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'What?' she asked in surprise. "That is the song everyone remembers here. Poor Laurence Hope! How she knew and loved my India! What are you grumbling at?'

Her smile stung me. 'Never mind,' I said morosely. 'You don't understand. You never will.'

And yet I believed sometimes that she would that time was on my side. When Kahdra and I pulled her across to Nur-Mahal's garden next day, how could I not believe it, her face was so full of joy as she looked at me for sympathy?

We were pulling in among the reeds and the huge carved leaves of the waterplants, and the snake-headed buds lolling upon them with the slippery halfsinister look that water-flowers have, as if their cold secret life belonged to the hidden water-world and not to ours. But now the boat was touching the little wooden steps.

Oh, beautiful, most beautiful - the green lawns, shaded with huge pyramids of the chenar trees; the terraced gardens where the marble steps climbed from one to the other, and the mountain streams flashed singing and shining down the carved marble slopes. Even in the glory of sunshine, the passing of all fair things was present with me as I saw the empty shell that had held the Pearl of Empire, and her roses that still bloom, her waters that still sing for others.

The spray of a hundred fountains was misty diamond-dust in the warm air laden with the scent of myriad flowers.

Kahdra followed us everywhere, singing his little tuneless, happy song. The world brimmed with beauty and joy. And we were together.

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'But you see,' she said delicately, 'it would be "giving up." You use the right word. It is not your life. It is a lovely holiday, no more. You would weary of it. You would want the city life and your own kind.'

I protested with all my soul. But she

went on:

'No. Indeed, I will say frankly that it would be lowering yourself to live a lotos-eating life among my people. It is a life with which you have no tie. A Westerner who lives like that steps down; he loses his birthright, just as an Easterner does who Europeanizes himself. He cannot live your life, nor you his. If you had work here, it would be different. No six or eight weeks more; then go away and forget it.'

I turned from her. The serpent was in Paradise. When is he absent?

On one of the terraces a man was beating a tom-tom, and veiled women listened, grouped about him in brilliant colors.

'Is n't that all India?' she said; 'that dull reiterated sound? It half stupefies, half maddens. Once, at Darjiling, I saw the Llamas' Devil Dance: the soul, a white-faced child with eyes unnaturally enlarged, fleeing among a rabble of devils-the evil passions. It fled wildly here and there, and every way was blocked. The child fell on its knees, screaming dumbly - you could see the despair in the starting eyes; but all was drowned in the thunder of Thibetan

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Flute of Krishna, you would have to follow. Let us come!'

I could hear nothing of it; but she insisted, and we followed the music, inaudible to me, up the slopes of the garden that is the foot-hill of the mighty mountain of Mahadeo; and still I could hear nothing.

Vanna told me strange stories of the Apollo of India, whom all hearts most adore, even as the herd-girls adored him in his golden youth by Jumna River and in the pastures of Brindaban.


Next day we were climbing the hill to the ruins where the evil magician brought the King's daughter nightly to his will, flying low under a golden moon. Vanna took my arm, and I pulled her, laughing, up the steepest flowery slopes until we reached the height; and, lo! the arched windows were eyeless, a lonely breeze was blowing through the cloisters, and the beautiful yellowish stone arches supported nothing and were but frames for the blue of far lake and mountain and the divine sky. We climbed the broken stairs, where the lizards went by like flashes; and had I the tongues of men and angels, I could not tell the wonder that lay before us the whole wide valley of Kashmir in summer glory, with its scented breeze singing, singing above it.

herself here by the lake, she was so terrified that she flung herself in and was drowned. They held her back, but she died.'

'How do you know?'

'Because a wandering monk came to the abbey of Tahk-i-Bahi near Peshawar, and told Vasettha the Abbot.'

I had nearly spoiled it all by an exclamation, but I held myself back. I saw she was dreaming awake and was unconscious of what she said.

"The Abbot said, "Do not describe her. What talk is this for holy men? The monks must not hear. Some young of them have never seen a woman. Should a monk speak of such toys?" But the wanderer disobeyed and spoke, and there was a great tumult, and the monks threw him out at the command of the young Abbot, and he wandered down to Peshawar; and it was he later -the evil one! - that brought his sister, Lilavanti the Dancer, to Peshawar, and the Abbot fell into her snare. That was his revenge!'

Her face was fixed and strange; for a moment her cheeks looked hollow, her eyes dim and grief-worn. What was she seeing? what remembering? Was it a story a memory? What was it?

'Men have said so; but for it he surrendered the Peace. Do not speak of her accursed beauty.'

Her voice died away to a drowsy murmur; her head dropped on my shoulder; and for the mere delight of contact I sat still and scarcely breathed, praying that she might speak again. But the good minute was gone. She drew one or two

We sat on the crushed aromatic herbs and among the wild roses, and looked down. "To think,' she said, 'that we might deep breaths, and sat up with a bewilhave died and never seen it!'

There followed a long silence. I thought she was tired and would not break it. Suddenly she spoke in a strange voice, low and toneless:

"The story of this place. She was the Princess Padmavati, and her home was in Ayodhya. When she woke and found

dered look, which quickly passed, and left only a painful knitting of the brows.

I was quite sleepy for a minute. The climb was so strenuous. Hark - I hear the Flute of Krishna again.'

Again I could hear nothing, but she said it was sounding from the trees at the base of the hill. Later, when we

climbed down, I found she was right that a peasant lad, dark and amazingly beautiful, as these Kashmiris often are, was playing on the Flute to a girl at his feet, looking up at him with rapt eyes. He flung Vanna a flower as we passed. She caught it and put it in her bosom. A singular blossom, three petals of purest white, set against three green leaves of purest green; and lower down the stem the three green leaves were repeated. It was still in her bosom after dinner, and I looked at it more closely.

"That is a curious flower,' I said. 'Three and three and three. Nine. That makes the mystic number. I never saw a purer white. What is it?'

'Of course it is mystic,' she said seriously. 'It is the Ninefold flower. You saw who gave it?'

"That peasant lad.'
She smiled.

'You will see more some day. Some might not even have seen that.'

'Does it grow here?'

"This is the first I have seen. It is said to grow only where the gods walk. Do you know that throughout all India Kashmir is said to be holy ground? It was called long ago the land of the Gods, and of strange, but not evil, sorceries. Great marvels were seen here.'

I felt that the labyrinthine enchantments of that enchanted land were closing about me a slender web, gray, almost impalpable, finer than fairy silk, was winding itself about my feet. My eyes were opening to things I had not dreamed. She saw my thought.

'But you could not have seen even that much of him in Peshawar. You did not know then.'

'He was not there,' I answered, falling half-unconsciously into her tone.

'He is always there everywhere; and when he plays, all who hear must follow. He was the Pied Piper in Hamelin; he was Pan in Hellas. You will hear his wild fluting in many strange places

when you know how to listen. When one has seen him, the rest comes soon. And then you will follow.'

'Not away from you, Vanna.'

'From the marriage feast, from the Table of the Lord!' she said, smiling strangely. "The man who wrote that spoke of another call, but it is the same

Krishna or Christ. When we hear the music, we follow. And we may lose or gain heaven.'

It might have been her compelling personality, it might have been the marvels of beauty about me, but I knew well that I had entered at some mystic gate. My talk with Vanna grew less personal and more introspective. I felt the touch of her finger-tips leading me along the ways of Quiet: my feet brushed a shining dew. Once, in the twilight under the chenar trees, I saw a white gleaming and thought it a swiftly passing Being; but when in haste I gained the tree, I found there only a Ninefold flower, white as a spirit in the evening calm. I would not gather it, but told Vanna what I had seen.

'You nearly saw,' she said. 'She passed so quickly. It was the Snowy One, Umā, the Daughter of the Himalaya. That mountain is the mountain of her lord Shiva. It is natural she should be here. I saw her last night leaning over the height her chin pillowed on her folded arms, with a low star in the mists of her hair. Her eyes were like lakes of blue darkness, vast and wonderful. She is the Mystic Mother of India. You will see soon. You could not have seen the flower until now.'

'Do you know,' she added, 'that in the mountains there are poppies clear blue blue as turquoise? We will go up into the heights and find them.'

And next moment she was planning the camping details - the men, the ponies with a practical zest that seemed to relegate the occult to the ab

surd. Yet the very next day came a wonderful happening.

The sun was just setting and, as it were, suddenly the purple glooms banked up heavy with thunder. The sky was black with fury, the earth passive with dread. I never saw such lightning - it was continuous and tore in zigzag flashes down the mountains, literally like rents in the substance of the world's fabric. And the thunder roared up in the mountain gorges with shattering echoes. Then fell the rain, and the whole lake seemed to rise to meet it. We were standing by the cabin window, and she suddenly caught my hand, and I saw in a light of their own two dancing figures on the tormented water before us. Wild in the tumult, embodied delight, with arms tossed violently above their heads, and feet flung up behind them, skimming the waves like sea-gulls, they passed. I saw the fierce aerial faces and their unhuman glee as they fled by; and she dropped my hand and they were gone.

Slowly the storm lessened, and in the west the clouds tore raggedly asunder and a flood of livid yellow light poured down upon the lake - an awful light that struck it into an abyss of fire. Then, as if at a word of command, two glorious rainbows sprang across the water with the mountains for their piers, each with its proper colors chorded. They made a Bridge of Dread that stood out radiant against the background of storm - the Twilight of the the Twilight of the Gods, and the doomed Gods marching forth to the last fight. And the thunder growled sullenly away into the recesses of the hill, and the terrible rainbows faded until the stars came quietly out, and it was a still night. But I had seen that what is our dread is the joy of the spirits of the Mighty Mother; and though the vision faded, and I doubted what I had seen, it prepared the way for what I was yet to see.


A few days later we started on what was to be the most exquisite memory of my life. In the cool gray of a divine morning, with little rosy clouds flecking the eastern sky, we set out from Islamabad for Vernag. And this was the order of our going. She and I led the way, attended by a sais (groom), and a coolie carrying the luncheon basket. Half-way we would stop in some green dell, or by some rushing stream, and there rest and eat our little meal, while the rest of the cavalcade passed on to the appointed camping-place; and in the late afternoon we would follow, riding slowly, and find the tents pitched.

It was strange that, later, much of what she said escaped me. Some I noted down at the time, but there were hints, shadows of lovelier things beyond, that eluded all but the fringes of memory when I tried to piece them together and make a coherence of a living wonder. For that reason, the best things cannot be told in this history. It is only the cruder, grosser matters that words will hold. The half-touchings— vanishing looks, breaths - O God, I know them, but cannot tell!

In the smaller villages, the headman came often to greet us and make us welcome, bearing on a flat dish a little offering of cakes and fruit, the produce of the place. One evening a headman so approached, stately in white robes and turban, attended by a little lad who carried the patriarchal gift beside him. Our tents were pitched under a glorious walnut tree, with a running stream at our feet.

Vanna, of course, was the interpreter, and I called her from her tent as the man stood salaaming before me. It was strange that, when she came, dressed in white, he stopped in his salutation, and gazed at her in what, I thought, was silent wonder. She spoke earnestly to

him, standing before him with clasped hands—almost, I could think, in the attitude of a suppliant.

The man listened gravely, with only an interjection now and again; and once he turned and looked curiously at me. Then, in his turn, he spoke, evidently making some announcement, which she received with bowed head; and when he turned to go with a grave salute, she performed a very singular ceremony, walking slowly round him three times, keeping him always on the right. He repaid it with the usual salaam and greeting of peace, which he be stowed also on me, and then departed in deep meditation, his eyes fixed on the ground.

I ventured to ask what it all meant, and she looked thoughtfully at me before replying.

'It was a strange thing. I fear you will not altogether understand, but I will tell you what I can. That man, though living here among Mohammedans, is a Brahmin from Benares, and, what is very rare in India, a Buddhist. And when he saw me, he believed he remembered me in a former birth. The ceremony you saw me perform is one of honor in India. It was his due.'

'Did you remember him?' I knew my voice was incredulous.

'Very well. He has changed little, but is further on the upward path. I saw him with dread, for he holds the memory of a great wrong I did. Yet he told me a thing that has filled my heart with joy.'

'Vanna-what is it?'

She had a clear, uplifted look which startled me. There was suddenly a chill air blowing between us.

'I must not tell you yet, but you will know soon. He was a good man. I am glad we have met.'

She buried herself in writing in a small book that I had noticed and longed to look into, and no more was said.

We struck camp next day and trekked on toward Vernaga rough march, but one of great beauty, beneath the shade of forest trees, garlanded with pale roses that climbed from bough to bough and tossed triumphant wreaths into the uppermost blue. In the afternoon thunder was flapping its wings far off in the mountains, and a little rain fell while we were lunching under a big tree. I was considering anxiously how to shelter Vanna, when a farmer invited us to his house a scene of Biblical hospitality that delighted us both. He led us up some breakneck little stairs to a large bare room, open to the clean air all around the roof, and with a kind of rough enclosure on the wooden floor, where the family slept at night. There he opened our basket, and then, with anxious care, hung clothes and rough draperies about us, that our meal might be unwatched by one or two friends who had followed us in with breathless interest.

Still further to entertain us, a great rarity was brought out and laid at Vanna's feet, as something we might like to watch watch a curious bird in a cage, with brightly barred wings and a singular cry. She fed it with a fruit, and it fluttered to her hand. Just so Abraham might have welcomed his guests; and when we left, with words of deepest gratitude, our host made the beautiful obeisance of touching his forehead with joined hands as he bowed.

To me the whole incident had an extraordinary beauty, and ennobled both host and guest. But we met an ascending scale of beauty, so varied in its aspects that I passed from one emotion to another, and knew no sameness.

That afternoon the camp was pitched at the foot of a mighty hill, under the waving pyramids of the chenars, sweeping their green like the robes of a goddess. Near by was a half-circle of low arches falling into ruin, and as we went

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