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THE STORY OF BIRD-OF-GOLD WHO WAS THE BRAMBLE GATHERER'S DAUGHTER
I. HOW THE BRAMBLE GATHERER'S DAUGHTER WENT TOWARD HER FORTUNE
I am called Bird-of-Gold (said the girl, beginning her story), but that name did not belong to me until I was a girl grown. Before that I had no name. In the city where I was born and where I lived I was known as "The bramble gatherer's child."
My father was the poorest of all the men of that town. He gathered brambles and thorns in the wilderness and brought them in a bundle to the hut where we lived. Then, while he was gathering another bundle on another day, I would go through the town selling the brambles and thorns for stuff for the people's fires. My mother I never knew. I grew up with my father, and we two had even less than the sparrows. I had no playmate nor no friend, and what I got for the thorns and brambles I sold brought us but little to eat.
One day as I passed along the street of the city it came into my mind that I was grown to be a girl. The thought that I should go from the city grew in me from that time. My father would miss me, but he would flourish the better if there was one, and not two, to eat the scanty meal that the price of the brambles and thorns gained for us.
I got for myself the cap and jacket of a boy. Then one morning when my father had gone from the hut and had turned his face to the wilderness and his back to the city, I went out of the door and turned to the wilderness also. I took a direction that would bring me far from where my father had gone. I had dressed myself as a boy, and my thought was that I would come upon a merchant who would let me do service for him, and who, perhaps, would take me on a voyage. And I thought that I might win some fortune for myself, and that then I could return and take my father out of toil and hardship.
I came to the wilderness and I went through it. When the sun was halfway in the heavens I came to where there was a road. There was a pillar before me and that pillar had writing upon it. I read what was written there. The words were: They who take the road to the 'right will come to their fortune at last, and they who take the road to the left will be ever as they have been. When I read that writing I took the road that was to my right.
I went along that road thinking every minute that I should come upon something that would bring me to my fortune. The light faded as I went along, and soon I had to look about for some tree or cave that would give me a shelter for the night. At last I saw a hut and I went toward it. When I came before the broken door I knew the place I had been brought to. It was my father's hut — the hut I had left that morning. And as I stood before it I saw my father coming from the other side with the bundle of brambles and thorns upon his back. Then I said to myself, "How lying was the writing that said that they who took the road to their right would come at last to their fortune."
I went into the hut with my father. In the darkness that was there he did not see that I had on the cap and jacket of a boy. He laid the bundle of brambles and thorns down on the floor while I went to prepare the meal for both of us. And while my father was lighting a fire I took off the cap and jacket of a boy and I put on my girl's dress.
My father, when he had eaten his meal, said to me, "To-day when I had gathered the brambles and had made them into a bundle I lay with my head on the bundle and went to sleep. I awakened feeling some warmth near where my head lay. I looked to see if perchance fire had come upon the brambles and thorns, and, lo! what I saw laid on the bundle was the egg of a bird. The egg was still warm, and the bird that laid it must have flown as I awakened."
My father showed me the egg. It was strangely marked and was heavy for its size. I looked at it, and my father said, "Take it to the merchant tomorrow, and maybe he will give a coin for it, for surely it is remarkable."
The next day, when my father had gone into the wilderness, I went to the shop of the merchant. I showed him the egg that had the strange markings upon it, and I asked him if he would give me something for it. And when the merchant had taken the egg in his hand he said, "This is something to be shown the King. It is undoubtedly the egg of the Bird of Gold."
I was greatly stirred when I heard the merchant say this, and I thought that perhaps my fortune would come to me through this egg. I went back to the hut, and in the morning, before my father started off for his bramble gathering, two officers came and they took my father and me to the palace and before the King. And the King said, "It is known that of all creatures in the world the Bird of Gold is best worth possessing. For her claws can be made into an amulet that will bring wealth to the one who wears it, and the one who eats her heart can never be slain by his enemy. I would have the Bird of Gold whose egg you have found. You know where she abides. Catch her and bring her to me, and I shall reward you."
So spoke the King of our little country. My father and I went into the wilderness to search for the Bird of Gold around the place where the egg had been laid. And in the very place where before he had lain my father put down his bundle of brambles and thorns. Laying his head upon the bundle, he went to sleep.
I watched beside the brambles and thorns. And after a time a bird came running along the ground, and went fluttering up on the bundle and made a nest for herself there. Small she was and all golden except for the blue that was under her throat, and the blue that was upon her feet. As she was making a nest for herself I put my hands upon her and caught her. I held her to my breast to keep her from fluttering away.
And I said aloud, "O bird, now I shall be rewarded for taking thee. For the King would make an amulet of thy feet that he may have wealth, and he would eat thy heart that his enemies may not be able to slay him. Greatly will he reward me for having taken thee, O Bird of Gold."
And as I spoke to her and held her to my breast the bird made a cry that sounded as "Alas, Alas!" I looked upon her again and my heart was filled with sorrow for the bird I had taken. Why should her claws be made into an amulet for the King, and why should her heart be eaten by him? I sat there thinking while my father slept, holding the bird very gently to my breast. And when she cried again "Alas, Alas!" I opened my hands and I let her fly away. She fluttered near for a while as if to show herself to me, and then she rose up and flew away.
My father awakened, and he said, "It is near dark, and the Bird of Gold will not come now. Perhaps we will find her on another day. The King should reward us for our search, and now we will go and tell him of it."
So we rose up and we went into the city. And when we came before him, my father spoke to the King and told him that the Bird of Gold was not to be seen in the places where we had searched. Then the King would have sent us away without doing any evil to us only that one who was near him cried out: "Behold, O King, and decree a punishment for these two deceivers. One has declared that the Bird of Gold did not come near where they searched. But look on the dress of the girl: All around her breast are the feathers of the Bird of Gold."
Thereupon I looked down and I saw that the bird's golden feathers were all strewn around the place where I had held her to me. I was grasped by the hands and brought before the King. And he cried out, "Have you the bird hidden?" I said: "No, O King. I let the bird fly out of my hands." Then the King spoke to one who stood beside him, and he commanded that I should be taken and put upon a ship and thrown into the depths of the sea.
I was taken from my father who wept and cried after me, and I was brought down to the river and put upon a ship. The one who was commanded by the King to take me and throw me into the depths of the sea was a man with a great hooked nose and a purple beard. On his hand was a ring with a great emerald in it. He was the captain of the King's ships.
I was put upon the ship, and the next day we sailed down the river and came out on the sea. Now, although the King had commanded that I be thrown into the depths of the sea, I was not then in as great a danger as I am in now, O King of the Western Island. For the captain of his ships hated all the words that the King gave him, and those whom the King would slay he would save, and those whom the King would save he would have slain. When we came into the open sea, so that he might obey the King's word and at the same time make a mock of it, he had me thrown into the water, but with a rope around my waist. After I had been plunged into the water he had me drawn out of it, and I was left living on the ship. And from the captain who had had me plunged into the sea in such ways and from the sailors on the ship I got the name by which I have been known ever since — Bird of Gold.
II. THE MAN WHO WAS HIGH IN FORTUNE
We landed in a country (said Bird-of-Gold, continuing her story) that was three days' voyage from the river's mouth. Then the sailors put swords into their belts and marched toward a mountain that was half a day's journey from the coast. They pitched black tents and they built a citadel, and they made themselves into a band of robbers. He who had been the captain of the King's ships was the chief of this band.
Every day they went off to rob caravans and to make war upon the men who guarded the caravans. And always they came back, my master and his forty robbers, with no man of their band slain and with no man wounded. Very rich and powerful did they grow with the plunder they took from the caravans, and my master, the man with the hooked nose and the purple beard, grew to be a King almost. Men far and near sent him presents and men came to him promising obedience, and he had state such as had the King of my country. But he kept no men with him except his forty robbers.
Every one said of my master, the captain of the band, that nothing could come to him except good fortune, so great and so prosperous did he grow. Men marveled that so many good things came to him and so many evil things were staved off from him. And all his band swore by his good fortune. But one day a wise King who liked him greatly sent my master a message that said: "I rejoice in your good fortune, friend, but am also troubled by it. He who is so lucky must pay a great price sooner or later for his luck. Pay the price now, before it is exacted from you, and remain great and prosperous. Let the price you pay be that possession that is dearest to you."
My master, having received this message, paid heed to what was said in it, for the King who sent it was renowned for his wisdom. He made up his mind to sacrifice the possession that was dearest to him so that he might remain great and prosperous. And the possession that he considered dearest was the ring that he wore with the great emerald in it. He went down to the seaboard taking me with him, for he would let none of the forty men know what he was about to do, and he took a boat and he went, I being with him, over the depths of the sea. Then he drew from off his finger the ring that had the great emerald in it, and he let it drop down into the depths of the sea. Afterward he sent a message back to the King, his friend, saying that he had paid the price before it was exacted of him, and that his prosperity now would never fail, and that men would ever swear by his good fortune.
After that he and his forty men went forth and won more plunder than ever they had won before. Also more men came from far and near, bringing him presents and promising him obedience.
And now, being so prosperous and so feared, my master planned to attack a city and make himself the master of the King's treasure. He told his plan to his forty men and they rejoiced one and all, and they talked to each other as if that treasure was already in their hands. I prepared the meal that was to be given him before he collected his men for the march.
The meal was of fish. The fisherman who had just come from the sea laid his net before me and I took out of it an exceedingly large and beautiful fish. I divided the fish and began to make it clean. I found within the fish something it had swallowed. It was a ring. And when I cleaned the ring I found that it was of gold and that in it was a most precious stone — a stone of emerald.
I brought the fish to my master cooked. And to make him rejoice I brought at the same time the ring to him. I told him that for the ring he had dropped into the depths of the sea another ring had come back to him, and that this was on account of the great good fortune that was ever with him.
He took the ring from me and he looked it all over. He cried out that this was not another ring but the same ring, and that the characters of his name were engraved upon it. And he said that it was by no means on account of his good fortune that this ring had come back to him. Thereupon he rose up and went outside, and gave command to his band that they were to disarm themselves and tie up their horses, and hold themselves back from making any attack that day. He then went into his tent and sat at the darkest part of it, his purple beard touching the ground, and all the while lamenting that his dearest possession had come back to him out of the depths of the sea.
The forty men disarmed themselves and tied up their horses and sat in little bands playing games together. I would have stayed about the encampment making bread for the band, only that as I came near the tent where the kneading board was I heard a bird's cry.
I looked, and I saw on the wellhead near the Bird of Gold. The bird fluttered and flew as if she wanted me to watch her. I followed where she went and I was led far from the encampment. At the edge of the wilderness she went amongst low bushes, and after that I could not see her any more.
Because I had seen the Bird of Gold once more I went back toward the encampment thinking about the days when I had lived in the hut of my father, the bramble gatherer, and about the day when I had left that hut, and had gone across the wilderness, and had seen the pillar on which was written that if I followed the road to the right I should come to my fortune, and about how I had come, not to my fortune, but back to the hut I had left; and I went on, thinking of how I had first heard of the Bird of Gold, and of how I had given her liberty when I might have held her for the great reward the King would have given. I went toward the encampment thinking these thoughts about myself, and thinking, too, of my master who had such fortune that men swore by the goodness of it.
I made my way toward the tent where the kneading board was. And then I saw tents overturned and lying upon the ground. I saw the horses of the band straying over the plain. And when I looked to the citadel I saw it smoking with a fire that was burning it.
There was no stir in all the encampment. I knew then that an army had come and had attacked my master and his forty men in the time that I was following the Bird of Gold or coming back from the place where she had led me. I went amongst the tents and I saw that the men had been killed. And I saw the purple beard of my master, cut off by some insolent enemy and left lying upon the ground.
Then I ran over the trampled grass and made for the wilderness. And when I came into the wilderness I hid myself amongst the bushes that the Bird of Gold had flown into. I thought that a great army was pursuing me, and in truth I was very fearful.
III. HOW BIRD-OF-GOLD CAME TO HER FORTUNE
I hid at the near side of the wilderness (said the girl, Bird-of-Gold), for I was too fearful to go back to the encampment and too fearful to go farther on. I ate the wild fruits that grew on the bushes, and at night I covered myself with dried leaves and branches and slept in a hole. I thought how he had been destroyed, that man whose good fortune had been above every one else's good fortune, and I did not know how such a one as I could keep alive. I was fearful while I slept, and when I awoke and sat upon a heap of leaves in that empty wilderness I was most miserable. I remembered the writing on the pillar that told me to take the road to the right on the day I left my father's hut and I put a curse upon the road I took. I cursed it because it had brought me, not to my fortune as the writing said it would bring me, but back to the hut I had left. And things were even worse with me from that time than they were before, for my return had brought me to the encounter with the King, and to the voyage with the captain of the King's ships, and to the dangerous place where I was now.
But then I began to think that although that road had brought me to my father's hut it had not brought me back to a life that was as it had been before. What had happened after I had come back to the hut had brought me farther away than that road could have led to. Perhaps the writing on the pillar was not lying, after all. It had said: They who take the road to the right will come at last to their fortune. Perhaps my fortune was farther away than I had thought.
Then I said to myself that my journeys were not yet ended, and that if I went on I should yet come to what the writing on the pillar had promised. I sat still for a while with this thought in my mind, and then I rose up and went through the wilderness, going straight on toward a star that was still in the sky.
I left the wilderness with its low shrubs at last, and I came out on a wide, green plain. Before going on that plain I ate again of the wild fruit that was on the bushes and I brought some of the wild fruit with me. I went on and on over the miles of grass. And when it was midday I saw a whiteness upon the plain before me.
I went toward that whiteness and in a while I saw that it was all in movement. There were white living creatures there. I went on, and I came near to where there was a hollow in the plain; and I saw in that hollow a mighty flock of ducks. They were tame, for they did not rise up and fly as I came near.
I looked on them with great astonishment. I had never seen so many ducks together. I looked them all over and I made a guess that there were a thousand ducks there. And I had never seen such beauty in ducks before. For these ducks were of a gleaming whiteness, and moreover they had a shapeliness that I had never seen in such creatures before. I thought and thought, but I could not think how they had come into this unpeopled plain in such a vast flock.
I sat down on the grass and I watched them feeding, thinking surely that some one would come and drive the flock to some market or to some great farm. I watched, and the ducks ate and ate in the hollow where they stayed. When the darkness came the thousand ducks put their heads each under a wing and settled down on the ground. I pulled grass to make a bed for myself, and ate the fruit I had brought with me, and lay down in a cold place near the hollow.
I was awakened by the thousand ducks quacking loudly, and I looked and saw that they had spread themselves over the plain and were moving in a direction. I thought I should follow the ducks, and I did, and I was able to chase away two or three foxes that would have hunted them.
They were beautiful, these thousand ducks, as they went over the green plain. They were shapely and active, and they had a wonderful soft whiteness. The drakes were not colored differently, but they had crests and tails that curled. When they knew I was with them they did not go straying here and there, but kept themselves together as a flock and went marching in a direction. I thought that they might bring me to my fortune. And then I thought that this great flock of ducks, so strangely without an owner, was my fortune.
I was faint and hungry, but I went on rejoicing in the beauty of the ducks. I gave them time to feed and they fed. At last I came to the gate of a town. The watcher was astonished at the greatness of the flock and he called to the townspeople to come out and fill their eyes with the spectacle. They came and asked me, "Who are you, O girl?" and I made answer, "I am the girl whose fortune is in ducks." The people came on the walls of the town and looked over them, while the ducks spread themselves out, standing still. And more and more the people marveled at the number and the extraordinary beauty of the ducks.
The people set a place apart for the ducks and they gave me a shelter in which I might rest and refresh myself. After a while I heard them say, "The officers of the great King of Babylon should see this girl and her ducks. There is a marvel here for the great King to hear about." People came to see the ducks as a spectacle, and one would say to the other, "No prince by any river in China has such a wonderful collection of ducks."
And then I was told that the officers of the great King of Babylon would come to look on my flock. These officers had come into the country to get for the King's gardens birds and beasts that were remarkable.
They came and looked on the flock, and marveled that, whether they rested or were feeding, the thousand ducks harkened to my call and went as I bade them go. They spoke, admiring their shape and whiteness. And then a dwarf who had a crown of crimson feathers on his head came amongst them and the officers spoke to him This dwarf told me they would take the flock for the King, and that they would take me also to the great city, where I would have the office of minding the ducks in the King's gardens.
So I brought the thousand ducks down to a great barge that was on the river, and I went on the barge, and the officers of the King with the dwarf that had the crown of crimson feathers on his head went aboard of it, and we sailed down the river, and we came into the great city. For two days the King had me show the wondrous flock in the market place as a spectacle for the people. All Babylon came and admired the number and the comeliness of the ducks. Afterward they were brought to the lake that was in the King's gardens. As time went on many of the flock were taken by the purveyors and killed and eaten in the palace. But still they remained a wonder for their number and their comeliness. The King often came down to look on the thousand ducks, swimming on the water, or staying in their companies around the lake.
IV. BIRD-OF-GOLD IN THE KING'S GARDENS
No place in the whole world is more beautiful than the King's gardens in Babylon (Bird-of-Gold said). My white ducks, when they swam upon the lake, went amongst water lilies that were silver-white or all golden. Beside the lake the irises grew, depths and depths of blue and gold and cloud-colored irises. I should never have left the side of that lake if I had not wanted to be amongst the trees that grew in the gardens above — palm trees of many kinds, and great cedar trees in the dark branches of which the doves built their nests. Greatly did I admire the trees in the King's gardens, for I had come from a country where there were no trees. All the palms were there the date palm, and the royal palm, and the palm of the desert. They stood nobly by themselves or they made solemn avenues that led to monuments of the Kings of Babylon. In the grass there were golden poppies and little roses that just lifted themselves above the ground. There were great monuments, too — statues of Kings and lions and chariots, and these reminded people of terrors and magnificences, and they were as a great wind that blew through the gardens.
And there were tulips on the ground, and there were golden fruits amongst gleaming leaves, and red pomegranates on the high trees, and there were spice trees that filled the garments of those who passed with fragrance. And all in a garden to themselves were the roses — a thousand rose trees, each tree with a thousand opened flowers. I wept when I saw that garden of roses, and I do not know why I wept.
All the birds that were lovely to look at or charming to hear singing were in that garden. The black birds with golden wings from my own country were there, and the birds of paradise from the Land of the Burning Mountain. And it was told that the nightingales of Persia and Babylon and Arabia brought their young here that they might learn to sing the more perfectly. Also there were mocking birds that mocked every bird's song but the song of the nightingale.
As for the beasts in the King's gardens, the first one I made friends with was a lynx. He was not in a cage, but went roaming about, watching everything with eyes that never winked. And after I had come to know him and had made friends with him, the lynx brought me to the cages and the pits of the other beasts and with them I made friends.
Of all the creatures that were there the one I was most fearful of was the queen serpent that was in the Pit of the Serpent. But the serpent allured me, and I used to sit above the pit, the lynx beside me, and watch her as she uncoiled herself and swayed her head about. And as I watched her I would beat on a little drum that I carried with me. I began to see that as I beat the drum and made music for her the serpent's head would cease to sway and she would lower it, and then she would rest upon her coils as if she were sleeping. So I grew to have power over the serpent, and many times when I saw her try to draw down a bird that had come to the edge of the pit, I would beat upon the drum until her head sank down, when the bird would rouse itself out of the spell that the serpent's eyes had for it, and fly away. So I stayed in the King's gardens, part of the day with the thousand ducks that were about the lake, and part of the day with the ever-watchful lynx that went here and went there.
One day I came up from the lake after having decked myself with the blue herons' feathers that lay about. I saw two where none but the King or the King's ancient dwarf ever came. One was a man who wore a straight garment that had curious figures woven upon it, and who carried in his hand a staff that was formed of two serpents twining together. The one who was with him was a boy, and my heart went out to him because he was young, and I had seen no one who was young in my days in Babylon. The two walked in the gardens, and I ran and hid from them.
A day came soon after when I came up from the lake and did not find the lynx who was my friend. I went searching for him, and at last I came upon him. He had gone up into one of the great chariots that were for a monument to a King. I saw him watching across the chariot. I went beside him, and the lynx did not move, but kept watching, watching.
Before I saw what was coming I heard a great trampling noise. I saw trees break and fall down. Flocks of birds came flying toward me, and I saw the deer start up and run. Then I saw enormous shapes coming striding through the gardens. They were as men, but as men high as towers. As they came on, trees fell down before them, and beasts broke out of their pits and cages and crouched before them. The beasts were filled with fear, and they roared and screeched and trumpeted as if fearful things were about to happen to them. The giant men passed where I stood in the great chariot and they came to the gateway that led into the courts of the King's palace. They put their hands to the stones above the gateway, and the heavy, mortared stones fell, leaving them a space high enough for them to pass through. I looked from the King's palace toward the city, and I saw the Way of the Lions and it was black with people that fled from the palace — soldiers and servants and attendants. I saw the beasts of the gardens bound or crash through the broken gateway, entering the courts of the palace.
I saw the giant men come forth from the palace. Now they held a man by the arms and dragged him along. They crossed the gardens dragging the man, and for a time I watched the dust that their progress made.
As I watched I saw some one come fleeing from the palace. He ran on, coming straight to the place from where I watched. He stumbled as he ran, and I saw him fall into the Pit of the Serpent. It had seemed to me as I watched him that this was the boy who had walked with the strange man in the gardens.
In my hands I had the little drum whose sound could put a spell upon the queen serpent. I ran toward the pit holding the drum. And when I bent over I saw that the head of the serpent was very near to the boy. I beat upon the drum, and the serpent heard, and her head ceased to sway about. Then her head went down, and she remained in her coils upon the ground of the pit.
I drew the boy up, and I led him to the lake and I bathed his face and his hands. The day had almost passed before he was able to speak to me. Then he told me who he was, and what the events were that had happened in the King's palace. And that boy is the one who is before you now, O King of the Western Island, Eean, the fisherman's son, who was apprenticed to the Enchanter.
V. HOW BIRD-OF-GOLD WENT TO THE TOP OF THE TOWER
Long did it take Eean to tell me the whole of the story, and when he had told and I had gathered and put together all of it, I said to him, "Not yet has the tower fallen, and ere it comes down one might go to the top and take the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians and put it in the hands of the King."
"The King may be dead," Eean said, "or else he may be in such a state that he cannot see or hear any more."
We were then sitting under the greatest of the cedar trees, and he was eating pomegranates from my lap. I looked from out the shade of the cedar tree, and I saw the King of Babylon walking in his gardens.
The King was fearful; he looked to the right and to the left as he went on. When he saw a little deer that was standing still he was startled, and he turned back. As he came nigh the cedar tree he saw me standing there before him. I prostrated myself and I said, "O King, fear not for Babylon. The tower has not yet fallen, and the Magic Mirror will yet be placed in your hands." But the King only said, "Go to the tower and bring back to me the black cock that I tied to a board but did not sacrifice." Thereupon the King went within the palace.
I called upon Eean to come, and we went down the Way of the Lions, and through the Gate of Brass, and out into the city. It was the Hour of the Market, but there were no people in the market place. We went on, Eean and I, and we came before the tower. There we saw a throng such as would have filled many markets, and they were standing round and gazing on the tower.
I had never looked before on the Tower of Babylon. It was built tower upon tower to the height of four towers, and its color was red. Around the whole height of it went a stairway showing steps on this side and that as it went winding around. On the top of the topmost tower I saw a gleam, and I knew it was the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians.
That gleam dazzled me and put into my mind the thought of going to the top of the tower. I, out of all that throng, would go and bring down the Magic Mirror! I went amongst them and they let me pass, for I had on me now the dress of one who belonged to the palace. I stood before the throng and I saw where a great space of rock was worn smooth — it was the rock against which Harut and Marut had lain.
I came to the first steps of the tower, and I climbed three of them. I heard the murmur of those who spoke of me, and I stood still. Then up the first round of the steps I went, keeping my mind from the thought of the great height that was above me. I came at last to where the second tower grew from the top of the first, and I stood and looked down, and I saw that the men below had already become little. It was then that I felt terror of the height that was above me.
I began to climb the steps of the second tower, fearful to look down and fearful to think of the number of steps that were before me. I went on and up, all in a terrible silence, and feeling that at the step above me something unbelievable would happen.
After a great length of time I came out on the space that was the top of the second tower. On that breadth I rested. As I waited there the coldness of death seemed to come over me.
But the coldness passed, and I felt the air again. I found the steps that went up and around the third of the towers. As I went on I felt that those steps leaned down on me and crushed me, and that with my feet alone I never could surmount them. Then I went down on my hands and knees and I climbed and climbed until my hands were bruised and the parts behind my knees ached. I thought that suddenly the steps would cease to be, and that I should find no place for my hands, and that thereupon I would fall down all the height I had climbed up. But step came after step, and at last I came out on that space that was the top of the third tower.
Above me was the fourth tower. I stood holding myself against it, and I looked down all the distance I had climbed. I saw the great river shining whitely: like pebbles in the bed of a river were the throngs below. But now my fear went from me. The silence was all around me, but I was exultant because of the silence through which I climbed. The height troubled me no more, rather it made me exultant, making me feel as the eagle feels. I came out on the top of the fourth tower, and there was nothing above me except the silent sky.
And there was the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians. It rested against the great spear that was Nimrod's, and it was turned toward the city and toward the King's palace.
I looked into the Magic Mirror. As I looked into it I saw a writing come upon it. I read the writing, and it said: Bring the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians to the King of Babylon, but burthen yourself not with the Spear of Nimrod.
And that writing faded, and another writing appeared on the mirror. And the writing read: Zabulun the Enchanter hat been brought by Harut and Marut into the cave that it below the sea. For forty days they will watch over him, but then they will fall into a slumber. Zabulun will come forth from the cave that it beneath the sea, and in anger he will pursue him who revealed hit plan for the taking of the Magic Mirror. Take one of the rings that are around the mirror. It will reveal when Zabulun comes from the cave, and it will show how near he comes in his pursuit of Eean, the boy who was apprenticed to him.
That writing faded, and I saw the rings that were around the mirror. I loosened one and I took it off the mirror and I put it around the wrist of my hand. The color of the ring changed to the green of the sea.
I took the Magic Mirror in my hands and I went down the stairway. Down I went, from the fourth to the third, and from the third to the second of the towers. As I went down the stairway around the first of the towers I heard the murmurs of the throng. High above my head I raised the Magic Mirror, and I went toward them holding it so.
And as I went amongst the throng I heard a voice cry out, "The tower trembles, the tower rocks." It was the voice of Eean. As the cry arose the throngs drew back from before the tower. They ran, and I ran carrying the mirror, and Eean ran beside me. And when we came to the market place we two were alone.
We stood in the empty market place and we looked toward the Tower of Babylon. In its great height it stood there, strong and wonderful. I, heard the shouting of people around it. Then I saw the great tower swing like a child's swing. Dust rose up, cloud after cloud, and cloud over cloud. The cries of people came from out the clouds.
We stood there until we saw the sun shine through a cloud of dust. Then we knew that the Tower of Babylon was indeed fallen. Never again did we go near the place, but from travelers I have heard that where the tower stood there is emptiness, and that great blocks of stone are scattered far and wide.
VI. HOW EEAN AND BIRD-OF-GOLD WENT FROM BABYLON
We went into the King's gardens, carrying with us the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians. We saw the great cedar tree, and we went and sat under its branches and spoke of what we should do. The Magic Mirror would have to be given to the King, but for long Eean was fearful of going into the palace.
At last we went to the doors. They were unguarded, and we went within the palace. We came to the chamber where the King was wont to sit upon his throne, and we saw the King there, and around him there were bearded men with fierce eyes; by their fashion of carrying swords we knew them to be the leaders of the King's armies. These fierce-eyed men stood with their feet upon the steps of the throne, speaking in anger to the King. They did not see us as we came into the chamber. But in a while one caught sight of us, and he uttered a fierce word. I went to them, holding the Magic Mirror raised in my hands. The King raised his head, and he saw the mirror, and he cried out to us.
I went and left the Magic Mirror on the throne, beside the King. I lifted my voice and I told him how I had taken the mirror from the top of the tower, and that now the tower was overthrown, but the mirror was saved for the Babylonians. Then the King said to the fierce-eyed men, "This is the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians, and I say to you that Babylon is yet in safety." Again he said to them, "Speak now and say what is to be done about this girl who brought the mirror down from the tower."
One of the fierce-eyed men said, "Who is the boy who is with her?"
The King looked on Eean and knew who he was. He said, "This is the boy who was with the Enchanter on whom be evil."
The man said, "Banish the girl and the boy also, but do no evil to them inasmuch as they have brought to us the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians."
The King said, "Take them from the city, but let some treasure be given to them because they have brought to me the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians."
One of the fierce-eyed men took us, and he brought us into a chamber in which there were many open jars. In some of the jars there were gold, and in others there were silver coins. The fierce-eyed man who was with us spoke to me, and he said I might take from the jar with the gold coins. I took many of them, and I tied them in different parts of my dress. Then he bade us follow him, and he led us out of the palace and to a place where a chariot with two horses was standing.
He put Eean and me into the chariot, and he bade the charioteer drive with us out of the city. The charioteer, a silent man, stood up in his chariot, and lashed the horses. We drove through one street, and then another and another street, and all the streets were empty. The charioteer called to the guards of a gateway, and the gate was opened, and we passed out of the city. We drove on until we came to where there was a great river. Then the charioteer halted, and he called across the river, and a man with a ferry came from the other side. He was a very ancient man, and he had a beard of great length. The charioteer said to him, "Old Man of the River, take these two across and away from us!"
We went into the ferry, and the ferryman took his pole and pushed across to the other side of the river. The man in the chariot turned his horses and drove back to Babylon.
When the ferryman had left us on the other side of the river, Eean said to me, "Where now shall we go?" I made answer and said, "We shall go to my country, and to the place where my father is. And it may be that Zabulun when he comes from the cave that is under the sea will not be able to find you there."
VII. HOW EEAN AND BIRD-OF-GOLD WERE PURSUED BY ZABULUN THE ENCHANTER
AND HOW THEY WENT TO THE CAVE OF CHIRON THE CENTAUR
O King of the Western Island, our wanderings began on the day when the ferryman left us on the farther side of the river. We went to the country where my father dwelt. We found the old man still gathering brambles and thorns for his livelihood, and out of the treasure that had been given me I gave him riches, and he had not to go thorn-and-bramble gathering any more.
We had only been a little time in the hut that my father built when a new color came upon the ring I had taken off the Magic Mirror. Its color had been sea green, but now a red line came across it. By that we knew that Zabulun the Enchanter had left the cave that was under the sea. And the red line began to grow over the sea green of the ring, and we knew by this sign that he had begun to follow on our traces. Then said Eean to me, "I will go from this place and seek a hiding, and it may be that I shall baffle Zabulun who follows me." I said to Eean, "I shall go with you where you go." "Nay," said Eean, "it is not on your account that Zabulun pursues us. He has no rage nor hatred against you, O Bird-of-Gold, and if I should go from this place by myself you would not be troubled by him."
Then I said to him, "O Eean, I had no playmate nor companion until I met you in the King's gardens. Now I could not bear to see you go from me, and where you go I shall go too."
Afterward I asked him if there were in the world any Enchanters who were as powerful as Zabulun. He told me of Chiron the Centaur, and of Hermes Trismegistus, the wise Egyptian, and of Merlin whose home is on an island that is west of your Western Island. I thought that only from one of these Enchanters might we get aid against Zabulun.
The red grew over the sea green of the ring, and we knew that the farther the red grew the nearer did Zabulun approach us. I wondered how we might get to one of the great Enchanters. Hermes Trismegistus, being in Egypt, was far, and Merlin, on the island beyond the Western Island, was farther still. I thought of Chiron the Centaur, and it seemed to me that him we might be able to find.
Now my father had lived a long time in the world, and he had heard many things, and he had thought over the things he had heard in the years when he had gathered brambles and thorns in the wilderness. I went to my father for word of Chiron the Centaur.
"Chiron the Centaur dwells all alone in a cave that is in the side of a mountain. The mountain is covered all over with a deep and an ancient forest," my father told me. And again he said, "Once I knew the direction in which that mountain is, and to-morrow I shall go into the wilderness, and as I walk about it may be that the memory of it will come back to me."
He came back from the wilderness in the evening and he said, "Away toward where the morning star shines there is a great waste. If one skirts this waste one comes to a river the waters of which are as cold as snow. The river flows down from the mountain on the side of which is the cave of Chiron the Centaur. All this I heard in the clays of my youth."
Over more and more of the sea green of the ring the red had grown. By this sign we knew that Zabulun was coming close to us. I spoke to Eean and I said that we both should make ready to go to the cave of Chiron the Centaur. Then when the morning star shone very brightly we took leave of my father and we went toward where it shone.
We came to the great waste, and we skirted it as we had been told. On we went, and we came to the river, the waters of which were cold as snow. We turned our faces toward the place from which the river flowed until we saw a mountain that was all covered with forest.
Deep and ancient and silent was that upward-growing forest. So frightened of its silence were we that we never let go of each other's hands. For days we went seeking the cave, and at last we heard cries — they might have been from birds, they might have been from the winds — that said, "Who comes to trouble the rest of Chiron the ancient Centaur?"
We went toward where the cries came from and we saw the mouth of the cave. We mounted the track that led to it, and in fear we went within.
And there was Chiron the ancient Centaur. His head and his breast, his shoulders and his arms were a man's, and his body and his feet and his tail were a horse's. His great beard was white, and his horse's body was shrunken, but his eyes were like pools in which there are living fires. The power of all the kings in the world was in his eyes.
Chiron lay beside a fire in which fragrant woods burned. He turned his eyes upon it, and we heard cries as if the winds in the cave made them, "Who comes to trouble the rest of Chiron the ancient Centaur?"
I went down on my knees and I prayed him, "O Chiron, wisest of all who deal in enchantments," I said, "there is one named Zabulun, an evil Enchanter, who pursues us. We have come to beg you to tell us how we may escape him."
"Not to me should you have come," the voice of Chiron boomed out. "What have I to do with men who are as far from wisdom as Zabulun? Only one who is like him may strive with him. Go to another, go to another."
"To whom shall we go, O Centaur?" I prayed.
"Hermes Trismegistus in Egypt is nearer to Zabulun than I am. Go to him and he may tell you how to baffle Zabulun. Tell him that you have seen the Phoenix in the cave of Chiron the Centaur."
As he said this there flew into the cave the great bird that is called the Phoenix. I may not describe her to you, O King. She flew to the fire of fragrant-smelling woods and she held herself above it. She fanned the flame with her wings, and the fire rose up and caught her breast. Then the bird sank down on the fire, and we saw her burn under the eyes of Chiron the Centaur. The flame died out, and what we saw of the bird that burned, and the wood that made the fire, was a heap of ashes.
Then out of that heap of ashes came a bird. It was smaller than the bird that burned, but more radiant. As the bird stayed with the ashes beneath her feet she grew by some great thing that was within her, and then she rose over the ashes and fanned them with her wings: Again I looked upon the Phoenix.
"Go to Hermes Trismegistus in Egypt, and tell him that you saw the long-lived Phoenix burn herself in the cave of Chiron the Centaur, and come again out of the burning. And when you tell this to Hermes in Egypt he will tell you what you may do to make yourself free of Zabulun."
The Phoenix flew from the cave. Then Chiron turned his eyes upon us and he spoke to us of the
way we should go to find Hermes Trismegistus in Egypt. When he had told us all we went backward out of his cave, and then turned and went through the depths of the silent forest, taking the way the Centaur bade us take.
VIII. HOW EEAN AND BIRD-OP-GOLD CAME TO HERMES TRISMEGISTUS IN EGYPT
We found a ship, and I paid for the voyage out of the riches I had, and we came to Egypt. The ring upon my hand showed that we were now far away from the one who pursued us, from Zabulun the Enchanter.
But we two lost our way in Egypt, and we wandered about, reaching nowhere. Then Zabulun gained upon us again, as the ring showed. We hid in a village by the river, and we stayed there until the season when the cranes fly overhead on their way to Ethiopia.
Then we went from that village, and we came again upon the way that had been lost. We followed that way and we came to the great pyramid in which Hermes Trismegistus had his cell. Down into the deepest chamber we went, and we came before Hermes the Egyptian.
He sat before a table that was of diamond and that had wonderful figures upon it. He was youthful, and light seemed to come from his forehead. As wonderful as the eyes of Chiron was the brow of Hermes Trismegistus.
We knelt at the threshold of his cell, and I said, "O thrice-great Hermes! We have been in the cave of Chiron the Centaur, and we have seen the long-lived Phoenix burn herself to ashes, and come out of the ashes more radiant than before. Chiron was kind to us, and he sent us to you, O thrice-great Hermes. We are pursued by an Enchanter whose name is Zabulun, and we have come to you to pray you to tell us how we may make ourselves free from him."
Hermes Trismegistus said, "I know of Zabulun, the wrong-doing Enchanter. But what have I to do with one who is so removed from wisdom?"
I prayed him again, saying, "Save us from this wrong-doing Enchanter who would destroy us. He has come near us often, and he will assuredly overtake us if you do not give us help, O thrice-great Hermes."
Then Hermes said, "Near the Western Island there dwells an Enchanter whose name is Merlin. Not one of the great Enchanters is he, nor like to Chiron or myself, for he chooses to love rather than to be wise. He is nearer to Zabulun than we are, but yet he is not a wrong-doing Enchanter. Go to Merlin and say to him that you have been within the cell of Hermes Trismegistus, and that you have heard from him to answer to the riddle that the Sphinx asks, and Merlin, will show you how you both may be saved from Zabulun, the wrong-doing Enchanter.
"But to come to Merlin's island, which is west of the Western Island, you will have first to go amongst the Atlantes, who live by the Western Ocean. They eat no living thing and they never have dreams. When you come to them, seek out the wisest amongst them, and ask him to tell you of Merlin, and of how you may come to him.
"To come to the Atlantes you will have to pass by the Sphinx in the desert. Few ever pass her, for she has a riddle that she asks of every one. And the one who cannot answer her riddle is torn to pieces by the Sphinx. But I shall tell you the answer to give to the riddle that the Sphinx asks."
Then Hermes, thrice-great Hermes, told us the Sphinx's riddle and the answer that we should make to it. He told us the way we should go to pass by the Sphinx and come to the people that are called the Atlantes. We left the cell of Hermes, and passed out of the pyramid, and went on our way.
We came to where the great Sphinx stretches herself out in the sand, and by the light of a great moon we saw her lion's paws and her woman's face. We heard the purring sound that comes through the lips of the Sphinx, and we halted between her paws.
"What is Man?" said the Sphinx, asking her riddle.
The paws that stretched alongside of us were quiet, and the voice of the Sphinx was very quiet. We saw her face far above us, and it was calm, though there was much scorn and fierceness in it.
"What is Man?" said the Sphinx.
Then I replied as Hermes Trismegistus had taught me to reply, "Man is he whose Mother is the Earth and whose Father is the Stars."
"Go," said the Sphinx.
Then we clambered across the great paws of the Sphinx, and we went on our way. Along the border of the desert we went, and when the great moon had changed herself to a little moon that was hardly to be seen in the sky we came amongst the Atlantes, the people who eat no living thing and who never have dreams.
The ring showed us that Zabulun, the wrongdoing Enchanter, had not drawn near us for many days. We were far away from him when we came amongst the Atlantes. But soon he came near us again. By that time I had found him who was wisest amongst this people, and I asked him to tell me of Merlin, and of how I might come to him.
"Not often does the island on which Merlin dwells show itself," said he who was wisest amongst the Atlantes. "On the mid day of summer it is to be seen. Then it draws near to the Western Island, and if you will cast upon the water nine cocks' combs and four peacocks' feathers, Merlin will let you come upon his island."
Thereupon he who was wisest amongst them gave us the cocks' combs and four peacocks' feathers. They reverenced Hermes of Egypt, the people that are called the Atlantes, and because we had spoken with Hermes and had been in his cell, they brought us on board a ship that had great leathern sails, and in that ship they carried us to your island, O King.
IX. HOW EEAN AND BIRD-OF-GOLD CAME TO KING MANUS'S STABLES
We came to your island, O King (said Bird-of-Gold, continuing her story), but no sooner did we step from the ship to the landing stones than we suffered a loss. The ring that was around my wrist broke and fell into the sea, and thereafter we had no sign that would show how close Zabulun was in pursuit of us.
We set off for that part of the land that Merlin's island comes near to. One day our way was through a dark valley and we lay down there to sleep. I awakened after some hours of slumber, and I looked toward Eean, and I saw that he was still sleeping. I left him to his sleep, but when hours passed I went over to awaken him. But I could not awaken him from that slumber, do what I would. For three days and three nights he slept in that valley while I watched beside him.
At last he awoke saying, "What day is this, and how near is Zabulun to us?" I told him that we were two days from the mid day of summer, and that we had no sign now to show us how close the Enchanter might be. We were greatly troubled, O King, for we knew not how we might come to Merlin's island by the mid day of summer.
It was then that we heard of your horses, King Manus. We were told of their swiftness, and we said to each other, "Only by the speed of these horses can we reach the place that Merlin's island comes near, and by Merlin's aid save ourselves from the power of Zabulun, the wrongdoing Enchanter."
At nightfall we came before your palace and your stable. Now it was not hard for us to open the doors of your stable. Your watchers drank of a drug that I made, O King. Eean brought a cup to them, and they, thinking the drink had been sent to them from your supper table, drank it. At once they fell into a slumber. Then we opened the four locks of the iron door with the keys that were in their belts. Eean went within the stable while I kept watch at the gate of the orchard.
Alas, Eean was taken before he could mount the white horse, and before I went to take the bridle of the red one. I saw him being brought within the palace, and I saw two new watchers take their places beside the door.
For a long time I stood in the shadow of the orchard gate not knowing what to do. Then I thought that I should still take one of the horses and go to the place where Merlin might be spoken to, and so win aid for Eean, my beloved companion. I made another drug, and I put it into a drink, and I brought the cup to those who were at the stable door. These, too, were unsuspecting; they thought I had brought it from the supper table, and they drank, and they, too, lost their senses.
Then I opened the iron door of the stable the way we had opened it before and I went within. I saw the red horse in his stall and I put my hand upon his neck. As I did this the black horse broke loose, and he plunged at me, and he caught me by the flesh of the shoulders and he flung me down. He reared above me, and was about to bring his hoofs crashing down upon me. Then indeed I should have been trampled to death but that you and your men came in, O King.
You came with torches and you drove that fierce black horse away from my body. Never was I in such danger of death as I was in then. I do not think I am now in such danger as when I lay under the feet of that fierce black horse. But it is for you to judge, O King.
Bird-of-Gold finished her story, and, closing her eyes, she laid her head upon her hands. All at that supper table looked toward King Manus. Eean seemed to hear nothing of her story, for all the time his eyes were upon the King's face.
Said King Manus, "She has been in danger as great as the danger she is in now, for verily, that black horse of mine is a manslayer. The girl, too, shall go free."
Then the King drank another cup of wine and was silent for a while. Then he said, speaking again: "They have fled a great way, these two. I should not be glad if they lost the match with this Zabulun. By the open hand of my father, they may take my two horses, the white one and the red one, and ride to that part of the Western Island that Merlin's island comes near. For payment to me, let them ask Merlin the Enchanter what moves I should make in that game of chess that, for half my lifetime, I have been playing with King Connal."
When King Manus said this the last binding was taken off Eean and off Bird-of-Gold, and they went to him and they kissed his hands. Eean promised that they would bring the horses back to the stable, and he promised, too, that he would ask Merlin about the moves in the game of chess, and would bring back the answer to the King.
In the middle of it all, one of the stewards came to the King, and said there was one in the palace who knew the youth Eean and who could not be withheld from coming to him. As they were speaking about him, he came into the supper room, an old man, whom they all recognized as the one who watched before the door of the King's chamber, to prevent those who came with requests that might not be granted being brought before the King.
He went straight to where Eean stood, and holding up a torch he looked upon him. He no sooner looked than he cried out, "It is he — indeed, indeed it is he!" And Eean, his hands grasping the old man, said, "It is Anluan! It is my father!"
Then it was told to Eean how Anluan had left the nets of a fisherman after his son had gone with Zabulun as his apprentice; and it was told, too, how he had come to the palace, and how he had been made the officer at the King's doorway on account of his extraordinary patience, a patience that he had learned when he handled the net, and that wore out the most insistent of those who came with requests to the King.
There was much rejoicing over the meeting between Eean and his father Anluan. Then Anluan turned to her whose hand Eean held, to Bird-of-Gold, and having wept over her he began to question her about her accomplishments. It was at this point that the stewards took Anluan away, for the pair had now to make ready for their ride to that part of the Western Island that Merlin's island came near to on the mid day of summer which would be the morrow of that very night. Refreshments were given them at the King's table, the newest of meats and the oldest of wines, and they went out of the hall, and they mounted the horses that the grooms of King Manus now brought out for them, Eean taking the white horse, and Bird-of-Gold the red horse. A bound and a bound, and the white and the red started off, spurning the cobblestones of the courtyard, riding toward their meeting with that Enchanter who would give them freedom from Zabulun, Merlin, the Enchanter of the Isle of Britain.