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Don Rodriguez, by Lord Dunsany, [1922], at



The Professor said that in curiosity alone had been found the seeds of all that is needful for our damnation. Nevertheless, he said, if Rodriguez cared to see more of his mighty art the mysteries of Saragossa were all at his guest's disposal.

Rodriguez, sad and horrified though he was, forgot none of his courtesy. He thanked the Professor and praised the art of Saragossa, but his faith in man and his hope for the world having been newly disappointed, he cared little enough for the things we should care to see or for any of the amusements that are usually dear to youth.

"I shall be happy to see anything, senor," he said to the Slave of Orion, "that is further from our poor Earth, and to study therein and admire your famous art."

The Professor bowed. He drew small curtains over the windows, matching his cloak. Morano sought a glimpse through the right-hand window before the curtains covered it. Rodriguez held him back. Enough had been seen already, he thought, through that window for the peace of mind of the world: but he said no word to Morano. He held him by the arm, and the Professor covered the windows. When the little mauve curtains were drawn it seemed to Rodriguez that the windows behind them disappeared and were there no more; but this he only guessed from uncertain indications.

Then the Professor drew forth his wand and went to his cupboard of wonder. Thence he brought condiments, oils, and dews of amazement. These he poured into a vessel that was in the midst of the room, a bowl of agate standing alone on a table. He lit it and it all welled up in flame, a low broad flame of the colour of pale emerald. Over this he waved his wand, which was of exceeding blackness. Morano watched as children watch the dancer, who goes from village to village when spring is come, with some new dance out of Asia or some new song.[Footnote: He doesn't, but why shouldn't he?] Rodriguez sat and waited. The Professor explained that to leave this Earth alive, or even dead, was prohibited to our bodies, unless to a very few, whose names were hidden. Yet the spirits of men could by incantation be liberated, and being liberated, could be directed on journeys by such minds as had that power passed down to them from of old. Such journeys, he said, were by no means confined by the hills of Earth. "The Saints," exclaimed Morano, "guard us utterly!" But Rodriguez smiled a little. His faith was given to the Saints of Heaven. He wondered at their wonders, he admired their miracles, he had little faith to spare for other marvels; in fact he did not believe the Slave of Orion.

"Do you desire such a journey?" said the Professor.

"It will delight me," answered Rodriguez, "to see this example of your art."

"And you?" he said to Morano.

The question seemed to alarm the placid Morano, but "I follow my master," he said.

At once the Professor stretched out his ebony wand, calling the green flame higher. Then he put out his hands over the flame, without the wand, moving them slowly with constantly tremulous fingers. And all at once they heard him begin to speak. His deep voice flowed musically while he scarcely seemed to be speaking but seemed only to be concerned with moving his hands. It came soft, as though blown faint from fabulous valleys, illimitably far from the land of Spain. It seemed full not so much of magic as mere sleep, either sleep in an unknown country of alien men, or sleep in a land dreamed sleeping a long while since. As the travellers heard it they thought of things far away, of mythical journeys and their own earliest years.

They did not know what he said or what language he used. At first Rodriguez thought Moorish, then he deemed it some secret language come down from magicians of old, while Morano merely wondered; and then they were lulled by the rhythm of those strange words, and so enquired no more. Rodriguez pictured some sad wandering angel, upon some mountain-peak of African lands, resting a moment and talking to the solitudes, telling the lonely valley the mysteries of his home. While lulled though Morano was he gave up his alertness uneasily. All the while the green flame flooded upwards: all the while the tremulous fingers made curious shadows. The shadow seemed to run to Rodriguez and beckon him thence: even Morano felt them calling. Rodriguez closed his eyes. The voice and the Moorish spells made now a more haunting melody: they were now like a golden organ on undiscoverable mountains. Fear came on Morano at the thought: who had power to speak like this? He grasped Rodriguez by the wrist. "Master!" he said, but at that moment on one of those golden spells the spirit of Rodriguez drifted away from his body, and out of the greenish light of the curious room; unhampered by weight, or fatigue, or pain, or sleep; and it rose above the rocks and over the mountain, an unencumbered spirit: and the spirit of Morano followed.

The mountain dwindled at once; the Earth swept out all round them and grew larger, and larger still, and then began to dwindle. They saw then that they were launched upon some astounding journey. Does my reader wonder they saw when they had no eyes? They saw as they had never seen before, with sight beyond what they had ever thought to be possible. Our eyes gather in light, and with the little rays of light that they bring us we gather a few images of things as we suppose them to be. Pardon me, reader, if I call them things as we suppose them to be; call them by all means Things As They Really Are, if you wish. These images then, this tiny little brainful that we gather from the immensities, are all brought in by our eyesight upside-down, and the brain corrects them again; and so, and so we know something. An oculist will tell you how it all works. He may admit it is all a little clumsy, or for the dignity of his profession he may say it is not at all. But be this as it may, our eyes are but barriers between us and the immensities. All our five senses that grope a little here and touch a little there, and seize, and compare notes, and get a little knowledge sometimes, they are only barriers between us and what there is to know. Rodriguez and Morano were outside these barriers. They saw without the imperfections of eyesight; they heard on that journey what would have deafened ears; they went through our atmosphere unburned by speed, and were unchilled in the bleak of the outer spaces. Thus freed of the imperfections of the body they sped, no less upon a terrible journey, whose direction as yet Rodriguez only began to fear.

They had seen the stars pale rapidly and then the flash of dawn. The Sun rushed up and at once began to grow larger. Earth, with her curved sides still diminishing violently, was soon a small round garden in blue and filmy space, in which mountains were planted. And still the Sun was growing wider and wider. And now Rodriguez, though he knew nothing of Sun or planets, perceived the obvious truth of their terrible journey: they were heading straight for the Sun. But the spirit of Morano was merely astounded; yet, being free of the body he suffered none of those inconveniences that perturbation may bring to us: spirits do not gasp, or palpitate, or weaken, or sicken.

The dwindling Earth seemed now no more than the size of some unmapped island seen from a mountain-top, an island a hundred yards or so across, looking like a big table.

Speed is comparative: compared to sound, their pace was beyond comparison; nor could any modern projectile attain any velocity comparable to it; even the speed of explosion was slow to it. And yet for spirits they were moving slowly, who being independent of all material things, travel with such velocities as that, for instance, of thought. But they were controlled by one still dwelling on Earth, who used material things, and the material that the Professor was using to hurl them upon their journey was light, the adaptation of which to this purpose he had learned at Saragossa. At the pace of light they were travelling towards the Sun.

They crossed the path of Venus, far from where Venus then was, so that she scarcely seemed larger to them; Earth was but little bigger than the Evening Star, looking dim in that monstrous daylight.

Crossing the path of Mercury, Mercury appeared huger than our Moon, an object weirdly unnatural; and they saw ahead of them the terrific glare in which Mercury basks, from a Sun whose withering orb had more than doubled its width since they came from the hills of Earth. And after this the Sun grew terribly larger, filling the centre of the sky, and spreading and spreading and spreading. It was now that they saw what would have dazzled eyes, would have burned up flesh and would have shrivelled every protection that our scientists' ingenuity could have devised even today. To speak of time there is meaningless. There is nothing in the empty space between the Sun and Mercury with which time is at all concerned. Far less is there meaning in time wherever the spirits of men are under stress. A few minutes' bombardment in a trench, a few hours in a battle, a few weeks' travelling in a trackless country; these minutes, these hours, these weeks can never be few.

Rodriguez and Morano had been travelling about six or seven minutes, but it seems idle to say so.

And then the Sun began to fill the whole sky in front of them. And in another minute, if minutes had any meaning, they were heading for a boundless region of flame that, left and right, was everywhere, and now towered above them, and went below them into a flaming abyss.

And now Morano spoke to Rodriguez. He thought towards him, and Rodriguez was aware of his thinking: it is thus that spirits communicate.

"Master," he said, "when it was all spring in Spain, years ago when I was thin and young, twenty years gone at least; and the butterflies were come, and song was everywhere; there came a maid bare-footed over a stream, walking through flowers, and all to pluck the anemones." How fair she seemed even now, how bright that far spring day. Morano told Rodriguez not with his blundering lips: they were closed and resting deeply millions of miles away: he told him as spirits tell. And in that clear communication Rodriguez saw all that shone in Morano's memory, the grace of the young girl's ankles, the thrill of Spring, the anemones larger and brighter than anemones ever were, the hawks still in clear sky; earth happy and heaven blue, and the dreams of youth between. You would not have said, had you seen Morano's coarse fat body, asleep in a chair in the Professor's room, that his spirit treasured such delicate, nymph-like, pastoral memories as now shone clear to Rodriguez. No words the blunt man had ever been able to utter had ever hinted that he sometimes thought like a dream of pictures by Watteau. And now in that awful space before the power of the terrible Sun, spirit communed with spirit, and Rodriguez saw the beauty of that far day, framed all about the beauty of one young girl, just as it had been for years in Morano's memory. How shall I tell with words what spirit sang wordless to spirit? We poets may compete with each other in words; but when spirits give up the purest gold of their store, that has shone far down the road of their earthly journey, cheering tired hearts and guiding mortal feet, our words shall barely interpret.

Love, coming long ago over flowers in Spain, found Morano; words did not tell the story, words cannot tell it; as a lake reflects a cloud in the blue of heaven, so Rodriguez understood and felt and knew this memory out of the days of Morano's youth. "And so, master," said Morano, "I sinned, and would indeed repent, and yet even now at this last dread hour I cannot abjure that day; and this is indeed Hell, as the good father said."

Rodriguez tried to comfort Morano with such knowledge as he had of astronomy, if knowledge it could be called. Indeed, if he had known anything he would have perplexed Morano more, and his little pieces of ignorance were well adapted for comfort. But Morano had given up hope, having long been taught to expect this very fire: his spirit was no wiser than it had been on Earth, it was merely freed of the imperfections of the five senses and so had observation and expression beyond those of any artist the world has known. This was the natural result of being freed of the body; but he was not suddenly wiser; and so, as he moved towards this boundless flame, he expected every moment to see Satan charge out to meet him: and having no hope for the future he turned to the past and fondled the memory of that one spring day. His was a backsliding, unrepentant spirit.

As that monstrous sea of flame grew ruthlessly larger Rodriguez felt no fear, for spirits have no fear of material things: but Morano feared. He feared as spirits fear spiritual things; he thought he neared the home of vast spirits of evil and that the arena of conflict was eternity. He feared with a fear too great to be borne by bodies. Perhaps the fat body that slept on a chair on earth was troubled in dreams by some echo of that fear that gripped the spirit so sorely. And it may be from such far fears that all our nightmares come.

When they had travelled nearly ten minutes from Earth and were about to pass into the midst of the flame, that magician who controlled their journey halted them suddenly in Space, among the upper mountain-peaks of the Sun. There they hovered as the clouds hover that leave their companions and drift among crags of the Alps: below them those awful mountains heaved and thundered. All Atlas, and Teneriffe, and lonely Kenia might have lain amongst them unnoticed. As often as the earthquake rocked their bases it loosened from near their summits wild avalanches of gold that swept down their flaming slopes with unthinkable tumult. As they watched, new mountains rode past them, crowned with their frightful flames; for, whether man knew it or not, the Sun was rotating, but the force of its gravity that swung the planets had no grip upon spirits, who were held by the power of that tremendous spell that the Professor had learned one midnight at Saragossa from one of that dread line who have their secrets from a source that we do not know in a distant age.

There is always something tremendous in the form of great mountains; but these swept by, not only huger than anything Earth knows, but troubled by horrible commotions, as though overtaken in flight by some ceaseless calamity.

Rodriguez and Morano, as they looked at them, forgetting the gardens of Earth, forgetting Spring and Summer and the sweet beneficence of sunshine, felt that the purpose of Creation was evil! So shocking a thought may well astound us here, where green hills slope to lawns or peer at a peaceful sea; but there among the flames of those dreadful peaks the Sun seemed not the giver of joy and colour and life, but only a catastrophe huger than everlasting war, a centre of hideous violence and ruin and anger and terror. There came by mountains of copper burning everlasting, hurling up to unthinkable heights their mass of emerald flame. And mountains of iron raged by and mountains of salt, quaking and thundering and clothed with their colours, the iron always scarlet and the salt blue. And sometimes there came by pinnacles a thousand miles high that from base to summit were fire, mountains of pure flame that had no other substance. And these explosive mountains, born of thunder and earthquake, hurling down avalanches the size of our continents, and drawing upward out of the deeps of the Sun new material for splendour and horror, this roaring waste, this extravagant destruction, were necessary for every tint that our butterflies wear on their wings. Without those flaming ranges of mountains of iron they would have no red to show; even the poppy could have no red for her petals: without the flames that were blasting the mountains of salt there could be no answering blue in any wing, or one blue flower for all the bees of Earth: without the nightmare light of those frightful canyons of copper that awed the two spirits watching their ceaseless ruin, the very leaves of the woods we love would be without their green with which to welcome Spring; for from the flames of the various metals and wonders that for ever blaze in the Sun, our sunshine gets all its colours that it conveys to us almost unseen, and thence the wise little insects and patient flowers softly draw the gay tints that they glory in; there is nowhere else to get them.

And yet to Rodriguez and Morano all that they saw seemed wholly and hideously evil.

How long they may have watched there they tried to guess afterwards, but as they looked on those terrific scenes they had no way to separate days from minutes: nothing about them seemed to escape destruction, and time itself seemed no calmer than were those shuddering mountains.

Then the thundering ranges passed; and afterwards there came a gleaming mountain, one huge and lonely peak, seemingly all of gold. Had our whole world been set beside it and shaped as it was shaped, that golden mountain would yet have towered above it: it would have taken our moon as well to reach that flashing peak. It rode on toward them in its golden majesty, higher than all the flames, save now and then when some wild gas seemed to flee from the dread earthquakes of the Sun, and was overtaken in the height by fire, even above that mountain.

As that mass of gold that was higher than all the world drew near to Rodriguez and Morano they felt its unearthly menace; and though it could not overcome their spirits they knew there was a hideous terror about it. It was in its awful scale that its terror lurked for any creature of our planet. Though they could not quake or tremble they felt that terror. The mountain dwarfed Earth.

Man knows his littleness, his own mountains remind him; many countries are small, and some nations: but the dreams of Man make up for our faults and failings, for the brevity of our lives, for the narrowness of our scope; they leap over boundaries and are away and away. But this great mountain belittled the world and all: who gazed on it knew all his dreams to be puny. Before this mountain Man seemed a trivial thing, and Earth, and all the dreams Man had of himself and his home.

The golden mass drew opposite those two watchers and seemed to challenge with its towering head the pettiness of the tiny world they knew. And then the whole gleaming mountain gave one shudder and fell into the awful plains of the Sun. Straight down before Rodriguez and Morano it slipped roaring, till the golden peak was gone, and the molten plain closed over it; and only ripples remained, the size of Europe, as when a tumbling river strikes the rocks of its bed and on its surface heaving circles widen and disappear. And then, as though this horror left nothing more to be shown, they felt the Professor beckon to them from Earth.

Over the plains of the Sun a storm was sweeping in gusts of howling flame as they felt the Professor's spell drawing them home. For the magnitude of that storm there are no words in use among us; its velocity, if expressed in figures, would have no meaning; its heat was immeasurable. Suffice it to say that if such a tempest could have swept over Earth for a second, both the poles would have boiled. The travellers left it galloping over that plain, rippled from underneath by the restless earthquake and whipped into flaming foam by the force of the storm. The Sun already was receding from them, already growing smaller. Soon the storm seemed but a cloud of light sweeping over the empty plain, like a murderous mourner rushing swiftly away from the grave of that mighty mountain.

And now the Professor's spell gripped them in earnest: rapidly the Sun grew smaller. As swiftly as he had sent them upon that journey he was now drawing them home. They overtook thunders that they had heard already, and passed them, and came again to the silent spaces which the thunders of the Sun are unable to cross, so that even Mercury is undisturbed by them.

I have said that spirits neither fade nor weary. But a great sadness was on them; they felt as men feel who come whole away from periods of peril. They had seen cataclysms too vast for our imagination, and a mournfulness and a satiety were upon them. They could have gazed at one flower for days and needed no other experience, as a wounded man may be happy staring at the flame of a candle.

Crossing the paths of Mercury and Venus, they saw that these planets had not appreciably moved, and Rodriguez, who knew that planets wander in the night, guessed thereby that they had not been absent from Earth for many hours.

They rejoiced to see the Sun diminishing steadily. Only for a moment as they started their journey had they seen that solar storm rushing over the plains of the Sun; but now it appeared to hang halted in its mid anger, as though blasting one region eternally.

Moving on with the pace of light, they saw Earth, soon after crossing the path of Venus, beginning to grow larger than a star. Never had home appeared more welcome to wanderers, who see their house far off, returning home.

And as Earth grew larger, and they began to see forms that seemed like seas and mountains, they looked for their own country, but could not find it: for, travelling straight from the Sun, they approached that part of the world that was then turned towards it, and were heading straight for China, while Spain lay still in darkness.

But when they came near Earth and its mountains were clear, then the Professor drew them across the world, into the darkness and over Spain; so that those two spirits ended their marvellous journey much as the snipe ends his, a drop out of heaven and a swoop low over marshes. So they came home, while Earth seemed calling to them with all her voices; with memories, sights and scents, and little sounds; calling anxiously, as though they had been too long away and must be home soon. They heard a cock crow on the edge of the night; they heard more little sounds than words can say; only the organ can hint at them. It was Earth calling. For, talk as we may of our dreams that transcend this sphere, or our hopes that build beyond it, Mother Earth has yet a mighty hold upon us; and her myriad sounds were blending in one cry now, knowing that it was late and that these two children of hers were nearly lost. For our spirits that sometimes cross the path of the angels, and on rare evenings hear a word of their talk, and have brief equality with the Powers of Light, have the duty also of moving fingers and toes, which freeze if our proud spirits forget their task for too long.

And just as Earth was despairing they reached the Professor's mountain and entered the room in which their bodies were.

Blue and cold and ugly looked the body of Morano, but for all its pallor there was beauty in the young face of Rodriguez.

The Professor stood before them as he had stood when their spirits left, with the table between him and the bodies, and the bowl on the table which held the green flame, now low and flickering desperately, which the Professor watched as it leaped and failed, with an air of anxiety that seemed to pinch his thin features.

With an impatience strange to him he waved a swift hand towards each of the two bodies where they sat stiff, illumined by the last of the green light; and at those rapid gestures the travellers returned to their habitations.

They seemed to be just awakening out of deep sleep. Again they saw the Professor standing before them. But they saw him only with blinking eyes, they saw him only as eyes can see, guessing at his mind from the lines of his face, at his thoughts from the movements of his hands, guessing as men guess, blindly: only a moment before they had known him utterly. Now they were dazed and forgetting: slow blood began to creep again to their toes and to come again to its place under fingernails: it came with intense pain: they forgot their spirits. Then all the woes of Earth crowded their minds at once, so that they wished to weep, as infants weep.

The Professor gave this mood time to change, as change it presently did. For the warm blood came back and lit their cheeks, and a tingling succeeded the pain in their fingers and toes, and a mild warmth succeeded the tingling: their thoughts came back to the things of every day, to mundane things and the affairs of the body. Therein they rejoiced, and Morano no less than Rodriguez; though it was a coarse and common body that Morano's spirit inhabited. And when the Professor saw that the first sorrow of Earth, which all spirits feel when they land here, had passed away, and that they were feeling again the joy of mundane things, only then did he speak.

"Senor," he said, "beyond the path of Mars run many worlds that I would have you know. The greatest of these is Jupiter, towards whom all that follow my most sacred art show reverent affection. The smallest are those that sometimes strike our world, flaming all green upon November nights, and are even as small as apples." He spoke of our world with a certain air and a pride, as though, through virtue of his transcendent art, the world were only his. "The world that we name Argola," he said, "is far smaller than Spain and, being invisible from Earth, is only known to the few who have spoken to spirits whose wanderings have surpassed the path of Mars. Nearly half of Argola you shall find covered with forests, which though very dense are no deeper than moss, and the elephants in them are not larger than beetles. You shall see many wonders of smallness in this world of Argola, which I desire in especial to show you, since it is the orb with which we who study the Art are most familiar, of all the worlds that the vulgar have not known. It is indeed the prize of our traffic in those things that far transcend the laws that have forbidden them."

And as he said this the green flame in the bowl before him died, and he moved towards his cupboard of wonder. Rodriguez hastily thanked the Professor for his great courtesy in laying bare before him secrets that the centuries hid, and then he referred to his own great unworthiness, to the lateness of the hour, to the fatigue of the Professor, and to the importance to Learning of adequate rest to refresh his illustrious mind. And all that he said the Professor parried with bows, and drew enchantments from his cupboard of wonder to replenish the bowl on the table. And Rodriguez saw that he was in the clutch of a collector, one who having devoted all his days to a hobby will exhibit his treasures to the uttermost, and that the stars that magic knows were no less to the Professor than all the whatnots that a man collects and insists on showing to whomsoever enters his house. He feared some terrible journey, perhaps some bare escape; for though no material thing can quite encompass a spirit, he knew not what wanderers he might not meet in lonely spaces beyond the path of Mars. So when his last polite remonstrance failed, being turned aside with a pleasant phrase and a smile from the grim lips, and looking at Morano he saw that he shared his fears, then he determined to show whatever resistance were needed to keep himself and Morano in this old world that we know, or that youth at least believes that it knows.

He watched the Professor return with his packets of wonder; dust from a fallen star, phials of tears of lost lovers, poison and gold out of elf-land, and all manner of things. But the moment that he put them into the bowl Rodriguez' hand flew to his sword- hilt. He heaved up his elbow, but no sword came forth, for it lay magnetised to its scabbard by the grip of a current of magic. When Rodriguez saw this he knew not what to do.

The Professor went on pouring into the bowl. He added an odour distilled out of dream-roses, three drops from the gall-bladder of a fabulous beast, and a little dust that had been man. More too he added, so that my reader might wonder were I to tell him all; yet it is not so easy to free our spirits from the gross grip of our bodies. Wonder not then, my reader, if the Professor exerted strange powers. And all the while Morano was picking at a nail that fastened on the handle to his frying-pan.  And just as the last few mysteries were shaken into the bowl,—and there were two among them of which even Asia is ignorant,—just as the dews were blended with the powers in a grey-green sinister harmony, Morano untwisted his nail and got the handle loose.

The Professor kindled the mixture in the bowl; again green flame arose, again that voice of his began to call to their spirits, and its beauty and the power of its spell were as of some fallen angel. The spirit of Rodriguez was nearly passing helplessly forth again on some frightful journey, when Morano losed his scabbard and sword from its girdle and tied the handle of his frying-pan across it a little below the hilt with a piece of string. Across the table the Professor intoned his spell, across a narrow table, but it seemed to come from the far side of the twilight, a twilight red and golden in long layers, of an evening wonderfully long ago. It seemed to take its music out of the lights that it flowed through and to call Rodriguez from immediately far away, with a call which it were sacrilege to refuse, and anguish even, and hard toil such as there was no strength to do. And then Morano held up the sword in its scabbard with the handle of the frying- pan tied across. Rodriguez, disturbed by a stammer in the spell, looked up and saw the Professor staring at the sword where Morano held it up before his face in the green light of the flame from the bowl. He did not seem like a fallen angel now. His spell had stopped. He seemed like a professor who had forgotten the theme of his lecture, while the class waits. For Morano was holding up the sign of the cross.

"You have betrayed me!" shouted the Slave of Orion: the green flame died, and he strode out of the room, his purple cloak floating behind him.

"Master," Morano said, "it was always good against magic."

The sword was loose in the scabbard as Rodriguez took it back; there was no longer a current of magic gripping the steel.

A little uneasily Rodriguez thanked Morano: he was not sure if Morano had behaved as a guest's servant should. But when he thought of the Professor's terrible spells, which had driven them to the awful crags of the sun, and might send them who knows where to hob-nob with who knows what, his second thoughts perceived that Morano was right to cut short those arts that the Slave of Orion loved, even by so extreme a step: and he praised Morano as his ready shrewdness deserved.

"We were very nearly too late back from that outing, master," remarked Morano.

"How know you that?" said Rodriguez.

"This old body knew," said Morano. "Those heart-thumpings, this warmness, and all the things that make a fat body comfortable, they were stopping, master, they were spoiling, they were getting cold and strange: I go no more errands for that senor."

A certain diffidence about criticising his host even now; and a very practical vein that ran through his nature, now showing itself in anxiety for a bed at so late an hour; led Rodriguez to change the subject. He wanted that aged butler, yet dare not ring the bell; for he feared lest with all the bells there might be in use that frightful practice that he had met by the outer door, a chain connected with some hideous hook that gave anguish to something in the basement whenever one touched the handle, so that the menials of that grim Professor were shrilly summoned by screams. And therefore Rodriguez sought counsel of Morano, who straightway volunteered to find the butler's quarters, by a certain sense that he had of the fitness of things: and forth he went, but would not leave the room without the scabbard and the handle of the frying-pan lashed to it, which he bore high before him in both his hands as though he were leading some austere procession. And even so he returned with that aged man the butler, who led them down dim corridors of stone; but, though he showed the way, Morano would go in front, still holding up that scabbard and handle before him, while Rodriguez held the bare sword. And so they came to a room lit by the flare of one candle, which their guide told them the Professor had prepared for his guest. In the vastness of it was a great bed. Shadows and a whir as of wings passed out of the door as they entered. "Bats," said the ancient guide. But Morano believed he had routed powers of evil with the handle of his frying-pan and his master's scabbard. Who could say what they were in such a house, where bats and evil spirits sheltered perennially from the brooms of the just? Then that ancient man with the lips of some woodland thing departed, and Rodriguez went to the great bed. On a pile of straw that had been cast into the room Morano lay down across the door, setting the scabbard upright in a rat-hole near his head, while Rodriguez lay down with the bare sword in his hand. There was only one door in the room, and this Morano guarded. Windows there were, but they were shuttered with raw oak of enormous thickness. He had already enquired with his sword behind the velvet curtains. He felt secure in the bulk of Morano across the only door, at least from creatures of this world: and Morano feared no longer either spirit or spell, believing that he had vanquished the Professor with his symbol, and all such allies as he may have had here or elsewhere. But not thus easily do we overcome the powers of evil.

A step was heard such as man walks with at the close of his later years, coming along the corridor of stone; and they knew it for the Professor's butler returning. The latch of the door trembled and lifted, and the great oak door bumped slowly against Morano, who arose grumbling, and the old man appeared.

"The Professor," he said, while Morano watched him grudgingly, "returns with all his household to Saragossa at once, to resume those studies for which his name resounds, a certain conjunction of the stars having come favourably."

Even Morano doubted that so suddenly the courses of the stars, which he deemed to be gradual, should have altered from antagonism towards the Professor's art into a favourable aspect. Rodriguez sleepily acknowledged the news and settled himself to sleep, still sword in hand, when the servitor repeated with as much emphasis as his aged voice could utter, "With all his household, senor."

"Yes," muttered Rodriguez. "Farewell."

And repeating again, "He takes his household with him," the old man shuffled back from the room and hesitatingly closed the door. Before the sound of his slow footsteps had failed to reach the room Morano was asleep under his cross. Rodriguez still watched for a while the shadows leaping and shuddering away from the candle, riding over the ceiling, striding hugely along the walls, towards him and from him, as draughts swayed the ruddy flame; then, gripping his sword still firmer in his hand, as though that could avail against magic, he fell into the sleep of tired men.

No sound disturbed Rodriguez or Morano till both awoke in late morning upon the rocks of the mountain. The sun had climbed over the crags and now shone on their faces. Rodriguez was still lying with his sword gripped in his hand, but the cross had fallen by Morano and now lay on the rocks beside him with the handle of the frying-pan still tied in its place by string. A young, wild, woodland squirrel gambolled near, though there were no woods for it anywhere within sight: it leaped and played as though rejoicing in youth, with such merriment as though youth had but come to it newly or been lost and restored again.  All over the mountain they looked but there was no house, nor any sign of dwelling of man or spirit.


Next: The Fifth Chronicle: How He Rode in the Twilight and Saw Serafina