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    Chapter 5

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    Chapter 6
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    When he was gone, and Yoletta had followed, leaving some of the others
    still studying those wretched sovereigns, I sat down again and rested my
    chin on my hand; for I was now thinking--deeply: thinking on the terms
    of the agreement. "I daresay I have succeeded in making a precious ass
    of myself," was the mental reflection that occurred to me--one I had not
    infrequently made, and, what is more, been justified in making on former
    occasions. Then, remembering that I had come to supper with an
    extravagant appetite, it struck me that my host, quietly observant, had,
    when proposing terms, taken into account the quantity of food necessary
    for my sustenance. I regretted too late that I had not exercised more
    restraint; but the hungry man does not and cannot consider consequences,
    else a certain hairy gentleman who figures in ancient history had never
    lent himself to that nefarious compact, which gave so great an advantage
    to a younger but sleek and well-nourished brother. In spite of all this,
    I felt a secret satisfaction in the thought of the clothes, and it was
    also good to know that the nature of the work I had undertaken would not
    lower my status in the house.

    Occupied with these reflections, I had failed to observe that the
    company had gradually been drifting away until but one person was left
    with me--the young man who had talked with me before. On his invitation
    I now rose, put by my money, and followed him. Returning by the hall we
    went through a passage and entered a room of vast extent, which in its
    form and great length and high arched roof was like the nave of a
    cathedral. And yet how unlike in that something ethereal in its aspect,
    as of a nave in a cloud cathedral, its far-stretching shining floors and
    walls and columns, pure white and pearl-gray, faintly touched with
    colors of exquisite delicacy. And over it all was the roof of white or
    pale gray glass tinged with golden-red--the roof which I had seen from
    the outside when it seemed to me like a cloud resting on the stony
    summit of a hill.

    On coming in I had the impression of an empty, silent place; yet the
    inmates of the house were all there; they were sitting and reclining on
    low couches, some lying at their ease on straw mats on the floor; some
    were reading, others were occupied with some work in their hands, and
    some were conversing, the sound coming to me like a faint murmur from a

    At one side, somewhere about the center of the room, there was a broad
    raised place, or dais, with a couch on it, on which the father was
    reclining at his ease. Beside the couch stood a lectern on which a large
    volume rested, and before him there was a brass box or cabinet, and
    behind the couch seven polished brass globes were ranged, suspended on
    axles resting on bronze frames. These globes varied in size, the largest
    being not less than about twelve feet in circumference.

    I noticed that there were books on a low stand near me. They were all
    folios, very much alike in form and thickness; and seeing presently that
    the others were all following their own inclinations, and considering
    that I had been left to my own resources and that it is a good plan when
    at Rome to do as the Romans do, I by-and-by ventured to help myself to a
    volume, which I carried to one of the reading-stands.

    Books are grand things--sometimes, thought I, prepared to follow the
    advice I had received, and find out by reading all about the customs of
    this people, especially their ideas concerning _The House_, which
    appeared to be an object of almost religious regard with them. This
    would make me quite independent, and teach me how to avoid blundering in
    the future, or giving expression to any more "extraordinary delusions."
    On opening the volume I was greatly surprised to find that it was richly
    illuminated on every leaf, the middle only of each page being occupied
    with a rather narrow strip of writing; but the minute letters,
    resembling Hebrew characters, were incomprehensible to me. I bore the
    disappointment very cheerfully, I must say, for I am not over-fond of
    study; and, besides, I could not have paid proper attention to the text,
    surrounded with all that distracting beauty of graceful design and
    brilliant coloring.

    After a while Yoletta came slowly across the room, her fingers engaged
    with some kind of wool-work as she walked, and my heart beat fast when
    she paused by my side.

    "You are not reading," she said, looking curiously at me. "I have been
    watching you for some time."

    "Have you indeed?" said I, not knowing whether to feel flattered or not.
    "No, unfortunately, I can't read this book, as I do not understand the
    letters. But what a wonderfully beautiful book it is! I was just
    thinking what some of the great London book-buyers--Quaritch, for
    instance--would be tempted to give for it. Oh, I am forgetting--you have
    never heard his name, of course; but--but what a beautiful book it is!"

    She said nothing in reply, and only looked a little
    surprised--disgusted, I feared--at my ignorance, then walked away. I had
    hoped that she was going to talk to me, and with keen disappointment
    watched her moving across the floor. All the glory seemed now to have
    gone out of the leaves of the volume, and I continued turning them over
    listlessly, glancing at intervals at the beautiful girl, who was also
    like one of the pages before me, wonderful to look at and hard to
    understand. In a distant part of the room I saw her place some cushions
    on the floor, and settle herself on them to do her work.

    The sun had set by this time, and the interior was growing darker by
    degrees; the fading light, however, seemed to make no difference to
    those who worked or read. They appeared to be gifted with an owlish
    vision, able to see with very little light. The father alone did
    nothing, but still rested on his couch, perhaps indulging in a
    postprandial nap. At length he roused himself and looked around him.

    "There is no melody in our hearts this evening, my children," he said.
    "When another day has passed over us it will perhaps be different.
    To-night the voice so recently stilled in death forever would be too
    painfully missed by all of us."

    Some one then rose and brought a tall wax taper and placed it near him.
    The flame threw a little brightness on the volume, which he now
    proceeded to open; and here and there, further away, it flashed and
    trembled in points of rainbow-colored light on a tall column; but the
    greater part of the room still remained in twilight obscurity.

    He began to read aloud, and, although he did not seem to raise his voice
    above its usual pitch, the words he uttered fell on my ears with a
    distinctness and purity of sound which made them seem like a melody
    "sweetly played in tune." The words he read related to life and death,
    and such solemn matters; but to my mind his theology seemed somewhat
    fantastical, although it is right to confess that I am no judge of such
    matters. There was also a great deal about the _house_, which did
    not enlighten me much, being too rhapsodical, and when he spoke about
    our conduct and aims in life, and things of that kind, I understood him
    little better. Here is a part of his discourse:--

    "It is natural to grieve for those that die, because light and knowledge
    and love and joy are no longer theirs; but they grieve not any more,
    being now asleep on the lap of the Universal Mother, the bride of the
    Father, who is with us, sharing our sorrow, which was his first; but it
    dims not his everlasting brightness; and his desire and our glory is
    that we should always and in all things resemble him.

    "The end of every day is darkness, but the Father of life through our
    reason has taught us to mitigate the exceeding bitterness of our end;
    otherwise, we that are above all other creatures in the earth should
    have been at the last more miserable than they. For in the irrational
    world, between the different kinds, there reigns perpetual strife and
    bloodshed, the strong devouring the weak and the incapable; and when
    failure of life clouds the brightness of that lower soul, which is
    theirs, the end is not long delayed. Thus the life that has lasted many
    days goes out with a brief pang, and in its going gives new vigor to the
    strong that have yet many days to live. Thus also does the ever-living
    earth from the dust of dead generations of leaves re-make a fresh
    foliage, and for herself a new garment.

    "We only, of all things having life, being like the Father, slay not nor
    are slain, and are without enemies in the earth; for even the lower
    kinds, which have not reason, know without reason that we are highest on
    the earth, and see in us, alone of all his works, the majesty of the
    Father, and lose all their rage in our presence. Therefore, when the
    night is near, when life is a burden and we remember our mortality, we
    hasten the end, that those we love may cease to sorrow at the sight of
    our decline; and we know that this is his will who called us into being,
    and gave us life and joy on the earth for a season, but not forever.

    "It is better to lay down the life that is ours, to leave all
    things--the love of our kindred; the beauty of the world and of the
    house; the labor in which we take delight, to go forth and be no more;
    but the bitterness endures not, and is scarcely tasted when in our last
    moments we remember that our labor has borne fruit; that the letters we
    have written perish not with us, but remain as a testimony and a joy to
    succeeding generations, and live in the house forever.

    "For the house is the image of the world, and we that live and labor in
    it are the image of our Father who made the world; and, like him, we
    labor to make for ourselves a worthy habitation, which shall not shame
    our teacher. This is his desire; for in all his works, and that
    knowledge which is like pure water to one that thirsts, and satisfies
    and leaves no taste of bitterness on the palate, we learn the will of
    him that called us into life. All the knowledge we seek, the invention
    and skill we possess, and the labor of our hands, has this purpose only:
    for all knowledge and invention and labor having any other purpose
    whatsoever is empty and vain in comparison, and unworthy of those that
    are made in the image of the Father of life. For just as the bodily
    senses may become perverted, and the taste lose its discrimination, so
    that the hungry man will devour acrid fruits and poisonous herbs for
    aliment, so is the mind capable of seeking out new paths, and a
    knowledge which leads only to misery and destruction.

    "Thus we know that in the past men sought after knowledge of various
    kinds, asking not whether it was for good or for evil: but every offense
    of the mind and the body has its appropriate reward; and while their
    knowledge grew apace, that better knowledge and discrimination which the
    Father gives to every living soul, both in man and in beast, was taken
    from them. Thus by increasing their riches they were made poorer; and,
    like one who, forgetting the limits that are set to his faculties, gazes
    steadfastly on the sun, by seeing much they become afflicted with
    blindness. But they know not their poverty and blindness, and were not
    satisfied; but were like shipwrecked men on a lonely and barren rock in
    the midst of the sea, who are consumed with thirst, and drink of no
    sweet spring, but of the bitter wave, and thirst, and drink again, until
    madness possesses their brains, and death releases them from their
    misery. Thus did they thirst, and drink again, and were crazed; being
    inflamed with the desire to learn the secrets of nature, hesitating not
    to dip their hands in blood, seeking in the living tissues of animals
    for the hidden springs of life. For in their madness they hoped by
    knowledge to gain absolute dominion over nature, thereby taking from the
    Father of the world his prerogative.

    "But their vain ambition lasted not, and the end of it was death. The
    madness of their minds preyed on their bodies, and worms were bred in
    their corrupted flesh: and these, after feeding on their tissues,
    changed their forms; and becoming winged, flew out in the breath of
    their nostrils, like clouds of winged ants that issue in the springtime
    from their breeding-places; and, flying from body to body, filled the
    race of men in all places with corruption and decay; and the Mother of
    men was thus avenged of her children for their pride and folly, for they
    perished miserably, devoured of worms.

    "Of the human race only a small remnant survived, these being men of an
    humble mind, who had lived apart and unknown to their fellows; and after
    long centuries they went forth into the wilderness of earth and
    repeopled it; but nowhere did they find any trace or record of those
    that had passed away; for earth had covered all their ruined works with
    her dark mold and green forests, even as a man hides unsightly scars on
    his body with a new and beautiful garment. Nor is it known to us when
    this destruction fell upon the race of men; we only know that the
    history thereof was graven an hundred centuries ago on the granite
    pillars of the House of Evor, on the plains between the sea and the
    snow-covered mountains of Elf. Thither in past ages some of our pilgrims
    journeyed, and have brought a record of these things; nor in our house
    only are they known, but in many houses throughout the world have they
    been written for the instruction of all men and a warning for all time.

    "But to mankind there shall come no second darkness of error, nor
    seeking after vain knowledge; and in the Father's House there shall be
    no second desolation, but the sounds of joy and melody, which were
    silent, shall be heard everlastingly; since we had now continued long in
    this even mind, seeking only to inform ourselves of his will; until as
    in a clear crystal without flaw shining with colored light, or as a
    glassy lake reflecting within itself the heavens and every cloud and
    star, so is he reflected in our minds; and in the house we are his
    viceregents, and in the world his co-workers; and for the glory which he
    has in his work we have a like glory in ours.

    "He is our teacher. Morning and evening throughout the various world, in
    the procession of the seasons, and in the blue heavens powdered with
    stars; in mountain and plain and many-toned forest; in the sounding
    walls of the ocean, and in the billowy seas through which we pass in
    peril from land to land, we read his thoughts and listen to his voice.
    Here do we learn with what far-seeing intelligence he has laid the
    foundations of his everlasting mansion, how skillfully he has builded
    its walls, and with what prodigal richness he has decorated all his
    works. For the sunlight and moonlight and the blueness of heaven are
    his; the sea with its tides; the blackness and the lightnings of the
    tempest, and snow, and changeful winds, and green and yellow leaf; his
    are also the silver rain and the rainbow, the shadows and the
    many-colored mists, which he flings like a mantle over all the world.
    Herein do we learn that he loves a stable building, and that the
    foundations and walls shall endure for ever: yet loves not sameness;
    thus, from day to day and from season to season do all things change
    their aspect, and the walls and floor and roof of his dwelling are
    covered with a new glory. But to us it is not given to rise to this
    supreme majesty in our works; therefore do we, like him yet unable to
    reach so great a height, borrow nothing one from the other, but in each
    house learn separately from him alone who has infinite riches; so that
    every habitation, changeless and eternal in itself, shall yet differ
    from all others, having its own special beauty and splendor: for we
    inhabit one house only, but the Father of men inhabits all.

    "These things are written for the refreshment and delight of those who
    may no longer journey into distant lands; and they are in the library of
    the house in the seven thousand volumes of the Houses of the World which
    our pilgrims have visited in past ages. For once in a lifetime is it
    ordained that a man shall leave his own place and travel for the space
    of ten years, visiting the most famous houses in every land he enters,
    and also seeking out those of which no report has reached us.

    "When the time for this chief adventure comes, and we go forth for a
    long period, there is compensation for every weariness, with absence of
    kindred and the sweet shelter of our own home: for now do we learn the
    infinite riches of the Father; for just as the day changes every hour,
    from the morning to the evening twilight, so does the aspect of the
    world alter as we progress from day to day; and in all places our
    fellow-men, learning as we do from him only, and seeing that which is
    nearest, give a special color of nature to their lives and their houses;
    and every house, with the family which inhabits it, in their
    conversation and the arts in which they excel, is like a round lake set
    about with hills, wherein may be seen that visible world. And in all the
    earth there is no land without inhabitants, whether on wide continents
    or islands of the sea; and in all nature there is no grandeur or beauty
    or grace which men have not copied; knowing that this is pleasing to the
    Father: for we, that are made like him, delight not to work without
    witnesses; and we are his witnesses in the earth, taking pleasure in his
    works, even as he also does in ours.

    "Thus, at the beginning of our journey to the far south, where we go to
    look first on those bright lands, which have hotter suns and a greater
    variety than ours, we come to the wilderness of Coradine, which seems
    barren and desolate to our sight, accustomed to the deep verdure of
    woods and valleys, and the blue mists of an abundant moisture. There a
    stony soil brings forth only thorns, and thistles, and sere tufts of
    grass; and blustering winds rush over the unsheltered reaches, where the
    rough-haired goats huddle for warmth; and there is no melody save the
    many-toned voices of the wind and the plover's wild cry. There dwell the
    children of Coradine, on the threshold of the wind-vexed wilderness,
    where the stupendous columns of green glass uphold the roof of the House
    of Coradine; the ocean's voice is in their rooms, and the inland-blowing
    wind brings to them the salt spray and yellow sand swept at low tide
    from the desolate floors of the sea, and the white-winged bird flying
    from the black tempest screams aloud in their shadowy halls. There, from
    the high terraces, when the moon is at its full, we see the children of
    Coradine gathered together, arrayed like no others, in shining garments
    of gossamer threads, when, like thistle-down chased by eddying winds,
    now whirling in a cloud, now scattering far apart, they dance their
    moonlight dances on the wide alabaster floors; and coming and going they
    pass away, and seem to melt into the moonlight, yet ever to return again
    with changeful melody and new measures. And, seeing this, all those
    things in which we ourselves excel seem poor in comparison, becoming
    pale in our memories. For the winds and waves, and the whiteness and
    grace, has been ever with them; and the winged seed of the thistle, and
    the flight of the gull, and the storm-vexed sea, flowering in foam, and
    the light of the moon on sea and barren land, have taught them this art,
    and a swiftness and grace which they alone possess.

    "Yet does this moonlight dance, which is the chief glory of the House of
    Coradine, grow pale in the mind, and is speedily forgotten, when another
    is seen; and, going on our way from house to house, we learn how
    everywhere the various riches of the world have been taken into his soul
    by man, and made part of his life. Nor are we inferior to others, having
    also an art and chief excellence which is ours only, and the fame of
    which has long gone forth into the world; so that from many distant
    lands pilgrims gather yearly to our fields to listen to our harvest
    melody, when the sun-ripened fruits have been garnered, and our lips and
    hands make undying music, to gladden the hearts of those that hear it
    all their lives long. For then do we rejoice beyond others, rising like
    bright-winged insects from our lowly state to a higher life of glory and
    joy, which is ours for the space of three whole days. Then the august
    Mother, in a brazen chariot, is drawn from field to field by milk-white
    bulls with golden horns; then her children are gathered about her in
    shining yellow garments, with armlets of gold upon their arms; and with
    voice and instruments of forms unknown to the stranger, they make glad
    the listening fields with the great harvest melody.

    "In ancient days the children of our house conceived it in their hearts,
    hearing it in all nature's voices; and it was with them day and night,
    and they whispered it to one another when it was no louder than the
    whisper of the wind in the forest leaves; and as the Builder of the
    world brings from an hundred far places the mist, and the dew, and the
    sunshine, and the light west wind, to give to the morning hour its
    freshness and glory; and as we, his humbler followers, seek far off in
    caverns of the hills and in the dark bowels of the earth for minerals
    and dyes that outshine the flowers and the sun, to beautify the walls of
    our house, so everywhere by night and day for long centuries did we
    listen to all sounds, and made their mystery and melody ours, until this
    great song was perfected in our hearts, and the fame of it in all lands
    has caused our house to be called the House of the Harvest Melody; and
    when the yearly pilgrims behold our procession in the fields, and listen
    to our song, all the glory of the world seems to pass before them,
    overcoming their hearts, until, bursting into tears and loud cries, they
    cast themselves upon the earth and worship the Father of the whole

    "This shall be the chief glory of our house for ever; when a thousand
    years have gone by, and we that are now living, like those that have
    been, are mingled with the nature we come from, and speak to our
    children only in the wind's voice, and the cry of the passage-bird,
    pilgrims shall still come to these sun-bright fields, to rejoice, and
    worship the Father of the world, and bless the august Mother of the
    house, from whose sacred womb ever comes to it life and love and joy,
    and the harvest melody that shall endure for ever."
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