|Chapter 27||CHAPTER XXVIII||Chapter 29|
OF COMPROMISES IN LEUKE
OW the tale tells that ten days later Jurgen and his Hamadryad were duly married, in consonance with the law of the Wood: not for a moment did Chloris consider any violation of the proprieties, so they were married the first evening she could assemble her kindred.
"Still, Chloris, I already have two wives," says Jurgen, and it is but fair to confess it."
"I thought it was only yesterday you arrived in Leuke."
"That is true: for I came with the Equinox, over the long sea."
"Then Jugatinus has not had time to marry you to anybody, and certainly he would never think of marrying you to two wives. Why do you talk such nonsense?"
"No, it is true, I was not married by Jugatinus."
"So there!" says Chloris, as if that settled matters. "Now you see for yourself."
"Why, yes, to be sure," says Jurgen, "that does put rather a different light upon it, now I think of it."
"It makes all the difference in the world."
"I would hardly go that far. Still, I perceive it makes a difference."
"Why, you talk as if everybody did not know that Jugatinus marries people!"
"No, dear, let us be fair! I did not say precisely that."
"-And as if everybody was not always married by Jugatinus!"
"Yes, here in Leuke, perhaps. But outside of Leuke, you understand, my darling!"
"But nobody goes outside of Leuke. Nobody ever thinks of leaving Leuke. I never heard such nonsense."
"You mean, nobody ever leaves this island?"
"Nobody that you ever hear of. Of course, there are Lares and Penates, with no social position, that the kings of Pseudopolis sometimes take a-voyaging-"
"Still, the people of other countries do get married."
"No, Jurgen," said Chloris, sadly, "it is a rule with Jugatinus never to leave the island; and indeed I am sure he has never even considered such unheard-of conduct: so, of course, the people of other countries are not able to get marrie d."
"Well, but, Chloris, in Eubonia-"
"Now if you do not mind, dear, I think we had better talk about something more pleasant. I do not blame you men of Eubonia, because all men are in such matters perfectly irresponsible. And perhaps it is not altogether the fault of the women, either, though I do think any really self-respecting woman would have the strength of character to keep out of such irregular relations, and that much I am compelled to say. So do not let us talk any more about these persons whom you describe as your wives. It is very nice of you, dear, to call them that, and I appreciate your delicacy. Still, I really do believe we had better talk about something else."
Jurgen deliberated. "Yet do you not think, Chloris, that in the absence of Jugatinus --and in, as I understand it, the unavoidable absence of Jugatinus,-somebody else might perform the ceremony?"
"Oh, yes, if they wanted to. But it would not count. Nobody but Jugatinus can really marry people. And so of course nobody else does."
"What makes you sure of that?"
"Why, because," said Chloris, triumphantly, "nobody ever heard of such a thing."
"You have voiced," said Jurgen, "an entire code of philosophy. Let us by all means go to Jugatinus and be married."
So they were married by Jugatinus, according to the ceremony with which the People of the Wood were always married by Jugatinus. First Virgo loosed the girdle of Chloris in such fashion as was customary; and Chloris, after sitting much longer than Jurgen liked in the lap of Mutinus (who was in the state that custom required of him) was led back to Jurgen by Domiducus in accordance with immemorial custom; Subigo did her customary part; then Praema grasped the bride's plump arms: and everything was perfectly regular.
Thereafter Jurgen disposed of his staff in the way Thersites had directed : and thereafter Jurgen abode with Chloris upon the outskirts of the forest, and complied with the customs of Leuke. Her tree was a rather large oak, for Chloris was now in her two hundred and sixty-sixth year; and at first its commodious trunk sheltered them. But later Jurgen builded himself a little cabin thatched with birds' wings, and made himself more comfortable.
"It is well enough for you, my dear, in fact it is expected of you, to Eve in a tree-bole. But it makes me feel uncomfortably like a worm, and it needlessly emphasises the restrictions of married life. Besides, you do not want me under your feet a ll the time, nor 1 you. No, let us cultivate a judicious abstention from familiarity : such is one secret of an enduring, because endurable, marriage. But why is it, pray, that you have never married before, in all these years?"
She told him. At first Jurgen could not believe her, but presently Jurgen was convinced, through at least two of his senses, that what Chloris told him was true about hamadryads.
"Otherwise, you are not markedly unlike the women of Eubonia," said Jurgen.
And now Jurgen met many of the People of the Wood; but since the tree of Chloris stood upon the verge of the forest, he saw far more of the People of the Field, who dwelt between the forest and the city of Pseudopolis. These were the neighbours and the ordinary associates of Chloris and Jurgen; though once in a while, of course, there would be family gatherings in the forest. But Jurgen presently had found good reason to distrust the People of the Wood, and went to none of these gatherings.
"For in Eubonia," he said, "we are taught that your wife's relatives will never find fault with you to your face so long as you keep away from them. And more than that no sensible man expects."
Meanwhile, King Jurgen was perplexed by the People of the Field, who were his neighbours. They one and all did what they had always done. Thus Runcina saw to it that the Fields were weeded: Seia took care of the seed while it was buried in the earth: Nodosa arranged the knots and joints of the stalk: Volusia folded the blade around the corn : each had an immemorial duty. And there was hardly a day that somebody was not busied in the Fields, whether it was Occator harrowing, or Sator and Sarritor about their sowing and raking, or Stercutius manuring the ground: and Hippona was always bustling about in one place or another looking after the horses, or else Bubona would be there attending to the cattle. There was never any restfulness in the Fields.
"And why do you do these things year in and year out?" asked Jurgen.
"Why, King of Eubonia, we have always done these things," they said, in high astonishment.
"Yes, but why not stop occasionally?"
"Because in that event the work would stop. The corn would die, the cattle would perish, and the Fields would become jungles."
"But, as I understand it, this is not your corn, nor your cattle, nor your Fields. You derive no good from them. And there is nothing to prevent your ceasing this interminable labour, and living as do the People of the Wood, who perform no heavy work whatever."
"I should think not I" said Aristxus, and his teeth flashed in a smile that was very pleasant to see, as he strained at the olive-press. "Whoever heard of the People of the Wood doing anything useful!"
"Yes, but," says Jurgen, patiently, "do you think it is quite fair to yourselves to be always about some tedious and difficult labour when nobody compels you to do it? Why do you not sometimes take holiday?"
"King Jurgen," replied Fornax, looking up from the little furnace wherein she was parching corn, "you are talking nonsense. The People of the Field have never taken holiday. Nobody ever heard of such a thing."
"We should think not indeed!" said all the others, sagely.
"Ah, ah said Jurgen, "so that is your demolishing reason. Well, I shall inquire about this matter among the People of the Wood, for they may be more sensible."
Then as Jurgen was about to enter the forest, he encountered Terminus, perfumed with ointment, and crowned with a garland of roses, and standing stock still.
"Aha," said Jurgen, "so here is one of the People of the Wood about to go down into the Fields. But if I were you, my friend, I would keep away from any such foolish place."
"I never go down into the Fields," said Terminus.
"Oh, then, you are returning into the forest."
"But certainly not. Whoever heard of my going into the forest!"
"Indeed, now I look at you, you are merely standing here."
"I have always stood here," said Terminus.
"And do you never move?"
"No," said Terminus.
"And for what reason?"
"Because I have always stood here without moving," replied Terminus. "Why, for me to move would be a quite unheard-of thing."
So Jurgen left him, and went into the forest. And there Jurgen encountered a smiling young fellow, who rode upon the back of a large ram. This young man had his left fore-finger laid to his lips, and his right hand held an astonishing object to be thus publicly displayed.
"But oh dear me! now really, sir- !" says Jurgen.
"Bah!" says the ram.
But the smiling young fellow said nothing at all as he passed Jurgen, because it is not the custom of Harpocrates to speak.
" Which would be well enough," reflected Jurgen, "if only his custom did not make for stiffness and the embarrassment of others."
Thereafter Jurgen came upon a considerable commotion in the bushes, where a satyr was at play with an oread.
"Oh, but this forest is not respectable!" said Jurgen. "Have you no ethics and morals, you People of the Wood? Have you no sense of responsibility whatever, thus to be frolicking on a working-day?"
"Why, no," responded the Satyr, of course not. None of my people have such things: and so the natural vocation of all satyrs is that which you are now interrupting."
"Perhaps you speak the truth," said Jurgen. "Still, you ought to be ashamed of the fact that you are not lying."
"For a satyr to be ashamed of himself would be indeed an unheard-of thing! Now go away, you in the glittering shirt; for we are studying eudaemonism, and you are talking nonsense, and I am busy, and you annoy me," said the Satyr.
"Well, but in Cocaigne," said Jurgen, "this eudaemonism was considered an indoor diversion."
"And did you ever hear of a satyr going indoors?"
"Why, save us from all hurt and harm! but what has that to do with it?"
"Do not try to equivocate, you shining idiot! For now you see for yourself you are talking nonsense. And I repeat that such unheard-of nonsense irritates me," said the Satyr.
The Oread said nothing at all. But she too looked annoyed, and Jurgen reflected that it was probably not the custom of oreads to be rescued from the eudaemonism of satyrs.
So Jurgen left them; and yet deeper in the forest he found a bald-headed squat old man, with a big paunch and a flat red nose and very small bleared eyes. Now the old fellow was so helplessly drunk that he could not walk: instead, he sat upon the ground, and leaned against a tree-bole.
"This is a very disgusting state for you to be in so early in the morning," observed Jurgen.
"But Silenus is always drunk," the bald-headed man responded, with a dignified hiccough.
"So here is another one of you! Well, and why are you always drunk, Silenus?"
"Because Silenus is the wisest of the People of the Wood."
"Ah, ah! but I apologise. For here at last is somebody with a plausible excuse for his daily employment. Now, then, Silenus, since you are so wise, come, tell me, is it really the best fate for a man to be drunk always?"
"Not at all. Drunkenness is a joy reserved for the Gods : so do men partake of it impiously, and so are they very properly punished for their audacity. For men, it is best of all never to be born; but, being born, to die very quickly."
"Ah, yes! but failing either?"
"The third best thing for a man is to do that which seems expected of him," replied Silenus.
"But that is the Law of Philistia: and with Philistia, they inform me, Pseudopolis is at war."
Silenus meditated. Jurgen had discovered an uncomfortable thing about this old fellow, and it was that his small bleared eyes did not blink nor the lids twitch at all. His eyes moved, as through magic the eyes of a painted statue might move horribly, under quite motionless red lids. Therefore it was uncomfortable when these eyes moved toward you.
"Young fellow in the glittering shirt, I will tell you a secret: and it is that the Philistines were created after the image of Koshchei who made some things as they are. Do you think upon that! So the Philistines do that which seems expected. And the people of Leuke were created after the image of Koshchei who made yet other things as they are: therefore do the people of Leuke do that which is customary, adhering to classical tradition. Do you think upon that also! Then do you pick your side in this war, remembering that you side with stupidity either way. And when that happens which will happen, do you remember how Silenus foretold to you precisely what would happen, a long while before it happened, because Silenus was so old and so wise and so very disreputably drunk, and so very, very sleepy."
"Yes, certainly, Silenus: but how will this war end?
"Dullness will conquer dullness : and it will not matter."
"Ah, yes! but what will become, in all this fighting, of Jurgen?"
"That will not matter either," said Silenus, comfortably. "Nobody will bother about you." And with that he closed his horrible bleared eyes and went to sleep.
So Jurgen left the old tippler, and started to leave the forest also. "For undoubtedly all the people in Leuke are resolute to do that which is customary," reflected Jurgen, " or the unarguable reason it is their custom, and has always been their custom. And they will desist from these practices when the cat eats acorns, but not before. So it is the part of wisdom to inquire no further into the matter. For after all, these people may be right; and certainly I cannot go so far as to say they are wrong. " Jurgen shrugged. "But still, at the same time -- !"
Now in returning to his cabin Jurgen heard a frightful sort of yowling and screeching as of mad people.
"Hail, daughter of various-formed Protogonus, thou that takest joy in mountains and battles and in the beating of the drum! Hail, thou deceitful saviour, mother of all gods, that comest now, pleased with long wanderings, to be propitious to us!"
But the uproar was becoming so increasingly unpleasant that Jurgen at this point withdrew into a thicket : and thence he witnessed the passing through the Woods of a notable procession. There were features connected with this procession sufficiently unusual to cause Jurgen to vow that the desiderated moment wherein he walked unhurt from the forest would mark the termination of his last visit thereto. Then amazement tripped up the heels of terror : for now passed Mother Sereda, or, as Anaïtis had called her, --Aesred. Today, in place of a towel about her head, she wore a species of crown, shaped like a circlet of crumbling towers: she carried a large key, and her chariot was drawn by two lions. She was attended by howling persons, with shaved heads: and it was apparent that these persons had parted with possessions which Jurgen valued.
"This is undoubtedly," said he, "a most unwholesome forest."
Jurgen inquired about this procession later, and from Chloris he got information which surprised him.
"And these are the beings who I had thought were poetic ornaments of speech! But what is the old lady doing in such high company?"
He described Mother Sereda, and Chloris told him who this was. Now Jurgen shook his sleek black head.
"Behold another mystery! Yet after all, it is no concern of mine if the old lady elects for an additional anagram. I should be the last person to criticise her, inasmuch as to me she has been more than generous. Well, I shall preserve her friendship by the infallible recipe of keeping out of her way. Oh, but I shall certainly keep out of her way now that I have perceived what is done to the men who serve her."
And after that Jurgen and Chloris lived very pleasantly together, though Jurgen began to find his Hamadryad a trifle unperceptive, if not actually obtuse.
"She does not understand me, and she does not always treat my superior wisdom quite respectfully. That is unfair, but it seems to be an unavoidable feature of married life. Besides, if any woman had ever understood me she would, in self-protection, have refused to marry me. In any case, Chloris is a dear brown plump delicious partridge of a darling: and cleverness in women is, after all, a virtue misplaced."
And Jurgen did not return into the Woods, nor did he go down into the city. Neither the People of the Field nor of the Wood, of course, ever went within city gates. "But I would think that you would like to see the fine sights of Pseudopolis," says Chloris,- "and that fine Queen of theirs," she added, almost as though she spoke without premeditation.
"Woman dear," says Jurgen, "I do not wish to appear boastful. But in Eubonia, now! well, really some day we must return to my kingdom, and you shall inspect for yourself a dozen or two of my cities -- Ziph and Eglington and Poissieux and Gazden and Baremburg, at all events. And then you will concede with me that this little village of Pseudopolis, while well enough in its way--!" And Jurgen shrugged. "But as for saying more!"
"Sometimes," said Chloris, "I wonder if there is any such place as your fine kingdom of Eubonia: for certainly it grows larger and more splendid every time you talk of it."
"Now can it be," asks Jurgen, more hurt than angry, "that you suspect me of uncandid dealing and, in short, of being an impostor?"
"Why, what does it matter? You are Jurgen," she answered, happily.
And the man was moved as she smiled at him across the glowing queer embroidery-work at which Chloris seemed to labour interminably: he was conscious of a tenderness for her which was oddly remorseful: and it appeared to him that if he had known lovelier women he had certainly found nowhere anyone more lovable than was this plump and busy and sunny-tempered little wife of his.
"My dear, I do not care to see Queen Helen again, and that is a fact. I am contented here, with a wife befitting my station, suited to my endowments, and infinitely excelling my deserts."
"And do you think of that tow-headed bean-pole very often, King Jurgen?"
"That is unfair, and you wrong me, Chloris, with these unmerited suspicions. It pains me to reflect, my dear, that you esteem the tie between us so lightly you can consider me capable of breaking it even in thought."
"To talk of fairness is all very well, but it is no answer to a plain question."
Jurgen looked full at her; and he laughed. "You women are so unscrupulously practical. My dear, I have seen Queen Helen face to face. But it is you whom I love as a man customarily loves a woman."
"That is not saying much."
"No: for I endeavour to speak in consonance with my importance. You forget that I have also seen Achilles."
"But you admired Achilles! You told me so yourself."
"I admired the perfections of Achilles, but I cordially dislike the man who possesses them. Therefore I shall keep away from both the King and Queen of Pseudopolis."
"Yet you will not go into the Woods, either, Jurgen--"
"Not after what I have witnessed there," said Jurgen, with an exaggerated shudder that was not very much exaggerated.
Now Chloris laughed, and quitted her queer embroidery in order to rumple up his hair. "And you find the People of the Field so insufferably stupid, and so uninterested by your Zorobasiuses and Ptolemopiters and so on, that you keep away from them also. O foolish man of mine, you are determined to be neither fish nor beast nor poultry: and nowhere will you ever consent to be happy."
"It was not I who determined my nature, Chloris and as for being happy, I make no complaint. Indeed, I have nothing to complain of nowadays. So I am very well contented by my dear wife and by my manner of living in Leuke," said Jurgen, with a sigh.