|Chapter 25||CHAPTER XXVI||Chapter 27|
IN TIME'S HOUR-GLASS
ELL, well!" said Jurgen, when he had taken off all that foolish ironmongery, and had made himself comfortable in his shirt; "well, beyond doubt, the situation is awkward. I was content enough in Cocaigne, and it is unfair that I should be thus ousted. Still, a sensible person will manage to be content anywhere. But whither, pray, am I expected to go?"
"Into whatever land you may elect, my dear," said Anaïtis, fondly. "That much at least I can manage for you: and the interpretation of your legend can be arranged afterward."
"But I grow tired of all the countries I have ever seen, dear Anaïtis, and in my time I have visited nearly all the lands that are known to men."
"That too can be arranged: and you can go instead into one of the countries which are desired by men. Indeed there are a number of such realms which no man has ever visited except in dreams, so that your choice is wide."
But how am I to make a choice without having seen any of these countries? It is not fair to be expecting me to do anything of the sort."
"Why, I will show them to you," Anaïtis replied.
The two of them then went together into a small blue chamber, the walls of which were ornamented with gold stars placed helter-skelter. The room was entirely empty save for an hour-glass near twice the height of a man.
"It is Time's own glass," said Anaïtis, "which was left in my-keeping when Time went to sleep."
Anaïtis opened a little door of carved crystal that was in the lower half of the hour-glass, just above the fallen sands. With her finger-tips she touched the sand that was in Time's hour-glass, and in the sand she drew a triangle with equal sides, she who was strangely gifted and perverse. Then she drew just such another figure so that the tip of it penetrated the first triangle. The sand began to smoulder there, and vapours rose into the upper . part of the hour-glass, and, Jurgen saw that all the sand in Time's hour-glass was kindled by a magic generated by the contact of these two triangles. And in the vapours a picture formed.
"I see a land of woods and rivers, Anaïtis. A very old fellow, regally crowned, lies asleep under an ashtree, guarded by a watchman who has more arms and hands than Jigsbyed."
"It is Atlantis you behold, and the sleeping of ancient Time-Time, to whom this glass belongs, --while Briarcus watches."
"Time sleeps quite naked, Anaïtis, and, though it is a delicate matter to talk about, I notice he has met with a deplorable accident."
"So that Time begets nothing any more, Jurgen, the while he brings about old happenings over and over, and changes the name of what is ancient, in order to persuade himself he has a new plaything. There is really no more tedious and wearing old dotard anywhere, I can assure you. But Atlantis is only the western province of Cocaigne. Now do you look again, Jurgen!"
"Now I behold a flowering plain and three steep hills, with a castle upon each hill. There are woods wherein the foliage is crimson: shining birds with white bodies and purple heads feed upon the clusters of golden berries that grow everywhere: and people go about in green clothes, with gold chains about their necks, and with broad bands of gold upon their arms, and all these people have untroubled faces."
"That is Inislocha: and to the south is Inis Daleb, and to the north Inis Ercandra. And there is sweet music to be listening to eternally, could we but hear the birds of Rhiannon, and there is the best of wine to drink, and there delight is common . For thither comes nothing hard nor rough, and no grief, nor any regret, nor sickness, nor age, nor death, for this is the Land of Women, a land of many-coloured hospitality."
"Why, then, it is no different from Cocaigne. And into no realm where pleasure is endless will I ever venture again of my own free will, for I find that I do not enjoy pleasure."
Then Anaïtis showed him Ogygia, and Trypheme, and Sudarsana, and the Fortunate Islands, and Aeaea, and Caer-Is, and Invallis, and the Hesperides, and Meropis, and Planasia, and Uttarra, and Avalon, and Tir-nam-Beo, and Theleme, and a number of other lands to enter which men have desired : and Jurgen groaned.
"I am ashamed of my fellows," says he: "for it appears their notion of felicity is to dwell eternally in a glorified brothel. I do not think that as a self-respecting young Prince I would care to inhabit any of these earthly paradises, f or were there nothing else, I would always be looking for an invasion by the police."
"There remains, then, but one other realm, which I have not shown you, in part because it is an obscure little place, and in part because, for a reason that I have, I shall not assist you to go thither. Still, there is Leuke, where Queen Helen rules: and Leuke it is that you behold."
"But Leuke seems like any other country in autumn, and appears to be reasonably free from the fantastic animals and overgrown flowers which made the other paradises look childish. Come now, there is an attractive simplicity about Leuke. I might put up with Leuke if the local by-laws allowed me a rational amount of discomfort."
"Discomfort you would have full measure. For the heart of no man remains untroubled after he has once viewed Queen Helen and the beauty that is hers. It is for that reason, Jurgen, I shall not help you to go into Leuke: for in Leuke you would forget me, having seen Queen Helen."
"Why, what nonsense you are talking, my darling! I will wager she cannot hold a candle to you."
"See for yourself!" said Anaïtis, sadly.
Now through the rolling vapours came confusedly a gleaming and a surging glitter of all the loveliest colours of heaven and earth: and these took order presently, and Jurgen saw before him in the hour-glass that young Dorothy who was not Heitman Michael's wife. And long and wistfully he looked at her, and the blinding tears came to his eyes for no reason at all, and for the while he could not speak.
Then Jurgen yawned, and said, "But certainly this is not the Helen who was famed for beauty."
"I can assure you that it is," said Anaïtis and that it is she who rules in Leuke, whither I do not intend you shall go."
"Why, but, my darling! this is preposterous. The girl is nothing to look at twice, one way or the other. She is not actually ugly, I suppose, if one happens to admire that washed-out blonde type, as of course some people do. But to call her beautiful is out of reason; and that I must protest in simple justice."
"Do you really think so?" says Anaïtis, brightening.
"I most assuredly do. Why, you remember what Calpurnius Bassus says about all blondes?"
"No, I believe not. What did he say, dear?"
"I would only spoil the splendid passage by quoting it inaccurately from memory. But he was quite right, and his opinion is mine in every particular. So if that is the best Leuke can offer, I heartily agree with you I had best go into some other country."
"I suppose you already have your eyes upon some minx or other?"
"Well, my love, those girls in the Hesperides were strikingly like you, with even more wonderful hair than yours: and the girl Aille whom we saw in Tir-nam-Beo likewise resembled you remarkably, except that I thought she had the better figure. So I believe in either of those countries I could be content enough, after a while. Since part from you I must," said Jurgen, tenderly, "I intend, in common fairness to myself, to find a companion as like you as possible. You conceive I can pretend it is you at first: and then as I grow fonder of her for her own sake, you will gradually be put out of my mind without my incurring any intolerable anguish."
Anaïtis was not pleased. "So you are already hankering after those huzzies! And you think them better looking than I am! And you tell me so to my face!"
"My darling, you cannot deny we have been married all of three whole months: and nobody can maintain an infatuation for any woman that long, in the teeth of having nothing refused him. Infatuation is largely a matter of curiosity, and both of these emotions die when they are fed."
"Jurgen," said Anaïtis, with conviction, "you are lying to me about something. I can see it in your eyes."
"There is no deceiving a woman's intuition. Yes, I was not speaking quite honestly when I pretended I had as lief go into the Hesperides as to Tir-nam-Beo: it was wrong of me, and I ask your pardon. I thought that by affecting indifference I could manage you better. But you saw through me at once, and very rightly became angry. So I fling my cards upon the table, I no longer beat about the bushes of equivocation. It is Aille, the daughter of Cormac, whom I love, and who can blame me? Did you ever in your life behold a more enticing figure, Anaïtis ? - certainly I never did. Besides, I noticed - but never mind about that! Still I could not help seeing them. And then such eyes! twin beacons that light my way to comfort for my not inconsiderable regret at losing you, my darling. Oh, yes, assuredly it is to Tir-nam-Beo I elect to go."
"Whither you go, my fine fellow, is a matter in which I have the choice, not you. And you are going to Leuke."
"My love, now do be reasonable! We both agreed that Leuke was not a bit suitable. Why, were there nothing else, in Leuke there are no attractive women."
"Have you no sense except book-sense! It is for that reason I am sending you to Leuke."
And thus speaking, Anaïtis set about a strong magic that hastened the coming of the Equinox. In the midst of her charming she wept a little, for she was fond of Jurgen.
And Jurgen preserved a hurt and angry face as well as he could: for at the sight of Queen Helen, who was so like young Dorothy la Desirée, he had ceased to care for Queen Anaïtis and her diverting ways, or to care for aught else in the world save only Queen Helen, the delight of gods and men. But Jurgen had learned that Anaïtis required management.
"For her own good," as he put it, "and in simple justice to the many admirable qualities which she possesses."