, yellow raffles on his chest, and senseless,
discoll.lected marrrlurs ran from his lips, liLe water dripping from a leaky
I let him babble as he likeLL, and tradgad alorlg in silence, leaving the
road to that SafgaCious bUftSt, NN'hO, `,Vith drooped head and stoliLL
purpose, weat p~aciap on without a look cither to right or left. And you
will guess Iny thoughts were melancholy. Yesterday I was an h~slored
soldier, the conDtdant ol a proun, victorious king, the comrade of a
shuling band of priucely brethren, as good a kllight as al~y that breathed
among a host of herots, the clear-honoted leading star -- the bright
examlJle to a ho;de of stal\Yart veterans -- with all the fair wide ficlds of
re~lown and reputation Iying i~lviting before me! -- all the pleasarlt lethe
o£ straggle and ambition open to rlly search, and I had strong, true
friends abroad, and loving ones at horrle -- and no`Y! and now! Oll! I beat
my hand upon my bosom, and spent impote~lt curses on the starlight
sky, to think how all was changed -- to think how those spleodi
princely shadows were gone -- how all those sv'eet, rough spearmien
who had ridden with me, £erlock cdeep, throagh the crimson mire of
Crecy, had passed out into the void, leaving me here desolate, pGOr,
accursed -- this empty hand that trained the spear that had shot princes
and paladins to earth under the full gaze of crowned Christendom, turned
to a low horseboy's duyy, my golden mail changed to a hedgeman's
mundy smock, on foot, d~sgradcd, friarldles3, and forlorn!
But it was no good grieving. N12,T melancholy served somehow to pass
the w~y, and when, presently, I shook it o~ again with one fieree, flual
sigh, and I peered about, we were slowly tvillding down a dark road
between high banks into a deeply
wooded glen lying straight ahead. I had noticed now and then, as we
came along, a twir~l:}ing light or two standing oR from the white road-
waY, amid the deel'black shadows of the evening, and each time had
slowed my gloomy stride, thinking this were the place we aimed for.
Now it was a shepheld's lonoly cot, high perched ami1 the open furze and
ling, with a faint red beam of warmth and light coming from the glowi~,g
hearth within. "Ah! here we be!" I thought. "So Learning is ledged with
deecy Simplicity, and cons his Ovid amid the things the sweet Latin loved,
or reads bucolic Eorace bEneath a herdsmall's oak!"
But that gRInl palfrey did not stop, and his fantastic master made no sign.
Then it would bo a way-side cottage, all criss-cross-faeed with beams of
wood, after the new fashion, and overgrown with rose and eglantine.
"Then this is it," I sighed, "a comely,. peaeeful harborage. One could surely
lie safer from the winds of blustering fortune in this tiny shell than a small
white 1naggot in a winter-hidden nut." And I put my hand upon the dim
trestle gate. But stamp, stamp; the steed wout on; and the master never
took his chin from off his bosom.
Well, we had passed in this way some few small homesteads, and seen the
glow-worm lights of a fair, sleeping Tunor village or two shine remote in
the starlight valleys, and then we came all at the same solemll pace, the
same gloomy silence, into that deep-shadowed dell I spoke of. We dipped
down, out of the honest white r adiance, between high banks on either
hand, so high that bush and scrub were locked in tangles overhead and
not a blink of light came through. Down that stranoe black zigzag we
slipped and scrambled, the loose stones rattling beneath our feet, in pitchy
darkness, with never a sou~ld to breal. the stinness but the heavy
breathing of the horse, and now and then the gurgle of an unseen
streamlet r imliilig somewhere in the void. We staggered down this
helldark pathway for a lollely mile, and then there loomed up from the
blackness on my right hand a moldy, broken terrace wall, all loose and
cracled, with fahen coping slabs and pedestals displace,l, and hideous,
StOlly, graven monsters here and there glowering in the blackness at us
who passed below. Two hundred paces down this wall we went, and then
came to an opening. At the same moment the pale moon shone out full
overhead and showed me a gate, a garden, and beyond an empty
mansion, so white, so ruinous and ghastly, so marvelously like a dead,
expressionless face sundenly gleaming over the black pall of the night,
that I tightened my hand upon
the snaffle-strap I held, and bit my lip, and thanked my~fate it was not
there I had to sleep.
Yet I could not help staring at that place. The wall turned in on either side
to meet those gates. They had onee been noble and well wrought and
gilded, for here and thele the better metal shone in spots amid the wide
expanse of rusty iron t;hat fomed them but Inow they were like the
broken ianos methollght, of sorl;e old hag more than aught else. The left
of these two rotten portals never openetl, the nettle and wild creepers
were twined thick about its shattered lower bars, while its fellow stood
ajar, with one hinge gone, and sagging over, desperately envious, it
seemed, of the small footway that wound amid the rank wild herbage
past it. And then that garden! Jove! W as ever SUC}1 a ghost}y wilderness,
such a tangled labyrinth of decay and neglect born out of the kind, fertile
bosom of gentle ',~Iother Larth? 1\=ever before had I seen black
cypresses throw such funereal shadows; ne~:er had I known the winter-
worn things of summer look so ghoul-like and horrible. But worst of all
was the mansion beyond -- a straggling pile, with mighty chimney stacks,
from whence no pleasant smoke curled up, and silent, grassy court-yards,
and lonely flights o£ broken steps leadilfg to lonely terraces, and a
hundred empty windows staring emE'ty-socketed back upon the dead
white light that shone so straight and cruel on then~. Ohl it was all most
forlorn and melancholy, surely an unholy place, steeped deep with the
indelible stain of some black story -- and I turned me gladly from it!
I turned, and as I did so the horse came to a sunden stop, stopped calm
and resolutely before that ill-omened portal. This woko his master, who
started and looked tlp. He saw the house and gates in the full stream of
the moonlight, and then turned to me.
"Welcome!" he cried, "right welcome to my home! Ho, ho! you shall sleep
snug enough to-night. Look at the shine on't. They have lighted up to
welcome us," and he pointed with a long fleshless finger to those ghostly
windows. "IIo, ho, he!" came, like a dead voice, the echo of his laughter
out of the blank court-yard depth, and the old man, so strange and wild,
struck his rusty spurs upon the bare, sounding ribs of his beast, and
turned and rode straight through the portal.
For one minute I held back -- 'twas all so grim and tragic looking, and I
was wtak, shaken with grief and fasting, unweaponed and alone -- for one
minute I held back, and then the red flush of anger burned hot upon my
forehead to think I had been so near to fearing. I tossed back my black
ian locks, and, with an angry stride -- my spirit roused by that monlent's
wealsness -- strode ster,Zly across the thrtshold
Do``n the white gravel way we t~vitied, the loo£e, neglectec path
gleaming wet with night-dew; we brushed by thicl~ets of clead garden
thi~Zgs, such as had once been tall and fair, but IZOW taintod the U;~llt
air with thtir rottelZness. We steppet~ over giant biambles and grcat falle-
n helnlocks -- lithe hetlgepi£rS. SO fOI'Sal~erl i'..1S it all, troLting down the
paLIl before us -- ~`nd bats hitting about our heads. In one plaee bad been
a fo',ll!tt1h~, and I,an hirllself sta`~ding by it. The foulltain was choked
with giant dock and crt!ss, wherefrom some frogs croaked with disrilal
glee, while l~.Tn had falten and lay in pioces on his face across the way. So
v,e cante in a moment or two to the hotZse, and there my guide
dismounted and pulled bit and bridle, saddle a~id sactrdle-cloth, from his
pony. That beast turned and-stepptd I~ZCk into the sliatio~vs of the
desoiate garden, vaniYIling wilil strange sut ciet~ness, but w-hither I could
not guess. rl'hell the old rr~an produced a green, rusty key irorn under
his belt, and, puLtilZg it to the ,ock of the door at top of that flight of
brokell steps whic
ooked as though no foot had trot~Zdell them for fifty years, he turned
the rusty wards. The grind and wail of those still bolts had almost numall
sadness iZ1 it, and then we entered a long, lonely, chilly hall. Elere my
guide felt for flirlt and steeJ, and I OWh I heard the click of the stone and
metal, and saw the first sparLs spring and die upon the pavement with
"I'would have made s good picttlre, had some one been by to limn it --
that gZoastly pale face that might have topped a sl~eleton, so bloodlt~ss
was it, with sharp, kcell eyes, a glint in the red glow that came presently
Upon the tinder, that stra1~ge slouch hat, that ragged, sorl el, grave-yard
c~loak, and all about the gleam, glanciit~ off the crumbling finery, the
worm-eaten furniture, the broken tile-stones, the empty, voiceless
corridors, the doors set half ajar, the great car~ed balusters of the
stairway that mounted i ltO the black upper emptiness of that deserted
hall. And then I myself, there by the porch, watchful and grim, in my
sorry rags, the greatest wonder of it all, eying with harlghty speculation
that old fellow, so ancient and yet so young, tottering and venerable
under the weight of a poor eighty years, perhaps, while it was three times
as much since, strong-limbed, supple, I had even sat to a meal. It was truly
strange, and I waited for anything that might come next with calm
resignation -- a listless faith in the integrity of chance which put me
beyond all those gusty emotions of hopo
and fear which pl.tJ through the nedgling hearts oi lesser men.
The red train of iiua.li; lighted upon the tindeir Whi glanced around. nc Gl.l
. Ian's breath blew them hlto a Zlanle, and this he set tO'1 ,:; il-light, then
turued that pale fiame in my direction as li? ;.ur v ved his guest froa1 top
to toe. I bore the inspection ;vith f.'lu~d arms. and wken ha had doHe hu
"Such thews and sir' vTs, son, as show boueath that hempen shirt of
yoZZrs, such breadth of shoulder aut'Z stalwartness can scarcely be
nourished OiZ evening dew and sa1 reLdeutions. Have you oaten lately0"
"In truth, sir, it was some tinZo ago I last sat to meat," was my response; "
and, whether it be our walL or the night air, I could almost fancy your
father's fathor might have shareid that meal with me,"
"Well, comc, then, to the banqllet-hall -- the foast is spread, and, for guests,
people these shadows with whorr1 you will;', and, taking the . ush-light
Irorll its socket and hobblirig off in frout, that st~ange host of mine led
down the corridor to where a great archway leoi into the maill chamber
of the house.
t was as desolate and silent as every othar place, vast, roomy, blauk, and
gloomy. All alollg one side were latticed windows looking out upon that
dead gardon, and the moonbeams coming through thern threw faint
reflections of escutcheon and painted glass upon the dusty floor. Here and
there the panes wore broken, and draughts from these swayed the frayed
and tattered hangings with ghostly undulations -- ah! and at the top of the
room an open door leading into unknown blac kness kept softly opening
and shutting in the eurrent as though, Witil melancholy monotony, it was
givilZg admittance to n~lseen, voiceless compally.
I,ut nothhZg said my friend to excuse all this. He leoi up the long black
table, i`7ith rows of seats and benches fit to seat a hundred gnests, nutil at
the lonely top he found and lighted the four branches of a little oil-lamp of
green, moldy bronze, such as one takes from ancient crypts, and when
the four little flames grew up smoky and dil~rl they shone; upon a napkin
reaily laid, a ila~k, a pitcher, and a plate, flanked by a horn-handled knife
.uld spoon and an oaLch salt-cellar. Then the old earl next ~vi '~t to a
cupboard in a niche, and brought out bread on a trencheir, a cheese upon
a round leaden dish, and a curious flask of old Italian wine. I stared at my
host in wonder, for I could have sworn a Saxon hand had tr~med
his knife and SpO0ll, his lamp was Etruscan, as truly as I lived,
though~Eleaven only knew how ne came byit -- and that pitcher -- why,
Jove! I kilew the very Roman pottery-marks upon it, the maker's sign and
name -- the very kiln thatglazed it!
He laid a plate for me, and cut the loaf and filled our tankards, and " Eat,"
he said. "The feast is small, but we have that sauce the wise have told us
would make a worse into a banquet."
"Thanks," I said. "I have, in truth, sat to wider spreads, yet this is more
than I could, a few short hours since, have reasouably hoped for." And so
I began and broke his breada and turned about the cheese at~d poured
the wine, and made a very good repast out of such modest provender.
But, as you may guess, between every mouthful I could not help looking
up and about me -- at the wise-mad features of that quaint old man, now
far away and visionary, again lost in thoilght and fantasy; and then out
through the broken mullions into that pallid garden of white spectral
things and inky shadows lying so death-like in the moonshine; and so
once more my eye would wander to the long somber hall -- the stately
highbacked chairs all rickety and moth-eaten, and the door that gently
opened now and then to admit the siglling of the night wirld, and nothing
NVell, I will not weary you with experiences so empty. At last the most
spectral meal that ever mortal sat to was over, and the old man roused
himself, and, like one who comes reluctantly from deep thought, drained
out his goblet to the dregs, and turned it down and swept the crumhs into
his plate, and, standing up, said in somewhat friendly tone: " You will be
weary, stranger guest, and mayhap I am tonight but a poor host. lf it
plea£ed you, I would show you to a chamber, which, though mavLap
some`;hat musty, like mllch else of mine, shall nevertheless be drier than
yon couch of yours out there by the hazel thicket."
"Musty or not, good sir, I do confess a bed will be welcome. It must be
near four hundred years at least -- that is to say, it must be very long, my
sleepy eyes suggest -- since I was lain on one."
"Yet half a minute, sir, before we go. This garb of mine -- I do not deign to
advert to its poorness, for my own sake, but it does such small credit to
your honor and hospitality. Fortune, in other times, gave me the right to
wear the hose and surcoat of a gentleman -- if you had such a livery by
rflle scholar the~ght a sPace, then b~d me sta) where I was and took tne
rush-l~ght aii ~ ~ ru~ - ~ ' '1~~ ~as~age. In a few minutes he was bacL;,
with a swath of faded raiment UpOll }lib arm, and threw them down upon
"There, choose!" he cried. "It was like a voung man, to think of to-
morrow's clothing between sullper-time and bed,"
rl'he r aiment was as mysterious as everything else here about. It was all
odds and ends, and quai~lt old fashions and tags of finery, the faded
panoply of stato and pride, the green vest of a forest ranger, the
gabardine of a marshal of the lists, suits for footmell with the devices I had
seen upon the ruined gates worked on the front in golden thread, and
some few ~eourtly things, such as idle young lords will wear a day or two
and then throw by to wear some newer.
Out of the latter I selected a suit that looked as though it would fit me,
and, though a little crnml~led, was still in reasonable condition. This
vestment, after the fashion of the time, consisted of tight hose and much-
pufTed breechss, a fine silk waistcoat coming far down, and a loose and
am~'le roat Upon it, with wiile shoulders and loog, tight sleeves. W~hen I
arld this suit was of amber velvet, lined and puffed with primrose satin,
you will understand that, saving the certain moldiness about it I have
mentioned, it was as good as any reasouable man could desire. I rolled it
up, and put it under mY `~rm, then turued to my host with sumething of
a smile at the straDgeness of it all.
"A supper, sir," I said, "and shelter; a suit of velvet; and then a bed! Why,
surely, this is rare civility between two cha~lce compauions met on a
"Ah!" answered the old man, "and if you were as old as I am, you would
know it is rare, but that such things must, somehow, be paid for," and he
eyed me curiously a moment from under those pent-llouse eyebrows. "ls
there anything more you lack~" he continued. "To-night it is yours to ask
and mine to give."
"Since yon put it to me, worthy host," I responded, "there is one other
thing I need -- something a soldier likes, whether it be h1 court or camp,
in peaceful hall like this or on the ringes of dauk battlefield -- a straight,
white comrade that I could keep close to me all day, a dear companion
who would lie nigh by my side at night -- believe me, I have never been
"And, believe me young man, I can not humor you. Fy~ if that's your
fancy, why did you leave yon wanton camp? Gads! but they would have
lined you there civilly enough,
but I -- What, do you think I can co~jure you a pretty, pai~lted lemall for a
play~thing out of these blask shadows all about rls.
Whereat I answered seriously, "You mistalre my meaning, sir. It was no
gentle damsel that I neRded, but such a companion as I have ever had -- in
brief, a weapon, a sword. It was only this I thouglIt of."
1 heard the old man mutter, as he turned away, "A curse on young men
and their wants -- new suits, supper and wilte, lemarl, weapons -- oh! it's
jUBt the same with all of them;" and he tool the taper from the table aZld
siglled to me to follow.
He led me down the hall with its bare, cold flagstones and somber
paneling dimly seen under the feeble-gleaming light he carried, and in a
few paces my grin1 host stopped and neltl that Ehint aloft. It shone redJy
on a tarnished trophy of arms, chain-mail, and hemlets, whence he bid me
choose whatever took my falõov, maki'~ ~ t~.e wl~ile small effott to hide
his contemL~t. fer nl~ obyi ir; ta,~fe~~~oEs aL~tl pleasare W:'h i~ hich I
sampled that dusty hoard. littei a mi!~ute or twn I selectetr a stro ~ f
Sna~lish blade, a little light and playL'ul, perl~a~ls, with goldcr1
ar.abesquta ~th ;lu~v~l it, and a pretty fluleti htTiG`v for ilie foeman'6
blood, ar~rl a cilased ioYc-knot at the nilt, ~e t, lZOVErmOtusS, a ~,roor1
blarlt, aL~tl scrvieeZl~le, with at, G!ig'2 as keen as a iover's eye, a!Ztl a
te~l~per as true as ever was got into good sied, I lhoii~>,!Lt, ItS I SpRthig
it OLL th~ tiles, nct
hanZrnel a!ld a~lvil. This ~l'niedo blatle nad a cos-er of bl~tOl~ velvet,
botlrld arltl 1IGO;1D With silver bands, and a StO!lt belt, of li'~e l.it~cl,
nicely SUilillEr that liN erY J carried UpOll Hly arm. I bound th3 slro!d
cmOILL me, and, RftOl' bOing SO 1O!le,' unweapon~d, fou,Zc1 it
wo!ldroc!s cor.lfortable antt 1;leaial~t wear.
"Now then, Sir Host," I cried, "It~l 0!1. If this thalrlber of thi~le were in the
po!ch of paradiso or in the nelliermost pit of nell, I .m eelistliy ready t,o
Up the gloolliy stairs we went' II'OW to right a!ld then to left, by corriclo!s
a~ltl pass!loes, ~l~ltil the road \N~e came \Nas }lopelesal; rr.a~nd to Int';
and £00ll nly host led to a wi~ler, ~,loomier ave~l~~e~ e aile~it! door-
.NaN+s than arlY we n.tti 1~assrcl.
'` ChoO,C"7 nci 1allirll0.l, "CIICiOSE ¥OlZ a. bad. I:3cltar Incn than VOli
have lo~: ee'. - - .tilil ci,d -- `~;Liliil these cheerful Gli.lLtlbers. ~\I,~l H..` ~\
il I ol~l m,!!l, witi~ Lu! . o,ve~l fai ~` al!d Hliltl, sparkling ~~v; -:, s<~ frlii~c'
i!1 tli;Nt Sm'llt COiillCI gionE tif tig~ t lii~e some Spt'Gti'.il reLlilL`ilil oi the
fort lint-S o; t IL;S I, jirtlY nouse, opened door after door R~r nle to note
the grirrl bl`LCl~ solitunes ~ t.hill. In every chamber ntL!Ig the same
starirj~ portraits on
the wall cold, proun, dCfld f"'ES fi~:ed hard npon VOIT WhoreVer you
might look; on e\-e~y rtitten cornice were taltered hallgings, halI
shrouning those tlim cobwebbed windtiws that gazed so wistfally Otlt
upon the nloonlit garden; and dushy pal.cldoors and cupboard
t'ASi'illCUtS that gc~ltly e reaked and moved upon the siglling draught
tiLl you could swear ghostly tingers played upon the latches; the same
stern bl.~; 1~ flirniture, crumbling aed deca\-ed, was in each set straigl,t
against the walls; the same cen!;taph four-posted bedsteafls \~dth ruined
tapestries and mold~7 coverlets. "Choose," he lallylleil, with a horrid
goblin laugh that rattled down the empty corridors -- "my house is
roolny, though the guests be few aild silent."
But, ilt truth, there was little to choose where all was so alike. Therefore,
and not to seem the least bit moved by all this dreadfulness, I threw down
my borrowed clothes at~d rapier upon the settle i'1 one of the first rooms
we happtd upon and said: " EIere. then, good host -- and thanka for
courteous harborage. What time doth sound reveille -- what time, I mean,
doth thy houschold wahe?"
"My household, stranger, sleeps on forever. They will not wake for a2ly
mortal su~~rise, and I spend the loug night hollrs in work ant1 vigil " --
and he looLed at me with the gloomy fanaticisIm of a~1 absent mind --
"yet yo~` must,wake again," he went on after a minutf. "I ha`-e something
to ask thee to-morrow, pcrhaps something to show -- "
"U hy, thel,, nutil we ~neot agai'~, good-night, and pleasant ~igils, since it
is to them you go."
"Good-night, youllg man, a~,d sober slfcp. Remember this is no place to
dream of tilts and tour'~eys, of lost causes or li~ht leman love;" antl,
muttering to himself as he shuftletl down the bare, dusty flvols I heard
him pass away frnm corridor to corridor, and Higilt to flight, until even
that f:~hlt SOUnd was swallowed by the cavernm~s silence of tLe
scpulellral mansio~,, and night a~;d impelletral)le stilluess fell on those
empty stairways and gaunt, voiceless rooms.
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